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After a long summer and NBA offseason, we can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. NBA training camp is less than two weeks away!

The Washington Wizards announced on Tuesday that training camp will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 1 through Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Medstar Wizards Performance Center in Congress Heights.

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The Wizards’ Annual Media Day will be on Monday, Sept, 30. At that time, we will get to ask the players questions about their offseason routines and where they went on vacation during the summer. But most importantly, we will ask them about their goals for the 2019-20 season. The Wizards aren’t expected to win many games, but that doesn’t mean that this season will be dreadful.

That wasn’t all the news surrounding the Wizards however.

On Tuesday, Fred Katz of The Athletic also reported that Justin Anderson signed a non-guaranteed contract. The deal is presumed to be for training camp.

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Fred Katz

@FredKatz
Justin Anderson has finalized a non-guaranteed contract with the Wizards, sources tell The Athletic.

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Anderson has played four NBA seasons, most recently with the Atlanta Hawks where he averaged 3.7 points per game in the 2018-19 season. He is from the Mid-Atlantic region, where he went to Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md. and played college basketball at Virginia from 2012-15. Anderson was the 21st pick to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2015 NBA Draft.

UPDATE on Sept. 18 — The Wizards have also signed Chris Chiozza, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.
Chase Hughes

@ChaseHughesNBCS
The Wizards have added PG Chris Chiozza as a camp invite, I’m told. He played for Wiz & Rockets last yr.

But aside from him, no plans to bring in reinforcements, per source. They’ll roll w/ Smith, Robinson, McRae & Brown. Beal will also see time on-ball. More soon @NBCSWizards

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Chiozza was on last season’s training camp squad and played for the Capital City Go-Go where he averaged 13.2 points and 7.7 assists per game as one of their key players. He returned to the NBA after the G-League season playing seven games for the Houston Rockets.

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Washington Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery on his thumb, the team announced Wednesday.

“This was an unfortunate setback for Isaiah, but with his resolve and the top care he will receive from our medical team, we expect him to make a full recovery,” general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “In the meantime, he will continue to mentor our young guards and have a positive impact on the team as we start training camp.”

The Athletic’s Fred Katz reported Thomas injured the thumb Monday while playing a pickup game. He added the timing of the guard’s recovery could allow him to enjoy a reunion with the Boston Celtics on Nov. 13.

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Fred Katz

@FredKatz
Six-to-eight weeks, literally interpreted, means expect a return to the court some time between Oct. 30 and Nov. 13, which would push right up against the Wizards’ trip to Boston. They play the Celtics on Nov. 13. https://twitter.com/FredKatz/status/1174362658268729345 …

Fred Katz

@FredKatz
Isaiah Thomas underwent surgery to repair a rupture of a ligament in his thumb today, the Wizards announce. He’s expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.

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Any physical setback for Thomas is worrisome considering the hip injury he suffered while playing for the Celtics. Boston shut him down in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, and he required surgery and struggled to replicate past numbers during the 2017-18 campaign as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.

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The two-time All-Star averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 37.3 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from deep that season after posting 28.9 points and 5.9 assists a night while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from three-point range the prior campaign in Boston.

He wasn’t much of a factor on the Denver Nuggets last season either and posted 8.1 points and 1.9 assists per game in just 12 contests after sitting out into February as he recovered from hip surgery.

Washington added Thomas for point guard depth considering John Wall has injury concerns of his own. Now, the team will be without him when it opens the regular season Oct. 23 against the Dallas Mavericks.

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The Bulls need help on the wing. They seemingly struck gold in Otto Porter, who the Wizards dumped at last year’s trade deadline in the wake of John Wall’s season-ending Achilles tear. And they have draft capital invested in first-round pick Chandler Hutchison, who after breaking his toe 44 games into his rookie season suffered a hamstring strain last month that cut his offseason workouts short.

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Past those two, the wing situation is murky. “Position-less basketball” is the league’s favorite new buzzword, but Adam Mokoka, Denzel Valentine, Zach LaVine and Shaq Harrison are more on the shooting guard side of things and would make for a rather small defensive lineup if two of them shared the floor.

Significant help isn’t on the way. The Bulls couldn’t have addressed all their needs this offseason, and they valued point guard (Coby White, Tomas Satoransky) and frontcourt (Daniel Gafford, Thaddeus Young, Luke Kornet) depth over improvement and/or numbers on the wing. It’s September 18, and any difference makers have found teams as training camp nears.

But maybe the Bulls can find a smidgen of help on the free-agency wire. According to Stadium’s Shams Charania, Iman Shumpert couldn’t come to an agreement with the Houston Rockets after “months of discussion” between the two sides.

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Shams Charania

@ShamsCharania
After months of discussions, free agent Iman Shumpert has decided to decline the Rockets’ contract offer, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Shumpert will not attend team minicamp this week in Las Vegas.

Shaun Livingston recently announced his retirement from the NBA. Can former Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose follow his successful path?
NBA history is riddled with devastating injuries to star players. It’s the most disappointing part of the sport, but it’s the reality that we live in.

One player that knows all too much about career-altering injuries is Shaun Livingston. Young fans will remember Livingston as one of the most important bench players of the last half-decade. Older fans will remember him as the youngster with unlimited potential who suffered multiple injuries (including a catastrophic knee injury) early in his career.

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Livingston was drafted fourth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2004 NBA Draft. As a 6’7″ point guard, his potential was sky-high. Because of his horrendous luck with injuries, though, his career took a different turn. The pinnacle of Shaun’s career was his time with the Warriors, where he played in 367 games and helped them win three championships.

Now that Shaun is retiring, it’s time to look at who the next player might be to follow his mold. Former Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is the first guy that comes to mind.

Bulls fans are well aware of the troubled injury history that Rose has. But now, as D-Rose heads into the twilight of his career, it may be time for him to do what Livingston did.
Before free agency began this past summer, I was hoping Rose would sign with a contender. I wanted him to follow in Livingston’s footsteps. Unfortunately, he ended up in Detroit as a member of the Pistons – a fringe playoff team in the weak Eastern Conference.

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For that reason alone, it looks like the Shaun Livingston path isn’t one Rose will travel down in the near future. Livingston joined an up-and-coming Warriors team in 2014, and I definitely wouldn’t use the term “up-and-coming” to describe the Pistons team that Rose joined. Maybe in two years (when Rose becomes an unrestricted free agent again), he can sign with the next up-and-coming team on the brink of winning a championship or two.

The bad news for Rose is the longer he waits to join a contender, the less likely it is that he’ll win a championship. For a player that relies on speed and athleticism, youth is everything. Livingston joined the Warriors as a 28-year-old who used his size and soft touch to remain relevant. Rose will turn 31 in October and doesn’t have that same old-man-game that Livingston had.

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NEXT: Otto Porter Jr.’s ceiling for 2019-20
For now, it looks like a championship is out of the picture for Derrick Rose. But if he decides to follow in Shaun Livingston’s footsteps, he may eventually win that elusive ring.

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So Shumpert needs a new home. He’s still just 29 years old but has carved out a role as a veteran presence, having played for four different teams in eight seasons. He has appeared in 79 playoff games, including playing a key role off the bench for the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers. Last season he spent 42 games with the Sacramento Kings before being shipped to the Houston Rockets in February. He played 20 games in Houston, averaging 19.1 minutes, and played in eight of the Rockets’ 11 postseason games. He took on an increased role in Round 2 against the Warriors, averaging 15.4 minutes.

