Bleacher Report - Front Page




    Francisco Liriano Reportedly Receiving Trade Interest from Cubs, Dodgers, Twins

    Francisco Liriano Reportedly Receiving Trade Interest from Cubs, Dodgers, Twins


    While Francisco Liriano is enduring one of the worst seasons in his MLB career, the Toronto Blue Jays left-hander reportedly still has potential suitors on the trade market.  FanRag Sports' Robert Murray reported Thursday the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles...

    While Francisco Liriano is enduring one of the worst seasons in his MLB career, the Toronto Blue Jays left-hander reportedly still has potential suitors on the trade market. 

    FanRag Sports' Robert Murray reported Thursday the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins have all expressed a level of interest in Liriano.

    The New York Post's Joel Sherman reported the Kansas City Royals also had Liriano on their radar, with Kansas City focusing more so on the 2006 All-Star over Marco Estrada.

    According to MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal, "most interested clubs" see Liriano as a reliever rather than a starter for the remainder of the season.

    Through 17 starts, Liriano is 6-5 with a 5.99 ERA and a 4.92 FIP, per FanGraphs.

    To some extent, the 33-year-old has been a victim of bad luck. Opposing hitters are batting .332 on balls in play, which is tied for 115th among starting pitchers with at least 70 innings, according to FanGraphs.

    However, Liriano is also striking out nearly one fewer batter and walking nearly one batter more per nine innings over his career averages. He's averaging 8.22 strikeouts and 4.93 walks per nine innings, compared to 9.21 and 3.95, respectively over his 12 years in MLB.

    Despite his struggles on the mound, Liriano would be a cost-effective option for playoff contenders looking for pitching depth, whether it be for the starting rotation or the bullpen.

    LaMelo Ball Drops Near Triple-Double; Big Ballers Beat Play Smart Play Hard

    LaMelo Ball Drops Near Triple-Double; Big Ballers Beat Play Smart Play Hard


    After losing to Zion Williamson's SC Supreme Wednesday, LaMelo Ball and Big Baller Brand bounced back with a 111-102 victory over Play Hard Play Smart Thursday.  Ball was outstanding once again in the exhibition, flirting with a triple-double while...

    After losing to Zion Williamson's SC Supreme Wednesday, LaMelo Ball and Big Baller Brand bounced back with a 111-102 victory over Play Hard Play Smart Thursday. 

    Ball was outstanding once again in the exhibition, flirting with a triple-double while finishing with 38 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in the victory.

    Although Jordan Brown tallied 33 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks for Play Hard Play Smart, his squad simply couldn't keep up in the fast-paced battle.

    Ball gets a lot of attention as the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball but is also considered a 5-star recruit in the 2019 class by Scout.com.

    However, Brown showed that he shouldn't be overlooked as a 5-star recruit in his own right, considered the No. 11 player in the 2018 class by Scout.

    During the first half, ESPN's Myron Medcalf called Brown the "most dominant player on the court and it's not close."

    The 6'10" forward was on the boards and could not be stopped inside.

    Bleacher Report's Reid Forgrave mocked the Big Ballers' defensive struggles:

    It was enough for Play Hard Play Smart to overcome an early deficit and build up a 57-46 lead at halftime.

    However, the Big Ballers played fast in the second half and started hitting their shots. Ball was a key part of the success, making an impact both as a scorer and a passer:

    Although his efficiency remains a question mark as he finished 13-of-31 from the field, including 2-of-9 from three-point range, his all-around game was impressive. William Pluma (28 points) and Elijah Harkless (21 points) also played a big role in the high-scoring game.

    LaVar Ball's squad took over the lead and wouldn't give it up. They used an 11-3 run to close the game while turning a 100-99 advantage into a nine-point win.

    Of course, LaVar also had his own theatrics while waiting on the referees to get the game going:

    Still, it was LaMelo that was the star in this one. After struggling to keep up with Williamson Wednesday night, he outdueled another top player in Brown, even when the big man was doing everything he could to lead his team to victory.

    Big Ballers will continue their run at the Cashman Center Friday with a matchup against Team BBC and point guard Immanuel Quickley. Play Hard Play Smart will face Williamson and SC Supreme.

    JaVale McGee Reportedly Agrees to Contract to Re-Sign with Warriors

    JaVale McGee Reportedly Agrees to Contract to Re-Sign with Warriors


    After a successful partnership last season, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and JaVale McGee reportedly have struck a new deal.  On Thursday, ESPN.com's Chris Haynes reported the sides agreed to terms on a new contract for the 2017-18 season....

    After a successful partnership last season, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and JaVale McGee reportedly have struck a new deal. 

    On Thursday, ESPN.com's Chris Haynes reported the sides agreed to terms on a new contract for the 2017-18 season.  

    Terms have yet to be disclosed. 

    McGee took to Instagram after the reported signing:

    McGee signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Warriors last year. He made the team out of training camp and was an instrumental piece off the bench for head coach Steve Kerr. 

    In 77 games with the Warriors, McGee shot a career-high 65.2 percent and averaged 23.0 points with 11.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, per Basketball Reference

    From 2013 to 2016 with the Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks, McGee only played in 62 games. 

    The 29-year-old McGee even called this a big bounce-back season after struggling to stay healthy the previous three years. 

    "This has been somewhat of a redemption season," McGee told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears in May. "This has been a great opportunity and platform to show what I have and to help this team."

    Given McGee's lengthy injury history prior to 2016-17, the Warriors are betting big on his ability to stay healthy. He's got a tremendous ceiling, as he showed last year, and is still at an age when can stay effective.

    Stephon Marbury Calls Derrick Rose's $2.1 Million Contract a 'Crime'

    Stephon Marbury Calls Derrick Rose's $2.1 Million Contract a 'Crime'


    Derrick Rose joined the Cleveland Cavaliers on just a one-year deal worth a reported $2.1 million, a contract that disappointed former NBA star Stephon Marbury. "WTF is going on in the NBA. I've watched guys that shouldn't be in the game let alone the...

    Derrick Rose joined the Cleveland Cavaliers on just a one-year deal worth a reported $2.1 million, a contract that disappointed former NBA star Stephon Marbury.

    "WTF is going on in the NBA. I've watched guys that shouldn't be in the game let alone the money their getting. DRose is a Monster!" he continued in a chain of tweets while responding to fans. "Really? A MVP for that amount of money. Not even haters will agree with the price tag."

    One of his most interesting statements came when it was suggested Rose turned down other offers. Marbury noted LeBron James should have helped the veteran get a better deal while also questioning if the four-time MVP is on his way out:

    Rose certainly isn't the player he was when he won MVP with the Chicago Bulls as injuries have derailed his career. However, he averaged 18 points and 4.4 assists per game last season with the New York Knicks to go with a 47.1 percent shooting percentage.

    While he had made over $21 million last season, he reportedly had to take a major pay cut in order to compete with a contender.

    Bleacher Report recently mocked the significant drop in salary:

    Marbury hasn't played in the NBA since 2009, but has had a successful run playing in China for the past eight seasons. He will spend his final year in basketball this season with the Beijing Fly Dragons.

    Nationals Tie MLB Record with 5 HRs in 3rd Inning vs. Brewers

    Nationals Tie MLB Record with 5 HRs in 3rd Inning vs. Brewers


    The Washington Nationals tied a Major League Baseball record Thursday when they slammed five home runs in the third inning of their 15-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.  According to ESPN.com's Eddie Matz, the Nationals became the sixth team in league...

    The Washington Nationals tied a Major League Baseball record Thursday when they slammed five home runs in the third inning of their 15-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers

    According to ESPN.com's Eddie Matz, the Nationals became the sixth team in league history to smack five homers in an inning. 

    The power-packed frame also saw the Nationals hit four straight home runs, when Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman went back-to-back-to-back-to-back before Anthony Rendon connected on a solo dinger later in the inning. 

    The Nationals seized a 9-0 lead by the time the third inning ended, and they didn't stop there. 

    After Bryce Harper doubled to left to score Difo in the fourth, Zimmerman stepped to the plate and connected on his second home run of the game. Jose Lobaton also got in on the party in the fourth with a 424-foot blast. 

    All told, Harper finished 3-for-5 with four RBI, while Zimmerman plated three runs on a day when the Nationals burned the Brewers for 19 hits. 

    "What a team we have," Harper said, according to the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes. "What a lineup we have."

    Washington will aim to keep the runs flowing Friday when it opens a three-game set against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park. 

    Philip Wheeler Agrees to Contract with Cardinals After 2 Seasons with Falcons


    The Arizona Cardinals have added depth at linebacker by signing veteran Philip Wheeler, the team announced Thursday.  Wheeler has played for four different organizations in his nine-year career, including the last two with the Atlanta Falcons. He...

    The Arizona Cardinals have added depth at linebacker by signing veteran Philip Wheeler, the team announced Thursday. 

    Wheeler has played for four different organizations in his nine-year career, including the last two with the Atlanta Falcons. He appeared in all 16 games last season while totaling 27 tackles.

    While he made four starts last season, he was mostly used on special teams when the Falcons defense was healthy. Per Pro Football Reference, he played eight defensive snaps in the Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots compared to 11 on special teams.

    Wheeler also appeared in Super Bowl XLIV as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

    Although Arizona brought back Karlos Dansby and drafted Haasan Reddick in the first round, the squad could use additional help after inconsistent play from the defense last season. There were plenty of bright spots, but the team finished 14th in points allowed last year, giving up 30 points or more on six different occasions.

    The Cardinals will hope the latest addition will take them one step closer to returning to the postseason.

    Darts World Matchplay 2017: Peter Wright, Daryl Gurney Advance to Semi-Finals

    Darts World Matchplay 2017: Peter Wright, Daryl Gurney Advance to Semi-Finals


    Peter Wright will face Daryl Gurney in the semi-finals of the 2017 Darts World Matchplay after they defeated respective quarter-final opponents Darren Webster and Mensur Suljovic at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. Unseeded Gurney may be the underdog's...

    Peter Wright will face Daryl Gurney in the semi-finals of the 2017 Darts World Matchplay after they defeated respective quarter-final opponents Darren Webster and Mensur Suljovic at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

    Unseeded Gurney may be the underdog's pick to beat Wright in his semi-final outing, but the Northern Irishman won six of the last seven legs played to pull off a big upset from 10-12 down.

    Wright mastered a comeback of his own late on against Webster and finished as the 16-12 victor over "Demolition Man" following six consecutive leg wins near the climax of their encounter. 

    The quarter-finals continue at the Winter Gardens on Friday, when world champion Michael van Gerwen will attempt to beat icon Phil Taylor to a place in the final four. Elsewhere, Alan Norris will hope to surprise Adrian Lewis in the hopes he can snatch a semi-final spot.

    Read on for a recap of Thursday's results from Blackpool, complete with statistics courtesy of the official PDC website.

              

    Recap

    On a night of comebacks, Wright booked his place in the semi-finals after trailing quarter-finalist Webster 11-9, piecing together a timely run of six leg wins to wrest victory from the jaws of what would have been a poor defeat.

    Snakebite won against the throw and opened up a 2-0 lead early on in Thursday's late fixture, but Webster showed he was in Blackpool to compete after three wins on the bounce saw him lead for the first time in the match.

    Maximums were at something of a premium between the two—only 11 were thrown during the match in total—and the pair went back and forth as the weight of momentum shifted to and fro.

    Webster led 11-9 and might have been favoured for the victory as he stood five legs from triumph, but tensions came close to bubbling over for the Norwich native when Wright embarked on a six-leg streak:

    Demolition Man was ultimately able to win only one of the last eight legs on offer, a consolatory pullback at 15-12 down, before Wright capped proceedings off with a 74 checkout to seal his semi-final spot.

    Bet365 provided a breakdown of Wright's numbers from a memorable win under pressure, deserving the win with a checkout percentage of 41.03, far superior to Webster's 27.91 per cent:

    A 171 from his opening darts signalled Gurney was in the mood to thrill during his meeting with Suljovic, and an astute 13-darter swiftly put the 31-year-old up 2-1 before his foe swung back with a three-leg streak to lead 4-2.

    The Austrian gradually increased that two-leg lead to 6-4, at which point it came time for Gurney to hit a trio of leg victories of his own, ending that run with a tremendous 146 checkout that lifted Blackpool to its feet.

    In what might have been the best performance of his career thus far, the potential Champions League of Darts entrant allowed The Gentle back in to the match at 7-8 and surrendered the lead once more to slip a leg behind.

    But Gurney showed that despite being one of the younger members left in the competition, he's got nerves of steel, finishing tops to draw level at nine legs apiece:

    Again, Suljovic added to his tally of maximums to steal a 12-10 lead, but it was here that Gurney's staunchest display surfaced, conceding just one of the final seven legs to book his place in the last four.

    The narrow margins of Gurney's win are evidenced by the fact his average of 97.18 was inferior to Suljovic's 99.45, although he did throw six more maximums (13) than his opponent's seven.

    Wright promises to be an even less forgiving foe in the semi-finals, however, meaning he has improvements to make if his Matchplay dream is to survive beyond Saturday's schedule.   

    Lucas Duda Reportedly Traded to Rays; Mets Receive RHP Prospect Drew Smith

    Lucas Duda Reportedly Traded to Rays; Mets Receive RHP Prospect Drew Smith


    After eight seasons, the New York Mets reportedly have parted ways with first baseman Lucas Duda.  According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the Mets agreed Thursday to trade Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Drew...

    After eight seasons, the New York Mets reportedly have parted ways with first baseman Lucas Duda

    According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the Mets agreed Thursday to trade Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Drew Smith.

    Feinsand provided some background on Smith, who is the 30th-ranked prospect in the Rays system: 

    A member of the Mets since 2010, Duda emerged as a prime trade candidate in advance of the July 31 deadline because he's on an expiring deal that is paying him $7.2 million this season. 

    In his walk year, the 31-year-old is batting .246 with a .347 on-base percentage and a career-high .532 slugging percentage to go along with 17 home runs and 37 RBI. 

    Thanks to that power surge, Duda has posted 1.0 offensive wins above replacement a year after he managed to barely post a positive mark (0.1). 

    If there's a concern with Duda, it's that he's battled injuries over the past few seasons, including a stress fracture in his lower back that limited him to 47 games in 2016. 

    However, the Rays are in a position to roll the dice on Duda and his health since he's only a half-season rental. 

    As far as his role goes, Duda should immediately slot in as part of the Rays' revised platoon at designated hitter. 

    Tampa Bay has been searching for a steady left-handed power bat since Colby Rasmus stepped away from the team for unspecified personal reasons, and Duda can fill that void considering he's slashed .253/.367/.546 with 14 home runs and 27 RBI against right-handed pitching this season. 

    But even with Duda aboard, the Rays could still stand to add one more bat off the bench if they want to make a strong push for the postseason since Trevor Plouffe and Brad Miller have been mired in season-long slumps. 

     

    Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

    Dante Fowler Says Car Had Been Stolen During Speeding Ticket Stop

    Dante Fowler Says Car Had Been Stolen During Speeding Ticket Stop


    When Dante Fowler was stopped by police for speeding July 15, he had a unique reason for why he couldn't show officers his registration documents.  According to TMZ, the Jacksonville Jaguars star told police he didn't have his registration on him...

    When Dante Fowler was stopped by police for speeding July 15, he had a unique reason for why he couldn't show officers his registration documents. 

    According to TMZ, the Jacksonville Jaguars star told police he didn't have his registration on him because the car recently had been stolen and he just got it back the day before.

    He said he had left the keys in it and someone took the car, but he got it back in time to pick up a speeding ticket.

    "I just got my car back because it got stolen. So, I don't know where all my stuff is," he explained to the officer, per TMZ.

    No arrests were made, but Fowler was reportedly given a citation for failing to show registration as well as a speeding ticket after being clocked going 62 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone, as the officer explained in the video.

    The 22-year-old already made headlines this offseason when he was arrested for misdemeanor battery on July 18.

    "At the end of the day, it could have went down a totally different way," Fowler said of the altercation that led to his arrest, per Michael DiRocco of ESPN. "I could have [taken] the right approach. I took the wrong approach, and I realize that I'm wrong for that. Like I said, it won't happen again."

    While the defensive end was the No. 3 overall pick in 2015, his off-field incident remain a problem for Jacksonville.

    WWE SummerSlam 2017: 10 Worst Booking Decisions in PPV's History


    WWE's SummerSlam pay-per-view may be the Biggest Party of the Summer, the setting for some of the greatest matches in the company's illustrious history and the second-most important show of the year, but that does not mean it is without its fair share of...

    WWE's SummerSlam pay-per-view may be the Biggest Party of the Summer, the setting for some of the greatest matches in the company's illustrious history and the second-most important show of the year, but that does not mean it is without its fair share of questionable, if not downright awful, booking decisions.

    Over the first three decades of the event's existence, it has been home to some head-scratchers, to be sure.

    From truly putrid cards to outcomes that served only to direct attention to the following month's show, downplaying its own significance.

    Why these decisions are allowed to make it out of the booking meeting and onto screens across the world is a question only Vince McMahon himself can answer. They did, though, and remain some of the lowlights of an otherwise fan-favorite spectacle.

    As the WWE Universe gears up for the 2017 edition of the broadcast on August 20, which will almost certainly feature a few WWE Creative decisions that create unrest among the fanbase, journey through the annals of the annual extravaganza and relive these 10 moments that left fans with one question: why?

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    Stevan Ridley, Broncos Reportedly Agree to Contract


    The Denver Broncos reportedly signed veteran running back Stevan Ridley on Thursday after he was released by the Atlanta Falcons. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Ridley's agreement with the Broncos.  Ridley offers the Broncos insurance at running...

    The Denver Broncos reportedly signed veteran running back Stevan Ridley on Thursday after he was released by the Atlanta Falcons.

    NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Ridley's agreement with the Broncos. 

    Ridley offers the Broncos insurance at running back after Rapoport reported Devontae Booker suffered a fractured wrist which he aggravated while training for the season. 

    Per ESPN's Jeff Legwold, Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said Booker will undergo surgery and is expected to miss six weeks.

    Ridley, 27, has spent time with the Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts and Falcons in 2016. He was released by the Lions and Colts before the season started and linked up with Atlanta on Oct. 23. After carrying the ball three times for seven yards in his only appearance with the Falcons, he was released Nov. 23.

    The Broncos are Ridley's fifth team since leaving the New England Patriots after the 2014 campaign. He carried the ball 36 times while a member of the New York Jets in 2015, recording a career-low 90 yards. A 1,200-yard rusher in 2012 with the Patriots, Ridley's career has been undone by injuries—particularly a torn ACL and MCL in 2014.

    "My body feels good," Ridley said last July, per Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. "I've done the therapy, I've done the rehab. There's nothing to do now but come out here and play. I'm going to let my play speak for itself before I say I'm back."

