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Marc Gasol was once a basketball dinosaur before becoming a Raptor

Raptors coach Nick Nurse, pacing the sideline, does not holler at his gifted big man, but his heart rate elevates as he waits. He knows that when Gasol scores more than 10 points in the playoffs, Toronto is tough to beat. (The Raptors are 6-1 when Gasol scores in double figures this postseason.)

There’s another former Gasol coach watching, too. New York Knicks coach David Fizdale can relate to the frustration about Gasol’s reluctance to let it fly. When Gasol and Fizdale were together in Memphis, it was a point of contention. After watching Game 1, Fizdale notes, “You can almost feel Marc saying, ‘Should I?’ But he has to take those shots.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Fizdale is right. After nearly three seconds tick off — an eternity in today’s fast-paced NBA world — Gasol fires off the trey. It swishes through, one of the six baskets he will convert on a 20-point night that plays a key role in a Raptors win.

Gasol doesn’t fare as well in Game 2. DeMarcus Cousins badgers him with two hard fouls to start the game, and he scores just six points on 2-of-7 shooting with no 3s.6

That is a problem for his team.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gasol has been one of the league’s most effective 3-point shooters this postseason. Of the 32 players who have taken at least 50 3s in the playoffs, he ranks 12th with a shooting percentage of 38.8. When Gasol drains the long ball, it pays off for the Raptors, opening up the floor for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam.

Even the threat of Gasol from beyond the arc is an asset. The two-month Raptor knocked down only one of four shots from beyond the arc but pitched in 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes in Game 3. Those minutes offered valued space on the floor, and Toronto secured a 2-1 advantage behind its best offensive showing of the Finals.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“We’d like him to shoot them, especially when it’s a rhythm shot,” Nurse says, “but Marc is one of the great big-men passers. It’s always harder to convince guys to shoot more than to convince guys to shoot less. That’s the battle we’re in a little bit with Marc.”

Left unsaid is this: Toronto needs more from its thoughtful big man, who, like so many centers, has had to contend with a shift away from a traditional low-post attack. Fizdale spent a tumultuous year and a half in Memphis insisting that Gasol be a more aggressive scorer, a stretch-5 who could shoot the 3 and excel in a pace-and-space system.

Girona’s relegation poses a problem. Will Man City still care about Pep Guardiola’s brother and his club?

An hour after Girona’s final game at Estadi Montilivi, the kit man was still going back and forth from the dressing room to a van parked outside the ground, making his many trips in silence, lugging bag after bag and stopping just once to embrace the security guard, a look of sadness on their faces. Neither of them said anything; they didn’t need to. Watching him go and looking at the overall scene, it was hard not to see it as a case of packing away the first division. Defeated by Levante, it was just about over: They were on their way back to the second division.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

By that point, the last player had gone, sobbing as he went. Captain Alex Grannel had been in tears too, apologising for what had happened. And what had happened, the club’s sporting director Quique Carcel later said, was a “total failure.” In the news conference, coach Eusebio Sacristan struggled to talk. “I failed everyone,” he said, his voice cracking. After a few questions, the press officer asked: “OK?” In the small room, the journalists mumbled OK — no one had the heart to keep him there any longer. It was dark outside, and there was nothing much he could say.

At the full-time whistle, Girona’s owner Pere Guardiola, brother of Pep — yes, that Pep — had gotten up from his seat in the main stand and made his way downstairs, defeated. His second season — and the mighty City Football Group’s second as part-owners and investors, the club just one of many connected to Manchester City through that holding company — had ended in relegation. Girona had one more game to play, but it was over. No one was clinging to a potential miracle, and ultimately, it never came. A few days after the season ended, Eusebio resigned, his reputation damaged. He walked away, demanding nothing. He was a good person, everyone agreed, but maybe not a good manager — at least not for this team. He could have been sacked sooner: Girona should never have been in trouble but won just one of their last 10 games.5

This was only Girona’s second-ever season in the Primera Division: Three times previously, they had been on the cusp of coming up, but it didn’t actually happen until 2018. Now, in 2019, they were on their way back down. On one level at least, that was entirely normal. Leaving the stadium that night, you looked at the temporary standing at one end and wondered if it might be taken down soon. Girona had doubled the number of season-ticket holders, but could that be sustained in The Segunda? This is not a big football city. Or, at least it wasn’t. They had hoped to change that; now, maybe, they will see if they actually did.nfl nike jersey cheap

In a news conference a few days later, Carcel said that relegation had always been a possibility, and everyone knew it. He compared the situation that Girona found themselves in to where they’d been five years earlier, which on the surface, at least, was true but didn’t make it easier to take in that moment. Some didn’t entirely agree with that mindset; they also had doubts about where this would go now. “What did you want, everything to be flowers and violets?” Carcel said. “We have to be humble enough that this could happen to a club with the budget and history of Girona.”

Sure, but not to a club with a budget and a history of Manchester City.

That was the doubt lingering in some of the criticism and the fears: doubts that focused on their past, their present and particularly their future. Would Man City still care now? Had they cared enough before? What had Girona gained? Would they now lose all that? What had City gained? What, in fact, did City really want from their ownership of Girona anyway?

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.

Drew Lock, Broncos will need to be patient

Drew Lock has worked with all kinds of coaches, plenty of throwing gurus and a host of other specialists.

Now perhaps he’ll need a patience coach. Because in between all of the throws, touchdowns and big moments, he has never really had to wait to play.

“It will definitely be a different transition,” Lock said Friday after his first on-field practice with the Denver Broncos. “… If I’m going through this transition, I’m glad to be behind Joe [Flacco] and hear what he has to say, learn from him, I’m excited to meet him, excited to get in the room with him and learn from a guy who’s won a Super Bowl.”

Lock knows, and has been told by the Broncos, that he will be the team’s backup quarterback, at best, if things go according to plan. Lock — taken in the second round with the No. 42 overall selection last month — was among the 47 players on the field and in the meeting rooms Friday. It was a mix of draft picks, undrafted rookies, tryout players and players who had been on a practice squad last season, who will go through the team’s rookie minicamp this weekend.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Broncos coach Vic Fangio made it clear that Friday was essentially the first day of football school for Lock and everybody else in a Broncos uniform. Asked about Lock’s performance, Fangio pumped the brakes on social media blasts lauding Lock’s arm strength.6

“Nothing great one way or the other,” Fangio said. “He’s learning out here, I try not to make any value judgments here early.”

Lock said Friday he’ll have the patience to back up Flacco. And the Broncos, including Fangio and general manager John Elway, said they’ll also exercise patience as Lock transitions from a largely spread look at Missouri to the Broncos’ updated version of the West Coast offense.

Former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer said simply calling the play is one of the biggest transitions for a young quarterback. Plummer said one of the longer playcalls from his time in Mike Shanahan’s version of the West Coast offense would have been something like “shift to double wing right, Z fly, 76, U shallow cross.” Lock said he’s already getting a dose of that with calls that are “10-, 12-word plays.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“Language is a little different,” Lock said. “You have to spit the play out and it’s tougher to spit the play out than it is to actually go out and knowing what the play is. [But] nothing a little saying the plays in the mirror won’t fix. I’ll have to dive into that a little bit.”

Lock said he already has a comfort level with quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, the latter of whom

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.

Durant, Green double-technical rescinded

The NBA has rescinded technical fouls called against the Warriors’ Kevin Durant and the Clippers’ JaMychal Green during Thursday’s Game 3, the league announced Friday.

Both players appeared surprised by the third-quarter call, since they were just exchanging a few words when the double-technical was given.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Durant said after the game that he hoped the technical would get rescinded.8

“Me and JaMychal Green, we were conversing about the play that happened before, just like you and I,” Durant said. “Somebody came out of nowhere and tech’d us both. How would you feel? That was pretty quick. Hopefully they rescind that one because I don’t want somebody to think somebody is in my head, that’s why I got that tech. I just want to get that out of the way because I don’t want to jeopardize my team in the future.”nfl nike jerseys cheap china

With the technical rescinded, Durant is now five away from an automatic one-game suspension.

No more belly jokes from Aaron Rodgers to Aaron Jones

Rodgers ID’d the duo as among the players who looked much improved in the physique department since he last saw his teammates more than three months ago.

“I’m excited about them,” Rodgers said. “I like to tease Aaron Jones from time to time. He’s the most athletic, fast guy with a little bit of a belly. He’s pretty lean this year. It’s fun being back with all the guys. I especially like those two guys.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Neither Jones nor Williams has been available yet to talk about their offseasons, so everyone will have to take Rodgers’ word for it. But it would have been wise on the part of the two third-year running backs to come back ready to impress the new coaching staff.

In one of LaFleur’s first interviews after he was hired in January, he made it known how important the run game will be in his plan — and his plan to restore Rodgers’ greatness.4

“I think anytime you can take as much off the quarterback as possible that only helps them out in the long run,” LaFleur said.

As Tennessee’s playcalling offensive coordinator last season, LaFleur fielded the NFL’s seventh-most prolific running game while utilizing a pair of backs: Derrick Henry (1,059 yards) and Dion Lewis (517).

While Jones led the NFL with a 5.47-yard average per rush, he missed the final two games because of a knee injury — the third MCL sprain in his two NFL seasons. The Packers were anything but committed to the run last season, when they dropped back an NFL-high 71.5 percent of their offensive snaps.

“Well, I know we want to run the ball,” Rodgers said this week. “That’s important. Everything comes off of a positive run game. They ran the ball really well last year with their guys. But the action comes off of that, the boot comes off of that, so we’re going to have to run the ball. And we have those two guys and some guys behind them who can really play as well.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

While the Titans’ offense, which ranked 25th in the NFL overall last season, might not be the model, LaFleur’s time with Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan is. Both coaches find ways to set up the pass with the run game.

Ajax add substance to style vs. Juventus to raise hopes of UCL upset

Johan Cruyff famously once remarked: “Italians can’t beat us, but we can certainly lose against them.” It summed up the clash of footballing cultures at the time. His Ajax and Barcelona teams could outplay their Serie A counterparts but give up one chance, allow one counter, make one mistake and expect to be punished.

Cruyff’s words rang as true Wednesday night as they did back then. Ajax dominated the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Juventus. They deserved to win but yet, their streetwise and vastly experienced Italian opponents fly back home with a draw and an away goal from their only shot on target. The advantage is now with the Old Lady and history stands by her side. On the seven occasions Juventus have drawn the first leg away from home 1-1, they have progressed six times including against Ajax in 1978.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

That said, Ajax must draw strength from this encounter. A team that has scored 100 goals in the Eredivisie, 44 on the road, will back themselves to score at the Allianz Stadium even with Juventus’ captain and best defender Giorgio Chiellini expected to return for the seven-time defending Italian champions.6

On the eve of Wednesday’s game, Jordi Cruyff told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “My father would have liked this Ajax side.” Wednesday’s showing did nothing to change that opinion. Ajax stayed true to their values and managed 60 percent possession. Frenkie de Jong commanded, giving and going, twisting and turning, always moving, losing whomever it was who followed him.

Hakim Ziyech, for one, will be cursing his accuracy. The Moroccan’s aim failed him as the game wore on, but Wojciech Szczesny still needed to produce a world-class stop in the 17th minute to tip over one of Ziyech’s seven shots. Van de Beek blasted another chance high and wide soon afterward, and Nicolas Tagliafico, who will miss the second leg through suspension, caught Joao Cancelo napping but couldn’t steer Ziyech’s far-post cross on goal.cheap youth nfl jerseys

The inability to take the opportunities they created risked coming back to haunt Ajax and so it proved. Cristiano Ronaldo had not been peripheral. He’d volleyed a Miralem Pjanic corner wide and set up Federico Bernardeschi with a knock-down. But his opener — the last act of the first half – definitely came against the run of play.

Irving critical of Celtics’ implosion, D on Walker

Kyrie Irving appeared to question Brad Stevens’ coaching strategy after Kemba Walker scored 18 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth quarter to rally Charlotte to a 124-117 victory over the Celtics.

The Hornets closed Saturday night’s home game on a 30-5 run that included all 18 of Walker’s fourth-quarter points. The Hornets trailed 112-94 with 8 minutes, 22 seconds remaining.

Asked afterward how hard it is to stop Walker when he’s playing so well, Irving said, “It’s one-on-one, pride.”cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Walker had scored 43, 21 and 21 points against the Celtics in three previous meetings this season.5

Boston suffered its third consecutive loss. Irving finished with a team-high 31 points.

After the Celtics built their game-high 18-point lead, Charlotte scored on 12 of its final 19 possessions to catch and pass Boston. Walker scored his 18 fourth-quarter points in the final 7:43, including two clinching free throws with 5.9 seconds left.

“Obviously, when you lose an 18-point lead, there is a lot of things that go wrong,” Stevens said. “I thought they did a good job of chipping away at it. [And] we did everything that the book is written on to lose a game that you are up 18 at that point.”

Boston scored twice over its final 20 offensive possessions.

“This game was over in the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Irving said. “We took our foot off the gas pedal, got it to a five-point game and momentum shifted from there.”nfl nike jerseys for cheap

It was Charlotte’s largest come-from-behind victory of the season and largest comeback in more than a year.