Redskins

Knicks return to the right formula in strong start

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Knicks return to the right formula in strong start

NEW YORK (AP) This is how the New York Knicks used to play, before the franchise tumbled into mediocrity and misery.

The superstar wants to be more than just a scorer. The role players are committed to being good defenders and better teammates. The old guys play the game with an old-school mentality. The coach holds everyone accountable for stopping his man, no matter who he is.

Yes, these Knicks are doing everything it takes to be a contender.

``We're playing for something, guys,'' coach Mike Woodson said. ``We're trying to stay at the top, we're trying to win our division, and host first round at home.''

The Knicks used to have similar lofty goals, but that was long ago. Expectations had fallen so low that when the Knicks finally won a playoff game last spring, snapping an NBA-record, 13-game postseason losing streak that lasted more than a decade, streamers rained down from the Madison Square Garden rafters as if they were celebrating a championship, instead of just avoiding a sweep in a first-round series.

Miami eliminated New York a couple of nights later, and the Knicks spent the offseason building a team they felt could compete with the Heat on the court, even if not in the headlines and highlights.

Woodson was given the job full-time after replacing Mike D'Antoni on an interim basis last March. He told Carmelo Anthony to come back in better shape, sent Amare Stoudemire out to expand his game, and asked for veteran players to fill the numerous holes that were on the roster.

The Knicks were ridiculed when they assembled the oldest team in NBA history, adding players such as Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas before Woodson lured the 38-year-old Rasheed Wallace out of a two-year retirement. But look around the locker room, Wallace said Sunday following an 88-76 victory over Indiana. Tyson Chandler and Camby have been Defensive Players of the Year, defense has always been Woodson's specialty and some of the newcomers' strength, so apparently the Knicks knew what they were doing.

``It's just a matter of time before everyone buys into it, and once we all do, it's going to be hellacious,'' Wallace said.

At 7-1, the Knicks are off to their best start since winning their first seven games of the 1993-94 season. The 1990s Knicks were beloved in New York, a rugged team built around Patrick Ewing that worked its way toward the top one defensive stop at a time.

But the Knicks got away from that under Isiah Thomas, who kept adding scorers such as Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis and Eddy Curry while never grasping how to build a team. Former president Donnie Walsh and D'Antoni cleaned up the mess, but neither stayed long enough to finish the job, and D'Antoni and Anthony couldn't make things work last season before the coach resigned.

Anthony seems dedicated to doing more this season, defending bigger players while sliding into the power forward spot in the injured Stoudemire's absence, even diving into the second row trying to save a ball he had batted away in a victory over Philadelphia.

``With the team I have, everybody knows I can score the basketball, that's a no-brainer,'' Anthony said. ``But for me to be able to go out there and say today I'm going to lead my team, I'm going to defend, I'm going to help out, I'm going to sacrifice something out there on the basketball court, that was my motivation, especially coming off of last season and the season before last. To approach this season as a new beginning for me. My focus is extremely high right now.''

Woodson's response to Anthony's defensive light going on?

``He's supposed to play defense. I mean, he's no different from the last guy that comes off the bench,'' Woodson said. ``Everybody's supposed to play defense. I mean it's not just the star. If you're committed and you're all about team, you're supposed to play defense when you're out there. Everybody. It's a team effort.''

D'Antoni never had the proper roster for his system, and Larry Brown and Thomas had mismatched ones before him, but Woodson seems perfect for this group. Thought to be just a placeholder until the Knicks made a run at Phil Jackson or some other big name last summer, he's gone 25-7 in the regular season, and the players seem loyal to him and his values, a welcome change after the Marbury-Brown, Marbury-Thomas, or Anthony-D'Antoni soap operas.

``He's implemented principles and that's what we're going to stand by throughout the year,'' Chandler said.

There will be rough patches. The Knicks will have to fit Stoudemire in at some point when his knee is healthy, and though the old guys haven't looked old yet, check back in the spring. Still, hard-nosed defense and unselfish play have been a winning formula around here before, and the Knicks are seeing the benefit of getting back to it.

``I think we believe in one another. I don't want to say it's a surprise,'' Kidd said of the Knicks' success. ``I think with the knowledge and the understanding of the game and the principles that Coach has put out for us, I think guys have picked it up quickly and it's kind of fun as you can see.''

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Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Need to Know: The forecast for Redskins Park today is a media circus

Here is what you need to know on Tuesday, August 21, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

Looking at a few different topics this morning:

—What was going to be a normal, ho-hum Tuesday preseason practice at Redskins Park will now be on hyperdrive thanks to the addition of Adrian Peterson. After mostly ignoring the Redskins for most of the offseason the national media will turn out in force to chronicle the arrival of AD. Yes, it’s AD as in All Day as I was reminded by several Sooners on Twitter in the past few days. I suppose that now that he’s here I’d better get it right. 

Derrius Guice underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL yesterday (see his tweet below). I haven’t heard but I assume that someone will say that the surgery was a success. Looking at a recovery time of about nine months, Guice could be ready for the start of OTAs in mid-May. But given how cautious this organization tends to be with injuries during the offseason program, we may not see him on the field until training camp. 

—Speaking of injuries, there were over a dozen players who were not participating in practice on both Saturday and Sunday. As I noted here a couple of days ago Jay Gruden has become very tight-lipped when it comes to giving out information on injuries. And teams are not required to give out any injury information at all during the preseason. So it’s hard to sort out veterans’ days from players with minor injuries that are being rested because the game isn’t until Friday from injuries that are reasons for legitimate concern. The first injury report will come out two weeks from tomorrow, so we are mostly in the dark until then. 

—I’m hearing from fans and some in the media that undrafted free agent Cam Sims is a lock to make the 53-man roster. I would suggest pumping the brakes. He has a great opportunity and I have him on the 53 in my last prediction. But he has been erratic. The Jets preseason game, where he made a big-time error when he had a pass bounce out of his arms, turning a completion into an interception then made some key, acrobatic catches was essentially a microcosm of his training camp. He needs a strong finish both in practice and in the two remaining preseason games to get locked into a spot. A few plays like the botched reception and he could be on the outside looking in. 

—Montae Nicholson quietly had a good camp and he has played well in two preseason games (he was one of the few starters to play against the Patriots). He struggled in coverage in the early part of camp. The Redskins are changing their scheme to play left- and right-side safeties instead of free and strong. That means that Nicholson, who played free last year, had to learn the coverage responsibilities for both positions on both sides of the field. It took him some time to get up to speed and during that time it was not unusual to see Nicholson trailing behind a receiver who had a couple of steps on him. He is not immune to making mistakes or just getting beaten on occasion (news flash: NFL rules are set up for DBs to get burned). But he should get the job done most of the time and be the player the Redskins hope he will be. 

Bureau of statistics

Nicholson’s 40 time at the NFL Combine in 2017 was 4.42, the third fastest among safeties and tenth fastest Amon all defensive backs. 

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The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 3 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 11 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 19 days

In case you missed it

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler


 

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Baltimore Ravens crash Andrew Luck's homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

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Baltimore Ravens crash Andrew Luck's homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Baltimore Ravens spoiled Andrew Luck's Indianapolis homecoming.

They picked him off before allowing a completion, and Terrell Suggs nearly chopped the ball out of Luck's hands on a sack. The Ravens then secured a 20-19 preseason win over the Colts by stopping a late 2-point conversion run.

Luck was just OK in his first home start since Jan. 1, 2017. But he did receive a roaring ovation from the crowd when he took the field, led the Colts to one score and apparently emerged unscathed after going down twice on sacks.

"Not too sharp, certainly red-zone turnovers are a negative, missed a couple of throws I'd like to hit," he said. "And I didn't feel like we, as an offense, got into any semblance of a sustained rhythm."

Expectations were high following a solid start in Seattle.

This time, the Colts (1-1) looked sloppy.

Luck missed his first three throws, the third winding up in the hands of Ravens safety Anthony Levine Jr. Luck rebounded to finish 6 of 13 for 50 yards and set up 45-year-old Adam Vinatieri for a 57-yard field before leaving in the second quarter.

If Luck had his way, he might have played longer. But first-year coach Frank Reich wasn't taking any chances with Luck's surgically repaired arm.

"We just never found a rhythm for him and some of his balls were not his best balls," he said. "But I still have a lot of confidence we're headed in the right direction."

Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens looked better.

Flacco went 7 of 9 for 72 yards and one touchdown. Jackson then showed flashes of what helped him win the 2016 Heisman Trophy.

Jackson was 7 of 15 for 49 yards and a TD and carried four times for 26 yards before giving way to another Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, in the fourth quarter.

Indy still had a chance at the end after Tarell Basham recovered a fumble at the Ravens 9. Five plays later, Phillip Walker threw a 9-yard TD pass to Zach Pascal with 2:24 left. But the Ravens (3-0) stopped Walker on the 2-point try, recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

"Happy to get the win," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We did a lot of things that weren't winning football, especially in the second half."

The Ravens made it tough on Indy all night.

They stopped Indy twice in the red zone and nearly had a third when Jordan Wilkins fumbled the ball into the end zone, where it bounced right into the hands of receiver Chester Rogers.

Flacco gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter when he hooked up with John Brown on a 7-yard score, and Jackson's masterful hurry-up drive at the end of the first half ended with Justin Tucker's 38-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.

When Colts rookie Nyheim Hines fumbled away the opening kickoff of the second half, Jackson hooked up with Chris Moore on a 7-yard TD pass to make it 17-10.