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Nets turn to Carlesimo, but for how long?

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Nets turn to Carlesimo, but for how long?

NEW YORK (AP) Mikhail Prokhorov said Friday he decided to fire Avery Johnson last week, but now wants patience with interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.

A day after dismissing Johnson after just 28 games, Prokhorov said he won't rush into a coaching search, insisting he wants Carlesimo to have a chance to lead the Brooklyn Nets out of their slump.

The Russian billionaire cut short a vacation to British Columbia to travel to New York, where he plans to meet Saturday with Carlesimo. But even with big names such as Phil Jackson potentially available and Prokhorov vowing to spend whatever it takes to build a championship team, he said repeatedly that Carlesimo was the head coach.

Prokhorov did say that if the Nets do look for a new coach, he would be personally involved. He wouldn't discuss anyone by name, even joking he had never heard of Jackson, the 11-time champion coach.

``Now P.J. is the head coach and if it becomes necessary, you know who the usual suspects are,'' Prokhorov told reporters at halftime of the Nets' 97-81 victory over Charlotte.

Johnson led the Nets to an 11-4 start, winning Eastern Conference coach of the month honors for November. But they were just 3-10 in December before Friday, had been blown out of their previous two games, and Prokhorov said the Nets were lacking team spirit.

Still, deciding Johnson would be fired last week means Prokhorov had made up his mind even before the lackluster Christmas performance at home against Boston that preceded a rout Wednesday in Milwaukee.

``I think we have very talented players but they are capable of much more than what we have seen in the recent weeks,'' Prokhorov said. ``I respect Avery and really I wish him well, but sometimes chemistry just isn't right. It happens.

``I think the main question is why we were unable to bounce back and to play like champions,'' he added.

Prokhorov added around $300 million in payroll this summer and has set the expectations high, saying he believes the Nets can reach the Eastern Conference finals. Though it's believed he wouldn't back away from paying top dollar for a coach, he left open the possibility that he may already have the guy he wants.

``P.J. is the head coach and just I think we have a lot of trust in him and really I want him to lead the team,'' Prokhorov said.

The Nets played with energy under Carlesimo after forward Gerald Wallace had criticized the team following Wednesday's 108-93 loss in Milwaukee in Johnson's last game.

``To me, it's kind of frustrating and sad because that's the first time in my career that a coach's been let go in the middle of the season like that,'' Wallace said. ``But I understand the business part of it. We move on and obviously regardless of who's sitting at the head of the chair, we know what we got to do as players.''

On Thursday, general manager Billy King dodged a question about a report that the Nets planned to reach out to Jackson, whom ESPN.com reported was the Nets' top candidate.

``I haven't really thought about it,'' point guard Deron Williams said about the Jackson reports following the Nets' morning shootaround at their practice facility. ``Right now, you know, P.J. is our coach. This caught me off guard, so I have no clue.''

The backcourt duo of Williams and Joe Johnson was supposed to be the team's strength after the Nets revamped the roster this summer as they prepared to move from New Jersey to their new home in Brooklyn.

Joe Johnson, who's averaging 16.9 points and has played well below his expectations, was surprised and shocked to hear of Avery Johnson's dismissal. The guard said the players and not Avery Johnson were the root of the Nets' recent struggles.

``It's been a tale of two different months. One month we play pretty good and the next it's not so good,'' Johnson said.

``Us as players really have to look ourselves in the mirror and really have each other's backs. I don't think we've been having fun for some time,'' he added. ``I don't think it was the coach. I mean, don't get me wrong, I got P.J.'s back 100 percent and I think he's a great coach.''

Joe Johnson was in Atlanta when current New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson was fired as coach of the Hawks at the end of the 2009-10 season and hasn't given any thought to Jackson coaching the Nets.

``It's crazy. It's show and tell. You never know if things are going to work out the way that they're planned,'' Johnson said. ``I don't have a preference. I'm rolling with P.J. right now.''

Carlesimo, who last coached the Oklahoma City Thunder, wasn't too enthused with how he landed his latest job.

``Obviously, it's the worst day to become a head coach. It's clearly not an ideal situation,'' Carlesimo said. ``But it's the way of the NBA.''

Carlesimo - no matter how long he has the job - won't have much time to make changes to a team that has relied on too much 1-on-1 play and whose offensive system was questioned by Williams before he apologized to Avery Johnson.

Practice time will be scarce, but Carlesimo did say that the coaching staff will look to make things simple and that they are ``going to tweak some things.''

``The problem we have, the challenge we have short-term is that we have six games in nine days and we're not going to make wholesale changes for sure,'' Carlesimo said.

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AP freelance writer Adriano Torres in East Rutherford, N.J., contributed to this report.

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Capitals enter All-Star break on sour note in Toronto as losing streak extends to seven

Capitals enter All-Star break on sour note in Toronto as losing streak extends to seven

The Capitals enter the All-Star break losers of seven straight after a 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

In desperate need of a win before the All-Star Break, the Capitals kept Alex Ovechkin in the lineup delaying his one-game suspension and started Braden Holtby for the second consecutive night. Yet, the result was the same as they gave up six goals for the third straight game and for the fourth time during the current losing streak. Washington has been outscored 36-18 during the streak.

Here are four reasons the Caps lost.

Nazem Kadri

Kadri is always a thorn in the side of the Caps, most notably for his knee-on-knee hit on Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs back in 2017. He was again a pest against Washington with a hat trick for the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

The Caps scored late in the first period, but Kadri scored with 26 seconds remaining to even the game at one. Kadri also extended Toronto’s lead to two goals for the first time at the 2:10 mark into the second period of a one-timer from the high slot. He completed the hat trick later in the third as William Nylander shot the puck, hit both posts and the puck went straight to the stick of Kardi who had an empty net yawning.

Washington has now given up a hat trick in three straight games and in four of their last five.

A quick response

A growing problem for Washington during this losing streak is allowing quick response goals. Nicklas Backstrom put the Caps on the board with less than 90 seconds remaining in the first period.

Great, Washington is headed to the locker room up 1-0, right? Not so fast.

Morgan Rielly dumped the puck and tried to pass it to the middle. Nylander kicked it back behind the net and the play should have been dead, but Michal Kempny tipped it back out to center and no one seemed to know where it was except Kadri who came streaking in and tapped it past Holtby to tie the game.

The goal came just 47 seconds after Backstrom put Washington on the board.

An untimely penalty

Ovechkin is doing just about everything he can to keep the Caps in this games and he scored again on Wednesday. But tonight's game really turned on an Ovechkin penalty in the second period.

Ovechkin was called for cross-checking Kaspari Kapanen about two minutes after Nikita Zaitsev tied the game at 2. At that point, Washington had never trailed in the game. They had yielded leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but overall were playing significantly better than they did on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.

Auston Matthews would go on to score on the resulting power play. That would be the first of three unanswered goals for Toronto.

A rough penalty kill for John Carlson

The Leafs were able to cash in on the penalty kill because of a rough shift for defenseman John Carlson. With the puck on his stick behind the net, Carlson did not try clearing the puck around the boards. Instead, he turned up ice and fired it right to John Tavares. Tavares blocked the clear and kept the puck in. Later on in the shift, Matthews was skating in looking for a shot. Carlson dropped to a knee looking for the shot block, but he was too quick. Matthews curled it around a now helpless Carlson, then fired the puck through Holtby to give Toronto a lead they would not relinquish.

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2019 NFL mock draft: Redskins roundup in the first round

2019 NFL mock draft: Redskins roundup in the first round

A quick reminder about gauging NFL mock drafts three months out before the actual fun in late April: Focus more on the position than the player.

<<GALLERY: 2019 NFL MOCK DRAFT 11.0>>

Public draft boards remain fluid and will remain in this flexible state for several weeks before hardening in early March after the Combine. Compared to pro scouts and front office personnel, outside analysts are always behind the curve. Opinions change once sources share internal projections and rumors spread.

There is also more time for homework on a concentrated batch rather than all of college football.

Alabama safety Deionte Thompson lived in the top 10 before the college football playoffs. Two games later, mock drafters dropped him into the 20’s after struggles against Oklahoma and Clemson. Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen, Oklahoma guard Cody Ford, Kansas State offensive lineman Dalton Risner and Alabama running back Josh Jacobs are among the prospects positively trending.

Team needs, however, remain stable for weeks, outside of the rogue trade or contract extension. Clubs are not permitted to enter into contract negotiations with unrestricted free agents until March 11.

With the knowledge of strengths and weaknesses, study how many players at a position of interest are mocked with a general range of your team’s selection. This is more important for now than a specific prospect at a precise draft slot.

Now, it wouldn't be kosher to put entire mock drafts from other entities on our site (Click here for my latest full two-round mock draft).

Instead, here’s a sampling of what football thinkers are envisioning for the Redskins in the first round.

CBS and USA Today: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

We have a trade. CBS moves the Redskins to the Green Bay’s selection at 12, while USA Today jumps Washington all the way to nine via Buffalo. Both scenarios have Washington selecting a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback reared in the Big 12 Conference. Apologies for the Robert Griffin III flashbacks.

As discussed here, the Redskins may at least need to jump Denver at 10 and Miami at 13 for a passer, assuming Murray or Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins slip past the Giants (6) and Jaguars (7).

NFL.com: Malcolm Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Pro Football Focus: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

Analyst Daniel Jeremiah states Brown, a true speed threat, makes for a “tempting” option assuming Washington sorts out its quarterback situation. PFF’s Steve Palazzolo writes Washington “needs to replenish their receiving corps and Arcega-Whiteside has one of the best combinations of body control and contested-catch skills in the draft.”

All fair points, but consider me a tad dubious about the Redskins going with a pass catcher at 15. The Redskins certainly need receiver help and more offensive playmakers overall. Adding a veteran ready to help meshes more with a coaching staff and perhaps front office likely putting more of a premium on immediate success after missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season. If slot target Jamison Crowder re-signs, that may eat up any remaining dollars directed for a receiver.

ESPN: Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida

Mel Kiper Jr. sends an edge rusher to Ashburn, specifically Florida’s Jachai Polite, who finished with 11 sacks this season. This need races to the top of Washington’s list should the team move on from free agent Preston Smith, and does not believe 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson can handle the gig.

SB Nation: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

“There are a number areas Washington could address with the No. 15 pick,” writes Dan Kadar. “Cornerback is one of them, and Murphy is pro-ready corner thanks to his instincts and ability to play the ball in the air.”

Again, fair points, and Murphy’s cover skills have some league voice considering him the draft’s top corner ahead of LSU’s Greedy Williams. However…

The Redskins could not really justify a corner in the first round if Josh Norman stays. Now, should they decide the high-priced defender provides more value as a salary cap casualty, then corner becomes a screaming need. It also looks like there will be a handful of corners potentially around on Day 2, including Clemson's Trayvon Mullen.

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