Mike D’Antoni: Rockets rookie Gary Clark ‘deserves’ our confidence

Undrafted rookie forward Gary Clark mustered up the confidence during Houston Rockets’ training camp to pull Carmelo Anthony aside and show him a picture of them posing together at an AAU tournament several years ago.

Clark, who had to earn a two-way contract, allowed himself to be in awe of the 10-time All-Star for just a moment. Then Clark focused on competing for playing time — and quickly earned the spot in the rotation as a reserve power forward that the Rockets expected Anthony to fill this season.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

“Crap, that was my favorite player at one point,” Clark told ESPN on Thursday night, when he played a key role in a 107-86 win over the Golden State Warriors hours after the Rockets announced they were “parting ways” with Anthony. “But it literally didn’t matter who was there. I was going to make sure I got on the court, because I know what I bring to the table.”

With a national television audience watching, Clark showed why coach Mike D’Antoni decided to give him consistent minutes. Clark had nine points on 3-of-7 shooting (all from 3-point range), seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 28 minutes. It was the kind of gritty, well-rounded performance the Rockets need from role players to complement their superstars.12

“He’ll have his bad ones; he’s a rookie,” D’Antoni said of Clark. “There will be ups and downs, but he deserves all the confidence we can give him.”cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys

Though Clark idolized Anthony as a kid, his game is much more similar to that of Rockets power forward PJ Tucker. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Clark is a tough, versatile defender who was a two-time American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year at Cincinnati despite being hampered those junior and senior seasons by an ankle injury that damaged his draft stock and prevented him from playing for the Rockets’ summer league team.

Clark was listed as questionable against the Warriors because of a bruised hip but didn’t consider sitting out against the defending champions.

“I mean, I’ve been through worse pain,” Clark said. “The last two years of my college career, I pretty much played in pain, so for me to have a little hip bruise, it wasn’t going to stop me.”

Clark earned minutes with the Rockets on the strength of his defensive ability — the facet of the game where Anthony struggles most, especially at age 34 — and has become comfortable enough as a 3-point shooter to play for Houston.


Don’t judge Le’Veon yet: How Bell could change old NFL thinking

What we do know is that Bell’s situation presents us with a chance — maybe even an obligation — to think differently about the NFL and its economic structure. One of the best players in the world just kissed off his age-26 season because he thought it was the smart long-term financial move. An employee used the maximum extent of his own leverage to try to gain ground in a system designed almost entirely for the benefit of the employer. If that doesn’t make us question what we thought we knew about how all of this works, that’s a missed opportunity on our part.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Let’s start with the franchise tag itself — a widely accepted fact of NFL economics but also an anti-capitalistic device designed to restrict the earning power of top players. The Steelers didn’t want to give Bell the deal he wanted and they also didn’t want to lose him. Fortunately, they operate one of 32 businesses in the world that can have that particular cake and eat it too. For as many as three years in a row, if it can afford to, a team can keep a player from hitting the open market simply by designating him its franchise player and assigning him a one-year deal for a collectively bargained salary.11

It’s a crazy idea which the players should have never agreed to back in the early 1990s when it was first proposed. But like so much else about the NFL, it’s become ingrained, and fans just accept it — especially when it keeps your team from losing its best players. Even the players don’t really fight against it in collective bargaining negotiations, because the vast majority of them will never have to deal with it (a perspective that wrongfully ignores the principle that higher salaries atop the market are beneficial for all salaries throughout).

What Bell has done here is reject the notion that there’s nothing you can do about the franchise tag. The Steelers had it as leverage against him in contract negotiations and used it — two years in a row — to make sure no other team but Pittsburgh could offer him a long-term contract. The premise is that Bell had two choices: Sign a long-term deal under the Steelers’ terms or play on the one-year franchise tag. The deal the Steelers offered wasn’t the one he wanted, and the franchise tag meant they didn’t have to improve on it in order to get him to stay.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Turns out, Bell had a third choice, which was to flex his own leverage and withhold his services. Even when Bell telegraphed this back in January, almost no one believed him because … well, who does that? Sure, Sean Gilbert and Dan Williams did it in the late ’90s, but neither one of those guys was getting $14.5 million on their franchise tags, as Bell would have if he’d played in 2018. The size of that number and the assumption that playing football this year was among Bell’s top priorities made the threat easy to dismiss, pretty much up until he officially made good on it Tuesday afternoon.