But the Rockets, for whatever reason, are moving on. Shumpert wasn’t all that impressive in Houston, averaging 4.6 points on 34.6% shooting (and, more importantly, 29.6% from beyond the arc) in 19.1 minutes. He was a fourth or fifth option on the iso-heavy Rockets, so his per-game numbers were never going to flourish, but the Rockets are clearly looking for better 3-point shooting off the bench.

Shumpert isn’t a perfect fit, but perhaps the Bulls will consider adding the Oak Park, Ill., native.

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Shumpert didn’t give the Rockets much, but he was solid in Sacramento’s uptempo offense, something the Bulls are attempting to partially recreate this season. Shumpert averaged 8.9 points on 38.2% shooting and 36.6% from beyond the arc with the Kings, and added 3.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 26.2 minutes. More importantly, Shumpert was a key veteran presence for a young Kings team that made a significant jump from 27 to 39 wins last season. At the time of the Kings-Rockets trade, the Kings were 28-25 and in the hunt for the No. 8 seed in the West.

His experience would play well in the Bulls locker room. The Bulls roster has three players with playoff experience (Porter, Young, Satoransky) totaling 98 games. Shumpert alone has 79 playoff games under his belt – more than any of those three – and reached the mountaintop in 2016 with LeBron James and the Cavs. It’s tough to replicate three NBA Finals appearances and a ring.

Though he stands just 6-foot-5, Shumpert has always played bigger. In fact, he played 75% of his minutes at small forward between the Kings and Rockets last season. If nothing else than a stabilizing locker room presence and experienced teacher, Shumpert could push Hutchison for minutes. Again, the Bulls wouldn’t be bringing in Shumpert as a significant difference maker who moves the needle at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race. But the Bulls also have the NBA’s second youngest roster. A group like that can never have enough veterans, and Shumpert having a track record of helping in Sacramento – as well as filling a need on the wing – would make him an excellent fit in Chicago.

He also played in Houston under assistant Roy Rogers, who joined Jim Boylen’s staff this summer, so there’s familiarity. Chicago homecomings haven’t exactly gone well the last handful of seasons, but Shumpert would be a low-risk option that could help push the rebuild forward.

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Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

With the current situation going on with Altitude TV (with the Nuggets and Avalanche) and reports that AT&T is looking to sell its regional sports networks, do you believe the Rockies are monitoring it and looking at other potential options for its next TV deal and whether they go into the streaming side? And what other option could they have if AT&T SportsNet and Altitude are not viable TV station options?

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Brandon, those are excellent questions, to which I don’t have a concrete answer for you. Here’s what I do know:

AT&T SportsNet has the Rockies contract through next season (2020).
Bids for the new contract began mid-summer.
There have been national reports that AT&T is open to selling its four regional sports networks, so that could make a huge difference in Rockies television.
I was told that Altitude was interested in bidding for the Rockies, but I have not heard the status of that.
But you’re correct in that the TV landscape is changing rapidly with streaming services and so many ways to watch live sports. Stay tuned.

Please provide any updates you can on Riley Pint and Mike Nikorak.

— Bill Beard, Highlands Ranch

Bill, I wrote about Riley Pint in my last mailbag but I’ll repeat it here.
The right-hander, the fourth overall draft pick in 2016 out of Overland Park High School (Kansas), missed almost all of the 2018 season with forearm stiffness and a strained oblique. He was injured for most of this season, too, and pitched just 17 2/3 innings a Class-A Asheville (mostly out of the bullepen). He’s 6-foot-4 and can throw 100 mph, but his lack of control has become a major issue. Over those 17 2/3 innings, he walked 31 batters and hit six. He’s averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but that’s overshadowed by his control issues. Right now he’s a long, long way from his big-league debut.

Nikorak, a hard-throwing right-hander out of Stroudsburg (Pa.) High School, was selected by the Rockies in first round (27th overall) of 2015 draft. He missed all of the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and pitched only a few innings for short-season Boise at the end of 2018.

He began this season pitching for Asheville, but the season was cut short in May due to injury. In 15 appearances (no starts) he posted an 8.03 ERA over 12 1/3 innings with a walk rate of 11.69 per nine innings. Obviously, he’s years away from joining the Rockies.

We hear a lot about the physical toll playing at altitude exerts on Rockies players. Yet I don’t seem to hear or read the same story when it comes to the Broncos, Avalanche or Nuggets. Am I just not paying attention or is the difference the far greater number of games baseball plays compared to the other major sports?

— Dave, Fort Collins

Dave, let me first say that the effect of playing at 5,280 feet are real. Every Rockies player I have talked to about the subject -– from Todd Helton to Jeff Francis to Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon -– has told me that aches, pains and lack of quality sleep are part of playing at altitude. So yes, a 162-game season (81 home games), plus spring training, takes its toll. Second baseman Ryan McMahon, for instance began the season weighing 210 pounds and he’s down to 192.

The Nuggets (82 games) and Avalanche (82 games) play a lot of games, too. And it can certainly be argued that they play a more physically demanding sport. The Broncos, of course, play 16 games.

I imagine athletes from the NBA, NHL and NFL have stories about altitude over a long season, but I think the Rockies get a lot of attention about the subject because altitude affects the outcome of the games so much. Plus, the length of games at Coors Field (sometimes approaching four hours) makes for a lot of time on the players’ feet. It wears on them.

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Why is (general manager) Jeff Bridich not being held accountable by owner Dick Monfort? Between his numerous, poor free agent signings and the overall lack of pitching prospects within the organization, how can he still be worthy of upper-management confidence? I love baseball and am a true Rockies fan, but I simply don’t see winning as a priority within this franchise. The Coors Field “experience” with The Rooftop and McGregor Square all seem to be more important than winning. I simply don’t get it! Can you explain? Thanks.

— Mark, Centennial

Mark, the media rarely gets to talk to Monfort, so it’s difficult for me to judge his feelings about Bridich. I would assume Monfort is unhappy with what’s gone on this season, and also with the idea that the pitching cupboard is pretty bare in the minors right now.

But I do know that Monfort is intensely loyal (maybe to a fault as he admitted to me in the past), and I would imagine that the Rockies’ playoff appearances in 2017-18 has bought Bridich some time. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I think it’s the truth.

I have no problem with The Rooftop or McGregor Square. I think both help enhance the ballpark and LoDo experience. I think Monfort and his office have done an excellent job in regard to the ballpark experience.

Having said all of that, I understand hardcore Rockies fans’ frustration. The product on the field this season has been poor. Hopefully Bridich will address the media soon and we can ask him questions about what’s going on with the team.

Hey Patrick, you can tell Arenado seems frustrated right now with the state of the team. Also noticed how jacked up he gets playing at Dodgers Stadium and what he considers the best teams. Do you see him opting out of his deal?

If the answer is yes, the Rockies might have to consider trading him in 2021 to get something for him. Does he have a no-trade clause in his contract? Thanks.

— Mick, Byers

Mick, I have heard some fans say that Arenado regrets signing the contract, but I don’t think that’s true. Arenado and his agent had a certain contract number in mind and Rockies came through. And don’t forget that he’ll make $35 million next season.

And yes, Arenado has a full no-trade clause, so he controls his destiny.

Will he opt out after 2021? I honestly don’t know. If the Rockies continue to lose, then I do think he’s gone. But remember, injuries, money, the overall landscape of baseball and a new CBA will all factor into his decision.

Is Arenado frustrated with the Rockies’ record and overall play this season? Absolutely, but he told me recently that he’s come to realize that he can’t lift the team all by himself. I think his bad performance in July was due, in part, because he was stressing over the team’s awful play.

Lately, I think we’ve seen him freed up a bit. He realizes that the best thing he can do is play well and lead by example. Fretting over the direction of the team was not productive for him, so he cut loose some of that baggage.

Why in God’s name would we put Wade Davis to pitch in the ninth inning against the Cardinals on Thursday while we still had a chance to win? Honestly sometimes it looks like we’re throwing the game.

— Carole, Boulder

Carole, you know that manager Bud Black is not trying to throw the game, right? But this is a weird time of year. The Rockies have been out of playoff contention for more than a month now, so there is a lot of experimenting going on. That’s why we’re seeing Jairo Diaz and Carlos Estevez getting some much action at the end of games. The Rockies want to see how they react.

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The same goes for Davis. The Rockies owe him a lot of money ($17 million next year) and they need to know what they have in the right-hander. It’s frustrating, I know, but it’s the reality of September for a losing team.

Patrick, I was looking at some memorabilia I have in my office and got me thinking if you have anything cool, or special that you have on display. Keep up the good work.

— Tom, Highlands Ranch

Tom, thanks for the compliment. I’m sitting in my home office right now and here’s what I see:

My wife, Nancy, put together an amazing, framed display of a story I did on the Rockies’ Rocktober Streak in 2007. It’s got all sorts of World Series memorabilia within the display.
A bunch of bobbleheads, including the new one of German Marquez, which is maybe the best one yet.
A framed photo of Nancy and Tulo posing together during spring training in Tucson back in 2008.
A framed photo of me speaking at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017 when I was president of the BBWAA.
A number of baseballs that I picked up in the press box after I was nearly hit while covering games at Coors Field. I date those and put the name of the player on them. Included is one from Tulo, who nearly hit me with a ball of his bat. After the game, I said, “Tulo, did you see that your foul ball nearly hit me?” He quipped: “Yeah, but I was aiming for (Mark) Kiszla.” True story.
More baseball books than I will ever read.
A binder with most of the baseball cards printed in Todd Helton’s career.

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A framed photo of Helton being colorful during a photo session near the end of his career.
Patrick, I read your columns and articles regularly, because you are fairly direct about management’s and players’ shortcomings and you don’t shy away too much from making criticisms of Bridich. Could you please write a column on how your relations with your sources affect your writing? I think that would interest many of us who follow the Rockies.

As any moviegoer knows, coming attractions can be misleading. The same goes for September baseball for losing teams such as the Rockies.

In their 7-4 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday, Colorado flashed some enticing potential, but ultimately, the same old bugaboo reared its ugly head. Namely, the bullpen’s inability to put a game away. In other words, it was a bad sequel.

Colorado led 4-3 entering the ninth inning, but New York scored four runs on three walks and three hits off relievers Jairo Diaz and Joe Harvey. The key hits were delivered by pinch-hitter J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo and Todd Frazier. Pete Alonso earned an RBI by drawing a bases-loaded walk from Harvey. Diaz was charged with a blown save and a loss.

“(Jairo) just couldn’t seem to get his fastball and slider in good spots in the ninth inning,” Colorado manager Bud Black said.

As for his decision to go with Harvey, Black said: “We tried to bring a guy in who had some power to him and had some velocity against Alonso.”

In the waning days of the season, Black is mixing and matching relievers to see how they respond to late-game situations.

“These are growing pains for some of our younger-service-time players,” he said.

Colorado finished its penultimate homestand with a 6-3 record, though it ended on a sour note. The Rockies are 40-38 at home this season.

Some snippets from Wednesday’s matinee at Coors Field:

— Right-hander Jeff Hoffman, perhaps the biggest enigma in the rotation mix, limited the Mets to two runs on five hits over 5⅓ innings.

— Versatile rookie Garrett Hampson, starting at second base, flashed his speed and stole two bases. He has 11 thefts this season. He hit 1-for-4 on Wednesday and finished the homestand 12-for-27 (.444) with eight runs, one triple and one home run.

— Rookie outfielder Sam Hilliard slugged two solo home runs for his first multi-homer game and now has four blasts in 18 major-league games.

If Hoffman can harness his talent, he could be a huge asset to Colorado’s rotation next season. The right-hander relied heavily on his 92-94 mph fastball, mixing it in with some changeups to keep the Mets off-balance on a day when his curveball was not sharp.

“My curveball was probably the worst it’s been this year, and I couldn’t really find a release point,” Hoffman said.

His ability to make in-game adjustments and rely on his fastball and changeup was a step forward.

“That means that hopefully I’m growing a little bit,” he said. “I don’t know if that would have happened a year ago or maybe even a few months ago. To me, that means that the work we are putting in is in the right place.”

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Hoffman’s two big mistakes ended up in the seats. Jeff McNeil hit a curveball to right field for a solo homer in the first inning. Alonso slugged his 49th homer, a solo blast to left in the sixth, on Hoffman’s hanging curveball.

In his previous start, Hoffman issued a career-high six walks (one intentional). Wednesday, he walked only one, given up a free pass to Todd Frazier in the sixth inning, the final batter he faced.

Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard, pitching for the first time at Coors Field, gave up four runs 10 hits over 5⅔ innings. Hilliard showed some patience vs. Syndergaard.

“It’s coming with repetition and I’m starting to feel more comfortable,” Hilliard said. “I’m trying to be stubborn up there and look for my pitch.”

Tom, “sources” can be tricky, but they are necessary to my reporting. There have been many times through the years that players want to send a message to the front office or the fans, yet they don’t want to be quoted.

Of course it works the other way, too. Jeff Bridich or even media-friendly manager Bud Black won’t speak the whole truth, at least not on the record. As a reporter, I have to ask “background” questions to find out what’s really gone on.

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For example, if a player is on a terrific run statistically but has not really proven himself, I can go to Black and ask him, off the record, to critique that player. On camera and in stories, Black will almost always try to put a positive spin on things — it’s his way of publicly protecting his players -– but I can get a more truthful evaluation behind the scenes. Black is very good about that.

Let me add one more thing. I know fans criticize writers when we don’t “blast” players. Truth is, when you cover a big-league team, you can’t do that. I can be critical and tell the truth and voice my views from time to time, but if I start ripping the players constantly, I soon won’t have anyone to talk to in the clubhouse.

You have to remember that the clubhouse is their sanctuary and teammates treat each other like brothers. If players start believing all I do is write negative stories or if I betray the trust of one player, that news spreads quickly. Pretty soon, I wouldn’t have any sources left. Plus, there are already plenty of players who would prefer that reporters go away entirely. I think that feeling is becoming more and more prevalent.

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Seven miles north of Fenway Park, Rusney Castillo slides into the driver’s seat of his rented black Maserati Ghibli. It’s 7 1/2 hours before first pitch, but Castillo has learned the rhythms of game days in the U.S. after the Red Sox signed him to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal in 2014. Playing for his hometown Ciego de Ávila Tigres of the Cuban league, the outfielder would show up an hour before the game. Now he tries to beat his teammates to the park.

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Dressed head to toe in Nike gear and wearing a gold chain with his diamond-encrusted initials, he wheels from the garage of his apartment building onto Route 1 toward Boston. Then, 10 minutes later, he drives past the exit for Fenway Park.

If he made less money, perhaps Castillo would turn off there. But due to a rule that confuses even Castillo, the Red Sox are paying him so much that he can’t play for them. So he continues along I-93 and then I-95 on his 50-mile commute to Pawtucket, R.I., home of the Triple A Red Sox. The highest-paid player in the minor leagues has made this drive more than 200 times, over five years. He knows he will make it another 70 or so in 2020, the final year of his contract. But he keeps his three-bedroom apartment in Boston because he believes that he belongs there—and that someday he will play there.

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In August, Castillo won his second straight PawSox MVP award. In the four seasons since his last demotion, he has batted .294 and slugged .429. Manager Billy McMillon regularly advocates for the 32-year-old Castillo when he speaks to the player development officials. But no matter how well he performs, he will remain at McCoy Stadium, ensnared by a tax loophole no one could have foreseen. Through an interpreter Castillo explains matter-of-factly, “Anybody can [hope to] be called up but me.”

When the Red Sox signed Castillo to the richest contract ever for a Cuban free agent, then-GM Ben Cherington thought he would be their centerfielder of the future. But the excellent contact skills and good power Castillo had shown in 323 games with the Tigres failed to translate. He put together an OPS of just .679 in 99 games over parts of three MLB seasons as other outfielders became fixtures at Fenway: 2011 first-round pick Jackie Bradley Jr. in centerfield, ’11 fifth-rounder Mookie Betts in right and ’15 first-rounder Andrew Benintendi in left.

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In June 2016, Boston outrighted Castillo to Triple A, a move that also helped the team’s bottom line: Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, only the salaries of players on the 40-man roster counted toward the luxury tax. By removing Castillo’s $10.5 million from that total and keeping him down for the season, the Red Sox, who were over the tax threshold and facing a 30% penalty, saved roughly $3 million.

Five months later MLB and the players’ association agreed on a new CBA. Under those terms once a player is added to the 40-man roster his salary counts for luxury-tax purposes, even if he is taken off the 40-man again. Team owners wanted this to lower potential tax bills; the union’s primary concern was making sure its major league members got paid. But the change proved crushing to Castillo, the rare minor leaguer making big bucks. By keeping him down, the Sox cut his eight-figure salary from luxury-tax consideration. If they had promoted him this year, they would have to pay around $7 million in taxes. They could face a similar bill for bringing him up in 2020.
Boston doesn’t want to take that sort of financial hit for a part-time outfielder. (In a statement the Red Sox said Castillo “remains under contract, and we look forward to having him in the organization in 2020.”) And no other team wants to pay him eight figures either, so if the Red Sox did trade him they would surely have to pick up a large portion of his salary . . . on which they would also have to pay a luxury tax. So Castillo lives in a bizarre world in which every year Boston invites him to big league spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla.; every year he excels there; and every year he gets sent back to minor league camp.

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San Francisco Giants rookie Mike Yastrzemski made an emotional return to his home state of Massachusetts on Tuesday, playing his first MLB game at Boston’s Fenway Park. The name should be familiar to you: Yastrzemski is the grandson of Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski.

In the top of the fourth inning, Mike Yastrzemski authored a special moment his family and friends will never forget.

With the Giants leading 4-1, Yastrzemski launched a home run to straightaway center field at Fenway, where his grandfather hit 237 home runs in his Hall of Fame career. It was the 20th homer of the season for the 29-year-old.
MLB

@MLB
A Yastrzemski just homered at Fenway.

Can you believe it?

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Yastrzemski actually received a standing ovation prior to his first at-bat in the third inning by a Boston crowd surely showing their appreciate for the family of “Yaz,” who is on the short list for greatest players to ever suit up for the Red Sox.

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“The crowd reactions all night were incredible,” Mike told reporters after the game. “I can’t thank them enough for being supportive and showing me some love when I’m on the opposing team. It’s unheard of, and it was really special.”
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For the first time in 36 years, Yaz steps to the plate at Fenway.

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Carl Yastrzemski played 23 seasons for the Red Sox from 1961-83. He was an 18-time All-Star who won the 1967 MVP, when he hit for baseball’s “Triple Crown.” He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, the year before his grandson was born.

“It had to be a great night for a lot of Red Sox fans to see a Yastrzemski out there,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I’m sure it reminded them of some of the great memories they have. It was pretty cool.”
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For Mike Yastrzemski, it was an incredible moment to cap a breakthrough year. He made his first big league appearance in May after bouncing around the minor leagues after getting drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2013 following his college baseball career at Vanderbilt.

“I got to walk in here by myself when I got to the field,” he said. “There was a lot of memories of being in the stands. Being in the stands for the World Series, being in the stands for the ’99 Home Run Derby, the All-Star Game, being with family at games. Those things overwhelm you more than actually playing here.”

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Rusney Castillo stands in a dusty dugout in Pawtucket, wearing a shirt that says boston. While he understands his predicament, he continues to believe that he is just one good stretch away from a return to Fenway. He glues himself to MLB Network in his three-bedroom apartment and compiles makeshift scouting reports on his future opponents. He refuses to move to Rhode Island, much to the chagrin of his business manager and roommate, Hector Ramos, who often complains, “Too much driving.” Castillo says Ramos will appreciate the short commute when Castillo is eventually promoted.
Sometimes he wonders how different his life would be if he made less, but he does not want to try to renegotiate his deal. He has a wife and four-year-old daughter who spend most of the year in Miami, and a seven-year-old son who lives with his mother in Cuba. This wealth means they and their children and their children’s children will never go hungry, as he sometimes did as a boy growing up in Ciego de Ávila. He defected in 2013 with two goals: To strike it rich and to play in the major leagues. It is a bitter irony that the first now precludes the second.

He never shows that frustration, the people around him say. PawSox coach Bruce Crabbe, who has worked with Castillo since his 2016 demotion, marvels that Castillo is the first in the batting cage, the first on the field. “He doesn’t have to do a darn thing, but he still does the same things he’s done since Day One,” says Crabbe. “Probably more. There are more gadgets.”
Those gadgets for training—the halved bat whose pieces are connected by a chain, the inflatable platform on which he sometimes stands while in the batting cage—also got the attention of third baseman Michael Chavis, who opened the season in Triple A before being called up in April. Last month he sprained his left AC joint and a rehab assignment brought him back to Pawtucket, where he found himself even more impressed by Castillo.

“He shouldn’t be here,” says Chavis. “He’s a big leaguer.”

Castillo celebrates just as loudly as anyone else when a PawSox player receives the call that will change his life. He knows how much that dream means. He still dreams it.

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The Houston Astros hit three home runs. The Texas Rangers hit one home run. That’s just about that.

