Grades: Rockets Ink James Harden To Massive Four-Year Extension



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For the second straight summer, James Harden has cashed in with a long-term extension that solidifies him as the face of the Rockets. Houston inked Harden, a five-time All-Star guard and the 2017 MVP runner-up, to a four-year extension worth $170 million under the NBA’s new “Supermax provision.” The new deal tacks on to Harden’s current contract, inked last summer, which ran through the end of the 2018-19 season. Harden, 27, is now under contract in Houston through 2022-23, his age-33 season, and will make more than $228 million over the next six years.

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“Houston is home for me,” Harden said in a prepared statement. “[Owner Leslie] Alexander has shown he is fully committed to winning and my teammates and I are going to keep putting in the work to get better and compete for the title.”

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When Rockets GM Daryl Morey handed Harden an extension last summer, he was looking to stabilize a franchise that had flamed out in the playoffs after Harden’s pairing with Dwight Howard flamed out. Houston was in the midst of a major transition, hiring new coach Mike D’Antoni, handing out big contracts to Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson and seeking to establish a new style that further emphasized Harden’s unique combination of scoring and playmaking.
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Harden responded with a career year, averaging 29.1 PPG, a league-leading 11.2 APG and 8.1 RPG, and carrying Houston to the West’s No. 3 seed and a trip to the second round. The Rockets finished the season as the NBA’s biggest overachievers relative to preseason expectations, ranked second in offensive efficiency behind the Warriors, and set an NBA cheap jersey record for three-point attempts. Harden was at the center of it all, appearing in 81 games, earning All-NBA First Team honors, and posting a PPG/RPG/APG stat line that hasn’t been matched by any player since Oscar Robertson in 1965.
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Taking care of Harden last summer was a key step in Houston’s turnaround on the court, but it has proven to be just as critical when it comes to off-court roster-building. Harden’s presence and Houston’s status as a leading contender played a major role in landing All-Star point guard Chris Paul via trade this summer, and it has positioned the Rockets as a destination for other talent, including All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks, who has been linked to the franchise in recent trade rumors.
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By committing to Harden again this summer, Houston has made clear its identity going forward through his prime—the Rockets are Harden’s team—and posted an “Open for business” sign to all free agents or less-than-satisfied stars who are interested in investigating their Superteam opportunities. Morey’s pitch to possible star targets now includes a history of winning, a major market with a global fanbase and no state income taxes, and a roster with a clear identity and a proven MVP-caliber centerpiece. True franchise players elevate their organizations beyond just the Xs and Os, and Harden has matured enough to fit that bill.

The obvious downside to such a major commitment from the organization’s standpoint is risk of injury or decline. Harden appears to be a safe bet. During his eight-year career, he has appeared in 89% of his team’s games and has never missed 10 or more games in any individual season. Over the last three seasons in Houston, despite a heavy burden and playing time load that saw him lead the league in MPG in 2015-16, he has missed just two games.

If that good health continues, Harden should be in position to provide star-level contributions for the entirety of this deal. As a point of comparison, LeBron James was in his age-27 season during his second year in Miami. Signing on for six more seasons at that point would have carried him through the 2017-18 season, during which he is still expected to be the game’s top overall talent. In terms of other elite scoring guards, LA’s Kobe Bryant remained a top-flite scorer through his age-34 season, while Miami’s Dwyane Wade averaged 21.5 PPG at age-33 (his first season in Miami following James’s departure) despite a much longer injury history than Harden.

This deal comes at an interesting point in a busy, turbulent time for NBA stars, as some eye teaming up to keep up with the loaded Warriors and others, like Washington’s John Wall and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, weigh cashing out on Supermax deals that might tie them to non-contenders for their primes. Harden’s extension gives him the best of both worlds: insane compensation and a cemented spot right in the middle of the fluctuating superstar arms race.

Confident Senators return home eager for more goals vs Pens



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They have split two games scoring a combined three goals. They have limited the Pittsburgh Penguins Jersey to two goals. They have gone 1-1 on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Eastern Conference final. Now all the Ottawa Senators Jersey want going into Game 3 at home on Wednesday is more: “It’s a tight series, and we grabbed a win on the road,” defenseman Marc Methot Jersey said Tuesday. “I mean, had you asked us if we’d be in this position or we’d enjoy being in this position a couple months back, I’m pretty sure we’d take it. We have an opportunity now to get home and play in front of our great fans, and the building will be rocking. That’s something that we’re looking forward to.”

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Ottawa rode its defense in a 2-1 overtime win Saturday and played hard in a 1-0 loss Monday. Holding opponents in check, keeping them away from their sweet spots, getting strong goaltending from Craig Anderson Jersey are all big parts of the team’s identity.

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Pittsburgh surged in the third period of Game 2 and controlled play but struggled to create key chances in tight. “It’s hard to get to the net against these guys,” Penguins center Nick Bonino Jersey said. “They have five guys in the house.” Ottawa had to scramble to hold fast, with Phil Kessel Jersey’s deciding goal coming in the third when Anderson said he caught an edge with his skate and wasn’t able to move to his left to stop the puck. The Senators know they will probably need more than one goal per game to win the series.
wholesale jerseys from china “I think we learned a few things,” center Tom Pyatt said. “We played a solid defensive game, kept them on the outside. But I think they spent a little too much time in our zone, and, obviously, we need a better offensive effort for Game 3.”
Wholesale Ron Hainsey jersey The Senators want to do that without trying to morph into an offensive juggernaut or get into a track meet with the speedy Penguins. “I want to push, but the Stanley Cup champion is on the other side there,” coach Guy Boucher said. “We’re not going to stomp all over them. If we get into an offensive contest, well, we can give them the series right now. We’ve got to know what we are, and we’ve got to know what we’re able to do. This is as hard as these guys have pushed all year, and that’s why the two teams are going toe-to-toe, and it’s one-goal games, because both teams are defending well, both teams are trying to create what they can.”
Kessel’s goal came after TV cameras caught him barking at teammates, including linemate Evgeni Malkin Jersey, who downplayed any lingering effect. “We’re emotional guys,” Malkin said. “After the game, we were fine. Sometimes we lose our minds on a couple of shifts, but after we get a little bit of rest, a commercial break, we talk to each other and we start playing (harmoniously).”
Notes: Pittsburgh wingers Patric Hornqvist Jersey and Bryan Rust Jersey and defenseman Justin Schultz Jersey all have upper-body injuries and are day-to-day. All traveled to Ottawa … Senators winger Viktor Stalberg Jersey (lower-body injury) could return as early as Wednesday and defenseman Mark Borowiecki Jersey (lower-body injury) is also getting close.

