Kings

The ugliest 2-0 team in the NFL is...

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The ugliest 2-0 team in the NFL is...

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- With the game on the line, Michael Vick made all the right decisions -- again.Vick scored on a 1-yard TD run with 1:55 left, helping the Philadelphia Eagles overcome a slew of turnovers to beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-23 on Sunday for their second straight comeback win.The Eagles are 2-0 for the first time since Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens led them to the Super Bowl in 2004."In the moment, you have to be at your best," Vick said. "It's got to be an any-means-necessary mentality."Rookie kicker Justin Tucker made field goals of 56, 51 and 48 yards for the Ravens, but Joe Flacco couldn't get Baltimore (1-1) in his range in the final minute.Flacco overthrew Ray Rice on fourth-and-1 from the Ravens 46, and the Eagles ran out the clock.Vick threw four interceptions at Cleveland last week, but rallied the Eagles to a 17-16 win.He did it again, though the replacement officials almost made a costly mistake.Down 23-17, the Eagles started at their 20 with 4:43 left. Vick threw passes of 24 and 13 yards to Brent Celek. A 19-yard pass to Clay Harbor coupled with a roughing-the-passer penalty put the ball at the 3.Vick then threw incomplete as he was being hit by Haloti Ngata, but the play was ruled a fumble and it was recovered by the Ravens. A replay overturned the call and Vick scored on the next play."There's some serious calls the refs missed," Baltimore's Ray Lewis said. "It's just the way it is, man, all around the league. We have to correct that. These games are critical. Guys are giving everything they've got all across the league. But these are calls, with the regular refs, if they were here, we know the way the calls would be made."The Eagles committed three turnovers in the red zone in the first half and lost two starting offensive linemen in the second. They have nine turnovers in two games, a major reason why they only have 41 points despite totaling 942 yards of offense."We have to get better at it," coach Andy Reid said. "You have to take care of the football. You have to throw the football to the right person. This isn't something we planned on having."Vick finished 23 of 32 for 371 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Celek had eight catches for 157 yards and DeSean Jackson had seven receptions for 114 yards.This was a homecoming of sorts for Flacco and Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Flacco grew up in nearby Haddon Township, N.J. Harbaugh spent 10 seasons as an assistant under Reid before going to Baltimore in 2008.Tucker almost made them winners.An undrafted rookie out of Texas, Tucker beat out veteran kicker Billy Cundiff in the preseason and has made all six of his field goals in the first two games.Tucker's 56-yarder at the end of the first half sent the Ravens into the locker room up 17-7. His 51-yarder early in the fourth made it 20-17.Cundiff was 1-for-6 from beyond 50 yards last year, and missed a potential game-tying, 32-yarder against New England in the waning seconds of the AFC championship game."I think we'll be just fine coming out of this going forward," Harbaugh said.Two plays after center Jason Kelce sprained his right knee and was carted back to the locker room, the Eagles got within 17-14 on Vick's 23-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin. Vick scrambled to his left and threw on the run to Maclin, who slipped behind coverage and went to his knees to make a nifty catch.Philadelphia lost two more starters on its next drive. First, King Dunlap left with a hamstring injury. Maclin was then carted off with a hip pointer after making a block on Celek's 24-yard catch. Celek hurdled Ed Reed to gain a few extra yards on the play. Still, the Eagles reached the 5 before settling for Alex Henery's tying 23-yard field goal.The starting quarterbacks were coming off opposite performances in Week 1. While Vick struggled against the Browns, Flacco was near-flawless in a dominant 44-13 win against Cincinnati last Monday night.Flacco was 22 of 42 for 232 yards, one TD and one interception against Philadelphia.Despite the makeshift line blocking for him, Vick didn't take as many hard hits and was sacked only twice. He scrambled eight times for 36 yards before kneeling twice at the end.Using the no-huddle from the start, the Eagles moved the ball effectively to the Ravens 12. But Vick made another errant throw and was intercepted in the end zone by Bernard Pollard. Vick scrambled out of the pocket and had space, but he fired opposite his momentum."You can't always hit a home run," Vick said. "Sometimes you have to settle for singles and doubles. That's what I have to learn. I can't force the ball."Trent Cole stripped Flacco on Baltimore's second play and Cullen Jenkins recovered at the Ravens 15.McCoy ran in from the 1 for a 7-0 lead.Vonta Leach scored on a 5-yard TD run to tie it at 7.After the Ravens failed to convert on a fake punt -- Sean Considine ran 3 yards on fourth-and-4 -- the Eagles took over at Baltimore's 45. The drive ended in another turnover. Rookie Bryce Brown fumbled a handoff on third-and-1 at the 20, and Albert McClellan recovered at the 30.Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones on a 21-yard TD pass to give the Ravens a 14-7 lead.The Eagles drove to the Ravens 9 before Lardarius Webb caused McCoy to fumble. Lewis recovered and was slammed down to the ground by Vick. McCoy had one fumble last year when he was an All-Pro. He already has lost two in two games.Notes: Rice ran for 99 yards and caught six passes for 53 more. ... Eagles improved to 5-9 in home openers under Reid and won one for first time since 2008. ... Tucker's 56-yard FG tied Wade Richey for longest in Ravens history. ... Entering the season, McCoy had lost one fumble in the previous 28 games, spanning 565 touches. He lost his second on his 36th touch. ... Dallas Reynolds replaced Kelce at center and took his first snap in the NFL.

