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Panthers next search for an offensive coordinator

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Panthers next search for an offensive coordinator

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) So much stability on offense for the Carolina Panthers.

Cam Newton and the Panthers offense are once again in limbo following the departure of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.

Last year marked the first time Newton worked with the same coordinator in back-to-back seasons since high school and the second-year quarterback improved as the season progressed. But with Chudzinski being introduced Friday as the Cleveland Browns new head coach, the direction of the Panthers' offense is unclear.

Coach Ron Rivera declined interview requests Friday, saying in a statement ``there's no timetable'' to name Chudzinski's replacement.

``We wish Chud the very best and appreciate the great job he did here in laying a foundation for our offense,'' Rivera said. ``We are in the process of filling staff positions now and will continue to work through that in the coming days. Our goal is to identify the best candidates.''

Rivera fired two offensive assistants Tuesday leaving quarterbacks coach Mike Shula as the only staff member with previous experience as an offensive coordinator.

However, Shula struggled in that role with Tampa Bay from 1996-99 and the Panthers could look outside the organization for a replacement. During Shula's four seasons with the Bucs they were 27th in the NFL in points scored, 29th in total yards and last in passing offense, according to STATS INC.

The Bucs never finished better than 22nd in total offense during his four seasons with Tampa Bay, meaning the Panthers could look outside the organization for a replacement.

Among the notable offensive coordinators looking for work are Hue Jackson, Pat Shurmur, Cam Cameron, Chan Gailey and Norv Turner, who was Rivera's former boss in San Diego.

Regardless of who replaces Chudzinski it will certainly represent an adjustment for Newton, Carolina's franchise quarterback.

Newton could not be reached for comment on Friday, but backup Derek Anderson, who played two seasons under Chudzinski in Cleveland and two more in Carolina, said there is no sugarcoating the fact Chudzinski's departure definitely hurts the Panthers, who finished the season strong by winning five of six games.

``It (stinks) for our team because I feel we made strides toward the end of the season,'' Anderson said. ``Learning how to win isn't easy.''

Still, veteran offensive tackle Jordan Gross believes Newton will be fine.

``If Chud had left last year after Cam's rookie season I might have felt different,'' Gross said. ``But I think Cam has grown so much as a player and matured so much in the last year that I think he'll be fine no matter who is calling the shots.''

For the most part Newton has played well under Chudzinski's tutelage.

Chudzinski inherited an offense that finished last in the league in total offense, points scored and yards passing in 2010 and the Panthers made dramatic improvements in their first year with the rookie Newton at the helm. Despite losing a good portion of the offseason to the NFL lockout, the Panthers finished 2011 seventh in total offense and fifth in points scored.

This past season the offense started slow and the Panthers started the season 1-5, costing them any realistic shot at the playoffs.

However, Chudzinski simplified the playbook midway through the year and the offense rebounded strong in the second half of the season finishing 12th in total offense.

In two seasons Newton has thrown for 7,920 yards and 40 touchdowns and run for 22 scores. He has turned the ball over 32 times.

Gross believes the Panthers have the talent to move on without missing a beat.

``One thing I've learned in 10 seasons is that an organization is never about one person, whether it's player or coach,'' Gross said. ``I know we have ability to win with who is here. I still think we have a good staff here.''

Albeit a shrinking one.

Rivera fired running backs coach John Settle and receivers coach Fred Graves and Chudzinski could try to take his right hand man and close friend, offensive quality control coach Scott Turner, with him to Cleveland.

According to Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton, Rivera doesn't want to comment until next week because he's busy filling out his staff.

Along with having to make three hires on offense, Rivera still must replace linebackers coach Warren Belin. He could also opt to hire a replacement for interim special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers, who put in charge midway through last season after Rivera fired special teams coordinator Brian Murphy.

It's already been a busy offseason for the Panthers.

Owner Jerry Richardson ended the coaching drama when he elected to retain Rivera as the team's coach after letting him twist in the wind for a week. On Wednesday Richardson ended a three-month long search for a GM by hiring Dave Gettleman to replace Marty Hurney.

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Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

Otto Porter Jr. begins 2018-19 season with way too few shot attempts in Wizards' loss

The initiative to get Otto Porter Jr. more attempts from three this season is not off to a great start.

