Even on an off night, Russell Westbrook carries the Thunder

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It appeared that Russell Westbrook’s outrageous workland and nonsensical statistical madness in the first quarter of the season was catching up. As the Oklahoma City Thunder let a 16-point lead slip away, which turned into a seven-point deficit with four minutes remaining against the Washington Wizards, Westbrook was clanging his way to an eyebrow-raising shooting night. You could feel the Monday Morning Point Guards and hot-takers revving their engines.

5-of-24. 6-of-26. 7-of-28. Missed layups. Missed jumpers. Missed everything.

He already had his triple-double. It was the win that was in doubt, and Westbrook wasn’t going to let that go without resistance. So naturally, despite his shooting struggles, Westbrook splashed a 3 with 8.5 seconds remaining to force overtime. And from there, he outscored the Wizards himself, 14-10, as the Thunder won their fourth straight, 126-115.

“When he goes through difficulties, he focuses more,” coach Billy Donovan said, “and I think that’s really unique.”

Westbrook scored 17 points in the final 5:08, hitting five of his last eight shots. The final triple-double tally: 35 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. It was his fourth straight, the 46th of his career, and for the first time since Oscar Robertson, a player will be averaging a triple-double in the month of December.

The descriptors are becoming platitudes, as Westbrook has somehow normalized the triple-double. He has taken what is a career highlight for many and turned it into an expectation. Or better, an average. This is a run of four consecutive triple-doubles for Westbrook, which somehow only ties the longest such streak of his career. He’s one assist and two rebounds away from the streak being eight games. He’s halfway to the number he posted for last season — 18 — which was the most in a campaign since Magic Johnson in 1981-82.
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“Uhhh, yeah,” teammate Victor Oladipo said when asked if he’s ever amazed by Westbrook. “I’ll be out there and some of the things he does are unreal, bro.”

“For me, every play matters,” Westbrook said. “You have to see what’s going on in the game, and you can always impact the game in different ways. That’s the type of player I am, trying to find ways to impact the game, whatever is going on.”

Mel Kiper ‘had no clue’ what Johnny Manziel would be

The Cleveland Browns need a quarterback, and ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. believes the franchise could be looking to pick one in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Kiper acknowledged the struggles of DeAndre Yedlin Authentic Womens Jersey Johnny Manziel and his own failure to predict what would happen to the signal caller out of Texas A&M during a Thursday conference call.

“I had no idea what Johnny Manziel would be. He was one of those guys you roll the dice. I had no clue,” Kiper said about his Manziel prognostications at this time last year.

Manziel, taken with the 22nd-overall selection in last year’s draft, had a disappointing rookie campaign. In his first start, he was intercepted twice and shutout in a 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. During Week 17, Manziel threw a party which caused him to miss the team’s Saturday walk-through, and led many to question his commitment.

This is why Kiper believes the team might look for some insurance at the position.

San Francisco seemed to prepare for this possibility, drafting Brandon Thomas a season ago, and Joe Looney has also received considerable playing time of late. One of those guys should be able to fill Iupati’s place. Most have figured Iupati is definitely gone from San Francisco, and the most surprising aspect of Maiocco’s tweet may actually be that there is a chance he returns.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne had triceps surgery and is now dealing with Fabian Johnson Authentic Womens Jersey the decision of whether to retire or return for another season, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Wayne is currently rehabbing the injury but it’s unclear if that is a factor in his decision. Wayne has been in the league since 2001, when the Colts made him a first-round pick, and he’s amassed 1,070 receptions for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns in that time.

His production has been sporadic over the past couple seasons but he’s remained an effective receiver. He also has only ever played for the Colts organization, and has stated that he can’t imagine playing anywhere else. Wayne is set to be a free agent in March, which could have a lot to do with his decision. If the Colts want him back, it seems more likely that he’d return.

Stephen Curry scored 34 points on 13-of-19 shooting Saturday against the Timberwolves

And so Looney found himself guarding an inchoate superstar and did a solid job from the outset. The Warriors supplemented the effort by sending double-teams at Towns, bothering him until Looney sat. “Yeah, Looney was great,” Kerr said after the game. “He gave us the minutes we wanted, excellent defense. He’s just a guy who has a good feel for the game.” Kerr added, “He understands NBA defense. Stays high with his hands, and he doesn’t bite on pump fakes.”

On not falling for the array of Towns pump fakes, Looney said, “They Steven Nelson Authentic Womens Jersey gave me a good scouting report before the game. Karl’s really skilled, real crafty, and he’s strong. So, just tried to play solid and stay on the ground.”

“If I could go back and do it again, I would have probably tried to come in, in better shape, and that’s that. There’s nothing that I can do about it now but just try to make that same mistake in the future.”

Lee said he has kept in touch with many of his former Boston teammates and maybe tried to win back some of their fans after Friday’s game.

“Most importantly, [the Celtics] organization is in a great spot,” Lee said. “Great group of guys and obviously well-coached. I think that they are one of the best teams we’ve played this year and should do great things.”

The Celtics, healthier and playing better than at the start of this season, still lack a truly defining win. Victories on the road against potential East playoff foes like Charlotte and Detroit were nice, but Boston got blown out in the second half against Golden State and couldn’t hold its early lead against San Antonio.

“Miscommunication,” Thomas said when asked about the play. “I had thought Smart said switch, but Tamba Hali Authentic Womens Jersey those are little mistakes that we made that those type of guys in that organization are going to capitalize on.”

Durant, who also had to pitch in with defense on Towns for stretches, said of Green’s absence, “We missed Draymond. We were a little stagnant early because we’re so used to having him up top facilitating offense.”

Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter waiting in the bullpen to drop the hammer in the late innings

“Are bullpens going back to the future?” asked Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. “There was a time when star relievers routinely pitched two or three innings, imposing figures such as Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter waiting in the bullpen to drop the hammer in the late innings.”

David Schoenfield: I Charles Johnson Authentic Jersey definitely love it more than that canned cranberry sauce everyone serves on Thanksgiving, though maybe not quite as much leftover turkey sandwiches on Friday.

And that doesn’t even account for the growth in the value of franchises, which has exploded over the last generation of owners. Jerry Reinsdorf’s group paid $20 million for the White Sox in 1981 and the value of the team might be 50 times that now. Mid-rotation veterans are making staggering dollars. Andrew Cashner had an ERA close to 6.00 with his last team and just got a one-year, $10 million deal. Zack Greinke will make $34 million this year, or more than $1 million every time he starts.

DRA-based WARP accounts for every factor that can be measured, from the catcher’s framing, blocking and throwing ability to the size of each umpire’s typical strike zone to the baserunning skills of the pitcher’s opponents to the weather to each defender’s abilities.

However, there is a key caveat: The clubs will be able to have more players in a “pool,” maybe as much as the overall roster limit of 40, with only 28 or 30 active players for each game or each series.

Haniger hit .321/.419/.581 in the minors in 2016 (granted, 74 games at Triple-A Reno, where the ball flies), but he did struggle in 34 games with Arizona. He’ll have a shot at a corner position for Seattle and could see time in center as well.

He was a prospect but not a top prospect, ranking near the Chris Scott Authentic Jersey bottom of the Nationals’ top 10 prospects before 2012. Kevin Goldstein, then at Baseball Prospectus, wrote that he had “average velocity” and a “usable” breaking ball with a changeup that “flashes plus” and “loose, easy arm action that allows him to maintain his stuff deep into games.” His upside was limited by a fairly slight frame and by unreliable command and control. Goldstein’s “perfect-world” projection: a No. 3 starter.

Walker: We’ve been hearing about Walker forever, but he’s still just 24 years old, and while the Mariners control Segura for two more seasons, the D-backs will control Walker through 2020. He’s a big kid who throws hard and throws strikes, but his fastball is straight and he pitches up in the zone, leading to home run problems — 27 in 134.1 innings in 2016.

