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Don’t sleep on the undrafted Josh Reaves this season because he brings strong defense and a position-less skill set to the Dallas Mavericks in 2019-20
With three and D players in high demand, the Dallas Mavericks signed undrafted free agent Josh Reaves this summer with little hesitation. Reaves, last year’s NCAA defensive player of the year, hopes that his focus on steals can earn him minutes in the Mavericks rotation.

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The era of position-less basketball is here, so the 6’5″ Reaves could be a great addition because of his ability to guard multiple positions. Reaves also has a record setting knack for playing passing lanes for steals which should fit well in the Dallas Mavericks zone heavy defensive scheme. Reaves is a smart defender and a hard worker that hopes to make a name for himself in the NBA.

What if Mike Trout was drafted #1?

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Like my guy Aristotle said, ” knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. “. One thing I’ve noticed about Josh Reaves is that he knows his strengths on the basketball court. When watching Reaves play, and listening to his interviews it’s apparent that he knows steals for run-out dunks is what makes him special.

Reaves, who set Penn State’s school record With 250 steals, credits his great anticipation to his brother throwing things at him growing up. All the years of training turned Reaves into a defensive stand out in college. As a four year player for Pat Chambers’ Nittany Lions, Reaves lead the team in steals for three straight seasons and was named to two Big 10 all defensive teams averaging 2.5 steals per game as a senior.

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After going undrafted, Josh Reaves was signed to a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Reaves played extremely well for the Mavs during summer league averaging 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 block in 23.5 minutes. Decent numbers, but Reaves’ hustle, and understanding of what offenses want to do is what made him stand out.

Reaves seems to always be in the right place. With a 6’7” wingspan, above average athleticism, and elite anticipation, no pass is safe around him. Once Josh makes the steal it’s pretty much light’s out. His speed and quickness off the ground are hard to match. Reaves also displayed great decision making and play making ability with a few pinpoint dime drops over the summer.

Dallas Mavericks forward Justin Jackson is looking to break out in his third year. Here are five bold predictions for the forward this season.
The Dallas Mavericks traded for Justin Jackson at the deadline last season. He was not the focal point of the deal. The Mavs shipped Harrison Barnes to Sacramento to keep him from opting into a $25 million player option he had for the 2019-2020 season. Adding a young talented asset like Jackson was a bonus for Dallas.

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Chicago Bulls vs Golden State Warriors

The 24-year-old had an up and down 29 games for the Mavericks last season. He played under six minutes six times but also had 13 contests earning more than 20 minutes. Jacksons started the final 11 games of the year. Over that stretch, he averaged 12.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 25.9 minutes per game while shooting 53.8 percent from the field. The forward also hit 38.6 percent on his 3-point attempts.

Mavericks fans are excited about Jackson’s play after the way he ended last season. The forward is a hard worker that should continue to improve. He made getting better on the defensive end a priority this summer. Dallas needs quality role players around Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The former Tar Heel has the potential.

RELATED STORY: 5 bold predictions for Delon Wright’s season
The Mavs have one spot in their starting lineup open. Jackson figures to be in competition with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith for the role during training camp. Will his late-season improvements continue? Can he grab that starting nod?

Here is a look at five bold predictions for Justin Jackson in the upcoming season.

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Reaves’ biggest weakness is outside shooting. He’s not Rajon Rondo from three, but it definitely needs work. The problems with Reaves shooting mechanics go from the ground up. Meaning without serious changes to his shot he’ll continue to struggle to shoot consistently from behind the arc. Reaves doesn’t plant his feet well when shooting. Because he fails to set a good base he’s forced to adjust the rest of his shot differently every time .

This might seem like an easy fix, but because so much of your shot is muscle memory, bad habits are hard to break. If Josh Reaves is willing to work as hard on his jumper as he has on being a great defender, the Dallas Mavericks may have found themselves a future all-defensive player. The Mavs are a team full of guys with similar builds to Reaves, which might hinder his development.

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NEXT: This Mavs addition is more than your normal 3-and-D guard
Hopefully he can use his time in the G league to develop a consistent offense so that he can earn the minutes necessary to show off his stellar defense.

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According to video released by Joe Smith of The Athletic, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois spoke to fans Sunday and noted he is “very optimistic” about getting Brayden Point re-signed.

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Tampa Bay Lightning, forward, Brayden Point
Lightning forward Brayden Point (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)
He said he didn’t believe there was a reason to panic, that things have been cordial, there is an ongoing dialogue and both sides really want to make it work in Tampa.

According to Luke Fox of Sportsnet, Point’s agent, Gerry Johannson has said that Point is open to a variety of contract terms, anything from a two-year bridge deal to a five-year Matthews-type deal to an eight-year lockup.

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Related: Ranking NHL Teams By Forwards

The Latest on Mikko Rantanen
Finding ways to save money when it comes to Mikko Rantanen is not something GM Joe Sakic is concerned with thanks to a ton of cap space in Colorado. “It’s not something we’re worried about. He’s going to be here a long time,” Sakic said.

Colorado Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic
Colorado Avalanche Executive Vice President Joe Sakic (Photo by RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post via Getty Images)

What appears to be more the concern is if Rantanen signs for a high-priced deal that is well beyond what Nathan McKinnon is making. While McKinnon is a steal of a deal in the NHL, if you sign Rantanen for $10.5 million, the concern out of Colorado is, are you really ok with indirectly asserting that Rantanen is 40 percent more valuable?

The players on the Avalanche know this is a tough spot for Rantanen because he wants to be in Colorado but has to get fair value for the production he’s been providing the team. Captain Gabriel Landeskog told the Denver Post Sunday. “As much as he’d like to be here, he can’t go out and sign an eight-year deal at $1 million a year just to be nice.”

Rantanen’s absence doesn’t seem to be a distraction though. Mike Chambers of the Denver Post writes:

Rantanen, 22, has missed the first three days of Avalanche training camp, including Friday and Saturday’s on-ice sessions, because he doesn’t have a contract as a restricted free agent coming out of the three-year, entry-level deal. But he’s the last guy who would ever disrupt the Avs’ locker room over a salary dispute.

source – ‘Chambers: Mikko Rantanen’s agents might have him locked up and gagged during contract negotiations’ – Mike Chambers – Denver Post – 09/15/2019
Related: 7 Biggest NHL Players in Today’s Game

Matthew Tkachuk Wants a Five-Year Deal
If what Tkachuk said in February still holds true today. Fox reports that Tkachuk is looking for a five-year deal out of the Calgary Flames similar to the one Auston Matthews signed.

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Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk
Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
GM Brad Treliving has confidence that he will get his player signed but it will likely end with Tkachuk becoming the Flames’ highest-paid player. That means, because of limited cap space, Treliving has reportedly entertaining trade offers for roster players like Michael Frolik and T.J. Brodie.
Treliving noted that the Marner contract would not impact the Tkachuk talks.

Related: Oilers News and Rumors: Bouchard, Neal, Cuts, More

Patrick Laine Goes to Switzerland
Laine is currently training in Switzerland with SC Bern as his agent and Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff try to find a contract solution. The Jets are rumored to have offered a bridge deal of three years at around $5 million per season. Laine said of his decision, “Obviously a great organization and great city, so it was an easy choice to come here.”

Patrik Laine Winnipeg Jets
Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Speculation is that Laine is not opposed to a shorter-term deal banking on the fact that two or three strong years will set him up to hit a home run on the next deal.

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It was the shot heard ’round the hockey world, a Patrik Laine howitzer that rattled off the bar in Finland and clanged down Portage Avenue past the Perimeter, all the way to the Iceplex.

The Finnish forward may still be without a contract, but he made his presence felt at Jets training camp on Tuesday.

That’s what happens when you throw some shade on your teammates and coaches, as Laine did in an interview with a Finnish reporter.

The high-scoring winger, a restricted free agent embroiled in a contract stalemate with the Jets, suggested he’d be used differently and likely be more productive if he were with another team and had better linemates.

“When you’re having contract negotiations, one thing always is who are you playing with,” Laine told the newspaper Iltalehti. “With the merits I have, somewhere else I’d have an opportunity to play with the best players. Everybody who understands hockey knows that.

“There are top lines and then there is our line. But I play with the guys I’m told to play.”

Laine’s comments indicate he’s not thrilled with how head coach Paul Maurice employs him on the Jets second line with Bryan Little as his centre.

It doesn’t reflect well on Little, either.

Maurice did his best to shrug it all off to just a young, talented player wanting more ice time and a bigger role.

“Here, over the last two years, we’ve had three really, really young players,” Maurice said, referring to Laine, Kyle Connor and Nik Ehlers. “We can all do the math on that. That means two of them are going to be on one line and one’s going to be on the other. And he would be 100 percent right… there’s nine other forwards that wouldn’t mind playing a little left wing on that line. I get that. Everybody wants it.

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“I’ll use my driver’s license analogy: nobody gets the keys at 14.”

Laine is coming off a season that saw his goal total dip from 44 to 30. He scored 18 of them in 12 games in November, and had long slumps after that.

Maurice tried to give him a boost with a brief stint on the top line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, beginning in late February. He also dropped Laine down to a fourth line for a time.

So this topic isn’t new.

Neither is the notion of Little and Laine being a less-than-ideal match. The Jets have spent the last two trade deadlines paying steep prices for second-line centres.

The one thing that is new: Laine usually just blames himself.

“I can handle the shade,” Maurice said. “That part’s not going to bother me a whole hell of a lot. The individual experience is secondary to the team experience.”

The captain of that team found himself fielding difficult questions about a teammate he’d rather be passing pucks to on the power play, if not as a regular linemate.

“He spends a good deal of time with that top unit on the power play,” Wheeler said of the 21-year-old Laine. “He’s a young kid that’s had a lot of success in three years. He’s definitely not doing it by himself, I can guarantee you that. It’s a great trait to have to want more ice time, more playing time. Those are all good things.”

Wheeler read mostly from his coach’s play book, and suggested Laine’s comments might have been borne out of frustration of being on the sidelines.

At one point he said Laine is still “growing up, on and off the ice.”

Wheeler acknowledged his job as captain includes helping players accept their roles and buy in to the team concept.

But he brushed aside the notion this could make his job harder, or that he had to reach out to Laine.

“It’s a non-issue today,” Wheeler said. “None whatsoever. I’m sure there’s parts of that that are not exactly how he meant it and blown out of proportion. Just knowing Patty it’s not something where he’s trying to get his name in the newspaper. It’s not a big deal. We’ll wake up tomorrow with new headlines.

“This is just something I’ve become accustomed to doing around here.”

Through five days, there’s been no shortage of headlines.

The stir caused by Laine, amid his and Connor’s ongoing contract impasses, is just the latest in a training camp news cycle that’s included Wheeler’s own acknowledgement of the personal toll last season took on him, a car crash sidelining up-and-comers Sami Niku and Kristian Vesalainen for three days and the unexpected personal leave of absence for Dustin Byfuglien.

“What’s that quote about rough seas making a good sailor?” Maurice said. “Something like that. But I haven’t felt it in the room. It’s been good, guys are working their asses off. Players got a little bit of turbulence, maybe, outside the jet. But inside the jet it’s good.”

That may be. We’re not allowed in, after all.

But eventually the team’s got to step out and play. And then we’ll find out if everything’s good, like they say.

Just like we found out last spring.

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Due to major injuries and lackluster play elsewhere in the NFC South, the Buccaneers find themselves atop the division and in the driver’s seat.
Do not look now, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit atop the NFC South two weeks through the 2019 season, and after a string of misfortunes around the rest of the division, the banner is theirs to lose. With a record of 1-1, the Buccaneers have the same record as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, while Carolina Panthers sit at 0-2 on the year.

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Fortunately for the Bucs as they sit in first place in the division, two of the other teams are battling major injuries at the quarterback position. Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees is slated to miss six weeks after hurting his thumb in a collision with Los Angeles Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald, while the Panthers’ gunslinger Cam Newton is still recovering from the various injuries he has accumulated over the years; this time it is his foot.

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Cincinnati Bengals: 3 reasons Week 3 at Buffalo could
be the biggest game of the year

This leaves the Buccaneers, untainted by major injuries other than Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Evans, in the driver’s seat in the NFC South as the season rages on. The NFC South is one of the better, if not the best, divisions in the National Football League, so the pewter and red must remain focused as any of the Saints, Panthers, or Falcons could turn on the jets at any time.

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Even though Brees is out, the Saints have one of the best, if not the best backup in the league in former first round pick Teddy Bridgewater. They are also still surrounded by the talented offensive threats of Alvin Kamara and Mike Thomas, and a defense led by Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore.

The Falcons are not suffering from any major injuries, but have not looked great after entering this season with high expectations. They too still have a ton of talent on the field with wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley aiding former MVP Matt Ryan, and a defense filled with speed and strength, anchored by Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett.

While sitting in last place in the division after back-to-back losses, including a Thursday night loss to the Buccaneers, the Panthers have Christian McCaffrey, veteran tight end Greg Olsen, and speedsters D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel offensively. Luke Kuechly remains one of the best linebackers in the league and former Buc Gerald McCoy joins a stacked defensive front in Carolina.

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SEP 22
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
1:05 PM – State Farm Stadium
SEP 29
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
1:05 PM – State Farm Stadium
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
2:05 PM – State Farm Stadium
The Buccaneers, however, have to prepare for a long seven week stretch away from home after this week’s matchup against the New York Giants. It is paramount for the Buccaneers to come away as winners this week at Raymond James Stadium so that they carry some momentum on the road with them.

NEXT: Mock Draft Monday: Buccaneers no longer in need of a QB?
While the Bucs have the advantage on paper over their other division foes, the games still have to be played on the field. Right now the Buccaneers are in the best position to take the NFC South crown, but can they pull off their first division title in 14 years?
The New York Giants have officially announced that Daniel Jones will replace Eli Manning as the starting quarterback on Sunday when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Here is Pat Shurmur discussing the decision:

“Eli and I spoke this morning,” Shurmur said. “I told him that we are making a change and going with Daniel as the starter. I also talked to Daniel. Eli was obviously disappointed, as you would expect, but he said he would be what he has always been, a good teammate, and continue to prepare to help this team win games. Daniel understands the challenge at hand, and he will be ready to play on Sunday.”

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‘Valentine’s Views:’ Thoughts on Daniel Jones replacing Eli Manning
Manning, except for one 2017 game when Geno Smith replace him, has started every game at quarterback for the Giants since the 10th game of the 2004 season. This season, he has completed 56 of 89 passes for 556 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 78.7.

The Giants, though, have gone 0-2 and were not truly competitive, losing 35-17 to the Dallas Cowboys and 28-14 to the Buffalo Bills.

Shurmur promised on Monday that the organization would be “looking at everything” in an effort to get better.
“Ultimately, this is a move that I felt was best for this team at this time,” Shurmur said. “I have said it since I got here, I am very fond of Eli. His work ethic, his preparation, his football intelligence. All those attributes are as good as I have ever seen in a player. And Eli worked as hard as you could ask of anybody to get ready for this season. This move is more about Daniel moving forward than about Eli.”

The Giants won two Super Bowls with Manning at the helm, but the last several years have not been kind. The Giants have made the playoffs only one time since winning the 2011 Super Bowl and Manning’s career record as a starter is an even .500, 116-116.

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Manning holds all of the Giants’ career passing records, including attempts (8,061, which places him sixth in NFL history), completions (4,860, sixth), passing yards (56,537, seventh) and touchdown passes (362, eighth).

Jones, selected sixth overall, had a tremendous preseason. In four games, he completed 29 of 34 passes (85.3 percent) for 416 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a glittering 137.2 rating.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are not likely going to win a ton of games in the 2019-20 season with their primary focus on player development. Here’s how they’ll stack up against their division this year.
In a stark contrast to the narrative surrounding the team initially going into the 2018-19 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ primary focus in 2019-20 is going to be player development.

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After starting horribly and with a ton of reported injuries to players such as Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, though, and many more that followed, Cleveland did seem to shift toward initiating a full-rebuild early on in 2018-19, and unlike going into last season when the team wanting to compete for the postseason, 2019-20 will be predicated on getting a bunch of young players big minutes.

The Cavs have a new head coach in John Beilein with a good track record of turning programs around, such as in his last gig at Michigan, but Beilein as KJG contributors have referenced often, does not have any coaching experience at the NBA level, and not even in an assistant role (though he’s never actually been an assistant coach, anyhow, and has been a winner at all other levels).

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After how they performed last season, it appears that Collin Sexton (second on Cleveland in scoring among qualified players with 16.7 points per game, per and Cedi Osman (a steady 13.0 points and 4.7 assists per game) project as key young pieces in the coming years for the Cavaliers.

Larry Nance Jr. also cemented himself as one of the team’s best contributors, too, as he had career-bests in points (9.4), rebounds (8.2), assists (3.2) and steals (1.5) in his largest workload of his tenure in the NBA to that point with 26.8 minutes per game (per Basketball Reference).

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At this point, he projects as a likely starter now in the 2019-20 season, too, according to’s Chris Fedor, and with Nance’s playmaking ability (he led qualified players on Cleveland last year in assists per game, per, and improved three-point shooting (33.7% from deep), his production I’d think could go up again.

Cleveland’s three 2019 NBA Draft selections in Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. should have plenty of minutes-share in their rookie seasons, too, and I’d think they should all make their presence felt as factors in the Central Division as next year progresses.

Cleveland’s division has some very tough matchups for the young Cavs in the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, and a team that could be on the rise if they can put it together in the Chicago Bulls.

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We’ll start with how the Cavaliers stack up against Chicago in 2019-20 first.

Best Case
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): So let’s say Dellavedova’s shot looks better this year as his form indicates from over the summer. This makes him a little bit better as an off-ball shooter and allows him to function well around Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, as he can play without the ball and also defend. He also can be a key locker room presence — as he was last year — for a very young team that needs some veteran voices around. He, along with Tristan Thompson, feels like the guy best suited for a leadership role on a bad team.

Justin Rowan (@cavsanada): Delly’s improved release helps him regain his effectiveness as an NBA player. The catapult appears to be a thing of the past, meaning he could again have some value as a shooter. He’s a third string point guard and a good locker room presence. He could POSSIBLY fetch something as an expiring contract. But with so many other expiring deals on the Cavs that provide some value on court, he’s probably the last to be moved.

David Zavac (@DavidZavac): On a team like this, if Delly’s your fourth guard I think you could do a lot worse. Having him around in practice to challenge Garland and Sexton feels valuable on some level, and they’ll never have to deal with the ridiculous talk Kyrie did that Delly is somehow a better player/fit for the Cavs. He may not have the championship cache that Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson do, but he was there all the same. The best case scenario is that he stays healthy, and stays on the Cavs, regardless of how he plays. If he makes some threes in the meantime, great.

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Worst Case
CM: Delly’s altered shot doesn’t result in anything meaningful, and it means he’s not really helping with off-ball shooting as much as ideal. At the same time, injuries mount up as they have the last few years and it limits how much he’s actually pushing the young guys in practice and how often he’s actually around the team day-to-day helping out and mentoring the young guys. His health, more than being traded or just not getting minutes, feels like the biggest barrier to him being helpful during the 2019-20 season.

JR: Low ceiling comes with a low floor. The worst case scenario is that Delly can’t stay healthy and therefore is unable to at least help push guys in practice. After a season of few to no contributions he walks for nothing and that’s the end of the second era of Delly in Cleveland.

DZ: He can’t get past a string of the injuries that have seemed to linger for him over the last few years, and he’s not available to the team. The Cavs don’t trade Jordan Clarkson or Brandon Knight, so his minutes are few and far between anyway. He finds himself as a bubble NBA player in free agency in 10 months.

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The NBA has changed a lot this past summer, and so have the Utah Jazz. It’s now time to predict how things will unfold during the regular season in a new-look league.
The dog days of summer come every year around August and September for basketball fans. Once the dust settles after free agents signing in July, and once summer league ball is over, all we can do is sit tight until training camp starts. Fortunately this year, we’ve had the FIBA World Cup to hold us over, and watching three Jazzmen participate for their respective countries has been a delight.

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Chicago Bulls vs Golden State Warriors

Joe Ingles has been rock solid for the Australian team, and hasn’t missed a beat this summer. He has his fingerprints all over the game with points, rebounds and assists. Meanwhile Rudy Gobert has had a great FIBA showing, leading France to a historic win over Team USA, and a bronze medal.

Donovan Mitchell struggled at time in FIBA action, having several games and exhibitions where his shot just wouldn’t fall. He also had some good games, though, like his 29-point performance in the quarterfinals against France, his seven-assist performance against Brazil, and his 16-point,10-assist performance in the last game.

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Overall, I would say this has been a great opportunity for him to critique his individual game with great basketball minds like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr.
The J-Notes
Mitchell had by far his best game of FIBA play, just the kind of game Jazz fans have been waiting for, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get past Rudy Gobert and France. Mitchell went off for 29 points on 12-of-23 shooting.

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Mitchell looks ready to add more dimensions to his game like improved defense, better playmaking and cutting down his turnovers. Considering he’s already a 20-plus point per game scorer, Spida looks ready to impress in year three.

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At any rate, with the World Cup on the books, we turn our attention to the upcoming campaign and a league that looks dramatically different after all the player movement this summer. How will things shake out in a new-look league?

I’ve already given my prediction for the Jazz’s start of the season, going 28-13. Here are my win-loss predictions for every team in the league.

With FIBA basketball now behind us, we take a look back at the tournament and how it helped the Utah Jazz and Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles.

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Will things from the tournament carry over? What can the players take from the tournament and take with them into this upcoming season?

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NBA training camp is only a few weeks away and we look at the team and one of the missing components, the power forward. We’ve mentioned a lot of names in multiple articles so who do we think will fill that role? Or is it even a problem? Perhaps the power forward position doesn’t exist any more?

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Don’t be surprised if Tremon Smith, who was officially claimed of waivers by the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday, eventually becomes one of the team’s most valuable special teams players.

Smith, a 2018 draft pick, was an electric kick returner and an effective gunner for the Kansas City Chiefs, with the speed to be useful for the Packers in both roles.
Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga currently uses receiver Trevor Davis as a kick returner and gunner. At the very least, Smith provides instant competition at both spots.

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As a rookie last season, Smith ranked fourth in the NFL among qualified kick returns with a 26.8-yard average over 33 returns. He set up a touchdown against the New England Patriots with a 97-yard return, a career-high.


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Tremon Smith’s 9️⃣7️⃣ yard kickoff return that set up the touchdown.

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According to Pro Football Focus, Smith graded out as the site’s No. 2 overall kick returner. If the Packers are comfortable with Davis as the punt returner, Smith could take over the role returning kicks.

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Overall, Smith played 197 snaps on special teams and 74 more on defense in 2018.

Smith was especially good as a gunner during the preseason. He has elite straight-line speed, which helps him get down the field and close down space for returners. The Packers have used Davis, cornerback Tony Brown and safety Will Redmond as gunners so far in 2019.

Smith will likely be willing to do whatever the Packers need. This summer, he experimented at running back and receiver for Andy Reid and the Chiefs, but was eventually moved back to cornerback.

The Packers announced Smith as a cornerback Tuesday. He’ll wear No. 27.

GREEN BAY, Wis. — It didn’t take long for Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith to figure out how to play off one another.

Standing in the middle of the Green Bay Packers’ locker room after Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, the two outside linebackers were asked how much fun they’re having with their new team.

Za’Darius looked at Preston and said, “I’ll answer.”

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Preston nodded and said, “Yeah, you answer.”

They’ve taken to handling their media responsibilities as a tandem, which is the same approach they’ve taken to pestering quarterbacks and taking down running backs.

No, they’re not brothers; they’re not even related. But from the moment they arrived in Green Bay as two of general manager Brian Gutekunst’s high-priced, free-agent signings in March, they’ve acted like they are.

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While the Packers didn’t do more than dabble in free agency before Gutekunst took over, perhaps never before in Green Bay have two veterans arrived with this kind of …

“Chemistry?” Za’Darius said, finishing a question.

“It’s just knowing one another,” he continued. “I feel like this goes for the whole defense, if we get together more off the field, we’ll just learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Just communication and being around each other helps us on the field.”
Za’Darius Smith, center, has 1.0 sacks, 9 tackles (tied for second on the team) and 4 QB hits in his first two games with the Packers. Quinn Harris/Getty Images
Through two games, the Smiths have combined for 2.5 sacks, 16 tackles, eight quarterback hits and an interception. Za’Darius’ line reads like this: 1.0 sacks, 9 tackles (tied for second on the team), 4 QB hits. Preston’s is: 1.5 sacks (tied for the team lead), 7 tackles, 4 quarterback hits, 1 interception.

Last year’s team leader in quarterback hits, Clay Matthews, totaled just nine. The Smiths are both nearly halfway there after two games.

So far, it’s been money — and a lot of it — well spent.

The day Za’Darius signed his four-year, $66 million deal (including a $20 million signing bonus) and Preston signed his four-year, $52 million deal (including a $16 million signing bonus) was like a reunion. They first met when Za’Darius was at East Mississippi Community College and Preston was at Mississippi State, and Za’Darius took a recruiting visit to Starkville.

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Though Za’Darius chose another SEC school, Kentucky, they connected again at the NFL scouting combine, where players are not only grouped by position, but alphabetically within their groups.

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“I was right behind him,” Za’Darius said. “In those situations, we had to talk. It was pretty cool because for the past four years in the league, I was staying in touch because I was in Baltimore and he was in Washington.”

But they didn’t truly bond until they arrived in Green Bay. In the Baltimore-Washington area, they were 90 minutes apart — “without traffic,” Preston said.

“Now we’re like five minutes away,” he said. “Nothing is too far in Green Bay.”

While they were upstairs at Lambeau Field signing their contracts, their kids — Za’Darius’ 5-year-old son and Preston’s 5-year-old daughter — played together.

“They’re both 5, but I told him to keep his son away from my daughter,” Preston said in one of their rare separate interviews. “Nah, I’m kidding. They were both playing in the weight room together kicking a ball around and chasing each other around.”
Preston Smith had an interception of Kirk Cousins on Sunday during the Packers’ 21-16 victory over the Vikings. Matt Ludtke/AP Photo
Though neither one of their children lives in Green Bay full time, they have regular play dates when they’re in town.

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“When she came up here for the summer, they got together,” Za’Darius said. “P was telling me, ‘Your son better not try my girl.’ But it’s all good. We’re all family at the end of the day.”

A skeptic might say this is all an act or at least a convenient connection because of their names and their positions.

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t think so.
“These guys are great team guys,” Rodgers said. “And as opposed to some years in the past where we didn’t have that stand-up, charismatic leadership on that side of the ball, these guys want it. And they both will get up and say things. Their word carries a lot of weight because of the way they practice and the way they play. And they’re a lot of fun. I mean, I told you guys after the game in Chicago last week how much fun that was in the locker room. Same thing coming in now after this one [against the Vikings].

“Those two, I can tell you, really do enjoy each other and hang out off the field. But it’s a lot closer-knit group than we had in years past. And I give Brian and his staff and everybody buying into Matt [LaFleur’s] system the credit for that.”

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As far as roster spots go this was setting up to be a fairly boring training camp for the Pittsburgh Penguins. There are not many — if any — actual spots up for grabs and the only thing that seemed to be at stake was where each player would fit in the lineup. We know who the players are going to be, we just do not know where they will slot in and who they will play next to. Even when we do find that out we are only a couple of bad shifts away from everything being put into a line blender anyway.

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Probably the most intriguing spot to watch is the backup goalie spot behind Matt Murray, especially after general manager Jim Rutherford said at the start of camp that the team will use training camp and the preseason to decide who the No. 2 goalie will be.

It is not an earth-shattering proclamation, but it is still mildly surprising given the trust Mike Sullivan seems to have in Casey DeSmith, the fact he is just now beginning a three-year contract that he signed a year ago, and because Tristan Jarry really has not been all that impressive the past couple of years at either the AHL or NHL levels.

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All of that makes it seem like DeSmith is not only the logical choice, but probably the only choice.

But sometimes team building isn’t always logical because other factors are always in play.

One of those factors: The salary cap.

With Marcus Pettersson and the rest of the restricted free agents now re-signed and the offseason complete, the Penguins still have to figure out a way to squeeze under the league’s salary cap. Opening the season with Jarry as the backup instead of DeSmith might be just enough to make that happen.

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The problem with that is you are entering the season with a completely unproven backup behind a starter that has an injury history. In terms of overall performance DeSmith has objectively been the better goalie between the two at the NHL level. There really is not much way to dispute that. But again … the cap. Without a trade somewhere else on the roster you may not have any other option but to open the season with Jarry. This is where small (or big) overpays here and there begin to add up squeeze you at the salary cap. This is why we nitpick every contract that gets signed because every dollar you spend on one player is a dollar you do not have to spend on another player.
The other issue that the Penguins are going to have to deal with here is the loser of this competition, barring a trade, is going to have to be exposed to waivers to be sent down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Would either one of them clear? And if you are not confident in that, what about a trade involving one of them?

Is there some sort of a roster move to be made here?

Jarry has always been mentioned as a potential trade chip but I just don’t see the value here. If there was a deal to be made involving Jarry that satisfied the Penguins they probably would have made it by now. But goalies don’t usually have a lot of trade value, and that is true for even proven, established goalies. When you are talking about a 24-year-old that still hasn’t really done anything the value is almost nonexistent. Plus, even if you traded Jarry that still leaves you with a salary cap predicament you have to solve.

DeSmith, on the other hand, might actually have some kind of trade value because he has at least shown he can be a competent backup at the NHL level. You are not going to get a lot, but it is almost certainly more than you would get for Jarry.

Given all of that I see two potential paths here:

The first is that Jarry plays well enough to give the Penguins confidence that he can be the top backup and explore a trade involving DeSmith.

The second is that Jarry does not play well enough, you expose him to waivers, and have to make another trade somewhere else on the roster to create your salary cap space.

Of those two options the latter one still seems to be the more realistic to me. The coach clearly trusts one goalie over the other, and I do not know you are going to see enough a couple of preseason games to make that change. There is just too much working in DeSmith’s favor to have Jarry realistically take that spot from him, even with the salary cap maneuvering that would have to take place.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The first 40 minutes of Monday’s game at Pegula Ice Arena felt something like the team across the road hosting Kent State or Akron.

The Buffalo Sabres, owned by the man who paid to have this place built, brought along some of their top players for a preseason opener against the Penguins. They clearly wanted to make the boss happy with a big win at his alma mater.

And through two periods, it looked like it would indeed be a blowout. The Sabres led, 4-1, and had 37 shots. The Penguins, with a top line of Dominik Simon, Zach Aston-Reese and Bryan Rust, were credited with nine. That seemed high.

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The undermanned Penguins came charging back in the third, though, scoring three goals in eight minutes to tie it up. They lost, 5-4, in overtime after All-Star center Jack Eichel scored on a breakaway. But coach Mike Sullivan liked the fight they showed at Pegula Ice Arena, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Penguins center Teddy Blueger battles against Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, at Pegula Ice Arena.
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“I thought our guys battled hard. I was really happy for them. In the third period, we got a lot of juice. We got a couple of goals. You could see the excitement on the bench,” he said. “Our guys played pretty hard against a real strong lineup.”

Obviously, the numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the night were not of much importance, especially with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin watching the game on TV at home. But we were able to glean a few things from the loss.

1. The Penguins are serious about this Dominik-Simon-at-center thing.

Simon has played exclusively on the wing during his time with the Penguins and a position switch wasn’t on the radar when they had their exit meetings in April.

But Simon opened their eyes at the world championships. He played center for the Czech team and finished ninth in scoring at the tournament. The Penguins figured they would try him there during the preseason and see where it goes.

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Simon played center on the big rinks overseas, so the position is not foreign to him. Still, this has been an adjustment that, as he put it, is “a little different, not extra different.” It’s probably most challenging in the defensive zone, where he must battle in the corners and in front of the net instead of floating up high.

“It was not the best at the start of the game but throughout the course of the game it felt better to me,” Simon said. “It’s a little different, but it was fun.”
The Penguins’ Sam Lafferty during 2017 prospect development camp.
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Local kid Sam Lafferty is close to making his Penguins dream come true
One thing to monitor is his work on faceoffs. Matt Cullen, who is now a player development coach and is with the team at training camp, has been working with Simon and the team’s other centers to help them get better in that regard.

We’ll see if Simon sticks at center. If not, that versatility surely can’t hurt.

2. Sam Lafferty is in the mix – right now – to make the NHL roster.

Lafferty, whom we wrote about Sunday, scored the first of those third-period goals. Blue-liner John Marino made it happen, charging into the corner and sneaking a pass through the skates of defender Henri Jokiharju to Lafferty, who buried it. One group of Penguins fans in front of the press box went wild.

They were presumably friends and family of Lafferty, a 2014 fourth-round pick who was born and raised in Hollidaysburg, not far down the road from here.

Afterward, Sullivan was asked if the local kid could play his way into the call-up conversation at some point this season. The coach said he’s already there.

“His speed is one of his best strengths,” Sullivan added. “He’s got a pretty good straight-ahead game. He’s a big, strong kid. And he scored a nice goal tonight.”

3. Teddy Blueger looks quicker this season. And he’s still a pest.

We’ll have more on Blueger in the next couple of days. But he definitely looks to have a little more burst and agility entering the season. If that is indeed the case, he’s going to be even more obnoxious for other teams to play against.

It didn’t show up on the scoresheet, but Blueger made a play that directly led to Adam Johnson’s third-period goal. Blueger harassed Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin at Buffalo’s blue line, pivoting three times to prevent an easy out.

Dahlin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, eventually coughed up the puck to Johnson, who sped in on Jonas Johansson, made a deke and flipped it inside the post.

4. Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry stood tall to give them a chance.

The Penguins say they haven’t decided which goalie will back up Matt Murray to open the season. The cap situation could be a big factor in that decision. Both guys got plenty of action Monday. Both guys made the most of it.

Both goals against DeSmith came with a Sabres player screaming in alone. He faced 25 shots in 29 minutes before making way for Jarry. No, the switch wasn’t due to utter exhaustion. Sullivan planned to give each goalie equal time. But DeSmith would have been forgiven had he slid his recliner over to the bench.

Jarry was tested right away when Tage Thompson barreled in on a breakaway. He stretched out his left pad to deny a one-handed try. Moments later, Jarry shuffled across the crease to stop Conor Sheary on a 2-on-1. While Jarry was regaining his bearings, the Sabres scored. They made it 4-1 a few minutes later.

Jarry made nine saves in the third period and overtime. The game-winner came on a breakaway, one of about five or six the Penguins surrendered. So if not for the goalies, who combined to make 42 saves, this would have been ugly.

5. On a hockey night at Penn State, Hockey Valley lived up to the hype.

Pegula Ice Arena is a beautiful barn and the atmosphere here was pretty cool, even for a preseason game. The Sabres were technically the home team because their owner, Terry Pegula, built this place. But there was significantly more black and gold. This place got loud when the Penguins came back to tie it up.

The student section was highly amusing. Behind the goal, a row of college kids in jerseys of various NHL teams rattled the glass while Juuso Riikola stood there waiting for a breakout to develop. During play, they chanted “Hockey Valley!” Clap. Clap. Clap-clap-clap. And “Thank You, Terry!” Clap. Clap. Clap-clap-clap.

And they were still on their feet singing fight songs later in the third period.

I know it only seats 6,000, but any way we can get a Penguins-Flyers game here?

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When the Philadelphia 76ers report to training camp on Oct. 1, Joel Embiid could arrive in the best shape of his life.


In a video posted for the “One Chip Challenge,” the Sixers All-Star center revealed he’s lost approximately 25 pounds this summer:
This is great news for a 76ers team that has a roster capable of winning a championship, as long as Embiid can remain healthy. The 25-year-old told reporters in May his goal for the offseason was to improve his conditioning:
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Embiid said his focus this summer isn’t so much to lose weight. Says he currently weighs ~280, and could see himself playing at 270-275. Says his focus is more on stamina and quickness, but wants to retain ability to bully people inside with his size and strength.

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Embiid’s conditioning has been the subject of criticism throughout his professional career. Hall of Fame center Robert Parish told SiriusXM NBA Radio (h/t Bruno Manrique of Clutch Points) in May that he would run circles around the Sixers big man.
“Run his jock strap off, for starters, because he’s not in shape,” Parish said. “I would make him play defense and run his jock strap off every chance I got. By the fourth quarter, he’d be drained. Trust me on that.”

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If Embiid’s slimmed-down physique allows him to become more dynamic on the basketball court and eases the pressure on his knees, it wouldn’t be a stretch for him to be in the 2019-20 NBA MVP conversation.

Two postseasons ago, Al Horford played a large role in ending the Philadelphia 76ers’ hopes of winning their first NBA title since 1983 as a member of the Boston Celtics. Most Philadelphia fans can still vividly remember Horford putting the clamps on Joel Embiid throughout the semifinal series between the two teams, as well as his game-winning layup in Game 3. Now, after signing a four-year deal with the team in free agency, Horford is set to play an integral role in trying to help the Sixers achieve that same goal, and his versatility could be key to pushing them over the top.

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Horford will be penciled in as the starting four man for the Sixers — sandwiched between Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia’s frontcourt — but he will be far from one dimensional. Horford is a multi-faceted forward, and the Sixers will be looking to take advantage of all that he brings to the team.

Here’s a look at some of the major ways that Horford will impact the Sixers:

Versatility to lineup, insurance at center position
Yes, Horford will start as a forward for the Sixers and play a lot of minutes alongside All-Star center Joel Embiid. Horford’s ability to stretch the floor with his shot and pass from the high post should allow the two to coexist well.

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Horford, though, will also likely spend a substantial amount of time manning the center spot of an Embiid-less unit. Last season, when Embiid would leave the court, the Sixers’ production — on both ends — would plummet. This became extremely evident in the 2019 playoffs, when Embiid posted the highest single plus/minus of the entire postseason. The Sixers were significantly better than the Toronto Raptors when Embiid was on the court during the seven-game semifinals series between the two teams, but were significantly worse when he would head to the bench.

Embiid needing significant rest is inevitable, but having Horford on the roster should help to limit the drop-off in production that occurs when he’s off of the court. This season, when Embiid needs to rest for a quarter — or a game — Brett Brown can slide Horford over to the center spot, and adjust accordingly, either by bringing Mike Scott in off the bench to fill the four spot, or by bumping Tobias Harris up to the four (where he played last season) and bringing in a perimeter player like Zhaire Smith, Matisse Thybulle or James Ennis off the bench to fill the other forward spot.

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“We know that they can play together and we know that they can play well together. But the opportunity to have Al back him up at times, especially in the playoffs, is a great opportunity for us,” 76ers general manager Elton Brand said during Horford’s introductory press conference. “The versatility of this lineup is what’s important. He can play the four. He can play the five. We have many players that can play multiple positions.”

We might not see Horford at the five spot too often during the regular season, but the option is certainly something that Brett Brown will keep in his back pocket for the postseason so that the Sixers don’t have to deploy a lineup absent an All-Star-caliber big man.

Not surprisingly, the opportunity to play alongside Embiid — and form a dominant defensive duo — after battling against him for several seasons was a big part of the reason why Horford was attracted to Philadelphia.

“There were some great battles [with Embiid], and when this opportunity came along, the possibility of teaming up with him got me really excited about the potential — how good we can be — help our team be defensively,” Horford said. “Just get to working together and do some special things.”
A secondary playmaker
Following the departure of Jimmy Butler over the offseason, the 76ers are in need of a secondary playmaker behind Ben Simmons, and Horford will be able to fill that role to an extent.

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By the time the playoffs rolled around last season, Butler had largely assumed that role for the Sixers, as he initiated much of the offense when Simmons was on the bench — and sometimes even when he was still in the game. Butler was second on the Sixers in assists during the regular season with 4.0 per game, and that number jumped up to 5.2 in the postseason.

With Horford on the floor, that level of potential playmaking shouldn’t drop much, as Horford averaged over four assists per game in each of his three seasons in Boston — a time during which he solidified his development as one of the league’s premier passing big men.

Horford dropping 10 dimes against the New York Knicks during a game in 2017 shows his varied skillset as a passer:

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The Milwaukee Bucks are always looking to upgrade their roster which means that these three players might be in danger of not finishing the season in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Bucks have real championship aspirations heading into the 2019-20 NBA season. That couldn’t be said at the beginning of last season, as nobody knew exactly what this team was about to turn into. However, they surprised everyone by winning 60 regular season games and losing out in the Eastern Conference Finals.

This time around, they’ll begin the year with those aspirations and hold onto them for the entire length of the season. Because of those goals, general manager Jon Horst will be constantly looking to upgrade his team. He showed he wasn’t shy to pull the trigger on smaller moves when the Bucks traded a trio of second-round picks for Nikola Mirotic near the trade deadline.

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What if Mike Trout was drafted #1?

What if Mike Trout was drafted #1?
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We can’t rule out another trade this time around as well. There are also ways Milwaukee could clear roster spots despite having a full group of guys at this time. Let’s take a peek at three players who might not finish their 2019-20 season with the Bucks.

Dragan Bender
Bender is the most likely to be cut heading into the season, or at any point, really. He has a non-guaranteed contact with a bunch of trigger dates throughout the season. If the Bucks like another veteran who has been released at any point, they can always waive Bender and go get that veteran. Bender is most likely to be cut right before the beginning of the season and around the trade deadline when veterans are negotiating buyouts with their original clubs.

Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe and the Bucks agreed to a contract extension in March that extended him for at least three more years with the fourth year being mostly non-guaranteed. However, he put up a dud for the second straight postseason and is labeled as a huge liability for this team. Horst may not be actively shopping Bledsoe, but he would likely move him at a chance for a point guard who can better space the floor and play around Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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NEXT: Bucks: 3 things Eric Bledsoe needs to be an All-Star
Ersan Ilyasova
Ilyasova technically has one more year remaining on his contract after this season, but it’s mostly non-guaranteed. That makes him attractive in trade offers near the deadline and Milwaukee could look to move him if they can upgrade their roster. D.J. Wilson is waiting in the wings and proved he could handle himself as part of the rotation last year. If Wilson takes another step forward this season, it could make Ilyasova even more expendable.

Kevin Durant may have left town, but the Warriors might not be done “ruining the NBA,” according to an ESPN report.

Should Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo become a free agent in 2021, the Warriors are “a big threat” to sign the NBA’s most recent MVP and create another super team, Ramona Shelbourne said Monday on “The Jump.”

Milwaukee has said it will offer the super max (five years, $247 million) to Antetokounmpo as a means of keeping the three-time All-Star who just led the Bucks to the NBA’s best record. However, there may be reasons to believe he could look toward the Bay Area to play with Stephen Curry, with whom he’s developed a friendship with off the floor.
“The one team lurking out there — I don’t know how this would happen — but the Warriors have always been the big threat to go after Giannis,” Shelbourne said. “It would be a difficult construction to make happen, but that is the one looming threat.”

Those into reading the tea leaves will point out Antetokounmpo shares the same agency as Curry and, when making the first pick for the NBA All-Star draft, the 6-foot-11 Milwaukee star selected Curry. Two years ago, it was Curry who grabbed “The Greek Freak” with his first pick as an All-Star captain.

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In addition, the small-market Bucks may have hurt their chances of re-signing Antetokounmpo with a controversial trade this summer. Bucks general manager Jon Horst admitted the team traded restricted free agent and former Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers partly because of a desire to avoid paying the NBA’s luxury tax. Faced with a decision of matching Brogdon’s four-year, $85 million offer sheet, the Bucks dealt a core starter for a first-round pick and two second-round picks.

If Antetokounmpo is looking to play for a team that will pay whatever it costs in order to win a championship, he needs only to look at the team opening a new arena with three recent NBA championship banners hanging in it.

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Of course, with a salary cap, there are always going to be financial obstacles to overcome before squeezing multiple All-Stars onto a roster. The Warriors did it to bring in Durant and they would certainly have to get creative if acquiring Antetokounmpo becomes a serious possibility.
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With Curry aboard and after re-signing All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Golden State’s payroll for 2021-22 ($156.7 million) is projected to be the third-highest in the NBA, according to Spotrac. Reports indicate the salary cap will be around $125 million next off-season, with a luxury tax threshold of $151 million. Antetokounmpo won’t be a fit financially unless the Warriors dealt one or two contracts from the likes of Thompson ($38 million), D’Angelo Russell ($30 million) or Green ($24 million).

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“It comes down to what kind of guy is Giannis? What does he want his legacy to be?” Shelbourne said. “Is he the kind of guy who stays with one team his entire career and tries to bring a championship to Milwaukee or does he pull a Kevin Durant and go join a group of super friends?”

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Michael Raffl would start the scoring early, potting a really smooth deflection off a nice Chris Bigras pass to put the Flyers up 1-0 less than four minutes in. Nate Prosser would also get an assist, but this one was about the superb placement from Bigras and the technical stick work of Raffl in front on the opening tally as Thomas Greiss was left with no chance on the play.
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A nifty redirect by Raffl puts the Flyers up early.

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Scary moment for later on in the first as Scott Laughton got crunched along the boards, getting up very gingerly. As you can see below, Laughton was kind of angled towards the boards and sliding towards a rather vulnerable position when he was rammed into the glass by Steve Bernier. Laughton, who would return to the game later, should either anchor the Flyers’ fourth line or play up in the lineup again and on the penalty kill as a Swiss Army knife for coach Alain Vigneault.
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Laughton was slow to get up after this hit.

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Raffl’s would be the only goal of the first 20 as Carter Hart kept the Islanders off the scoreboard in his first action of the preseason, turning aside all six shots he faced in the frame.

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Second period
Hart would keep holding things down early in the second with a couple of saves to keep the Flyers’ 1-0 lead intact.
Things would heat up fast with Mikhail Vorobyev and Mathew Barzal getting into a scrum resulting in a bloodied Vorobyev and a four-minute major to Barzal. The Flyers player, not the one who spells his first name with just one T, needs a strong camp to try and earn his way back onto the NHL roster to start the season as he did a year ago. A push from German Rubstov, Joel Farabee, and Morgan Frost has complicated things for Vorobyev, as have the less appealing veteran options like Andy Andreoff among others.

On the ensuing power play the Flyers couldn’t muster anything into the Islanders net, but did manage to rip one off Connor Bunnaman as he crowded the net front courtesy of Nicolas Aube-Kubel. That’s gonna leave a mark, Ken.
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Off of Bunnaman and off the post. Close!

And ouch.

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A stupid penalty to the stupidly in camp Chris Stewart tacked on a few more stops for Hart before he gave way to J.F. Berube in net. Hart keep the Islanders off the board, and looked pretty sharp in turning aside all 14 Islanders shots in his 30 minutes or so of work.
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That’ll do it for Carter. A perfect 14/14 in his preseason debut. Nbd.

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Speaking of players competing for the open roster spot in the bottom six, German Rubstov rang one off the crossbar behind the Islanders’ new goaltender after a quick rush up ice following a forced turnover. Rubstov dominated the rookie game between these two teams last week, and nearly picked up where he left off.

No more scoring in this barn burner of a preseason tilt, Raffl’s goal still the only one on the board after 40 minutes of riveting action.

Third period
A strong push from the Islanders started the period and a power play helped build momentum before they got an equalizer from a pair of NHLers with Barzal finding Derick Brassard for the one-timer to make it 1-1 with 13 minutes and change remaining.
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Tie game as Barzal finds Brassard on the power play.

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Flyers had a response quick, though, with Maksim Sushko breaking the tie with after a seeing-eye point shot hit him in the traffic to make it 2-1 good guys. Bigras continued his strong game to go along with another assist as he sent the puck towards the net.
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Bigras throws the puck at the net and we have a goal! Off of Sushko and in.

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But just when you though the proceedings were over, Barzal would find Jordan Eberle to tie the game at 2-2 with just 1:34 remaining. Given the superior NHL-level talent on the ice for the Islanders, not a shock to see them at least earn some free hockey for the folks.

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In the 3-on-3 session the Flyers would be doomed by goaltending not named Carter Hart as Berube left a rebound out front and Mason Jobst put it home to give the Isles at 3-2 win.

The preseason schedule has kicked off. There is more to come tonight. What to make of games that are kind of meaningless but also kind of not? Barry Trotz:

“The best advice I can give any player is look around, assess the competition, know your competition, outcompete them, outwork them and obviously, outproduce them if eventually the opportunity becomes available,” Trotz said. “If you do that on a daily basis in practice or in games it’s up to us as coaches and organizationally to recognize that and reward that.”

Islanders News
The Islanders’ half(ish)-squad won the preseason opener in Philadelphia. [Isles | LHH | Boxscore | BSH]
Thomas Hickey, who scored last night, is angling to earn back a regular spot in the lineup. [Newsday]
Training camp quick hits: Of brothers, mentors and such. [Athletic]
A few days into camp, it was all about the systems. [Isles]
Barry Trotz expects a similar split to last year from Thomas Greiss and new tandem partner Semyon Varlamov. [Isles]

Rick Ralph
#NHLJets Laine adds to @PekkaJalonen “There are top lines and then there is our line. But I play with the guys I’m told to play.” Pekka’s story … Thanks to Pekka for translation.
Patrik Laine lataa suorat sanat Jetsin peluutuksesta poikkeuksellisessa haastattelussa Iltalehdel…
Yhä ilman sopimusta oleva maalitykki on turhautunut rooliinsa Winnipeg Jetsissä.

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11:52 AM – Sep 17, 2019
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The still-unsigned Patrik Laine is dropping bombs, you might say. It was an “easy choice” for him to begin this preseason training in Europe. [NHL]
But the big and happy news of the day was that the NHLPA declined to trigger its option to re-open the CBA, thus assuring a little bit of labor peace and some time to work on revisions for a new extension. [NHL]
The Blue Jackets are kind of ticked about being dismissed after some big free agent departures. (Sounds familiar.) Nick Foligno is maybe too honest about it all. [NHL]
There are some subtle rule changes this year. Jim Montgomery discusses how to use them. [Dallas News]
Robin Lehner continues to use his platform to raise awareness for mental health. [ESPN]
Another RFA holdout ends as Brock Boeser signs a three-year extension with the Canucks. [NHL]
Meanwhile, his teammate Sven Baertschi has found solace in daily meditation. [Sportsnet]
The Bruins, who lost the Stanley Cup final, are banking on a mix of vets and youth. [NHL]
Speaking of which, the Stanley Cup engraving for the victors is complete. [Blues]
A women’s hockey strike in Sweden over some very self-evident needs leads to cancelation of the Four Nations’ Cup. [Ice Garden]