Coach Tom Izzo fired up about 14th-ranked Spartans


Coach Tom Izzo fired up about 14th-ranked Spartans

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is pretty fired up about his team's chances this season.

It's easy to see why.

Despite losing All-American forward Draymond Green, the 14th-ranked Spartans are deep and talented.

``We have a chance to put together a pretty good team,'' Izzo said, sounding perhaps as optimistic as he has before a season in years.

Izzo has four of his top six scorers back from last season's team that won Big Ten titles in the regular season and conference tournament and put the program in the NCAA tournament's round of 16 for the 10th time in 15 years.

And what really pleases Izzo, is how hard his players are working and what he heard from former Spartans guard Tim Bograkos, who was a player in the program from 2000-05, after one of their early workouts.

``He was here when those practices were like wars and he's been here when they've been like belly bumping, prom dancing practices,'' Izzo said. ``He said to me, `Hey, coach, looks like old-time practices are back, huh?' I said, `Hey, Tim, that's the best compliment you can give me.'''

Third-year guard Russell Byrd said the team can put together drills and scrimmages that will prep the team well for what is expected to be a demanding season.

``It's crazy how competitive it is in practice,'' Byrd said. ``Coach keeps saying it reminds him of the championship season.''

Izzo - in his 18th year as head coach and 30th with the program - led the Spartans to the 2000 national championship and is coming off his 15th straight NCAA tournament.

Michigan State won its seventh Big Ten title under Izzo and third conference tournament championship last season.

Green had a lot do that.

The do-it-all forward, who graduated and was drafted by Golden State, leaves a void on the court as a scorer, rebounder, passer and defender. He also will be missed as a leader Izzo compares to former Spartans guards Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleaves.

``We have to keep in perspective that Draymond Green was a once-in-a-decade leader, maybe once every 13 years,'' Izzo said. ``Cleaves and Magic, they're just guys that do things for you in so many ways. You try to find someone that's going to live up to half that standard, not all of it.

``That's going to be our job. I think leadership was the strength of our program last year and I think it's still a little bit of a question mark right now.''

Players voted Byrd, whose career has been stunted by three surgeries on his left foot, and Derrick Nix, who pleading guilty to impaired driving charge that stemmed from an April traffic stop, to be the team's captains.

Izzo has decided not to suspend Nix for any games after making his life ``miserable'' during the offseason.

``This kid has made incredible progress,'' Izzo said. ``He's made his mistakes, which can help him be a great captain.''

Talent can help highly touted freshmen Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine earn a starting job, or at least a role as a key reserve, on a team that will lean on returning players such as Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne and Nix.

``The freshmen give us so many options,'' Dawson said. ``The fit in quite well.''

Dawson has recovered remarkably well from having major surgery on his left knee after getting hurt in Michigan State's last game of the regular season. The 6-foot-6 guard can run, cut and leap as if was never injured.

``I'm able to go all out, doing everything the rest of the guys are doing,'' Dawson said.

Michigan State has scheduled its first of two exhibition games for Tuesday night at home against Northwood (Fla.) - an NAIA team led by former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino.

The Spartans will start the regular season with two road games in consecutive seasons for the first time in nearly 100 years. They'll open against Connecticut on Nov. 9 in Germany and will play No. 7 Kansas four days later in Atlanta a year after playing North Carolina on an aircraft carrier and facing Duke in New York.

``It'll be the same deal as last year,'' Dawson said. ``We'll be ready for it.''


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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.


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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

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Bradley Beal's agent says guard's not looking for a trade: 'He wants to win'

Bradley Beal, his agent Mark Bartlestein told Bleacher Report, would like to stay in Washington - even as he's a hot topic among front offices as the trade deadline approaches.

From Bleacher Report:

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is not looking for a trade. "Brad wants to win, Bartelstein told B/R. "He wants to win at the highest level, and he wants to compete for championships. I think he's seeing progress, and he's going to do everything he can to lead this team. They got themselves into a huge hole, and he's going to do his best to get them out of it.

The Wizards are facing tough decisions when it comes to the future of the franchise as this season's trade deadline approaches. Beal, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig detailed this week, is among the most tradable assets they have, especially when it comes to their three major contracts. But owner Ted Leonsis took a firm stance against tanking while speaking to reporters in London, and Beal is integral to their playoff hopes with John Wall sidelined. 

This isn't the first time this season that Beal has denied wanting to be anywhere but DC. When drama swirled around the team earlier this season, Beal denied a report that he had requested a trade.

"That's nonsense," he said at the time. "I heard it earlier before the game and I was like, 'If it didn't come from the horse's mouth, it wasn't me.' I got this Washington jersey on and I come here and work everyday, you know, until otherwise. This is where I wanna be."

Earlier this season, it was reported that the Raptors were interested in Beal but couldn't afford what the Wizards were asking for him. According to the latest report on Beal from Bleacher Report, there are a number of teams who may still be interested. 

Again, from Bleacher Report:

There are so many teams in the mix trying to make that extra push that want Beal," a Western Conference executive told B/R.

But even if some fans are clamoring for a big trade at the deadline, the price tag for Beal - who had 26 points in the Wizards' comeback win over the Knicks this week - only seems to be rising.