Player of the Game: Nomar Mazara was the man who hit the dong to prevent the Rangers from suffering the dubious dishonor of being shutout.

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Up Next: The Rangers finish off their season slate against Houston with one more game against the Astros in this brief two-game set. RHP Gerrit Cole will pitch for Houston against LHP Kolby Allard for Texas. Wednesday’s first pitch from Minute Maid Park is scheduled for 7:10 pm CT.

Texas Rangers rookie Nick Solak had a big series against the Tampa Bay Rays, who traded him in July. BY JEFF WILSON
September baseball has earned a reputation for being one of the two worst months to evaluate big-league talent. The other is March, when spring-training rosters aren’t all that different than the bloated September rosters.

Expanded final-month rosters end after this season, with a maximum of 28 players available for September games beginning in 2020.

Good for September.

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But the silliest MLB rule has two more weeks of shelf life at an unfortunate times for teams like the Texas Rangers, who are using the final month to begin tryouts for next season.

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As the Rangers have said, they are grateful to have a string of contenders in opposing dugouts to close the season. Those teams are playing for something and playing their best players to get that something.

In the process they are giving young Rangers players a good test and Rangers coaches and scouts a little better September evaluation than if the schedule were full of Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles.

Manager Chris Woodward, though, has made it clear that no young player will win a spot on the Opening Day roster based on this month. March will mean something, depending on how the Rangers add to the roster in November, December, January and February.
Of all the rookies who have received a chance to audition this month, some of whom were called up in August, only a few look to be headed to Seattle for the March 26 season opener.

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SAFE BETS
Jose Trevino: The Rangers have given Trevino the majority of the games behind the plate this month, and he will get an extended stretch to open the upcoming road trip with Jeff Mathis dealing with back stiffness.

With the exception of Saturday’s issues with Mike Minor, Trevino has shown the Rangers that he works well with pitchers and has lived up to his reputation as a premium defender.

Trevino, who was recalled Aug. 2, has also shown more with the bat than expected and will take a four-game hitting streak into Tuesday’s game at Houston against Cy Young front-runner Justin Verlander.

The Rangers need a catcher to pair with Mathis next season. Trevino has the clear edge.

Emmanuel Clase: Clase was never really eased into the major leagues, getting high-leverage situations almost from the moment he was promoted Aug. 2.

It’s not hard for Woodward to do that with a pitcher who throws 101 mph.

Clase has encountered some bumps in his six weeks in the majors, but the Rangers have continued to use him with games on the line and he has mostly been successful.

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He has things to improve. He’s not really a strikeout pitcher despite his velocity, and he might be asked to throw more four-seam fastballs next season and tweak his slider.

But he should be in the bullpen to start next season.

Kolby Allard: Only two rotation spots are locked down for 2020, and the Rangers will be adding at least one veteran starter in the off-season. Allard has impressed since his first Rangers start last month and has won over the coaching staff with the way he competes.

He can pitch, too.

Allard also has an edge on fellow left-handers Joe Palumbo and Brock Burke because the innings he pitched in the minors. Allard threw 115 at Triple A this season and has 37 1/3 more with the Rangers with two more starts remaining.

Burke and Palumbo both dealt with injuries this season and might not finish with 100 innings.

Allard is looking good for 2020.

NEEDS HELP
Nick Solak: How is it possible that the best of the Rangers’ rookies the past month isn’t a safe bet for next Opening Day? Here’s how:

The Rangers have Rougned Odor and his contract at second base, Solak’s prime position. The expectation is they will attempt to sign a third baseman, where Solak is getting his feet wet, even if on a short-term deal until first-rounder Josh Jung is ready.

That would leave Danny Santana and/or Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the utility infielder. Santana can also play all three outfield spots.

That would leave Solak without regular playing time, even though he can also play in the outfield. He can’t be the utility infielder without proving he can play shortstop, and he has never played there since turning pro.

He would be better served getting everyday at-bats at Triple A Nashville than getting buried on the Rangers’ bench as the 25th or 26th player.

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But … if the Rangers do not sign a third baseman and if they do not sign a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder (Hunter Pence), there would be enough at-bats to keep Solak sharp.

There’s also this novel concept: Put the best players on the Opening Day roster and figure out how to get them all playing time.

Brock Burke/Joe Palumbo: They’re not the same pitchers, but they’re both left-handed and in the same situation.

As pointed out above, injuries have limited their workloads this season, and that will be a concern as the Rangers weigh their status for 2020.

There will be another numbers game at play, too.

The Rangers have three rotation spots to fill entering the off-season. One of those will to go a veteran right-hander. If Allard gets a spot, that leaves Burke and Palumbo fighting for the last spot.

There also could be a spring surprise, which seems to be the case each year with the Rangers, that makes it tough for Burke and Palumbo.

They will have hurdles to clear, especially on a team that values starting pitching depth in the minors but never seems to have enough of it.

Jonathan Hernandez: The new rule that will push the active roster from 25 to 26 players will likely mean that an eighth reliever is carried.

Looking at the 2020 bullpen, Jose Leclerc, Rafael Montero and Jesse Chavez have spots locked up. Clase and Brett Martin should be in there. The Rangers will be enticed to exercise their option on Shawn Kelley.

That would leave two spots and the need for them to be filled by multi-innings relievers. Hernandez would be a strong candidate.

However, the Rangers are still deciding whether they should give him another chance at starting games. The decision to move him to the bullpen was based in part on seeing if he could find better mechanics that would give him better success as a starter.

If he goes the starter route, he will be ticketed for the minor leagues. If not, he’s got a shot at a bullpen spot.

Scott Heineman: His biggest strength is that he is versatile. He can play all three outfield spots capably, and he has started playing first base.

His next biggest strength is that he bats right-handed. The Rangers have a glut of lefty-hitting outfielders, and first baseman Ronald Guzman also bats from the left side.

Woodward is not a fan of platoons, but he is a fan of data. Some of that plainly states that some hitters don’t do well against certain pitchers, and almost forces a manager to react.

This season, Woodward’s first, allowed some leeway for players to acclimate themselves to the new data and swing changes that were asked of them for the first time.

The kid gloves will come off in Woodward’s second season, when regulars must produce or risk losing playing time. That could benefit players like Heineman.

Of course, the Rangers will look at right-handed bats during the off-season and might find a veteran one they simply like more.

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With tight end Hunter Henry out because of a knee injury, the Los Angeles Chargers announced Tuesday they have signed veteran tight end Lance Kendricks.

To make room on the roster, the Chargers officially placed safety Adrian Phillips on injured reserve with a broken right forearm.

The Chargers also waived wide receiver Andre Patton and re-signed defensive end Chris Peace.

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Henry suffered a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee during the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, and he likely will miss four to six weeks. He has not been put on injured reserve.

With Henry out and the team moving on from Antonio Gates, the Chargers needed to add a receiving tight end to the fold. Kendricks should serve in that role, joining tight ends Virgil Green and Sean Culkin on the active roster.

Kendricks, 31, was signed by the New England Patriots before the 2019 season, but he was suspended for the first game of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He then was released after being reinstated.

Kendricks spent 2017 and 2018 with the Green Bay Packers, after six seasons with the Rams. In eight seasons, he has 2,505 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.

