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Pagano makes grand entrance in return to sideline

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Pagano makes grand entrance in return to sideline

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Colts coach Chuck Pagano received a warm welcome in his return to the sideline Sunday, then watched his team score on its first drive.

With drums playing and the Colts cheerleaders lining up both sides of an inflatable horse, Pagano walked to his usual spot on the sideline, put on his headphones and hugged his assistants. It was his first appearance on the sideline since he began treatment for leukemia Sept. 26.

Pagano's Colts took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards to Andrew Luck's touchdown pass to Coby Fleener. The coach threw his hands in the air and wore a huge smile after Fleener caught the ball to end a 13-play drive.

Some fans brought signs to show their support for Pagano, and the team welcomed him back with a 1-minute video just before kickoff. Afterward, an emotional Pagano waved to the crowd.

During pregame warm-ups, Pagano hugged his wife and was followed by a large group of cameras. He shook hands with Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and chatted with Colts GM Ryan Grigson.

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Wizards' NBA Bubble Awards: Thomas Bryant was the clear MVP

Wizards' NBA Bubble Awards: Thomas Bryant was the clear MVP

The Wizards closed out their 2019-20 regular season on Thursday with a much-needed win, as they finished the year 25-47 and their time in the NBA's restart bubble 1-7. 

Those final eight games, though, were about much more than wins and losses. The team was evaluating their young players as they look ahead to next season when the expectations will be raised significantly.

Just looking at those eight games, here are some awards and superlatives for what we saw...

Most valuable: Thomas Bryant

This is a very easy call, it was a unanimous vote. Though Bryant wasn't the only young player who looked good in Orlando, he was by far their best player overall.

Bryant leaves the bubble with eight-game averages of 18.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. Those are big-time numbers, even if they were compiled on a team that went 1-7. Bryant took on a larger role in the offense and increased his volume while remaining efficient. He shot 53.2 percent overall and 40.5 percent from three.

Bryant took a big step forward. He was healthy after dealing with a foot problem earlier this season, and delivered. The Wizards have a legitimate starting center they can pencil in for next season, hopefully with the green light to take more threes.

RELATED: WIZARDS FINALLY WIN IN BUBBLE

Most improved: Jerome Robinson

This was one of the more unexpected, yet pleasantly surprising developments for the Wizards in the bubble. Robinson, who had spent his entire career to this point backing up really good players, finally got a chance to spread his wings. And, boy, did he.

Robinson found a newfound level of consistency, averaging 14.8 points while shooting a solid 36.7 percent from three. He reached double figures in scoring in seven of the eight games after only doing that four times in his previous 88 NBA appearances. 

Given the small sample size, and the stakes, it probably isn't enough to truly guarantee him a role going into next season. But he has absolutely earned a chance to compete for the back-up role behind Bradley Beal.

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Most intriguing: Troy Brown Jr.

Brown had a tremendous start in the bubble, but slowed down late as he was thrown into the fire as the starting point guard. Though he struggled in that role, it was an invaluable experience that he can take a lot of lessons from.

Overall, though, Brown made clear improvements in his game. He thrived with a greater share of the play-making duties and was able to showcase his skills as a passer and ball-handler.

It was enough to warrant some focus by the Wizards' coaching staff next season. Though they will have John Wall and Beal coming back, they have to find a way to incorporate Brown's strengths. That may come in a bench role as the primary ball-handler in the second unit.

Needs most improvement: Admiral Schofield

Not all of the Wizards' young players displayed growth in the bubble games and included in that group is Schofield, the team's 2019 second round pick. Unfortunately for him, it was all juxtaposed with the breakout performance of Bol Bol, whom the Wizards passed on to select Schofield out of the University of Tennessee.

Schofield averaged only 2.7 points in 12.6 minutes while shooting 29.4 percent from the field. He looked uncertain on the floor and continues to sort of float between roles with no defined path towards stability in the rotation.

Keep in mind, though, Schofield is just starting out his NBA career. He was a second round pick and those guys take time. He has the physical tools, the work ethic and the smarts to make it in this league. But there is no question this will be an important offseason for the guy.

Best moment: Moe Wagner vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

The most memorable image from the Wizards' time in Orlando was definitely the ejection of the league's reigning MVP in their penultimate game. Antetokounmpo has since been suspended by the league for it.

He lost his cool and headbutted Wagner, who now has another notch on his belt in his neverending quest to get under the skin of his opponents. He is a pest and an effective one at that.

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Nationals did it first: Dugout dance parties sweep MLB

Nationals did it first: Dugout dance parties sweep MLB

The dancing revolution is underway. After the Nationals hosted dugout dance parties to celebrate home runs on their way to winning the World Series last season, other MLB teams have begun to host dance parties of their own while avoiding high fives and fist bumps.

Though Bryce Harper and the Phillies’ form could still use some work, the trend is starting to spread as the Mets only added the dancing to their home run celebrations this week. It’s no surprise that the Padres, one of the youngest teams in the majors, joined in as well.

Of course, the Nationals have kept dancing into 2020 as well.

As long as baseball is being played, the party will keep on rolling.

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