All posts by phnseo

Kyrie Irving returns, leads Nets past Hawks

The Brooklyn Nets will take whatever they can get after seeing how much a healthy Irving means to them.

The point guard scored 21 points in 20 minutes in his return from an injured right shoulder, leading the Nets to a 108-86 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

Irving made a career-best 90.9 percent of his shots after missing 26 games with an impingement. The shoulder looked fine and his handle looked as good as ever while he dribbled his way around a hopeless Atlanta defense.

Energized by his return that still seemed a ways away just a week ago, the Nets led by 39 points and won their second straight after dropping seven in a row.

“We had a certain confidence about us tonight that I think we were missing during that streak,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “So great, great timing having him back.” Cam Reddish scored 20 points for the Hawks, who played without star guard Trae Young due to a left hamstring injury and lost their fourth straight.

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The Nets made it such an easy night that their fans didn’t need to worry about the scoreboard as they roared for Vince Carter’s two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

The 42-year-old former Nets star ended with eight points in his final road appearance versus the franchise.

“Obviously to come back here, and some of the other stops I’ve played for, and just kind of to receive a standing O for one last time is just great,” Carter said.

Irving started feeling pain in his shoulder early in the season, and he took himself out of the lineup after a game in Denver on Nov. 14. The Nets held up well without him for a while thanks mostly to Spencer Dinwiddie’s strong play, but had faltered recently, especially in crunch time.

Irving got a cortisone shot on Dec. 24 and returned to full practice this week, just in time to return on his sister’s birthday.

“It’s not really a surprise for me,” Irving said of his performance. “I put in the work and when I do that I feel like the results will come.”

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Chiefs rally to beat Texans 51-31 in playoffs

Patrick Mahomes stalked up and down the sideline like a field marshal rallying his troops, the brilliant young quarterback imploring the Kansas City Chiefs to stay together even as the Houston Texans were on the verge of taking them apart.

The Chiefs already faced a 24-0 hole, bigger than any deficit they had overcome in franchise history.

”The biggest thing I was preaching,” Mahomes said later, ”was, ‘Let’s go do something special. Everybody is counting us out. Let’s go out there and play by play put it out there.’ And play by play, we did what we were supposed to do.”

Beginning with the first of his five touchdown passes, Mahomes and the Chiefs slowly chipped away at Houston’s seemingly insuperable lead. They continued to pick up momentum, outscoring the Texans 28-0 during the second quarter alone, and eventually reeled off 41 consecutive points before cruising the rest of the way to a 51-31 triumph Sunday that propelled Kansas City back to the AFC championship match for the second consecutive season.

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The Chiefs (13-4) became the first team in NFL history to win a playoff match by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 20.

They matched the fourth-biggest comeback in playoff history while winning a postseason game in back-to-back seasons for the first time. 

Travis Kelce and Damien Williams scored three touchdowns apiece, joining the 49ers’ Jerry Rice and Ricky Waters in Super Bowl 29 as the only teammates to score that many times in a postseason game.

Meanwhile, Mahomes led by example as much as by voice. He ended with 321 yards passing, becoming the first player in postseason history with at least 300 yards passing and five touchdowns while running for at least 50 more yards.

”You saw him going up and down the bench, he was talking to everybody, – ‘Just settle down,”’ Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ”As a head coach, you can’t ask for more than that. When he’s the leader of your team and he’s going, ‘Hey, we’re going to be fine. Let’s not wait for the fourth quarter. Let’s go!’ And he did that.”

Now, after losing to the Patriots in overtime in last year’s conference title game, the Chiefs are back on the brink of their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.

They will host Tennessee next Sunday in a rematch from earlier this season after the Titans upset Lamar Jackson and the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.

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Mookie Betts agree deal with Red Sox

In his final year of arbitration, Mookie Betts reportedly has received a record-breaking one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the 2018 American League MVP will earn $27 million in 2020. 

Betts’ deal breaks the previous arbitration record of $26 million signed by Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado last January, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. 

The Red Sox entered this offseason in a state of insecurity with Chaim Bloom taking over as team president after Dave Dombrowski was fired in September and Brian O’Halloran being hired as general manager. 

