Bleacher Report - Front Page
Xavier Musketeers guard Myles Davis announced via his Twitter on Friday that he will leave the basketball program:
Davis was recently reinstated to the program on Jan. 8 after he was suspended for the first 15 games of the season.
While Xavier head coach Chris Mack did not specify why Davis was suspended, Patrick Brennan of the Cincinnati Enquirer noted that the guard was "facing two misdemeanor criminal damaging charges related to incidents with a former girlfriend," in July of 2016.
More to follow.
As we pass the halfway point of the season and reach the All-Star break, it gives fans time to check in on great performances and contenders for each of the major awards. No category this season is more interesting than the defensemen, some of whom are posting career seasons worthy of Norris Trophy consideration.
The technical definition of the requirements to win a Norris Trophy suggests the best all-around player, but in actuality the winner must provide his team substantial offense. A range of skills is required, but many complete defensemen who lack top-end skills are passed over each decade.
Here are the strongest contenders for the Norris Trophy so far in 2016-17. Rankings based on a combination of offensive and defensive numbers, as well as team success.
Note: All advanced statistics via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
The 2017 CareerBuilder Challenge rolled along on Friday with Hudson Swafford taking the lead after 36 holes with his second consecutive 65 to put his two-day score at 14 under par.
Dominic Bozzelli, who held the lead on Thursday after shooting a 64, posted another solid round with a 67. The 25-year-old is tied for second place with Danny Lee with a score of 13 under par.
Here's the full leaderboard for the PGA Tour's annual trip to La Quinta, California, after the second round, via PGA.com:
Swafford has built up a lot of momentum so far in 2017. He finished 13th at the Sony Open last week but shot under 70 in each of the first three rounds before a 71 on Sunday knocked him off track.
The 29-year-old was spotless on Friday with seven birdies and no bogeys to earn his 65. He was terrific off the tee with a driving accuracy of 78.6 percent and reached the greens in regulation 88.9 percent of the time, per PGATour.com.
There's plenty of competition nipping at Swafford's heels, so he will need to keep up the pace he's established for himself through 36 holes to claim his first victory on the PGA Tour.
Bozzelli didn't have any issues playing the La Quinta course on Friday. He had a bogey-free day that included five birdies, only falling out of the lead because Swafford performed so well.
There was a tough spot on No. 10 when it appeared Bozzelli would have to settle for a bogey before this excellent chip shot saved him, via the PGA Tour:
Considering Bozzelli is a rookie still trying to establish himself on the PGA Tour, this is an excellent start for the young man.
Lee was fantastic on Friday, putting himself in contention with a 64 that included eight birdies. His final birdie of the day came on the 18th hole and was set up by a fantastic approach shot, via the PGA Tour:
Steele shot up 23 spots on the leaderboard Friday thanks to posting a 64, tied with Lee for the low score of the day. He finished sixth two weeks ago at the Tournament of Champions and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Lower down the leaderboard, Phil Mickelson had another strong performance in his first tournament back after having two sports hernia surgeries with the second coming in December.
Lefty shot a 66 to bring his two-day total down to 10 under par. His day started out on a high note with an eagle on No. 11 after opening on the back nine thanks to this pair of shots, via the PGA Tour:
Seeing Mickelson perform well is an encouraging sign, but it's not indicative he's put his game back together. He finished third at this tournament last year before ending up with no wins and six top-10 finishes in 22 events.
Given where Mickelson's health appeared to be just one month ago, this is still a terrific effort from the 46-year-old as he looks for his first victory on the PGA Tour since 2013.
McCardell is a former NFL wide receiver and 17-year veteran who spent six seasons with the Jaguars from 1996 to 2001.
He's also one of the best receivers in Jaguars franchise history:
After playing, he was the wide receivers coach for the Redskins from 2010 to 2011 before joining the University of Maryland at the same position from 2014 to 2015.
While at Maryland, he coached Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, who is developing into a premier pass-catcher in the NFL after just two seasons.
He still has strong ties in Jacksonville, though, as the team's current executive vice president of football operations, Tom Coughlin, was his head coach during his six-year tenure.
Coughlin spoke about his hiring on Friday:
We all understand what Keenan means to this organization and we are excited to welcome him home to Jacksonville, as he'll oversee the growth and consistent improvement of our receiving corps. I had the pleasure of coaching Keenan for six seasons and understand his passion for the game of football and his burning desire to win.
McCardell will be working with some young, talented receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. However, they are both coming off down seasons in 2016.
Robinson answered a 1,400-yard 2015 with just 883 yards in 2016, while Hurns was limited to just 11 games due to a hamstring injury. He was only able to post 447 yards in a disappointing return from a 1,031-yard 2015.
Marquis Lee did take advantage of his chance to get regular playing time, though, as he put up a career-high 851 yards and three touchdowns.
If Hurns can stay healthy with Lee building off a successful 2016, McCardell could help form an impressive trio of receivers for quarterback Blake Bortles in 2017.
The Philadelphia 76ers claimed point guard Mo Williams off waivers Friday, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst. Shortly after the initial news broke, Calkins Media's Tom Moore cited a league source who said the Sixers waived Wlliams and re-signed Chasson Randle to a second 10-day contract.
The decision to claim Williams was motivated strictly by financial factors. According to Stein, adding Williams' salary to their balance sheet means the Sixers are now $2.2 million closer to the salary floor.
According to Philadelphia Magazine's Derek Bodner, the move means the Sixers will be approximately $5.58 million below the salary floor, giving them a shade over $15 million in cap room moving forward.
It's important to remember, however, that there is no harm in not reaching the floor. There's no mandated punishment for failing to reach the minimum threshold, as the league would merely make the Sixers redistribute the excess money to players who are already on the roster.
And according to NBA cap guru Albert Nahmad, the Sixers aren't the only team that has yet to reach the cap floor. With the trade deadline just over a month away, the Denver Nuggets, Brooklyn Nets, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves are all more than $3 million below the floor.
Liverpool's chances of signing Borussia Dortmund superstar Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang next summer have seemingly been ended after the player ruled out a 2017 switch to Merseyside. Elsewhere, the Reds are reportedly chasing England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Aubameyang is currently dazzling at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations with hosts Gabon, but he hinted to German newspaper Bild (h/t Calciomercato) there is a chance he could leave Signal Iduna Park later in 2017:
Nobody can foresee the future. I love it at Dortmund, but I can't say that I'll stay for two more years, or five or 10. It's possible that a club could reach an agreement with Dortmund in June and I'll go.
