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This is Donovan Mitchell’s moment

Watching Gregg Popovich work is one of the joys of being around Team USA.

During the NBA season when he’s in San Antonio he builds walls, actual and figurative, that purposely shield nuance. It’s understandable because it’s a competitive game, and Popovich, while often gregarious, prefers privacy.

But it’s also unfortunate, because it’s in those moments when Popovich becomes “Pop.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

In this setting with the national team, though, there are fewer barriers. There’s less time and less attachment. These players aren’t bound by contract, and in this scenario Popovich needs short-term buy-in more than the players need to give it.

It opens some windows into the revelatory Popovich stuff, and it’s happening in China as the U.S. gets ready to start the FIBA World Cup on Sunday when it takes on Czech Republic (ESPN+, 8:30 am ET).5

Over the last month, a beneficiary of this situation appears to be Donovan Mitchell. And because of that, these could end up being transformative weeks for the Utah Jazz star.

He’s getting some special attention from Popovich, who needs Mitchell to be great for Team USA to win gold. But there’s another reason, and this is what the whole point is.

“When you tap somebody that has leadership ability, it’s better to start it sooner,” Popovich explained this week. “The quicker you make them feel responsible that they can do that, the better. Then if that person grabs onto it then you know you chose the right guy.”

This is the Popovich sauce, in this case a pearl about how to cultivate a young player by giving more trust. It actually follows a Popovich method, which is to buck the norm. You can see it in those sideline interviews he’s famous for. Come at him soft and he’ll often come back hard. Come hard and he’ll often go soft, keeping everyone off-balance.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

It goes against conventional wisdom that on a Team USA squad with a number of established veterans like Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, Harrison Barnes, Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee, that Popovich would guide one of the youngest into a leading voice.

But here the old master is working, it’s the 22-year-old Mitchell who he’s entrusting to guide this important enterprise. Popovich seems to see the leadership qualities in Mitchell that Jazz leadership and his Utah teammates have talked about for the last two years.

Packers cut Kizer; Boyle likely to back up Rodgers

Less than two years after he started 15 games for the Cleveland Browns as a rookie, DeShone Kizer was released by the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers traded former first-round pick Damarious Randall to the Browns for Kizer on March 15, 2018. While Randall flopped as a cornerback for the Packers, he started all but one game for the Browns last year at safety and is projected to be a starter again this season.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Packers kept Tim Boyle, who likely will be Aaron Rodgers’ backup at least to start the season. Boyle, an undrafted free agent who was the Packers’ No. 3 quarterback last season behind Rodgers and Kizer, led all NFL quarterbacks this preseason with six touchdowns (and did not throw an interception).6

The 23-year-old Kizer, who was the 52nd overall pick in the 2017 draft, was never able to rectify the accuracy problems that plagued him during his rookie season as the Browns’ starter. He threw a league-high 22 interceptions and just 11 touchdowns in the Browns’ winless 2017 season. For Kizer, this was his fourth different offense in as many seasons — from his last year at Notre Dame to the Browns to his first year with the Packers under then-coach Mike McCarthy to new Packers coach Matt LaFleur.

Kizer played in three games in relief of Rodgers last season, including three drives in the season opener after Rodgers hurt his knee against the Chicago Bears and then most of the season finale against the Detroit Lions after Rodgers suffered a concussion. He threw two interceptions without a touchdown in 42 pass attempts in those two games.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“In terms of myself, I feel confident as hell,” Kizer said after Thursday’s preseason finale. “I’ve changed my body, I’ve changed my mental [approach], I’ve changed my process as far as how I go about things, I’ve changed my mentality with how I approach the game, and with that, I’m happy. This has been a great offseason for me. The decision of whether or not I play for this team isn’t on me. But what I can say it that I’m confident I’ve become a better quarterback, I’ve become a better person, and I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to go out there and win games. That’s kind of the last cherry on top. But in terms of age and youth and where I see myself, look man, this game has given me a great life. It’s given me a great education, it’s given me great relationships that I’ll cherish forever, it’s given me opportunities of a lifetime. And for that, I’m always going to be grateful, I’m always going to have positive energy, but now it’s about seeing where I’m going to land and what team I’m going to be able to affect with that positive energy.”

It’s possible the Packers could bring in another quarterback, such as former New England Patriots backup Brian Hoyer (who was also released on Saturday) or someone else familiar with LaFleur’s offense, but for now Boyle will back up Rodgers. The strong-armed 24-year-old was inactive for all 16 games last season after making the roster as a free agent out of Eastern Kentucky. Boyle started his college career at UConn, where in three seasons he threw just one touchdown and 13 interceptions.

John Harbaugh’s T-shirt game is strong and motivating the Ravens

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh loves a good T-shirt. So much so that he’s got a guy on staff making custom designs for him.

At training camp last year, Harbaugh showed up with three words printed on a T-shirt.

Trying to set the tone after the 2017 season ended with a last-minute loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Harbaugh wanted to move past one of the most gut-wrenching moments in team history and put his players in the right mindset.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

At a team meeting, Harbaugh told the story of the biblical figure Benaiah chasing a lion into a snowy pit and killing it.

“If you want to do great things, you have to have courage,” said Harbaugh. “You got to know your moment.”

And boom … not long after that, Harbaugh later appeared at practice wearing a shirt reading, “Chase the Lion.”

One of the reasons Harbaugh is the fourth-longest-tenured coach in the NFL is his ability to find the pulse of the team and tailor his message to the circumstances. Harbaugh’s success — a Super Bowl title and 114 victories — comes from his ability to reinforce those messages to his players.5

And T-shirts are one of his favorite methods.

“If I wear it out there, I’m trying to say something to them that day,” Harbaugh said. “It’s all part of culture-building. It’s our world view. It’s what we believe. It’s what we’re based on. It’s our principles that we’re anchored to, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Harbaugh loves reading. If he comes across a meaningful life lesson, he picks up his phone and types it into his notes. There are easily a thousand talking points on his phone right now.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Many of those get made into shirts. Harbaugh doesn’t know the number of T-shirts he has made in his 12 seasons in Baltimore. The older ones are stored in a couple of drawers in his office.

If he wants a new message placed on a shirt, he informs Ravens equipment manager William Sheridan, who promptly gets it done.

“I’m going to make all of them into a quilt some day,” Harbaugh said with a smile. “I just have to find time to learn how to sew.”

Andrew Bogut revels in victory over Team USA

Those four simple words were Andrew Bogut’s typically wry reaction after Australia’s history-making win against Team USA in the second of their two-game exhibition series at Marvel Stadium.

Speaking minutes after the Boomers’ 98-94 victory in front of a 52,079 capacity crowd, Bogut said the performance was one of the highlights of his illustrious career. The Boomers big man also signalled that the victory was a huge moment for the psyche of Australian men’s basketball, with the team — world basketball’s longtime bridesmaids — now firmly believing they can beat anyone they lock horns with.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“[That was] huge for us,” he said. “It’s a friendly, so we want to keep that in context, but we did create history tonight — the first senior Australian men’s team to beat an American team. I was fortunate enough to do it in juniors so I told the boys, ‘welcome to the club.'”

The 34-year-old said Australia’s growing presence in the NBA was starting to pay dividends on the national stage, admitting some players were previously “starstruck” against the best players in the world. He added Saturday’s win over Team USA would be a turning point among the group.5

“We feel like we can beat anyone in the world … this [is] the first time I’ve felt that with the Boomers. In the past, we’d be going to an Olympics or Worlds and not so much making up the numbers but [thinking], ‘We’ll give it a fair shot and what happens, happens.’

“We were competitive in the past but it wasn’t like we were [thinking], ‘We’re trying to win a gold medal and beat anyone we come across’ and I think this group genuinely has that belief. And I think a lot of that comes from having guys in this squad who are playing with those Team USA guys on a nightly basis [in the NBA] and not just warming the bench, but playing against them. In the past we have had guys who were a little starstruck about playing against [the big names], but that’s not the right mindset.”

Boomers teammate Chris Goulding, who starred in Game 1 before a quieter outing on Saturday, was pinching himself after the win. But he was also trying to retain perspective with the World Cup only a week away.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“It was a great day for Australian basketball,” he said. “We feel like we’re starting to play to our potential, but I think we can play even better, which is so exciting.

“We wanted to enjoy it and make sure the crowd enjoyed it but we have bigger goals — to keep it [the excitement] under wraps and use it as a stepping-stone and hopefully be better again … and if we have to play [Team USA] again, we’ll be ready.”

The two-game exhibition series didn’t come without its controversies, with stars withdrawing from both squads, and ticketing and seating issues at the venue, but Bogut and star teammate Patty Mills — the matchwinner for the Boomers in Game 2 — were both thrilled at the growth of basketball in Australia.

“We just had 52,000 people twice come to a football stadium for a game of basketball — if someone would have told me that five or six years ago, it just wouldn’t happen,” the Melbourne-born veteran said. “On top of that, we won, so I’ve never seen basketball at this height in this country. I couldn’t be prouder to be an Australian basketballer right now. To win a game against the USA in my home city is something I never would have thought was realistic as a kid … to beat them is a whole other ballgame.

Australia stuns Team USA, snaps 78-game streak

For the first time in nearly 13 years, a U.S. roster of NBA players played an international game — and lost. Patty Mills scored 30 points, and Australia rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to stun the Americans 98-94 and snap a 78-game U.S. winning streak that started with the bronze-medal game at the 2006 world championships.

“They wanted it more than us tonight,” U.S. guard Kemba Walker said. “Lesson learned for us.”

It was the first loss for the U.S. in a major international tournament or exhibition since the 2006 world championship semifinals against Greece. The Americans won the bronze there, then were unbeaten through the cycles for the 2007 FIBA Americas, 2008 Olympics, 2010 World Cup, 2012 Olympics, 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Add all that up, along with wins over Spain and Australia with this team, and it was a 78-game winning streak for the U.S. — the longest in program history.

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“It was awesome,” Mills said.6

Australia had never beaten the Americans, and the U.S. national team had been 30-0 all time in Australia.

“Some of it is expected with a new group that’s trying to learn about each other and learn a system,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “So it’s not surprising. But the Aussies gave us a great lesson as far as where we want to be and how you have to play in this kind of a competition.”

A World Cup where Serbia has already made very clear it expects to win gold, where NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will lead Greece, where France figures to have a medal shot and now with the Australians absolutely knowing they can beat the U.S. will begin next week with no shortage of realistic title hopefuls.

USA Basketball is No. 1 in FIBA’s world rankings, but so far in the run-up to this World Cup — with most of the top NBA stars deciding to not play this summer — the Americans have not looked like a lock for more gold. They beat Spain by nine in Anaheim, California, on Aug. 16, needed a big second half to defeat Australia by 16 on Thursday, and then let a sizable second-half lead slip away Saturday.

“Obviously, this was a great step for us,” Australia guard Joe Ingles said.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Mills plays for San Antonio, so ordinarily Popovich — the longtime Spurs coach — would enjoy seeing what the veteran guard did down the stretch. Mills scored Australia’s last 10 points, doing it all from banking in 3-pointers to slicing through for a layup that put the hosts up by six with 1:50 left.

“As I told you all after the last game, Patty’s a pain,” Popovich said.

Walker scored 22 points for the U.S., while Harrison Barnes had 20. Donovan Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 1:05 left got the U.S. to within 97-94. The Americans then forced a stop on the ensuing possession and had two chances to tie — but Mitchell’s 3-pointer was off, Joe Harris missed a corner 3 a few seconds later and Mills iced the game with a free throw.

Aron Baynes left the floor with his head back, screaming in celebration as he slapped hands with delirious countrymen. Ingles and Andrew Bogut grabbed their kids and brought them onto the floor for a look.

Cam Newton’s injury puts spotlight on Panthers’ struggling backup QBs

There is optimism Cam Newton will be ready for the opener against the Los Angeles Rams after suffering a mild mid-foot sprain in Thursday’s preseason loss to the New England Patriots. That was the good news for the Carolina Panthers, but there’s still reason to be concerned about the quarterbacks.

Backups Kyle Allen and Will Grier have yet to prove they’re capable of playing at a consistent level should Newton miss time.

Allen, undrafted out of Houston last season, has completed 50% of his preseason attempts in Norv Turner’s offense, which is designed to be heavy on high-percentage passes. He has 124 yards and no touchdowns.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Grier, a Charlotte native and a third-round pick out of West Virginia in April, hasn’t been much better at 53.5% for 196 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.5

Between them, they have one NFL start: Allen in last season’s finale, when the playoff-bound New Orleans Saints rested most of their starters. Allen and Grier also have two of the four lowest yards per attempt of any quarterbacks during the preseason, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Allen is averaging 4.4 yards per attempt and Grier 4.6.

The loss to the Patriots magnified how inefficient Allen and Grier — and the offense in general — have been during three preseason games. The Panthers had only two first downs and 29 total yards in the first half, and finished with seven first downs and 99 total yards.
The struggles of the offensive line complicate matters. This rebuilt group, led by free-agent center Matt Paradis replacing retired-and-then-unretired Ryan Kalil (now with the Jets), has several veterans.

Yet so far they haven’t developed the chemistry to allow any of the quarterbacks to work efficiently. Newton was sacked twice in three series, the second resulting in the injury, and had to throw away another pass while scrambling to avoid a sack.

The coaching staff can work on correcting mistakes, but getting Allen or Grier to perform at a high enough level to win — should Newton’s ankle force him to miss the opener or any other game — is another story.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

An argument can be made that it’s time to bring in a veteran, but there aren’t a lot of great options.

Man Utd hammer Chelsea with Rashford double

Marcus Rashford scored two goals with Anthony Martial and Daniel James also on the scoresheet to earn Manchester United an emphatic 4-0 victory over Chelsea in their opening match of the Premier League.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed debuts to new boys Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire with James left on the bench while his opposite number Frank Lampard opted to start without United States international Christian Pulisic, but did name youngster Mason Mount in his line up.nfl cheap jerseys nike

The visitors were the better team in the early exchanges and will argue the opening goal came against the run of play.

Referee Anthony Taylor played advantage following a foul by Jorginho and in the next phase of play Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma was adjudged to have fouled Rashford in the box. Following a short consultation with the video assistant referee, Taylor pointed to the spot and Rashford made no mistake.7

The goal galvanised United who improved after taking the lead, but it was Chelsea who came closest to scoring when left-back Emerson Palmieri rattled David De Gea’s crossbar.

Lampard introduced Pulisic for his Premier League debut on 58 minutes and he showed some bright touches, winning a free kick with his first involvement.

However, as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser, Chelsea were caught on the counter-attack and were 2-0 down on 65 minutes.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Maguire won the ball on the edge of the United box before playing in Rashford. The England forward passed it to Jesse Lingard. He teed up Andreas Pereira, who swung in a tantalising cross, which was finished off by Martial.

And just two minutes later, it was 3-0 when Pogba won the ball in midfield and played in Rashford, who beat the offside trap to slot the ball past goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Solskjaer introduced James, who got in on the act with a debut goal on 82 minutes to make it 4-0 when played in by Pogba after another United counter.

The result represents a dream start to the campaign for Solskjaer but, for Lampard, there will have been some serious concerns as to how much his side struggled to deal with United’s counter-attacks.

Pulisic Watch: How U.S. star is doing at Chelsea, game by game

Welcome to the Christian Pulisic Watch, as the U.S. international starts the next phase of his career after his $73 million move to Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund. ESPN FC will be tracking the American’s progress here all season.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

How he performed (out of 10): 5 — All told, Pulisic was by no means overwhelmed as he entered from the substitutes’ bench, but the fact remains that he wasn’t that impactful, and the chance he created came long after the game had been decided. That said, Pulisic walked into a team that fell apart defensively after he entered the match, so Lampard will have far bigger concerns about his side than Pulisic’s performance.5

Highlight: Normally, making your debut with your new club would rank as a highlight, but a 4-0 away defeat tempers this considerably. Pulisic did have one sequence where he shook loose from Aaron Wan-Bissaka only to be fouled by Paul Pogba after he released the ball. Pulisic’s best moment came in second-half stoppage time when he set up Emerson Palmieri for an attempt at goal that forced a sharp save from United goalkeeper David De Gea.

Lowlight: The team performance was one to forget given the scoreline, with Chelsea’s defense looking highly suspect. For Pulisic, he started the game on the bench, which counts as a disappointment given the anticipation attached to his debut. Frank Lampard, who was making a league debut of his own as the club’s manager after starring for the Blues as a player, preferred Ross Barkley and Pedro in the wide positions that Pulisic would have been expected to occupy.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Lampard told NBC Sports afterwards that, “I just felt coming to Old Trafford, the type of game it was, I knew we needed bodies in midfield because it’s a busy area for them … So Ross coming in off the line, bringing a bit of stability in midfield and around midfield would be good for us.”

After entering the match in the 58th minute, Pulisic did have a few chances to run at the defense but wasn’t able to threaten the United goal off the dribble. He also had a chance to pick out fellow substitute Olivier Giroud with a cross in second-half stoppage time, but couldn’t connect.

After doubts, Melo confident he wants to play

Carmelo Anthony says the end of his tenure with the Houston Rockets made him question whether he still wanted to play in the NBA.

“I felt like the game didn’t want me back at that point in time,” Anthony told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on First Take, referring to a period in which he described himself as being “emotionally vulnerable.”cheap nike nfl jerseys china

Now, Anthony says, the passion to play is back.

“I’m in the gym every single day,” Anthony said. He also noted that “silence is not my surrender” and that he has been quiet until now because he felt like he needed to step away from the game to “reevaluate myself, reevaluate my career, reevaluate my life.”5

Anthony, a 10-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA player, last suited up for the Rockets for a 10-game stint that ended early in the 2018 season.nfl nike jersey cheap

He said he doesn’t blame friend Chris Paul or even two-time former coach Mike D’Antoni and said he never had a conversation with James Harden about his Rockets exit.

Anthony said being told by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that he was being let go was a shock.

“He came in and basically said, ‘Look, your services are no longer needed,'” Anthony said of his conversation with Morey. “I was like, ‘What? Hold up. What the hell are you talking about? … You telling me I can’t make a 9-, 10-man rotation on this team?'”

Anthony said of his conversation with Morey that he “didn’t like how that went down” and that it caused him to have doubts about himself.

“That was an ego hit. That was a pride hit,” Anthony said. “I started questioning myself after that. Can I still do this? What did I do? I asked him this. … He just said it wasn’t working out.

“When somebody in power that tells you that they no longer need your services … I’ve been utilizing my services for a long time. For you to tell me you don’t need that no more. I honestly felt that I was fired. I felt like [what] other people go through on a day-to-day basis. People get fired. I honestly felt like I got fired.”

Bears bound? Ravens’ Kaare Vedvik kicks up trade value another notch

Baltimore Ravens kicker Kaare Vedvik connected on four field goals, including a 55-yarder, in Thursday’s preseason opener, which should increase his chances of landing an NFL job.

Not in Baltimore, of course. The Ravens have Justin Tucker, the most accurate kicker in league history.

Vedvick is playing for the Ravens, but he’s auditioning for the other 31 teams in the NFL. Baltimore is hoping to trade Vedvik for a draft pick, if he continues to show promise in the remainder of the preseason.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“I don’t really ever think about that,” Vedvik said when asked about the speculation that another team will acquire him. “I’m focused on playing the game. That’s it. Teams that are interested, they talk to coach, the head honcho. I’m just going to play the game.”5

The Chicago Bears have been linked to Vedvik, and for good reason. Unproven kickers Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry are battling for the Bears job, which became open after Cody Parkey’s infamous double doink in the playoffs.

The Arizona Cardinals could be another interested team with Zane Gonzalez struggling in training camp, and the New York Jets might inquire after Chandler Catanzaro missed a couple of extra points in the first preseason game.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

The Ravens have a history of being a special-teams pipeline. Three current kickers — New Orleans’ Wil Lutz, Carolina’s Graham Gano and Buffalo’s Stephen Hauschka — all got their starts in Baltimore. Former special-teams coach Jerry Rosburg, who retired in June, had an eye for discovering kickers, and assistant Randy Brown has an expertise for developing talent.

“I fully expect that he’ll kick well enough for us to trade him,” coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings in March. “That’s kind of the goal. He’s capable of kicking in the NFL. We probably could have traded him last year.”

Vedvik was one of the bigger surprises of last year’s training camp. Booming kicks with an effortless style, he was 8 of 9 (89%) on field goals during the preseason after being signed as an undrafted rookie. He hit a 56-yarder in the finale, which seemed to put the finishing touches on his exit from Baltimore.

But Vedvik was assaulted in East Baltimore before the Ravens could deal him to another team. He was hospitalized last September after being found alone with multiple facial injuries. Vedvik, who had originally gone out with teammates that night, told the Ravens that he didn’t remember how he ended up at the location where he was found.