Nationals

Notre Dame, Alabama not exactly Miami favorites

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Notre Dame, Alabama not exactly Miami favorites

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) For a fan in the greater Miami area, this national championship game might be a nightmare come true.

On one side, there's Notre Dame - maybe the Miami Hurricanes' most hated rival.

On the other side, there's Alabama - coached by former Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, whose departure is still the source of great scorn in South Florida.

So what's a Miamian to do?

Apparently, in many cases, root for no one is the answer.

``This stinks for me right now,'' said Heat forward Udonis Haslem, a Miami native, Dolphins fan and Hurricanes fan, even though he's a former Florida Gator. ``This really stinks. I always go back to the `Catholics vs. Convicts' days and then obviously Nick Saban kind of threw the Dolphins to the wolves. I'm not very happy about this national championship game.

``I can't even pick one,'' Haslem added. ``I have a deep distaste for both teams. I can't even pick one. I usually can slide with somebody. Not this one.''

The Miami-Notre Dame history is storied, and the teams met in a regular-season game in October, the first such meeting in nearly a quarter-century (they played in the 2010 Sun Bowl, as well). Notre Dame won in a blowout, one of the 12 victories that got the Fighting Irish to the national title game that will be played Monday night on the Hurricanes' home field.

Simply put, the Irish and Hurricanes don't like each other.

There were accusations suggesting Miami ran up the score on the way to a 58-7 win in Gerry Faust's final game on the Notre Dame sideline, to some Irish fans getting former Miami coach Jimmy Johnson's telephone number in the week before a game, and the infamous brouhaha where police had to break up a pushing and shoving match as the teams were exiting the field after pregame warmups in 1988.

And don't forget those ``Catholics vs. Convicts'' T-shirts. They haven't forgotten them in Miami.

``I think at the end of the day, you still want to see a great game,'' said longtime Miami resident Desmond Howard, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner for Michigan and now a television analyst. ``I think if you're a football fan, this is what you want to see. I don't think people are tied into, `OK, I don't want to see Nick Saban win.' But then again, that brings the drama. This is a drama-loving country, you know? And Miami loves drama.''

Saban has long been the source of debate in South Florida, simply because he decided to leave the Dolphins after saying he would not accept the chance to coach Alabama.

It's been six years, yet all those wounds that came with Saban saying he wasn't going to take the job have not healed. When the Crimson Tide arrived in Miami this week, Saban said he was thrilled to be back in South Florida.

Echoing those sentiments was Kirby Smart, his defensive coordinator who also worked with Saban during his Dolphins tenure.

``I want to say this: My stay down here was really great,'' Smart said. ``I have a son, I've got twins at home, one named Weston, who I named after where I lived in South Florida. He went yesterday to the city limits and got his picture taken right there, and he was really happy about that. He's now 5 years old or fixing to be 5 years old.''

One of the Heat assistant coaches is former Alabama player Keith Askins, and he and Haslem have forged a particularly close bond over their 10 years together with the two-time NBA championship franchise.

Even that doesn't matter to Haslem, who said he backs all Miami teams. And that's why, in this title matchup, he roots for no one.

``Can't change now,'' Haslem said. ``This is our town.''

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

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Juan Soto's 2-run double carries Nationals past Orioles

WASHINGTON -- A teenager among men, Juan Soto has impressed his teammates on the Washington Nationals with his maturity and, even more so, his potent bat.

Soto hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning, and Washington beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday night in the deciding matchup of a three-game interleague series between neighboring rivals.

Soto, a 19-year-old rookie, is batting .326 with 16 RBIs in 28 games. Starting in the cleanup spot for the first time, he drew a walk and delivered the game's pivotal hit.

"I think we're all amazed every single day," Washington ace Max Scherzer said. "He puts together great ABs. He has antics and has some flair. He's a great young player. He's just enjoying himself."

Bryce Harper led off the eighth with a double off Mychal Givens (0-4) and Trea Turner followed with a single. After Anthony Rendon struck out, Soto hit a liner into the gap in left-center.

"He's got unbelievable poise," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Soto. "No matter what the situation is, he goes out there with a game plan."

Whatever that plan is, it's effective.

"I just try to be focused and keep working," Soto said.

Rendon homered for the Nationals, who received seven strong innings from Scherzer and flawless work from their bullpen.

Newcomer Kelvin Herrera (1-0) pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Sean Doolittle got three straight outs for his 20th save in 21 tries.

Seeking to end a rare run of two straight losses, Scherzer left a tied game after allowing two runs -- both on solo homers -- and striking out nine.

Afterward, the right-hander heaped praise upon Soto for the manner in which he's adapted to playing in the big leagues.

"He has a great feel for the strike zone," Scherzer said. "To have that type of eye, it's remarkable for him to be able to do that at this time and this age and this level."

Activated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, Colby Rasmus homered for the Orioles in his first at-bat since April 6.

"Me and Max, we go way back, so I felt real good," said Rasmus, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.

In addition, Rasmus made an outstanding throw from right field to the plate, nailing Wilmer Difo on a tag-up play in the seventh inning with the score tied.

Mark Trumbo also homered for Baltimore, his sixth of the season and third in four games.

Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman gave up two runs and four hits over six innings. The right-hander was lifted with the score tied, leaving him winless in his last seven starts.

MORE NATS COVERAGE: 

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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