Williamson, Morant, Ball headline NBA Rising Stars rosters

NBA All-Star Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans and 2019-20 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies lead the list of 20 players selected by NBA assistant coaches for the 2021 NBA Rising Stars rosters.

NBA Rising Stars, the league’s annual showcase of premier young talent during NBA All-Star, will not be played this year due to the limitation of having All-Star events all on one night.  To recognize deserving players, the NBA kept the custom of having the league’s assistant coaches vote for Rising Stars rosters, which comprise 10 first- and second-year NBA players from the United States (U.S. Team) and 10 first- and second-year NBA players from outside the United States (World Team).

Williamson and Morant lead a U.S. Team roster with 10 players from 10 different teams.  Joining Williamson and Morant are Charlotte Hornets guard and two-time reigning Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month LaMelo Ball; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards; Sacramento Kings guard and two-time reigning Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month Tyrese Haliburton; Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro; Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter; San Antonio Spurs guard/forward Keldon Johnson; Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.; and Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman.

Six countries are represented on the World Team roster, including five players from Canada.  The World Team is composed of Heat forward Precious Achiuwa (Nigeria); Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada); Washington Wizards forwards Deni Avdija (Israel) and Rui Hachimura (Japan); New York Knicks guard/forward RJ Barrett (Canada); Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (Argentina); Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke (Canada); Oklahoma City Thunder guards Luguentz Dort (Canada) and Théo Maledon (France); and Warriors guard Mychal Mulder (Canada).

The World Team includes five players who participated as campers in Basketball Without Borders (BWB), the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball and development community outreach program: Avdija (BWB Europe 2018; BWB Global 2019), Barrett (BWB Global 2017), Campazzo (BWB Americas 2009), Dort (BWB Global 2017) and Hachimura (BWB Global 2016).

NBA opening-night rosters for the 2020-21 season featured 107 international players from 41 countries, marking the seventh consecutive season that opening-night rosters had at least 100 international players.  A record nine international players have been named NBA All-Stars this season, including a record five international players voted to start the All-Star Game and a record six All-Star selections from Europe.

Doc Rivers to coach Team Durant in 2021 NBA All-Star Game

 Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers and his staff will coach Team Durant in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, which will be played on Sunday, March 7 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

With tonight’s 112-105 home victory over the Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia (20-10, .667) clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference through games played on Sunday, Feb. 21, earning Rivers a spot as an NBA All-Star Game head coach for the third time.  He guided the Eastern Conference in the 2008 and 2011 NBA All-Star Games as the Boston Celtics’ head coach.

Each head coach in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game will lead the team that includes the captain from the same conference.  Rivers and his staff will coach the All-Star team captained by the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant.  As previously announced, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and his staff will coach the All-Star team captained by the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James.

Rivers is in his first season as the 76ers’ head coach after spending the previous seven seasons as the LA Clippers’ head coach.  He is Philadelphia’s first NBA All-Star Game head coach since Larry Brown in 2001.

The 70th NBA All-Star Game is part of NBA All-Star 2021, which will be held on one night, March 7.  TNT’s NBA All-Star coverage will begin at 5 p.m. ET with TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by CarMax, followed by the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge and MTN DEW® 3-Point Contest starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.  Coverage of the NBA All-Star Game will begin at 8 p.m. ET, with AT&T Slam Dunk taking place at halftime.

Cavs’ Drummond: ‘We’re still not too far off from being a playoff team’

It’s been a challenging three games for Cleveland Cavaliers as they went up against some of the best teams in the league, and while they competed in those games, it’s clear, Cleveland is not ready to compete at that level consistently.

Behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 24 points, and Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday scored 20 points apiece as Milwaukee swept the two-game set against the Cavaliers 124-99 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. 

Cleveland is now on a three-game losing streak after losing the Clippers and the Bucks. Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes his team has to learn how to beat the top teams in basketball.

“You have to learn,” Bickerstaff said. “You play against teams that are championship level teams, and you learn areas where you need to improve versus in order to compete with the best.”

The Cavaliers have lost five of six, and the next five games won’t be easy, but according to Andre Drummond, who scored a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, believes the Cavs are still in a good spot.

“Staying the course is our main thing right now,” Drummond said. “Obviously, it’s a long season. We’re playing a lot of games. We have a lot of young guys who are still getting acclimated to the game.

“We’re not going to hang our head on the losses. We’re going to take them as learning experiences. We’re still in the fight; we’re still not too far off from being a playoff team, so we’re going to continue to fight for that position. Give it the best we got.”

The next five games are against teams that are all in the playoffs out west, so this will be an arduous road trip, which mean we will learn a lot about these young Cavs this week. 

 

 

 

 

Lopez-Sanchez added to Smith-Vlasov undercard

Featherweight action star Adam “BluNose” Lopez and Jason “El Alacrancito” Sanchez are ready for a phone booth battle. Lopez will defend his NABF belt in a 10-rounder against Sanchez Saturday, Feb. 13, on the undercard of the vacant WBO light heavyweight world title bout between Joe Smith Jr. and Maxim Vlasov at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

In a six-round heavyweight special attraction, 21-year-old knockout artist Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson will take on Kingsley Ibeh, who went 2-0-1 last year inside the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble.

Lopez-Sanchez and Anderson-Ibeh will stream live on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, preceding the ESPN telecast (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) featuring Smith-Vlasov and Richard Commey-Jackson Marinez.

Lopez (14-2, 6 KOs), from Glendale, Calif., has earned his reputation as the “Glendale Gatti” with a series of action-packed fights. Following his controversial TKO loss to Oscar Valdez in November 2019, Lopez returned last June with a majority decision over Louie Coria in one of the year’s best fights. Sanchez (15-2, 8 KOs) challenged Valdez for the WBO featherweight world title in June 2019 and dropped a competitive unanimous decision. He has split a pair of bouts since then, most recently falling short via 10-round decision to Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz last June.

“On February 13, we’re back on the big screen,” Lopez said. “Mark your calendars, call off work, do what you have to do. You don’t want to miss this one. This is the year ‘BluNose’ gets his strap. Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen.”

Sanchez said, “l’ve never been more ready. I just came back from a loss, so I am more determined and hungrier than ever. I will not take another loss, and that is my biggest motivation.”

Anderson (7-0, 7 KOs), from Toledo, Ohio, went 5-0 in 2020, including four Bubble knockouts. He most recently knocked out Luis Eduardo Pena in one round, the fifth first-round stoppage of his young career. Ibeh (5-1-1, 4 KOs), a former collegiate football player fighting out of Phoenix, became an instant ESPN favorite with his go-for-broke style. In his last two bouts, the 6’4, 275-pound Ibeh held unbeaten phenom Guido Vianello to a draw and bested the previously undefeated Patrick Mailata by majority decision.

In other matches streaming on ESPN+:

  • Former junior middleweight contender Carlos Adames (18-1, 14 KOs), from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, will make his long-awaited ring return in an eight-round middleweight fight against an opponent to be named. Adames last fought in November 2019 and lost a unanimous decision to Patrick Teixeira for the interim WBO junior middleweight world title.

  • Lightweight prospect Eric Puente (4-0), from San Diego, will fight fellow unbeaten Sergio Vega (2-0-1, 2 KOs) in a four-rounder. Puente, who is trained by Robert Garcia, won a pair of decisions last year after more than a year away from the ring.

  • A pair of highly talented former U.S. amateur stars will make their professional debuts in separate four-round bouts. Troy Isley, from Alexandria, Va., is scheduled to fight Bryant Costello (1-1, 1 KO) at middleweight, while Las Vegas-born bantamweight Floyd “Cashflow” Diaz will fight Fernando Macias (1-1). Diaz made headlines in 2010 as a six-year-old when his flashy mitt work routine was shown on an episode of HBO’s “24/7 Mayweather-Mosley.”

  • Jahi Tucker (2-0, 1 KO), the 18-year-old prodigy who turned pro last September, will face Eric Rodriguez (1-1, 1 KO) in a four-round welterweight tilt.

DeRozan on Spurs playing the top teams in NBA: ‘We take on the challenge’

The San Antonio Spurs(10-8) have gotten some excellent wins against some superb team this season, including wins over the Lakers and Clippers. Those victories were on the road. On Wednesday night, San Antonio got their biggest home win of the season.

