NFC playoff predictions 2017: How Seahawks will win a stacked conference

The NFC West has sent nine of its teams to the Super Bowl over the past dozen seasons. Only the Seahawks have made three trips during that span.

In 2017, the NFC East and NFC South are stronger overall divisions than the NFC West, which gives Seattle the path of least resistance to home-field advantage and its easiest ticket to a third conference title game in five years.

Here’s a look at how the regular season and postseason will play out for the Seahawks and the rest of the NFC.

The outburst helped Harden become the first player in NBA history to record two 50-point triple-doubles in a single season.

Joel Embiid tried to steal the headlines in his anticipated return to the lineup after being sidelined three games with a knee injury. The rookie center scored 32 points with seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.

Embiid was among the most obvious All-Star snubs, but Harden is right where he should be — starting for the West.

Pelicans duo Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis led a balanced attack that shocked the Spurs in a 119-103 win at home. Davis had 16 points and a whopping 22 rebounds, while Holiday pitched in with 23 points and 11 assists.

Why he fits: Yes, this is another longshot. It was a longshot even before the Brewers stumbled out of the gate in the second half and were caught by the Cubs in the NL Central. Verlander would absolutely add to Milwaukee’s playoff chances this year and the next two years, but Detroit would have to kick in so much money for the small-market Brewers — who do have ample prospects in their system — to make this palatable. Just don’t see that happening.

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Is Lonzo Ball’s dad hurting his draft stock? NBA execs weigh in

TNT’s Charles Barkley, as is his wont, was talking about one of the more recent causes of consternation among the old-school folks in the NBA, the flamboyant comments of Lavar Ball, father of UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball. In recent weeks, the senior Ball has said that his son will be better than Warriors star Stephen Curry, and that he would be drafted No. 1, despite many scouts projecting Washington’s Markelle Fultz going with the first pick.
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Just because you say some s—, doesn’t make it right, Barkley said. He’s gonna be better than Steph Curry? That’s what he said. Steph Curry has won a couple MVPs, he’s pretty good. Man, let me tell you something. That’s that AAU s—. You can’t say a guy is going to be better than Steph Curry, a guy who has played 30 college games. I know you can be proud of your son, but at some point, it becomes stupidity.

Popovich, who pretty much invented the practice of occasionally resting stars, told ESPN he understands commissioner Adam Silver’s concern about the issue. In a memo sent to teams last week, Silver revealed the issue will be on the agenda at the April 6 board of governors meeting and warned teams will be handed significant penalties if they violate rules mandating notice to the league office, their opponent, and the media immediately upon a determination that a player will not participate in a game due to rest.

Popovich told ESPN.com, If it was me, I’d be miffed myself (at missing out on seeing certain players). But we all have different roles, different jobs, and different goals. We can’t satisfy everybody. But I think that every owner’s gonna be different.
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He went on to say that owners compelling coaches not to sit players is a slippery slope, and makes it difficult to keep trust, and camaraderie to the degree that I think you have to have to be successful in this league if owners get too involved in what coaches and GMs are doing.

Jackson is a great athlete and has significant ability on the defensive end

Jackson surged to the finish line of the season for Kansas, even as he got into legal hot water for a misdemeanor arrest last month. That’s something NBA teams will have to sort out as they look at drafting him.

On the floor, he showed a variety of scoring weapons, on the perimeter and in the post, when he put in 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting in the Jayhawks’ convincing win over Michigan State. Edwards is a big (6-8) and physical defender, who improved on that end of the floor over the course of the year but is still prone to lapses.

Jackson is a great athlete and has significant ability on the defensive end, and he will be tasked with containing Edwards, who enters the Sweet 16 on a hot streak, scoring 21 points in each of Purdue’s first two tournament games—including eight straight points to start the second half of Purdue’s tight opened against Vermont. Edwards got off to a slow start this year, but came on to average 12.7 points and 5.0 rebounds, shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from the 3-point line. He’s smart with the ball (3.2 assists per game) and if Jackson can bottle him up, Purdue’s offense will suffer.

Game Daniel Norris Jersey Anthony Davis scored 39 points with 14 rebounds, but the Pelicans still lost 96-83 to the Mavericks. New Orleans is laughably thin behind Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday.
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Speaking of going off while losing, Karl-Anthony Towns scored 37 points while hauling in 22 rebounds. Unfortunately for the Tumberwolves, they still lost 142-130 against the Rockets.

After a 29-point, 10-rebound performance in his first game without Cousins, Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein scored just two points with two rebounds in 28 minutes in a 99-85 loss to the Hornets. Sacramento is in a lot of trouble with its go-to scorer now playing in New Orleans.

Heat’s Hassan Whiteside needed 13 stitches after injuring finger

Hassan Whiteside injured his right hand in Tuesday’s game against the Suns, forcing him to leave the game.