I want to be honest: When you are ambitious and also want to see something else … it's difficult to talk about. Some players have ambitions, and therefore they leave and want to experience something new, you know.
However, upon being asked if he would link back up with former Black and Yellows boss Jurgen Klopp—now at Anfield—in the Premier League, Aubameyang replied: "I don't think that'll happen."
The Gabon hitman also recently took the time to rule himself out of joining a certain other Bundesliga giant while commenting on his potential transfer prospects, although this was a far less surprising admission:
Liverpool have experienced some uncertainty in the striker position this season and have handed both Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi chances up top while Daniel Sturridge has contended with injuries.
However, Aubameyang stands as a cut above the current crop of Liverpool strikers, and Squawka recently detailed the prolific poacher's touch he boasts in front of goal:
The Merseysiders would undoubtedly count themselves lucky to get their hands on a striker of Aubameyang's quality, the kind of reliability in attack they haven't experienced since Luis Suarez left for Barcelona in the summer of 2014.
Football Radars provided a breakdown of the 27-year-old's first half of the 2016-17 campaign, which showed strengths in goal conversion and shooting accuracy above all else:
Italian newspaper Tuttosport (h/t James Cambridge of the Daily Express) reported Hart is wanted at Anfield following summer signing Loris Karius' failure to impress. BBC Sport reporter Phil McNulty recently slammed Guardiola's decision to sign former Barca stopper Claudio Bravo as a replacement for Hart:
The Spanish manager may be forced to swallow his pride next summer and welcome Hart back to the Etihad Stadium once his loan spell in Turin is complete, while Bravo may find his place under pressure, too.
Simon Mignolet has regained his place as Liverpool's No. 1 following Karius' slump in form, and it's possible Hart could be an available option to strengthen in the position if Guardiola deems him surplus to requirements.
Coming off back-to-back seasons with at least 10 wins and an appearance in the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game, Wisconsin has rewarded head football coach Paul Chryst with a long-term contract extension.
The 51-year-old Chryst has been at Wisconsin for the past two years, leading the program to a 21-6 record during that span and two bowl victories.
Chryst wasn't in danger of leaving the Badgers anytime soon. He previously signed an extension with the school last January that was going to keep him in Madison through 2021. His new deal adds one more year to his contract.
His ability to motivate and inspire teams has become a key part of his success behind the scenes. Chryst told ESPN.com's Jesse Temple in November about letting a different player each day choose music to play in the locker room.
"The reason for it is this is their team, and they get an opportunity to speak whatever is on their mind that day," Chryst said. "And I think it's one way that we can learn more about each other, whether it's what you choose to share in speaking to them or a song that you want to share with them. There's thought that goes into it by them. I think it's a way for everyone to connect. It's also a platform for them to have in front of their team."
The Badgers have every reason to throw their support behind Chryst. He was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2016, beating out other high-profile coaches like Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Michigan's Jim Harbaugh.
Wisconsin came up short in the Big Ten Championship Game against Penn State when the Nittany Lions exploded for 24 points in the second half, but that was one of the few missteps in Chryst's tenure as head coach.
With the Badgers always playing smart and disciplined football under Chryst, they figure to have many more opportunities to win the Big Ten title. This extension ensures he will be there to oversee things for a long time to come.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison is nursing shoulder and triceps injuries that have put his status up in the air for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots, according to the team's official injury report.
Continue for updates.
Harrison Officially Questionable
Friday, Jan. 20
Although he's listed as questionable, Harrison was a full participant in Friday's practice after he sat out Thursday.
The 38-year-old had largely managed to say off the injury report throughout the regular season, and his veteran presence at the second level of the Steelers defense helped bolster the unit's offerings during the 2016 campaign.
In 15 regular-season appearances, Harrison notched 53 tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles as a rotational presence at the second level.
While there haven't been indications to this point that Harrison is at risk of missing the AFC title game, the Steelers have plenty of depth at outside linebacker should he suffer a setback in advance of Sunday's tilt.
Jarvis Jones has helped provide reinforcements off the right edge all season long, and Bud Dupree has come on strong throughout the postseason as a true pass-rushing force.
The offense didn't exactly take off after Shurmur took over on an interim basis, though. According to ESPN Stats & Info (via ESPN.com's Ben Goessling), Minnesota's offense ranked 23rd with Shurmur at the helm over the season's final nine games.
Despite that lackluster performance, it makes sense that the Vikings would want to keep Shurmur around.
The 51-year-old has a long history with Sam Bradford that dates back to their time together with the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, and the signal-caller endorsed Shurmur for the full-time job just a few weeks ago.
"We were together my rookie year [in St. Louis.] We were together in Philadelphia," Bradford said, per Goessling. "I've learned a lot from him. I owe a lot to Pat, and it's been really fun getting back and having him call the plays."
Shurmur's scheme is largely predicated on West Coast concepts run out of the shotgun. That makes Bradford, who has an accurate arm on short and intermediate routes, a seamless fit.
While the Vikings have a ways to go until they resemble one of the league's more explosive offenses, keeping Shurmur in tow will allow them to maintain some cohesion as they get set to enter their second year with Bradford under center.
Continue for updates.
Latest on Amendola's Playing Status
Friday, Jan. 20
Per Steelers.com, the Patriots have officially listed Amendola as questionable for Sunday's AFC title game.
Amendola made it through the Patriots' first 12 games this season before going down in Week 13 with an ankle injury.
Amendola has taken on a lesser role in New England's offense, starting only four times in the 12 games he was able to play before injuring his ankle. He was tied for the team lead with four touchdowns at the time of his injury, though he had just 23 catches and 243 yards overall.
The Patriots are having trouble keeping their playmakers healthy. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for the year with a back injury that required surgery.
Julian Edelman remains Tom Brady's favorite target, but the absence of Amendola opens up more opportunities for Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell to be involved in the offense. The Patriots have also relied more on the run with LeGarrette Blount setting a new career high in carries (299) this season.
