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Giants All-Pro Pierre-Paul not having any fun

Giants All-Pro Pierre-Paul not having any fun

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Football has not been any fun for Jason Pierre-Paul this season.

Pierre-Paul has gone from All-Pro to all frowns. The sacks aren't coming: Pierre-Paul has just 1 1-2 in four games in 2012 after getting 16 1-2 a year ago, especially terrorizing opposing passers down the stretch and into the playoffs as the Giants won the Super Bowl.

``Last year, I was running around like a big kid,'' Pierre-Paul said Thursday.

And this year?


``I have to look into the mirror and say to myself, `I can do better.' Each year, you've got to get better,'' said the third-year pro. ``I've just got to go out there and have fun.''

Pierre-Paul promises he will enjoy Sunday's game against Cleveland. If he can take down rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden a few times and help bottle up another rookie, running back Trent Richardson, JPP might be right.

It's not in the effort, either, he insists.

``You know if you are going hard on all these plays,'' he said. ``I do. But I say to myself that I can go a little harder. I want to go a little bit harder.''

The Giants' dynamic pass rush has not materialized as some might expect in their 2-2 start. They do have eight sacks, but they have also struggled to contain the likes of Cam Newton and Michael Vick - even Tony Romo in the opener.

Not having an overpowering pass rush is especially damaging with so many injuries in the secondary, where just about everyone is banged up. That means fewer coverage sacks because receivers get open quicker against the substitutes.

Plus, opponents know they must place a high priority on protecting their quarterbacks, so they might keep a tight end in to block more often, or use maximum protection with fewer receivers in patterns.

``Sometimes we get a surprise here and there with a particular thing they come up with,'' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. ``Sometimes you just have to whip somebody's butt.''

Justin Tuck agrees with Pierre-Paul's assessment, but can't pinpoint the reason things haven't been as enjoyable.

``I think you just keep pounding the rock,'' the leader of the defensive line said. ``It's my experience that sacks and quarterback hits come in bunches. And you also can have the best pass rush ... and not get the sack.

``I'm not having as much fun, either. We're not playing up to the high level of expectations we have around here. We haven't stepped up to the level we want to play at, and that's why it isn't much fun.''

Although Fewell's defensive schemes are systematic, it often appeared last season that Pierre-Paul was running wild. Actually, he was beating blockers so frequently that he was doing exactly what the job called for even if he seemed to be playing with reckless abandon.

This year, he seems more tame because he isn't causing havoc in opposing backfields on every other snap. He believes the entire defensive line has been that way.

``The sacks are going to come. On our team, we should already have more sacks,'' Pierre-Paul said. ``You never know when they will come. This is Week 5 and they might come.

``I wouldn't say it's not fun, but I am not having the fun I am used to. I've got to go out and be happy like a kid, have the energy I had last year. And I see that with the other guys who have to find that level of fun.''

NOTES: WR Hakeem Nicks (left foot and knee) is out for Sunday. Fellow WR Ramses Barden (concussion) is unlikely to play. ... Also not participating in practice were LB Michael Boley (hip), S Antrel Rolle (left knee), S Kenny Phillips (right knee) and CB Corey Webster (right hand, hamstring). Rolle and Webster both said they will be available against the Browns.


Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL



  1. In March Madness’ biggest upset ever, 16-seed University of Maryland-Baltimore County shocked the nation in its lopsided 74-54 win over No. 1 Virginia. UMBC became the first 16-seed to beat a No. 1. In other Cinderella stories, 11th-seeded Loyola upset third-seeded Tennessee 63-62 Saturday night and on Sunday, seventh-seeded Texas A&M stunned No. 2 North Carolina, the tournament's reigning champ. While UMBC lost to Kansas State in Sunday’s Round of 32, UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski was "thrilled about the attention the school is receiving from around the country." Hrabowski told the Baltimore Sun, "People began to Google us and to see the academic achievements… from a potential employer like Amazon to other university presidents to elected officials." UMBC's official athletics Twitter account "had about 5,400 followers" before Friday's game against UVA and now is up to over 92,000. Meanwhile, because a 16-seed knocked off a 1-seed, Little Caesars is offering a free lunch combo to all comers on Monday, April 2, National Championship day. During March Madness, apparently there is such a thing as a free lunch.

