Luka on playing Clips in playoffs: ‘I think some people count us out, but we’re not out’

If the regular season series against the Clippers is any indication, the Dallas Mavericks could be in trouble. The Mavericks, who are pretty much locked in the 7th-seed(3.0 games behind 6th-seeded Thunder), will probably battle the 2nd-seeded Clippers(1.5 games up on 3rd-seeded Denver) in the first round of the playoffs.

Last night, the Mavericks'(41-30) struggles against the Clippers(46-22) continued. Behind Kawhi Leonard’s 29 points, Paul George’s 24 points, and Ivica Zubac’s 21 points, including 10-10 from the field, Los Angeles would defeat Dallas 120-111 in Orlando. With the loss, Dallas is 0-3 against the Clippers this season. 

On the surface, going 0-3 against the Clippers does not bode well for the Mavericks, but according to Luka Doncic, who scored 29 points last night, people should not count out Dallas.

“We always have chances,” Doncic said about the possibility of playing Clippers in playoffs. “You know we’re a great team. We always got chances, no matter what. I think some people count us out, but we’re not out. I think we have chances, so we’ll give it our best.”

Mavericks’ Kristaps Porzingis, who scored a game-high 30 points last night, looks forward to the challenge of playing the Clippers in the playoffs.

“That is obviously going to be a tough matchup,” Porzingis said. “They are one of the favorites to win it all. They are a big, physical team that knows how to play, has experience, and have multiple guys that have been there already.

“It is definitely going to be a tough matchup, but we are looking forward to the challenge and getting experience from that.”

The Clippers are a championship-caliber team. Los Angeles has arguably two top ten NBA players in Leonard and George. Additionally, they have two outstanding players coming off the bench in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Los Angeles is built to win now, and at this point, the Mavericks still have some growing to do. With Doncic and Porzingis, Dallas can give the Clippers a tough series, but they probably don’t have enough.

However, anything can happen in the NBA bubble.

Giants’ Daniel Jones explains why he will play in 2020

Players around the NFL are deciding to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season because of concerns about COVID-19. At this point, the New York Giants had three players opt-out: Nate Solder, Da’Mari Scott, and Sam Beal. 

The deadline to opt-out was Thursday at 4 P.M.

Giants QB Daniel Jones, 23, is young and does not have any kids, so for him, playing football during a pandemic is not an issue.

“It’s important to realize that everyone has different circumstances, whether it be family related or personally or whatever it may be,” Jones said via a video conference call on Thursday. “I certainly don’t have those situations. I live by myself, and I’m healthy, but everyone has got to consider their own personal situation, and I certainly respect that and expect people to do that and do what’s best for them and certainly don’t hold that against them. Obviously, Nate (Solder) made a decision to opt-out, and he’s got an extremely tough circumstance, and he’s got to do what’s best for his family. All the respect in the world, all the support in the world to him..

“Like I said, you’ve got to look at everyone individually and personally, and you have no way of knowing exactly what’s going on and why they made that decision. That’s up to them, so like I said, I certainly respect it and support it for all the people who made that decision.”

It’s hard to argue with anybody opting out. To Jones’ point, every player’s situation is different. If you are young and healthy, more than likely, you will beat the coronavirus, so for Jones and many others, you can understand why they’ve decided to play.

Ramirez-Postol set for August 29

Ramirez-Postol, Take 3! The long-awaited showdown between WBC/WBO junior welterweight world champion Jose Ramirez and former world champion and WBC mandatory challenger Viktor “The Iceman” Postol will take place at the MGM Grand Conference Center Saturday, August 29.

Ramirez and Postol were set to fight February 2 in China and May 9 in Fresno, Calif., but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both were subsequently canceled. This time, they will enter the “Bubble.

In the 10-round junior welterweight co-feature, unbeaten contender Arnold Barboza Jr., from South El Monte, Calif., will fight Canadian veteran Tony “Lightning” Luis in his toughest test to date. Ramirez-Postol and Barboza-Luis will stream live on ESPN+ beginning at 10 p.m ET, with undercard action to stream live at 7:30 p.m. ET.

