Wizards

Popovic maintains lead at Australian PGA

Popovic maintains lead at Australian PGA

COOLUM, Australia (AP) Daniel Popovic shot a 3-under-par 69 Saturday to take a two-stroke lead into the final round of an Australian PGA championship marked by lesser-known golfers dominating the marquee players.

Popovic, outside the top 1,000 in world rankings, had a 54-hole total of 13-under 203 on the Palmer Coolum Resort course. Fellow Australian Andrew Brown, who has never won as a professional and who has only one top-10 finish on the Australasian PGA Tour, shot 64 to move into second place.

U.S. Champions Tour regular Peter Senior, last week's Australian Open winner, was tied for third with fellow Australian Matthew Griffin. Senior shot 68 and Griffin 70 and were another stroke back.

Robert Allenby shot 68 and fellow Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who needs to be among the top three here in order to finish in the top 50 year-end world rankings and earn a U.S. Masters spot next year, had a 72 were tied for ninth at 208.

Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, the 2011 British Open champion, shot a 72 was tied for 24th, eight strokes behind Popovic. South African Rory Sabatini (70) was 11 strokes out of the lead while Greg Norman, another player featured in the pre-tournament posters, only made it through two holes Thursday before withdrawing due to food poisoning.

The 26-year-old Popovic, who has led after all three rounds, nearly quit golf earlier this year due to his father's serious illness - his dad has incurable bone cancer. On Saturday, Popovic made a 15-foot birdie putt on the tough, water-lined 18th to give him his two-shot buffer into the final round.

``I knew that I had it in me and I still know that I have one more good round tomorrow in me,'' Popovic said. ``I've just got to keep my routine going.''

Popovic said his father would be watching the final round from his hospital bed, where he is undergoing further blood testing for his cancer.

``It's going to be an incredible ride for the whole family I think, tomorrow,'' Popovic said. ``For myself ... and my dad, it is going to be huge.''

Brown had the round of the day, making birdie on six of his first 10 holes and bogeying only the par-4 13th.

``I had a couple of slightly jittery holes towards the end of the back nine, so it was nice to hit a good drive down 18 and then hit an iron nice and close,'' he said. ``It hasn't been the best year for me, but whenever you shoot 64 in any tournament, let alone the Aussie PGA, you take it.''

Brown said his birdie at the fifth hole after hitting his approach into the trees was the turning point of his round.

``I hit an ordinary second shot but got a good break away from the signage and holed a 25-foot putt for birdie, and then birdied the next two holes,'' he said.

``There are a lot of birdies out there but it is the kind of course where things can go pear-shaped very quickly, too.''

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Why Thomas Bryant's defensive showing against Joel Embiid could speak volumes for Wizards' future

Why Thomas Bryant's defensive showing against Joel Embiid could speak volumes for Wizards' future

The Wizards, as they are expected to be constructed next season, should be uniquely good on the offensive end. They could have Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans (if he re-signs), two of the game's most lethal shooters, spreading the floor. Rui Hachimura has the potential to be elite in the midrange and Thomas Bryant is one of the league's most efficient scorers around the rim.

Then, you have John Wall distributing the ball. There are three levels of offense and the Wizards could have all of them covered with a generational passer setting everyone up. That has the potential to be the type of offense with very little, if any, weaknesses. 

But the defensive end could be a completely different story. None of the aforementioned players are elite defenders and the Wizards posted the worst defensive rating in the NBA this season at 115.6.

That's what made a particular development in the Wizards' loss to the Sixers on Wednesday encouraging. Bryant more than held his own against Joel Embiid, one of the NBA's best offensive centers and arguably the league's most imposing physical force. 

Bryant held Embiid to 3-for-11 shooting while The Process went 8-for-11 against his teammates. Bryant had 19 total contested shots in the game and held his match-ups to 33.3 percent shooting overall. He blocked four shots, which tied a career-high.

"It was his best defensive game I've ever seen him play," head coach Scott Brooks said. "He was aware, he was anticipating, his hands were up and he jumped. If you just do those things, you give yourself a chance for a defensive stop at the rim. I thought tonight he was outstanding pretty much on both ends."

Bryant has some physical tools that lend themselves to the defensive end. He's one of the fastest centers up and down the floor in the NBA. And he has a 7-foot-6 wingspan. Of all players drafted since 2013, only five players have registered bigger wingspans at the combine: Mo Bamba, Bol Bol, Tacko Fall, Zhou Qi and Ike Anigbogu.

Bryant knows his potential on that end of the floor and how he hasn't really come close to reaching his full ceiling in the NBA. When told of Brooks' praise, he downplayed it as just one game.

"It's a step in the right direction. Keep improving every day, that's my main thing, especially on the defensive end," Bryant said.

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Consistency will be key. In the Wizards' previous game against the Pacers, Myles Turner went 5-for-5 while guarded by Bryant. In the team's season opener, DeAndre Ayton went 3-for-5 against him.

But if Bryant can establish some stability on that end, it could solve a lot of problems for the Wizards. Rim protector is again going to be a big priority for them this offseason, as it has essentially been annually. Finding solutions in that area is just very difficult to do. 

Teams that have good shot-blockers don't let them go and when they leave in free agency, they are expensive. If you draft rim protectors, they often take time to develop.

The Wizards, though, arguably need one now more than ever before. They are about to reinsert Wall into the lineup with a surgically repaired Achilles. As much as people have focused on his offense and how his speed could be affected, the defensive end should be the biggest concern.

The injury notoriously affects lateral movement and Wall will have to stay in front of NBA point guards, who are some of the quickest athletes in the world. Defensive structure around him could help compensate and a rim protector would provide a security blanket behind him.

Bryant has a long way to go to fill that void, and he knows it. But Wednesday was, like he said, a step in the right direction.

NBA.com advanced stats were used as part of this research

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Maryland's Mike Locksley forms minority football coaches coalition

Maryland's Mike Locksley forms minority football coaches coalition

There are only three Black coaches out of 32 in the NFL and only 14 out of 130 FBS football coaches are Black. Maryland head coach Mike Locksley is taking steps to change that pattern.

Locksley announced the formation of the Nationals Coalition of Minority Football Coaches Thursday, a non-profit organization focused on helping male or female football coaches of color gain exposure in the hiring process. 

"When I took the Maryland job last year and looked at the landscape of college football, I thought to myself, 'There's something missing. I'm on the back nine of my career and the pathway to becoming a head coach is still as difficult as when I got into the business in 1992,'" Locksley told NFL.com's Jim Trotter. "I wanted to create an organization that would be able to help prepare, promote and produce the next group of coaches coming up through the ranks at every level."

The coalition's goals are to find and groom football coaches of color as well as provide a list of board-approved candidates for job openings in both the NFL and the college ranks. 

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There are 11 board members, featuring Ravens owner Ozzie Newsome, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Washington Football Team executive Doug Williams and Dolphins general manager Chris Grier. 

"We want to use their experiences to help us formulate and produce the list of qualified candidates, so when people say there aren't enough minorities to fill the positions that have come open over the years, we're going to produce a list of qualified people that shows there are qualified people," Locksley said. 

While the coalition isn't expected to provide its first list for several months as the organization continues to settle in, Locksley hopes he and the board members can leverage their experience and relationships to ensure franchise's and universities aren't overlooking qualified candidates. 

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