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Arkansas eyes role of spoiler against No. 8 LSU

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Arkansas eyes role of spoiler against No. 8 LSU

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson would love nothing more than to play the role of spoiler this week.

Any hopes of a bowl game ended in a loss at Mississippi State last week for the Razorbacks (4-7, 2-5 Southeastern Conference), who began the season ranked in the top 10.

What began with national championship dreams, even following former coach Bobby Petrino's firing in April, will come to a certain end when Arkansas hosts No. 8 LSU (9-2, 5-2) on Friday. How things play out after that for the Razorbacks, including the identity of their new coach, is unknown.

The Tigers still have expectations of a BCS bowl game - and are clinging to hopes of re-entering the SEC and national championship pictures.

``This is it,'' Wilson said. ``... So, why not go out there and light it up one more time? That's how I'm looking at it.''

Wilson wasn't the only one to let his guard down this week.

Interim coach John L. Smith, whose return after taking over for the scandal-ridden Petrino is unlikely, fought back tears while looking back at the Razorbacks' disappointing season. Arkansas began the season ranked in the top 10 before an early season loss to Louisiana-Monroe sent it tumbling from the polls and began a four-game losing streak from which the Razorbacks never recovered.

Smith, whose open personality was welcomed upon his return in April, took criticism for his same upbeat nature once the losses began to pile up. His coaching fate now lies in the hands of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long following Friday's game.

``We're sorry again we couldn't have maybe done more,'' Smith said.

While the Razorbacks' postseason is expected to be filled with transition to a new coaching staff, LSU is hopeful of a return to a BCS bowl game and possibly more.

The Tigers appeared out of the SEC and national championship pictures following a Nov. 3 loss to Alabama, but they are currently the highest-ranked, two-loss team and could potentially player their way back into next weekend's conference title game. Of course, that's only possible if Auburn shocks the No. 2 Crimson Tide this weekend - and LSU wins.

``We don't control our own destiny,'' LSU safety Eric Reid said. ``But winning 10 games and going to a BCS bowl is exactly our motivation. Our season is not over. We have to finish the season strong. We want to get a win over Arkansas and see what bowl game we can get.''

The Tigers hope the rebirth of their once-anemic passing game continues on Friday against the Razorbacks, who are 115th in the country in allowing 292.1 yards passing per game. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger struggled in the starting role earlier this season, but he's averaged 284.3 yards passing over his last three games.

A win would also give the Tigers double-digit wins for the sixth time in eight years under coach Les Miles, who is well aware of the difficulty of playing against Wilson and Arkansas - which has won three of its last five games against LSU.

``When you watch their film, you can see why they were ranked in the top 10 to start the season, and they're still there,'' Miles said. ``The quality players have played hard. John L. Smith (is) in a tough position in this last game, but I'm sure that he'll be ready, and I'm sure that this Arkansas team will play inspired.''

Injuries and fallout from the transition from Petrino - who was fired for hiring his mistress to a position in the athletic department and initially lying about her presence during an April 1 motorcycle accident - were too much for Arkansas to overcome this season.

Still, Smith pleaded for fans to support the Razorbacks this week when they host LSU in Fayetteville for the first time since 1992, the school's first season in the SEC. Arkansas' home game with the Tigers has been played in its home away from home in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium since, and it's been the sight of several memorable last-second finishes between the rivals.

One of those dramatic games was a 31-30 Arkansas win in 2008, a game that gave the Razorbacks a 5-7 record in their first season under Petrino. The game was a springboard to future success for Arkansas, which was 21-5 the last two seasons and won the Cotton Bowl over Kansas State last season.

Wilson's senior class was a part of much of the success. And given the circumstances of the season, he couldn't think of a better way to close out his career.

``Little Rock's great, and it's been tradition to be there, for sure,'' Wilson said. ``But, not being able to go to a bowl game at this point, to wrap up my career here in Fayetteville is the perfect ending.''

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Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Kawhi Leonard, report says

After already making significant changes to their roster, the Wizards may not be done this offseason, as they have been in talks with the San Antonio Spurs about a potential trade for superstar Kawhi Leonard, according to a new report by ESPN

Read this from Adrian Wojnarowski:

Still, the bidding war among Boston, Philadelphia and the Lakers never materialized. The Los Angeles Clippers, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Toronto and Washington are among teams who've talked with San Antonio, league sources said.

The Wizards certainly make sense as a Leonard suitor. They are in the East, meaning the Spurs could trade Leonard to them and not have to worry about facing him as often. Plus, they have a solid group of tradeable assets and ones that seem to fit the Spurs model.

Otto Porter is a versatile, young player under team control who plays an unselfish style and would likely embrace playing in a small market. He also has a salary ($26M in 2018-19) that isn't far off from Leonard's ($21M in 2018-19), so the money could be easily matched.

The Wizards also have Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre, Jr., two young and up-and-coming players. Plus, they have draft picks, though ones that are unlikely to convey as lottery selections.

The Spurs have reportedly been more interested in getting players that can help now rather than draft picks to rebuild. That makes sense, as they still won 47 games last year despite Leonard only playing in nine of them due to injury.

The question in any Wizards and Spurs talks would be whether they would want one of Washington's All-Stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal. It would be tough to imagine the Wizards parting with either guy for Leonard, who carries some risk not only because of his quadriceps injury but also because he can opt out of his contract and leave after next season.

Just because the Wizards have talked to the Spurs doesn't mean they are serious contenders for Leonard, but it does show they are serious about improving their roster this summer. If they got Leonard and didn't part with Wall and Beal, that would be some team.

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Orioles reportedly have deal in place to trade Manny Machado to Dodgers

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Orioles reportedly have deal in place to trade Manny Machado to Dodgers

When Manny Machado returns from the 2018 MLB All-Star Break, he will not be donning a Baltimore Orioles uniform. 

The All-Star shortstop is expected to be traded from Baltimore to the Los Angeles Dodgers, barring any last-minute changes, according to multiple media reports. 

That being said, the Machado trade talks remain fluid and both the Phillies and Brewers are still trying to work a trade for the 26-year-old third baseman, according to Jon Heyman. The Diamondbacks are also reportedly trying to lure the four-time All-Star to the desert, while the Yankees decided to pull out of the Machado sweepstakes just prior to the All-Star festivities in Washington, D.C. 

While the details of the trade have yet to be revealed, the Dodgers will reportedly include top outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz in the Machado trade, according to Heyman.

According to Jim Bowden, when regular-season play returns, Machado will be in the National League, although which team he plays for is still up in the air.

With the Orioles sitting a historically awful 39.5 games out of first place at the All-Star Break, trading Machado is the first major step toward a complete overhaul. The Orioles drafted Machado out of Brito High School in Miami, Fla., with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Since then, Machado has drawn comparisons to iconic third basemen Brooks Robinson and Alex Rodriguez, despite being moved to shortstop full-time this past season, and is widely considered one of the three best position players in professional baseball.

Machado is currently batting .315 with 24 home runs and 65 RBIs.

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