“Jose has stayed in the gym with his great trainer, Robert Garcia, throughout the pandemic,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “I have no doubt we will see the best version of Jose Ramirez, a wonderful young man and one of the world’s best fighters. He will need to be on his game because Postol is a worthy contender who has proven himself at the world-class level.”

Ramirez (25-0, 17 KOs) enters the fight coming off a career-high 13-month layoff. Last July, he knocked out Maurice Hooker to unify the WBC and WBO titles and stake his claim as the world’s best 140-pounder. Since winning the vacant WBC title against Amir Imam in March 2018, Ramirez defeated the previously undefeated Antonio Orozco, top contender Jose Zepeda and Hooker. The Orozco and Zepeda title defenses took place in front of more than 10,000 fans at Fresno’s Save Mart Center, a short drive from his hometown of Avenal.

During the early stages of the pandemic, Ramirez teamed up with Central Valley community leaders to assist the region’s agricultural workers. With Ramirez leading the way, they donated essential supplies and more than 1,000 wellness boxes, which included N95 masks, paper towels, toilet paper, rice, masa, beans and hand sanitizer. Ramirez now turns his focus to Postol (31-2, 12 KOs), a former WBC world champion whose only two losses have come against current IBF/WBA junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor and pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford. Postol has won two bouts since the Taylor defeat, most recently topping Mohamed Mimoune via decision last April in Las Vegas.

“I’m excited to finally be back. It’s always an honor stepping into the ring, fighting a guy like Postol and defending my belts,” Ramirez said. “God knows that my goal is to become the undisputed champion, and this gets me one step closer to my goal.”

Postol said“I’m just looking forward to fighting. I’m coming to win those world titles. I have been training since this fight was first announced, so I’m focused and ready to go.”

Barboza Jr. (23-0, 10 KOs) makes his 2020 debut following a 2019 campaign that saw him climb the world rankings with three statement-making wins. He knocked out former world champion Mike Alvarado on the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Anthony Crolla undercard at Staples Center, stopped veteran Ricky Sismundo in four rounds at Banc of California Stadium, and scored a body shot knockout over William Silva last November in Las Vegas. Barboza is currently ranked eighth by the WBC and 10th by the WBO at 140 pounds.

“Tony Luis is as tough as they come. He won’t lay down for me. He sees this as a big opportunity, and I can’t let him take it,” Barboza said. “To be honest, the whole no fans thing, I’m more curious than anything. I’ve fought in front of limited fans deep on undercards before. Once you’re in the ring, there’s no difference. I am happy to be part of this ‘Bubble’ experience because it will go down in history.”

Luis (29-3, 10 KOs), from Cornwall, Canada, is a volume puncher with a knack for upsetting undefeated fighters. Since 2014, he has taken the ‘0’ from three then-unbeaten prospects, including a nationally televised decision over Karl Dargan in January 2015. Luis has won 10 consecutive fights since an April 2015 decision loss to Derry Matthews for an interim lightweight world title in Matthews’ hometown of Liverpool, England.

Luis said, “I want to thank Top Rank and my promoter, Liveco Boxing, for this amazing opportunity. I’m proud of myself for not giving up throughout all the uncertainty over the past several months. I knew this pandemic would be a test of character, and I forced myself to stay dedicated, knowing that if an opportunity arose, I’d be ready to strike. I have not lost in over five years, I’m in the best shape in my life, and I feel that Arnold Barboza Jr. is the perfect opponent to showcase my skills and take my career to the next level. Everyone dreams of fighting in Las Vegas. On August 29, my dream will come true, and I plan to make the most of this opportunity. For a small-town kid, we proved a lot of people wrong. Let’s get it on.”

Jags’ Allen on goals for 2020: ‘To be the best defensive player in the league’

In 2019, Jaguars LB/DE Josh Allen was impressive. As a rookie, Allen led the team with 10.5 sacks(most sacks by a rookie in franchise history), which helped him make the Pro Bowl. Now, the second-year player wants to do even better in 2020.