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In July, Kendricks was sentenced to six months of probation following a 2017 incident in which he was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession at a traffic stop. He pleaded no contest, and the charge will be dropped if he completes eight hours of community service. His one-game suspension this season was a result of the 2017 incident.

First off, I want to thank everyone for their comments on this piece from last week. The format was really well received so I’m definitely going to keep these rolling each week.

Well that was an ugly game. It’s only week 2 so I won’t be chicken little-ing yet, but there was definitely plenty to “learn from” in this game.

Three Sustains
Running backs
Well, through 2 weeks the team has to be feeling pretty good about their decision on how they’ve handled the Melvin Gordon situation. Yes, Austin Ekeler had the regrettable fumble on the goal line (which also happened in the preseason), but that situation would never have happened if the officials didn’t negate 2 TDs on that drive that were questionable calls at best. Against a very good run defense, one that includes Damon “Snacks” Harrison who is one of the best run defenders in the league, the combo of Justin Jackson and Austin Ekeler carried 24 times for 125 yards, 5.21 ypc, and a touchdown. It would have been closer to 160 and 2 TD’s if Justin Jackson’s fantastic run wasn’t called as I mentioned above. Jackson was especially explosive with his 7 carries going for 59 yards (8.4 ypc) even with the penalty ruining his best run of the day, taking 30 yards and a TD off his totals. On top of that, the pair combined for 7 catches for another 72 yards, again that number could have been higher with Ekeler’s 22 yard TD reception being wiped out by a crappy penalty. That means on 31 touches the 2 headed monster in the Chargers’ backfield combined for 196 yards from scrimmage and a TD.

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I’d honestly like to start seeing more of Justin Jackson, and that doesn’t need to mean less Ekeler. They can find packages to get them both on the field at the same time as they’ve done for Gordon and Ekeler in the past. Especially when the offensive linemen we are constantly criticizing in pass protection are showing to be better in run/screen blocking.

Run Defense
What an improvement. After giving up 203 yards and a TD on the ground in week 1, the Chargers run defense only gave up 94 yards on the ground and no TDs, while keeping Kerryon Johnson limited to 41 yards on 12 carries (3.4 ypc). Joey Bosa was extremely active in the run game doing an excellent job of stacking and shedding his guy to make actual defensive stops at the line of scrimmage, rather than clean up tackles 6+ yards downfield. I still need to re-watch the game to be sure, but I think this also has to do with the fact that Uchenna Nwosu saw double the snaps (14 in week 1 vs 27 in week 2) and took advantage of it racking up 5 tackles.
The team also went heavy up front on defense more in week 2. In week 1 the team had 63 plays on defense and the combined snaps for Brandon Mebane, Damion Square, Jerry Tillery, Isaac Rochell, and Justin Jones was 134. With 2 less defensive plays in week 2 (61), those 5 players had 140 combined snaps. That change seemed to help in the run game without being a detriment in the pass game.

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Pass protection improvements
I’m going to re-watch the game and focus here to see what the changes were that they made here to see if it was more scheme or if the actual play of the OL improved, but whatever it was, it is definitely a sustain. When I looked at the snap counts the Chargers definitely spread it out more. With only 4 more offensive plays, the WR group as a whole saw an increase of 36 snaps. Part of that was necessity with Hunter Henry being out, but I assume part of that was also to keep more DBs on the field to help reduce the number of big bodies in the box rushing.

Whatever the change turns out to be, it worked. In week 1 Philip Rivers dropped back 34 times and took 8 QB hits and 4 sacks. This week Rivers dropped back 36 times and took only 4 QB hits and 1 sack. That’s a huge improvement. Sure, the Lions front 7 are built more for run stuffing rather than rushing the passer, but in week 1 that Lions defense had 5 sacks and 6 QB hits against an infinitely more mobile QB in Kyler Murray.

When the staff, and eventually the team, goes over the film from this week, the pass protection wins this week need to be highlighted and a focus needs to be put on making it repeatable, especially with JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus coming to town this week.

Improves
Drops
Chargers WRs had 7 drops in the game yesterday, including 2 for first downs and 2 for touchdowns. They were game killing mistakes. And these are only counting the catchable passes, as Rivers was off target a few times yesterday. The Chargers wound up 6-13 (46%) on 3rd down yesterday and definitely could have used an extra touchdown or 2. Between officials wiping out 2 TDs (which I’ll just count as 1 since if the 1st one wasn’t wiped out the 2nd one wouldn’t have happened anyway), and the 2 dropped TDs, the Chargers left at least 3 TDs on the field yesterday. Keenan Allen was working over one of the best CBs in the league in Darius Slay for basically the whole game yesterday, while playing 91% of the offensive snaps. He can’t be asked to do it all. With Tyrell Williams gone, someone needs to step up. Mike Williams has shown flashes of it but needs to be more consistent. Travis Benjamin is frustrating because he’ll have games like he did at the end of last season where he’s reliable and clutch, then he’ll have games like yesterday where he’s on the field for 66% of the offensive snaps and have 0 catches on 2 targets including an awful drop on 3rd down that would have been a 1st down. This can’t happen anymore.

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Coaching
The coaching yesterday (and over the last week) left a lot to be desired. First, despite the fact that the Chargers were playing with the lead for most of the game they still didn’t try to let the run game roll. Jackson was averaging 9 ypc and Ekeler racked up a respectable 4 ypc, all while WRs were dropping balls left and right. Even if you take half of the 15 incompletions and turned them into runs for no gain, that is multiple minutes of time off the clock, and a lot more time that the Lions defense is stuck on the field.

Speaking of clock management, I still cannot wrap my head around that final drive of the first half. The team gets the ball back on their own 3 yard line, 1:20 left on the clock, and 2 Time Outs. The Chargers are winning, but barely at 7-6, and the Lions are getting the ball after halftime. The first play is a handoff up the middle, which I can’t be too mad about since that’s what every offense in the league dials up as their first play backed up on their own goal line probably 90% of the time. But when the run got stuffed, the coaches had Rivers let 40 seconds run off the clock before he called the time out! I get that you don’t want to “score too quickly” and give the Lions another shot before the half, especially when they had 3 TOs. But you kill the clock at the END of the drive, once you’re in scoring range already. With 1:20 and 2 TOs only up by 1 point the plan should have been going for a TD first and maybe settling for a FG. They had 1:20 before the 1st play, and :34 on the clock after it. After they squandered all that time Rivers basically willed the team 74 yards down the field to the Detroit 21 yardline where they had to settle for a 39 yard FG since there was only :04 left. Sure the play calling and execution during that 30 seconds was great, but realistically, if they had called their first TO after the Ekeler run, there is AT LEAST 1:10 on the clock and 1 more TO. It was bad coaching and bad clock management.
Finally, I didn’t like how Anthony Lynn handled the post game press conference. From a leadership standpoint, especially coming from someone like Lynn, it was a bad look. Lynn is by all accounts a great leader and holds people accountable, but he had a lapse yesterday. During the post game press conference he was peppered with questions about the things that went wrong, and he laid everything at the player’s feet. He even went so far as to say “we teach certain things and we expect the players to execute and do it.” I know this isn’t a huge deal but it just kind of rubbed me the wrong way after something that was a complete team failure.

