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Arians leading Colts to surprising success

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Arians leading Colts to surprising success

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck are getting all the national attention.

Talk to anyone in the Colts locker room, and they'll tell you interim coach Bruce Arians is a major part in Indianapolis' stunning turnaround, too. Maybe the biggest contributor of all.

``I call him the MVP of our team because he came in and kept things churning along,'' outside linebacker Robert Mathis said Monday. ``He's making sure we take care of Chuck's legacy.''

Arians is doing things the way he always has - with a passionate, down-to-earth, fun-loving personality and a relentless desire to get things right.

So while the rest of the football world looks at Luck's progression and Pagano's personal battle, Arians has been doing the dirty work to keep this rebuilding project on task.

Nobody can quibble with the results.

In the six weeks since replacing his close friend, who was diagnosed with a form of leukemia Sept. 26, Arians has led the Colts to a 6-3 record and surprisingly into the playoff hunt. He's managed to keep the lines of communication open with Luck, found the right balance between being the head coach and offensive coordinator and even shocked the defensive players by cheering at practice when they come up with turnovers.

He talks and texts regularly with his close friend, serving as both a messenger between the ailing coach and his players and a confidant to Pagano about what is coming next on and off the field.

``The chemo is hitting him pretty good right now, it's been pretty rough,'' said Arians, a 60-year-old prostate cancer survivor. ``He's experiencing that downhill slide now, but he's tough, he'll get through it.''

Few have seen what Arians has done behind the walls, though.

He's been working overtime to meet with Luck. He's carved out extra time to deal with the media requirements. He's worked hard to keep Pagano and his battle front and center, attending three fundraisers in the past six weeks and urging others to make time as well. On Friday, Arians, Luck and Reggie Wayne will host another fundraiser at a sold-out restaurant in downtown Indy.

And yet, he never lost sight of his job.

Arians has helped the Colts make a seamless transition from Peyton Manning to Luck, the new face of this franchise, and one of the league's youngest offenses is now ranked fifth overall and eighth in yards passing.

``He's done a good job keeping us focused on what our mission is, what our objective is,'' outside linebacker Dwight Freeney said. ``He doesn't stray far from what Chuck wants. It's kind of a two-sided monster - it's Chuck being there and him (Arians) keeping that ship well-oiled and maintained.''

The success shouldn't come as a surprise, given Arians' resume.

He spent 20 years as an NFL assistant, mentoring two of the league's best quarterbacks - Manning and Ben Roethlisberger - and seems to have Luck following the same script. Arians also won two Super Bowl rings in Pittsburgh and coached with Paul ``Bear'' Bryant during his final season at Alabama before taking the only head coaching job he ever had, at Temple from 1983-88.

But he never got a chance to coach his own NFL team, and it sure didn't seem like it would happen when he was forced out as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator after last season.

That's when Pagano brought him to Indy, and now as the fill-in for Pagano, Arians is doing things nobody thought possible.

In the midst of monumental rebuilding season, Arians has gone 5-1 with a rookie quarterback, the ninth-youngest team in the league and has helped the Colts surge, not sink, after losing their head coach less than a month into the season. He's even set a franchise record for wins by an interim coach.

How good has he been?

Only eight coaches in league history have won more games after a midseason change than Arians (five).

If the Colts win four of their last seven games, Arians would tie the league record with Hamp Pool, who won nine games with the Los Angeles Rams in 1952, and Wally Lemm, who won nine with the Houston Oilers in 1961.

The only other coach to win more than seven was San Diego's Don Coryell, who won eight in 1978.

It might even be good enough to put Arians in the conversation for NFL coach of the year.

``I think that will be determined by how you finish, not how you started,'' Freeney said. ``It's really too early, but I think you could mention him in that conversation right now because he's had a team that's undergone major change and been part of the advancement of that.''

Even if Arians doesn't have time to ponder that possibility now.

``It's really gotten easier and easier each week for me, balancing the TV and radio and press conferences,'' he said. ``You take an hour or two and early in the week and try to find a message you want to deliver each week. The rest of the time, I try to be the offensive coordinator.''

