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Pressey factor looms large for 15th-ranked Tigers

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Pressey factor looms large for 15th-ranked Tigers

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Unlike football, Missouri's transition to the SEC might not be so difficult when it comes to the other marquee sport.

Only two players are back from Frank Haith's 30-win debut season, and just one starter, but that's preseason SEC player of the year Phil Pressey. A third cog is back on the front line after a year lost to injury, and then there are all of those blue-chip pickups for the AP national coach of the year to put on the floor when he's ready.

After setting career highs with 10.3 points, 6.4 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals, Pressey spent his summer competing at the LeBron James, Chris Paul and Deron Williams elite camps. Fellow guard Michael Dixon was perhaps the nation's best sixth man with a 13.5-pint average last season, and is a second-team preseason all-conference choice.

Forward Laurence Bowers returns from a left knee injury for his senior season needing just 26 blocks to become No. 2 on the school career list and 126 points for 1,000.

Perhaps it's a team that could finally end Missouri's Final Four drought. Last spring, the Tigers won the Big 12 tournament and were a No. 2 seed in the West before getting upset by Norfolk State in their NCAA opener.

``I really think so,'' Bowers said. ``From a talent standpoint, and just all the intangibles, we have a really good chance. Now, obviously, we've got to still work. You can have all the talent in the world, and if you don't have work ethic it doesn't matter.''

There's already a bump in the road, with Dixon and freshman Dominique Bull suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules prior to the exhibition opener. There is still plenty of time to get everyone aboard before the SEC opener Jan. 8 at home against Alabama.

Missouri is loaded with experience, especially for a school that lost Marcus Denmon and Kim English to the NBA draft, plus center Ricardo Ratliffe. The transfer class of Keion Bell, Jabari Brown, Alex Oriakhi and Earnest Ross is considered among the best in history by one publication, and Bell, Oriakhi and Ross started the exhibition opener.

The 6-9 Oriakhi played on the 2011 national title team with Connecticut and has one year of eligibility remaining. Brown (Oregon) and Ross (Auburn) are 6-5 guards and Bell (Pepperdine) is 6-4. Ross has SEC experience and led the team in rebounding during its European tour in August.

Better still, Brown practiced with the team last year.

``It helped me a lot, because I wasn't as far in the dark in terms of what to expect, in terms of how Coach Haith does things,'' Brown said. ``I got to see firsthand for all of last year, start of conference play.''

There's no doubt about the focal point. It's the elusive, fearless Pressey.

Missouri always had the inside recruiting track, given Pressey began his college career playing for Mike Anderson, whom he grew up calling ``Uncle Mike.'' Anderson was a college teammate of Pressey's father, former NBA star Paul Pressey. Now at Arkansas, Anderson knows all too well what he left behind.

``I've known him all his life,'' Anderson said. ``Phil is the epitome of a point guard, he's like a coach on the floor. I think he's ahead of his time. Obviously, he's got to go out and play and prove it, but I think he'll be up to that challenge.''

Pressey is a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award given to the nation's top point guard. Last year as a sophomore, he broke the school single-season record with 223 assists and his 74 steals is second-most. He is 158 assists and 61 steals shy of school career records.

Pressey and Dixon have piled up 569 assists as teammates and with 212 more will become the top assist tandem in school history in just three seasons.

``Only time can tell how good we can be,'' Pressey said. ``We're going to work every day, and I think we can have a terrific season.''

Missouri was the nation's top shooting team last season with 50 percent accuracy, and also was the best at assist/turnover ratio. The Tigers were in the top 10 in scoring (80.4 points), scoring margin (14.1 points), 3-point percentage (39.8 percent), turnovers (10.2) and turnover margin (4.1).

Haith's new team hit the ground running in the exhibition opener, going up 27-3 early against Division II Northwest Missouri State on Monday, and opens the regular season Nov. 10 at home against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. There are games against NIT champion Stanford and either Louisville or Northern Iowa in the Battle 4 Atlantis Nov. 22-24 and with the other side of the draw including Duke.

The Tigers begin a home-and-home series with UCLA, playing on the road this year Dec. 28, and they have a three-game winning streak in the annual Braggin' Rights game against Illinois in St. Louis, with this year's matchup set for Dec. 22.

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

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USA Today Sports

Dmitry Orlov dazzles his hometown of Novokuznetsk with the Stanley Cup

Friday featured Dmitry Orlov and his jam-packed schedule with the coveted Stanley Cup.

The 27-year-old native of Russia decided to take the Cup to Novokuznetsk (located in the southwest region of Siberia) for a meet and greet with fans by the Ferris wheel at Gagarin City Park.

It should be mentioned that Orlov's day with the trophy was nearly derailed after a travel glitch that sent the Cup to Novosibirsk instead of his hometown. 

Thanks to the ultimate assist from a helicopter, the Cup arrived in style and set up one memorable entrance for the defenseman. 

Orlov released this hype video which highlights his entire day on Instagram: 

Дорогие друзья! Огромное спасибо, что разделили с нами наш праздник! Для нас это значимое и большое событие! Ещё раз приносим искренние извинения за задержку с кубком! И спасибо за понимание, мы старались сделать все максимально быстро! Спасибо за тёплый приём! Нашим родным, друзьям, тренерам, отдельная благодарность! Вы сделали наш праздник, наш день! Мы никогда не забудем этот праздник! P.S. Лена @govor_elena , тебе и твоим родным, отдельная благодарность, если бы не ваша помощь, то не известно когда бы кубок был в Новокузнецке!

A post shared by Dmitry Orlov (@orlov_09) on

Talk about a banner weekend for the Washington Capitals. The Ovechkins welcomed their new son, Sergei Aleksandrovich, into the world and Orlov pulled off yet another spectacular day with the Cup.

 

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