Category Archives: Sports

Coach Mike Budenholzer and Hawks agree to part ways

The summer of coaching changes continues. The Atlanta Hawks and coach Mike Budenholzer have agreed to part ways, the team announced Wednesday.

It was a tough season for the Hawks, who finished 24-58, the worst record in the Eastern Conference and tied for the third-worst record in the league. The lottery-bound season ended the Hawks’ impressive run of 10 straight trips to the postseason.

A split between Budenholzer and the Hawks is not shocking given that the 48-year-old coach asked for permission to talk with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who broke the news, reported that it was a mutual decision.

Budenholzer went 213-197 in five seasons in charge of the Hawks. He was NBA Coach of the Year in 2014-15, when he led the Hawks to a franchise-record 60 wins and the Eastern Conference finals. Before joining the Hawks, Budenholzer was a longtime assistant coach for Gregg Popovich with the Spurs.

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“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

Budenholzer had two years and $14-million plus left on his contract, with the Hawks headed into a full rebuilding process.

Atlanta owner Tony Ressler and general manager Travis Schlenk met Budenholzer on Tuesday night in Atlanta and ultimately decided that a separation was the best course for everyone, league sources said.

Atlanta is interested in pursuing a young coach on the rise to evolve with the rebuilding of its roster. Atlanta has three first-round picks in the June NBA draft and the No. 33 overall pick early in the second round. Atlanta also owns Cleveland’s 2019 first-round pick, which is top-10 protected.

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Greg Olsen to sign two year extension with Panthers

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen will sign a two-year contract extension Thursday worth $8.55 million per season, with an annual maximum value of up to $10.05 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Olsen, who last month interviewed for the Monday Night Football analyst job previously held by Jon Gruden, was entering the final season of a three-year extension he signed in March 2015.

He told ESPN recently that he wanted an extension with the Panthers and that he would prefer to end his career in Carolina.

Olsen, 33, missed nine games last season with a broken foot suffered in Week 2. It was the first time since his rookie season with the Chicago Bears that he missed a game and the first time since his first season with the Panthers (2011) that he missed a start.

Olsen is the only tight end in NFL history to have three consecutive seasons (2014-16) with at least 1,000 yards receiving.

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Olsen, came out last week at the start of Carolina’s offseason voluntary workouts and voiced his desire to remain with the organization for the long-term future. Olsen told the Charlotte Observer last week the two sides hadn’t begun negotiations on an extension, but clearly it didn’t take long to hash out the numbers Olsen was looking for, locking him up for the next three seasons.

In re-signing Olsen, the Panthers lock up star quarterback Cam Newton’s favorite target. Olsen joined the Panthers in a trade from the Bears in 2011 and has been a difference-maker in Carolina’s offense ever since.

The extension on the day of the 2018 NFL Draft could alter the team’s plans over the coming three days. Carolina was showing heavy interest in South Carolina standout Hayden Hurst, a potential first- or second-round selection. But with Olsen now under contract the next three years, picking Hurst or somebody of his stature early in the draft now becomes more of a luxury than a necessity.

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Djokovic suffers shock defeat

Former world No 1 Novak Djokovic suffered a surprise second-round exit from the Barcelona Open on Wednesday, when the Serb was beaten 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 by world No 140 Martin Klizan.

Djokovic, who received a bye in the opening round, has not reached the last eight of a tournament since last year’s Wimbledon and has struggled with a long-term elbow injury.

The 30-year-old lost to Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the round of 16 of the Monte Carlo Masters last week and looked far from his best in what was his second career appearance in Barcelona.

Klizan claimed the first set in just 32 minutes before Djokovic broke the Slovakian’s serve twice to take the second.

Klizan snatched a crucial break in the eighth game of a tense final set and went on to claim his first career victory over Djokovic in five meetings.

The Serb, who has seen his ranking drop to 12th in the world after struggling with an elbow injury for the best part of two years, had shown glimpses of his former self at the Monte-Carlo Masters last week, reaching the third round before being defeated in three sets by Dominic Thiem.

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Klizan goes through to play Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in the third round, while 12-time grand slam winner Djokovic continues to search for form with the French Open, a tournament he won in 2016, fast approaching.

Djokovic’s start to the year, which now stands at five wins and five losses, is the worst of his entire professional career.

While Klizan is ranked at a lowly 140 in the ATP leaderboard, he has peaked at world No. 24 and represented a threat but few gave him a chance of progressing.

Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori retired during his opening match against Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Nishikori, who lost to Rafael Nadal in the Monte Carlo Masters final on Sunday, pulled out after conceding the first set to Garcia-Lopez 6-3.

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Ronald Acuna set to join Braves Wednesday

Top outfield prospect Ronald Acuna is set to join the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves planned to promote the 20-year-old from Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday to join them in Cincinnati. Acuna (20 years, 128 days) will become the youngest player to appear in an MLB game this season, surpassing teammate Ozzie Albies.

Acuna rose from Class A to Triple-A in 2017, hitting a combined .325 with 21 home runs, 82 RBIs and 44 stolen bases. Then he was selected MVP of the Arizona Fall League. He began this season as’s No. 2 overall prospect behind Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani.

Acuña set the baseball world on fire during spring training, but the Braves elected to play the service time game and send the 20-year-old outfielder to Gwinnett. He was eligible to debut 10 days ago but the club elected to hold him down in the minor leagues as he struggled early on.

It remains to be seen where Braves manager Brian Snitker will place Acuna in the lineup, but there’s a possibility he could soon find himself batting behind Freddie Freeman and potential cleanup hitter Jose Bautista, who could join Atlanta’s roster later this week.

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With Acuna’s arrival, Preston Tucker’s powerful left-handed bat will be an asset off the bench. Tucker has played a key role in the Braves’ early-season success, but he entered the season knowing his starting role could be temporary.

Acuna has warmed up of late, with 11 hits, including a homer and double, in his last 33 at-bats. He has battled slow starts in the past, and his latest one might have been influenced by the nine-day dead period that separated his final Spring Training game and Gwinnett’s season opener.

Braves fans have been eagerly awaiting Acuna’s arrival since he progressed his way from Class A Advanced Florida to Gwinnett last year. He was named MLB Pipeline’s Hitter of the Year after he hit .325 with 21 homers, 44 stolen bases and a .896 OPS in 2017.

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Orioles claim Jace Peterson off waivers from Yankees

The team announced Tuesday it signed the infielder off waivers from the Yankees. The move corresponds with pitcher Gabriel Ynoa being placed on the 60-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. Peterson will report to Baltimore Wednesday.

Peterson, 27, barely made a splash with the Yankees this season, spending much of the time designated for assignment.

He will likely replace second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who has been on the disabled list all season. Orioles infielder Tim Beckham might also join him after he aggravated a groin injury.

Selected by San Diego in the first round of the 2011 draft, Peterson broke into the big leagues with the Padres in 2014 before playing for Atlanta the past three years.
Peterson has 386 games of major league experience, primarily as a second baseman. He also plays third base, shortstop and all three outfield positions.

Peterson is expected to land in Baltimore on Tuesday night and be active for Wednesday’s game. Beckham, who left Monday’s game with a groin and Achilles injury, will probably land on the DL, clearing a spot on the roster.

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“Left-handed hitter. Plus-runner. Has some versatility to his game. And a guy that’s got some experience in the big leagues,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Peterson, who has 386 career games in the Majors. “Has a skill set that hopefully will play here and something we’re in need of. So I think he is flying in late [Tuesday] and probably will fit in the picture [Wednesday].”

Tuesday’s rainout was a welcome one, giving the O’s depleted infield a chance to get Peterson. Beckham got an MRI on Tuesday and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t put on the DL.

Outfielder Trey Mancini, who hasn’t started since exiting Friday’s game with a right knee injury, could also use the extra day. Without Beckham, Danny Valencia was slotted in to start Tuesday before the game was called. Showalter said he wants to talk to Peterson before he opines on where he’ll get most of his playing time.

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Giants acquire punter Riley Dixon

The Giants aren’t waiting for the NFL Draft to continue their offseason roster upgrade. They moved to fill a significant vacancy on their special teams today when they acquired punter Riley Dixon in a trade with the Denver Broncos, who received a conditional 2019 seventh-round draft choice.
Dixon will look to replace Brad Wing, the team’s punter the previous three seasons. Wing, who was released on March 10, was also acquired in a trade for a seventh-round draft choice, with Pittsburgh in 2015.
The Giants had two seventh-round selections in next year’s draft after acquiring one in the trade that gave them Alec Ogletree on March 14.
The Broncos recently signed former Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King as a free agent.
Dixon, 6-4 and 221 pounds, joined the Broncos as 2016 draft choice from Syracuse who was chosen in the – what else? – seventh round. In two seasons, he had a 45.7-yard gross average and a 40.8-yard net average on 162 punts. He placed 51 balls inside the 20-yard line. Dixon’s longest punt traveled 68 yards.

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Dixon played 39 games for Syracuse University after joining the team as a walk-on. He averaged 42.9 yards on 218 punts, including 72 that he placed inside the 20. As a senior in 2015, Dixon had a 43.7-yard gross average and 41.9-yard net average, and dropped 28 of his 65 punts inside the 20-yard line. He was named one of the finalists for the Ray Guy Award, which is presented to the nation’s top punter.

Dixon has two years remaining on his rookie contract and is slated to earn $670,000 against the salary cap in 2018.

Considering the minimal cost and limited pool of other available punters, Dixon provides the Giants with an affordable upgrade at an obvious position of need.

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Nadal takes Monte Carlo Masters title

The Spaniard beat Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-2 to breeze to the title and retain his place as world number one, having now won his last 36 sets on clay — a career best.

Despite this form, though, the 31-year-old Nadal is aware that he must make the most of his successes while he can having suffered with injury problems over the past few years.

“These kind of things are not going to happen forever,” he said. “I just try to enjoy it and to play full of passion and full of energy and concentration, full of love for the sport for as long as I can.

“I know the day to say goodbye is closer than it was 10 years ago. It is something that I am not worried about, but is a real thing. [This] is a special day for me.”

Nadal’s win also ensured the Spaniard keeps his top ranking ahead of Roger Federer, as well as taking him to 76 career titles.

“To put another trophy in my museum, in my academy, is going to be something great,” Nadal said. “This is one of the most important ones in terms of [my] personal feeling.”

Nishikori was chasing a first Masters title, but the Japanese player took 11 minutes to hold for 1-1.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” said Nishikori, who complained of tiredness. “My legs were very heavy today, playing three sets [for] three days in a row [before the final]. It wasn’t easy physically.”

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“It was a great week for me, I had an injury and couldn’t play for a long time,” said Nishikori, who is ranked 36. He can take encouragement from beating Tomas Berdych — the 2015 runner-up here — and Australian Open runner-up Marin Cilic on the way to the final.

Nadal has not dropped a set in seven matches since coming back from a recurrence of a right hip injury that forced him to abandon during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Cilic.

The injury relapse subsequently forced him out of the Mexico Open and Masters tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, but Nadal appears to be back to his ruthless and rapid best on clay.

Now he has his sights firmly set on an 11th title at Barcelona next week, and then an 11th French Open title at Roland Garros.

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Nick Foles agrees to restructured contract with Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Nick Foles agreed to a reworked contract Friday, a source confirmed to ESPN.

The restructured deal includes a $2 million signing bonus, incentives if he starts and hits certain benchmarks, and a mutual option for 2019. Foles was in the final year of his contract and was scheduled to make a base salary of $4 million this season.

The move gives the Super Bowl MVP a pay bump and provides an avenue for Foles to remain in Philadelphia beyond this season, depending on circumstances.

Foles stepped in for the injured Carson Wentz, who tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee against the Los Angeles Rams in December, and guided the Eagles to their first Super Bowl win.

He completed 73 percent of his passes in the postseason with six touchdowns and one interception, including three TD passes in a 41-33 win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

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Foles recently expressed the desire to be a starter again during an interview with a Texas ABC affiliate, while also highlighting the positives of remaining with the Eagles for another season.

“We love Philly. I know there was some stuff going around [about] a possible trade, and I would love the opportunity to be a starter again,” Foles said. “I know my spot in Philly. I think I’ve shown what I can do. I’m signed for one more year and I love the team, I love the city. I’m excited for Carson to get back on his feet. I’ll be ready to go whenever they need me. But we’ll see; just living in the moment.”

Wentz is still aiming to be back on the field when Philadelphia hosts the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 on Sept. 6. However, given the mobile quarterback suffered a serious knee injury, there’s still a long way to go before he is ready for full contact on the field. That means the backup could once again be called upon if Wentz suffers a setback on the road to recovery.

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QB Luke McCown announces retirement

While 38-year-old Josh still toils under center for the New York Jets, his younger brother, Luke McCown, is calling it quits.

The 36-year-old career backup passer announced his retirement Friday, sending a statement out through his agent, Mike McCartney:

“First, to my friends, teammates and coaches who’ve supported me from junior high to the NFL (you know who you are): you guys pushed me, picked me up, supported me, and placed high expectations on me, so THANK YOU!” McCown wrote. “To my parents, brothers and sister: you set such a high standard for me to follow as a player and even more importantly, as a man, so THANK YOU! And finally, to my beautiful wife and six children, you’ve always supported my dream and been along for the journey, THANK YOU!”

McCown, 36, played for seven NFL teams during his career. A backup for the entirety of his tenure, McCown appeared in just 62 games and made 10 total starts. He threw for 2,370 yards and nine touchdowns against 15 interceptions.

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His most extended stretches of playing time came during four-year stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. McCown threw for a career-high 1,009 yards and five touchdowns during the 2007 season in Tampa.

McCown was out of the NFL last year after being released by the Cowboys in September, but spent time with five other clubs during a career that dates back to 2004. He was a fourth-round pick by the Browns that year and made four starts as a rookie before being traded to the Buccaneers the next year. He spent four years in Tampa, three in Jacksonville, a year in Atlanta and four years in New Orleans.

McCown only made 10 starts over that extended run and ends his career 216-of-356 for 2,370 passing yards, nine touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also became the rare backup quarterback to appear in a commercial when Verizon tabbed him for an ad campaign.

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Cardinals sign Marcus Williams in one year deal

The Arizona Cardinals made a move in free agency, add a cornerback with starting experience in the league. This could be the move most have been expecting them to make — adding a starting cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson.

The team announced Thursday it signed cornerback Marcus Williams to a one-year contract.

Williams (5-11, 196) is a four-year veteran who has played 49 games (14 starts) in his NFL career with the New York Jets (2014-17) and Houston Texans (2017). The 27-year old Williams entered the league with Houston as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014 out of North Dakota State. He had his best season in 2015 with the Jets by setting career-highs with six interceptions and 1.5 sacks to go along with 21 tackles and four passes defensed.

Williams is a player who can play and has lined up at both corner and safety, so his versatility is likely something the Cardinals will want for the next couple of months heading into training camp.

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Last year, Williams played the first five games of the season with the Jets before being released and playing 10 games with the Texans where he had 12 tackles, one interception and four passes defensed. For his career, Williams has 10 interceptions, 20 passes defensed, 107 tackles (92 solo), 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Williams has positional versatility, having played both cornerback and safety. Outside of Patrick Peterson, Williams and Bené Benwikere have the most career starts with 14.

This offseason, Arizona lost cornerback Justin Bethel, who began last season as the starter opposite Peterson, as well as his replacement, Tramon Williams.

As a special teams player, Bethel made the Pro Bowl three times and was a two-time First Team All-Pro in his Cardinals tenure that spanned 2012-17. The 27-year-old signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.

Williams, 35, was a late offseason pickup last year who played in 13 games for Arizona, recording 41 tackles and two interceptions. He signed with the Green Bay Packers.

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