Wizards’ Avdija on team’s roster: ‘I think it’s very talented’

With the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards selected Israel’s Deni Avdija, the first Israeli born player to be drafted in the lottery. The 19-year-old forward has been a professional in Israel since the age of 16, so while he young, he does have some experience.

While in Israel, the 6-9 Avdija played small forward, but he has shown the ability to handle the ball, and some believe he could be a point forward at the NBA level. And when it’s all said, Avdija hopes to work hard and maximize his talents. 

When asked what his goals are in the NBA, Avdija said the following.

“First of all, to bring my work ethic from back here. Just keep improving every day, be a better player every day, help the team as much as I can. At the end of my career to look at it and say I was the best Deni Avdija I could be, and I don’t regret anything. It’s a great journey ahead of me, and I’m super excited.”

Avdija’s father, Zufer, played professionally in Serbia and Israel in the 1980s, and according to Avdija, he has learned a lot from his father.

“It was great. It was great to have another competitive spirit in the house,” Avdija said. “He was a great player himself, so he had a lot of good things to teach me and teach me how to act on the court, some small tricks maybe in my game that I use that he used, and just how to be a professional, how to work hard, how to have good work ethic, and just always be competitive and just play to win. That was big for me.”

Next season, the Wizards are expected to have their dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal back together, which will help immensely. According to Avdija, the Wizards have a talented team.

“I think it’s very talented,” Avdija said. “I’m ready to meet everybody and get straight to work. Hopefully, we can grind and have a good season. I’m just going to bring the best for the team, and hopefully, we can win as many games as we can.”

Don’t expect Avdija to come into the NBA and contribute right away. He’s a young player, so it will take time for him to develop. In the end, this pick was not about today; it’s about tomorrow. 

 

Philadelphia trades Josh Richardson to Mavericks for Seth Curry

The Philadelphia 76ers and new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey were very busy on draft day in the NBA. According to reports, the team will send Al Horford and picks to the Thunder for Danny Green. On draft night, Philly sent Josh Richardson and the draft rights to Tyler Bey, the 36th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, to the Mavericks in exchange for guard Seth Curry.

With Richardson, the Mavericks get an athletic guard who can score a little bit and defend. The 27-year-old Richardson averaged 13.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 55 games (53 starts). Richardson played four seasons in Miami before being dealt to Philadelphia as part of a four-team deal last summer. The five-year can opt out of his contract at season’s end.

The 76ers get shooting with Curry, and the six-year guard gets to play for his father-in-law, Doc Rivers. Curry is married to Rivers’ daughter, Callie. Last season, the 30-year-old Curry averaged 12.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 64 games in his second stint with the Mavericks, and more importantly for the 76ers, Curry shot 45% from three-point land.

Philadelphia is looking to reshape their roster, and you wonder if there are more moves to be made. To be able to unload the 34-year-old Horford, who signed with Philadelphia last offseason and had three-years, $81 million left on his contract, is incredible. If there was any contract that seemed unmovable, it was Horford’s deal with the 76ers. While it cost him picks, Morey got it done. We’ll see what’s next in Philadelphia, but you get the sense that Morey is not finished remaking this team.

 

Pederson on Reagor: ‘I would like to get him some more touches if I can’

Coming into the 2020 NFL Draft, many wanted the Philadelphia Eagles to select Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb in the first round, but he went 17th overall to the Cowboys. After Lamb was off the board, the fanbase clamored for Justin Jefferson out of LSU. However, Philadelphia passed on Jefferson and selected TCU’s Jalen Reagor with the 21st overall pick. 

While Lamb and Jefferson are playing well for their respective teams, The 21-year-old Reagor has gotten off to a slow start. Reagor, who missed five games due to a thumb injury, returned in Week 8 against the Cowboys. In four games, Reagor has 12 receptions for 159 yards and one touchdown. 

On Wednesday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson gave his thoughts on Reagor at this stage of the season.

