A Look Ahead at NBA’s Toughest Contract Decisions in 2018 Free Agency

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Signing NBA players to contracts worth tens of millions of dollars isn’t always easy. Go figure.authentic nfl jerseys cheap

Some free-agency decisions are cakewalks. LeBron James deserves a max salary because he’s an honorary Avenger. The Golden State Warriors should have no issue paying Kevin Durant top dollar if he doesn’t feel like honoring coupons from billionaires because he’s almost as important to them as Stephen Curry.

Other high-profile instances aren’t as cut and dried. Some induce migraines and squandered sleep. A few seem genuinely unsolvable.nfl jerseys for cheap

Household names coming off their rookie-scale deals with undefined values are usually the most difficult. Teams are trying to reward them for what they’ve yet to do, which often entails paying them more than they’re worth. This offseason has plenty of those.

Impact role players ready for more responsibility and high-end talent working their way back from major injuries also fall under this umbrella. Some find themselves on teams grappling with depth-chart logjams and taxing salary obligations, and their futures are left hanging in the balance as a result.cheap nfl jerseys

These impending paydays represent the toughest to project. Never mind minor hiccups. We don’t care whether the Houston Rockets are keen on maxing out a then-33-year-old Chris Paul. The Orlando Magic won’t want to overpay Aaron Gordon (restricted), but he’s the closest they come to a viable cornerstone. nfl jersey cheap Matching an above-market offer is the least of their problems. Those decisions aren’t nearly difficult enough to make the cut.

Look instead to the more precarious situations. These players aren’t all hopeless flight risks, but their next deal is bound to be the subject of excruciating internal debates.

Boston Celtics: Aron Baynes

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This one’s easy, mostly because the Boston Celtics have a ready replacement for Aron Baynes, who started 67 times in 2017-18.

Baynes banged around just fine (and got banged on) in his 67 starts this past season, but Gordon Hayward is the man cheap nfl jersey Boston needs back in its first unit. Rather than bump rookie standout Jayson Tatum or breakthrough sophomore Jaylen Brown from the starting crew, why not slide Al Horford to the 5 full-time and trot out three interchangeable and ridiculously talented wings in between him and Kyrie Irving?
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“Twenty-eighteen will be my year. I will be back on the court,” Hayward told Lisa Pierpoint of Boston Common magazine.

And in one of the easiest corresponding developments, Baynes will be back on the bench.

This isn’t a knock on Spencer Dinwiddie, who emerged from nowhere to become one of the Brooklyn Nets’ most effective players in 2017-18. Instead, think of it as an endorsement of DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jarrett Allen, Allen Crabbe and D’Angelo Russell. Those five should be the Nets’ first unit next year, which means Dinwiddie ought to wind up coming off the bench as a second-string spark.

As a point guard who can generate his own looks from deep and attack the basket,cheap authentic nfl jerseys  Dinwiddie (58 starts in 2017-18) could thrive against reserves. And though most remember his hot streak of game-winners and clutch play in January, he still only shot 38.7 percent from the field overall. If Russell is healthy, he should be the one running the show with the starters. Softer competition could help Dinwiddie boost his substandard scoring efficiency.

Brooklyn will have to reintegrate Jeremy Lin and find minutes for Caris LeVert, whose length, playmaking and versatility continue to make him a tantalizing prospect. That could mean Dinwiddie slips further down the depth chart than might seem fair for a player who contributed so much this season.cheap nfl jerseys from china

Look at it from a team perspective, though: If Dinwiddie isn’t starting anymore, it’ll probably signal that the Nets are getting better.

2018 NFL Schedule: League Releases Official Regular-Season Slate

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Clear your schedules now, NFL fans: The Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons will open the 2018 NFL regular season on Sept. 6 at Lincoln Financial Field as the reigning Super Bowl champions prepare to raise their first championship banner fresh off a dramatic authentic nfl jerseys cheap Super Bowl 52 win over the New England Patriots.

And that’s just the start.

Following Thursday’s schedule release, all 256 games are now set in stone as the league’s 32 teams prepare for a fresh slate of football.

Below, you’ll find links to each club’s schedule as well as a preview of a few storylines to watch for when the 2018 campaign kicks off.

The AFC South has gained a reputation as the least compelling division in football, but the 2018 season could help reverse that narrative. nfl jerseys for cheap

For starters, the Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off a revelatory 10-6 finish in 2017 that paved the way for the franchise’s third AFC Championship Game appearance.

Needless to say, they’ll be the favorites to take home the division crown again. They wield the NFL’s nastiest defense—one that allowed a paltry 16.8 points per game last season—and the offense appears primed for a boost following the arrivals of pass-catchers Donte Moncrief and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.nfl jersey cheap

However, the Jaguars won’t be in for a cakewalk.

The Houston Texans—who were ravaged by injuries last season—have a chance to reclaim their throne atop the AFC South with quarterback Deshaun Watson and edge-rushers J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus all on the mend following abbreviated 2017 campaigns.

Speaking of big free-agent signings, the Tennessee Titans could make some serious noise if their flurry of offseason activity pays off. cheap nfl jersey

The 2017 AFC wild-card qualifiers started by firing Mike Mularkey and replacing him with Mike Vrabel—who figures to implement a more dynamic, less predictable offense after hiring former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to oversee play-calling duties.

To help LaFleur, the Titans brought former New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis aboard to cheap nfl authentic jerseys serve in a thunder-and-lightning timeshare with bruiser Derrick Henry.

“Derrick can get it downhill, press the hole, hit the hole, and really turn it over and outrun people,” general manager Jon Robinson said, per Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website. “He can stick it up there and run over people. Dion can make people miss. He can kind of get lost in the wash up in there and squirt out, and be good out of the backfield.”

The Titans also shored up their secondary by signing Malcolm Butler to a whopping five-year, $61 million deal that includes $30 million guaranteed.

Considering last year’s Titans logged nine wins despite lacking flash, the retooled version has a real chance to propel the franchise back to double-digit wins for the first time since 2008.

Is LeBron James, Spot-Picker, Enough?

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LeBron James took his first shot 16 seconds into Game 2, roughly nine-and-a-half minutes earlier than Game 1. That was a sign, a clear indication that the Indiana Pacers’ series-opening blowout victory got his attention.

As a general rule, opponents should try to avoid getting James’ attention.authentic nfl jerseys cheap

Following that opening bucket, James assumed custody of the early proceedings, scoring 16 straight to open the game for Cleveland and finishing the opening period with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting. On the night, he put up 46 points on 17-of-24 shooting, 12 rebounds and five assists, carrying the Cavs to a 100-97 victory.

It was enough to make you wonder why James doesn’t do this all the time.

That’s how James and this season’s Cavs have operated, though. Nothing is ever easy…until it looks incredibly easy. And then right around the time you ask yourself how Cleveland ever loses when it can play the James card, something flips.
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And you’re left wondering how it ever won.

The Pacers fought gamely, pushing the pace and forcing the Cavs to defend in transition, something they’ve stunk at all season. Indiana doubled up Cleveland in paint scoring, 62-30, and nearly did the same in fast-break points, 15-8.

Even with Victor Oladipo fighting foul trouble early, Indy spent most of the second half within single digits. If not for James’ early blitz, Cleveland could easily have lost Wednesday.

Heading to Indiana with a 1-1 split, the Cavaliers should feel both encouraged and vulnerable.cheap nfl jerseys

As great as James was, Cleveland never solved Oladipo. He attacked downhill whenever the Cavs’ roll-man defender dropped, just like he did against switches, traps and any other defensive scheme he saw. And the look he missed, a wide-open three with under 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game, could have changed everything.

“We got lucky,” James said on the TNT broadcast afterward. “We gave up a wide-open three to Oladipo, and he missed it. … cheap nfl authentic jerseys That’s easily something he can make.”

Imagine if that triple had gone down. Imagine if head coach Nate McMillan, in an overabunance of caution, hadn’t sat Oladipo with two fouls a mere 62 seconds into the game. Imagine if, somehow, the Cavs had lost a contest in which James was a demi-god stalking the earth in search of mortals to punish.cheap authentic nfl jerseys

Aaron Rodgers Frustrated, Emotional over Packers’ Lack of Communication

When it comes to making personnel moves, organizations have been known to consult the face of their franchise.

That hasn’t been the case with the Green Bay Packers and quarterback authentic nfl jerseys cheap Aaron Rodgers this offseason, though. That lack of communication is reportedly causing tension.

In recent months, the team cut ties with longtime receiver Jordy Nelson and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. They did so without discussing matters with Rodgers, which has left the signal-caller “frustrated” and “emotional,” according to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson.

“Both of those decisions [with Nelson and Van Pelt] were made without him,” one league source close to nfl jerseys for cheap Rodgers told Robinson. “In both situations, he had no influence with [the front office] before anything went down.”

The team would be wise to do everything it can to make the two-time NFL MVP happy. The Super Bowl XLV MVP has just two years remaining on his deal. Upsetting him risks the possibility of his not giving them a hometown discount or even negotiating an extension at all.

“I know he’s thinking about that stuff when it comes to the next contract because he should have earned a voice by now,” the source added, per Robinson. “In other places with [elite] quarterbacks, consideration is given to those guys. I think Aaron wants to be engaged in some decisions. cheap nfl jerseys But that’s just not the way it works [in Green Bay]. I think that’s obviously frustrating and it’s going to keep coming out.”

Rodgers responded to the report on Tuesday, telling reporters  he has to “trust the process” and that the Packers are “paying me to play quarterback.”

Rodgers also noted there’s “interest on both sides” in a new contract.

Green Bay missed the postseason last season after going 7-9, a campaign in which a broken nfl jersey cheap collarbone limited Rodgers to seven games. He passed for 1,675 yards and 16 touchdowns while posting a quarterback rating of 97.2.

The team may have felt like it was time for a change, having not won the Super Bowl in seven seasons. Last year marked the first time since Rodgers’ first full campaign as a starter (2008) that the Packers missed the playoffs, and it took his injury to keep them out this time.

Other than New England Patriots star Tom Brady, perhaps no other player in the NFL has earned the right to have a say in personnel decisions more than Rodgers. But as he told Milwaukee’s 102.9 The Hog (h/t Robinson), “It’s pretty clear that players play and coaches coach and personnel people make their decisions. That’s the way they want it.”

Roger Goodell Deposed in Colin Kaepernick Collusion Case; QB Present for Hearing

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took part in a deposition Tuesday as part of Colin Kaepernick’s collusion case against the league.

Per Richard Maese of the Washington Post, authentic nfl jerseys cheap Kaepernick was in the room for the entirety of Goodell’s deposition that lasted “all morning.”

Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL for collusion last October after he went unsigned by all 32 teams as a free agent since opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017.

Per USA Today’s A.J. Perez, attorneys for Kaepernick and the NFL have already deposed NFL nfl jerseys for cheap executive vice president Troy Vincent and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in the case.

Other NFL owners who are expected to be deposed in Kaepernick’s grievance include Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, cheap nfl jerseys Bob McNair of the Houston Texans, Paul Allen of the Seattle Seahawks and Jed York of the San Francisco 49ers, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Per the NFL’s labor rules, via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, Kaepernick’s case could result in the termination of the current collective bargaining agreement.

“Article 69, Section 2 of the CBA allows for the agreement to be terminated prematurely in the event of proof of collusion,”nfl jersey cheap  Florio wrote. “Under Article 17, Section 16(c) of the CBA, termination can arise from only one incident of collusion involving only one player if there is clear and convincing evidence of a violation.”

Kaepernick began protesting by taking a knee during the national anthem prior to games throughout the 2016 season.

Jackie Robinson Didn’t Shut Up and Play Ball, so Why Should Today’s Athletes?

In America, April 15 is known as Tax Day. In America’s national pastime, it’s Jackie Robinson Day.

In this current sports era—a historic moment filled with protests and calls for athletes to “shut up and dribble,” it is especially important to remember the Jackie Robinson who was determined to use his platform to fight for civil rights. And the Jackie Robinson who embodied the message: “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.”
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Some black-and-white photos and cinematic scenes from 42, starring Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa himself) as Robinson, would lead us to believe Jackie was a mild-mannered character who quietly tipped his hat to crowds yelling racial slurs at him—because for the early part of his career, he had to.

“They’re waiting for you in the jungles, black boy!” and “Hey snowflake, which one of those white boys’ wives are you dating tonight?” Phillies manager Ben Chapman jeered, per Robinson’s autobiography, I Never Had It Made. Confrontations like these caused Robinson to bury his hostility and go home to his wife, Rachel, “tense and irritable, keyed up because [he] hadn’t been able to speak out.”ac518c79f9709de1e1b3b6ee920247e5_crop_exactcheap nfl authentic jerseys

Robinson wrote in the book that he was always careful about being publicly critical, because he knew “the minute I began to answer, to argue, to protest—the minute I began to sound off—I became a swellhead, a wise guy, an ‘uppity’ n—-r. When a white player did it, he had spirit. When a black player did it, he was ‘ungrateful,’ an upstart, a sorehead.”cheap nfl jersey

This wasn’t easy for Robinson, “a black man who never tolerated affronts to his dignity” prior to the major leagues. Not because Robinson wanted to get revenge, but because, as he later admitted, “I wanted to be Jackie Robinson,” the more authentic Robinson who emerged in the 1949 season.

Rachel Robinson said his shift in attitude wasn’t tied to any pledge, but to Jackie’s confidence in his standing and in the integration of MLB.nfl jersey cheap

“He had purchased the right to speak his mind many times over,” President Barack Obama said in Ken Burns’ 2016 documentary Jackie Robinson.

Robinson became more vocal regarding off-field issues like juvenile justice, communism and police brutality in African American communities.

He used his platform to advocate for black youth on the issue of juvenile delinquency. He hosted numerous sports camps at the Harlem YMCA, wrote various New York Post and New York Amsterdam News columns on the problem of youth crime and regularly called on athletes and celebrities to be more involved with organizations seeking to steer kids down the right path.

LeBron James’ 21-Game Win Streak in Round 1 Snapped in Cavaliers’ Loss to Pacers

Victor Oladipo posted 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals as the Indiana Pacers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 98-80 in Game 1 of their first-round NBA playoff series on Sunday.

LeBron James, who won 21 straight games in the first round of the NBA playoffs leading into this series, had a triple-double for the Cavaliers thanks to 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
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The Pacers set the tone for the entire game with a dominant first half, which included a 33-14 Pacers lead after one quarter. Oladipo led the Pacers’ charge, posting 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals before halftime. The front-runner for Most Improved Player also hit four of five three-pointers, including this shot that put the Pacers up 50-34:
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Oladipo received help from his supporting cast, as Myles Turner (12 points), Bojan Bogdonavic (10 points) and Lance Stephenson (nine points) helped the team to a 55-38 halftime lead. The Pacers shot 47.6 percent from the field and made half of their 14 f cheap nfl jerseys irst-half threes.hi-res-bd1d88a5db0c19e1f5b2fffc2d23a1c5_crop_north

On the other side, it was a one-man show as James had 14 points, six assists and five rebounds. He showcased his excellent ball-handling skills with this nifty move through the paint to bring the Cavs within 40-25 early in the second quarter:

No other Cavalier scored more than six points in the first half, and the team minus James shot just 10-of-31 from the field. Kevin Love led the team on the glass with eight rebounds.

The Pacers picked up where they left off in the third quarter as they took a 63-41 nfl jersey cheap  lead following a Thaddeus Young layup. Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports credited the Pacers’ energy:

However, the Cavaliers stormed back and ended the quarter on a 24-10 run. The key bucket was a Kevin Love 30-foot three-pointer to cut the deficit to 70-63:

Love was fouled on the play and missed the ensuing free throw, but the Cavs trailed by just eight heading into the fourth.

Once there, however, Oladipo continued his fantastic performance, scoring 10 points en route to helping the Pacers end the game on a 22-11 run.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer summed up Oladipo’s afternoon:
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For the Pacers, Turner finished with 16 points, while Bogdanovic and Stephenson added 15 and 12, respectively. Oladipo, Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph also combined for 12 steals.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers won nine more games than last year, defended well enough in some especially committed stretches to finish 12th overall on that end and got positive performances from just about every young player with a future on the roster.

