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Five questions that will decide Sixers-Raptors

Less than a week ago, the Toronto Raptors looked indomitable. After polishing off the Orlando Magic with four consecutive wins, the Raptors handled the Philadelphia 76ers in the opener of their conference semifinals by playing the kind of ferocious team defense that often signals championship potential. With a 45-point performance in Game 1, Kawhi Leonard added to what was shaping up to be one of the great individual postseason campaigns in NBA history.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The 76ers, on the other hand, looked a mess — an offense stuck in the mud, no response for Leonard, and a star center in Joel Embiid who was rendered ineffective by either health issues, Marc Gasol’s resistance or a combination of both. The Sixers found some defensive answers in Game 2, as they escaped Toronto with a split, and although they maximized Jimmy Butler in the half court, a lot of offensive questions remained.

In Game 3, the Sixers assembled an exhibition of their best-case basketball. In 95 possessions, they were able to find quality shot opportunities in a variety of ways — a pick-and-roll attack led by Butler, clever off-ball actions to free up the likes of JJ Redick, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons, a dash of mismatch basketball and a handful of timely transition buckets.6

Meanwhile, the Raptors were unrecognizable in Game 3. One of the smartest units in basketball looked befuddled in the half court, unable to capitalize on its multifaceted skill sets to find creative solutions to the problems posed by the Sixers’ long, versatile defense. Leonard managed an efficient 32 points, but as Kyle Lowry said after the game, “We have to help him.”

For the Raptors, there might be fewer hands to provide that help. Pascal Siakam is listed as doubtful as he nurses as right calf contusion suffered during the loss on Thursday night.

With OG Anunoby still recovering from an appendectomy, no comfortable options exist for Toronto should Siakam be unable to dress in Game 4. Anunoby is the ideal understudy at the power forward spot, with size, athleticism and range to keep defenses honest.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

The Raptors like the pace and ball movement they’ve traditionally gotten from lineups featuring Lowry alongside backup guard Fred VanVleet. But that would be a painfully small backcourt for a Raptors team already at a size disadvantage. Guard Norman Powell has a few inches on VanVleet, yet that would still necessitate upsizing Leonard to the 4 spot.

The Raptors could start Serge Ibaka, although the backup center has struggled during this series, looking downright detached at crucial moments. Alternatively, Raptors coach Nick Nurse could plug in Patrick McCaw into the starting lineup, which would maintain the rotation — although it’s worth asking, given the poor performance of the backup units, whether that rotation is worth preserving.

Siakam’s emergence has been one of the dominant themes for the Raptors this season, giving them another potent attacker who presents matchup nightmares. Siakam’s scoring output has also alleviated pressure on Lowry, allowing Lowry to facilitate, manage and keep mouths fed.

Vegas bullish on Knicks’ summer, ’20 title odds

The New York Knicks are back in the championship mix heading into a summer that could shake up the NBA.

The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas on Saturday opened the Knicks at 16-1 to win the 2020 NBA championship. New York is behind only the Milwaukee Bucks (9-2), Boston Celtics (7-1) and Philadelphia 76ers (10-1) in the Eastern Conference. Kevin Durant’s pending free agency is the reason why.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Jeff Sherman, who oversees NBA odds at the SuperBook, believes the Knicks are the favorites to land Durant this summer and created their title odds accordingly. Sherman said the Knicks would be somewhere in the range of 300-1 if they aren’t able to land Durant or another of the high-profile stars who could be on the move this offseason. If New York does land Durant and Kyrie Irving, Sherman said he would still have the Bucks with better odds than the Knicks.5

The Golden State Warriors enter the summer as the early favorites for the fourth consecutive season, but their odds have been tempered with the uncertainty surrounding Durant. The Warriors are listed at 7-4 at the SuperBook to win next season’s title. Since signing Durant in 2016, the Warriors have started the past three seasons as odds-on favorites to win the NBA title.

“Before Durant, [the Warriors] were still the best team,” Sherman, vice president of risk at the SuperBook, told ESPN. “Even if Durant comes back, we’ll make an adjustment downwards, but they won’t be [odds-on] favorites like we’ve seen in the past couple years. We’ll obviously bump them up if he leaves, but it’s kind of a middle ground now dealing with this team.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

In addition to Durant, Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Irving are pending free agents, and New Orleans star Anthony Davis is expected to be on the move as well. The Knicks, with nearly $73 million in salary-cap space, the most of any team, have enough cap room to grab two max players. Durant and Irving have been rumored as a potential tandem to join the Knicks, but even that would not make New York the clear-cut favorite, Sherman said.

“I could see them at 12-1 [with Durant and Irving],” Sherman said. “All we’re doing is making these odds based on today’s perception on where people think these guys might have a legitimate chance of going.”

The LA Clippers, who also have cap room for two max contracts, are 16-1, followed by the Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, each at 20-1. The Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder are next at 25-1.

Dwayne Haskins must create own legacy, no matter what number he wears

The Washington Redskins’ two biggest additions this offseason led to celebrations, high-fives and hope. These additions also led to a big debate about the numbers they would wear for a simple reason: Both wore jersey numbers that have been taken out of circulation by the organization.

The latest flap was resolved thanks to quarterback Joe Theismann, who granted first-round pick Dwayne Haskins permission to wear the No. 7 he made famous during the early 1980s. After all, Theismann was the Redskins’ first Super Bowl-winning quarterback. He’s the all-time winningest quarterback in Washington, too. In fact, he’s the only Redskin to ever wear the number.
Earlier this offseason, the talk was about safety Landon Collins and the No. 21. It’s what Collins wore with the New York Giants — and he did so to honor someone who once played for the Redskins: Sean Taylor. But Collins won’t be wearing the No. 21 this season; instead, he’ll wear No. 20, and that’s probably a good thing. Taylor still evokes strong emotions even 11-plus years after his death.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Theismann’s number was taken out of commission by former Redskins equipment manager Jay Brunetti, now with the San Francisco 49ers. Brunetti spent 26 years with the Redskins and worked for the team during the Super Bowl runs before leaving after the 2000 season.6

There are two schools of thought: The young guys should prove themselves first rather than worrying about any brand; earn your standing. The flip side: At what point does a player’s “right” to a number end? How many do you keep out of circulation and why?

Theismann was an excellent player and continues to be a good ambassador. He was tough and respected and remains the only Redskins quarterback to play in two Super Bowls. But he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. Yet one of his blockers did make the Hall of Fame — Russ Grimm. And his number, 68, has subsequently been worn by seven players. Another ex-Hog, Joe Jacoby, has been a Hall of Fame finalist. Eight others have worn his No. 66.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Brian Mitchell, considered one of the best return men in history, won a Super Bowl and played 10 seasons with Washington. His No. 30 has been worn by eight others. Maybe the Redskins could put a patch somewhere on the jersey and include the names of the famous players who wore it in the past. Create a legacy.

Sonny Jurgensen is the only Redskin to wear the No. 9 and no one has worn No. 44 since John Riggins retired. Darrell Green’s No. 28 and Art Monk’s No. 81 also remain unused. All four are in the Hall of Fame.

The only retired Redskins number belongs to Sammy Baugh (33). Hall of Famer Charley Taylor’s 42 hasn’t been worn since he stopped playing in 1977. But, shockingly, Bobby Mitchell’s 49 was worn by one other player — a tight end named Leonard Stephens who lasted one season with Washington. If a number worn by Mitchell, the first African-American in franchise history and a Hall of Famer, can be worn, then it’s hard to keep others out of circulation.

Broncos have focused free agency and the draft on fixing the offense

The Denver Broncos have wandered the we-didn’t-make-the-playoffs wilderness for three seasons now, and it has turned one of the league’s throw-deep executives into a one-day-at-a-time guy.

“I’m really at the point that we’re going to take this thing one day at a time,” Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway said. “Obviously, it’s been disappointing the last couple years, and I’m excited about the new staff and the new players we do have, but it’s one step at a time. I’m just kind of — I don’t want to get too far ahead, but I’m excited with the guys that we have. But again, as I said, this thing is one step at a time, so we’ll keep it that way.”

That’s a long way from his “there’s no Plan B” statement after he signed Peyton Manning, but that’s what 5-11 and 6-10 the past two seasons will do to you.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Elway’s solution to the losing? Fix the offense this offseason. While he has said that the team needed more “continuity” in its offense to be better, the Broncos also simply faced a talent deficit. For the first time in his tenure, Elway has combined the most money spent in free agency with the team’s premium draft picks on offense.4

They traded for quarterback Joe Flacco, made Ja’Wuan James the highest-paid right tackle in the league and used the first three picks of their draft on offense, taking tight end Noah Fant, guard/center Dalton Risner and quarterback Drew Lock.

Fant and Risner figure to be starters by September. Elway has promised patience with Lock, but he called him the Broncos’ “quarterback of the future” after the team traded up in the second round to select him.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“I think that, first of all, we improved in the offseason with the addition of Joe Flacco and bringing him in, and Ja’Wuan James at the right tackle,” Elway said after the draft. “… Then going with Noah and Dalton with the first two picks, we feel like they can come in and help us also. … Obviously, Noah can stretch the field. Joe’s going to — to me, we still believe he has tremendous upside in his career — so we feel a lot better about that. … We feel much better sitting here now today than we did coming out of last season with where we are and the additions that we’ve made.”

Elway added coach Vic Fangio’s staff to those changes, including offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and offensive line coach Mike Munchak. The Broncos have hitched their hopes to an updated version of the West Coast offense that Scangarello brings with him after being on Kyle Shanahan’s staff in San Francisco and to Flacco having some miles left on his career odometer.

But the Broncos have approached the past few months with a focus on a talent upgrade on offense. In three consecutive playoff misses, they haven’t finished higher than 22nd in points scored or higher than 17th in yards per game, and they finished 28th and 31st on third down the past two seasons.

Griffin has knee surgery, will be ready for camp

Detroit Pistons star forward Blake Griffin has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

The Pistons said the procedure Wednesday was successful and addressed the issue that caused soreness in the knee across the last two weeks of the regular season and the postseason. They said Griffin is expected to be fully recovered before the start of training camp in September.cheap nfl jerseys china nike6

The 30-year-old forward mostly avoided injury this season, playing in 72 games, but he missed four of the final six regular-season games and the first two of the Pistons’ first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks because of the troublesome left knee injury.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

He averaged a career-high 24.5 points per game, along with 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He also made a career-high 189 3-pointers, shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc. This is the most games he has played since he appeared in 80 in 2013-14 with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Russell ‘definitely’ wants to return to Nets

All Star guard D’Angelo Russell “definitely” hopes to return to the Brooklyn Nets next season but knows that, as a restricted free agent, much of what happens in the offseason will be beyond his control.

“I definitely want to be here. But I also know it’s a business, too. So I’m not going to play that role like I don’t know what could possibly happen,” Russell said Wednesday after the team conducted its exit interviews. “Say somebody comes here that I have to be a part of (a transaction to acquire them), I know that could be a possibility. So I just want to stay in this moment and not speak too soon about anything.“cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Russell helped lead the Nets to 42 wins and a playoff berth this season. The 23-year-old averaged 21.1 points and seven assists in 80 regular-season games and earned his first All-Star appearance.

Teammates and Nets coach Kenny Atkinson lauded Russell for his leadership, improved conditioning and professional approach to the game. Russell was asked on Wednesday whether the Nets would have an advantage over other teams this summer due to his success and development in Brooklyn.5

“Yeah, for sure, for sure. I don’t know any other teams, I don’t know any other GMs or coaches. I don’t know any of those people. I know where I’m at. So it definitely gives you that advantage,” said Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft.

The Nets will have the right to match any offer made to Russell this summer. But it could be challenging for the club to create the cap space to sign a max free agent while keeping its rights to Russell, who shot 36 percent from the floor in Brooklyn’s five-game first-round series loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

So Nets GM Sean Marks may be faced with a difficult decision regarding Russell, who was acquired in a 2017 trade with the Los Angeles Lakers.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Russell’s teammates who spoke to the media on Wednesday all said they’d like him to return.

“We’ve obviously built a great chemistry together playing together the last couple of years, and I feel like it’s only going to get better growing in the future,” Caris LeVert said. “Whatever they decide to do, I’ll obviously support it, but I’d love to play with D’Angelo.”

In general, Nets players said that the franchise should be considered a free-agent destination this summer following their 14-win improvement from a season ago.

“The story before this was that the Nets were the worst team in the NBA. Even when we weren’t the worst team, we still were in the eyes of the public,” center Jarrett Allen said. “So just coming in here and showing we made the playoffs and we’ve got a lot of young talent, we made it a more attractive destination.”

‘The Lion King’ and Disney-loving T.J. Hockenson made for Lions

It wasn’t a subliminal message or a hoped-out, thought-out plan when T.J. Hockenson was packing for Nashville earlier this week to attend the NFL draft. He looked in his pile of socks and, the Disney aficionado that he is, made a quick decision.

He didn’t know then how prescient it would end up being. Hockenson wore “The Lion King” socks last night during the first round of the NFL draft. When the No. 8 pick came along, the Detroit Lions selected the tight end, making the wearer of the socks an actual Detroit Lion.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Not that wearing the socks of his favorite movie was even planned. Before an event where suits were custom-tailored and fashion choices were analyzed greatly, Hockenson thought “these socks are pretty sweet” and decided he would wear them.6

It was just the latest sign that perhaps Detroit was his destination. The signs went deeper, too. He said in Little League baseball, he played for the Tigers — Old English D on his cap and everything. Playing NHL video games as a kid, he usually used the Red Wings (and with good reason — the Wings were often one of the better teams in the game). Now, if he plays Madden with the Lions, he’ll be able to use himself on a different Detroit team as a dual-threat tight end the franchise drafted to improve the blocking and receiving at the position while giving Matthew Stafford a strong option.

Matt Patricia said they had his draft card ready to go immediately when Hockenson was still there at No. 8 — a strong signal he was high on their draft board, even with Ed Oliver as another option. Patricia praised Hockenson’s “fit” in the organization and said it was “a perfect match.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“The sock choice was completely by coincidence,” Hockenson said. “‘The Lion King’ has been my favorite movie ever since I was little and (I like) Disney, so I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ It’s awesome.

“There’s a lot of signs that came to this, with the dropping of the puck and then the socks, and all I have is blue, so I was meant to be here and I’m excited to start.”

He has a bunch of different Disney pairs and he’s a fan of all the movies and cartoons. His dog’s name? Lilo, from “Lilo & Stitch,” of which he also has a pair of socks for the movie. He’s been to Disney “a few times,” and called it “the best place on Earth.” Favorite ride? Space Mountain, which he calls “a classic.”

Jerry Jones knows Cowboys can’t take a second-round risk in 2019 NFL draft

Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones loves winning the deal. And over the years, Jones has viewed the second round of the NFL draft as the best chance to win a deal.

Jones can point to second-round gambles — just with the players currently on the Cowboys’ roster — that have paid off perhaps more than most thought despite some issues that remain.

In 2010, the Cowboys had linebacker Sean Lee rated as a first-round pick on their draft board. They knew he had a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that might fully tear and require surgery. With the No. 55 overall pick, the Cowboys drafted Lee, who missed his third season at Penn State with a torn ACL in his right knee. While he battled through injuries throughout his career, the left ACL did not tear until 2014.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

In 2015, the Cowboys viewed Randy Gregory as one of the best pass-rushers available in the draft. Off-field issues and a failed drug test at the NFL scouting combine kept Gregory from being selected in the first round, but the Cowboys took a chance on the defensive end with the No. 60 overall pick.5

In 2016, outside linebacker Jaylon Smith was off a number of teams’ draft boards because of a serious knee injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl while playing for Notre Dame. There was a risk of permanent nerve damage that could have ended Smith’s career before it even began. But one of the Cowboys’ team physicians, Dr. Daniel Cooper, performed Smith’s surgery and was confident Smith could return at his top level some day. With the No. 34 overall pick, the Cowboys chose Smith, knowing he would not play his rookie season.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Smith finished second on the Cowboys in tackles in 2018, played in 32 straight regular-season games and has the potential to be a yearly Pro Bowl pick. When healthy, Lee has been one of the Cowboys’ best defenders since the Cowboys picked him. He made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and ’16. Gregory’s issues remain and he is suspended indefinitely, but he showed he still has a chance to deliver on his pass-rush promise with six sacks last season.

If there was one commonality between those three drafts (2010, 2015 and 2016), it’s that the Cowboys had a first-round pick in each of those years, taking Dez Bryant before Lee, Byron Jones before Gregory and Ezekiel Elliott before Smith.

The Cowboys did not make a pick in Thursday’s first round because of their trade for Amari Cooper last October with the Oakland Raiders.

“I think you’re operating without a net a little bit,” Jones said when asked about making a risky second-round selection in 2019. “By not being able to have [drafted in the] first round someone you hope gives you a contribution in the first year, if you start going into the second pick with a real question mark as to this coming year’s contribution, I think logic would dictate for me slowing down a little bit there.”

Yanks’ Frazier to IL; Stanton’s recovery hits snag

On the day the New York Yankees finally got back one reinforcement from their 13-man injured list, manager Aaron Boone disclosed some less promising news about two other banged-up stars.

According to Boone, outfielder Clint Frazier will go on the injured list on Thursday, thanks to a left ankle injury that popped up this week and has been more temperamental than previously believed.

An MRI revealed “enough in there” to shut Frazier down, Boone said.

“Some partial tear and stuff that it’s going to cost him the 10 days,” Boone said, adding that he didn’t know at the time the exact nature of what was partially torn. “The good news is we feel like [the IL stint] will be short. [Doctors] feel like it’s 10-14-day thing. Maybe a little less. So we don’t feel like it’s a long thing.”

Several hours before announcing the update on Frazier, Boone revealed that fellow outfielder and designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton’s recovery from an arm injury has hit a snag. Although the left biceps strain that landed Stanton on the IL on April 1 has completely healed, Boone said Wednesday that a separate, “residual” left shoulder problem has appeared.

Boone didn’t specify the nature of the injury but said Stanton in recent days has been dealing with “stuff” in his left shoulder.

“He’s just kind of had it,” Boone said.china nike nfl jerseys cheap6

Once, early in the 2013 season while he was with the Marlins, Stanton was scratched from a game because of a sore left shoulder. He was listed as day-to-day with the injury over the next six days before returning to the lineup. He hasn’t been formally diagnosed with any other shoulder ailments during his big league career.

Upon arriving in Anaheim with the rest of the club earlier this week, Stanton had a cortisone shot, Boone said.

“He’s in day two or three of not swinging,” Boone said.

The Yankees will let the effects of the shot settle into Stanton a little longer before he’s able to pick up a bat. The plan is to leave the superstar in Southern California this weekend while the rest of the team travels to Northern California for its scheduled three-game series at San Francisco.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

A native of suburban Los Angeles, Stanton has rehabbed from other injuries in Southern California in the past, and the Yankees will be allowing him to do that for the next several days. When the Bronx Bombers conclude their three-city road trip with a visit to Phoenix to face the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday, Stanton will join them.

After learning from Duncan, Jokic a triple-double threat vs. Spurs

Three years later, Jokic is using the type of versatility that would have made Duncan proud. As the Nuggets and Spurs head into the pivotal Game 5 on Tuesday tied at two games apiece, Jokic is averaging nearly a triple-double, with 20.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.3 assists in his first playoff series.

Jokic patiently handled double-teams Gregg Popovich sent at him as soon as he put the ball on the floor in Game 1. He became only the fourth player to record a triple-double in his first playoff game, with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists.

In Game 4, he attacked single coverage and aggressively looked for his shot, finishing with 29 points.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Jokic’s success is thanks in large part to his deft footwork. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Duncan was Jokic’s favorite big man to watch when it came to footwork in the post.5
After shooting 51.1 percent from the field during the regular season, the 24-year-old Jokic is shooting 48.3 percent from the field in this series and 37.5 percent from 3-point range. He leads all players in the series with 37 assists.

“We talk about Nikola as an afterthought sometimes because [as] a great player you expect that from him, and it is always about the other guys,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “But when you look at Nikola’s averaging a damn near triple-double in the playoffs. … For as young as he is, first time going through it, it really is remarkable.”

Malone said Jokic’s biggest leap has been on the defensive end, where he has taken on the challenge of guarding LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging 20.3 points and 9.0 rebounds — numbers slightly under his regular-season averages of 21.3 points and 9.2 rebounds.

Surely, Popovich will have some kind of wrinkle for the Nuggets and Jokic in Game 5.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“The chess match, he’s Bobby Fischer,” Malone said of Popovich. “He’s a savant.”

Three years after Jokic got a personal lesson on post play from Duncan, Popovich now has to find a way to slow down Jokic in order to advance in the postseason.

“Nobody is going to stop Nikola,” Popovich said after Game 3. “He’s such a great passer, you got to pick your poison. If you start doubling him every place, they are going to knock down those 3s and they’re great at it. So you just have to make some decisions in that regard and be kind of picky if you are going to go double.”