Real or not: Wainwright is awesome again, Yankees have another great outfielder



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Before we talk about Adam Wainwright jersey the pitcher, let’s talk about Adam Wainwright jersey the hitter. His two-run homer off Brandon McCarthy jersey — his second of the season — provided the only runs as the St. Louis Cardinals jersey beat the Los Angeles Dodgers jersey 2-0 on Thursday. Hard to believe, but this was the first time in franchise history that the Cardinals threw a shutout with all the runs provide by a pitcher’s home run. That’s impressive enough, but here are some numbers that will blow your mind:

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Last 85 plate appearances:Bryce Harper jersey10 XBH & 16 RBIMike Trout jersey13 XBH & 18 RBI#STLCards Adam Wainwright jersey14 XBH & 25 RBI — Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) June 1, 2017 Ryan Spaeder was one off on the extra-base hits — Wainwright has 13, not 14, in that span — but he has driven in 25 runs going back to April 27 of last season. He’s hitting .244/.263/.526 with eight doubles, a triple and four home runs. He has come to bat 32 times with runners in scoring position and is 12-for-29 (.414) with 24 RBIs. Since April 27 of last season, 140 position players have batted at least 85 times with fewer RBIs. Memo to Mike Matheny: You may want to consider using Wainwright as a pinch-hitter once in a while (he has done so just once last season and once this year).

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Now for even better stuff, at least as the Cardinals’ hopes for winning the NL Central: Wainwright’s first seven starts: 2-3, 6.37 ERA, 35.1 IP, 53 H, 7.8 percent BB rate, 19.8 percent SO rate Wainwright’s past four starts: 4-0, 0.34 ERA, 26.1 IP, 16 H, 9.7 percent BB rate, 20.4 percent SO rate So what’s going? The results are obviously night and day, but the walk rates and strikeout rates are essentially unchanged. When we see a drastic improvement from a pitcher, the first we check is strikeout rate. In Wainwright’s case, that’s not the explanation for his superb performances these past four outings. So it’s something else.
mlb teams without alternate jerseys Adam Wainwright jersey has had a revival of late and has given up just one earned run over his past four starts. Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsAfter the game, manager Mike Matheny fell back on the tried-and-true explanation of fastball command, telling reporters: “He’s executing, throwing his fastball in good locations and that makes his breaking [stuff] better. He’s being smarter with his cutter. And with confidence comes even better pitches.”
cheap jerseys authentic There’s probably something to that, and it certainly seems clear that Wainwright’s approach with the fastball has been different: First seven starts: 22 percent high fastballs, 31 percent inside fastballs Past four starts: 31 percent high fastballs, 23 percent inside fastballs Basically, more high fastballs and a few more on the outer half of the plate. In those first seven games, opponents hit .394 against his fastball; they’ve hit .195 against it the past four starts.
pro baseball jerseys cheap So that’s a good barometer of what’s happened. It doesn’t explain everything. His well-hit average against all pitches according to ESPN Stats & Info has gone from .148 to … .151. So, umm, the same. He’s not necessarily giving up softer contact. His ground-ball, fly-ball and line-drive rates are basically the same.
I’d suggest we’re looking at essentially the same pitcher. He probably had a lot of bad luck on balls in play early on and now he’s pitching in some good luck. His season ERA is 3.79 and that’s probably a reasonable number to expect the rest of the way.
Corey Kluber jersey is back and all is well. After missing a month with a lower back strain, the Cleveland Indians jersey ace returned against the Oakland Athletics jersey and dominated with 10 strikeouts and two hits in an efficient 77-pitch effort over six innings. His stuff was lights out:
Hey.Have 10 seconds? Here are 10 CK strikeouts. https://t.co/ilNZ1LpOOU pic.twitter.com/k1chXOXyWk — #VoteTribe 5x a day (@Indians) June 1, 2017 From ESPN researcher Mark Simon, Kluber’s curveball, as you can see in the above highlights, was his sit-down-and-drink-some-Gatorade pitch: He threw it 32 times, the A’s swung at 12 of them and missed 10, going 0-for-6 with five strikeouts. As Mark wrote before the game, Kluber is the latest example of a pitcher who threw a lot of innings in the postseason and was injured or less effective the following year. Given that he threw 249⅓ innings last year, maybe the month off will actually turn out to be a bonus come October, with less mileage on his arm.
The New York Yankees jersey’ other mashing outfielder. Aaron Judge is hitting .326/.427/.680. He’s getting a lot of attention. He deserves the attention! Teammate Aaron Hicks jersey, after going 4-for-5 with three doubles in six RBIs in a 12-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays jersey, is now hitting .317/.437/.579. Hicks has been the club’s fourth outfielder, but has been playing every day of late with Jacoby Ellsbury jersey on the DL. Ellsbury may be the fourth outfielder when he returns the way Hicks has played. He has eight home runs and 30 RBIs in just 126 at-bats, numbers that project to 25 and 95 over just 400 at-bats. With one of the strongest arms in the game and decent range, he may even be a defensive upgrade over Ellsbury.
Give Brian Cashman credit for this one. Hicks had been a first-round pick by the Minnesota Twins jersey, but over three seasons with them he hit just .225. Still, he had good discipline — some scouts considered him too passive — and the Twins had kind of fooled around with him, never running him out there for 500-plus at-bats in a season. The Yankees got him for backup catcher J.R. Murphy, currently hitting .225 in Triple-A. How much of this is legitimate for Hicks? The stat I like is 28 walks and 27 strikeouts — one of only a handful of players with more walks than strikeouts, a list that includes Buster Posey jersey, Mookie Betts jersey, Joey Votto jersey and Anthony Rizzo jersey. While there is some good fortune going on — his average exit velocity is league average and his launch angle is below average — there’s some real improvement. The rich just got richer.
Play of the day. A triple play!
Outs are better in [email protected] go around the horn for the TRIPLE PLAY. https://t.co/lPMCux0UcK pic.twitter.com/zVGotjbXCk
— MLB (@MLB) June 2, 2017
Quick thoughts … Speaking of the Yankees, Gary Sanchez jersey homered twice. Imagine if he gets going. … Joe Girardi moved Judge into the third spot for the first time, hitting between Sanchez and Matt Holliday jersey. Good move to get Judge’s OBP up higher in the lineup. … Thursday was the 25th anniversary of the day the Yankees drafted Derek Jeter. They took him sixth overall. Drafted ahead of him: Phil Nevin (Houston Astros jersey), Paul Shuey (Indians), B.J. Wallace (Montreal cheap jersey Expos), Jeffrey Hammonds (Baltimore Orioles jersey), Chad Mottola (Cincinnati Reds jersey). … Tough day for the Seattle Mariners jersey. Tough season. Jean Segura jersey left Thursday’s loss to the Colorado Rockies jersey with an ankle injury and Nelson Cruz jersey left after getting hit in the hand by a pitch. Check the updates. … Sam Miller writes that Mike Trout jersey could still end up leading the AL in WAR … Ken Rosenthal reported that the Texas Rangers jersey designated Sam Dyson jersey for assignment. No surprise. He has to be a black cloud in the clubhouse the way he has pitched. … Via Sarah Langs of ESPN Stats & Info: Since 1996 (first full season of wild-card era), 58 percent of division winners held the division lead on June 1. This stat is great: The Dodgers, Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks jersey all began June at .600 or better; the only other time that happened since 1996 was the NL Central in 2013, with the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates. All three of those teams made the playoffs that year. Eleven of the 21 World Series winners led their division on June 1.

Lonzo Ball Puts Debut Downer In Rearview With Triple Double



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Lonzo Ball showed progress in his second Summer League game on Saturday, registering the event’s first triple-double in at least seven years while drawing oohs and aahs from a record crowd with his dazzling touch passes. But his 11-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist effort in the Lakers’ 86-81 loss to the Celtics left his outspoken father LaVar Ball unimpressed.