  2. If your bracket is busted, you’re in good company. The 21st ESPN Men’s Tournament Challenge collected 17.3 million completed brackets, the second-most ever behind only last year’s explosion of 18.8 million, which surpassed the previous mark set in 2016 by nearly 6 million, according to the network. At the peak period of entries shortly before the start of Thursday’s first round games, fans registered 33,472 brackets per minute. ESPN also set new all-time records for fan sign-ups and completed brackets on a tip-off Thursday. On Wednesday, ESPN set a new all-time record for completed Tournament Challenge brackets in a single day, with more than 5 million. At the end of ESPN’s Tournament Challenge Marathon on Tuesday, ESPN had collected more than 8.2 million brackets, as well as two of the top six sign-up days in the 21-year history of the game. While the network had not announced how many of those eight million brackets were busted as of late Sunday night, with massive upsets over the weekend including Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Michigan State, you can bet it is the majority.


  1. The Pac-12 task force has revealed its recommendations to reshape college basketball, most notably stating that the NCAA should end its one-and-done rule. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the task force was created in the wake of the ongoing FBI scandal that has shaken up college basketball this season. The task force stated that changes should be made to the recruiting process and championed the adoption of college baseball rules, where players either turn pro right out of high school or commit to staying in college for at least three years. These recommendations will only be implemented with the support of the NBA and the NBAPA, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has supported the need for change in wake of the scandal. One of the biggest current problems with the notion of paying players is AAU basketball and its impact on recruiting. The task force “recommends to start making recruits, and their families, aware of the rules early in high school” while removing the AAU system entirely. Dispensing with the AAU system also includes the side benefit of giving the shoe companies that fund the tournaments a lot less sway over basketball and its players.


  1. University administrators are beginning to voice their opinions on the current state of college basketball and the NCAA. According to SportsBusiness Journal, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, NCAA President Mark Emmert, and Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir joined NCAA.com’s Andy Katz for an interview regarding the ongoing FBI scandal that has ripped through college basketball. “To hear this type of thing going on in the game itself gives us pause and concern, and we want to, hopefully, eradicate it as quickly as possible,” said Muir after hearing news of the FBI’s involvement. Emmert’s comments were more directed toward player marketing and how student-athletes can make a name for themselves: “If you’re a college basketball player with professional aspirations, whether it’s in basketball or just whatever your profession is going to be, I can’t think of a better marketing device than playing in the NCAA tournament.” The panel agreed unanimously that it would be “pure chaos” if players were allowed to sign individual endorsement deals. With so much support at the top levels of the NCAA and the NBA it is clear – major changes are likely coming to college basketball during the off season.

  2. Tiger Woods is once again showing his value to the PGA Tour and its partners. NBC drew a 5.1 overnight rating for the final round of the Valspar Championship, which saw Woods finish one shot behind winner Paul Casey. That number is up 183% from a 1.8 rating for the final round last year, and marks the best overnight rating for any regular PGA Tour event or major, excluding the Masters, since the 2015 PGA Championship. The 200 brands that aligned themselves with the Valspar telecasts generated 1.3 billion TV impressions in U.S. households – nearly 1 billion more than the 275 brands that advertised during the 2017 event on NBC and Golf Channel, according to data from iSpot.tv. Meanwhile, ticket sales for this weekend’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, in which Woods competed for the first time since 2013, "were up" more than 50% from 2017 according to the Orlando Sentinel. Woods tied for fifth place, eight shots behind winner Rory McIlroy; tournament COO Marci Doyle said was likely "the largest event in the 53-year-history of our tournament." With Tiger ascendant and McIlroy netting his first PGA Tour win since 2016, the countdown to The Masters officially begins.

  3. Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ new deal with the Minnesota Vikings has the potential to revolutionize the way NFL teams negotiate player contracts. According to the Washington Times, the three-year, $84 million deal is fully guaranteed, marking a huge break from the traditional way executives have negotiated contracts with players over the years. Normally, “teams routinely pull the plug early on players and contracts deemed cost-ineffective,” which will not be the case for Cousins in Minnesota. News of the deal sent shockwaves through the league, with many players commenting on the change. “Now we need more players to bet on themselves until fully guaranteed contracts are the norm and not the exception,” tweeted Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin. Critics of the deal say that guaranteeing contracts will “diminish” the game, meaning that players will not have the same incentive to earn their paychecks as they do now.