Personnel
The 53 players the Chargers currently have on the roster are not “the best 53” that it could be.

We were all pleasantly surprised when Ty Long was so solid in week 1, but continuing to rely on that for more than 1 week was always going to be a mistake. His versatility is perfect for situations like week 1 when your kicker gets hurt 2 or 3 days before the game and you don’t really have time to do anything else. But rolling with one guy to handle both kicking and punting leaves no redundancy for 3 jobs (kickoffs, place kicks, punting), AND means that 1 guy has to split his practice time and mental focus much more broadly than he is used too. With how important repetition and mental focus are in the kicking game, asking a guy to do all of this for an extended period of time is a recipe for disaster. There are guys on this roster *cough Nick Dzubnar *cough, that could be released (and likely brought back without an issue honestly) to bring in a kicker rental for 1 week.

Travis Benjamin shouldn’t be on the roster anymore either. When you consider his salary, the fact that he has completely lost his return duties, in fact he’s played 0 special teams snaps through 2 games this season, the fact that he’s played 74 snaps and has 2 catches on 5 targets for 12 yards, and the performances that Artavis Scott and Andre Patton turned in during the preseason, he’s literally wasting a roster spot that the team desperately needs to be utilizing.

I’m also going to start complaining about it now, and hope they make me look like an asshole, but I have 0 faith that they’ll do the right thing now that Adrian Phillips is out indefinitely with a forearm fracture. There are a number of options that make a ton of sense and make the team better: Trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick (even if the cost is a 1st, you’re counting on having a low 1st round pick anyway and you’re getting an excellent, versatile player, at a position of need, who’s only going to cost the team $5.9M total over the next 2 seasons). Throw Nassir Adderley in as the starter. He showed in preseason that he’s more than just a ball hawk. He is aggressive and a good tackler and should be seeing staring snaps. Give Drue Tranquill some of Phillips’ role. He’s hyper athletic, hyper intelligent, played both safety and LB, get the kid on the field. Even giving Eric Berry a call could be a good option, but he’d have to be willing to play for a discount and I’d rather give Adderley/Tranquill snaps first. But they’ll likely just settle for giving Jaylen Watkins all those snaps and Adderley will likely get a small sprinkle of snaps, maybe 10 or so a game.

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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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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.
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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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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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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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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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The wait for hockey is over! The Senators start their six game preseason schedule against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5:30pm Eastern puck drop from the Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Yesterday, the Senators announced the roster that is making the trip to The Rock.

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Roster update: The #Sens have released a 25-man roster ahead of Tuesday’s pre-season game against Toronto in St. John’s, N.L.

Mise à jour alignement : Les #Sens ont publié leur alignement de 25 joueurs en vue du match préparatoire de mardi contre Toronto à St. John’s (T.-N.-L.)

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Here’s what the lineups were this morning before they got on the plane, courtesy TSN1200.

Duclair – Pageau – Batherson
Balcers – Tierney – Rodewald
Abramov – Norris – Formenton
Kelly – Beaudin – Scherwey

Brannstron – DeMelo
Englund – Goloubef
Lajoie – Ebert
No word on the goaltenders.

Game Notes
Typical for the first preseason game, there’s not much NHL experience on that roster. Nine of the 25 participated in rookie camp
None of the former Leafs players are on tonight’s roster either
Erik Brannstrom probably will draw the most attention from Sens fans out of today’s lineup, and probably has a better chance to stick around given Wolanin’s injury
Expect a bit more star power in tomorrow’s “rematch” in Ottawa (is it still a rematch when there probably won’t be any overlap in the rosters between the two games?)
The Maple Leafs also announced their roster for today. Marner and Tavares are in the lineup, but no Matthews or Nylander
Jason Spezza is the only former Senator in the Leafs lineup tonight, but it sounds like Babcock might not be too high on him. I like Spezza too much to take joy from this disconnect between Leafs management and coaching
No stats summary because it’s the first game of preseason

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ST. JOHN’S, N.L.— Connor Brown will have to play the waiting game to face his old teammates.

Fortunately, he won’t have to wait long.

While the newly-acquired winger won’t face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the pre-season opener at the Mile One Arena here Tuesday night, he should be in the lineup Wednesday in the second game of this back-to-back series at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Brown has a chance to make his mark with his new teammates and the belief is he’ll make an impact.
Connor Brown, as a Toronto Maple Leaf Claus Andersen / Getty Images

With general manager Pierre Dorion, coach D.J. Smith and the staff trying to figure out where everybody fits, the answers to those questions will begin Tuesday night when the Senators open the exhibition schedule against the Leafs.

Among those with a chance to play a big role for the Senators this season is the 25-year-old Brown. Acquired from the Leafs in the deal that brought defenceman Nikita Zaitsev here July 1 and sent Cody Ceci to Toronto, Brown has the chance to be in an offensive role with the Senators and he’s shown in the past he’s got plenty of skill.

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While he finished with eight goals and 29 points in 82 games with Toronto last season, Brown is only two years removed from a 20-goal campaign with the Leafs in 2016-17. He has been on the top line with Colin White and Brady Tkachuk during camp and there’s belief this is a group that’s going to be given every opportunity to find chemistry.

Brown feels he can play a big role in helping the Senators get where they want to be.

“Anywhere you play you want to cement yourself as a core guy,” Brown said in an interview during camp. “That’s what I’m going to try to do here and I’m going to do my best to fit in.”

Brown’s role had changed under Toronto coach Mike Babcock and it was a big reason why he was part of the deal to the Senators. Smith, who spent the last four years in the Leafs’ organization, feels if Brown is given the right role then he can be an offensive player for this team and also be responsible at both ends of the ice.

He could read the situation and felt his days with the Leafs may be numbered because he’s making $2.1 million this season with Toronto trying to make room to sign restricted free agent Mitch Marner.

“I was at a wedding so it was a bit of a shock but I did think that something might be coming and I didn’t think my future in Toronto was cemented or certain,” he said. “I knew with the salary cap going on there, and just with the kind of role I was being used in, I knew that I was the kind of guy that would have been easier to move.

“I was honest with myself and honest about the situation so I wasn’t too shocked.”

Given the fact the Senators are going young — and Brown isn’t old by any stretch of the imagination — his three years of experience are certainly going to help.

“It’s a little bit (of a fresh start),” Brown said. “I just think I was playing a different role in Toronto with the type of players they have up the middle and with all the offence they have. I was on the penalty kill and trying to be as defensive-minded as possible playing against some of the better guys on offensive teams.

“Hopefully this year I expand the offensive side of my game.”

Brown feels there could be a fit long-term with White and Tkachuk.

“Those guys are really easy to play with,” Brown said. “Both are really good players. We’ll continue to build. I think we’re all pretty keen and we enjoy playing with each other. That’s the first step.”

Of course, Brown is well aware the position the Senators are in with young players learning on a nightly basis. There was no shortage of expectations with the Leafs, but those don’t exist here. People want the Senators to be competitive and take a step in the right direction this season.

“In Toronto, we felt we were a Cup contender and it’s a little different here being in a bit of a rebuild,” Brown said. “I’ve gotten accustomed to the team and the kind of guys we have in the system and the way we want to play. I think we’ll be a lot better than people think.”

