Nationals

LPGA adds 3 more events to growing schedule

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LPGA adds 3 more events to growing schedule

One month before its season begins, the LPGA Tour announced a 28-tournament schedule Tuesday that includes five majors, three additional tournaments and prize money closing in on $50 million.

LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan delivered a balanced schedule that circles the globe. It starts next month in Australia. More than half the tournaments are in North America. The Asian swing late in the year includes a new tournament in China. And the season ends in November with the LPGA Titleholders and $700,000 to the winner, the biggest payoff in women's golf.

Whan also announced that CME, the title sponsor of the season-ending Titleholders, has extended its deal through 2016.

``Our tournaments are about customers a lot more than they are about the players and television,'' Whan said. ``If you do the right thing with the customer, you'll end up being with the customer a long time.''

Along with a full schedule, the LPGA Tour will get 300 hours of television coverage, the most in its history.

The LPGA Tour took a beating during the economic downturn and a previous administration that alienated sponsors. Two years ago, the tour had only 23 tournaments.

Whan is close to what he considers an ideal schedule of no more than 32 tournaments - enough to give his players ample starts, still small enough that the tournaments can expect to get a majority of the best players.

The LPGA Tour previously announced a new tournament in The Bahamas on May 23-26 and a return to Texas, its first official event in the Lone Star State since Meg Mallon won the U.S. Women's Open at Colonial in 1991. The North Texas LPGA Shootout will be April 25-28, three weeks before the PGA Tour arrives in town for its Texas swing.

The third new tournament is in China toward the end of the year - the Reignwood Pine Valley LPGA Classic the first week in October, which launches an Asian swing that will take players to Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

``The performance, approachability and growing popularity of our players is the No. 1 factor in the LPGA's continued momentum, which has led to expanding coverage on Golf Channel, the growing slate of playing opportunities and our ever-increasing fan base,'' Whan said.

The Evian will become the fifth major, held Sept. 12-15 in France with a $3.25 million purse. That will be the last of a strong lineup of majors that includes the U.S. Women's Open going to Seabonack on Long Island, and the Women's British Open returning to the Old Course at St. Andrews.

The season begins Feb. 14 with the Women's Australian Open at Royal Canberra, followed by stops in Thailand and Singapore before the domestic schedule starts March 14 with the LPGA Founders Cup in Arizona.

Stacy Lewis was the LPGA player of the year in 2012, the first American to win the highest award since Beth Daniel in 1993. Inbee Park captured the money title, and 2012 also saw the emergence of Na Yeon Choi, who won the U.S. Women's Open and the Titleholders. The biggest surprise was Yani Tseng, who won three tournaments before April to cement her status as the best in women's golf, only to fall in a mysterious slump.

Her lead in the ranking was so large that Tseng goes into the season still at No. 1.

The biggest tournament on the schedule is the Solheim Cup, with Mallon as the captain as she tries to keep the Americans' record perfect on home soil. It will be played Aug. 16-18 at Colorado Golf Club.

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Exclusive: Nats owner Mark Lerner says they haven't heard from Bryce Harper and Scott Boras in months

Exclusive: Nats owner Mark Lerner says they haven't heard from Bryce Harper and Scott Boras in months

Click the podcast below to hear Mark Lerner's full interview.

The Washington Nationals are officially moving on from Bryce Harper.

"Nothing's certainly changed on our end," owner Mark Lerner told NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas Friday. "We've moved on. As I said back then and we had to. There was no way we could wait around. Bryce, I'm sure will make his decision hopefully in the next few days, but we've filled out our roster and like I said, we wish him nothing but the best."

Before the end of the 2018 season, the Nats presented Harper and his agent Scott Boras a 10-year, $300 million offer to which they declined. 

There have been reports that multiple teams have been in on the Harper sweepstakes, most notably the Phillies, Padres and Giants. As far as recent talks with the Nationals?  There haven't been any.

"But there's always that, the door's cracked a little bit," Lerner added. "I have no clue at this point what they're up to. We really haven't heard from them in a couple months."

Stay tuned to NBC Sports Washington for more on this breaking news. 

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Yes, Bobby Portis once bowled a 285 and that's another reason to strike up affection for the new Wizard

Yes, Bobby Portis once bowled a 285 and that's another reason to strike up affection for the new Wizard

WASHINGTON -- Spare your outrage upon hearing Bobby Portis’ take. 

The Wizards power forward believes his game, one honed in Chicago that includes a striking hook shot, is the NBA’s best. 

“I want to say I am. I’m pretty damn good. I’m not cocky at all about anything," Portis said, “but bowling is one thing I’m really confident with.”

Don’t split after that lede. At least wait until finding out more about an honor the Arkansas native received during the All-Star break that frames his high school career forever. There’s also the potential with the Wizards just two weeks after a trade X’d out the stretch-4’s time with the Bulls.

That deal also interrupted league play. 

Portis showed up every Wednesday to Diversey River Bowl in the Logan Square section of Chicago, at least when the Bulls’ schedule permitted.  At first, Portis just wanted to keep his skills sharp. You don’t roll a 285 by accident. 

“I’m a very active bowler. I loooove bowling,” Portis explained to NBC Sports Washington. “It’s something I do each and every day in the summer.”

The former University of Arkansas standout fell hard for the game back in his native Little Rock. He and a group of friends would battle with push-ups at stake.

He arrives at the alley with a 14-pound, bowling ball. The trusty multi-colored orb helps the NBA big man do damage in the lane.

“I throw the hook, man,” Portis proudly stated. “Bowling takes a lot of skill and exercise and a lot of relaxation. You can’t just go out there and throw it hard.”

Portis moved to Chicago after the Bulls selected him 22nd overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. After he settled into his new professional life, he went searching for a game.

The initial plan involved an incognito approach that was a real gutter ball.

“I tried to have my hood on the first time I went so nobody would notice me,” the 6-foot-11 NBA player admitted, “but after that, it was a wrap. Taking pictures all damn night.”

Portis got to know some of those picture takers. “Just random dudes,” he said. 

Soon Rajon Rondo and Lauri Markkanen weren’t his only teammates. 

“I would go just practice my game and found these dudes I was cool with,” Portis said. “I exchanged numbers with them. We starting hanging out a lot. Started bowling. Then they invited me to their little league. I was bowling in their league ever since.

His now famous “crazy eyes” bulged during the reminiscing.

“It’s a really cool league,” Portis said. “You see a lot of old people there. They’re really good. They bring their balls. I never really knew people loved bowling like that until I joined their league.”

The trade to Washington put the bowling league on hold. 

Portis did not quite know what to make of the deal initially. He entered his fourth season with a goal of being named Sixth Man of the Year. Suffering a right knee injury during Chicago’s fourth game derailed those hopes. Portis missed the next 23 games, returned for five and then sat out an extended stretch with an ankle issue.

The 2019 restricted free agent found his touch in January, averaging 14.2 points while shooting 42.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The trade occurred three days after Portis scored 33 points on Feb. 3 and moments before Chicago hosted New Orleans.

 “It was a crazy experience,” Portis said. “Had my jersey on, was ready to play.”

With time for reflection, Portis now sees the positives with Washington.

“I get more time on the court, show what I can do,” Portis said. “I’m just happy to be a Wizard. …Trades happen. I’m over it now. Have a chance to fight for the playoffs.”

Portis made quite the impression on his new team after four games, averaging 19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 29.3 minutes off the bench while sinking a staggering 54.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

“He surprised me how good of a 3-point shooter he is for his size and his position,” Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky said. “I think it’s going to be fun also playing pick-and-roll, pick-and-pops with him.”

That fun could continue into next season if the Wizards retain Satoransky, another RFA, and Portis, who plays minutes at center with Washington.

“I can’t predict the future, whether I’ll be here or whether I’ll be somewhere else,” Portis said. “I know I can control the now. Now is me putting the work in each and every day.”

Back in the day Portis first gained notoriety playing for Little Rock’s Hall High School. He led the Warrior to four state championships. Those accomplishments plus his subsequent work in college and the NBA led to the school retiring Portis’ jersey during the All-Star break.

“When you’re a kid growing up playing the game of basketball, you’re just playing for the love of the game,” Portis said. “I never knew I would get my high school jersey retired. Man, it was a surreal moment for me and my family.”

Despite the honor, Portis is not the school’s most notable basketball alum.

“I think Sidney Moncrief is more famous than I am,” Portis said about the five-time NBA All-Star currently up for nomination to the Basketball Hall of Fame. 

More famous than Portis, sure. Better bowler, probably not. 

Among current NBA players, Portis only imagines another known bowling fanatic, Rockets guard Chris Paul, as competition. 

Perhaps someone should organize a game of one-on-one.

“Might have to,” Portis said, “especially since the All-Star game is in Chicago next year.” 

If that happens, expect a bunch of random dudes to spare some time for a former teammate back in town. 

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