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Monday, December 18, 2017

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Cardinals bench Blaine Gabbert in favor of Drew Stanton

Blaine Gabbert

The Arizona Cardinals have nothing left to play for, but they’re still making a quarterback change.

Coach Bruce Arians announced Monday that Drew Stanton will start in favor of Blaine Gabbert on Sunday against the New York Giants.

Stanton had been playing ahead of Gabbert until November, when a knee injury knocked him out. Gabbert had been playing just competently enough — the Cardinals even floated the potential of a contract extension for him. However, an awful game that included two turnovers against the Washington Redskins was pretty much the end of that. Stanton won’t be much better, but it’ll be hard for him to be that bad.

NFL says referee Gene Steratore did nothing wrong by using index card

Referee card Raiders

Gene Steratore used an extremely unorthodox method to help show whether or not the Dallas Cowboys had gained a crucial first down Sunday night, but it was apparently one that is allowed by the league.

Wtth the Cowboys and Oakland Raiders tied at 17 and five minutes remaining, Dallas had the ball at their own 38 and went for it on 4th-and-1. The spot was right at the mark, and it was even difficult to tell if it was a first down when measured. So Steratore broke out an index card to see if there was space between the nose of the football and the pole used to measure.

On Monday, former NFL official and supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that officials are “never allowed to use anything other than their eyes to make that decision” about whether a first down has been made. However, a league representative later told PFT that there is “no prohibition” on using an index card, sheet of paper or another object in the course of making a ruling.

Steratore insisted after the game that he made the determination using nothing but his eyes and only used the index card as a “reaffirmation,” but that didn’t stop Twitter from letting him have it. Even if what he did was allowed by the NFL, it was still incredibly unusual.

10 best under-the-radar NBA acquisitions

Sure, it’s fun to observe how superstar talent adjusts to a new habitat — Chris Paul finding his wings in Houston, Jimmy Butler howling at the moon in Minnesota, and Kyrie Irving projecting Force ghosts in Boston. But often times, the more rewarding exercise is pinpointing the summer acquisitions who have given their new teams the best bang for their buck in spite of little fanfare and infrequent appearances on World Wide Wob’s Twitter feed. Here are 10 players who have best exemplified that latter category so far this year.

*Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com*

Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana Pacers

If you love somebody, set them free from Russell Westbrook. That’s exactly what Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti did this offseason in dealing Oladipo to the Indiana Pacers as part of the Paul George trade, and the fifth-year guard has been on a killing spree ever since. Oladipo’s 24-5-4 averages this season are close to Miami Heat-era Dwyane Wade-type production out of the 2 spot. His 42.5 percent shooting from deep is a wonder of the modern world. Oladipo has become Indiana’s starter, finisher, and Messiah all wrapped up in one. An All-Star nod this February is probably a realistic expectation, which is saying something considering how much Indiana was questioned when they made the trade.

Enes Kanter, C, New York Knicks

While we’re on the topic of Oklahoma City refugees, here is another one who is having himself a nice little season. In between becoming The Empire State’s most beloved enforcer, Kanter is producing career-highs in rebounds (10.1) and assists per game (1.7) while also bumping up his shooting efficiency to a DeAndre Jordan-esque 60.2 percent. His defense isn’t just Shaqtin’ A Fool fodder anymore either, as Kanter is finally in positive territory in defensive box score plus-minus for the first time in seven NBA seasons. A fitting blue-collar bopper alongside the unicorn superstardom of Kristaps Porzingis in the Knicks frontcourt, Kanter is the sidekick that America needs right now.

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ESPN staffers reportedly in ‘complete shock’ over John Skipper resignation

ESPN

John Skipper had been the president of ESPN for nearly six years before his tenure abruptly came to an end on Monday, and many of the media juggernaut’s employees did not see his resignation coming.

Multiple ESPN staffers told TMZ Sports that they were stunned by Skipper’s decision to step down and his revelation that he is struggling with substance abuse. Numerous employees of the World Wide Leader said Skipper was well-liked and respected.

“People are just stunned … a lot of us truly respected him,” one ESPN employee told TMZ. “You will be hard pressed to find anyone with a negative word about him.”

“I’m shocked,” another staffer said. “I liked the guy a lot.”

Skipper joined ESPN as senior vice president and general manager of ESPN The Magazine back in 1997, and he had worked his way up the ranks since. The company has generally experienced great success under his leadership, though some potentially serious issues arose last week when two of ESPN’s most recognizable employees were accused of sexual harassment.

Report: Marqise Lee not expected to miss much time with ankle injury

Marqise Lee has become a reliable target for Blake Bortles and the surging Jacksonville Jaguars in recent weeks, and fortunately the team received good news in the wake of the injury he suffered on Sunday.

Lee was carted to the locker room in the first quarter of Jacksonville’s blowout win over the Houston Texans, and it appeared he had suffered a serious injury. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that an MRI on Lee’s ankle came back clean on Monday, and he is expected back by the playoffs at the latest.

Lee has 56 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns this season. The former USC star had caught 12 passes in the two games prior to Sunday’s, so he is an important part of Jacksonville’s offense. With the Jaguars having won seven of their last eight games and heading to the postseason for the first time in a decade, now is not the time to lose key players. They should be breathing a sigh of relief with Lee.

Pete Carroll downplays spat between Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner

Pete Carroll

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is, at least publicly, downplaying the tension between two of his star defenders.

After safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner publicly traded barbs after the team’s blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Carroll said he wasn’t concerned about long-term repercussions, blaming the controversy on emotion in the heat of the moment and the availability of social media.

Regardless of how Carroll feels about the players and the controversy, it sounds like the Seahawks had big changes planned on defense even before this happened. The situation in Seattle just doesn’t seem particularly sustainable anymore.

Mike Pereira: NFL has become ‘too technical’

Jesse James catch

Many NFL fans feel that video replay — and unclear rules — have made the league less enjoyable to watch. Perhaps surprisingly, Mike Pereira agrees with them.

The former vice president of officiating and current Fox rules analyst told the Dan Patrick Show on Monday that the league has become “too technical,” which has negatively impacted the product in terms of entertainment value.

Ultimately, the NFL needs to be getting the calls right. Replay and the interpretation of the rules, however, have led to us looking at every little bobble or step or technicality during reviews. The Pittsburgh Steelers were victimized by this on Sunday. It’s easy to see why this can be frustrating for viewers and players alike.

Isaiah Thomas pokes fun at reports about when he will return

Isaiah Thomas Cavs

Isaiah Thomas appears to be getting close to making his debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the star point guard wants fans to be careful about listening to reports regarding his recovery.

Over the weekend, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reported that Thomas is targeting the first week of January for his return from a hip injury he suffered late last season. On Monday, Thomas poked fun at the media.

Obviously, Thomas will be back with the Cavs well before April. Sources told Charania — a highly respected NBA reporter — that Isaiah has made significant progress and feels he could play now, so it’s highly unlikely that the report would be that far off-base.

The Cavs could use the help in their backcourt, especially with everything that has gone on with Derrick Rose as of late. After starting the season 5-7, Cleveland has completely turned things around and is 23-8. Thomas should only make the Cavs better.

Report: JT Realmuto tells Marlins he wants to be traded

The Miami Marlins have been selling off their more expensive players in order to build around their young, controllable core, but what happens when some of those up-and-coming stars decide they don’t want to stick around?

Craig Mish of SiriusXM Radio reported on Monday that Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has informed the Marlins he wants to be traded. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic later confirmed the report.

Realmuto, 26, is considered one of the best young catchers in baseball. He batted .278 with 17 home runs and 65 RBI last season in 141 games. The year before, Realmuto played in 137 games and batted .303.

Since he is under team control for another three seasons, the Marlins could likely demand a large haul in a trade for Realmuto. The fact that he wants out of Miami could decrease his market value slightly, but teams will still be willing to give up plenty. The Marlins have already been stock-piling prospects in trades involving Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, and they should be able to land a couple more if they deal Realmuto.

Zach Brown tells Davante Adams he is ‘always headhunting’

If Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams is concerned about taking blows to the head and potentially sustaining another concussion, he had better avoid Zach Brown in the future.

Brown, a star linebacker for the Washington Redskins, apparently had no issue with the vicious head shot Thomas Davis threw on Adams during Sunday’s game. We know this because after Adams took to Twitter on Monday to call out Davis for his dangerous hit, Brown chimed in.

There’s a big difference between complaining about getting hit and calling out an opponent for targeting your head. Davis basically lined up Adams with a blindside hit, and he looked like he very cleared aimed for the head. Davis, who has stressed player safety in the past, appeared visibly upset after the play, but that doesn’t excuse what he did.

While we’ve heard plenty of players say the NFL might as well start a flag football league, Brown openly admitting he is “headhunting” is a disturbing look. Davis is probably going to be suspended, and Brown had better watch the way he tackles in the future. He may have just put himself under a microscope.

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