    The Broncos are well stocked with depth at running back, including C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles, so it could be difficult for Ridley to play a significant role.

    This does give Ridley an opportunity to showcase his skills for the Broncos, while also showing other teams around the NFL that he can stay healthy. It's a solid low-risk addition for Denver at this point in the offseason.

    Odell Beckham Says He Wants to Become NFL's Highest-Paid Player

    Odell Beckham Says He Wants to Become NFL's Highest-Paid Player


    Odell Beckham Jr. has two more years remaining on his rookie deal, but the New York Giants are going to have to pay up to hold onto the Pro Bowl wide receiver when that contract expires. In an interview with Uninterrupted, Beckham said he wants to become...

    Odell Beckham Jr. has two more years remaining on his rookie deal, but the New York Giants are going to have to pay up to hold onto the Pro Bowl wide receiver when that contract expires.

    In an interview with Uninterrupted, Beckham said he wants to become the highest-paid player in the NFL:

    "I believe that I will be hopefully not just the highest-paid receiver in the league, but the highest-paid, period," he said (h/t NJ Advance Media's James Kratch).

    In February, the Steelers signed Antonio Brown to a new deal that made him the highest-paid wideout in the NFL. According to Spotrac, Brown will earn an average of $17 million per year.

    Beckham could top that with his next contract. Since the Giants selected him with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft, he's third in receiving yards (4,122) and tied for first with Brown in touchdowns (35), according to Pro Football Reference.

    Beckham might be aiming a bit too high, though, if he wants to be the highest-paid player in the league. Quarterback is by far the most valued position the field, as evidenced by the fact the top 15 average salaries all belong to quarterbacks, per Spotrac.

    Brown's average salary doesn't even eclipse that of Ryan Tannehill, who signed a four-year, $77 million extension with the Miami Dolphins in 2015.

    Derek Carr owns the distinction of being the highest-paid player in the NFL after agreeing to a five-year, $125 million extension with the Oakland Raiders. Beckham's agent will have to work overtime in order to convince the Giants or another team to offer the three-time Pro Bowler an even richer contract.

    Washington Nationals Become 8th Team in MLB History with 4 Straight Homers


    The Washington Nationals annihilated the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of 15-2 Thursday afternoon on the back of eight home runs by six different players. Four of the eight round-trippers came on consecutive at-bats, placing the team in an eight-way tie...

    The Washington Nationals annihilated the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of 15-2 Thursday afternoon on the back of eight home runs by six different players.

    Four of the eight round-trippers came on consecutive at-bats, placing the team in an eight-way tie for the MLB record, per ESPN Stats & Info. After home runs off the bats of Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, second baseman Daniel Murphy flew out to center field to fall short of setting a new mark. Third baseman Anthony Rendon followed Murphy, adding a fifth home run in six batters.

    Harper and Zimmerman both crushed two homers on the day, while Jose Lobaton capped off the Nationals' scoring with a two-run shot in the bottom of the fourth inning. Ace Max Scherzer backed the offensive effort by surrendering just one run on three hits and three walks over six innings, adding nine strikeouts.

    The Nationals are no stranger to the long ball, collecting 153 to rank fourth in the majors in that category. All three teams ahead of them in the category—the Houston Astros, the Brewers and the Texas Rangers—have all played at least one more game.

    Thursday's victory moved the Nationals' record to 61-39 on the season, good for a 13-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Washington took two of three games in the series against Milwaukee and owns a 7-3 record over the last 10 games.

    The Colorado Rockies come to town for a three-game set over the weekend. Tanner Roark is scheduled to toe the rubber for the Nationals on Friday, while the Rockies are expected to send German Marquez to the mound.

    Lucas Duda Trade Rumors: Rays Close to Landing Mets 1B

    Lucas Duda Trade Rumors: Rays Close to Landing Mets 1B


    The Tampa Bay Rays reportedly are "moving close" to acquiring first baseman Lucas Duda in a trade with the New York Mets, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman. Sherman emphasized that while "nothing is finalized" "the sides have been talking...

    The Tampa Bay Rays reportedly are "moving close" to acquiring first baseman Lucas Duda in a trade with the New York Mets, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman.

    Sherman emphasized that while "nothing is finalized" "the sides have been talking seriously." 

    The Rays don't have a pressing need at first base since Logan Morrison is slugging a career-high .543 with 26 home runs, but Duda would be a welcome addition as a designated hitter. 

    As Sherman noted, Tampa Bay could use a left-handed hitting DH after Colby Rasmus informed the Rays he wanted to "step away" from baseball, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin

    Duda—who is in a walk year—is slashing .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI. 

    He's been particularly solid against right-handed pitching with a line of .253/.367/.546, 14 home runs and 27 RBI. Against southpaws, the 31-year-old has struggled with a .224 average, three home runs and 10 RBI. 

    FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reported earlier Thursday the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners have also expressed interest in Duda with the July 31 trade deadline looming. 

    Le'Veon Bell Skips Start of Steelers Training Camp as Part of Contract Holdout

    Le'Veon Bell Skips Start of Steelers Training Camp as Part of Contract Holdout


    Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell was not present at the start of training camp Thursday as part of a contract dispute.  ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Bell didn't show up to camp with the rest of the team and is not subject to fines since...

    Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell was not present at the start of training camp Thursday as part of a contract dispute. 

    ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Bell didn't show up to camp with the rest of the team and is not subject to fines since he has yet to sign his one-year franchise tender worth $12.1 million. 

    Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown pleaded with Brown to show up to camp on Twitter:

    The move was not unexpected, since Bell previously skipped Steelers minicamp last month while holding out for a long-term contract from the team. 

    The deadline for players designated with the franchise tag to sign long-term deals was July 17. Bell rejected the Steelers' offers. 

    NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported the Steelers' long-term offer to Bell included $30 million in the first two years, $42 million over three years and an average annual value of $12-plus million. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the contract the Steelers to Bell was for five years.

    Bell has established himself as one of the NFL's best running backs over the past four seasons. The 25-year-old has 4,045 rushing yards, 2,005 receiving yards and 86 total touchdowns in 47 games since being drafted 48th overall in 2013. 

    Playing Fact or Fiction with the NHL's Latest Offseason Speculation


    With August fast approaching, there's little activity in the NHL trade and free-agent markets. That hasn't stopped some hockey pundits from speculating over moves involving such stars as New York Islanders center John Tavares and Pittsburgh Penguins...

