Capitals

Thursday's Sports in Brief

Thursday's Sports in Brief

MIAMI (AP) The NBA plans to make San Antonio pay for resting four starters.

The Miami Heat almost didn't.

Ray Allen's 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds left gave Miami the lead, LeBron James finished with 23 points and the Heat rallied late to beat the Spurs 105-100 on Thursday night - digging deep despite San Antonio's decision to have four top players resting at home in a move that bothered NBA Commissioner David Stern.

The Spurs played without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, all sent back to San Antonio by coach Gregg Popovich, who said the move was in his team's best interest. Stern disagreed, calling the decision ``unacceptable,'' apologizing to fans and saying that sanctions against the Spurs will be forthcoming.

WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) - Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was suspended for the third time this calendar year on when the NBA told him to sit out two games without pay for starting a skirmish that sent players sprawling into the courtside seats.

Rondo will miss Friday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers and Sunday's against the Bucks in Milwaukee. He will also give up $200,000 in pay.

DALLAS (AP) - Veteran point guard Derek Fisher signed a contract Thursday with the struggling Dallas Mavericks, who are still playing without injured star Dirk Nowitzki and lost Jason Kidd in free agency during the offseason.

The 38-year-old Fisher, who has played 16 NBA seasons with four teams, could make his Dallas debut in Saturday night's home game against Detroit.

PRO FOOTBALL

WASHINGTON (AP) - Lawyers for players appealing NFL suspensions in the New Orleans Saints bounties case cross-examined one key witness Thursday. Now they're supposed to get a chance to confront another central figure: former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is overseeing the latest round of player appeals; former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo answered questions Thursday. Lawyers for the league and the NFL Players Association spent more than nine hours in a Washington office building.

Tagliabue has insisted on keeping the contents of the private hearings under wraps.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith have said they plan to be present Friday when Williams is slated to be there.

CHICAGO (AP) - The idea that NFL players might use Viagra to gain an edge on the field left Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs practically in tears - from laughing.

He wasn't the only one.

Players cracked jokes about it a day after Bears star receiver Brandon Marshall said he had heard that some players were using Viagra and hoping it would give them an advantage during games. Punch lines aside, experts say it's unlikely the erectile-dysfunction drug would help.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Ben Roethlisberger doesn't sound like a guy who plans on playing against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The injured Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said he's still in significant pain from the sprained right shoulder and dislocated ribs that have forced him to sit out Pittsburgh's last two games.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Alex Smith is trying to understand how he lost his job as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers a month after being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

It's not easy for the NFL's fifth-ranked quarterback to deal with, even though Smith already has experienced plenty of ups and downs in his tumultuous career since the 49ers made him the No. 1 overall selection of the 2005 draft.

Smith spoke with the media for the first time since coach Jim Harbaugh made Colin Kaepernick the team's starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, a rematch of the last game in which Smith appeared.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Eagles quarterback Michael Vick did not pass a league-mandated concussion test this week and will not return to practice until he does.

Vick, injured in a 38-23 loss to Dallas on Nov. 11, took the exam on Wednesday, the Eagles said. Backup Nick Foles, a rookie who has started the last two games for Philadelphia, will likely get the call again on Sunday, when the Eagles (3-8) face the Cowboys (5-6), this time in Dallas.

BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - WFAN radio reported that David Wright and the New York Mets have agreed to a $138 million, eight-year contract that would be the richest in franchise history.

The deal would keep the All-Star third baseman under contract with the Mets through the 2020 season, when he will be 37.

NEW YORK (AP) - Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees agreed to a $10 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been announced. The person said the deal includes additional bonus opportunities, as did the team's agreement with Andy Pettitte earlier in the week.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Washington Nationals acquired Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins for minor league pitcher Alex Meyer on Thursday, giving the reigning NL East champions a natural center fielder and leadoff hitter - and setting off a chain reaction in the lineup both offensively and defensively.

A career .284 hitter with 90 steals and a .357 on-base percentage during five seasons with the Twins, Span comes to the Nationals with a set of talents the team has been seeking since it moved to Washington in 2005.

Span's arrival allows the Nationals to move 20-year-old Bryce Harper to a corner outfield spot - probably left field, with Jayson Werth staying in right. Michael Morse could then move to first base - the position played by free agent slugger Adam LaRoche.

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The New York Yankees were in no hurry to re-sign catcher Russell Martin. The Pittsburgh Pirates swept in when they had the chance.

