Category Archives: Sports

Rockets even series with Warriors

On a court filled with stars, none were bigger than James Harden on Monday.

Behind a second straight massive performance from the reigning league MVP, the Houston Rockets tied their Western Conference semifinals matchup with a 112-108 victory over the Golden State Warriors in a chippy Game 4.

The beginning of the game belonged to Stephen Curry, who threatened to break out after a poor Game 3 performance with 11 points in the first quarter to lead the Warriors to a 28-25 lead.

But Harden returned from another early trip to the locker room to lead the Rockets to take control of the game.

Harden scored 13 in the second and finished with 38 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists as he and the Rockets dominated the 3-point line to keep Golden State from closing the gap.

Houston threatened to run away with the game, taking a 17-point second-half lead. But the Warriors made an 11-0 run in the third quarter fueled by Kevin Durant and closed the gap with a 7-0 run in the game’s final minutes to give themselves a chance to play for overtime.

Golden State had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds trailing 111-108, but open 3-point looks from Durant and Curry both missed. The final seconds were a microcosm of the game, as the Warriors once again struggled to shoot from deep in an 8-of-33 (24.2 percent) performance from behind the arc.

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Houston hit more than twice as many from distance, connecting on 17-of-50 (34.5 percent) 3-point attempts.

“Our motto was keep fighting,” Harden told TNT after the game. “Like I keep saying, we know how tough they are. We’ve got to keep fighting on both ends of the floor, stay in attack mode, be aggressive.”

Durant countered Harden with another big game of his own, scoring 34 points to go with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

Curry went cold after his hot opening quarter before finding his stroke again late, tallying 30 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds. After starting 2-of-10 from 3-point distance, he finished 4-of-14 — not vintage Steph, but a marked improvement from Saturday’s 7-of-23 performance from the field.

After digging an 0-2 hole, Houston has clawed its way back into the series and now faces a chance to steal a road win to set up a potential close-out Game 6 at home. After last season’s Game 7 loss at home in the Western Conference finals, it’s an opportunity the Rockets surely relish.

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Englishman Alex Jenkins signs for NY Giants as free agent

Englishman Alex Jenkins has signed for the New York Giants as a free agent, the franchise confirmed Sunday.

The defensive end, 26, emerged through the International Player Pathway programme but was cut by the New Orleans Saints before the start of the 2018 season.

He has been signed by the Giants in the wake of their rookie minicamp the past weekend, and will now fight to make the final 52-man roster before the start of the season in August.

Jenkins, from Bath, is one of a number of recent British graduates of the International Player Pathway programme, which offers players from outside the U.S. a route into the league.

A former schoolboy rugby and soccer player, he is emulating other British sports stars in making the leap and trying to break through. Former England international Christian Wade joined the Buffalo Bills in April just seven months after ending his career in rugby.

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The ex-England sevens rugby captain Alex Gray has a reserves future contract with the Atlanta Falcons and his former teammate Christian Scotland-Williamson joined the Pittsburgh Steelers through the programme in 2018.

Their compatriot Jay Ajayi, from London, won the Superbowl in 2018 with the Philadelphia Eagles and is now a free agent.

Three other players from the 2019 Pathway Program have also joined teams in the AFC East, including Australian former National Rugby League player Valentine Holmes who signed for the New York Jets. Brazilian defensive tackle Durval Queiroz Neto — a former judo champion in Brazil — was also picked up by the Miami Dolphins.

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Canelo outpoints Jacobs to unify middleweight titles

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez cemented his status as the king of the middleweight division with a unanimous decision victory over America’s Daniel Jacobs, adding the IBF world championship to his WBC and WBA titles.

After emerging triumphant from his double-header with middleweight rival Gennady Golovkin and brief excursion to super middleweight to defeat Rocky Fielding, Canelo returned to 160 pounds to take on the ‘Miracle Man’, with Jacobs appropriately named after recovering from a rare form of bone cancer eight years ago to become a two-time world champion.

In what proved to be a thrilling contest in which Jacobs gave as good as he got, the bout ebbed and flowed as momentum shifted throughout – first in Canelo’s favor before a Jacobs fightback and a final flurry from the Mexican.

Canelo quickly built a lead over Jacobs as he had no problems landing his punches while making Jacobs miss, and in keeping the 32-year-old American off balance Canelo was able to win the first five rounds on one scorecard and four of the five on the other two. But the midway point of the fight saw the momentum shift in Jacobs’ favour, as a wise switch to southpaw combined with a tiring Alvarez started to present opportunities for him to land heavy shots with his superior height and range.

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This was none more apparent than when Jacobs landed the punch of the fight in the ninth as a left hook struck Canelo flush in the temple. But as the crowd gasped, Canelo simply shook it off and continued, much to even Jacobs’ amazement as he nodded towards his opponent in recognition of his steeliness.

A fight that was shorn of any controversy – indeed the scorecards were a fair reflection on the fight – started off in such drama that the morning’s actions saw Jacobs cost himself nearly $1m in order to try and win the fight. The dethroned IBF champion decided to smash through a confidential 170-pound weight limit on the day of the fight in order to give himself the best chance of winning, and at a cost of $250,000 per pound over, his morning weigh-in of 173.6 pounds only added to the Mexican’s $35m purse.

Jacobs will not go home empty handed though – far from it – as he still leaves Las Vegas at least $9m richer depending on fight sales.

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Cam Newton feeling great on shoulder rehab

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton says the rehabilitation from shoulder surgery is going “unbelievable” and he hopes to be throwing before training camp. 

“I’m feeling great now,” Newton told ESPN in an interview from “Fellaship,” his Atlanta-based cigar bar/restaurant that held its grand opening this past weekend. “I feel like I do have full strength right now. But me telling the doctor that is different than, you know, whatever the clearance process may be.” 

The 2015 NFL MVP underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in January after being shut down the final two games of the 2018 season. During the process doctors removed scar tissue that remained from 2017 offseason surgery on a partially torn rotator cuff. 

Newton went into last season admittedly feeling the best he has in years, but after a 6-2 start the shoulder became an issue and was a factor in a seven-game losing streak that ultimately led Carolina to missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Newton hasn’t been given a timetable on when he’ll be cleared, but he’s confident there won’t be another setback like last season. 

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Newton has done everything on his end to get his body ready. He began a vegan diet in hopes of getting his weight into the 237-pound range, which would be the lowest of his career. He has hired a personal trainer who works with him constantly. 

“Rehab is going unbelievable, especially for me during a time now, a lot of uncertainty,” Newton said. “For me, the human side of me is uncertain as well. But with the support cast from RV, the head trainer, and other people that have been working with me hands on daily, I have no doubt I’ll be ready to rock and roll when they expect me to be back.” 

Newton was admittedly scared late last season when his shoulder continued to be an issue to the point the Panthers had to bring backup Taylor Heinicke off the bench for several Hail Mary pass attempts. 

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Lions RB Johnson fully back from Knee injury

Kerryon Johnson missed the last six games of his rookie season with a knee injury, but now, months removed and with the Detroit Lions offseason workouts underway, he said Thursday that he’s fully back to his old self.

“Yep,” Johnson said. “Ready to go.”

Johnson said his goal this season — as it is every year — is to play in every game, and he figures if he does that, “the rest will take care of itself.”

Last season, he had 118 carries for 641 yards and 3 touchdowns, and in a Week 3 game against New England, he broke a more than four-year-long stretch without a 100-yard rusher in a game. He also caught 32 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. Johnson is also heading into a new offense in his second year in the NFL, transitioning from his old offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, to Darrell Bevell.

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He also knows that could mean more work for him because Bevell — and head coach Matt Patricia — want to have a run-heavy offense. Johnson saw what Bevell did in Seattle with Marshawn Lynch, so he knows what he could potentially expect since he’s Detroit’s returning leading rusher.

Johnson said he’s OK with “however they want to use me” within the offense. He said he prepares every game like “I’m getting 30 carries” — something he took from his Auburn days — but knows that isn’t realistic, “unless you’re Ezekiel Elliott.” But it’s how he prepares. So if he gets 8 to 12 carries, he’s ready for the next week faster. One thing he won’t have to worry about this year is the reality of being a rookie in the NFL, from having a different offseason schedule to the pacing of a season to the wear-and-tear on your body.

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Eagles sign ex-Redskins LB Brown to 1-year deal

The Philadelphia Eagles have signed linebacker Zach Brown to a one-year deal, the team announced on Friday.

A second-round pick out of North Carolina in 2012, Brown spent his first four seasons in the Tennessee Titans. He recorded 92 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three interceptions in his rookie season with the team.

Brown, 29, signed with the Bills in 2016 and earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro nods that season. He paced the AFC with 149 tackles and set a single-game career high with 17 tackles against the New England Patriots that year. 

Middle linebacker became a need position for the Eagles when Jordan Hicks signed with the Arizona Cardinals in free agency. Brown will help bolster a group that includes Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Paul Worrilow, Nathan Gerry and L.J. Fort. Brown would make flashy plays, but the Redskins wanted more consistency, both as a run stopper and in coverage. Though he played with an oblique injury last year, he was relegated to a backup role for the final four games, more for those issues than because he was hurt. After his benching, Brown said he could see the “writing on the wall” with his time in Washington.

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They re-signed him last offseason to a three-year deal worth up to $24 million, though the decision was not viewed as a unanimous one throughout the organization. The Oakland Raiders also had expressed interest in Brown last offseason. His release saves $5.75 million in cap space. Brown also was made expendable when the Redskins claimed Reuben Foster in November. Foster and Brown play the same inside linebacker position in the Redskins’ base 3-4 front. Neither one is considered a play-caller, so they would not be an ideal pairing.

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Veteran Catcher Stephen Vogt returns to majors with Giants

Catcher Stephen Vogt completed his long road back to the major leagues Wednesday after the San Francisco Giants selected his contract from Triple-A Sacramento.

The 34-year-old was available off the bench Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers but he did not play.

“I feel super emotional and proud to be going back. A long year and a lot of hard work,” Vogt said.

Working to bounce back from shoulder surgery that cut his 2018 season short, Vogt signed a minor league contract with the Giants before spring training and hit .241 with four homers and seven RBIs at Sacramento.

A California native, Vogt had surgery on his troublesome right shoulder in May of last year and didn’t play for the Milwaukee Brewers at all last season. He is a career .251 hitter with 57 homers and 218 RBIs through parts of six major league seasons. In other moves, reliever Ty Blach was optioned to Sacramento and just-suspended minor league pitcher Logan Webb was moved to the restricted list.

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Vogt played for Oakland from 2013 through part of ’17, when the A’s designated the fan favorite for assignment in June that year. Vogt was so likable he drew chants of “I believe in Stephen Vogt!”

A rookie and playoff first-timer in October 2013, Vogt delivered a game-ending hit against Detroit in the best-of-five division series. He had left the Tampa Bay organization for the Bay Area on April 5 that season, traded back home to his native California, only a couple of hours from where he grew up and still lived in Visalia.

Vogt was a minor league journeyman who made it to the major leagues at last at age 28. He needed 33 at-bats to finally get his first big league hit, a home run against St. Louis’ Joe Kelly on June 28, 2013. Rewind to that spring, and Vogt spent six days in Durham, North Carolina, wondering about his baseball future. He didn’t make the Rays’ opening-day roster and figured to start the season there at Triple-A. Then, Oakland acquired him.

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Vikings decline fifth-year option for WR Treadwell

The Minnesota Vikings declined to exercise the fifth-year option on wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, the team announced Wednesday.

Treadwell, the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 draft, is set to become a free agent in March 2020. The receiver’s option would have cost the Vikings $10.162 million next season.

The move doesn’t come as a surprise, given Treadwell’s production during the first three years of his career. The Ole Miss product was inactive for nearly half of his rookie campaign, appearing in nine games with one start while recording one catch for 15 yards in 2016.

Treadwell came into his third year with the Vikings as the front-runner to earn the No. 3 receiver role behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Though last season was Treadwell’s most productive to date, the 6-foot-2 wideout totaled just 35 catches for 302 yards and one touchdown while leading the team in drops with five. During a Week 16 win against Detroit, Treadwell, a healthy scratch, was replaced in the lineup by undrafted rookie Chad Beebe.

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Treadwell was the last receiver Minnesota selected with its first-round pick since drafting Percy Harvin 22nd overall in 2009.

Minnesota was active at the position in last week’s draft. The Vikings brought in Oregon’s Dillon Mitchell and Colorado State’s Olabisi Johnson, both seventh-round picks. Additionally, Minnesota selected Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. in the second round, a 6-foot-4 pass-catcher that can line up anywhere on the field.

Treadwell is set to make $3.16 million in 2019. The Vikings would save $654,770 if they cut Treadwell this summer with $2.51 million in dead money.

Treadwell, 24 in June, is part of a disappointing 2016 first-round class of receivers. Corey Coleman and Josh Doctson didn’t live up to expectations in Cleveland and Washington. Houston Texans receiver Will Fuller is the only of the four first-round receivers to see his fifth-year option exercised. Arguably, second-round receivers Sterling Shepard (Giants) and Michael Thomas (Saints) are the best of that 2016 class.

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Diamondbacks beat Yankees as Sabathia hits 3k strikeouts

CC Sabathia struck out a former teammate for No. 3,000 of his career, celebrated with the rest of the New York Yankees on the field and tipped his cap to the appreciative Arizona crowd.

As the big left-hander he walked toward the batter’s box, he looked up to see Carter Sabathia waiting in the front row. The father slid his massive frame through the netting and gave his youngest son a huge hug, followed by embraces with the rest of his family.

After months of anticipation and three starts with his family in tow, Sabathia could finally celebrate a milestone only 16 other players in 143 years of major league baseball had accomplished.

“It’s been a fun time these past couple weeks, these guys following around with me,” Sabathia said Tuesday night after becoming the 17th player in major league history and third left-hander to reach 3,000 career strikeouts. “It’s a special time.” The Yankees lost the game 3-1 to the Diamondbacks, thanks to a sterling performance by Arizona’s own ace Zack Greinke.

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Playing his final season, Sabathia became the first pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts since Atlanta’s John Smoltz in 2008, and joined Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton as the only lefties to do it.

Wilmer Flores hit a solo homer and a run-scoring single off Sabathia. He allowed two runs and five hits, and struck out five before being lifted with two on and one out in the sixth inning.

“I was a baseball fan tonight,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “What he did is a pretty amazing accomplishment.”

Greinke (5-1) won his fifth straight game and stretched his scoreless innings streak to 18 before Gleyher Torres’ run-scoring double in the fourth inning.

Greinke allowed one run and five hits in 7 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and has 2,481 in his career to move past Jack Morris (2,478) for 38th all-time.

“It was cool, nice facing him,” Greinke said of Sabathia. “Always like seeing what some guys have and what makes them good.” Greg Holland worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save in six chances.

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Raiders’ Crowell done for season

The Newly signed Oakland Raiders running back Isaiah Crowell tore his Achilles tendon during a workout Tuesday and is lost for the season, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter Wednesday.

Crowell will undergo season-ending surgery next week, the source said.

Crowell had signed a one-year deal worth up to $2.5 million, according to sources.

The injury is the latest blow to the Raiders’ depth chart at running back. Last week, Marshawn Lynch indicated that he’s done playing football. Doug Martin was the team’s leading rusher last season, but he was a free agent.

The Raiders used the No. 24 pick in the draft on Alabama running back Josh Jacobs and also have Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, James Butler and Chris Warren on the roster.

Crowell became a free agent when he was released by the New York Jetson March 14, a day after the team agreed with running back Le’Veon Bell on a four-year contract. Crowell, 26, was one-and-done with the New York Jets. After four seasons with the Cleveland Browns, he signed a three-year, $12 million contract ($4 million guaranteed at signing) and became the starting running back last season.

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He rushed for 685 yards, six touchdowns and a 4.8-yard average, but it was an odd season in that one-third of his production came in one game. In a Week 5 victory over the Denver Broncos, he set the franchise record with 219 rushing yards.

The most amazing part about it was he needed only 15 carries — a remarkable 14.6 per-carry average. It was the highest average in a game (minimum: 15 attempts) by any player in NFL history.

In 2016, Crowell sparked a controversy when he posted on his Instagram account an illustration of a police officer being stabbed in the neck by a hooded figure. It was his response to the fatal shootings of two black men by Dallas police officers. A day later, five officers were killed by sniper fire. Crowell later apologized and donated a game check to the police department.

In five seasons, Crowell has 3,803 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns.

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