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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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Teammate: Jameis Winston not ‘fat’ anymore

Jameis Winston fat

Fresh off a last-place finish in the NFC South that saw head coach Lovie Smith shown the door, at least the Buccaneers can rest easy knowing that their prized young quarterback is in prime playing shape heading into next season.

Former Heisman winner Jameis Winston appears to have slimmed down some this offseason, and it has definitely caught the attention of his teammates in Tampa Bay.

“This guy was fat last year,” joked Bucs cornerback Johnthan Banks per Zach Shapiro of Pewter Report. “He came back looking like a DB. You can tell Jameis worked his tail off.

“When you have a guy like Jameis leading your team, that makes everybody want to be like Jameis,” Banks continued. “He’s got everyone excited. You could just see him out here yesterday, how confident he is, even in the walkthroughs, making checks and getting guys in place. It’s awesome. Jameis, he’s going to be one of those Peyton Manning-type guys.”

Winston, for his part, agreed with Banks’ sentiments about leadership. “As a quarterback, you have to show these guys that you’re working,” he said. “I didn’t want to come back and have them say, ‘Oh, Jameis looks the exact same.’ I had to give them something to talk about, right?”

The 6-foot-4 Winston entered the league as a rookie last year at an official weight of 231 pounds. Even with the extra girth, he lived up to his billing as the No. 1 overall pick, throwing for 4042 yards and 22 touchdowns (albeit with 15 interceptions) en route to a Pro Bowl selection.

Though the former Seminole standout has struggled with weight problems in the past (as even he will acknowledge), it looks like Winston is starting to turn over a new leaf in training camp. Hopefully, all the pounds he has apparently shed this spring will help make Winston more mobile and more durable, priming him for a strong sophomore campaign in 2016.

Russell Westbrook: Kevin Durant and I will always have each other’s backs

Kevin-Durant-Russell-Westbrook

If you’re searching for the greatest love story of our time, look no further than the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook clearly appreciated teammate Kevin Durant going out of his way to rebuke comments made by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggesting that Westbrook is not a “superstar.”

Westbrook was asked on Wednesday about what it meant for Durant, who called Cuban “an idiot” in their postgame press conference after the Thunder’s series-ending victory over Dallas in Game 5 on Monday, to spring to his defense so ardently.

“It was very important [to me],” said Westbrook per Royce Young of ESPN. “Me and Kevin’s relationship is great. He’s like my brother. We talk about different things, not just basketball-related. He’s always gonna have my back and I’ll always have his.”

For Westbrook and Durant, who have played together since Westbrook’s rookie season in 2008, the brotherhood runs deep. Despite all the (now-antiquated) talk about how the duo can’t co-exist on the court, there’s no denying their closeness off it.

With Durant set to become a free agent this summer, one popular theory suggests that he might re-sign with the Thunder on a one-year deal so that both he and Westbrook hit the open market at the same time in 2017. Now it’s starting to look like the power of the bromance alone could make that a very likely possibility.

H/T theScore

Report: Dwight Howard, James Harden relationship is ‘cordially bad’

James Harden

The Houston Rockets’ season could very well end Wednesday night, bringing to a close a season marked by dysfunction and underachievement from a team that went to the Western Conference Finals in 2015.

ESPN’s Calvin Watkins details how things went downhill, particularly the tension between the team’s two stars, James Harden and Dwight Howard.

According to Watkins, the duo have tried to be friends, even trying to talk out their on-court issues during All-Star break. However, Howard hasn’t seen much of the ball, with some players reportedly unhappy with him. Howard himself, meanwhile, believes Harden doesn’t respect him enough. A team source characterized the relationship between the two stars as “cordially bad.”

One particular incident came in February, when Howard didn’t speak up during a team meeting about getting more touches.

“If you want the ball, you need to speak up about it,” one person close to the team said. “He lost players’ respect.”

There is also a fundamental disconnect between Harden and Howard personality-wise. Harden is more guarded, with a dry sense of humor and a passion to win. Howard is more outgoing, friendly and bubbly, even during games, which can lead to accusations of disinterest.

Harden is the franchise’s cornerstone, and much has been invested in him. Howard will be gone once he opts out of his contract this summer, with Orlando, Milwaukee, Portland, and Charlotte cited as potential destinations.

Perhaps Shaq was right about Harden, though it seems as though Houston’s dynamic duo can’t see eye to eye no matter what they do. While it doesn’t sound like the pair hate each other or anything like that, it will ultimately be a big part of the reason that, no matter what Jason Terry says, Houston’s dysfunctional season is likely to end this week.

Jake Arrieta fires back at Stephen A. Smith on Twitter over PED chatter

Jake Arrieta

Jake Arrieta has been destroying hitters everywhere over the past year or so, and naturally, as tends to happen when a once-mediocre ballplayer turns into a world-beater, whispers about PED use began to simmer.

Arrieta hit back at those accusations on Tuesday, which led to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless debating his comments on Wednesday’s edition of First Take.

Smith called into question Arrieta’s endurance, noting how he abruptly began pitching a lot of innings and didn’t seem to have any issue with the added workload.

“I’m just looking at it, and I’m saying to myself, alright,” Smith said. “I’m not going to accuse you of using performance enhancing supplements, drugs, whatever you want to call it. But I will say that you shouldn’t just be laughing at those who are looking at you and saying ‘Excuse me, what the hell is going on here?’ Because it’s not like they haven’t seen performance enhancing drug usage before.”

Arrieta, who is known to be pretty forthcoming on Twitter, caught wind of Smith’s comments and promptly let him have it.

Smith seemed to lay off pretty much immediately.

It’s easy to forget that Arrieta was one a very highly-rated prospect who struggled in Baltimore for a number of reasons. He himself has pointed out some of the observable changes he’s made, including mechanically and in pitch selection. He correctly pointed out that his velocity has never changed throughout his career. Suspicions will continue as long as Arrieta keeps pitching games like this one, and he seems perfectly happy to laugh it off.

And hey, as long as people keep flinging wild accusations at him, maybe we’ll keep getting more responses like this one from him on Twitter. Fine by me.

Jonathan Nicola claims he did not know his real age

Jonathan Nicola

Jonathan Nicola, the star high school basketball player in Canada who is under investigation for possibly lying about his age, claims that the misunderstanding is due to him not knowing his age.

Nicola was a star player for Catholic Central Secondary School in Windsor, but he was arrested at the Canadian border and has been held by immigration since April 15. He was traveling to the US with his team when border services were alerted that his fingerprints matched that of someone who tried to make a refugee claim in the US, The Toronto Star reports.

According to information shared at a hearing, Nicola’s visa application and passport to Canada listed his birthday as Nov. 25, 1998. However, his documents for the US listed his birthday as Nov. 1, 1986.

Nicola says the issue is his mother never told him his birthday.

“I always keep asking what is the specific age that I was born, and she has told me that she could not remember,” Nicola said at a recent hearing.

“Over (in South Sudan) . . . not every year we study . . . we always keep moving to different schools, and over there, they do not ask your age. They do not ask you nothing,” Nicola said.

If Nicola’s story hardly seems believable, it’s for good reason. He applied for a visa to the US in Nairobi that was denied in April 2015. He was applying to enter the US on a full scholarship. Does it seem at all suspicious that six months later he headed to Canada on a student visa to attend a school on a full scholarship?

The question is how did Nicola get his documents to play ball in Canada. He says he met someone who helped him with his application.

Nicola’s high school coach thought the 6-foot-9 athlete who was supposedly in 11th grade had a chance to go pro.

Tyler Collins sent to minors two days after bird-flipping incident

Tyler Collins flips bird

It was probably only a matter of time, but the hammer dropped on Tigers outfielder Tyler Collins on Wednesday as he was sent to the minors two days after flipping off the home crowd.

The Tigers announced the move after activating closer Francisco Rodriguez from the family medical emergency list.

Collins was going to be out the door soon enough with Cameron Maybin close to returning from an injury, not to mention the fact that he is just 2-for-20 on the season. Monday night’s events – which you can see here – may well have hastened his departure, though. He escaped further discipline from the league, but the demotion will probably make the point just as well. The Tigers have actually left themselves with one less position player than they usually carry, so it’s safe to say they just wanted to move Collins out.

