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Irving looking to lead Cavs back

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Irving looking to lead Cavs back

Cleveland is still trying to recover from the exodus of Lebron James two years ago but slowly and surely the Cavaliers are hoping to build back up through their back court. The team drafted two guards with their first picks the last two years. In 2011, the Cavs took point guard Kyrie Irving with the number one overall selection and this past summer they surprisingly selected shooting guard Dion Waiters out of Syracuse with the fourth overall pick.

Irving clearly was the best rookie in the league last season, averaging 18 points and 5 assists, but the Cavaliers struggled mightily to a 21-45 record. Irving proved why he was the top pick, showing off his incredible quickness and ability to finish around the rim. Irving is good enough to get the Cavs back at least to being more competitive, something they were not last season.

The Cavaliers think they have found a running mate for Irving with the 6'-4" Waiters, who only averaged 12 points a game in his sophomore season at Syracuse but is capable of being a very streaky scorer.

The Cavaliers also picked up rookie center Tyler Zeller in a trade from Dallas in June. The 7-foot Zeller averaged 16 points and nearly 10 rebounds last season in his senior year at North Carolina. Couple that with the Cavaliers second first-round pick last year in forward Tristan Thompson, and the Cavs hope they have a nice corps to build on going forward.

The fourth overall selection in 2011, Thompson averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds in about 23 minutes a game. Thompson scored 10 points and had 7 rebounds as a starter and his nine double-doubles was third best among rookies.

After only playing in 25 games because of a broken wrist last season, power forward Anderson Varejoe is back. Before he got hurt, Varejoe averaged 10 points and 11 rebounds a game and brings that much needed veteran presence to the court.

The Cavaliers bench is a major concern. With names like Luke Harangody, Daniel Gibson, Samardo Samuels and Alonzo Gee, Cleveland is not scaring anybody.

Cleveland's success will depend on the continued development of Irving and how he integrates other players like Waiters, Thompson and Zeller into the team. The Cavaliers likely won't make the post-season for the third straight season but they should be much improved with Irving leading the way.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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USA TODAY Sports

Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.