New England head coach Bill Belichick is better at adapting than anyone else in the NFL. Amendola's extensive injury history is something Belichick knows well, so the team has contingencies in place to remain effective against a high-powered Steelers offense.
The Los Angeles Chargers' departure from San Diego reportedly caused widespread anger among NFL owners and league executives to the point where certain members of that select group are still hoping the decision is reversed.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Friday that one source described the league as "besides itself" since the move was announced. In turn, some individuals are holding out hope that Chargers chairman Dean Spanos will change course before it's too late, though they acknowledge that's a long shot.
The behind-the-scenes reaction described by Schefter represents a different message than the one relayed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell following the relocation announcement.
Nate Davis of USA Today passed along comments Goodell made last week about the inability to secure a new stadium and the key role that played in forcing the team out of its longtime home.
"Relocation is painful for teams and communities. It is especially painful for fans, and the fans in San Diego have given the Chargers strong and loyal support for more than 50 years, which makes it even more disappointing that we could not solve the stadium issue," the commissioner said. "As difficult as the news is for Charger fans, I know Dean Spanos and his family did everything they could to try to find a viable solution in San Diego."
The Chargers' move has already hit a couple of minor bumps in the road.
After the franchise debuted a new-look logo, which included the letters L and A with the bottom line of the L made to look like a lightning bolt, it met immediate ridicule on social media.
Arash Markazi of ESPN.com provided an update on its status Tuesday:
Meanwhile, Anthony Lynn's efforts to make a strong first impression as the new head coach took a hit thanks to a brief slip-up during his introductory press conference, per David Ely of NFL.com:
The ESPN report didn't highlight specific reasons the owners and executives were frustrated. The loss of identity feels like a growing issue, though. There's been a lot of movement in the league recently, and leaving a home for the bright lights of L.A., the second-biggest media market, is hard to accept for diehard fans.
That said, it's hard to imagine a scenario where the Chargers suddenly decide to head back to San Diego at this stage of the process. But that apparently isn't stopping some high-level members of the league from waiting on a last-second change of heart.
Continue for updates.
Latest on Bennett's Status
Friday, Jan. 20
According to the team's official injury report, Bennett was limited during Friday's practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
Bennett appeared to suffer the injury during the team's divisional round matchup against the Houston Texans. But he shed some light on the situation when speaking to the media about drawing inspiration from his favorite superhero, per Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal:
Always thinking about Luke Cage. I get to sideline and think, 'what would Luke Cage do?' Well, [crap], I've got to get back out there because that's what Luke Cage would do. As an individual, [crap] happens. You just find a way to fight through whatever it is. I've been fighting through [crap] the whole year. I'm not going to stop now. I'm getting too close to what my goal is in life. I just want to keep trucking and keep doing what I can to attribute and play as hard as I can.
Still, this is a worrisome injury for the Patriots because star tight end Rob Gronkowski is already out for the season with a back injury. Quarterback Tom Brady would be without two of his primary weapons if Bennett is forced to miss significant time.
Bennett is a difficult matchup for opposing defenses because of his physicality at 6'6" and athleticism that allows him to make defenders miss in the open field. He can outjump them on fade routes in the end zone and pick up large chunks of yardage during drives.
Bennett was a 2014 Pro Bowler with the Chicago Bears when he posted a career-high 916 receiving yards and six touchdown catches. He finished with 701 receiving yards and a career-high seven touchdown catches in his first year with the Patriots.
Brady can still rely on wide receivers such as Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan if Bennett is out, and the Patriots feature a powerful rushing attack behind LeGarrette Blount and the versatile Dion Lewis.
They could turn toward the unproven Matt Lengel at tight end, but it is unreasonable to expect him to replicate Bennett's impact on the field, especially in the aerial attack.
Deportivo La Coruna fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 against 10-man Las Palmas at the Estadio de Gran Canaria on Friday evening, extending their La Liga unbeaten run to four matches in the process.
Mateo Garcia opened the scoring early on after scoring his first La Liga goal for Las Palmas, and Florin Andone cancelled out the hosts' advantage before Aythami Artiles was shown two yellow cards in quick succession.
Week 19 promises to be a scorcher in La Liga, with leaders Real Madrid in danger of losing their place atop the summit after suffering back-to-back defeats over the past week, currently sitting one point clear at the perch.
Manager Zinedine Zidane's side fell 2-1 at Sevilla in the league before surrendering to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, and both Sevilla and Barcelona—second and third, respectively—will be hoping to capitalize.
Read on for a recap of Friday's sole fixture from the Spanish top-flight as Las Palmas were held at home, complete with a glance at the latest La Liga standings.
Deportivo came to the Estadio de Gran Canaria having failed to win away from home this season, and with their hosts having yet to lose on home soil, the odds seemed stacked against the traveling party.
The visitors seemed to be in for a long evening when Garcia's deflected volley from just inside the edge of the area found its way past Depor No. 1 Przemyslaw Tyton, and OptaJose noted it as a rather unique breakthrough:
Las Palmas may have admitted to falling victim to complacency from there, and while the home side mounted a considerable advantage in possession from there, pressure on the away side's goal simmered.
The two teams went in with one goal separating them at the break, although Las Palmas frontman Marko Livaja also had his share of chances to put manager Quique Setien's side further up before the interval.
Las Palmas were ultimately made to pay for that profligacy in front of goal, too, when Emre Colak clipped through a sensational, looping through ball for Andone to pull the two teams level on the 69-minute mark.
The hosts might have held some hope of re-establishing their goal advantage were it not for Artiles receiving two yellow cards in the space of five minutes, shortening their ranks in central defence.
Setien went about making changes to counteract his centre-back's dismissal, throwing on attackers Nabil El Zhar, Momo and Benito Ramirez del Toro in an attempt to reclaim the lead late on.
It was a futile effort, though, as Las Palmas got Week 19 underway in slow fashion, taking a point to remain 10th in La Liga, while Deportivo will have been content with a share of the spoils to stay 15th, seven points off the bottom three.
Continue for updates.
Latest on Lawson's Status
Friday, Jan. 20
Lawson is expected to participate in all offseason activities, per Capaccio.
The start to his NFL career has been riddled with injury issues. After being selected 19th overall in the 2016 draft, he had surgery in May to repair a right shoulder issue that has plagued him since 2013 while at Clemson.
