Nationals

Favorable schedule helps Georgia stay in SEC mix

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Favorable schedule helps Georgia stay in SEC mix

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia might be the most fortunate team in the nation.

Everyone concedes the 12th-ranked Bulldogs haven't played up to expectations, a situation that boiled over this week when senior safety Shawn Williams called out his defensive teammates for ``playing too soft.''

But Georgia (6-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) still finds itself in an enviable position: facing No. 3 Florida (7-0, 6-0) on Saturday with a chance to gain the inside track to the league championship game.

``That's the crazy thing about our league,'' safety Sanders Commings said Tuesday. ``It doesn't matter who you lose to. All that matters is how many losses you have.''

An extremely favorable schedule doesn't hurt, either.

Before the SEC expanded to 14 teams, the Bulldogs were set to face defending national champion Alabama this season. But the league changed its scheduling formula, giving each team an additional division game, so Georgia dropped the Crimson Tide in favor of Missouri.

What a favorable trade that was.

The Bulldogs have faced only one team with a winning record - No. 17 South Carolina - and lost that game by four touchdowns. The six teams Georgia has beaten have a combined record of 7-31 against top-division opponents.

That's not all. If the Bulldogs can knock off the Gators, it should be a cakewalk the rest of the way. The last four opponents are a cumulative 6-13 against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

``Coming into the season, the main things that everybody saw were the talent we had coming back and the schedule we had,'' linebacker Christian Robinson conceded. ``It lined up really well.''

Even when matched against inferior teams, Georgia has rarely looked dominant. There were troubling signs on defense, especially, when the Bulldogs surrendered 23 points to lowly Buffalo in the season opener. Since then, they have struggled to closer-than-expected wins against Tennessee (51-44) and last week's nail-biter at Kentucky (29-24).

``We've been fortunate,'' linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. ``We've been playing bad ball at a good time. We've been playing people that couldn't capitalize on us playing bad.''

The only time the Bulldogs were matched against one of the country's better teams, they failed miserably. South Carolina romped to a 35-7 victory that was pretty much in the bag by the end of a 21-point first quarter. Georgia was dominated in total yards, 392-224, and only a meaningless touchdown with less than 2 minutes remaining kept it from being a shutout.

But before the Bulldogs played another game, they had reclaimed control of their own destiny. While Georgia was licking its wounds during an off week, South Carolina lost a tough one at LSU, 23-21. Then, finishing up a brutal three-game stretch, the Gamecocks were blown out 44-11 at Florida last Saturday afternoon before the Bulldogs even took the field at Kentucky.

``I feel like we've got a second opportunity to shock the world,'' receiver Marlon Brown said. ``This time, we can't slip up.''

If the Bulldogs don't start playing better on defense, they could be headed for another South Carolina-like debacle against the Gators. It's all so surprising, since defense was supposed to be the strength of this team - especially when two of its best players, linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Bacarri Rambo, passed up a chance to enter the NFL draft.

For some reason, Georgia hasn't come close to matching its performance in 2011, ranking in the bottom half of the SEC rankings points allowed (eighth at 24.1 per game) and run defense (10th with a 167.9-yard average). Granted, there have been suspensions (Rambo and starting linebacker Alec Ogletree had to sit out the first four games) and injuries (Jones has missed two contests with a variety of ailments). Still, that doesn't fully explain giving up at least 20 points in every game but one.

No wonder Williams went off after practice Monday night, telling reporters the defense was ``just not playing with the same attitude we were last year.''

``I'm trying to see if I have to take somebody's helmet off and slap them and say, `What's going on?''' Williams continued. ``We're not playing with any emotion right now. Period.''

Coach Mark Richt spoke with Williams on Tuesday and made it would have preferred those frustrations be aired behind closed doors. But it's hard to argue with what the player expressed.

``Shawn is just a real passionate guy. He loves Georgia. He loves his team. He wants us to play the best we possibly can play,'' Richt said. ``That was more public than I would have liked. But I really don't think he meant any harm by it. His teammates know that. It's really not an issue.''

Commings, in fact, said he was glad that Williams spoke before the Bulldogs faced their biggest game of the season.

``We're 6-1 but we're not satisfied,'' Commings said. ``He wants us to be that top defense - shutting people out, smashing people in the mouth. That's what all of us want as a defense. But we haven't really done it this year.''

They've got a chance at a do-over.

Talk about fortunate.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Phillies are 2-for-2.

Tuesday night's game was postponed following a two-hour rain delay. Monday's game was postponed after a three-hour rain delay.

Tuesday's game will be made up as part of a split day-night doubleheader Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., bumping a four-game series to a five-game series. The Nationals and Phillies are scheduled to also play a split day-night doubleheader Wednesday.

The day was not without news. Nationals ace Max Scherzer broke his nose in batting practice when a ball bounced off his bat and struck him in the face. Scherzer was attempting to bunt at the time.

Scherzer's injury and the multiple postponements throw the Nationals' pitching plans into disarray. They're not sure if Scherzer will pitch as expected Wednesday. It appears Austin Voth, who was scratched from his Thursday start for Triple-A Fresno, will be available to pitch in one of the Wednesday games -- should they be played. More rain is expected Wednesday.

The Nationals will bump Patrick Corbin, who was slated to pitch again Tuesday, into a Wednesday spot. Wednesday's other starter is TBA. It could be Scherzer if he is ready. It could be Erick Fedde, and Voth could be used in the bullpen as the 26th man. That would provide Scherzer a chance to pitch Thursday and Strasburg on Friday against Atlanta. 

Or, Scherzer could be provided more time off. There's a lot to sort out once again thanks to the rain.

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Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

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USA Today

Source: Wizards will have competition with teams like Lakers, Clippers for restricted free agent Bobby Portis

This summer is shaping up to be lucrative for NBA free agents and big man Bobby Portis is well-positioned to cash in. After spending the final three months of the 2018-19 season with the Wizards, Portis is already seeing a healthy market develop ahead of the June 30 start of the league's negotiating period, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

The Wizards are likely to first extend a qualifying offer on June 30 to make him a restricted free agent. According to Spotrac.com, it will be about $3.6 million and that will give the Wizards the right to match an offer sheet from another franchise.

But teams are already indicating they want Portis, who is just 24 and coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in 50 games. That market includes 5-10 teams and could grow once free agency opens.

Portis is expected to draw interest from the Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, Bucks, Magic and Knicks among others, NBC Sports Washington has learned.

Despite restricted free agency, Portis has a few things working for him. For one, there are a lot of teams with cap room. Spending won't reach 2016 levels, when the new CBA spiked the salary cap, but there will a lot of money to go around.

Also, guys in Portis' tier will only be helped if the top free agent options continue to dwindle. Klay Thompson looks more likely than ever to stay in Golden State after tearing his ACL. Winning a title could increase the odds Kawhi Leonard re-signs in Toronto, according to reports. And Kevin Durant's torn Achilles has thrown a wrench into the plans of teams with the most money to spend.

There is also the possibility Kemba Walker stays in Charlotte. And Kyrie Irving signing with Brooklyn, if it happens, would leave others exploring backup plans.

Portis isn't directly competing with any of those players, but could benefit if the top options are off the market. His name will only move up the list if that is the case.

Portis also has a unique selling point going for him. He shot 39.3 percent from three this past season and held a 40.3 percent clip to close the year in his 28 games with the Wizards. Three-point shooting is more valuable than ever and he brings that to the table at 6-foot-10.

Portis, who averaged 3.8 three-point attempts per game this past season, was one of only six players 6-10 or taller to shoot at least 39 percent on 3.5 attempts or more (min. 50 G). 

The question for Portis will be whether he gets the money he wants. He turned down an extension with the Chicago Bulls last fall just hours before the deadline to sign one. According to the Chicago Tribune, the deal was worth about $50 million and he wants to be paid in the range of $16 million annually. His asking price was partly why the Bulls traded him to the Wizards in February.

Even if the Wizards clear money, and they are expected to free up some by declining Jabari Parker's $20 million team option by the June 29 deadline, Portis could price himself out of Washington. It might not even take $16 million per year for that to happen.

The Wizards are set to operate through free agency with interim team president Tommy Sheppard at the helm, as the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. Sheppard making the call increases Portis' odds of staying, but that doesn't mean the price will match for both sides.

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