DeMar DeRozan led the way for the Spurs with 21 points, and LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in 20 points as the Spurs defeated the Celtics(10-7) 110-106 at AT&T Center. San Antonio(4-5 at home) has struggled at home this season, but they were up for the task against Boston. 

The Spurs trailed Boston by five after one quarter but had a strong second quarter, led by Lonnie Walker IV, who scored 12 points in that second quarter and helped San Antonio take a 14-point lead at halftime. However, the Celtics came on strong in the third quarter. They outscored San Antonio by 16 points and grabbed a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was happy not with the team’s play in the third quarter but was delighted with how they responded in the fourth.

“We kind of let up and coasted a little bit in the third quarter,” Popovich said. “They played very physically, and we didn’t respond. Turned it over, stopped moving. In the fourth quarter, we played solid D, and we attacked the rim pretty good for ourselves and teammates.”

One big defensive play was made by Spurs PG Dejounte Murray, who stripped Kemba Walker late in the fourth quarter, with the Spurs holding a two-point lead. Murray finished with a dunk to put San Antonio up four.

Keldon Johnson, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds against Boston, talked about Murray’s steal and finish.

“Big-time players make big-time plays,” Johnson said. “Like DeMar(DeRozan) hit a clutch shot, D.J.(Murray) made a clutch play. He came down and got a steal, and he went and dunked it.”

The Spurs have now beaten the Lakers, Clippers, and Celtics this season, three teams that are championship contenders. According to DeRozan, San Antonio is excited to take on the challenge of beating the better teams in the league.

“We go out there, especially against these big teams, and compete to the best of our abilities,” DeRozan said. “It’s fun for us. We take on the challenge. We go out there and put it out there on the line.”

Great win for the Spurs. As the season goes on, the Spurs appear to be getting more comfortable with each other. With the possibility of Derrick White(toe) returning this weekend, things could get only better in San Antonio.

Listen to Go4it! Talking NFL Championship Weekend

We will be talking sports and having fun doing it. We will talk Championship Weekend in the NFL. 

Can Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs get back to the Super Bowl, or will Josh Allen and the Bills spoil the party?

Will Tom Brady get to his 10th Super Bowl, or will Aaron Rodgers get it done!

Also, talking Brooklyn’s Big 3. Will it be enough to win it all?

Listen below:

Gary Kubiak retires after 36 years in the NFL

Minnesota Vikings Offensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Gary Kubiak has announced his retirement from the NFL. Kubiak retires having appeared in nine conference championship games and seven Super Bowls as a player or coach.

Kubiak has been part of four World Championship staffs during his career, most recently as the Head Coach of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

In 10 seasons as a head coach with Houston and Denver, Kubiak had 87 wins including postseason games. Kubiak spent 36 seasons in the NFL, playing for nine and 27 in coaching and personnel. Gary Kubiak has issued the following statement:

“It’s been the honor of my lifetime to work for 36 seasons as an NFL player and coach. I’ve been on a football field for most of my life, and now I look forward to stepping away from the game and enjoying more time with my family and friends. I offer my sincere thanks to the owners and fans of the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers for giving me opportunities to be a part of this great game and for treating me and my family so well over the years. I’ll miss the competition, the planning, game days and being part of a team. But, more than anything, I’ll cherish the friendships I’ve made along the way with players, coaches and staff. I love the game of football and will forever be its biggest fan.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has issued the following statement on the retirement of Gary Kubiak:

“Gary did a tremendous job with us at the Vikings over the past two seasons. I have a great deal of respect for him as a coach and as a person, and I’m glad I was able to coach with him. He has had one heck of an NFL career as a player, assistant coach and head coach, and I am really happy for Gary and his wife Rhonda as they head off to their ranch. We will all miss Gary at the Vikings organization and wish him the very best.”

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has issued the following statement on the retirement of Gary Kubiak:

“Gary Kubiak is leaving an impressive legacy in the NFL, and his impact will be shown for decades to come in the players he’s guided and the coaches he’s mentored. There’s not a better man in our business than Gary. The entire Vikings organization appreciates what Gary did for us and what he has meant to the game.”

Jaguars clinch number one overall pick in 2021 NFL Draft

In life, there are silver linings to everything, including losing 14 straight games, which the Jaguars have done after losing to the Bears 41-17 at TIAA Bank Field in the team’s home finale on Sunday. Jacksonville(1-14) trailed 13-10 at halftime, but were outscored 28-7 in the second half.

