Nationals

David Beckham is looking beyond his Galaxy finale

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David Beckham is looking beyond his Galaxy finale

CARSON, Calif. (AP) After six seasons as the worldwide face of Major League Soccer, David Beckham believes nobody should doubt it's a major league.

It's the third word in MLS that still bugs the English midfielder.

``Even after six years, I'm still personally getting used to calling it soccer,'' Beckham said with a grin Thursday. ``I still have my moments of saying football. To me, it will always be football, but I have adapted myself over the years. I think I've done pretty well, maybe, in the last year.''

Although Beckham is leaving the Los Angeles Galaxy after Saturday's MLS Cup, he plans to play a major role in the league's growth indefinitely. He began his last few competitive days in a Galaxy uniform with a training session for the defending champions' final match against the Houston Dynamo.

Beckham still won't say where he plans to play next, coyly deflecting the latest rumors of interest everywhere from Sydney to Monaco. But he reiterated his commitment to MLS, both as a future team owner and a cheerleader for North American soccer.

And while Beckham is the biggest name to wear an MLS jersey, he believes the wave of international stars heading stateside will only grow. He informed Robbie Keane of MLS' virtues before the Irish national team captain joined the Galaxy last year, and he didn't deny he'll help Los Angeles to recruit his own replacement as a designated player next season, whoever it might be.

``When I came over here, I committed to this team and I committed to growing this league,'' Beckham said. ``Just because I'm not playing here after the weekend, my commitment stays the same. I will do anything to keep these players coming over like Robbie Keane, like Thierry Henry. Anything I can do on that side of things, I want to do.''

Beckham's legacy is the subject of even more discussion than the MLS Cup this week, and that's fine with the league's top brass. After a rocky start to his MLS tenure when he struggled with injuries, pursued European loans and got booed by his own fans in Los Angeles, Beckham has emerged as the on-the-field force and off-the-field beacon that MLS expected to get when he arrived in 2007.

``Oh, I would love David to stick around forever,'' MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. ``It's been a great experience for everyone. But it's up to him to decide what his personal and family goals are. ... When David came here, people overseas described us as a retirement league. We've proven over the last six years that it's a very competitive league, and David has been a big part of that. Hopefully more players will be coming over here at a younger age.''

Garber can rattle off a list of ways his league has improved in the past six seasons, from arena deals to television contracts. He also realizes Beckham could have a loud voice in MLS affairs after his playing days.

``I think he would be a great member of the MLS ownership,'' Garber said. ``He's a serious guy. I don't think people understand what a business mind he has. He's always thinking about marketing, about branding, about everything that makes a successful business. I think he'd be a great addition to MLS.''

Beckham again confirmed he isn't leaving the Galaxy because of any problems with the management or coaching staff, saying only that he loves a challenge. He nearly wrapped up his Galaxy career last year after raising the trophy, but decided he still had unfinished business.

By reaching his third MLS Cup final in four years while playing at an elite level deep into his 30s, he believes he addressed it.

``I think I've matured,'' Beckham said. ``As you get older and you play more years in this game, your mind gets a bit quicker, to be honest. The legs might be a little bit slower than they were when I was 21 years old, but I've always said it, I've never been a quick player. Speed and pace have never been an issue for me in my game. You become more clever with your mind over the years.''

While deflecting widespread speculation he could become a significant investor in the Galaxy soon, he acknowledged he's proud of the effect he had on the franchise's growth and the league's maturity.

``It was challenging the first couple of years, but a challenge I knew I was going to be up against, and I knew I would succeed,'' Beckham said. ``Off the field, we've done a lot of hard work - not just myself, but the people around the league. They're the kind of foundations that this league needs. That's what happens in Europe, in the best leagues in the world. And the future is going to be bright.''

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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