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Alabama's Lacy, Milliner, Fluker enter NFL draft

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Alabama's Lacy, Milliner, Fluker enter NFL draft

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy, cornerback Dee Milliner and right tackle D.J. Fluker are entering the NFL draft after helping lead the Crimson Tide to a second straight national title.

Lacy and Milliner announced their plans to skip their senior seasons Friday at a news conference. Fluker couldn't be there for the announcement because he was traveling.

It's another exodus of talented underclassmen for a team that has won three of the past four national championships. Most of the four first-round picks in each of the past two drafts that left Alabama were underclassmen.

``I appreciate what they've done for the University of Alabama but we also acknowledge the fact that from a business standpoint, these guys are making good decisions about their future and what they can do,'' coach Nick Saban said.

Unlike recent groups of departing juniors from Alabama, only Milliner is pegged as a sure first-round pick.

He was a Jim Thorpe Award finalist and unanimous All-American after recording two interceptions and 22 pass deflections. He and guard Chance Warmack, who was a senior, are projected as the Tide's top current prospects.

``I think while I was here, I met all the goals and team affirmations that I set for myself as a freshman by winning a championship, becoming an All-American, just being part of a team that always loved to win,'' Milliner said. ``I think I fulfilled all my goals and am ready and prepared to go to the next level.''

Lacy was MVP of the national championship game against Notre Dame after rushing for 140 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He said he wasn't 100 percent healthy all season until the title game Monday night, but Lacy still ran for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

``We don't have a lot of years to play this position, so you have to go while you can,'' Lacy said. ``I would love to come back. This is a great place. We have the best fans, but I really didn't want to risk coming back and not having such a good year or maybe even risking injury. I've had my share of injuries this year. I feel like you've got to get out while you can.''

Lacy thinks he ``made a pretty solid statement'' in the title game, when he made a spin move into the end zone on a TD catch and on another run pushed 248-pound linebacker Danny Spond away with one hand.

Lacy was recruited in the same class as Trent Richardson, last year's No. 3 pick by Cleveland, but redshirted and then spent two seasons as a backup. He's not widely projected to follow Richardson and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram into the first round. Lacy said he was projected as a second- or third-round pick in feedback from the NFL, but was impressive in the finale. Ordinarily, Saban only recommends projected first-round picks leave early.

``I'm fully supportive of what Eddie's doing,'' Saban said. ``It's a little bit of a different situation than we've had in the past, but it's a little bit unique as well. Every one of these situations is unique to that particular individual and what his situation is. ``

The 6-foot-6, 335-pound Fluker started 35 games for the Tide and was a second-team Associated Press All-American.

He was one of the Tide's top-rated signees in 2009 but came in overweight at about 395 pounds and was redshirted.

``I certainly feel like this year has been his best year as a player, and I feel that he's made a good decision about what he wants to do,'' said Saban, adding that Fluker has improved as much as any player on the team.

The mammoth Fluker, who wears a size-22 shoe, said in a statement that leaving early ``is never an easy decision when you are playing at a place like Alabama.''

``"These four years in Tuscaloosa have been the best four years of my life and I appreciate everyone who helped me along the way,'' he said.

Quarterback AJ McCarron, All-America linebacker C.J. Moseley and guard Anthony Steen have already said they're returning for their senior seasons. Saban didn't rule out other juniors possibly declaring for the draft before Tuesday's deadline.

The Tide does have promising players who have logged plenty of playing time behind Lacy and Milliner, especially. Two freshmen - tailback T.J. Yeldon (1,108 yards, 12 touchdowns) - and cornerback Geno Smith saw significant action.

``You've got people that are going to go to the NFL each year and you've got people behind them that are going to do the same things when their time comes,'' Milliner said.

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Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards face Jimmy Butler, Heat team that has set good example to follow

Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards face Jimmy Butler, Heat team that has set good example to follow

The 2019-20 season for the Wizards can be viewed as somewhat of a gap year, in that they hope their current organizational reset doesn't take long. It seems to be their goal to be back in the playoff mix next season with John Wall back and Bradley Beal operating through his prime.

Their best path towards doing that may look a lot like the team they face on Wednesday night, the Miami Heat (7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington). After missing the playoffs last season with a 39-43 record, the Heat are now 30-13 and second in the Eastern Conference.

The jump they have made is unusual, so don't focus too much on the standings. Instead look at how they have improved and how parallels could be drawn to the Wizards.
The Heat are led by Jimmy Butler, an All-Star wing who is a level above everyone else on their roster. The same could be said about Bradley Beal.

They have a point guard in Goran Dragic, who is still effective despite not being the 20-point scoring All-Star he used to be, now that he's lost a step. The way he plays could be a reasonable expectation for Wall as he works his way back to All-Star form coming off an Achilles injury.

Miami has assembled a deep and multidimensional roster around them. They have an ascending young frontcourt player in Bam Adebayo. Rui Hachimura could follow a similar trajectory, albeit as a different style of player.

Miami also has an array of shooters. Duncan Robinson was undrafted, then signed to a two-way contract. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn are rookies. The Wizards have their own group of emerging perimeter threats in Davis Bertans, Garrison Mathews and Jordan McRae.

The way the Heat win is with an efficient offense that includes deadly-accurate outside shooting and a slightly above average defense. They rank seventh in offensive rating (111.7) and 13th in defensive rating (108.1). And they are second in the NBA in three-point percentage (37.6) and eighth in threes made (12.7/g).

The Wizards are, of course, nowhere near even average on defense. Their defensive rating is 30th in the NBA and they possess none of the traits that make the Heat the defensive team they are. Miami, for instance, is first in opponent three-point percentage (32.7) and also first in defensive rebounding (32.3).

The Wizards, though, do already check off some boxes on offense. They are 11th in offensive rating (110.7) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.5). 

The Wizards have a long way to go to reach Miami's level, but the Heat's approach in a macro sense could be worth following and especially once Wall returns. Though Butler is their clear-cut best player, he only attempts 13.4 shots per game, second-most on the team. Dragic, despite being a former All-Star, takes only 12.1 per game.

The Wizards have long done things differently. Back in 2016-17, when they had their best season in many years, Wall averaged 18.4 shots and Beal took 17.2 per game.

Despite taking fewer shots, Butler is still able to put up numbers. He is averaging 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. Combined with his defense, that is plenty to compete for the All-Star team and maybe even All-NBA honors. Meanwhile, he gets credit for being the face of a winning team.

The Heat have a roster that is a bit top-heavy that has been filled out nicely with unheralded moves and young players. That is how the Wizards' roster might be described a year from now. In order to make it work and win some games, they might want to pay attention to how Miami is doing it.

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'MLB The Show 20' features the 'Soto Shuffle' and iconic moments from Nationals' World Series season

'MLB The Show 20' features the 'Soto Shuffle' and iconic moments from Nationals' World Series season

One of the first things some Nationals fans noticed about PlayStation's trailer for the "MLB The Show 20," which was released Wednesday, was the inclusion of the "Soto Shuffle" after Juan Soto takes a ball.

Back in November one (possibly psychic?) Nationals fan tweeted his hope that the newest edition of the game would include Soto's iconic move at the plate, which the outfielder uses to psych-out opponents.

In Game 1 of the NLCS, Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas wasn't too happy with the "Soto Shuffle," but Soto never stopped the move.  

According to the preview, the new video game also includes a Trea Turner dugout dance party at Nationals Park and former National Anthony Rendon in his new Los Angeles Angels garb.

No word yet as to whether Gerardo Parra's "Baby Shark" or Adam Eaton and Howie Kendrick's "Clutch and Drive" made the cut. 

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