Jags QB Trevor Lawrence on first week of training camp: ‘I definitely made a lot of strides’

Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence has completed his first week of training camp, and as a rookie in the NFL, every day is a learning experience. 

On Saturday, the number overall pick in this year’s draft reflected on his first week of training camp.

 “It was a good week — yeah, I felt like I definitely made a lot of strides, individually, but as an offense and a team since the spring, you can kind of see everyone getting comfortable and learning the system,” Lawrence said. “It was a really good week. I didn’t have the best day today, but that’s what training camp is about — working out the kinks and really just owning our offense in the situations that were going in and against.”

According to Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer, the real work starts next week for Lawrence.

“He’s good. His skill set is there,” Meyer said. “The thing is that everybody has to remember [is] that defense is not allowed to make a play on the ball right now. That’s what happened in spring, and we almost got fined because we had two defensive backs go after the ball. I told them today it’s over now. Now go make a play, next week we can start that. So, all you can evaluate now is retention and skill set, plus plus. The real stuff starts next week.”

Last season, quarterback Gardner Minshew was the starter for the Jaguars. Coming into this season, Minshew will probably be the backup and Lawrence the starter, but at this point, there’s a “quarterback competition,” and Lawrence enjoys the competition.

“It’s always a competition — I mean, I’d say when I was at Clemson when I first came in, it was a similar situation, and that’s how it has to be. It has to be a competition — nothing can be given,” he said. “When you start giving things to people, you set the wrong precedent for the team. I have a lot of respect for the coaches, the way they’ve handled everything, and my job is to just come in every day, go to work and try to make this team better, and that’s hopefully getting close to the season, we can all gel and get some more work together, but right now, I’m just doing my job.”

Lawrence is going to have good days at camp, and he will have bad days. He also will have struggles during the season, but the Jaguars invested a lot in him, so he will have any and every opportunity to be the guy in Jacksonville. Week one of training camp is done, and Lawrence has to continue to put the work in as training camp continues next week.

Watch highlights of Jaguars training camp:

Team USA’s Lillard: ‘We let one get away’

The U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team started the Tokyo Olympic Games like they started the eXhibition games in Las Vegas, with a loss. Despite having a seven-point lead with over three minutes to go, Team USA would fall to France 83-76  in Group A play Sunday night at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

The loss snapped a 25-game Olympic win streak for the U.S. men.

NBA veterans Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, and Rudy Gobert inspired a late France comeback.

Fournier scored a game-high 28 points, while Gobert tallied 14 points and nine rebounds and provided an imposing presence inside for FIBA’s seventh-ranked men’s federation in the world.

Team USA would score only two points in the final three minutes and forty seconds of the game.

“We let one get away,” U.S. point guard Damian Lillard said. “There’s a lot of things we could have done better, including making shots.”

Coming straight to Tokyo after helping the Milwaukee Bucks win the NBA title on Wednesday, Jrue Holiday led the U.S. with 18 points, 12 of which came during a fourth-quarter burst that helped the USA take back the lead.

Holiday arrived at the team hotel early Sunday morning with fellow NBA Finals participants Khris Middleton and Devin Booker. However, Holiday still found the energy and aggression to help spark the U.S. 

“We have to be more consistent,” Popovich said. “We had two nine-point leads and one 10-point lead, and then an eight-point lead at the end of the game, and we gave all of those up because of lack of consistent defense, too many errors, and on offense dry possessions where we didn’t move and took ill-advised shots.”

U.S. forward Draymond Green added: “We have to continue to get better. We haven’t been together that long, but we’ve been together long enough to have that consistency. We have to defend better down the stretch and close games out.”

Obviously, it’s disappointing anytime Team USA loses, but as stated many times, the world has caught up. Fortunately, for Team USA, they have two very winnable games against Iran on Wednesday and the Czech Republic on Saturday. They should have no problems making the medal round. From there, we’ll see what happens.

Photo:  Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images

Vikings will induct former DT Kevin Williams into team’s Ring of Honor

The Minnesota Vikings will induct former DT Kevin Williams into the club’s Ring of Honor in 2021, the team announced on Wednesday.

Williams was the #9 overall draft pick in 2003 and went on to earn All-Rookie honors and set the team rookie record with 3.0 sacks in a game at Arizona. He went on to start every game he played for the Vikings over his 11 seasons, 177 games including playoffs. Williams played in 2014 with Seattle and 2015 with New Orleans, starting in Super Bowl XLIX for Seattle. For his NFL career, Williams started 202 of his 212 games, including playoffs.

