Capitals

Backcourt problem dogging Texas

Backcourt problem dogging Texas

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) The Texas Longhorns have a bit of a backcourt problem.

The Longhorns lost last season's leading scorer, J'Covan Brown, when the enigmatic shooting guard decided to bolt for the NBA. That was something coach Rick Barnes could plan for.

Now Texas also finds sophomore starting point guard Myck (pronounced Mike) Kabongo under investigation by the NCAA, which has raised questions about his relationship with Rich Paul, the agent of Miami Heat star LeBron James.

That came as a bit of a surprise.

The season starts Nov. 9 against Fresno State. While Kabongo hasn't been declared ineligible and is still allowed to practice with the team, the Longhorns must brace for the possibility that he might miss some games - or the season.

School officials have confirmed that Kabongo, who averaged 9.6 points and had a team-high 176 assists last season, has talked with NCAA investigators. The Longhorns have also taken the precaution of keeping him out of preseason scrimmages against Davidson and Gonzaga.

``It's all in the hands of the NCAA right now. I'm hoping like we all are,'' Barnes said. ``Myck's worked really hard as a leader and brings a lot of energy every day. We'll just wait and see.''

Kabongo, a preseason all-Big 12 selection, could be the key to the season for a team that must get a lot from of its freshmen and sophomores if it expects to make a trip to its 15th consecutive NCAA tournament. Texas hasn't played beyond the first weekend of the tournament since losing in the regional final in 2008.

Kabongo can be electric with his speed, but also ran into foul trouble a lot last season and spent valuable minutes on the bench. If he is ruled ineligible, that could thrust freshman Javan Felix into the starter's role. He's a top recruit from New Orleans, but Barnes would like to have some experience at the point.

``It was kind of surprising,'' Felix said of the Kabongo investigation. ``(But) it's not like I'm not prepared.''

Even with the uncertainty surrounding Kabongo, Barnes still knows a little more about his team at this point than he did a year ago when he was replacing all five starters. To be successful, Barnes said the Longhorns need more consistent scoring throughout the lineup this season.

``We relied on J'Covan so much because we just couldn't seem to find that second or third consistent scorer with our group last year,'' Barnes said.

Sophomore Sheldon McClellan could provide some of the scoring punch they need. McClellan helped push Texas to a crucial late win over Oklahoma that assured the Longhorns would finish above .500 in the Big 12. McClellan, who averaged 11.3 points last season, is the only player returning at Texas who averaged in double figures last season.

``He has a knack for putting the ball in the basket. I think a challenge for him will be that he's got to be able to do it day-in, and day-out,'' Barnes said. ``He just needs to want to shoot the ball when he's open as opposed to trying to maybe mess with it a little bit too much dribbling or looking to overpass it.''

As usual, Barnes has crafted a tough nonconference schedule to help prepare his team for the rigors of the Big 12 and the postseason. The Big 12 is league where muscular forwards and guards pound on opponents every night and freshmen like Felix usually take a while to get used to the physical play.

The Longhorns will play in the Maui Invitational during Thanksgiving week, and will face Georgetown, North Carolina and Michigan State before Big 12 play starts against Baylor on Jan. 5.

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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USA TODAY Sports

John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

The Capitals had two major items on their to-do list this offseason: Sign a coach and re-sign defenseman John Carlson. Now all they need is a coach.

Carlson was on the verge of becoming one of the most sought-after free agents of the summer on July 1. Instead, he has agreed to a major deal to stay in Washington, it has been confirmed to NBC Sports Washington. The deal will be for eight years, $64 million carrying a cap hit of $8 million per year.

The contract also reportedly includes protection for the lockout seasons.

The Caps attached Brooks Orpik and his $5.5 million cap hit along with Philipp Grubauer in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on Friday, helping free up a significant amount of cap space to help re-sign the star defenseman.

Carlson, 28, had a career year with 15 goals and 68 points in 2017-18. He followed that up with an incredibly strong postseason performance with five goals and 20 points in 24 games.

The Carlson contract was one of the biggest decisions of the offseason because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the team's remaining free agents. Now general manager Brian MacLellan knows exactly how much he has to spend on free agents like Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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