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Kolb's X-rays negative, Skelton could get nod

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Kolb's X-rays negative, Skelton could get nod

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Embattled Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb took one hit too many, and it's uncertain whether he will be able to return to lead the Cardinals against the Vikings at Minnesota next Sunday, or will turn the job over to John Skelton.

Kolb injured his ribs while being sacked for the fifth time in Sunday's wild 19-16 overtime loss to Buffalo. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said X-rays were negative for anything broken.

``We are getting an MRI done on him today just to make sure there's not something that we're missing,'' Whisenhunt said Monday. ``He was pretty sore this morning, which you would expect, but he was moving around.''

Kolb was moving around a whole lot - in a hurry - on Sunday, as Arizona's sieve of an offensive line again had Kolb running for his football life. His unscripted scampers provided some of the Cardinals' best offense of the day. Kolb gained 66 yards in 5 carries.

``He got sacked eight times (actually nine) last week,'' Arizona left guard Daryn Colledge said, ``so I think he learned he had to run.''

Of course, when a quarterback takes off running, bad things can happen, too.

With the Cardinals down 16-13 and time wasting away, a holding penalty on tackle D'Anthony Batiste made it 1st and 20 from the Arizona 19. Again, Kolb was under duress, but he broke free for a 22-yard run that gave the Cardinals (4-2) a first down at the Arizona 41.

The next play, Kolb checked off at the line of scrimmage and called a draw play. Running back William Powell didn't realize it and Kolb was left alone with the football. He didn't quite make it to the line of scrimmage for what was ruled Buffalo's fifth sack. He was slammed to the turf with the football painfully pinned between his ribs and the ground.

Finally, Kolb got to his feet and came to the sidelines.

Skelton, active for the first time since spraining his left ankle in the season opener, came on and threw three straight incompletions. But on fourth and 10, Skelton found Larry Fitzgerald over the middle to the Buffalo 43. Three more incomplete passes followed.

Jay Feely lined up and, with room to spare, nailed a franchise-record 61-yard field goal to tie the game 16-16 with 1:09 to play. Those football gremlins at University of Phoenix Stadium seemed to be working their magic again. After all, Arizona had won eight in a row at home, five in overtime, the rest with other forms of hair-raising finishes.

A short punt and a 28-yard pass from Skelton to Fitzgerald to the Buffalo 20 set up Feely's 38-yard field goal attempt- a cinch it would seem after he booted two from 49 yards and the 61-yarder. But Buffalo's mountainous Alex Carrington got his hand on the kick, the ball bounced off the upright and overtime followed.

The Cardinals took a punt at their 20 and Skelton's pass over the middle was intercepted by Jarius Byrd to set up Rian Lindell's game-winning 25-yard chip shot.

Coincidentally, Kolb's only interception of the day came on that very same play, by the very same player.

Skelton, who beat out Kolb for the starting job in the preseason, was understandably rusty, completing 2 of 10 for 45 yards. The two completions, though, could have been enough to win this one.

``The fourth-down throw to Larry was a big-time throw, and the throw to Larry on the slant that put us down to the 20 was another good throw,'' Whisenhunt said. ``But the interception was not. That's one of those where you can't make that throw. John did well enough in there to give us a chance to win in regulation, and had we made that kick we would have felt very good about everything.''

Whisenhunt said it's far too early to talk about whether Kolb could play at Minnesota, the first of a challenging series of games over the next month. Arizona is home for a Monday night game against San Francisco on Oct. 29, followed by a trip to Green Bay, a bye, and a visit to Atlanta, currently the league's only unbeaten team.

As bad as the Cardinals have looked, particularly on offense, the team is counting on its stout defense - which has allowed no more than 21 points in any game - to keep a season that started so surprisingly well from crumbling to pieces, regardless of who is the quarterback. That player, however, must be kept upright. The five sacks Arizona allowed makes it 22 in three games.

``We know we're going to be in the game at the end of it. We've got a great defense,'' Colledge said. ``They've given us an opportunity every single week to be in a game. `'

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

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