The final days of the Butler saga, and why it could cost Thibodeau his job

As Tom Thibodeau’s plan disintegrated, owner Glen Taylor lost his last remnants of belief in this crumbling regime. Taylor had delivered Thibodeau a long and rich contract as the Minnesota Timberwolves president and coach, control of basketball operations and the trust to be a steward of a franchise forever in disrepair.

Taylor’s judgment has been perpetually suspect, from a secret Joe Smith deal that cost Minnesota draft picks to wasting Kevin Garnett’s prime to the David Kahn catastrophe. In getting things wrong, Taylor has been spectacular in his mishaps.

In the end, Taylor didn’t sign off on a Jimmy Butler trade as much as he surrendered to one of the most embarrassing episodes in franchise history.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Thibodeau sold Taylor on trading a starry young core and a high lottery pick to Chicago for Butler on draft night in 2017, sold him on waiting out Butler’s preseason trade demand for two months.

He sold him a strategy of publicly excusing Butler’s disruptive behavior, compromising his own credibility within his locker room, because Thibodeau believed he could navigate the dysfunction and win games.12

Thibodeau sold Taylor on passing on a strong Miami trade package, because he was sure Pat Riley would come back with a better offer, and the league would chase in a bidding frenzy for Butler.

Taylor kept doubling down, and when he hung up the phone with Philadelphia owner Josh Harris on Saturday morning, Minnesota had lost everything — the four-time All-Star in his prime, the trade standoff, and ultimately, the trust to stay with Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden beyond this season.

Even at the expense of sullying his professional standing, Butler played them all in Minnesota — and shamed the Timberwolves into trading him to a big market contender. The Timberwolves couldn’t find a team to bail them out of this debacle, and Thibodeau couldn’t sell Taylor on one more basketball game with Butler in a Timberwolves uniform.

Eventually, Thibodeau had lost hope that he could convince Butler to stay for the long term, but his ego still believed he could coach these Timberwolves into playoff contention before the February trade deadline. He underestimated this saga’s impact on the rest of the team, especially his young max-contract players, as they watched Thibodeau excuse behavior and beg Butler to play games.cheap nfl nike jerseys free shipping

Minnesota desperately tried to cobble together trade offers in the past week, including extensive discussions with New Orleans, league sources said. The Pelicans are limited on tradeable assets, but desperate to find star power to keep Anthony Davis for the long run. The Pelicans wouldn’t include point guard Jrue Holiday in its offer, nor multiple draft picks, league sources said.


After tragic week in L.A., Rams do their best to rally the community

For the last several days, football – even for the Rams — became somewhat of an afterthought as tragedy and a natural disaster swept across the greater Los Angeles area.

“Hoping today provided a little bit of joy,” Jared Goff said after the game. “And regularity.”

Last Thursday, the Rams organization awoke to the news of a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill, located just over four miles from the team’s practice facility in Thousand Oaks and seven miles from their business headquarters in Agoura Hills.

A gunman killed 12 people, including Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus, who was on duty and rushed into the bar to save lives.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

During a team meeting this week, Whitworth implored teammates to wrap their arms around the community. Then the 13th-year pro set the example.11

Whitworth’s game check from Sunday – about $60,000 – will be donated to the Ventura County Community Foundation’s Conejo Valley Victims Fund, a fund to support the families of the victims.

“I texted my wife that day and just said, ‘We’ve been blessed by this game and so many millions of things have been just amazing, that I’m glad to be a part of,’” said Whitworth, who lives in Thousand Oaks with his wife and four children. “The least I can do is say, ‘I can give away the financial reward of playing this game this week to try and just put my arms around, our love and appreciation for what people are going through and what they’re feeling.”cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Then, on Thursday, the Rams took to the practice field Thursday afternoon, as smoke plumes began to fill the air.

