Raptors to rely on past experience vs. Warriors

Stopping the Golden State Warriors isn’t easy. What does make it easier, though, is having tried to do it before.

“As easy as it looks and seems,” Toronto Raptors guard Danny Green said Tuesday afternoon, “it’s a lot tougher when you actually get out there.”nfl nike jerseys for cheap

The Raptors went through their final light practice before the bright lights of NBA Finals media day shine on them Wednesday; Game 1 of the league’s championship round takes place at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night. And as they prepare for the challenge of trying to stop Golden State in this series, they have the added benefit of four key players — Green, Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka — who have played against the Warriors in the playoffs.

That institutional knowledge is something the Raptors will hope to use to their advantage as they attempt to construct a game plan that will slow down the two-time defending NBA champions.6

“It helps, in terms of knowing how great they are as an offensive team,” Ibaka said. “Sometimes it’s tough when you don’t know, and you just go out there and play with the flow of the game. [Then] they are going to beat you so bad.

“The fact we already know how great they are — not good, great — that helps. That helps us to be prepared mentally, and then watch tape to try to figure out what to do.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

It’s one thing to try to figure out what to do on tape. It’s something else entirely to go out on the court and do it. Even when Golden State is playing at less than its best — like it did for large stretches of the Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers — the Warriors still can ramp up their intensity level in an instant and go on a double-digit run in what seems like a blink of an eye.

It is that ability to overwhelm an opponent that makes them so difficult to stop. Well, that and a collection of superstars, from Stephen Curry to Klay Thompson to Draymond Green, being on the court at the same time — even as another, Kevin Durant, waits in reserve as he continues to recover from a calf strain.

Raptors’ Anunoby hopes to return during Finals

After missing the Toronto Raptors’ playoff run to the NBA Finals after undergoing an emergency appendectomy last month, forward OG Anunoby said Wednesday he has begun taking contact and hopes to return to the court at some point against the Golden State Warriors.

“It’s been hard, not being able to play,” Anunoby said during his Finals media day availability. “But I’ve been learning as much as I can, and trying to take it as a learning experience.”

Since then, he has watched as Toronto progressed through the playoffs without him. But after spending a large part of the playoffs healing from his surgery, Anunoby is now able to do some physical work.

“I’m still on my way back to that,” Anunoby said of participating in a full practice. “I’ve been practicing, getting shots up, stuff like that.

“[I’ve done] a little bit of contact stuff. Some conditioning, and a lot of shooting.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china5

It appears, based on Anunoby’s comments and activity level increasing, that he could return to the active roster sometime early in this series, though it’s hard to see him getting huge minutes even if he does. He is questionable for Game 1 on Thursday night.

“Just be able to switch on defense, and offensively to be able to shoot and pass,” Anunoby said, when asked what his role would be if he returned.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“He’s doing better,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said after Monday’s practice. “He’s on the court. He’s moving around. I think he’s healed. Not quite 100 percent, but healing really well. And I talked to [Toronto’s director of sports science] Alex McKechnie today, and he said it’s probably still about 10 days away from playing.”

That would put Anunoby on pace to play in Game 3 next week in Oakland, California. After a promising rookie year, Anunoby’s season has been a long series of setbacks and roadblocks, with his appendectomy just being the latest one.

At this point, he’ll just take getting a chance to get back on the court, and trying to help the Raptors win their first NBA title.

“Yeah, it’s boring,” Anunoby said of being forced to watch from the sideline, “but you can’t control it.”

Bengals’ Zac Taylor is young, but confident to do things his way

Duke Tobin, Cincinnati Bengals player personnel director, knew he had his guy minutes into the interview.

It didn’t matter that Rams assistant coach Zac Taylor was only 35 and had no head-coaching experience. Tobin said all of the members of the front office who were in the room felt the same way: Taylor was “absolutely” ready for the Bengals’ head coaching job.

Tobin never said exactly what about the interview made them so sure, but one thing probably stood out: What he lacks in age and experience, Taylor certainly makes up for in confidence and his ability to carry a room.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“Great guy, great coach,” new Bengals guard John Miller said. “Me personally, he’s a younger coach so I feel like I can relate to him more. I think he’s got a great feel for this team and the direction he wants to take us in.”6

Wide receiver A.J. Green raved about Taylor’s energy to ESPN’s Adam Schefter on his podcast, noting that players are kept on their toes in meetings by Taylor’s tendency to put them on the spot with questions.

