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Patriots, Welker prep for showdown of standout WRs

Patriots, Welker prep for showdown of standout WRs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) For 10 years, it was billed as Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady.

But now, with Manning halfway through his first season in Denver, Sunday's showdown between the Indianapolis Colts (6-3) and New England Patriots (6-3) is being hyped for rookie quarterback Andrew Luck's first game against a three-time Super Bowl MVP.

Perhaps the spotlight should be on receivers Reggie Wayne and Wes Welker, though, as two of the most dynamic and dangerous weapons in the league continue surging seasons.

The quiet, crafty and versatile veterans once again rank atop the NFL this year. Wayne leads all receivers with 69 receptions and is second to Detroit's Calvin Johnson with 931 yards. Welker, meanwhile, is tied for third with 66 receptions and is seventh with 810 yards.

The fact that they're both at the head of the class shouldn't come as a surprise, though. After all, they've been doing it for years.

Since Welker arrived in New England in 2007, he has the most receptions (620) and fourth-most yards (6,915) in the league, while Wayne, drafted by Indianapolis in 2001, trails only Atlanta's Roddy White in yards (7,165), and is tied with Chicago's Brandon Marshall for No. 2 in receptions (541) during that same span.

Wayne, who had seven straight 1,000-yard seasons between 2004-10, also has scored 39 touchdowns in that time frame to Welker's 33.

Not bad.

``I'm only nine years (in) right now. It's hard to keep on playing well. And he's at 12! And still playing really well,'' Welker said of Wayne. ``He's at the top of the league in everything and playing like the best receiver in the league right now. You definitely have an appreciation for it.''

Luck certainly does.

As if replacing the only four-time MVP in league history wasn't tough enough, imagine how difficult Luck's transition from college could have been without a dependable target to throw to.

``He doesn't talk much. He's not going to sit down and lecture the young guys, but the way he works, the way he prepares during the week, the way he takes care of his body, the way he mentally prepares, is a great example for us all in the locker room,'' Luck said. ``To boot, he's a great football player, so it's fun getting able to throw to him.''

With Manning sidelined for the entire season last year, the Colts went 2-14 - earning the right to select Luck with the top pick in the draft - and many expected Wayne to depart Indianapolis for greener pastures.

Wayne, 33, didn't flinch, though. He simply chose to remain with the only team he's ever played for.

``He's a Colt and he wanted to be a Colt bad. He's a legend here and he's going to go into the Hall of Fame,'' Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said. ``He knew what he was getting into and I think he's excited more than anybody with the change. He's a rookie in this offense, too. Because he sat out on the left side for 10 years and now he's all over the place, running routes that he's never run before.''

Patriots coach Bill Belichick wouldn't say whether Wayne's surprisingly successful season was solely attributed to the emergence of Luck, who has connected with Wayne for three touchdowns so far. To him, Wayne is the same lethal receiver he's always been.

``I don't really see Reggie Wayne much differently than I saw him in the past. He was good then, he's good now,'' Belichick said. ``There were some issues last year with their quarterbacking and passing game and all that but I didn't see any drop-off in Reggie Wayne as a football player.

``I don't know, maybe I missed it. He's always looked pretty good to me.''

Tasked with trying to slow Wayne and the Colts' aerial assault this weekend, New England safety Steve Gregory also hasn't noticed anything different about the standout receiver.

``Just being Reggie Wayne,'' he said. ``That guy's a consistently excellent wide receiver in the NFL. That's why he's around so long and that's why you've got to know where he is at all times.''

After missing two practices earlier in the week with an ankle injury, Welker returned to the field Friday but refused to place a percentage on his health.

``I don't know if anybody's 100 percent at this point in the season,'' he said. ``I don't know where I'm at. I'm just looking forward to getting better and trying to contribute on Sunday.''

Even if Manning's not on the other sideline anymore.

``They're a 6-3 team and playing really good football right now with a young group of guys,'' Welker said. ``Reggie Wayne's playing really well and their defense flies around pretty good.

``So, I'd say that's still a pretty big rivalry.''

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Rui Hachimura was a star in Vegas, earning All-NBA Summer League Second Team honors

Rui Hachimura was a star in Vegas, earning All-NBA Summer League Second Team honors

Welcome to the Wizards Rui Hachimura.

In his first action as a Washington Wizard, the first-round draft pick brought home some hardware after being named to the All-NBA Summer League Second Team.

Hachimura showed out in a Summer League that was headlined by which stars were not playing on the court. In his final contest against the Atlanta Hawks, Hachimura dominated the court.

Playing a total of three games in Las Vegas, he averaged 19.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Those stats paired with a 2-1 record in the games he played garnered the Second Team honor. 

He was joined by Chris Boucher (Toronto), Jaxson Hayes (New Orleans), Anfernee Simons (Portland) and Lonie Walker IV (San Antonio) on the Second Team. 

The Gonzaga product is looking to become the best Japanese player to step onto an NBA basketball court and, although it is a small sample size, he showed some major potential in his limited action. 

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Mystics' Kristi Toliver named WNBA All-Star reserve for a second straight year

Mystics' Kristi Toliver named WNBA All-Star reserve for a second straight year

Washington Mystics guard Kristi Toliver is a WNBA All-Star once again. 

Toliver was named an All-Star reserve on Monday as selected by the league's coaches. She joins Elena Delle Donne, who was named a captain of one of the two teams, and head coach Mike Thibault as representatives from the Mystics. 

This selection gives Toliver, 5-7, the third honor of her career and the second with Washington. Last year en route to the franchise's first WNBA Finals appearance Toliver was named an All-Star. She also got the nod in 2013 when she played with the Los Angeles Sparks. 

Through 15 games, Toliver is averaging 12.1 points and is second in the league with 5.7 assists per game, which is also on pace for a career-high.

She is shooting at a career-best .497 clip and is looking as explosive as ever at 32-years-old. With her and Delle Donne, the Mystics are 9-6 and second in the Eastern Conference.

In the offseason, Toliver is also an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. Often she worked on the player development side of the staff and closely with Bradley Beal. 

Delle Donne will have the first choice of selection in the All-Star game draft. As a reserve, Toliver cannot be selected until after the starters are chosen. 

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