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Jets quickly turn focus to Pats after win vs. Rams

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Jets quickly turn focus to Pats after win vs. Rams

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Rex Ryan has no bold message for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots this week.

Nope, no fightin' words this time around.

``I'm not even worried about tweaking New England or anybody else,'' Ryan said Monday. ``It's to the point where we have to focus on us.''

After all, the way the usually brash coach sees it, the New York Jets (4-6) need to stay focused after ending a three-game skid Sunday with a 27-13 win at St. Louis.

``Right now, we're just swinging,'' Ryan said. ``We're going focus on our opponents, specifically, but anything we do, we're behind where we have to be. We can only focus on ourselves and just find a way to punch it. We earned where we are and we just have to find a way to punch our way out.''

The victory was a huge boost to the Jets' dim playoff hopes. Now, Ryan's squad has just a few days to prepare for the AFC East-leading Patriots, an extremely familiar opponent, and the teams' showdown Thanksgiving night.

``We know each other well, but clearly when you look at how their offense is, they can run a zillion different things,'' Ryan said. ``I don't know how much of a help (a short week) will be, but I guess we'll see on Thursday.''

Fittingly, quarterback Mark Sanchez wore a white T-shirt in the locker room with the words ``We Will Persist'' printed across the chest and ``Until We Succeed'' on the back. He has worn it a few times during the season.

``That's the most important thing is to not change our preparation and make sure it's focused the way it should be,'' he said. ``But not to press, not to take things too lightly, just attack it the right way, and I think the coaches have really put an emphasis on that. We'll just keep rolling and hopefully rack up some more wins.''

The Jets are tied with Buffalo and Miami at 4-6 for second place - or, last place, depending on how you look at it - in the division, with the Patriots holding a three-game lead.

While it appears likely New England will win its 10th AFC East title in 12 years, the Jets haven't given up on getting back to the playoffs after missing out last season.

Ryan has repeatedly expressed his respect for Belichick and the Patriots, but has also issued bold statements leading up to their matchups. He said, ``I want them to know, and they know, that I think we're going to beat them,'' last month before the Patriots pulled out a 29-26 overtime victory.

Ryan recognizes how dire the situation is right now, though, and that talk means little. Ryan isn't even concerned about needing to talk to his players about keeping the trash talk to a minimum.

``I don't know how much of that there will be,'' he said. ``It's not something I'll bring up to the team.''

There's no doubt that the Patriots remain the Jets' biggest rivals, an assessment left guard Matt Slauson agreed with Monday.

``I don't hate the Patriots,'' Slauson said. ``I respect the heck out of them. They're a really good team - but I like us a lot more.''

Last week was tumultuous for the Jets, with anonymous teammates taking shots at Tim Tebow in a newspaper report, and Woody Johnson meeting with Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and others, according to another report. A loss to the Rams might have signaled the start of a season unraveling. Instead, there's a new sense of confidence around the team.

It certainly helped that a few of the teams the Jets are chasing in the playoff picture lost Sunday, including Pittsburgh (6-4), Indianapolis (6-4) and San Diego (4-6). Not that Ryan and his team noticed, of course.

``We're not getting into that now,'' Ryan said. ``We know we have to get better.''

The play of Sanchez on Sunday was a good start. The beleaguered starting quarterback had his most efficient performance in more than a month, going 15 of 20 for 178 yards and a touchdown, and most importantly, no turnovers. Ryan and the Jets have stood by Sanchez all season despite the increasing calls from fans and media for the team to give Tebow a chance to save the season.

``It's part of the job,'' Sanchez said. ``It's just the way things go when things don't go right on the field. It's natural, and it's a little more enhanced here in a market like this, so it's part of the territory. I've been there before and it doesn't really affect what we've been doing.''

At least for a few days, Sanchez quieted all that chatter.

``I think he needed it just like the rest of us needed it,'' Ryan said. ``I don't think he's any different. We all needed it.''

New York is 4-6 for the first time since 2009, when the Jets went on a roll and went all the way to the AFC championship game. While it may seem unrealistic to some that the Jets could produce a similar type of run, none of their remaining five opponents after the Patriots - Arizona (4-6), Jacksonville (1-9), Tennessee (4-6), San Diego (4-6) and Buffalo (4-6) - currently has a winning record.

``We got better as the season went on, and I think that's clearly what we have to do now,'' Ryan said. ``If the players can draw from it, then that's great. Again, we have a ton of work in front of us and a short amount of time to prepare for, clearly, the best offensive team in the NFL.''

NOTES: WR Jason Hill (low back) was the only player who did not participate in the team's walkthrough - a rare practice under the lights. ... Ryan insisted he has not lost confidence in rookie WR Stephen Hill, who has dropped four passes, according to STATS LLC. ``One thing I know for sure is we're going to keep throwing to him,'' Ryan said, ``and I think this young man is going to realize, by the way, you can play this game.''

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

“How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?”

That brain-busting question from a current NBA general manager came before the February 7 trade deadline when rumors involving Wizards guard Bradley Beal swirled.

Another migraine-inducing conundrum is forthcoming whether Beal receives All-NBA honors or not.

Should the league’s upcoming announcement of its first, second and third team include the two-time All-Star, the Wizards may have no choice but to break up the backcourt pairing with John Wall that fueled the franchise’s most sustained success since winning the 1978 title.

This honor comes with a financial reward-- if extended to Beal by the Wizards --  in the form of a supermax contract worth approximately $193 million over four years that would begin in 2021-22. He still has two years and $56 million remaining on the valued five-year, $127 million deal he signed in 2016.

The issue is less about Beal’s hefty chunk of the Wizards’ salary cap, but combining it with Wall’s four-year, $170 million supermax deal that begins next season. Offer Beal the supermax and, should he accept, approximately 71 percent of the team’s future salary cap beginning in the 2021-22 season would be chewed up by two players.

Beal and Wall, when healthy, are All-Stars. They’re not Jordan and Pippen.

NBC Sports Washington spoke with over a dozen league sources in recent weeks including three current or former general managers, other executives, NBA coaches, and scouts, about Beal’s contract situation and the Wizards’ overall equation coming off a 32-50 campaign.

Some dutifully tried putting themselves in the mindset of Washington’s next front office leader knowing Beal’s contract status and other limiting or uncertain factors.

The executives shared opinions on whether to boldly hold or sell high on the Wizards’ best player. Regardless of their stance, their initial instinct almost unanimously landed in the same place as this current lead executive: “I have no idea what you would do.”

*****

There’s an incredibly strong argument for doing nothing. How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?

Several NBA sources largely acknowledge the choice almost gets removed from the Wizards front office should Beal receive the All-NBA nod. Even if Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson or Ben Simmons trump Beal in the voting, events from early February may effectively force the Wizards’ hand.

Washington faced its second consecutive luxury tax payment, diminishing playoff hopes and the knowledge that Wall would miss the rest of the season with a heel injury.

Despite those negatives and salary cap concerns with only five players catapulting the team over next season’s salary cap, big picture hope existed. The headliners -- Wall, Beal and Otto Porter -- previously put the Wizards in a playoff contender mode. “We're not trading any of those players,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said at the time.

There’s a good reason to believe Leonsis meant what he said. Then life intervened and forced change.

Wall’s left Achilles ruptured during the first week of February. The recovery time means an entire calendar year and perhaps the full 2019-20 season. Those negatives, especially with the salary cap, were now amplified.

Washington dealt with that financial scenario two days after the Wall status update by trading Porter and Markieff Morris to slide under the luxury tax.

Another life event requiring a financial decision could happen soon.

*****

There’s no debating whether Beal is worthy of the All-NBA accolade. Some believe he is a favorite to snag one of the two guard spots on the third-team.

The dilemma is can the Wizards justify offering a contract with those hefty terms knowing what’s already on the books, plus the upcoming challenges.

Pass and the likelihood of trading Beal at peak value becomes a leading option. Hold Beal regardless and his trade value effectively decreases over the next two seasons with the possibility he leaves as a 2021 free agent without compensation.

“The Wizards is a hard job right now,” a former GM told NBC Sports Washington. “There’s a lot to figure out. Timelines can’t be certain with John Wall in particular. For Bradley Beal, that's a decision… Hard to walk in [to those interviews) with a specific plan.”

Leave the supermax contract off the table and the human element arises. Those familiar with Beal’s mindset do not see a Robin to Wall’s Batman. Co-headliners, cool, but then pay and appreciate accordingly. Maybe folks could start referring to the pair as Beal and Wall once in a while.

Forget the money, which isn’t Beal’s driving motivation. As one source familiar with Beal’s thinking stated, “Brad needs to be in the playoffs. He’s not disruptive...Brad just wants to win.”

The Wizards might not be in playoff position next season even if Beal maintains his All-NBA level. It's a near lock they won't if the 2012 first-round pick is traded.

Beal averaged 30.9 points in February, the same month he dropped a season-high 46 at Charlotte and his All-NBA buzz soared. Beal joined 2019 MVP finalist James Harden as the only players this season to average at least 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals.

The wing guard’s leadership kept Washington tangibly in the playoff race until realities of the undermanned roster kicked in.

“I think [Brad is] an all-NBA player in my eyes,” said Wall, an All-NBA selection in 2016. “You know how tough it is to make that team? It’s always tough. The year he’s had speaks for itself.”

How do you trade that player especially one groomed by the organization since selecting him third overall in 2012? You can't -- but the Wizards might not have a choice.

Nobody recognizes this more than Bradley Beal.

"Honestly, I’m here until I’m not here," Beal told NBC Sports Washington earlier this month. "I’m not thinking too strong on it. My personal desire is to be here and see the direction we go. Hopefully, the correct direction.

"I keep hearing the possibility of rebooting, trading Brad and getting assets back. It’s a business. I understand both sides of it. I can’t be mad at it."

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks Tuesday to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970, where they were eliminated by the Boston Bruins.

They will look to even the odds, as they will be taking on the Bruins yet again on Monday night.

Blues fan and St. Louis native Bradley Beal will hope that his hometown squad will take the cup from the reigning champs, the Washington Capitals, and win the matchup against the Bruins.

Beal cheered on the Caps just a year ago and is ready to show out for the surging Blues.

To really put it into perspective how long it has been since the Blues played for the Cup, take a look at the number one song in the country when these two teams faced off 49 years ago. 

The Blues besting the Bruins will be a challenge, and Beal will be ready to root for his squad until the final buzzer.

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