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What LeBron Lessons Can Tyronn Lue Use with Kawhi Leonard? - Bleacher Report
When Tyronn Lue agreed to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers , as was first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski , his biggest challenge instantly became handling a superstar in Kawhi Leonard...
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press When Tyronn Lue agreed to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, as was first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, his biggest challenge instantly became handling a superstar in Kawhi Leonard. While most coaches can only dream of being given the chance to work with a player like Leonard, he's only the second-greatest talent Lue, now in his second lead job, has overseen. Spending two-and-and-half seasons (four total counting his associate head coach duties) with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014-18 has prepared Lue not only to handle a superstar on a team ready to compete for championships right away, but also to push that player by any means necessary. After he coached James and spent time around some of the greatest players and coaches the NBA has ever seen, perhaps no one is better suited to lead Leonard and the Clippers. As was the case in Cleveland, he's coming into his new job well-prepared. Lue and David Blatt were the two finalists for the Cavaliers' head coaching job in 2014 before James had made his decision to return. General manager David Griffin liked Lue and wanted him to win the job. Cavs governor Dan Gilbert preferred Blatt and his overseas experience instead. Clearly, the person responsible for writing the checks got the final say. Lue agreed to join Blatt's staff despite losing out on the job, and the Cavs made him the league's highest-paid assistant at the time. When Blatt was fired in January 2016, Lue didn't even want the job and was only pushed into taking it in part from advice he sought from Doc Rivers, the man he's now replacing in Los Angeles. Lue spent a year and a half getting to know James, gaining respect from him and those in the locker room next to him. Similarly, he has spent the past season as Rivers' assistant on the Clippers, already establishing a relationship with the incumbent players. Perhaps the most important thing a head coach can do is get his star player to buy in to his system, a strategy that allows all others to fall in line. While James never seemed to respect Blatt or Mike Brown before him in Cleveland, Lue was different. There was a timeout where James would typically talk over Blatt, only this time it was Lue telling James, in front of Cavs teammates: "Shut the [expletive] up. I got this." Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press Lue stated that the first thing he did when taking over as head coach of the Cavaliers was to sit down with James one-on-one and explain his vision and what they had to do together to fix the team. Lue relayed James' response, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic: "Man, T. Lue, I'm on board. Whatever you need to do, whatever you need from me, you got it." Now, he and Leonard need to have the same conversation. Obviously, James and Leonard are very different players and people. While James has time and time again demonstrated his passion during games and timeouts (for better or worse), Leonard has preferred to lead by example and skip the yelling and screaming. Neither is right or wrong, of course, as long as the message gets delivered. Lue is actually more similar in personality to Leonard. He's fairly calm on the sidelines, an excellent observer who rarely picks up technical fouls. His even-keeled demeanor should blend in well with Leonard, who received very different coaching from Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Lue needs to pick his spots to push and prod Leonard as well, not allowing his superstar to get too comfortable or believe he's doing enough. Even in their biggest moment together, Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Lue still challenged James in front of the team. Near halftime, James was on his way to a triple-double and had been brilliant while leading Cleveland to a 3-3 tie against the Golden State Warriors after starting the series down 3-1. Still, it wasn't good enough for Lue. He criticized James for being passive, for being sloppy with the ball and for letting Draymond Green hit five three-pointers in the first half. "Bron was mad, pissed off at me, and then we went into the locker room at halftime and I told him the same thing in front of all the guys," Lue told Lee Jenkins, then of Sports Illustrated. "He was mad again, pissed off again." The moment may have been uncomfortable, but it worked. James finished the game with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and he turned the ball over just once in the second half while holding Green to 1-of-3 from deep after he went 5-of-5 in the first half. While most coaches wouldn't have dared upset their superstar with Game 7 of the NBA Finals on the line, Lue knew all the right buttons to push. In the end, he got the result he was seeking. Lue's experience in the NBA also goes well beyond James. As a player for 11 seasons and now entering his 10th as a coach, his NBA contact list is legendary. Tony Dejak/Associated Press As a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, he saw firsthand how Phil Jackson managed the egos of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, an experience that ended with a championship ring in 2001. He played alongside Michael Jordan with the Washington Wizards, Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki on the Dallas Mavericks and prime Dwight Howard on the 2008-09 Orlando Magic for his final season. The list of players Lue has overseen as a coach is equally impressive. Besides James, he managed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as an assistant under Rivers with the Boston Celtics and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin with the Clippers. Perhaps that's why Lue never blinked when coaching James. Having that one-on-one conversation with Leonard is a must, as is getting him to buy in and trust that Lue can get the Clippers to a championship just as he did with another superstar small forward on a franchise that had previously never won a title. He must establish that relationship now so that when things get rocky, which they will, Leonard will have a solid base of trust to draw from, knowing Lue only wants what's best for the team. James believed in Lue's vision, and it ended in three trips to the Finals and a ring. The Clippers have the talent to make a similar run, but only if Leonard does the same.
WWE Superstar John Cena, Shay Shariatzadeh Get Married in Florida - Bleacher Report
WWE Superstar and actor John Cena married girlfriend Shay Shariatzadeh in a private ceremony in Tampa on Monday, per Mike Johnson of PW Insider...
Greg Allen/Associated Press WWE Superstar and actor John Cena married girlfriend Shay Shariatzadeh in a private ceremony in Tampa on Monday, per Mike Johnson of PW Insider. Numerous sources confirmed Johnson's report, including TMZ Sports and Cydney Contreras of E! Online. Per an April 2019 report from Mike Vulpo and Jessica Cardenas of E! Online, Shariatzadeh, a Vancouver native, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of British Columbia in electrical and electronics engineering. She currently works as a product manager for Aviglon, a Motorola Solutions Company, performing "a wide variety of duties that include overseeing product launches and working with external third parties." Cena and Shariatzadeh began dating in early 2019, per TMZ Sports.
NFL Power Rankings: B/R's Expert Consensus Rank for Every Team Entering Week 6 - Bleacher Report
Five weeks into the 2020 NFL season, all you-know-what is breaking loose. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the league is growing by the day. The Week 5 meeting between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots has been postponed until Week 6..
Don Wright/Associated Press High: 22 Low: 26 Last Week: 21 Week 5 Result: Lost at Pittsburgh 38-29 The Philadelphia Eagles are a mess. The good feelings about their first win of the seasonwhich temporarily moved them into first place in the NFC Leastlasted until another sloppy, mistake-filled loss dropped them to 1-3-1 for the season. Carson Wentz again didn't play well, throwing two more interceptions to bring his total to nine for the season. Pittsburgh went 11-of-15 on third-down conversion attempts. Rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool gashed the Eagles for four total touchdowns, and the Eagles gave up 367 total yards and 38 points. At least wide receiver Travis Fulgham played well? There's no real light at the end of the tunnel for the Eagles, either. Playing in the woeful NFC East offers at least some reprieve, but over the next six games, Philly's out-of-division opponents have a combined record of 13-2. Given how Philadelphia is playing, it's hard to envision the Eagles winning any games outside the division. But Sobleski hasn't completely given up hope. "Amazingly, the Eagles are only a half-game behind the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys despite a 1-3-1 record," he said. "Even with all of the issues they're dealing with, specifically a rash of injuries, they have an opportunity right the ship. Yes, the Eagles fell short against the Steelers, but they trailed by only two points in the fourth quarter against an undefeated opponent. Once Philadelphia gets past the Baltimore Ravens next week, everything can change thanks to a three-game stretch against the New York Giants (twice) and Dallas Cowboys."
ALCS Blowout? Astros in Grave Danger of Exiting 2020 with a Whimper vs. Rays - Bleacher Report
SAN DIEGO – The end of the Houston Astros isn't official yet, but you can hear the trash cans banging off in the distance. The rumbling garbage trucks are getting closer...
Gregory Bull/Associated Press SAN DIEGO The end of the Houston Astros isn't official yet, but you can hear the trash cans banging off in the distance. The rumbling garbage trucks are getting closer. Tampa Bay is checking expiration dates daily, starting with the New York Yankees, and is now swiftly moving on to Houston. Through two games of this American League Championship Series, the Rays are making every play, seizing every opportunity, suffocating the Astros at every turn and, with a 4-2 Game 2 win Monday, moving ever closer to tightly affixing a, ahem, lid on this thing. The dazed Astros, now trailing this series two games to none, don't know what's hit them. Trash-pickup day could now be as early as Wednesday, the day of Game 4. "It's very frustrating because all you hear is exit speed," manager Dusty Baker said via Zoom after the game. "We had some great exit speed today." They sure did. Take Alex Bregman. In five plate appearances, his exit velocities were 98.4 mph, 99.5 mph, 103.0 mph, 103.1 mph and a scorching 106.8 mph. He went 0-for-5. And he wasn't alone. All afternoon, the Astros scorched the ball as if each of them had walked off the set of The Natural. Remember when Robert Redford's character hit the ball so hard the seams burst? Houston is swinging it like everyone in the clubhouse is lugging his own Wonderboy to the plate. And it's as if Rays manager Kevin Cash is sitting in the dugout with his own joystick, moving his defenders into perfect position with all the gusto of a mad scientist. "When you're hitting the ball hard and not getting results ... this is the one game where you can do everything right and not have any success," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. "It's a tough game. We know that. "At the same time, you have to give credit to their defense." Ashley Landis/Associated Press Quite different, huh, than the Correa who looked straight into the video-conference cameras after Houston swept the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series and declared, "I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don't want to see us here. But what are they gonna say now?" What those people surely are saying now, of course, is, "Let's go Rays!" The Astros are out-hitting Tampa Bay 19-10. Houston pitchers have allowed only three earned runs in two games. They have collected 26 of a possible 48 outs via strikeouts. Take a look at some of the numbers on the surface and you'd swear Houston would be winning this seriesor at least tied 1-1. "It's very frustrating because Charlie Morton wasn't that sharp today," Baker said. "I've seen him much sharper." Dusty is right. Somehow, Morton made it through five shutout innings Monday. Only the fifth went 1-2-3. Houston put seven runners on base in the first four innings and kept applying pressure, and the Rays and Morton responded as coolly as a jumbo ice pack reducing the pressure of a swollen limb. Overall in these two games, the Astros are a meek 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. They've left 21 baserunners stranded, including 12 with two outs. The Astros keep pushing, as they did in the ninth inning Monday, banging three straight singles against ace reliever Nick Anderson and then, after Anderson coaxed a double-play grounder from George Springer, loading the bases by drawing consecutive walks before Bregman put a charge into a fly ball to center field that was caught by Kevin Kiermaier just short of the warning track. "Whew, that was tense!" manager Kevin Cash said after the Rays escaped, sounding not unlike an enthusiastic schoolboy who just aced a pop quiz. "That was like Game 5 [against the Yankees] all over again. "Those guys can hit. It came down to us pitching really, really well and [shortstop] Willy Adames and [third baseman] Joey Wendle putting on a defensive clinic today." That they did. If Adames wasn't leaping like a high-jumper to stab a line drive, Wendle was moving his feet with the grace of a dancer to gobble up another ground ball. Over at first base, Ji-Man Choi specializes in doing the splits as he stretches to short-hop whatever throws aren't on target. Gregory Bull/Associated Press "It's good when you have a first baseman like that," Adames said. "For us to have Ji-Man, it's fun. We thank him every time he makes a split like that. Obviously, we don't want to make those kind of throws, but it happens in the game. For him to have that flexibility, it's unbelievable." Unbelievable was what right fielder Manuel Margot did over a span of about 20 minutes near the start of the afternoon. Baseball games aren't all won and lost in the late innings, and Game 2 was a prime example of that. With two out and one on in the bottom of the first, Houston's All-Star second baseman, Jose Altuve, playing in the shallow right-field grass during a defensive shift, bounced a throw to first base on a Choi grounder. Because Choi, shall we say, runs longer in one place than most people, Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel had plenty of time to recover when he couldn't handle Altuve's throw and the ball trickled away from him. Instead, Gurriel was inexplicably slow and lazy to step and reach for the ball as it lay on the infield dirt, and Choi was safe at first. Two pitches later, Houston paid for failing to close out the inning when Margot drilled an off-speed pitch over the center-field fence to spot the Rays a 3-0 lead. "I need to pick him up there," Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. said of Altuve. "He made an error. I turned to him and gave him a look like, 'We're OK, not a problem.' Then the second pitch found its way out of the park." Then, with two out and two on in the top of the second, Margot made an incredible catch in foul territory in right field, sprinting, reaching, tumbling and, finally, flipping over the fence that runs parallel with the right-field line. Bleacher [email protected] MANNY MARGOT CATCH IS UNREAL #MLBonTBS https://t.co/8BNYCc7ULz For Margot, the home run and the catch were a sweet homecoming to Petco Park, his home for four seasons before the San Diego Padres traded him to Tampa Bay in February. Margot's father passed away in August, and he revealed that earlier this summer, his family was in a car that caught fire, and a bystander wound up pulling one of his children out of the vehicle to safety. Now, he has three homers in eight playoff games after hitting just one homer in 47 games (37 starts) during the short regular season. "I'll take the home run, but that catch was great, too," Cash said. "He's hit three huge home runs for us this postseason. And that play, to have the ability to know where you're at and say, 'Forget it, I'm going to hit something and run into the wall,' it's really impressive." As for Altuve, he threw another ball away in the third, and tellingly, when the Astros moved into that shift several times after that, Correa came way over from shortstop to play the shallow position in right field as Altuve moved up the middle behind the second base bag. "They moved themselves," Baker said. "Carlos and Jose moved themselves. You know how close these guys are. Carlos really looks up to Jose. It's ultimate admiration. They did that themselves." Altuve didn't make any throwing errors all season but now has made three this postseasonone against Minnesota and two on Monday. As if the Astros don't have enough to worry about, this put them on alert, too. "Just hope he isn't getting the yips," Baker said. "I told him to flush it and move on because they can come in bunches." Gregory Bull/Associated Press Altuve was not made available for comment afterward. McCullers noted, "He's been the heartbeat of this team, a staple of this organization for so many years. It just kind of sucks. I really wanted to pick him up there. "I wish we were talking about something different. He's a hell of a player. He'll come back tomorrow like he always has. And we have to find a way to get a win tomorrow." No question about that. This Rays team is too well-rounded, too good for the Astros to recover if they fall into a hole any deeper than they're in now. And the disheartening thing is that starters Framber Valdez and McCullers both pitched well enough to win. Yet a Houston team that committed the fewest errors in the majors this season with just 20 now has been charged with five in this ALCS. So where to from here? Maybe the baseball gods are fixing to make things right after the game's worst cheating scandal since the 1919 World Series. And poor ol' Dusty Baker had nothing to do with that; he was simply brought in to help calm things down. "I'm not one of the gods," Baker said. "If the gods did answer me, then that would mean I'm not here on Earth anymore. Like I said, they come in bunches: hits, runs, errors. Hopefully [regarding the errors], that's the end of that bunch."
WWE Draft 2020 Results: Grades for Every Selection by Raw and SmackDown - Bleacher Report
It’s time to shake things up again in WWE , beginning with night one of the WWE Draft Friday night. Unfortunately for fans, SmackDown provided a glimpse of things to come, and it was not particularly inspiring...
Credit: WWE.com Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods winning the SmackDown Tag Team Championships, then being drafted to Raw made absolutely no sense. Not because of the title situation, but because it is extremely difficult to wrap ones head around the logic of drafting two-thirds of The New Day when the other third has been tearing it up as a singles star for the last four months. Taking into consideration that Michael Cole revealed the executives from USA and Fox were in charge of making the picks, in what universe would the rocket scientists over at USA decide that having two-thirds of the Hall of Fame-worthy faction was better than drafting the group as a unit? And, speaking from a strategic standpoint, how did they even know Kingston and Woods would be back in time for tonights show when their return earlier in the broadcast came as a surprise to even Big E? This was one big, bad, nasty, nonsensical decision that will ultimately prove a massive mistake in the long run. There is, after all, a reason the faction worked for six years without having to stoop to a breakup and that is because people genuinely loved the threesome. Of all the acts to break up or split in this draft, New Day was not it. Grade: D-
Bill O'Brien Had to Be Fired Now as Texans Turned into NFL Dumpster Fire - Bleacher Report
The 0-4 Houston Texans fired head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien on Monday, and I'm here to extinguish any excuses you might find on O'Brien burner accounts or hear from those ...
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press The 0-4 Houston Texans fired head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien on Monday, and I'm here to extinguish any excuses you might find on O'Brien burner accounts or hear from those still clinging to the idea that he deserved more time to steer the Texans' ship. Don't be fooled by Houston's moderate success in the win column over the course of O'Brien's tenure. He was a poor game manager and an even worse personnel manager who, when it mattered most, continually underachieved in both of his roles. A supposed offensive guru, he never produced a top-10 offense in Houston. He often lacked creativity despite possessing a slew of offensive talent with which to work. He routinely mismanaged the clock, he frequently held his talented offense back with his often comically conservative play calls, and he failed on eight of his last nine coach's challenges. And in his short time in charge of personnel, he buried the Texans financially, traded away most of their draft capital and left them in a do-or-die position without their quarterback's top weapon in 2020. With the Texans realistically out of the playoff picture following a fourth consecutive loss to start the season, the Houston front office deserves some credit for recognizing all those realities and cutting bait before the official crash and burn. Still, they really should have seen this coming. But, but, but...they made the playoffs four times in his first six full seasons as head coach! In two of those cases, the Texans won a weak AFC South with a 9-7 record. O'Brien won more than 10 games just once in six-plus campaigns and posted a 54-52 combined regular-season and playoff record, never getting past the divisional round of the postseason. Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press That was despite the fact he had Deshaun Watson the last four years, All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for six years and three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt for his entire tenure in Houston. With Watson, Hopkins, Watt and runs with elite talents like Arian Foster, Jadeveon Clowney, Tyrann Mathieu, Benardrick McKinney, D.J. Reader, Whitney Mercilus, Duane Brown and Laremy Tunsil, O'Brien had to win more than two playoff games between 2014 and 2020. Period. But, but, but...he's an offensive genius! Wrong. Just flat-out wrong. In terms of yardage, O'Brien's oft-talented offenses ranked below the league median in five of his seven seasons and never finished better than 13th. They also never ranked better than 11th in points per game, and only once did they rank in the top 10 in giveaways. Beyond the numbers, the anecdotal evidence doesn't support any claims that O'Brien is a mastermind. When his team blew a 24-0 lead to the Kansas City Chiefs in his last playoff game as the Texans head coach, O'Brien, who at the time was up 21-0 in the second quarter, infamously shied away from going for the jugular by kicking a field goal on a 4th-and-1 from the Kansas City 13-yard line. A three-score game remained a three-score game, and momentum soon shifted to the Chiefs, who blew past Houston in unforgettable fashion. On that same afternoon, O'Brien aided that momentum shift with whatever the hell this was: Rivers [email protected] https://t.co/g5SfCdEGZT There was also the time he wasted an epic Watson performance and cost his team a potentially huge win in Seattle by clamming up and taking the ball out of the quarterback's hands late in a 2017 meeting with the Seahawks. And the time he settled for a field goal in the final three minutes while leading by two on a 4th-and-1 in the red zone against the New England Patriots that same seasona decision that predictably resulted in a three-point loss following a game-winning drive from Tom Brady's squad. And that timethoroughly documented here by yours trulyhe punted on a 4th-and-5 near midfield while down a touchdown with three minutes to play in a game against the Oakland Raiders despite the fact he had just one timeout in his back pocket. The Houston offense never saw the ball again. Those are just some of the highlights. O'Brien often got too conservative when he should be aggressive and too aggressive when he should be conservative. He put Watson in harm's way far too frequently, and he never consistently utilized analytics or even common sense when it came to challenges and timeouts. He's a bad coach. But, but, but...his schedule for the first quarter of the 2020 season was hell! That doesn't excuse an 0-4 start. O'Brien went all-in on this team and this season. He was the de facto general manager when the Texans traded a third-round pick for Duke Johnson, received a mere third-round pick for Clowney and dealt away a third-rounder for Gareon Conley in 2019. That was also the case when Houston gave up two first-round picks and a second-rounder in exchange for Tunsil and Kenny Stills last September. He was officially the general manager when they surrendered a second-round pick for Brandin Cooks, and in March, he embarrassed himself in that role by trading Hopkins for washed-up running back David Johnson. NFL [email protected] you combined the 4 big trades made by Bill O'Brien as #Texans GM, this is what you'll get: Got: Laremy Tunsil, David Johnson, Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, Jakob Martin, Mingo, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 4th, 6th Lost: Hopkins, Clowney, Davenport, Bademosi, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 4th Later, he decided to make Tunsil the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history, and he was in charge when lucrative deals were handed out to Mercilus, Nick Martin, Zach Cunningham, Bradley Roby and Randall Cobb. This Texans team features the second-highest-paid quarterback in league history, and no roster in football contains more players with average annual salaries of $10 million or higher. They didn't have a first-round pick this year, and their top two 2021 selections belong to the Miami Dolphins as a result of the Tunsil trade. If this edition of the Texans couldn't contend for a Super Bowl, it wasn't likely to happen for years to come. And Super Bowl contenders have to at least hang with the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens (who beat Houston by a combined margin of 31 points) while at least splitting a back-to-back stretch against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings (Minnesburgh 59, Houston 44). Even though they're relatively healthy, they're just not there. And there's no reason to expect that to change after all these years under O'Brien. He gambled on right now, and right now, his team has gone seven consecutive regular-season/playoff games without a regulation win. With that much money invested in that much talent following that much risk on the league-wide markets, that's inexcusable. It's no surprise that according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, he was losing a veteran team before his firing. Jason La [email protected] O'Brien had been clashing with prominent players at practice, as reported on Sunday. Taking over play calling duties his last attempt to salvage things. did not work out. Jack Easterby in charge of organization with O'Brien out as GM and HC Remember when O'Brien actually thought it made sense to start Tom freakin' Savage over a rookie Watson at the beginning of the 2017 season? There was no upside with Savage, who everybody knew had no future as an NFL starter. The only sensible explanation was that O'Brien might not have felt his rookie first-round pick was ready for regular-season action, which is why it made even less sense when he replaced Savage with Watson midway through the very first game of the season. Did that mean he actually thought Savage gave Houston a better chance to succeed? Watson went on to light up the league with his arm and legs over the next six weeks, while Savage performed terribly in place of an injured Watson later in the year and never took another regular-season snap in the NFL. That should have been a sign. In hindsight, it was a clear indication that O'Brien lacks foresight and possesses poor decision-making skills when it comes to utilizing, managing and even relinquishing or acquiring personnel. O'Brien continually mismanaged the Texans, both on and off the field. And as a result, the franchise has been left in one of the deepest holes in professional football. Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon.
College Football Rankings: B/R's Top 25 After Week 5 - Bleacher Report
The SEC star programs flexed their muscles, the Big 12 continued to slide and the ACC's powerhouse, Clemson, took care of business ahead of next week's marquee matchup with Miami...
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press Next week's slate could be exceptional, and it's arguably the best group of 2020 games so far. Get ready for intriguing contests in every time slot, starting with the ACC's marquee matchup of the season. There's also the Red River Rivalry, which still has a ton of intrigue even though it lost some luster over the past couple of weekends. Let's take a look at what's on tap for Week 6. No. 8 Miami at No. 1 Clemson (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC) The Hurricanes and Turnover Chains take to prime time for the third time in four weeks, but this will be unlike any game they've played in front of a national television audience this year. Is Miami just a nice early-season story or for real? We're all about to see. The Clemson offense can put all kinds of pressure on teams, and this may just be the best matchup of any game in the ACC this season. If Hurricanes quarterback D'Eriq King can execute coordinator Rhett Lashlee's offense well enough to match Trevor Lawrence and Co. point for point, this has the trappings of a classic. It will be fun to watch all the glitz and glamor of The U against Dabo Swinney's steady, championship-tested program. No. 9 Texas vs. No. 18 Oklahoma (Noon, Fox) No, this game isn't what everybody hoped it would be after Oklahoma fell to 1-2 and Texas' tightrope walk finally resulted in a face-plant against TCU on Saturday, but there are still reasons to watch. With both defenses struggling and trying to find their way, it will be a shootout with many twists and turns. Also, Oklahoma could still salvage its season. Both of these proud programs still have plenty left to play for, and there's no love lost. This is a must-watch. No. 21 Tennessee at No. 4 Georgia (TBD) The way Georgia looked Saturday night, nobody should want a part of the Dawgs. The quarterback concerns looked over as Stetson Bennett and Co. trounced Auburn. Now, they get to host a Vols team that quietly has become one of the nation's hottest groups. Coach Jeremy Pruitt's team is 2-0, and it is playing as well as it has in the past decade. But the Bulldogs look like they have much bigger things in store. This will determine who Florida's biggest competitor is in the SEC East. No. 3 Florida at No. 13 Texas A&M (TBD) It's unclear whether the Gators-Aggies will slide into the 3:30 CBS slot or if it will be Vols-Dawgs, but regardless of when the game is played, it will be a major road test for the third-ranked Gators. If they are truly national title contenders, they'll pass. On the other side, much bigger things were expected of coach Jimbo Fisher's Aggies than what they showed in an embarrassing 52-24 loss at Alabama on Saturday. This is a major cross-division showdown. Virginia Tech at No. 12 North Carolina (Noon, ABC) COVID-19 made its way through the Hokies, causing several players to miss the team's first two games of the season. They were still able to escape North Carolina State and Duke with wins, but things get dicier on a road trip to Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels eked out a 26-22 win over Boston College on Saturday but didn't look like the 12th-ranked team doing it. Neither looks like it's on the level of Clemson or even Miami, but this will help to gain breathing room in the second tier of the ACC. No. 2 Alabama at Ole Miss (6 p.m. ESPN) Nobody expects Lane Kiffin to pull the upset of the year and beat his former boss when Alabama travels to Oxford, but the former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator is coming off a massive 42-41 road win over Kentucky in Lexington. Though the Tide should probably score at will with all those playmakers, this game could be fun because the Rebels can score too. Kiffin also may be good for a couple of pregame zingers thrown Nick Saban's way this week.
Making Sense of Doc Rivers' L.A. Clippers Tenure After Sudden Exit - Bleacher Report
Few things in the NBA are truly shocking, but the Los Angeles Clippers ' decision to part ways with head coach Doc Rivers on Monday afternoon was a rare exception...
Matt Slocum/Associated Press Few things in the NBA are truly shocking, but the Los Angeles Clippers' decision to part ways with head coach Doc Rivers on Monday afternoon was a rare exception. Even after the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, nobody saw this coming. Most figured the coach who ushered the franchise through 2014's Donald Sterling scandal, made the playoffs in six of his seven seasons and helped bring relevance to the most irrelevant organization in the league would be as close to untouchable as any coach not named Gregg Popovich or Erik Spoelstra. The timing was odd. It's been almost two weeks since the Clippers lost Game 7 to Denver, and there wasn't a peep that Rivers' exit was even on the table. As ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday, Rivers has two years remaining on his contract, and they aren't cheaphis $11 million annual salary is one of the highest for a head coach in the NBA. The team's official announcement called it a "mutual decision," but, for what it's worth, Rivers thanked Clippers Nation and not the Clippers organization or team governor Steve Ballmer in the statement he posted to his Twitter account. Draw your own conclusions there. Was Rivers' seven-year tenure with the Clippers a success? It depends on how you measure it. Rivers came to the Clippers in 2013 after nine seasons with the Boston Celtics, which included two trips to the Finals and an NBA title in 2008. With a blossoming Big Three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan already in place, the belief at the time was that upgrading from Vinny Del Negro to Rivers would be the move that transformed the Clippers into true contenders for the first time in franchise history. Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press/Associated Press By those expectations, Rivers came up short. His Clippers never made the Finals, let alone won a title. He didn't even get them to the Western Conference Finals, despite leading 3-1 in the second round in 2015 against Houston and this season against Denver. Most of the Clippers' early playoff exits can be explained away by injuries or other extenuating circumstances; the two indefensible ones are the two blown 3-1 leads. His best coaching job was the 2018-19 season, when he led a young group with no All-Stars and no playoff expectations to the eighth seed in the Western Conference and unexpectedly took the Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round. Ultimately, Rivers won three playoff series in seven seasons with rosters in five of those years that were expected to contend. There's no way to spin that as anything other than a massive disappointment. But Rivers' impact on the Clippers cannot purely be measured by on-court results. He brought stability and credibility to an organization that had previously had none. When he was looking to move on from Boston following the breakup of the Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen-Paul Pierce Big Three, he likely could have had any job he wanted. He chose the Clippers because they offered the most upside with Paul and Griffin locked in. That the Clippers could even get a coach of Rivers' stature, and were willing to pay for one, changed their perception around the league. During the 2014 playoffs, when TMZ published a leaked recording of then-governor Sterling making racist comments, it was Rivers that held the organization together through the fallout. He was the one addressing reporters every day about a controversy he had no part in creating. He was the one keeping his players united (they considered boycotting Game 4 of their first-round series with the Warriors in response to the Sterling tape). He was the one attempting to keep up the morale of employees throughout the organization. The Clippers needed a reliable, trustworthy public face as they reached one of the lowest points any pro sports franchise has ever reached. Rivers proved up to that job, and then some. A lesser coacha lesser leader, reallymight have mishandled it, or taken the opportunity to jump off the sinking ship. Rivers didn't. And when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and the league facilitated the sale of the Clippers to Ballmer, there was no talk of the new team governor bringing in a new coach. Rivers had proved he was someone you wanted representing your organization. Jae C. Hong/Associated Press When Rivers joined the Clippers in 2013, he was given the dual titles of head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations. After he was promoted to president of basketball operations in 2014, that status as the most powerful person in the organization below the ownership level gave him the gravitas to lead the team through the Sterling debacle. The downside: He wasn't a very good GM. As an executive, Rivers tended to fall back on what he knew, signing past-their-prime veterans he had either coached (Pierce, Glen Davis, Brandon Bass) or coached against (Matt Barnes, Hedo Turkoglu, Stephen Jackson) in Boston. When the Clippers needed fresh bodies in the playoffs those years, they never had the depth to compete. Any discussion of Rivers' playoff shortcomings with the Clippers must include the role his own front-office decision-making played in putting those teams together. It's no coincidence that in the summer of 2017, when Ballmer removed Rivers' front-office responsibilities so he could focus solely on coaching, the Clippers' rosters started to make much more sense. The payoff was that 2018-19 run, led by Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Rivers' responsibilities would have been spread too thin to coach that group to its full potential if he still had his front-office job, and Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger were more than capable of building him a quality roster. This was the latest chapter in Ballmer's long-term quest to transform the Clippers into a destination, a true competitor to the Lakers, and it appeared to work last summer when Kawhi Leonard signed with them in free agency, bringing Paul George with him via a blockbuster trade. The fact that a superstar the Lakers were also pursuing chose the Clippers is a testament to just how far the organization had come in the years since Sterling's ouster. And Rivers was a huge part of that. Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press He's also been one of the NBA's most prominent and trusted voices on social justice in the Orlando bubble. He's taken on a role as a leader in this area, just as he did in moving the Clippers past the Sterling days. It's troubling but worth noting that after his exit, along with the firings earlier this summer of the Indiana Pacers' Nate McMillan and New Orleans Pelicans' Alvin Gentry, there are only four Black head coaches remaining in the NBA: the Phoenix Suns' Monty Williams, Atlanta Hawks' Lloyd Pierce, Cleveland Cavaliers' JB Bickerstaff and Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. With more scrutiny (rightly) on diversity across the sports world, the sudden departure of the NBA's longest-tenured and most respected Black coach is not good. With Rivers gone, it's unclear where the Clippers will go to find his successor. The logical move would seem to be elevating his top assistant, Tyronn Lue, a championship coach in his own right who's been linked to all of the highest-profile openings this year. Rivers will be fine. He'll get another job as soon as he wants one (less than an hour after news broke of his breakup with the Clippers, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears reported that the Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers have already reached out). If he wants a break from coaching, he could easily go back to his old job as a television analyst, which he was excellent at. Whatever Rivers decides to do next, he'll have supporters in all corners of the basketball world. The Clippers' disappointing playoff record during his time there is a big part of his story, but he represents so much more. Sean Highkin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon and lives in Portland. His work has been honored by the Pro Basketball Writers' Association. Follow him on Twitter,Instagram and in the B/R App.
WWE Unlocks Greatness with Roman Reigns' Vicious Win vs. Jey Uso - Bleacher Report
Roman Reigns is on a whole different level. That's perhaps the biggest takeaway coming out of a strong showing for WWE at Sunday night's Clash of Champions pay-per-view. And there was a lot to like about the show...
WWE Roman Reigns is on a whole different level. That's perhaps the biggest takeaway coming out of a strong showing for WWE at Sunday night's Clash of Champions pay-per-view. And there was a lot to like about the show. Tag matches were fun. A certain ladder match was old-school good. Sasha Banks was must-see material. And WWE laughed in the face of those who suggest it can't do long-term booking by making some of Randy Orton's past actions cost him dearly in a title match against Drew McIntyre. But to be blunt: It's all about Reigns. The Big Dog, in a clearly lopsided matchup against cousin Jey Uso, was every bit the evil guy fans thought they'd never get to see. And no matter how fans had booked it in their heads or envisioned it, he somehow managed to surpass expectations. There were the cutesy little moments where Jey got the upper hand and some near-falls. But no matter how blue in the face the announcers screamed at the idea of a shocking upset, fans knew going into this that things were going to end very, very poorly for Uso. And it was hard to deny that fact right from the jump when Reigns waltzed out to his music without the silly-looking vest on, an understandable, if not somewhat odd request fans have had for years now. Maybe it was best he saved the attire shakeup for his big moment, sacrificing his cousin to the wrestling gods. It added a little more impact to the proceedings, of which there were many and quickly started to border on uncomfortable. There was the low blow while kicking out of a pin that helped Reigns turn things around. And for those who feared they might be going an almost Seth Rollins chickeny-heel route here, fret notThe Big Dog then proceeded to straight-up torture Jey. The demand was simple: Reigns wanted Jey to acknowledge him as the leader of the tribe, then he'd end the match with a pin. But that obviously wasn't going to happen so he kept kicking the tar out of him to the point Jimmy Uso came out and offered to throw the towel in on behalf of his brother. No dice, so the match had to be called off in the end, only for both Usos to give Roman what he wanted while looking at their own blood in disgust. WWE [email protected] family portrait. #WWEClash #UniversalTitle @WWERomanReigns @WWEUsos https://t.co/ucswT5IFS9 And it just doesn't get much better than that. The execution of this could've been terrible if handled by lesser Superstars. But Jey was a quality underdog and Reigns was just evilnot almost cartoony evil like a Bray Wyatt, like "a little concerning it was so good" evil. Here's the fun part: WWE read the room well. This match probably isn't anywhere near as good in front of a live audience. If a full crowd's there, Reigns is probably getting cheered on to keep torturing Jey. But in the near-silence of Sunday's event with ring mics picking up every little thing the two Superstars were saying, it really let the storytelling go to work. Kudos goes to WWE for that. If this sort of match keeps happening for Reigns while he's working in front of fan-less crowds, by the time they do return, fans might really despise him, which is good for all involved over the long run. That's a big problem in WWE right nowthe heels are cool and there are often just as many cheers as boos. With Reigns working stories like this, though? It's hard to imagine that ends up being the case. The details of it all are just too good. Paul Heyman plays an important role here too. He's normally cocky and defiant when working with Brock Lesnar. Next to Reigns, he's reserved, even hesitant, if not a little appalled at what his client is willing to say or do. Heyman even tried to say what Reigns wanted to hear so the beating would stop (with The Big Dog, hardly, scarily raising his voice to shoot him down). And rest assured that's a dynamic WWE will explore more, and potentially soon. What makes the situation, and especially Sunday night's main event all the more impressive, if that's even possible, is the journey for fans. They suffered for years with good-guy Reigns, the endless 'Mania main events, the fist pumps, the sufferin' succotash and all that. They've emerged on the other side of the trip with a heel Reigns that is every bit as capable of matching even their outlandish expectations. Sean Ross Sapp might have put it best: Sean Ross Sapp of [email protected] think if Roman Reigns had been booked this way back in 2015, WWE would have already lost him to Hollywood. It's all just so natural with Reigns that it's a little scary WWE had the idea it might not work. He's the perfect heel and if we're talking Hollywood, it sure feels like WWE could stretch this out to WrestleMania 37, pray The Rock can come back and really go wild with the family theme in the top main event slot. But that's getting a little ahead of thingsand there's certainly no reason to rush the excellent work Reigns seems to do so effortlessly. He's so good, he's a guy who took a hiatus to beat cancer and will still have fans booing him out of stadiums for his actions. It's a little wild to think about. This, after all, isn't just something that is going to grow tired for fans quickly. He just got an unforgettable singles match out of Jey Uso, so cliches like "the sky is the limit" for Reigns as a heel apply, especially once he really starts working with main event stars. And besides seemingly inevitable programs with Lesnar and potentially The Rock, Reigns performing at this level means whoever does end up taking him down won't ever have those main event credentials revoked. Over the long run, he's now a means to dramatically reshape the main event scene and solidify the foundation of WWE itself, provided it keeps getting done right. [email protected] it: @WWERomanReigns is the tribal chief. #WWEClash @HeymanHustle https://t.co/UfMnzWZyfO Did anyone mention this happened at something of a lesser pay-per-view with Jey Uso and wasn't some technical wrestling display? Heel Reigns putting on matches and stories like this is certainly one way to drive eyeballs to lesser events and potentially revive ratings a bit. And while ratings are important, let's keep in mind the universal title itself now feels pretty important, right? No more hot potato with random runs for guys like Goldberg, no inability to remember who's even held the blue thing. Just prestige. WWE has proverbial lightning in a bottle. The fans were right, which is a knock on WWE. But the company has leaned into heel Reigns perfectly, even capitalizing on the audience-less shows to provide some shocking depth to his character that will have important long-term ramifications for him and the entire roster. It feels like heel Reigns is just getting started, and there's arguably no statement in the wrestling landscape that could be more exciting right now.
Cowboys' Comeback Is Worth Noting, but Don't Get Your Hopes Up on Dallas - Bleacher Report
At the very least, the Dallas Cowboys ' unreal 40-39 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday is an indication they can be a factor come January...
Ron Jenkins/Associated Press At the very least, the Dallas Cowboys' unreal 40-39 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday is an indication they can be a factor come January. They now lead the NFC East after avoiding an 0-2 start, and overcoming a 19-point second-half deficit could certainly have a galvanizing impact on a team that had been crushed by injuries and plagued by underwhelming performances on both sides of the ball six quarters into the 2020 NFL season. But at times like these, following moments like those, it's easy to lose sight of the problems that forced a team to rely on a football miracle for a victory. If multiple Falcons players hadn't inexplicably stood and stared at the rotating ball generated by a late Dallas onside kick that was astonishingly and awkwardly recovered by the Cowboys, many fans and pundits would be writing the Cowboys' eulogy right now. Dan [email protected] if you're the Cowboys, you can't protect your QB, and your best plan is to lean on your star RB, and he can't stop fumbling... you may have a problem. We'd be highlighting the three lost fumbles that told the story of an embarrassing first half in Atlanta, and we'd be wondering if they're simply too depleted to compete. They're without Tyron Smith, La'el Collins and Cam Erving along an offensive line that already lost star center Travis Frederick to retirement this offseason, tight end Blake Jarwin suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, and a defense that lost top cornerback Byron Jones in free agency hasn't been right without injured linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee and starting corner Anthony Brown. Reality check: That defense allowed points eight times in a nine-drive span Sunday in Atlanta. It has a total of two sacks in two games against teams with vulnerable offensive lines and has already allowed 17 third-down conversions on 34 attempts (plus three fourth-down conversions on as many attempts). That unit has one takeaway thus far against opponents that committed a combined 49 turnovers in 2019. The Cowboys allowed the Los Angeles Rams and Falcons to completely control them during the first six quarters this season, and they benefited significantly from Atlanta's second-half gaffes in Week 2. Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press The onside-kick recovery attempt was just comical, but the Falcons also failed to put the game to bed when Julio Jones dropped a potential touchdown in the third quarter. Atlanta sheepishly elected to punt following that 3rd-and-2 failure at the Dallas 41-yard line, and the Cowboys took advantage with a touchdown drive in response. The Falcons also settled for two field goals inside the Dallas 10-yard line, and head coach Dan Quinn got caught overthinking with a failed first-half two-point conversion attempt in a 26-7 game. Beyond that, the Cowboys also likely benefited from the fact Atlanta lost starters Kaleb McGary, Ricardo Allen and Takk McKinley to midgame injuries. The model for this victory isn't just unsustainable; it's realistically unreplicable. And now, a Cowboys squad that is just 3-5 in its last eight games has to go on the road to face a Super Bowl contender in the Seattle Seahawks before hosting the unpredictable-but-talented Cleveland Browns. They also draw the thus-far-impressive Arizona Cardinals and the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers ahead of their Week 10 bye. They might be able to play the way they did during the first game-and-a-half of the 2020 season during that stretch and remain in playoff contention, but that'd just be because the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Washington Football Team don't look any more competent early this season. Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press Eventually, highly paid star running back Ezekiel Elliott will need to be a game-changer, the offense will have to become more reliable as a whole, and the defense will have to generate far more pressure. They'll need to start games faster (a problem that existed prior to this season and apparently hasn't vanished under new head coach Mike McCarthy), and the play-calling will need to become better on both offense and defense. And while they can't be blamed for the hand dealt by the Football Gods thus far, they'll have to do a better job coping with key injuries. In a weak division with a seven-team playoff field, the Cowboys aren't likely to fade from relevance. And this comeback win certainly helps their cause. But if they don't learn from the mistakes that forced them to rely on an opponent's miscues in order to avoid an 0-2 start, and if they don't truly rally based on Sunday's climactic finish, a Dallas team loaded with flaws and weak spots won't be a serious contender. Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter: @Brad_Gagnon.