From Comcast SportsNetJACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- When asked what Jacksonville's top need is heading into the NFL draft, general manager Gene Smith was quick to respond."Talent," he said.No doubt, the Jaguars are lacking it on both sides of the ball.And that makes this week's three-day draft, which begins Thursday night, pivotal for a rebuilding franchise that has missed the playoffs 10 of the last 12 years. The Jaguars have the seventh pick in the first round, their fifth consecutive year with a top-10 selection.What they do with it is anyone's guess.The Jaguars, though, have made it clear they would like to trade down from No. 7 and acquire extra picks. They have been fielding calls for weeks about potential swaps, but no deal will be made until draft night."We've already received more phone calls this year than any other year," McDonough said. "There's some jockeying going on."If the Jaguars stay put, expect them to select a pass rusher or a receiver.Although Jacksonville re-signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey in free agency, the team did nothing else to upgrade a D-line that has some glaring holes.Defensive end Aaron Kampman has missed 15 games over the last two seasons because of knee injuries, a bad sign for a 32-year-old player. Defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith, a third-round pick in 2010, hasn't played a down in two years. Tyson Alualu, John Chick and Austen Lane also are coming off injuries.And then there's defensive end Terrance Knighton, who will miss the majority of the offseason following unplanned eye surgery. Knighton, who has battled weight issues throughout his career, was struck in the face during a bar fight earlier this month. It's unclear if the 340-pounder will make a full recovery and how effective he would be after missing so much time."Our hope is that Terrance has a complete recovery, but there is a little uncertainty at this point," Smith said.The Jaguars could draft South Carolina's Melvin Ingram or Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox to help bolster the D-line. Ingram is considered the best edge rusher in the draft, and Cox is considered the top tackle.Smith believes the draft is the deepest at defensive tackle, so selecting one in the first round might not be as big a priority as other positions.Jacksonville's biggest need after last season was receiver, someone who can help young quarterback Blaine Gabbert develop quickly.The Jaguars had arguably the worst receiving corps in the league, with slot receiver Mike Thomas masquerading as a No. 1 guy. Thomas led the team with 44 catches for 415 yards. Fellow starter Jason Hill was released in November, and rookie Cecil Shorts, a fourth-round pick expected to contribute right away, had just to catches."Obviously we need to upgrade," Smith said. "I think that is one area we determined in our postseason roster evaluation, but it wouldn't force us into doing something that wouldn't be good for the organization."Jacksonville signed Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans in free agency. Robinson and Evans looked sharp in the team's orientation camp last week. But Robinson still has to prove he's more than a one-year wonder after catching 53 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns last season with the Dallas Cowboys. And the 31-year-old Evans has to prove he hasn't lost a step since his numbers have decreased each of the last three seasons.Even with those additions, the Jaguars are looking to upgrade the receiving corps. Jacksonville hasn't had a legitimate No. 1 receiver since Jimmy Smith retired following the 2005 season.Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, considered the No. 1 receiver in the draft, probably would need to slip for Jacksonville to land him at No. 7. Other possibilities include Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Baylor's Kendall Wright, Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.Cornerback is another potential draft spot for Jacksonville. The team re-signed veteran starter Rashean Mathis and added former New York Giants starter Aaron Ross. They are expected to compete for the starting job in training camp, unless the Jaguars add someone early in the draft.Despite all the speculation about who the Jaguars should take, Smith would prefer to trade down and acquire more picks -- and more talent."It's a good draft to trade back," he said. "There are some players clearly in rounds 2 through 5 that could help us. Again, I'm probably a little selfish on draft picks because you put all that work in and you would like to have more draft picks. But I'm not going to move for the sake of moving unless it makes sense. I'm not about being cute, probably more about executing based on our plan going in."
The White Sox offense put it together in just enough time on Tuesday night.
Jose Abreu’s bases-loaded single with two outs helped the White Sox rally from down two runs late for a 4-3 win over the New York Yankees in front of 18,023 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Abreu’s two-out single off Dellin Betances helped the White Sox avoid missing out on two bases-loaded opportunities in the final two innings.
It all came a little too late for Jose Quintana, who earned a no decision in spite of 6 1/3 scoreless innings. But given they had the winning run on board in a one-run loss on Monday and only scored once despite loading the bases with no outs in the eighth, the White Sox will take it.
Abreu, who struck out in the eighth with no outs after three straight walks, got ahead of Betances 2-1 in the count before he singled through the left side to score the tying and go-ahead runs.
Quintana earned the 63rd no decision of his career when the Yankees broke through in the eighth inning against Tommy Kahnle, who had a rare poor performance. Kahnle gave up a game-tying, two-out single to Aaron Judge and a two-run double to Gary Sanchez as the White Sox went from up a run to trailing 3-1.
The White Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the eighth on all walks, but only scored once. Abreu struck out, Avisail Garcia flew out and Matt Davidson also whiffed to leave the bases loaded. The White Sox lone run came on a two-out walk by Todd Frazier.
The same offensive woes kept them from breaking out with Quintana on the hill. While they provided lavish run support in his previous two starts, the White Sox were back to their old ways with Quintana on Tuesday. They did give him a 1-0 lead when Abreu cued a two-out RBI double off Luis Severino.
But Severino was otherwise a machine as he struck out 12 batters and walked none. Severino struck out the side in the second and seventh innings and retired the last nine batters he faced.
