Redskins

Isner will lead US Davis Cup team vs. Brazil

Isner will lead US Davis Cup team vs. Brazil

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) John Isner is set to return from a knee injury and will play the No. 1 singles spot for the U.S. team against Brazil in the first round of Davis Cup World Group matches.

``We came into the week looking for clarity on John's knee, hoping it would respond the way it has,'' team captain Jim Courier said at Thursday's draw ceremony. ``He practiced hard every day. He's had no setbacks.

``From our eyes and our medical staff's eyes, we feel confident he's ready and set for 10 sets of tennis if he needs to play them this weekend.''

Isner injured his knee a month ago at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia playing with Venus Williams. He withdrew in his opening match the following week at the APIA International Sydney and hasn't played competitively since.

He said he's ready to return to the courts.

``I had a very encouraging week of practice which is what I was looking for,'' the 6-foot-9 Isner said. ``I didn't know how my knee was going to react when I really started to practice hard because it's been a while.

``My knee hasn't been bothering me. I feel like I'm ready to go.''

Isner's presence in the lineup is key to the Americans' hopes of beating Brazil and advancing to the quarterfinals in April against the winner of the Serbia-Belgium. Isner is the 13th-ranked player in the world, the best ranking of any of the four singles players competing in Friday's opening match.

He will meet Brazil's Thiago Alves, ranked No. 145 in the second singles match on Friday. The opening match pits the United States' Sam Querrey (No. 22) taking on Brazil's top player, Thomaz Bellucci (No. 33). It's the first meeting for the players in both matches.

The doubles competition takes place on Saturday with the world's No. 1 ranked team of Bob and Mike Bryan taking on the Brazilian pair of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares who have a 17 and 19 doubles ranking respectively.

Had Isner been ruled out, the U.S. likely would have turned to Ryan Harrison who last summer cracked the Top 50 rankings for the first time.

The match marks the fifth meeting between the U.S. and Brazil in Davis Cup with the Americans leading the overall series 3-1. The countries last met in Davis Cup play in 1997 in a first-round match in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil. Courier played singles for the U.S. team and won two matches to lead the American team to a 4-1 win.

This will be the first Davis Cup competition in an American city for either Isner or Querrey. Isner is 5-5 in Davis Cup singles play while Querrey is 1-5, with all matches held outside the U.S. on clay courts.

Isner, who lives in Tampa and played his college tennis at nearby Georgia, is looking forward to having the home crowd support behind him and his teammates.

``I've always flown over an ocean to go play Davis Cup. This tie I just got in my car and drove three hours,'' he said. ``I do feel at home here. Hopefully I can get some USA chants, but Georgia chants also would be accepted on my part.''

While the Bryan brothers have the world's No. 1 ranking and are coming off another Grand Slam doubles title at the Australian Open two weeks ago, the Brazilian pair of Melo and Soares hold a 2-1 edge on the U.S. pair. The four players met for a fourth time this past December when they played an exhibition match in Brazil. The Bryan brothers were victorious in three sets.

``This is a team that has beaten us before,'' Bob Bryan said. ``We really respect them. But yeah, it's going to be a war.

``These guys are both top-20 players, both won tournaments this year, so they're playing well. We know what we have to do. We feel good. We have some momentum coming here from Australia. But that definitely doesn't mean it's going to be easy.''

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Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown: Georgia RB Sony Michel

Redskins draft countdown

Sony Michel

Running back
Georgia

Sony Michel is a solid north-south runner who also can bounce outside and pick up yardage. He shared playing time with Nick Chubb last year and still ran for 1,277 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per carry, and scored 16 touchdowns against SEC competition. Michel also showed his bona fides in the passing game, catching 64 career passes and showing that he can handle pass protection. 

Height: 5-11
Weight: 220
40-yard dash:4.54

Projected draft round:2

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have made no secret of their desire to draft an upgrade at running back. They would prefer one who can catch passes out of the backfield and gain yardage between the tackles. Sony Michel can do both as well as pop for yardage on the outside. There is a good chance that he will be on the board when the Redskins draft in the second round. Since they don’t have a third-round pick, this may be the last chance to get an upgrade in this draft. 

Film review: vs. Notre Dame, vs. Alabama

—The first thing to say here is that the Bulldogs had a quality run-blocking offensive line. Michel frequently had big holes to run through. For his part, Michel maximized his gains when he had a big opening, hitting it quickly and working north-south. 

—He also can pick up yards through just a small crease, again by hitting it with urgency and gaining momentum to drive for the final few yards. 

—Michel didn’t do a whole lot of pass protection in the plays I watched, but he was solid when he did. On one play against Notre Dame, he put a blitzing defensive back on the ground. Against Alabama, he got in the way of likely first-round pick Da’Ron Payne long enough to allow the quarterback to get off a deep pass. To be sure, he didn’t blow Payne away but his block was effective.

—Besides the O-line, Michel also got quality blocking from his receivers. Again, he took advantage, reading the blocks and maximizing the gain. 

—He also can get it done without much help. On third and 20 against the vaunted Alabama defense, he headed up the middle and quickly went outside when he saw no running room. He headed to the sideline with four Alabama defenders and no blockers in sight. Michel found another gear and accelerated down the sideline to convert the third and long.  

—He later converted a third and 10 on a draw play, quickly getting up to speed and zipping through traffic to move the sticks. 

Potential issues: Although he has decent speed, he’s not the home run threat you might want in a back taken in the second round. And Michel isn’t really a power back either, although he can fight for extra yards. 

Despite his limitations, there is chatter that Michel might be drafted early in the second round or perhaps even late in the first. It’s hard to separate the smoke and speculation from reality as we sit a week before the draft starts. But he’s a talented back and if Derrius Guice goes off the board earlier than most expect, a run on runners could include Michel. 

Bottom line: Saquon Barkley is the obvious top running back and he surely will be gone when the Redskins pick in the first round. After that, the Redskins have plenty of options. They like Guice but 13 may be too high for him and he is likely to be gone when their pick in the second is on the clock. Michel is one of a few possibilities there, a group that also would include Michel’s former teammate Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones of USC and others. Without a peek at the draft board in Ashburn, we will just have to wait and see. 

Redskins draft countdown

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

 

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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WIZARDS NEED BEAL TO BE MUCH BETTER TO WIN

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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