Nationals

Creighton's Josh Jones: Giving up basketball hurts

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Creighton's Josh Jones: Giving up basketball hurts

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) As hard as it is for Creighton's Josh Jones to give up basketball, he says it's not worth risking his life to keep playing.

Doctors advised Jones to stop playing after he underwent a procedure Dec. 18 to locate and correct an atrial flutter. He faces more procedures to treat the heart condition that caused him to faint before a game three weeks ago.

He said he wanted to let their words soak in a few days before he made his announcement this week.

``My life is more important,'' he said Thursday as teammates practiced behind him at the Vinardi Athletic Center. ``The game has gotten me this far. I'm the same person with or without it. But right now, and maybe forever, I'm just stepping away from the game.''

Coach Greg McDermott said he sensed after he visited with Jones two weeks ago that it was doubtful Jones would return.

Jones had an initial health scare in 2007, when he needed an infected heart valve replaced. Doctors said the first procedure revealed additional concerns with Jones' heart. Jones said he'll undergo a second procedure in January to diagnose the other problems, and more treatment probably will follow.

He said it would have been impossible for him to play again this season.

The fifth-year senior is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in public relations.

Jones' situation has prompted an outpouring of support from the community. Though he started only 14 of his 108 career games, he's one of the Bluejays' most popular players.

He's an Omaha native who led Central High School, a few blocks from the Creighton campus, to three consecutive state championships.

``I've got aspirations to do other things,'' Jones said. ``I'm going to try to put my degree to use. I was going to do all these other things regardless, whenever my athletic career was going to end. Now it's time to start pursuing them early.''

Jones said walking has been his most strenuous activity since he passed out during warm-ups before the Dec. 6 game at Nebraska. He admitted to still picking up a basketball and dribbling it when he's hanging out at his family's home a few blocks from campus.

``I want to tell everybody I'm fine - I'm normal - I'm just not able to do high-intense things to put my heart rate at an unsafe rate that can put me down, make me pass out again or potentially cause death,'' he said. ``That's what the procedure is about, changing the complications of my heart to make me live a healthy life with a healthy heart.''

Jones played in eight games this season and usually was the first guard to come off the bench for the 16th-ranked Bluejays. He scored 18 points in a win over UAB. For his career he averaged 5.0 points and 15 minutes a game.

``Obviously, it's a sad deal for him,'' senior guard Grant Gibbs said. ``As much time as he's put into this game... If there is anybody who can handle this, it's definitely Josh and his personality. He's been tremendous, bouncing back and kind of looking toward the next phase of his life. He's one of those guys who can find good in anything. He's going to find a way to get through it.''

Jones plans to be on Creighton's bench at home games, and he said he'll hang around with teammates when he can.

``I'm still a great-spirited person,'' Jones said. ``I'm still smiling. I won't stop smiling, as much as it hurts.''

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Scott Boras holds all the cards representing Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg

Scott Boras holds all the cards representing Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg

When Stephen Strasburg opted out of the remaining four years of his contract with the Nationals in November, the team understood it wasn’t going to be the only club bidding for his services.

So when reports broke that the New York Yankees were among the teams meeting with Strasburg, one of the premiere free agents on the market, it likely came as no surprise to the Nationals’ brass in D.C.

But after ESPN reported Thursday that the Yankees have made fellow top free agent starter Gerrit Cole “their clear offseason priority,” the man representing both of them has all the leverage.

On NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk podcast this week, Todd Dybas sat down with fellow beat writers Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post and MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.

When talking about Strasburg’s prospects as a free agent, Dybas pointed to the unique situation the Nationals and Yankees, among other teams, are facing while courting the top two starters of free agency.

“We kind of have a weird dynamic because Scott Boras has the No. 1 pitcher and the No. 1A pitcher,” Dybas said. “It’s not two agents playing off of each other. It’s one guy probably playing his guys against each other going forward and trying to run up both their prices concurrently.”

The Yankees’ interest alone is enough to drive up the expected prices of both Strasburg and Cole. But as Collier notes, New York hasn’t dug too deep into its pockets over the last few seasons.

“The name, the Yankees, still carries so much weight and fear—for people who think they’re going to lose all their best players to the Yankees—but that’s just not the way the team has operated for the last handful of years or so,” Collier said.

However, if the ESPN report rings true and the Yankees do offer Cole a record-setting contract, that would certainly take them out of the running for Strasburg. Yet the high-spending Los Angeles Dodgers are also rumored to be in on Strasburg, meaning the Yankees’ pursuit of Cole likely won’t do much to reduce the price for the Nationals’ free agent.

In fact, Boras could use the fact that Cole’s price is so unaffordable for most teams and try to convince other clubs that Strasburg is a bargain. That could pull more teams into the bidding war and drive up his price.

Dybas believes Strasburg will sign for six years and $200 million, while Dougherty thinks Boras will seek a similar contract to the one another one of his clients received: Max Scherzer and his seven-year, $210 million deal he signed with Washington in 2015.

For their full conversation about both Strasburg and fellow free agent Anthony Rendon, you can listen to the Nationals Talk podcast on Art19, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Rui Hachimura may have had his best NBA game yet against the Sixers

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Rui Hachimura may have had his best NBA game yet against the Sixers

WASHINGTON -- When Wizards coaches and executives rave about Rui Hachimura's potential to be a two-way player, they mean he can play just like he did on Thursday night in the team's 119-113 win over the Sixers.

It was arguably Hachimura's best game yet as an NBA player, a well-rounded performance of 27 points (11-18 FG), seven rebounds and two steals. He didn't set career-highs in any major category, but he was effective on both ends of the floor.

On offense, he lived in the midrange, making the Sixers pay for leaving him open from 15 to 20 feet out. He had 15 points in the second quarter alone.

And on the other end, he did an excellent job playing team defense. He kept an eye on his man while also knowing when to strike on double-teams.

Add it all up and even Hachimura believes it was probably his most complete game so far.

"I think it might be," Hachimura said. "I helped the team defensively and offensively."

There was one play on defense that stood out that didn't show up in the box score. The Wizards employed double-teams on Sixers star Joel Embiid all night and in the second half Hachimura charged in to help with Embiid in the post. He swatted at the ball with perfect timing to bounce it off Embiid's knee and out of bounds for a turnover.

It was the type of play that displayed Hachimura's instincts for team defense. And though it may take time for him to develop into a reliable on-ball defender, like most young players, he can be effective by doing things away from the ball just like that.

Brooks is already seeing rapid improvement from Hachimura defensively.

"They have two guys that are incredible at shot fakes [Embiid and Al Horford], and we all know that he's had some problems with that early in the year. But the last couple of games, especially tonight, he has stayed down on all those shot fakes. So that's another growing area of his game on a defensive end," Brooks said.

Offensively, though, is where Hachimura is shining most so far. And after scoring 27 against the Sixers, he is now averaging 22 over his last four games while shooting 54.4 percent. His 14.1 points per game average on the season is fifth among rookies and his 5.7 rebounds per game are second. He also has the highest offensive rating (112.9) in his rookie class.

Hachimura has to learn to be more consistent, like most rookies, and especially on defense. But the potential for him to be a two-way player is certainly there, as he showed on Thursday night.

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