When asked what his goals for 2020 are, Allen had this to say:

“To be the best defensive player in the league,” Allen said via a video conference call on Wednesday. “That’s high standards. I had a high standard last year, and I kind of achieved that goal. But now, I set the bar really high for myself, and I’m looking to stay there and stay at the top, and I’m going to push myself as much as I can push each year.

“This year I’m not holding anything back, I’m coming in as best as I can, the best version of me. I feel like coming into practice with what I did so far; I feel like my game has grown. I feel like I’m getting more comfortable, but there’s still a lot I got to learn. I got high standards this year and just know I’m shooting for the top.”

For Allen to be the best defensive player in the league, he must do more than sack the quarterback. According to Allen, he wants to be a complete player.

“I feel like I work on pass rushes, but I worked on my whole game,” Allen said. “It’s so big to get caught up in the sacks – this is just talking about people in the NFL – it’s so big to get caught up in the sacks if you’re considered a pass rusher and I’m not trying to be considered as just pass rusher. I am trying to be considered a great defensive player.

“My main focus is going to be to stop the run, tackle for losses, plays that destruct the whole offense. That’s really what I have been working on. So, I have been working on just getting off my three-point stance as explosive as I can and things like that. I worked a lot of pass rush, but like I said, I worked on trying to be able to stop the run, tackle for losses, and be quick on my first step.” 

Allen won’t have Calais Campbell(traded to Ravens) on the other side, and he might not have Yannick Ngakoue(contract dispute) as well, so the pressure could be on him in 2020. Jacksonville did draft LB/DE K’Lavon Chaisson in the first round of this year’s draft, but he is rookie, and he won’t have a preseason, which could impact his production. 

Allen appears to have the goods, and he has high standards, which should excite the Jaguars in 2020.

Wizards’ Brooks on Bryant: ‘It was the best defensive game I’ve ever seen him play’

At the NBA level, they’re no moral victories, but when you’re the Washington Wizards, and you’re without three of your best players, well, maybe they’re moral victories.

On Wednesday, the Wizards(24-44) fought and played hard against the Philadelphia 76ers(41-27), but it was not enough as they would lose 107-98. Philly’s Joel Embiid scored a game-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and for the Wizards, Thomas Bryant had another strong performance as he had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Bryant not only played well on the offensive end, but he was stellar on defense. The third-year player had a career-high four blocks against Philadelphia. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was happy with Bryant’s performance, especially what he saw on defense.

“It was the best defensive game I’ve ever seen him play,” Brooks said about Bryant after the game. “I think he needs to continue to focus on that end. We talked to him about it; we showed film on it, and he’s steps up. He’s getting better. He’s a young player that’s developing. Sometimes we want it to be right now, but it takes time.”

According to Bryant, he has been working hard to get better on the defensive end. 

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Bryant said about his defense. “Keep improving  every day. That’s my main thing. Keep improving, especially on the defensive end. Guarding multiple positions, taking the challenge head-on.”

In the last three games, Bryant is averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds. The 23-year-old Bryant is a solid offensive player, but he must improve on the defensive end if he wants to take that next step. 

In the end, what happened on Wednesday is a step in the right direction for Bryant. 

Notes:

76ers’ Ben Simmons left the game in the third quarter with a left knee injury. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the MRI on Simmons’ left knee came back clean, and he’s expected to be day-to-day.

-Rui Hachimura continues to struggle with his shot. Hachimura, who scored 8 points against Philadelphia, was 2-11 from the field, and in the last three games, Hachimura has shot 8-28(28%) from the field.

-After scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter against Indiana, Jerome Robinson had another strong game on Wednesday. Robinson scored 19 points, including 2-4 from downtown.

-Washington returns to action on Friday against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.

 

 

Benavidez on Angulo: ‘I feel like I can take advantage of some openings in his defense’

 Undefeated WBC Super Middleweight World Champion David “El Bandera Roja” Benavídez will defend his title against former world title challenger Alexis Angulo in a Premier Boxing Champions event Saturday, August 15 live on SHOWTIME from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and also features rising lightweight Rolando “Rolly” Romero taking on fellow unbeaten Jackson Maríñez in a 12-round battle for the interim WBA Lightweight Title, while heavyweight contenders Otto Wallin and Travis Kauffman square off in a 10-round showdown.

