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Aggies want to move past tough season

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Aggies want to move past tough season

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Texas A&M enters its first season in the Southeastern Conference after a year in which coach Billy Kennedy's illness and numerous injuries doomed the season and broke a streak of six straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.

The Aggies entered last season expected to contend with Kansas for the Big 12 title in their last season in the conference. Instead, Texas A&M went 14-18 and just 4-14 in conference play.

Kennedy took a medical leave early in the season after being diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson's disease last season. He's learned how to manage the disease now, and is looking forward to his second season in College Station.

``I was trying to survive the first two weeks last year, and I'm much further along obviously, but you get your priorities checked real quickly when your health is a concern,'' he said. ``I've learned a lot about myself and (I'm) really excited about the opportunity to be at Texas A&M and represent a great school and a great league. It's going to be a lot more fun, I promise you.''

The Aggies have some holes. Gone is top player Khris Middleton, who declared for the draft, and point guard Dash Harris, who was the team's emotional leader and led the team in assists and steals.

They'll now rely on seniors Elston Turner and Ray Turner this season as they try to bounce back from last season's disappointment. Elston Turner led the team with 13.8 points and Ray Turner added 9.1 points and a team-leading 5.5 rebounds a game last season.

Kennedy is looking to the pair to become leaders for his team.

``Those two guys are the only two guys that have legitimate Division I experience,'' Kennedy said. ``We need those guys to have great years on and off the court from a leadership standpoint. I would say they've been solid but I would like for them to give a little bit more from a leadership standpoint.''

Texas A&M should get a boost from the return of forward Kourtney Roberson. He was granted a medical redshirt after playing just nine games before breaking his left ankle last season. He averaged 5.6 points and 3.8 rebounds two years ago as a freshman.

Kennedy has been impressed with the 6-foot-9 Roberson so far, but knows he's not where he needs to be yet after missing so much time.

``He was as mobile and more athletic than he was last year,'' Kennedy said of his first practice this year. ``He was quicker and had more confidence ... He was cleared about a week before practice started. I think it's going to be a process. We just have to be patient with him at this point.''

The Aggies have a duo of highly-touted newcomers vying to take over at point guard. Junior college standout Fabyon Harris comes to Texas A&M after two seasons at the College of Southern Idaho. He averaged 17.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last season.

They also have J'Mychal Reese from nearby Bryan, Texas, who was rated the No. 1 point guard in Texas and among the best in the nation. He's a prolific scorer and once poured in 52 points in a high school game.

Kennedy believes that Reese and Texas A&M's other young players will add something to his team.

``It is a challenge, but the thing that I like is they bring a lot of personality,'' Kennedy said of his young players. ``I think that's something we lacked last year was some definition and enthusiasm at times. It'll be good to have some personality on the court.''

Kennedy is excited about the challenges of a new conference, but knows it will take a while for fans to adjust to the change.

``In the state of Texas, people are familiar with Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor, but they're not familiar with the Georgia's and South Carolina's,'' he said. ``It's going to take some time for our fans to understand that this is a good basketball league. It's so good in football, baseball and all the other sports that people sometimes don't understand how good it is in basketball. Once people come out and see us play, they'll recognize how good it is in basketball.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

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  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler