Draymond Green finds his rhythm — and that’s bad news for everyone else

If there was something that might hold back the Warriors this year, if there was a weak link in their four All-Star chain, if there was a glimmer of hope for the rest of the Western Conference, it was that Draymond Green was not quite himself offensively throughout the regular season.

So much for that. Green is back, in full, and was a key component in the Warriors’ sweep of the Jazz, finishing them off with a Game 4 triple-double — 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Golden State was a great team even without a stellar offensive year from Green, but his postseason re-emergence has transformed the Warriors back into the Western Conference wrecking ball we thought they’d be this season.

While the West was set (apart from seeding in the Clippers-Jazz series), the East playoff picture became clear once the Pacers and Bulls won Wednesday, eliminating the Heat after a valiant effort down the stretch. At the top of the East, the Celtics captured the No. 1 seed with a win over the Bucks as the Cavs punted on trying to take the conference crown.

Since the regular season has come to a close, let’s take a look at the final NBA standings and first-round matchups in the NBA playoff bracket.

The Celtics took care of business against the Bucks to ensure the top spot, and that’s important for a team that went 30-11 at home in the regular season. The Bulls easily defeated the Nets after Brooklyn decided to rest several players in the regular-season finale.
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Brad Stevens mouthed ‘shut up’ when Bulls fans chanted ‘Fire Hoiberg’

For the first few games, the Bulls-Celtics series did not make sense, but it was inevitable that Chicago would take its exit from the playoffs. Before the Celtics eliminated the Bulls on Friday, the fans at the United Center let out their collective frustration at what a disappointing season they witnessed, chanting “Fire Hoiberg” near the end of the game.

ESPN’s cameras caught Brad Stevens in the middle of the chant, shaking his head and mouthing “shut up.” His reaction is understandable because he has a lot of respect for the Bulls coach. And in a way, his reaction to that is justified — the frustration over the Bulls should also be directed toward the front office, not just Hoiberg.

Additionally, Chicago might have had some residual anger after the Bears drafted new QB Mitchell Trubisky on Thursday (after trading up from No. 3 to No. 2 with the 49ers). Trubisky was also at the game, and while the team welcomed him with open arms, the fans actually booed him. Trubisky took it all in stride, though.

Chicago sports fans can be a fickle bunch.

If there’s one thing that Rossi’s and Starkey’s Ovechkin pieces does well, it’s getting people to talk. And talk they did. However, at what point do we step back from our hot takes? Are we really adding anything to the conversation if we’re just writing incendiary things we may not even believe to get clicks?

It’s also hard to take Pittsburgh media’s outrage seriously when they’ve stood idly by as the team employed players such as Matt Cooke in the past. That Cooke, who put into motion the NHL’s stance on headshots with this career ending one to Marc Savard.
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Dion Dawkins drafted by the Bills after trade with Falcons

Dion Dawkins did whatever Temple needed him to do in his four seasons with the Owls. The 6’4, 314-pound lineman started at each tackle position and earned All-AAC honors while developing a reputation as a mean, path-clearing run blocker.

That was enough to earn him a second-round grade from the Bills, who snapped him up with the 63rd pick of the 2017 NFL draft.

However, concerns about his pass protection and whether or not he’s good enough to stay at tackle raise one big question: Was Dawkins, who wasn’t highly recruited out of high school in New Jersey and labeled himself a “no-star,” a reach?

The Temple product was projected everywhere from the late first round to the early fourth as scouts and executives struggled to find common ground. He’ll have plenty to prove as he jumps to the next level and cuts his teeth in the league.

Remember Brady Quinn? The Browns traded up to select him in the first round of the 2007 draft, and it cost Cleveland its first-round pick the next year. He started 12 games for them, going 3-9, before Cleveland gave up on Quinn and traded him to the Denver Broncos.

The Browns could have had Julio Jones. Instead, they traded with the Atlanta Falcons and got five picks. On paper, that sounds like a great deal, but Cleveland used those picks to draft Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Phil Taylor, Greg Little, and Owen Marecic.

There are only two players from the first round of the 2014 draft who are no longer in the NFL; the Browns drafted them both. Justin Gilbert played just 23 games for the Browns. Johnny Manziel washed out of the NFL after eight starts.

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Baylor trying to dismiss lawsuit alleging 52 rapes in 4 years by football players

Baylor has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit that alleges 52 rapes by 31 Baylor football players over a four-year span between 2011 and 2017. Baylor’s filing was first reported by Deadspin.

He wants people to see him as more than a football player. Sure he’s a great athlete that makes more money than most, but he’s also smart with his money, and has plenty of flexibility, and knowledge of it.

Unsurprisingly, what makes this tape a banger is what makes Marty B interesting: He sticks to his guns and doesn’t try to weigh in about something that may not interest him.

At the end of a horrific March laced with mediocre defense and a bit of panic, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have fallen out of the No. 1 seed. The two-time defending Eastern Conference champions now face something rarely seen by LeBron James teams: uncertainty.

It’s no longer obvious that the Cavaliers will be back in the NBA Finals.

LeBron has represented the East in the NBA Finals in each of the past six seasons, so this would be quite a change if the Cavaliers were to fall short. As Kristian Winfield reminds us, however, LeBron’s teams have only been the No. 1 seed in two of those six seasons. When LeBron’s teams have had the opportunity to face the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, they have dominated.
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Brandon Meriweather suspension: Sentence reduced to 1 game after appeal

Brandon Meriweather had his suspension reduced to one game without pay after his appeal in front of NFL officer Ted Cottrell, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports. The Washington Redskins safety was initially suspended two games after drawing two personal fouls on separate plays for head-hunting Chicago Bears wideouts Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery this past Sunday.

“He’s gotta get better. He’s gotta get to the point where the reliability factor is there as strongly as it always has been,” the coach said today. “Has it been there up to this point? No. But we’re saying ‘let’s work, let’s get back to work and get this done.’ We count on this guy.”
Nicks has been the source of much conjecture around New York in recent weeks. With the team seemingly out of the playoff picture before Halloween, there has been talk of potentially dealing the former first round pick. Nicks’ deal expires at the end of this season, giving the Giants plenty of motive to send him packing if they do not plan to re-sign him.

Even after Rob Gronkowski caught eight passes for 114 yards, he still gets dogged with questions about his injuries. Gronkowski spoke with media on Wednesday and said that he is putting his injury history behind him and will focus on upcoming opponents.

Gronkowski still wears a long brace on his forearm, a byproduct of his surgery over the summer. He broke his arm in Week 11 of the 2012 season and returned in to play at the end of the season before re-injuring the arm. When all was said and done, Gronkowski has had his arm operated on four times since the initial injury.

Here is a quick look at the res7t of the news from Wednesday evening.

Potential 1st-rounder Sidney Jones tore his Achilles on the day’s last drill, per report

On Saturday, the University of Washington held its Pro Day, and a projected first-round draft pick suffered a possible damaging injury to his draft stock. Cornerback Sidney Jones, projected to be taken in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft, was injured while participating. The Seattle Times later reported the injury as a torn Achilles.

Projected first round pick Sidney Jones tumbled to the ground during positional drills at the #UWProDay with an apparent left leg injury.

So here they are, ranked from best to worst. Rankings include the quality of the whole thing, both the words and the emoji, hence the name hashtag emoji.

This is by far the best emoji. It’s a trash fire, for crying out loud, which speaks to the hot mess that is deep down in all our souls (or not so deep down, no judgment). Plus, the hashtag itself, #BracketBusted, is applicable really at any time during the tournament, except for the beginning and the end, unless this is the year someone finally gets it right.

This one just gives all the feels. The emoji is great, and evokes fond memories of championships gone by. I’d like to also advocate the use of this hashtag for situational irony, whenever someone goofs up big time.

Washington (41-24) has been one of the NBA’s hottest teams and is now only 2.5 behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed. Portland (28-36) falls to two games behind the Denver Nuggets, clinging onto the West’s eighth seed.

The MVP candidate posted 33 points, 11 rebounds, and 14 assists to record his 32nd triple-double of the season. Doing so, he moved past Wilt Chamberlain for the second-most triple-doubles in a season in NBA history. The only person left to pass is Oscar Robertson — the only player in league history to average a triple-double over an entire season.
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Brock Osweiler trade from Texans to Browns affects the entire NFL

The first official day of NFL free agency left no void of headlines. None was bigger than the deal that ended the Brock Osweiler era in Houston for the low, low cost of two draft picks.

The Texans shipped their starting passer to the NFL’s most famous quarterback graveyard, shedding his $16 million salary and earning the chance to hit reset on a seemingly eternal quest for a franchise cornerstone. In return for renting out their cap space, the Browns will receive second- and sixth-round picks while sending their fourth-rounder down to the Lone Star State.

It’s a salary dump more familiar to the NBA’s trade deadline than the opening day of NFL free agency, but it makes sense for both teams. And while the primary actors have the most to gain from Thursday’s shocking news, the tendrils of this deal will reach out across the league’s landscape this spring.

Almost every game on the schedule seemed to come down to “Does Southern Miss have it today?” The wins were mostly definitive; the losses were, too.

Southern Miss in seven wins — Avg. win expectancy: 88% | Avg. percentile performance: 64% (~top 45) | Avg. yards per play: USM 6.6, Opp 4.5 (+2.1)
Southern Miss in six losses — Avg. win expectancy: 13% | Avg. percentile performance: 17% (~top 105) | Avg. yards per play: Opp 7.1, USM 5.4 (-1.7)
Aside from the strange, come-from-behind win over Kentucky in the season opener (UK went up 35-10, then the Eagles went on a 34-0 run), USM left almost no suspense in their other six victories; only the New Orleans Bowl win over UL-Lafayette came by single digits, and Southern Miss outgained the Cajuns by 229 yards. It was a fluke that the game was that close.

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J.R. Smith compared his injury recovery to the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals

J.R. Smith could return to the court Thursday for the first time since suffering a fractured right thumb on Dec. 20. Sitting out for 10 weeks is difficult, and it won’t be easy for Smith to regain his rhythm as Cleveland gears up for a title defense.

Which is why this reminds him of the time some rival of the Cavaliers blew some insurmountable lead in the NBA Finals. Via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:

“It will be difficult,” Smith said, “but being down 3-1 [in the NBA Finals] is difficult.”
That’s the best part about the Cavaliers’ comeback last year. No matter the adverse situation they face, they can always downplay it by making fun of the Warriors. What a luxury that is.

It seems like a formality that the Chicago Bears will cut Cutler, who is finally at the part of his contract where the dead money won’t outweigh the cap savings. Cutler will turn 34 in April, and in addition to his usual turnover problems, he’s had trouble staying healthy, playing just five games last year. Cutler hasn’t put together a full 16-game season since 2009, his first year in Chicago.

At this point in his career, Cutler is more of a liability than an asset, but he still has enough name recognition that some team will probably take a chance on him. He’s been linked to the New York Jets, who just hired Cutler’s former QB coach, Jeremy Bates. However, that seems like a longshot. The team is also trying to find a trade partner to no avail. Regardless, Cutler will be an option for teams that think they can win now if they find the right veteran QB.
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NFL teams reveal what they value in free agency before it even starts.

If a player can win on third down, he probably won’t make it to the market. Pass rushers who can wreak havoc are protected like endangered wildlife. Offensive tackles who start and avoid comparisons to turnstiles get re-signed.

With just a few days left before free agency kicks off, a few other trends have emerged. Teams with a need at running back, cornerback or wide receiver will have options. Teams searching for a quarterback or needing someone to fly off the edge may have to wait for the draft.

After listening to coaches and general managers all week at the NFL Scouting Combine, here’s a look at some of the big-picture developments to expect in the 2017 free-agent market:

Scouts are eager to see Tennessee edge rusher Derek Barnett work out, and not just because he recorded a NCAA-best 33 sacks over the past three seasons. Unfortunately, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Barnett is sick and may not be able to compete in Sunday’s drills. He did not participate in Saturday’s bench press.
The 6-foot-3, 259-pound Barnett lacks the elite burst and bend that scouts look for as an edge rusher and possesses below-average arm length (32 1/8 inches), winning instead with a combination of strength, instincts and tenacity. Scouts are hoping he will be able to recover in time for Sunday’s other measured tests and position drills. If not, they will have to wait until Tennessee’s pro day, scheduled for March 31.

Garrett plans to put on a show during his workouts on Sunday, where he hopes put to rest any debate about who should be drafted first. He also plans to stay out of the limelight to avoid negative criticism. For Garrett, it’s a simple recipe: “Dominate here and not make any more crazy videos.”8

Tyron Woodley, Stephen Thompson get testy in interview: ‘Why you gotta be so mean?’

8Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson just turned up the promotion game.

The relationship between the two, even going back to before they fought at UFC 205, has been mostly cordial and respectful. It got pretty tense, though, in an interview Thursday on ESPN.

Take a trip down memory lane and remember the glory of MVP Baseball 2005.

Beloved as Yadier Molina is, does he have the numbers to be the St. Louis Cardinals’ best catcher of all time?

Dallas Keuchel was very different in 2015 (Cy Young winner!) than he was in 2016 (aggressively mediocre pitcher!) So who will he be in 2017? Zach Crizer of Beyond the Box Score tries to find the answer.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Oaks showed off his impressive skills on the piano in the clubhouse yesterday.

Last year, the Bears were desperate to move on from Bennett, who had a rocky tenure with the team. They managed to move up two rounds in the middle of the 2016 draft in exchange for getting rid of a player who wasn’t in their future plans anyway.

Now, the Browns may turn to the draft to find their quarterback of the future. That could start with Trubisky, who is from outside Cleveland and a life-long Browns fan. It was reported late Thursday that Trubisky was a consideration for the Browns’ top pick.

If height is no longer a concern about Trubisky, his lack of starting experience may be. At North Carolina, Trubisky started just 13 games. That didn’t concern Jackson either.

The Cavs also hold the record for most 3s made in a postseason game with 25, which they also set against Atlanta in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series last spring. Korver, then with the Hawks, lost that game.