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FIBA hopes to lure NBA stars to WCup qualifiers

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FIBA hopes to lure NBA stars to WCup qualifiers

GENEVA (AP) Basketball's governing body will try to lure NBA stars to play in some World Cup qualifiers after creating a new format with more matches in their home countries.

The path to the revamped 2019 World Cup includes round-robin qualifying groups played in six separate fixture windows over a 14-month span starting November 2017.

``Having the home and away games brings basketball back to the countries themselves,'' FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann told The Associated Press in an interview. ``Eventually this will benefit the whole sport around the world.''

The U.S., which has not played competitively at home since the 2002 worlds hosted in Indianapolis, will be guaranteed six home qualifiers in each World Cup cycle.

Baumann acknowledged that having NBA stars regularly on national team duty was ``something we would love,'' but that players will decide how much time to commit.

World Cup qualifiers in June and September 2018 would be most attractive to top players, he said. FIBA aims to schedule matches in late-June to avoid clashing with NBA playoffs.

Baumann said the governing body has good relations with the NBA, and kept the league and franchise owners informed ``since day 1'' of a two-year project to improve the existing calendar.

FIBA agreed a new competition schedule at the weekend that removed some continental events from a packed four-year tournament cycle.

``NBA owners were making it relatively clear that it was not a situation they would continue to support,'' Baumann said by telephone from Shanghai. ``We were really filling the calendar so much that we felt players were either not at the top (of their form) or had to choose which summer to play.''

During Spain's rise as top challenger to the United States, Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol was selected to an Olympic Games, world or European championship every NBA offseason since 2006.

Spain will host the next worlds in 2014 as a 24-team event, before the rebranded World Cup is introduced with 32 countries in September 2019.

Baumann said skipping a year meant ``getting out of the shadow'' of soccer, which will host the World Cup in June-July of 2018.

``Countries like Greece and Russia have never seen their national team play in the last decade at home,'' Baumann said.

FIBA hopes increased exposure will help countries develop more players rather than relying on its one or two with NBA experience to carry the load.

``It is about growing new talent, which is as good as the NBA talent,'' said Baumann who is an International Olympic Committee member. The new World Cup will be the main route to the 2020 Summer Games, sending seven of the likely 12-team Olympic lineup.

Baumann also believes that the World Cup can create new rivals to test the U.S., as Spain has pushed the ``Dream Team'' at the Beijing and London Games.

``For FIBA, the best way to make sure that the best players play in our competitions is to ensure that the rest of the world can measure against them (the U.S.), `` he said: ``And hopefully improve and at some point beat them.''

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It's time to start regarding Quinton Dunbar as a top cornerback in the NFL

It's time to start regarding Quinton Dunbar as a top cornerback in the NFL

Many features of the Redskins' defense has disappointed in 2019. Quinton Dunbar's performance isn't one of them, though.

The 27-year-old's effort on Sunday against the Dolphins included an interception and ended with him receiving the second-best single-game grade of his career, according to Pro Football Focus.

Any idea which contest was the only one to top his afternoon in Miami? Oh, it came just a few weeks ago versus the Giants, where he picked off two Daniel Jones passes and shut down whatever pass-catcher lined up across from him.

Overall, Pro Football Focus rates Dunbar as the NFL's third most effective cornerback this year. He's missed two matchups due to injuries, but when he's active, he's active in the secondary.

"He was tremendous in so many areas," interim coach Bill Callahan said on Monday when looking back at what Dunbar did in Week 6. "He was relentless versus their screens — he came up, he supported, he filled the alley, really impressive — and the play he made on the slant on the pick, really great anticipation, awareness, instinct, intuitiveness."

Those four qualities that Callahan mentioned are what really stand out from the former-receiver-turned-corner (whenever writing about No. 23, it's necessary to point out he didn't even play on defense until 2015, illustrating just how incredible his development at DB has been). His pick of Josh Rosen happened thanks to his ability to read and then react to the route:

Dunny's other two thefts this season were much like that one: he shadowed the opponent step-for-step then ran through his body to force a turnover. He's not nabbing overthrows or getting lucky off deflections; he's stealing balls from the offense.

As mentioned, leg issues have kept Dunbar on the sidelines this campaign as well as the last one for some extended periods. He's also lining up on a unit that's been nothing more than mediocre for a while, which is another factor preventing him from getting the recognition he deserves. 

But with the way he's stepping up as of late, his name should stop popping up more when running down the list of the sport's best at his position.

Redskins fans have long lamented what Josh Norman has done and how the team doesn't have a special CB. It's beginning to look like they do, however — it's just the guy on the other side of the field.

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Holtby's early exit leaves Caps pondering their goalie situation

Holtby's early exit leaves Caps pondering their goalie situation

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby faced three shots in Monday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. All three went in.
 

That’s no way to start a game. Before the contest was eight minutes old Washington was down 3-0. Holtby knew what was coming. His day was done before it really even started. The frustration was evident as he skated off the ice to be replaced by rookie Ilya Samsonov. 
 
“You need to fight harder to find that first one and find a way to make a save on either of the second ones,” Holtby said. “It's unacceptable on my half and the last few games here, I feel like I've put a lot of that weight on my shoulders and it's something I really need to get better at. Because we fought hard and I just need to be better."
 
Holtby took the blame. Hard to make him shoulder all of it given that his teammates started slowly against a very good team. Colorado is now 5-0-0 after its 6-3 win at Capital One Arena.
 
Holtby probably could have stopped Erik Johnson’s slap shot from just inside the blueline 3:42 into the game. A nice screen in front by former Capitals teammate Andre Burakovsky made the puck hard to see. Still, it’s one Holtby would like back. 
 
At 6:00 of the first period Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen beat Capitals defenseman John Carlson to a clearing attempt and found defenseman Nikita Zadorov in front of the goal with a nice pass. Jonas Siegenthaler was nowhere to be found to cover for Carlson. Holtby was left out to dry. 
 
Just 1:54 later, Washington defenseman Tyler Lewington failed to read a cross-ice pass on a rush up ice by Jonas Donskoi. He hit Nazem Kadri in stride entering the offensive zone. Lewington was already beat by the time he realized what had happened. So was Holtby, who was faced with an oncoming skater on the left wing with no one in front to stop him
 
"I just gotta find a way. Sometimes it comes easy, sometimes it doesn't,” Holtby said. “You just gotta find a way to help the team win. Tonight I didn't do that and it's on me to make sure I improve that. It's frustrating. You just gotta go back to work, work even harder and find a way back into that mindset that success comes from."
 
No one is suggesting Holtby’s job status is in jeopardy. He is 14 months removed from a brilliant two months that helped Washington win the Stanley Cup in 2018 and he’s been a mainstay in net since 2012. But the numbers are rough through five games. Holtby has an .846 save percentage, 45thin the NHL. He has stopped 99 of 117 shots. 
 
“It's a team. We're a team. Our players are accountable to themselves, to one another,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “That's good that Braden said that and I'm sure there are some things that he would like to have done different. But there are some things that a lot of us will like to have done different. We're in this together and that's something that hasn't been a problem to start and it was tonight.”
 
Reirden did acknowledge, though, that Samsonov was playing well enough to give the coaching staff something to think about. He’s been solid. Expect Holtby to start Wednesday against the talented, skilled Toronto Maple Leafs as Washington looks for its first home win. But it’s a situation to monitor with Holtby in the final year of his contract and Samsonov the organization’s top prospect.  
 
Samsonov has 68 saves on 72 shots (.951 save percentage). But he is a rookie and that number is unsustainable for any goalie. He also showed his youth in the third period with a bad giveaway behind the net that Colorado easily converted into a goal. It didn’t seem to matter much at the time. The Avalanche took a 5-2 lead. It mattered a lot when Washington scored a late goal to cut the deficit to 5-3 and had another wiped away on video review. 
 
“Sometimes it comes easy, sometimes it doesn't,” Holtby said. “You just gotta find a way to help the team win. Tonight I didn't do that and it's on me to make sure I improve that. It's frustrating. You just gotta go back to work, work even harder and find a way back into that mindset that success comes from."

 

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