After tough start to season, Kings make organizational shift towards youth

After tough start to season, Kings make organizational shift towards youth

The time has come. After losing five straight and 10 of their last 12 games, the Sacramento Kings sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings at 13-30. With playoffs well out of reach, the team is making an organizational decision to go young.

You could say that the Kings made this decision last February when they dealt DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans. You could also point to draft day 2017 when the team traded down and turned the 10th overall selection into picks 15 and 20, giving the team three first round selections, an early second rounder and rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic coming from overseas.

Sacramento walked into the 2017-18 campaign with ten players on rookie scale deals, including nine first round selections with two years of NBA experience or less.

After a rocky first half, the team is going to a complete youth movement. The plan is for the veteran core of George Hill, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph to rotate in and out of the lineup over the final 40 games of the season. 

Both management and the coaching staff is on the same page with the decision, NBC Sports California has confirmed. Two or three players will sit each night as they team explores what they have in youngsters.

"Going forward, what I'm going to do is, we're going to play a rotation where two of our five veterans are going to be out every night. It might be some times there'll be three. It's an opportunity for some other guys to get some minutes as we go throughout the course of the season. I've got it laid out...I've got about five or six games laid out, and every week I'll go out again because you want to communicate with those guys when they're not going to play. Other guys, they've got to be ready. If you're in the first three years of your contract, you can expect to play a little, or a lot, or none, but you should be ready to play," Joerger told the media after the Kings' loss to the Thunder on Monday night.

Developing young players was the top priority coming into the season. With the team struggling, the franchise's decision to speed up the transition from veterans to inexperienced players comes as no surprise.

Prized first round selection De’Aaron Fox has already 22 of 35 appearances for the Kings and is settling into the starting point guard position. Since returning from injury, the 20-year-old out of Kentucky is posting 14.3 points and 6.7 assists over 32.5 minutes per game.

Despite early season struggles with consistency, the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft is improving. With the ideological shift in direction by the franchise, it is now Fox’s show, but he’s not the only one expected to produce.

Willie Cauley-Stein has taken a huge leap forward in his third season with the team as well. After struggles in his first two years in the league, Cauley-Stein is averaging career-highs in points (12.0), rebounds (6.5), assists (2.2), steals (.9), blocks (.8) and minutes played (26.2).

With his confidence at an all-time high, Cauley-Stein is going to be asked to do even more with a reduction of minutes by Zach Randolph. The lanky 7-footer will have an opportunity to prove he is a go-to weapon in the final 40 games of the season.

The Kings have a pair of wings that appear ready to excel in Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield.

Bogdanovic has made tremendous strides through his first few months in the league and he’s clearly ready for a bigger role. The presence of Hill and Temple has forced Bogdanovic to play out of position at the small forward position.

The 25-year-old Serbian has already seen a surge in minutes and production during the month of January. Bogdanovic has scored in double-figures all six games this month and he’s averaging 15.3 points on 55 percent shooting from field and 50 percent from long range. He has a maturity to his game after spending years playing professionally in Europe and Joerger has relied heavily on him throughout the early season.

Hield has improved in year two, especially on the defensive end. He came out of Oklahoma as a pure scorer and hasn’t disappointed. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard is shooting over 44 percent from 3-point range this season and showing a good feel for the game as a volume scorer off the bench.

The front office and coaching staff have an outline of what Fox, Cauley-Stein, Bogdanovic and Hield project as players, but there are plenty of other youngsters on the roster that the club needs more time to assess.

Skal Labissiere has fought his way out of a rough patch and is showing signs of improvement. His rebounding numbers have steadily jumped up and he’s figuring out how to defend stretch fours on the perimeter.

Before his injury, Frank Mason III was making strides as the team’s backup point guard. The second round pick is solid, but struggled with his shot before going down with a plantar fascia injury. He’ll be back in early February and should slide right back into the rotation.

Justin Jackson and Malachi Richardson have taken turns bouncing between the Kings and  the Reno Bighorns. Jackson has a maturity about him on the floor, but he’s been inconsistent with his shot and needs to get stronger.

After earning his way into the rotation last season, Richardson has struggled when given the opportunity this year. He’s worked tirelessly on his body and he’s a great practice 3-point shooter. He’s learning to play the 2, 3 and even some stretch four this season, which shows versatility, but he passes up too many open looks.

Lastly, the Kings have a complete unknown in 7-foot-2 center Georgios Papagiannis. Like Richardson, the giant out of Greece has worked hard to reinvent his body. He’s clearly quicker and more agile than he was in his rookie season, but at 20-years-old, he’s still considered a project.

It might be 10-15 games earlier than expected, but at some point this season, the Kings were going to throw their young players to the wolves and see how they fair. Sitting out games is a tough pill to swallow for veterans, but with just 13 wins through the first three months of the season, the writing has been on the wall for a while.

What the Giants’ farm system lost in trade for Andrew McCutchen

What the Giants’ farm system lost in trade for Andrew McCutchen

San Francisco’s second splash of its offseason reloading plan came to life Monday with the acquisition of outfielder Andrew McCutchen in a trade with the Pirates.

In trading for the five-time All-Star, the Giants held on to top prospects Heliot Ramos, Chris Shaw and Tyler Beede. The win-now move bolstered the Giants’ outfield — one that needed the most help in all of baseball — while the Pirates again have a potential big piece in their outfield with Bryan Reynolds headed to Pittsburgh. 

While the farm system took a win in keeping its biggest names, let’s look at what the Giants’ future lost with the addition of McCutchen. 

Bryan Reynolds, 22, OF
The Giants clearly have their own prospect rankings. Baseball America (5) and MLB Pipeline (4) ranked Reynolds ahead of Steven Duggar, who is the Giants’ No. 8 prospect by Baseball America and No. 6 by MLB Pipeline, after the 2017 season. Duggar is expected to compete for the Giants’ starting job in center field unless they make another big move like signing Lorenzo Cain. 

There’s a reason Reynolds is ranked so high though. The Giants’ top pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, is a switch-hitter who is primarily a center fielder, but like Duggar, he played all three outfield positions in 2017. 

"I think it's too early to dictate if he'll be in a corner or center," Nestor Rojas, Reynolds’ manager for the San Jose Giants, said to me in July. "He's really good and he has the tools to play center field. He's got speed and he's got range. He can do really well in all three." 

Reynolds slashed .312/.364/.462 with 10 home runs at Advanced Single-A this past season. He was the Giants' lone representative at the Futures Game and named San Jose Giants MVP. Even if he never unlocks his power, Reynolds is expected to be a solid big leaguer one day with well-rounded overall tools. 

[READ: How Reynolds went from undrafted to Giants' top 2016 pick]

Kyle Crick, 25, RHP
Crick was expected to be a future ace when the Giants took him No. 49 overall as a high school pitcher back in 2011. Control issues hampered him mightily. 

Down in the minors, Crick flashed dominance on the hill at times with a fastball that reaches the upper 90s. Still, command won the battle and the Giants turned Crick into a reliever. The move may have saved his career. 

As the Sacramento River Cats’ closer in Triple-A last season, Crick recorded six saves with a 2.76 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 29.1 innings pitched. Crick earned his call-up to San Francisco and was solid for the Giants. He put together a 3.06 ERA in 30 games out of the bullpen, giving a glimpse of what he can be in the future. 

Crick has always been full of potential. Now as a reliever, he’s starting to turn it into results at the highest level. The Pirates may have a future shut-down arm in the ‘pen, but in the Giants’ reload, there are plenty of in-house options that can do the job he was expected to do in 2018.