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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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Philip Rivers: ‘I will always be playing for San Diego’

Philip Rivers

The Chargers may be moving to Los Angeles, but quarterback Philip Rivers’s affections still lie with San Diego, too.

Rivers gave an emotional speech Tuesday night at the San Diego Hall of Champions dinner, telling the assembled faithful that no matter what, he’ll still have the city in his heart.

“It really was special over the last decade,” Rivers told the audience, via ESPN. “The only regret I have is not winning it all while we were here. It’s something we always wanted to do and get done for this community and for our team. It has been very special to be a San Diego Charger, and I hope that you can always see me as that.

“I know it’ll be different, but just know that … I’ll play like crazy and fight like crazy, as a Los Angeles Charger, just like I did for you guys. And I know y’all can respect and understand that. But I hope you also know that I will always be playing for San Diego as well.”

Rivers has made it pretty clear that he has mixed emotions over leaving San Diego for Los Angeles. It’s easy to get the impression that he’s not really keen on the move. The city and fans obviously mean quite a bit to him, and it might not be the same when he gets to L.A.

Report: Sixers may consider Nerlens Noel trade if Jahlil Okafor is not moved

Nerlens Noel Sixers

It sure sounds like the Philadelphia 76ers want to move one of their big men before Thursday’s trade deadline.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski on The Vertical podcast, the Sixers may circle back and entertain offers for Nerlens Noel if they cannot find a suitable deal involving Jahlil Okafor.

A complicating factor is that Noel will be a restricted free agent this summer, and thus will get significantly more expensive.

“If [the 76ers’ can’t get a deal for Okafor done before the deadline, I’m told that it’s possible they’ll start – there are still teams still checking on Noel, re-engaging on him,” Wojnarowski said, via HoopsHype. “What complicates it for Noel is that he’s a restricted free agent, and teams want to know ‘what is it going to cost to us to re-sign him.’ And it’s going to be a big number.”

The Vertical’s Chris Mannix has heard that the Sixers are struggling to move Okafor because they value him more highly than the rest of the league does.

“They still value Okafor as a third overall pick,” Mannix said. “That’s their prerogative, but the teams I’ve talked to do not value him as a third overall pick.”

Okafor came very close to being traded before the All-Star Game, and the Sixers seem very motivated to move him. However, it sounds like, for all the interest, they’re just not finding the right offers right now.

Report: Bill Belichick to coach at least five more years, stay on after Tom Brady

Bill Belichick

Patriots owner Robert Kraft sparked some paranoia among New England fans before the Super Bowl when he said he knows when Bill Belichick is planning to retire, but those comments apparently were not meant to be interpreted as Belichick contemplating retirement.

According to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, people within the Patriots organization say Belichick plans to coach at least five more seasons. And if Tom Brady plays another five years in New England, it sounds like Belichick could stay even longer.

Every indication I hear from inside the Patriots is that Belichick plans to stay on as coach of the team for at least five more years.

These people also say Belichick wants to coach after Brady retires. They think Belichick wants to prove he can win without the best quarterback of all time.

That isn’t the first time we have heard of the belief that Belichick wants to prove he can win without Brady. While the 64-year-old would likely be considered the greatest NFL coach of all time if he retired today, there are some critics who would argue that he has not won a Super Bowl as a head coach without Brady. Does that talk bother Belichick?

It shouldn’t. There’s no shame in sticking with what works, and one player cannot singlehandedly lead a team to five championships. Belichick deserves just as much credit as Brady — if not more — for what the team has accomplished in the past 15 years.

Belichick lives and breathes football, so we could easily see him coaching through age 70 because he loves what he does. If he does plan on doing that, one of his top assistants may want to rethink his future plans.

NFL scout believes DeSean Jackson will end up with Patriots

DeSean Jackson is set to become a free agent next month, and there has been little indication that Washington plans on keeping him. Could the New England Patriots quietly emerge as a suitor for the veteran wide receiver?

One scout told Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman that he believes Jackson will end up with either the Patriots or Dallas Cowboys this offseason, with New England being the “more likely choice.”

The Cowboys already have one of the best perimeter receivers in the game in Dez Bryant, so it’s unclear how Jackson would fit in there. Though, Jackson’s best quality is his ability to break the big play, as he averages 17.7 yards per reception throughout his career and has hauled in a touchdown catch of 60 yards or more in each of his nine NFL seasons.

Bill Belichick has a long history with taking on troubled playmakers who are past their prime, and the 30-year-old Jackson meets those criteria. If Jackson is willing to sign a reasonable contract, Belichick might consider giving him a shot like he did with Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco.

That said, Tom Brady showed great chemistry with his top outside receiver, Chris Hogan, down the stretch last season. Having an extra deep threat wouldn’t hurt, but throwing the deep ball isn’t a huge part of New England’s offense. It’s unlikely that it will become one as Brady enters his age 40 season.

If the recent stink he raised on social media is any indication, Jackson will be looking for a new team outside of Washington. Linking him to the Patriots is exciting, but we can’t see it happening.

Report: Bears likely to cut Jay Cutler, focus on trading for Jimmy Garoppolo

Jay Cutler

The Chicago Bears would love to trade quarterback Jay Cutler this offseason, and I would like to make $1 million by the end of the week. According to one report, the former is about as likely as the latter.

While the Bears have all but committed to getting rid of Cutler, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports said this week that is is a “virtual certainty” that they will not be able to trade him. Cutler, who will turn 34 in April, is coming off a season in which he appeared in just five games due to injury. He threw just four touchdown passes compared to five interceptions during those games, and at one point he was set to lose his starting job to Brian Hoyer if Hoyer did not get hurt himself.

The Bears have already paid Cutler the $54 million he was guaranteed as part of the seven-year, $126.7 million deal he signed back in 2014. He is scheduled to make roughly $18 million per season through 2020, when he will be 36. Why would any team take on that contract?

If and when Cutler is released, La Canfora speculates he will have to settle for a contract similar to the one-year, $12 million deal Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with the New York Jets last offseason. Teams aren’t exactly going to be breaking down the door to sign Cutler as a starting quarterback.

Consider Chicago’s situation with Cutler basic housekeeping. Once that is completed, they are reportedly planning to turn their focus toward Jimmy Garoppolo, though the price for the New England Patriots backup is said to be quite high. Are the Bears willing to trade the No. 3 overall pick in the draft for him? It may not be as crazy as you think.

Tyrod Taylor reportedly cleared by doctors after groin surgery

Tyrod Taylor

If the Buffalo Bills end up paying Tyrod Taylor the remaining guaranteed money he would be owed by being on the roster after March 11, it will be because the team chose to keep him around.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Taylor has been medically cleared after he underwent groin surgery last month.

As Schefter notes, the Bills now have to decide if they want to guarantee Taylor nearly $30 million by exercising his option. Had Taylor not been cleared medically, the contract would have become guaranteed anyway.

While there have been rumblings that the Bills would have interest in one big-name quarterback if he became available, sticking with Taylor may be their best option. The former Virginia Tech star is likely better than anything Buffalo would find on the free agent market, and paying him an average of around $18 million per season is right in line with what other starting quarterbacks are making.

James Harden rumored to be dating Ashanti

James Harden has compiled a dating roster over the years that is very Hollywood, and there are rumors swirling that the Houston Rockets star has added a well-known R&B singer to the list.

Her name is Ashanti.

Those who follow Ashanti on Instagram may have noticed that the singer-songwriter has been spending a lot of time in Houston and has attended a Rockets game or two. Ashanti grew up in New York, so it’s not as if she is repping one of her home teams.

When you play the game right… @moschino

A post shared by Ashanti (@ashanti) on

A post shared by Ashanti (@ashanti) on

If Harden and Ashanti are dating, it’s possible the relationship began several months ago.

For what it’s worth, MediaTakeOut.com claims to have confirmed that Harden and Ashanti have been quietly seeing each other since last year — shortly after she broke things off with former NFL defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Ashanti was also linked to DeSean Jackson a few years back.

Harden, 27, is nearly 10 years younger than Ashanti, but he has never shied away from dating older women in the past. In fact, his most notable significant other was a few years older.