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“There’s always going to be progress on each game, he’s going to keep going up,” LaVar told SI.com. “You [media] guys will look at it now, and say, ‘Wow, he had a triple-double.’ That don’t mean nothing to me. You’ve got to win. It don’t mean nothin’. Wins only matter. Point guards ain’t judged on stats, they’re judged on victory.”

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LaVar Ball: Lonzo's triple-double "don't mean nothing" in a loss. "Point guards ain't judged on stats, they're judged on victories." pic.twitter.com/ltfm7SuuAO — Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) July 9, 2017

cheap nba swingman jerseys The Lakers, who were without 2016 No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, fell to 0-2 in Las Vegas. As a precaution, Ingram was shut down for the rest of the event after sustaining cramps in a Friday loss to the Clippers, leaving Ball as the roster’s lone headliner. According to the NBA, no player has registered a triple-double at Las Vegas Summer League since at least 2010.
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“I definitely felt better, better game,” Ball said. “But we didn’t get the win so that’s all I really care about.” Although he looked more settled on Saturday than he did one day earlier, Ball struggled from the field again, shooting just 5-13 overall and 1-5 on threes. Through two games, he’s 2-16 (13%) from downtown after shooting 41% from deep as a freshman at UCLA.
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“The biggest challenge is my shot, my shot’s not going in,” he said. “My shot is off. Everybody knows I’m going to keep shooting. My confidence is there I’ve just got to hit them. … All [my] teammates are great. They keep telling me keep shooting, keep my head up, keep leading.”

Ball’s shot might have been off, but his vision was definitely on. His highlight-reel fare against the Celtics included a beautiful touch pass in transition to Josh Hart, a cheeky shuffle pass to Ivica Zubac for a lay-up, a well-timed dump-off to Kyle Kuzma, and a clever lead pass from the angle to a cutting David Nwaba.

“Having him pass like that is contagious,” said Kuzma, who led the Lakers with a game-high 31 points. Saturday’s slate of games set an all-time event record by drawing 17,500 fans. NBA officials said they stopped selling tickets on Friday night, marking the first early sell-out in the event’s history.

While drastically outnumbered by Lakers fans, the Celtics diehards in attendance were treated to a strong night from 2017 No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum, who posted a team-high 27 points and 11 rebounds in the win.

Ranking baseball’s best defensive outfielders



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Last week, I ranked the top 10 defensive infielders in baseball. This week it’s time to hit the cheap jersey outfield. Interestingly, the outfield has generated more disagreements between the Gold Glove voters and modern defensive statistics such as Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) than the infield has. Only four of my top 10 ranked outfielders has a Gold Glove award to his name.

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Editor’s PicksWho are baseball’s best defensive infielders?Ian Kinsler jersey has been consistently excellent at second. Javier Baez jersey’s versatility puts him in his own class. Andrelton Simmons jersey put up one of the best defensive seasons of all time. But only one can be No. 1.

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Projecting the playoff chances for all 30 teamsThe Cubs and Indians have performed below expectations, but the Astros and Rockies have exceeded them so far this season. But who among them still has the best shot at the postseason?
navy columbia blue baseball jerseys Trade-deadline tiers: Who’s buying? And who’s selling?Are the Cubs and Indians looking to add to their rotations? Will the Blue Jays reverse course before July 31? We project which teams will be buyers, which teams could be sellers and who may stand pat.
cheap jerseys authentic This is my attempt to rank the best defensive outfielders based on my synthesis of various defensive metrics, my observations and the research we have done into the relative value of the three outfield positions. And for that last reason, no full-time left fielders made the list. In previous seasons, left fielders such as Alex Gordon jersey and Starling Marte jersey would have had a chance, but by and large teams still try to hide hitters in left field, and even the best defensive left fielders rarely excel when they try to play the more difficult outfield positions.
baseball hats cheap custom 10. Lorenzo Cain jersey, CF, Kansas City Royals jersey: The Royals’ outfield isn’t what it was at its peak in 2013-15 when it saved more than 40 runs per year and helped propel a defense- and bullpen-skewed team to consecutive World Series appearances, but at least Cain still serves as its anchor. Cain’s success in center field is all about range. He makes his fair share of misplays and actually has a worse arm than an average center fielder, but he continues to save 10 or more runs per season by getting to balls that other center fielders can’t reach.
It will be interesting to see what the Royals decide to do when Cain becomes a free agent this offseason, assuming they don’t trade him beforehand. On one hand, defensive production has typically been underpaid in free agency relative to offensive production, so Cain might be more affordable for a team that has traditionally been conservative with its free-agent dollars. But on the other hand, the Royals might be reluctant to hand out a long-term deal to a 31-year-old player whose skill set relies heavily on speed.

Lamar Jackson literally had spring football homework



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Lamar Jackson spent a good portion of December and January traveling around the country picking up awards. Teammates had to take a look for themselves, arriving at his apartment to snap pictures with the Heisman cheap jersey Trophy. “It was like we had won it!” defensive lineman Drew Bailey said.

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In essence, they had. Jackson became the first Heisman winner in school history, drawing attention to Louisville football in a way nobody else had previously. Now, nobody can think about Louisville football without thinking about Jackson and so many of his highlight-reel plays, starting with the “Lamar Leap” (now featured in the football facility hallways).

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The “Lamar Leap” launched a Heisman Trophy campaign that Lamar Jackson’s lackluster end to the season couldn’t negate. Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsThat means the spotlight, and the pressure, will be ratcheted up as Jackson plans for his crucial junior season. If he was a revelation to start 2016, he will be a marked player starting this September. Jackson knows this. The Louisville staff knows this. And they have a plan.
wholesale jerseys authentic Once Jackson returned from his travels, coach Bobby Petrino and the offensive staff had one sheet of paper waiting for him. On it, they listed seven areas in which they want Jackson to improve, based on film study from the 2016 season. A season, remember, in which Jackson finished with 1,571 yards rushing, 3,543 yards passing and 51 total touchdowns.
Cheap Stephen Paea jersey 1. Improve on progression reads