Williams earned Associated Press 1st-Team All-Pro honors in five seasons (2004, 2006-09), was named to the NFL’s Team of the Decade for the 2000s and had six Pro Bowl berths (2004, 2006-10). Williams and John Randle are tied for 2nd in team history for Pro Bowl berths by DTs (6) behind only Alan Page’s 9 honors. Williams’ 60.0 sacks as a Viking rank behind only Randle and Page among DTs and he is tied for the franchise record with four defensive touchdowns (2 INTs, 2 FRs). As a cornerstone of the Vikings defense, Williams led a unit that ranked #1 in NFL run defense in three consecutive seasons (2006-08), the first time a defense achieved the feat since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

The addition brings the Vikings Ring of Honor to 26 members. Current members include: Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Jim Finks, Bud Grant, Paul Krause, Fred Zamberletti, Jim Marshall, Ron Yary, Korey Stringer, Mick Tingelhoff, Carl Eller, Cris Carter, Bill Brown, Jerry Burns, Randall McDaniel, Chuck Foreman, John Randle, Scott Studwell, Chris Doleman, Matt Blair, Joey Browner, Ahmad Rashad, Randy Moss, Dennis Green and Steve Jordan.

Cavs’ Garland: ‘I think you will see the best basketball from us as we try to make a playoff push’

On Wednesday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers(20-34) got a glimpse of what this team could be when they are entirely healthy. Cleveland got Larry Nance Jr. and Jarrett Allen back against the Charlotte Hornets(27-27), and while they were missing their leading scorer Collin Sexton(Left groin strain), it did not matter.

The Cavaliers got a game-high 25 points from Taurean Prince off the bench. Kevin Love and Darius Garland had 17 points apiece, and Jarrett Allen chipped in with 15 points and eight rebounds as Cleveland defeated the Hornets on the road 103-90. 

Terry Rozier led the Hornets with 22 points.

Cleveland had 27 assists on 37 made field goals, led by Garland’s seven assists.

“It was fun for me,” Garland said after the game. “I was just making different reads and making plays.”

Cleveland moved to two games behind the 10th-seeded Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

According to Allen, who returned after missing eight games due to a concussion, the Cavs will do whatever they can to get into the play-in tournament. 

“We have 18 games to go, and we’re going to fight to get into that play-in game,” Allen said.

Garland added: “I think you will see the best basketball from us as we try to make a playoff push.”

At this point, it should be interesting to see what the Cavs look like at full strength, and they will pretty much be at full strength when Sexton returns. 

After Thursday’s showdown against the Warriors, Cleveland will have an interesting eight-game stretch, which will include games against Bulls(2x), Wizards(2x), and the Raptors. The Bulls are the 10th seed, Washington is the 12th seed, and the Raptors are the 11th seed, so these games are an excellent opportunity for Cleveland to move up the Eastern Conference standings. 

However, no matter what happens, it will be good for this young group to be involved in playoff-caliber basketball, which could help the young players going forward.

Notes:

Nance Jr. returned after missing seven games due to illness. He scored five points in 20 minutes off the bench against the Hornets.

Love recorded his 8,000th career rebound on Wednesday night. He is just the fifth player in NBA history with 13,000 points, 8,000 rebounds, and 1,000 three-point made field goals, joining LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Antawn Jamison and Jason Kidd.

Spurs’ Popovich: ‘It’s a mental toughness thing to get through the schedule’

On March 22, the San Antonio Spurs began their season-long nine-game homestand against the Charlotte Hornets. At the time, the Spurs were 22-18 and the seventh-seed in the Western Conference after going 3-2 on a five-game road trip.

Two weeks later, the Spurs(24-23) are 2-6 in the first eight games of this homestand, and San Antonio is now tied with Memphis for the eighth seed in the West. The Spurs will finish off this homestand on Monday night against the struggling Cavaliers(17-32). 

The Spurs, who have lost two straight, have one of the most demanding schedules for the second half of the season along with the Memphis Grizzlies as each team is scheduled to play 40 games over the next 68 days. The Spurs have played nine games over 15 days, followed by a stretch where they’re playing 17 of 22 games on the road, including seven back-to-backs.

The Spurs and Grizzlies are the only two teams without any two-day breaks, have 11 back-to-backs, and will play more games on the road than at home over the next ten weeks.

In their last outing, San Antonio lost to the shorthanded Indiana Pacers in OT 139-133, which was San Antonio’s second straight overtime loss. Indiana was without their leading-scorer Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon.

After the loss to Indiana, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made it clear that the team has to keep working.

“We’ll just keep going,” Popovich said. “It’s a mental toughness thing to get through the schedule, and we just move on.”

Playing at home is usually great for young players, and young players tend to perform better at home, but with nine games and 15 nights, and the limited amount fans, home is not the same. The Spurs should defeat the Cavaliers(lost five straight) on Monday night, but based on the way both teams are playing, who knows what will happen.

Mavs’ Carlisle happy with team’s offensive effort against OKC

When you are making a playoff push, there are certain games you can’t lose, and for the Dallas Mavericks(24-21), that game was on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder(19-27), who were without their leading-scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

While Dallas let the Thunder hang around in the first half and led by eight at the break, the team asserted their dominance in the second half, and more specifically, the third quarter, where the Mavericks pushed their half time lead to 17 entering the fourth quarter. Dallas would go up by as much as 27 points in the fourth quarter and would defeat OKC 127-106 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Luka Doncic, who missed the last two games due to back tightness/illness, led Dallas with 25 points and seven assists, and Kristaps Porzingis scored 12 of his 20 points in the first quarter with nine rebounds and a career-high-tying five assists. Aleksej Pokusevski led OKC with 21 points. 

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was not happy with the team’s play in the first half, but he loved what they did in the second half. 

“The first half was a bit disjointed,” Carlisle said after the game. “Our first quarter was okay. Second quarter was not very good. Second half, I thought we played to our level, our capabilities.”

Dallas did a great job sharing the ball on Monday night. They had 30 assists against the Thunder and shot 53% from the floor. The 30 assists and 127 points made Carlisle happy.

“Overall, I thought there was a lot of very good offensive stuff,” he said. “A 127 points in an NBA game, you’re moving it pretty good and 30 assists; that’s a damn good number.”

After a day off on Tuesday, the Dallas Mavericks continue their five-game road trip on Wednesday night in Boston against the Celtics.

Notes:

Dallas moved to the seventh spot in the Western Conference with the win over OKC after the Spurs fell to the Kings. 

Nicolo Melli scored six points in his Mavs’ debut. Melli and J.j. Redick were acquired by Dallas from New Orleans before the trade deadline.

Giants’ Williams: ‘I think I’m still in the middle of my prime’

Giants DE Leonard Williams got his big contract, and now it’s time to focus on football. 

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a three-year deal worth $63 million that includes $45 million fully guaranteed.

Earlier this month, the Giants placed the franchise tag on the 26-year-old Williams for the second consecutive year, but ultimately, the two sides agreed on a new contract. 

On Thursday, Williams met with the media, and according to the six-year player, he has a lot to give going forward.

“I’m 26-years-old still,” Williams said. “I think I’m still in the middle of my prime, and I think I have a lot of game left in this league, obviously. I have a lot of personal goals. I’m not trying to reach any specific stat line or anything like that, but I want to just give it my best and keep playing like the player I am and just keep bringing my best to the table.”

One of the reasons Williams got paid was because of his play in 2020. Williams had a career-high 11.5 sacks for the Giants, and he led a defense that played very well at times last season.

Williams explained why he played so well for the Giants in 2020.

“Honestly, something that me and Coach Judge, me and Coach Spencer have talked about is there was something about this year that just felt like I was back in college, back in those high school times when you’re not thinking about what the media is saying,” Williams said. “You’re not thinking about money; you’re not thinking about anything like that. You’re just thinking about the reason why we play this game is the love for the game. I’m not saying that ever left me. But this year, it was just a lot of fun playing in this system, playing with my teammates, playing with this staff. When I’m out there having fun, I just play my best.”

The Bakersfield, California native started his career in New York City after being drafted by the Jets in 2015. After this new contract with the Giants, he will continue to play in the Big Apple, which according to him, is now home.

“I never would have thought about New York being like a home to me or anything like that before,” he said. “But after being here this long and going into another three years, I definitely feel like New York is like a part of home to me. It’s a part of me, for sure. I’m glad to still be able to keep playing at MetLife and keep playing for this area. It’s been going well.”

Blue Coats are one game away from an NBA G League title

The Delaware Blue Coats got revenge against the Raptors 905 on Tuesday night, and more importantly, Delaware is one game away from winning an NBA G League title. 

Behind 76ers two-way contract player Paul Reed, who posted a double-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks, and Isaiah Joe’s 24 points, the Blue Coats defeated the Raptors 905, 127-100 in the G League semifinals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. 

Delaware will meet the Lakeland Magic on Thursday at 4:30 pm ET(ESPN2) in the NBA G League Finals.

The Blue Coats dished out 36 assists against Raptors 905, their highest assist total for any game this year, including the regular season. Delaware also had 17 steals as a group, which is also a season-high mark.

Toronto 905 routed the Blue Coats 138-107 in the regular season, and they evened the score against them on Tuesday, and they will have the same opportunity against Lakeland, who defeated the Blue Coats 115-107 in the regular season.

“The thing is lining up pretty good, where Toronto got us pretty good in the middle of the season, and we had a chance to kind of redeem ourselves here,”  Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson said. “Lakeland got us. We played a poor first half in the regular season. Now, we got one chance to play for the most important one at the end.”

Just as they did to start the season when they won seven straight, Delaware is playing some good basketball right now, and having Joe, who is on assignment from the 76ers, around elevates this team. He’s a weapon, and if he continues to shoot at this level(12 three-pointers made in the last two games), the Blue Coats will probably capture their first G League title.

Photo: Juan Ocampo (NBAE via Getty Images

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.