‘NBA Live 18’ to feature ESPN’s ‘First Take’ as part of new career mode

“Embrace debate” has taken over sports television programming, and now even sports video games aren’t safe from it. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman will appear in “First Take” segments during the new career mode built for the upcoming “NBA Live 18” called “The One.” The duo provides character background and comment on events taking place within the storyline that involves coming up through the streets and reaching the NBA.

Create your unique player identity and decide how you become a legend by mastering your chosen role on the court using unique signature abilities and traits. Embark on your quest to be the greatest basketball player on the planet in The League and The Streets with, or against other players in solo, co-op and multiplayer challenges, in dynamic LIVE Events. Dominate the hardwood or blacktop with deep customization and innovative one-on-one gameplay arming you with an arsenal of all-new moves for each position on the court.

The highest-profile move to affect a video game release took place shortly after Brett Favre appeared on the cover of “Madden NFL 09.” It was the first time publisher EA Sports had chosen a retired player for the cover of the storied franchise. Favre then unretired and forced a trade to the Jets. The deal happened too late for the company to do anything but produce a downloadable cover of him in his new uniform that fans could print out and insert into their game boxes.

The first screenshot to feature the Cavs’ new Nike uniforms and sponsor Goodyear was released Monday by 2K Sports. Irving begins the year rated 90 Overall, which is unchanged from last season. Among point guards, he’s tied for fourth with John Wall and is behind Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul.

On Tuesday, he said it was the frustration of losing a playoff game he barely played in that pushed him to vent.

“I’ve always wanted to win a championship, and I’ve always been a part of the equation, and what happened last year is, I just wanted to win,” Hali said on Facebook Live. “I think anybody can bear with me, understand that, the frustration of losing a game in the playoff and barely playing. Being a competitor as myself, you just want to win. And that was basically what the rant was about.”

Hali also drew a parallel between the Patriots with Aaron Hernandez and Paterno’s role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.

After 4,727 passing yards and 39 touchdowns in 2014, he threw just nine touchdowns with 17 interceptions in 10 regular season games in 2015. The end came quick, and the reality is that it could strike just as fast for Brees.

The end hasn’t looked near, though.

“Drew is not 38,” Saints linebacker Craig Robertson told NOLA.com. “That’s just chronological right now. Drew is definitely like 26. He killed everybody in the conditioning test.”

Back in 2005, Brees’ time with the San Diego Chargers ended with a labrum tear that required surgery to repair. Miami Dolphins doctors were so nervous about the injury that they advised the team to steer clear of signing Brees. But in 11 seasons with the Saints, he’s missed only two games.

Brees dealt with minor knee problems in 2010 and 2013 and had shoulder and foot injuries in 2015, but for the most part, he’s stayed healthy. So much so, that Brees believes he could play much longer.patriots_322-180x180

Michael Vick now ‘truly sorry’ for Colin Kaepernick comments

After being pounded across TV and social media, Michael Vick has reversed himself. He said Thursday that he’s “truly sorry” for saying Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment is due to his play rather than his protest of the American flag/national anthem last season.

Vick also said he is sorry for suggesting the ex-49ers quarterback lose his afro, get a haircut and adopt a more “clean-cut” look if he wants to save his NFL career. Vick gave his controversial advice to Kaepernick during an appearance with Jason Whitlock on FS1’s “Speak for Yourself” on Tuesday.

“I mean, those things are being handled in house,” Prescott said (via the Star-Telegram). “For me, it’s just about being a good teammate. Making sure I back these guys up, being in their corner. We’re all grown men. We know what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s about staying focused and knowing what’s important, that’s what we do on this field.”

Though Prescott seems like the beacon of hope for the Cowboys amongst a sea of police reports and investigations, he had his own troubles in March 2016 when he was arrested for DUI. The charges were eventually dropped. However, Prescott is humble when discussing recent events involving fellow Cowboys.

“I mean, I’ve made probably as many bad decisions as any of these guys have, only being 23, so I’m definitely not one that can point fingers and be mad or be pissed,” Prescott said. “All I can do is give from my young experience and the things that happened to me.”

Now we wait to see if Elliott and others learned from their mistakes the same as Prescott.t_rangers_021-115x115

Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen declares for NBA Draft

Lauri Markkanen is the latest freshman to take his skills to the pros.

The 7-foot Arizona forward has opted to forego his sophomore season and declare for the NBA Draft, the university announced Thursday.

Markkanen made the most of his lone season at Arizona, playing in every game for the Wildcats while averaging 30.8 minutes, 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The Finland native also sunk an impressive 42.3 percent of his three-point attempts, despite his enormous size.

Markkanen, who turns 20 in May, is projected to be a top-10 pick.

The idea of Bridges as a prospect is currently much stronger than the reality of him. In theory, Bridges is a 6-7 3-and-D guy with go-go-gadget arms who can defend and knock down shots. In reality, he really doesn’t have a ton of game yet with which to work unless things go exactly his way.

He struggles to defend bigger players, as Nigel Hayes showed over the weekend, and he has no game off the bounce if teams run him off the line. These are both parts of his game that he can improve by returning to Villanova and working with assistant coaches like Ashley Howard, known as one of the better developers of guards in the country. But right now, there are a lot of parts of his game that are missing to where it would be tough for me to select him in the upcoming draft.

Due to some poor free agency decisions, they were also in a tough spot as far as improving their talent level. Davis still has three years after this one remaining on his contract, but that’s not as far off in NBA years as you’d think. Had the team continued to struggle building around him, we’re only about 18 months away from when trade rumors would have started to pop up about the 2017 All-Star Game MVP.

Kelly Olynyk shows how Celtics can change game vs. Wizards

For the Celtics, things could not have been going much worse. They’d missed their first six shots and had been outrebounded by the Wizards, 8-0. The game was not yet four minutes old, but already the Boston faithful at TD Garden was groaning as the Celtics trailed, 16-3. They were on pace to give up 194 points.

That’s when Kelly Olynyk checked in for the Celtics. And boy, did he save their Canadian bacon in this one.

“Kelly came in and was huge for us,” said Al Horford, the man Olynyk replaced. “I feel like he made some big plays and just the way that he played in the first half really helped us when we were hurting to score the ball.”

That confluence of factors created the center bumper crop, which reared its head last summer and has only grown since. In a development that would dumbfound pundits from decades ago, even talented big men on reasonable contracts could be poor uses of salary cap space for some teams.

“Then you get young guys who are still getting better on the job. To me, Erik Spoelstra is the best one in that category. He is a coach who can adapt, he can be a leader, he is steady in how he handles himself and his team, and he has proven himself.

It’s hard for many to see through the bluster to the common-sense, individualistic foundation Ball is laying down. Yet it’s as simple as the old Chris Rock joke: Shaq is rich, but the man that signs Shaq’s check is wealthy.

The check Lonzo Ball would have gotten from one of the big shoe companies would have been enormous. It also would have been someone else’s check.

Not everybody is satisfied with that, and not everybody is supposed to be.falcons_041

NFL draft grades 2017: Compiling grades for the entire draft

The nike_steelers_3005 is now in the rearview mirror, and it’s time to assign grades for each team. These snap judgment grades are made based on a number of factors.

Below is look at how several people graded the 2017 NFL draft. That includes my own, which can be found here, as well as grades from Mark Maske of the Washington Post, Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports and Nate Davis of USA Today. Go to their grades for full explanations that, unlike what you may think, aren’t just jargon thrown against the wall without any thought.

I don’t think either of these guys are being shit heads in this case. But I do think things got tense. And while the reporter isn’t wrong, he probably would’ve saved himself a scene by clamming up sooner when it came to this particular storyline. It wasn’t a question that could be served that well by an athlete’s answer — the points and stats tell the story better than a quote would.

But also, what on Earth would make you think that, after a season of being petty as all hell and holding one of the best grudges in the history of sports (hey, Kevin Durant, sorry, didn’t see ya there!) while having a historic season, Russ was going to finally give up and let Adams answer a question just because you asked it enough times?

He wouldn’t! This moment was illustrative of Westbrook’s ethos. He thrives on adversity. He seems to want people to test him so that he has an excuse to fire back.

What happens to the free agent market for quarterbacks?

Any official moves on the Tony Romo front will slow to a crawl now that Thursday’s trade has cleared a runway for the veteran to land in Houston. With his status up in the air and Mike Glennon snapped up by the Bears, that leaves Jay Cutler as the league’s top free agent passer.

This is great news for Dallas and Romo, whose list of suitors grew without any real competition emerging on the market. The odds of a Romo trade, which would keep him as the league’s highest-paid quarterback for 2017, have gone up now.

It also leaves a few interesting scenarios to play out on the open market. If the Browns cut their newly acquired quarterback, Osweiler and Cutler would be the two top consolation prizes from a Romo deal.

But Denver is likely uninterested in Cutler given his history with the club. Either team signing Romo would set a few different moving pieces in motion, and the deals would likely domino all the way down to the least desirable free agent destination this spring — the New York Jets.

Right now, the quarterback market all depends on what happens with the Cowboys’ 36-year-old soon-to-be ex-QB.

The good news is, they’re in great shape for a rebuild. The Browns have been amassing draft picks like Sam Hinkie’s 76ers and currently hold 12 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, including the No. 1 and No. 12 overall selections. They can use that capital to address the needs they can’t fix in free agency while shipping other draft assets away for either future picks or players who can (like, once again, Garoppolo).

Two of the top three linebackers are gone, but the returnee, Sherrod Ruff, is a keeper. He recorded 11 TFLs, three sacks, and three forced fumbles from the strong side. Reserves Jeremy Sangster and Paxton Schrimsher were active in limited chances, and mid-three-star redshirt freshmen JaCorey Morris and Racheem Boothe could make a quick impact.

The NBA will invest even more in its referees

The NBA announced some major new investments in its referee program on Thursday. The league will create an advisory council on officiating starring Gen. Martin Dempsey and former U.S. Education Secretary/Celebrity Game scoring record holder Arne Duncan. The league will go on a hiring spree and work to keep crews more rested and use virtual reality to train refs.

Perhaps most importantly, the league will invest in a “data-driven game review system to create objective referee measurement standards and track progress regarding call accuracy and errors per game over multiple seasons.” That reads to me like “robot judge who will decide if refs are good or bad and keep score forever.” The National Basketball Referees Association hasn’t commented on this or any other aspect just yet, but Synergy for Referees seems like something they might oppose. We’ll see.

It’s pretty fascinating to me that the league is now investing lots of resources (time, money and headspace) to officiating issues but didn’t do much back in the wake of the Donaghy scandal. Technological advances have made all of this much more accessible. But Adam Silver has made improving the way the game is officiated a much bigger priority than David Stern, despite Stern presiding over the biggest ref scandal in any American sport in decades. It’s interesting.

Nerlens Noel, who is new to Dallas, went to the wrong airport to catch the Mavericks’ charter to Atlanta. He ended up being 10 minutes late. So coach Rick Carlisle didn’t give him the start and ripped him in the media. Maybe Carlisle is joking — his wit is rather dry in general — but SHEESH.

JaVale McGee doing improv.

The Warriors promised to sign Jose Calderon before Kevin Durant got hurt. The injury meant Golden State needed a wing more than a point guard. But the Warriors followed through with their promise, signing Calderon and waiving him 80 minutes later. He made a half million dollars for his troubles. What a world.


Cyprien picked the perfect time to have a bounceback season.

The Jaguars are not picking up Beachum’s four-year, $35 million option, sending the 27-year-old tackle to free agency after just one season in Jacksonville.

Ryan Clady, offensive tackle, New York Jets

The Jets declined Clady’s $10 million option for 2017, as New York suddenly eyes a potential mass shedding of veterans in order to jumpstart a roster turnaround.

Victor Cruz, wide receiver, New York Giants

Cyprien picked the perfect time to have a bounceback season. His 2016 campaign with Jacksonville was easily among the top 10 for his position (Pro Football Focus rated him the seventh-best safety in football), and he enters the market without a ton of competition (presuming the Chiefs apply the franchise tag to Eric Berry).

An interesting contract comparison would be another former second-round pick, Broncos safety T.J. Ward, who inked a four-year, $22.5 million deal back in 2014. But with the raises in the cap ceiling over the past three years, one would imagine Cyprien will fetch more on the open market. Would that type of commitment be worth the risk? Cyprien undoubtedly has a high ceiling, but he will now be thrust into a different system without the same responsibilities.

The safety position is notoriously underpaid to begin with, which means that there can be some solid values for teams looking to avoid the long-term commitment.

Jackson’s home-run ability cannot be discounted. I’m convinced the extra dimension he added to an already punchy Redskins offense helped lift Kirk Cousins from good starter to top-of-market quarterback this offseason. But it’s going to be difficult to pinpoint the value of a 30-year-old speed wideout, because there aren’t a ton of accurate comparisons out there.

The Bengals’ decision-making process this offseason will be difficult

Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals offensive guard

Zeitler might just be the most desirable offensive lineman on the market, which speaks to the weakness of this year’s free agent crop. That’s not a shot at Zeitler — he’s done a great job in his five-year Bengals career. Rather, it’s an indictment of the 2013 NFL Draft class.

The Bengals’ decision-making process this offseason will be difficult, given the team is one of the league’s most hesitant when it comes to spending money in free agency. Locking up the best member of the Bengals’ interior line will be imperative if they plan on keeping Andy Dalton upright, something the team couldn’t do last year.

However, the price tag that comes with being a franchise offensive lineman probably isn’t justified for a guard — even one of Zeitler’s pedigree.

Cook racked up major rushing yards as co-coordinator at Cal Poly from 2009-12. He passes the option litmus test. We’ll see if he can salvage Summers’ tenure. (Summers also brought in a new line coach and new receivers coach.)

Cook has quite a bit of rebuilding to do. Ellison, Upshaw, and Breida are gone. Through Southern’s first three FBS seasons, this trio accounted for 7,520 rushing yards and 3,585 passing yards. Breida rushed for 3,093 yards in 2014-15, and Ellison rushed for 118 yards and two scores in the Eagles’ momentous 2013 upset of Florida.

This was the collective face of Southern’s offense for a long time. Their departure hurts, despite dramatic underachievement in 2016.

Also gone: three of the four wideouts who caught more than two balls last season. The reboot is significant, especially when you include two lost starters on the line (including all-conference center Andy Kwon).