NOTE: The Colts placed starting cornerback Jerraud Powers (toe) and backup defensive tackle Drake Nevis (hand) on season-ending injured reserve Monday. That gave Indy room to activate fifth-round draft pick Josh Chapman from the reserve-non-injury list. Chapman has been on the list since training camp opened because he played most of last season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

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Wizards take out Sixers to tie season series behind Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter's hot shooting

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards take out Sixers to tie season series behind Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter's hot shooting

The Washington Wizards beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-94 on Sunday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Playoff implications: Later in the season the stakes are raised and the Wizards' win over the Sixers on Sunday night could loom large in just a few weeks.

By beating the Sixers, who had won seven straight entering the matchup, the Wizards tied up the season series with their second win. A loss would have handed Philly the tiebreaker in playoff seeding if the two teams finish with the same record at season's end.

Now that their season series is over and locked even, it will come down to their record against other Eastern Conference teams if they tie. At 22-15 vs. the East, the Wizards currently have the edge on the Sixers, who are 18-14 in that category.

The Wizards dominated the Sixers for much of the night and they did so by once again moving the ball with generosity and precision. They had 35 assists on 43 field goals. The Wizards have had 30 or more assists in five games this season and four have come within the last month.

Those four games have been part of a 9-3 surge for the Wizards since John Wall got injured. With their win against Philly, the Wizards moved to 35-25 on the season and a half-game out of third in the East. The Sixers are among several teams nipping at their heels in an increasingly crowded conference.

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Oubre put on a show: The Wizards led 67-48 at halftime and that was in large part due to Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s impact on both ends of the floor. He had eight points in each of the first two quarters, including four threes, and made several key plays on defense.

Oubre had three blocks to set a career-high by halftime, including one on Robert Covington that bounced off Covington's leg and gave the Wizards possession. He also took a charge on Ben Simmons and flashed a smile for the cameras as he sprinted back down the floor.

Oubre ended the game with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting. It wasn't long ago that Oubre was in a significant shooting slump.

In his last 11 games before the All-Star break, Oubre was averaging just 9.4 points on 31.2 percent shooting. In three games since the break, Oubre has scored 47 points (15.7/g) while shooting 51.5 percent. It's safe to say he's put those shooting struggles behind him.

Oubre had been making his mark defensively as the Wizards closed the first half on a tear, but Sunday showed how much of a boost he can provide when he's in a rhythm offensively. He completely changed the game and helped the Wizards knock off a team that came to Washington super hot.

Porter wasn't fazed: Otto Porter did something on Sunday that likely has never been accomplished before. He hit not one, not two, not three but four buzzer-beaters all in the first half. Three of them were to beat the shot clock. Then, he hit another one to end the first half:

That shot capped an 8-1 run to end the second quarter for the Wizards and it brought a burst of energy out of the crowd. Porter had 14 points in the second quarter and shot 6-for-6 in the frame. The Wizards outscored the Sixers 37-20 in the second and Porter led the charge.

Porter finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Much like Bradley Beal, who had 24 points in this game, Porter has thrived in this second extended absence for Wall. Both Beal and Porter battle inconsistency as they adapted to being the primary focus of opposing teams back in November when Wall first went down. But this time around, they have answers to everything teams are throwing at them.

Porter's patience at the end of the shot clock on Sunday was an example of that. His confidence seems to be at an all-time high, knowing he has enough tricks to keep his opponents guessing. That was on display with under two minutes to go when he drained a three in Covington's face, turned around to stare at him afterwards and then shook his head as he trotted down the court, as if he were saying that no one can stop him. 

Up next: The Wizards are off Monday before playing back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Bucks and Warriors. Tuesday is an 8 p.m. tipoff on TNT. We will have pre- and postgame coverage of Wizards-Bucks on NBC Sports Washington Plus beginning at 7 p.m.

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Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

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Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Caravan

Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

NBA agent Dan Fegan, who had previously represented many high-profile NBA clients including John Wall, died in a car crash Sunday morning, according to The Aspen Times. 

According to the report, Fegan's SUV was struck by a bus while trying to merge onto Highway 82 in Colorado a little after 9 am this morning. 

The two passengers in the car - an unidentified woman and Fegan's 5-year old daughter - were airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. 

Fegan was 56.