Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nats: Desmond, Harper, Davey talk All-Star game

Since I don't post often about the Nats and since I happened to be covering the team's newsy 4-1 win over Colorado on Saturday, thought I'd at least share some postgame quotes. Ian Desmond compared the All-Star game to steak, the youngest All-Star ever Bryce Harper on seeing Davey Johnson talking to Mike Rizzo and the Nats manager compares his current 19-year-old to his previous fabled teenager...

Ian Desmond, selected as an All-Star, but now not going due to his ongoing oblique injury...

Disappointment at not playing in All-Star game...
It’s definitely a tough decision. It’s one that we spent quite a few days kind of mulling over. But in the end I think it’s best for the team and best for myself to take the rest. I would hate to be two, three weeks down the road and something happened and I didn’t take the four days to rest my body and put the team first.
How is the oblique…
It’s crazy the way that your body and your mind play a part in this game. There’s days where I come out and it feels terrible, but I get a couple knocks – like today. It felt pretty sore and I had a good offensive day. It’s just tough. It’s not something that you want to do, withdraw your name from the All-Star game. As tough as it sounds it’s harder to do, especially when you were selected by Tony LaRussa personally. It’s just a hard decision to make period.
Did you wrestle with the decision to step away…
Yeah, the doctors, the training staff, myself, Davey – I called Tony LaRussa personally not only to thank him, but to kind of run it by him and see what his opinion would be. And this is just the decision that we came up with. I don’t think that risking something for the All-Star game that could possibly down the road playing in the playoffs or in meaningful baseball towards the end of the season the cons just outweighed the pros.
Are you going to Kansas City anyway…
I’m just going to go back to Sarasota and rest my body. I think going to the All-Star game and hanging that piece of steak in front of your face and not being able to eat it just would add insult to injury.
Bryce Harper, after being named to his first All-Star game and at 19 becoming the youngest All-Star position player in history (more from @acomak)
What was your reaction…
I don’t get to go home. No, I’m just excited to get there and just have a good time, try to enjoy it, take it all in and really just try to enjoy myself. Definitely.
Roller coaster...
Yeah. I don’t know. Words can’t explain it right now. I think it’s exciting to go and I’m excited to get there and be around all the top guys in the country, of course, top guys in baseball. So I’m just going to take it all in, try to enjoy it with the family and try to just be as mellow and calm as I can.
You’ve been looking forward to that mental break. Can you still get that even going to KC…
I doubt it. Of course it’s all for the fans. It’s an exciting time for them. I’m just going to try to take it all in as much as I can, enjoy it as much as I can. It’s all for the fans. So you try to go in there and really try to enjoy yourself with them and really try to put on a show for them.
You aren’t going to take Stanton’s spot in the HR Derby are you…
I have no clue. I don’t see that happening. I don’t know if I can take his spot. I think him being able to hit home runs like that is pretty impressive. So if I get a call from Kemp – if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
Initial reaction…
When Davey called me over there it was either I was thinking I was going down because Rizzo and everybody was over there or the All-Star game.  Good thing it was the All-Star game. I’m happy. I am.
Davey Johnson on Harper...
The big news is that Tony LaRussa picked Bryce Harper to replace Stanton. And I told him just a few minutes ago, and he was all excited. Told him the vacation’s over. So that’s a great honor for him.”
Mental break
“Yeah. Well the good news about that is a mental break from the pennant race. So you still get a mental break from that and you get to enjoy the fact that you’re representing the National League and it’s a great honor and you’re with a lot of talented players. So I’m happy for him and proud of him.”
Rest him after the All-Star break?
Probably not. He’s also strong as a bull.

Gooden vs Bryce
I mean I don't look at them as being young. I look at the talent and, you know, when Dwight was 17 he looked like a big leaguer except he just didn't have the innings to pitch in the big leagues. I mean Harp, he does everything a little bit better than average and I don't know which one is younger (Dwight barely) but that's what happens when you've been around a while, you get the youngest guys making the team.
Who's better?
Well I'll say this. Doc was the best pitcher I ever had at that age and Harper's the best position player I ever had at that age. But they're both very special. It's fun to watch them go out there and watch them express their talent. It's just really fun from my viewpoint. You never know quite what you're going to expect but you know it's going to be special. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

FFToolbox - The podcast links

Not gonna lie, the number of downloads for the FFToolbox fantasy football podcast have been off the hook recently. Many thanks to you and yours for listening - or at least dowloading the show out of pity. Regardless, gracias. Just in case you missed any of the recent footbal podcasts, links are below. Cheers...

July 3 - 49ers' receivers; Steelers' runners; Doug Martin, Stevan Ridley, Jake Locker, Michael Turner and wishing certain players would be granted independence from their current frustrating situation.

June 26 - The Broncos passing game and the divisive pick that is Jacob Tamme; where RGIII fits in the QB hierarchy; Percy Harvin's sneaky second half production; fantasy QB strategy...Crossed the 10K download mark with this one, most ever for a FFT podcast. Who knew Tamme was podcast gold!

June 19 - NFC West; expert league mock draft discussion; drafting Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham in the second round?

The final countdown: picking Team USA ( CSNwashington)

Back in April when the first wave of defections off the USA Basketball roster took place, I took a stab at projecting the final men's basketball Olympic roster.

Now that Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Derrick Rose have joined Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge on the sidelines, another projection is required. Since the actual 12-man roster will be revealed during a televised announcement on Saturday night, said final projection comes now.

For starters, here's the way I saw things nearly three months ago..
Forward: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, LeBron James
Guard: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams
Center: Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love
Scratch Rose (knee) and Wade (upcoming knee surgery) from the roster along with Bosh, who suffered an abdominal injury during the Miami Heat's run to the NBA title. Everyone else is good to go. Team USA is therefore loaded in the backcourt and on the wings, but light inside and could use another perimeter shooter.
The final three spots come down to six players: Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, James Harden and Anthony Davis, the last two added to the main core after the spate of bumps and bruises (and worse). Though any combination headed to London would not be surprising, let's break it down into the likely position battles...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Final NBA Mock, 1-32 (plus bonus picks) (CSNwashington)

What's the point of having a draft if you don't mock it. This is my second - and perhaps - final version...

1) New Orleans: Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky – Obviously. Let’s move on.

2 – Charlotte: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas – If the Bobcats keep the pick, the athletically gifted double-double machine is probably the only option that makes sense for a team lacking, um, a lot.

3 – Washington: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida – No need to be coy about this one, Beal is the only option that makes positional and need sense based on the current depth chart. Add his textbook jumper and court awareness to an offense that made efficient strides late last season and the success rate goes up, especially from long range.

4 – Cleveland: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky – Players can develop their shot in the pro ranks. If MKG does and maintains the rest of his high-energy, intangible-heavy game, he forms a scary perimeter combo with his high school teammate, some guy named Kyrie Irving. Late draft chatter has Syracuse’s Dion Waiters gaining steam with this pick.

5 – Sacramento: Harrison Barnes, SF, Cleveland – Like the Wizards and Bobcats, the Kings came way up short last season in the make 3-pointers consistently category. Say what you want about Barnes’ ability to create his own scoring opportunities, but he can knock down perimeter looks and his athleticism is truly off the charts.

6 – Portland: Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State – If the Blazers want the highest upside player remaining, Andre Drummond is the obvious call. However, Portland is lacking at the point guard slot and Lillard is impressing more and more. He might not be available when the Blazers pick again at 11.

7 – Golden State: Andre Drummond, PF, Connecticut – The Warriors need small forward help and therefore are probably hoping Barnes falls to them. Waiters is a much-rumored option. At this point, taking a shot on Drummond’s power-packed physique – and truly raw skill set – is a relative no-brainer.

8 – Toronto: Austin Rivers, SG, Duke – Waiters may have offer a more intrigue as a scorer and Jeremy Lamb has better size and athleticism, but Doc’s kid has that Kobe Bryant-like confidence teams fall in love with.

9 – Detroit: John Henson, PF, North Carolina – I’ve had Meyers Leonard in this spot, but far too many folk have the Pistons tabbing the slender but athletic shot blocker for me to ignore. Regardless, Greg Monroe gets some help inside.

10 – New Orleans: Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina – Though not an elite prospect, the polished 7-foot senior averaged 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds in his ACC Player of the Year campaign. Taking Zeller is more about adding a piece to the puzzle rather than selecting a future top 3 player.

11- Portland: Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse – If the buzz surrounding the legitimate two-way threat is sincere, Waiters might surpass Davis as the overall number one pick by Thursday night. Call it naivete or a hint of skepticism, I’ll leave the 6-foot-4 wing around for the Blazers. Waiters dramatically improved his 3-point shooting (36.3 percent) as a sophomore while swiping 1.8 steals per game.

12 – Houston: Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut – Based on all their maneuvering, seems likely the Rockets move this pick, if not any or all of their three first rounders. If the silky-smooth guard with size and length proved to NBA decision makers there is a competitive rage behind the placid demeanor, he could hear his name called in the top 10.

13 – Phoenix Terrence Ross, SF/SG, Washington – Whichever wing guard is left, the Suns take. Ross knocked down 37 percent of his 3-point tries last season and he has the versatility to swing up to small forward. Would benefit greatly if Steve Nash returned. Who wouldn't.

14 – Milwaukee: Perry Jones, PF, Baylor – After trading down for center Samuel Dalembert, the Bucks shoot for the moon with the highly-athletic, but low-motor 6-foot-11 forward. Jones is one of those players whose future position remains in question.

15 – Philadelphia: Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State – The 76ers lose out in the scoring guard game of musical chairs, but the 6-foot-11 forward with crazy hops and double-double production last season is no mere consolation prize.

16 – Houston: Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois – Whether it’s the Rockets or another team drafting in this spot, the athletic 7-foot-1 center who can run the court and averaged 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds as a sophomore will be tough to resist.

17 – Dallas: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina – Because there is so much talk about Marshall’s lack of athleticism, we’re set for 10 future years worth of stories about how the entirety of the D.C. area native’s skill set can be measured in measurements alone. Jason Kidd replacement owns a Jason Kidd knack for finding open shooters. That is what the point guard’s job is about.

18 – Houston: Terrence Jones, SF, Kentucky – Draft range for the 6-foot-9 forward starts at No. 7. Would be clearer if teams felt confident he could transition from college power forward to NBA small forward.

19 – Orlando: Royce White, PF, Iowa State – I’m a sucker for big men that are effective passers, especially when said passing leads to the player being deemed a point-power forward. One of my faves in this entire draft.

20 – Denver: Moe Harkless, SF/PF, St. John’s – Only inexperience and the freshman transitioning to a small forward role keeps the talented 6-foot-9 forward away from the lottery. Harkless scored 30 points against Duke and averaged 21.5 in two games against Georgetown last season.

21 – Boston: Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State – Has a pro skill set, a major league caboose, but amateurish athleticism, an under-the-rim game and apparently a faulty back. Boston has an opening for a wide-bodied forward after trading away Big Baby last year. Sullinger will be ready for key minutes for the annual title contender.

22 – Boston: Fab Melo, C, Syracuse – Celts have lacked an interior power player since Kendrick Perkins was shipped to the Thunder.

23 – Atlanta: Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt – Taylor is one of the top athletes in the draft and a position hedge should Josh Smith be dealt.

24 – Cleveland: Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure – The polished power forward averaged 16 and 8 last season while shooting 57 percent from the field. The Cavs could use a big man that can make shots away from the basket.

25 – Memphis: Evan Fournier, SG, France – The only international prospect receiving consistent first round love, Fournier’s high basketball IQ and knack for late game heroics eventually help the Grizzlies, either this year or next.

26 – Indiana: Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky – George Hill is a free agent and should he return, Darren Collison’s trade bait status goes up a notch. Adding another ball handler works.

27 – Miami: Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt – Play LeBron James wherever you want, but the reigning NBA champs need help in the middle regardless.

28 – Oklahoma City: Draymond Green, SF, Michigan State – The Big 10 Player of the Year may be a rookie, but he will bring grit to a youthful Thunder lineup.

29 – Chicago: John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt – The Bulls start setting the deck for Derrick Rose’s realistic return (2013-14) by adding a knockdown shooter.

30 – Golden State: Will Barton, SG, Memphis – With the final pick in the first round, the Warriors add an electric wing presence who shines in the open court.

31 – Charlotte: Tony Wroten, SG/PG, Washington – There are safer picks on the board, but the 6-foot-6 combo guards offers an assertive physical presence out of the backcourt. A potential lottery pick if he had stayed beyond his freshman season.

32 – Washington: Tyshawn Taylor, PG, Kansas - For my take on why the senior floor leader makes sense for the locals, click here.

Bonus local picks...No. 35, Golden State - Kyle O'Quinn (Norfolk State, PF)...No. 42, Milwaukee - Mike Scott (Virginia, PF)...No. 47, Utah - Henry Sims (Georgetown, C)...No. 54, Philadelphia - Hollis Thompson (Georgetown, SF)...No. 56, Toronto - Kris Joseph (Syracuse/Archbishop Carroll, SF)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wizards: second-round planning (CSNwashington)

Based on their current roster, the Wizards first round options can be broken down into three simple categories: right (Bradley Beal), wrong (Andre Drummond) or indifferent (just about anyone else). Barring a trade down or the team simply being all kinds of smitten for D.C.’s own Thomas Robinson, perimeter help is coming via the No. 3 overall pick.

The talk about what the Wizards should do in the second round is far less heated, but much more open for debate.

Right now, the Wizards depth chart is frontcourt heavy, backcourt light and shooting deprived. Some have a backup point guard as a high priority. Of course nobody will object to going with the “best available” approach.

With all that in mind, here’s a best guess look at whom the Wizards might select at No. 32.

Workout warriors: Looking at the prospects that visited the Verizon Center this month.’s mock draft projection in parenthesis.

Tyshawn Taylor (35) - Of the players checked out by the Wizards on their own turf, the Kansas point guard arguably stands out as the best combination of upside and roster need. The 6-foot-4 guard’s playmaking skills and defensive abilities outweigh his at times maddening decisions. Whereas Shelvin Mack was tasked with learning to play as a lead guard during his rookie season, Taylor had the ball in his hands during the Jayhawks run to the national title game and throughout his four years at Kansas.

Scott Machado (53) - Only Kendall Marshall arguably stands out as a purer point guard than the 6-foot-2 Iona product. Machado topped Marshall and every other Division I player last season with 9.9 assists per game while knocking down 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. There is fear his fast-paced style, which thrived at Iona, will suffer in translation to the NBA's half court sets. His vision won't and the Wizards could use a point guard who is first and foremost a distributor.

Darius Miller (37) – Crowded up front or not, the Wizards could use a small forward type who knocked down 40.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc during his final two seasons at Kentucky. Another of those rare college seniors, Miller showed during his days at Lexington he understands what it means to be a role player. Don’t underestimate that trait when it comes to establishing a cohesive roster/bench.

Tomas Satoransky (50) – The Wizards are not exactly in a“draft-and-stash” position, but with Beal or Barnes at three, the team’s top 11 are arguably in place. Though possibly a reach early in the second and not the only international option projected in the second, the 6-foot-7 Czech is an intriguing point guard prospect. Rather than having the athletic 20-year-old sit and watch, the Wizards could let Satoransky continue his craft learning ways overseas for another season.

Others: Kris Joseph (SF, Syracuse), Henry Sims (C, Georgetown), Miles Plumlee (C, Duke)

Deep sleepers/summer League invites: Sticking with the need shooters theme, Georgetown’sHollis Thompson and Northwestern’s John Shurna drain 3-pointers with layup line ease. Neither player is currently in the DraftExpress mock, though their long-range accuracy is NBA-worthy.

Everybody else: Looking at those whose summer plans to date have not included a D.C. visit

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Evans back with Wizards. Coaching. For the summer (CSNwashington)

Even if injuries and a youth movement curtailed his playing time, Mo Evans proved valuable to the Wizards last season. The veteran small forward ostensibly served as a coach on the floor and in the locker room, a pro’s pro on a youthful roster prone at times to amateurish acts.

This summer, the 33-year-old Evans will do more than just play the role of a de facto assistant coach. He will be an actual assistant coach on the Wizards Las Vegas Summer League team next month.

The true oddity is Evans will do so while remaining an NBA free agent.

The idea came about during Evans’ exit interview with Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and other members of the organization. The situation became clearer when Randy Wittman was retained as the Wizards head coach.

“I think it matched well with my skill set,” Evans said during a telephone interview. “The opportunity was there. Coach Wittman got his contract renewed. Having played a big role, kind of being a player-coach last year, playing and also assisting with some of our guys, it just made perfect sense to try and help out with that role.”

The Wizards will begin play on June 13, the summer league’s opening day. This will not be Evans’ first venture with the Sin City hoops event, but the first where the sidelines will be his true home. His current hybrid status makes for an ideal situation.

“I’ve had my fair share of Vegas and I’ve had my fair share of playing in the summer league,” said Evans, first acquired by the Wizards in a trade late in the 2010-11 season. “It will be great to go back and really help out some of the young guys with things that can sometimes get lost in translation between coaches and players.”

Just to be clear, this is not a whim for Evans, some way to pass the time. Within the last few days, the swingman completed his third pilgrimage to the annual NBPA Top 100 camp in Charlottesville, participating in the coaching component of the high school basketball showcase.

Current and retired players take classes plus have the opportunity to “actually coach a team, call plays, call timeouts, go over strategy and really help these guys,” said, Evans, who will assist Sam Cassell, the Wizards summer league head coach, next month.

Roger Mason Jr., Evans’ teammate with the Wizards and himself a free agent, will also serve as an assistant as first reported by Alex Kennedy from

“Not to say that I’ve mastered it in any way shape or form, but I think I have enough tools in the bag to be an assistant to Sam,” Evans said.

Evans, who averaged 4.9 in 24 games last season, also believes he still has enough tools in the bag to remain an NBA player.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wizards - breaking down the Okafor, Ariza Lewis deal

Well, that was surprising.

The Wizards jumped into the trading waters on Wednesday, acquiring veterans Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza from the New Orleans Hornets.
Forget a singular focus on rebuilding: With this move, the Wizards have put themselves into the Eastern Conference playoff mix, maybe.
The cost?
Technically, Rashard Lewis’ buyout worthy contract and the No. 46 pick in the 2012 draft. Realistically, the team’s salary cap flexibility for the next two seasons and possible playing time for several recent first round picks.
As an NBA scout described the deal to CSNwashington upon learning about the trade, “You went from a youth movement trying to build from the draft to taking on money and thinking you can get to the eighth spot and next year get into the playoffs."

Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld downplayed the trade’s impact on plans for the June 28 NBA Draft (“It doesn’t affect the draft at all."). We'll see, but Florida wing guard Bradley Beal - myprediction with the third overall pick before the trade - is now the logical front-runner. Washington retained its other second-round selection, No. 32 overall.
Certainly, from a talent standpoint, the Wizards helped themselves with the deal, though hardly in a "Big 3" sort of way. The newcomers each bring a defensive mentality and are all by accounts solid citizens. The 6-foot-10 Okafor, who turns 30 this season, remains a viable interior presence eight years into his career though injuries (sore left knee) limited him to 27 games in 2011-12 (on his post-trade conference call, Grunfeld said the players still must pass their physical exams).
Though he averages a double-double for his career, Okafor's numbers last season – 9.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.0 block – all represent career lows. With his $13.49 million salary next season, the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft moves past Nene ($13 million) as the highest paid player on the team.
Despite his time in the spotlight with the trophy-raising Los Angeles Lakers a few seasons back, Ariza is only 26 and coming off a bit of a rebound season. His athletic presence on the wing will help John Wall in the open court. His career 31.7 percent from beyond the arc does not address the team’s perimeter shooting woes. This deal overall does arguably more harm than good offensivel
Though Lewis remains a solid locker room presence, injuries sapped his onetime potent abilities. His days with the organization were numbered. We knew this. The question was simply how he would, entering the final year of his deal, receive his walking papers; as part of a trade, a hefty buyout (approximately $13.7 million) or by way of the NBA’s one-time only amnesty clause.
By doing the deal and not writing Lewis a check, the Wizards instead:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fantasy Football/NFL podcast (FFToolbox)

Part two of pre-preseason takes on an intriguing fantasy players with fellow FFToolbox writer George Bissell. Click here for this week's podcast which touched on teams and players including:
Giants (Victor Cruz, David Wilson)

Lions (Jahvid Best)

Vikings (Percy Harvin)

Cardinals (Michael Floyd)

Rams (Danny Amendola)

Bills (C.J. Spiller)

Steelers (Antonio Brown)

Jaguars (Laurent Robinson, Justin Blackmon)

Chiefs (Jammal Charles)

Broncos (Eric Decker)

Click here for part one of the look at intriguing fantasy players (Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Roy Helu Jr., Ravens, Redskins, NFC South, etc.)

(In case you were wondering, the upcoming part three will include players on the Cowboys, Packers, Seahawks, Dolphins, Jets, Bengals, Browns, Colts, Texans, Chargers - and more Broncos)

Podcast also includes talk about Roddy White and the Falcons passing game, Santana Moss and the Redskins receiving corps.

 list includes Victor Cruz, Jammal Charles, Demaryius Thomas plus players on the Steelers, Bills, Lions and Cardinals. Plus the latest news from around the league and Ben's shares the 411 he learned covering the Redskins OTA. Any questions for the crew, send them to

Monday, May 28, 2012

Free Agency watch, Redskins style (CSN)

Now that salary cap-gate is over, what's next for the Redskins 53-man roster. There is around $3.8 million of salary cap space left, though some of that coin goes toward signing the remaining draft picks. The rest...

Considering the remaining free agent options are largely backup types, there are few must-have players. Regardless, you never know what happens between now and the start of training camp and the regular season. That is why I've been compiling a list of the viable and rainy day options among remaining NFL free agents.

Offensive tackle/line
Running back
Defensive back
Wide receiver
Tight end

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fantasy Footballing - Podcasts and Profiles

Over the last week I hosted two podcasts and profiled fantasy footballers on four teams. Proof exists below...

Podcasts: First things first. Click here and then subscribe to the podcast via ITunes, Zune or Google Listen. Thay way, whenever I post the latest edition of the handy dandy FFToolbox podcast (always hosted by yours truly), the download happens on your end automatically. Helps me, helps you. Good? Good.

*The first of two episodes. NY Times and CBS Sports NFL writer Andy Benoit talks about the transactional offseason and Dallas Cowboys blogger K.D. Drummond analyzes the fantasy battles in Big D.

* Next up, I called my FFToolbox colleague George Bissell for some pre-preseason takes on an intriguing fantasy players. We talke Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Roy Helu and other notables from 12 NFL teams including the Ravens, Bears, Raiders and the entire NFC South.

Rankings: Click on each team name for the full monty of profiles, which for each includes at least quarterbacks (2), running backs (4), wide receivers (4), tight ends (2), kicker and defense/special teams. Since we all love a good sampler course, I served up one profile for each team below...

Washington Redskins - RB Roy Helu Jr.: Following Tim Hightower's injury, Helu went from deep sleeper to electric fantasy star before his own late season ailments sidelined him. The dual threat topped 1,000 yards from scrimmage and finished with four 100-yard games, one coming as a receiver. Best suited as a situational option. If overworked with 20+ touches, could break down. If used appropriately, could be explosive RB2.

Dallas Cowboys - RB Felix Jones: Bad news for anyone who typically avoids the Felix Jones hype train: many more people are now on your side. After laboring through the Cowboys' first five games last season, injuries slowed Jones (shocker!) and DeMarco Murray happened. Both are training room regulars so a depth chart is possible, but for now Jones is the other guy – and a fantasy reserve.

Philadelphia Eagles - WR Jeremy Maclin: Entered 2011 battling a mystery illness. Ended the season leading the Eagles in receptions. Missed three games or likely would have topped 1,000 yards for the first time as a pro. The safer of the Philly starting receivers and yet his skill set pops. Entering camp healthy should boost Maclin's numbers. Strong second fantasy receiver.

Baltimore RavensWR Torrey Smith: The true definition of a home run hitting receiver. Smith blazed onto the scene in Week 3 with five receptions for 152 yards and three touchdowns. Topped the catches and yardage total in Week 10 later. In all other games, went over 80 yards just once. Tremendous potential, especially once he learns how to run routes. Certainly a fun pick and fine as a low-end WR2, better as an all-upside WR3.

Redskins link-o-rama

 My recent Redskins links, all on one page. Yeah, we're in a informational lull right now...

