NBA superstar re-signs for 3 more seasons

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NBA superstar re-signs for 3 more seasons

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The Tim Duncan era isn't over yet. The San Antonio Spurs announced Wednesday that they had re-signed Duncan, bringing back the 36-year-old forward for at least a 16th season. Terms were not disclosed, though Yahoo Sports cited anonymous sources in reporting it was a three-year, 36 million deal. The first overall pick in the 1997 draft, Duncan in 15 seasons has led the Spurs to nine division titles and the playoffs every year, including four NBA championships. The Spurs are 830-352 in the regular season during his tenure, the highest winning percentage over any 15-year span in NBA history, and Duncan has two league MVP awards to go along with three NBA Finals MVP honors. "Tim Duncan has established himself as one of the best players in NBA history," coach Gregg Popovich said. "He is an unselfish superstar who loves to compete and has only one goal when he steps on the court -- to do whatever it takes to help his team win. We are all thrilled that he'll spend his entire career as a San Antonio Spur." Duncan, a 13-time All-Star, has averaged 20.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.22 blocks per game over his career. The Spurs have other questions headed into the offseason. He experienced a bit of a renaissance this season after injuries and age led some observers to speculate his career was nearing an end. Duncan averaged 15.4 points and 9.0 rebounds in leading the Spurs to the Southwest Division title and a league best 50-16 record. "I think (his health) probably had as much to do with solidifying in his mind how long he wanted to go into the future," general manager R.C. Buford said. "He played well throughout this whole season and he even felt better than he ever had. I think in his mind, that was what was important. We're going to play him as long as he says he can play and then probably a couple of days longer. We're hoping he's going to extend us." The signing was expected, especially after Duncan told Yahoo Sports, "I'm here and I'm a Spur for life," during their Western Conference playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. "You're never confident that is going to happen until it's done," Buford said, "but he made it clear he wanted to be here. We laid out what our realities were and here's how we thought we could accomplish the best team we could put around him and he said, I want to be a part of it.'" To that end, the Spurs also announced restricted free-agent Danny Green had re-signed with the team. Buford said there was nothing to report about whether forward Boris Diaw re-signed or if 2009 second-round pick Nando De Colo would join the Spurs, because there are "logistics involved" with signing international players. De Colo and Diaw are both playing for France's Olympic Team along with Spurs point guard Tony Parker. De Colo played the past three seasons with Valencia of the Spanish League. With the possible exception of De Colo's addition, the Spurs are expected to return virtually their entire roster from this season. "I was going to announce that we traded for Steve Nash, but the Lakers beat us to it," Buford said. "I think we won't go into the season with the exact same team as we had a year ago. (But) we think there is a lot of opportunity for internal growth, especially this summer when we have our gym and our players and the opportunity to get our coaches with them." But the Spurs have other questions headed into the offseason. The Spurs lost in the playoffs to Oklahoma City, blowing a 2-0 lead. They don't have many glaring needs, with the bulk of the roster on track to return. Parker has apparently healed from a bizarre eye injury in time to play for France in the Summer Olympics. He got a shard of glass in his eye, damaging his cornea, during a New York City night club fight involving Chris Brown and members of hip-hop star Drake's entourage. The 30-year-old Parker has two years remaining on a 50 million contract. He is coming off averaging 18.3 points and a career-high 7.7 assists. Manu Ginobili is also in London this summer playing for his native Argentina, a moonlighting stint that always makes the Spurs anxious because of the 34-year-old playmaker's propensity for injury.

White Sox snap scoreless streak early, cruise past Indians

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USA TODAY

White Sox snap scoreless streak early, cruise past Indians

The White Sox quickly ended their 23-inning streak of offensive futility and didn't look back. 

A three-run first inning propelled the White Sox to avoid getting swept with a 6-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in front of 24,444 at Guaranteed Rate Field Sunday afternoon. 

Tim Anderson led off the bottom of the first with a double, and after Tyler Saladino dribbled a ground ball through the left side, he came around to score on Melky Cabrera's sacrifice fly. The White Sox last run before that came in the fourth inning of their 9-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday. 

After Cabrera's flyout, Indians right fielder Abraham Almonte made a mess of Jose Abreu's line drive single, allowing it to skip past him to the wall. That error brought Saladino home and allowed Abreu to reach third, and Abreu later scored on Leury Garcia's two-out single to tag a third run on Cleveland starter Danny Salazar. 

Salazar was shaky over his five innings, striking out nine but allowing seven hits and issuing three walks. The White Sox struck again in the fifth inning when Avisail Garcia launched an RBI double off the top of the center field wall. 

Cleveland's inability to catch the ball helped the White Sox push across another run in the sixth inning. After Omar Narvaez drew a leadoff walk, Jacob May put down a sacrifice bunt and hustled to first, where second baseman Michael Martinez — covering for charging first baseman Carlos Santana — had to awkwardly stretch for Santana's underhand toss. Martinez dropped the ball, allowing May to reach.

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Following strikeouts by Anderson and Saladino, Cabrera lined a single to left, and Narvaez was aggressively waved home (a common practice with two outs in an inning). Brandon Guyer's throw easily beat Narvaez to the plate, but Indians catcher Roberto Perez dropped it, allowing Narvaez to score the fifth run of the game.

Another Indians defensive miscue led to the White Sox sixth run in the eighth, when an Abreu ground ball kicked off Santana's spikes and into center field, allowing May to score.  

White Sox starter Derek Holland was solid in his six innings, allowing only a solo home run to Francisco Lindor with three walks and six strikeouts. His toughest test came in the top of the fifth, when he issues a two-out walk to Santana to load the bases but struck out Lindor to end the frame. Holland lowered his ERA to 1.99 with his six innings of one-run ball Sunday. 

The Indians tacked on a late run when David Robertson threw a wild pitch that allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to score with two out in the ninth.

Quality more important than quantity for Bears in 2017 NFL Draft

Quality more important than quantity for Bears in 2017 NFL Draft

NFL teams typically wants as many draft picks as possible. The theory: The needier the team, the more picks required for those needs.

Not sure that this is the true situation confronting the Bears in 2017, however. In fact, something nearly the opposite, a variation on a less-is-more theme, is truer.

For the Bears approaching the 2017 NFL Draft, quality is more important than quantity. “Best available” player is fine, but for a team in major need of true impact difference-makers, a “best-possible” player is paramount. How GM Ryan Pace and his personnel posse accomplish that will be one of the most closely watched and far-reaching dramas of this draft. Because it may require some creativity on the clock, with a dizzying array of scenarios popping up in front of them by virtue of possible picks by the Cleveland Browns at 1 and San Francisco 49ers at 2.

Pace already has been about the business of giving himself the option of going after best-possible rather than simply waiting, staying with the draft board and selecting best-available.

The Bears were among the NFL’s most active teams in free agency. That has taken care of some “quantity” issues (cornerback, wide receiver, tight end), with an eye toward freeing the draft for the pursuit of true excellence, something too few Bears drafts have managed to secure (which is how teams miss playoffs nine times in 10 years and find themselves on third different GMs and coaches in the span of six years).

As he has always had within the context of the overall direction of the football franchise, Pace has a draft plan. More specifically, he also has a structure within which to execute that plan.

Draft “bands”

Besides an overall top-to-bottom ranking of players, the Bears establish various “bands” of players they identify as being worth a pick at a certain spot. Not all players in the band are graded equally, and the Bears may move to trade up if a significantly higher-graded players in the band is within reach, or if they fear other teams leap-frogging them to grab a targeted player.

But the bands allow the Bears to weigh trading back and still being able to select one of the talents in that band. With the Bears sitting at No. 3 this year, the first band in this draft will be a small one.

“We’ll have an elite group of names that we’re confident will be there [at No. 3],” Pace said at the recent owners meetings. “Three names, yeah. But beyond that, [we say,] ‘OK, there’s some pretty good depth in this draft, too, so are there scenarios’ — and it’s easier said than done — ‘where we can trade back.’ Those things’ll be discussed.”

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They’re being discussed right now. The phone in Pace’s Halas Hall office has been increasingly active the past couple weeks — calls ingoing and outgoing — and will become more so this week as the Bears and most of the NFL take the temperatures of trade ideas going into the start of the draft Thursday night. It happens every year about this time: general managers looking to satisfy sometimes-conflicting objectives, one of adding draft picks via trades down where possible, and the other of adding best-possible players, sometimes necessitating trades of picks or players to move up.

For the Bears, this year is a bit out of the ordinary, if only because they hold the No. 3-overall pick in a draft considered extremely talent-rich at certain positions and extremely less so at others. Loosely put, a position such as cornerback is rated deep enough that quality starters can be had even down into the fourth round, so teams likely need not trade up to land a blue-chipper. Conversely, the quarterback position, the one most often targeted for round-one trades up, is short of consensus elites, so again, teams are less likely to trade up to secure one.

The Bears are in position to select a franchise quarterback but opinions vary widely on whether there are clear ones to be had as high as where the Bears draft, as the order now stands. Pace, who established last year his willingness to trade up for what he considers “elite,” is like any other personnel executive in wanting more selections.

The Bears do not want to slip out of a band entirely. When they sat with No. 7 in the 2015 draft, the Bears identified a quiver of eight players deemed worth the seventh-overall pick. Those ranged from quarterback Marcus Mariota to wide receiver Amari Cooper to defensive lineman Leonard Williams, and included Kevin White, one of two from the eight not already selected by that point.

Because the goal was a player judged to be elite, trading down was not a realistic option because of the risk of getting none of their targets and instead settling for the next, lower tier of prospects.

Dealing with market forces

But what will the market allow this time? 

“Yeah, and based on the talent of the guys in those bands, what it would require for us to go back?” Pace said. “Those things are all being talked about and studied now, and we’ll keep on fine-tuning it.

“But you’ve got to have a partner willing to do that, too.”

Pace has been a willing partner for trades either up or down, sometimes in the same draft.

Last year, holding the 11th pick, the decision was made to trade up to No. 9 because of their grade on Georgia edge rusher Leonard Floyd, and the concern that either the New York Giants would take Floyd at No. 10 or another team would leap-frog the Bears and grab him. The Bears wanted a pass rusher and the falloff from Floyd was viewed as significant. Clemson’s Shaq Lawson was the next edge rusher taken (No. 19), he was less the speed player that Floyd was, and concerns about Lawson’s shoulder issues proved valid, requiring offseason surgery that cost him most of his rookie season.
 
On day two, Pace traded down twice with an eye toward landing one of his top second-round-band talents: Kansas State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair.