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Mining for fantasy gold on tanking NBA teams


When I was 11, I shook hands with Wes Unseld in the Capital Centre parking lot. I’ll never forget the way his superhuman hand enveloped my entire arm.

In a way, that moment remains the peak of my real-life NBA fandom. Such is the lot of a lifelong Bullets/Wizards fan. Following the Bullets/Wizards prepared me to encounter life with a sense of grim, gritty realism.

And as you may have heard, this year’s edition of the Washington Wizards has been particularly — almost spectacularly — painful to follow.

The silver lining? Rooting for a perennial also-ran franchise keeps me focused on fantasy basketball.

Rooting for a moribund NBA team helps you in fantasy in three ways.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

One: You learn to pay more attention to the league as a whole.

Two: You learn to create your own basketball success stories.

Three: You learn that bad NBA teams beget in-season fantasy opportunity.10

In fantasy, it always pays to focus on the lower rungs of the NBA standings.

I think of the universe of fantasy basketball as a miniature stock market. Players present portfolios of statistics that rise and fall. If you acquire the services of enough players who outproduce what it took to acquire them (be it auction money or a draft pick), you put yourself in a position to win.

On draft night, we look to build around sure things: stable investments we can count on. That equals star players from successful franchises.

Successful NBA teams mint players who tend to set the market and provide statistical stability.

Think Durant and Curry in Golden State. Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee. Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard in Toronto. These players hail from the Boardwalks and Park Places of fantasy hoops. They’re pricey to roster but yield a dependable return on your imaginary investment.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

Good teams run rock-solid rotations. Their players enter the season with clearly defined roles. By the time the NBA season gets good and underway, say a quarter of the way in (where we are now), a good team’s fantasy production is locked in (barring injury, of course).

Raptors have a superstar ready to duel with best in Leonard


So yes, this was only November, and yes, the Raptors should not have put themselves in the position they wound up in, the result — a 131-128 victory at Scotiabank Arena against a Golden State Warriors team that was admittedly without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green — was a step in the direction this team needs to take if it wants to face the Warriors again in June.

“I think that when a team gets kind of dragged into overtime like that … a lot of times, that team will feel sorry for themselves, and not come out and play,” nfl nike jerseys cheap china Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “We didn’t [do that]. I was proud of them for that, to take the emotional punch there in the gut, and take a few deep breaths there at the end of the game and go back out there and play the overtime the way they did.”9

The win pushed the Raptors to an NBA-best 19-4 this season and improved their current winning streak to a season-best seven games. But it also exposed all of the flaws that have so many questioning whether Toronto — despite its record — truly is the favorite to get out of the East.

Kyle Lowry, one of the main culprits in those collapses of the past, didn’t allow himself to shoot a wide-open 3-pointer with three minutes to go, and was a dismal 4-for-14 on the night. Toronto, in general, felt like a team that was struggling to breathe as it attempted to move to heights it hadn’t reached before.

But this time, the Raptors had a pair of players, in Leonard and Green, who have been in every possible situation on a basketball court before. They’ve played in the crucible that is the NBA Finals — and came out the other side with rings on their fingers.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

In many ways, their former team, the San Antonio Spurs, is everything these Raptors haven’t been. For two decades, San Antonio has been basketball’s version of the New England Patriots — a team that, no matter who is playing or what is happening, can be expected to find a way to win.

The Raptors have been a team longing for precisely that. And, Thursday night, they began to see what the benefits of injecting some of that Spurs culture into this franchise’s veins can provide.

Leonard was, of course, sensational, putting up 37 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists while going 14-for-24 from the floor. It was his best, most complete performance in a Raptor uniform, as he and Durant put on what arguably was the show of the season thus far.

Cowboys’ path to playoffs becomes clearer after stunning upset of Saints


the Dallas Cowboys went to the Superdome with their season on the line against the undefeated New Orleans Saints and left with a win that propelled them to an 11-5 finish and a wild-card playoff victory.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

On Thursday, the Cowboys faced a Saints team that came to AT&T Stadium with a 10-game winning streak and was considered perhaps the best in the NFL. The Cowboys had some momentum of their own and pulled off a signature 13-10 win that gives them an 80.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Cowboys have won four straight — after a 3-5 start — for the first time since 2016 and when they return to action Dec. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles, they know they will remain in first place in the NFC East with four games to play.

It was not a pretty affair, but there were enough magical moments for Dallas — almost all from the defense. The Cowboys are now allowing 18.6 points per game, which is second-best in the NFL behind only the Ravens (18.0), according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“It was a collective effort,” Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “The one thing about our defense, what makes us elite, is that we run to the ball like no other team. We put that on display.”9

The offense was stifled for most of the night, and the defense sealed the win with a Jourdan Lewis interception with 2 minutes, 35 seconds to play. A pass interference penalty against the Saints allowed Dak Prescott to take a knee and kill the clock.

In their first 11 games, the Cowboys used their dime package sparingly, which cut back on Lewis’ snaps. He nearly had a pick on the first series of the game, but he did not let the ball get out of his grasp in the fourth quarter.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

As Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli waxed poetic about the Saints’ offense all week — and with good reason — there was always a feeling that the Cowboys’ defense was ready for a breakout performance.

On the first series, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie and Lewis had pass breakups. In the first half, the defense kept the Saints out of the end zone, coming up with a stifling goal-line stand in the second quarter, stopping the Saints on four plays from their 7. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, DeMarcus Lawrence tracked down Alvin Kamara from behind and Tyrone Crawford set up a wall in front to change over the possession. Entering the game, the Saints had converted 11 of 12 fourth-down opportunities.

Is Aaron Mooy a must-start as a Tier 3 midfielder in ESPN Fantasy Soccer?


At the start of the season, the third midfield tier was an easy source of points, with exciting players like Ryan Fraser and Andre Schurrle. They have since, rightfully, been promoted out of this group and now selecting the right player out of Tier 3 midfield is more important than ever. While this tier lacks the high-upside, flashy names found in others, this is where you can find the most differential options to make up ground in your matchups and leagues. So, to help you maximize your points potential, let’s try to make sense of the wild west that is Tier 3 midfielders.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Many different players have finished at the top of this tier in different weeks, which has made picking the right player so difficult of late, but there is one player who represents a constant amidst the chaos: Aaron Mooy.

The Huddersfield midfielder is coming off an incredible outing in Matchweek 13, which saw him rack up an impressive 35.9 points. While his two goals made up the majority of those points, he still would have scored a personal high of 15.9 without them. This is very important when considering Mooy’s value, as he is unreliable as a goalscorer, having never scored more than four goals in a season in England. While this would be a damning indictment for many players in our game, Mooy shrugs it off without issue and continues to post solid weeks regardless.9

The Australia international has been the driving force for Huddersfield ever since he arrived in West Yorkshire in 2016-17. During his debut season in the Championship, he not only helped ensure promotion for the Terriers, but also boasted the unique accomplishment of leading his club in both chances created and tackles won. Once he reached the Premier League, Mooy demonstrated these skills yet again as the only player in the league who created more than 50 chances while also winning 60 tackles. The players that led those categories in the league last season were Kevin De Bruyne and Idrissa Gueye respectively, which should help offer context into just how strange and unique Aaron Mooy is as a player.

This diverse skill set was put to fantastic use last season as, in the ESPN game, Mooy would have finished as the fifth best midfielder outside of the top six clubs, and the 28th best outfielder overall. He averaged a very respectable 9.8 points per game, finishing top 25 in a third of our 15 scoring categories. This ability to impact matches in so many different ways gives Mooy an incredibly high floor in fantasy, and makes him a guaranteed starter for Huddersfield.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

These traits certainly have not escaped the eye of manager David Wagner who, realizing Mooy’s broad skillset, has already utilized him at four different positions this season. Impressively, this constant change in usage has yet to negatively impact his usefulness to the club, nor his fantasy value, as he’s averaging between 7.5 and 13.5 points per game regardless of position. Basically, he brings value so long as he’s on the pitch, and he almost always is having logged more minutes than any another midfielder at the club over the past two seasons.

Le’Veon Bell’s bitter divorce with Steelers was years in the making


Privately, a faction of the Steelers wanted no distractions after a 2017 season that couldn’t escape them. The team survived a divisive Week 3 anthem sit-out in Chicago, Antonio Brown’s Week 4 sideline flare-up, the loss of Ryan Shazier to a spinal injury and James Harrison’s clumsy exit on the way to a 13-3 season. But the year was long, and the days before a playoff loss to Jacksonville featured Bell’s sit-out comments and a Sports Illustrated story quoting safety Mike Mitchell saying Pittsburgh would beat New England in a rematch.

Teammates valued Bell as a great player and vibrant locker room personality, but they also knew he makes his feelings known on social media. So, on the Monday of Week 1, they made sure not to bash Bell publicly to avoid any clap-back fuel from the player.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

When Wednesday of that week arrived and Bell wasn’t there, several offensive linemen didn’t hesitate to call him selfish. Even if Bell came back, they knew it was pretty much over.9

“After Week 1, there was a calm in this locker room,” guard David DeCastro said. “It had kind of passed. We knew what we had to do. Do our best job, so there were no questions about ‘what if.’ It gave us a chip on our shoulders naturally.”

Things became clouded after that. Bell planned to return in the Week 7-8 period, but something changed. Many believed the Oct. 30 trade deadline became a factor, though the Steelers never got a legitimate offer for Bell. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Bell and the Steelers discussed a deal that would have Bell report if the team promised not to tag him in 2019, which the team couldn’t promise. The Athletic reported earlier this month that Bell got “new info” in the week before the reporting date that the franchise tag would be too steep (more than $25 million) for the Steelers to use, thus affecting his plans.

Even as of Week 10, though, china nike nfl jerseys cheap Bell was in Pittsburgh and team president Art Rooney II left the door open for Bell to enter.

Now, the stage is set for tense divorce proceedings, and both sides are gunning for the house.

OKC rookie Hamidou Diallo has scary fall but avoids serious leg injury


Despite leaving the floor on a stretcher against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Hamidou Diallo did not suffer any kind of serious leg injury, a team spokesperson said.

The initial fear was a severe injury to his left leg, possibly a break, but X-rays done at the arena were negative. After further evaluation Thursday, the team reported Diallo has a left ankle sprain and will be re-evaluated in 7-10 days.

“I was hoping, praying it was nothing too serious, that it wasn’t his knee,” George said. “I think we can all say it’s the best news that it was his ankle and it was a sprain.“cheap official nike nfl jerseys

Diallo exited the locker room with a boot on his left foot and using crutches, but he was in good spirits after getting what was pretty surprising news considering how scary the play looked.9

Early in the fourth quarter, Diallo jumped for a rebound in transition. After landing, Warriors forward Jonas Jerebko landed awkwardly on Diallo’s legs. Diallo immediately began rolling on the floor in pain and moved himself off the court and under the basket. Teammates had their heads in their hands and appeared visibly shaken by the injury.

“When guys go down, we’re a family here and we have to have our brother’s back, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

After Diallo’s injury, the Thunder rallied and blew the game open against the Warriors with a 36-16 fourth quarter en route to a dominant 123-95 win. Dennis Schroder led the way with 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting, with George adding 25 points and Westbrook producing his first triple-double of the season (11 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists).

Diallo, a second-round pick, has been a bright spot for the Thunder, securing a steady spot in the rotation as a defensive spark plug. He started in place of Terrance Ferguson on Monday against the Sacramento Kings and scored 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting in a loss.

The Thunder have been hit with a wave of injuries in their backcourt recently. After getting Westbrook back from an ankle sprain, guard Alex Abrines has missed the past three games with an illness, and Ferguson exited in the first half against the Warriors and did not return because of a left ankle sprain.

Packers’ season on brink after another loss in Seattle


Another game in Seattle, another potentially season-wrecking loss.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

There won’t be any catchy name for this one like the 2012 Fail Mary or the 2014 NFC Championship Game collapse.

But had the Green Bay Packers won, it might have become known as “The Robert Tonyan Game.” Or “The Kyler Fackrell Show.”

And they would have been the most unlikely heroes in recent Packers history.10

Instead, Tonyan’s 54-yard touchdown catch on his first NFL reception and Fackrell’s three-sack game will be nothing more than a one-off (or in this case, two-off) bright spot in a game — and season — that was just another wasted opportunity.

If the Packers end up missing the playoffs, they might view Thursday’s 27-24 loss to the Seahawks as one of the reasons. Green Bay entered the game with a 43 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN’s FPI. At 4-5-1 with six games to play, that dropped to 31 percent. Considering the Packers play at Minnesota a week from Sunday night, they’re streaking toward postseason elimination.

When asked after the game if there’s still hope left for this season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, after some prompting, said:

“What am I supposed to say? Of course there’s hope,” he said. “Of course we believe in each other. It’s going to take one galvanizing moment. Whether that’s a speech or at practice or something happens in the game, something’s got to get this thing going. I thought we had moments tonight where that was the way we were going.”

Sure, the Packers could lose at Minnesota but still win their final five games to finish at 9-6-1. The most difficult game in that final quintet is at Chicago in Week 15. But their margin for error is now next to nothing. And, as coach Mike McCarthy always says, you can’t talk about the playoffs until you get to 10 wins.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Think the Packers didn’t sense what was at stake on Thursday?

Roll back the video on Rodgers after he was sacked on third down midway through the fourth quarter. Visibly upset after suffering a fifth sack, Rodgers surely sensed the field goal the Packers settled for with 8 minutes, 23 seconds left in the game that gave them a 24-20 lead — after Rodgers hit Davante Adams for a 57-yard bomb — wasn’t going to be enough.

Mexico must shake off delays, off-pitch issues and focus on Argentina


For any potential incoming Mexico manager combing through the domestic press and taking the temperature of the game in the North American country over recent weeks, the overall conclusion wouldn’t be particularly positive.

Last week, the government’s watchdog agency on monopolies began a formal investigation into Liga MX’s transfer practices. That comes on top of the government tax authority’s ongoing investigation into players signing “double contracts” with clubs.

Then there appears to be a kind of lingering hangover from the World Cup. The team has operated in a bunker-like menality during the subsequent international breaks with little access given to the traveling press.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap10

And there are suspicions that at least part of the reason why Javier Hernandez, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado and Hector Moreno haven’t been called into the squad since Russia is because of friction over how the national team operates.

“Those that don’t come will have their reasons,” said defender Edson Alvarez in a news conference on Wednesday ahead of the first of two friendlies against Argentina. “They are people that maybe have had a long run [in the national team]. When they were starting I’m sure they didn’t want to miss a call-up.”

Even the news of the cancelation of next Monday’s NFL game at Estadio Azteca due to the abysmal pitch conditions reflected badly on Mexican football, given that Club America and Cruz Azul — two of Mexico’s top clubs — will be playing potentially championship-defining matches on it in a couple of weeks.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

On top of that have come problems in Cordoba this week. Players endured nightmare journeys due to the poor weather and the team’s training session on Tuesday took place in a local indoor gym because the bus carrying the team’s equipment had broken down on route from Buenos Aires.

That wasn’t actually the federation’s fault, but still, the reports go out into the public and the actual details can get lost.

Finally, the search for a new head coach rumbles on. Quique Sanchez Flores is the latest to apparently turn down the possibility and Gerardo “Tata” Martino remains the frontrunner.

Larry Fitzgerald moves into second on all-time receiving-yards list


Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals’ star wide receiver, passed Terrell Owens for second on the NFL’s all-time receiving-yardage list Sunday with a 15-yard catch late in t̄he fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs.

He now has 15,952 yards and counting in 15 seasons. Only Jerry Rice sits ahead of Fitzgerald with 22,895 yards.

Owens, who’s a close friend of Fitzgerald’s, is now third with 15,934.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“His friendship and my relationship with him is invaluable to me,” Fitzgerald said. “Means a great deal to me and to be mentioned in the same breath with him, it means a lot to me. It’s frustrating that it comes in another loss.”

Arizona lost to Kansas City 26-14 to fall to 2-7.9
Fitzgerald’s first catch of the game came early in the third quarter, a 5-yard play that moved him to 15,907 yards — 28 from passing Owens. Fitzgerald added 13 yards with 10:08 left in the third. A 4-yard catch with 1:11 left in the third moved Fitzgerald within 11 to pass Owens.

The play that moved Fitzgerald into second came on a first-and-10 from the 50 with 4:01 left in the game and Arizona trailing 26-14.

He finished with six catches for 50 yards.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

“I’m not really thinking about it now,” Fitzgerald said. “This is something I’ll think about when I’m done playing. I can look back and reflect on it at a later time but today is not the day. It’s nice to be able to do that and to be able to do that with the same team, to have so many wonderful teammates that continue to fight regardless of our record.”

His teammates, however, continued their admiration for Fitzgerald’s career.

“It’s really cool to play with a legend like that,” quarterback Josh Rosen said. “I’m really happy for him. We All know how hard he works. Really happy for him.”

Wide receiver J.J. Nelson, who has played with Fitzgerald since 2015, said he doesn’t need to wait to appreciate what Fitzgerald has accomplished. He can do it now, watching him every day, rather than wait for 10, 20, 30 years to see him go into the Hall of Fame or put is career into perspective.

Joe Horn thanks Michael Thomas for cellphone celebration, buys his jersey


Joe Horn said he was watching Sunday’s game when New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas channeled the most memorable moment of Horn’s career: pulling a cellphone from the bottom of the goalpost to celebrate a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

When asked for his reaction, Horn responded with a Muhammad Ali quote.

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life,” Horn said. “That’s what I want to say.”

Horn and Thomas don’t know each other well. Horn said Thomas didn’t tell him the celebration was coming. But he said it “absolutely” meant a lot to him, and he called Thomas “my hero.”10

Horn said he texted Thomas and “thanked him for doing what most athletes in his position would never do.”
Horn, a Saints Hall of Famer who caught 50 touchdown passes for the franchise from 2000-06, will forever be remembered for his controversial 2003 touchdown celebration, which resulted in a $30,000 fine in an era when receivers such as Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Horn were regularly coming up with elaborate celebrations. The penalty was harsher because it was Horn’s second offense of the season, and the NFL reportedly considered suspending him.

Thomas was penalized for using a prop in his celebration, too, and he should also expect a fine, though likely a more lenient one as a first offense.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Horn was criticized by his own coach and general manager for being selfish at the time. Likewise, Saints coach Sean Payton didn’t give his approval to Thomas’ celebration, saying he wasn’t “fired up” by it, though he was quick to praise Thomas for how well he played. Thomas had 12 catches for 211 yards in the Saints’ 45-35 win.

When asked if he thinks he was more praised or criticized for his original celebration, Horn said, “I was criticized more for it because back when I did it, that was nothing that was expected. But I was more loved for it from the people who loved me and cared about me, my teammates.”