The Vikings can’t win when their offense has to provide all of the offense

In all seriousness, though, Winston had eight interceptions in his first four games this year but has only two (to go with 12 touchdown passes) in his past six. His passer rating over that time is 102.2 — eighth-best in the league. The Bucs are only a game out of first place, but even if they don’t have enough to make a serious run this year, there’s a lot to feel good about in Tampa. The only hitch is that the fans may have to get on a plane to see the team win.

The Vikings can’t win when their offense has to provide all of the Benardrick McKinney Authentic Womens Jersey offense.

Six of Minnesota’s 22 touchdowns this year have come on defense or special teams. The Vikings are 4-0 when they get a defensive or special-teams touchdown, and 2-4 when they don’t. They needed a 100-yard Xavier Rhodes interception return and a 104-yard Cordarrelle Patterson kick return to beat the Cardinals by six points at home on Sunday.

There’s no replacing quarterback Andrew Luck (concussion), who is not expected to play against the Steelers on Thursday night. That’s a given. But they also have concerns with cornerback Vontae Davis (ankle). He was seen wearing a boot on his foot earlier this week. Defending Steelers Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown would be challenging enough for Davis when completely healthy. He’ll really have his hands full trying to slow the speedy Brown down while bothered by his ankle injury.

Quarterback Blake Bortles is dealing with a sprained shoulder, and he’ll have some stiffness and pain this week. He is expected to play against Buffalo, however. Running back T.J. Yeldon’s sprained right ankle is a bigger issue, though, and he may not practice much, if Braxton Miller Authentic Womens Jersey at all, this week, and that makes him iffy for the Bills game. That would mean more work for Chris Ivory and Denard Robinson.

“It would have to be at the right place and the right time, which is what I’ve always said. I try to make good decisions, what’s best for my family and myself. Again, somebody would have to offer that opportunity because you’re lucky if you get that. That’s my mindset, and anything that was reported about my thinking or my plans or the things that I want to do — the other day I saw that; those things I would say are unfounded.

“That being said, that’s all I’ll say about it. I love being here, I’m excited to get to work on the Jets, and look forward to practicing with our guys.”

Potential solace: Buccaneers rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo, who only last week succeeded in officially having the word “beleaguered” removed from in front of his name on all documentation, was 4-for-4 on field goals and hit his only extra point attempt Sunday. So it can get better, kickers. It can get better.

Woman files appeal in Derrick Rose civil rape trial

The woman who lost a civil court case accusing New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose and two of his friends of gang rape has appealed the jury’s decision 24 hours before the end of the 30-day deadline to do so.

Rose’s ex-girlfriend, who was referred to in the lawsuit as “Jane Doe,” claimed that both evidence was excluded and jury instructions were tainted. The Associated Press was the first to report the appeal.

An eight-person jury deliberated for three hours on October 19 Scottie Pippen Authentic Womens Jersey before ruling the Knicks star and his friends were “not liable on all counts” of civil complaints that included sexual battery and conspiracy to trespass and commit rape/battery.

Harden, who leads the NBA in assists (12.6 per game), got off to a hot start after his patented Euro-step led to an open Trevor Ariza triple.

The Beard kept finding his teammates, this time hitting Ryan Anderson for a three-pointer near the hash mark. Anderson finished with 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from downtown.

Harden applied pressure the second half, this time locating Ariza in the corner yet again. His wing man finished with 16 points on a red-hot 5-of-8 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 shooting from three.

And then, like the gentleman he is, Harden rewarded Clint Capela for some good work on defense with a calm alley-oop on the other end.

The Rockets improved to 7-5 while Harden continued to shift gears in his race for MVP. He’s Taj Gibson Authentic Womens Jersey averaging 28.7 points, 12.6 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game on a 47.8% clip from the field and 37.5% shooting from three.

And while it’s unclear if Houston can make a deep playoff run, one thing is certain: Watching The Toni Kukoc Authentic Womens Jersey Beard celebrate with his teammates and family is a reason to tune in.

