Wizards

Porter formally takes the reins in Portland

Porter formally takes the reins in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) For months, Caleb Porter has been torn by his loyalty to the Akron Zips while waiting to take over as coach of the Portland Timbers.

``I wanted to get going,'' Porter said Tuesday when he was formally - and finally - introduced by the Timbers. ``I can't wait for that first meeting, the first training session.''

Porter was hired as the Major League Soccer team's coach in late August, but he wrapped up his seventh season with Akron before fully making the move. He guided the Zips to an 18-1-3 record, the Mid-America Conference championship and into the third round of the NCAA tournament. It was the sixth straight season Akron had made it to the tournament; the Zips won the national championship in 2010.

He finished with a 123-18-17 overall record at Akron and the highest winning percentage (.832) among current Division I coaches.

The Timbers, meanwhile, fired coach John Spencer last July and replaced him in the interim with general manager Gavin Wilkinson. Portland finished up the season 8-16-10, ranked second-to-last in Major League Soccer's Western Conference and falling far short of the team's goal to reach the playoffs.

Porter, who was captain for three years during his college career at Indiana, went on to play two MLS seasons for San Jose and Tampa Bay. Knee injuries cut short his career. His goal, he said Monday, was to eventually return to MLS.

``In some ways I was uncomfortable being comfortable in Akron,'' he said. ``I was antsy.''

Porter, 37, finally moved his family to Portland on Dec. 17.

Honest and to-the-point, Porter did not waste any time in putting his own stamp on the team. Asked about Scottish striker Kris Boyd, who made $1.5 million last season with the Timbers but scored just seven goals, the new coach was blunt.

``Kris Boyd is a player that I think will have a hard time playing in the way that we want to play,'' Porter said. ``And that's no knock on Kris. He would fit in a lot of different systems but, with what I want out of my strikers, it's going to be difficult for him to offer what I'm looking for in that position.''

In what he needs from a striker, Porter said: ``I like to score goals. Simple.''

Porter is already familiar with Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who played at Akron and won the MAC Hermann Trophy before he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by the Timbers.

Nagbe scored just two goals his first season with the Timbers, but one of those was named the MLS goal of the year. Last season he had six, second on the team to Boyd.

Porter won't be giving the rising star a pass.

``He's a special talent,'' Porter said. ``He still has a lot to learn, I hope to bring that out in him.''

While Porter is known somewhat for using the 4-3-3 formation, he said he only used it for two seasons at Akron, and he favored a 4-4-2. The Timbers' talent will dictate what system he'll use at the MLS level.

He said part of Portland's problem has been a lack of a clear identity, which he hopes to bring to the team. He prefers an attack-oriented style with an emphasis on possession.

``I'm excited about the challenges ahead,'' he said.

The Timbers on Tuesday also signed Portland native Steven Evans as the team's second homegrown player. The 21-year-old midfielder had a career-best 14 goals in 19 matches as a junior at the University of Portland last season. He has been with the Timbers' development team since 2009.

Wilkinson also hinted about ``additions that will be happening this week.''

The Timbers open training camp on Jan. 21 and they open the season on March 3 against the New York Red Bulls at Jeld-Wen Field.

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Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

A couple of weeks ago, John Wall was spotted at a Washington Mystics game with no brace to support his Achilles injury, a sign that his rehab from the injury was moving in the right direction. 

On Monday night at the 2019 NBA Awards, the Wizards point guard gave affirmation that he is indeed continuing to get healthier and stronger.

"I feel great, man," Wall told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the red carpet. "I'm doing a great job with my body, taking care of that."

Specifically, Wall has been able to slowly increase what he can do on his legs. The recovery and rehab for an injury as severe as his is a long road, and the point guard is making sure not to speed up the process and risk hindering the progress. However, he's about to reach a pretty big milestone in the journey during the coming weeks.

"I'm about to start jogging in like two weeks. Just riding the bike, I get to do exercises standing up now, so I don't have to sit down. I'm able to move, do ladder steps, doing those types of things," Wall said. "Just taking my time and progressing and letting everything heal the right way so I don't force myself back and get another injury."

As Wall continues to work to get back on the court, he's had plenty of motivational factors pushing him through some grueling months. His recent string of injuries have left some wondering if he'll still be an elite player when he finally.

He's heard those comments and he's using them to his advantage.

"I'm one of those guys that's very driven by all the hate and all the negative talk I'm getting. Keep it going," Wall said.

"Everybody said I can't be myself, I won't be nowhere near as good again. That's all the other stuff that's going to fuel me. I don't get upset about it, you're entitled to your own opinion. Please keep it going."

The haters have given Wall some extra juice, but so has his son Ace. Spending the offseason getting right has allowed Wall to work in another area of life: fatherhood.

The newest addition to his family has taken his desire for greatness to new heights.

"I've always had that drive that I want to be the greatest. To have a son like that, that's watching everything I can do. Even though he doesn't understand what's going on, he's putting memories in his head," Wall said. 

"So that gives me extra, extra motivation to another level I never thought I could. Like I said before, that's the best blessing a man could ever ask for is to have a son."

While Wall's offseason has been a busy one as he juggles rehab and being a dad, he's still been very involved in everything going on inside the franchise.

He's already chatted with first-round draft pick Rui Hachimura, and is excited for what is to come for the Wizards. Wall is also hoping that Hachimura will help improve his Japanese so that he can grow a larger following internationally. 

As the calendar slowly turns to July, both Wall and the Wizards' offseasons will ramp up. It's been an up and down time for both lately, but he's excited about the future.

"I think it's good," Wall said about the Wizards situation. "We added some pieces. See what we do in free agency to add some guys to bring back or we're going to go after somebody new. I think we'll be fine."

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Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

While he was putting together the best season of his career, Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was also making a profound impact off the court and those efforts have earned him a significant honor, the NBA's 2018-19 Community Assist Award.

The news was revealed at Monday's NBA Awards in Santa Monica, CA as Beal got the nod over nine other finalists. He is the second Wizards player to win the honor in just the last four years following John Wall in 2015-16.

Beal was involved in a variety of charitable efforts this past season. He has partnered with the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast Washington to help underprivileged youth. He visited the school in December and gave out shoes.

During the All-Star break in February, as he made his second appearance in the annual showcase, Beal handed out meals at a food bank alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This past year he also gave out Christmas presents in the Washington area and took a group of kids on a tour of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Beal was named a finalist for the Community Assist Award in April along with Jarrett Allen (Nets), Mike Conley (Jazz), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Dwight Powell (Mavs) and Pascal Siakam (Raptors). Part of the criteria was based on fan voting through social media that was held from April 24 through May 25.

Beal, 25, continues to ascend on the court as well. This year he posted career-highs in points (25.6/g), assists (5.5/g) and rebounds (5.0/g). He nearly made All-NBA in late May with the most votes of any guard that was left out.

In Beal and Wall, the Wizards have quite the combination. Both have been All-Stars on the court and now both can say they won the NBA's top honor for charity work as well.

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