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Still, Quintana didn’t need anything other than the early run. He continues to look more like himself as the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline approaches, making his third straight good turn.
Quintana worked with a good curveball/fastball combo to keep the Yankees off-balance. The 2016 All-Star thrived in the few instances when he got into trouble.
He struck out Tyler Austin with two men in scoring position to end the fourth inning and erased a leadoff walk in the fifth with an Austin Romine double play. After Quintana surrendered a two-out double to Judge in the sixth inning, he got Sanchez to pop out to strand the tying run.
Quintana allowed two hits, walked four and struck out six in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Since he was hit hard by the Boston Red Sox on May 30, Quintana has been excellent, lowering his ERA from 5.30 to 4.37. In that span, Quintana has allowed 21 hits and six earned runs with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.
The smiles were around as the newcomers of the Bulls put on their best faces as the new era of Bulls basketball was officially presented to the public.
The men who brought them to Chicago, John Paxson and Gar Forman, began the painstaking task of introducing Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen to a skeptical public that believes the Bulls were robbed without a ski mask for Jimmy Butler.
Sitting next to them was coach Fred Hoiberg, who’s entering his third season with a third different roster and a chance to change a narrative that’s largely nondescript to this point.
“Thursday night we made a decision to move a great player (Butler),” Paxson said. “But over these last four or five days, we sat and talked and are really happy about the direction we’re about to head down.”
It’s a direction they’ve chosen where they know everything has to be done right for it to be fruitful. High draft choices are to be expected, and Paxson has said publicly and privately that they must hit on every single one, starting with Markkanen.
But for the sake of narrative and performance certainty and erasing errors of the past, LaVine has to be the one who leads the rebuild on the floor. It could be awhile before Markkanen develops, and in Dunn it’s uncertain if he had a bump in the road as a rookie or if the Bulls see something in him the Timberwolves failed to focus on.
Dunn could merely be a long unrequited love the Bulls have held onto without actually looking at the evidence he presented in an underwhelming rookie season.
But it’s LaVine who has the most pressure and is as close to a household name as anyone, winner of two straight dunk contests in 2014 and 2015 at All-Star Weekend.
A high flyer with a higher ceiling than anyone on the Bulls roster, LaVine must show he’s not damaged goods as he’s returning from a left ACL tear he suffered in February.
Bumping knees with Detroit’s Andre Drummond on an athletic drive to the basket, LaVine shook off the pain to play another six minutes in that third quarter in Detroit, completely unaware of the severity.
“I just thought it was a sprain,” LaVine told CSNChicago.com. “It wasn’t until I went to the locker room at the end of the quarter and more doctors were called in that I started thinking something was wrong.”
The bad news arrived and surgery wasn’t far behind, turning a promising campaign into one of uncertainty, the same kind that mirrors this franchise. Doctors have told LaVine, his family and representatives his knee doesn’t have the typical wear and tear of average athletes, probably buoyed by the fact his recovery is ahead of the nine-to-12-month usual schedule that accompanies these injuries.
Considering the last torn ACL in Chicago still haunts the franchise, considering LaVine plays the same position as the man he’s replacing and the fact he’s relishing being the man in charge in a similar way Butler did, LaVine’s recovery and development is the one most critical to this franchise’s credibility.
“We talked about it. Hey, look, you wanted to be an All-Star guy,” Paul LaVine, Zach’s father who was in attendance at the Advocate Center, said to CSNChicago.com. “You’re in a bigger market, go out here and get it done. I’m not concerned because my son, each situation, he’s surprised me.”
He averaged 18.9 points in 47 games as a third option behind Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but when he steps on the floor, yes he’ll have more opportunities but also more defensive attention and a spotlight he hasn’t had to deal with as a pro.
“High school, I didn’t know,” Paul LaVine said. “His first 15 games at UCLA, that’s what got him drafted, he exploded. When he got here, I knew if he got an opportunity on the NBA stage, it doesn’t surprise me.”
But the newest Bull knows he must fight the urge to come back in a superhuman manner, especially playing for the franchise Michael Jordan built. Jordan, through highlight videos and the movie “Space Jam,” became one of LaVine’s idols. More directly, Kobe Bryant became the player LaVine has modeled himself after, as LaVine chose the number eight and wore Bryant’s signature Nikes during his photo shoot after his introductory news conference.
“I'm only 22. I'm ready for it. I'm very humble,” LaVine said with a smile of confidence. “When it's time for me to get going, I'm going to come in here and work my butt off like I always do, going in with full confidence. I'm just extremely excited to get this ball rolling and see what we can do.”
LaVine is often pulled back when he passes through certain benchmarks of his rehab and has to continue to play the long game. Coming back too soon or being pressed to come back got others in trouble.
Headed into restricted free agency after next season, LaVine certainly wants to prove his worth so contract negotiations will be smooth in the offseason. But since the Bulls have clearly chosen their path of a rebuild, one wonders how the two ideals will compete against one another this season.
“Regardless, I’m going to be safe. That’s the main thing, always being safe,” LaVine said. “I always have to take care of myself and this franchise, as well. I’m going to be safe, I’m going to do everything I can physically to get back. Then when I’m at that point, I’m going to be ready. I’m the type of person that’s going to work my butt off to get there as fast as possible. I’m going to be ready when I am there.”
For the Bulls’ sake, LaVine has to be the face of this first step as it might be the closest thing the front office has to inspiring any level of confidence to a weary fan base.