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Isner will lead US Davis Cup team vs. Brazil

Isner will lead US Davis Cup team vs. Brazil

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) John Isner is set to return from a knee injury and will play the No. 1 singles spot for the U.S. team against Brazil in the first round of Davis Cup World Group matches.

``We came into the week looking for clarity on John's knee, hoping it would respond the way it has,'' team captain Jim Courier said at Thursday's draw ceremony. ``He practiced hard every day. He's had no setbacks.

``From our eyes and our medical staff's eyes, we feel confident he's ready and set for 10 sets of tennis if he needs to play them this weekend.''

Isner injured his knee a month ago at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia playing with Venus Williams. He withdrew in his opening match the following week at the APIA International Sydney and hasn't played competitively since.

He said he's ready to return to the courts.

``I had a very encouraging week of practice which is what I was looking for,'' the 6-foot-9 Isner said. ``I didn't know how my knee was going to react when I really started to practice hard because it's been a while.

``My knee hasn't been bothering me. I feel like I'm ready to go.''

Isner's presence in the lineup is key to the Americans' hopes of beating Brazil and advancing to the quarterfinals in April against the winner of the Serbia-Belgium. Isner is the 13th-ranked player in the world, the best ranking of any of the four singles players competing in Friday's opening match.

He will meet Brazil's Thiago Alves, ranked No. 145 in the second singles match on Friday. The opening match pits the United States' Sam Querrey (No. 22) taking on Brazil's top player, Thomaz Bellucci (No. 33). It's the first meeting for the players in both matches.

The doubles competition takes place on Saturday with the world's No. 1 ranked team of Bob and Mike Bryan taking on the Brazilian pair of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares who have a 17 and 19 doubles ranking respectively.

Had Isner been ruled out, the U.S. likely would have turned to Ryan Harrison who last summer cracked the Top 50 rankings for the first time.

The match marks the fifth meeting between the U.S. and Brazil in Davis Cup with the Americans leading the overall series 3-1. The countries last met in Davis Cup play in 1997 in a first-round match in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil. Courier played singles for the U.S. team and won two matches to lead the American team to a 4-1 win.

This will be the first Davis Cup competition in an American city for either Isner or Querrey. Isner is 5-5 in Davis Cup singles play while Querrey is 1-5, with all matches held outside the U.S. on clay courts.

Isner, who lives in Tampa and played his college tennis at nearby Georgia, is looking forward to having the home crowd support behind him and his teammates.

``I've always flown over an ocean to go play Davis Cup. This tie I just got in my car and drove three hours,'' he said. ``I do feel at home here. Hopefully I can get some USA chants, but Georgia chants also would be accepted on my part.''

While the Bryan brothers have the world's No. 1 ranking and are coming off another Grand Slam doubles title at the Australian Open two weeks ago, the Brazilian pair of Melo and Soares hold a 2-1 edge on the U.S. pair. The four players met for a fourth time this past December when they played an exhibition match in Brazil. The Bryan brothers were victorious in three sets.

``This is a team that has beaten us before,'' Bob Bryan said. ``We really respect them. But yeah, it's going to be a war.

``These guys are both top-20 players, both won tournaments this year, so they're playing well. We know what we have to do. We feel good. We have some momentum coming here from Australia. But that definitely doesn't mean it's going to be easy.''

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Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Following the Redskins' Week 2 preseason win over the Jets on Thursday, Jay Gruden said both Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine were "OK" after the two running backs each left the game with injuries. Marshall's was labeled a lower-leg issue, while Perine's injury was called a twisted ankle.

Timetables for their recoveries were then reported on Friday, and while the two members of the backfield escaped anything too severe, they will each be sidelined for decent chunks of time.

Perine will miss a week, according to Mike Garafolo. Marshall, meanwhile, is looking at a longer two-to-four week recovery, per Tom Pelissero. Those pieces of news hurt them in more ways than one.

Derrius Guice's torn ACL in Week 1 of the team's exhibition schedule meant that Marshall and Perine both had a big-time opportunity to step up and earn a spot on Washington's 53-man roster, spots that were harder to envision for them when Guice was healthy.

Overall, the two were slated to compete with Kapri Bibbs for what will likely be two spaces on the depth chart behind the absolutely safe Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley. Now, though, they'll be forced to sit until they're healed up, giving Bibbs more chances in practice and the two remaining August contests to earn Jay Gruden's trust.

Against New York, Bibbs struggled on the ground but led the offense with seven grabs, including a 29-yard gain off a screen play. That performance absolutely brought him closer in the race with Marshall, who scored vs. the Patriots a week earlier. Next, he'll need to prove he can run effectively between the tackles vs. the Broncos in Week 3, which will put some heat on Perine as well.

The 'Skins have 15 days left until they have to finalize their regular season roster. As things stand now amongst the running backs, Bibbs presently has a real shot at stealing a job from the two shelved RBs. But with the way this race has unfolded thus far, that can all change in a split second. 

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

Despite being a brand new franchise with a new roster and new facilities, the Capital City Go-Go will carry into their inaugural season a level of continuity. Both their general manager and head coach are familiar with what they are getting into and the people they will be working with.

GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu is no stranger to the D.C. community and the Wizards franchise. He made a name for himself starring at George Washington University, spent time with the Wizards as a player in their 2013 training camp and remained a frequent visitor to Wizards games as a scout for the Spurs in recent years.

"To be back in the community and the first general manager of the G-League team is special," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us."

Head coach Jarell Christian played college ball in Virginia and goes back several years with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Christian joined the Oklahoma City's G-League staff when Brooks was in his final year as head coach of the Thunder.

Christian began his coaching journey with an eye trained on how Brooks goes about his job.

"My introduction to pro basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies. A lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation," Christian said. "I got a chance to know him through training camp and throughout that season. He and I developed a bond and a relationship that stood the test of time. To this day, we still talk often. It’s just another chance for me to reconnect with him and to continue to grow our relationship."

The Go-Go intend to make what they do as similar to the Wizards as possible. When guys like Devin Robinson, one of their two-way players, is called up he can step right in without a learning curve of the playbook or how they practice.

Having Christian in place will help that process in particular.

"There won’t be any issue or any slippage with guys going up and down to know what’s in store for them," Christian said. "A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we will implement with the Go-Go. Just some offensive and defensive concepts. Some of the playcalls and the terminology will be the same."

"Whatever you see the Wizards doing, you will probably see the Capital City Go-Go doing, too," Mensah-Bonsu said.

The symmetry between the G-League and the NBA teams will also be helped by the fact they will share the same practice facility. Their proximity will come with many advantages from the Go-Go perspective.

"I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level."

"The exposure our players get with the Wizards [front office], the Wizards personnel, being able to watch them practice daily, watching their practice habits and what their routines may be, is really big," Christian said.

That element will also apply beyond the players. Christian, who is just 32 years old, will get to watch how an NBA coaching staff operates on a daily basis.

Christian has yet to take a tour of the new building in Ward 8, but he has seen blueprints. Among the amenities the Go-Go will enjoy that other G-League teams do not usually have is a dedicated dining area.

Many G-League teams do not go to that length.

"A lot of organizations do not provide food for their players on a daily basis, but we will. That’s the No. 1 thing in my opinion that’s gonna set us apart from our competitors," he said.

The Go-Go won't take the floor for their first game until November, but it seems like a good foundation is starting to take place.

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