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Friday, April 10, 2020

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Dalvin Cook says he is best RB in NFL, wants to stay with Vikings long-term

Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook knows his worth and knows where he wants his future to be.

In an interview this week with Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minnesota Vikings running back gave his opinion on where he stands among the league’s elite.

“I consider myself the best back in the game,” said Cook. “The things I do coming out of the backfield, the things I do in between the tackles, I block, I pretty much do it all. I don’t have to come off the field. I think some guys just don’t do as much as I do, and I think that’s why I’m today’s [top] back.”

The 24-year-old star, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, also said that he would like to remain in Minnesota for the long run.

“I definitely love Minnesota,” he said. “I love everything the state has to bring. Being a kid, I was drafted [in 2017] from [my hometown] Miami, so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I actually am happy where I’m at, and I would like to be in Minnesota long term.”

Cook, who earned Pro Bowl honors last season, put up the numbers to back up his claims as well. He recorded a robust 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns in 14 games and added 53 receptions for 519 yards.

While Cook tore his ACL in 2017 and battled other nagging injuries last year, the Vikings would be smart to make him a long-term foundational block of their team. Whether you think that Cook is better than the likes of Derrick Henry, Ezekiel Elliott, and Christian McCaffrey though is open for debate.

Report: NBA’s loss in revenue could lead free agents to stay put, seek shorter deals

Anthony Davis Lakers

NBA free agency this offseason may end up being a dud, in large part due to the adverse financial situation created by the coronavirus pandemic.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Brian Windhorst reported Thursday that the NBA is facing up to $1 billion in losses and that the uncertainty could lead many free agents to either seek short-term deals or pick up their player options. They also say there will likely be “far less movement” thanks also to the small number of cap-space teams and the relative weakness of this year’s class.

The most notable free agent this offseason will be Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis, who is already expected to return to the team. Other potential free agents include DeMar DeRozan, Danilo Gallinari, and Montrezl Harrell.

As for the time being with the season suspended, players will receive their full paychecks as scheduled on April 15, but anything beyond that is unclear. We already heard that the pandemic would likely cause a drop in next year’s salary cap, so the negative impact on free agency goes in the same vein.

Steelers WR James Washington working on farm this offseason, has lost weight

Steelers logo

James Washington has found a home on the range this NFL offseason.

The Pittsburgh Steelers receiver opened up this week about buying his own farm in Markel, Tex. and how the manual labor has helped him lose weight.

“As far as lifting, the other day I was trimming trees around here and I don’t know if I ever felt my lats burn as much as they did when I was trimming trees and moving big old logs and stuff,” said Washington, per Teresa Varley of the team site. “For sure nature is giving me the best workouts. They may not think I am working on football, but I think some of it translates. I am still running. I am out in the country, so I go on bike rides too. I am getting conditioning, working on the legs at the same time. I ride seven or eight miles. You may have one or two cars pass you, but you may see more cattle than people.

Washington, who grew up on his family’s farm in Texas and majored in agribusiness with a focus on farm and ranch management in college, also said that he recently weighed in at 205 pounds after being listed at 213 last season.

“I am lighter than last year. I am feeling pretty light,” he continued. “I feel like it will help with the quick twitch. Especially that second gear when the ball is in the air. In general, just being lighter is good. At the same time, I have been working on strength. I haven’t lost any muscle. I am just getting everything back together and just trying to stay healthy, especially at a time like this when you have to stay healthy.”

Washington, 24, is coming off a 2019 season where he caught 44 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns. With Ben Roethlisberger returning from injury next season and JuJu Smith-Schuster entering the final year of his contract, Washington could have even more to prove in 2020.

As for Washington’s workout program of choice this offseason, we do know of one former Steelers player who would definitely approve.

Serge Ibaka says he intends to re-sign with Raptors

Serge Ibaka is ending any speculation about his future a few months early.

During an Instagram Live session this week, the Toronto Raptors big man said that he intends to re-sign with the team this offseason.

“I’m gonna stay, bro,” he said when asked about his plans for his impending free agency. “This place is beautiful … It’s a beautiful city, beautiful people here, and we have one of the best teams. Why leave, bro?”

While he is not blocking shots like he used to, the 30-year-old Ibaka has still been having a career year for Toronto with averages of 16.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game on 39.8 percent from deep. After winning his first NBA championship with them last season, Ibaka and the Raptors have gone a blistering 46-18 again this season, sitting at the No. 2 seed in the East when play was suspended last month.

The former All-Defensive First Teamer Ibaka first arrived in Toronto back in 2017, and the team has also demonstrated their commitment to him since.

Bucs LB Devin White takes shot at Raiders for passing on him in draft

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Nearly a year later, Devin White still has not forgotten about being snubbed by the Raiders during the NFL Draft.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker shaded the now-Las Vegas Raiders in a tweet on Wednesday, saying that they should have taken him with the No. 4 overall pick in last year’s draft. Here is the tweet, which he has since deleted:

The 22-year-old White, the reigning Butkus Award winner coming out of LSU, went to the Bucs at No. 5 instead. He responded by earning PFWA All-Rookie honors in 2019, recording 91 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an interception in 13 games.

The Raiders, meanwhile, used their pick on defensive end Clelin Ferrell, but when you read some of the praise that White has gotten since then, he may be giving them buyer’s remorse. The Bucs are also scheduled to play the Raiders in Las Vegas next season in the “date” that White hinted at in his post.

Dave Roberts says Mookie Betts ‘loves being a Dodger’

Mookie Betts

The coronavirus pandemic has thrust Mookie Betts’ future with the Los Angeles Dodgers into uncertainty, but his manager is taking on a hopeful tone.

Appearing this week on ESPN’s “The Jorge Sedano Show,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts spoke on the worst-case possibility of Betts becoming a free agent in 2021 without playing in a single game for the team.

“I think that him being in spring training with us, the relationship I have with him personally, and the players and some coaches, it feels like he’s already played a season with us, which is very strange,” said Roberts, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com. “Mookie has got to do what’s best for him and his family once that time does present itself. I know he loves being a Dodger. He hasn’t played a major league game yet, but as far as putting on that uniform in spring training, understanding what the fans and organization is about. The west coast living, he hasn’t felt that yet.”

The former AL MVP Betts, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a blockbuster trade in February, will hit free agency next winter regardless of how many games are ultimately played in 2020. This is thanks to a deal the league recently reached with the players’ union in the wake of the pandemic that also contains other interesting provisions.

The Dodgers are not getting the opportunity to make an impression on Betts that they would have hoped for, but Roberts seems confident that the limited time they have already spent together will make for a strong enough case.

LeBron James training four or five times a week during quarantine period

LeBron James

The grind has not stopped for LeBron James despite the current situation.

During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers star said that he was training four or five times a week at his home gym while in quarantine, per Mike Trudell of Spectrum SportsNet. James added that he has also been shooting around on his outdoor court with his kids.

For James, who is 35 years old and used to getting heavy run around this time of year, keeping in shape is of paramount importance. He got in 60 games this season before play was suspended after being limited to 55 games last season due to a groin injury and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

James’ head coach has his staff preparing for whatever might happen once play can resume, and it sounds like the players can take their lead from The King’s example as well.

Mychal Thompson: Klay will be at ‘full speed’ to start next season

Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is roughly ten months removed from his torn left ACL, but he appears to be nearing the finish line in his rehab.

In an interview this week on 95.7 The Game, Klay’s father Mychal provided an update on the Golden State Warriors sharpshooter and his health.

“He’s feeling good, he’s working out on his own,” said Mychal. “He’s doing all of his drills, says he feels good. He walks around without any kind of limp, no soreness. So he says he’s feeling great, and he’ll be ready to go at full speed next year.”

The 30-year-old Thompson suffered the injury in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against Toronto on June 13 last year. The Warriors’ NBA-worst record this season and the subsequent suspension of play due to the coronavirus pandemic have enabled Thompson to take his time in getting healthy.

The team was optimstic about Thompson’s health even before the season was suspended, so they should have their way two-way star back in the lineup and ready to roll whenever the 2020-21 campaign begins.