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Without Gay, Grizzlies lose to Thunder 106-89

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Without Gay, Grizzlies lose to Thunder 106-89

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Kevin Durant scored 27 points, Russell Westbrook added 21 points and nine assists and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat Memphis 106-89 Thursday night in the Grizzlies' first game since trading away leading-scorer Rudy Gay.

Memphis struggled mightily in the first half and trailed by 26 in the third quarter before a mini-implosion by the Thunder that featured Westbrook getting benched after a dust-up with his teammates.

It still didn't provide a big enough opening for the Grizzlies, who were playing short-handed while waiting for trade acquisitions Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis to arrive and pass physicals.

Jerryd Bayless led Memphis with 23 points. Zach Randolph missed his first 10 shots and wound up with nine points and 19 rebounds.

The Grizzlies were already short on numbers after dealing away reserves Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby for Jon Leuer about a week earlier and with Quincy Pondexter out with a sprained ligament in his left knee.

That left just nine healthy players for Memphis, and Leuer didn't get into the game until it was out of hand in the final 5 minutes.

Just when Oklahoma City seemed to be firmly in control, Westbrook started sniping with his teammates after a possession when he posted up along the left side of the lane and eventually got called for a turnover when Bayless stuck with him on defense for 5 seconds. Westbrook then spiked the ball twice while gesturing toward Thabo Sefolosha and Durant that they needed to get open better.

He then hollered toward coach Scott Brooks on the bench.

Memphis followed his outburst with 10 straight points to make it a game again - with Westbrook getting an early hook during the stretch and heading down the tunnel to the locker room.

Brooks finally put him back in the game to start the fourth quarter, after Memphis had pulled to 77-67 in the final minute of the third quarter. Westbrook hit a pull-up jumper and set up Kevin Martin for a 3-pointer in transition on consecutive possessions to bump the lead back up to 86-69 with 9:32 remaining.

That all but ended the Grizzlies' comeback bid.

Memphis had been one of only three visiting teams to win at the Chesapeake Energy Arena this season, but that was before the two trades aimed at avoiding the luxury tax.

From the start, the depleted Grizzlies were no match for the Thunder at full strength.

Returning home for the first time after a six-game road trip, Oklahoma City connected on its first nine shots to move ahead and then tacked onto the lead after the streak stopped. Martin's 3-pointer from the left wing pushed the advantage into double digits for the first time at 27-16 with 2:41 left in the first quarter.

Nick Collison had a two-handed slam and Durant converted a three-point play after being fouled on a right-handed jam during a string of nine straight Oklahoma City points early in the second quarter, and the lead ballooned to 24 by halftime. Memphis shot just 26 percent while matching its season-low with 34 first-half points while the Thunder made 61 percent and scored 58 points against what has been the league's stingiest defense.

NOTES: Gay was the Grizzlies' franchise leader in games played (479), minutes (17,338) and steals. He was second in points (8,562). ... Durant picked up his eighth technical foul of the season with 7:54 in the third quarter, after getting the ball stripped as he made a move to the basket. ... Oklahoma City's 9-for-9 start from the field was its best since relocating from Seattle in 2008 and the best in the league this season.

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Vernon Davis reacts to brother Vontae Davis' abrupt retirement

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Instagram.com/@vernondavis85

Vernon Davis reacts to brother Vontae Davis' abrupt retirement

Easily the most talked about story following Week 2 in the NFL was the abrupt retirement of Buffalo Bills' cornerback, Vontae Davis. 

Not once in the history of the NFL has there been a mid-game retirement, which caused plenty of reason for a stir.

Davis' brother Vernon, Redskins' tight end, took to social media Tuesday to address his younger brother's abrupt retirement via Instagram. An inspirational video containing photos of the two brothers and a voice-over was a fitting tribute to the younger Davis' time in the NFL.

"I feel like I retired because we’re so close and I look at him as he’s my son even though he’s my younger brother," Vernon said in the Instagram post.

Vontae was signed by the Buffalo Bills in February 2018 on a one-year deal. He had been in the NFL since 2009 with the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. 

Despite the drama surrounding what seemed like an impulsive decision to many, Vontae was inactive for his first week with the Bills and did not see the field in Week 2. 

See Vernon's tribute to his brother on Instagram below:

 

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New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

A defending champion will face a number of obstacles in its quest to repeat.

But for the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals, the path back has an additional hurdle.

Gone is Barry Trotz, the head coach who helped lead the team to its first Stanley Cup. A team hoping to overcome a long postseason and a short offseason will now also have to do it with a new head coach.

Among all the challenges the Caps will face this season, however, no one seems to be worried about the transition to new coach Todd Reirden.

“This is probably going to be the smoothest transition of any coaching change that I’ve ever heard of,” T.J. Oshie said. “Everyone respects Todd, respects the way he coaches, respects how he treats people.”

Reirden was a member of Trotz’s staff as an assistant coach whose primary duty was working with the defensemen. His ability to develop relationships and bring out the best in the team’s blue-liners certainly endeared him to the players.

“Even with all of the D he worked really closely with, from day one, he sat us all down and kind of mapped us all out -- what you need to get better at, what's holding you back mentally or physically, your game, D-zone, O-zone, whatever,” John Carlson said.

“I think he's a good reader of people and really detailed about certain things that I know changed my game -- just little things to think about that you do so many times, but maybe you never work on them or you never think about improving in that area.”

Reirden’s coaching was on display last season when he took a fringe NHL defenseman in Michal Kempny at the trade deadline and turned him into a top-four defenseman for the Caps’ Cup run.

The expertise and proven results have players like Madison Bowey excited for how they can grow with Reirden now the man in charge behind the bench.

“I think we all just want to learn from [Reirden], myself included,” Bowey said.

“Last year was just a big learning curve for me and he helped be tremendously along that way. I just want to keep learning from him.”

Rave reviews from the defensemen should be expected given that is the main area of his experience and expertise. Since taking over the team, however, it is not just the defensemen who have taken notice.

Not to be outdone, the forwards appreciate both his hockey expertise and the personal relationships he develops with the players.

“He's got really good ideas and the way he's approaching us which I like,” Nicklas Backstrom said.

“[Reirden] is so good at creating relationships with people and talking things out,” Oshie said. “And that’s the thing that I think I like the best. He likes to hear from the players, what they think.”

Many players were also quick to point out that, while Trotz may have been the head coach and the main voice that helped the Caps reach the ultimate prize, Reirden had a big hand in that championship run as well.

“He was a huge influence on our success,” Tom Wilson said.” The whole coaching staff the last few years has been second to none. Todd is well deserving, he's well qualified, he's been right in the thick of things throughout the ride the last couple of years and I expect nothing less moving forward. He's a smart guy, a passionate coach and I think a lot of the guys are excited to get moving with it.”

“What a guy Trotzie is,” Oshie said.

“He’s going to be missed. But he’s on the other side now. We got a new year going and I’m excited to play for [Reirden] and just see what he has in store for the guys. It’s going to be a fresh voice for us – even though he had a lot of say before. But like I said, I’m excited to get going here with [Reirden] at the helm.”

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