With Fred Davis out for the year, Redskins plan to re-sign Chris Cooley

21 Oct

The Washington Redskins' offense took a big hit on Sunday when they lost tight end Fred Davis for the season to a torn Achilles tendon during their 27-23 loss to the New York Giants. According to a source who spoke to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the Redskins will respond to the loss of one of Robert Griffin's primary targets by re-signing Chris Cooley, who caught 428 passes for the team in eight seasons.

Davis led the team with 23 receptions and 30 targets for 312 yards. Cooley, who was released by the Redskins in late August, has said that he believes a return to the Redskins was possible under the right circumstances.

"The way it looks to me is if something happens here, they would love to have me," Cooley told the Post last month. "If Fred gets hurt or something like that, I think I'd be the guy they sign. I think that."

Cooley played in just five games in 2011 before finger and knee injuries ended his season. He caught just eight passes for 65 yards, both career lows. Cooley had said in 2012 that his knee was fine, but the Redskins used him primarily at fullback in the preseason. While Cooley had interest from other NFL teams during his hiatus, he wanted to avoid signing a veteran minimum contract.

"If they call me at some point this season, that's great," Cooley said of the Redskins last month. "If they don't, that's fine too. I'm not going to worry about it too much. I'm happy with what I've done here. If satisfied with my career. If I don't play again, that's how it is. I'll go through the season and see what the offers are. I'll go through free agency and see if there's interest. If I'm not playing at that point, I'll see about whether to retire or not."

For the time being, as long as Cooley passes the physical he'll reportedly take tomorrow, he'll have to put that retirement on hold. He has familiarity with Griffin after working with him in the preseason, and he could be a real asset if healthy and used in the right ways. Washington's offense with Griffin has been a catch-all of backfield formations, and Cooley has always been a very schematically diverse player.

During his brief time with Griffin, Cooley came away impressed, comparing the rookie quarterback to the late safety Sean Taylor in Griffin's ability to make an immediate impact.

"I haven't seen anything from him [Griffin] to say that he's a rookie," Cooley told the Post in early August. "I never see doubt in that kid's mind."

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Rookie Nicholson shines, Magic beat Spurs 104-100 (Yahoo! Sports)

21 Oct

Orlando Magic power forward Gustavo Ayon (19), of Mexico, drives to the basket past San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21) during the first half of an NBA preseason game, Sunday,Oct. 21, 2012, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Rookie Andrew Nicholson scored 18 points and Glen Davis added 17 to help the Orlando Magic beat the San Antonio Spurs 104-100 Sunday night in preseason action.

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Scott, Johnson lead Atlanta past Mavericks (Yahoo! Sports)

20 Oct

Atlanta Hawks guard Devin Harris (34) shoots over an off-balance Dallas Mavericks forward Jae Crowder (9) during the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ATLANTA (AP) -- Rookie Mike Scott scored 17 points, Lou Williams and Ivan Johnson had 13 apiece and the Atlanta Hawks beat the depleted Dallas Mavericks 110-94 in a preseason game on Saturday night.

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Tour Report: Kokrak eyes big Sunday (PGA Tour)

20 Oct
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Jason Kokrak has a little more incentive than usual to go low on Sunday. A bunch of his buddies are planning a Mexican vacation in early November and the 27-year-old PGA TOUR rookie wouldn’t mind putting his feet up and enjoying a cold beverage on the [...]
Tags: Bill Cooney, , incentive, ISLAND, Jason Kokrak, , , PGA Tour rookie, , , , ,
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Cavs exercise option on Kyrie Irving (Yahoo! Sports)

19 Oct
CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cavaliers have exercised their team option on guard Kyrie Irving, the NBA's reigning Rookie of the Year.
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Dirk Nowitzki’s knee surgery will keep him out six weeks, and it was a long time coming

19 Oct

Larry Bird played 41,329 minutes in his career, combining playoff and postseason totals, and his body was an absolute wreck by the time it was over. Oscar Robertson managed 47,559 minutes in his legendary turn, and he was just sort of hanging on at the end. Michael Jordan put up 48,485, and you saw how he looked from 2001 to 2003, because every one of those bloody Washington Wizards games was on national TV.

Dirk Nowitzki, who just underwent arthroscopic surgery on his bothersome right knee that will keep him out for six weeks, is already at 43,595 career minutes; and he'll be asked to lead a hopefully reformed Dallas Mavericks right back into the championship hunt one last time during the 2013-14 season (this season, more or less, is an 82-game holding pattern with hopes for a surprise at the end). Kobe Bryant is at an astonishing 51,018 in his career, and he'll be the focal point late in games for championship contenders both next spring and over a year and a half from now. Kevin Garnett is at 50,600; and Celtics fans badly want another shot at the Finals before the wheels fall off, which is why KG is signed through 2014 with partial guarantees through 2015.

[More NBA: Will Lakers go after LeBron when Kobe retires?]

Teenagers that entered the NBA during the 1990s had a lot going for them. Garnett (as a high schooler), Kobe (as a high school guard, something that was dismissed in the wake of Garnett and Moses Malone's jump from preps to pros) and Nowitzki (as an international project) were all groundbreakers in significant ways; and on top of that noise, due to their brilliance, almost immediately they were playing big minutes with postseason participants. Toss in the ever-expanding NBA playoff format, and some good luck with health for the first decade or so, and the minutes piled up. Sure, they got their first big contract a few years earlier than Oscar, Larry and Michael; but they also had their knee first drained at ages that no athlete should have to consider.

Dirk has been the luckiest of the triptych, only counting an unfortunately timed knee sprain in the 2003 playoffs and a malaise-inspired trip through the 2011-12 campaign as his only injury or conditioning missteps. All the while, the Mavericks have taken an intelligent extended view of Nowitzki's progress — sticking with him after a tough rookie year, refusing to put him back on the court in 2003, and writing off that championship defense in 2011-12 while considering the possibilities of pairing Dirk with either Dwight Howard or Deron Williams as it worked back to the top of the heap in 2012-13.

Instead, Dirk got Darren Collison. And surgery, which will keep him out of the season's first month, and keep Nowitzki a little hesitant as he throws his 7-foot frame around for a few weeks after. It's his first time under the knife, and no amount of veteran know-how can prepare you for those first uneasy strides upon the return.

[Also: Lakers planning for Dwight Howard to play Sunday]

How it affects the Mavericks will be discussed next week in our Dallas season preview, but the quick and obvious take is the correct one — Dirk is the team's best player, by far, and the squad's spacing and movement come as a result of the attention paid to its best player from that high elbow. It's true that Chris Kaman's perimeter marksmanship will help, and we trust Rick Carlisle with coaching adjustments as much as any man in the NBA, but the Mavs will struggle. In spite of the team's 3-1 record (with victories over the middling Suns, Hornets, and similarly-successful Jazz; and a loss to the Timberwolves) without Nowitzki last season.

In terms of experiments, the high school influx from 1995 to 2005 went quite well. Players like Tracy McGrady and Andrew Bynum have endured their fair share of career-defining ailments, but you get the sense those would have set in just as early had they worked through a year or two at North Carolina or Kansas. It truly is remarkable that, with over 145,000 career regular and postseason minutes between Kobe, Dirk and KG, we're still looking at these three as franchise players who would stand tallest amongst all the confetti come June.

Consider that, before fretting about orthopedic shoes.

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Ball Don’t Lie’s 2012-13 NBA Season Previews: The Cleveland Cavaliers

19 Oct

For the first time in two years we'll have an orthodox, full-length NBA season to look forward to. No lockout nonsense, and precious little obsession as to whether or not LeBron James will ever win the big one. He's won it, already, and our sanity as NBA followers is probably better off as a result. However big that shred of sanity is remains to be seen, following yet another offseason that once again proved that the NBA is full of Crazy McCrazytons that appear to take great delight in messing with us continually.

As a result of that offseason, and the impending regular season, why not mess with Ball Don't Lie's triptych of Kelly Dwyer, Dan Devine and Eric Freeman as they preview the 2012-13 season with alacrity, good cheer, and bad jokes.

We continue with the stylishly outfitted Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kelly Dwyer's Kilt-Straightener

The Cleveland Cavaliers, once again, are a farm team. But unlike the one that put up with LeBron James' growing pains and hanger-on demands before he skirted off to Miami, this one is essentially acting as a growing field for whatever the team's front office decides will come next. The team's rotation is almost entirely filled with players on rookie scale contracts, and while a good chunk of those youngsters won't bowl you over, they have enough star guard Kyrie Irving to make up for any misgivings you might have about two-through-12.

Irving is an unabashed star. You could probably score on him in a pick and roll, and he doesn't have John Stockton's career assists record shaking in its mid-cut sneakers, but the kid is an All-Star level scorer and game-changer. Because he shot so well and scored in so many different types of ways during his rookie season, you don't fear the sort of stagnation  that hampered John Wall's disappointing second season; or, to a far lesser extent, Derrick Rose's second season. To work that smoothly which such little help as a teenager while turning in the sort of rookie season he managed in 2011-12? You might want to make Cleveland one of your five League Pass selections this year.

The other youngsters have a lot of explainin' to do, though.

Tristian Thompson produced well on the glass in his rookie year last season, but he seemed awkward and ill at ease at times in ways that seemed to go beyond the usual rookie hesitancy. Perhaps switching out the horrid defense of Antawn Jamison with the well-intentioned floposity of Anderson Varejao will aid in his development, but for now it looks like the Cavs used a high lottery pick on someone who could end up as a rebounding enthusiast to bring off the bench.

Dion Waiters? We've waited all summer on making too-early declarations about the guy based solely on his summer camp play or offseason training habits, so it wouldn't be wise to leave that policy behind when he's a few weeks away from making his own declarative statements on the court. His hole is already pretty deep, though — Cavs fans are anxious for this rebuilding to bear some fruit, and drafting a sixth man from a team that isn't the Kentucky Wildcats is a tough sell.

The easy sell? Look at the guy. This dude could turn out to be one of the toughest guards dem guards are charged with guarding.

From there? The double-A team, which even includes rookie big man Tyler Zeller. All manner of youngsters — from vets like Omri Casspi and C.J. Miles to fringier League Pass sensations like Jon Leuer and Alonzo Gee — that the team will have 82 games and loads of practice anecdotes to work with while they decide to decline or pick up options in the coming years.

Leading them all, and carping about those practice habits, will be Byron Scott. Scott has a very poor reputation as a leader of youth; it's true that self-starters like David West and Richard Jefferson have improved under his watch, but the difference between a good coach and great leader is the ability to pull great things out of someone like, say, Dion Waiters. Should we be predicting the next two years of Cleveland's fortunes based on the fact that J.R. Smith's father is a real piece of work? Probably not, but Scott has some proving to do that goes well beyond his ability to improve a young team's defense and make sure its homework is turned in on time.

This is a two-year plan, by the way. Next summer the Cavs will have six (six!) qualifying offers to decide upon, as well as a spate of expiring contracts and loads of cap space. They're going to have to pounce and pounce hard in order to give something to Kyrie Irving to want to come to work with, and pull it off way better than Danny Ferry did after LeBron James' second season in 2005. Even with that hometown discount in hand, you'll recall, LeBron only signed a limited extension.

Until then, mild growth. Nothing to sell to season ticket-holders, but you tend not to care about such things when Kyrie Irving gets to suit up for 82 games between October and late April.

Projected record: 34-48

Fear Itself with Dan Devine

It is tonally appropriate that the NBA season tips off just before Halloween -- because on any given night, each and every one of the league's 30 teams can look downright frightening. Sometimes, that means your favorite team will act as their opposition's personal Freddy Krueger; sometimes, you will be the one suffering through the living nightmare. In preparation for Opening Night, BDL's Dan Devine considers what makes your team scary and what should make you scared.

What Makes You Scary: Kyrie Irving. The 19-year-old No. 1 overall draft pick and new Cleveland cornerstone responded to post-draft concern (including some from me, in our '11-'12 Cavs preview) that his 11-game college cameo at Duke had not adequately prepared him for the rigors of running point at the NBA level by promptly beginning to kick the league's ass, scoring 20 or more in seven of his first 12 games to lead Cleveland to a surprising 6-6 mark out of the gate. But while the young, relatively talent-poor and overwhelmed Cavs soon cooled and stumbled to the league's third-worst record, Irving kept up his stellar play. He finished the season averaging 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game in 51 appearances -- Rookie of the Year-winning numbers that sound good on their own, but look even better in context.

According to Basketball-Reference.com, only seven other players in NBA history have put up equal or better averages in their rookie seasons: Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Damon Stoudemire, Tyreke Evans and former Phoenix Suns big man Alvan Adams. All seven played more than 33 minutes per game as rooks, though; Irving averaged just 30.5. Pop his pace-adjusted numbers -- 21.8 points, 6.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds per 36 minutes of floor time -- into the Player Finder, and it's just the kid and the Big O, which isn't bad company to be in.

Irving was accurate, too, shooting 46.9 percent from the field, 39.9 percent from 3-point land and 87.2 percent from the line on the season. Only 36 players in NBA history (who have attempted at least 50 3-pointers, which helps control somewhat for guys that went 1-for-2 from deep or played short minutes) have matched those splits over a full year; among them, Irving was the only rookie. If he repeats that performance just once more during his career, he'll become one of 15 players to post multiple such seasons, joining elite shooters like Ray Allen, Larry Bird, Jeff Hornacek, Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Price and Peja Stojakovic. Which, again, isn't bad company to be in.

And while the Cavs weren't very good in close games -- they went 10-20 in contests in which they were tied or within five points of the lead with five minutes left, according to NBA.com's stat tool -- Irving was sensational when it counted. According to 82games.com's tracking, the rookie led the NBA in scoring during "clutch" time (defined by the site as "4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points") with a staggering average of 56.4 points per 48 minutes of "clutch" play on 54.4/66.7/89 shooting splits. You name your favorite late-game killer and Kyrie outpaced him. The rest of the top five: Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul. Again: Not bad company to be in.

So yes, Irving is good; more to the point, after leading the Select Team charge to beat the eventual gold medalists from Team USA during a pre-Summer Olympics scrimmage, he knows it. (Why else do you think he's so eager to take Kobe 1-on-1?) He's not all the way there -- we'd like to see that 1.74-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio get up above 2-to-1, and to crib a thought our Fearless Leader used in discussing Rajon Rondo during our Boston Celtics preview, it's hard to be considered the best point guard in the biz when you run the fourth least-efficient offense in the league -- but he's really close for a point guard after just one season.

There are only a handful of players whose mere presence on a roster makes a team a near-lock for a playoff berth virtually irrespective of the talent that surrounds them -- James, Paul, Dwight Howard, maybe Durant, maybe Wade, maybe Kobe. (Not that any of them have to go it alone anymore, natch.) I don't expect the Cavs to achieve their goal of making the playoffs this year -- there's just not enough talent or depth on the roster to make big enough leaps on either side of the ball to bridge the gap between a 26-win pace and the eighth seed. If they prove me wrong, though, I am convinced it will be because Irving has entered that group. Not bad company to be in, and pretty damn impressive to get there during a season that begins before he can legally drink.

What Should Make You Scared: That defense, again. NBA.com's stat tool, Hoopdata and Basketball-Reference all had Cleveland ranked 26th among 30 NBA teams in defensive efficiency last season; Synergy Sports Technology's play-tracking data actually thinks that's a bit high, pegging the Cavs as last year's third-worst defense in terms of points allowed per possession. In fact, Synergy's got Cleveland as the league's worst team at defending spot-up shots, third-worst at guarding the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations and second-worst at guarding the roll man, third-worst at checking dudes off cuts, and among the league's 10 worst on isolations, post-ups and preventing scoring off screens and offensive rebounds. (Weirdly, they ranked second-best in transition defense. Maybe the answer for Cleveland is to crank up that middle-of-the-league pace and turn every game into a track meet.)

A full (well, maybe full) season of Anderson Varejao, back from the broken right wrist he suffered in March, should help organize and solidify Cleveland's opposition. But it's not like 30-year-old post-injury Andy can be expected to impact the defense like Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett or Tyson Chandler would; more pieces are needed. No. 4 overall pick Dion Waiters excelled as a disruptive defender in Syracuse's 2-3 zone and could help on the perimeter, but what Cleveland could really use is a major defensive step from second-year forward Tristan Thompson.

The Texas product has length and athleticism for days, but posted relatively low block and steal rates, and failed to translate his gifts on the offensive glass (where he grabbed a higher share of available rebounds than noted board-crashers DeMarcus Cousins, Joakim Noah and Marcus Camby) to the defensive end (where his 16.8 percent defensive rebound rate ranked as well below average among NBA power forwards and centers). If he can't pair with Varejao to form a stronger defensive front line, Cleveland will again have a really hard time slowing opposing offenses ... and if Jonas Valanciunas, who was still on the board when the Cavs chose Thompson at No. 4 in the 2011 NBA draft, winds up being a defensive force for the Toronto Raptors in his first NBA season, it might get a little hot under the collars of Thompson, coach Byron Scott and general manager Chris Grant.

Eric Freeman's Identity Crisis

There is no more important asset for a basketball team than talent, and yet the more loaded squad does not always win. What we've seen in recent seasons isn't only that the best team wins, but that the group with the clearest sense of self, from management down through the players, prevails. A team must not only be talented, but sure of its goals, present and future, and the best methods of obtaining them. Most NBA teams have trouble with their identity. Eric Freeman's Identity Crisis is a window into those struggles, the accomplishment of realizing a coherent identity, and the pitfalls of believing these issues to be solved.

For their first post-LeBron season, the Cavs — via the astonishing actions of owner Dan Gilbert — became the NBA's loudest spurned lovers. It was not terribly attractive, an unhealthy combination of desperation and self-righteousness. Luckily for us, it was short-lived, in large part because of Kyrie Irving. The Cavs point guard is a genuinely electrifying talent: able to get into lane as adeptly as anyone in the NBA, agile in the open floor, explosive in tight spaces, etc. Assuming he improves at the expected rate, he'll lead Cleveland back to the postseason and farther away from their unfortunate past.

In other words, they will continue to define themselves positively rather than as an organization in opposition to, essentially, a void at the center of the franchise. The Cavs, to their credit, seem to have realized that complaining about one man is no way to creep back towards respectability, especially now that LeBron has become more popular than he was when the wounds of The Decision hadn't yet been cauterized.

It's necessary, too, because this Cavs team should be a lot of fun. Irving is the main draw, clearly, but watching Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters come into their own could be thrilling, too. Our job, insofar as we have one at all, is not to saddle this group with the weight of proving past Cavs wrong. They are not in moral opposition to the past — they're simply another kind of fun basketball team. Let them breathe.

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Tour Report: Fantasy Mailbag: McGladrey (PGA Tour)

17 Oct
By Rob Bolton, Fantasy Insider With his one-stroke triumph at the Frys.com Open, Jonas Blixt became the third rookie to win in 2012, following John Huh (Mayakoba Golf Classic) and Ted Potter, Jr. (The Greenbrier Classic). Naturally, with the penultimate tournament of the season contested this week, the discussion for Rookie of the Year is [...]
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Mike Trout wins 2 honors from Baseball America (Yahoo! Sports)

16 Oct
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Mike Trout is the first rookie to win Baseball America's player of the year award.
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Steelers suspend rookie Ta’amu 2 games (Yahoo! Sports)

16 Oct

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walks off the field after the Steelers' 26-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans in an NFL football game Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to turn around their season without any help from rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu.

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