By early Friday morning, wildfires raged across Ventura County and eventually spread to Los Angeles County, invading communities where many in the Rams’ organization live. Sean McVay was on a text-message chain with assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive line coach Bill Johnson, who informed McVay that they were being evacuated from their homes.


Just another week for Patrick Mahomes in the greatest season for a Chiefs QB

The greatest quarterback year in the 59-season history of the Kansas City Chiefs continued on Sunday for Patrick Mahomes. His teammate, running back Kareem Hunt, said he isn’t surprised by how well the first-year starting quarterback is doing.

“I just know what type of player he is and how competitive he is and he’s going to take chances,” Hunt said. “Most of the time they’re good chances.“nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Mahomes was almost all good again, this time against the Cleveland Browns. He was 23-of-32 for 375 yards and three touchdown passes as the Chiefs went to 8-1 with a 37-21 victory.11

Mahomes, with 29 touchdown passes through nine games, is one away from the 54-year-old team record. Len Dawson, who later was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, threw 30 touchdown passes for the Chiefs in the old AFL in 1964.

Mahomes has 2,883 yards, which puts him on a pace for 5,157. That would easily break the Chiefs’ record of 4,591 set by Trent Green in 2004.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Mahomes also had his eighth straight game with at least 300 passing yards. Drew Brees has the NFL record with two streaks of nine straight games with 300 or more passing yards.

To Chiefs coach Andy Reid, Mahomes’ contributions go beyond the numbers.

“You appreciate him when you’re around him every day and just the spirit that he brings, the attitude he has,” Reid said. “You don’t even worry about him getting a big head or getting complacent. It’s a weird deal. He just goes out and he plays. He works hard and he loves doing it. He just goes about his business the way you’re supposed to do it.”

Mahomes threw two touchdown passes to Travis Kelce and one to Kareem Hunt, who scored Kansas City’s two other touchdowns by run.

Mahomes, as he usually does, deflected all credit for his accomplishments to his receivers.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It makes my job a lot easier knowing I can trust these guys. They’re going to be in the right spot. They’re taking care of their business. They’re running the routes and making route adjustments on the fly. They’ve looked at the film and know how to do those things. Them having that much talent as well as really studying the film so much, that’s what really makes our offense so good.”


Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino: Kieran Trippier must remember he is a full-back

Mauricio Pochettino has warned Kieran Trippier that he needs to improve defensively and remember he is a full-back after Tottenham’s scare against Wolves.

Spurs were 3-0 up at Molineux on Saturday but then conceded twice from penalties to claim a 3-2 win. While 20-year-old centre-back Juan Foyth conceded both spot-kicks, Trippier was largely culpable each time, foolishly attempting a nutmeg just outside his own box and then failing to track Jonny’s run.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Trippier had earlier set up a goal for Lucas Moura with a trademark cross, but Pochettino has reminded the England international of his defensive duties.

“The disappointment is massive to concede two cheap actions like we conceded,” Pochettino said. “I don’t talk about the action of the penalty — we need to go a little bit before.

“You are going to see or have the answer. We provide [Kieran] with the platform to go forward because we create the system and dynamic to put him in the best position to play. In a different situation, I think he is a full-back, not a winger.

“It’s like no different full-back in the world. When you are in possession and go forward, you need to be strong too when you are in a defensive situation. We always compensate.11

“If you watch the game, Moussa Sissoko compensates that situation. If we put a player high, it is because in behind we have compensated the situation to give the time to go back.

“Kieran needs to improve in the defensive situation because in the last few games you have seen that we conceded a few actions. But like him, all the players need to improve in the defensive situation.

“We need to be more aggressive. Against Barcelona, Manchester City and now, we conceded very poor goals. For me, football is about when you don’t have the ball.nfl cheap jerseys nike

“The great teams like Manchester City, who won the Premier League last season, or Barcelona or Real Madrid, when they don’t have the ball they fight like the most humble player.

“That is the balance which is important to generate or create in a team if you want to be close to winning titles.”

Tottenham have already thrown away leads against Watford (twice), Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven this season and, having nearly done so again at Wolves, captain Hugo Lloris has urged his teammates to add some pragmatism to Pochettino’s philosophy and learn when to simply see out the game.


Fantasy NBA Daily Notes: Derrick Rose’s magical night

In a fun moment fitting of the holiday, Derrick Rose dressed as MVP Derrick Rose for Halloween. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ guard turned back the clock on Wednesday night, scoring a career-high 50 points in the Timberwolves’ 128-125 win over the Jazz in what was the fifth 50-point performance in franchise history.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Rose went seven years, 227 days between 40-point games, the fifth-longest span in NBA history, per ESPN Stats & Info. Before Wednesday, Rose last had a 40-point game on March 18, 2011, the season he won MVP.12

My favorite random stat from last night’s vintage performance is that Rose took 653 dribbles on Wednesday, the most in a game this season. The rest of the Timberwolves players had 353 dribbles combined. While Rose had 653 dribbles in his 50-point game, Klay Thompson took just 56. Per Second Spectrum, 16 of Rose’s 19 field goals were unassisted, the second-most unassisted field goals in a game this season behind Blake Griffin’s 17 in his 50-point outing against Philly last week.

Regarding the actionable fantasy spin from Rose’s renaissance performance, it’s becoming apparent he enjoys a massive spike in usage and raw offensive opportunities whenever Jimmy Butler sits. Rose has tallied performances scoring 28 and 50 points, respectively, in the two games Butler has missed this season, while not topping 16 whenever Butler has been active.

We can surely expect to see Rose rostered en masse in ESPN leagues after last night’s performance, but with Butler reportedly set to rejoin the team amid this dramatic trade impasse, we can also expect him to resume a more complementary scoring role rather than the Iversonian performance from last night.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

This said, Butler could be traded at any moment, which would again vault Rose into a uniquely rewarding role even with the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns on the roster. It’s worth stashing Rose, given the increased pressure surrounding the Butler scenario.


Lakers finally get elusive win at Staples Center

Coming off their first win of the season over Phoenix’s desert island of misfit toys, the Lakers sparked their first winning streak of the season, topping the Denver Nuggets 121-114 on Thursday. The game was a seesaw affair throughout, but the Lakers wrested control of the game in the final four minutes.

The Lakers might not be currently constructed to be a top-flight defensive team, but there were some encouraging signs in their best effort of the season.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Watching Lonzo Ball constantly hound Jamal Murray the full length of the floor — picking Murray’s pocket just before halftime for an easy bucket as just reward — was a reminder that the Lakers employ several capable defenders, even if their team concepts have a ways to go. They needn’t be the sieve of a defense that they demonstrated the first week of the season.

For James, Thursday’s outing was a complete performance that included his first triple-double as a Laker — 28 points (10-for-17 from the floor), 11 rebounds and 11 assists. James has been selective with his attacks in the early going this season, but seeing an opportunity to rumble coast to coast in the third quarter, he willingly forced the issue on several occasions — most notably a slam on the break, courtesy of a pass ahead from Lance Stephenson that gave the Lakers the lead with 3:29 remaining in the game.

And from the top of the floor as a facilitator, James was characteristically lethal with his surgical passing.12

James is well aware that the Lakers won’t be the most proficient shooting team in the league. But their final possession of the first half was a vivid illustration of how the elite vision of James and Ball can compensate for perimeter shortcomings; it was an exercise the Lakers showed off in the victory. As the Denver defense gravitated toward James with the clock winding down, he zipped a cross-court pass in the opposite corner to Ball, who then instantly shuttled it over to Kyle Kuzma for an open 3-pointer on the wing.

