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Jokic, Nuggets win easily again, rout Knicks 114-89

Nikola Jokic had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in another short night, and the Denver Nuggets reached .500 for the first time this campaign with a 114-89 triumph over the New York Knicks on Sunday.

The Nuggets opened 1-4 after reaching the Western Conference finals last season but have now answered with four wins in five games.

The last two were easy. The Nuggets pulled away from the seven-man 76ers in the third quarter and rested their starters in the fourth of a 115-103 victory Saturday. They jumped on the Knicks much earlier Sunday and it was never a game after halftime.

This was the first time the Nuggets permitted fewer than 100 points this season. “I think our defense in the last five has been a lot better than it was to begin the season in the first five games,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “A marked improvement.”

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Gary Harris added 14 points for the Nuggets, who got only nine from star guard Jamal Murray.

“I think Jokic puts a lot of pressure on you, so you can’t let your guard down for a second,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau stated. “And I thought we got in a hole early and when you give a team like that that type of confidence, it’s very difficult to come back on them.”

Julius Randle had 29 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Knicks, which the team said made him the only player other than Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson to have at least 200 points, 115 rebounds and 70 assists in his team’s first 10 games of a season.

But Randle had little help with nobody else over 12 points as the Knicks dropped their second straight following a three-game winning streak. They were held to an anemic 89 points in both games.

Denver led 28-21 after one, then made its first six shots of the second with its reserves on the floor to open a 40-22 lead on JaMychal Green’s layup. The lead ballooned to 22 late in the first half before the Nuggets took a 59-38 advantage to the break.

“We huddle up before the tipoff and just say let’s be better than the other team’s bench,” reserve Monte Morris said. “Let’s go out there and try to bring the energy and if the starters start slow let’s pick them up ,and if they start fast let’s sustain whatever they got going on.”

Jokic had eight points while playing the whole third quarter and the Nuggets led by as much as 30 in the fourth.

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Dallas Cowboys fire defensive coordinator Mike Nolan

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will not be returning to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2021 campaign, the team revealed Friday.

Last season, the Cowboys (6-10) allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and concluded 31st in the league in run defense. In the season-ending loss to the New York Giants, they allowed 23 points, including 20 in the first half, to an offense that had not scored more than 19 in five weeks.

The unit played better down the stretch with 12 takeaways in the final four matches after getting just 11 in the first 12 games, but that was aided in part by facing backup quarterbacks in Cincinnati, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

“I am appreciative of my relationships with both Mike and Jim, and I am grateful for the contributions that both of them made to our team under difficult circumstances in 2020,” coach Mike McCarthy said in a statement. “These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future.”

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Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas at different times during the season, owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones lamented the jarring scheme switch — from a 4-3 look to a hybrid look — made by the Cowboys during an offseason in which the coaches could only meet virtually with the players.

Unable to get hands-on experience until the start of an abbreviated training camp, the Cowboys defense struggled badly. They finished 23rd in yards per game (31st vs. the run, 11th vs. the pass) and 28th in points (29.6). The Cowboys allowed 69 plays of 20 yards or more, including 51 passes and 18 runs.

In the three other times the Cowboys allowed a franchise record in points, the organization either made a scheme modification or a coaching change.

After allowing 436 points in 2010, Jason Garrett was named the full-time head coach after taking over for Wade Phillips at midseason, and he hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. In 2013, they allowed 432 points in Monte Kiffin’s first year as coordinator, and he was replaced by Rod Marinelli. After giving up 405 points in 2004, Bill Parcells switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme but kept Mike Zimmer as his coordinator.

McCarthy and Nolan have a long background together.

In 2005, Nolan hired McCarthy as his offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, which helped propel him to earning the Green Bay Packers head job a year later.

But the defense could not find its footing. While they suffered some injuries to Leighton Vander Esch (collarbone, ankle), Trysten Hill (knee) and Trevon Diggs (foot), they were not hit as hard as the Cowboys’ offense.

Their bigger free-agent pickups were either hurt in training camp (defensive lineman Gerald McCoy), did not make the team out of camp (safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), were traded (Everson Griffen) or were released because of poor play in the middle of the season (defensive tackle Dontari Poe, cornerback Daryl Worley).

If the Cowboys look in-house for a substitute, George Edwards spent the year as a senior defensive assistant. He was Zimmer’s defensive coordinator from 2014 to 2019.

But the first question that must be answered is what type of scheme the Cowboys want to use. In Green Bay, McCarthy employed a 3-4 scheme for most of his tenure. If he wants to continue with the hybrid look Nolan attempted to use, adding players to fit the scheme will be an offseason priority. In all but three years of his time in Green Bay, the Packers used a 3-4 scheme.

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New York Mets acquire Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland Indians

Francisco Lindor is moving to a new city and team that is willing to meet his salary demands.

The four-time All-Star shortstop — and one of baseball’s best all-around players — was traded Thursday by the Cleveland Indians along with pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets, who have a new owner willing to spend at baseball’s highest levels.

“They did not come cheaply,” Mets president Sandy Alderson stated. “What we’re trying to do is create a new reality rather than deal with perception.”

The cash-strapped Indians sent Lindor and Carrasco to the Mets for infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, right-hander Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene — a move Cleveland hopes will keep it competitive and capable of ending baseball’s longest World Series title drought.

Dealing Lindor, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, was inevitable for the midmarket Indians, who are unable to compete financially with MLB’s big spenders and dropped roughly $30 million in dealing two prominent players and fan favorites.

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“These are people we care about, not just players, and guys that loved the organization and have great memories here,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, who said he was in tears when he spoke with Lindor and Carrasco. “Trades like this are really tough. But it’s the right thing to do.”

For the Mets, landing Lindor is a home run and another major move by hedge fund owner Steven Cohen, who bought the team on Nov. 6 from the Wilpon and Katz families and has pledged to increase spending.

The 27-year-old Lindor can affect the game with his bat, glove and legs.

A two-time Gold Glove winner, he’s a career .285 hitter and has averaged 29 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 steals in his six major league seasons — all with the Indians, who drafted him in 2011 and developed him.

He has also been the face of the Indians franchise, with an infectious smile and joy for playing that has made him one of Cleveland’s most popular athletes. But he’s gone now, leaving the Indians without their best player and the team’s fans grumbling about owner Paul Dolan.

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Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey resigns

Veteran assistant coach Chan Gailey has resigned after one year as Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator, the team informed Wednesday morning.

This means the Dolphins will have a new offensive coordinator for the third consecutive season under coach Brian Flores as they continue to find the right scheme and playcaller to get the most out of rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

“I want to thank Chan for all of his hard work and dedication in what was a unique year,” Flores said in a statement. “He played an important role on the staff and in the development of our young roster. I wish him all the best.”

Gailey’s resignation comes less than 24 hours after Flores said he expected all of his assistants back for the 2021 season — barring any surprises. It’s unclear whether Gailey’s departure comes as a surprise or whether the team had been planning for this possibility.

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When Gailey was asked multiple times throughout the season whether he planned to return in 2021, the 69-year-old was noncommittal, commenting only that this was the most unusual season of his coaching career given the COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects.

Flores hired Gailey, who was a former head coach of the Bills and Cowboys, out of retirement in January 2020 to replace offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea.

The Dolphins will now start evaluating their own staff and possibly external candidates to find a new offensive coordinator. If Miami looks to promote internal options, tight ends coach George Godsey and running backs coach Eric Studesville are the top candidates.

Godsey took on an increased role coaching Tagovailoa over the second half of the campaign, and he was often seen breaking down the previous drive with the young quarterback on game days.

Tagovailoa went 6-3 as a starter, but all five of his interceptions came in the final four games, including three in the season-ending loss to the Bills.

Earlier this year, Flores also lauded Studesville as a “phenomenal coach, teacher and communicator” who has a future as an offensive coordinator and head coach.

The 2020 Dolphins finished 22nd in total offense (339 yards per game) and 15th in scoring (25.3 points per game). Gailey’s offense didn’t appear to bring out the most in Tagovailoa in their short time together. Now the 22-year-old will have a new playcaller and a full offseason to learn under him.

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Sam Querrey defends decision to breach COVID-19 protocols in Russia to protect family

American Sam Querrey, who was sanctioned by the ATP for breaching COVID-19 protocols at the St Petersburg Open in October, has defended his actions and said he did what he felt was right as a father and a husband.

Querrey left Russia in a private jet with his wife and baby son after all three tested positive for the virus before the beginning of the tournament, sneaking out of their hotel early in the morning without informing reception.

The ATP, the men’s governing body, handed the 33-year-old a suspended $20,000 fine which will be lifted if Querrey does not commit further breaches of health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 within a probationary six-month period.

“Again, we were very happy at the hotel,” Querrey told Sports Illustrated in an interview. “We were distancing ourselves. We weren’t around anyone, we were staying in the room, and never had a complaint, or a problem.

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“So I said, ‘Please try to have the doctors come the next morning at 10 a.m., not Sunday night at 10 p.m.’ The tour finally agreed to that, and because we were still going to get help from the tour, the embassy.

“But I kinda had to make a decision between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. the next day. I had my wife there, and I had my baby there, and as a human decision, I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t feel comfortable with this.’ So we made the decision to charter a plane and leave.”

Querrey said he was ready to quarantine in the tournament hotel for two weeks after testing positive but after two days he was told he was no longer welcome at the hotel and doctors would determine if they had to quarantine in a hospital instead.

The American said lack of clarity made it necessary for him, his wife, and their seven-month-old son to fly to London and quarantine at an Airbnb.

“I felt as a father and a husband there’s a human element to this, and I had to do what I feel like is right,” he said, adding that the flight cost him about $40,000 plus and he had to also pay for the stay in London for two weeks.

“I wasn’t willing to let our family go to a hospital for a minimum of two weeks where we were at.” Querrey stated he was “frustrated” with the media coverage of the incident and added: “It made it seem like I just got COVID and bounced. I didn’t feel how it was portrayed after that was fair.”

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Seattle Seahawks’ Jamal Adams says there’s ‘no question’ that he’ll play in playoff game

The biggest question facing the Seattle Seahawks this week actually isn’t a question to Jamal Adams: The All-Pro strong safety on Wednesday stated unequivocally that he’ll be on the field for Saturday’s wild-card game versus the Los Angeles Rams.

“No question in my mind. I’m playing, man,” Adams said. “Look, as long as these legs are moving, man, as long as my faith is with the man upstairs, which is very strong, I’m going to be out there.”

Adams said there was never a doubt in his mind that he would play despite the left shoulder injury he suffered in the fourth quarter Sunday that sidelined him for the end of Seattle’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Coach Pete Carroll said after the game the initial word was that Adams would be able to play this weekend, though he stopped short at the time of declaring as much. Carroll has been more noncommittal in his most recent comments, saying Adams’ availability wouldn’t be known until game day.

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Adams didn’t practice Tuesday, and he was listed as a limited participant Wednesday.

“I’m OK,” Adams said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m not going to be limited to anything. I’m full-go. I’m full energy. I’m me. I’m going out there to continue to make plays and continue to continue help the team win. That’s what I’m about.”

Despite missing four matches with a groin injury, Adams led the Seahawks this season with 9.5 sacks, an NFL record for a defensive back. He was named to his third straight Pro Bowl.

Asked if he’ll have to wear a supportive harness on his left shoulder, Adams said he’ll be playing with “something.” He’s been playing through an injury to his right shoulder since Week 10 and has two broken fingers on his left hand.

He called it “just another challenge” to play with two injured shoulders.

“I’m a savage, bro,” Adams said. “I’m a warrior, man. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes. It’s not about me. It’s always going to be bigger than me. It’s about this team. It’s about my brothers. It’s about my family back home, my why. So again, I’m excited for this opportunity. It doesn’t matter what obstacle is thrown my way. I always figure it out and that’s all that matters, man. So I’m looking forward to the matchup.”

Adams briefly returned Sunday after injuring his shoulder on a blitz but concluded the game on the sideline with a dejected look on his face. Carroll said the team had to take Adams’ helmet away.

“All the stuff that I’ve been through the past year — and again, I don’t like to ever make it about me because it’s never about me — but yeah, I went through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity due to injury,” Adams said.

“Obviously, he had to take my helmet away. And when he took my helmet away, it hurt me a little bit because I wanted to be out there and finish no matter what. “But at the end of the day, it’s about this team. It’s never going to be about me. I can’t wait to get out there. I will figure it out and that’s just who I am as a person.”

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Kyrgios out of Australian ATP Cup team after falling in world ranking

Nick Kyrgios has paid the price for a year of inaction over COVID-19 concerns after he was ruled out of Australia’s team for next month’s ATP Cup after his world ranking slipped to No. 46 following an 11-month absence from the ATP Tour.

The 25-year-old last played a competitive match at Acapulco in February after deciding to stay at home in Australia when the circuit resumed in Europe and North America after a hiatus.

Each nation have two singles slots that will be taken by their top-ranked players and Australia’s challenge at the ATP Cup will be led by Alex de Minaur and John Millman who are ranked 23 and 38, respectively.

The duo will be joined by doubles players John Peers and Luke Saville as Australia look to improve on their semifinal finish at last year’s inaugural tournament.

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The ATP Cup will be held from Feb. 1-5 in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam, and the event will feature world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and second-ranked Rafael Nadal.

“The players are looking forward to stepping up and representing their countries again, and the field, including defending champions Serbia and finalists Spain, is strong,” tournament director Tom Larner said.

“This is a format that shows off the passion of the players, and we’re expecting some spectacular tennis action.”

The draw for the ATP Cup will take place on Jan. 20.

Kyrgios, often branded “polarising” for his long rap sheet of indiscretions, had been a galvanising force in raising funds and awareness for Australian bushfire relief efforts during the ATP Cup last year.

He will now play in Melbourne 2, one of two ATP 250 events being held alongside the ATP Cup. Melbourne Park is also hosting two WTA 500 tournaments alongside the event.

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Giants expected to retain GM Dave Gettleman

The New York Giants have decided to keep Dave Gettleman in place as their general manager for a fourth season.

The Post reports substantiated several other reports that have suggested the same.

After another losing season, which dropped the Giants’ record to an abysmal 15-33 during Gettleman’s tenure, there were rumors that Giants brass was thinking of letting him go or re-assigning him to an advisory role within the organization.

However, ownership thinks the team showed enough progress in Gettleman’s third-year and are headed in the right direction.

While Gettleman received well-deserved heat for hiring previous failed head coach in Pat Shurmur, he also played a large role in the hiring of head coach Joe Judge, who showed promise as a leader in his rookie year.

Personnel wise, the Giants’ roster still has a lot of holes to fill, but the signings of James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, Logan Ryan and Graham Gano were home run additions.

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Gettleman’s investment in Leonard Williams also paid dividends as Williams had a career season with 11.5 sacks, 57 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, and 30 quarterback hits.

Despite continuous displeasure from their fan base regarding Gettleman’s time as GM, Giants ownership felt they had seen enough in 2020 to keep the current regime in place.

Although the team went 6-10, they were in contention for the NFC East until the final evening of the regular season due to poor competition within the division.

And while ownership said they wanted to be playing meaningful games in December, being a product of a poor divisional race likely did not play a factor in bringing Gettleman back. This decision came from the improvement of the team as the season progressed and the culture that the coaching staff built on the field and in the locker room.

Judge also publicly thumped for Gettleman, telling reporters recently that he’s thoroughly enjoyed working with the GM.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Dave the entire year,” said Judge. “We’ve done a lot of good things together. I really enjoyed the process of free agency and the draft. Obviously, we went through training camp, and there was a lot of logistical work we had to do in this particular spring and summer in terms of getting the setups ready for when the team came back.

“I think everyone is doing a good job right now in terms of understanding where we want to go and pushing in the right direction. There’s been some great coordination and communication with Dave [Gettleman] and everyone in personnel in terms of the kinds of players that fit into our systems.”

Co-owner John Mara and Gettleman will speak to the media on either Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss the decision. Gettleman will turn 70-years-old in February.

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Free agent Corey Kluber to throw bullpen session for interested teams next week

Free agent Corey Kluber, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who has been derailed by injuries over the past two years, is on calendar for a normal spring training and will throw for interested suitors next week.

Kluber will conduct a 30-pitch bullpen on the morning of Jan. 13 at Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where the 34-year-old right-hander has spent half his offseason, his agent, B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management, told ESPN on Monday.

Kluber established himself among the game’s most dominant starting pitchers while with the Cleveland Indians from 2014 to 2018, winning 83 games, posting a 2.85 ERA and averaging 218 innings per season.

But he suffered a fractured ulna bone in his right arm on a comebacker in early May 2019, then strained his oblique as he neared a return in late August.

The Texas Rangers traded for him four months later, then watched him suffer a season-ending strain of his teres major muscle — near his right shoulder — 18 pitches into his Rangers debut on July 26, 2020.

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The Rangers declined their $18 million option on Kluber’s contract near the end of October.

Kluber was cleared to resume throwing shortly thereafter and has since thrown three bullpen sessions, Abbott said. He is expected to throw off the mound once more and receive a final MRI within the next nine days.

Kluber’s showcase comes amid a slow-moving offseason, particularly for pitchers.

Of the 30 starters who made up Kiley McDaniel’s top 120 free agents in early December, only seven have committed to teams for 2021 — two of whom did so by taking the qualifying offer.

In a time when teams are especially concerned about pitcher workloads coming off a shortened season and owners are hesitant to spend with another season without fans in attendance, Kluber can provide an established track record at a discount rate.

The risk, however, is obvious — Kluber has accumulated only 36⅔ innings over the past two years.

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Jacksonville Jaguars fire coach Doug Marrone

Shad Khan has been hands-off for the first nine years of his ownership of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it looks like that’s going to change going forward.

Khan said Monday that he wants to alter the organizational structure he’s been using by having his new general manager and head coach be on equal footing and have them each report to him — and to have a larger say in the process of building the roster.

“The current environment is the head coaches, the kind of coaches you want, they want to be able to work very closely with the general manager on the personnel side,” Khan said shortly after he fired coach Doug Marrone following a 1-15 season.

“A key thing how we would be structuring this is that I’m going to have the general manager and the head coach report directly to me. That way, really, you have the transparency and the needs and the concerns of both parties without really getting filtered or having a chain of command. “.

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You basically hire them about the same time and really you have a perfect alignment, which you need in a winning organization.”

The Jaguars have already interviewed some GM candidates since Khan fired Dave Caldwell on Nov. 29, including ESPN analyst Louis Riddick and former New York Giants GM Jerry Reese.

The interviews for head coach will start this week

While former Florida and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s name has been reported as a likely replacement for Marrone, Khan said he has not spoken with Meyer — or anyone else — about the job.

The Jaguars just wrapped up the worst campaign in franchise history — though the silver lining is that the team has the No. 1 overall pick, which it will almost certainly use on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. If so, Lawrence will become the fourth quarterback the team has drafted in the first round, joining Byron Leftwich, Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles.

Lawrence, though, is regarded as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012 and possibly the best since Peyton Manning in 1998.

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