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With diet back to normal, Anthony helps Knicks win

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With diet back to normal, Anthony helps Knicks win

LONDON (AP) If Carmelo Anthony keeps eating right, the New York Knicks might just be a contender for the NBA title.

After ending a two-week fast that caused him some sluggishness on the basketball court, Anthony has resumed eating normally, and it showed Thursday.

The star forward scored 26 points - 18 of them in the first half - to help the Knicks beat the Detroit Pistons 102-87 in the third regular-season NBA game to be played in the O2 Arena.

``I felt better than I was the last couple of games,'' Anthony said. ``I'm back eating right. Eating what I'm supposed to be eating.''

Although it was an away game for the Knicks (25-13), they certainly had the crowd behind them while playing at the same venue in which Anthony helped the United States win the Olympic gold medal in August.

Just playing the Pistons (14-25) at the O2 brought back some happy memories.

``It felt good out there,'' Anthony said. ``I definitely had some flashbacks out there. Running out there on the court, just being in the O2 Arena.''

And with the gold medal already in his possession, he's now thinking about an NBA title.

``I've been on some good teams ... but as far as being a complete team from top to bottom, this is the best team I've ever played on,'' said Anthony, who has now scored at least 20 points in 25 straight games, extending the longest such streak of his career.

He almost managed to hit the 20-point mark in the first two quarters alone.

``He got off to such a hot start, and then he just kind of played as the game came to him,'' Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. ``He was getting double-teamed and I thought he did a great job in sacrificing the basketball, which he has to do.''

Even Pistons coach Lawrence Frank wasn't surprised.

``You know going in, there's no secrets, he's the best first-quarter scorer in the league,'' Frank said.

Amare Stoudemire added 17 points for the Knicks and J.R. Smith scored 16. Will Bynum led the Pistons with 22 points.

After Tayshaun Prince netted a pair of free throws for the opening points of the game, the Knicks went on tear.

Tyson Chandler started it off with a dunk, and Anthony soon followed with a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched between Jason Kidd's 3-pointer and Chris Copeland's layup.

Iman Shumpert, in his season debut after recovering from knee surgery, nailed another 3-pointer soon after to complete the 16-0 run and put the Knicks in control.

``The Knicks got off to a great start,'' Bynum said. ``We were kind of playing catch up from then on.''

Trailing 56-41 at the half, the Pistons mounted a third-quarter comeback. They scored 10 straight points midway through the period amid a 16-2 run to cut the lead to 67-63.

Anthony ended the run with a pass rather than another basket.

The Knicks forward drilled a pass across the baseline to Steve Novak, who nailed a jumper. Stoudemire then sank a free throw before Smith hit a jump shot after running the court after a rebound. Anthony finished off the third quarter with a lay-in to make it 75-63.

In the fourth, the Pistons briefly cut the lead to single digits when Bynum scored seven straight points to make it 83-75, but the Knicks pulled away again - this time for good.

``We came here to win a game, so it's very, very disappointing,'' Frank said. ``This is not a vacation. We're not tourists. We came here to play a competition ... on an international stage, which is a privilege and an honor to be selected, so it's disappointing that we came up short and didn't play our best.''

The Knicks had won only three of their last eight games heading into Thursday's action, but they now have won two straight and next host the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.

For the Pistons, who next host the Boston Celtics on Sunday, it's their second loss in a row. But they have still won five of the last eight.

The crowd at the O2 cheered loudly at times, but there were stretches of silence during some portions of the game. There was even a quiet moment before the game started, though it appeared to be an accident.

With Stoudemire and Prince on the court before the game speaking to the crowd with a microphone, the sound went out just as Prince was thanking the fans for their support.

The fans let out a round of boos, but they soon started cheering again as the game got under way.

In the second quarter, the referees had to resort to the video replay to make a flagrant foul call on Pistons forward Austin Daye. With Chandler driving toward the hoop, Daye hit him hard and knocked him to the court.

Chandler made both free throws and Smith added a 3-pointer about 10 seconds later to make it 44-24 midway through the quarter.

NOTES: Knicks fan and movie director Spike Lee made the trip to London and sat courtside as usual, wearing a blue suit with an orange tie. ... The Knicks' game against the Nets on Monday - Martin Luther King Jr. Day - at Madison Square Garden will mark the 14th consecutive year in which the team is playing on a holiday, and 27th overall. ... Several soccer players came to the O2 to watch, including former Arsenal great Thierry Henry. ... Former NBA players Bill Laimbeer and John Starks also were at the game.

D.C. United supporters unwavering as Rooney prepares to leave, Acosta’s future uncertain

D.C. United supporters unwavering as Rooney prepares to leave, Acosta’s future uncertain

WASHINGTON - When the 2020 MLS season kicks off the roster of D.C. United could look drastically different than what fans have experienced over the past two seasons. 

First, there’s the obvious: Wayne Rooney is leaving the club at the end of the season. The English striker is headed back home as a player/coach at Derby County, a second division team. 

Then there’s the not so obvious, rather curious case, with the uncertain future of fellow forward Luciano Acosta. At the end of the season, the United star’s contract is expiring. Signs aren’t pointing to him coming back to the club. For months the team has been open to transferring the Argentine, almost successfully pulling it off, and then also benching him for three straight matches. 

Whether United retains Acosta or not, the top attacking line will have a distinctive change with the notable absence of Rooney. 

Fans, though, are neither too surprised nor upset about potentially losing the two best goal scorers on the club - one of them among the most prolific scorers in the game’s history. 

If anything, fans are bummed, but realistic about the imminent departures and, in Rooney's case, happy to have watched him over the past two seasons.

“The best things in life don’t last forever. So it was just only a matter of time,” United supporter Tim Christofield said on Rooney’s decision to return to England. 

“[Rooney]’s a family man,” United supporter Marcelo Zunavua. “[Wayne] came here and lifted up D.C. in a brand new stadium, and I thank [him] for that and I appreciate it. I don’t think anyone expected for [him] to be here 10 years. That’s just delusional. A year? Two years? Awesome.”

Rooney’s announcement to leave D.C. came in the midst of his first full season in the MLS. Despite the new opportunity, Rooney will fulfill the remainder of this season with United. His tenure in the United States professional circuit will only be a year and a half of the original three-and-a-half-year contract. 

But fans will not forget the electricity he brought to the team in his first year with the club. He helped open up the new Audi Field and carried the team to a playoff spot after sitting in the basement of the MLS Standings. In his 20 games with the club he scored 12 goals, which led the team for the whole season, and recorded seven assists.

“Last year was really exciting. As soon as he showed up it injected major, new energy into – not just the new stadium, but the fanbase and the international [fanbase],” Southwest D.C. resident Connolly Keigher said. 

Rooney's first month in MLS, at age 32, was like a chapter out of a novel: Too good to be true. Nearly each week United leapfrogged an opponent in the standings. They couldn't lose, especially in their fresh home confines, and before they knew it they were hosting a playoff game. 

The fan attachment was immediate. Rooney D.C. United jerseys littered Audi Field and he had the fourth-highest jersey sales of all of MLS for a half year. But fans are still okay watching him go." 

“It makes sense that he wants to go back home and kind of build a bigger longer path out there as a coach,” Keigher said. 

For four-year player Acosta, he is on the opposite side of his career. Fans are not only excited for the 25-year-old’s future, but some are also encouraged to see him go elsewhere and be successful. 

“Acosta is a great player. He deserves to be somewhere else. [MLS] is not there yet,” Zunavua said. “I think MLS and D.C. United was like a first chapter, not what’s going on for the second chapter. No hate, no nothing.”

At the same time, if the fans do not have to say goodbye to Acosta, most don’t want to. During his tenure with United, he was a fixture of the club. Aside from Bill Hamid, he was arguably one of the faces of the team. When Rooney came in the middle of 2018 it greatly affected his game. Acosta saw the highest offensive output of his career with 10 goals and 17 assists.

Just where things have fallen lately, and Acosta starting matches on the sidelines, supporters do not see a scenario where he returns at the end of the year.  

“With Rooney, it’s one thing. I think that was definitely a very temporary thing. With Acosta, I think it would behoove [D.C. United] to kind of accentuated him a little bit more and give him a little more playing time,” Christofield said. “It’s disappointing that he’s been such a staple for so long and now he’s just sitting watching everybody else play… I’d love for him to stay, you know he’s awesome. I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”

Soon United fans are going to have to say farewell to Rooney for good - and potentially Acosta at the same time. Unlike most final acts, where the players had all the power to return to the team, it will end with at least end with happy memories from those in the supporter’s section. 

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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: What will Alex Ovechkin do when his contract expires?

Capitals Mailbag Part 2: What will Alex Ovechkin do when his contract expires?

It’s time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday’s Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 below.

Have a Caps question you want to be answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Jimmy H. writes: If Alex Ovechkin isn’t close to Wayne Gretzky’s scoring record, what do you think he will do? Do you think he will re-sign with the Caps or possibly sign with the KHL and retire on a Russian hockey team?

Let’s get some perspective on Gretzky’s record. With 658 goals, Ovechkin still trails Gretzky by 236. Even if Ovechkin scores 50 goals in each of the next two seasons,  which would be absolutely insane given his age, he is still going to need 136 just to tie Gretzky.

I am not sure what you mean by “close” but Ovechkin is not going to be close when his contract is up in two years.

There are plenty of quotes this summer in which Ovechkin does not close the door on returning to Russia or even retiring once his current contract is up, but those were all Russian interviews. What is he supposed to say, no, this league isn’t good enough? I don’t think there is anything to worry about.

I have always believed that Ovechkin would finish his career in Russia, but only when he feels he is slipping at the NHL level. The NHL is by far the best league in the world and as long as he remains as good as he is, I do not think he will be satisfied returning to the KHL.

I do not foresee him being a Jerome Iginla and bouncing around teams to be a third or fourth-line winger scoring 10 goals a season. When he no longer is a top-line NHL player, then I think he will strongly consider a KHL return. Given his level of play now, however, I feel confident that he and the team can work out another deal that will keep him in Washington past his current contract.

Phillip M. writes: I think projecting Richard Pánik’s likely offensive production, you must consider who is feeding him the puck when he slides into the high danger areas he has a proclivity to slip into. Brett Connolly benefited from this greatly and his shot percentages are indicative of this production. I feel confident Panik will have a career year scoring goals in Washington because of the skill set we have at center and come close to the 20 goals that we lost when Connolly took the bigger paycheck. What are your thoughts on this?

Panik’s best season came in 2016-17 in which he scored 22 goals and 22 assists while playing with Jonathan Toews in Chicago. That is his only 20-goal season. I do not foresee him stepping into a second-line role right off the bat in Washington so that means he will play primarily with Lars Eller.

With all due respect, Eller is a tremendous player, but he is not Toews.

Several players come to Washington and enjoy a bump in offensive production. Given the team’s roster moves, however, I believe defense is going to a be a major focus for the team this season. The only way I see Panik reaching 20 goals is if he takes over a majority of the season on the second line. I think there would be a benefit to T.J. Oshie playing on the third, but I do not think that role will simply be handed to Panik. He will have to earn it first.

Phillip M. writes: Do you feel that the speedy duo of Jakub Vrana - Carl Hagelin and the T.J. Oshie - Richard Panik combos could afford the Capitals the best top 3 scoring lines this year? I like that Vrana Hags line. I think it could be explosive!

Well, first off I do not think those will be the lines. Over the course of the season, we will likely see many different line combinations. If I were to pencil in what I believe the line combos will be to start the season, I would not have the same lines you do:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

I actually believe the offense will take a slight step back this season because of the offensive depth the team lost. I do not think Panik and Hagelin will produce at the level of Connolly and Burakovsky.

Hagelin does a lot of things very well, but offense is not his specialty. He has never scored 20 goals in his career and he will be 31 by the start of the season. Putting him with Vrana would certainly be a hard line to keep up with, but I do not think this will instantly translate to a massive step up in offensive production for him.

Panik and Oshie, meanwhile will most likely both play on the right so I do not think we will see too much of them together.

The bottom line is that offense is expensive and the Caps could not afford to keep some of its depth producers on the roster. The team is better defensively and still dangerous offensively, but I do not see a team that replaced Connolly and Burkakovsky with Panik, Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway somehow getting better offensively.

Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want to be read and answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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