* My fantasy football writing duties include profiling players on a certain burgundy and gold team. RGIII, Helu, Royster, Garcon, Hankerson, Cooley, both kickers and more! (FFToolbox)

* While my CSNwashington colleague Rich Tandler profiled the bulk of the Redskins drafted rookies, I focused on the late, late rounders plus some sneaky undrafted types, including:

Safety Jordan Bernstine - Based solely on reading up on the versatile defensive back with 4.4 speed and knack for hard hits, I'm thinking Bernstine has a strong chance to make the 53-man roster. I mean, have you seen the secondary depth chart???

Cornerback Richard Crawford - The slot corner and return specialist is part of the flowing pipeline from SMU to Ashburn

Inside linebacker D.J. Holt - The undrafted rookie out of Cal does the tackling thing, has special teams experience and is will compete with an unsettled group of reserves. (CSNwashington)

Wide receiver Lance Lewis - dubbed the East Carolina target who likes playing in traffic the Redskins most intriguing undrafted free agent.

* Finally, a look around the NFC East, from Jerry Jones jabbing the Redskins offense to the ongoing spat between a Giants pass rusher and Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. This one has a motherly vibe.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Scouting the hot NBA assistant coaches

In this space yesterday, we highlighted one NBA writer’s case for why former Portland and Seattle coach Nate McMillan should be the next Wizards head coach.

Now that the Orlando Magic have been mercifully knocked out of the playoffs, we could be only days away before Stan Van Gundy becomes available.

Should Wizards management decide interim coach Randy Wittman will not return and a veteran leader is their desired target, McMillan and Van Gundy are clearly viable options.

However, should they pass on a retread hire yet still want a coach with NBA experience, the question becomes which assistants are ready for the main job.

Monitoring the news out of Charlotte might provide some insight.

Unlike the tight-lipped Wizards operation, reports have been dripping out about whom the Bobcats intend on interviewing.

The latest name to surface, Orlando assistant and former Georgetown Hoyas and New York Knicks star Patrick Ewing. Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reports, "Ewing is a close friend of Charlotte owner Michael Jordan, and several sources believe the Hall of Fame center will turn out to be a serious candidate for the opening."

Ewing is one of several names alreadly linked to the job.

Previously Wojnarowki reported the Bobcats would interview Warriors assistant Mike Malone, the NBA's highest-paid assistant.

Then there is the one assistant even casual fans are aware of, Brian Shaw. The former Lakers assistant under Phil Jackson, Shaw is currently on the bench with the Pacers, who await the winner of the Heat-Knicks series (so Miami) in the second round.

Sam Amick from Sports Illustrated reported the Bobcats asked for permission to interview Shaw, but "permission was neither granted nor denied for Shaw to speak with Charlotte because he prefers to focus on the playoffs at the moment."

McMillan is also on Charlotte's radar, though some have questioned whether an established coach would want to take over a total rebuild. Regardless, these initial reports indicate the Bobcats are intent on exploring the assistant route for their young and clearly in need of help squad.

As for the Wizards, obviously Ewing's experience as a scorer and defensive presence could benefit their young bigs, especially Kevin Seraphin. Malone's star is on the rise and he could have his pick of jobs. Considering the young roster and another top 5 pick on the way, this job could be attractive for someone looking to mold the team after his own vision and not simply coach the established veterans on hand.

Shaw clearly knows from winning. My one concern here would be whether he intends on bringing the famed triangle offense to Washington. On the surface John Wall's style and speed does not make for a great fit with the point guard-light scheme that's more east-west than north-south. Of course, the Pacers are not using the triangle, so we'll see.

Of course the Wizards have yet to make a decision - publically anyway -on Wittman, so, we'll see.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Shooting down Thomas Robinson to the Wizards

Trust me on this: I do not take any NBA mock draft seriously at this point, especially since - hello! - we do not have an actual draft order. However, since we know the Wizards will pick no worse than fifth and the draft class is largely set, we have a good feel for their likely options in that range should they miss out on the consensus overall number one pick, Kentucky's Anthony Davis.

Kansas star and D.C. area native Thomas Robinson is among them. The chiseled power forward is a double-double machine and the junior sports a non-stop motor that teams looking for an interior option will surely consider.

The question is whether the Wizards are one of those teams.

Apparently SBNation's Tom Ziller says yes. Yours truly says unless it's the shot blocking Davis, not so much, not right now.

After slotting Davis to the abysmal Charlotte Bobcats with the overall number one pick, Ziller sent Robinson back home with the No. 2 selection.

"A franchise that so believed in its ability to morph men it gave Gilbert Arenas a near-max after an ACL tear, extended Andray Blatche before he hit the market and hung with JaVale McGee for more than three years has changed so much that there's no chance it touches Andre Drummond with a fishing pole. Robinson's heart and work ethic will make some GM overlook his size and potential to be great in any one area."

Right now in terms of interior options, Robinson is the top non-Davis call for the Wizards, ranking above the likes of UConn's Drummond and Ohio State's under-the-rim wide-body Jared Sullinger. I agree there is zippy chance that at two the Wizards select the powerful but truly raw Drummond, even though another prominent NBA draft site has that marriage taking place.

If indeed the Wizards go big over small, the energetic Robinson is the logical call.

But considering the current roster makeup - an intriguing frontcourt with Nene and kids but a lineup devoid of shooters - adding a perimeter or wing weapon makes the most sense.

Redskins: Hightower plus other two yards and a cloud of dust free agent RB options

Just about the only pending topic not asked of Mike Shanahan following Sunday's rookie camp practice involved the running back situation. Granted, both the Redskins head coach and Tim Hightower expressed a mutual interest in having the free agent return for the 2012 campaign. Should the team and veteran runner agree to terms, the backfield would largely be set, Hightower reuniting with second-year runners Roy Helu and Evan Royster.

Then again, the draft has now come and gone and Hightower, who is recovering from a season-ending knee injury suffered last October, remains on the open market. Plenty of time exists between now and the start of training camp - though OTA's start this month - so there might not be a calendar issue for the Redskins. They drafted a runner for depth in the later rounds of the just completed NFL draft, but the need for an inside runner remains.

However, should another team make Touchdown Timmy an offer he can't refuse - or the recovery period moves slower than expected or the missing cap space stays missing - then what?

This recent article on ranks Hightower as the top free agent RB on the market. That distinction is hardly impressive. The top-five list also could use a scrubbing since one listed option signed elsewhere, another one is on the verge of doing the same, another is talking retirement and the remaining two are Cedric "rap sheet" Benson and Thomas "3.1 ypc" Jones.

I wonder what the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions think about such rankings. Former Colts RB Joseph Addai just signed with the AFC Champion Patriots, who also reportedly worked out Hightower last month. Meanwhile the Lions are reportedly moving closer to adding former Packers star Ryan Grant.
One question that emerges from that transactional scenario is what do these signings or near-signings say about Hightower status. For now, not much; neither Addai nor Grant are considered big gets at this point of their career.

Why Hightower and the Redskins have yet to put pen to paper, unclear. What is incredibly obvious is that the other options are hardly interesting, but some veteran will be added. Considering Shanahan stated rookie Robert Griffin III is his starting quarterback, it would be nice for a more concrete ground game outlook.

Maybe Hightower is letting teams know he is Ashburn-bound. Maybe his penchant for two-yard runs is limiting his market. Maybe his outlook shines no brighter than the other available backs.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

NHL, MLB doubleheader

My AP stringer duties had me covering one practice, one game and two teams in two different sports. Not that I had much writing to do, but it all led to receiving attributions in a career-high four articles in the same day. Random.

*I covered the Phillies side of the "Take back the ballpark" game Friday night. Not that Jimmy Rollins had any clue the about Nationals-led promotion. I asked the shortstop if he was aware the home team had been making a strong push to get their fans into the stadium rather than the usual horde of Philly fanatics. In short,'' Rollins replied, "two letters: The first letter starts with `N'; the last one is `O.'''

* New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider - as opposed to the George Mason assistant men's basketball coach - went straight from winning the Frozen Four with Boston College to playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's right, no regular season action for the speedy 21-year-old, who scored the game-winning goal and assisted on an insurance tally in the Game 1 win over the Capitals. The best-of-7 series resumes Saturday at 12:30.

Click on through for one more NHL and MLB link

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What if: 23-and-under U.S. hoops roster for London

After writing about John Wall joining the U.S. Men's national program and the potential for a 23-and-under team going forward, I started wondering what a team with that type age restriction could look like this summer.

Of the players likely headed to London for real, only Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love (and the injured and therefore not eligible even in the What If world Derrick Rose) are options. Here's my projected 12-man roster with six alternates, starters in bold:

John Wall, future olympian?

The good news: John Wall is reportedly joining Team USA as a member of the select team that will scrimmage against the 2012 men's basketball Olympic squad this summer.

The interesting angle: This opportunity gives the Wizards speedy point guard a potential leg up on making the 2016 Olympic team.

The potential international buzz kill: Notable basketball decision-makers are looking at a 23-and-under roster format for future Olympic games.

Before we look ahead, let's focus on the present - and the present that comes with the invitation, which multiple outlets have reported. Instead of spending a second straight summer time playing in loosey-goosey charity games, Wall should be battling the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook during intense scrimmages.

Actually there was no fear of another summer fun circuit - "Nah, I’m cool on that, " Wall said the day after the season finale win over the Heat. "I’m done. It’s just workouts. I ain’t having none, that was just because of the lockout it was too much time."

Earlier that week, I asked Wall if he was going to attend any NBA playoff games in person and which point guards the maturing floor leader would study during the off-season. Seeing as he intended on doing the bi-coastal thing between D.C. and Los Angeles, Wall said he would hope to catch Paul and the Clippers in addition to the Lakers, who could face Westbrook and the Thunder in the second round.

Now Wall might get some hands-on lessons from those All-Stars.

Even with Derrick Rose's knee injury taking him out of the Olympic mix - big men Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Lamar Odom are also not expected to join the team's training camp - Team USA is still flush with point guard options. Unless Paul, Williams and Westbrook opt out or are injured before the London games, that trio will run the offense.

Team USA will train in Las Vegas July 6-11. After an exhibition against the Dominican Republic on July 12, the U.S. team will move operations to Washington for two days worth of practices before hosting Brazil in an exhibition game on July 16.

But what about future U.S editions?

Georgetown faces Texas in 2012 Jimmy V Classic

From, the day late news pile: Georgetown has an official non-conference game on their 2012-13 calendar.

Nope, not against Terps, but Texas.

The Hoyas and Longhorns will participate in a doubleheader for the 2012 Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday, December 4 at Madison Square Garden (do I need to add MSG is in New York City?).
Georgetown will play Texas in the first game scheduled for 7 p.m followed by a matchup between Connecticut and North Carolina State.

Per Georgetown's athletic department, this will be only the second meeting all-time between the Hoyas and the Longhorns, who last met during the 1971-72 season, a 78-70 GU loss.

Georgetown last played in the Jimmy V Classic during the 2009-10 season, beating eventual NCAA Tournament finalist Butler, 72-67.

The Hoyas finished last season with a 24-9 overall record and made the NCAA Tournament for a third-straight season before losing to the Wolfpack in the round of 32.

Texas finished the 2011-12 season with a 20-14 overall record and lost to Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

FFToolbox podcast: John Keim; fantasy rookies

Did the podcast thing this week..

* Redskins beat writer John Keim (Washington Examiner) talked about the offense surrounding RGIII

* Whether Pierre Garcon  has No. 1 receiver skills and where Leonard Hankerson fits into the team's WR hierarchy

* If Roy Helu enters the season as the primary runner

* And yes, what was up with that Kirk Cousins pick

* Also weighed in on the NFC East outlook post-draft (Outside of the Nick Foles pick, we both liked what Philly did)

* Plus before and after the Keim interview, I did the solo talking thing with a look at NFL rookies and their fantasy outlook. Here's a taste - I explain why based on value, Doug Martin (Bucs) is my fave first-round RB; why Rams RB Isaiah Pead, Jets WR Stephen Hill and Steelers RB Chris Rainey have that sleeper kind of look.

Click it here for the podcast goodness.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Kiper: Cousins pick 'can divide a team'

One of if not the main post-NFL Draft water cooler topics centers on the Redskins quarterbacking situation - but not simply Robert Griffin III. Rather, how the drafting of Michigan State's Kirk Cousins impacts the start of the RG3 era.

I weighed in here, offering my take on the puzzling other quarterback pick. Some like Sports Illustrated's Peter King and Don Banks have set up camp on my side of the aisle, others go the other way.

During his post-draft conference call on Monday, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper voiced his opinion.

It's not favorable. We're talking the pick for the Redskins on the heels of going all in for Robert Griffin III, not the upside of Cousins.

As anyone who has listened to Kiper knows, he talks fast and he talks a lot. I transcribed it all. Here are the raw quotes, followed by his thoughts on the Redskins non-QB picks.

"I wouldn’t have taken Cousins in the fourth round if I’m the Redskins. I would have loved to have had him for a team that needed a young quarterback that could be the starter in a year or so. I would have loved him in the fourth round. He could have been a second-round pick. We could have been sitting here saying he was a decent second-round pick. No problem with them saying we had him rated as the third quarterback, we had to take him.

"But does this cause any problems? It’s easy to say he understands [Cousins] role, RG3 is the starter. [Cousins is] coming into compete, he’s not coming into understand a role. How can you tell someone to be a backup? You can’t tell a kid, coming in the fourth round you just be satisfied to be the backup. No matter what you do you’re our backup. He’s not going to buy into that.

RG3 Era Begins With Confusing Quarterback Pick (

Addressing the receiving corps in free agency and drafting multiple guards count as positive steps in the new Robert Griffin III (RG3) era.

Passing on a needed tackle, running back or safety in the fourth round for another quarterback – Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins - in RG3’s first season does not.

From the moment the Washington Redskins shipped three first-round picks plus a second-round selection to the St. Louis Rams last month, the plan should have been — and in the eyes of the staff, presumably is — to maximize their new asset’s potential.

I am stumped how adding another passer does that.

As always, team comes first and smart organizations draft talent over need, but within reason. In this case, special consideration should have gone to enhancing the new guy with the power arm, dynamic speed and movie star charisma.

Though RG3’s cool vibe might not suggest a player under pressure, he is. By adding Cousins, the Redskins may have unnecessarily turned up the stress level.

Let’s me make this very clear — without question RG3 is the Redskins’ future.

His present includes joining an offense with a leaky line and a backfield lacking depth. Fourth rounders can help those areas and elsewhere.

The choice certainly will not keep RG3 upright in the pocket, give him a supportive ground game or fix a beatable secondary so he does not have to throw on every down just to keep pace.

Perennial playoff teams with fewer depth chart gaps can take such a luxury pick. The Redskins are still in trying to build a roster. That did not stop Washington from becoming the first team since 1989 to select two quarterbacks in the first four rounds.

Check out the rest of my column here -