That right there is called an understatement. Because it would be one thing if Porter only took a couple of them, but he literally took zero against the Heat on Thursday night in the Wizards' 2018-19 regular season opener.

Yes, one of the NBA's best three-point shooters didn't even get off a single attempt from long range. That is simply hard to justify, especially after a preseason in which the team had a stated goal to shoot more threes than ever before.

It wasn't just threes. The often deferential Porter was even more gun shy than normal. He only took seven total shots in the 113-112 loss and topped out at just nine points.

Porter, in fact, had just one field goal attempt until there was 1:19 remaining in the first half, when he got two of them on the same play thanks to a rebound on his own miss.

Porter still affected the game in other ways, per usual. He had 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks and finished +1 in +/- rating.

But for Porter to reach the next level as a player, he has to add volume to his efficient scoring numbers.

"We will look at the film and figure it out," head coach Scott Brooks said. "It's not like we go into the game wanting to only shoot 26 threes [as a team] and Otto shoot zero."

Brooks continued to say the problem is a combination of several things. More plays could be called for Porter and his teammates could look for him more often.

But ultimately, it's up to Porter to assert himself and take initiative. Granted, that may have been easier said than done against the Heat, who boast one of the best perimeter defenders in basketball in Josh Richardson. They are a scrappy team with athletic and hard-nosed defenders on the wing.

For Porter, though, that shouldn't matter. Ultimately, his share of the offense is up to him. The ball is going to swing around often enough for him to create his own opportunities.

Porter only taking seven shots is a bad sign considering Thursday was a better opportunity to get shots than he may receive in most games. The Wizards added Dwight Howard this summer and last season he averaged 11.2 shots per game, 3.4 more than Marcin Gortat, whom he replaced in the starting lineup.

It won't be easy, but the Wizards need Porter to take matters into his own hands.

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Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

Despite late penalty, Todd Reirden doesn’t want to see Nathan Walker change his game

The Caps looked like they were in good shape in the third period on Wednesday. With a 3-2 lead in the final frame against a New York Rangers team that had played the night before, Washington looked like they were starting to wear down the blue shirts and tilt the ice in their favor.

But everything changed just before the midway point of the period.

Nathan Walker, in the lineup for the first time since Oct. 4, chased down Neal Pionk behind the Rangers net as Pionk went to collect the puck. Walker put his arms around the Rangers’ defenseman to slow him up and he was called for holding.

“That was the safest thing possible for me to do is to wrap him up and take him in the corner like that,” Walker said to NBC Sports Washington on Friday. “Personally, I didn't think it was a good call on the ref's side, but that's the way it goes.”

Just over a minute later, Chris Kreider deflected a shot that was going wide past Braden Holtby for the power play goal to tie the game at 3.

A third period mistake that tied the game from a player in and out of the lineup could have been a devastating moment for Walker, but head coach Todd Reirden was adamant after the game that he did not want Walker to lose his aggressiveness or change the way he plays as a result of Wednesday’s mistake.

“I insert him to be aggressive and his intensity was something we needed,” Reirden said. “I thought he won a lot of puck battles earlier in the game and at different points. He's pursuing the puck trying to force a turnover and it ends up as a call against. That's I think a tough call in that situation, but we're able to pick him up and if there's a guy on our team that we want to rally around and try to come back for, it's someone like that with a work ethic and just commitment and dedication and how he is as a teammate.”

Luckily for Walker, the Caps were still able to get the win thanks to Matt Niskanen’s overtime goal. Those were nervous moments for him watching as the team tried to overcome his mistake.

“It's definitely nerve-wracking for sure,” Walker said. “You kind of feel like you're the reason why they got back into the game. I personally thought we were all over them in the third period up until they got that goal. I think we still played really well, but obviously the play with the lead is a lot nicer than playing tied up 10 minutes to go in the third. It was nerve-wracking, but it was good that the guys came through and we got the two points at the end of the day so that's the main thing.”

The fact that Walker’s mistake did not end up costing the team will make it easier for Reirden’s message to sink in. It’s his aggressiveness that makes him valuable. One mistake should not make him change that aspect of his game.

Said Reirden, “It's something that if he stops hunting pucks and creating havoc up ice then he's just a very average player that's going to find himself in and out of the league.”

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