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FedEx Cup Standings 2014: Latest Rankings After Deutsche Bank Championship

2 hours 46 sec ago

All it takes is one tournament to completely shake up the FedEx Cup standings when playoff time comes, and that was the case after Monday's finish at the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship.

As for the one doing the shaking up, well, that was Chris Kirk. The American finished 15 strokes under par, proving enough to hold off Billy Horschel on the final hole and claim the 2,500 points in the standings.

His second win of the season propelled him to the FedEx Cup points lead, but he has plenty of company atop the leaderboard as the world's top golfers approach the BMW Championship and Tour Championship. 

Take a look at the updated FedEx Cup playoffs standings.

Note: Complete rankings can be found at PGATour.com.

 

Playoff Outlook

Kirk is peaking at the right time.

After opening play at TPC Boston with a round of 73, he went on a three-day tear that will rank up there as some of the best golf played in 2014. He fired off rounds of 66, 64 and 66 to claim the Deutsche Bank title, taking a stranglehold over the FedEx Cup playoffs in the process.

Finishing a few spots outside of automatic Ryder Cup qualification and not generating much noise as a captain's pick prior to this weekend, Kirk may have earned himself a call from U.S. captain Tom Watson with the win.

ESPN Stats and Information noted his career success:

As Jason Sobel of Golf Channel reported, Kirk was excited with the win:

Even Rory McIlroy congratulated the winner:

As for McIlroy's performance throughout the weekend, well, his tweet sums it up quite well. This year's winner of the British Open and PGA Championship struggled to start the weekend, and despite improving to become a contender, he couldn't keep pace with Kirk.

McIlroy continues to trail in the FedEx Cup standings after failing to win, but he picked up 525 points from his fifth-place finish to keep him in second place.

But no spot in the standings is comfortable during the playoffs. Hunter Mahan learned that the hard way, barely making the cut and finishing in 64th place to fall to third place after winning at The Barclays. 

Those top three—Kirk, McIlroy and Mahan—are a cut above the rest as the only golfers with more than 3,000 points entering the BMW Championship. But as many as 10 or 12 golfers are well within reach of taking an outright lead should they win the next tournament.

It remains to be seen whether three sleepers who had big weekends will emerge in the final two tournaments. Geoff Ogilvy, Horschel and Russell Henley were all afterthoughts before each amassed 1,083 with their second-place finishes, and now they could move into the lead by winning at the BMW Championship. 

Although a few golfers have made a name for themselves and emerged as leaders, it's still virtually anyone's $10 million prize to win, and that's what makes the FedEx Cup thrilling until the final hole. 

Danny Welbeck to Arsenal: Latest Transfer Details, Reaction and More

2 hours 7 min ago

Arsenal have announced the deadline-day signing of Danny Welbeck from Manchester United.

The club confirmed the transfer on their official Twitter account:

The England international joins up with Arsene Wenger’s side having scored 29 goals for the Red Devils, per, and he’ll be delighted to move to a club where his playing opportunities are set to improve dramatically on the minutes afforded to him at Old Trafford.

At just 23 years old, there is still plenty of time for Welbeck to make good on the undeniable potential he showcased from an early age. He burst onto the scene at United as a 17-year-old, scoring a stunning goal against Stoke City during his first Premier League game.

Loan spells at Preston North End and Sunderland followed that blistering introduction, and Welbeck flourished as the front man during his time up on Wearside, suggesting he could return to United and potentially play a major part.

But he’s failed to nail down a regular spot in the Red Devils first team and was reportedly told that he was surplus to requirements by Louis van Gaal earlier in the window, per Jamie Jackson of The Guardian.

When pressed on the player's future earlier in the window, the Dutchman wouldn't rule out a sale, insisting that the pair had shared a conversation, but the details of which were to remain confidential, per Sean Mullan of ManUtd.com:

I know what I have said to Danny and Danny knows exactly what I said to him. I think the media is guessing – they were not in the room.

I won't speak about it. That is private. I assume Danny is not saying anything about our conversation

Here's how Welbeck fared last season compared to United's other forward options, courtesy of Squawka:

For Arsenal, Welbeck could potentially be a fine acquisition. If he’s played through the middle—a position where he seems to be at his most effective—he could potentially flourish with the Gunners.

Welbeck now has an opportunity to make a name for himself after being a key figure for Roy Hodgson’s England setup, despite his lack of action at club level,.

It is to Welbeck's credit that he has left his dream club to further his career, and both player and club might benefit from his move.

Alvaro Negredo's Valencia Move Makes Sense For Manchester City

2 hours 19 min ago

Alvaro Negredo, the Spanish striker who signed for Manchester City from Sevilla last summer, has left the Etihad and joined Valencia in a dramatic deadline day move. The deal sees Negredo move initially on a season-long loan, with the La Liga side committed to making the deal permanent for £23.8 million next summer.

 

Valencia's official statement confirms that it's an obligation, not an option, to sign Negredo next summer. pic.twitter.com/QG7gIWzZ5Y

— City Watch (@City_Watch) September 1, 2014




Negredo made a wonderful start to life as a City player last season, scoring 23 goals in his first 32 games, before an injury in a match at West Ham in January saw his form collapse. He went a run of 16 games without a goal at the end of the season and looked short of confidence.

Rumours began circulating that he and his family were unsettled and that a return to Spain was on the cards (via Martin Blackburn writing in The Sun). However, City boss Manuel Pellegrini said he wanted to keep the forward, as reported by Pete Oliver at the Daily Star, and reiterated recently that four strikers were needed to cope with the rigours of four competitions per the Press Association (via Eurosport).

Negredo himself tried to end the speculation earlier in the summer by telling the club's official website he wanted to stay (via BBC Sport), but the lure of a return to La Liga, where he excelled before his move to the Premier League, appears to have been too strong to resist.

From a purely business point of view, it’s a deal that makes a great deal of sense to City. As reported by The Telegraph at the time of his move, Negredo signed for just £16.4 million last summer, meaning they’ve managed to make a significant profit on a 29-year-old who appeared unsettled with life in England.

However, many City fans are concerned the club may find themselves short of attacking options having failed to line up a replacement for Negredo. City were reportedly interested in Radamel Falcao, but a deal never materialised (via BBC Sport), and City are left with just Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko as their strikers for this campaign.

And with Aguero and Jovetic’s injury problems last season still fresh in the minds of many, fears that City could find themselves short of goals have reverberated around social media platforms.

 

Good business blah blah blah. We've potentially lost about 20 goals this season.

— Liam. (@mcfc_lw) September 1, 2014




Aguero missed much of the second-half of last season with muscle injuries, and only scored three goals from February onwards, before looking unfit at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. He has looked sharp so far this term, but only a long period of full match fitness will allay fears over his injury-proneness.

Jovetic, too, appears to have put last season’s troubles behind him. He has enjoyed a full and positive preseason in the U.S., and has featured in every league game so far this campaign. There were times last season when he looked incredibly brittle, though, and, much like Aguero, the doubters need more evidence he can remain fit before they are prepared to rest easy.

The flip-side is that the flexibility of City’s other attacking player means a replacement wasn’t absolutely necessary. David Silva, in particular, could benefit from this move, with more opportunities for him to play in the No. 10 role, with Jesus Navas or James Milner on the right and Samir Nasri on the left of a 4-2-3-1 system.

Indeed, Silva excelled in that role towards the end of last season, producing a string of Man of the Match performances as City won their second title in three seasons. He is by far City’s most creative and effective attacking player, and he is far-better utilised in an advanced central role just off the main striker.

Similarly, Yaya Toure can also play in a more advanced role, and with Fernando and Fernandinho able to combine on a more defensive midfield area, he could be freed to attack without any restrictions.

Clearly, without a replacement lined up, Pellegrini would not have sanctioned a move if he did not feel his attacking players had the flexibility to cover the loss of Negredo. However, if injuries to strikers or a lack of goals hamper the clubs title defence this season, Pellegrini and City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain will face tough questions.

Meanwhile, Matija Nastasic remains at City after failing to find a suitable move, a situation which many Blues fans will feel relieved about. Micah Richards has joined Fiorentina on a season-long loan deal with a view to a permanent transfer. Richards was City’s longest-serving player but found himself out of the first-team picture after two injury-affected seasons.

 

MICAH RICHARDS: Long-serving defender @MicahRichards joins @ACF_Fiorentina on loan: http://t.co/MfyMSWCc1W #mcfc pic.twitter.com/wl80WMAEj9

— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) September 1, 2014

 

 

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_

Hatem Ben Arfa to Hull City: Latest Loan Details, Reaction and More

2 hours 20 min ago

Hatem Ben Arfa will look to revitalize his club career with Hull City after Newcastle United accepted a loan offer for the veteran winger.

The club's official Twitter account confirmed the news:

The move doesn't come as a surprise. It was clear during the latter stages of the campaign that Ben Arfa and Newcastle manager Alan Pardew weren't on the same page. Once the season ended, the exit talk surrounding the French international heated up.

Talent has never been the concern for Ben Arfa during any of his three stops, the previous two coming with Marseille and Lyon of Ligue 1. He's always flashed the potential to become one of the most impactful wingers in Europe.

To what extent he applies himself is the biggest issue. There are times when he's unquestionably the best player on the pitch and other matches where he's barely noticeable. That lack of consistency is frustrating for any manager.

One of those times when his ability was on full display came against Stoke City around midseason, as illustrated by WhoScored.com:

He wasn't able to replicate that type of performance during the second half of the campaign. He finished the season with 27 Premier League appearances, 14 of which came as a substitute. He scored three goals and chipped in three assists.

As questions were raised about his future, he acknowledged that staying with Newcastle was his preference despite the differences with Pardew. The Hartlepool Mail passed along his comments about wanting to prove himself at St. James' Park:

If the manager says to me he doesn't believe in me for next season, I respect that, but I want to stay. But if the president (Mike Ashley) wants to sell me, I have to go.

I want to stay here even if the manager doesn’t believe in me, because I will show him I can play here.

Then reports surfaced as the club began preparations for the new season that Ben Arfa showed up overweight. Luke Edwards of The Telegraph reported allegations had emerged of a fine from the club for a lack of match fitness. It wasn't the first issue:

"Despite once describing him as his 'match-winner' and good enough to rival the world's best players, manager Alan Pardew had frozen Ben Arfa out of the first-team squad following a series of clashes last season."

Apparently his wish to stay wasn't enough to convince the club to give him another chance to prove himself next season. Ultimately, that may be a good thing for Ben Arfa.

The situation had clearly reached a point where Pardew felt more comfortable building his weekly squad without the inconsistent winger. Instead of staying in that endless cycle of changing roles, the Frenchman will get a fresh start.

Even at age 27, there's certainly some untapped potential in him. Whether he will ever reach it or remain somewhat of an ongoing quandary is a mystery.

The biggest key for Ben Arfa is using the transfer to change outside perception. He needs to showcase an outstanding work ethic from training session to training session and from match to match. If he does, the results will improve.

Should he make those positive steps in the right direction, the signing could turn out to be one of the biggest bargains of the summer.

Ben Arfa is a game-changing player when in top form. He just didn't play at that level enough to convince Newcastle to keep him.

 

Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, James Jones' Fantasy Outlook with Derek Carr as QB

2 hours 23 min ago

As the 2014 NFL regular season swiftly approaches, the fantasy football world continues to be shaken up by roster moves and depth-chart alterations. One significant change took place on Monday when the Oakland Raiders announced rookie Derek Carr would be taking the reins as the team's starting quarterback to begin the season.

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports broke the news:

This changes things for Oakland's top wide receivers, as the regular-season opener against the New York Jets—and their shaky secondary—looms on the horizon.

Veteran signal-caller Matt Schaub was originally slated as the team's starter earlier in training camp; however, several lackluster showings over the preseason signified a changing of the guard. Carr may be a rookie, but he showed flashes of his talent during the team's exhibition games—most notably his 143 yards and three touchdowns in 16 minutes against the Seattle Seahawks.

Here's a look at each quarterback's preseason numbers:

The Raiders made a wise choice.

Oakland's wide receivers weren't exactly considered must-have players by fantasy owners—and they still aren't—but that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep a keen eye on them heading into the regular season.

Rod Streater enters his third year in the league—and with the Raiders—after a breakout 2013 performance in which he accumulated 60 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns. Of the team's top receivers, Streater has the most experience in offensive coordinator Greg Olson's system.

Last season, Streater became the team's most consistent target despite some very inconsistent quarterback play. That's a good sign considering he's about to continue his NFL career with a rookie under center.

James Jones enters his first season with the Raiders after spending seven with the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers. To say he's in for a big change in 2014 could be considered a severe understatement.

Jones broke out in 2012, tallying 14 touchdowns and recorded a career-high 817 yards in 2013. He'll be taking on a much larger role in Oakland's offense this season, and fantasy owners must be patient with him early—there's no telling how he'll adjust to a new system after limited preseason play.

Denarius Moore may have the most upside of the trio, but due to his position on the depth chart behind the other two, fantasy owners may not see immediate results. Rotoworld's Adam Levitan tweeted the pecking order during the preseason:

Wildly inconsistent in 2013, Moore shined at times and all but disappeared at others. He finished the season with 46 receptions for 695 yards and five touchdowns.

One big positive for Moore entering the season is his apparent rapport with Carr. During Oakland's final preseason contest against Seattle, Carr and Moore hooked up three times for 58 yards and two scores.

During a press conference after the game, via Raiders.com, Carr spoke of his relationship with the receiver:

Yeah, I mess with D-Mo all the time. If he's not in with me, I be like, 'Bro, when you're in, you help me look good. Can you get back in there?' So in this one, he catches the deep ball and I was like, 'Man, I really appreciate you being in there.' Obviously, we're all just joking around. But D-Mo's a good receiver. He's obviously fast. He ran that go-route right by that guy. He's someone that I trust and someone that I feel good going to. But to be completely honest, all of our receivers, I have that same feeling with all of them. He just happened to be in that position versus that coverage.

That's certainly a compelling statement by the rookie signal-caller. However, fantasy owners will have to wait to see how much time Moore will spend on the field before his value can be established.

In fact, that statement could be made for any of the three aforementioned wide receivers. This will be the first year all three play together with a new quarterback who has spent a limited amount of time with the first-team offense.

For now, fantasy values should remain the same for Moore, Streater and Jones—none should really be considered more than low-end flex options. Although, all three should be on every owner's radar, as each has a chance to provide significant value this season due to the positive change at quarterback.

FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014: Team USA Players Who Must Improve

2 hours 28 min ago

It’s a testament to the overall strength of Team USA basketball that a 21-point victory over Turkey is cause for alarm, but the red, white and blue were down by six in the middle of the third quarter.

If it wasn’t for an incredible performance from Kenneth Faried, the Americans may have been in trouble. That type of effort simply isn’t going to cut it against Serge Ibaka, the Gasol brothers and the rest of Spain later in the tournament.

With that in mind, here is a look at a few Team USA members who must improve going forward if a 2014 FIBA World Cup championship is in the cards. 

All statistics courtesy of FIBA.com.

 

Derrick Rose

This is not meant to be another discussion about Derrick Rose’s health. That has already been brought up ad nauseam during the early stages of the World Cup, and it likely will be a major talking point for the entire NBA season.

It may even be in the Chicago Bulls’ best interest for Rose to work out his rust in international competition.

This is more a comment on his actual performance through two games for Team USA. Perhaps he is tentative with his knees, but he is averaging seven points a night behind 25 percent shooting from the field and 20 percent shooting from three-point range. More concerning are the team-high 3.5 turnovers a game in 20 minute of action.

It’s probably best if we don’t even project that to a per-40 minute average (alright, it's seven turnovers).

Rose also has a team-worst player efficiency rating of three. There is plenty of backcourt depth at head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s disposal with Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and James Harden, but Rose is an explosive playmaker who can create open looks for his teammates or score easy baskets at the rim with his penetration.

NBA on ESPN showed just what he is capable of doing on any single play:

Team USA is going to need more of that going forward. Easy baskets at the rim will be critical in the later stages of the tournament, especially if the jumpers aren’t falling. That is where Rose will need to shine.

 

DeMar DeRozan

The wing area is probably the most concerning spot for the Americans after Kevin Durant left, and DeMar DeRozan hasn’t helped quell that notion with nightly averages of 3.5 points and two assists.

He is also yet to grab a defensive rebound, despite the fact he checks in at 6’7”, and is only shooting 25 percent from the field without a single three-point make. His 3.5 player efficiency total is slightly ahead of Rose but still good enough for second lowest on the team.

The lack of perimeter shooting is somewhat concerning because the stronger opponents on the horizon—Spain, Brazil and Argentina—will stop focusing as much on the wings and help with Anthony Davis, Faried and the list of playmaking guards. A few outside shots could change that.

If DeRozan can hit a few jumpers, it will help open up the floor for the team leaders to guide the Americans to a World Cup title.

 

Mason Plumlee

Perhaps no player on the roster entered this tournament with more to prove that Mason Plumlee.

The majority of his American teammates are established superstars in the NBA, but there was some controversy that Plumlee was only on the roster because he played four years under Krzyzewski at Duke. He addressed as much, according to Ball in Europe, via James Herbert of CBS Sports:

"I'm very proud that I went to Duke and I'm very proud that I wear Nike, and that has nothing to do with it. If you were at our practices and our training camp, anybody that was there, they would see why I made the team."

Thus far, Plumlee has not quieted his critics.

He is averaging three points a night, but more concerning is the 0.5 rebounds a game he has grabbed. What’s more, Plumlee is yet to block a shot and has an efficiency rating of four. To be fair, he is only playing eight minutes a night but hasn’t exactly been tearing it up during his opportunities.

Plumlee’s performance is important going forward because Team USA is going to need production from all of its big men against mighty Spain in that hypothetical matchup.

Ibaka, Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol make up a lethal threesome, and Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Faried and Plumlee will be asked to contribute on the boards and keep each other’s legs fresh. Plumlee needs to prove he is capable of doing just that.

 

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Sadio Mane, Toby Alderweireld to Southampton: Latest Loan Details and More

2 hours 31 min ago

After a solid start to their EPL campaign, Southampton have secured the season-long loans of Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld and Senegal midfielder Sadio Mane in a move to help remain in the top half of the league.       

The club's official Twitter feed confirmed the news:

Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe applauded the pair of moves:

The 22-year-old Mane joined Austrian club FC Red Bull Salzburg in 2012 and immediately enjoyed massive success. Over the last two campaigns, he found the back of the net 29 times in 59 Bundesliga appearances. In addition to being a deadly finisher, his speed makes him extremely dangerous with the ball at his feet. 

WhoScored.com's Twitter feed provided proof of the latter:

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman praised Mane's versatility and production, and discussed where he sees him fitting into Saints' lineup:

Koeman's squad has had little trouble scoring early in Premier League action, tallying four goals in the first three contests. But Mane's speed and dribbling will add a necessary bit of creativity and playmaking from the midfield. 

Alderweireld, on the other hand, will be tasked with improving the back line.

The 25-year-old comes over on a loan from Spanish giant Atletico Madrid. He didn't play much there, but he did make four starts for Belgium at the World Cup this summer, showing the ability to play at either right-back or centre-back. 

“He is a strong defender, and is also very good at building up the play when we play out from the back," Koeman said, via SaintsFC.co.uk. “He played in the top league in Spain and against top teams in Europe, so he has a lot of confidence and experience, and he has a big future because he is still young."

Southampton, a League One participant as recently as 2010-11, took a major step forward last season with an eighth-place finish. 

With these saavy last-minute moves from Koeman and his staff, the arrow is still pointing up for Saints, who are doing a tremendous job of restocking after losing so much talent in the offseason. 

2 Recruits Who Are Teammates Receive the Same 'Personalized' Letter from USC

2 hours 37 min ago

Recruiting for a major college football program is no easy task, as attempting to make big recruits feel special is likely extremely time consuming. 

Two teammates from Clovis West in Fresno, California, 4-star wide receiver Darian Owens and 5-star linebacker Caleb Kelly, received the exact same letter from the school that ironically underlined the word "personally." Not surprisingly, they spoke to each other about it and realized they had the same letter. 

It's safe to say this likely won't reflect well for USC.

[Caleb Kelly, h/t College Spun]

All recruiting star rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Orlando Magic's Victor Oladipo Reflects on Proving Doubters Wrong

2 hours 52 min ago

So much of the excitement surrounding the NBA lies in predicting who within the game’s rookie ranks stands the best chance of achieving superstar status—those who reach the promise bestowed upon many but met by few. 

Amongst last year’s surprisingly productive crop, few showcased quite the superstar ceiling of the Orlando Magic’s Victor Oladipo, who finished a close second to Michael Carter-Williams in the league’s Rookie of the Year race.

In less than a month, Oladipo will be headed to Magic training camp as one of the franchise’s unquestioned cornerstones. With a core that includes promising fourth-year players Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic (“He can get you 20 and 20 on any given night”), veteran sniper Channing Frye and rookie point guard Elfrid Payton (“He’s going to be awesome for us”), Orlando’s future is bright indeed. Even if rebuilding remains the name of the game.

In third-year coach Jacque Vaughn, the Magic have a skipper whose offensive principles—cultivated during Vaughn’s tenure under San Antonio Spurs maestro Gregg Popovich—have the potential to inspire one of the game’s elite attacks. Last season’s 29th-ranked efficiency notwithstanding.

“I think we have a good variety of players,” Oldapio told Bleacher Report in a recent phone interview. “Everyone is capable of doing more than just one thing. I think we have more shooters now, which sounds crazy because Arron [Afflalo] is gone. But we’ll be better at the offensive end, especially with our efficiency.”

The loss of Afflalo, the journeyman swingman who very nearly notched his first All-Star appearance as Orlando’s on-court leader a season ago, can’t be discounted. Between his lockdown perimeter defense and ever-blossoming offensive repertoire, Afflalo—who was dealt to the Denver Nuggets on June 26 in exchange for Evan Fournier and the draft rights to Roy Devyn Marble—will be near impossible to replace.

It’s a fact that doesn’t escape Oladipo, who credits Afflalo with imparting upon him one of the most valuable lessons a young NBA player can learn: treating each and every game like Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

“I think the one thing that sticks out is how [Afflalo] had the same approach every night,” noted Oladipo. “When there’s so many games, it’s easy to lose focus. He taught me to bring that same hunger every game, night in and night out. So I’m fortunate he helped bring that to my table early—it didn’t take me a long time to figure out how important that is.”

Truth be told, it’s an ethos that’s come to define Oladipo’s very basketball being dating back to his days as a skinny, under-recruited standout at the legendary DeMatha High School in Maryland.

Four short years later, Oladipo has officially arrived—a two-way talent as adept at handling the ball as he is locking down opposing small forwards, with an offensive skill set that grows more versatile with each passing game.

Watching him lope and glide about the floor, it’s impossible not to conjure this flattering player comparison—one even Oladipo admits has for years served as perhaps his biggest basketball beacon.

Dwyane Wade is definitely a big one. Growing up, I could relate to him because we were the same height,” Oldadipo said of the 10-time NBA All-Star, with whom he shares a common coach in Indiana University’s Tom Crean. “When I was younger, I felt like, just in case I don’t grow to be 6’9”, I might as well watch someone who’s successful who’s not necessarily the tallest guy even at his position. That was D-Wade for me.”

Owing to the arrival of Payton, Oladipo—who spent 51 percent of his rookie-year minutes as Orlando’s floor general, per 82 games.com—will likely go back to logging a majority of his minutes at his more natural shooting guard position. Still, Oladipo is quick to acknowledge his crash course in Point Guard 101 is one that’s bound to pay lasting dividends.

“It helped me out a lot—to see the floor in different ways, not just playing off the ball,” he said. “Just having the ball in my hand was huge for my development. I feel like I can play both positions, but learning to play point guard more just makes me more of a threat.”

“A threat” probably isn’t how most would describe this year’s Magic; the team, for all its palpable promise, is still at least a year or two away from legitimate conference contention. But as last year’s Charlotte Hornets proved, in an East this weak, authoring an upstart playoff appearance is by no means out of the question.

“I think we can [make the playoffs]. You have to play really well on a lot of nights, but it’s something we’re capable of, “Oladipo Said. “The East isn’t as lopsided any more; it’s pretty even all around. It’s going to be competitive every night, which means we have to bring it every night.”

With Afflalo’s departure, Oladipo will be the one tasked with sounding that mantra, in the process helping forge an even deeper camaraderie in the service of what he calls “a great franchise in a great city.”

“Orlando’s eager for something to cheer about,” he said, “and that’s what we want to give them.”

And while weights and hardwood reps have been foremost on the combo guard’s mind, he’s still found time to take on another routine near and dear to his heart: community service.

Oladipo’s latest initiative: teaming up with Allstate’s Tom Joyner Family Reunion in Orlando to create superhero capes for cancer patients at the Florida Hospital for Children.

“It’s something I feel I’ve always been about, changing lives in any way I can,” Oladipo said. “There’s nothing like giving up your time and energy to kids like this and changing their lives.”

Asked to reflect on the past three years, a span that saw his rise from scarcely-recruited-but-still-serviceable freshman to two-way NCAA standout to the vanguard of the NBA’s youth movement, Oladipo can’t help but invoke a higher power.

Which, whatever one’s beliefs on the matter, speaks perfectly to Oladipo’s well-worn humbleness. Even when such modesty is occasionally tempered by a stronger, more assertive stance—one captured by a passage with which this burgeoning star is doubtless familiar: “From he who has been given much, much will be demanded.”

“It’s been a blessing from God, man,” he says. “Coming out of high school, I didn’t really get a lot of attention. I just always tried to play with a chip on my shoulder. I think that’s what’s helped me take my game to the next step. In the end, I want to be one of the greatest to ever play the game."

Manny Pacquiao Sang a Very Interesting Tribute to the NFL

2 hours 55 min ago

Manny Pacquiao is a very accomplished man. He's the current WBO welterweight champion, a politician and professional basketball player/coach. 

When it comes to singing ballads, however, Pacquiao may want to take it easy, as we saw on this tribute to how much he missed the NFL. 

[America's Pregame]

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. McNeese State Cowboys Game Preview

3 hours 4 min ago

After a 55-7 victory over Florida Atlantic, the Huskers are ready to take on the Cowboys of McNeese State. While Nebraska has a game under its belt so far, this weekend’s matchup is the season opener for the Cowboys.

The two programs have only ever met once before in 2002. In that matchup, the Huskers won 38-14. Twelve years later, Nebraska is ready to take on the Cowboys once again.

McNeese State finished 10-3 in 2013, while also making an appearance in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, per Huskers.com. Additionally, the Cowboys return 16 starters.

Who will come away victories in this Week 2 matchup?

 

Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

When: Saturday, September 6 at 12 p.m. EST

Watch: ESPNU

Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 119, XM 203

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Detroit Lions Will Look to Feature RBs Often in Passing Game

3 hours 12 min ago

The Detroit Lions are coming off a season where two different running backs each posted more than 500 receiving yards. Expect even more aerial production from the backfield in the new offense in 2014. 

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi comes from New Orleans, where the Saints also made liberal use of the backs as receiving targets. In fact, the Saints led the league in percentage of throws to backs:

The Lions finished fifth last year in percentage of targets while ranking third in yards per target. That helps explain how both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell accumulated over 500 receiving yards, one of only two tandems in the league to do so. The other was Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas in New Orleans. 

Even though they still figure to get at least as many targets, the yardage might actually decline. Why?

The Saints finished just 17th in yards per target to their backs, netting almost a full yard fewer than what Detroit averaged in 2013. One of the reasons is the Saints utilize the quick passing game in the same function as a running play.

Here's a play from last season where New Orleans uses the pass to the back as a de facto run.

Sproles is lined up in the left slot, with Thomas in the backfield behind quarterback Drew Brees. The speedy, shifty Sproles is isolated in coverage with a safety, Mike Mitchell, and Mitchell is aligned 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. 

The linebacker to that side (circled in blue) cannot cheat outside and help in coverage because Thomas is his potential assignment if there is a handoff or play action.

Brees doesn't even take a full step back from center here. He gets the snap and immediately turns to Sproles, firing the ball behind the line to the back in the slot. 

The Panthers wind up defending it well, as Mitchell quickly reacts and closes in on Sproles. A missed block (indicated in yellow) helps Carolina shut this down effectively. 

Still, the play gains positive yardage. Sproles actually gets credit for more yards after the catch than what the play gained. 

In fact, Thomas wound up averaging 8.6 yards after the catch (subscription required) for the season. Yet his total average was just 6.7. That's the result of a steady diet of quick swings and screens that functioned as extended handoffs. 

Detroit already has a good handle on plays like this. Like Thomas, Bell also accrued more YAC than actual yards last season, 564 to 547. 

That doesn't mean the Detroit backs won't run deeper routes. One facet fans will notice is that the new-look offense sends backs out into patterns instead of staying in to aid in pass protection much more frequently. 

Here's an example from the preseason game against Jacksonville. It's 3rd-and-long, which is normally a situation where the offense will keep a back in to guard against the pass rush to give the quarterback more time to survey downfield options. 

On this play, however, Theo Riddick immediately slides out of the backfield and bleeds up the field on a checkdown route. 

This doesn't pick up the first down, but as with the Sproles play above it gives a nifty runner some room in space to try and make a play. One missed tackle and this is a big gain. 

That exemplifies the underlying philosophy at play: getting playmakers the ball in advantageous situations to make a play. Bush, Bell and even Riddick are all dangerous threats in space, and getting them the pigskin out in space as receivers will help them make more big plays. 

 

All advanced statistics, including targets and YAC, are from Pro Football Focus, which requires a subscription for premium content. 

US Open 2014 Results: Final Scores, Updated Bracket and More for Day 8

3 hours 12 min ago

The action is getting better by the day at the 2014 U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows. 

On the men's side, the favorites have rolled through the early rounds with ease and that continued for the most part on Day 8. But with the fourth round of action came a few marquee matchups between highly-seeded competitors, assuring that we would see our first big names fall.

As for the ladies, the giants have been tumbling since the opening round with No. 2 Simona Halep, No. 3 Petra Kvitova and No. 6 Angelique Kerber all losing early. Serena Williams—the big favorite in any women's Grand Slam event—has remain untouched, but she would be in action again on Day 8. 

A pair of matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium are yet to be played, but take a look at how the rest of the draw unfolded on Monday.

* Indicates night matches to be played at Arthur Ashe Stadium on ESPN2

 

Day 9 Bracket

Updated men's and women's draws can be found at USOpen.org.

As exciting as some of the action was on Day 8, Tuesday could be even better. The slate of men's fourth-round and women's quarterfinal matches is led by second-seeded legend Roger Federer facing No. 17 Roberto Bautista Agut.

The 33-year-old came to New York with plenty of momentum after winning the Cincinnati Masters, and he's continued it so far. Agut won his first two career titles in 2014 and has posted two straight-set victories in Flushing Meadows, but this is his second ever fourth-round appearance at a Grand Slam. 

For a match more likely to go the distance, seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov and No. 20 Frenchman Gael Monfils will do battle in a late-afternoon affair at Arthur Ashe.

No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki will try to take her surprise run to the semifinal after upsetting Maria Sharapova over the weekend. She'll face 13th-seeded Sara Errani for a spot in the final four, and told New York Times' Naila-Jean Meyers she hadn't thought much about what laid past Sharapova on the draw.

'The depth of the women’s game now is so high, you know,' said Wozniacki, who was the runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2009, when she was 19. 'The level is high. So it’s never easy. I knew that I had Maria, so that was my task to kind of complete. I didn’t really look further.'

Now that Wozniacki is the highest seed in her half of the draw, she might want to start looking further.

 

Day 8 Afternoon Recap

Andy Murray was the story at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

In a fourth-round affair that felt more like a Grand Slam semifinal, Murray defeated ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight-sets on Monday afternoon. Tsonga had little trouble holding his serve early on, but couldn't take advantage of early leads in the final two sets and Murray pounced on the opportunity to wrap it up in three long sets.

As ESPN Tennis illustrated, it sets up a thrilling quarterfinal between him and Novak Djokovic:

Serena Williams has watched many of her fellow U.S. Open counterparts stumble and fall in the women's draw, but she just keeps on rolling. The top-seeded American ousted unseeded opponent Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-3.

It hasn't been Williams' best year as she looks to wrap up 2014—in fact, Monday marks the first time she has made it to a quarterfinal in a Grand Slam event this calendar year. But she looks set on ending it with another title.

The relief was apparent for the top seed, per Sports Illustrated:

She wasn't the only top seed to take care of business on Day 8. No. 1 Novak Djokovic also strolled past his opponent, defeating No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.

The Serbian wrapped up the opening set in a few short minutes, but Kohlschreiber made it a match in the second by taking it to a tiebreak. Although he didn't finish nearly as dominant as he started, the top seed easily rolled on to the quarterfinal.

Djokovic has yet to lose a single set at Flushing Meadows through four matches, but he will need all of the rest he can get. He will face a surging Murray in the quarterfinal, who looked unstoppable Monday against Tsonga and is eyeing his third straight year finishing with a Grand Slam trophy.

While things went well for the top seeds, it continued to get worse for other high-seeded contenders on the women's side. Eugenie Bouchard was ousted in the fourth round in straight sets by Ekaterina Makarova.

Djokovic still has more than enough big names on the men's side to worry him as he approaches the second week of the tournament. But as for Williams, her biggest competition just keeps on biting the dust. 

How Will the Green Bay Packers Receivers Fare Against Richard Sherman?

3 hours 12 min ago

On Thursday, Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers and Richard Sherman's Seattle Seahawks will officially kick off the 2014 NFL season.

Seattle will host the game, as the reigning Super Bowl champion typically does. Because the Packers aren't a division rival and because they have been knocked out of the first round of their last two postseason campaigns by the San Francisco 49ers, the last time these two teams played a meaningful game was in 2012.

That Week 3 game is now regularly referred to as the Fail Mary game—the game that finally forced the NFL to end its lockout of its regular officials.

In that game, the Packers lost on a very controversial and incredibly absurd final play that saw the replacement officials credit the Seahawks with a touchdown reception that never really happened. Golden Tate was the benefactor, while the Packers players walked off the field in disgust before the extra point.

Had this game happened last season, it would likely be a motivator for the Packers and make this game more feisty. At this stage, the effect has likely dimmed.

Tate is now playing with the Detroit Lions, the Seahawks are coming off that dominant Super Bowl victory and the Packers have arguably been the biggest underachievers in the NFL over the past two seasons. This game doesn't need fabricated drama, there should be plenty of it naturally.

One player who never shies away from drama is Sherman.

Arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, Sherman is coming off two consecutive seasons of dominance. He made the biggest play of the Seahawks' season last year in the NFC Championship game and has become one of the most feared players in the whole league.

Intimidation is an aspect of Sherman's game, but it's very difficult to intimidate Rodgers.

The Packers quarterback is arguably the best player in the NFL (and using arguably there may even be bordering on an insult). His physical talent is exceptional and his performances on the field regularly remind onlookers of that.

If anyone has the ability to consistently complete passes against Sherman, it's Rodgers. His arm strength, touch, ball placement and anticipation allow him to consistently put the ball in places where the defender has no chance to get it no matter how good his coverage is.

The concern for the Packers when throwing at Sherman has more to do with the quality of their wide receivers.

If Sherman was wont to follow receivers around the field, he would undoubtedly attach himself to Jordy Nelson. Yet, because Sherman typically stays on the left side of the field, the Packers will be able to keep Nelson away from the defender if they choose to.

This means that Sherman won't only be asked to cover Nelson at times, but also Jarrett Boykin, who beat out rookie second-round pick Davante Adams for the third receiver spot and most likely tight end Andrew Quarless, even though rookie Richard Rodgers appears to be ahead of him on the depth chart.

Randall Cobb will also be on the field, but Cobb should be expected to stay in the slot.

 

Andrew Quarless

The intensity of regular-season games in the NFL are a step above the intensity of preseason games in the NFL. The intensity of regular-season games against the best teams in the league are a step above regular-season games against the worst teams.

When it comes to best teams in the NFL, it's hard to argue anyone over the Seahawks at this point in time. When it comes to playing with intensity, it's impossible to argue that anywhere else creates that atmosphere better than Seattle.

For that reason, it's hard to see the Packers relying too much on rookie tight end Rodgers. Instead, a more experienced player could be looked to, and that would lead them to Quarless, who became an important part of the Packers' passing attack last year after Jermichael Finley was lost to injury.

Because most of his games were played with Matt Flynn as the starting quarterback, Quarless' production was tempered. He had 32 receptions for 312 yards and two touchdowns in 10 starts and 16 total games. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he was targeted 47 times, though only 34 passes were deemed catchable.

Although he is a good athlete, Quarless is more of a reliable tight end than a mismatch weapon. Against Sherman, he would be forced to rely on his size to try and gain positioning on the ball because he wouldn't be quick enough to run routes away from him.

Sherman's size is one of his top traits, so Quarless can't realistically be expected to be effective against him.

 

Jarrett Boykin

Boykin is a well-rounded receiver.

He has good size, speed, quickness and hands, but none of his traits are special. He fits perfectly with the Packers offense as the third receiver, because he is never the focus of the opposition's coverage and shouldn't expect to see the defense's best opposing defensive back when facing teams that move their cornerbacks around the field.

Against most teams, Boykin will be good enough to produce good numbers and be a go-to guy in key situations.

Against Sherman, he would likely be erased. Because of his relatively lean frame and playing style, Boykin doesn't really have the ability to fight off Sherman's aggressive style of coverage. He is better suited to produce against defensive backs who attempt to mirror opponents rather than be physical.

While the NFL is putting an emphasis on penalizing holding, something more physical cornerbacks are more likely to do, the Seahawks were the only team not to be penalized by the end of the third week of the preseason.

Boykin's route running should allow him to be somewhat effective when he lines up against Sherman, but those will most likely be on shorter routes.

 

Jordy Nelson

The most important matchup in this game when the Packers have the ball will be Nelson against Sherman.

Running the ball against the Seahawks is the best way to make dents in the defense, but you also need to stay balanced with big plays in the passing game. If Nelson lines up against Byron Maxwell, the Seahawks will have no issue shading deep safety Earl Thomas to his side of the field.

Maxwell isn't a spectacular cornerback, but he can be effective in the Seahawks defense, and especially so when he is given more help from those around him.

Nelson's space will come if he lines up against Sherman. The Seahawks don't typically like to alter their approach. They want to stay in their 4-3 base look and play as much Cover 3 as possible. By relying on Thomas' range, they can do this and not cheat to one side of the field or be forced to rely on their pass rush if the opposing team's No. 1 receiver is lined up across from Sherman.

Why would the Packers line Nelson up against Sherman in that situation? If they don't, they will either be forced to throw into tighter windows or use a lesser receiving talent against arguably the most dangerous defensive back in the NFL.

Nelson was on the field for the Packers when they last played in Seattle.

On that occasion, he didn't exclusively play against Sherman or avoid him. That team could boast James Jones, Greg Jennings and Finley, so the Packers were more threatening at the receiver spots as a whole. As such, they rotated each of their receivers to different spots on the field.

Nelson spent most of his time working against Sherman in the first half. He didn't see a target against the defensive back, so obviously he didn't record a reception against him, either.

The duo had nine plays in man coverage against each other where Nelson had enough time to run his route. On those nine plays, Sherman successfully covered Nelson seven times. That may seem like a tiny success rate for Nelson, but it's relatively large for receivers working against Sherman.

Importantly, two of Nelson's successful routes were comeback routes down the sideline.

Sherman dominates the sideline, but as the above table shows, one of the routes he struggles most with is the comeback. Nelson excels on comeback routes because he is a deep threat with the precision in his routes to create separation. Furthermore, he has outstanding ball skills when working the side line.

Rodgers and Nelson have proved repeatedly that they can effortlessly hook up on comeback routes and back-shoulder throws.

These are dangerous passes to attempt because the defensive back can come away with an easy interception if the timing or the pass is off the mark. When the throw is executed properly, though, this type of play generally makes it irrelevant who is covering the receiver.

Most quarterback-receiver tandems don't have the ability to consistently make these kinds of plays because it requires rare ability from both players involved.

Not only does Rodgers have to perfectly time a perfectly flighted and perfectly accurate pass, Nelson has to adjust to the football and make a very difficult reception. Therefore, while you're taking the defender out of the play, you're still not making it easy for the receiver.

On Nelson's two back-shoulder routes against Sherman when they last met, he wasn't targeted, but James Jones was successful in a similar situation.

How the Packers approach this game will be fascinating. Different teams have tried different approaches to get a win in Seattle over the last two seasons. Only the Arizona Cardinals were successful in their attempt, but they relied on a huge amount of luck to get their victory.

At the very least, the Packers have the physical talent to compete with the Seahawks. Nelson is one of the very best receivers in the NFL, and his specific traits should allow him to match up effectively against Sherman.

Miami vs. Louisville: Live Score and Highlights

3 hours 19 min ago

Louisville 7, Miami 0—Mid 1st Quarter

The Miami Hurricanes are battling the Louisville Cardinals, capping Week 1 of the 2014 college football season in style.

ESPN is carrying the ACC clash. Bleacher Report will provide live scoring updates and in-game analysis throughout the contest. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Latest News and Rumors Surrounding WWE 2K15 for Sept. 1

3 hours 26 min ago

Developers have clearly focused on improving the graphics and animation for WWE 2K15.

A behind-the-scenes video shows 2K Sports putting great effort into improving the visual elements of the game. In other news, a GameSpot preview points to improved animations, while a rumor will catch PC gamers' eyes.

WWE's upcoming video game has received its share of hype, and more information is slowly making its way out.

There has been no update in regard to the roster since the reveal event on SummerSlam weekend. Even Edge doesn't know if he's in the game, as he noted on Twitter:

Even if the roster ends up lacking Hall of Famers like Edge, signs keep pointing to WWE 2K15 being a marked improvement over past editions.   

In a recent AfterBuzz TV interview, Steve Austin called it "the damndest video game that's ever come out." Fans won't have to wait too long to find out if that's true. It is scheduled for release on Oct. 28 in North America and on Oct. 31 internationally.

 

Another Format for WWE 2K15?

WWE 2K15 will mark the series' first foray into next-gen consoles. Fans are now wondering if it will be available on PC as well.

As Attack of the Fan Boy points out, the Korean Game Rating Board apparently lists WWE 2K15 under the PC games for 2015.

WWE.2K.com lists the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 as the only systems that will support the game.

Do the folks rating games in Korea know more than everyone else? It's more likely that this is an error and not leaked info. 2K Sports has yet to confirm the game on PC. 

In addition, 2K Brand Director Bryce Yang addressed the topic at Gamescom 2014. He said the "focus is on next-gen systems" but that 2K is always looking to expand:

(Note: Interview questions are in German; Yang's answers are in English.)

With as much effort and resources as 2K Sports has had to invest in order to make the game ready for next-gen consoles, it's doubtful that the company would make the move to PC for this edition now. PC gamers probably have to wait at least until WWE 2K16 to get their typing hands on the game.

 

First Making-of Video

IGN will be releasing a number of videos showcasing the process of making of WWE 2K15. The first of these features Cesaro doing motion-capture work and the developers talking about their goals for the game.

The game footage is all stuff fans have already seen. Visuals of Randy Orton, Goldust and John Cena entering the ring is nothing new. 

It's what 2K Sports Senior Producer Mark Little and company have to say that's most interesting.

2K Sports is definitely not just sleepwalking through this latest addition to the series. Its goal is to revolutionize it, especially when it comes to graphics.

The glimpses fans of seen so far bear that out. That could be why we may see a trimmed-down roster. Rather than work on adding an enormous amount of Superstars and legends, developers seem to be zeroing in making a smaller number of them look tremendous.

 

More Hands-On Perspective

A recent hands-on review offers some exciting items. The first of which being improved animation. 

GameSpot reports that "Animation, across the board, is impressive, especially when low-stamina factors in and wrestlers start crawling for pins or using the ropes to pull themselves up."

Working on details like that will certainly make the game feel more fluid and real. One of the biggest stumbling blocks with wrestling games is getting the nuances of matches right.

This sounds as if 2K Sports has addressed that regarding tired, drained wrestlers. That should add drama to the match the way someone like Dolph Ziggler does when he begins to use the ropes for support.

The GameSpot review also offered info on striking: "While it's still possible to throw a flurry of fists, there's a more methodical and measured approach to landing them this time around. I often found myself jockeying for an optimal angle before throwing a punch, and if it missed, I briefly stepped back and regrouped."

Like with the new grappling system, it looks as if there's going to be a learning curve for those familiar with the series.

If that leads to more realistic punches and a more simulated feel to the game, fans are going to be happy with having to relearn a few things. 2K Sports is overhauling the series.

That's going to require a touch more patience when jumping into the game but continually looks as if it will pay off in improved gameplay. 

Alvaro Negredo to Valencia: Latest Loan Details, Reaction and More

3 hours 32 min ago

Shortly before Monday's transfer deadline, Valencia made a move to acquire striker Alvaro Negredo from Manchester City.     

The La Liga club confirmed the news via Twitter:

As was originally rumoured, it is a loan deal but has the potential to turn permanent. An official statement, via ValenciaCF.com, provided the details:

Valencia Club de Futbol have reached an agreement with Manchester City Football Club for the acquisition of Spanish international Alvaro Negredo, on a loan deal with an obligatory purchase clause. Recognised as one of the top strikers in European football, Negredo will be officially presented as a Valencia CF player at Mestalla on Tuesday, September 2nd, at 8pm. The club invite all Valencianistas to attend the presentation, in which the new signing will get to know his new home ground and see the fantastic support that will be spurring the side on this season.

The 29-year-old is returning home. He was born in Madrid and spent time with Spanish clubs Almeria, Real Madrid and Sevilla before making the move to England last July. 

It took him very little time to get acclimated with Manchester City, as he scored two goals in his first three Premier League appearances and had a stretch between November and January when he found the back of the net six times in a span of 12 matches. 

As OptaSports noted, he wasn't the same over the second half of the season, though:

Still, injuries went a long way in derailing his season—which still saw him score 23 times across all competitions—and once he returns to full health (he's expected to be out until late September with a broken metatarsal), he can provide another boost for Valencia, which has looked very good to start the La Liga season. 

As for City, The Times' Oliver Kay wondered about this move and the lack of a corresponding one:

Even with this loss, though, Manuel Pellegrini's squad features good depth up front in Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic, with the latter two scoring four Premier League goals through three matches. 

The Citizens will be just fine. 

FIBA World Cup 2014: Day 4 Schedule and Predictions After Day 3 Group Results

3 hours 37 min ago

Team USA was not in action for the first time, but the favorites continued rolling despite the favorites' absence on Monday at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Spain faced its toughest competition thus far as the host nation but had no trouble slipping past Brazil to move to a perfect 3-0. Greece also joined Spain among the ranks of the unbeaten with an 11-point win over Puerto Rico, and Argentina posted a close win over the Philippines.

The action on Day 3 has only set the stage for more exciting play throughout the rest of the tournament, as nations try to punch their tickets out of the group stage and into the next round. Here's a look at Monday's results and a look forward to Day 4.

 

 

Day 4 Top Games

New Zealand vs. United States

It's been a series of ups and downs for Team USA so far in Spain, but mostly ups. And head coach Mike Krzyzewski's squad will look to continue its ascension against New Zealand on Tuesday.

The Americans started off at FIBA in style, demolishing Finland 114-55 and holding their opponent without a field goal for the second quarter. They trailed at the half against Turkey on Sunday before pulling out a 21-point victory late.

New Zealand comes into the game sporting an 0-2 record but nearly made waves in its opener by falling late to Turkey—a team the U.S. trailed by five at the half. New Zealand was in position to win before Turkey mounted a fourth-quarter rally to take the victory.

Things haven't been pretty at times for Coach K and crew, but as ESPN's Fran Fraschilla notes, their superior talent is just too much for non-elite nations to overcome:

New Zealand's Corey Webster will have a big game off the bench as Team USA continues to struggle against strong guard play, but athleticism and size will propel the Americans to an easy win.

Prediction: USA 95, New Zealand 62

 

Ukraine vs. Turkey

Nobody is going to sleep on Turkey in Group C after the nation's performance against the United States on Sunday. The big underdogs led by five at halftime against the reigning champions.

But the Turks are still coming off a loss to the Americans and will look to get back to their winning ways on Tuesday against Ukraine.

Ukraine started strong in its opener with a 72-62 victory over the Dominican Republic, with guards Pooh Jeter and Sergii Gladyr leading the way offensively. Jeter added a big 24-point performance against Finland the day after, but 16 team turnovers forced Ukraine to sputter to a loss against Finland.

Turkey's slashing guards and physical post contributors caused more than a scare for the U.S. early, which leaves one to believe Ukraine will be no match. With a day off between games, Turkey's superior talent will be rested and ready to go.

Prediction: Turkey 91, Ukraine 78

 

South Korea vs. Slovenia

With Spain, Team USA, Argentina, Brazil and Greece all in other groups, first place was up for the taking in Group D. After two games, Slovenia looks eager to fill the up-for-grabs spot.

With easy wins over Australia and Mexico to start out play, Slovenia has made a case for a deep run in Spain this summer. Led by the Dragic brothers—Zoran and Goran, the latter of whom has emerged as a star for the NBA's Phoenix Suns—they have been ripping through opponents.

Zach Harper of CBS Sports noted their ridiculous stat line against Mexico:

In their opening two games, the Slovenians have shot 20-of-42 from three-point range and well over 50 percent from the field. Meanwhile, South Korea scored six points in its first quarter of play in Spain and was defeated by 34 points by an Australia team that Slovenia topped by double digits.

Chalk up another rout for Slovenia.

Prediction: Slovenia 95, South Korea 60

Joc Pederson to Make Dodgers Debut: Latest Reports, Analysis and Reaction

3 hours 40 min ago

Los Angeles Dodgers standout prospect Joc Pederson has been summoned to the big leagues.

According to the club's official Twitter account, Pederson is among four minor league players to be promoted to LA's active roster on Monday:

Manager Don Mattingly commented on how he plans to utilize Pederson for the last stretch of the MLB regular season, per Los Angeles News Group's J.P. Hoornstra:

The Dodgers play host to the Washington Nationals on Monday evening—a battle between the National League's two best teams.   

Pederson has made quite a splash this season for Triple-A Albuquerque. Per Baseball-Reference.com, the 22-year-old outfielder has 33 home runs, 78 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 121 games, with a .303 batting average and .435 on-base percentage.

That production allowed Pederson to win the Pacific Coast League's MVP award. Minor League Team Names highlighted the elite company Pederson joined with his sensational all-around play:

Pederson commented about his achievement after it happened, per MiLB.com's Josh Jackson:

It's a great feeling. It shows that hard work and the process I've put in with the coaches and the Dodgers staff is paying off in results. You don't ever strive to do something like that at the start of the season because you don't want to limit yourself. Something that prestigious is quite humbling and I'm honored to do it.

Based on the gaudy numbers, it appears as though Pederson qualifies for the call-up—and very well could have before now. However, the Dodgers are rather loaded in the outfield. Young All-Star Yasiel Puig occupies center field, while LA also boasts the likes of Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier.

It speaks volumes about Pederson's play that he's being called up even with that stacked of an outfield rotation. Not to mention, the Dodgers are in first place in the NL West division at the moment, so throwing someone as hyped as Pederson into such a high-stakes environment shows the type of faith the organization has in him.

With the promotion comes pressure for Pederson to perform. Making the leap to the big leagues with so much on the line will tell a lot about the type of player Pederson is bound to become. If his rampage through Triple-A ball serves as any telling sign, though, it appears Pederson will be as good as advertised and be a dark-horse contributor for a potential World Series contender.

Loic Remy's Chelsea Move Shows the Blues' Improved Transfer Policy

3 hours 57 min ago

Jose Mourinho has every reason for feeling happy with himself right now.

It's not because Chelsea are sitting top of the Premier League going into the international break: It's more because of the decisions he has made this summer that are going to keep them there.

Chelsea aren't just title contenders this season, they are favourites. Strong favourites.

While their rivals have been slow off the mark or, worse still, buying star names in an act of desperation, Chelsea have identified their weaknesses and addressed them to build a squad that looks imperious.

Sure, the Premier League season is just three games old, but the signs are even Manchester City are going to struggle to keep up with the Blues this year.

When it comes to the transfer market, Chelsea are just as clinical as Diego Costa in front of goal.

The signing of Loic Remy, as per the club's official website, shows us that.

Remy's capture isn't the sort that will strike immediate fear in Chelsea's opponents. What it shows us, though, is when they have to, Chelsea react quickly these days. They're swift and efficient.

It all started in January.

Given a summer to assess the squad at his disposal, Mourinho didn't make rash decisions last year.

He knows he's Jose Mourinho and with the name comes the expectation to win titles. For potential dominance further down the line, however, he played it cool in 2013/14.

Mourinho was calculated.

Chelsea's weaknesses were laid bare and top of the agenda was a defensive midfielder of considerable class. Enter Nemanja Matic in January, while Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne were shipped out to balance the squad and importantly, the bank balance.

Mourinho was building from the back, targeting a creative midfielder and striker this summer.

Before the World Cup had even kicked-off, Chelsea had signed Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa.

Then followed Didier Drogba and Filipe Luis, all the while Chelsea were trimming the fat to fund their purchases.

Out went David Luiz, Romelu Lukaku and others to bring in £88.5 million transfer fees, remarkably giving the club a £3 million profit despite the considerable talent acquired.

And when Fernando Torres joined AC Milan on a two-year loan, within 24 hours Remy was replacing him.

There weren't any transfer deadline day shenanigans at Chelsea. It was all rather boring if we're honest, but in transfer deadline day currency, boring is the most valuable.

It's the premium every manager craves.

Mourinho hasn't needed to scramble around Europe for a central defender, a goalscorer or right-back. He had everything he needed when pre-season training started in mid-July.

In contrast, Arsenal still have gaps in their squad and face the next few months with just three recognised central defenders in Per Mertesacker, Calum Chambers and Laurent Koscielny. Then comes their issues up front, where goals appear to be a considerable problem without a genuine goalscorer.

Question marks remain over Liverpool and Manchester City, too.

And need we discuss Manchester United's insistence on buying players for big fees in any and every position other than where they are needed?

That used to be Chelsea's crown of thorns and now, to the delight of their fans, they've passed it on.

When a move has been needed, Chelsea have made it this year, and it's resulted in them being in an enviable position.

After the 6-3 defeat of Everton on Saturday evening, Mourinho was calm and composed when he gave his reaction on camera.

Normally miffed at conceding goals, especially the like of what befell his defence at Goodison Park, he rarely makes any attempt to hide his disdain.

He was different, though. Mourinho was happy, grinning and almost at ease.

After witnessing the events of transfer deadline day, we now know why.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes