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Arizona's Horton could be future NFL head coach

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Arizona's Horton could be future NFL head coach

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) In a miserable season for his Arizona Cardinals, defensive coordinator Ray Horton is nonetheless a rising star in NFL coaching circles.

Expect Horton to be interviewed for some head coaching positions this offseason. Perhaps even in Arizona, should the Bidwill family decide to fire coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Horton was saying all the right things Friday after the team's final practice of the season.

``I would say today all I'm trying to do today is be the best D-coordinator in the league,'' he said. ``I didn't do it because we didn't accomplish our goals and the rest of that stuff kind of takes care of itself. Usually teams that win more are rewarded that way.''

But he did acknowledge it's every coach's goal to someday get the top job.

``That's what you're trying for,'' he said, ``and if you prepare well you should be ready.''

Last year, after his first season as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator, he was interviewed for the St. Louis job that eventually went to Jeff Fisher. Horton said there's no secret to having a good job interview.

``I think if you're confident in what you do, probably every interview would be good,'' he said. ``I think I'm prepared, smart, knowledgeable, humble and everything that goes along with whatever that entails.''

Horton was an assistant at Pittsburgh when Whisenhunt tabbed him to be Arizona's third defensive coordinator in five years. Horton has a year left on his contract, meaning he couldn't leave for another coordinator's job without the Cardinals' permission. He could, however, leave to take a head coaching job. His players certainly believe in him. Defensive end Calais Campbell says Horton would be an ``awesome'' head coach.

``I wouldn't be surprised if he had a lot of different offers because he's very talented at what he does,'' Campbell said. ``He's smart, he understands the game, he's a great motivational speaker. I think he'll make a great head coach. He has that passion for winning.''

There hasn't been much winning in Arizona, though. The Cardinals, after a 4-0 start, have dropped 10 of 11 and are huge underdogs at San Francisco. The problems almost entirely are the fault of the offense, especially poor play at quarterback. Arizona is starting Brian Hoyer at the position on Sunday less than three weeks after he was picked up on waivers from Pittsburgh.

The defense, on the other hand, ranks 12th in the NFL overall and is third against the pass.

The Cardinals' 22 interceptions are second in the NFL, one behind Chicago. Their 33 takeaways rank fourth in the league. Their opponent passer rating (68.5) is first in the NFL and their opponent completion percentage (54.1) is second only to Houston (53.2). Their 37 sacks are tied for 10th. The defensive superlatives, however, do not include run defense. The Cardinals are 28th in the NFL in that category.

Still, Horton gives his defense a B-plus for its performance.

``Personally I would have liked to have seen a couple of shutouts and maybe a couple of other scoring opportunities that we could have helped the offense,'' he said. ``Probably over the season I'd probably take back no more than five plays, less than a handful, that I would love to call again.''

Horton said there was never a serious rift between the defense and offense, despite the stark differences in the performances of the two units. He credited the makeup of his team.

``They are highly motivated and inspired,'' he said. ``They play for themselves, meaning they have a lot of personal pride in their performance.''

Whisenhunt gave the defense an overall good review.

``You'd have to say the defense has played well,'' he said. ``I mean, we haven't done as good a job against the run game as we need to, but as far as turnovers and keeping us in games and making plays and scoring, the defense has done a great job.''

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Caps attempt to address blue line depth by trading for defenseman Michal Kempny

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Caps attempt to address blue line depth by trading for defenseman Michal Kempny

Facing serious questions about their defensive depth, the Caps took a step towards addressing that depth by trading for Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny. Chicago will receive a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 draft in exchange.

Washington has played the majority of the season with two rookie defensemen in the lineup in Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos. The team is giving up 2.98 goals per game which ranks 20th in the NHL. If there was one weakness the Capitals absolutely needed to address, it was defense.

RELATED: SEE THE LATEST NHL POWER RANKINGS

Kempny, 27, has played in 31 games for Chicago this season tallying one goal and seven points. He is a left-shot defenseman who carries a cap hit of $900,000. His contract expires at the end of this season.

For his career, Kempny has played in 81 NHL games, all with Chicago, Kempny has scored a total of 15 points.

The Capitals have two third-round draft picks in 2018 after acquiring Toronto's third-round pick in the trade that sent Marcus Johansson to New Jersey. Chicago will receive the higher of the two picks at season's end.

MORE CAPITALS: BLACKHAWKS FANS TOSSED AFTER DIRECTING RACIST REMARKS AT SMITH-PELLY

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NBA Midseason Awards 2018: Who is leading the pack at the break?

NBA Midseason Awards 2018: Who is leading the pack at the break?

The 2017-18 NBA season has reached the halfway point with the 2018 NBA All-Star Game taking place in Los Angeles, Calif., this weekend.

But as the season shifts toward the second half NBC Sports Washington is taking at the major NBA awards and which players are positioned to bring home the hardware at the end of the 2018 season.

The season is far from over the second half is where the awards are won. Will Ben Simmons hold on to his lead in the Rookie of the Year running? Will LeBron James surpass James Harden for the MVP award?

Below are the detailed results of the NBC Sports Washington NBA midseason awards. 

The voting panel consists of NBC Sports Washington's Steve Buckhantz, Kara Lawson, Chris Miles, Travis Thomas, Adam Wise, Chase Hughes, Nick Ashooh and Troy Machir.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

2017-2018 NBA Midseason Awards

Rookie of the Year:

Nick AshoohDonovan Mitchell, Jazz. While Simmons gets to work with another franchise player in Joel Embiid, Mitchell saw Utah's second-leading scorer traded at the deadline (Rodney Hood), and has had center Rudy Gobert miss tons of games with injuries. Mitchell is the first rookie to lead his team in scoring during a winning streak of at least 11 games and he leads all rookies in scoring, on a team that could make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.

Steve BuckhantzBen Simmons, 76ers. Rookie of the year would be Ben Simmons, and while there are more than one outstanding young players in the game, he seems to be the most unstoppable and the one with the greatest upside, especially if he hones his shooting skills.

Chase Hughes: Ben Simmons, 76ers. Simmons has returned from injury to be a rookie sensation, consistently flirting with or recording triple-doubles. He is going to be an All-Star for a long time.

Kara LawsonBen Simmons, 76ers.

Troy MachirBen Simmons, 76ers. This is tough because Simmons 1) isn't really a rookie 2) Doesn't have any range on his jump shot, and 3) gets to play with Joel Embiid. Donovan Mitchell is the best player on his team and is doing it all without Rodney Hood (trade) and Rudy Gobert (injury). I still lean toward Simmons, but Mitchell will probably steal from him in the second half. 

Chris Miles:  Donovan Mitchell, Jazz. As Damian Lillard put it, he’s actually leading his team. Secondly he isn’t a “red-shirt rookie” like his top competitor Ben Simmons. This is a two horse race if anyone picks someone else that’s a failed drug test.

Travis ThomasBen Simmons, 76ers.  He’s the second best player on a team destined for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. His combination of size and court vision reminds me of a young Magic Johnson.

Adam Wise: Ben Simmons, 76ers. I don't like the rule that he's technically a rookie (ahem, Blake Griffin winning over John Wall in 2010-11) but he's a triple-double threat every night and you can't ignore that. Donovan Mitchell is a close second.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Most Improved Player:

Nick Ashooh: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. It’s always tough to pick the MOP, because sometimes it’s more about bigger opportunity that showcases the game a player already has.

Steve BuckhantzJaylen Brown, Celtics. Every time I see him play, the results are amazing. A very close second would be Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks.

Chase Hughes: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. Oladipo went from decent to stardom seemingly overnight and has made the Pacers look very smart for trading for him.

Kara Lawson: Victor Oladipo, Pacers.

Troy Machir: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. We've always known Oladipo has elite athleticism and talent, but the change in scenery meant more opportunities to lead and develop. He's gone from a solid start to a bona fide perennial All-Star in less than half a season. 

Chris MilesVictor Oladipo, Pacers. He’s running away with this award. I taught him how to shoot over the summer so I can’t wait to get my residuals.

Travis ThomasVictor Oladipo. The local product is an All-Star now and he’s the only bright light on a team that’s overachieving, proving he’s also a leader. It’s hard to imagine the Pacers being in the Playoff picture without Oladipo.

Adam Wise: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks. Should Tim Hardaway Jr. have a say in this? Giannis has upped his "wow" factor this season and it was already among to tops in the league. He's can't-miss viewing when he's on the floor.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Sixth Man of the Year:

Nick Ashooh: Lou Williams, Clippers. No brainer here. "Lou-Will" is one of the top scorers in the NBA despite playing just 32 minutes per game.

Steve BuckhantzLou Williams, Clippers. He's making shots of the bench like Jamal Crawford and has had numerous game winners. I also like Terry Rozier of Boston. He's an excellent player with a huge upside.

Keely Diven:

Chase Hughes: Lou Williams, Clippers.  could have been an All-Star this year, he has been that good off the Clippers' bench. The guy is putting up career numbers and got a well-deserved contract extension along the way.

Kara Lawson: Lou Williams, Clippers. 

Troy Machir: Lou Williams, Clippers. There are several good candidates, but this is Lou Williams' award ... again. He's averaging over 20 ppg and coming off the bench AND nearly made the All-Star Game. When has that ever happened before?

Chris Miles:  Kelly Oubre, Wizards. Yep, I went full homer on this one. Dude is legit and this summer the “should Oubre start” camp is going to revolt if he keeps this up.

Travis ThomasLou Williams, Clippers. He should be every year. In fact they should rename the award, Lou Williams Of The Year. He’s averaging 23 points a game coming off the bench for a team going nowhere fast.

Adam Wise: Lou Williams, Clippers. He should've been an All-Star ... and he doesn't even start! 

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

Coach of the Year:

Nick Ashooh: Mike D'Antoni, Rockets. D’Antoni has kept the Rockets in contention for the top spot in the west, which means a true competitor to the Warriors. They’ve already had two double-digit win streaks, and now that he finally has a roster that fits his system, it’s not just Golden State that can run teams off the floor.

Steve Buckhantz: Eric Spoelstra, Heat. Just when you think they really don't have a lot going on in South Florida, he consistently keeps his squad in the game and has them poised to make a run in the post season. Brett Brown of the Sixers and Brad Steven of the Celtics would also get consideration.

Chase Hughes: Gregh Popovich, Spurs. The Spurs are third in the stacked Western Conference despite missing Kawhi Leonard.

Kara Lawson: Dwane Casey, Raptors.

Troy Machir: Dwane Casey, Raptors. The Cavs and Celtics are the talk of the East, but the Raptors are the most consistent team this side of the Mississippi River. Casey doesn't get enough credit, which is why I'm writing about him here. 

Chris MilesBrad Stevens, Celtics. I hate Boston, everything about it. Just being forced to pick this guy means I don’t have to write an explanation.

Travis ThomasBrad Stevens, Celtics. Boston has continually overachieved under Stevens tutelage. Despite the devastating injury to Gordon Hayward, Stevens still has the Celtics primed for a run at the NBA Finals.

Adam Wise: Dwane Casey, Raptors. Toronto seemed to be an afterthought in the East after everyone got all excited about the new faces in Boston and Cleveland. He's figured out how to use a deeper bench, while also giving ample minutes to his stars in DeRozan & Lowry. The Raptors are very well in the hunt for the top seed for that reason.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY

NBA Most Valuable Player:

Nick Ashooh: James Harden, Rockets. He leads the NBA in scoring, second in assists, and has Houston poised to give a legit push to the Warriors out West.

Steve Buckhantz: James Harden, Rockets. You can always make a case for the great players and how they elevate the athletes around them, and this is an award that's best suited to someone AFTER the season ends, but right now I'd go with Harden, who continues to play at a high level for his squad. Lebron will be there in the end, as will Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. 

Chase Hughes: James Harden, Rockets. He is the NBA's leading scorer, is second in assists and is leading the charge for the Rockets, who have the league's best record.

Kara Lawson: James Harden, Rockets. 

Troy Machir: James Harden, Rockets. LeBron James is still the best basketball player on the planet, but James Harden is the NBA MVP at the midway point. He's still the elite volume scorer he always was, but he's evolved into a player that makes his teammates around him better. Also, he scored a 60-point triple-double. 

Chris MilesJames Harden, Rockets. His 60-point triple-double should say enough. His team is also 26-1 when he has Chris Paul and Clint Capella. They also gave it to the Warriors and are in contention for the top seed in the West. Lebron James is second and could supplant Harden depending on how the season ends.

Travis ThomasJames Harden, Rockets. You could have made the case for him the past three seasons but other guys balled out of control and earned the award. This season it’s undeniable, he’s averaging  over 30 point per game and leading one of the best teams in the league.

Adam Wise: James Harden, Rockets. He's used the runner-up to the award as motivation this year. While the rebounding numbers are down (Clint Capella has gobbled them up), he's still near the top of the league in assists and he's leading the NBA in scoring. Oh yeah, and his play has elevated the Rockets into the "Could they really beat the Warriors in the playoffs?" discussion.

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2017-2018 NBA MIDSEASON AWARDS GALLERY