Nationals

Rivera feels safe this year, not sure beyond that

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Rivera feels safe this year, not sure beyond that

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Ron Rivera said based on recent conversations with team owner Jerry Richardson he doesn't know if he'll remain the Carolina Panthers head coach beyond this season.

Rivera said Richardson didn't offer him any guarantees, but said ``I know that nothing is going to happen until after the season.''

Rivera's coaching seat got a little hotter after the Panthers (2-8) suffered yet another fourth quarter meltdown Sunday, losing 27-21 to Tampa Bay in overtime. Rivera is 8-18 in his two seasons as Carolina's coach.

Richardson fired general manager Marty Hurney four weeks ago and Rivera indicated at the time his own future was tied to Carolina's ability to start ``trending upward'' the rest of the season.

But the Panthers are just 1-3 since Hurney was ousted.

With a new general manager coming in at some point, Rivera has reason to be concerned. He knows many GMs like to assemble their own coaching staff. Rivera said he most recently spoke to Richardson on Friday and said the owner has been ``supportive'' and ``fair and open'' with him.

But Rivera also knows the NFL is a production-based business.

``With him it's `Ron, we've got to get things going. I know it's frustrating on you and your coaches' because it's frustrating on him,'' Rivera said of Richardson.

Richardson was unavailable for comment.

Rivera, 50, said this season has been frustrating with the Panthers losing a number of close games, including four of which they've held a lead in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Cam Newton said the closes losses have been ``the story of the season.''

Rivera said knowing the Panthers are good enough to beat teams like Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Tampa Bay is sometimes more difficult to swallow than if they were losing by 14 points every game.

``There just seems to be something missing,'' Rivera said.

The Panthers set out with a goal to win the Super Bowl, but 10 weeks into the season they've already been eliminated from contention to win the NFC South.

``It's tough when you lose (because) things aren't as good as they are when you win, obviously,'' Rivera said. ``Food doesn't taste right. It's difficult to communicate with people looking them in the eye and talking to them. It's hard, and I get it.''

Defensive end Charles Johnson, the team's highest-paid player and a captain, took to Twitter after Sunday's loss to express his frustration over the Panthers giving up an 11-point lead with six minutes to play against the Bucs.

``Embarrassed to be a part of that last drive! Some people study and work harder than others and they get expose(d) in the game,'' Johnson wrote.

Johnson said Monday the frustration wasn't directed at any teammate or member of the coaching staff and in hindsight he should have kept the comments in house, something Rivera urged him to do next time.

But Johnson said he supports Rivera.

``You can't worry about who is going to go and who is going to stay. That is for the front office to decide,'' Johnson said. ``But I'm going to fight with coach until the end. No matter what he does I'm going to ride with him. He's trying to lead us to the right place, so you have to stick with him.''

Rivera said he thinks he has what it takes to turn things around in Carolina given time.

He's in the second year of a four-year contract.

``I'd like to believe that we're doing things the right way - not completely obviously because we've lost too many games in close situations,'' Rivera said.

He points to the players' work ethic and the extra time they put in after practice as examples that they're willing and eager to get better and the team is headed in the right direction.

``I was on a team when I first started coaching that wasn't very good and as soon as practice was over the players couldn't wait to leave,'' Rivera said. ``I'm on a team right now where when practice ends, you've got guys catching balls and guys walking through protections. You'll see the DBs staying out there and working on their technique. There's a commitment that they're still making. ... (But) we haven't won. That's the hard part.''

After the game a linebacker Thomas Davis and other Carolina players expressed concern over Rivera's job security because of their inability to close out games.

``I'll be all right,'' Rivera said. ``No matter what happens, I'll be OK. Whether I'm here next year or not, I will be A-OK. I will go forward. I will make things happen. I will do things. Whether it's here or somewhere else, I will. I believe in who I am and firmly believe in my abilities as a coach.''

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Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

NEW YORK – A few constants remain during this wayward Nationals season. One is Max Scherzer.

Scherzer comes into Tuesday leading the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts. He's second in strikeouts per nine innings and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Scherzer's 3.72 ERA is well above his average of 2.71 since arriving in Washington in 2015. However, his FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is a league-leading 2.45, showing he has been victimized by bad defense more than bad pitching.

He hopped on a pop-up edition of The Racing Presidents podcast Tuesday in New York. Sitting in the visitors dugout a day ahead of another matchup with 2018 Cy Young Award Jacob deGrom, Scherzer touched on lighter topics, like his selection of Dr. Dre's "Still Dre" as his walkup song, and addressed who is responsible for the Nationals being seven games under .500 the last year-plus.

We're all responsible," Scherzer said. "When you wear a hat and jersey that says Nationals on it, we're all in the same position. It's frustrating to not have a winning record. It's frustrating not to be winning as a team. [Since] I've been here, we've won a couple division titles and you know that feeling of what it's like to win. You know you have the core group of players who have won here in the past that can win here again. It's just a matter of figuring out what the right chemistry is and going out there and getting it done."

Scherzer is in his 12th major-league season. He's made at least 30 starts for 10 consecutive seasons. One of the reasons for his lack of injuries and durability is not because he goes through extensive recuperation during the offseason. Instead, Scherzer keeps pushing both his arm and body. 

"I try to find a way to continue to do more, to take more on my body even as I age," Scherzer said.

And, about that walkup song, which is part-protest, part-comeback song? He was out to dinner with reliever Aaron Barrett when it popped on and Barrett suggested it as this year's entrance music.

So, click below to listen to everything Scherzer had to say in our exclusive interview. Also, don't forget to download, rate and subscribe to The Racing Presidents podcast. We're with you after every game and with marquee interviews and insight you can't find elsewhere.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Bruno Fernando

School: Maryland
Position: Center
Age: 20 (turns 21 in August)
Height: 6-10
Weight: 237
Wingspan: 7-3
Max vertical: 33.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.9 bpg, 60.7 FG% (5.1/8.4), 30.0 3PT% (0.1/0.3), 77.9 FT%

Player comparison: Jusuf Nurkic, Bam Adebayo

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 24th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 28th, Ringer 37th

5 things to know:

*Fernando tested the NBA draft waters last year before returning to school and clearly helped his stock by doing so. He went from a likely second round pick to someone who could fall in the lottery. Fernando is ranked in most mock drafts as the third-best big man in this draft behind Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes.

*He is one of the best rebounders in this class. He averaged 10.9 boards per game as a sophomore and had five games of 15 or more. That includes a 19-rebound performance against Nebraska on Feb. 6. Fernando is a strong, physical forward so there is reason to believe those skills will translate to the next level.

*Concerns about Fernando include his lack of an outside shot. He attempted only 13 threes in college and did most of his damage around the rim. But the potential for Fernando to become a reliable scorer in the NBA appear to be there. He has soft touch around the rim and can finish with power.

*Defensively, Fernando needs some work. He has the physical tools with his size and long arms, and he averaged 1.9 blocks per game in college, but some evaluatiors criticize his defensive instincts and discipline. As long as Fernando can block shots and rebound in the NBA, he should be fine on that end of the floor.

*Fernando is originally from the country of Angola and has played for their national team in several international tournaments. Angola basketball is famous for being the subject of one of Charles Barkley's most memorable quotes. During the 1992 Olympics, he said of USA's next opponent: "I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."

Fit with Wizards: Fernando would fit the Wizards in a variety of ways. Rim protection and rebounding are their biggest needs and he would help them to different degrees in both areas. With rebounding in particular, he could be a big plus.

But two questions about Fernando could give the Wizards pause. One is if they can justify taking him ninth when he may fall into the teens and second is what his ceiling will ultimately be. Does he have All-Star potential or will he top out as an Enes Kanter-type rebounding specialist?

Ideally, the Wizards would find someone with very high upside to give them hope for a true franchise building block moving forward. There may be better options than Fernando at No. 9, even if they play positions that are less of a need for the Wizards.

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