How the NFL prevents teams from using penalties to win games

This month, four San Francisco 49ers defensive backs simultaneously — and very intentionally — grabbed and held the New Orleans Saints receivers they were covering. The clock showed eight seconds to halftime, and the 49ers gladly took a 5-yard penalty from referee Jerome Boger rather than give the Saints’ explosive offense a real chance to score a touchdown.

The Saints settled for a 26-yard field goal on the next play, validating the 49ers’ strategy and prompting the obvious question: Why don’t teams do that more often? And what’s to stop a team from deliberately and systematically John Wendling Authentic Womens Jersey breaking any rule when the markoff is more palatable than the potential outcome?

As it turns out, the NFL’s extensive rulebook has it covered.

The team traveled to the Bay Area later Friday.

Gronkowski’s absence leaves Martellus Bennett and Matt Lengel as the two available tight ends on the roster. Bennett, who has 38 catches for 504 yards and four touchdowns this season, rises into the top role.

Gronkowski has been at the team facility each of the past three days but has left in the later hours of the morning while teammates were preparing for practice.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter has been told that the injury is “not overly serious” and that Gronkowski does not have a punctured lung, as has been reported.

Pats wide receiver Chris Hogan also was ruled out, due to a back injury.

One of the team’s starting receivers alongside Julian Edelman, Hogan was a Joique Bell Authentic Womens Jersey game-time decision against the Seahawks last Sunday. It was clear he was playing through pain, as he didn’t have a catch and struggled to execute some blocks down the field, which is normally a strength for him.

MLB roundup: Why Braves signed Colon, Dickey; White Sox prepared to talk trade

The Atlanta Braves have a wave of pitching prospects from recent drafts developing, but those players are probably a couple of years away from the starting rotation, which is partially why they jumped the market to sign R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon on aggressive one-year deals. By making those investments, Atlanta hopes to patch rotation holes on a team that showed promise at the end of the season by winning 30 of its last 50 games, without having to surrender any prospects or agree to a pricey multiyear deal in a weak market. Dickey and Colon also will provide pitching styles that are distinct from those of their Braves peers, with Dickey featuring the knuckleball and Authentic Curtis Martin Jersey Colon attacking hitters with a fastball that moves so much.

The best of the Atlanta pitching prospects will be in the lower levels of their minor league system in 2017, with Ian Anderson, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Joey Wentz and Touki Toussaint all in the 18-21 age range.

By the way, the Braves are not expected to seek a personal catcher for Dickey.

That leaves Sanchez, soon to turn 24, at the Authentic Darrelle Revis Jersey top of the Bronx marquee when 2017 begins. The youth movement is on, but it remains to be seen whether Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Luis Severino will be joining Sanchez as supporting actors.

But as Sanchez’s career moves forward, his defense will likely stand out. His arm is off the charts, while the front office raves about his ability to call pitches. Manager Joe Girardi always says it is defense-first for catchers, and Sanchez has bought in.

Sanchez’s future success will not be based solely on himself — just as with Rivera, Jeter and Rodriguez. No baseball player’s team wins without 24 other guys. Sanchez could be the leader of the Yankees’ next era.

Sanchez figures to be the catcher for potential Yankees “uber” teams, to borrow GM Brian Cashman’s word. His continued development is so important because it can create a salary structure for the franchise, in which one of its best players might not be making the most money on the roster. Sanchez, a potential All-Star, won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2021.

By then, the Yankees might sign guys such as Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. But right now, it doesn’t matter that Sanchez wasn’t the Yankees’ first Rookie of the Year since Jeter in 1996 — Sanchez is the face of the organization. That’s pretty good for a soon-to-be 24-year-old with a lot of baseball ahead of him.

The White Sox have told other teams they’re willing to listen to offers on players they control for three years or less, including Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and others.

The anointing of Dak, and what’s next for the Cowboys

It is Aug. 25 — just 90 seconds into a preseason game in Seattle — and Tony Romo has lost his job.

