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Blake Griffin era ends with sense of regret as Clippers look toward uncertain future

We had a nice run. But we didn’t get it done, Rivers said. You win 57 games a year and have multiple All-Stars, but the ultimate goal is to win a title as a group. We were fun and we were exciting, but didn’t get it done.

There was a sense of sadness and shock in the Clippers’ locker room the day after the trade. Rivers and his players seemed stunned by the news that their star player and leader was no longer around. The move clearly had an effect on some of the younger players who undoubtedly looked to Griffin as a mentor in the locker room.

At the end of the season, it’s still on my decision on what I need to do for my family. That has nothing to do with my happiness here, though, George said in a recent interview with USA Today’s Sam Amick. I’ve been really happy. It’s a great organization to be a part of, but again, you know, I don’t want people looking at this and (saying) like, ‘Hey, because he said it’s his happiness at the end of the day (that he’s definitely re-signing).’

Bargnani had two years and $23 million left on his deal and was coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. It was the type of contract that, under normal circumstances, the Raptors would have had to attach a first-round pick to as a sweetener to get a team to take it. The Knicks gave up a first and two seconds for a player who was never worth it, for no reason.

To add insult to injury: the trade was so widely panned that during the 2013-14 season, Knicks owner James Dolan pulled out of trade discussions with Toronto for Kyle Lowry because he was worried about the perception that he would get fleeced again by Raptors GM Masai Ujiri. The Knicks have done a lot of questionable things in the Dolan era, and this deal is right near the top of the list.

Rather than staying at Indiana for at least another year to prove he could make a full recovery, Anunoby declared for the 2017 NBA Draft and was selected by the Raptors with the 23rd pick in the first round. The Raptors entered the draft as a veteran team that could afford to swing big and give Anunoby the time he needed to make a return to full health.

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Once the trade deadline passes and the dust settles from the swapping of players and picks, teams assess what they do (and do not) need for the season’s stretch run. It has become a part of the yearly NBA process. Players that could not get moved via trade are bought out, and contending teams make their move.

Addition without subtraction �� it is the perfect model for successful franchises. Teams have the ability to add key pieces to strengthen their roster without moving players that have been integral to their success. This year has been no different.

Greg Monroe was one of the first candidates taken off the market, signing with the Celtics after being bought out by the Suns in January. The Rockets will receive an immediate boost once veterans Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright join the team following their buyouts.

As a competitor, you always want to receive the best rewards, he said. But you understand that it is a team sport, and you understand the better your team plays, the more you are rewarded. There are a lot of players who could have been voted into the All-Star game, a lot of players in the East and Western Conference, moreso the West.

But it’s the NBA, it’s tough and I feel like at some point, I will make the All-Star team.

Of course, that leads to the question �� as someone who is among the league leaders in perimeter shooting and averaging 21.7 points, would McCollum be an All-Star in the East?

Not necessarily as special as Kawhi Leonard, whom Anunoby has been compared to in the past because of how similar he was to Leonard coming out of college, but he’s someone who could be the second or third-best option on a competitive team.

The reason it’s difficult to project what kind of player Anunoby will be is because he is still incredibly raw on both ends of the floor. Nobody expected him to contribute as much as he has this season, though, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him exceed expectations once again.

The same goes for the pick swap between the Sixers and Celtics. It looks like a catastrophe right now, with Jayson Tatum showing star potential and Markelle Fultz in the midst of one of the most bizarre injury sagas in recent memory. But Fultz was the No. 1 pick in the draft for a reason, and it’s too early to write off his entire career. That deal could still be salvageable for the Sixers if he gets right.

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Colts expected to hire Josh McDaniels as head coach

The Indianapolis Colts are moving quickly on Josh McDaniels.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Monday that the Patriots offensive coordinator is expected to become the team’s next head coach when New England’s season comes to a close, according to sources.

Besides, the Colts opportunity gives McDaniels the chance to shift from tutoring Tom Brady to working with Andrew Luck. The Colts quarterback was lost all season to a shoulder injury, but is expected to return for 2018.

Assuming Luck surges back, McDaniels will march into battle in the AFC South with a young signal-caller who still has the chance to carve out a Hall of Fame career.

The Colts are missing pieces all over the roster, but Ballard has proven to be an aggressive operator in the front office and would make for an intriguing pairing with McDaniels.

Fans in Denver remember McDaniels floundering in his first head-coaching stint with the Broncos, a run that lasted less than two seasons (from 2009 into 2010) before he was fired by team ownership.

McDaniels has rebounded in New England, helping the club to a pair of Super Bowl wins while taking his time to pick another head-coaching destination. With Luck at his side, the ceiling is high in Indianapolis.

The Raiders are preparing a 10-year, $100 million contract for Gruden, Rapoport reported. Gruden’s coordinators will receive four-year deals, Rapoport added.

Gruden compiled a 95-81 record during his first run as an NFL head coach from 1998-2008. After coaching the Raiders for four seasons, owner Al Davis traded Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The coach guided the Bucs to their first and only Super Bowl title during the 2002 season. He won five divisional titles during his 11 combined seasons with the Raiders and Bucs.

Since 2009, Gruden has served as a color commentator for the ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcasts.

The energetic coach will now be tasked with turning around a mercurial Raiders team, led by quarterback Derek Carr, that fell to a disappointing 6-10 in 2017 after a 12-4 playoff trip in 2016.

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Dez Bryant on taking pay cut in 2018: ‘Hell, no, man’

Dez Bryant has played in 22 straight regular-season games without crossing the 100-yard mark through the air, the longest dry spell of his celebrated career.

Four days away from Sunday’s regular-season finale with the Eagles, the Cowboys receiver spoke at length about his frustrating season — and his utter reluctance to recraft his contract.

I haven’t heard no talks about that, but if it comes — well, I don’t know, Bryant said on taking a pay cut, before adding: Probably not. Hell, no, man. I believe in me.

Said Bryant: Probably at the time I should have focused on what I could control. I let a lot of things get in the way. I wish I didn’t. I feel like that affected, I know for a fact, some of my play.

The reader will determine if any of this self-analysis is valuable from a player none of us expected to verbally agree to a pay cut in late-December.

Bryant hasn’t been himself in 2017, but plenty of wideouts on the cusp of 30 find that to be true.

Set to make a whopping $13 million next season, we’ll find out soon enough how the Cowboys truly feel about the Dez Bryant Experience going forward.

Luck said he hopes to throw the ball again soon.

I’m preparing to throw the football, if that makes sense, he said. It’s a progression to get back to that point. A lot of it has to do with me. Getting my strength back to a high level — I still have a ways to go there. I don’t want to skip any steps along the way.

Added Luck: And I do not think I need another surgery. I’m on the right path, I think I’m on the right progression, trusting in that. So we’re in the process of preparing to throw the football.

Luck said he believes he will be able to participate in all football activities heading into the 2018 campaign.

I plan on being ready for everything, he said referring to the offseason schedule.

I don’t see [the 2018 season] being in jeopardy at all, Luck added.

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Giants officially hire Pat Shurmur as head coach

New York officially has its new leader of Big Blue.

The Giants have hired Pat Shurmur as head coach, the team announced on Monday.

Shurmur, 52, shot back up the ranks of head coaching candidates thanks to his work with career backup Case Keenum in 2017 as part of a Vikings team that won the NFC North and was one win from a Super Bowl berth. The coordinator conducted the league’s 10th-ranked scoring offense (23.9 points per game), and No. 11 unit in total yards per game (356.9) and passing yards per game (234.6), sparking the emergence of pass-catchers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen along the way.

Diggs and Thielen each finished in the top 25 in receiving yards as Minnesota’s offense evolved from ugly in 2016 to more than adequate in 2017. With much of it riding on the execution of Keenum and a retooled offensive line, the transformation was considered even more impressive of an achievement.

The Giants gig is Shurmur’s second head coaching job. He posted a 9-23 record with the Cleveland Browns from 2011-2012 before he was fired at the conclusion of his second campaign.

Payton pulled the stunt during the fourth quarter of his team’s 20-17 loss to Atlanta, aiming the gesture toward Freeman following a play that saw the runner wind up on the New Orleans sideline. The coach told reporters after the game that he had no memory of the incident, but reversed course on Wednesday.

It’s the same thing that we talk about with our players all of the time. It wasn’t good and I felt like as that game went on, it even affected me in calling plays, Payton said. I’ve got to [be] better that way. It was frustrating from some of the officiating. But you learn even when you’ve been in this thing as long as I have. It’s something that you regret and you look back on: ‘What are you doing?’ So, I think that’s the thing that bugged me for the better part of the week.

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Andrew Luck believes he’ll be ready for 2018 season

Andrew Luck believes he’ll be ready for work in 2018.

The Indianapolis Colts quarterback spoke to the media Friday for the first time since traveling to the Netherlands to work with a therapist on his injured throwing shoulder. Luck said he did not undergo a new procedure overseas and doesn’t think he’ll need another surgery.

I feel stronger, more stable, more confident in it. It’s better, Luck said.

The 28-year-old underwent surgery last January for an injury he initially suffered in 2015. He attempted to come back during the season but was shut down when his shoulder didn’t respond after light throwing.

We’ve heard such optimism from Luck and the Colts in the past. Nobody, not even the quarterback, knows how his body will respond until he ramps up his throwing regimen.

A somewhat melancholy Luck made it clear he misses his teammates and being on the football field.

Like any guy who is injured, it’s not easy to watch your teammates go play, he said. It feels weird, but I don’t feel like I’m part of this team right now.

The Colts and Luck hope he’s a big part of the team in 2018.

Bryant defended his on-field numbers, acknowledging he was frustrated with the offensive scheme and saying, per The Dallas Morning News, there were certain situations I couldn’t control.

Said Bryant: I’m a hell of a football player. I know that. I believe that.

The receiver revealed that he’s played through tendonitis since facing the Chiefs in early November, but also acknowledged he allowed in-season distractions to drag down his play.

I felt like a lot of times I looked damn good, Bryant said, per the team’s official website. Then, I’d get to thinking about certain things and — you know, it bothers me. That’s all I can say.

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Payton regrets choking gesture directed at Freeman

If he could do it all over again, Sean Payton wouldn’t have done it all.

The Saints coach acknowledged Wednesday that he regrets having made a choking gesture toward Falcons running back Devonta Freeman when both team clashed back in Week 14.

We are pleased to welcome Pat to our organization and look forward to the leadership he will provide for our team, team president John Mara and chairman Steve Tisch said in a release from the team. He has an outstanding track record in developing young players, and it is clear his players respond to his guidance and direction. We interviewed six talented and qualified candidates, and we feel like Pat, with his vision and experience, is the right person to lead our team.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported last week New York had closed in on Shurmur as the team’s next coach, but with the Minnesota Vikings still alive in the NFC Championship Game, the Giants had to wait until they were eliminated to make his hiring official. All of that came together with the events of Sunday and Monday.

From minor leaguers with major league hopes for the upcoming season to toolsy teenagers climbing through the farm system, who made the cut as we begin counting down baseball’s best prospects?

I don’t think any of this is a big coincidence: Teams can’t buy championships. They can buy a player or two to finish off a good roster, but the bulk of a pennant-winning roster comes from within, either through cheaper players the team developed from its farm system or veterans acquired by trading such prospects. This year’s prospect-rankings package continues with the top 50 prospects in the minors. For the first half of the list, click here.

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Ken Norton Jr. named Seahawks defensive coordinator

Ken Norton Jr. is reuniting with Pete Carroll.

With Kris Richard on his way out of Seattle, Norton is returning to the Seahawks as the team’s defensive coordinator, the team announced Tuesday. Norton served as the team’s linebackers coach from 2010-2014 before leaving to become Oakland’s defensive coordinator in 2015.

Norton has history with Carroll that stretches beyond the NFL. The former linebacker served as linebackers coach under Carroll at USC from 2004-2009 before leaving with Carroll for Seattle in 2010. The assistant rode the wave caused by Seattle’s defensive success to his defensive coordinator position with the Raiders, but after a second-straight disappointing season — even in Oakland’s 12-4 2016 campaign, the team finished 26th in yards allowed per game — he found himself on the way out alongside fired head coach Jack Del Rio.

Norton is returning to a familiar boss in a familiar place with a defense that is built to continue its upper-third play in 2018. That same unit retains proven personnel playing in a scheme Norton knows quite well, making this an ideal move for the coach who had to know this was a possibility all along, considering the reported terms of his contract.

It’s not going to hurt him for sure. He will learn from it, Reid said of the rookie, via ArrowheadPride.com. Every snap that he gets is a valuable snap for him whenever he has that chance of getting in there.

Reid added that Mahomes would get the first-team snaps in practice this week with Alex Smith leading the scout team. The veteran coach added he’d use the final game of the 2017 season to rest key starters and get other younger players besides Mahomes reps.

Reid said he’s not worried about the move to play Mahomes in the finale rankling Smith heading into the postseason.

Fortunately we have a quarterback who understands it, Reid said of Smith, per the Kansas City Star. He’s having an MVP caliber year.

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Koetter is the best guy to oversee that process for several other reasons.

Koetter acknowledges that Winston must continue working on reducing turnovers and not letting his drive to win spur excessive emotional outbursts like it did last week against Carolina and earlier this season in New Orleans. But nobody is quicker to defend Winston from what he perceives as unfair criticism about his leadership and maturity than Koetter.

The things he’s doing for a guy his age and experience are far beyond his years, Koetter said of the 23-year-old Winston. When you look at the tape, Jameis does a lot of good things. There are always things that have to get better.

As his rookie contract moves closer toward expiring, Bucs ownership must decide whether to offer Winston the kind of mega-deal that other young quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck, Derek Carr and Russell Wilson have signed. The evaluation process is far easier if Winston remains in the same offensive system, especially since he is undoubtedly making strides under Koetter and there are no guarantees he wouldn’t regress trying to master another playbook.

Such stability becomes even more important considering Winston is under NFL investigation after being accused of groping an Uber driver. If the league finds its personal conduct policy was violated and levies a perquisite six-game suspension, it will be far easier for Winston to pick up where he left off upon his return than trying to excel in a new scheme.

The Timberwolves beat the Lakers by 18 on Monday thanks both to Jimmy Butler’s 28 points and nine assists and Andrew Wiggins’ 21 points and nine rebounds.

Minnesota began the season a bit lukewarm but now finds itself 10 games above .500 at 24-14. It’s unclear if the Wolves will be able to sustain this streak with Jeff Teague’s knee injury, but almost 30 games into the season, it appears Minnesota is for real.

The Trail Blazers may have been short one of their stars, but the other stepped up when his team needed him.

C.J. McCollum went off against the surging Bulls for 32 points (albeit on 36.7 percent shooting) to power Portland to a 124-120 overtime win over Chicago. He scored 13 combined points in the final five minutes of regulation and in OT.

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Owens is a consistent hands-catcher and does a good job of adjusting his body to low throws and get his hands under the football.

Ultimately, Owens is a complete receiver, with a perfect blend of power and quickness and grades out as a fringe NFL starter.

Powell has great size and the majority of his bulk is distributed in his quads and base. Powell is an extremely strong player who has good athleticism and lateral movement ability, and he combines these two traits to stack and shed players at the line of scrimmage with ease.

Coutee possesses adequate size with outstanding foot speed with a second gear to run away from defenders in the open field. Coutee shows good ability to adjust his body to balls thrown behind him and demonstrates good leaping ability and kinesthetic sense.

Kelly offers tremendous upside at both safety and cornerback, both of which he has experience playing. Kelly flips his hips naturally without losing receiver or ball contact. He has some tackling inconsistencies and needs to be more physical in protecting against interior routes.

And, truth be told, only for the Lakers could we believe this possible, even if only slightly. Stick the general managers of the Cavaliers, Thunder, and Pelicans with truth serum and they’ll express some amount of fear of the Lakers. Fans of other teams so greedily celebrate the Lakers’ July failures because they fear a return to Lakers dominance. Kick them while they’re down, because you never know when they’ll stand back up and stomp you into the earth.

The fear is diminished with every losing season, and you have seen many in the Lakers fandom — legitimately one of the most diverse and smart fandoms in the NBA, no joke — embrace the reality of rebuilding from scratch. The plan from those in power, however, still hinges on the idea that the teams in 29th place plays by different rules. We’ll see.

In a case of bad timing, The Good Place returned to NBC last week with a scene in which Ted Danson’s character, Michael, says: Jaguars games are the only ones televised in the Bad Place because THEY SUCK.

Mande said while he was writing the first two seasons, he had just finished doing stand-up comedy shows in Jacksonville, which fueled his inspiration for the city and the team. He pondered the funniest contrast for the Jason Mendoza character, played by Manny Jacinto. On the show, Jason at first tried to convince everyone he was a Buddhist monk who had taken a vow of silence.

We thought, how about we make him a dirtbag from Florida who is an entrepreneur, a competitive dancer and a die-hard fan of this doomed franchise, Mande said. Mendoza’s dopey character is constantly ripped for his affection for the Jags and Bortles.

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