Raiders

The Wizards have won a game!

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The Wizards have won a game!

From Comcast SportsNetWASHINGTON (AP) -- After their worst start in history, the Washington Wizards became a national punch line. On TNT, Charles Barkley compared them with the Washington Generals, and a local newspaper had photos of fans wearing paper bags over their heads at Monday's 26-point loss to San Antonio.The jokes can stop -- at least for now.Washington earned its first victory after starting the season with 12 straight losses, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 84-82 on Wednesday night."When you're 0-12, guys are going to make fun. That's our business, guys," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said."When you get to this level, you've got to have some thick skin, and you've got to be able to overcome those kind of things."Washington survived a scoreless 6:47 in the fourth when Jordan Crawford, who had 19 points, hit on a 3-pointer with 2:06 to play. The Wizards finally took the 84-82 lead on Emeka Okafor's two free throws with 39.1 seconds remaining.Damian Lillard was called for traveling with 28 seconds left. After Nene was called for an offensive foul, J.J. Hickson missed a jumper with 2.8 seconds to play. The Wizards lost the ball with 0.2 seconds to go, but held on to end the skid."Well, we made it interesting, but we won," Wittman said.Nine teams started the season 0-13, and the Wizards were tired of the ridicule they'd been subjected to -- locally and nationally -- as they crept toward the Nets' NBA record-worst start of 0-18."We don't want to go down in history as one of the worst teams ever," Washington forward Chris Singleton said.Wittman, whose team travels to New York on Friday and plays Miami next Tuesday, knows the next win may be hard to get."We just broke through the ice. I've lived in Minnesota for 15, 17 years. That ice was 4 or 5 feet deep, but it's broken through now," Wittman said.Trevor Ariza had 14 and Kevin Seraphin added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Washington, which ended the third quarter on a 23-7 run to take a 68-59 lead, then padded its lead to 15 barely three minutes into the fourth.The 79-64 lead seemed safe -- even for the Wizards -- but the Trail Blazers ran off 16 straight points to take a 80-79 lead with 2:27 to play.Lillard and Nicolas Batum led Portland, losers of three straight, with 20. LaMarcus Aldridge had 17. Hickson had 15 points and 19 rebounds."Loss is a loss, but this one definitely stings knowing the team is 0-12. You never want to be the team they get the win on but we were that team," Hickson said.Wesley Matthews addressed the Blazers after his team lost, and all his teammates were especially downcast."You don't want to be the first team, that's very embarrassing," Batum said.Martel Webster had also used "embarrassing" to describe Washington's 26-point loss on Monday. He was a bit relieved after the game."We are definitely an underdog. We're definitely looked at as the losers of the league, but that's OK. We believe in each other," Webster said.Rookie Bradley Beal wasn't celebrating his first NBA win -- one that took 29 days to get. He claimed, like most of the Wizards, to ignore the chatter on TV and in the cyber world."I don't pay attention to that stuff. They're on the outside looking in. They don't know how hard we work. They just see us playing and the scores," Beal said.The Blazers hit six of their first seven shots and took a 15-4 lead four minutes into the game.Nene entered the game with 1:43 to play and helped spur the Wizards to a 37-31 lead with six minutes to play in the first half. At halftime, the teams were tied at 43-all.After missing the first nine games of the season with a left foot injury, Nene played two games before missing Monday night's loss. He had six points in 19 minutes."For tonight: fresh air, that's all I can say," Nene said.Notes: Washington F Trevor Booker missed his fourth straight game with a right knee injury. ... This was the 100th all-time meeting between the teams. Portland leads 52-48. ... The Wizards' bench outscored the Trail Blazers' 46-4. ... Portland has four more games in eight days left on this season-high, seven-game road trip: at Boston, Cleveland, Charlotte and Indiana.

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

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USATSI

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

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AP

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive. 

“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”

While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged. 

“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”

Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game. 

The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.