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Motor City looks to ride again

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Motor City looks to ride again

Detroit basketball has fallen by the wayside the last few seasons. After a resurgence and an NBA title in 2004, the Pistons have hit hard times. Theyve gone without a winning record since 2008, including a 21-45 record last season.

The reason for the slide? Simply, horrific free-agent signings including the huge busts in forward Charlie Villanueva and shooting guard Ben Gordon who both were given huge contracts three seasons ago but provided little in return. Gordon is no longer on the team as he was shipped to Charlotte this off-season, while Villanueva has languished on the bench and will continue to do so next season unless he can get into much better shape.

With free agency not working, Detroit is now clearly rebuilding through the draft. Two years ago the Pistons took left-handed center Greg Monroe out of Georgetown and followed it up with the selection of point guard Brandon Knight in 2011. Monroe is a rising star after improving dramatically, averaging 15 points and nearly 10 rebounds in his second NBA season. Monroe scored over 30 points and grabbed 10 plus rebounds in three games last season, showing his ability to dominate down low.

Knight started 60 of a possible 66 games and averaged 13 points and 4 assists.

A lot of the Pistons success will ride on these two players and how they progress in what will be their second year together this upcoming season.

With the point guard and center spot solidified for years to come, the Pistons took power forward Andre Drummond in the 2012 NBA draft. The Pistons hope Drummond can shed that project label and be a solid contributor up front. Drummond, a ballyhooed prep player, left UConn after just one season in which he averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds. Not overwhelming numbers for a 6'-10", 270 -pound big man who expected to do a lot more in his freshman season.

Veteran players forward Tayshaun Prince, guard Rodney Stuckey and forward Jason Maxiell all return and will get major minutes for Detroit. Stuckey likely will be the starting shooting guard but his numbers have gone down each of the last three seasons, including 14 points a game in 2011-12. Prince is steady as he goes and he will be the starting small forward. The lanky swingman averaged 12 point a game and is the lone holdover from the 04 title team.

Detroit could get back in the playoff mix if Monroe continues to improve but the team is still a work in progress.

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SPOILER ALERT! Wizards make appearance in New York Times crossword on Sunday

SPOILER ALERT! Wizards make appearance in New York Times crossword on Sunday

Fans of both crossword puzzles and the Washington Wizards had a leg-up when completing the New York Times crossword puzzle on Sunday. 

The clue: "Wizards, but not witches."

The answer: 7 letters, "NBATEAM." 

This isn't the first time famous crosswords have included sports-related clues. The Washington Post and LA Times have used Bobby Orr as an answer many of times (trust me, we always have a half-finished crossword puzzle hiding somewhere in our living room). 

But athletes aren't the only answers to clues. Remember when the Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan revealed the Washington Capitals' "cult of crossword men" back in 2016?

The New York Times even published a list of the top-10 sports names to know for crossword fanatics everywhere. 

Just further proof that sports continue to permeate every aspect of life. 

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Wizards' new senior VP Sashi Brown's 3 best and worst moves with the Cleveland Browns

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards' new senior VP Sashi Brown's 3 best and worst moves with the Cleveland Browns

The Washington Wizards have mixed things up with their front office, and that includes hiring Sashi Brown as a Senior Vice President

Brown is a graduate of Harvard Law School, and he was previously the Jacksonville Jaguars' lead counsel. But he was also an executive with the Cleveland Browns. 

He was both the Browns' Executive Vice President and General Counsel from 2013 to 2016 before being promoted to Executive Vice President of Football Operations. And then the Browns fired him in December 2017 on their way to an 0-16 record, and they were 1-27 with him as the head of personnel.

For the Wizards, Brown will work with and support new General Manager Tommy Sheppard, advising in decision-making. Brown will also contribute to recruiting free agents and promoting and selling the Wizards organization overall.

It wasn't all bad for Brown in Cleveland. But it obviously wasn't a standout run either. So here's a look at some of his best and worst moves for the Browns. 

Sashi Brown's 3 worst moves with the Cleveland Browns

1. Passing on 2 franchise QBs
While it set up some positive things for the Browns down the road (read more on that below), the team passed on key quarterbacks like Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz and Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson in back-to-back NFL Drafts. 

Until ultimately drafting Baker Mayfield in 2018 (again, more on that later), the Browns had a consistent quarterback carousel with the team starting 19 different passers between 2008 and 2017. Cleveland needed a QB, and not only did it pass on Wentz and Watson under Brown, but it also overlooked Patrick Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky and Dak Prescott -- although so did most teams.

2. Trading for Brock Osweiler
Although it was described as one of the most creative trades in NFL history, the Houston Texans got the better end of the deal here, getting Osweiler's guaranteed $16 million salary off their books. That was in March of 2017, and then Cleveland ended up releasing him that September after he fell from a projected starter to not playing in the team's last two preseason games. 

It was an unexpected move by the Browns at the time, and then they ended up paying him to not play in the majority of the Denver Broncos' games that season.

3. Acquiring too many NFL Draft picks
Much of Brown's strategy in Cleveland was trading for future NFL Draft picks, but he may have been too all-in on this one. In his two drafts, he had a total of 24 picks, and he accumulated 13 more for the 2018 draft. The problem with this strategy is while looking ahead is good, future draft picks don't win games. And Cleveland won once across Brown's two seasons in charge of personnel. That's not great.

Sashi Brown's 3 best moves with the Cleveland Browns

1. All those 2018 draft picks
OK, so while we just said Brown stockpiled a few too many draft picks during his time in Cleveland, he laid the foundation for the team's successful 2018 NFL Draft, which included four picks in the first two rounds. The Browns got quarterback Baker Mayfield at No. 1 overall, cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 4 and running back Nick Chubb at No. 35. 

Last season, Mayfield threw for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and had a 63.8 completion percentage. Chubb was 10th in the league with 996 rushing yards, adding eight touchdowns, and Ward led Cleveland with 11 passes defended and had three picks for 26 yards.

2. Drafting Myles Garrett
The flip side of passing on Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and co. was drafting defensive end Myles Garrett at No. 1 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. After having a strong rookie season despite injuring his ankle, Garrett was a Pro Bowler by the end of his second year. He led the Browns with 13.5 sacks for 82 yards and posted 44 total tackles. 

3. Getting Terrelle Pryor
Although Pryor turned out to be a bust with the Washington Redskins, he was one of the Cleveland Brown's best offensive players in 2016. After he switched from quarterback to wide receiver in the 2015 season, he led the team with 1,007 receiving yards off 77 catches with four touchdowns.

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