2. Improve on sets in the pocket

3. Improve on seeing the defense and understanding coverages

4. Get better protected

5. Get better at throwing the ball away

6. Ball security

7. Get to 100 percent on run reads
There is another item not included on the list: Add snaps from under center back into the offense, including play-action from under center.
Jackson looked at the sheet, listened to his coaches and immediately went to work. Winning awards did nothing to dampen his competitive drive, nor his perfectionism. Jackson understands that to be the best quarterback, and to prepare himself for a future in the NFL, he needs to check everything off this list.
Petrino and his staff are trying to take Jackson to an even higher level, adding new layers to his already impressive repertoire. As a freshman, Jackson survived on his athleticism and instincts. Last season, he improved his knowledge of the playbook, technique and overall understanding of the offense and won the Heisman.
This season, the goal is for Jackson to evolve not physically, but mentally. Once Jackson understands defenses as well as he understands his own offense, he will be able to make checks at the line and make better decisions. That will lead to fewer sacks, improved accuracy and even better results. And that, in turn, will make him more ready for his NFL future.
“He was pretty darn good last year, but you’re always working to improve,” Petrino said. “I think if he can do all of this, it will be like the great Magic Johnson years — one year he’s the scorer, the next year he’s dishing assists. He’s making everyone around him better and that’s really the goal.
“If he’s distributing the ball, hitting the checkdowns, seeing this, making this check, it’s going to make all of us better. Whether he’ll ever have numbers like he did last year, I don’t know that. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. But it will make the offense more efficient, which makes him better.”
Jackson, coaches and teammates have noticed a difference throughout the spring, which ends Saturday with the annual spring game. He is more confident, more vocal and making better decisions. Jackson’s career completion percentage is below 60 percent. This spring, he’s completed between 75-79 percent of his passes nearly every day.
“I think if he can do all of this, it will be like the great Magic Johnson years — one year he’s the scorer, the next year he’s dishing assists. He’s making everyone around him better and that’s really the goal.”
Louisville coach Bobby PetrinoThat’s one tangible sign, but there are plenty of others. During an open practice last week, Jackson noted he made a blitz check on one play in particular. At this time last year?
“I probably wouldn’t have said anything about it and I probably would have gotten sacked,” Jackson said. “I didn’t really make checks like that. I probably made one check last year and that was the Boston College game, when I saw an over front and I checked to another play. But this year, I’m trying to have it where I’m Tom Brady with it. Peyton Manning, stuff like that. Just go to the line and check out of anything that looks wrong.”
What quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino has hammered home is one crucial point: Get to the line with your eyes up. Look at not only the formation, but where certain players — like the safeties — are lined up. That gives quarterbacks valuable clues about what the defense plans to do.
With that information, Jackson can make checks and change the protection at the line, which in turn better protects himself (item No. 4).
“I’m impressed with how hard he’s working on that that right now,” Bobby Petrino said. “He wants to know what the safeties are doing, and understand the rotations. As a quarterback, you’ve always got to handle blitz, so getting himself protected, knowing where the hots are, already thinking about what possibly could be coming or what the threats are depending on the play called. All of those are things he needs to do.”
Once the ball is snapped for a passing play, coaches want Jackson to focus on standing tall in the pocket and keeping his eyes down the field. Here is where the progressions get emphasized, making sure Jackson tracks his receivers and utilizes his backs as checkdowns.
All the while, Jackson needs to make sure his shoulders and hips are properly aligned, his footwork doesn’t get sloppy and he stays calm when the pocket collapses. Sometimes when he gets flustered, Jackson drops his elbow and the ball comes out sidearmed.
Then there are the sacks, which encompass points 1-5. Louisville allowed 47 last season, including 22 in the final three games. The offensive line has received its fair share of blame, and rightfully so. But Jackson shoulders some of it, too.
Nick Petrino made a cutup of every sack Jackson took a year ago. Some could have been avoided with a different decision.
“He took too many sacks last year where he could have either thrown the ball away or went straight ahead,” Nick Petrino said. “He tries to get out of the pocket too much, holding the ball too long at times. … In the bowl game, we were on the 1-yard line and we ran a naked and he holds the ball and he ends up taking a sack, and there’s no point. That’s where he’s got to learn to throw it away and move on to the next play.”
Many of the sacks Lamar Jackson took last season were a product of the quarterback trying to do too much, his quarterbacks coach said. John Raoux/AP PhotoJackson also has spent extended time this spring taking snaps from under center. He looks natural, but that has come with effort and practice. When Jackson arrived on campus in 2015, he had not taken one snap under center in high school. The last time he had done it was during youth football.
“It was horrible for me,” Jackson said. “I was clumsy. I wasn’t really progressing well at it, and we just went in the gun after that.”
Louisville quarterbacks have practiced both under-center snaps and shotgun snaps every day in spring. Jackson had no problem handling the snap itself. It was getting used to the footwork and drops that took time.
In Jackson’s freshman year, Louisville would put Reggie Bonnafon into the game if the Cards had a short-yardage or goal-line situation that required a snap from under center. Last season, Jackson took those snaps sparingly.
But the first three days of spring ball this year, every snap Jackson took came from under center.
“A big part of our offense in the past has always been the quarterback being under center,” Nick Petrino said. “It helps the run game and the play-action game, and it’s also part of developing Lamar so he can go play in the NFL and do everything he’s got to do. It’s been good for him. It’s helped him with his drops, the timing of throws.”
Taking snaps from under center means getting the running backs more involved in the run game, but it doesn’t mean limiting what Jackson can do on the ground. He is excellent on zone-reads and power reads, and nobody on staff is going to suggest he quit taking off when he sees a big opening or limit his carries.
But getting better here — and not fumbling — round out the list. At crucial points against both Houston and Kentucky to end last season, Jackson fumbled, and that was part of a season filled with them. Jackson had eight fumbles, all on rushes, and lost five.
“That was always a hard one because to be a great runner sometimes you have to be able to move the ball around, but he has to know when to secure it and not have any turnovers,” Bobby Petrino said.
There is more work to be done during the four-and-a-half months of film study and workouts before the season opens against Purdue on Sept. 2. When it does, Jackson has vowed those tuning in will see a much different player. “Oh yeah,” Jackson said. “Just got to wait ’til September.”

What it means to be a division leader entering June



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On the second day of June, the Yankees, Twins, Indians, Astros, Nationals, Brewers, Rockies and Diamondbacks might feel as if they’re sitting pretty, with a share of the division lead as the season enters the summer months. But the longevity of that divisional prowess is not a given. Since 1996, the first full season with at least one wild card, 73 of 126 division champions (58 percent) held at least a share of that division lead entering June.

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Does it feel as if teams are more bunched up this year? They are. There is just one team with a winning percentage below .400 entering June this season: the .333 Philadelphia Phillies jersey. This is the first time since the first full season with at least one wild card that there’s been at most one team with a winning percentage below .400 entering June.

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But that’s not all. There’s also just one team with a winning percentage above .650: the .704 Houston Astros jersey. This is the first season in that span with just one team on the below-.400 side and one team on the above-.650 side of the spectrum. Since 1996, 11 of 21 World Series winners led their divisions entering June. The 2014 Giants and 2011 Cardinals each had a share of their respective division’s lead at that point, did not win the division, but did win the World Series.
navy blue and gold baseball jerseys The Dodgers (.611), Diamondbacks (.600) and Rockies (.600) are all at or above .600 entering June — and all are in the National League West. The only other time that one division had three teams with .600-or-better winning percentages entering June was in 2013, when the NL Central had the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates. All three teams made the playoffs, with the Reds and Pirates facing off in the wild-card game.
wholesale jerseys Which teams stand in a significantly different place entering June 1, 2017, compared with June 1, 2016? On the bright side… ESPN Stats & Information ESPN Stats & InformationThe Twins have spent 33 days with at least a share of the division lead this season. That’s more days than they did from 2011 through 2016 combined. They last won a division title in 2010.
baseball caps cheap prices On the other side… ESPN Stats & Information ESPN Stats & InformationThe Cubs were 35-15 (.700), 6? games ahead of the Pirates in the cheap jersey NL Central last season entering June. Entering June, they were 25-27 (.481), 2? games out of first and behind two teams.
The Giants were 33-21 (.611), 4? games ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West last season entering June. Entering June, they were 22-33 (.400), tied with the Padres for last place — 11? games out.
What It Means To Be in First Place In the American League, all of the division leaders entering June haven’t gone on to win their respective divisions since 2008 — when the Rays, White Sox and Angels did so. It’s happened four times since 1996 in the American League.
It’s been even longer in the NL. All of the division leaders entering June haven’t gone on to win their divisions since 2003, when the Braves, Cubs and Giants did so. It’s happened three times since 1996 in the NL.
Since 1996, only twice have none of the AL’s leaders entering June have gone on to win their divisions: in 2012 and 2015. It’s happened twice in the NL, too: in 2007 and 2014.
All six eventual division winners have held a share of first place on June 1 once since 1996: in 1998. That season, the Yankees, Indians, Rangers, Braves, Astros and Padres each held outright leads entering June 1.
In that span, only once has one team held a division lead from June 1 through to the end of the season: in 2014, when the Tigers did it.

Where Are They Now: Meet TBT’s Stars (Again)



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Sports Illustrated’s annual?“Where Are They Now?” issue catches up with the stars and prominent figures from yesteryear. The Basketball Tournament deals in nostalgia, as well. Former college and NBA stars are sprinkled across the league’s rosters. The league’s 2017 regional rounds tip off Saturday, with a slew of games featuring blasts from the past.

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With that in mind, The Crossover caught up with three stars of the TBT, who also once starred on a different pervious: Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, UConn’s Josh Boone and Missouri’s Kareem Rush.

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There was a time when Aaron Craft’s name was on the lips of every college basketball fan. What they had to say wasn’t always that flattering, but his exploits for Ohio State were front of mind, and he worked hard to get there.?
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“I had to be doing something right,” Craft said. “These people did research on my mom and my family and my girlfriend (now wife). They were so angry that they went that low? That was a good feeling. I definitely enjoyed playing that role.”
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Craft’s rise to national prominence was somewhat unlikely. As a 6’2” distributor and defender, Craft’s game wasn’t always easy on the eyes and he didn’t always look like the best player on the floor.?
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Glance at his all-time numbers and you’ll see an accurate description of who Craft was as a player. He never averaged more than 10 points per game, but in the Big Ten he rates first in games and minutes played, first in steals and third in assists. Of course, he’s also fifth in turnovers and fourth in personal fouls committed.

But whatever aesthetic Craft lacked was replaced by know-how. He made the right passes, he dove for loose balls and he lived inside the jersey of his opponent on defense, which became his calling card at an early age. For Craft, who averaged 2.3 steals per game for his career,? there was just as much enjoyment to be gleaned from shutting down a big time scorer as there was from dropping 20 himself.

“It’s a lot of fun when you are frustrating other guys,” Craft said with a chuckle. “I wanted them to know that every possession I’m going to be there doing the same thing, crashing it the same way. So as the game wore on I think I really started to frustrate guys, because I wasn’t going to back down.”

And while he made it look easy at times, expending that type of energy can be tough for even the best athletes in the country. Every fan saw his defense for 32 minutes per game, but Craft said he couldn’t have done it without his conditioning and the trust of former Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

“I wanted to be the best conditioned player on the floor every time I stepped on it,” Craft said. “It’s just something I had to do because I’m not the fastest or quickest or most athletic. But I can outlast people, and that was something I could work on by myself. I didn’t need to have special talent to do that.”

The work didn’t stop after Craft’s highly decorated four-year career with the Buckeyes. When he left the Ohio State his aggressive style transitioned to the next level, where he won Defensive Player of the Year with the D-League’s Santa Cruz Warriors before taking his game overseas and playing in Hungary and Italy for the past four years.?

“The last few years we’ve played overseas, my wife and I have gone over,” Craft said. “There’s a lot of positives. Obviously, I’m still playing basketball, making a living doing that, we’re getting to travel and we have a lot more free time to do those types of things, so that part’s great.”?

When Craft isn’t playing basketball in another country, he’s back in Columbus, Ohio. Several former players still call the city their home base and play together during their off-seasons. He faces off with former teammates there, including David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Greg Oden.?

While Craft was once a major staple on ESPN, he’s rarely seen on national television now, save for the occasional NCAA tournament montage. That’ll change soon. Craft called on his old Ohio State crew and they’ll all take the court together again in the The Basketball Tournament with $2 million on the line. And, yes, Oden will be on the court with Scarlet and Gray, the Buckeyes’ alumni squad.?

“To be able to play together again in something that honestly has a lot on the line I think is going to be a lot of fun,” Craft said. “It has an NCAA tournament feel, and that was always the best time of year when you have a good team.”

Only five players in history can claim all three of these accomplishments: Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Harold?Pressley?(Villanova),?Emeka?Okafor?(UConn), Josh Hart (Villanova), and Josh Boone (UConn).

Hart was drafted by the?Lakers this spring, following an illustrious four-year career at Villanova. Okafor?was one of the most dominant college players of the?early-2000s, leading his UConn team to a national title in 2004 and joining the Charlotte Bobcats as the No. 2 pick. Pressley?led the 1986 Villanova Wildcats to the most unlikely national championship upset in tournament history over Patrick Ewing and the seemingly indomitable Georgetown Hoyas. And Ewing went on to become a Hall of Famer despite a chorus of naysayers.

Growing up a diehard New Jersey Nets fan in southeastern Connecticut, I didn’t have to ask that question. In fact, I think I may qualify as one of the few people outside of Josh Boone’s immediate family who has watched every single televised game he’s ever played on American soil.

Over the course of his three-year career at?UConn and even into his NBA days with the Nets, Boone played a style of basketball that was unmistakable to a kid my age. Bullying guys on the block, devouring offensive rebounds, pinning shots to the backboard or swatting them into the stands, Boone exemplified a sheer force of will and imposition of power that every 7-year-old boy had no choice but to recognize and respect.

Boone was a schoolyard bully on the floor. Dunks, blocks, rebounds—you’d give them to him or he’d take your lunch money.

Always more spit than shine, Boone strung together four decent years in the NBA, including a sophomore campaign in which he nearly averaged a double-double with 8.2 PPG and 7.3 RPG while playing only 25.3 minutes per night. But poor free-throw shooting made Boone a liability late in games, which led to his eventual flight from the NBA to overseas.

Bouncing around from Europe to Hong Kong to Australia to a few other foreign locales, Boone has made an impressive career for himself, bringing home a pair of Bahraini championships and an ABL title with Hong Kong this year. He’s currently signed with Melbourne United of Australia’s NBL.

Injuries and bad timing botched Boone’s few attempts at a return to the NBA. Earlier in his career, with some NBA interest percolating back home, he was forced to choose between guaranteed money on the table in China and a shot at the NBA, but an impending lockout loomed overhead. He went with the guaranteed money, later calling it “the single worst decision I ever made in my professional career.”

While he’s found professional success in basketball overseas, Boone lamented the plight of being an American player abroad. The challenge is difficult enough adapting to life, language, and basketball in a foreign country, but Boone explained that the struggle often went far beyond just issues of acclimation, citing frequent contract disputes that leave him and his teammates miring through red tape just to get the money they were promised.

“Sometimes you can get on a team that’s just decided they don’t want to pay you,” Boone explained. Left with no choice but to wait out arduous legal procedure through the FIBA offices, players like Boone are often left out to dry. He details much of this struggle as well as the rest of the experiences he’s had overseas in?his blog. — Tim Kiernan

Months away from the eighth anniversary of the ACL injury that sent him stumbling out of the NBA, Kareem Rush is angling for one final comeback.

The sharpshooting guard hasn’t played in the league since 2009. Since then he’s done a little bit of everything—a rehab stint for his ACL, the NBA Development League, a brief music career, a clothing and fashion line—but most of his projects haven’t really taken off.

He hasn’t left the gym, though, holding onto the dream of one day returning to the league. But the 36-year-old knows time is not on his side.?One positive for the aging veteran? Senior Circuit basketball leagues are all the rage this summer. Enter?The Basketball Tournament, a tournament that is now in its third year of existence and is filled with former stars like Rush.

“This is me pushing myself,” said the Kansas City native. “This is a personal drive. I never thought my career would end on an injury. Part of me wants to do it for selfish reasons, (but) I also want to have my two youngest daughters see me play. They hear all about how daddy was this big basketball player, but they only know me as a businessman.”
Kareem Rush the businessman has certainly been busy.
He recently moved back to his hometown after a few years in L.A., where he was pursuing an R&B music career. There was lots of hype for his singing around 2010, as he released a single and began work on an album that would ultimately be released in 2015.
Around 2012 he says he started wanting to get back in the game. While he’s no longer pursuing music as a career—like any good opportunist—he’s leaving the door open.?“It’s a passion,” he said. “If something takes off then yeah I’ll definitely settle back into it.”
He made his way to the D-League for a few months (“just terrible basketball”) and the American Basketball Association before retreating to some business ventures by 2014. Basketball fell to the wayside for the first time. Instead, he was pursuing fashion and design, starting “The Gentlemen Brand.” The social media accounts for the company have fallen mostly silent since late last year, but Rush has always been about the bigger picture.
“I believe that there is never a failure, it’s only a lesson learned,” he said. “I’ve learned that I’m ever-evolving. People always question, they go, ‘What have you been up to?’ Well, it took time to build relationships, so the last years have been building, planting seeds on a number of business fronts. As I get older, this’ll suit me well.”
His career started at Missouri, where he was a standout for three years before becoming a first-round draft pick in 2002. After two years in a backup role with the Los Angeles Lakers Jersey, he went to the Charlotte Bobcats and put together a pair of productive years—when he was healthy, that is. He’d go to Indiana, Philadelphia and back to Los Angeles before the 2009 injury.
While he was never an exceptional player, Rush has done what he can over the past decade to stay relevant—reinventing himself off the court whenever he needs to. But he’s staying true to his best asset on the court: shooting.
“I know I got a lot left in the tank,” he said. “You know, the way the game is now with shooting being such a premium, that’s what I did. If I can showcase that I can keep up physically, there’s no reason why I can’t get another shot on my way back to hopefully getting back to the NBA.”
Rush said he doesn’t want to have any regrets when he’s 45 and lacks the NBA-level talent to do anything about it. But you’re mistaken if you think Rush will just settle into a quiet post-basketball career after all this is over.
He’s been talking to new Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin about bringing some of the old guys back to the program. An improved Mizzou squad would only be good news to Rush (and the beleaguered university), and he’ll be in Columbia mid-July for an alumni game. He’s also building a basketball mentorship program with a local charter school back in Kansas City, and is developing a?1-on-1 tournament—“NBA Jam, King of the Court-style”—for current and former players.
The buzz from players he’s talked to so far? “They love it.”
But first Rush has a summer of showcases. The spotlight isn’t all too bright, but it’s a chance to spend a few months proving what he’s got it. And if he doesn’t have enough? He’s got a backup plan, or two, in there somewhere. — Tanner Walters

Tampa Bay Lightning expected to host 2018 NHL All-Star Game



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The Tampa Bay Lightning jersey are expected to host the 2018 NHL All-Star Game, multiple sources with knowledge of the process tell Yahoo Sports. The deal hasn’t been officially announced, but barring a late setback the event will return to Tampa for the first time in 19 years.

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The team last hosted the All-Star Game in 1999, when Team North America – a collection of NHL all-stars, not our beloved young guns from the World Cup wholesale jersey – defeated Team World at the Ice Palace.

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There has been speculation that the lack of an NHL All-Star Game host announcement meant the NHL was hedging on its vow not to send players to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. But holding the All-Star Game was always part of the contingency plan in case a deal with the IOC couldn’t be struck.
cheap sports jerseys On Tuesday, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that initial plans to hold the All-Star Game on the West Coast were scuttled: One of the reasons some people still hold out hope for Olympic participation is that no All-Star Game has been set for next season. However, it does sound like there are plans for one. At this past season’s All-Star Weekend, it was believed the next one would be held in a Western Conference city, but there are rumblings the league went southeast instead.
Wholesale Jayson Megna jersey Tampa Bay, of course, is in the Southeast, at last check. The Lightning have been chasing a big NHL event for some time. According to the Tampa Times, a few League representatives visited the area in Nov. 2016 “as part of a multi-city scouting tour for potential sites for the All-Star Game, draft and outdoor games.”
Owner Jeff Vinik has invested heavily in the Lightning, the arena and the downtown area as well — always an incentive for the NHL to give something back to a franchise. The NHL declined comment on the story.
As Friedman noted, the hockey world was holding out hope that no announcement for the All-Star Game meant the NHL was dragging its heels, hoping to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The League announced before the postseason that its players would not go to South Korea and compete for their member nations. Both the IIHF and the Games’ organizers hope that the decision is reversed.
“I don’t think they made the final decision so far,” Pyeongchang Olympic organizing committee president Lee Hee-beom said Monday at a news conference. “(There is) still room to discuss and negotiate.
“Very recently I met their delegation in Pyeongchang, not only the athletes’ side, but also the labor union side. Not only in Pyeongchang, but also in New York. Nothing is concluded until the final conclusion is made.”

NBA Off-Season Grades: Best And Worst Teams



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The NBA off-season has been churning along at 150 miles per hour for almost a month, but this week it’s finally beginning to slow down. Deals have been signed, stars have relocated, the Knicks are still the Knicks, and the Warriors are still the Warriors. What about everyone else? Let’s hand out some grades to the most notable names of the NBA off-season.? Oklahoma City Thunder Jersey?

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Consider where the Thunder were before free agency began. Russell Westbrook was set to be offered a $200 million extension, but it wasn’t clear if he would take it. Likewise, if Westbrook actually signed, there would be even less cap room for Presti to work with as he tried to upgrade an overachieving roster that lost in the first round of last year’s playoffs. It was a bleaker situation than most people realized.

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Then the Pacers got involved. I’m still not sure what Indiana saw in Victor Oladipo and Domantas? Sabonis, but the Paul George trade makes the Thunder the biggest winners of the summer. Anytime you pull off a deal that makes the entire league pissed off, it’s a good sign.?
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George will make the Thunder more fun next year, and more flexible long term. By foisting Oladipo on the Pacers, OKC cleared his $84 million contract off the books and positioned itself for one of two options: 1) Russ signs the extension, and they have money to build around him next summer, with or without Paul George or 2) Russ doesn’t sign the extension, signals he’s ready to leave, and OKC can rebuild from the ground up, with cap space to take on bad contracts in exchange for more assets. They also added Patrick Patterson on a super valuable deal, and brought back Andre Roberson as a perimeter stopper.?
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It’s not to say that OKC is suddenly a title contender, or that this summer’s moves will keep Westbrook in OKC forever. George is probably still headed to L.A. next summer, and if the season breaks bad, he could be on the move even earlier. This can still get plenty complicated. But in light of how dark this summer could’ve gotten, what happened instead feels like a magic trick. OKC is ready for war next year, and whatever happens from there, it’ll be in good shape to handle it. Grade: A
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The Celtics are sort of the inverse of the Thunder story, and not just because they were the biggest name that missed out on Paul George. Like OKC, processing the Summer of Ainge means considering not just what happened, but what was possible.?

What actually happened: Boston’s starting nucleus is better than it was last year, and they still have more assets than any team in the league. They added Gordon Hayward, they drafted Jayson Tatum and grabbed a lottery pick from the Sixers, and they forfeited very little. Losing Avery Bradley will hurt, but they flipped him for Marcus Morris on an affordable deal, and that’s better than losing Bradley for nothing next summer. After this summer, the Celtics believe they’re positioned to continue winning now, with young players who will be around to keep it going well into the next decade.?

What was possible: The Celtics could have come away from this summer with a potential cornerstone for the post-Warriors, post-Isaiah era, but they traded Markelle Fultz to Philly. They could’ve put together a title nucleus for this season, but they refused to include any of their most valuable assets in Paul George talks with the Pacers—a factor that may have annoyed Indiana into taking the OKC offer. Instead they are betting big on a poor man’s version of Paul George (Hayward), a lottery pick with a lower ceiling than Markelle?Fultz (Tatum), and they just traded a shooting guard who’s perimeter defense helps hide Isaiah Thomas’s biggest weakness. (Also, now that Fultz is in Philly and Bradley is in Detroit, Boston is likely boxed into paying huge amounts of money to Thomas next summer. How much are you winning if Hayward, Isaiah, and Horford are your Big Three?)?

Without Paul George they’re not all that well positioned to contend next year, and without Fultz, the young core still doesn’t have any player who looks like a future superstar. Maybe that will come via next year’s Nets pick? Or the Lakers/Kings pick? Or another trade? Or maybe it’ll change with a promising rookie season from Tatum. The only guarantee is that arguments about the Celtics will continue for at least another few years. This is our new version of the Sixers. Everyone in basketball has an opinion on what the Celtics are doing with their assets, why they’re doing it, and whether it’s stupid or brilliant. I’m just not sure it needed to be this complicated. Grade: C

On draft night I was ready to take my shirt off and run headfirst into battle for Tom Thibodeau. Now… Did the Jeff Teague contract dampen my spirits a little bit? Sure. Is it fair to wonder whether Taj Gibson is still good? Probably! Do I understand the Jamal Crawford contract? Not really!?

Timberwolves' Jimmy Butler gives out his phone number at intro press conference and encourages critics to call him directly pic.twitter.com/gLxYVJWvx1
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) June 29, 2017

But I keep coming back to that moment Jimmy Butler read his cell phone number at a press conference and told critics to call him. Or Jimmy and Thibs at the airport. Or this photo with KAT, and two of the 12 best NBA players on one team, with Andrew Wiggins looking like one of the best third options in the league. The Wolves will be fine. This summer was great. Don’t overthink this. Grade: B+

The Lakers haven’t actually done anything to make themselves a more competitive team. Next year’s Lakers will be bringing a Brook Lopez to a superteam gunfight, and it’ll probably end with somewhere between 30 and 35 wins. From there, they’ll be trying to woo superstars to come save them, which isn’t actually that much of change from what the past regime was doing every summer.?

But something about all this feels more competent. Trading D’Angelo Russell may not look great in a few years—he’s still got All-Star potential—but they needed the cap space, and Russell turning the corner in L.A. was looking increasingly unrealistic after failures under two different coaching staffs. Then, they didn’t panic and overpay for Paul George. They didn’t spend $71 million on Tim Hardaway. They didn’t worry too much about LaVar Ball. They grabbed Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma as potentially helpful role players.

And they drafted Lonzo, obviously. He may not be a superstar if his shooting doesn’t develop, but he’s got a high floor and his passing will be infectious. Everyone will look better with Lonzo on the floor, and beyond that they are staying flexible and patient. This is progress. Grade: B

Apart from every single thing Klay Thompson did in China for the past two weeks, my favorite social media sequence of the off-season came from Dwyane Wade in late June. First:

18.3 points a game in 29mins on 43% shooting at 35 years old. if I'm 25 with the same numbers I'm getting 150 million ?? #Fading #petty
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) June 21, 2017

“Everyone thinks I’m overpaid at $24 million-a-year, so here’s a reckless claim about my production, and here’s the sunrise from my opulent vacation in Italy.” I love the NBA.?

The Bulls get an F for the past 36 months, and I have no confidence in that front office’s ability to manage the rebuilding process. But Wade gets an A for answering critics better than any of us ever could. Grade: A

Low-balling David Griffin in extension talks was not a great look, low-balling Chauncey Billups was even worse, and now the future is uncertain for everyone in Cleveland. LeBron has been silent throughout this process, and he reportedly never made contact with Billups as he weighed the offer. Something is happening in Cleveland, and whatever it is, we don’t have the full story.?

For now, the biggest moves the Cavs have made are re-signing Kyle Korver to a $21 million deal, signing Jose Calderon, and becoming the latest team to run out of options and say, “Well, Jeff Green is available…”?

It’s been a steep fall from Jimmy Butler rumors and Paul George blockbusters. The Cavs are still the best team in the East, no question. But the gap between them and the Warriors looks even wider after this summer. I guess at some point we can sleepwalk through a conversation about Jeff Green’s role or what Calderon could do, but it feels secondary after the past few weeks. Only one Cavs question matters: What the hell is happening with Dan Gilbert and LeBron? Grade: D

If there’s one thing we all said after James Harden’s meltdown in Game 6, it was, “Give that man $200 million!”?

Damn J Hard can prob own a lil percentage of the team now lol — Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) July 8, 2017

On the one hand, this means that Morey and the Rockets are currently better off than their counterparts in Oklahoma City. On the other, I’m not 100% sold on James Harden taking care of himself and staying in the MVP conversation through the second half of that deal. In any case, taking care of Harden puts a nice bow on everything else the Rockets accomplished this summer.

Houston with Chris Paul is a little bit like OKC with Paul George. It’s not clear if this union makes sense, and it may not last past this season, but it’s a lot more interesting than any of the other options that were available. Throw in a deal for PJ Tucker to harass the Warriors on the perimeter and good value on Nene Jersey’s deal, and the Rockets did really well.?

The chemistry could get tricky and the depth isn’t great, and I’m not sure they’re that much better than the Spurs, let alone threats to the Warriors. But this feels like a 55-win team and basketball’s most interesting science experiment. (That’s before Morey finds a way to add Melo somehow.) All things considered, it’s a step forward in a summer that looked like it would be a dead-end. Grade: B+.

I definitely have my guard up here. Praising the Kings’ off-season feels like what football writers do with the Jaguars after the NFL draft every year. But what can you say? Everything they did made sense.?
De’Aaron Fox has a higher ceiling than anyone in the draft outside of?Fultz and Ball, and they got him at No. 5, while also resisting the urge to trade up to get him. They passed on Zach Collins and Malik Monk at 10, in part because neither one would have fit with the rest of their core. The old Kings—the Kings that drafted two centers last year, after drafting Cauley-Stein the year before, all of which came with Boogie playing 40 minutes per game at power forward, and Kousta Koufos starting—were not concerned with fit. ?
This summer has been a real departure. The Kings went and drafted players who actually know how play basketball to help stabilize the environment around Fox. Vince Carter is the perfect wise uncle to help Buddy?Hield and Fox, and George Hill is an excellent fit at either backcourt spot while Fox learns. Zach Randolph is reunited with Dave Joerger, and he should be an awesome veteran for Skal Labissiere provided he doesn’t accidentally break him in half during practice.

It feels like there’s a real strategy in place for the first time in a decade. The veterans will help solidify the culture, and the young guys—Fox, Hield, Cauley-Stein, Justin Jackson, Labissiere, Harry Giles—may actually have a chance to succeed. It probably won’t translate to real winning for the next year or two, but for a team that’s thrown lottery pick after lottery pick into hopeless situations that probably handicapped their development, this is a real step forward. Obviously the legacy of this summer will depend on Fox, but I have a good feeling on that one, and early returns are promising.?Grade: A

Rick Carlisle has been allergic to tanking for the past few years, and maybe it worked out anyway? The Mavs get a high marks because they decided to pass on a $100 million bidding war for Jrue Holiday, they stole Dennis Smith Jr. at the end of the top 10, and there’s a chance they can get Nerlens Noel back for cheaper than the max deal that was initially expected. If that happens, they’ll have a really solid young nucleus to build around, plus a decent amount of cap space for next summer. I’m not sure how any of this happened, but the Mavs have a brighter future than at least four or five teams that have been fixtures in the lottery for the better part of this decade. Grade: B+

The Hawks will be an interesting test case for the rest of the league. They decided against paying Paul Millsap this summer,?and yes, they were able to keep a straight face when they politely declined to match Tim Hardaway Jr.’s $71 million offer sheet. Theoretically it hurts to lose a productive starter like Hardaway for nothing, let alone an All-Star like Millsap. But maybe this is the smarter way to play it. Most teams have been scared to lose core pieces and willing to overpay to keep winning teams intact—Blake in L.A., Lowry and Ibaka in Toronto, Otto Porter in Washington, last year’s Blazers, this summer’s Heat. But I wonder whether teams will come to understand that it can be just as productive to develop internally and wait for the chance to spend money on guys that make more sense.?
Atlanta didn’t blow it up and trade stars for assets. This was almost more radical: The Hawks came to a crossroads and decided that it wasn’t worth it to spend $100 million to lie to themselves about the possibilities with Paul Millsap and limit opportunities elsewhere. It means they’ll move a step down in the short term, but it’ll be really interesting to see how far they actually fall, and how long it takes to find alternate solutions. With good coaching and solid young pieces in place, I bet they don’t suffer as much you’d think. Grade: B?

One problem Atlanta didn’t solve was Kent Bazemore’s contract, which pays him $17.5 million per year over the next three seasons. It’s not great, but if the Hawks look psychotic in hindsight, they are not alone. Almost every major deal that was signed last summer looks awful in hindsight. Evan Turner, Ian Mahinmi, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Chandler Parsons, Bismack Biyombo, Allen Crabbe,?Ryan Anderson… There are more untradeable contracts in the 2017 NBA than any year this millennium. It was a perfect storm of mismanagement by the league and the players’ association, an underwhelming free agent class, and clumsy management by the teams themselves. And this summer has only made it clearer that the league’s financial structure spun completely out of control a year ago. Grade: WHOOPS.

The Clippers did better than expected after losing Chris Paul, but I’m not sure what their summer actually accomplishes. If everyone’s healthy, they’ll finish somewhere between the 7th and 10th seed in the West. And then what? Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell are fun, and?I can’t wait to watch Milos Teodosic. Danilo Gallinari would have been a perfect Clippers addition if this was three years ago, but now, I’m not so sure. DeAndre Jordan doesn’t really fit with the direction of the rest of the team, but with just a year remaining on his deal, his trade value isn’t great, either.?
It was a puzzling sequence of events, and it feels like they still need to figure out whether Doc Rivers makes sense for this team. But if nothing else, the Clippers’ summer gave us this t-shirt, and the Blake Griffin museum:

Griffin walked into a Blake Griffin museum, basically. Stations set up to remind him of different stages of his life w/ Clippers.
— Bill Oram (@billoram) July 1, 2017

The Blake Museum, 82 games of NBA Teodosic, and no more miserable nights with Chris Paul yelling at everyone… Yeah, there are questions here, but I can get behind the Weird Clippers. Grade: C+

We’ve written plenty on the Sixers over the past month, but it really can’t be overstated how well they did this summer. In Markelle Fultz they found the perfect guard to play next to Ben Simmons, and they gave up less than expected in the deal with Boston. Colangelo even demanded a top-1 protection on the pick he sent to?Boston—a clear sign that Sixers internet has infected his brain—and somehow the Celtics agreed. All of it was shocking.?
Then, rather than overreact to the sudden ground swell of optimism and playoff whispers, the Sixers made short-term bets on J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson that will support their young stars while keeping the team flexible cheap jersey for next summer and beyond. Redick is a perfect player to compliment what they already have, and while he’s not the one who’ll make them a playoff team—that would be Embiid if he’s healthy—he’ll make life much easier for Fultz and Simmons as they play their first year in the NBA. The Fultz ankle injury at Summer League was a good reminder to proceed with caution when it comes to any and all Sixers expectations. But still. This was a great summer for a team that was due for good news. Grade: A
The Warriors did not need more good news, but here we are. They re-signed Andre?Iguodala and Livingston, two guys the rest of the league was counting on them to lose. Kevin Durant took an even bigger paycut than expected, while Steph Curry was rewarded with the $201 million and didn’t sacrifice a dime. Omri Casspi was pretty mediocre when he saw the floor last year, but watch, he’ll be helpful in Golden State. Nick Young is taking a paycut to join them too. Early numbers indicate that his presence on the floor will make Golden State opponents feel twice as demoralized by all of this.?
They even brought back Zaza, and Steph responded on cue:
Nothing easyyyyyyyyyy!!!!
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) July 7, 2017

It’s only right that in the summer of Warriors responses—PG in OKC, Chris Paul in Houston, Hayward moving East, Kawhi refusing to take off his uniform for the entire summer—the actual Warriors still wound up beating everyone. Good preparation for next season.?
"We the champions mutha f*ckaaaa"??????????#ChinaKlay pic.twitter.com/zThvfnUbhx
— Warriors Talk (@JaeAzizi) July 1, 2017

Grade: What China Klay said.