He doesn’t know this, of course. No one does. The crunching hit by Cliff Avril that cracked Romo’s back and forced him out of that game looked bad, but neither Romo nor the Dallas Cowboys thought it would cost him time. He asked back in, and the next day, the stories out of Dallas all said he’d avoided a scare. The story of the night was the preseason debut of first-round running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had 48 yards on seven carries after missing a bunch of practices with a hamstring injury. A few people noted how good fourth-round rookie Dak Prescott looked in relief of Romo.

“We’ve got a great luxury, a wonderful Adrian Clayborn Authentic Womens Jersey problem to have,” Jones said after the team’s Week 9 victory in Cleveland. “We’ve got some real talent at the quarterback position. I think Tony Romo is one of the best quarterbacks to play this game, and I get very excited when I look at Dak and his future. I just don’t have a problem with this situation.”

As Jones talked, the Cowboys’ locker room was in full bubble. Bryant had caught one measly pass for 19 yards in the 35-10 victory in Cleveland and couldn’t care less. He laughed with reporters as they discussed how wide open the three receivers were who caught Prescott’s touchdown passes, and at how unstoppable Elliott continued to look.

Romo sat not far away, dressing quietly Alex Mack Authentic Womens Jersey but with his own big smile. He has remained silent throughout. He’ll make small talk but clearly doesn’t want to do interviews for fear of being a distraction. No one with the Cowboys wants anything to distract from what’s going on right now.

After Prescott and Elliott authored a stunning comeback victory in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Jones said Romo would be Prescott’s backup upon his return to the active roster. “We’re going to let the decision make itself,” Jones said. To this point, the decision has been made: Prescott is playing too well for the team to make any changes.

But that decision is likely to continue to “make itself.” Don’t expect the Cowboys to make any formal announcements about Prescott being the starter for the rest of the season, or for next season, because why should they?

Rex Ryan reveals what he said to Richard Sherman on the sideline

Richard Sherman was the center of attention during the Seattle Seahawks’ win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night. It wasn’t all positive, though.

In the final seconds of the first half, Sherman hit Bills kicker Dan Carpenter low, but it wasn’t flagged because he was ruled offsides. The Bills were forced to re-kick it twice more, resulting in a missed field goal after a delay of game penalty. The three consecutive plays were certainly controversial, which understandably had everyone on Buffalo’s sideline fuming.

“It’s not like it just jumps off the Tani Tupou Authentic Jersey page to me when I watch him. Because he can go through phases of time when he blends in. But then you look at it and say, wait, he just blocked three shots, he just got two offensive rebounds, he just led the break, got us a layup — he can do a lot, this guy. He can do a little bit of everything.”

Save for a minor hitch in his shooting mechanic, per Self, Jackson’s game has no glaring holes. He can do all the mixtape things: He is 6-foot-7 and superathletic, he has a ball handler’s touch, he is an excellent passer, and he has an innate ability to create angles and make tough shots in traffic. But he might be even better at cutting off the ball and better still as a defender, particularly on the perimeter. Jackson could end up being KU’s best perimeter defender, which is no small feat for a guy playing next to Mason and Graham, two of the nation’s best.

That is why Self, whose teams have typically featured two traditionally big forwards, is figuring out how to play four guards at any given time. It’s a stylistically on-trend move, as the game gets smaller and smaller from the NBA on down, and it’s one Jackson — the “tallest guard” in that four-guard lineup — seems entirely capable of taking on. If he scores 30, great. But he might score 12 and be every bit as crucial.

“You can’t label him as any one thing,” Self said. “He’s just a basketball player.”

Jackson can play the saxophone — well enough that if he had practiced and hadn’t been so nervous, he could have gotten through the solo performance his teammates wanted him to put on at Kansas’ “Late Night in the Phog” event in October. (“I was not comfortable Thomas Rawls Authentic Jersey playing in front of 16,000 people,” he said.) He’s into chess, and he started a chess club at Prolific Prep in Napa, California, where he spent his senior year of high school and was a member of the National Honor Society. Ask him to describe himself, and the first thing he will say is that he’s “kind of an introvert.”

He is also, it turns out, a next-level competitive freak.