A person with knowledge of the deal says the Pirates have agreed to a $17 million, two-year contract with the three-time All-Star, hoping he can give them some pop at the plate and respectable defense behind it.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Former major leaguer Chan Ho Park retired after a career spanning nearly two decades in the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Park was the first South Korean-born player in the Major League Baseball.

The 39-year-old right-hander holds the MLB record for most wins by an Asian pitcher, going 124-98 with a 4.36 ERA.

GOLF

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) - One day after golf's governing bodies proposed a new rule that will ban the anchored stroke used for long putters, Keegan Bradley talked about someone on Twitter telling the PGA champion to send in his resume to Burger King in 2016, when the rule goes into effect. Bradley got so fed up with the teasing over his belly putter this week that he grabbed Tiger Woods' putter and made three out of four from 10 feet.

The rule doesn't affect Nick Watney, though he couldn't say enough about his putting. He made five birdies on his last 10 holes - including his first birdie ever on the 14th hole at Sherwood - for a 5-under 67 that gave him a two-shot lead.

Bradley and a pair of past champions at this tournament - Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell - were two shots out of the lead at 69. Woods was in the group at 70 that included Bo Van Pelt, whom Woods beat this year at Congressional, and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

SUN CITY, South Africa (AP) - Bill Haas bogeyed two of the last three holes in the Nedbank Golf Challenge to slip back into a share of the first-round lead with Nicolas Colsaerts.

Two shots ahead after the 15th hole, the American dropped strokes on 16 and 18 to match Colsaerts at 2-under 70 in the 12-player event at Gary Player Country Club.

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) - Meen Whee Kim shot a 9-under 63 on PGA West's Stadium Course to take a one-stroke lead after the second round of the PGA Tour qualifying tournament.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under 66 to take a three-stroke lead after the second round of the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Suspended Missouri guard Michael Dixon left the team after two sexual assault claims became public this week.

Dixon was not charged in either case, but has been benched all season for No. 13 Missouri (5-1). The senior averaged 13.5 points as Missouri's sixth man last season and was a projected starter.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Southern California assistant head coach Monte Kiffin will resign from his son's coaching staff after a miserable season for the Trojans' defense.

Monte Kiffin announced in a news release that he will leave USC after the Trojans' bowl game next month to pursue a return to the NFL.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) - Georgia's Jarvis Jones, Manti Te'o of Notre Dame, Stanford's Chase Thomas and Arthur Brown of Kansas State are the finalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, given to the collegiate defensive player having the biggest impact on his team.

SOCCER

CARSON, Calif. (AP) - Chris Wondolowski won Major League Soccer's MVP award by an appropriately huge margin for the San Jose Earthquakes forward who dominated the league's goal-scoring race.

Wondolowski capped his remarkable season by lifting the MVP trophy at Home Depot Center during the week of festivities leading up to the MLS Cup on Saturday.

The Bay Area native scored 27 goals, tying the MLS season record set by Tampa Bay's Roy Lassiter in 1996, and won the Golden Boot as the league's top scorer while leading San Jose to the Supporters' Shield with the best regular-season record.

CHICAGO (AP) - Former U.S. women's national team general manager Cheryl Bailey will serve as the executive director of the new U.S. Soccer-led women's league that will begin play next year.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati announced the appointment.

PRO HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - The NHL, the players' association and now even federal mediators agree on one thing: The bickering sides are nowhere near a deal that would put hockey back on the ice.

The league and the union wrapped up two days of talks Thursday in New Jersey, with help from mediators, but moved no closer to a solution to save the season that has already been delayed and shortened.

Two members from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service joined the discussions on Wednesday and Thursday but couldn't bring the sides any closer.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Let’s get one thing straight: There are no easy roads to a Stanley Cup. Capitals fans know that better than most after seeing their team dominate the regular season just to get upset in the first or second round of the playoffs for several years. Having said that, seeing Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose in the first round, it seems like things are setting up very nicely for Washington.

The Caps should have one thing and one thing only on their minds on Monday and that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington still needs one more win to advance and they should not catch themselves looking ahead to possible future matchups.

But we can look ahead.

The top seeds in both conferences have been eliminated in the first round for the first time. Long-time nemesis Pittsburgh is out. Either Boston or Toronto will soon be joining them plus there is a possibility that both Nashville and San Jose could still lose as well.

This is not meant to discount any of the teams the Caps could still play. Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders swept the Penguins and earned a spot in the second round. He has proven his worth as a coach and his team is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to score on, let alone beat. The Columbus Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on Washington last season and got better this year as they showed Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep. Whoever comes out of the West no doubt will be a great team as well.