While he didn't necessarily need the surgery immediately, Bills general manager Doug Whaley told Chris Brown of the team's official website that the team "wanted to take measures to prevent another flare-up during the season."
Given his numbers at Clemson—he played in 40 games over his three years at the school and recorded 45.5 tackles for loss and 20 sacks—Lawson was too good of a prospect to pass up, even though his shoulder was flagged at the scouting combine in February 2016.
His recovery held him out until Week 7 of the regular season. In those 10 games, Lawson recorded just 13 total tackles and two sacks as he backed up Pro Bowler Lorenzo Alexander.
The good news for the Bills is that they'll be able to get Lawson back and ready for the offseason so they can continue his development into a more feared pass-rusher at the NFL level.
But given his early, troubling injury history, it's imperative that the Bills exercise caution with their prospective defensive star.
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — If Bellator MMA is destined to develop into a legitimate alternative to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, 2017 could well be the year that perceptions shift in that direction.
That is the hope and intention of fightmonger Scott Coker, who in his capacity as the president of Bellator MMA is operating with the full blessing of one of the largest media conglomerates in the world to make that happen. Aiming to sign, develop and promote fighters who will make combat sports fans eager to watch Bellator-branded fights on televisions and in arenas around the world, Coker sat alongside Spike executive John Slusser and between veteran stars Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen during a tension-filled press conference Thursday at the nearly completed Viacom headquarters in Los Angeles.
Coker said: "Tito is a legend. He's been around a long time. This is his last fight, so this is really important to him. I can tell. He's really emotional about this one. Chael, like if he was in this room right now and you weren't here, we'd be talking like boys and then once the cameras come on, he becomes this supervillain. I think they’ve both come to the table in a big way to help promote this fight."
As they traded barbs Thursday, Ortiz seemed to dwell in the anger Sonnen had inspired. Ortiz said throughout his 20 years as a professional mixed martial artist, emotion was the thing that fueled him.
Sonnen is far less visceral a competitor as someone who is playing a part, really, who butted up against the ugly truth of banned substances and who, because of a suspension, hasn't fought in more than three years. But if there's any rust to his game, it didn't show in his ability to spin a yarn or unfurl a cheap shot against the mother of Ortiz's twin boys.
As construction crews worked on putting the finishing touches on a building that will house the Bellator MMA staff under the same roof as other Viacom properties, Ortiz and Sonnen hurled insults and one-liners at each other, which is precisely what Coker imagined would happen when he convinced Spike executives to bring the light heavyweight headliner for Bellator 170 to the Forum in Inglewood, California, on Saturday.
"This is the perfect space," Coker told Bleacher Report after Ortiz and Sonnen lobbed verbal bombs prior to delivering real ones Saturday night. "This the first time Bellator has been there, and we thought let's really go for it. And we are. We're swinging for the fences, hoping for great results."
For Coker's purposes, the construction imagery makes sense.
Bellator 170 heralds what should be a memorable start to a new campaign for a promotion that spent most of last year laying down the foundation of a sustained and substantial advancement. Now, Coker said, is the time for that work to pay off at home and abroad.
Ortiz and Sonnen moved to Bellator from the UFC, which is indicative of the kinds of maneuvers Coker is serious about making as free agency for mixed martial artists becomes more prevalent.
UFC light heavyweight contender Ryan Bader will receive an offer from Bellator next week, Coker said.
"When you get a guy ranked in the top five, I think you have to take a good look at him," Coker remarked about Bader. "We’re going to go after every free agent that we can. That's coming from the top down. We're going to buy every free agent that we want. There's nobody that's off the list."
In doing so, Bellator hopes to continue to capitalize off names who may have been built up in the UFC, such as last year’s signing of Rory MacDonald, who is likely to make his debut on Spike around June.
That's been the case with Ortiz and Sonnen, who have driven an equal amount of press coverage ahead of their match at the Forum.
Coker's philosophy as a fight promoter is well-known, and an event pitting the likes of a 41-year-old Ortiz and a 38-year-old Sonnen fits in his worldview that prioritizes amusement over sport and fun above all else.
For Coker, there's much more sense in promoting a matchup between known veterans who most observers would agree are well past their best days than exhibiting the kind of contest the UFC did last Sunday in Phoenix when BJ Penn went down hard against young gun Yair Rodriguez.
"We would never do that," said Coker, who called bouts like that a mistake. "I don’t think that 25-year-olds should be fighting 40-year-olds. It doesn't mean that they can't compete, but to me why do that? You may as well not fight them because we all knew the outcome of that fight. The odds were really stacked against him.
"That's not really a fair fight. These guys have already fought all those guys. They've earned their legacy. If they want to continue to fight, you just can't put them in there with young guys. It's just not right."
This is a formula Coker will stick to as he leads Viacom's only sports property—a uniquely international business that plays well with the multinational media corporation's strengths.
Looking ahead, Bellator will promote up to nine events outside the U.S. in 2017. Coker has pegged cards in Budapest, Hungary, and Torino, Italy, for April. Bellator is expected to return to London in mid-May. A jaunt to South America (either Argentina or Brazil) and a big show in Rome are also in the offing, along with a potential date in Japan. Leveraging international television properties controlled by Viacom has driven these excursions, and Coker expects them to grow in importance.
"It's an international company," he said, "and I'm really feeling the international presence."
The largest consumer of MMA, among many other things, continues to be the U.S., and Coker still sees tremendous opportunity for Bellator to expand its brand of fighting this year and beyond.
"There's a lot of MMA here, no doubt, but I think we can make fights like Ortiz vs. Sonnen, like the Fedor fight, like the Quinton Jackson fight," he said. "We can make it a little bit more special that people tune in."
West Ham United have completed the signing of Southampton centre-back Jose Fonte for a reported fee of £8 million.
The club announced the deal via its official Twitter account, as Fonte signed a two-and-a-half-year contract that will keep him at West Ham until the summer of 2019:
Fonte leaves St. Mary's Stadium seven years after arriving on the south coast from Crystal Palace, and his move brings an end to months of speculation regarding his future at Southampton.
The defender helped Portugal stride to the UEFA Euro 2016 title, and the Guardian's Ed Aarons reported both Manchester United and Everton showed interest in recruiting the veteran over the summer.
Fonte previously commented on the rotation policy employed by French manager Claude Puel, who replaced Ronald Koeman at Southampton last summer.
