Trae Young finding success, but not with his long-range shooting

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Trae Young’s first five games of summer play have raised an intriguing possibility: What if the No. 5 pick in this year’s NBA draft is better as a passer than a shooter?

Yes, Young led the NCAA in both scoring and assists during his lone season at Oklahoma. However, it was his 30-foot 3s off the dribble that caught the nation’s attention more so than Young’s work distributing to an unheralded set of Sooners teammates. So it has been somewhat surprising that Young has found far more success as a playmaker than a scorer so far in the NBA, first at the Utah Jazz Summer League and now at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

During Saturday’s 21-point effort against the New York Knicks, his highest-scoring game this summer, Young finally saw a few of those long 3s off the dribble go down. For the most part, they haven’t fallen — or sometimes haven’t even caught rim. Young has shot 6-of-35 (17 percent) on 3s in this span, most of them long and heavily contested.

As I noted in last summer’s study on the meaning of summer-league stats, shooting percentages have little if any predictive power when it comes to how players will perform the following regular season. The samples are simply too small. However, the quality of the shots Young is taking hasn’t been any better than the results, suggesting his low-percentage shooting is more than just a fluke.8

The same has been true for Young inside the arc, where he has been only slightly more accurate (10-of-31, 32 percent). At 6-foot-2, Young always has to finish over bigger defenders in the paint, and he struggled in that regard even against college opposition. Young’s 53.5 percent shooting on attempts at the rim was lowest among NCAA players drafted in this year’s first round, per Hoop-Math.com research.

While Young made an impressive reverse finish headed away from the basket in Utah, for the most part he hasn’t even tried to challenge rim protectors. Instead, Young has turned to a low-percentage floater that he will need to improve dramatically to have any chance of shooting a decent percentage on 2-point tries early in his career.

A fast break during the final minute of Saturday’s game was illustrative of Young’s limitations and how he can work around them. With the Hawks trailing 85-80, Young forced a turnover near midcourt and headed toward the basket with a defender charging after him. Instead of attempting the layup, Young dropped a pass off to teammate Antonius Cleveland for a dunk.

Young has managed to draw enough defensive attention out of the pick-and-roll to set up teammates for open looks on a regular basis, displaying excellent court vision. He averaged 6.0 assists in his four full games, including 11 against the Knicks, and easily could have had more with better shooters around him. (Whether Atlanta’s real roster will provide better shooting remains open for debate.)cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

In the first half of Sunday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, before he was shut down for precautionary reasons because of a quad contusion, Young focused largely on playmaking. Hounded by bigger defender Wade Baldwin, Young attempted only two shots and handed out three assists in the nine minutes he played.

Ayton impresses in strong showing against Mo Bamba

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Squaring off against Bamba, who weighed in at 226 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine, Ayton — listed at a chiseled 250 — enjoyed an enormous strength advantage. On the one play on which Ayton got a chance to post up Bamba one-on-one, he powered through the Orlando center and went up to dunk before being fouled by Bamba.nfl cheap jerseys nike

Ayton’s strength also showed up on the glass, where he came up with more offensive rebounds (five) than Bamba had defensive rebounds (just two in 22 minutes). That included a pair of Ayton tips, one of them dunking home a miss by teammate Josh Jackson. Ayton added eight more defensive rebounds for his second double-double (17 points, 13 boards) in as many games.

It’s unclear whether Ayton’s frequent post-ups will be effective during the regular season, when he’ll likely face better post defenders than Bamba — who relies on his wingspan to try to compensate for his slight frame — and 6-foot-9 backup Antonio Campbell. As is, Ayton has struggled with turnovers in the post when he has tried to force the action against double teams, which only figures to get worse against more organized help defenses. Ayton had four turnovers without an assist against the Magic.7

The Suns can hope to keep Ayton involved with better pick-and-roll play than they have from their summer point guards. Ayton showed his pick-and-pop potential on a play on which he nailed a picture-perfect, 19-foot jumper over Bamba’s outstretched arms, and he rose high to finish an alley-oop from Phoenix second-round pick Elie Okobo.

After scoring 11 points in each of his first two summer appearances, Bamba wasn’t particularly involved in the offense against Ayton and the Suns. He took just four shots in 22 minutes, all of them within 9 feet, meaning we didn’t see any of the solid form Bamba showed on a corner 3 Sunday night.

Bamba’s greater value comes at the defensive end, naturally, and we saw plenty of that against Phoenix. Bamba blocked Ayton’s hook shot on the Suns’ first possession, one of five blocks in the game. Even when he was unable to get his hands on a shot, Bamba’s 7-foot-10 wingspan made shooting difficult for Phoenix. He forced Okobo to air-ball a jumper on the baseline and just got fingertips to a layup by Shaquille Harrison, which Ayton tipped home.

Ayton nearly came up with the day’s most impressive block, racing from midcourt after a turnover in an effort to chase down Magic second-round pick Melvin Frazier Jr. as Frazier shot a layup. Ayton got to the shot but contacted Frazier in the process, drawing a shooting foul.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

There’s plenty of development ahead for both Ayton and Bamba. Ayton will have to cut down on turnovers to become a more efficient go-to option on offense and improve the angles he takes defensively, while Bamba must get in the weight room and find ways to create more offense. Nonetheless, Monday’s matchup offered a glimpse of what’s to come for both centers

In Oakland, veteran Bruce Irvin finds smack-talking, kindred spirit in Jon Gruden

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You could say these are bright times for Bruce Irvin, who has had his share of dark days in his life.

Since the end of last season, he has earned a degree, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college, made a much-desired position switch from outside linebacker to defensive end and maybe, just maybe, found a kindred spirit in returning Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden.

“He talks s— like I talk s—, so we get along,” Irvin said.

Irvin came to Oakland as a free agent in 2016 after four star-crossed seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, which included an eight-sack rookie season, a Super Bowl championship and another trip to the Super Bowl.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Initially an edge-rusher, Irvin made the switch to outside linebacker despite his concerns that he was not “smart enough” to play in coverages. Ken Norton Jr., then his position coach in Seattle and later his defensive coordinator in Oakland, admonished his pupil, telling him to never admit such a thing.

Besides, Norton told Irvin, he was capable of playing linebacker.10

The Raiders were obviously impressed enough to sign Irvin to a four-year deal worth a max of $37 million and $12.5 million fully guaranteed to make him a bookend pass-rusher with All-Pro Khalil Mack.

Irvin’s presence helped Mack become the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 as Oakland went 12-4 and appeared in the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season.

The team regressed badly under Jack Del Rio in 2017, going 6-10 before Del Rio was shown the door. Gruden agreed to return to Oakland with an eye on Irvin and his skill set.

Enter new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who worked Irvin out at West Virginia and wanted the Cincinnati Bengals to draft him before the Seahawks struck at No. 15 overall in 2012.

“I knew he was a really gifted rusher,” Guenther said. “… Just coming here, I thought his best assets for us was to go forward rather than go backwards. He’s done a good job with what we’re asking him to do in the base fronts.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“Obviously, we know what he can do as a pass-rusher. Hopefully, we can get him over a double-digit [sack] mark this year. That’s the goal for him.”

Boos at Texas prepared Garrett Gilbert to be Cam Newton’s backup

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It was 2012, and the former high school phenom had transferred from the University of Texas to SMU after going 7-7 as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback and being demoted to third string. He admittedly spent too much time listening to the boos and reading negative articles.

His childhood dream of starring for his hometown team in Austin had turned into a nightmare.

His confidence was shot. The decision-making and accuracy that had made him one of the country’s top prospects a few years earlier needed an overhaul.

“When we got him at SMU, he had been through hell, I guess is a good way to say it,” said former SMU coach June Jones, now the head coach of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “So helping him through that whole situation and getting him back on track to how he was as a high school player took us a while.

“I knew he could play in the National Football League. I tried my hardest to get him there.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

It took a while, but Gilbert finally is getting a shot in the NFL. After four seasons of bouncing between practice squads and the bottom of rosters with the Rams, Patriots, Lions and Raiders, the 27-year-old is the leading candidate to be the backup to 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton with the Carolina Panthers.9

The Panthers made the decision to go young with Gilbert and Taylor Heinicke (25) over veteran Derek Anderson (35), who had been Carolina’s backup since Newton was the top pick of the 2011 draft.

Gilbert is here because former Panthers senior executive scout Don Gregory, whose contract was recently not renewed, witnessed the comeback firsthand.

“Don saw what we were able to do with him at SMU and knew he had it inside himself to be the guy,” said Jones, who was a teammate of Gregory’s at Portland State.

That definitely was a pivotal time in Gilbert’s career.

“That was a great experience for me, as far as just figuring out how to battle through things,” Gilbert said. “To be able to bounce back and have a couple of good years at SMU certainly prepared me for this part of my career.”

New offensive coordinator Norv Turner was reminded of the success that backups Keenum and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, the MVP of Super Bowl LII, had last season after being forced into duty.

“Somewhere along the way you’re probably going to play a guy that has limited experience,” Turner said.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Limited experience might be putting it kindly in Gilbert’s situation. His next snap in an NFL regular-season game will be his first.

But Gilbert doesn’t look at that as a negative. He relishes the opportunity should Newton have to miss a few snaps or even games, remembering that he has a lot of talent and veteran leadership around him to be successful.

Ayton vs. Bagley: Who won the battle of the top two picks?

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When the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings tipped off in NBA Summer League action Saturday, the anticipated matchup between the top two draft picks Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III wasn’t actually a matchup. Instead, Bagley was guarding Suns forward Dragan Bender and Ayton went against Kings big man Harry Giles.

By the end of the night, however, we’d seen plenty of Ayton and Bagley squaring off in a game that revealed how both top picks are dependent on teammates to set them up for efficient offense as they begin their NBA careers.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

Unfortunately, neither Ayton nor Bagley yet have those teammates — at least in Las Vegas. Phoenix particularly struggled getting the ball to Ayton in the post, turning the ball over three times on passes to Ayton in the first quarter and at least five for the game. When Ayton was able to get the ball down low, he was effective. The first time that happened, Giles fell down and Ayton went in for a dunk. Later, Ayton finished through contact from Bagley for an and-one.56

For both players, the going was rougher away from the hoop. Bagley in particular favored facing up his defender — either Ayton or Bender — and looking for the flat-footed jumper rather than attempting to drive. Bagley would have been better served attacking the basket, as he missed all seven shots he took outside the restricted area en route to 5-of-13 shooting. One of those was an airball over the outstretched arms of Bender and his 7-foot-2 wingspan.

By contrast, Ayton was largely a bystander on offense when he didn’t get the ball inside via post-up or out of the pick-and-roll. Ayton was even more efficient inside the restricted area (7-of-7) but made just one of his four shots from beyond that distance.

Without the teammates necessary to get them the ball in position to score on a consistent basis, Ayton went and got it on the glass. He staged a fierce battle with Bagley for offensive rebounds, pulling down five of them among his 12 total rebounds.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

When Bagley was able to secure one of his six defensive rebounds, he showcased his ability to grab and go, pushing the ball in early offense. That resulted in perhaps his most impressive score of the night, a rolling lefty hook. It also produced one of the game’s biggest highlights for Phoenix, when 2017 No. 4 pick Josh Jackson materialized out of nowhere to reject Bagley’s layup attempt.

Ultimately, the No. 1 pick got the better of the first of what should be many meetings between Ayton and Bagley, both drafted to Pacific Division teams. Despite his difficulty getting the ball, Ayton finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, a better indication of his ability than a quiet summer debut on Friday night. Bagley, who had 15 points and seven rebounds, was less efficient offensively. He’ll hope to even the count in a setting with slightly more meaning than the NBA Summer League.

The good and bad in Deandre Ayton’s debut, plus what’s next

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An uneven debut for No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton on Friday night at the NBA summer league in Las Vegas was highlighted by a handful of athletic plays that illustrated why he was the first choice in a talented draft.

Donning a Phoenix Suns uniform for the first time, Ayton finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. His ability to play above the rim was the biggest strength of his performance. Ayton went up high in the first quarter to score his first basket on an alley-oop finish from teammate Shaquille Harrison, then in the third quarter exploded out of a pack of players to tip home an offensive rebound with maximum elevation.cheap new nike nfl jerseys

With new Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov also making his debut on the sidelines, the Suns spent much of the night determining how to best take advantage of Ayton’s skills offensively. They started the game posting him up, to which the Dallas Mavericks replied with hard double-teams. Ayton was able to pass out without trouble, though mostly back to the entry passer rather than a diagonal pass to find the open teammate — a lot to ask of a player who won’t turn 20 until later this month, certainly.55

By the second half, Phoenix had largely eschewed the post-up in favor of using Ayton as a roll man in the pick-and-roll. This strategy found more success, even when Ayton did not actually touch the ball. Though Harrison was unable to find Ayton on a hard roll to the rim in the third quarter, the attention he drew set up Mikal Bridges for an open corner 3, one of four triples the Suns’ other first-round pick made in his debut.

Ayton shot just 1-of-3 on attempts outside the paint, but he showed his midrange skill on a difficult turnaround jumper as he caught the ball on a hard cut.

The biggest disappointment of Ayton’s night offensively was that he wasn’t more involved, attempting only six shots and four free throw attempts in 22 minutes. (Ayton also had three turnovers.) That’s fairly typical for a big man in summer league, where the limited offenses tend to favor the skills of perimeter players who can create their own shot. In the Suns’ case, that was 2017 lottery pick Josh Jackson, who put up 16 shot attempts from thei field in his 21 minutes, making only four.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

Ayton showed more room for improvement at the defensive end of the court, where opposing big Johnathan Motley was able to overpower him in the post. Motley, who spent most of last season in the G League on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, is one of the few players in Vegas with a frame more chiseled than Ayton’s. He used that to create space to finish against Ayton one-on-one as well as complete a pair of and-ones when Ayton tried to contest after providing help to a teammate.

Jesse Marsch leaves New York Red Bulls, Chris Armas promoted

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Jesse Marsch has left the New York Red Bulls “to pursue other opportunities” amid reports he is close to a role with sister club RB Leipzig.

The MLS club confirmed Marsch’s exit on Friday but did not reveal his future plans. Chris Armas has been promoted to head coach in Marsch’s place.

Reports over recent weeks had linked Marsch with moving to Germany to take over as coach of RB Leipzig, but the Bundesliga club last month announced that Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann will be the coach from the 2019-20 season.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

That leaves the upcoming season still unaccounted for, and The Athletic reported on Thursday that Marsch was in “deep discussions” to join Leipzig, either as an interim coach or as an assistant to sporting director Ralf Rangnick.

Both clubs are owned by the Austrain energy drink company Red Bull.44

Marsch has long pursued the chance the coach in Europe and left the team briefly in the 2017 preseason and again last summer to work towards his UEFA Pro License.

“We are fully supportive of Jesse and his decision to pursue a new opportunity,” Red Bulls sporting director Denis Hamlett said in a statement. “Jesse played a large role in establishing our club identity, but the culture here is the result of the dedication and hard work of many.”

Marsch leaves New York in the midst of a successful season, as the Red Bulls are in second place in the Eastern Conference with 32 points having won 10 of their 16 games.

He led the club to the Supporters’ Shield for best regular-season record in his first season in charge in 2015 and finished top of the Eastern Conference the next season, though he found success in the playoffs difficult to come by.

Armas has been an assistant with the Red Bulls since 2015. His only previous head coaching role was with the Adelphi University women’s team.

The 45-year-old is a former U.S. international who made 66 appearances for the national team and was named U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2000. He spent 10 of his 12 MLS seasons with the Chicago Fire, winning the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup double in 1998 as a teammate of Marsch.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

“We are confident in Chris Armas,” Hamlett said. “We know Chris and the coaching staff will have our team ready to compete each week, and they will continue to find ways to improve and work towards our ultimate goal of winning MLS Cup.”

France beat Uruguay to reach World Cup semis as Varane, Griezmann strike

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France reached the World Cup semifinals after a relatively straightforward win over Uruguay courtesy of goals from Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann.

Varane opened the scoring on 40 minutes before Griezmann made it 2-0 just after the hour mark following a dreadful error from Fernando Muslera in the Uruguay goal.

Edinson Cavani was only fit enough to start on the bench following the calf injury sustained in the round of 16 win over Portugal and replacement Cristhian Stuani toiled in his absence as Uruguay crashed out. France, winners in 1998, will face either Brazil or Belgium in the semifinals on Tuesday.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

With Uruguay conceding just one goal in 2018 ahead of this match — to Pepe in their 2-1 win over Portugal — France faced the tough prospect of penetrating a resolute backline but in the end they prevailed, thanks in part to Muslera’s howler.43

It took a while for Didier Deschamps’ men to find their stride and after a quarter of an hour, Les Bleus should have found the opener. Olivier Giroud’s header found Kylian Mbappe, who had all the time in the world to bring it down and shoot. Instead, he headed first time and the chance harmlessly bounced over.

Uruguay were tenacious without the ball without unduly troubling the France defence but five minutes before half time, they fell behind. Griezmann’s free kick found Varane, whose flicked header evaded Muslera.

Martin Caceres thought he had equalised with a header of his own from a free kick soon after but Hugo Lloris somehow denied him with an incredible reflex stop, and Diego Godin ballooned the rebound over the bar.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

Uruguay pushed for the equaliser in the second half but things got worse on 62 minutes as Griezmann doubled France’s lead. The Atletico Madrid forward gathered the ball near the edge of the box and let fly, with Muslera attempting to parry it. To his horror, though, the ball squirmed through his grasp and over the line.

Kylian Mbappe showing at World Cup he’s ready to inherit the crown of Messi and Ronaldo

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In years to come, we might remember the knockout rounds of the 2018 World Cup as the moment the baton of the world’s greatest player was passed onto its next superstar. After a decade of dominance from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, after a thousand debates over which is superior, on Saturday they were united in misery. Messi’s Argentina were out. Ronaldo’s Portugal were out. But Kylian Mbappe’s France were through.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Mbappe was already a star at club level, after two excellent seasons with Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain, but ultimately he’s very new to international football. A year ago, Mbappe had never scored for his national side. Now, after two years of Didier Deschamps obsessing over whether France should be based around Antoine Griezmann or Paul Pogba, suddenly Mbappe is the main man.

With Messi and Ronaldo out of contention, bookmakers now consider him the favourite to win this tournament’s Golden Ball, awarded to the World Cup’s best player. Amazingly, Mbappe has only really shone in one match so far, but that summarises his extraordinary level of performance in France’s 4-3 victory over Argentina.32

Mbappe’s display was a two-part act: He ripped into Argentina in the first half to put France on the front foot, and then sealed the game himself after the break. Few players in this tournament have been capable of playing both roles, putting their side in charge and then putting their side in front. It was, for that reason, the standout performance of the tournament so far.

With Argentina playing a 4-3-3 and offering left-back Nicolas Tagliafico no protection whatsoever, Mbappe was afforded far too much space from his right-sided position, and France’s general approach was simple: find Mbappe, and let him run. The game’s first significant incident came when Javier Mascherano clumsily fouled Mbappe, allowing Griezmann to step up and fire the resulting free kick against the crossbar. That was the early warning sign. Argentina didn’t learn their lesson.

Minutes later, Mbappe was first onto a loose ball inside his own half, and within eight seconds had dribbled almost the length of the pitch before being taken down inside the penalty area by Marcos Rojo. It was a frightening demonstration of pure speed, taking Mbappe easily past opponents and forcing Rojo into a completely pointless foul. Griezmann scored from the spot, and France were 1-0 ahead.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

The same pattern continued. With Mbappe making a run in behind the defence, rather than dribbling through it himself, he was found by Pogba’s booming pass, with Tagliafico taking his turn to foul France’s No. 10. A free kick was awarded, right on the edge of the box. Pogba fired over.

Argentina battled back, briefly going ahead. Mbappe’s opportunities to counterattack were limited by Ever Banega shifting across, even if he was cautioned for his first challenge of the second half.

How Mount Union became college football’s newest cradle of coaches

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He knew he couldn’t go back to Pitt for another season. The football program there had turned toxic. So Campbell packed up and left. He wasn’t far from his home near Canton when he first saw them by chance: about 60 young men, crossing the four-lane highway that flanks the campus of the University of Mount Union, headed for a workout at the stadium.

“It was a fascinating moment,” Campbell said. “Here’s where there are no scholarships, there is no money, there is no flash, but these guys love football.”

Campbell wanted in. He transferred to Mount Union and became an All-American defensive lineman. Then he entered coaching.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

“It saved my life,” said Campbell, who is entering his third season as Iowa State’s coach. “That’s how passionate I am about my Mount Union experience and coach [Larry] Kehres. My life probably goes a whole different way if not for finding that place.”31

Campbell is among a growing group who found Mount Union as players and, after graduating, launched coaching careers. Mount Union claims two FBS head coaches in Campbell and Toledo’s Jason Candle, coordinators such as Ohio State’s Alex Grinch and Wake Forest’s Jay Sawvel, position coaches such as Michigan’s Ed Warinner, an NFL coordinator in the Indianapolis Colts’ Nick Sirianni and many others leading small-college and high school teams.

The school has long produced accomplished coaches — including former Carolina Panthers coach and longtime NFL assistant Dom Capers (class of 1971) and Ron Lynn, another longtime NFL assistant (class of 1966) — but the number has spiked in the past 15 years. Campbell and Candle, both 38, are among the 10 youngest FBS coaches. Grinch, 37, is one of the nation’s top coordinators. Sirianni just turned 37.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

How did a private, liberal arts school with an undergraduate enrollment of only 2,095 become football’s newest coaching cradle? It took a College Football Hall of Fame program patriarch too afraid to leave, 200-man rosters filled with “player-coaches” and a campus located in the garden spot for coaching.