The event is promoted by TGB Promotions and Sampson Boxing. The Romero vs. Maríñez bout is co-promoted by Mayweather Promotions.

The 23-year-old Benavídez (22-0, 19 KOs) defends his belt after defeating two-time super middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell in September, stopping him in nine rounds. Benavidez is trained by his father José Sr., alongside his brother and former title challenger, José Jr. In 2017, he became the youngest super middleweight champion in boxing history by defeating Ronald Gavril on SHOWTIME at just 20 years old. Representing his native Phoenix, Ariz. Benavídez went from a 15-year-old prodigy sparring with Gennady Golovkin and Peter Quillin, to world title contender with a 10-fight knockout streak from 2015 through 2017, including a highlight-reel knockout of Rogelio Medina with a seven-punch combination that earned him his first championship fight.

“It’s been almost a year since the last time I fought, so I’m very eager to get back in the ring and give the fans a great fight,” said Benavídez. “Training camp has been amazing. Fortunately, my dad opened his own gym just before the pandemic, so we’ve had private training and been able to safely bring in sparring partners to help me work. I’m facing a very tricky and rugged fighter, so I’m taking him very seriously. I feel like I can take advantage of some openings in his defense and look for the knockout like I do every fight.”

Born in El Bordo, Colombia and now fighting out of Miami, Fla., Angulo (26-1, 22 KOs) enters his second world title opportunity on a three-fight winning streak, including two triumphs over previously unbeaten fighters. Angulo stopped Reinaldo Gonzalez in 2018 in his first fight since losing a decision to then-super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez earlier that year. He scored a decision victory this January over Anthony Sims Jr. to put himself in position to again challenge the best in the division.

“I’m ready for anything that happens in the ring on August 15,” said Angulo. “This is going to be a great fight for the fans because of the style I bring to the ring. Benavidez is a strong champion, but my style will be too much for him and I will have my hand raised on fight night.”

Fighting out of Las Vegas, Nev., Romero (11-0, 10 KOs) added three knockout victories to his tally in 2019 before his 2020 debut saw him stop previously unbeaten Arturs Ahmetovs in February. A fast-rising prospect in the Mayweather Promotions stable, the 24-year-old is ranked No. 10 by the WBA and will look to extend his six-fight knockout streak on August 15.

“It feels great to return to the ring and to be fighting for such a great opportunity,” said Romero. “This has been the best camp of my career, and I’ll just say this, if a pandemic is holding you back from training, then you don’t want it bad enough. I already believe I should be here with the top guys, but the world will actually get to see that I am who I say I am. I’m confident in my abilities as a fighter and I have the best in the business, Floyd Mayweather, behind me. I think this fight will end fairly quickly, but you will get to see the growth in me as a fighter. This is another fight that will further prove I’m here to stay. Sign up for KO’s!”

“This is a big step up for Rolando, and he’s been waiting for the opportunity to showcase his talent,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions. “He has a big test ahead to prove himself. This is going to be another one that you don’t want to miss, so tune-in to SHOWTIME on Saturday, August 15.”

The 29-year-old Maríñez (19-0, 7 KOs) holds the WBA’s No. 6 ranking, which he earned with victories over Rolando Giono and Kenin Betancourt while picking up eight wins between 2018 and 2019. Representing his native Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Maríñez was successful in his U.S. debut in December of last year, stopping Yardley Armenta Cruz in two rounds.

“I’ve had a great training camp for this fight,” said Maríñez. “I’ve been sparring with Vergil Ortiz and Jose Ramirez, plus other fighters in Robert Garcia’s gym, and it’s gotten me ready to step into the ring. I know that Romero is a tough and durable fighter, so it won’t be easy, but I’m going to do anything I can to bring the title back home.”

Wallin (20-1, 13 KOs) will return to the ring for the first time since he nearly defeated Tyson Fury in September 2019, when he opened up a gruesome cut over Fury’s right eye with a legal punch that nearly halted the fight. While the 29-year-old lost a decision, he proved his mettle as a potential future heavyweight champion. Representing his native Sundsvall, Sweden, Wallin trains in New York with former champion Joey Gamache.

“I’m very happy to finally be back in the ring,” said Wallin. “It’s been a long and crazy year in many ways and it feels great to be getting ready to step back into the ring. I’ve been training steady since the Fury fight and I feel like I’ve developed my game in a lot of ways. Kauffman is a tough veteran that can both come forward or box if he wants to. He’s a fan friendly fighter and I have to be ready at all times. We have a great game plan as always and I’m in excellent shape. I know I have all the tools to beat Kauffman.”

A veteran of the heavyweight landscape, Kauffman (32-3, 23 KOs) owns a ledger that includes challenges of top heavyweights including Luis Ortiz, Chris Arreola and Amir Mansour, amongst others. The Reading, Pennsylvania native lost his most recent bout to Ortiz, following a 2018 triumph over Scott Alexander.

“This is my first training camp in seven years without Brother Naazim Richardson, but I know that he wouldn’t want me to leave camp and he’d want me to stay focused,” said Kauffman. “Having him pass away while I was in camp was one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with, but there’s adversity in every camp I’ve had. I wouldn’t feel right if there wasn’t adversity to overcome. My father, Marshall, stepped back in as my head trainer. We know we’re facing a young, hungry fighter, but I have more experience than him and I don’t think he can last 10 rounds with me when I’m at 100% like I’ll be on August 15.”

Additional non-televised action will include super middleweight contender Alantez Fox (26-2-1, 12 KOs) battling Ghana’s Habib Ahmed (27-1-1, 18 KOs) in an eight-round attraction.

Giants’ Beal opts out of 2020 NFL season

New York Giants CB Sam Beal has become the third Giants player to opt out of the 2020 NFL season, the team announced on Tuesday.

He joins starting left tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver Da’Mari Scott in choosing not to play this year.

Under the agreement reached between the NFL and the Players Association, players can choose not to play in the upcoming season without penalty. The deadline is 4 p.m. tomorrow and the opt-out is irrevocable.

Beal was expected to compete for increased playing time this season. A third-round selection in the 2018 supplemental draft, he missed his entire rookie year with a shoulder injury he originally sustained at Central Michigan.

In 2019, Beal spent the first nine games of the season on injured reserve with a pulled hamstring and missed the season finale vs. Philadelphia with a shoulder injury. He played in six games with three starts and totaled 26 tackles (20 solo) and one pass defensed.

Free agent acquisition James Bradberry will almost certainly start at one corner. With DeAndre Baker on the Commissioner Exempt List and Beal opting out, the corners competing for jobs and reps are Corey Ballentine, Grant Haley, Montre Hartage, 2020 draft choices Darnay Holmes (fourth round) and Chris Williamson (seventh) and perhaps second-year pro Julian Love.

*Linebacker Josiah Tauaefa was activated off the reserve/COVID list, one day after he was placed on it.

Mavs’ Carlisle on Burke: ‘The guy can flat out score the ball’

  Coming out of Michigan, the one thing we knew about Mavericks G Trey Burke was his ability to score. At times, Burke has shown that in the NBA, including a career-high 42 points while with the Knicks in 2019.

Unfortunately for Burke, who signed with the 76ers last offseason, he did not get much of an opportunity to showcase his skills. Ultimately, he waived by the team in February.

Now, the 27-year-old Burke, who signed with the Mavericks in July, a team he played for in 2019, is getting a chance with Dallas, and he is producing. On Friday, the six-year veteran scored a season-high 31 points, and on Tuesday, Burke hit two clutch free throws to help the Mavericks defeat the Kings in OT. 

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is very excited about what Bruke has done for Dallas.

“Trey has been terrific,” Carlisle said after the team’s win on Tuesday. “He is enthusiastic. He has improved defensively, and you know he can score the ball down the stretch. Those two free throws at the end of the game basically put the game away. Our guys had the confidence to get the ball in his hands, so I’m really impressed with how he’s really evolved his game over the last couple years. We had a great experience with him after the trade with New York.

“I was sorry that we were unable to bring him back because he impressed everybody with his character and his ability to score the ball and play the game. He just keeps getting better in all the areas. His vision keeps improving. His defense keeps improving. As I mentioned, the guy can flat out score the ball, and he puts pressure on the rim too. He’,s not just a shooter, so I’m really pleased for him. This is a great opportunity for him. I don’t think there’s many guys that have been signed on the COVID exception, or whatever it is, that are taking advantage of their opportunity quite like he is.”

This is an excellent opportunity for Burke, and based on how he’s been used thus far, Burke will probably have a decent role with a playoff team, and considering how he got to this point, you can’t ask for anything more.

Jags’ Minshew: ‘Laviska Shenault Jr. is a freak’

In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars wanted to get second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II more weapons. Jacksonville grabbed Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr. in the second round, and in the fifth round, the Jaguars selected Texas WR Collin Johnson. 

Based on what he has seen out of Shenault and Johnson, Minshew is pleased. 

 “Laviska Shenault Jr. is a freak, man,” Minshew said via a video call on Tuesday. “I knew it when we played him at Colorado. I was glad he wasn’t super healthy that game because he changes the game when he has the ball in his hands. He’s really impressed me. He’s a lot better route runner, a lot better at catching the ball than I even expected so I’m really excited for what he’s going to be.

“Collin Johnson, really big guy, doesn’t move like he’s a big guy, he moves really well, smooth and catches the ball really well. Both those guys, they love ball, they love learning, they’re excited to be here, so I’m excited to work with them.”

Coming out of Colorado, some compared Shenault to Falcons star WR Julio Jones. At 6-1, 227 pounds, Shenault has excellent size, and while his 40 time at the combine was not great(4.58), many believe he plays faster than that on the field. Regarding Johnson, he’s long(6-6), and may not be expected to make an impact right away, but the potential is definitely there. You can’t teach height, and Johnson has that.

It’s still very early, and without a preseason, it could be difficult for Shenault and Johnson to get completely comfortable playing NFL football right away. As much as many loathe the preseason, it has its benefits, especially for younger players. No preseason could impact how these young players perform in 2020.

 

Giants re-sign Markus Golden

Outside linebacker Markus Golden – whose 10.0 sacks in 2019 were more than twice the total of any other Giants defender – today re-signed with the team. Golden, who is entering his sixth NFL season, rejoins a group of outside backers that includes three-year veteran Lorenzo Carter and second-year pro Oshane Ximines – who tied for second on the team with 4.5 sacks last season – free agent acquisition Kyler Fackrell, who had 10.5 sacks for Green Bay in 2018, and 2020 draft choices Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin. Golden has 29.0 career sacks. Carter, Ximines and Fackrell have a combined 29.5 sacks.

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a one-year deal worth around $5.1 million.

Golden, 29, had been an unrestricted free agent. Soon after the NFL Draft in late April, the Giants placed a seldom-used unrestricted free agent tender on Golden. When he did not sign with another team by the first day of training camp, the Giants regained exclusive rights to his services for the 2020 season.

In his first season with the Giants in 2019, Golden was one of six players – including four on defense – to start all 16 games. He was one of 18 NFL players with at least 10.0 sacks. Golden was the first Giants player with a double-digit sack total since Jason Pierre-Paul had 12.5 in 2014 and the first Giants linebacker to accomplish the feat since Lawrence Taylor had 10.5 in 1990. Golden finished fifth with 72 tackles (37 solo). He had a season-high eight tackles (five solo) vs. Green Bay on Dec. 1.

Golden joined the Giants as a free agent on March 15, 2019, after four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

*The Giants removed one player but added another to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Wide receiver David Sills, who was added to the list a week ago today, returned to the team. Second-year linebacker Josiah Tauaefa was placed on the list.

As a rookie in 2019, Tauaefa played 12 games as a reserve linebacker and on special teams. He totaled three solo tackles, including two for a loss, all in his NFL debut vs. Minnesota on Oct. 6. Tauaefa added three tackles and one forced fumble on special teams.