    With August fast approaching, there's little activity in the NHL trade and free-agent markets. That hasn't stopped some hockey pundits from speculating over moves involving such stars as New York Islanders center John Tavares and Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Phil Kessel.

    Tavares' eligibility for free agency next summer is the reason he's popping up in the rumor mill. Questions over Kessel's performance were among the reasons for conjecture over his future in Pittsburgh.

    Is there any substance to this chatter? Find out as we examine the latest notable NHL speculation to determine its basis in fact or fiction. Feel free to post your views on this topic in the comments section below. 

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    Lakers News: Rob Pelinka, Magic Johnson Hopeful LA Can 'Add a Superstar or 2'

    Lakers News: Rob Pelinka, Magic Johnson Hopeful LA Can 'Add a Superstar or 2'


    Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka told The Dan Patrick Show (h/t Silver Screen and Roll) Thursday the Purple and Gold made forward-thinking moves this summer so they could be in position to land players who will command max salaries next...

    Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka told The Dan Patrick Show (h/t Silver Screen and Roll) Thursday the Purple and Gold made forward-thinking moves this summer so they could be in position to land players who will command max salaries next July. 

    "And then the final plan, Magic and I did a trade to allow us to have double-max cap room a July from now, so with our platform we're really hopeful that we can add maybe a superstar or two to this young core and have the best of both worlds," Pelinka said, referring to the deal that sent D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets.  

    The obvious names that come to mind when Pelinka refers to "a superstar or two" are Paul George and LeBron James. 

    USA Today's Sam Amick previously reported George was "hell-bent" on linking up with his hometown team in the summer of 2018, while ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t NBC Sports' Dan Feldman) disclosed in June that buzz was circulating about LeBron possibly bolting for Hollywood when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

    Before those two hit the market, the Lakers will have to prove they can make strides during the 2017-18 campaign and make Staples Center an attractive landing spot to players like George and James despite the Western Conference's current glut of contenders. 

    In the short term, that means further developing a core that features No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and 2016 No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram. 

    And as Pelinka sees it, the Lakers haven't even scratched the surface of their potential yet. 

    "It's kind of like if you go on YouTube and you think about Taylor Swift when she was 16 years old, maybe putting her first song," he told Patrick, per Silver Screen and Roll's Drew Garrison. "It's her guitar, it's her, it's in a little studio, and you watch it and you listen to it and you say 'wow, this is going to be a special thing to follow and a really cool narrative to unfold.'"

    It likely won't be a smooth year for the Lakers as their young guns continue to find their footing, but all eyes will be on how they handle their evolving rebuild with the prospect of huge signings looming in a year's time. 

    Dodgers Trade Rumors: Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray, Justin Verlander Likely LA Targets

    Dodgers Trade Rumors: Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray, Justin Verlander Likely LA Targets


    The Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly continue to target the Texas Rangers' Yu Darvish, Oakland Athletics' Sonny Gray and Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander ahead of Monday's MLB non-waiver trade deadline. On Thursday, Jon Morosi of the MLB Network reported...

    The Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly continue to target the Texas Rangers' Yu Darvish, Oakland Athletics' Sonny Gray and Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander ahead of Monday's MLB non-waiver trade deadline.

    On Thursday, Jon Morosi of the MLB Network reported the Dodgers have grown "increasingly confident" they can land one of those starting pitchers in the coming days. Morosi noted that discussions have focused on Darvish and Gray rather than Verlander. 

    Los Angeles already owns the best record in baseball at 71-31 and is a virtual lock to qualify for the postseason thanks to its 12.5-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.

    Yet, it sounds like the Dodgers are still planning to take an aggressive approach at the deadline, which is a minor surprise given the team's success.

    Rowan Kavner of Dodgers Insider passed along comments from general manager Farhan Zaidi made last week on KLAC, and he suggested the bullpen would likely be the main focus.

    "We're going to be watching [the relief] market," Zaidi said. "Other than that, be a little opportunistic. Our top three starters have been on a pretty good roll."

    Darvish, Gray and Verlander represent three of the top names in the rumor mill leading up to the deadline. Acquiring any of the three would be a major splash and further solidify the team's status as the favorite in the National League.

    Whether it's worth sacrificing the coveted prospects that could be required to make a trade for those starters is up for debate, though.

    The Dodgers have three reliable options in the rotation with Alex Wood, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda, while Hyun-Jin Ryu is a solid No. 4. Brandon McCarthy has also had a solid season but is on the 10-day DL with blisters. Meanwhile, ace Clayton Kershaw is expected to return from a back injury before the playoffs get underway.

    So it's unclear whether Los Angeles, which already leads MLB in starters' ERA, needs another high-profile starter.

    That said, there's no doubt Darvish, Gray and Verlander can be shutdown assets when at their best and, for a team with championship aspirations, perhaps it can't have too many of those available.

    Martavis Bryant Not Fully Reinstated by NFL, Still Unable to Practice


    Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martvais Bryant's conditional reinstatement to the NFL prevents him from participating in team practices.  Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert issued a statement through the team's official website about the current...

    Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martvais Bryant's conditional reinstatement to the NFL prevents him from participating in team practices. 

    Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert issued a statement through the team's official website about the current terms of Bryant's reinstatement:

    “Upon his conditional reinstatement in April, Martavis Bryant was made aware it was only the beginning of a process toward a return to being a full contributing member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. We have been informed by the NFL that Martavis is still in the process of being fully reinstated.

    “Until that time, Martavis will be permitted to take part in off-the-field team activities at training camp, but he will not be permitted to practice or play in any games."

    The NFL suspended Bryant for a minimum of one season in March 2016 after violating the league's substance abuse policy when he failed to show up for multiple drug tests. The 25-year-old was previously suspended four games in 2015 for a violation of the policy. 

    Bryant was conditionally reinstated in April, with the league announcing he would be eligible to participate in preseason practices and games after "arrangements have been confirmed regarding Bryant's clinical resources in Pittsburgh."

    The Steelers selected Bryant in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. He has recorded 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns on 76 receptions over 21 games in his first two seasons.  

    Cristiano Ronaldo's Agent Jorge Mendes Reportedly Meets with AC Milan

    Cristiano Ronaldo's Agent Jorge Mendes Reportedly Meets with AC Milan


    AC Milan have reportedly met with Cristiano Ronaldo's representative Jorge Mendes, asking the superagent to inform the Rossoneri should the Portugal international want to leave Real Madrid. Sky Italia (h/t the Daily Mirror's Aaron Flanagan) reported the...

    AC Milan have reportedly met with Cristiano Ronaldo's representative Jorge Mendes, asking the superagent to inform the Rossoneri should the Portugal international want to leave Real Madrid.

    Sky Italia (h/t the Daily Mirror's Aaron Flanagan) reported the two parties met for discussions in London, where Ronaldo's name came up. Per the report, it's unclear whether the Rossoneri were joking or seriously considering a move should the Ballon d'Or holder decide to leave Real.

    The 32-year-old isn't expected to leave Madrid anytime soon, and Serie A would be an odd destination. Italy's top division isn't currently considered as prestigious as La Liga or the Premier League, the home of his former club Manchester United.

    Milan have enjoyed a spectacular summer, signing players for a total value of £161 million, per the report. As explained by Marca's Elia Di Marzio, the Rossoneri have been able to exploit a loophole in UEFA's financial fair play regulations, as a voluntary agreement will keep them safe from sanctions this summer.

    But even without the threat of FFP, a move for Ronaldo would prove difficult. Flanagan calculated a transfer could cost somewhere between £350 million and £450 million when wages are included, and even Milan's Chinese owners would struggle to cough up such a huge amount of money.

    Milan haven't contended for the Serie A title in years and haven't been a factor in Europe, either. Their rebuilding process is in full effect, and the club will likely prioritise signing young talent, adding to their impressive riches in that department.

    As for Ronaldo, he's more likely to either retire in Madrid or move to MLS at some point in the future, as he continues to build his global brand.

    Senior British Open 2017: Bernhard Langer Tops Leaderboard After Thursday

    Senior British Open 2017: Bernhard Langer Tops Leaderboard After Thursday


    Two-time Senior British Open champion Bernhard Langer sits one shot clear at the summit of the 2017 tournament's leaderboard after ending Thursday's first round with a score of 69, two strokes under par. Behind the German are the duo of Carl Mason and...

    Two-time Senior British Open champion Bernhard Langer sits one shot clear at the summit of the 2017 tournament's leaderboard after ending Thursday's first round with a score of 69, two strokes under par.

    Behind the German are the duo of Carl Mason and Mauricio Molina, who each carded scores of 70 at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in south Wales.

    British favourite and golf personality Colin Montgomerie is also in contention for the senior crown as he ended the first round on par, while three-time winner Tom Watson is one of nine players sat one over par.

    Just one day into the competition and Porthcawl is already proving to be a tough course to navigate, even for the most experienced of minds, and the competition is sure to heat up over the next three days.

    Here's how the top end of the leaderboard looked following the first day of action at Royal Porthcawl:

         

    Senior British Open Top 10 (Day 1):

    1. Bernhard Langer (-2) T2= Carl Mason (-1) T2= Mauricio Molina (-1) T4=Peter Fowler (Par) T4= Jean-Francois Remesy (Par) T4= Chris Williams (Par) T4= Colin Montgomerie (Par) T4= Billy Andrade (Par) T4= Billy Mayfair (Par) T4= Peter Lonard (Par)

         

    Recap

    Langer's first-round sojourn to the summit of the Senior Open leaderboard was far from a straightforward one, and one might not have supposed a round of two-under would comprise of only 10 pars.

    Twice a champion in this tournament, the 59-year-old's day started in despair with a bogey on the first, but four birdies across the remainder of the front nine—with no more mistakes to account for—quickly turned his mood around.

    As well as winning this competition twice, the nine-time senior major winner has finished as runner-up at the Senior British Open, in 2013 and 2015, showing he's got quite the pedigree coming to Porthcawl, per the European Senior Tour:

    For all his fine work early on, bogeys on the 11th and 17th had Langer level with the likes of Mason and Molina coming on to the 18th, but a timely save on the last hole meant he regained that vital one-shot lead at the brink.

    It was only three years ago the German won this tournament by a gargantuan 13 strokes—at Royal Porthcawl no less—but he told the official Senior European Tour website prior to Thursday's round this year would be different:

    “I can't predict the winning score. Because I haven't actually played the course the way it is now. The wind is about 20 to 25 miles per hour and I think the forecast is for that kind of wind throughout the week.

    “I think the score will be over par, but I've been wrong before. I'm not a good forecaster. I'm a better golfer.”

    The prediction is so far proving accurate, and Argentinian Molina held a one-shot lead earlier in the day, while Montgomerie was also in contention for the top spots and remarked upon the tough conditions on Wales' south coast, via BBC Wales Sport:

    American favourite John Daly was another famous face who carded a respectable one-over par to tie for 13th after the first round, all the more impressive considering the distraction his trousers posed:

    One of those level with the former bad boy of the golf circuit is Watson, who will be hoping to add a fourth Senior British Open crown to his trophy cabinet on the 10-year anniversary of his third win.

    English great Nick Faldo, 60, didn't fare quite as well and is more than 100 places off the lead heading into Friday's action, but there may be time enough for the three-time British Open champion to pull back from a disappointing eight-over.

    Jabari Parker Feels 'Great' in Knee Injury Recovery; No Definitive Return Date

    Jabari Parker Feels 'Great' in Knee Injury Recovery; No Definitive Return Date


    Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker is fighting back from a torn ACL for the second time since debuting in 2014, but he hasn't let the setback sour his attitude.  "I feel great," Parker told ESPN.com's Nick Friedell on Thursday. "I tell myself every...

    Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker is fighting back from a torn ACL for the second time since debuting in 2014, but he hasn't let the setback sour his attitude. 

    "I feel great," Parker told ESPN.com's Nick Friedell on Thursday. "I tell myself every day I couldn't be in a better situation because it's going to make me a great man at the end of the day. It's going to make me mentally tough and it's going to help me for the future."

    Parker suffered the season-ending knee injury in February, and the Bucks said at the time it would likely be 12 months before the 2014 No. 2 overall pick would return to full strength. 

    On Thursday, Parker told Friedell he doesn't have a target return date in mind. 

    "As of right now, the way I treat my body, it doesn't have a date," he said. "I can give you a little piece of information: I'm not the average person with this injury. Obviously I had it once, but I've done stuff so far that's exciting. But most importantly, I want to be able to jump as high, jump higher than I was, be faster than I was. That's the only way I'll play again."

