Mardy Fish admits there at times on the court his mind can go to bad places. Not for truly pedestrian reasons like losing the opening set of match, as he did Tuesday in his 2012 Citi Open debut. Feeling ones heart is capable of bursting through your chest will indeed mess with your mind.On the mend after undergoing a procedure earlier this year to correct what was diagnosed arrhythmia, the top-seeded Fish also survived a gimpy ankle and a first-round scare en route to defeating Bjorn Phau 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.Fish, a regular participant and recent struggler - on the Rock Creek hard courts is in Washington because he passed on the London Olympics. The decision made by the 2004 silver medalist in Athens came before the medical concerns cropped in April. Feeling off during a tournament in Houston and sleeping felt like something out of an alien movie, the 30-year-old sought help. In May, he underwent a procedure, adjusting his hearts wiring. I feel 100 percent physically and structurally. The most important thing for me right now is getting my confidence back, said Fish.That process began in late June during his first tournament back on tour, on the hallowed grounds at Wimbledon. Playing on his favorite surface and the site of the Olympic tournament Fish reached the round of 16.Candidly, Fish admitted the mental rehab is still a work in progress.Everyone knows the mind can play tricks on you a little bit. When youre out there playing, you can convince yourself that youre not feeling well, that youre going to cramp when its hot. Sometimes I tend too - because my confidence isnt all the way back when I dont feel 100 percent, my mind can go to bad places. Thats the hardest part for me right now.The Minnesota native and Los Angeles resident entered Washington with a slight hitch in his gate after suffering a right ankle injury two weeks ago in a post-Wimbledon tournament. That tour stop in Atlanta ended quickly for Fish. Tweaking the same ankle late in the first set against Phau almost did the same. It also started another round of mind games. This time, all that was required was a major serve.Though a quarterfinalist his first two appearance in Washington, Fishs recent local results have had a rather a swimming upstream quality. Since 2006, he has won only one match in the Nations Capital. Last years early exit came via a heel injury that forced the Minnesota native and now Los Angeles resident out before a striking a single stroke.Diving for an out-of-reach shot, Fish messed with the ankle he later deemed, 75 percent but not hampering me in a bad way. Moments later, the No. 15 ranked player was down a set to Phau and feeling rather down about his game. Struggling with his composure at 1-1 in the second, Fish fought off a service break by smacking two of his 15 aces. I get down a break there, you start questioning thingsstart feeling the ankle a little bit more, Fish said. Youd be surprised how much better it feels up a break than down a break.From there, it was downstream for Fish. He finished off the game, took the next four and the second set, eventually winning 10 of the next 11 games.It was nice to sort of get the momentum there in the second set and keep it throughout the match, said Fish.As for the no Olympics decision, Fish, who also passed on the 2008 Beijing games, said scheduling overrode the chance at another unbelievable experience as he had in Athens.Since the medical procedure, Fish is doing all he can to avoid those things that can bring on the heart issues. He has not had a sip of alcohol since May. He avoids all but a little morning coffee. However, in his line of work, good luck eliminating one other issue."Stress is a factor, but obviously thats hard to do."
The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.
That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.
The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)
Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.
Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.
The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.
4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)
The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.
With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.
The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.
Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.
5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)
Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.
That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.
The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.
The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups.
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6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)
The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.
Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.
What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings.
Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.
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It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.
After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.
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Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.
Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.
His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.
In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.
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