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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

Nets GM: Kevin Durant looks ‘pretty damn good’

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is not expected to play this season despite having a significant amount of additional time to recover from his his torn Achilles, but the news about his rehab continues to be all positive.

In a recent interview with a sports show in his native land of New Zealand, Nets general manager Sean Marks would not commit to when Durant might play again. However, he did say the two-time NBA Finals MVP has looked “pretty damn good” in workouts.

Durant initially had no shot at playing during the 2019-20 season, but the postponement of play has led to speculation that he could suit up if the Nets reach the playoffs. Marks fueled that speculation by leaving the door open for Durant to play this year, but Durant’s agent and business partner threw cold water on the talk last week.

The Nets would be wise to stick to the plan with Durant, which was to give him an entire season off to recover. It shouldn’t matter if that season ends two or three months later than expected, even if Kyrie Irving is also dropping hints that he is ready to return from his injury.

Brooklyn currently has the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they’re not winning a championship without a healthy Durant and Irving. Waiting for a fresh start next season is still the smart thing to do.

Jared Dudley: NBA players will not have to remain in ‘bubble’ when season resumes

The NBA is not going to require players to remain in a protective “bubble” when the 2019-20 season resumes, but Los Angeles Lakers forward Jared Dudley is hoping the league’s best players opt to do that anyway.

Dudley said in a conference call with reporters this week that it is a “misconception” that players will be required to remain in quarantine at the NBA’s designated sites — likely Walt Disney World and Las Vegas — when play resumes. Players will be allowed to leave, though there will be frequent testing and they will have to quarantine if they contract COVID-19.

“You will be allowed to leave,” Dudley said, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “Now just because you leave, if we’re going to give you that leeway, if you come back with corona, you can’t play.”

Dudley says Adam Silver has likened the NBA’s two-site format to a “campus” environment, which will include places like gyms, hotels and restaurants that will be closely monitored. Dudley expects some players to venture outside the “bubble,” and he cited the way Dennis Rodman infamously went to Las Vegas during the middle of a season with the Chicago Bulls. However, Dudley feels it would be “somewhat selfish” for a player to do that, and he says there will be “added pressure” on guys like LeBron James and Anthony Davis to not risk contracting the virus and potentially having to miss much of the playoffs.

“Bron, AD and all the top guys we have, we’ll be wrapping them in a bubble and not letting them go anywhere,” Dudley said. “You’ll have that be a team rule. Now, it won’t be a league, an NBA rule, but you’d want to say, ‘Listen, guys, we’ve come too far. We’re going to put our family on hold.’

“If you don’t have that, it’d be a bummer not only for the teams but for fans of Kawhi [Leonard], Giannis [Antetokounmpo], LeBron and AD. And if they can’t play in the playoffs, it’s going to be a real stain.”

The NBA has seemingly placed a timeline on when it will make a decision about resuming the season, but all signs continue to point toward a champion being crowned. The availability of testing will be key, and it would be naive to think not a single player will test positive in the several weeks teams are together. Dudley is right that a star player having to quarantine would be a huge issue for the NBA.

Report: Eagles have interest in bringing back LeSean McCoy

LeSean McCoy

The Philadelphia Eagles have been looking to add a veteran running back this offseason, and one of the scenarios they have discussed is bringing back LeSean McCoy.

ESPN’s Tim McManus reported on Thursday that the Eagles have narrowed their focus to McCoy, Devonta Freeman and Carlos Hyde. The team is looking to add one of the three veteran backs in the near future.

McCoy, who turns 32 in July, said recently that he would like to return to Philadelphia to help mentor young running back Miles Sanders. McManus notes that the Eagles are high on Sanders and believe he can become a Pro Bowl player, so perhaps McCoy’s enthusiasm about working with the former second-round pick will be enough to convince Philly to bring him back.

Of the three veteran backs, Hyde was the most productive last season. He rushed for over 1,000 yards with the Houston Texans and averaged 4.4 yards per carry, which was the second-highest mark of his career. McCoy rushed for just 465 yards and appeared to fall out of favor with Andy Reid in Kansas City.

Freeman, 28, is the youngest of the three veteran backs the Eagles have interest in, but he averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry last season. He also has at least one other known suitor.

Report: Nets exploring ways to trade for Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal

The Brooklyn Nets are interested in acquiring a third star player to pair with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this offseason, and one name to keep an eye on is Bradley Beal.

The Nets have had internal discussions about potential ways they could acquire Beal, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports. While the Washington Wizards have not yet indicated whether or not they will entertain trade offers for Beal, the star guard is set to make $29 million next season on a team that is just 24-40 this year.

Beal, 26, has elevated his game since John Wall suffered a torn Achilles last year. Beal is averaging a career-high 30.5 points per game this season, and he clearly is not getting the recognition he deserves. He made it known that he was upset over not being selected for the All-Star Game, so it would not be a shock if he ends up wanting to be traded. However, he said back in March that he will not demand a trade and wants to remain with Washington.

The Nets could make some significant moves this offseason, as they are searching for a new head coach and Kyrie Irving has already hinted that he is unhappy with the team’s roster.

Patrick Mahomes seems to be in favor of 4th-and-15 onside kick alternative

Patrick Mahomes

The NFL is exploring the idea of implementing a new rule this season that would give teams an alternative to attempting an onside kick, and Patrick Mahomes wants to remind team owners that they could be playing with fire.

The new rule, which is reportedly gaining steam and has a legitimate chance of being implemented, would allow teams to attempt to convert on 4th-and-15 from their own 25-yard line instead of kicking the ball off or going for an onside kick. Teams could attempt the play no more than two times per game. Mahomes shared his thoughts on the idea with a subtle tweet, and it sure seems like the reigning Super Bowl MVP is excited.

The Kansas City Chiefs have the most explosive offense in football, so it would not be hard to envision them taking advantage of the 4th-and-15 scenario. Between Mahomes’ ability to keep plays alive and the eye-popping speed of his favorite receiver, giving Mahomes two extra plays a game with the ball in his hands could be a nightmare for opponents.

Report: Dak Prescott, Cowboys still only disagree over length of contract

Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott is rumored to have turned down some mammoth contract offers from the Dallas Cowboys over the past several months, but a report we heard this week about the gap between the two sides may be a bit overstated.

Chris Simms of NBC Sports told 105.3 The Fan’s “K & C Masterpiece” on Tuesday that he has heard Prescott turned down a five-year, $175 million deal. Simms also said (via SI.com) that Prescott wants an insane amount of money — perhaps more than $45 million — for the fifth year alone.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the only issue between Prescott and the Cowboys at the moment is that Prescott wants a shorter deal than the team is offering.

The Cowboys aren’t going to pay Prescott more than $45 million for any single season. It’s possible that he demanded that in the fifth year of a contract only because he knew Dallas would never agree to it, and Prescott is said to be seeking a four-year deal. Previous reports indicated the Cowboys offered Prescott $35 million per year over five years, which probably is not that far off.

Dallas likes giving out long-term deals to star players, but Prescott is 26 and wants to be eligible for free agency again when he is 30. If he continues to play at a high level, he would be in line for a significant raise at that point, as the quarterback market has risen rapidly in recent years.

It still seems unlikely that Prescott will play under the franchise tag this season, though one fellow star quarterback does not think that would be a bad thing for Dak. If the only issue is the length of the contract, a long-term agreement is still the most likely outcome.

Tom Brady documentary series coming to ESPN in 2021

Tom Brady

ESPN drew massive ratings for “The Last Dance” even though the docuseries was spread out over 10 episodes, and the network will be hoping for similar success when Tom Brady becomes the star of the show next year.

Brady revealed on Thursday that ESPN is set to air a nine-part documentary series on him in 2021. The docuseries is titled “Man in the Arena,” which Brady explained in his tweet.

The ratings for “The Last Dance” were through the roof, but that probably had a lot to do with the fact that it aired at a time when all sports leagues have postponed play. Still, Brady’s documentary should draw plenty of viewers.

This won’t be the first documentary series featuring Brady, as we also had the “Tom vs. Time” Facebook series a couple of years back that may have been a source of some tension between Brady and Belichick. It will be interesting to see if Belichick takes part in the ESPN documentary, especially with Brady still actively playing in the NFL for another team.

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have teamed up yet again! Treat yourself or a friend with this great Tampa Fiesta shirt. You can buy it here.

NFL could implement entertaining alternative to on-side kick

NFL teams are in the process of reviewing potential rule changes for the 2020 season, and one of them that is said to be gaining momentum is an alternative to the on-side kick.

As Tom Pelissero of NFL Network notes, the alternative would give teams the option of maintaining possession rather than kicking off if they can convert a 4th-and-15 from their own 25-yard line. A turnover on downs would obviously result in tremendous field position for the other team, but the play would almost certainly have a higher success rate than the on-side kick.

It’s not unusual for radical changes to be proposed in the offseason and tested during the preseason, and many of them fizzle out. However, Pelissero reports that the on-side kick alternative is actually getting some support.

As it stands, teams have almost no chance of recovering an on-side kick. The conversion rate was over 20 percent a few years back, but the NFL changed kickoff rules to make it so players on the kicking team cannot get a running start before the ball is kicked. The goal with that change is to avoid violent collisions, but it has also made recovering an on-side kick far more difficult. The success rate of on-side kicks has fallen to around 5 percent since the new rule was implemented.

The XFL had some unique kickoff rules during its brief return this year, and those may have helped inspire the NFL to explore changes of their own.