Nationals

Panthers promote Shula to offensive coordinator

Panthers promote Shula to offensive coordinator

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) After 14 years Mike Shula is getting another chance to run an NFL offense.

The Panthers named Shula as their new offensive coordinator Friday and promoted two other assistant coaches.

Richard Rodgers was named Carolina's special teams coordinator after taking over that role on an interim basis last season and Ricky Proehl was promoted as the Panthers new wide receivers coach after working as an assistant in 2012.

Shula served as the team's quarterbacks coach the last two seasons.

The Panthers chose to hire from within after interviewing candidates from outside the organization.

``After going through the interview process we feel that Mike's familiarity with our offense and personnel lends itself to the offensive coordinator position,'' coach Ron Rivera said. ``He has the experience and knowledge to step in and provide continuity in an area that has been productive over the past two years.''

Shula takes over for Rob Chudzinski, who left to become the Cleveland Browns' head coach.

Shula said he was anxious to get another shot at being an offensive coordinator.

The last time didn't work out so well.

He spent four seasons (1996-99) as the offensive coordinator at Tampa Bay, but the Bucs finished 29th in total offense, 27th in points scored and last in the league in passing, according to STATS INC. They never finished better than 22nd in total offense in any of those four seasons.

However, this time around he has the versatile Cam Newton running the offense.

``I am excited about working with our offense in a more expanded role as offensive coordinator,'' said Shula, the son of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula. ``There are a number of pieces in place for a good offense and our goal is to build on the momentum we had at the end of last season. ``

Shula has helped with the development of Newton, who was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 and who improved statistically in his second season. The Panthers have been ranked seventh and 12th in total offense the past two years.

Shula has 20 years of NFL coaching experience.

In addition to coaching with the Panthers, Bucs, and Jaguars, Shula was also the tight ends coach for the Chicago Bears. He was also served as head coach at Alabama.

Rodgers joined the Panthers last season as assistant special teams coach after 23 seasons of college coaching and was elevated to interim special teams coach nine weeks into the season when Brian Murphy was fired by Rivera. Under Rodgers the Panthers special teams climbed in several NFL rankings over the final seven games, including kickoff coverage, where Carolina finished 11th in the league.

``Richard did a great job of stepping in last season and we want to build upon the foundation that he established in the second half of last season,'' Rivera said.

Proehl spent the last two years as assistant wide receivers coach under Fred Graves, who was fired earlier this offseason.

He also played with the Panthers for three seasons and caught 669 passes for 8,878 yards during his 17-year career.

``Ricky brings a great technical understanding of the wide receiver position and has good insight on our personnel at the position,'' Rivera said. ``I have been very impressed with his work over the past two seasons.''

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Exclusive: Nats owner Mark Lerner says they haven't heard from Bryce Harper and Scott Boras in months

Exclusive: Nats owner Mark Lerner says they haven't heard from Bryce Harper and Scott Boras in months

Click the podcast below to hear Mark Lerner's full interview.

The Washington Nationals are officially moving on from Bryce Harper.

"Nothing's certainly changed on our end," owner Mark Lerner told NBC Sports Washington Friday. "We've moved on. As I said back then and we had to. There was no way we could wait around. Bryce, I'm sure will make his decision hopefully in the next few days, but we've filled out our roster and like I said, we wish him nothing but the best."

Before the end of the 2018 season, the Nats presented Harper and his agent Scott Boras a 10-year, $300 million offer to which they declined. 

There have been reports that multiple teams have been in on the Harper sweepstakes, most notably the Phillies, Padres and Giants. As far as recent talks with the Nationals?  There haven't been any.

"But there's always that, the door's cracked a little bit," Lerner added. "I have no clue at this point what they're up to. We really haven't heard from them in a couple months."

Stay tuned to NBC Sports Washington for more on this breaking news. 

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Yes, Bobby Portis once bowled a 285 and that's another reason to strike up affection for the new Wizard

Yes, Bobby Portis once bowled a 285 and that's another reason to strike up affection for the new Wizard

WASHINGTON -- Spare your outrage upon hearing Bobby Portis’ take. 

The Wizards power forward believes his game, one honed in Chicago that includes a striking hook shot, is the NBA’s best. 

“I want to say I am. I’m pretty damn good. I’m not cocky at all about anything," Portis said, “but bowling is one thing I’m really confident with.”

Don’t split after that lede. At least wait until finding out more about an honor the Arkansas native received during the All-Star break that frames his high school career forever. There’s also the potential with the Wizards just two weeks after a trade X’d out the stretch-4’s time with the Bulls.

That deal also interrupted league play. 

Portis showed up every Wednesday to Diversey River Bowl in the Logan Square section of Chicago, at least when the Bulls’ schedule permitted.  At first, Portis just wanted to keep his skills sharp. You don’t roll a 285 by accident. 

“I’m a very active bowler. I loooove bowling,” Portis explained to NBC Sports Washington. “It’s something I do each and every day in the summer.”

The former University of Arkansas standout fell hard for the game back in his native Little Rock. He and a group of friends would battle with push-ups at stake.

He arrives at the alley with a 14-pound, bowling ball. The trusty multi-colored orb helps the NBA big man do damage in the lane.

“I throw the hook, man,” Portis proudly stated. “Bowling takes a lot of skill and exercise and a lot of relaxation. You can’t just go out there and throw it hard.”

Portis moved to Chicago after the Bulls selected him 22nd overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. After he settled into his new professional life, he went searching for a game.

The initial plan involved an incognito approach that was a real gutter ball.

“I tried to have my hood on the first time I went so nobody would notice me,” the 6-foot-11 NBA player admitted, “but after that, it was a wrap. Taking pictures all damn night.”

Portis got to know some of those picture takers. “Just random dudes,” he said. 

Soon Rajon Rondo and Lauri Markkanen weren’t his only teammates. 

“I would go just practice my game and found these dudes I was cool with,” Portis said. “I exchanged numbers with them. We starting hanging out a lot. Started bowling. Then they invited me to their little league. I was bowling in their league ever since.

His now famous “crazy eyes” bulged during the reminiscing.

“It’s a really cool league,” Portis said. “You see a lot of old people there. They’re really good. They bring their balls. I never really knew people loved bowling like that until I joined their league.”

The trade to Washington put the bowling league on hold. 

Portis did not quite know what to make of the deal initially. He entered his fourth season with a goal of being named Sixth Man of the Year. Suffering a right knee injury during Chicago’s fourth game derailed those hopes. Portis missed the next 23 games, returned for five and then sat out an extended stretch with an ankle issue.

The 2019 restricted free agent found his touch in January, averaging 14.2 points while shooting 42.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The trade occurred three days after Portis scored 33 points on Feb. 3 and moments before Chicago hosted New Orleans.

 “It was a crazy experience,” Portis said. “Had my jersey on, was ready to play.”

With time for reflection, Portis now sees the positives with Washington.

“I get more time on the court, show what I can do,” Portis said. “I’m just happy to be a Wizard. …Trades happen. I’m over it now. Have a chance to fight for the playoffs.”

Portis made quite the impression on his new team after four games, averaging 19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 29.3 minutes off the bench while sinking a staggering 54.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

“He surprised me how good of a 3-point shooter he is for his size and his position,” Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky said. “I think it’s going to be fun also playing pick-and-roll, pick-and-pops with him.”

That fun could continue into next season if the Wizards retain Satoransky, another RFA, and Portis, who plays minutes at center with Washington.

“I can’t predict the future, whether I’ll be here or whether I’ll be somewhere else,” Portis said. “I know I can control the now. Now is me putting the work in each and every day.”

Back in the day Portis first gained notoriety playing for Little Rock’s Hall High School. He led the Warrior to four state championships. Those accomplishments plus his subsequent work in college and the NBA led to the school retiring Portis’ jersey during the All-Star break.

“When you’re a kid growing up playing the game of basketball, you’re just playing for the love of the game,” Portis said. “I never knew I would get my high school jersey retired. Man, it was a surreal moment for me and my family.”

Despite the honor, Portis is not the school’s most notable basketball alum.

“I think Sidney Moncrief is more famous than I am,” Portis said about the five-time NBA All-Star currently up for nomination to the Basketball Hall of Fame. 

More famous than Portis, sure. Better bowler, probably not. 

Among current NBA players, Portis only imagines another known bowling fanatic, Rockets guard Chris Paul, as competition. 

Perhaps someone should organize a game of one-on-one.

“Might have to,” Portis said, “especially since the All-Star game is in Chicago next year.” 

If that happens, expect a bunch of random dudes to spare some time for a former teammate back in town. 

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