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Here’s hoping: LeBron, Simmons still a chance for Melbourne showdown

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Marvel Stadium could be the stage for a dream match-up between NBA superstars LeBron James and Ben Simmons when Team USA take on the Australian Boomers in a highly-anticipated FIBA World Cup warm-up series.

More than 90,000 tickets have been sold for the two-match series to be held in August as teams prepare for the World Cup that kicks off in China on August 31.

USA Basketball national team director Sean Ford and Basketball Australia acting chief executive Paul Maley led a delegation that toured the Docklands facility on Tuesday afternoon.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Ford outlined the difficulties involved in assembling a roster of NBA superstars, but is hopeful James, an unabashed fan of incoming coach Gregg Popovich, will opt to play.10

“I think he would like to play for coach Popovich, but of all the athletes, LeBron probably has the most going on both on and off the court,” Ford said. “I mean we would love to have him … who wouldn’t, right?

Whether ‘King’ James is present for the August 22 and 24 games or not, Ford is confident there will be plenty of big-name NBA talent on show for the locals.

“It’s hard for us to say ‘These five or six guys will be here’,” he said. “I’m confident that we will have a quality team here with high-level NBA players … who exactly they will be I can’t say right now.”

Meanwhile, Simmons remains coy about his availability for the 2019 World Cup.

With a mega-dollar contract extension with Philadelphia 76ers in the offing, he has a lot to lose if he suffers a major injury playing for his country.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

“He is a 22-year-old and most of us can only comprehend a little bit of what his life is like,” Maley said. “He’s in the middle of a season where they are legitimately hopeful of going deep into the playoffs, then there’s contracts coming up and all sorts of things.

Celtics owner: ‘Worst February’ I can remember

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Count Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck among those disappointed with the team’s performance of late.

Speaking Saturday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Grousbeck said the Celtics just finished the “worst February” he can remember since taking over the team in 2002. The Celtics were 5-6 last month, including a finishing stretch in which they lost four straight games.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Grousbeck acknowledged that the Celtics aren’t necessarily worried about finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, adding that the team as constructed has “the capability of getting to the Finals.”1

“We also have the capability of losing in the first round,” Grousbeck said, according to Boston.com. “We have a very, very good set of opponents in the East, all of whom have beaten us in the last month.”

Grousbeck’s uncertainty echoes comments that some of his team’s players have made during the season. Amid that losing stretch to finish February, guard Marcus Smart said the team is “just not together,” while Kyrie Irving has more than once discussed the need for some of the younger Celtics players to mature and understand their roles.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Heading into Sunday’s game against the Houston Rockets (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the Celtics (38-25) sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for fourth and home-court advantage in the first round.

“I really have a lot of hope for these guys,” Grousbeck said. “I give us a chance. I don’t think anybody wants to play us in the playoffs. I really do think, after 16 years in the league, that these guys still have a chance.”

Drew Brees bonds with Jared Goff, but not ready to pass torch

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Drew Brees and Jared Goff were at the Pro Bowl together last year — a fate both would like to avoid this time around.

But it provided a special bonding opportunity for the quarterbacks, who will now square off when the New Orleans Saints play host to the Los Angeles Rams in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game (3:05 p.m. ET, Fox).new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

Goff, 24, said he appreciated that Brees was willing to share insight on things like his warm-up routine and approach.

Brees, who turned 40 on Tuesday, said he was glad to have the chance to “pay it forward” after so many veteran quarterbacks helped him out early in his career — even though his Saints and Goff’s Rams seemed destined for this type of showdown for NFC supremacy.10

“Listen, I was a first-, second-, third-year player in this league at one point. And I had an incredible mentor in Doug Flutie in San Diego,” said Brees, who then went on a brief tangent on how Flutie “never got the respect he deserved” as “one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play professional football” across the NFL, USFL and CFL.

“And I’ve had other guys, too. I remember the Super Bowl run in ’09, having Trent Dilfer reach out to me, having Kurt Warner reach out to me — and throughout my career, especially early on in my career, I had a ton of guys that I would speak to. And I always appreciated that, I always felt like that made a difference.

“And I told myself at that time that hopefully I could play long enough to where there’s guys that start asking advice from me. And I want to make sure that I pay it forward just like those guys did.”

As for Goff, specifically, Brees said: “Oh man, he’s tremendous.“cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys

“There’s not many guys that are just better pure passers/throwers,” Brees said. “You watch what they do with their offense, there’s a lot of moving parts, and I think he handles it very, very well. He creates great timing and rhythm in the passing game. And obviously he had a phenomenal season last year, but he’s had an even better one this year. The future is really bright for him.”

Chiefs end home playoff curse, advance to AFC title game

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If the Kansas City Chiefs could have designed the way they will enter the AFC Championship Game, they would have drawn up their 31-13 divisional-round win against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Chiefs didn’t merely beat the Colts on Saturday, they used them as a launching pad. Kansas City will have a full head of steam going into next week’s game against the winner of the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots (1:05 p.m. ET, Sunday). The AFC title game will be in Kansas City for the first time.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said. “It’s something we feel as an organization we should have accomplished in recent history. Since Andy [Reid] came here, we’ve had a lot of shots. But finally we get a chance to win that AFC championship and to get to do it at home is so special for us.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

The victory was a big confidence boost for the Chiefs, particularly on defense. They played their best defensive game of the season, forcing the Colts to go three plays and punt on each of their first four possessions.10

The defense pitched a shutout until the Colts scored an offensive touchdown with less than six minutes left. The Colts scored their first touchdown on a blocked punt in the second quarter.

The Chiefs, who entered the game allowing 18 points a game at home, didn’t allow a touchdown in their final regular-season game, a 35-3 win against the Oakland Raiders.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Kansas City made some recent defensive lineup changes that seem to be working. Third cornerback Charvarius Ward and safety Jordan Lucas, who is starting in place of the injured Eric Berry, have played well over the past couple of games.

The Chiefs had been plagued by defensive penalties most of the season but against the Colts they had just one — a pass interference call against Ward with 41 seconds remaining. They had no defensive penalties against the Raiders.

“You could feel the energy all week,” Reid said. “I think some of the young guys are maturing right in front of our eyes and playing well. We added a couple of guys in there. … Everybody’s taking up their game.”

With the emphatic victory, the Chiefs buried their many playoff demons. They won at Arrowhead Stadium in the playoffs for the first time since January 1994. The streak included losses of one, two, three and four points.

Manchester United target Herrera, Mata, Young extensions – sources

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They have been free to negotiate with clubs outside England from Jan. 1 but United are confident they will reach agreements as negotiations continue.

Mata, 30, is keen to stay at Old Trafford but has been the subject of interest from a number of clubs in the Premier League and across Europe.cheap nfl nike jersey

Herrera would also like to stay and is prepared to snub interest from former club Athletic Bilbao to extend his contract. Herrera, according to a source, is happy playing under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after starting three of the Norwegian’s five games in charge. He was rested for the FA Cup victory over Reading and is expected to start against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday.11

Young, 33, is also open to staying but is keen to seek assurances about how many games he is likely to play. The full-back has options in Italy, Spain, the United States and China and has not ruled out playing abroad if it means getting regular first team football. After spending last season at left-back under former manager Jose Mourinho, Young has made himself the regular right-back with Luke Shaw taking over on the left.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Joel Pereira has returned early from a season-long loan spell at Vitoria Setubal. The 21-year-old is likely to head back out on loan before the end of the January transfer window.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah is also free to return to Old Trafford from Fulham after being told he is not in manager Claudio Ranieri’s plans. The Dutchman, 21, was due to spend the season at Craven Cottage but could now find a new club ahead of the second half of the campaign.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Sources have told ESPN FC that United also expect a number of under-23 players to head out on loan with Ethan Hamilton, Regan Poole and Ro-Shaun Williams among those who could secure a temporary move for the rest of the season.

Solanke transfer, like Neymar deal before it, could permanently distort the transfer market

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This may be the only time you will see Neymar’s and Dominic Solanke’s names appear in the same sentence, but the two forwards actually have something in common: Both men may have distorted the transfer market with their fees.

At £198 million, Neymar’s world-record move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2017 was a moment of financial folly that sent shockwaves through the game. The transfer was over £100m more than the previous record of £89.3m — set by Paul Pogba’s 2016 switch from Juventus to Manchester United — and it triggered a domino effect of similarly inflated deals. PSG went on to negotiate a £166m deal for Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe, following an initial 12-month loan period. Barcelona dipped into their Neymar cash by spending a potential £135m on Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele and then, six months later, splashed out a further £142m on Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

In a game flush with money at the top end of the market, those transfer fees were perhaps an inevitable consequence of the riches flowing through Europe’s biggest clubs. In fairness to the players involved — even Dembele and Mbappe, teenagers at the time of their big moves — they had all shone in the Champions League before making their moves. Even Bayern’s repeated bids for Chelsea youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi, an 18-year-old with high potential, look reasonable given the Bundesliga giant’s need for young talent, as does Chelsea spending nearly £60m for Christian Pulisic, a player with a track record in Germany and a skill set that will help the Blues over the long term.8

Yet Bournemouth’s move for Solanke feels significant in a different sense. It’s not unusual to see teams completing surprisingly expensive deals, but the Cherries’ £19m move for a player with one Premier League goal and just five starts since his Chelsea debut in 2014 feels significant for all the wrong reasons.nfl nike jersey cheap

Solanke cost Bournemouth less than a tenth of Neymar’s world record fee but it’s still a major outlay for a club of their stature; it could yet rise to an eventual £25m if the former Chelsea youngster is able to trigger £6m worth of incentivised add-ons.

The deal means that Solanke becomes the third-most-expensive English striker of all time behind Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney. Carroll ultimately flopped at Liverpool after his £35m move from Newcastle in January 2011, but he had at least proven himself in the Premier League at St James’ Park — Carroll had scored 33 goals in 90 league games for Newcastle — prior to his transfer. Rooney, who was just 18 when he completed a £30m move to United from Everton in August 2004, was a star for club and country before swapping Goodison Park for Old Trafford. He was also clearly a prodigious talent.

However, Solanke makes the top three on the list having scored just one Premier League goal during his time at Liverpool and Chelsea. The 21-year-old started five league games in a season-and-a-half under Jurgen Klopp at Anfield (also making 16 substitute appearances) and did not appear at all in the Champions League. At Chelsea, he never kicked a ball in the Premier League and became a symbol of the club’s failure to promote its highly rated youth-team prospects.

On fast track: Lamar Jackson set to become youngest QB to start in playoffs

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Now, Jackson not only is suiting up for a postseason game in his eighth career start, he’s making NFL history: He will become the youngest quarterback ever to start an NFL playoff game.

The fact he will be the first quarterback to start a playoff game before his 22nd birthday has seemed to impress everyone except Jackson himself.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

“I’m here to play football. I was 21 all year,” Jackson said. “So, it’s another game for me.”

Jackson will start Sunday’s wild-card game between the Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers at 21 years, 364 days. He will surpass Bernie Kosar, who was 22 years, 40 days old when he started for the Cleveland Browns and threw his first touchdown pass in a 1985 postseason game to Ozzie Newsome (who drafted Jackson 33 years later).

Young quarterbacks have recorded mixed success in the postseason. Since 2001, only four quarterbacks 23 years old and under have won a playoff game (Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Flacco and Mark Sanchez). Over that span, quarterbacks 23 and younger have a 10-11 record (.476) in the postseason.9

Jackson shows his youthful exuberance on the field, from dancing in the huddle to somersaulting into the end zone. But the Ravens don’t think too much about Jackson’s age. Players and coaches have praised Jackson for his poise in going 6-1 as a starter this season.

“Lamar’s maturity has impressed me greatly,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Players see it when he walks around. He’s very comfortable with who he is. That’s a sign of maturity, for sure.”

In comparison, Jackson will be making his eighth career start, while Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will be starting in his 10th postseason game.

When Jackson and Rivers, 37, square off, it will be the third-largest age gap between starting quarterbacks for an NFL postseason game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Jackson was only 7 years old when Rivers threw his first NFL pass, against the Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 2, 2005.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

But Jackson appears unnerved by his whirlwind season. At this time last year, Jackson was playing in the TaxSlayer Bowl. He’s now three wins from reaching the Super Bowl.

“It’s just a name — ‘the playoffs,'” Jackson said. “You’re trying to get the championship now. It was for us to get in it, and we’re in it now, so we want the big thing. We want the big thing now.”

Sony Michel proves he’s the key to the Patriots’ offense

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The New England Patriots are widely viewed as a contender because of the presence of head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski — three of the best ever at what they do.nfl cheap jerseys nike

But the key for the 2018 Patriots to achieve their championship hopes just might be rookie running back Sony Michel.

The first-round draft choice from Georgia, No. 31 overall, was the best player on the field in the Patriots’ 27-13 victory over the New York Jets. His 133 rushing yards were the most by a Patriots player since Jonas Gray totaled 201 in the 2014 season.

“Coach kind of gave us a challenge this week, on being able to run the football – consistently,” Michel said.

Belichick’s challenge reflected how when Michel gets going on the ground, it takes the burden off Brady, Gronkowski, receiver Julian Edelman and others in the passing game.8

Simply put, he settles things down.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Michel’s breakthrough was among the best news for the Patriots from Sunday’s win, which wasn’t as decisive of an overall performance as they hoped to deliver coming off their bye — red-zone struggles on offense, in particular, were notable.

But proving they can successfully turn to the running game — especially as the weather in the Northeast is getting colder and adverse weather conditions are a more likely possibility — is an important ingredient for most teams with championship hopes.

“Any time you can run the ball like we did, it helps a lot of things. You have to play the run, play-action [passes], and we had some chunks [of big plays],” Brady said.

“It always opens up everything else. It keeps you out of those long-yardage situations, which we have been in the last couple weeks,” echoed Belichick.

The Patriots topped 200 yards rushing as a team to improve to 8-3, keeping pace with the AFC’s top seed, the 9-2 Chiefs. The Steelers (7-3-1) and Texans (7-3) are also in the mix.

Pistons stun Raptors after Dwane Casey’s warm welcome back to Toronto

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A video tribute to fired coach Dwane Casey on his return to Toronto earned a standing ovation from Raptors fans Wednesday night — then Casey’s Detroit Pistons went on to come back and stun his former team with a buzzer-beater.

When Pistons swingman Reggie Bullock hit a floater as time ran out to secure a 106-104 win, Casey thrust his arms in the air and jumped onto the court. The coach was grabbed and hugged and slapped by his players.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

“They were pulling for me,” Casey said. “I appreciate that tremendously. It’s a players league. It’s about the players — it’s not about coaching. But again, it’s about human beings. And those human beings, they felt for me. Telling me — I was trying to deflect it as much as they could, but you know, Blake [Griffin] was the first one. He said, ‘This is a great win for you, Coach.’ And that means something, when your star player comes to you and tells you that, and other players join in.”9

The Pistons had come from 19 points down to win their third game in their past four outings.

“I felt good for the players because they kept scrapping, and that’s who we are,” Casey said.

Casey, 61, was fired by Toronto just days after the Raptors were ousted from the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third consecutive season.nike jerseys nfl cheap

After leading Toronto to a team-record 59 wins and the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season, Casey also was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year — after his firing.

Casey said that while he did not see the video tribute — Griffin told him about it — he appreciated the gesture.

Manchester City have edge over Liverpool, Chelsea due to squad – Fernandinho

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Manchester City’s depth of talent could give them the edge in the Premier League title race, according to midfielder Fernandinho.

Last season, City finished as champions on 100 points — 19 clear of nearest challengers Manchester United. However, with just two points separating the top themselves, Liverpool and Chelsea after 10 matches, many are predicting a much tighter race this time around.

And Fernandinho said Monday’s 1-0 win at Tottenham demonstrated the depth of City’s squad, and the Brazilian believes it could prove crucial over the busy Christmas period.nfl cheap jerseys nike

“Chelsea and Liverpool are very good teams,” the 33-year-old told ESPN Brasil, when asked if he expected a stronger challenge this time around. “Without doubt they are candidates, who are fighting for the title.

“Our aim is to fight with them, if they are still at the top of the table in March or April. We know that the period we have coming up: November, December is really important for the squad.10

“Our squad could make the difference. Everybody knows the games over Christmas are difficult, with the rhythm dropping, players tiring, It is a time when a lot of teams drop points.

“We are very focused. We know how things work in the Premier League and today [against Tottenham] was a demonstration of that.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Despite being lauded for their attacking intent under Guardiola, City’s defence has been key to their unbeaten start to the campaign with the Wembley shutout their sixth consecutive Premier League clean sheet.

And Fernandinho said that, given the conditions of the pitch — which had been used for an NFL match between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars just two days earlier — the way they played was far less important than leaving the stadium with three points.

“The result today was much more important that the team’s performance,” Fernandinho said. “We scored a really early goal after a good piece of individual skill by [Raheem] Sterling which was finished really well — and this made everything so much easier for us because, for both teams, it was very difficult to create any kind of opening.

“After the goal, we defended well, created lots of chances. I think this win was extremely important for us to stay at the top of the table.”