Fonte was left out of the side's UEFA Europa League clash with Hapoel Be'er Sheva in December and said, per The Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson:
Of course I’m disappointed. I want to play every game. I’m fit to play every game. I’m always on the dance floor—I’m always fit. I worked really hard last year to play Europa League.
I worked really hard and obviously I’m disappointed, but I have to accept the decision from the manager and be ready when I am called to play. If I’m called to play Europa League, I will be there, as simple as that. It’s a massive game [Hapoel] and I’m ready. We need to win this game.
At 33 years of age, it seems likely this will be the last major move of Fonte's career, but after displaying superb form in 2016 for club and country, the defender's longevity could extend past the normal average for a centre-back.
While his six-year stay might end on a sour note, Fonte will leave a legacy as one of the Southampton players who helped bring the club from League One to Premier League prominence.
The veteran will add some much-needed quality to a West Ham defence that has struggled in the 2016-17 campaign, and he should move into the starting XI quickly.
While fans and fellow players were speaking out on social media, Westbrook didn't seem bothered by things when he met with the media Friday.
"It is what it is," Westbrook said, per ESPN.com. "That's the nature of the business, the game. I just play. I don't play for All-Star bids. I play to win championships and every night I compete at a high level, and it'll work out. I just continue doing what I'm doing and play the game the right way, and everything else will work out."
Westbrook missed out on a starting spot because of the fans. He finished first among backcourt players in voting points from the media and players, but fan voting put him third behind Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and James Harden of the Houston Rockets.
He said more important things are on his mind, though.
"It's a great honor...and being an All-Star is something you don't take for granted," he said. "But like I said, I don't play to play in the All-Star [Game]. ... I play to become a better player and to win championships."
Despite leading the NBA in scoring and averaging a triple-double (30.6 PPG, 10.4 APG, 10.6 RPG), Westbrook will presumably have to settle for being a Western Conference reserve when All-Star rosters are filled out next Thursday.
It's not as if Curry and Harden are bad selections. Harden is having an outstanding season with 28.9 points, a league-leading 11.6 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game. Curry has taken a backseat to new Warrior Kevin Durant this season, but he's still averaging 24.6 points and 6.1 assists per game.
For the most part, All-Star Games are marketing events that don't mean anything beyond having a fun time. Westbrook is one of the biggest stars in the NBA, and it would be surprising if he isn't in New Orleans on Feb. 19.
And considering what Westbrook's done this season without Durant, fans might be in for something special if the Thunder guard plays with a chip on his shoulder at the Smoothie King Center.
The 11-year veteran replaces Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who will be unable to play due to an injury.
With this selection, Williams becomes the third Bills defensive lineman alongside Hall of Famer Bruce Smith and Fred Smerlas to be selected to five or more Pro Bowls.
The 33-year-old appeared in 15 games this season, compiling 64 tackles and five sacks as he showed no signs of slowing down. It was the fifth time in his career that he recorded at least five sacks in a single season, and he became the Bills' all-time leader in sacks for a defensive tackle.
He will now join running back LeSean McCoy, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and guard Richie Incognito as representatives of the Bills at the Pro Bowl.
Despite his success, rumors have been circulating that Williams could retire before the start of the 2017 season or that the Bills could cut him due to his $8.3 million cap hit next year, per Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News.
If 2016 was indeed Williams' final year with the Bills or in the NFL, he will at least go out with another Pro Bowl selection as a member of the only team he's ever known in the league.
The Potters announced the transfer via their official YouTube channel after they acquired the forward's services following a long bout of speculation linking him with numerous Premier League suitors:
Berahino leaves the Hawthorns after a difficult spell at the club, having failed to feature regularly since the 2015-16 campaign when he scored seven goals in 35 appearances and started in just 17 of his 31 Premier League outings.
Following the transfer saga that unfolded in the summer of 2016, West Brom manager Tony Pulis held the striker back from his starting XI, despite Berahino's promise as a bright, young talent.
The 23-year-old will now hope to regain the kind of momentum that saw him score 20 goals in 45 appearances for the Baggies during the 2014-15 season, his breakout term in England's top flight.
Stoke have acquired the services of a player who was once on the brink of breaking into the England team. He will hope to do so again if he gets the proper starting opportunities at the Bet365 Stadium.
Berahino's attitude proved to be a stumbling block in his development over the past year, but he'll try to put those concerns behind him in pursuit of greater on-pitch achievements under new manager Mark Hughes.
A prominent Spanish journalist has said Antoine Griezmann's move to Manchester United is far from complete as speculation surrounding the striker's future continues to swirl. Meanwhile, United target Ivan Rakitic has opened up on his situation at Barcelona.
La Liga expert Guillem Balague took part in a Sky Sports question and answer session on Friday and was asked if Griezmann would remain at Atletico Madrid if manager Diego Simeone did the same, to which he replied, "Antoine Griezmann has definitely NOT decided on his future. There is no agreement with Manchester United.
"Do United want him? Yes, they want him and he will consider his future. He has said no offers from City and United in the past.
"Even though his future is not linked to Diego Simeone, he would like to stay at Atletico Madrid if Simeone stays."
Those comments came on the same day that the Telegraph's James Ducker reported the Red Devils were willing to trigger the €100 million (£86 million) release clause in Griezmann's contract, albeit with steep competition also expected.
In the same report, Ducker provided quotes from Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo, who commented on United's recent links with his talisman before suggesting Griezmann is at the Vicente Calderon for the long haul.
"There are many offers," he said. "I don’t know what will come of Manchester United’s interest. What I can say though is that Griezmann will be an Atlético player for a long time."
Following last summer's world-breaking move to re-sign Paul Pogba from Juventus, this would represent yet another astronomical expenditure, but FourFourTwo's Sam Pilger pointed out funds are already being raised for the summer:
The Sun's Andrew Richardson recently noted Memphis Depay's departure for French outfit Lyon once again leaves United's iconic No. 7 shirt without an occupant, a space Griezmann could one day fill.
Football writer Liam Canning recently commented on the new shirt vacancy, almost as though United were aligning the stars intentionally in preparation for a major summer arrival:
Elsewhere, Rakitic has admitted he's "not happy" with the amount of football—or lack thereof—he's been playing of late but insists he wishes to remain at the Camp Nou for a long time to come.
Metro's Mark Brus reported the Croatia international as a target for the Red Devils, and Spanish newspaper Sport provided comments from Rakitic, who addressed his relationship with manager Luis Enrique amid talk of an exit.
"I want to sit down with the club because I want to renew my contract and stay here for many years," Rakitic said. "The manager knows that I'm not happy when I'm not on the pitch, he knows me better than anyone.
"I have to work really hard to be at my best and be able to show that to the manager. After that he makes the decisions. There are more than 20 guys in the squad, we all want to play and we have to understand [if we don't]. The manager knows I want to play every week and never miss a game.
"I'm not 15. [Luis Enrique] doesn't have to explain anything to me. The only solution is to work hard and take advantage of each opportunity he gives me. I'm calm because I'm working hard."
The summer arrivals of Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez have provided new competition in Barca's midfield, and Rakitic has failed to start in any of the Blaugrana's last four league outings.
That being said, United's chances of a move for the Croat appear slim when taking into account his apparent loyalty to Barcelona, although that stance could change if he continues to be blocked from the starting XI.
New England Patriots fans are surely bummed when their team loses, but does anyone else feel sorry for Bill Belichick's boys? Probably not.
The Patriots are not the only such team in sports. In fact, regular winning tends to have an inverse relationship with sympathy. The more you win, the less folks feel bad for you when you don't.
Careful, this is not a list of hated teams—although many included are generally disliked. This is a list of teams that are either historically or recently dominant. Because of that dominance, it's very hard to feel sympathy on the rare occasion they do lose.
And listen, if this video of sad Alabama fans don't tug at your heartstrings, that doesn't make you a bad person.
As Luke Kerr-Dineen of For the Win put it, "Feeling bad for an Alabama for not winning its bazillionth national championship is like feeling bad for Warren Buffet because he misplaced that rouge five dollar bill he saw lying around earlier."
The selection of NBA's All-Star starters does not usually lend itself to controversy. The league's best and most popular players almost always intersect, and the most deserving usually find themselves in the starting lineup for the Eastern or Western Conference.
That's not the case this year, where perhaps the league's best and most dynamic player will not be starting February 19 in New Orleans. Russell Westbrook has been an unstoppable force since the start of the season, and a headline-maker who has taken the Oklahoma City Thunder and willed them to a 25-19 record that has them in the playoff structure.
While seventh place may not seem like a great achievement, Westbrook's former running mate Kevin Durant left in the offseason to join the Golden State Warriors, and that means Westbrook is basically trying to keep the team afloat by himself.
Westbrook has been remarkable, averaging a league-high 30.6 points per game and making the triple-double his signature. He is averaging a triple-double this season.
Westbrook will certainly be named to the Western Conference All-Star team when the reserves are announced, but it's a shocker that he was not named one of the starters. Westbrook will come off the bench unless one of the Western Conference starters pulls out.
Once you get past the Westbrook situation, a look at both team's starters reveals some incredible talent.
The Western Conference feature guards Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors and James Harden of the Houston Rockets, along with forwards Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs, Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans and Durant.
The Eastern Conference starters are guards Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors and forwards LeBron James of the Cavaliers, Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Curry is the league's two-time MVP and he is averaging 24.6 points per game and shooting 46.5 percent from the field. Curry averaged 30.1 ppg last year. Harden is having another sensational year with the Rockets, scoring 28.9 ppg and leading the league with 11.6 assists per game.
Leonard is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and he is averaging a career-best 24.8 ppg. Durant has made an excellent adjustment to the Warriors, and he is scoring 26.2 ppg while pulling down a career-best 8.6 rebounds per night. Davis is a force for the Pelicans, averaging 28.8 ppg and 12.1 rebounds per game. Those figures put him in the top 10 in both categories.
Irving is averaging 23.6 ppg for the Cavs so far this seasons, while DeRozan has been a force once again for Toronto. He is scoring 28.2 ppg, which ranks fifth in the league in scoring.
James is making his 14th appearance in the All-Star game and while he may dial it back from time-to-time, he will still dominate when the game is on the line. He is averaging 25.6 ppg for the World Champions. Butler is making the first All-Star start of his career, and he is thriving with a career-best 24.8 ppg mark.
Antetokounmpo has become the leader for the Bucks at the age of 22, and he is averaging 23.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per night.
While the All-Star game always feature spectacular offensive play and very little defense, the West won last year's game by a 196-173 score—it is very unlikely that any player will see more than 30 minutes of action.
Curry led all All-Stars with 28:50 of playing time in last year's game, and most starters tend to play 22 to 25 minutes.
As a result, the scoring and rebounding totals usually are somewhat balanced and deciding on the game's MVP is not always easy.
Paul George of the Indiana Pacers was the leading scorer with 41 points a year ago, while Westbrook scored 31 points to lead the West. Westbrook was voted a starter last year.
It would not be a shock if Westbrook was the leading scorer in the game this year even though he will be coming off the bench.
Look for Curry to make a big splash right away by hitting some of his patented three-point shots, and he should score 24 points, hand out eight assists and turn the ball over four times. Durant knows that Westbrook will undoubtedly have a huge game off the bench, so he will try to share the spotlight with 26 points and nine rebounds.
Leonard may forego some of his offense here, and while defense is just an optional activity at the All-Star game, he will come away with 14 points and four steals.
If anybody is going to take the shooting spotlight away from Westbrook, it will have to be Harden. He loves to stand out when playing with the best players—he had 23 points in last year's game—and he should score 30 this year.
Since Davis will be playing in front of his home fans, look for his teammates to set him up for a memorable game. He should finish with 34 points and 14 boards.
While it would seem obvious that the Eastern Conference will look to James for leadership, he played just 20:13 last year and scored 13 points. He will probably better those figures slightly as he should score 17 points in 22 minutes of action.
Irving could take up the slack for his teammate. He scored 31 points in the 2013 All-Star game, but he averaged just 13.0 points in his other two All-Star appearances. Look for Irving to score 22 points here.
DeRozan may be ready to fill it up for the East. He should be good for 30 points this year, and Butler will not be far behind 26 points and seven rebounds.
Antetokounmpo has established himself as a fine all-around player, but his All-Star game appearance will be his coming out party. Look for him to score 25 points and pull down seven rebounds.
Dolph Ziggler is once again wearing the black hat in WWE.
The Showoff's nearly four-year babyface run came to an end recently thanks to his constant frustration over never winning "the big one." Fans have been aware of those frustrations as they've followed Ziggler through the ups and downs of his career from the beginning.
But now that Ziggler has turned heel again, fans are left with more questions than answers.
The reason for that has little to do with Ziggler's attitude. His anger and disappointment over his own shortcomings are understandable, and some may actually be wondering why it took him this long to make the turn.
Anyone in his position would be ready to explode, which is exactly what happened.
However Ziggler's new direction seems to be somewhat pointless. The fans who supported him over the past four years are the same fans who supported him before. Fans were supposed to hate him during his run against Alberto Del Rio in 2013, but instead they cheered him on to victory.
When Ziggler won the WWE World Championship from Del Rio, the crowd reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
Everyone knew Ziggler had worked hard to get his shot and appreciated him more for it. Fans love the underdog story, and perhaps no one in WWE other than Daniel Bryan has played the part better than Ziggler has.
He is one of the best hands in the company, and fans have always recognized that.
But perhaps WWE is now depending on Ziggler's underdog persona to be the catalyst for change. Instead of respecting him and wishing he would succeed, fans may now reject him because they're sick of seeing the same story get repeated time and again.
Every time Ziggler got close to the brass ring, WWE always pulled it farther out of his reach.
The problem is that fans may not be falling for it. Ziggler's cockiness and swagger have endeared him to the WWE faithful, and it's possible that no amount of heeling out can change that now. Unlike Chris Jericho, Ziggler has not had multiple world title runs to pad his future Hall of Fame career.
Jericho's ability to make every character work is complemented by his level of comfort in that character. He's not struggling to succeed in a company that doesn't seem to appreciate him. He's also not fighting to prove he deserves to be a main event star.
Jericho can come and go when he wants, and he will still get over. There's no higher plateau he needs to reach or greater level he's never experienced. We cannot say the same about The Showoff, who continuously seems to be the odd man out despite his work both in the ring and on the mic.
So why would fans choose to turn on him now just because he's frustrated?
Maybe there is some boredom when it comes to Ziggler. Fans have seen him in the same spot for so long that it's just not worth their time to believe in him anymore. But the moment Ziggler finds himself back in the title picture, will fans suddenly rediscover their respect for his work?
What made Ziggler click as a heel is precisely what made him click as a babyface; there's no reason to believe that will change now.
The move to turn him heel could be a means to an end—a way to bring him back down and then build him back up. WWE has used this method many times over the years, often with great success.
The company utilized it with Ziggler's greatest rival, The Miz.
Miz was WWE champion at one point, but his career always seemed to dip just when it could have taken off. The company just didn't seem to be all that interested in elevating Miz, so he ended up trying to make the best of it until he reached the level of success he's now enjoying.
Miz's potential to succeed may have been in doubt before, but that's not the case now. Fans see what he's capable of as he's arguably become the best heel in the company.
However, Ziggler's potential has always been apparent. Tearing him down and rebuilding him will ultimately lead him back to the same place he's always been: the role of the underachiever. Until WWE can find a way around that, no heel or face turn will work for him.
Fans will see through it for the distraction that it is. Many still respect and support him, but at some point, that sentiment could lead to disinterest. In that case, fan will not hate Ziggler for his actions; they will just be indifferent.
If that happens, then Ziggler is indeed in trouble.
Loving or hating a guy is fine, but when the crowd reaction becomes so mixed that it's barely registering anymore, then it's obvious the talent in question will face a tough road ahead. Perhaps that's where Ziggler's career is heading now.
If fans see the heel turn as a cheap way to reinvent him, then they will not respond positively. If they've seen him lose too many big matches, they may not believe in him anymore. Unless WWE finds a new avenue for Ziggler that doesn't involve the same old story that's been told for the bulk of his career, then fans may not care about him at all.
The easiest solution was perhaps to just elevate him as a serious main event player, but that never materialized. He's seen a glimpse of it and is capable of doing it, but now it may be too late.
WWE has put Ziggler in the position of needing a desperate character change because it has booked him as a desperate talent. He deserves more, and he's definitely earned more.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here.
Larry Scott was promoted Friday from tight ends coach and special teams coordinator to offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Volunteers.
The University of Tennessee's official athletics website made the announcement.
Scott will replace Mike Debord, who left to become offensive coordinator at Indiana.
"We spoke to a lot of very quality candidates," Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said about Scott's promotion. "Our goal was to gather as much information as possible in a timely manner but also go through a detailed process, which we did. We feel strongly about our offensive staff and that [Scott] is the best fit moving forward to lead the unit.
"Larry played an important role in the success we had offensively last year and was heavily involved in all aspects of our game plan, both during the week and on game day," Jones continued. "We felt it was vital to maintain our continuity on offense and keep building on what we have established the past four seasons."
Scott coached various positions at South Florida from 2006 through 2012 before joining the staff at Miami (Fla.) in 2013 as tight ends coach.
He also served as the Hurricanes interim head coach in 2015 following the firing of Al Golden and led the team to a 4-2 record.
The Vols ranked second in the SEC in scoring with 36.4 points per game in 2016 and set a new school record with 63 touchdowns.
Scott may be in for a significant challenge, however, as quarterback Joshua Dobbs graduated and is set to embark on an NFL career.
In addition to that, leading receiver Josh Malone and versatile running back Alvin Kamara declared early for the 2017 NFL draft.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.
Continue for updates.
Browns, Crowell Meeting Next Week
Friday, Jan. 20
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Browns had "heavy talks" with Crowell during the season before reaching a stalemate, but the two sides have a meeting scheduled for next week.
Despite having a revolving door at quarterback and playing for a team that was constantly behind in games, Crowell had a breakout 2016.
He finished with 952 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 198 attempts while posting 319 receiving yards on 40 receptions. His 1,271 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns led all Browns players.
Crowell was an all-or-nothing player in 2016, as Pro Football Focus noted 47.5 percent of his rushing yards came on 16 attempts. He will have to focus on consistency moving forward, but the Browns aren't so loaded with playmakers right now that they can afford to be picky.
