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Futures Game a showcase of potential Manny Machado trade chips

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Before Manny Machado arrived for the All-Star Game, the Futures Game on Sunday was a who’s who of prospects bandied about in trade talks for the Baltimore Orioles shortstop and others expected to be moved before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. New York Mets prospect Peter Alonso hit one of eight home runs in the game as the United States beat the World 10-6 in a three-hour respite from the rumors.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

“There’s definitely a lot of talk going around with trades and all that,” said Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Keston Hiura, who has been mentioned as a possible trade chip for Machado. “There’s always questions of who’s getting moved and all that. … Whatever happens talking-wise or behind the scenes, that’s out of our control.”

A couple players in this game already know what these guys are going through. Luis Basabe went to the Chicago White Sox in the trade that netted the Red Sox lefty starter Chris Sale, and Dawel Lugo was part of the haul the Detroit Tigers got from the Arizona Diamondbacks for J.D. Martinez.

Alonso’s seventh-inning home run came off Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Adonis Medina, whose wild pitch on a strikeout allowed the go-ahead run to score. Medina has also been linked to Machado, with the Phillies showing serious interest.7

New York Yankees pitching prospect Justus Sheffield allowed a home run and had a strikeout in 1 1/3 innings of work. Sheffield is considered untouchable, even with the Yankees trying to catch the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have plenty of prospect ammunition to get in on the Machado sweepstakes, including catcher Keibert Ruiz and outfielder Yusniel Diaz. Ruiz and the Dodgers got a scare when he injured his right hand on a foul tip in the seventh inning, but he said X-rays showed that it was not broken.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

“I was very worried,” said Diaz, who hit two home runs for the World. “He’s a good teammate, and at this point, we’re almost like brothers, so I was very concerned.”

Injuries are reason for concern, but Brewers pitching prospect Luis Ortiz doesn’t worry about being traded after going from Texas to Milwaukee at the deadline two years ago.

“Being traded the first time caught me really off-guard, especially when I was with Texas, 19, 20 years old in Double-A,” said Ortiz, who got the final out for the U.S. on Sunday. “But now that [there’s] another trade talk, and my name’s getting brought up more and more in trades and Keston, it’s more like you want to keep an eye on it, but then at the same time, you’ve got to let it go, do your thing.”

Could 49ers’ George Kittle break out at TE? It’s possible

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In an offseason that saw Jason Witten retire to the Monday Night Football broadcast booth while Antonio Gates awaits a team to sign him and Rob Gronkowski flirts with ending his NFL career, it’s safe to say the tight end position in the NFL is in a state of transition.

With those superstars moving on or close to it, there are a number of vacancies at the head of the class alongside the likes of Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. While there’s no shortage of options to fill the void, one candidate wouldn’t immediately come to mind when looking at the next wave of tight ends, at least not for those outside of the Bay Area.

But in San Francisco, second-year 49ers tight end George Kittle has quietly emerged as one of the league’s most intriguing tight end prospects. And he’s not shying away from the opportunity to establish himself as one of the best at his position.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“Obviously I want to be the best as a tight end,” said Kittle. “I get on the field, I feel like it’s an opportunity to show that I can play football and I’m good at my job and I deserve to keep my job. … There’s comparisons everywhere, but if I can go out and show that I’m the best me, and I can ball and prove to myself that I can play really well and prove to Coach [Kyle] Shanahan and my tight end coach that I’m playing well and I’m the best one and they need me, then I’m satisfied.”8

Kittle has lofty goals, especially for a fifth-round pick who entered the league with little hype just more than a year ago. Kittle’s high expectations aren’t exclusive to him. In fact, the 49ers have been high on him since they chose him with the 146th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

During his career at Iowa, Kittle never finished with more than 22 catches per season for the run-heavy Hawkeyes. He had just 48 receptions for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns in four years. Iowa’s commitment to the running game, however, helped Kittle establish himself as a stout blocker, but blocking tight ends don’t usually get drafted very high.

Still, Kittle had a strong showing at the NFL scouting combine, where he ran the third-fastest 40-yard dash among tight ends (4.52 seconds) and had the third-best long jump (11 feet).

In Kittle, Shanahan saw the ideal fit for his offense — a tight end capable of in-line blocking and lining up in a variety of places. Among the many rookies the 49ers brought in last season, none had a bigger workload than Kittle, who was taking starting reps from the moment he arrived.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Kittle never flinched, despite playing through a high ankle sprain, as well as calf, hip, chest, elbow, back and hamstring ailments.

Dodgers’ Chase Utley, citing family, says he’ll retire at end of 2018

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Chase Utley will retire from baseball at the end of this season, capping a 16-year career that included a World Series championship with Philadelphia Phillies and an elder-statesman role with the Dodgers.

The six-time All-Star said he’s leaving to spend more time with his wife and two young sons.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Utley announced his decision at a jammed news conference in the basement of Dodger Stadium on Friday, with several of his teammates surprising him by crowding into the small, steamy room.

“I just want you guys to know that I’ve signed a five-year extension,” Utley deadpanned, drawing laughter from manager Dave Roberts, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Alex Wood, Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson, Logan Forsythe and Ross Stripling.8

Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw sat on the floor in a corner, with Matt Kemp, Rich Hill, Corey Seager, Austin Barnes and Kenta Maeda joining him.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt looked on, while hitting coach Turner Ward used his phone to capture video. Yasiel Puig hung in the back, and 92-year-old Dodgers pitching great Don Newcombe listened in.

Utley has tried to avoid the kind of attention he received Friday for most of his career. He always has preferred to let his play on the field speak for him, although among his teammates he is generous with his knowledge of the game. They in turn marvel at his physical condition.

Utility player Enrique Hernandez calls him “Grandpa.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

“He’s changed the way I see the game, he’s changed the way I eat, he’s changed the way I prepare in the offseason from now on and the way I prepare during the season every day,” Hernandez said. “From now on if I end up having a pretty successful career, whether he likes it or not, he’s going to have had something to do with it.”

Suns’ rebuild needs contributions from lottery picks besides Deandre Ayton

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A lot of attention has been devoted to Deandre Ayton this summer, and for good reason. The No. 1 overall pick for the Phoenix Suns has flashed franchise-changing talent. But the Suns fielded a Las Vegas Summer League squad that features three other lottery picks from the past three seasons: Dragan Bender (fourth pick, 2016), Josh Jackson (fourth pick, 2017) and Mikal Bridges (10th pick, 2018).

The Suns were eliminated from the tournament in an 88-86 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, so Friday’s 90-55 win over the San Antonio Spurs marked the end of their time in Las Vegas.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Bridges, acquired in a draft-day trade with Philadelphia, is clearly the rawest of the three non-Ayton lottery players. On Friday, Bridges took four 3s during his 12 minutes of action and made one, before being shut down with a sore knee. The trey is the key offensive skill that Bridges needed to show and work on in Vegas. On one set in the second quarter, Phoenix guard Shaquille Harrison set Bridges up for a wide-open spot-up 3 from the elbow, and while Bridges’ shot was in the air one of my colleagues muttered, “This is the shot he has to be able to make.”

Over the whole summer league, 16 of Bridges’ 22 shot attempts came from downtown. His best game was the opener, when he knocked down 4 of 5 3s, but Bridges managed to make only 3 of 11 3s for the rest of the event. That shot will be Bridges’ ticket to playing time for the Suns this year.7

Bender started on Friday, as well, but played only eight minutes before the team shut him down. He scored five points with five rebounds, but as always in summer league, the visual impressions are much more informative than the box scores. The first time I saw Bender in Vegas back in 2016, I said that he looked more like a 7-foot shooting guard than a big man. He was extremely slim, and he handled the ball out top and attacked defenses facing the basket instead of at the post.

Fast forward to today and Bender has noticeably bulked up like a traditional pivot player. Bender told ESPN after Friday’s game that getting stronger was one of his main goals of the summer, along with getting acclimated to his new teammates.

What popped for Jackson in last year’s summer league was his extreme athletic ability and defensive potential. Jackson showed that defensive potential in his three games this year, as well, with four steals and two blocked shots in only 70 total minutes.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

But in this summer league, Jackson was clearly working more on his offense. Jackson said that his main focuses in Vegas were leadership, getting stronger and picking his spots to attack. That was obvious in watching him play, as he handled the ball a lot and was particularly aggressive in looking for his shot. Jackson’s shot was off, as he made only 10 of his 41 field goal attempts, including 1-of-11 from downtown. But Jackson’s attacking style got him to the line consistently, where he made 10 of 14 free throws in three games despite playing only 23.3 minutes per game.

While Jackson looked for his shot often, one of his most memorable plays of the event was a pass. In his first game against the Dallas Mavericks, Jackson was running the pick-and-roll set as the ball handler and threw a beautiful alley-oop to Ayton that was only foiled because the defender fouled Jackson before the pass.

Knox looks ready to contribute to present and future for Knicks

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On Thursday, the New York Knicks summer league team featuring ninth pick Kevin Knox and 36th pick Mitchell Robinson bowed out of the tournament in an 82-75 loss to the Boston Celtics; New York will play a final consolation game Friday. The rookies took their first steps as pros in the Las Vegas Summer League, with some intriguing results but also room for improvement.

Knox averaged 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds through his first three games but made only five of his 20 shot attempts on his way to 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and five turnovers on Thursday. Even in a poor game, though, Knox showed the hallmarks that the Knicks hope will translate to the next level.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

Knox projects to the type of combo forward that is increasingly popular in today’s NBA, similar in size and role to last year’s Vegas Summer League Championship Game MVP Kyle Kuzma. On offense, Knox is more finisher than team-offense initiator. Perhaps his most impressive weapon in the summer league was his dribble drive to the rim. Knox has a quick and long first step, which he uses to get his body between the defender and the ball. Once that’s done, Knox is able to carry them on his hip to the rim, where he’s got the strength and length to finish in traffic.6

That move was consistently effective against summer league competition, but on Thursday, Boston Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye was physical enough to make it more difficult. On one drive in the third quarter, Knox got his half-step and lowered his shoulder, but Ojeleye beat him to the spot and drew the charge. On another play, at the end of a quarter the Knicks ran an ISO out top for Knox, but he lost his footing against physical defense and lost the ball. That’s the level of defense Knox can expect at the next level, so he’ll have to adjust.

Knox’s other primary offensive skill is his shooting, but it runs hot and cold. On Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers, he went 5-of-7 from downtown. On Thursday, Knox made only 2 of 7 from behind the arc. He was able to get clean looks consistently — cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys better than he’s likely to see at the next level, so he needs to increase his efficiency and consistency for this to become a strength.

On defense, Knox generally stayed with his man, didn’t do a lot of switching or helping out, and rebounded adequately but didn’t look like a “defensive stopper.” His rebounding seemed to vary with his effort level; when locked in, Knox was able to grab contested rebounds. Again, Thursday was a low-water mark for Knox with only three defensive boards.

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

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.

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.