Report: Broncos’ trade for Colin Kaepernick not likely this week

Colin Kaepernick backwards hat

Although the San Francisco 49ers’ GM says a trade of Colin Kaepernick is possible this week, the likelihood of him heading to Denver by the end of the week is not likely.

Denver News 9’s Mike Klis reports that a trade of Kaepernick to Denver by Sunday is unlikely.

Earlier on Wednesday Niners GM Trent Baalke said Kaepernick could be traded this week. The expectation was that once teams started drafting quarterbacks, there would be movement on the Kaepernick front.

The most likely landing spot for Kaepernick has always been said to be Denver. However, the Broncos wanted Kaepernick to take a significant pay cut, which has been the holdup.

Either Kaepernick can return to the 49ers for less money where he will likely be a backup to Blaine Gabbert, or he can go to Denver where he will have an excellent defense supporting him, great receivers to throw to, but less money. Going to the Broncos even at a reduced wage seems like it would be best for Kaepernick longterm.

Chris Bosh pushing to return to Heat, team has not cleared him

Chris Bosh

Chris Bosh thinks he’s ready to rejoin the Heat for their playoff run, but the organization doesn’t seem to agree.

In what appeared to be a coordinated effort on Tuesday, both Bosh and his wife took to social media indicating Bosh’s readiness to play. First, Adrienne Bosh sent out the following tweet:

She then retweeted a video of Bosh hoisting jumpshots that came from Bosh’s Snapchat.


Bosh seems raring to go, but according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Heat are still holding him back.

“There is no update,” team spokesman Tim Donovan told ESPN. “He is out still indefinitely.”

According to Windhorst, Bosh will not return until he is cleared by Miami’s team doctors. They have not done so, and believe that no other NBA team would clear him either.

It’s just another chapter in what has become a rather lengthy stalemate between player and team. Bosh has been sidelined since the All-Star break due to a blood condition. He has maintained since March that he feels good and wants to return, but the Heat have not been comfortable clearing him. You can hardly blame them given the seriousness of the condition.

Eli Apple defended by family, ex-teammates over cooking accusation

Eli Apple

Eli Apple was defended by ex-teammates and even his mother against a seemingly personal attack against him.

Each year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn produces long pieces on NFL prospects ahead of the draft, complete with comments from scouts on each player. On Tuesday he published his rankings of the defensive back prospects, and Apple was listed third. One scout apparently isn’t a fan of Apple and had some criticism of the 20-year-old former Ohio State CB.

“I worry about him because of off-the-field issues,” one scout told McGinn. “The kid has no life skills. At all. Can’t cook. Just a baby. He’s not first round for me. He scares me to death.”

Two scouts commented on Apple’s age and indicated they felt the third-year sophomore was coming out too early. But it was the cooking comment that left most scratching their heads wondering what that had to do with Apple’s football ability.

Apple’s former teammates Ezekiel Elliott and Bradley Roby defended Apple via Twitter, as did Apple’s mother:

Apple himself then weighed in:

Apple has had a rough go of it leading up to the draft. Not only was accused of having no life skills and not being able to cook, but he was also asked this personal question by one team. He is still expected to be selected pretty high in the draft.

Terrorist group plotted to kidnap Manny Pacquiao

manny-pacquiao-cotto

Terrorist group Abu Sayyaf had plans recently to kidnap Filipino icon and politician Manny Pacquiao, the country’s president said on Wednesday.

Philippines president Benigno Aquino III said Wednesday that Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim militant group, had plans to bomb Manila, kidnap Pacquiao, and potentially assassinate Aquino.

The group’s plans were uncovered and the country apparently has the situation under control.

Abu Sayyaf is accused of beheading 68-year-old Canadian John Ridsdel on Monday after not having their ransom demands met. The group allegedly has over 20 more hostages. They are seeking funding from the Islamic State group.

Pacquiao is running for a senate seat in the Philippines. As such a wealthy and famous figure, he is probably the target of many plots in his home country, most of which never materialize.

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