  1. With the Dallas Cowboys set to host the NFL Draft in April, plans for events at AT&T Stadium have been announced by the team. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the draft will be held from April 26-28 in the NFL Draft Theater, which will be built on the stadium’s field. More than 250,000 fans have already registered for a chance to win free seated tickets inside the space at AT&T Stadium. Last year’s NFL Draft weekend in Philadelphia was considered a massive success, and also marked the first Draft to be held outdoors, but the 250,000 registered fans “represents a 50% increase over last year” at this point. A State Fair-like setting is expected to be set up to complement the Draft itself, with the Cowboys offering “a cornucopia of attractions outside of the stadium that they hope will keep fans occupied throughout the three days.” While “everything is bigger in Texas,” the 2018 Draft also continues the NFL’s ever-growing ambitions to make the sport a year-round appointment event and provide entertainment to everyone in the family.


  1. MLB has created a new two-day FoodFest in New York that will feature food items from all 30 major league ballparks. The first-ever MLB FoodFest will be held April 21-22 near New York’s Bryant Park, with each club selecting one concession item to represent the franchise. The event will also feature interactive exhibits and art celebrating baseball’s ties to popular concession items such as hot dogs, and incorporate MLB sponsors Nathan’s and Coca-Cola. Among the more notable club items featured will be the D-backs’ churro dog -- a churro inside of a donut topped with frozen yogurt, chocolate sauce, caramel and whipped cream -- the Astros’ chicken waffle cone that features popcorn chicken and mashed potatoes inside of a waffle cone, and the Royals’ brisket nachos. Tickets will be priced at $25 for food only, providing samples of all 30 club items, and $40 for food and beer. Development of the MLB FoodFest was led by the league’s internal marketing and social team with logistical assistance from New York-based agency MKG. The FoodFest sold out in just two days, and is already proving so popular that MLB is taking names for a waiting list for future locations.

  2. Acting USOC CEO Susanna Lyons told the IOC that three American cities are interested in hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics. According to SportsBusiness Daily, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Reno/Tahoe, respectively are the three parties that have expressed a desire to be included in talks going forward. While none of the cities was noted to have an interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Games, which has a bid deadline of March 31, the IOC is considering awarding both the 2026 and 2030 Olympics simultaneously – similar to what the international governing body did this past Fall when it awarded the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles at the same time. The Salt Lake City bid group did note that the city could be ready in 2026 “if called upon,” but 2030 remains the preferred cycle to host. Meanwhile, the Utah bid leaders “don’t believe Colorado can produce top-flight Olympic facilities for anywhere close to the cost of what Salt Lake City can provide.” Another factor in Salt Lake’s bid may be the recent relocation of Mitt Romney to the state – Romney served as the savior CEO of the 2002 Games held there.


  1. Former NFL COO Tod Leiweke is expected to join the Oak View Group in Seattle as a top executive to help bring an NHL expansion franchise to the Pacific Northwest. According to the Seattle Times, KeyArena is currently being renovated by OVG in Seattle with the hope of landing both an NHL and NBA team in the coming years, though neither has been announced by the respective leagues. An NHL team would likely begin play in October 2020, but a decision is not expected on that until a league Board of Governors meeting in June. Leiweke served as CEO of the Seattle Seahawks from 2003-2010, “doubling their season-ticket base” and advancing them to their first-ever Super Bowl following the 2005 season, so he has prior success in the region with professional sports teams. As noted by a city sportswriter, “He is quite simply the most successful sports executive Seattle has ever known.” If anyone can successfully bring at least one of these pro sports back to Seattle it’s the brothers Leiweke – Tod and his brother and OVG founder Tim, long the AEG CEO.