The shot vaulted the Lakers into the lead heading to intermission — more evidence that better decisions will yield better results. If Kuzma (22 points) continues to sprint the floor in transition and float to open space on the perimeter as he did on Thursday night, he should be exceptionally well-fed this season. His two dunks in the final two minutes, one courtesy of James, helped seal the game for the Lakers.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Ball and James, both heady and intrinsically unselfish on the court, are clearly establishing some teammate telepathy. On a half-court possession in the third quarter, Ball immediately recognized a strong early seal by James against the smaller Torrey Craig — quick lob, easy 2.


Inside Chris Taylor’s trip around the bases that ignited L.A.’s offense

Everyone around Chris Taylor was seemingly being ushered to one media obligation or another after the Dodgers defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 to take a 3-2 lead in the National League Championship Series and put themselves one win away from the World Series.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, third baseman Justin Turner and catcher Austin Barnes were going to the media conference room. Yasiel Puig, Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger were being taken to a backdrop in the center of the clubhouse for a scrum with reporters. Meanwhile, Taylor sat in front of his locker alone.

Taylor didn’t get much attention Wednesday, but he shifted the momentum of the game and perhaps the series with his at-bat to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. The Brewers were up only 1-0 at the time, but there have been moments in this series where that has seemed like an insurmountable deficit for the Dodgers. Los Angeles had scored only two runs in the previous 27 innings and had struck out 38 times during that stretch.11

The Dodgers didn’t necessarily need a home run to get them out of their rut — they just needed to get someone on base and maybe, just maybe, they could find a way to advance him home.

Milwaukee relief pitcher Brandon Woodruff had come into the game for Wade Miley, who faced one batter in the first inning before heading to the dugout, and was dominating. It looked as if it would continue when he got two quick strikes on Taylor.

“I was leading off the inning and I had two strikes on me and I was just trying to ground out an at-bat, just find a way to get on,” Taylor said. “The ball kind of got in on me and luckily I found a hole.”cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Taylor connected on a 97 mph four-seam fastball for an infield single and was able to take second on a throwing error by Milwaukee shortstop Orlando Arcia.


Suns’ Devin Booker outshines rookies with 19 points in 4th quarter

On a night that was supposed to be about two touted rookie debuts, it was a return that stole the show Wednesday in Phoenix.

Returning from a broken hand suffered late in the summer, Devin Booker shook off some early rust to showcase his star potential and the reason the Suns locked him up to a five-year maximum deal in July.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“Every day in the summer, I worked hard for this day, for this season,” Booker said. “I knew going forward that the organization was there for us, that was going to be very special. With my contract also, it’s going to be a big year for me.”

Booker, who is still somehow only 21 years old, was molten lava hot in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 — on 6-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-4 from 3 — of his 35 points in the final frame as the Suns pulled away late against the Mavericks 121-100. Booker’s 35 points are the most by a Suns player in a season opener since Kevin Johnson had 39 in 1995.

“You’re just in that zone, man, trying to win the game,” Booker said. “My idea this year to get the most wins as possible and make the playoffs. We owe that to this city. It’s been a long drought for these fans. I know that comes with a lot of responsibility for me.”12

Booker even heard a few MVP chants as he was shooting free throws in the fourth quarter, though while appreciated, it was maybe a little too much.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“I heard ’em, man,” he said. “That’s love, man, but I wouldn’t take it that far. We still have to win a lot of games to do that.”

Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall draft pick this summer, said early on Wednesday his focus for his first professional game was to just win the opening tip, and then take it from there. He tried to normalize as much of the day as he could, planning out a simple routine that included a nap, talking to his husky, Rocky, and playing NBA 2K as the Suns against the Mavs.

He said he shut off the video game at halftime because he was losing, and he also lost the opening tip to DeAndre Jordan. But no bother, as he was solid in his debut, scoring 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, with 10 rebounds and 6 assists, and an actual real-life win.

“I’ve been watching all summer. I knew he was something special,” Booker said of Ayton. “I think people are always nervous for your first game. It’s usually three trips down the court and then it just comes back to basketball. When you’re that talented and have the abilities he does, the game is just going to come to you.”