But if you were to draw up the best-case scenario for the Caps through the first round, having Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose would likely be part of that scenario.

The Cup is truly up for grabs. This is true every year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it is especially true this year. If the Hurricanes find a way to win Game 6 and shock the Caps in Game 7, we are going to look back at this season as a missed opportunity considering the number of contenders ousted in the first round.

SEE THIS WEEK’S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps are, at their core, a physical team. That is how they ultimately find success and they went away from that earlier in the series, especially in Games 3 and 4. When they reestablished it in Game 5, they blew the Hurricanes away. Any team can play well for one game. Any team can respond after losing a really good player for one game. The real test is to see how they play in Raleigh where they were beaten so thoroughly and the offense was held to only a single power play goal and zero 5-on-5 production.
  • If you want to know why physical play still matters in today’s NHL, watch Brett Connolly’s Game 5 goal again. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is in a footrace with Alex Ovechkin to get the puck behind Carolina’s net and he completely gives up on the play. He does not go into the boards and put himself in a position to get checked by Ovechkin. It looked like he thought the play would be called icing, but if you’re not 100-percent sure you need to get to that puck even if it means taking a hit. Hamilton looked like he wanted no part of that which allowed Ovechkin to get the puck and set up a goal.
  • The Caps may finally have settled on defensive pairings. The defense has been a work in progress ever since Michal Kempny’s injury, but Todd Reirden may have finally found three pairs he can stick with. After making his playoff debut in Game 4, Jonas Siegenthaler played on the top defensive pair with John Carlson on Saturday. We have seen Reirden mix and match his defensive pairs throughout games, but things stuck in Game 5 as Siegenthaler and Carlson played 11:19 together at 5-on-5. The most Carlson played with any other defenseman at 5-on-5 during the game was 51 seconds. I asked Reirden afterward if he felt he had found his top defensive pair and he remained non-committal saying he still would mix and match as needed depending on the situation, but the numbers speak for themselves. Siegenthaler is a defensively responsible player, he has not looked rattled at all by the forecheck and, perhaps most importantly, he’s a left-handed shot allowing Carlson to play on his natural right side. I like the look of this pair a lot.
  • Nick Jensen has had a rough series. In fact, it looks like it has been a rough transition from Detroit to Washington since he was acquired. That’s OK. Sometimes players take time to adjust to a new team and a new system, but because of that, it benefits the Caps more to have him play on the third pair than the top, especially if moving him up means playing with Carlson on the left. That’s a lot to ask. With Siegenthaler up top, Jensen moved back down to the third pair on Saturday and it was easily his best game of the series. Pairing him with Brooks Orpik allows Jensen to step more into the offense, an area of the game in which his skills are greatly underrated. Jensen looked good on both ends of the ice in Game 5 and was particularly strong on the penalty kill. He can be a top-four defenseman, but I am not sure he is ready for that type of role in Washington yet. He is a definite asset on the third pair, however, and he showed that on Saturday.

The Caps are one win away from advancing to the second round. Here is where they stand among the other playoff teams in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

We've made in to NFL draft week. Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The 2019 NFL Draft is Thursday night in Nashville, Tn. While the chances of pundits predicting each team's first-round pick accurately is about the same as picking the Powerball numbers, we can't seem to stop ourselves from looking at them. Here's a look at 20 prospects mocked to the Ravens at No. 22, courtesy of the Ravens' website.  


2. One of the many exciting parts of the NFL draft is waiting to hear which organizations trade forward or backwards to acquire a pick. Just last year, the Ravens traded back from their No. 16 pick several times to select Hayden Hurst at No. 25, before trading back into the first-round to pick Lamar Jackson at No. 32. But which trade in Ravens history was the most impactful? ESPN's Jamison Hensley selected the Ravens' trade for running back Jamal Lewis.


"In 1999, the Ravens traded their second-round pick (No. 43) for Atlanta's first-round pick in 2000, which they used to land running back Jamal Lewis," Hensley wrote. "The Falcons selected tight end Reggie Kelly, and the Ravens got what turned into the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Baltimore drafted Lewis, who carried the offense during the team's 2000 Super Bowl championship season and recorded the NFL's fifth 2,000-yard season in 2003."


3. As Marlon Humphrey enters his third year in the league, the cornerback will not only be expected to take on a leadership role within the Ravens' new look defense, but top his impressive sophomore season. In 2018, Humphrey contested 35% of targets thrown into his coverage marking the second-best rate in all the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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