“Well, listen, he’s missed a lot of football, so there hasn’t been a lot of production,” Pederson said. “Now, would I like to get him the ball more? Yeah, I would. We’d like to get him more touches if we can. We know there’s one football, and we got some explosive guys too, so it’s hard to just say, ‘Hey, I want to go in and get him ‘X’ amount of touches’. It’s also how the defense plays, and look, we play so much fast, tempo offense that the ball can go anywhere. Our tempo offense is not about scheming one guy. It’s about playing fast and executing our stuff. But moving forward, yeah, I would like to get him some more touches if I can.”

It’s not helping that Jefferson is balling for Minnesota. He has four one-hundred yard receiving games and leads all rookies with 762 receiving yards. Every player develops differently, and at this point, maybe Philadelphia made the wrong decision by passing on Jefferson. However, it’s way too early and too much football to be played to call Reagor a disappointment, so we have to let it play out. 

Bucs’ Jones named FedEx Ground Player of the Week

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II was named FedEx Ground Player of the Week for Week 10, the NFL announced on Wednesday.

Against the Carolina Panthers, Jones rushed 23 times for 192 yards (8.35 avg.), including a 98-yard touchdown. His 192 yards rushing stand as the third-most in a single game by a player this season and the fifth-most in a single game in Buccaneers history. He also became one of just four players in NFL history to record a rush of 98-or-more yards, joining Derrick Henry (2018), Ahman Green (2003) and Tony Dorsett (1983). In addition, Jones’ 8.35 yards per rushing attempt are the third highest in a single game this season by any player with at least 20 rushing attempts.

Through Week 10, Jones ranks second in the NFL with his 5.1 rushing yards per attempt, among players with at least 100 rushes. He also ranks third in rushing yards (730), third in rush yards after contact (462) and fifth in scrimmage yards (854).

NBA announces schedule format, Play-in Tournament returns for 2020-21 season

The NBA announced the structure and format for the 2020-21 season on Tuesday, which will include a Play-In Tournament to determine the teams that will fill the seventh and eighth playoff seeds in each conference.

The regular season will begin on Tuesday, Dec. 22 and feature 72 games for each team.

The opponent breakdown for the regular season:

  • Each team will play three games against each intraconference opponent (42 total games per team), with each pairing featuring either two home games and one road game or one home game and two road games.  Within each team’s division, the league office has randomly assigned which two opponents will be played twice at home and which two opponents will be played twice on the road.

  • All five teams from within a division will play all five teams from one other intraconference division twice at home, and all five teams from the remaining intraconference division twice on the road.

  • Each team will play two games against each interconference opponent (30 total games per team), with each pairing featuring one home game and one road game.

NBA schedule to be released in segments:

The 2020-21 regular-season schedule will be released in two segments.  The schedule for the First Half of the season will be released around the start of training camp.  The schedule for the Second Half of the season will be released during the latter part of the First Half portion of the schedule.  The Second Half schedule will include the remainder of each team’s 72 games not scheduled in the First Half as well as any games postponed during the First Half that can reasonably be added to the Second Half schedule.

All=Star Break:

The All-Star break is scheduled to take place March 5-10, 2021, between the First Half and Second Half of the regular season.

Play-in-Tournament information:

Additionally, The Play-In Tournament, which will take place after the regular season and before the first round of the playoffs, will include the teams with the seventh-highest through the tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference.

The teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot.  The teams with the ninth-highest and tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have to win two consecutive games to earn a playoff spot.

At the conclusion of the regular season, the team with the seventh-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the eighth-highest winning percentage in its conference in a Play-In Game (the “Seven-Eight Game”).  The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will be the seventh seed in the playoffs for its conference.

The team with the ninth-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the tenth-highest winning percentage in its conference in a Play-In Game (the “Nine-Ten Game”).  The loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a Play-In Game, and the winner of that game will be the eighth seed in the playoffs for its conference.

