Better All-Star squad, Team Stephen or Team LeBron? ‘NBA 2K18’ decides

The NBA has implemented a format change for this year’s All-Star Game, going from East vs. West to a pick-up style draft by the respective top vote-getters from each conference. Stephen Curry and LeBron James have chosen their teammates (you can see the full rosters here), and immediately after doing so, the debate began over which superstar ended up with the stronger squad.

Curry finished as the MVP with 31 points and eight assists for his victorious team. James Harden added 24 points and 11 assists, and Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 19 points and 11 assists.

On the other side, James finished with 25 points and 13 assists. Former Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook (27 points) and Kevin Durant (26 points) had impressive outings in the loss.

Most of the statistical categories were practically even, except for possession control and presence down low. Team Stephen had more steals, rebounds and second-chance points than Team LeBron in the win.

“We can’t knock facts,” he said. “The fact of it is we haven’t been producing the way we know we’re capable of producing. People are going to critique us and criticize us to a T, and we do the same to ourselves.”

Beal is averaging career highs in points (23.6), rebounds (4.3) and assists (3.7), but the Wizards are currently 26-21 on the year and just 14-13 against teams with records below .500.

Fellow Wizards guard John Wall called out his team’s performance against sub-.500 teams after a loss to the Hawks in December, but the team continues to struggle against opponents who are simply not the caliber of Washington.

Beal and the Wizards know this and they are as upset about it as anyone.

Mike Piazza frustrated with rent for his Italian soccer team

Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, the majority owner of a low-level Italian soccer team, passionately ranted about his club’s financial hardships and stadium situation during a recent news conference.

Piazza, who purchased a majority share of AC Reggiana in June 2016, frequently banged his fist on a table during the emotional news conference, which was published Friday on the team’s official Facebook page.

“I’m tired and sick of Reggiana being pushed around,” Piazza said. “I am frustrated, and I’m frigging pissed off.”

Mock drafts are simply practice drafts that don’t count for anything. It’s a terrific way to get used to our draft software, make sure you know how everything works and test strategies. Maybe most importantly, mock drafts allow you to make mistakes now — so you won’t make them when they count. Practice makes perfect.

Draft day is the most exciting day of the season because it’s time to create your team. If you have prepared for your draft by reading up on players and strategy and doing mock drafts, you’re ready. Take a deep breath and relax. You’ve got this.

Need to know the basics? Here’s what you need to know before you hop into the draft room.

Still, his earnings will be well under his $8 million salary last year.

To make room for Jay on the roster, the Royals placed pitcher Jesse Hahn on the 60-day disabled list.

Jay became a quiet leader for the Chicago Cubs in 2017 while slowly earning more playing time, eventually becoming the de facto leadoff hitter. Jay hit .296 with a solid .374 on-base percentage, though with little power. He’s a solid addition to a team but not a front-line player.

Behind the scenes, Cubs players followed Jay’s lead, as he rarely enjoyed talking about himself. He was a good mentor to up-and-coming center fielder Albert Almora Jr.

Jay can play all three outfield positions, though he isn’t considered a Gold Glove-type defender. But like his offense, his defense is steady. He made several running catches in center field, proving that he can still play there and not just the corners. He’s a good fourth outfielder but was more than that in 2016.

What Giannis can learn from Lillard and DeRozan to boost his fantasy ceiling

I noted a bit of blowback surrounding my inclusion of Giannis Antetokounmpo in last week’s All-Disappointment Team. Fantasyland is obviously very protective of its Greek Freak.

“It’s how he was shooting before he got hurt,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said of Ball’s shooting confidence prior to spraining his left MCL on Jan. 13. “I would’ve expected it would take him a little bit of time to find his rhythm again [upon his return on Friday].

“As soon as we got in [to Atlanta on Sunday], him and Miles and Tyler Ennis came into the gym and got shots up again. He’s putting in his work to make sure that he stays where he’s at and continues to get better. But he’s shooting with a lot of confidence.”

“He gets better with time,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “He’s had a great month. He’s really done a good job of just carrying the team. We was going through a tough stretch and he stepped up. He really put this team on his back and his shoulders, and especially with these new guys, he’s showing them the way.

“I think he’s being very [on point], showing those guys a lot of confidence and giving those guys a lot of confidence by talking to them, and it’s good for our young team going forward.”

Not only was it a first for the 33-year-old player’s already-decorated career, but James also became the oldest player in NBA history to average a triple-double in a calendar month containing at least 10 games played, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous oldest to do it was Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968 at 31 years old.

Other fake items include several Manning jerseys, a pair of 2012 Super Bowl helmets, and a game-worn Michael Strahan jersey from the Super Bowl that he once showed on Showbiz Tonight.

By Golden State Warriors standards, the team is struggling, having lost four of its past eight games. The midseason break usually is a time to regroup and refresh, physically and mentally, but some of the Warriors’ four All-Stars will have to settle for just a physical refresher.

I think that’s kind of a double-edged sword of being an All-Star, Curry said. It’s an amazing accomplishment, an amazing honor, but if you’re thinking about it in the perspective of getting rest and really taking advantage of the full slate of the All-Star break, it doesn’t really start for us until right now. So a little bit of it is just having the mindfulness of what you need to do to get your body right, get off your feet, not run yourself to exhaustion throughout the course of All-Star Weekend and take advantage of these next two days that we have to get off the radar, get our minds right.

Rob Gronkowski movies would be bad, but still better than ‘Justice League’

If 80s movies proved anything, it was a leading male actor doesn’t have actually be able to act. They just have to be kind of muscular and deliver quips after landing punches. But it’s not the 80s anymore. Hollywood demands a new breed of action stars to make another dozen Fast and Furious sequels. Could Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski be their man? Maybe!

The Gronk’s post-Super Bowl comments left his football career up in the air when he refused to commit to playing in 2018. On top of retirement, he may be considering a career on the silver screen, according to a report from the North Andover Eagle-Tribune.

Let’s be real, these are all just thinly plotted films with 75 minutes of explosions punctuated by a shirtless Gronk belting out awkward one-liners and winking at the audience … all of which would still be better than Justice League.

“You work so hard your whole life to get here. Everything culminates and I can’t help but think back to a quote my grandfather gave me from Calvin Coolidge about persistence … He gave me that quote when I was 18 years old, when I was not given a scholarship at any Division I university,” he said as he fought back tears.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

“My father and mother told me to stay after my dream,” he said with a whimper. “And I’ve officially accomplished the best thing in this sport with a group of guys who mean the world to me.”

Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo fought back tears as he spoke to the BB&T Center crowd just a couple of minutes before the start of the game.

This was the Panthers’ first home game since last week’s deadly shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Luongo, a resident of Parkland, spoke to the crowd about his admiration for the students, who have loudly pushed for change after yet another school shooting.

Then again, nobody has been hotter lately than Malkin, who has 11 goals and 18 points in his past seven home games.

“When he’s feeling it like this, you can’t take the puck off of him,” Crosby told the Post-Gazette. “He’s taking the puck from end to end. He’s taking it to the net. He’s shooting. He’s good in every area.

“You can tell he has that extra step. He has that right now.”

A few minutes later, Varlamov was able to stop McDavid on a clear breakaway and later in the period did the same against Edmonton forward Anton Slepyshev.

Edmonton made it 2-0 with 5 1/2 minutes to play in the second when Mark Letestu hooked a shot in front to help Kassian score his seventh.

Colorado got a goal back with 19 seconds remaining in the period when Girard’s point shot hit the post and caromed in.

The Avalanche tied the game 50 seconds into the third when a pass deflected off an Oilers defender to Wilson, who scored his sixth of the season.

That included Trump supporters, like Kraft, who released a statement via the team saying he was deeply disappointed by the tone of the statements made by the president.

Belichick issued a statement saying that he would discuss these matters with his players and he preferred to keep those conversations private. But Brady came right out and said he didn’t agree with the president’s position, in a rare moment of forthrightness.

NHL players have spoken up about their dislike of the rule’s inconsistency from game to game.

NHL players have had enough of the controversial — and inconsistent — goaltender interference rule, if Cam Talbot’s outburst on Saturday is any indication. The Edmonton Oilers found themselves on the wrong side of a goaltender interference call, again, in a 1-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.

The Winnipeg Jets were rightfully furious when Vegas was allowed to keep a goal despite James Neal breaking his stick over Connor Hellebuyck’s head right before the goal. St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong was unable to complain about a controversial Bruins goal because he doesn’t know what the rules are, marking just how clueless the entire league is on how the rule should be called.

However, Talbot’s objection and frustration about the ruling is the strongest bit of wording we’ve gotten so far about how players and coaches feel on this topic. It remains to be seen if the NHL will take action with Talbot’s choice of words to reporters, but the netminder has spoken his mind, and there are likely many out there that agree with him.

Pharrell is known for his work with other major artists primarily, even though his work with Chad Mayo in N.E.R.D is a throughline across his long career. Fitting of his image, Williams brought out one special guest for the show: Migos, who performed a ubiquitous song about crack cocaine production.

Megaproducer Pharrell Williams and his band N.E.R.D will headline the 2018 NBA All-Star Game halftime show on Sunday in Los Angeles. Williams, who you know best from his global conquest Happy and a hundred other hits with other artists, should bring a hip-hop flair back to All-Star after an R&B performance from John Legend at halftime a year ago.

As The Neptunes, Williams, and fellow N.E.R.D. member Chad Hugo produced a slew of hits, including Jay Z’s I Just Wanna Love U, Britney Spears’ I’m A Slave 4 U, Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl, and Nelly’s Hot In Herre. Williams, also known as Skateboard P, had a featured spot on Snoop Dogg’s 2004 No. 1 hit Drop It Like It’s Hot and has worked with artists as varied as Clipse, Shakira, The Hives, and Hans Zimmer.

N.E.R.D’s music has only rarely hit the mainstream, but it’s good and it’s a beautiful fit for the All-Star halftime.

Like the franchise, Luck has dealt with a lot of change over the past 13 months.

He had surgery on his right shoulder in January 2017. He missed all of the team’s offseason workouts, all of training camp and eventually the entire 2017 season after experiencing soreness that couldn’t be calmed by a cortisone shot once he started practicing in the middle of October. Luck also spent about six weeks in the Netherlands rehabbing his shoulder in late 2017.

New Colts coach Frank Reich said he’s hopeful that Luck will be back once the team starts offseason workouts in April.

Teal Harle of Canada came up JUST short, with a score of 90.00, putting him in fourth, just outside of the podium. Nick Goepper from the United States came out and threw down an incredible third run, a triple cork 1440 in his final jump contributing to a 93.60 score, putting him in silver medal position with four to go.

Alex Beaulieu-Marchand didn’t improve in his third, with a score of 82.40.

Andri Ragettli was the penultimate competitor, but he failed to improve his score, leaving Oscar Wester as the last one to go, and far outside the podium. Unfortunately, he fell, and that sealed it. The final scores are below, with the top three winning medals.

Souza credited his improvement last season to a number of factors, including his work with Tampa Bay’s coaches and settling in and trusting my ability more and more.

I gave everything I had in the offseason to Tampa. I gave everything I had to those guys, he said, and now I’m ready to give everything I have to the Diamondbacks.

After all, Martinez has played in more than 123 games in one of the past four seasons, which is when he surprisingly emerged as a star after the Houston Astros moved on, but nobody seems to be complaining about this. Martinez hit 45 home runs last season, a figure topped only by current New York Yankees Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, and he did so over 489 plate appearances. Normally, the durability concerns would be an issue — but, hey, in a way, Martinez is like the new Clayton Kershaw: achieve massive numbers over four months and give us the rest of the time to add even more numbers with others!

Michigan State and Ohio State head into the penultimate weekend of the Big Ten’s regular season with identical records, but we’re listing the Spartans as the favorites here for two reasons. First, the Spartans are widely considered to be the better overall team. Second, Tom Izzo’s team has a remarkably easy three-game stretch to end the regular season. MSU wraps things up with a home game against Illinois and road tilts against Northwestern and Wisconsin, three teams with a combined Big Ten record of 13-30.

When Brady lifted the first of his four Lombardi Trophies, he wasn’t the elite passing legend we all know and some love now.

Dawson, the Chiefs’ then-future Hall of Fame quarterback, played OK in the 23-7 victory over the Vikings, completing 12 of 17 passes for 142 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

Kicker Jan Stenerud did most of the scoring in a defensive-heavy effort, as Kansas City shut down Minnesota’s running game and made life miserable for Dawson’s counterpart, Joe Kapp. The biggest highlight, however, came when Taylor took a Dawson pass 46 yards to the end zone to put away the game in the third quarter.

But the White House messaging angered some on the island, which had waited more than a week for Trump to allow foreign ships to deliver aid.

“I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives,” Carmen Yulín Cruz, the frustrated mayor of San Juan, said at a news conference Friday.

Although he was a very comfortable 24-year-old kid in his initial Super Bowl experience, he wasn’t the most valuable asset in the Patriots’ shocking upset of the Rams.

The Rams were heavy favorites looking for their second ring in three years because of Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the offense better known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.” They lost because the Patriots’ cornerbacks, Law and Smith, dominated the game with their physical coverage, recording an interception apiece. They were the primary instruments of Bill Belchick’s defensive game-planning genius and should have been rewarded.

Brady (16-of027, 145 yards, touchdown) did lead the team on the game-winning field goal drive, but it really was won on the other side of the ball.

And on Saturday evening, even as his feud with the mayor spiraled through the news shows, Trump cycled back to his main theme from earlier in the week.

They ended the first half of their season with a disappointing performance and a loss to the Jets last Thursday night in the Meadowlands.

They open the second half of their season Sunday at home against the Saints in an intriguing matchup of teams having surprisingly successful years.

The Miami Dolphins nearly watched their playoff hopes take a big hit before a miraculous field goal at the end of regulation pushed their game against the Buffalo Bills to overtime and gave them another shot at victory, which they seized on a 27-yard field goal by Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks.

Franks hit a 55-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 31. It appeared as though Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan was attempting to call timeout just prior to the kick, but he did not get the call before the snap. The Dolphins’ win means a loss by the Denver Broncos Sunday night will put them into the playoffs with a wild-card berth.

Then there was the night game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans. In a contest that threatened to set back offensive football for decades, host Houston emerged with a 12-10 win when Bengals kicker (and former Texan) Randy Bullock pushed a 43-yard field goal attempt at the final gun. The win gave Houston its second straight AFC South title and eliminated the now Mariota-less Titans from the playoffs in the process.

The performance against the Jaguars was about as disappointing as it gets. Coach Bill O’Brien clearly needs to go to rookie Deshaun Watson as the starter at QB and, perhaps more importantly, the Texans must get holdout left tackle Duane Brown back on the field. The defense surely will play better. There is little time to sulk with a quick turnaround for Thursday night’s game at Cincinnati.

The safety clearly misplayed the ball; if only Funchess could’ve stopped, the ball was right there, two feet inside him, falling harmlessly to the ground. Some folks pointed to Graham Gano’s missed field-goal try in the first quarter as the key play, but they failed to mention that Gano hit from 58 yards out later in the half. If you’re gonna assume the short kicks should all be made, then wouldn’t the kicks from downtown be mostly misses? Put another away: Although important, Gano’s hiccup didn’t rule the day. Drew Brees did. And there is no shame in that. Nice season, Panthers.

The New England Patriots fell 10 spots to No. 11 in the rankings after their stunning loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on opening night.

It’s probably just a bump on the road to the AFC championship game — and their true strength probably should be well inside the top 10 — but still, Week 1’s results mean something, and their defense could be a cause for concern heading into a matchup against the New Orleans Saints.

Strength: Where do we begin? You can point to the team’s star-studded offense, Minnesota’s ability to overcome key injuries or the franchise’s rock-solid, slump-proof and resourceful coaching staff, led by Mike Zimmer. It all starts with the defense, though, which has held teams to under 20 points in a whopping 12 games. If the pass rush hasn’t quite been itself over the past two weeks, the Vikings still have reliable, Pro Bowl-level talent at every level. Beyond the team’s nasty front seven, the back end of this unit — led by cover man Xavier Rhodes and sensational safety Harrison Smith — has the raw power to frustrate a high-flying team like the Rams in January.

Weakness: I don’t see an overt weakness on this roster. Don’t tell me this year’s Case Keenum isn’t a Super Bowl quarterback, either, because he’s done nothing but magnify the play of his skill-position players. When Keenum ran into trouble in a Week 14 loss to the Panthers, his six sacks charted back to a banged-up offensive line currently missing left guard Nick Easton, who went on injured reserve on Dec. 26.

And while most of the social media commentary from those in the NFL — whether that be posts from players across the last few days or statements from a large handful of NFL owners — have supported unity and demonstrations during the national anthem, it has not all came to that conclusion. In a statement released to ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Sunday morning, Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe said, in regards to kneeling during the anthem, “I just feel it’s disrespectful to the ones who sacrificed their lives and it’s maybe the wrong platform.”

Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: Hogan returned from a four-week absence following a shoulder injury, only to have a quiet game in Week 14. Tom Brady and New England typically play well following a poor performance, so if you buy into the bounce-back performance theory, then Hogan is a candidate for Week 15 success. It’s the biggest game of the season for the Patriots; their opponent, the Steelers, just gave up a big outing to Joe Flacco. All that sounds like a recipe for success for Hogan; some pundits are optimistic and believe he’s worth starting given his early-season production. Hogan remained limited in Thursday’s practice, but nothing points to him having issues suiting up for this weekend’s game.