“It’s different to have your head coach be in the offensive meeting room going through every play, every detail to every guy, telling them why they need to run this way or what this concept is,” Green said. “It’s just a little different, but it’s fun. It’s awesome because he’s so smart, he’s so detailed.”nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Taylor has started shaping his team the way he wants, from releasing veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict to cutting 2018 fourth-round pick Mark Walton, who was arrested in the offseason. The Walton move might not have registered on other teams, but it resonates with the Bengals considering they have been loathe to quickly part ways with draft picks.

On the first day of OTAs, Taylor and his staff moved $9 million left tackle Cordy Glenn to guard even though he hadn’t played the position in a decade. It probably is first-round pick Jonah Williams’ job to lose.
He raised some eyebrows in February when he hired Jim Turner as offensive line coach. This is Turner’s first job in the NFL since he was ousted from the Miami Dolphins in 2013 after he was identified as one of the key pieces in a bullying scandal.

Taylor said he felt comfortable with the decision, and that was that.

It’s certainly a new era for Cincinnati after 16 years with Marvin Lewis as coach, and the players have taken notice. During the Bengals’ defensive spiral last season, defensive end Carlos Dunlap noted they were doing the same thing over and over without results.

Bart Starr was the toughest football player who ever lived

Nearly four years ago, when I visited Bart Starr in his Birmingham, Alabama, home, he did not remember the five NFL championships he had won, or the Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, he had won them for. He could not place Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers, even though he studied Rodgers closely through the DirecTV package his wife and high school sweetheart, Cherry, had bought him as a Christmas gift.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Starr even asked me if I had played for Lombardi, the former coach at my New Jersey high school. We shared a small laugh over that before I brought up the 1967 Ice Bowl, one of football’s most iconic games settled by one of football’s most iconic players. Starr did not remember anything about that either.

The then-81-year-old former quarterback had suffered multiple strokes, a heart attack, four seizures, and significant brain damage within the previous year, and some doctors could not believe he was still alive. During one stay in the hospital, a doctor told Cherry her husband likely would not make it through the night. Bart woke up the next morning in much better shape.

He lost his memory long before he lost his life Sunday at 85. But Starr never lost his dignity while he reminded the world, in his last great comeback, that he was the toughest NFL player who ever lived.5

When we think of old-school toughness on the football field, we often think of big and vicious hitters, fire-breathing defenders who played through injury and enjoyed cutting skill-position players in half. Chuck Bednarik, Ray Nitschke and Dick Butkus. Mean Joe Greene, Jack Tatum, Jack Lambert and Mike Singletary.

But at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, the gentlemanly Starr made the most difficult championship play under the most difficult circumstances in a game that never should have been played. With the ball at the 1-yard line at Lambeau Field, down three points to the Dallas Cowboys with 16 seconds to go, Starr ignored his frozen hands and body, the subhuman Green Bay conditions (the wind chill was minus-48 degrees), and the fact that he was an aging, athletically-challenged quarterback who had already been sacked by Dallas eight times. Starr asked to keep the ball in a huddle with Lombardi, who ordered him to push it across the goal line. “And then let’s get the hell out of here,” the coach cried.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Starr scored, of course, behind Jerry Kramer’s famous block on Jethro Pugh, and afterward his wife was stunned by the severe swelling in his face. No NFL player had ever been asked to give more on a single drive or a single play. Starr would be named Super Bowl MVP for a second straight time two weeks later, and he never again managed a winning record as a starter.

Red Sox slugger Martinez sits due to sore back

Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez was held out of the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays because of a sore back. Manager Alex Cora said the two-time All-Star isn’t likely to return to the lineup until Friday.

Martinez sat out the previous two games because of illness but had been expected to return Wednesday. He’s hitting .308 with nine homers and 28 RBIs.cheap nike nfl jersey7

Cora said he was hesitant to play Martinez on Thursday in the finale of the four-game series, citing Toronto’s artificial surface and the early 12:37 p.m. ET game time. The Red Sox begin a three-game series at Houston on Friday.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Blue Jays are fortunate to not have to face Martinez: He’s got 13 homers and 41 RBIs in 40 career games against Toronto.

Martinez went hitless in nine consecutive at-bats before his absence. He’s homered five times in his past 10 games following a 15-game drought.

Mets trade disgruntled OF Broxton to Orioles

The New York Mets have traded disgruntled outfielder Keon Broxton to the Baltimore Orioles for $500,000 in international bonus pool money.

The trade comes five days after Broxton was designated for assignment by the Mets. He told reporters last week he was “surprised” by his lack of playing time with the Mets, who acquired the five-year veteran in an offseason trade with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Broxton was batting .143 in 34 games with no homers and two RBIs.

The Orioles, however, like the idea of having his glove in center field after experimenting with rookie Stevie Wilkerson over the past month.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“He has speed, excellent center-field ability, he’s got some raw power,” Baltimore general manager Mike Elias said of Broxton on Wednesday. “We’re trying some different things in center field, and we wanted to give him a look and hopefully give him a little bit more extended time than he’s had.”5

In five years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Brewers and the Mets, the 29-year-old Broxton has a .216 average with 33 homers and 81 RBIs. His best season was in 2017, when he hit 20 homers in 143 games with the Brewers.

“He’s a really athletic guy. His tools are off the charts,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He can really go get it in center field; I’ve seen him make numerous great plays.”

Hyde has no intention of letting Broxton watch from the bench.

“I know that he’s excited to come here, and he’s going to get an opportunity to play,” Hyde said. “Looking forward to watching him play. I’ve seen the raw power, I’ve seen the speed and I’ve seen the defense in center. He’s going to play quite a bit.”

In other moves Wednesday, the Orioles claimed right-hander Chandler Shepherd off waivers from the Chicago Cubs and assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk.cheap nike nfl jersey

Baltimore also transferred right-hander Alex Cobb to the 60-day injured list with a lumbar strain and designated right-hander Yefry Ramirez for assignment.

Cobb has pitched in only three games this season. He is 0-2 with a 10.95 ERA operating in the second year of a $57 million, four-year contract.

“We’re still waiting to see how he’s responding and seeing how he feels off the mound. He’s just playing catch,” Hyde said of Cobb. “As of right now, he wasn’t going to come back before those 60 days, so give him the opportunity to get right and go through a full rehab.”

Matt Nagy sees no signs of defensive drop-off for Bears

Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy expressed confidence on Wednesday that the team’s top-ranked defense will sustain its level of success under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. Nagy hired Pagano in January to replace Vic Fangio, who departed to become head coach of the Denver Broncos.

“I have zero concerns,” Nagy said at the conclusion of the Bears’ second OTA workout. “It’s going to be exciting. We are seeing some different looks out there that we haven’t seen with Vic. It’s been neat.”

A 16-year NFL coaching veteran, Pagano takes over arguably the league’s best defense. The Bears ranked No. 1 in the NFL in takeaways (36), interceptions (27) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (five). They also allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns (five), posted the lowest passer rating allowed (72.9) and surrendered the fewest 20-plus-yard plays (46) in 2018.

Additionally, Chicago set a franchise record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a 16-game season.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Pagano told reporters on Wednesday that he and the rest of the defensive staff are in the infant stages of installing the scheme but that some of what Chicago ran with Fangio would remain.6

“It would be foolish on my part not to have some carryover considering what they’ve done,” Pagano said on Wednesday. “Vic and I were together at one point in Baltimore, so there’s some common threads that run through both systems, and that’s a good thing for these guys and myself.”

Pagano was the Colts’ head coach for six seasons (2012-17), leading Indianapolis to two AFC South championships (2013, 2014) and three consecutive playoff appearances (2012-14). Pagano was fired with a 53-43 regular-season record and a 3-3 mark in the postseason. The veteran coach served as a consultant for the NFL during the 2018 season, the first time in 33 years Pagano was without a coaching job.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“It was great to have time off to do some things I haven’t been able to do in 33 years,” Pagano said. “But again, you ask any player that’s been let go or put on the street and then been given another opportunity, another team, another locker room, coaches to be around, players to be around, come out here and run around like a kid again — there’s nothing better.”

Prior to accepting the Colts’ head-coaching job, Pagano served as the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator in 2011. Pagano coached the Ravens’ secondary from 2008 to 10.

“[Pagano] connects so well with the players,” Nagy said. “He connects so well with his coaches. He’s a big communicator — that’s one of his biggest strengths. Is this thing going to happen overnight? Absolutely not. He knew that coming in here. We had one of the best defenses in the NFL, and he knows what kind of challenge that is, because there’s expectations not just from the media and from the fan base but from his own players. They know what they did under Vic’s regime and his coaching staff. So I think that’s going to be really neat to watch organically happen, but there’s got to be some patience involved there, so that’s what we’ll continue to talk through.”

Can Kyler Murray continue legendary winning ways with Cardinals?

Kyler Murray’s high school résumé is a thing of football lore in Texas.

Forty-two wins. No losses. Three straight state championships. Three championship game MVPs. Gatorade Player of the Year.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Tom Westerberg, Murray’s coach at Allen High School. “We played at the highest classification in the state of Texas, and to know that we ran the table three times with him, it’s unbelievable.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Unbelievable? Yes. Incredible? Yes. New? No.

Murray, the quarterback taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft last month by the Arizona Cardinals, didn’t start winning when he transferred to Allen before his sophomore year. By then, he’d been doing it for years. All he has ever done is win, and he has done it at every level. Now he joins a Cardinals team that finished 3-13 last season and has reached the playoffs just four times this millennium.

Murray dominated the Lewisville Football Association for the next seven years, losing just one game, as Nelson recalls, and winning six league titles out of a possible seven. And Murray did it often by playing against older players. Because of his August birthday, Murray was always among the youngest kids in his age group.5

Nelson saw firsthand how tough it was to beat Murray: He coached the team that gave Murray what’s believed to be his lone youth football loss, in 2006, when Murray was 9.

“It was a pretty big deal when that happened,” Nelson said. “I’ve been doing this 19, 20 years now. He’s the best youth football player I’ve seen. Hands down.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

By the time Murray finally took the field at Huffines Middle School, his reputation preceded him. Dick Olin, then the head coach at Lewisville, installed a watered-down version of the varsity’s scheme, which was essentially the Air Raid, for Murray to run.

It didn’t take long for Murray to pick up the offense, said Heath Naragon, his eighth-grade coach at Huffines, so he’d go back to Olin and get another part of the playbook to install. Murray would absorb it and Naragon would go back to Olin. It got to the point where Murray’s eighth-grade team was running an offense more complex than the junior varsity but not quite as complicated as the varsity.

“He was very knowledgeable,” Naragon said. “I’ve been doing this, I don’t know, 11 years now and I’ve never seen anybody like that.”

It translated into sheer dominance on the field. Huffines lost once that season, in the semifinals of the middle school playoffs — because Murray missed the game with a shoulder injury.

What stood out to Naragon beyond Murray’s arm strength, which he believed was better than 99 percent of Texas high school quarterbacks as a seventh-grader, was Murray’s poise.

Source: Varane staying at Real amid United links

Raphael Varane will stay at Real Madrid amid reported interest from Manchester United, a source close to the player has confirmed to ESPN FC.

Sources told ESPN FC in April that the 2018 World Cup winner was seriously considering seeking a new challenge, which alerted clubs throughout Europe including United, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Since returning to the Bernabeu bench in March, Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has been clear that he wanted his fellow Frenchman to remain at the club — and the pair have regularly discussed where Varane fits into the new project being planned by Zidane and club president Florentino Perez.6

Varane also felt that leaving the Bernabeu after such a poor season was not something he could do, and is instead looking forward to a “new start” after the summer.

Monday saw the announcement of a contract extension for Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos, another player who was reportedly unsettled this season. However, the source said that no discussions had taken place about extending Varane’s current deal which ends in 2022.

He has always had a strong relationship with Zidane, who was instrumental in his arrival in the Spanish capital as an 18-year-old for just €10 million in 2011.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Varane has won 16 trophies since, including two La Ligas and four Champions Leagues, but saw his form slip this season.

Madrid have already added a new centre-back to their squad for next season, with 21-year-old Brazil international Eder Militao joining from Benfica for €50m.

And with Varane now sure to stay, Madrid’s transfer decision-makers will likely turn their attention to other areas of the team, with Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba, Luka Jovic, Christian Eriksen and Ferland Mendy among their many reported targets.

Sources: Chelsea trigger Giroud contract extension

Chelsea have triggered their option to extend Olivier Giroud’s contract by another year, sources have told ESPN FC.

Giroud had been set to become a free agent, but Chelsea have decided to keep him as they weigh up whether to take their appeal against a two-transfer window ban imposed by FIFA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

Chelsea’s move to retain the France international follows their decision to break their policy of only offering one-year extensions to players over the age of 30 when David Luiz signed a new two-year contract earlier this month.

Giroud has made a positive impact since joining from Arsenal for £18 million in January 2018 and is the joint-top scorer in this season’s Europa League, netting 10 goals in 13 appearances to help Chelsea reach the final.4

But he has been unable to break into Maurizio Sarri’s team in the Premier League, starting just seven of Chelsea’s 38 league games.

Speaking last month, Giroud said he would only agree to stay at Chelsea for another season if the club could assure him of a bigger role.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“Obviously I’m happy to be here,” he said. “The thing is I just want to enjoy. It’s not because I’m 32 and I’ve won the World Cup, because I don’t want to retire. I want to be first choice.

“With what I’ve achieved here, there is no reason they won’t give me one more year. But I need to be happy also.”