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Sounders focus on playoffs, but Cascadia up next

Sounders focus on playoffs, but Cascadia up next

TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) The idea may be unsettling to Seattle Sounders fans, but with less than a month left in the regular season the priority for the playoff-bound Sounders is to avoid the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and not the Cascadia Cup.

Fortunately for Seattle fans, a win over rival Portland on Sunday would go a long way toward getting out of being the fourth-seed and the extra game that comes with it. It also keeps alive Seattle's hopes of retaining the trophy that goes to the winner of the Northwest rivalry involving the Sounders, Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.

Three points against the Timbers, in front of an expected crowd of 66,000 and one of the largest in MLS history, could have massive influence on how the next few weeks play out for the Sounders.

``We talked a number of weeks ago we set some goals for ourselves and one of those was to have that No. 2 spot in the west,'' Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said. ``That's still within our grasp and something that we really want. If we can eliminate that playoff game that will benefit us in the long run.''

Seattle has already assured itself of a playoff berth, but by sitting in fourth place in the conference standings leaves itself in the uncomfortable position of facing an extra game when the playoffs arrive. As part of the playoff restructuring the Nos. 4 and 5 teams in each conference have a one-game playoff with the winner advancing to face the No. 1 seed in the conference semifinals.

As it stands now, Seattle would face Vancouver in the one-game playoff, before having to face likely Supporters' Shield winner San Jose.

That is not the scenario Seattle wants to face. But the Sounders do have one more game than any other Western Conference team and matches against Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles - the two teams directly in front of Seattle - still to be played.

Seattle won last year's Cascadia Cup, bu needs help to retain the title. Portland currently leads with eight points in the competition between the three Northwest squads, with Seattle second with six points and Vancouver in third. To keep the title, Seattle needs a victory over Portland and the Whitecaps to beat or tie the Timbers this month in Vancouver.

A draw by the Timbers on Sunday will give them the Cascadia title in an otherwise dreary season in Portland.

``It certainly helps us and keeps us in a rhythm of playing important games, so we can't relax and have an easy game,'' Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. ``Every game is going to be a game that's going to require concentration and attention from the team, which is good because it keeps you sharp going into the playoffs.''

Only one other stand-alone MLS match has drawn more than 67,000 fans in league history. Los Angeles drew 69,255 for the first game in league history in 1996 and the Galaxy and New York played before 66,237 at Giants Stadium in 2007.

The league has seen larger crowds for doubleheaders featuring international clubs, but in terms of stand-alone matches Seattle will own two of the top four marks in league history after Sunday night.

``We've kind of become accustomed to having 3 or 4 games per year that were almost sellouts,'' Evans said. ``Just a great opportunity. Like last year and games prior when we've had so many people, we've played well. For us this is a massive game once again. We're playing for a playoff spot and this will be a big one.''

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Anthony Davis trade to Lakers gives Silver Spring's Josh Hart fresh start with Pelicans

Anthony Davis trade to Lakers gives Silver Spring's Josh Hart fresh start with Pelicans

The Anthony Davis trade will have ripple effects across the NBA, not only on teams, but also on the players involved.

Josh Hart, who was traded from the Lakers to the Pelicans as part of the package for Davis on Saturday, could stand to benefit from the move.

First, here's a look at all of the assets reportedly swapped in the deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Now, where does the Silver Spring, Md., native figure in the proceedings?

Hart spent his first two NBA seasons with the Lakers. He averaged 7.9 points in 24.4 minutes per game in his two years in Los Angeles. 

Still, Hart was often the Lakers' third or fourth option at shooting guard behind starter Brandon Ingram and shared minutes with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Reggie Bullock and Lance Stephenson. 

LeBron James and the Lakers' win-now strategy left little room to develop Hart last season.

Now in New Orleans, he is part of a franchise rebuilding around presumptive No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. The trade gave the Pelicans both a younger roster and a long enough timeline for success to develop players.

That can only be good news for Hart, giving him the chance to start fresh and impress Pelicans general manager David Griffin and head coach Alvin Gentry with his potential. 

Where the Sidwell Friends alum fits into the lineup depends on several factors.

At first glance, the new-look Pelicans could start Lonzo Ball at point guard, move Jrue Holiday to shooting guard, then complete the lineup with Ingram at small forward, Williamson at power forward and Julius Randle at center. 

If both Ingram and Holiday remain healthy, Hart would compete with Stanley Johnson to be the first wing off the bench for New Orleans.

But if Ingram does suffer recurring issues related to blood clots, Hart could press his case to start. 

The only issue complicating his place in New Orleans' plans is the No. 4 pick that was traded from the Lakers.

If the Pelicans keep that pick and draft a wing player like Jarrett Culver, Hart could find himself on the outside looking in again. 

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Pelicans reportedly trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a huge haul including Lonzo Ball

Pelicans reportedly trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a huge haul including Lonzo Ball

According to a report from ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Los Angeles Lakers have acquired Pelicans' forward Anthony Davis in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and multiple first-round draft picks, including the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The announcement comes less than 48 hours into the NBA offseason, although the rumors and speculation of the deal has been a prominent storyline for months.

The much-anticipated deal gives the Lakers the star they've been trying to pair with LeBron James for some time and gives the Pelicans a young nucleus to build around the presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson. 

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Boston Celtics refused to part ways with promising forward Jayson Tatum in a potential trade with New Orleans.

The Celtics had been in the mix for Davis, but with Kyrie Irving likely headed for the exits, Danny Ainge was unwilling to part with his young assets in exchange for the one year remaining on Davis' contract.

Before the Davis domino fell, NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes wrote about how a Davis trade could impact Bradley Beal's value

The Lakers, Knicks and Celtics all appear to want Davis and only one can get him, if he is even traded at all.

If the quest for Davis comes down to those three teams, there will be at least two that lose out.

The Knicks or Celtics now must determine whether trading for Beal is their next-best option behind Davis. 

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