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Arizona St. storms back for 41-34 win over Arizona

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Arizona St. storms back for 41-34 win over Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Marion Grice ran for 156 yards and three touchdowns, and Arizona State added another chapter to what's become a wild rivalry by scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter to beat Arizona 41-34 on Friday night.

Trailing 27-17 after Arizona scored 18 points in the third quarter, the Sun Devils (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) fought back, turning two turnovers and a blocked punt into three touchdowns.

Kevin Ayers had a blocked punt to set up Cameron Marshall for an 8-yard touchdown that gave Arizona State the lead, and Robert Nelson returned an interception 66 yards before Michael Eubank's 1-yard touchdown made it 41-27.

Matt Scott found David Richards for a 17-yard touchdown in the final 2 minutes to cut Arizona State's lead to 41-34, but the Wildcats couldn't come up with the onside kick.

Ka'Deem Carey ran for 172 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats (7-5, 4-5). Scott threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns but had four turnovers, including an interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter.

Arizona State's comeback helped coach Todd Graham land the first blow on Arizona's Rich Rodriguez in the 85-game series' first game between new coaches since Arizona's John Mackovic beat ASU's Dirk Koetter in 2001.

A heated rivalry to begin with, the Territorial Cup took on added meaning this season with new coaches trying to get a head start on each other.

After an unsuccessful stint at Michigan, Rodriguez brought gas-it-all-the-time offense to the desert, hoping to turn around a program that had fallen off hard the previous couple of seasons.

Even without much depth on his roster, Rodriguez's debut has been a success: Seven wins, two over Top 25 teams, and bowl eligibility in his first season.

Just 90 minutes up Interstate 10 in Tempe, Graham put his mark on the Sun Devils with his no-nonsense approach and high-octane offense. Arizona State got off to a great start, winning five of its first six games, then rallied from a four-game losing streak to become bowl eligible by beating Washington State last weekend.

For all they accomplished, Friday night's game was the biggest of the season. Bragging rights, an advantage in recruiting, a boost for fans and alumni - plenty was riding on this game.

It took a while to get going.

The only player on either team to get much going early, Carey passed Trung Canidate's single-season school record of 1,602 yards rushing, set in 1999, on Arizona's second drive, then launched himself over Arizona State safety Alden Darby for a 1-yard touchdown run to cap it.

Bogged down early, Arizona State got going by picking off two of Scott's passes. Grice followed the first with a nifty 52-yard touchdown run, then scored from 3 yards out to help the Sun Devils to a 14-9 halftime lead.

Outplayed most of the first half, the Wildcats dominated the third quarter.

Scott used a pump fake to free up Austin Hill for a 29-yard touchdown pass on Arizona's opening drive of the third quarter. Then, Garic Wharton made a tough catch with Keelan Johnson flying in front of him for a 40-yard touchdown. Kicker John Bonano took a direct snap on a fake PAT and raced around the right end for a two-point conversion.

A fumble by Arizona State - the snap hit the motion man - set up a 23-yard field goal by Bonano that put Arizona up 10.

The Sun Devils still wouldn't go away. Jon Mora kicked a 39-yard field goal after Rashad Ross had two potential touchdown passes go through his hands. Then Johnson came up big again, stripping Scott for a fumble. Grice followed with his third touchdown, from 4 yards out, to tie the game at 27.

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Owner Ted Leonsis says the Wizards' best course is not to tank this season. Is he right?

Owner Ted Leonsis says the Wizards' best course is not to tank this season. Is he right?

Shortly before his team took on the New York Knicks in a global showcase game in London, England on Thursday, Washington Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis addressed reporters and dropped a line that created a swift and strong reaction on social media.

When discussing the state of his team, Leonsis said in no uncertain terms that the goal this season is to make the playoffs. He has no interest in looking towards the draft lottery, despite the desires of some fans who have visions of Zion Williamson throwing down lobs from John Wall.

"We will never, ever tank," Leonsis told reporters.

That quote seems like one that will be revisited periodically in the next several years. But, like all quotes, it requires some context. 

What Leonsis went on to explain is that his franchise is not in a position to lose on purpose. They have too much talent, even with injuries to Wall, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris, to pack it in and look towards next year. They also have too much money committed with what currently ranks as the seventh-highest payroll in basketball. They already went through a rebuild, he said, and it's not time yet to go through another one.

As Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington in September, there are "no excuses" for falling short this season.

In many ways, what he said in London was not surprising at all. The Wizards have been in win-now mode for several years. Anyone paying attention to their personnel moves should understand that.

Take the trade for Trevor Ariza in December, for instance. Though some speculated that was about trading for a guy who could be dealt elsewhere months later, that was never the Wizards' intention, according to people familiar with their plans. Getting Ariza was about improving the defense and retooling their locker room culture. It was about making the playoffs this spring.

Leonsis' comments should make the Wizards' plans for the Feb. 7 trade deadline a bit easier to ascertain. The goal to make the playoffs doesn't necessarily mean they will be buyers, but it strongly suggests they won't be sellers. They are only two games out of a playoff spot in the still-pedestrian Eastern Conference with 37 games left to play. After winning six of nine, the playoffs are a realistic goal.