H/T Black Sports Online

Jeanie Buss apologizes to Lakers fans for not firing brother sooner

Jeanie Buss

Jeanie Buss is making some serious boss moves with the Lakers.

After hiring Magic Johnson and then ousting her brother Jim as the VP of Basketball Operations and GM Mitch Kupchak, there is no doubt who is calling the shots for the Lakers now — Jeanie and her other siblings.

Jeanie and Jim began having friction a few years ago when the Lakers botched the hiring of Phil Jackson as head coach to bring in Mike D’Antoni, who was stupidly jettisoned for Byron Scott. As the Lakers continually sunk into embarrassment, Jeanie put the pressure on her brother to turn things around or step down. Now he is out of his position, and Jeanie says her only mistake was not pulling the trigger sooner.

“This was a very difficult decision,” Buss said on Spectrum Sportsnet Tuesday, via Pro Basketball Talk. “It was probably so hard for me to make that I probably waited too long. And for that, I apologize to Lakers fans. But now with clarity and direction, and talking to with Ervin, really knowing a change was needed, and that’s why we’re here today.”

She also talked about the timing of the decision to change things up just two days before the trade deadline.

“It’s something I thought about for a long time, and once the decision became clear in my mind there was really no reason to wait,” Buss said. “In today’s NBA there is no offseason. You’re constantly preparing for the draft, for the season, for Summer League, so there was no time like the present.”

This is the ultimate humiliation for Jim. But he did say he would step down if the Lakers hadn’t returned to success by now, and so far the results are not pretty. Magic has his work cut out for him, that’s for sure.

10 most intriguing players to watch at the NFL Combine

Myles Garrett

The NFL Combine will be held from February 28 through March 6 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, giving NFL teams a close look at many of the league’s most promising prospects.

Players will not only have an opportunity to meet with NFL scouts and executives, but also to improve their potential NFL Draft stock with impressive performances on the field.

Whether it’s a debate about skill level, or players being over-hyped/underrated, there are many athletes who will be at Indianapolis with stories that are slightly more interesting than others.

With that in mind, here’s a look at 10 of the most intriguing players who will be at the NFL Combine.

10. Cooper Kupp (wide receiver, Eastern Washington)

There are 19 FCS players who will take part in the 2017 NFL Combine, and coming from small schools makes them all interesting. But of those who are slated to attend, perhaps none bring about as much intrigue as Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

Kupp will enter the combine and subsequently the NFL Draft having amassed more college receiving yards than the legendary Jerry Rice. As a freshman, he set FCS records with 93 receptions and 21 touchdowns, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Kupp eventually closed out his career with 428 receptions for 6,464 yards and 73 touchdown.

Oh, and did we mention he’s a solid return man, can run the football, play gunner and if the situation calls for it, he can also throw the ball on some trick plays?

He has all the tools that make an interesting prospect, and he’s quite intelligent, having scored a 37 on his Wonderlic test while posting a 3.6 GPA. He’s also married and has not shown any off-field issues.

Needless to say, Kupp will be a name worth keeping an eye on. He’s drawn high praise from NFL scouts early on, his college resume speaks for itself, and he expects to put up some pretty impressive numbers to help improve his draft stock.

9. DeMarcus Walker (defensive end, Florida State)

(more…)

Andre Drummond addresses trade rumors, Twitter profile (Video)

Ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline on Thursday, Andre Drummond addressed the speculation that he could be on the move.

Around this time of year, countless players are brought up as potential trade candidates. Some get traded, others don’t. This year, Drummond is among those rumored to be dealt prior to Thursday’s deadline. On Tuesday, the Pistons big man added a little fuel to the fire with this tweet. Drummond also has a profile picture, one of him walking off the court with his hand raised in the air, as if to say goodbye.

It could be Drummond just having a little fun. Or, it might not be. Whatever the case, Drummond was asked about the rumors and his new photo. You can hear his responses in the video below.

It’s obvious Drummond is not here for your speculation and questions. Unfortunately, those things are part of being a professional athlete.

Not too long ago, it seemed Drummond was going to be the cornerstone of the Pistons franchise for years to come. That doesn’t appear to be quite the certainty anymore, especially if you believe this report.

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