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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Blog

Paul George rips Pacers for lack of ‘pride’

The Indiana Pacers have reached a point in the season where they can’t afford to lose to lesser competition, so coming up short against the 29-44 Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night was not ideal. For Paul George, it was downright infuriating.

Despite leading by as many as nine points midway through the fourth quarter, the Pacers collapsed and ended up losing to Minnesota, 115-114. George did not hold back after the game.

“Pissed,” George said of how the loss made him feel, according to Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star. “I know I was pissed. It’s the only to really sum it up.”

In just one night, the Pacers fell from fifth in the Eastern Conference to seventh. With one more loss, they would fall below .500 for the first time since Jan. 1. The No. 8-seed Miami Heat currently hold the tie-breaker over the Pacers for playoff position, so a berth in the postseason is hardly a guarantee with just eight games remaining.

“We should have a professional approach, man, and defend our home court, especially to a team that’s not even in the playoffs,” George added. “That’s what it comes down to. As a team, we’ve got to have a grit and we’ve got to own up, man up.

“There’s no urgency, no sense of urgency, no winning pride. This locker room is just not pissed off enough.”

Playing on the road has been a major issue for the Pacers this season. They’re just 11-25 in games away from Bankers Life Field House, so you can understand why a home loss to the T-Wolves this late in the season is such a problem. George alluded to that.

“It’s tough losing a game here that we need knowing that we don’t play well on the road,” he said. “When we lose focus here, I’m not sure where our head is going to be as a team tomorrow. I’ll make sure to gather these guys around and let them understand, man, that we’ve got to win. That’s the only thing that’s important. The only thing that should be motivational is winning.”

George led the team with 37 points, but he can’t win games by himself. If Indiana ends up missing the playoffs because of a late-season meltdown, there’s no guarantee George will want to remain with the team this summer. We have already heard rumblings that he is determined to play for a certain team, and PG13 could try to force his way there sooner rather than later if he gets frustrated enough.

Report: Saints not going to sign Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel hair

A report saying that Sean Payton met with Johnny Manziel sparked some speculation that the QB could sign with the Saints, but a new report says that’s not happening.

Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole reported Tuesday that New Orleans are not going to sign Manziel.

This should not come as a surprise.

When the Payton report came out, it seemed much more likely that the coach was just meeting with the QB as a courtesy. Manziel has been out of football for over a year and is trying hard to get some attention as he attempts a comeback. He probably pulled some strings to get the meeting with Payton.

Any team that signs Manziel would be a sucker. He used the same hard sell act to get the Browns to draft him in the first place, and then he completely left them hanging. Fool me once …

Report: Michael Irvin being investigated for alleged sexual assault

Michael Irvin

Hall of Famer Michael Irvin is being investigated for sexual assault, according to a report, though he denies the accusations.

TMZ Sports reports that Irvin was out at a bar with a woman who went back to his hotel room at the W hotel in Ft. Lauderdale on March 21. She says she felt sick and the last thing she remembered was fighting Irvin off. When she woke up, it was morning and Irvin was getting ready to check out. She claims she called a car to leave and then called 911 because she thought she was drugged and raped. She took a medical exam.

Irvin’s attorney says the former wide receiver was “blindsided” by the accusations. Irvin’s side is that he was out at a bar until 4:30 am with a group of people including the woman. He went back to his room with the woman and another man and only stayed briefly before leaving to catch an early-morning flight. He claims nothing sexual happened.

Irvin’s attorney provided the following statement to TMZ:

“The allegations are completely false. In the few hours since we’ve learned about them we’ve already discovered many red flags about this young woman’s background and the allegations she made against Michael. Even the complaint that she made specifically says she does not recall the events that took place. She was very drunk that night. Nothing happened and there was no assault.”

It should be noted that despite the attorney’s attempts to discredit the woman by saying she doesn’t recall the events that took place doesn’t mean nothing improper happened. The woman feared she was drugged, which would have left her without memory of what happened.

The timing of the report emerging is interesting. Just last week, Irvin was critical on the radio of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for his off-field conduct, which included inappropriate behavior with a woman.

Jusuf Nurkic takes funny parting shot at Nuggets

Jusuf Nurkic

Jusuf Nurkic had revenge on his mind during Tuesday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets. He also had it on his mind after it ended.

Nurkic was traded by the Denver Nuggets to the Portland Trail Blazers in February for Mason Plumlee, and he has really come into his own. The 7-footer has almost doubled the stats he was putting up per game in Denver since joining the Blazers. His strong play was on display when he scored a career-high 33 points in Portland’s 122-113 win over his former team.

After the game, Nurkic was interviewed and delivered this funny parting shot to Denver.

The Trail Blazers liked his comment so much they publicized it on social media.

Portland and Denver are battling for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The head-to-head win by the Blazers gave them a game advantage over the Nuggets in the standings. Wishing them a good summer seems to be his way of saying that Portland will be making the playoffs, while Denver will be going home.

Hey, when you walk the walk, you can also talk.

A-Rod gets memed after posting photo in pensive pose

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez probably had no idea the stir a post of his would cause when he published to Twitter on Tuesday night.

Rodriguez, who was released by the New York Yankees last season and is now serving as a baseball analyst, posted the following photo of him in a pensive pose. He also asked the question: “Who will win the World Series this year?”

Did people respond with potential teams that could win it all this season? Or did they respond by mocking Rodriguez for being so deep in thought for a topic that should be more light-hearted?

If you figured the latter, you would be correct.

Take a look at the meme responses he received.

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5 Final Four X-factors to watch

Joel Berry

Everyone knows about the stars of the Final Four — Justin Jackson, Nigel Williams-Goss, Sindarius Thornwell, and so on. But these aren’t just one-man teams, and there are lots of other factors, both on and off the court, that can impact how a team plays on any given night. The Final Four gets underway Saturday, with Oregon facing North Carolina, and Gonzaga taking on South Carolina.

Here are a few X-factors both on and off the court that could determine the success — or failure — of the four teams that will play for a spot in the championship game.

1) Coaching experience — or lack thereof

Entering the 2017 NCAA Tournament, this year’s Final Four coaches had a grand total of eight Final Four appearances. All of them belonged to Roy Williams.

Frank Martin, Dana Altman, and Mark Few had all coached in the Elite Eight, but much like their players, they are all Final Four rookies. In terms of experience, it’s all Williams — no contest. Williams is not only at his ninth Final Four, but he is also seeking his sixth career appearance in a title game.

If experience matters — and there is some evidence that it does — then Williams has a huge leg up.

Only twice since the turn of the century has a coach led his team to an NCAA title in his first Final Four appearance; Bill Self did it with Kansas in 2008, and Kevin Ollie’s Connecticut team followed in 2014. Every other championship coach since 2000 had been to at least one previous Final Four before grabbing their title. That is an advantage Williams will have against Altman’s Oregon in the national semifinal and, if they win that game, against whomever they face in the championship as well, be it Martin’s South Carolina team or Few’s Gonzaga squad.

2) Joel Berry’s ankles

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5 MLB stars who have struggled in spring training

Matt Harvey Mets

Having a good or bad spring training isn’t necessarily a sign of things to come. Spring training is, after all, little more than a tune-up. Pitchers spend parts of spring tinkering with pitches and not operating like they would in a meaningful game, while hitters are trying to find their swing after a long winter away from facing live, competitive pitching.

That said, there are players with a point to prove who have not had the strong springs they probably would have liked to.

Here are five players who have shown some worrisome signs as they prepare for the season ahead.

1) Matt Harvey, New York Mets

Let’s get this out of the way: Harvey looked better in his most recent outing. He touched 97 on the radar gun and seemed to be on the right track toward getting towards midseason form. It’s impossible, however, to ignore what he was doing earlier in spring.

Harvey has spent most of March getting shelled, his fastball sitting in the 92-93 range. After his first four starts, his ERA was 7.30. Even now, his mark of 23 hits allowed in 18.1 innings pitched is really discouraging.

It wasn’t so much the numbers that were troubling as it was that velocity drop. Even in his struggle-filled 2016, he averaged 94.5 MPH on his fastball. It would be unfair to ignore the fact that Harvey is coming off shoulder surgery, which may have been a factor in his spring struggles — but that’s all the more reason to watch him closely and be a bit concerned by his progress.

2) Matt Kemp, Atlanta Braves

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Kevin Durant looking good during pregame warm-ups (Video)

Kevin Durant Warriors

The Golden State Warriors will provide an update on star Kevin Durant Wednesday. From the way KD’s looked lately, we’re guessing the news will be positive.

Durant got in some work before the Warriors’ game Tuesday against the Houston Rockets and looked smooth while moving around the court and putting up jumpers:

The Warriors only have nine games remaining in the regular season.

Durant, who has been out with an MCL sprain and bone bruise, is likely to return on a minutes restriction at some point before the team’s final regular season game, which is April 12.

Roger Goodell to attend NFL opener in New England

Roger Goodell

Roger Goodell will finally face the music.

The NFL commissioner said on Tuesday at the league’s annual meetings that he will attend the Thursday night opener hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots this fall.

That’s a big deal because Goodell has avoided Foxboro since hammering the Patriots with the Deflategate scandal and penalties.

Last season, Goodell chose to attend consecutive playoff games in Atlanta rather than head to Gillette Stadium, where he knew he’d be booed by the Patriots’ faithful. This will mark his first trip to the stadium since Deflategate.

Goodell better bring plenty of security, because you know the fans will be all over him. They even taunted him last season when he wasn’t at a game. What will it be like when he’s actually there? Pats owner Robert Kraft might have to address his fans ahead of time to keep it civil.

Jason Garrett does not want to talk about Ezekiel Elliott incident

Ezekiel Elliott

Jason Garrett wasn’t too interested in talking Tuesday about the infamous Ezekiel Elliott offseason incident.

The Dallas Cowboys head coach was asked at the NFL meetings about Elliott’s St. Patrick’s Day parade episode and declined comment.

Elliott was a star as a rookie last season for the Cowboys, but he has found himself in trouble time and again. First there were domestic violence complaints from an ex-girlfriend that the league investigated. Then he was spotted in a marijuana dispensary. Then he was at a bar where one of his friends had a gun.

The latest incident happened a few weeks ago when he exposed a women’s breast at a parade. That’s about what Garrett declined to comment.

Elliott’s talent and the league-best 1,631 rushing yards he posted last season ensure he will be a big member of the Cowboys moving forward. They just have to make sure he stays out of trouble.

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