Capitals

Thunder beat Blazers 106-92 in home opener

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Thunder beat Blazers 106-92 in home opener

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Russell Westbrook scored 32 points, Kevin Durant had 23 points and 17 rebounds and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 106-92 on Friday night to win their fourth straight home opener.

Kevin Martin, taking over James Harden's old role as the top-scoring bench player, added 19 points as Oklahoma City pulled away in the fourth quarter. Martin hit a 3-pointer and a runner during an 11-2 spurt that extended the Thunder's lead to 95-81 with 4:05 remaining.

LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 22 points and 15 rebounds and first-round pick Damian Lillard followed a sizzling debut with 21 points and seven assists.

The Trail Blazers were unable to follow up their surprising opening win against the Los Angeles Lakers, while Oklahoma City bounced back from a loss to San Antonio.

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In wake of video controversy, Brian MacLellan says he is disappointed but it was lesson learned for Kuznetsov

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USATSI

In wake of video controversy, Brian MacLellan says he is disappointed but it was lesson learned for Kuznetsov

When you are a general manager preparing for the draft and free agency, seeing a video of one of your most prominent players in a hotel room sitting next to lines of an unidentified white powder is about the last thing you want to see.

That was how the summer kicked off for Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan when video of Evgeny Kuznetsov began circulating on social media.

“We're a little disappointed that he had put himself in that situation that could be interpreted in a number of different ways,” MacLellan said on a conference call Thursday in his first availability with the media since the incident.

The video was alarming not just because of the presence of the unidentified substance, but also because it came off a down year for Kuznetsov, one in which he managed only 21 goals and 72 points after scoring over a point per game in the 2018 postseason. That one could have had an effect on the other was an easy conclusion for fans and critics to jump to.

Kuznetsov, however, denied ever taking drugs and after an investigation by both the team and the league, it was determined he would receive no discipline. He also released a statement apologizing for the incident.

MacLellan said he was ultimately satisfied with Kuznetsov’s explanation and the findings of the investigation surrounding the video.

“I think we had a pretty thorough investigation by both the league and the club and a number of discussions with Kuzy about what happened and how he got in that spot and how to handle that going forward,” MacLellan said. “I think at the end of the day, we're comfortable on all the conversations we've had, we're comfortable what the league had to say about it.”

While Kuznetsov may have avoided any discipline for the incident, MacLellan still feels confident that it was a lesson learned for the dynamic center and noted that he has high expectations for him heading into the next season.

Said MacLellan, “I think Kuzy learned a lesson about putting himself in certain situations and we're going to move forward and we expect Kuzy to have a good year this year.”

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Nationals extend protective foul ball netting

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Nationals extend protective foul ball netting

The Washington Nationals will become the latest MLB team to extend their protective netting down the first and third base lines, team owner Mark Lerner announced on Thursday. A new netting will be installed at Nationals Park during the MLB All-Star break. 

The new netting will extend from the end of the dugout, where they currently end, and go to the left and right field corners. It will be designed with certain sections that can be raised to allow for fan interaction before the games. 

In his announcement, Lerner stated "I could not help but become emotional last month watching the Astros-Cubs game when a four-year-old little girl was hit by a line drive. I can’t imagine what her parents must have felt in that moment. And to see the raw emotion and concern from Albert Almora Jr. was heartbreaking. Further extending the netting at Nationals Park will provide additional protection for our fans."

This announcement comes fresh off the heels of a national conversation about the importance of netting in ballparks and more that needs to be done to protect the fans. As Lerner referenced, a young fan was hit by a foul ball during an Astros-Cubs matchup in May. The girl was rushed to the hospital and left those in attendance paralyzed in shock, especially Cub Albert Almora Jr. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he did not expect the league to step in this season for a league-wide change. However, he did mention that it would continue to be discussed and stressed the importance of fan safety. 

As a result, some teams are taking matters into their own hands. The Chicago White Sox became the first team to announce an extension of their current protective netting to the foul poles. 

Preceding the White Sox announcement, both Chicago and the Nationals experienced a traumatic foul ball situation. Chicago's Eloy Jimenez ripped a foul ball down the line and hit an unsuspecting fan.  

The first game with the new netting with be on Monday, July 22 against the Colorado Rockies. 

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