Heat back at work after China trip


Heat back at work after China trip

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James was awake at 3:45 a.m. Dwyane Wade's dogs were unhappily roused from slumber at 4 a.m. by their bleary eyed owner. Udonis Haslem was responding to text messages at 5 a.m., which classifies as a rarity.

To a man, the Miami Heat raved about their trip to China.

Recovering from their trip to China, well, that's apparently another matter entirely.

After flying roughly 17,000 miles, playing three games in eight days starting with the preseason opener in Atlanta, holding practices and participating in more events than could be squeezed onto a double-sided itinerary, the Heat - with many players acknowledging sleep deprivation - went back to work on Tuesday, trying to get back into some semblance of a normal routine.

``Tuesday, right? Had to think about it though,'' James said. ``I got up this morning about 3:45. Been up since. So, it is what it is. I'm not back just yet.''

But he's trying, as was everyone else.

``It's crazy that we're back already,'' Wade said.

James was the last player in the gym Tuesday afternoon, taking dozens of jumpers - he'd receive a pass, take a jab step, ball-fake, then shoot, over and over again - as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and two assistants watched quietly from afar. ``Short,'' James yelled at no one in particular after one jumper from the right wing, and the NBA's reigning MVP looked mildly surprised when that shot dropped with a swish.

``Ni hao,'' Spoelstra said after practice, using the Chinese phrase for `hello.' ``It's good to be back in our gym. We didn't waste any time getting back to work. The trip was a great trip from a lot of different levels, but there's nothing like coming back in your practice gym, putting the pads up, mouthguards in and getting after it. That's what we did today.''

Miami played the Los Angeles Clippers twice in China, the second of those meetings Sunday in Shanghai. The Heat flew home after the game, landing Sunday evening in Miami after what Spoelstra estimated as a 16-hour flight. He gave the team Monday off, though several players were in the facility for workouts, treatment or both.

Or maybe it was because they just couldn't sleep.

``I'm having a tough time,'' Haslem said. ``Just trying to get back in the right time. We'll get it. We'll figure it out.''

Haslem heard plenty of theories on how to cope with other-side-of-the-world travel before Miami's trip to China. Stay on East Coast time. Stay up all night the first night. Sleep on the plane. Don't sleep on the plane. Take Vitamin D.

All may be valid. None of them really seemed to help the Heat co-captain.

``There's nothing you can really do,'' Haslem said. ``I just couldn't figure it out. Happy to be home. It was a great trip, great experience, I loved the fans in China, they were real excited about basketball, they loved the Heat. So the experience overall was great. Just getting acclimated to the time, I lost like five pounds probably from not sleeping and eating on our regular schedule. Those were the things that were tough.''

Spoelstra will gradually ease Miami back into what would be its regular schedule. Practice started at noon on Tuesday, he plans to begin at 11 a.m. on Wednesday and then a shootaround session would be around 10 a.m. Thursday - with the Heat playing host to the Detroit Pistons that night. For the Clippers, the reacclimation process was perhaps even more accelerated, with their first post-China exhibition game scheduled for Wednesday against Utah.

``It was great to be there,'' James said.

Notes: Wade, still working his way back to full-strength after offseason knee surgery, said he's hopeful of playing Thursday against Detroit. ... Spoelstra said Mario Chalmers and Jarvis Vernado did not practice Tuesday while still dealing with minor injuries, and that Haslem and Joel Anthony were limited but improving as they work through injuries. ... James - a comic book fan as a kid - said he was surprised to learn that he's the subject of an upcoming Marvel comic called ``King of the Rings,'' which he's seen but has not read. ``I heard it's pretty good. I'll check it out, but I had nothing to do with it,'' James said. The comic book will be an insert into an upcoming edition of ESPN The Magazine.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chris Miller caught up with Michigan star Moe Wagner after his workout with the Wizards.

Chris and Chase Hughes also gave their impressions of the first prospects to come in for pre-draft workouts, including which guys are most likely to be Wizards. One of those prospects is a point guard and a likely first round pick. Chase and Chris explain why that's not a crazy idea, even considering the presence of John Wall on their roster.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.