After the Jets win over the Browns, the Jaguars have clinched the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which means, if he declares, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence will be a member of the Jacksonville jaguars.

Jacksonville have been looking for a franchise QB for years, and  now, they may have finally found that guy. The Jaguars will have a new GM after dismissing Dave Caldwell in November and will probably have a new coach, so them having the number one pick, makes the Jaguars coaching position very attractive.

It’s been a struggle in Jacksonville after the team went 10-6 and made it all the way to the AFC title game. Since that season, the Jaguars are 12-35. They tried with Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, and Gardner Minshew, now if things fall into place, it’s time to try it with Trevor Lawrence!

Bucs’ Arians on playing world-champion Chiefs: ‘You always want to beat those guys’

On Monday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers(7-4) suffered a very disappointing home loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Now, they have another formidable opponent coming to Raymond James Stadium in Patrick Mahomes and the world-champion Kansas City Chiefs(9-1) on Sunday.

Every team gets up for the world champions, and usually give their best effort. According to Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, it does not mean much to the coaches, but it does matter to the players.  

“I think the players get up for it. For coaches, it’s just the next game, but the players get up for it,” Arians said on Friday. “It’s something special– you always want to beat those guys and prove something to yourselves.”

One of the reasons the Chiefs have been very competitive over the years, including a Super Bowl last season, has been their head coach Andy Reid. In eight seasons with the Chiefs, Reid is 122-86 in the regular season, and Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady thinks continuity has helped Kansas City be successful over the years. 

“They’ve had some continuity on that side with that system, with those coaches [and] lot of their key veteran players,” Brady said on Friday. “That’s always important – I feel continuity is the most critical aspect to consistent performance because you have to build on year after year, not just game after game or week after week. They’ve been in that system for a while – Coach Reid’s been there for a while [and] he’s a great coach. They do a great job. They’ve got a lot of good things going [and] they’ve been tough to beat for a lot of years now, including when Alex Smith was there. They were pretty good too [and] I played them all those years, as well. They’re doing a good job, and they have some dynamic players.”

At this point, the Buccaneers have little margin for error if they want to have an opportunity to win the NFC South. The Buccaneers are currently one of the three wild card teams(6th seed) in the NFC, but if they’re going to win the division, they have to win and hope the Saints(8-2) without Drew Brees will falter. However, it all starts by beating the Chiefs on Sunday.

 

Bucs’ Brown on offense: ‘We still didn’t put our best effort out there yet’

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have so many weapons on the offensive side of the ball. It’s an offense that can beat you in so many ways, which was on full display on Sunday against the Panthers.

Tampa Bay finished with 544 yards of total offense, which is the fifth-most recorded in a game by any team this season and the third-most in team history. Brady completed 28-of-39 passes in the game for 341 yards and four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), RB Ronald Jones ran for 192 yards, including a team-record 98-yard touchdown run, Chris Godwin had six receptions for 92 yards, and Mike Evans had six grabs for 77 yards and one touchdown as the Buccaneers defeated the Panthers 46-23.

Even with all the success on offense, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians believes the team could have scored more. 

“The staff – we feel like we left 20 [points] out there, so I’m never satisfied,” Arians said on Sunday. “I was really, really happy to rush for 200 [yards]. I thought that was huge for us, and the O-Line takes a lot of pride in that. The tight ends did a great job and the receivers [in run blocking]. Tom [Brady] played great, and we still see where we can leave things out there and still get better.”

Antonio Brown, who caught seven passes for 69 yards against Carolina, thinks this offense could be special.

“[I’m] super grateful, and it’s an honor to be here around such a great group of guys,” Brown said on Sunday. “Like you said, we were hitting on all cylinders, but we still didn’t put our best effort out there yet. It’s going to be something special when things start to come together, and we could be 100 percent. I’m just extremely grateful for the opportunity and just week-by-week taking it all in.”

Rob Gronkowski is rounding into shape, Brown is getting acclimated to the offense, so this offense, if healthy, should only get better. Obviously, they will not score 46 points and accumulate 544 yards of total offense every week, but with all the talent on offense, expect many more good days for the Buccaneers.