The adjustment has been easy for Brown.

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“You always think when you see everybody around you getting traded it’s going to be you and now it comes,” said Brown. “It’s going to be a good opportunity for me here. I fit in well with the guys, everybody seems to get along and there’s a good group in there. I’m just excited to get it going.”

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Twitter: @sungarrioch

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The Senators will bring 25 players to St. John’s to face the Maple Leafs in the pre-season opener.

Here’s the roster:

Goalies

31 Anders Nilsson

34 Joey Daccord

35 Marcus Hogbeg

Defence

2 Dylan DeMelo

23 Nick Ebert

26 Erik Brannstrom

29 Cody Goloubef

39 Andreas Englund

46 Hubert Labrie

50 Maxence Gunette

58 Max Lajoie

Forwards

10 Anthony Duclair

19 Drake Batherson

37 Josh Norris

38 Rudolfs Balcers

44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau

45 Parker Kelly

47 Mark Kastelic

53 Jack Rodewald

55 Morgan Klimchuk

59 Alex Formenton

64 J.C. Beaudin

71 Chris Tierney

85 Vitaly Abramov

93 Tristan Scherway

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Julio Jones, the star Atlanta Falcons receiver, hit 20 mph during his dash to the end zone on Sunday, giving his team a wild 24-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

DREW BREES GIVES HEALTH UPDATE

“I’m looking around and, OK, it’s a footrace now,” Jones said. “That was it. It really wasn’t like I had to try hard or anything like that. I just had to stay on course.”

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Julio Jones hit a staggering 20 MPH on that catch-and-run for six.#NextGenStats, powered by @awscloud

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Jones crossed over the goal line and kept right on going, disappearing down the tunnel. He finished with five catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns, also hauling in a 4-yard score that gave the Falcons their 11-point lead early in the third quarter.

Doug Pederson held his day-after press conference on Monday following the Eagles’ Sunday night loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Philadelphia’s head coach didn’t offer much in the way of injury updates, unfortunately, but he did touch on a number of topics worth addressing here.

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Crossing out plays
Pederson was asked about how much losing Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Dallas Goedert early in the game changed the offensive game plan. You might be able to guess the answer!

If affects it. It affects it a lot. If you were to look at my call sheet this morning, you would see a lot of scratch-outs on plays and different things.

One thing that I said after the game, too, is with [Eagles offensive coordinator] Mike Groh, [Eagles offensive line/run game coordinator] Jeff Stoutland, and the offensive staff making the adjustments we needed to make and coaching those young guys up, Mack Hollins, J.J. [Arcega-Whiteside]. And what’s interesting, if you watch the game as we did this morning, I mean, Zach [Ertz] is telling guys where to go. Nelly [Nelson Agholor] is telling — we’re moving guys. Our pieces are moving and we’re putting guys in positions that didn’t practice in those positions during the week and still had a chance at the end of the game. Took the lead and had a chance.

My hat’s off to those guys for hanging in there.

I don’t know about you but I still can’t get over how ridiculous it is that the Eagles essentially lost Jeffery, Jackson, and Goedert — a trio that combined for 15 receptions, 221 yards, and four touchdowns in Week 1 — in PREGAME WARMUPS. None of these guys were on the injury report leading up to Sunday night. And it’s not even like they got hurt over the course of the game, which is to be expected from such a dangerous sport. Three key offensive starters getting hurt while jogging around on the field before the game is an entirely new level of bad luck.
John Clark

@JClarkNBCS
I’m told DeSean Jackson & Alshon Jeffery did not feel comfortable pregame. Dallas Goedert had calf issue pregame, didnt play at all. You dont want calf to pop

Alshon Jeffery played 6 snaps with calf. DeSean Jackson 11 snaps with groin

I’m told DeSean is hoping to play Sunday

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A key feature of the Eagles’ offense heading into 2019 was their ability to use two different personnel packages: 11 (three wide receivers) and 12 (two tight ends). They have the talent to be an effective offense from either deployment, which isn’t something every team can claim.

Losing Goedert immediately took 12 personnel off the board on Sunday night. Now, the Eagles deserve some blame for not being better prepared to handle an injury at tight end since Goedert and Zach Ertz are the only two players at their position on the 53-man roster. The team did have Alex Ellis as a third tight end for Week 1 but they waived him in order to promote cornerback Craig James from the practice squad. Pederson explained that decision:

We had confidence in our two tight ends. We went in with a game plan of executing with a lot of the play-action pass game with two tight ends, the run game with two tight ends. It just felt comfortable with both guys.

And then in our 11-personnel, having Zach and Dallas working there. And then just having the extra DB just available on special teams and then if needed in the secondary, just keeping that extra guy out.

It’s also difficult to blame injuries and injuries alone for the team’s slow start considering they had the worst first quarter scoring offense in the NFL last year and had zero first quarter points in Week 1 this season.

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Still, Pederson has a valid gripe. It’s not like the Eagles had much time to game plan knowing they weren’t going to have Jeffery, Jackson, and Goedert. The coaching staff had to make major adjustments on the fly. And despite this, they were still in good position to win the game if not for Nelson Agholor’s egregiously dropping a go-ahead touchdown pass.

Injuries happen in the NFL. It’s the nature of the game. What happened in Atlanta, though? That’s just not normal. How do you possibly prepare for losing three key starters in warmups?

Taking accountability
Kudos to Pederson for taking the blame for the Eagles’ slow starts.

Q. Slow starts were prevalent last year, when you self-scouted last off-season, what did you find was the No. 1 reason for not scoring points in the first quarter, and how have you tried to address that this year?

DOUG PEDERSON: I just have to find the magical plays.

Q. Do you think it’s plays or is it more execution?

DOUG PEDERSON: It’s always the plays. That’s on me. I have to do a better job.

The plays aren’t the only issue. Execution could afford to better. But Pederson made the right call to put it on himself and not on his players. He even threw the “better job” Andy Reid-ism in there.

Now actually go fix it, Doug. It’s overdue.

Not sticking with the run game
It was disappointing to see the Eagles struggle to run the ball effectively against an Atlanta defense that ranked 32nd in opponent yards per carry in 2018 and struggled again in Week 1 this year. Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard combined for just 46 yards on 18 carries (2.6 average). Their longest runs on the night? Five yards each.

Pederson discussed how the absence of 12 personnel hurt the Eagles’ running game:

Q. What was the biggest reason why you went away from the run? Was it Dallas Goedert’s absence, the way the game was playing out, a combination of both?

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DOUG PEDERSON: A little bit of both. We struggled to run the ball, something we kind of pride ourselves on. Last week, I might have mentioned that we were going to face a much better Atlanta Falcon defense than we saw in week one. That’s just — this is the NFL and a lot of pride on that side and they are well-coached.

So we knew that going into this football game. We were going to try to run and try to establish it and we struggled a little bit there. We have to make those corrections.

That’s a big part, too, with a lot of the personnel changes, with tight ends and things like that, that got us a little bit away from it. I’m not going to make an excuse, but it does affect it just a little bit.

Praise for Carson Wentz
A big theme following Sunday’s loss was Eagles players having respect for Wentz nearly willing the team to victory despite less than ideal circumstances. Pederson similarly praised the team’s starting quarterback: