Manu Ginobili decided not to retire!

Cutthroat competition for the West’s bottom four playoff spots. In all likelihood, three of the Clippers, Jazz, Grizzlies, Blazers, Nuggets, Pelicans, and Timberwolves will miss the postseason cut, likely with serious implications. The Western Conference is not for the faint of heart.

The building of a dynasty in real time. These Warriors are quite possibly the greatest team of all time. In all the madness of the season—the moves, the squabbles, the dramatic flourishes, and the lingering questions—don’t let the magnitude of that standing go unappreciated.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: In what was only his second career start, Smith-Schuster made the most of his expanded opportunity as a result of Martavis Bryant’s (coach’s decision) inactive designation, scoring a career-high 32.3 PPR fantasy points. Smith-Schuster got right into the action with a 41-yard reception on the Steelers’ first offensive play, added a 97-yard touchdown reception that wound up the difference in the game, and tied for the team lead with 10 targets.

It could signal Smith-Schuster’s arrival as the team’s No. 2 receiver alongside Antonio Brown, elevating him to matchups-capable WR3 status. The rookie was started in 14.9 percent of ESPN leagues, a significant increase from his sub-2-percent rates of each of the first seven games of his career.

The President Donald Trump-spawned kneel/sit/stand/fist-raise anthem hullaballoo is the football news story of the first quarter, to be sure. It reached peak hilarity Sunday in Baltimore, when the PA announcer asked the crowd to pray for “kindness, unity, equality and justice” in America, and the Ravens dropped to one knee and bowed their heads in prayer, and this is what happened: “BOOOOOOOOOO!”
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The early offseason was about diagnosing the 2016 collapse.

Kenley Jansen: He’s certainly a long shot given the uncertainty in electing closers, but there’s no doubt his six-year run as Dodgers closer has been one of the best we’ve seen, with a 2.07 ERA and 604 strikeouts in 396 1/3 innings. He needs another decade or so, but Mariano Rivera, his compadre in cutter eminence, had a similar career arc and pitched until he was 43.

One thing we know: A World Series title will help. All the modern relievers who have been elected — Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage, Dennis Eckersley and soon Rivera — were closers on World Series winners.

The spring was about Cam Newton’s shoulder surgery. The summer was about the bizarrely timed firing of GM Dave Gettleman. September was about Newton finding his stride. And just as Newton got there, with Carolina’s upset of the Patriots in Foxborough, last week became about the quarterback and his sexist comments to Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue.

“It’s a terrible and tragic situation, and my heart goes out to everyone involved.”

John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals, knee, 1 p.m. ET: Very quietly sneaking back onto the playing field is Ross, who hasn’t made an appearance since his short-lived NFL debut in Week 2. In addition to an unfortunate fumble in the first quarter of that game, Ross aggravated a left-knee injury he had been dealing with since the preseason. He has been gradually working his way back through rehab and practice … until now.

Pushing scrambles the matchups. The Clippers like switching on defense. Griffin and Gallinari can switch pretty seamlessly — the upside of shoehorning one true power forward (Griffin) alongside a tweener who needs a lot of minutes there. If they get a stop and run hard, the opponent might not have time to normalize the matchups.
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The NFLPA has already filed for an emergency TRO in NY in Elliott’s case.

There’s been no decision on the en banc ruling yet, but the NFLPA is still trying to delay Elliott’s suspension again. As expected, the NFLPA filed for a temporary restraining order in New York:

Think of that: The nucleus of this defense (Sherman/Thomas/Chancellor/Wagner) has been together since 2012, and it has played Tom Brady three times and Aaron Rodgers five times in those six seasons. Richard Sherman told Watson his game Sunday was better than any of those eight games Brady and Rodgers have played against Seattle since then.

Dowling started at right guard for the Bills, and on one of the game’s first plays he had to pull to his left on a running play. Before the snap, he had been watching Taylor doing the typical Taylor gesticulations and exhortations, and when Dowling pulled left and looked up, Taylor was the defender in front of him.

An oral argument was held in before a three-judge panel in the 5th Circuit Court on Oct. 2 on the NFL’s emergency motion for a stay. Elliott was not present, but representatives for the NFLPA and NFL were.

If you want to look on the bright side after the devastating Aaron Rodgers broken collarbone, Packer Nation, think of this: Your team is 4-2, tied for first place in the NFC North with 10 games to play. The Packers are 3-0 at home, and the next five weeks are, relatively speaking, exceedingly kind: New Orleans at home, bye, Detroit at home, at Chicago, Baltimore at home. That takes you to Thanksgiving. Conceivably, the Packers can stay in it while Brett Hundley gets some experience and Mike McCarthy game-plans to hide the QB’s weaknesses.
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Both boys underwent counseling while participating in sports year-round.

Johnson finally persuaded Zaevion to play football, while Isaiah needed no convincing. He’s been playing football since he was a 6-year-old in the Falcons’ flag program.

Even when he saw LT cross, he knew that he wouldn’t be able to follow suit.

“Lawrence Taylor can cross the picket line and what are they going to do to Lawrence Taylor?” McConkey says. “But one of the last guys on the roster? It’s tough. LT could do whatever he wanted because he led by example and played every play with his pants on fire. He was the greatest teammate ever.”

But this was before the anthem. And this is what it’s come to in the NFL: fans so on edge they have no idea what they’re booing, or why. When you boo prayer, you’ve gone over the edge. Now, maybe the crowd booed, thinking the players were kneeling for the anthem. But the PA announcer spoke pretty clearly about praying for good for all Americans. And the boos came.

The maze spit Griffin out onto a couch overlooking the Staples Center court, above the lower bowl. Crowd noise pumped in. The team’s public address announcer declared the Clippers were retiring Griffin’s number. Team employees raised an actual banner into the rafters — a vision of the future they wanted.

“It was a cool feeling,” Griffin says. “It was very thoughtful. But I really wanted to hear their plan. I wanted to talk basketball.” So he did, for two hours, with Rivers, West, Ballmer and Lawrence Frank, the team’s president of basketball operations.

The Rox are 0-2 against Memphis, and undefeated against the rest of the league. Friday night’s win at Charlotte was Houston in technicolor. The Rockets set a record for the fewest 2-pointers attempted in a game, with 28. It also was only the third time in NBA history a team attempted 57 3-pointers or more. The other two occasions? The 2016-17 Houston Rockets.
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The offense remains inconsistent.

He gushes even more about one of his new favorite players, Aaron Judge, even though Judge is a Yankee. “He’s like this huge teddy bear, and he’s just trying to get better at things,” Ortiz says of the rookie behemoth. “I love that type of human being. This planet, this world, needs more people with a good heart. Right now, you see a lot of people walking around angry.

In Ortiz’s world, talent is talent, but it’s heart that matters.

Luke Keuchly’s return from a season-ending concussion in 2016 and the offseason signing of Julius Peppers (7.5 sacks) have helped Carolina field a dominant defense once again.

While quarterback Cam Newton receives the brunt of the criticism when things go wrong, Carolina’s offensive line remains a weakness.

The offense will get a boost from the imminent return of tight end Greg Olsen (foot), but the Panthers need to get their running game going to make a legitimate push toward getting back into the Super Bowl mix.

The Patriots probably weren’t offered a juicy first-round pick this offseason, and while they waited to see if any competitor got desperate and made them a Sam Bradford-sized offer, the trade never came.

In the end, the Patriots waited until just about the last second and took the best available offer on the table. If you treat the offers that might have been available six months ago as sunk costs and evaluate what the Patriots could have done with Garoppolo from this point forward, this is a reasonable return. The best-case scenario would have seen the Patriots come away with a compensatory pick at the bottom of the third round of the 2019 draft, somewhere between picks 97 and 100, and that would come only if New England didn’t make another foray into high-level free agency this offseason.

The Titans haven’t fulfilled the hype surrounding the franchise after another offseason of major personnel acquisitions. No other division leader has a negative point differential (-15).
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Russell Wilson isn’t just at the top of his game as a passer.

In Hardy’s case, Henderson determined that the 10-game suspension issued by the league was excessive. Henderson reduced Hardy’s suspension to four games. Henderson upheld Peterson’s suspension. Both Peterson and Hardy were suspended before the league adopted its current domestic violence policy in Dec. 2014.

Elliott, Roberts, and the NFLPA’s forensics expert all testified before Henderson. The appeal hearing was initially scheduled for two days, but was extended after the NFL decided to make a witness available by telephone after initially refusing.

Henderson had three options: overturn the suspension, uphold the six-game suspension, or reduce the number of games Elliott is suspended. Henderson chose to uphold the suspension.

He said he hasn’t gotten one definitive answer. Just guesses. And he said the other interesting thing is there’s no logical candidate who could build a consensus to be the next commissioner if Goodell is ousted. It’s a confusing time, in part because it’s unclear whether Goodell and his administration are going to be able to do enough to make the players actually trust the league.

But a month into the season, with only two assists and a minus-7 rating in 10 games, it’s safe to say Okposo is beginning to find life apart from a superstar a bit difficult. The Sabres boast Jack Eichel as a potential linemate, but Okposo hasn’t sniffed those elite minutes yet, and with the way Evander Kane is playing, it doesn’t look like he will. He can safely be dropped for now, and should an injury befall Kane or Jason Pominville, we can revisit Okposo’s potential.

His mobility has helped compensate for a leaky offensive line and tepid support from a running game producing a 3.7-yard average per carry.
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Griffin looks more explosive than he has in years.

If he can abuse mismatches in both size directions, the Clippers have a fail-safe — a guaranteed way to draw help, bend the floor, and open seams for teammates. In other words: What Paul did for five seasons to kick-start every possession. Gallinari offers the same mismatch versatility.

Core lineups feature four plus ball-handlers. The Clippers are betting the collective can compensate for the loss of Paul’s individual brilliance.

The Saints have embarked on a five-game (and counting) winning streak for the first time since 2013, which was the last time New Orleans reached the playoffs or had a winning record. Credit goes to a much-improved defense and the support Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara are providing quarterback Drew Brees out of the backfield.

The ill-fated Adrian Peterson experiment finally ended when the Saints traded the disgruntled running back to Arizona in Week 6 for a 2018 sixth-round draft choice.

New Orleans not only controls its own destiny in the NFC South. The Saints also won’t have to play a regular-season game in wintry conditions unless the weather turns unseasonably cold in Week 10 at Buffalo.

They’ve outscored opponents 25-19, and notched a big win in a nail-biter on Friday against OKC. That allowed Minny to salvage an otherwise forgettable week that included losses to Indiana and Detroit without Jimmy Butler.

The Wizards finished up a western swing a somewhat unsatisfying 2-2, including a lazy overtime loss to the Lakers and a blown lead to the Warriors after leading by 18. On a positive note, the starting unit with Kelly Oubre Jr. slotted next to Otto Porter Jr. at forward has been one of the league’s most efficient with a net rating of plus-23.6.
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