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Palmer adds responsibility with D struggling

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Palmer adds responsibility with D struggling

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Carson Palmer knows he will have to have a big day to get the Oakland Raiders back on the winning track.

With a defense that has allowed 97 points the past two weeks, a running game decimated by injuries and the high-powered New Orleans Saints offense led by Drew Brees coming to town, the Raiders (3-6) will be counting on Palmer even more than usual.

``Being a quarterback you don't want to think that,'' Palmer said Wednesday. ``You still want to go through your reads. Sometimes a sack is the best play, sometimes a punt is the best play. But you can't do it too many times against these guys. ... I don't let myself go into a game thinking `we have to score on this drive, we have to score on this drive.' You get yourself in trouble and your team in trouble doing that. But I understand what we're up against. I understand that we have to keep up with these guys.''

Palmer has carried a heavy burden in his first full season as Raiders quarterback, throwing the second-most passes in the league so far with 375 - 13 behind Detroit's Matthew Stafford. Palmer has thrown for 782 yards the past two weeks and is looking to put together three straight 300-yard games for the first time in his career.

He is on pace to set the Raiders' record for yards passing in a season, averaging more than 300 per game so far.

``He's big, he can see the field, he's got great vision,'' Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. ``There's not a coverage that he can't throw a ball into, and there's not a coverage he hasn't seen.''

The only team that has passed the ball a higher percentage of time this season than Oakland is New Orleans, with both teams calling passes on about two of every three offensive plays.

Part of that has to do with the fact that both Oakland and New Orleans have two of the worst defenses in the league. The Saints have allowed the most yards per game in the NFL, giving up more than 400 every week.

Oakland has allowed 97 points the past two weeks - the most for the franchise since 1961 - and is allowing more than 30 points per game.

But Palmer said it's important not to try to do too much to overcome a struggling defense.

``When the opposing offense is scoring fast and often it definitely puts a lot of stress on you,'' Palmer said. ``You can't get in situations, especially early in the game, where you try to fit balls in certain spots. You could be down by seven and right before you know it if you try to do things like that you can be down by 14 or 21. You still have to go through your reads, go about the game plan. When you get to the third and fourth quarter, depending on where you're at with a team like this, things can change.''

Making the task even harder for the Raiders is they may have to do it essentially without much of a running game. Starter Darren McFadden and backup Mike Goodson remain sidelined by sprained right ankles that forced them to leave early Nov. 4 against Tampa Bay.

Both remain in walking boots and their status for this week's game remains in question. If they are unable to play again, the Raiders will be left with fullback Marcel Reece, recently activated practice squader Jeremy Stewart and second-year speedster Taiwan Jones at halfback.

Jones had only two carries and one catch last week as he struggles to gain the trust of the coaching staff.

``He's got to prove to us that he can stay healthy, that he's got to know what to do on every single play and he's got to protect the football,'' coach Dennis Allen said. ``We're giving him those opportunities in practice, and as he shows us he's going to be able to do that, he'll see more time.''

NOTES: The Raiders signed LB Omar Gaither and placed linebacker Travis Goethel on season-ending injured reserve with a torn ACL in his left knee. ... RT Khalif Barnes took the majority of first-team snaps in practice and is set to return from a groin injury that sidelined him Sept. 16. ... WR Darrius Heyward-Bey tweaked his hamstring during practice and was limited. ... DT Richard Seymour remained sidelined with an injured knee and hamstring. ... SS Tyvon Branch (neck) and FS Matt Giordano (concussion) did not practice.

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What's next for Barry Trotz?

What's next for Barry Trotz?

Barry Trotz is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals and, after resigning Monday afternoon, he is officially free to pursue other opportunities.

So what's next for the now former Capitals head coach?

For those who believe Trotz will simply retire, that seems unlikely. Trotz is only 55 years old.

General manager Brian MacLellan indicated the main issue in the contract negotiations between him and Trotz was term. If Trotz was, in fact, seeking a five-year contract, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready to walk away from the game.

There is only one head coaching vacancy left in the NHL, that of the New York Islanders. New President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello cleaned house after getting hired and fired both general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight earlier in June.

Now, suddenly, there is a Stanley Cup-winning coach on the market.

While it certainly makes sense for the Islanders to pursue Trotz, there's one big reason why Trotz, or anyone, would likely be hesitant to accept the job on Long Island and that is John Tavares.

New York's franchise player is a pending free agent and, until his contract situation is resolved, convincing anyone to take the head coaching job with the Islanders is a tough sell. If the Islanders re-sign Tavares, improve the defense and bring in a dependable starting goalie, then there is no reason to think they cannot be a playoff team.

But those are a lot of "ifs" and Tavares is a big one. If he goes, suddenly the situation on Long Island is much different. Tavares' decision could be the difference between the Islanders being a playoff team or getting a high lottery pick.

For Trotz to walk away from a team that just won the Stanley Cup to go to a New York team that may or may not have its best player back next season does not make a lot of sense.

But just because there may be only one head coaching vacancy open doesn't mean Trotz does not have any options.

The 2017-18 season saw no head coaching changes made during the season for the first time since the league expanded in 1967. Chances are jobs will begin to open up during the season especially if those teams believe they can land a Cup-winning coach as a replacement.

If you're Trotz, you just won a Stanley Cup. There is no reason to rush into another opportunity. Trotz will instantly be near or at the top of every wish list for teams in need of a head coach.

Don't just assume that Trotz will be on Long Island to start the 2018-19 season just because it is the only opportunity currently available. He can wait for the perfect opportunity to come to him.

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Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

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Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

With word out that Kawhi Leonard wants a trade from the Spurs, teams are lining up with offers to San Antonio and one of the NBA’s best teams has reportedly already made a call.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have contacted the Spurs about a potential Leonard trade, according to Cleveland.com. Terry Pluto wrote on Sunday that multiple teams have done the same. That is to expected, of course, as Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. He's a two-time defensive player of the year and he's only 26.

Let's look at Cleveland as a potential destination. It should first be noted that it's questionable whether they have enough to land a player of Leonard's caliber. They have the eighth overall pick in Thursday's draft, but it may take a lot more than that to get Leonard.

They also have Kevin Love, who is an All-Star still in his prime. But if they gave him up, they would then need to seek more help to surround Leonard and LeBron James, if James decides to stay. Though James and Leonard are both top-five players in the NBA, they still likely wouldn't be able to beat the Warriors unless they had another running mate. Those two plus Love and then you're talking.

Whether the Cavs have the goods to land Leonard or not, it's no wonder why they are trying for him. Getting Leonard, a two-time All-NBA selection, would likely be enough to retain James, the best player in the game. If James were to look around the league for a top-shelf running mate, he would be hard-pressed to find one better than Leonard.

That is assuming Leonard is healthy, of course. He did miss all but nine games this past season with a quadriceps injury. That injury was central in a saga of discord between him and the team. Until he hits the court again, Leonard offers no guarantees. Still, he may be worth the risk for Cleveland, as the alternative is potentially seeing James walk. 

If the Cavs got Leonard, that would probably solidify their standing as the best team in the Eastern Conference, even if they lost Love in the process. Leonard is better than Love and they would arguably have the two best players in the East. They may not have enough to beat the Warriors, but that would likely give them the edge over the young teams like Boston and Philly that have been nipping at their heels.

Sending Leonard to the Cavs would get him out of the Western Conference and that might be enticing to the Spurs. If they send him to the Lakers, his reported preferred destination, that could come back to bite them much more often than it would if he was traded to the East. Though putting him in Cleveland would form another very good team, they wouldn't affect the Spurs directly but for two regular season games, unless they were to meet in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs haven't indicated they will actually trade Leonard, but it does seem to be heading in that direction. It sounds like Cleveland will at the very least give it a shot. 

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