Tentative schedule calendar for the 2020-21 season:

  • Dec. 11-19, 2020: Preseason games

  • Dec. 22, 2020 – March 4, 2021: First Half of regular season

  • March 5-10, 2021: All-Star break

  • March 11 – May 16, 2021: Second Half of regular season

  • May 18-21, 2021: Play-In Tournament

  • May 22 – July 22, 2021: 2021 NBA Playoffs

Canelo: ‘“I am motivated to continue to be the best’

Canelo Alvarez will take on Callum Smith for the WBA and Ring Magazine World Super-Middleweight titles on Saturday December 19, live on DAZN in 200+ countries and territories worldwide (excluding Mexico).
 
Alvarez (53-1-2 36 KOs) is back in action for the first time since knocking out Sergey Kovalev in November 2019 in Las Vegas, ripping the WBO World Light-Heavyweight title from the Russian to become a four-weight World ruler.
 
The Mexican superstar beat Smith’s old foe and fellow Liverpool fighter Rocky Fielding in December 2018 to win the WBA regular belt at 168 pounds – his third weight to rule at – and will be gunning to follow his domination at Middleweight up to Super-Middle.
 
Smith (27-0 19 KOs) has landed the huge fight he has craved, and the powerful Brit will be out to cement his position as top dog at 168 pounds. ‘Mundo’ landed the WBA and Ring belts he puts on the line with a clinical stoppage win over fellow countryman George Groves in the seventh round of final of the inaugural World Boxing Super Series in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in September 2018. 
 
The 30 year old has defended the titles twice since, stopping Hassan N’Dam in New York in June 2019 and then outpointing John Ryder in his Liverpool hometown five months later. Smith will also be out for family revenge when he steps through the ropes, with Canelo having beaten Smith’s brother Liam in Texas in September 2016.
 
“I’m very happy to return to the ring and continue to make history,” said Canelo. “I am motivated to continue to be the best, and I look forward to fighting Callum Smith, who is one of the best at 168 pounds.”
 
“We are very happy to return to the ring and close out the year with one more victory to continue demonstrating that Canelo is the best boxer on this planet,” said Eddy Reynoso, Sport and Talent director at Canelo Promotions and Canelo’s trainer.
 
“I’ve been wanting a big fight since becoming World champion, so I’m so pleased that during these challenging times we can deliver to the fans a fight between the very best in the division,” said Smith. “I truly believe I beat him and will prove that 168 pounds is my division.”
 

 

Crawford-Brook was a ratings hit!

Saturday’s Top Rank on ESPN saw Terence Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) retain his WBO welterweight world title with a fourth-round TKO over former welterweight world champion Kell Brook, in a main event from the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.  The fight delivered big on viewership, ranking as the top boxing telecast across all TV networks since January 2019.

Top Things to Know

  • Crawford vs Brook averaged 1,758,000 viewers, making it the most viewed boxing telecast across on all TV networks since January 2019

  • The main event was also the most viewed boxing telecast on cable since December 2018 (Lomachenko vs. Pedraza on ESPN: 1,889,000)

  • The fight rating peaked during the 11:45 p.m.-12:00 a.m. ET quarter hour with 2.1 million viewers

  • Through seven Saturday night telecasts on ESPN so far this year, Top Rank on ESPN has averaged 1,033,000 viewers, up 44% from 11 Saturday night telecasts in 2019

  • Adults 18-49 are up 54% year-over-year

  • Crawford vs. Brook ranked No. 1 as the most socially engaged boxing telecast across TV over the last two years, with over 306,000 total social interactions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

  • Crawford vs. Brook had a strong performance on social media, becoming the most socially engaged telecast across TV over the last two years, with over 306,000 social interactions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

  • Lomachenko vs. Lopez and Crawford vs. Brook have been the most socially engaged boxing telecasts across TV in consecutive months over the last two years.

Source: Nielsen, Nielsen Social Content Ratings

Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank/Getty Images

Vikings’ Jefferson: ‘Not having fans in the stadium, we were lacking a lot of energy the first couple of weeks’

The Minnesota Vikings(4-5) may have finally hit their stride. Three straight division opponents and three consecutive wins for the Vikings, including last night’s 19-13 victory over the Bears at Soldier Field.