    Once Parker is cleared to suit up, he should slide right back into the Bucks' starting lineup and aim to build on what was a breakout 2016-17 season before it was derailed by the ACL tear. 

    In 51 games last year, Parker averaged a career-high 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 49.0 percent shooting from the field and 36.5 percent shooting from three. 

    To put those numbers in perspective, Parker joined Jimmy Butler, LeBron James, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George and Joel Embiid as the only qualified players to average at least 20 points and six rebounds while converting 36 percent of their three-point attempts. 

    Assuming he can pick up where he left off, Parker should make the Bucks a formidable Eastern Conference foe for established powers like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors

    Eric Hosmer Becomes 1st Royals Player to Post Odd Stat Line


    Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer made franchise history Wednesday as the team's first player to collect five hits, five RBI and five runs in a game, per MLB Stat of the Day. Hosmer went 5-for-6 on the night with six RBI while hitting his 16th...

    Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer made franchise history Wednesday as the team's first player to collect five hits, five RBI and five runs in a game, per MLB Stat of the Day.

    Hosmer went 5-for-6 on the night with six RBI while hitting his 16th home run and stealing his fifth base of the campaign. The 27-year-old slugger was at the center of Kansas City's offensive onslaught Wednesday, as the team pounded out 16 runs on 22 hits against the Detroit Tigers in a 16-2 victory.

    Of his seven professional campaigns since breaking into the majors in 2011, Hosmer is posting his best. Through 100 games, he's posted a .319/.375/.877 batting line with 54 RBI and 62 runs scored.  

    Assuming he continues to rake at or near his current rate, Hosmer should challenge his career-high 25 round-trippers recorded last season and career-best .302 batting average from 2013.

    Hosmer's success at the plate has translated to success from the Royals as well. The team has won eight straight games, including sweeps over the Tigers and White Sox in addition to two more wins over Detroit. The offense has emerged during that span, scoring four or more runs in seven of those contests.

    Following a day off Thursday, Hosmer and the Royals will take the field in Boston on Friday two games behind the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the AL Central. They also hold a one-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays—prior to the Rays' game against the Yankees on Thursday night—for the second wild-card spot.

    Adam 'Pacman' Jones Gets Emotional Discussing Bengals Owner Mike Brown's Support


    Adam "Pacman" Jones teared up Thursday speaking to reporters about the support he's received from Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown in the wake of his January arrest.  "When you have a guy upstairs that stands up for you, that sticks up for the...

    Adam "Pacman" Jones teared up Thursday speaking to reporters about the support he's received from Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown in the wake of his January arrest. 

    "When you have a guy upstairs that stands up for you, that sticks up for the players — I haven't been around a guy like that in my lifetime, speaking of Mr. Brown," Jones said, according to ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell. "So I'm very eager to be the best and make sure our group is the best. As you can see, it's a little touching for me."

    Jones also said his motivation "is through the roof" as he seeks to make Brown proud for opting not to cut him. 

    "The respect and the love that I have for Mr. Brown is undeniable," he said, per Terrell. "Words can't express the gratitude of how I feel about him. ... Words can't explain. I can't explain ... that I have somebody that understands me as a person and that's not quick to judge."

    In January, Jones was arrested and charged with felony harassment with a bodily substance as well as misdemeanors for assault, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business following an alleged altercation with a security guard. 

    The felony charge was later dropped, and Jones pleaded guilty in May to the obstruction charge. 

    The NFL subsequently suspended the 33-year-old for one game. 

    "I take all accountability for what I did and my actions and my words," Jones said, per Terrell. "So I accept it, the one-game suspension. I'm ready to move on, man. I'm happy to be here, I'm happy to be part of the 50th season here. I think it's going to be special."

    Orlando Franklin, New Orleans Saints Reportedly Agree to 1-Year Contract


    The New Orleans Saints have added to their offensive line by signing veteran guard Orlando Franklin to a one-year contract, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Franklin spent the past two seasons with the then-San Diego Chargers after playing the previous...

    The New Orleans Saints have added to their offensive line by signing veteran guard Orlando Franklin to a one-year contract, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

    Franklin spent the past two seasons with the then-San Diego Chargers after playing the previous four on the Denver Broncos. In both cases, he was a consistent member of the offensive line and started all 89 games he played, including all 16 last season.

    However, he was released in May after the Chargers selected two guards in the first three rounds of the draft. He was just two years into a five-year deal signed before the 2015 season.

    The 29-year-old struggled mightily in San Diego despite the consistent playing time. Per Pro Football Focus, he graded as the No. 66 offensive guard in the NFL last season. Quarterback Philip Rivers was sacked 36 times behind an overall inconsistent offensive line, and the team ranked just 26th in the NFL in rushing yards per game.

    Of course, Franklin was also dealing with a variety of injuries throughout the year. Although he didn't miss any games, he appeared on the injury report due to issues with his neck, hamstring, back, knee and head.

    The lineman is a quality performer when healthy, as he showed with the Broncos. He played both right tackle and left guard in his first four years in the league, helping contribute to the highest-scoring offense in football history in 2013.

    If Franklin can regain his ability from before his time with the Chargers, Drew Brees and the Saints could benefit in 2017. New Orleans' new-look offense will be hoping to make a splash with the addition of Adrian Peterson and rookie running back Alvin Kamara, especially after a trade that sent receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots.

    Franklin gives the Saints a veteran presence up front as they look to compete in a loaded NFC South. 

    Pero Antic Loses Lawsuit Claiming Violent Arrest Against NYPD from 2015 Incident


    A judge has ruled against former Atlanta Hawks forward Pero Antic in a lawsuit against the New York Police Department stemming from a 2015 incident outside of a nightclub.   Per TMZ Sports, citing court documents, the judge ruled the officer in question...

    A judge has ruled against former Atlanta Hawks forward Pero Antic in a lawsuit against the New York Police Department stemming from a 2015 incident outside of a nightclub.  

    Per TMZ Sports, citing court documents, the judge ruled the officer in question didn't use excessive force because he "had to make a split second decision and his actions were not unreasonable."

    Chris Copeland, who was a member of the Indiana Pacers in 2015, was stabbed outside of the club he was at with Antic and former Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha. 

    Antic and Sefolosha filed separate lawsuits against the NYPD in Apr. 2016, claiming the officers used excessive force and falsely arrested them. Antic was seeking up to $25 million in damages, according to TMZ's report. 

    Derek Sells, Antic's attorney, told TMZ they "believe there are questions of fact that should be determined by a jury."

    Since leaving the Hawks following the 2014-15 season, the 34-year-old Antic has been playing for Fenerbahce of the Euroleague and Turkish Basketball League. 

    Alejandro Villanueva, Steelers Reportedly Agree to New 4-Year Contract


    The Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly given offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva a four-year contract extension. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Villanueva and the Steelers agreed to the extension on Thursday.  Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported...

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly given offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva a four-year contract extension. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Villanueva and the Steelers agreed to the extension on Thursday. 

    Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the four-year deal is worth $24 million. Villanueva would have made $615,000 as an exclusive-rights free agent prior to his new deal.

    After going undrafted out of Army in 2010, Villanueva went back into military service and did three tours of duty in Afghanistan before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles in May 2014. 

    The Steelers signed Villanueva to their practice squad in Aug. 2014 after the Eagles waived him. He made his in-game debut during the 2015 season and has appeared in all 32 games over the past two years, including starting all 16 games at left tackle in 2016. 

    Pro Football Focus ranked Villanueva as the NFL's third-most improved offensive tackle from 2015-16. The 28-year-old was entering the final season of his previous contract that pays him $615,000 in base salary, per Spotrac, before becoming a restricted free agent next offseason. 

    Reuben Foster Cleared for 49ers Training Camp After Surgery on Shoulder Injury

    Reuben Foster Cleared for 49ers Training Camp After Surgery on Shoulder Injury


    San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Thursday that linebacker Reuben Foster has been cleared to participate in training camp, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport added that the "team has been confident about his shoulder." The 2017...

    San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Thursday that linebacker Reuben Foster has been cleared to participate in training camp, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

    Rapoport added that the "team has been confident about his shoulder." The 2017 first-round pick had surgery on a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder in February.

    "He's excited," general manager John Lynch said, per Joe Fann of 49ers.com. "He's champing at the bit."

    Fann noted that Foster was "limited to individual and non-contact drills" during spring practices, and Friday will be his first work in 11-on-11 drills and scrimmages. 

    "We almost had to put a leash on him to keep him out of drills," Lynch noted, per Kevin Jones of KNBR. "His excitement is infectious. He's an Alpha Dog."

    Foster was considered one of the top talents in this year's NFL draft and a top-five prospect. But his shoulder, combined with some off-field concerns, dropped him well down the board. Eventually, the Niners ended that fall, selecting him No. 31 overall.

    He has a legitimate chance to be a starter as a rookie and the upside to develop into a dynamic linebacker. But just how high is his upside?

    "He reminds me of Luke Kuechly when I watch tape," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock noted. "He's an immediate impact player. Sideline to sideline, he will light you up."

    "Foster is the best linebacker I’ve ever seen come out of Alabama," B/R's Matt Miller said, per Ethan Greenberg of the New York Jets' team website. "I’ve been doing this job six years for Bleacher Report, and I would take Foster over C.J. Mosley. He is a special player."

    Expectations are high for Foster in San Francisco. Now, finally, the team and its fans will have the chance to see him without limitations in training camp.

    LeBron James Reportedly 'Hustling on Behalf Of' Cavs in Kyrie Irving Trade Talks


    Kyrie Irving's desire to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers has reportedly ignited a recruiting spark in LeBron James.  During an appearance on ESPN's First Take Thursday (via SB Nation's Carter Rodriguez), Pablo Torre said James is going around...

    Kyrie Irving's desire to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers has reportedly ignited a recruiting spark in LeBron James

    During an appearance on ESPN's First Take Thursday (via SB Nation's Carter Rodriguez), Pablo Torre said James is going around "hustling" to see about the potential availability of players in a deal for Irving:

    “LeBron James is doing some LeBron James offseason work. And my understanding is it's not just Derrick Rose, it's not just Eric Bledsoe. LeBron James happens to know a guy named James Jones . . . LeBron James is hustling behind the scenes, is my understanding, asking 'Is Josh Jackson available for Kyrie Irving?' And the answer back that I heard is 'no, he is not.' But LeBron James is hustling on behalf of the Cleveland Cavaliers, at least for this one year."

    ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported James has been "communicative" with the Cavaliers during this process, but is "not inquiring about any players" in a potential Irving trade. 

    At the start of free agency, ESPN's Dave McMenamin reported on July 2 that James was "not actively recruiting" players to help the Cavaliers as they tried to upgrade their roster for another run to the NBA Finals next season. 

    When Windhorst reported Irving wanted a trade out of Cleveland, he noted James "was blindsided and disappointed."

    The Cavaliers have yet to honor Irving's request for a deal, nor are they obligated to do so because he's under contract for two more guaranteed years and the team is still capable of winning the Eastern Conference with him and James as their top two players. 

    James may not ultimately succeed in his "hustling" quest for the Cavs, but the four-time NBA MVP is apparently not sitting idly by while everything happens around him. 

    Taiwan Jones Reportedly Will Be Released by Oakland Raiders

    Taiwan Jones Reportedly Will Be Released by Oakland Raiders


    The Oakland Raiders are reportedly set to release running back Taiwan Jones. Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported the news Thursday. Oakland selected Jones in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft. The 29-year-old Eastern Washington product has played...

    The Oakland Raiders are reportedly set to release running back Taiwan Jones.

    Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported the news Thursday.

    Oakland selected Jones in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft.

    The 29-year-old Eastern Washington product has played an extremely limited offensive role over the past five seasons with the Raiders. He's tallied just 44 carries for 183 yards and 17 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown across 65 games.

    His main contributions have come on special teams, where he's been a kickoff returner and a member of the coverage team. He also spent time as a defensive back, his original college position, for two years starting in 2013 before moving back exclusively to offense.

    Alas, the offseason addition of former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch left the Raiders overcrowded at the position. Jones was expected to compete with DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard for backup snaps before his release.

    The move is a good sign for Elijah Hood, the team's seventh-round pick in this year's draft, as the rookie rusher now faces one less competitor en route to earning a roster spot.

    Jones' versatility should give him a strong chance to land with a new team during training camp, even if he has to wait until injury issues begin to arise.

    Oakland is set to open camp Saturday after veterans report Friday.