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Slumping, rested Giants get back to work

Slumping, rested Giants get back to work

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Coming off a bye week and riding a two-game losing streak, the New York Giants realize it's time to turn things around.

While they have a one-game lead over Dallas in the NFC East, the defending Super Bowl champions (6-4) also have a brutal six-game closing stretch that starts Sunday night against the red-hot Green Bay Packers (7-3), winners of five in a row.

``It needs to start now,'' defensive captain Justin Tuck said Monday after the Giants returned to work following six days off. ``It definitely needs to start now. Our sense of urgency has to be great, we have to come out of this bye running. That is important for us leading up to the next couple of weeks to get that momentum swung back in our direction.''

It's not an unfamiliar position for Tom Coughlin's team. It also had a tough stretch run a year ago and managed to right things just in time to win its second title since 2007. The difference this year is that the Giants don't have two games remaining with the Cowboys. They have already split games with their rivals from Texas, and Dallas' schedule is easier the rest of the way.

``We've got a one-game lead and we just want to build up that,'' leading receiver Victor Cruz said. ``We control our own destiny just like you always do, every year potentially at this time. We just have to continue to win.''

The Giants are healthier following the rest. Receiver Hakeem Nicks, who has been slowed all season by foot and knee problems, said this is the best he has felt all season.

Safety Kenny Phillips, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since the end of September, also hopes this will be the week he returns.

Quarterback Eli Manning also sounded refreshed and once again downplayed any thought that his arm was tired in the weeks before the bye. He enters the Packers' game having not thrown a touchdown pass in three contests.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has battled foot problems most of the season, and guard Chris Snee (ankle) also worked out Monday.

``You don't get almost a week off very often with this job and during the season. It was nice to get away, but I think everybody was kind of itching to get back,'' Manning said. ``We're excited about where we stand right now, excited about this final stretch of the season and it should be fun.''

The Giants are very familiar with the Packers, having played Aaron Rodgers and Co. three times over the past two seasons. The one the Giants like to remember is the NFC divisional game last season, when New York stunned the top-seeded Packers 37-20 in Green Bay.

During the offseason, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said the Giants didn't beat Green Bay as much as the Packers beat themselves. So, New York expects Green Bay to be ready to back that up.

``Like I said here last week, there is no panic,'' Snee said of the skid. ``We're all disappointed, sure, and maybe didn't enjoy the first couple of days of the bye as much as we wanted to. We're not panicked. We're excited about this game and we know they are going to come in (angry) about last year and we have to be ready for that intensity.''

Coach Tom Coughlin said his staff spent much of the bye self-scouting and trying to get the offense back on track after a couple of rough weeks.

``Six-game schedule. That's it, six-game season,'' Coughlin said. ``We're excited about that. Watched a lot of football yesterday, as you all did, I'm sure. Got excited, got upset, got excited, got all the emotions in play, but we're excited to be back on the field and seeing all of our guys again.

``Hopefully they're well rested and ready to go.''

After the Packers, the Giants will play Washington (4-6), New Orleans (5-5), Atlanta (9-1), Baltimore (8-2) and Philadelphia (3-7).

``We have been down this road before,'' Tuck said. ``I know the leadership and the veteran guys know what we are up against. We have come out of these situations on top more than not. But every year is different. We can't rely on the fact that we have the experience of being in these situations. We have to go out and play the game and play it at a high level to be successful.''

The Giants haven't done that in about a month. Before starting the slump, they edged Washington and Dallas, games they easily could have lost.

``It's about how you finish,'' Nicks said. ``We put emphasis on that. Finish the deal.''

They did that, and more, last year, winning the final six games, including the Super Bowl.

``This team feels that we can be the best team in the league when we're playing our style of football,'' Tuck said. ``It's just unfortunate we haven't played our style of football the last couple of weeks. We have to find a way to get back to playing because it's going to be needed.''

So, consider the confidence still intact.

``We've always been very confident,'' Tuck added. ``Sometimes maybe too confident - borderline cocky, a little bit. But our confidence, I don't think, will ever waver on this team.''

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

“How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?”

That brain-busting question from a current NBA general manager came before the February 7 trade deadline when rumors involving Wizards guard Bradley Beal swirled.

Another migraine-inducing conundrum is forthcoming whether Beal receives All-NBA honors or not.

Should the league’s upcoming announcement of its first, second and third team include the two-time All-Star, the Wizards may have no choice but to break up the backcourt pairing with John Wall that fueled the franchise’s most sustained success since winning the 1978 title.

This honor comes with a financial reward-- if extended to Beal by the Wizards --  in the form of a supermax contract worth approximately $193 million over four years that would begin in 2021-22. He still has two years and $56 million remaining on the valued five-year, $127 million deal he signed in 2016.

The issue is less about Beal’s hefty chunk of the Wizards’ salary cap, but combining it with Wall’s four-year, $170 million supermax deal that begins next season. Offer Beal the supermax and, should he accept, approximately 71 percent of the team’s future salary cap beginning in the 2021-22 season would be chewed up by two players.

Beal and Wall, when healthy, are All-Stars. They’re not Jordan and Pippen.

NBC Sports Washington spoke with over a dozen league sources in recent weeks including three current or former general managers, other executives, NBA coaches, and scouts, about Beal’s contract situation and the Wizards’ overall equation coming off a 32-50 campaign.

Some dutifully tried putting themselves in the mindset of Washington’s next front office leader knowing Beal’s contract status and other limiting or uncertain factors.

The executives shared opinions on whether to boldly hold or sell high on the Wizards’ best player. Regardless of their stance, their initial instinct almost unanimously landed in the same place as this current lead executive: “I have no idea what you would do.”

*****

There’s an incredibly strong argument for doing nothing. How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?

Several NBA sources largely acknowledge the choice almost gets removed from the Wizards front office should Beal receive the All-NBA nod. Even if Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson or Ben Simmons trump Beal in the voting, events from early February may effectively force the Wizards’ hand.

Washington faced its second consecutive luxury tax payment, diminishing playoff hopes and the knowledge that Wall would miss the rest of the season with a heel injury.

Despite those negatives and salary cap concerns with only five players catapulting the team over next season’s salary cap, big picture hope existed. The headliners -- Wall, Beal and Otto Porter -- previously put the Wizards in a playoff contender mode. “We're not trading any of those players,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said at the time.

There’s a good reason to believe Leonsis meant what he said. Then life intervened and forced change.

Wall’s left Achilles ruptured during the first week of February. The recovery time means an entire calendar year and perhaps the full 2019-20 season. Those negatives, especially with the salary cap, were now amplified.

Washington dealt with that financial scenario two days after the Wall status update by trading Porter and Markieff Morris to slide under the luxury tax.

Another life event requiring a financial decision could happen soon.

*****

There’s no debating whether Beal is worthy of the All-NBA accolade. Some believe he is a favorite to snag one of the two guard spots on the third-team.

The dilemma is can the Wizards justify offering a contract with those hefty terms knowing what’s already on the books, plus the upcoming challenges.

Pass and the likelihood of trading Beal at peak value becomes a leading option. Hold Beal regardless and his trade value effectively decreases over the next two seasons with the possibility he leaves as a 2021 free agent without compensation.

“The Wizards is a hard job right now,” a former GM told NBC Sports Washington. “There’s a lot to figure out. Timelines can’t be certain with John Wall in particular. For Bradley Beal, that's a decision… Hard to walk in [to those interviews) with a specific plan.”

Leave the supermax contract off the table and the human element arises. Those familiar with Beal’s mindset do not see a Robin to Wall’s Batman. Co-headliners, cool, but then pay and appreciate accordingly. Maybe folks could start referring to the pair as Beal and Wall once in a while.

Forget the money, which isn’t Beal’s driving motivation. As one source familiar with Beal’s thinking stated, “Brad needs to be in the playoffs. He’s not disruptive...Brad just wants to win.”

The Wizards might not be in playoff position next season even if Beal maintains his All-NBA level. It's a near lock they won't if the 2012 first-round pick is traded.

Beal averaged 30.9 points in February, the same month he dropped a season-high 46 at Charlotte and his All-NBA buzz soared. Beal joined 2019 MVP finalist James Harden as the only players this season to average at least 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals.

The wing guard’s leadership kept Washington tangibly in the playoff race until realities of the undermanned roster kicked in.

“I think [Brad is] an all-NBA player in my eyes,” said Wall, an All-NBA selection in 2016. “You know how tough it is to make that team? It’s always tough. The year he’s had speaks for itself.”

How do you trade that player especially one groomed by the organization since selecting him third overall in 2012? You can't -- but the Wizards might not have a choice.

Nobody recognizes this more than Bradley Beal.

"Honestly, I’m here until I’m not here," Beal told NBC Sports Washington earlier this month. "I’m not thinking too strong on it. My personal desire is to be here and see the direction we go. Hopefully, the correct direction.

"I keep hearing the possibility of rebooting, trading Brad and getting assets back. It’s a business. I understand both sides of it. I can’t be mad at it."

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks Tuesday to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970, where they were eliminated by the Boston Bruins.

They will look to even the odds, as they will be taking on the Bruins yet again on Monday night.

Blues fan and St. Louis native Bradley Beal will hope that his hometown squad will take the cup from the reigning champs, the Washington Capitals, and win the matchup against the Bruins.

Beal cheered on the Caps just a year ago and is ready to show out for the surging Blues.

To really put it into perspective how long it has been since the Blues played for the Cup, take a look at the number one song in the country when these two teams faced off 49 years ago. 

The Blues besting the Bruins will be a challenge, and Beal will be ready to root for his squad until the final buzzer.

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