Before last night’s game, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins was 0-9 on Monday Night Football. However, the nine-year veteran was 25-36 for 292 yards and two touchdowns against Chicago, and for Cousins, it’s all about doing his part.

“You know, for me, it’s all about playing well and doing my part,” Cousins said after the game. “I’ve played long enough to know there is not a lot you can control as a quarterback. The ball is in your hands, but so many things are out of your control. So you just do the best you can, play the best you can, and that’s where my focus always is. When I leave a game and don’t feel like I played my best, that’s where I get frustrated. Then there are games where you may lose, but you felt like you gave a great effort and played at a high level. You always try to self-evaluate and be critical, but look at it with a trained eye.”

Vikings rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who had eight catches for 135 yards on Monday night and tied Randy Moss for the most 100-yard receiving games by a Vikings rookie with four, believes Minnesota is playing with more energy.

“Not having fans in the stadium, we were lacking a lot of energy the first couple of weeks,” Jefferson said. “We found that energy: we found that swagger that we’ve been having. We came out ready to play football. The last three weeks that we’ve been doing, and we’re looking to continue to do it. “

For the Vikings, it’s about getting back into the playoff race, and after starting 1-5 not many thought the playoffs were a possibility. According to their head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings are fighting hard.

“You know, they just keep fighting,” Zimmer said. “That’s all we do. We come in there and practice every day. These guys, before the game, we weren’t tight. I could tell in the locker room they weren’t tight. They seemed to go out and practice really hard. They seemed to respond to the — when we are practicing and trying to — one of the things we’ve been emphasizing a lot for the last few weeks is not allowing completions at practice defensively, and I think maybe that’s starting to show up the competition part. It’s three games. We’re fighting our way back into this thing. Hopefully. Still got a lot of football left to play.”

Minnesota appears to be the team that many thought would be at the beginning of the season. Now, it’s time to continue to build on these three victories and make that push for the playoffs.

Gants’ Judge: ‘We just have to focus on getting better each week’

The Giants’ three NFC East rivals will play this weekend while they take a break on their bye. No matter what Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas do in their games, the Giants will be in the division race when they begin their six-week stretch run on Nov. 29 against the Bengals in Cincinnati.

Joe Judge said today the best way for his players to take care of business in the division race is to ignore it and focus instead on their game-day performances.

“The importance needs to be improving as a team,” Judge said. “All that other stuff will take care of itself. Cincinnati is a good team. We have to get ready and go ahead and improve ourselves internally. Turn the page and move on to Cincinnati and get ready for a tough game out there. We have a tough stretch of games coming up. We can’t go ahead and start looking at rankings and division races and all that type of stuff. We just have to focus on getting better each week. That’s what will ultimately help us in the long run.”

Judge’s players might not so easily dismiss the competition to win the division. The possibility of participating in the playoffs has been an incentive for generations of players. Judge, who was an assistant coach at postseason perennial New England for eight seasons, perfectly understands that.

“One of my core beliefs is, motivation, to me, is an individual thing,” Judge said. “As long as you’re working for something and it collectively raises the team, that’s a positive thing. It’s professional football, I don’t care if a guy is working for a paycheck or a guy is working for a championship. If both guys come out and they are giving their best every day, that’s going to make the team better. Whatever motivates these guys, that’s great. My job as the head coach is to make sure they understand the big picture goal. Right now to me, that’s improving on a daily basis and getting to be the best football team we can be at the end of the season. All that other stuff takes care of itself.”

The Giants have shown improvement in the last two weeks, winning consecutive games under Judge for the first time with victories against division rivals Washington and Philadelphia. Yesterday, they broke an eight-game losing streak to the Eagles with a 27-17 victory in MetLife Stadium. The Giants received significant contributions from all three units; the offense gained a season-high 382 yards and scored three touchdowns, the defense held Philly without a successful third-down conversion in nine attempts; and punter Riley Dixon dropped all four of his kicks inside the 20-yard line while posting a net average of 53.3 yards, a career high for a game in which he punted more than once.

Judge is pleased but not close to satisfied.

“I don’t think we ever want to look at something and say, ‘Okay, we’ve gotten to the point we want to be at,’” Judge said. “There’s a lot of improvement we want to keep making. There are a lot of things that we want to clean up. I would say this though. On a weekly basis, I’ve seen a lot of improvement from our team. To me, it’s most evident when you turn the tape on. Look, there are several plays from yesterday that really encapsulate what I want our players to show everyone that watches that tape, and it’s important they look at it. Whether it’s Wayne’s (Gallman) touchdown on the fourth and one where we drove everyone into the end zone and finished the blocks, or Wayne going over the top with good ball security. Whether it’s converting some tough, get back on track situations, defense getting off the field when they have to, special teams covering kicks and establishing field position. There were a lot of positive things that to me, the effort, the urgency.

“One of the things that we’ve emphasized as a team to be honest with you that showed up yesterday that I was very proud of is you see when our players score, everyone running into the end zone celebrating with them. That’s important to me. It’s not a hot dog thing, but we don’t really want individualistic celebrations. We want the team to celebrate. It’s not about one guy getting into the end zone. It’s what did the line do to block to get you down there? What previous plays are you celebrating? It could be a receiver having a touchdown catch. Alright, well the running back should go down and celebrate because he had runs previous in the series that helped get us down there. The offensive line is a part of every play. The quarterback is obviously a big part of every play. We want the team celebrating together and acknowledging that it takes all 11 on the field every time to be successful. It takes everyone on the sideline as well, to be part of it, to be collectively successful.”

At his introductory news conference on Jan. 9, Judge said, “We’re going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region are going to be proud of, because this team will represent this area.” He believes the team advances closer to that ideal each week.

“You talk about our team and one word I use all the time is resilient,” Judge said. “When I think about people in this area, blue collar people who work hard every day. It’s obviously a very competitive area to be in. That’s what you have to be up here. We want our guys to be successful on the field, but it matters to us how we’re successful. We want to play with the right attitude. We want to play a tough brand of football. We want to run the ball, stop the run, cover kicks. We want to go out there and be able to play in tough elements and be successful. We’re not going to be a team that makes excuses or comes back and says we had them, but this happened instead. That’s not the way we’re made up, that’s not what we’re going to do. I think we’re getting closer to putting a product on the field that hopefully people can see themselves in. That people are proud to put on those blue caps or t-shirts on Mondays and go to work and celebrate that they root for the Giants. That’s something that’s important to us here. We want this team to be about the area. Not just about the guys in the building.”

Via: giants.com

Pelicans promote former WNBA star Teresa Weatherspoon to assistant coach

The New Orleans Pelicans announced on Monday the hiring of Bob Beyer, Casey Hill, and Rex Walters as assistant coaches, along with Corey Brewer and Beno Udrih as player development coaches. They join Assistant Coach Fred Vinson and Teresa Weatherspoon, who has been promoted to assistant coach, and Player Development Coach Darnell Lazare on Head Coach Stan Van Gundy’s staff. 

“I am excited about our coaching staff,” said Van Gundy. “We have a great mix of background, experience, perspective and expertise. Four of our assistants have been head coaches at the professional or NCAA Division I levels. Five of our coaches played in the NBA or WNBA. Three coaches have institutional knowledge having worked for Griff, Trajan and current Pelicans players, while three others have worked with me and two bring us an entirely new perspective. I am looking forward to working with this staff to maximize the potential of our talented players.”

The 54-year-old Weatherspoon returns for her second season with New Orleans after serving as a two-way player development coach in 2019-20. Prior to joining the Pelicans, Weatherspoon served as the director of player and franchise development with the WNBA’s New York Liberty from 2016-19. Weatherspoon was recently enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts as part of the 2019 class.