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of former players. S
28-09-2018 03:19 AM
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of former players. S
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Hey Kyle Turris Jersey , here’s something we haven’t heard before.

The NBA playoffs are wide open.

At perhaps no other time in the league’s history have so many teams gone into the postseason with a real shot at hoisting the trophy at the end of this two-month grind.

From the top seeds in Houston and Toronto, to the old stalwarts in Golden State and Cleveland, to the brash up-and-comers in Philadelphia and Minnesota, there are potential storylines galore and no real way to predict how it all may shake out.

”We’ve got a chance,” said LeBron James, who will be seeking his eighth straight trip to the finals. ”That’s all you can ask for.”

For pretty much the NBA’s entire history, there’s been little reason to tune in for the playoffs until they got to the finals. No wonder Charles Barkley became so enamored with the NHL version of the postseason – that’s a sport that actually doles out some real drama once the regular season is over.

The NBA?

Yawn.

Over the last four decades, a top-seeded team has claimed 28 championships. All but one of the remaining titles went to teams seeded second or third going into the postseason – and even several of those were clearly the best team (see: the 2012 Miami Heat with their Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh; the 2001 and 2002 Los Angeles Lakers featuring Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal; the 1993 Chicago Bulls claiming their third straight title led by Michael Jordan).

Looking a little deeper over that same 40-year span, and you’ll find only five teams lower than a No. 3 seed that lost in the finals. Such dominance by a handful of dynasties and superteams has largely rendered the early rounds of the playoffs a moot point, a mere coronation on the way to the inevitable matchup at the end.

This year, it makes sense to tune in right from the start.

At the risk of getting things totally wrong, here’s a few predictions for these most uncertain of playoffs:

ROCKETS‘ TOUGH ROAD

Houston posted the league’s best record (65-17), and it’s hard to bet against a team that has James Harden. But the Rockets are facing a tough opening-round series against Minnesota, which broke a 14-year playoff drought with a dramatic overtime victory on the final day of the regular season . If the Timberwolves can ride that momentum – and it’s entirely possible, with Jimmy Butler coming back from a knee injury – they could make things real interesting. The Rockets will be without a valuable rotation player, Luc Mbah a Moute , who sustained a shoulder injury this week in a meaningless game. Assuming they get past Minnesota Jakub Vrana Jersey , the Rockets could be derailed in the second round by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a perplexing squad that has pretty much spent all season trying to figure out how to mesh the immense talents of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. They seemed to figure it out late in year, winning 11 of their last 16 games – with the five losses by a total of 13 points. The Thunder could be the surprise team that emerges from the loaded West.

DEFENDING CHAMPS

The Golden State Warriors have been to the finals three years in a row, winning titles in both 2015 and last season, and they certainly have the talent to make it back despite a less-than-dominating regular season that prompted coach Steve Kerr at one point to call out their effort as “pathetic.” Steph Curry will probably miss the opening round with a knee injury, but the Warriors should get by a fading San Antonio Spurs squad that will likely be without ailing Kawhi Leonard for the entire series. Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson give the defending champs plenty of firepower, even without Curry. The Warriors should at least make it back to the conference final, where chances are either the Rockets or OKC will be waiting.

PHILLY’S MOMENTUM

There is no more intriguing team than the Philadelphia 76ers, who just two seasons ago went 10-72. This year, they became the first team in NBA history to close the regular season on a 16-game winning streak, surging to the No. 3 seed in the East . If Joel Embiid comes back faster than expected from a fractured orbital bone, Philadelphia could do some real damage in the East. Look for the Sixers to beat the Heat in the opening round, leading to what could be a very favorable matchup against the injury ravaged Boston Celtics in Round 2. The 76ers should be a year or two away from being a real championship contender. Then again, look what’s happened in Philly: The Eagles won their first Super Bowl championship and Villanova claimed the national title in college hoops. Maybe the precocious 76ers will follow their lead, far sooner than anyone could’ve predicted.

DON’T FORGET THE KING

James has been to the finals seven years in a row – four times with the Heat, three more since returning to Cleveland. The Cavaliers are only a No. 4 seed after enduring a season of dysfunction http://www.officialhurricanes.com/authen...kov-jersey , but the King is ready to take this team on his back. At 33, James has been as dominant as ever , and he has a way of flipping the switch to an even higher level in the playoffs. He’s still the guy you start with if building a championship-ready roster.

Who knows?

Maybe we’ll get a Cavaliers-Warriors final for the fourth year in a row.

At least it would be a bit of a surprise this time.



Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at

CANTON, Ohio (AP) Known as Weapon X when he was a dominant safety, Brian Dawkins recognizes it could have been Weapon P, as in Philadelphia.

Dawkins, who enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night, spent 13 seasons as the leader of the Eagles defense, the emotional center of a team that made four straight NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. The connection with Philly will never fade for a guy who grew up in Florida and attended Clemson.

”They loved me and they will be here to be inducted together with me,” Dawkins said Friday about Eagles fans and the city he grew to love. ”I made it and now they have made it and will experience the Hall of Fame. Enjoy it.

”I played with emotion and passion. The other thing is they recognized I don’t make mistakes. You can boo me for one thing I did wrong, but you won’t ever boo me again because I would not make it again.

”I gave 100 percent of my 100 percent every game. I didn’t back down from anyone or anything in a football game. I was a worker who didn’t make excuses, and that’s Philly.”

Dawkins, who closed out his career with three seasons in Denver, where he also was supremely popular, made five All-Pro teams and was voted the Eagles’ defensive MVP five times. He said making the hall never was on his mind until very late in his career.

”I was thinking it would be cool and wonderful if that happened,” he noted, ”but I didn’t understand at that point it could be possible.”

Hey Brian, it’s possible and true.

WHO’S AN OLD MAN?

Randy Moss is 41 Youth Pavel Zacha Jersey , the same age his quarterback during Moss’ greatest season, Tom Brady, reached Friday. Brady shows no signs of slowing down, and Moss believes he could still be effective at wide receiver at his advanced (for football) age.

”My last year (2012 with San Francisco), I didn’t really get the chance to show I could still play,” Moss said. ”At 41 now, I still could play and believe I could score 10 touchdowns. The game itself came easy and I really feel that I could bring that much to the game.”

In his final season, Moss had only 28 receptions and three scores. During his heyday with Minnesota and then New England, he was the most dangerous deep threat in the sport. In 2007, when New England went unbeaten before losing the Super Bowl to the Giants, he had a stunning 23 touchdowns on 98 receptions, gaining 1,493 yards. He was targeted 160 times by Brady that year.

”It was a great ride,” Moss said.

CHUCK NOLL AWARD

The South JeffCo Mustangs from Littleton, Colorado are the winners of the Chuck Noll Hall of Fame Game for Life Award.

The group will be presented with a $10,000 check from The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation.

The award, established last summer, recognizes 50 youth football leagues around the country for their commitment to coaching education; best practices in player safety; teaching lessons about how to win rather than emphasizing winning; and nurturing a culture that celebrates preparation Womens Jason Demers Jersey , discipline, accountability and respect through the fun and fitness of football and how it applies to success beyond the field.

Former NFL player Merril Hoge created the award to celebrate the legacy of Noll, the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach who transformed the Pittsburgh Steelers from a downtrodden franchise to one of the most dominant teams in NFL history.

PASSION OVERFLOW

If there have been two more passionate defensive players in recent NFL annals than Ray Lewis and Brian Dawkins, they’re hard to identify.

They never were teammates on the Ravens, the only team Lewis played for, but enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame together in the class of 2018. What if they had been on the field together?

”With all the energy he exudes and all I exude,” Dawkins said, ”it would’ve been tough on the other guys (to match). I would’ve loved to have played with him, but man.”

Lewis, who has campaigned for Ed Reed to make the hall when the former Ravens star safety becomes eligible, also has the utmost regard for Dawkins.

”I knew he had a similar chip on his shoulder and that’s why I love BDawk,” Lewis said. ”He’s one of the guys I’d love to have played with. I can’t imagine a football field with me and BDawk on the field together.

”It’s an honor to go into the Hall of Fame with a guy like Brian Dawkins.”

WILL THE TEARS FLOW?

Brian Urlacher says there’s no threat of crying when he practices his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech. As for when he delivers it …

”When I go over it, I am OK,” Urlacher explained. ”But all the guys are telling me I am going to cry during the speech.”

Lots of inductees do, even the toughest of former players. So Urlacher would join a long list of weepers.

Some have joked about an over/under number for how many times Ray Lewis breaks down.

As for Brian Dawkins, he guarantees he’ll cry.

”Tear up? No question. The people I will talk about meant so much to me,” he said Friday at a news conference. ”I’m about to cry now.”



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