After the Heat’s win, the team announced the talented center needed 13 stitches between his middle finger and ring finger. The injury occurred late in the fourth quarter as Whiteside went up to block a shot. Instead of getting his hand on the ball, his fingers hit the backboard.

That’s James’ message in a Verizon commercial set to debut during the Final Four. The ad encourages youths to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, not sports.

Saints QB Drew Brees solemnly notes, We don’t need more Drews.
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The commercial points out that there are only 2,880 pro football players and 624 pro basketball players 鈥?not counting the NBA D-League and overseas ventures, but do we really want to quibble with such a positive message? 鈥?while there are more than 4 million science and tech jobs available in the U.S.

Malik Hooker Limited Jersey Verizon’s Innovative Learning initiative funds STEM programs in hundreds of schools around the U.S. According to AdWeek, James and Brees donated their time for Verizon’s #weneedmore cause.

Lowry originally hurt his wrist on Feb. 15 but scored 19 points in the All-Star Game and was seen icing it on the bench during the exhibition. He also participated in the 3-point contest but apparently the constant soreness he was experiencing was due to loose cartilage.

Lowry is averaging 22.8 points, 6.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds in 56 games this season and will be sorely missed by the Raptors, who are currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Cory Joseph will likely start in Lowry’s absence but it will be up to fellow All-Star DeMar DeRozan to carry the Raptors offensively. Luckily for Toronto, they have the fourth-easiest remaining schedule according to ESPN. Only the Nets, Celtics, and Hornets have an easier schedule.

NBA rumors: Manu Ginobili reportedly spurning retirement, finalizing new contract with Spurs

Retirement will have to wait for Manu Ginobili.

The soon-to-be-40-year-old Ginobili, a free agent who was expected to retire following the 2016-17 NBA season, is finalizing a contract to return to the Spurs, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Ginobili played for the Spurs last season on a one-year, $14 million contract. He has spent all 15 years of his NBA career in San Antonio, where he has averaged 13.6 points per game in his career and been a member of four championship teams.

Last season Ginobili appeared in 69 games during the regular season off the bench, averaging 7.5 points, 2.7 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. The Spurs were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and were swept by the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

There’s a good chance that Nash will get statues in two countries — in Canada, where he is Mr. Basketball, and in Phoenix. But we’re not so sure that the greatest player in Suns history merits more than having his number 13 retired by Phoenix.

Nash has won all of the Suns’ top franchise honors. He’s in their Ring of Honor and made their 40th anniversary team in 2008. As only the second Sun, with Charles Barkley, to win a regular-season MVP, we’ll admit he’s probably going to get a statue.

But we’re setting a high bar. Despite his back-to-back MVPs, Nash’s playoff resume is holding us back from having him cast in bronze. In 2005 and 2006, when he won the award, the Suns never advanced to the NBA Finals. They never even got to a Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, losing to San Antonio in five games and Dallas in six games.

We’ve got no trouble with Canada giving him a statue. How many basketball guys qualify for one up there, anyway?steelers_122

Hayward is entering his prime

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Game Larry Johnson Jersey In Hayward, the Celtics get, for my money, one of the 15 best players in the NBA. In today’s modern NBA, wings who can create offense, defend capably and provide positional versatility are valued above all else. Over the last three years, Hayward has averaged 20 points, five rebounds and four assists per game while doing so on above average efficiency as well as while playing above average defense.

He’s also 6-8 and capable of playing up and down the lineup from the 2 through the 4 while giving all sorts of different lineups versatility and options. And at just 27 years old, Hayward is entering his prime, unlike many free agents signing deals later in their careers.

So where does Boston go from here? Now, it will have to release the qualifying offer to Kelly Olynyk, making him an unrestricted free agent, and waive Jordan Mickey. It will then have a decision to make. Boston is still about four million short of the max. That means they’ll have to trade one of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley or Jae Crowder.

The third inning brought a two-out fielding error by Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar to give the Yankees a pair of runners with one out. But after Brett Gardner was caught stealing, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez struck out to end the inning. Another crisis averted despite three errors and the Yankees leading 1-0 after three innings.

Bogdanovic’s best hope is that the Kings, in need of a small forward, miss on other targets and put together an offer that the Wizards won’t match. It’s not likely to be in the salary range Bogdanovic wants, but he could soon find himself short on options.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians admits he used to drink paint as a kid

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Bruce Arians is known to have his quirks, but this one takes the cake.

The Cardinals coach told Sirius XM radio that he used to drink paint as a kid. Yes, you read that right.
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The reasoning is even stranger. According to Arians, he thought drinking paint would make him harder to tackle when he played football with the neighborhood kids.

Naturally, one can’t drink paint and have a clean bill of health. Arians said he had to have his stomach pumped twice for ingesting paint.

Once wasn’t enough, Bruce?

Given that Arians is 64, he likely ingested paint during the 1960s — a time when lead was still fully present in paint.

Coincidently, Arians’ admission comes right after he revealed in his new book he was treated for a cancerous spot on his kidney in 2016.

This signing also represents that Thibodeau is almost certainly going to continue playing big in Minnesota as opposed to embracing the merits of small ball sweeping across the NBA. Barring another leap from Andrew Wiggins as a shooter, this team is still going to struggle to space floor in crunch time. In that vein, they’re going to need to find a way to create efficient offense beyond just isolating Jimmy Butler or Wiggins.

But they’re going to be huge, physical, mean and tough on defense. That’s a Thibs team to the core, and it’s going to be a fascinating experiment to see if a team like this can still succeed in the modern NBA.

This has been widely expected since the Raptors traded for Ibaka at the deadline. Ibaka and Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri have a relationship from their Giants of Africa days, and that likely helped grease the wheels not only for his acquisition, but for this deal.

Do the Raptors have any chance of stopping LeBron James?

There shouldn’t be much surprise that the Cavs and Raptors are back at it in the postseason, but the surprise might be that it is coming in the second round and not the conference finals as it did last year, when Cleveland wiped out the Raptors in six games. But one of the drawbacks of losing out on the top seed this year is that, after making quick work of Indiana, the Cavs have this difficult second-round opponent.

The Cavs were proud of their resilience in this series, particularly in Game 3, which required the largest comeback from a halftime deficit in playoff history. They felt they improved defensively in the final game, which is important for a team that struggled terribly in pick-and-roll coverage through much of the year. They’ll obviously have to be dramatically better in that area to last into a third consecutive NBA Finals.

“I thought we took a step forward,” Lue said. “That’s all I wanted to see. I know we can score the basketball. All the games came down to the wire, and when we needed to get stops, we got stops.”

When reminded his last first-round loss came five years ago against the Knicks, James immediately fished from his memory a devastating dunk now-teammate J.R. threw down for the Knicks.

Does it matter that LeBron was off by a few days, that this dunk actually occurred in Game 3, which James’ team won? It does a little, because it helps to know he is not perfect. This, and his singing in the locker room as he looked forward to a week or so off, offered sufficient proof he is mortal.falcons_052

The play caused an uproar over whether Pachulia intentionally left his foot in Leonard’s landing zone

Leonard landed on Pachulia’s foot, turned his ankle and missed the rest of the game. The Warriors came back and won that game, with Leonard’s status for Game 2 in question.
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The play caused an uproar over whether Pachulia intentionally left his foot in Leonard’s landing zone, and whether some action other than a common foul should have been called because of it. Pachulia shook off such a notion after the game, saying, That’s really stupid. I’m not that good to be doing intentional stuff like that. I did my part like I said. I had to challenge the shot.

Frank Jackson officially entered the NBA Draft for good on Tuesday morning, so it’s worth mentioning his measurements. He came in at 6-3.5 with a 6-7.5 wingspan. Like Dorsey, the measurements aren’t ideal for a scoring guard, but he should be okay situationally next to points.

Devin Robinson has tremendous size for the combo forward position, coming in at 6-foot-8-plus with a near 7-1 wingspan and an 8-10 standing reach. If he can become more consistent, he has the size and skill to be a useful player.

Game Youth Matt Barkley Jersey Skip ahead to Monday, and the TD Garden rocked on three occasions with the chants of Kel-ly! Kel-ly! That’s because Olynyk was a workhorse in this one, scoring 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting. Seven of his baskets came on hard, thick-legged forays to the basket frequently followed by a sprawling, improbable finish. Such was the enthusiasm for Olynyk that Stevens reinserted him with eight seconds remaining for a curtain call.

Photo leak of white board was ‘last straw’ in Magic firing GM, report says

The Magic have fired general manager Rob Hennigan, the team announced Thursday morning. Hennigan had been with the team for five seasons, missing the playoffs each year. This season saw Orlando go 29-53, the fifth-worst record in the league.

Mens Carnell Lake Jersey Kennedy was watching the court while play was going on when Alexander approached from behind and gave the official an earful for several seconds before walking away.

Alexander, 73, declined to discuss the matter during halftime of the Rockets’ 105-99 series-clinching win, saying only he was upset, really upset.

The NBA announced immediately afterward that it was conducting an investigation into the matter. The resulting fine is a stiff message from the league, which has come down hard in the past on public-facing criticism of its officiating from owners, coaches and players.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, never shy about vocalizing his opinion on NBA referees, said he was fined $25,000 in January for postgame remarks about an official.
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There doesn’t appear to be a recent precedent involving an owner who left his seat to address an ref during a game.

The Celtics had some special guests at the Garden Tuesday night, with several members of the New England Patriots on hand to watch Game 5. Among those in attendance: coach Bill Belichick, owner Robert Kraft, and offensive stars Julian Edelman and LeGarrette Blount. Belichick, a big believer in the overall team concept, might have been taking notes watching the Celtics get a total team effort to put them one win away from a showdown with Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals.