Rockets defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik retiring before start of season

On the cusp of the opening of training camp, Houston Rockets associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik — architect of the franchise’s No. 6-ranked defense — is retiring, league sources told customized nfl jerseys

Bzdelik, 65, informed coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey of his decision on Sunday. Bzdelik has been considering retirement throughout the summer, and there are no health issues that dictated the decision, sources said.1

Bzdelik’s defense evolved into one of the NBA’s best units last season, moving up significantly statistically in the consecutive seasons that he oversaw it. Rockets assistant Roy Rogers is expected to assume a bulk of the defensive responsibilities, but he’ll have help on staff.

Houston had the NBA’s best regular-season record and reached a Game 7 before losing to Golden State in the Western Conference finals last nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Bzdelik started in the NBA 30 years ago as a scout, eventually working for Pat Riley with the New York Knicks and becoming head coach of the Denver Nuggets from 2002 to 2004. He was a college head coach with Air Force, Colorado and Wake Forest.

WNBA title proves to be Breanna Stewart’s destiny

UConn coach Geno Auriemma couldn’t stop grinning. The player who led his Huskies to four consecutive NCAA titles had just won her first WNBA championship at the age of 24.

And after winning the regular-season MVP, Breanna Stewart became the sixth player in league history to earn WNBA Finals MVP nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Auriemma said it all happened exactly as he expected for Stewart, the Seattle Storm forward who had a 30-point, eight-rebound performance in a 98-82 Game 3 victory over Washington to complete a championship series sweep Wednesday.

“Stewie is not the kind who breaks the door down, and comes in and goes, ‘Watch me!’ ” Auriemma said as he stood outside the cramped but joyous Storm locker room at EagleBank Arena. “She’s never been like that. So I wasn’t surprised it took her a couple of years to get the lay of the land, see how everything worked, see what the pro game was all about.
“And then once she figures it all out, then, ‘Boom!’ It probably wasn’t going to happen for her as a rookie, the way it did when she was a freshman. But it wasn’t going to take her 10 years, either. This is in keeping with her personality. She’s the most unassuming, low-key superstar.”

Stewart struggled a bit her first year at UConn but had things under control by the NCAA tournament. She was the most outstanding player of that event all four years at UConn before being drafted No. 1 by the Storm in 2016. She was WNBA rookie of the year, but the team results then and in 2017 were not up to her standards.

Stewart was determined to change that for her third season. She averaged 21.8 points and 8.4 rebounds this season, and 24.6 and 6.9 in the nfl nike jerseys china

Wednesday, she was 4-of-5 from 3-point range, part of the Storm’s 13-for-26 performance from beyond the arc, and that made her even more effective.

“Having perimeter-oriented post players makes it hard to guard us,” Stewart said. “I wanted to be aggressive early and kind of show what was going on her

Cubs use long ball to beat another ace in Aaron Nola

They didn’t listen to their manager. They might not in October, either. But if Chicago Cubs hitters want to take matters into their own hands and simply bring the thunder against playoff-caliber pitching, surely Joe Maddon won’t mind.

Before the Cubs’ series-clinching, 8-1 win against Aaron Nola and the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, Maddon was opining about how to win a game against an elite arm like the Phillies’ nike jerseys cheap china

“I still want to see us get back to opposite-field hitting,” Maddon said. “Scoring runs with singles. … That’s what we have to show more of to beat the better pitching. To go out there and just beat them up with the three-run homer, that doesn’t normally occur.”

Except it did Sunday against Nola.

But instead of one three-run homer, the Cubs hit three solo shots off the Cy Young contender. The first one came from Daniel Murphy in the third inning, after Nola had struck out seven in a row, mostly with a devastating curveball. He never did recover from the gut punch delivered by Murphy, the Cubs’ latest game-changer on offense.1

“I was probably as surprised as anyone to get Aaron right there, as well as he’s been throwing it this year,” Murphy said after the game.

Nola looked human after the blast to right, which came on a 1-2 pitch after several foul balls. Soon after, Anthony Rizzo hit his 23rd home run of the season, and he was followed by MVP candidate Javy Baez hitting his 30th of the year while notching RBI No. 100 at the same time. That made it 3-0, and the Cubs never looked back.

They added three triples in the game, compiling three home runs and three triples in the same game for just the second time since 1900, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

So about that scoring with singles Maddon was talking about? It never materialized, not that anyone is complaining.

“We’re just grinding out at-bats,” Murphy nike nfl jerseys from china

If Baez was the offense’s engine in the first half of the season, Murphy has been leader at the plate in the second half. In fact, before Murphy arrived, the Cubs were stuck in neutral on offense, languishing near the bottom of the NL in many post-All-Star-break categories. Murphy has been a difference-maker at exactly the time the Cubs needed him.

“Daniel coming here is the separator,” Maddon said. “For a while there, we weren’t really playing a wonderful offensive brand of baseball.”

The hardest thing to do in sports? Trying to hit Ryne Stanek down 0-2

Not long ago, the Tampa Bay Rays called Ryne Stanek out of the bullpen to face Giancarlo Stanton with two runners on in a three-run game.

It’s quite possible there has never been a physically stronger hitter than Stanton. Of the 10 hardest-hit balls this season across the major leagues, Stanton has hit eight of them. Only two players in history, Mark McGwire and Babe Ruth, have homered more frequently than Stanton has in his career. Even on a pitcher’s pitch, even when he looks beat, he can slap a ball over the wall in right field. With Stanton representing the tying run in a close game, this matchup represented, I will argue, the hardest thing to do in nike nfl jerseys paypal

“The hardest thing to do in sports” is such a hopeless, pointless question, it’s amazing we don’t argue about it more. Ted Williams famously launched the argument — “I’ve always said that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports” — but in the very next breath, he also showed how easy it is to plead for almost anything else: “But fishing takes a lot, too,” Williams continued. “Learning the habits of the fish, what kind of flies to use, how to rig ’em just right, when to apply tension to the rod, all that. And patience, patience, patience.” So, hitting a baseball or rigging a fly rod just right.2

The truth is that almost everything in sports is easy to do poorly — my daughter hit her first baseball when she was 3 years old and still lost her balance on sidewalks — while almost everything in sports is extremely hard to do well. That’s the point of watching the literal best in the world attempt something against the literal second-best in the world. This question is so hopeless. So pointless.

There’s an answer, though. I can’t believe Ted Williams missed it. The answer is facing Ryne Stanek after falling behind 0-2, as Stanton had to do that day in the three-run game.

Forty-one hitters have attempted it this year. Those 41 batters have hit .050/.073/.075. In major league history, about 2,000 pitchers have batted at least 100 times. Only 13 of those 2,000 pitchers had a lower OPS than major league hitters have against Stanek after an 0-2 count this year. Thirty-one of those 41 hitters struck out, a rate of 22.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

It doesn’t have to be Stanek. Instead of Stanek, we can maybe say “after falling behind 0-2 against an elite power pitcher in a strikeout era.” Wade Davis, after an 0-2 count this year, has allowed a WHIP of .077 — that’s a zero in there. The lowest WHIP in history in regular, non-0-2 baseball, is .570, so hitters behind 0-2 against Davis have been one-seventh as likely to get a hit or walk as if they were facing the single-best pitching season in jerseys nfl cheap

Against Josh Hader, batters have a .029 on-base percentage after an 0-2 count this year, which is to say that in a world where batters all started 0-2, Hader would throw the equivalent of a perfect game between each baserunner. Aroldis Chapman has struck out 67 percent of all batters, 503 of them, who have fallen behind 0-2 against him in his career. Jose Fernandez struck out 266 batters who fell behind 0-2 in his career; he walked two.

Paxton Lynch fighting to save Broncos roster spot as No. 3 QB

Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch said Tuesday his future is on his mind and he’s trying to hang on to his roster spot after falling to No. 3 on the depth chart headed into Thursday’s preseason finale against the Arizona Cardinals.

Lynch, whom the Broncos traded up to select in the first round of the 2016 draft (26th overall), had lost back-to-back training camp battles with Trevor Siemian in the previous two summers. And this time around he has slid to No. 3 on the depth chart, behind Case Keenum and Chad Kelly, as the Broncos approach Saturday’s deadline to reduce rosters from 90 to 53 players.

“Obviously you think about it, you’re not happy about it, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do with the hand that’s been dealt to me,” Lynch said. “And that’s what I’m doing, I’m working my tail off.”nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway has often professed his preference to use just two roster spots at quarterback. However, Siemian played well enough in the preseason in 2015 for the Broncos to keep him as a rookie No. 3 behind Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler.2

The Broncos also kept three quarterbacks, after Siemian was injured, on the roster for much of last season.

Also, neither Elway nor coach Vance Joseph has ruled out bringing in a veteran quarterback as Keenum’s backup. Elway said when training camp opened he would consider it if neither Kelly nor Lynch showed he was ready. However, Kelly has played so well in the preseason the Broncos would likely now, at minimum, have to keep him as the No. 3 if they did sign another veteran passer because the seventh-round pick, who missed his rookie year in 2017 on injured reserve, might not clear waivers if they tried to get him to the practice nike nfl jerseys wholesale

However, Lynch said his girlfriend is a realtor and he took the picture because her name was on the sign.

“I was proud of her, I posted a picture of it,” Lynch said. ” … I didn’t know about (the attention) until my parents had called me and said something about it — ‘Did you post a picture of a “For Sale” sign or something like that’ and I said ‘Yeah I did’ and I seen all these articles start popping up.”

Celtics embracing underdog role against LeBron, Cavaliers

The Boston Celtics are perfectly content with the familiar role of underdog heading into the Eastern Conference finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Despite being the higher seed and owning home-court advantage for the series, the Celtics find themselves as underdogs, both among oddsmakers and most NBA observers.

But these Celtics are used to using doubt to fuel them. It’s been that way since Gordon Hayward was injured on opening night of the regular season in Cleveland. And few expected the Celtics to stick around long in the postseason, even after winning 55 games and claiming the No. 2 seed in the East.authentic nfl jerseys cheap

“You’ve got everybody counting us out, but we knew from the beginning we’ve got each other,” Celtics guard Terry Rozier said after Boston’s practice on Friday, its first since dispatching the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.145

“We weren’t gonna lay down for nobody, no matter who was counting us out. We weren’t going to just let the teams come in and punk us. We were the No. 2 seed for a reason. With injuries, without, we were the No. 2 seed, so obviously we were doing something great all season and what [a reporter] said is true, you can keep counting us out.

“We’d rather [the media] count us out. We don’t want anybody on our side now. We’re doing good and we play better when our back is against the wall.”

The Celtics were underdogs for the first four games of their second-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, and only a minor favorite despite playing Game 5 at home earlier this week.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before the playoffs that he loves seeing “narratives busted.” And he knows that his players have fed off the perception that they can’t be competitive while playing without injured All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie jerseys for cheap

“We talked about it prior to the playoffs, nobody should love a challenge more, nobody should have more fun doing it,” said Stevens. “I think our guys have done a good job doing that.”

Of course, the Celtics understand full well why they are underdogs in this series, particularly with the way James is playing and the relative ease with which these Cavaliers swept through top-seeded Toronto in Round 2.

Saquon Barkley: ‘Willing to do whatever’ for Giants

The roster for the New York Giants’ rookie minicamp lists “RB” next to Saquon Barkley’s name. Maybe it should say more.

Barkley views himself as “more than a running back.” The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft was hoping to prove that Friday, when he took the field for the first time in a Giants uniform.

“Completely more than a running back,” Barkley said after Friday morning’s walk-through. “… If you look at the past three years and you look at the history of the running back position — of what [Ezekiel Elliott] and [Le’Veon Bell] are able to do — nfl authentic jerseys cheap when you look at those guys, they are more than running backs. I view myself as more than a running back.”

This is the argument Bell, a three-time Pro Bowl running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has made as he lobbies for a long-term contract. Bell rushed for 1,291 yards and had 85 receptions last season.

Barkley rushed for 1,271 yards last year at Penn State. He caught 54 passes for 632 yards and added two kickoff returns for touchdowns.134

It’s this skill set that prompted the Giants to declare Barkley the best player in the draft. General manager Dave Gettleman gave Barkley only his second perfect grade for a prospect; the other went to Peyton Manning in 1998.

“I’m not a guy that you just line up in the backfield and is just going bang his head, bang his head, bang his head,” Barkley said. “I’m a guy that is willing to do whatever it is for the team, whether it is a kick returner, whether it be a punt returner, whether it be running down on kickoffs, whether it’s line up in the slot, whether it’s run a dummy play, fake play.

“Whatever it takes. I want to be an athlete. I’m not just a running back. I play the running back position. I want to be an all-around back and all-around player.”

Gettleman said after making the pick two weeks ago that Barkley’s presence alone should improve the running game, offensive line, passing game and even the defense by keeping that unit off the field.customized nfl jerseys cheap

Rookie minicamp, which runs through Sunday, will provide the Giants their first up-close glimpse of Barkley’s ability.

“I think what we’re looking to see is how well he picks up this system,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “We’re very confident he’ll be able to do everything well. And just see how he works in like everybody else — how he runs the ball, how he catches the ball, his awareness in pass protection — all the things we’re going to ask him to do moving forward.”