Team owner John Henry told reporters in September they needed to cut payroll to get under the luxury-tax threshold. 

“This year we need to be under the CBT and that was something we’ve known for more than a year now,” he said. “If you don’t reset there are penalties so we’ve known for some time now we needed to reset as other clubs have done.”

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Betts and J.D. Martinez were the two most obvious trade candidates since they are the Red Sox two most expensive position players and could net a strong return given their consistent year to year performances. 

It’s still possible for the Red Sox to move Betts before the start of the campaign. MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reported on Jan. 2 the Los Angeles Dodgers have had discussions with Boston about the four-time All-Star. 

At the very least, Betts got his deal for 2020 done and can get ready for spring training next month. The 27-year-old hit .295/.391/.524 with 29 homers and 16 stolen bases in 150 games last campaign.

Acquired by Boston in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, Betts is a career .301 hitter with an .893 OPS. Since making his major league debut in June 2014, Betts has led the major leagues in runs scored (613) and is second in extra-base hits (394) and fourth in hits (965).

He also has led the Red Sox in home runs (139) and is second in RBIs (470) during that span. Three times, Betts has hit three home runs in a game — more than any other MLB player since 2014.

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Niners get kwon Alexander, others back for Saturday

Linebacker Kwon Alexander will be back on the field Saturday when the 49ers open the playoffs, but he likely won’t step into his old every-down role quite yet.

Alexander is just nine weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn pectoral. He returned to practice last week and still on IR.

The 49ers plan to activate him to the 53-man roster to play Saturday versus the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium in the NFC divisional round.

The 49ers know what to expect from Alexander. But they also do not know exactly what to expect.

“I know Kwon will fly around,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’ll hit. He’ll be energetic. He’ll get everyone going. I think everyone will feel his energy on the field. And we’ll see how it goes.

“We’re not going to throw him out there, just down-in and down-out. But we don’t have a plan, where it’s only going to be ‘this’ amount. He’s looked good in practice, but we’re also not laying people out in practice.”

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Rookie Dre Greenlaw played the weakside linebacker position during the second half of the season in Alexander’s absence.

Greenlaw made the big defensive play of the season in Week 17 when he stopped Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just inches short of the goal line on a late-game fourth-down play.

The tackle preserved the 49ers’ 26-21 victory and wrapped up the NFC West and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The 49ers’ three linebacker positions are similar, so the team will have some decisions to make on how they want to use Greenlaw and Alexander alongside middle linebacker Fred Warner.

Shanahan said a lot of the team’s in-game decision-making will be in reaction to Alexander’s effectiveness.

“You got to wait to see how the tackling goes and how he feels,” Shanahan said. “(He is) someone we’ll be communicating with throughout the game.”

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Nets´ Irving hopes to return within a week

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has hopes of being back on the court before 2020 gets too far along.

Irving has been out of the lineup for nearly two months because of a right shoulder issue. However, he told reporters Thursday he expects to be re-evaluated next week. Just being cleared to play is a big step to Irving.

“We just see where we end up in the next few days,” Irving said. “Realistically, we will re-evaluate tomorrow. See how I feel tomorrow. Then go Saturday — probably another practice.”

There is no exact date for his return, but Irving said Thursday he’s assigned himself a deadline of one week.

“Hopefully I get some game reps in addition to practice probably in the next week or so, it could be less than that but I’ll give myself a week.”

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Irving was able to fully participate in practices for the first time on Thursday, which included him going through some 5-on-5 contact drills, ESPN’s Malika Andrews reports. He said that a week and a half ago, he started to do 2-on-2 work with coaches as he slowly started ramping up his workload. 

When asked if there are any limitations about what he’s able to do, he said he has none “other than just keeping my shoulder maintenance program going before I get on the floor.”

Irving has played in just 11 games this season, averaging 28.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists.

In the latest NBA All-Star Voting returns, Irving ranks second in the Eastern Conference among guards with 1,351,997 votes. He saw nothing wrong with him being so up in the voting tallies despite playing in so few games.

“I put a lot of work in this league to be up there whether I’m playing or not,” Irving said. “If it’s an All-Star Game, then I would vote for myself as well.”

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Vikings´ Adam Thielen suffers ankle injury

The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver corps is dealing with some problems heading into their Divisional Round matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Stefon Diggs has been a DNP the past two days with an illness, and now Adam Thielen is dealing with an ankle injury.

The Vikings released their second practice participation report of the week, and Thielen was listed as limited. He was not on the team’s first report Tuesday afternoon.

There is no word on the severity of the injury, but head coach Mike Zimmer is certain to get questions about it on Thursday. Downgrades are never good, but limited participation is still better than a DNP.

The Thursday report will be something to keep an eye on.

That being said, the Vikings receiver corps is not going to be 100 percent coming into this game. Diggs seems likely to play barring a turn for the worse with his illness, but he and Thielen will be coming in off a limited week of work.

One or both should be high volume targets if active, but if they’re limited, it hurts Kirk Cousins’ potential output to at least a modest degree.

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“I got a little tangled up at practice, but I’m going to do whatever it takes (to play), it’s playoffs,” Thielen told NFL Network on Thursday.

This is Thielen’s second injury this campaign. He hurt his hamstring in the first quarter of a Week 7 victory at Detroit and made a brief return in Week 9, only to reinjure himself early in a beat at Kansas City.

The Vikings shut Thielen down for the next six weeks until he returned versus the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 15.

Thielen’s breakout performance versus the Saints — seven catches for 129 yards — came after totaling 109 total receiving yards in the last five games he played in 2019, including a Week 16 loss to Green Bay in which he was held without a catch.

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Rangers bring back catcher Robinson Chirinos

The Texas Rangers are signing free-agent catcher Robinson Chirinos to a one-year deal.

League sources told ESPN and MLB Media on Tuesday night that Chirinos agreed to a one-year, $6.75 million deal with the Rangers. The club hasn’t confirmed the agreement, which is pending a physical.

The contract includes a $5.75 million base salary for the 2020 campaign, according to ESPN. Chirinos’ deal also has a club option for 2021 that is worth $6.5 million with a $1 million buyout.

Chirinos made his MLB debut with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. He was traded to the Rangers in April 2013 and spent six seasons with Texas before joining the Houston Astros in free agency last off-season.

Chirinos played in a career-high 114 regular-season games in Houston last season and recorded a .238 batting average with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs. In his final season before leaving the Rangers in 2018, he set career highs in homers (18) and RBIs (65).

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In 576 career games between the Rays, Rangers and Astros, Chirinos has a career .234 batting average with 85 home runs and 262 RBIs.

The Rangers did not exercise a friendly club option on Chirinos in November 2019 and quickly signed veteran Jeff Mathis to a two-year deal, saying they were placing more value on defense than offense.

Mathis’ struggled to one of the worst offensive seasons in baseball, batting only .158 with a meager .433 OPS, and the Rangers had the worst offensive production at the position.

Chirinos, 35, had the good fortune of catching Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and runner-up Gerrit Cole last season as the Astros went to the World Series, losing in seven games to the Washington Nationals.

Mathis and rookie Jose Trevino are on the 40-man roster. Daniels said on Monday that the Rangers would bring both to spring training even if a catcher was added to a big-league deal.

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Anthony Davis leaves with lower back injury after scary fall

Anthony Davis exits the Los Angeles Lakers’ game versus the New York Knicks in the third quarter Tuesday night after he bruised his lower back in a painful fall to the court.

Davis was injured when he fell awkwardly while trying to block the shot of New York’s Julius Randle. Davis pounded the court in obvious pain after his hard landing, and then clutched his backside while he stayed down on the floor, surrounded by Lakers medical personnel for several minutes in front of a hushed crowd at Staples Center.

Davis eventually rose with help from his teammates, and he walked to the Lakers’ dressing room slowly, but under his own power. After the initial shock of the fall wore off, Davis was able to walk more in the player tunnel but was ultimately carted out of the arena at the end of the night to undergo further testing.

Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, emerged from the Lakers’ locker room after the injury and stated X-rays on Davis’ back were negative, but the superstar is feeling sore.

The Lakers described the injury as a bruised sacrum — the lower part of the spine near the tailbone.

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“We hope that he’ll be fine, which we believe he’ll be fine,”LeBron James said. “Tough night for us.”

The Lakers led 81-62 with 2:45 left in the third quarter when Davis took his tumble. They went on to win 117-87, extending their streak to six games and improving their overall record to 30-7.

“I thought they locked back in,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of how his team responded to one of its stars going down. “Got focused and finished the job.”

When players came backx to the locker room after the final buzzer, Davis was in there waiting for them.

“He was great,” James said of the encounter. “His mood was great. As great as it can be with the fall that he took … I asked him if I could do anything for him, he said you got to win for me. That’s what our team is all about.”

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Verstappen to stay at Red Bull until 2023

Max Verstappen has signed to stay at Red Bull until the end of 2023 in a clear vote of confidence in the former championship-winning team’s Formula One title potential and its Honda partnership.

The announcement on Tuesday leaves two of the top three teams with young driver talent secure for the long-term, with Ferrari announcing in December that Charles Leclerc was staying to 2024.

“I am really happy to have extended my partnership with the team. Red Bull believed in me and gave me the opportunity to start in Formula One which I have always been very grateful for,” Verstappen, 22, said in a statement.

“Over the years I have grown closer and closer with the team and besides the passion from everyone and the on-track performance it is also really enjoyable to work with such a great group of people.

“Honda coming onboard and the progress we have made over the last 12 months gives me even more motivation and the belief that we can win together…I want to win with Red Bull and our goal is of course to fight for a World Championship together.”

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Red Bull concluded third last year in the first season of a new partnership with Honda, which proved an immediate success after the Japanese manufacturer’s failed relationship with McLaren.

Verstappen was best of the rest behind Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

The rumour mill will now focus more on six-times world champion Hamilton, who is out of contract at the end of this year, and the future of Leclerc’s four-times champion team mate Sebastian Vettel.

Verstappen won three races in 2019, and holds a career total of eight F1 victories, and is seen as a champion-in-waiting.

The Dutchman, who in 2016 became the youngest ever race winner in the sport’s history, had been linked to both Ferrari and Mercedes in paddock speculation.

Formula One is about to enter a new era in 2021 with sweeping rule changes and what owners Liberty Media hope will be a more level playing field.

“Max has proven what an asset he is to the team, he truly believes in the partnership we have forged with our engine supplier Honda, and we are delighted to have extended our relationship with him.”

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Rams part ways with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips

The Los Angeles Rams had a disappointing post-Super Bowl season, and that has inevitably led to a coaching shakeup. Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times reported that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will not be retained for next season, which Phillips confirmed on his own Twitter account.

Phillips, 72, joined the Rams in 2017 as part of head coach Sean McVay’s staff. McVay was just 30 at the time and had experience as the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, but had never been a head coach. McVay handed the defensive keys over to the more-experienced Phillips and the move paid off in a big way.

The Rams made it to the wild-card game in 2017, and then all the way to the Super Bowl in 2018. With the Rams’ battles in 2019, it makes sense that McVay and GM Les Snead would want to make a change or two.

A 9-7 record might be good enough to win the NFC East, but it’s a huge comedown for a team that was so successful just a year ago.

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The Rams are Phillips’ 10th NFL team, and he’s had an impresive career. He started with the Houston Oilers in 1976 when his father was the head coach, and has been steadily employed in football ever since.

He’s been the defensive coordinator for eight different teams and had head coaching jobs with the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys — and that is not counting his three stints as an interim head coach.

As Phillips said in his tweet, he’s not done. He still wants to coach. McVay has talked about him in glowing terms in the past, which will only help his résumé despite the end of his Rams tenure.

“He’s always had a great perspective based on his experience, whether it be as a head coach or as a coordinator,” McVay told the OC Register in late December.  “But it’s never pushed on you. He’s always willing to share. [Players] love him. He’s got a consistency that you can’t help but appreciate.”

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