And before you go burying Lonzo Ball for his busted shot, note that he posted the second-best DRPM among point guards, per ESPN.com, while also producing the highest on-court net rating of any Laker to log at least 1,000 minutes.

A pivotal summer awaits, but the 2017-18 regular season went about as well as could have been expected.

19. Detroit Pistons (19)

“Philadelphia is good, and everyone is praising the process, how great it was, but the process is based on being as bad as you can be, historically bad for as long as you can,” Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy lamented after his team finished four games out of a playoff spot with a 39-43 record. “If that’s the process and the accepted way to build a team in the NBA, then something needs to change.”
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Van Gundy isn’t the only coach to think this way, but he’s uniquely positioned as the leader of one of the teams stuck in the middle because it refuses to use the incentive structure the Sixers exploited.

With Detroit spinning its wheels over the next several seasons, locked into crippling deals for Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, its unwillingness to embrace a real rebuild will look awfully misguided.

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18. Washington Wizards (18)

The Washington Wizards must hope John Wall’s 29 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds against Boston on Tuesday are a harbinger of what’s to come. Because if they’re not, that means the blown leads, lazy defense and selfish offensive play that produced a 3-9 mark over their final dozen games will be.

It’s hard to find a playoff team that looks shakier than Washington.

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17. Los Angeles Clippers (17)

The Los Angeles Clippers lost six of seven to close out a transitional year but managed to stay alive in the playoff race until the season’s final week. Forty-two wins and a top-10 offense are nothing to be ashamed of for a team that used a league-high 34 starting lineups and gave nearly 2,000 minutes to players either called up on two-way deals from the G League or inked to 10-day contracts, per ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz.
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This was a big year for resiliency in L.A.

NBA Power Rankings: How All 30 Teams Stack Up at the End of 2017-18

How good are all 30 NBA teams?

That’s a more complicated question than you’d think because answering it means pricing in whatever extra gear we believe each team has while also taking into account its entire body of work from the 2017-18 regular season.

Mostly, we’re ranking on the usual basis: stats, recent play and health are the key factors. But since this is the last set we’ll publish ahead of the playoffs, we’ve also got to account for the more nebulous idea of switch-flipping.

That doesn’t mean these will read like a rundown of who’s got the best title odds, but there will be more “OK, deep down, how good do we know this team to be?” thinking than in previous editions.

Six months of power rankings highs and lows have led us to this.

It’s been emotional.

30. Phoenix Suns (30)

The Phoenix Suns closed out their season with a 124-97 win over the Dallas Mavericks that represented, easily, their largest margin of victory all year. In that contest, a gentleman named Alec Peters scored 36 points. Admit it: You’ve never heard of him.authentic nfl jerseys cheap

Phoenix finished last in offensive and defensive efficiency and will hit the lottery with the best odds of getting the No. 1 pick.

Congratulations, Suns. You were the worst team in the NBA this season. Mission accomplished.

29. Memphis Grizzlies (28)602908e419aaf807d25d7f5717b891a1_crop_exactnfl jerseys for cheap

The Memphis Grizzlies also logged a victory this week, which would normally have been enough to get them upward momentum. But if this final edition is to be reflective of the season as a whole, the Grizzlies can’t be any better than second-to-last. They had two double-digit losing streaks in 2017-18, the longer of which spanned an incredible 19 games.

Bring on Luka Doncic!
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28. Chicago Bulls (26)

If not for that ridiculous 10-3 stretch to close out December, the Chicago Bulls would have handily won the race to the bottom. But because Nikola Mirotic led them on that improbable spurt before getting traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on Feb. 1, they wound up with 27 wins and in a tie with the Sacramento Kings for sixth in the lottery odds.nfl jersey cheap

If we acknowledge the roster that accumulated that 10-3 streak doesn’t resemble the one that finished the season, it’s fair to drop the Bulls this low. Especially since they concluded the year with a minus-7.8 net rating, tied for second-worst with the Kings.