  1. The Canadian government has officially announced its support for the joint North American World Cup bid for 2026. According to the Toronto Sun, the bid from the United States, Mexico, and Canada faces opposition only from Morocco, yet the North African country’s bid is “making a late charge” to win the elusive bid. Canada’s official support is a last push to “coax the FIFA Congress away from selecting Morocco.” “It’s good for our athletes, it’s good for our communities, our economy, our reputation as an international sport leader,” said Canadian Minister of Sport Kristy Duncan. The competitor’s bid proposes a more compact tournament, with stadiums and venues within driving distance from each other, as opposed to the North American bid that would require flying between almost all potential host cities. The Moroccan bid is also being viewed as more favorable for viewership in the European market due to the time zones it encompasses – the European region clearly drives the majority of TV revenue for FIFA.     


  1. In the wake of some of the NBA’s biggest stars acknowledging personal struggles with mental health, the NBA and NBAPA have decided to create an independent mental wellness program. According to NBA.com, the two entities are on the precipice of naming a Director of Mental Health & Wellness, a new role that will be jointly funded by the league and the union. Most recently, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love have publicly stated that they were dealing with mental health issues while playing this season, prompting the league to take official steps to help. The new program, which is the result of almost a “year of discussions” between the two sides, “will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams.” The mental outreach program will extend beyond the NBA, as it will also be part of the Junior NBA World Championships in Orlando in August. Player health and safety is a key tenet of all pro sports leagues, including mental health. It’s great to see the NBA and its players association take this important step.


  1. MLS and Liga MX have officially announced the first stage of a strategic partnership between the two North American soccer leagues. According to Pro Soccer USA, MLS and Liga MX clubs will begin competing in the Campeones Cup, the first competition solely between U.S. and Mexican soccer clubs since SuperLiga ended following the 2010 season. “The Campeones Cup is only the first step,” said Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla. “It’s a big step, as [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] said it’s going to be the Super Bowl of soccer in North America…We’re going to work with minor, we’re going to work with best practices …and we’re sure we’re going to have better football for great fans we have in the U.S. and in Mexico and in Canada.” The new partnership also has the aim of going beyond the sport, with hopes that the cup between the two nations will help ease any cultural divides that have arisen in the current political climate. Once again the healing power of sport should prevail, both on the pitch of the Campeones Cup matches and outside of it.


  1. As MLS continues to grow in size and popularity across North America, some of the league’s longstanding clubs have started to lag behind. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, MLS Commissioner Don Garber is not worried about the viability of Philadelphia as an MLS city going forward, despite lagging attendance numbers over the past years. “It’s a huge market,” said Garber. “It’s an influential market. We continue to have great faith in the club, its ownership and the market.” Since 2010, the Union’s attendance has declined steadily year over year, going from an average of 19,254 in 2010 to only 16,812 in 2017. As part of the club’s Talen Energy Stadium lease, “if after 10 years the team’s attendance is in the bottom 25% of MLS, the team can pay the county $10 million and leave the venue.” The team has insisted that this will not happen, but the club is running out of time to turn around its downward attendance trend. The team’s success in attracting fans now further impacts the city’s bottom line – expect to see the Philly government lending a subtle marketing hand.


  1. The 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer will not be attended by the British royal family or any government ministers from the United Kingdom. According to ESPN.com, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the absence in wake of the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal. Moscow has refused to explain how the domestically-made nerve agent was used on a former Russian spy and his daughter, prompting U.K. politicians to directly address the country and its leadership. If Russian involvement in the poisoning is in fact proven, “it will be very difficult to imagine that U.K. representation at the World Cup will go ahead in the normal way…” The England national team remains a lock for this summer’s tournament, but should tensions escalate between the two countries, it will remain to be seen if further boycott action is taken by the British. This marks the latest example of how politics have had a direct influence on sport, as seen last month with North Korea’s positive inclusion at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea.



Tech Top 5

  1. Turner and Intel deliver March Madness in virtual reality. Through the NCAA March Madness Live VR, Turner Sports this year is selling live virtual reality access to games throughout the NCAA tournament for $2.99 a pop. The app, which was developed in partnership with CBS Sports and the NCAA and built on Intel’s True VR technology, is offering VR games from the first and second rounds as well as the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and National Championship – 21 games in all. When accessing the games through the VR system, users can either pick a camera angle to watch a game or opt for “fully produced” coverage that involves multiple cameras and sounds from the arena. During the first and second rounds, audio included game commentary from the telecasts across TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV. In addition to the VR games, the NCAA March Madness Live VR provides interactive bracket updates, full length game replays, highlights, and video-on-demand. Turner’s offering this year expands on the initial multiyear deal it signed last year with Intel, CBS, and the NCAA.

  2. Arlington to build America’s largest esports stadium. Arlington already has the largest local monopoly on professional sports with Globe Life Park, AT&T Stadium, and the University of Texas at Arlington's Maverick Stadium. Arlington officials last week announced a plan to build the largest esports complex in America, a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot facility called Esports Stadium Arlington that would transform the Arlington Convention Center into a space dedicated to housing competitive gaming bouts. "Being on the forefront of new ideas and setting trends is in our DNA and part of who we are as the American Dream City," Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said in a statement. "Esports Stadium Arlington will further cement our city's status as a national and international tourist destination." The project will be a joint venture of the city, sports architecture firm Populous, and Esports Venues LLC. The entertainment marketing firm NGAGE Esports will manage the new facility once construction is complete. Esports Venues will have a 10-year lease, with a 10-year renewal option, with the city. The city plans to recoup the money it will spend through lease payments, event revenues, and naming rights.

  3. Kevin Durant adds Suzy to tech portfolio. Kevin Durant is increasing his portfolio of tech investments beyond sports and health. In November, The Durant Firm invested in promoting startup Suzy as half of a bigger $5 million funding spherical for Suzy’s parent firm, Crowdtap, led by enterprise capital agency The Foundry Group. Suzy CEO Matt Britton informed The New York Enterprise Journal that the addition of Durant and associate Wealthy Kleiman is part of the company’s efforts to hunt likeminded companions and buyers who provide “a differentiated perspective on the enterprise panorama.” Crowdtap was previously within the enterprise of influencer advertising. At SXSW, the company shifted its focus by rebranding to Suzy. Now, as an alternative to selling its relationship with creators, it is specializing in synthetic intelligence that lets manufacturers construct surveys that may gain tens of millions of shoppers in seconds. Earlier this year, The Durant Firm invested in Yoshi, an app that delivers on-demand fuel and oil modifications for parked automobiles. Durant’s investments come as more Warriors players use their proximity to Silicon Valley to position themselves as tech influencers.

  4. Warriors partner with SyncThink to monitor concussions. The Warriors became the first pro sports team to work with Palo Alto-based SyncThink, producers of a virtual reality headset that uses eye-tracking technology. The SyncThink headset provides real time objective data on how a subject’s brain is functioning. The Warriors and SyncThink will use that data to determine if any of their players have concussion symptoms. Unlike the NFL, NBA teams do not monitor concussions on a near daily basis. But a handful of NBA players have suffered concussions in recent years, including Warriors guard Klay Thompson in the 2015 NBA playoffs. In 2011, the NBA passed a concussion protocol that required players to pass a series of tests symptom-free before returning to the court, including stationary bike, light jogging, running, jumping and agility drills, team drills with limited contact, and returning to the court without limitations. “We have a lot of really great return-to-play protocols and I think the NBA has done a terrific job in being overly safe,” Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said.

  5. New Jersey will implement replay for high school football. New Jersey high school football will experiment with voluntary video replay review in the 2018 season, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Wednesday. Officials will be able to access replays using Hudl Sideline, an application that syncs live game film across devices, such as tablets or smartphones used by players and coaches, to review game tape and potentially reverse calls made on the field. Coaches frequently use the replay software to gain a competitive advantage during games. Replays are available on devices about four seconds after the whistle, quick enough to run a no-huddle offense and still see instant replays. NFL and college teams can use tablets to view still photographs but not live video. Previously, teams printed out photos for in-game scouting. State football officials will determine the policies to govern the review process by the end of the month, said Jack Dubois, the state’s associate athletic director.

Power of Sports 5


  1. Rickie Fowler wears Arnold Palmer tribute shoes. Although he didn’t pull off a win there this year, Rickie Fowler honored the life and legacy of Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill by wearing specially-designed PUMA AP Ignite Hi-Tops and a limited edition Arnie’s Army hat during play. Fowler has always been a huge fan of Palmer, and last year during the API he raised over $25,000 for charity. This year, Rickie is trying out something similar with shoes and hat with Palmer’s famous umbrella logo. "I feel privileged to have known Arnie and be able to call him a friend," Fowler said. "I wanted to do something to celebrate what he did on the course, and more importantly, how he used his platform to benefit others through his Foundation!" The shoes were created for Puma Golf by Dominic Chambrone, known as "The Shoe Surgeon." Puma is also giving one lucky golfer the chance to own the same shoes Fowler has in his possession. Currently up for auction on eBay, the second pair of Palmer-inspired spikes come signed by Fowler, with all proceeds from the auction going to support the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation.

  2. Former MLB manager Tony La Russa hosts “Dinner of Champions” in Phoenix. Founded in 1993 after he saved a stray cat during a game at the Oakland Coliseum, La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) works to keep pets out of harm’s way in public pounds. The organization has also partnered with veterans and people with traumatic brain injuries to come together with service-related issues to create a happy and healthy lifestyle. “We have a great cause, and in this case, it’s bringing our dogs together with veterans who have PTSD,” La Russa said. Steak 44 in Phoenix hosted the gathering, and among the athletes in attendance were Hall of Famers Jim Thome, George Brett, and Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks. A’s relief pitcher Liam Hendriks was also present, and he felt particularly strong about the cause at hand. Hendriks has six pets: three teacup Chihuahuas and three cats, including his “newest acquisition,” a displaced cat from Hurricane Irma. With roots in the Bay Area with the Athletics, La Russa underwrote a 37,700 square foot ARF shelter in Walnut Creek in 2003, and Hendriks has helped him with local events in recent years.

  3. Oklahoma City Thunder help fight hunger. Last week, the entire Oklahoma City Thunder organization spent the afternoon at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma packing meals for the second annual Thunder Day of Service. The full roster from the Thunder and Blue, as well as staff members, packed meals, packaged dry goods, and filled boxes with food to go to Oklahomans facing food insecurity. In total, the Thunder organization packaged 12,144 pounds of food, which will feed approximately 10,120 Oklahomans. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, a member of the Feeding America network of Food Banks, is the largest hunger-relief charity in the state, providing enough food to feed more than 136,000 hungry Oklahomans every week, 37% of whom are children. In 2017, the Regional Food Bank distributed 52 million pounds of food through a network of 1,300 community-based partner agencies, charitable feeding programs, and schools throughout 53 central and western Oklahoma counties.

  4. MLB stars bartend for charity. Billy Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Dee Gordon were among ballplayers slinging drinks at the eighth annual Celebrity Bartender Night in Scottsdale to benefit Amyloidosis Support Groups and Cruz's Boomstick23 Foundation. They gathered to support Erica Brooks, whose firm Issues Concerning Athletes finds temporary housing for many Major Leaguers who spend February and March in Arizona, and whose father passed away from the rare disease amyloidosis. "It means a lot to me, it means a lot to Erica and her family," said Hamilton, who has been attending since at least 2014. Amyloidosis is an incurable disease in which an abnormal protein builds up in a person's organs. "I do housing for them, but this is where I get rewarded," Brooks said. Cruz added additional weight to this year's event by involving his Boomstick 23 Foundation, which focuses on youth sports and education. "Where we're coming from, we know the importance of giving back," said Cruz. "I learned it from my dad. Any cause that I can help, especially stuff like this, I'm glad to do it."

  5. Former NFL players help nonprofit. On April 7, members of the NFL Alumni group will host a clay shooting fundraiser for Champions for Champions. The Champions for Champions nonprofit offers activities for children and adults with special needs. Former Miami Dolphins Running Back Don Nottingham, Super Bowl VIII Champion in 1973, partnered with local resident Marisa Rodriguez, who has battled the effects of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. “Some people said I would never walk on my own, but I proved them wrong,” said Rodriguez. She has overcome the need to use a walker or a cane, which she had used from age 3 until her early teens. Rodriguez was one of several members of Champions for Champions of Ocala who gathered, along with Nottingham, for the group’s most recent Friday “Dance Like a Champion” session. The nonprofit Champions for Champions aims to “actively enhance the quality of life” for adults and children with “intellectual, physical or developmental disability,” such as autism and Downs syndrome, according to the group’s commitment statement. Champions for Champions formed in 2016 and now includes about 40 members and their families.

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Wizards blown out by Spurs, as streak of losses in San Antonio since 1999 continues

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Wizards blown out by Spurs, as streak of losses in San Antonio since 1999 continues

The Washington Wizards lost to the San Antonio Spurs 98-90 on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Streak continues: Many will tell you that San Antonio, TX is a wonderful city rife with history, good restaurants and warm weather. Please excuse the Washington Wizards if they hate the place.

They lost to the Spurs in a blowout on Wednesday and remain winless in San Antonio going all the way back to 1999. It was their 18th straight loss when playing at the Spurs.

The Spurs win games with their defense and this one was no exception. The Wizards scored their fewest points since Jan. 22, nearly two months, and shot just 42.7 percent. The Spurs hold opponents to the lowest points per game in the NBA (99.0) and the Wizards fell into all of their traps.

Bradley Beal was the only one immune to it. He had 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting. The rest of the Wizards shot just 26-for-69 (37.7%).

Losing in San Antonio has come to be expected for the Wizards, but they picked a bad night to drop a game. The Cavaliers and Sixers both won. Philly winning means more because they passed the Wizards in the East and currently sit fourth while the Wizards are in the sixth spot. 

If the playoffs began with those seeds, the Wizards would see the Cavaliers in the first round. Even though the Cavs aren't what they were a year ago, that should be avoided if possible.


Hustle plays: The Spurs also beat the Wizards at the minor details of the game, something they have long been good at under head coach Gregg Popovich. They got the loose balls and offensive rebounds at key moments to either sustain or steal momentum away from Washington.

In the first half, 40-year-old Manu Ginobli dove on the ground to beat Ramon Sessions to a loose ball and it led to two points by Pau Gasol. In the third quarter, Patty Mills flipped around quickly to steal an outlet pass from Marcin Gortat that led to free throws. And in the third there was one play when the Spurs got three offensive rebounds and ultimately got to the free throw line again.

The Spurs out-rebounded the Wizards 43-34 overall and outdid them in offensive rebounds 12-8. They just wanted it more on this particular night.


Oubre stood out: The Spurs' defense got the best of most players on the Wizards, but Kelly Oubre, Jr. was an exception. The third-year pro has been struggling with his shot in recent weeks, so in this one he stuck to high percentage looks, at least early. He had 10 points in his first nine minutes on 5-for-7 shooting, many of those attempts right around the rim.

Oubre attacked the lane dribbling both to his left and his right. He finished with floaters, tough layups and on one fastbreak with a thunderous left-handed slam:

Oubre ended up with 21 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He shot 9-for-17 from the field and 3-for-6 from three.

Oubre has continued to make an impact defensively, even when his shot is not falling. But he has to get more creative some nights to affect games when he isn't hitting from long range. Wednesday was a good example of how he can use his athleticism to take matters into his own hands.

It is a tricky balance, however, because sometimes his aggression can lead to mistakes. That certainly happened at times even in this game, as he had two turnovers. But when Oubre can contain his explosiveness, he can make a big difference.


Under the weather: Already without Wall, the Wizards had to shorten their rotation by two players against the Spurs as both Jodie Meeks and Mike Scott were out due to flu-like symptoms. In Meeks and Scott, the Wizards were missing two key pieces on their bench.

Instead of giving Tim Frazier and Jason Smith a rare and extended opportunity, head coach Scott Brooks instead chose to tighted things up. He relied heavily on the starters until the game was out of hand.

Brooks also got experimental, playing Tomas Satoransky (zero points, 0-for-7 FG) and Sessions together in the second quarter with Oubre and Otto Porter (12 points, seven rebounds) as the forwards. In the fourth quarter, we saw a lineup with three point guards: Sessions, Frazier and Satoransky.

The fact the Wizards had three days off before this game helped allow Brooks to rely on his starters early. It was also an opportunity for Brooks to see what life will be like when Wall returns. There is a chance Satoransky could see more time off the ball. This gave him another glimpse of how he can use Satoransky in more creative ways once the minutes at point guard go down significantly.


Up next: The Wizards are off Thursday before returning home to host the Denver Nuggets on Friday with a 7 p.m. tipoff on NBC Sports Washington. That will be a special night at Capital One Arena as the Wizards retire Phil Chenier's No. 45 jersey. 

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