That still won't assuage the Wizards fans out there pining for them to make the long-term play, of course. And there is an argument to be made that their future would be better off if they take a step back this season to take two steps forward the next. If they tanked and got a top draft pick, it could help them immensely down the road if that player becomes another franchise cornerstone.

But, as Leonsis argues, gunning for top draft picks can be unpredictable. People often cite the Sixers as a tanking success story, and their future does appear to be bright. 

But the Sixers are an exception to the rule, as tanking is by no means a fool-proof strategy, even in long-term rebuilds. Teams go years and years without luck in the draft. Just look at the Sacramento Kings.

Or, you could look at the Wizards, one of the least successful franchises in the NBA historically. Only five NBA teams have a worse winning percentage all-time than the Wizards, who have been around for 58 years. They haven't won 50 games or reached the conference finals since the 1970s.

If the Wizards were to make the playoffs this season, that would be five times in six years, arguably their best stretch of postseason success since the 70s. Consider the fact they made the playoffs just once from 1988 to 2004.

Sure, the Wizards should set their sights higher than losing in the first or second round, but there is something to be said about stability for a team that hasn't really had it since the Carter administration. And there is also something to be said about trying to build on what they have, rather than tearing it down and starting over.

It's not easy to go from middle of the road to great, but other teams have done it. In fact, most of the top teams in today's NBA didn't get there by tanking. 

The Rockets made trades for James Harden and Chris Paul and drafted Clint Capela 25th overall. The Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry and took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick.

The Bucks got Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton in trades and Malcolm Brogdon with a second round selection. The Nuggets drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round and got Gary Harris with a trade for the 19th pick.

The Warriors, though they had some lean years before their meteoric rise, basically built their team without any really high draft picks. They took Stephen Curry seventh, but also got Klay Thompson 11th and Draymond Green in the second round.

What Leonsis hopes to happen is a parallel to his Washington Capitals of the NHL. When it appeared they had hit a wall, some minor changes helped them break through to win a Stanley Cup in 2018.

The NBA is different, and the Wizards aren't a few small tweaks from toppling the Warriors, but perhaps Leonsis' patience will pay off. Maybe the Wizards will get a healthy version of Wall back, and the ascension of Beal and Porter will lead to them winning 50 games or going to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1979.

There are fans out there who want dramatic changes. They want more than a first round playoff exit. Leonsis, of course, does as well, but he believes staying the course is the best path forward to getting there. Only time will tell if he's right.

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    Would Ravens fans welcome Steelers WR Antonio Brown?

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    USA Today Sports

    Would Ravens fans welcome Steelers WR Antonio Brown?

    If there’s one Raven who knows just how difficult it is to cover Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, it’s Marlon Humphrey.

    The second-year cornerback out of Alabama rose to the top of the team’s depth chart in the secondary this season and was rewarded with the chance to cover the consensus top pass catcher in football over the last half-decade.

    It’s not newsworthy to tell you that Antonio Brown is an elite receiver. In Week 14 of the 2017 season, with top CB Jimmy Smith on the bench, Brown roasted the Ravens secondary for 213 yards on 11 catches. And in two games this past season with Humphrey following him, Brown combined for 104 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown in each game. 

    What is newsworthy is the Steelers potentially shopping Brown, after numerous reports of locker room struggles and diva qualities from the star. And since he knows just how dangerous Brown can be, it makes sense that Humphrey would prefer to see him in purple and black.

    Fans of every team have imagined what it would be like to see Brown in their colors, scoring touchdowns and racking up big yardage. It’s no surprise that players would imagine it as well.

    He hasn't had fewer than 1,284 yards or 8 touchdowns in any season since 2012, but Brown will be 31 by the start of next season, so there probably aren't too many elite seasons left. For the time being, however, Brown would be a major addition for any team.

    That goes double for the Ravens, who would A) take a playmaker away from their biggest rivals, and B) finally give themselves a star receiver, something they haven’t had on the roster since Anquan Boldin during the Super Bowl run.

    While no team wants to add an alleged diva to their locker room, the Ravens have historically believed in the strength and leadership of their veterans, and therefore haven’t shied away from problematic players.

    With John Harbaugh running things and Eric Weddle and Terrell Suggs in the locker room (none of whom are guaranteed for 2019, to be fair), the Ravens will likely trust their infrastructure and focus on talent when adding to the roster this offseason, and Brown certainly is talented.

    Even Humphrey recognizes it’s a longshot, however. Not only would it take a massive haul in draft picks and young talent, but the Ravens would need to create some cap room that’s already needed to fill other holes on the roster.

    Plus, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers allowing their best player to go to their most hated rival if they can help it, so Baltimore would likely be forced to overpay even more than other teams to pry away Brown. Even if they could make it happen, how would fans react to adding a player they've hated for so long?

    When asked about potentially bringing in both Brown and star running back Le’Veon Bell from Pittsburgh to Baltimore, Humphrey could only laugh.

    Some things really would be too good to be true. It’s still fun to speculate, though, and Lamar Jackson throwing up long touchdowns to Brown would be a sight to behold.

    If anything else, it’d just be nice to get Brown out of the black and gold. Just ask Marlon Humphrey.

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