Memphis wants to live up to preseason expectations

Memphis wants to live up to preseason expectations

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Coach Josh Pastner hopes his Memphis Tigers finally figure out how to finish what they start.

Memphis is ranked No. 17 and in the Top 25 for a third straight preseason. The Tigers embark on their farewell tour through Conference USA as the favorite to win the league again.

Pastner now hopes the preseason accolades translate into surpassing two hurdles since he took over - beating a Top 25 team finally and winning an NCAA tournament game because getting there is not enough at Memphis. Fans remind Pastner of both shortcomings regularly since the Tigers 61-54 loss to St. Louis in the last NCAA tournament.

``We've technically won some Top 25 games. They just haven't been Top 25 at the time,'' Pastner said at the team's Media Day. ``We've beaten a team, but maybe at that time, they weren't top 25.

``I get it,'' Pastner said of the fans' frustrations. ``We've got to win some of these early season games. We're going to have opportunities, and we've got to do our job.''

The promise this new season is complete with a returning core of experienced players.

The Tigers do not have Will Barton, last season's leading scorer averaging 18 points a game. He left early for the NBA Draft and was taken by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round with the 40th overall pick.

Otherwise, Memphis returns key contributors from a team that finished 26-9, winning the conference regular season title and the C-USA tournament. Pastner's motto is ``One Team. One Goal. No Egos'' to stress togetherness. The Tigers talk of maturity and chemistry leading into Pastner's fourth season at Memphis.

The inside-out pairing of point guard Joe Jackson and forward Tarik Black are both entering their third seasons. Guards Chris Crawford and Antonio Barton also are juniors. Pastner also has sophomore Adonis Thomas, who lost significant time last season with an ankle injury, and the coach is looking to him for more leadership.

Jackson averaged 11 points and 3.8 assists last season, while Black managed 10.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in earning conference all-defensive team honors. Crawford led the Tigers in 3-point field goals with 51.

Memphis also boasts a formidable pair of newcomers with forward Shaq Goodwin and junior college transfer Geron Johnson.

``Our core every year in college has been young guys,'' Black said. ``We've had a couple of older guys to rely on, but this year, most of us are (more experienced). We have a couple of young freshmen we've added in, but coach can have a little more trust in us. It's going to be an easier game flow for us.''

Memphis, which has dominated Conference USA, will move to the Big East next season. The Tigers expect that to mean an even rougher road through C-USA this season.

``We are going to have to earn every win especially this being the final year of Conference USA,'' Pastner said. ``We're getting everyone's best shot, even more than ever, so we are going to have to be ready to go.''

Pastner is more comfortable in the role he took when John Calipari bolted for Kentucky. He says at times he looks back to his first years coaching and thinks those Tigers won in spite of his inexperience.

He also realizes that it's time to start delivering on those preseason promises. The Tigers will have their chances once the season opens Nov. 12 hosting North Florida. Memphis' non-conference slate includes VCU and either No. 8 Duke or Minnesota in a tournament in the Bahamas with a visit from No. 2 Louisville on Dec. 15. They also make a trip cross the state to play at Tennessee on Jan. 4 and to Xavier on Feb. 26.

``Now we have to take it to the next step,'' Pastner said.

``I'm at ease and at peace knowing we've got our guys in place, and now we've got to do the job on the floor. We've got to win some marquee games and trying to keep advancing in the tournament.''

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Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

DALLAS—The Capitals have dealt backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round pick, the team announced shortly before the NHL Draft kicked off Friday at American Airlines Center.

After the moves, the Caps had more than $21 million in space under the salary cap ceiling, according to, and potentially enough space to re-sign John Carlson and other key free agents.

GM Brian MacLellan was widely expected to deal Grubauer, a 26-year-old who wanted the opportunity to be a No. 1. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was also coming off a strong season, Grubauer was due a significant raise.

“We would like to thank Brooks and Philipp for all of their contributions to our organization,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Philipp has been a consummate professional and a great teammate and we wish him all the best.”

Trading Orpik, on the other hand, was a bit unexpected, particularly considering how much 37-year-old’s rugged play and leadership meant to the Caps during their run to the Stanley Cup.

By dealing Orpik, MacLellan shed his $5.5 million cap hit for next season—an important development given the Caps’ tight salary cap situation and the number of key players who need new contracts. Carlson, Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek are unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Avalanche are expected to help Orpik land or a preferred spot, whether via trade or buyout. By taking on Orpik in the deal, Friedman reported, the Avs only had to give up one pick.

“Brooks,” MacLellan continued, “was a great leader and a tremendous role model for our young players in his four years with our organization. This was a difficult move, but the one we felt we needed to make in order to give some flexibility moving forward.”

Will moving out Grubauer and eliminating Orpik’s cap charge allow MacLellan to ink Carlson, who's set to become the top defenseman on the free agent market? That’s unclear, but it will sure help the Caps’ cause. Carlson is expected to command an extension in the eight-year, $8 million per neighborhood. 

Dealing Orpik also opens up a spot for a young and inexpensive defenseman such as Christian Djoos or Madison Bowey to take on a bigger role in 2018-19.

Without Grubauer, the Caps are likely to turn to Pheonix Copley, who is due to earn the NHL minimum of $650,000 next season, as their backup next season. And if Copley starts the year in Washington, that allows 2015 first round pick Ilya Samsonov to take the reins in Hershey.

The second round pick the Caps received in exchange for Grubauer and Orpik is the 47th overall selection.

MacLellan is expected to speak to reporters following the first round later Friday night. The Caps currently hold the 31st overall pick.


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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.