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Lakers intrigued by chance to play for D'Antoni

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Lakers intrigued by chance to play for D'Antoni

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Pau Gasol got home from the game and read about it on Twitter, while Dwight Howard got a midnight message on his BlackBerry. They shared most Los Angeles Lakers fans' mix of surprise, trepidation and anticipation.

Just when everybody thought the Lakers were getting back together with Phil Jackson, they switched course in the middle of the night and went with Mike D'Antoni.

What a weekend in Hollywood - and the real drama isn't over yet.

The Lakers reacted with ample excitement and a little bewilderment Monday to their front office's surprising decision to hire D'Antoni as coach Mike Brown's replacement over Jackson, the 11-time champion who discussed the job at his home Saturday and apparently wanted to return. D'Antoni didn't even interview for the job in person, speaking to the Lakers over the phone.

``It has been crazy, but all this stuff will just make this team stronger,'' said Howard, who has been in a Lakers uniform for about six weeks. ``Everything that we've been through so far, it's going to make us stronger, and we have to look at this as a positive situation.''

The Lakers' third coach in four days won't take over the team until later in the week. D'Antoni still hadn't been cleared to travel Monday after undergoing knee replacement surgery earlier in the month, although the Lakers are optimistic the former Knicks and Suns coach will arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

So interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff was still in charge Monday when the Lakers gathered for an informal workout ahead of Tuesday's game against San Antonio. Just two weeks into the regular season, the Lakers (3-4) are about to start over with a new offense and another coaching staff - and a renewed certainty they're expected to compete for a title this season.

``It's been a zoo,'' said forward Antawn Jamison, a 15-year NBA veteran who played for D'Antoni on a U.S. national team. ``But as I was telling somebody, it's just a typical day here in L.A. It's interesting. ... It should be a lot easier to adjust to than the system we were trying to get adjusted to early on in the season. We've got Steve (Nash) that can help us out.''

Two Lakers who supported both Brown and his two potential replacements weren't available in El Segundo to weigh in on the hire. Nash missed the workout while getting treatment on his injured leg, while Kobe Bryant left before it ended to share a helicopter ride back home to Orange County with point guard Steve Blake, who needed an exam on his abdominal injury.

And the tall, professorial coach with all the rings wasn't at the Lakers' training complex at all.

Just 24 hours after Jackson seemed headed back to his oversized chair on the Staples Center bench, D'Antoni had the job.

It's too soon to tell how the Buss family's latest counterintuitive move will sit with Lakers fans, who chanted ``We want Phil!'' during the club's weekend games, both victories after a 1-4 start.

``I think everybody had expectations about it, and they were all pretty high,'' Gasol said of Jackson's potential return. ``We all understood what Phil brings to the table ... and what he means to the city and the franchise. It just couldn't work out for whatever reason.''

Jackson issued a statement to a handful of media outlets Monday, implying he was essentially offered the job after meeting with Lakers owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak. Jackson thought he would be able to come back to the Lakers on Monday with his decision, but instead was awakened by a midnight phone call from Kupchak.

``The decision is of course theirs to make,'' Jackson said in his statement. ``I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker fans who endorsed my return, and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.''

The Lakers largely echoed the thoughts of Howard, who was looking forward to playing for Jackson: ``Management had to do what they felt is best for the team, and we as players have got to find a way to win.''

The Lakers publicly offered no reason for passing over the coach with the most championships in NBA history. Although nobody could claim the Buss family is afraid of spending money, Brown is still owed well over $10 million for the remaining three seasons on his four-year, $18 million contract, while D'Antoni will make $4 million a season for the next three years - and their salaries together might be less than what Jackson would command.

The Lakers largely know what they would get with Jackson, but D'Antoni intrigues this older, top-heavy team with an urgency to contend for a title before Howard's free agency next summer and Bryant's possible retirement in a few years.

Howard and Gasol both believe D'Antoni's up-tempo style can work well for the Lakers. Howard would seem to be a natural to partner with Nash in the pick-and-roll attacks loved by D'Antoni and Nash, although Gasol doesn't immediately fit into the definition of a big man who can play on the perimeter and shoot 3-pointers.

``It's a great system, (but) I don't think he ever had a defender such as myself or a defender such as Dwight Howard on those teams,'' Metta World Peace said. ``I don't think he ever coached those type of players, so his defense should be self-explanatory, and his offense is amazing, so it should be fun for Laker fans.''

The rest of the NBA sat back and watched the Lakers' drama with amusement over the past two days, with Dallas owner Mark Cuban weighing in gleefully on the mess: ``I hope they have to do it again and again and again.''

Jackson's flirtation with the job is the strongest indication yet that he's interested in coaching again, which makes him a prime candidate for another franchise. Yet D'Antoni also received praise around the league - even from New York, where he resigned last March after failing to win a playoff game in four years with the Knicks.

``Despite all the hoopla ... that was going on about me and Mike, we actually have a pretty good relationship, especially behind closed doors,'' Carmelo Anthony said. ``We actually talked a lot, talked basketball. Hopefully he brings some positive energy over there. Anytime guys are losing like that, there's always negativity, a lot of negative energy. So sometimes change is better.''

Added Dwyane Wade, who has played for D'Antoni on the U.S. national team: ``He has a tough job ahead of him, but I'm sure he's excited about the opportunity that he gets to be with America's team.''

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AP Sports Writers Brian Mahoney and Chris Duncan contributed to this report.

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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.