An undrafted free agent out of Alabama State in 2014, Crowell turned out to be a huge bargain for the Browns. He made a total of $1.54 million over his first three seasons, per Spotrac.
The Browns own two of the top 12 picks in April's draft in a good year for running backs, with Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook headlining the list, so they could address the position if they want to let Crowell test restricted free agency.
Given the state of Cleveland's roster at this point, though, it doesn't make sense for the franchise to play fast and loose with one of its best players.
Milan's official Twitter account announced a deal Friday but later deleted the tweet.
According to Sky Sports (h/t Football Italia), the deal does not include an option to make the move permanent.
However, Everton has denied AC Milan's claim that they have signed Deulofeu, per Sky Sports.
Since manager Ronald Koeman arrived at Everton in the summer, the winger's stock has plummeted. So far in 2016-17, he has made a meagre four Premier League starts, failing to register a single goal or assist in that time.
Should the deal be completed, Deulofeu will be looking to salvage a career that looks to be in danger of fizzling out.
During his time with the Barcelona academy, he was viewed as one of the brightest La Masia prospects, regularly impressing in various youth teams and the Barcelona B side. Then, during a loan spell with Everton in the 2013-14 season, Deulofeu showed more flashes of raw potential.
However, the following season, he joined Sevilla on a temporary basis and was quickly marginalised by then-manager Unai Emery, who questioned his application.
"Put him out there, one-on-one and...pfff," he told the Guardian's Sid Lowe of Deulofeu. "But make him play football with team-mates, on a big pitch, and it's hard. He doesn't have the maturity or capacity for sacrifice yet."
The following season, the winger moved to Everton on a permanent basis, and while he started the campaign superbly, the inconsistencies in his game started to resurface. With the man who brought him to Goodison Park, Roberto Martinez, sacked after a torrid year, the winger found himself out of contention quickly under Koeman.
Milan manager Vincenzo Montella will be tasked with finding a way of harnessing that ability. Deulofeu is a huge threat when he has space to work with. However, his poor fitness and lack of physicality are hindrances at this level.
At Milan, he would not walk into the first team. Deulofeu's compatriot, Suso, also operates on the right side of midfield and has been in exceptional form so far this term.
Now 22, Deulofeu is no longer the prospect from La Masia tipped for stardom; if he's to reach the standards so many expected of him during his time in Catalonia, it must start at Milan.
AS Monaco will reportedly challenge Arsenal for the signature of Lyon winger Rachid Ghezzal, also understood to be a target for Everton. Elsewhere, Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce has refused to give up in the chase for Carl Jenkinson.
French newspaper L'Equipe (h/t talkSPORT) reported Monaco are ready to contend for Ghezzal, who has less than six months remaining on his deal at Parc Olympique Lyonnais and is now free to sign a pre-contract agreement.
The French Riviera outfit are said to be "convinced they can persuade the Lyon man to stay in France," and a move to Monaco may appeal to Ghezzal as his suitors sit atop Ligue 1 following the winter break.
Goal's Robin Bairner also suggested Memphis Depay's £16 million move to Lyon from Manchester United, per BBC Sport, suggested Ghezzal could be heading for the exit as his current employers secure a potential replacement:
While Arsenal stand a chance of recruiting Ghezzal for free in the summer transfer window, a January move may be more advisable given the interest that's likely to emerge around his availability toward the end of the season.
The 24-year-old has grown up as part of Lyon's academy since joining in 1997, and OptaJean recently illustrated his quality as a multi-functional asset for the club, having shown his value both in scoring and creating goals:
However, the chances of a winter move are also affected by the fact Ghezzal is currently away with Algeria at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, meaning negotiations may be difficult to execute during his absence.
The chances of Ghezzal leaving Lyon in the foreseeable future appear strong, though, following Lyon manager Bruno Genesio's recent comments on the player's future, per Ligue 1 Show presenter Matt Spiro:
Meanwhile, Eagles boss Allardyce has suggested his side will persevere in their pursuit of Arsenal right-back Jenkinson after MailOnline's Sam Cunningham reported the player's wage demands presented an obstacle in negotiations.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's Premier League fixture against Everton, Allardyce insisted his side will continue to chase Jenkinson until his chairman Steve Parish has categorically ruled out a move:
Cunningham outlined defence as Allardyce's transfer priority this month, and Jenkinson may well be seen as a realistic target considering he's played in just six games this season, starting in only two of those.
That being said, Gunners chief Arsene Wenger may not be eager to sell his right-back cover given Mathieu Debuchy's injury woes this season, and Jenkinson's personal demands may yet see Allardyce's agony endure.
The 2017 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans officially has starting lineups.
Without Russell Westbrook.
The above is the biggest talking point surrounding this year's selection process by a landslide. James Harden muscled his way into the lineup. Giannis Antetokounmpo will make his debut. The NBA avoided a Zaza Pachulia disaster.
But above all else, the man averaging a triple-double isn't a starter. It is a surreal development, depending on the lens through which one views the event. As the headline act to this year's game, the conversation continues to focus on snubs.
After a look at the official lineups, let's take a look at Westbrook and the biggest snubs.
2017 NBA All-Star Game Starters
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
This is an underrated snub but an important one nonetheless.
Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers took one guard spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to overwhelming fan support.
The other slot, though, should have probably gone to Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, not his teammate, DeMar DeRozan.
Look, DeRozan is a great player. He's a mid-range king doing things his way while averaging 28.2 points, 3.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game on 47.5 percent shooting from the floor. But take Lowry off the court and the dynamics of his game change in dramatic fashion.
Lowry is a facilitator and voters didn't seem to judge him as such. He doesn't just drop 22.2 points per game, he averages 7.1 assists and shoots 47.8 percent from the floor. The shot charts are almost silly, as one illustrated by Rotoworld's Michael Gallagher detailed:
Honestly, there is an argument for Lowry over Irving. Voters didn't see it that way, but Lowry isn't a stranger to flying under the radar.
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
The Eastern Conference, much like its counterpart, was clogged up at guard with no adequate plumber available.
Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics easily deserved a spot as a starter while on arguably an MVP trek. He is a big part of the reason the Celtics sit third in the conference while he averages 28.7 points, 6.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game. The scoring average is a career high, as is his shooting 46 percent from the floor.
As the NBA's official Twitter account captured, Thomas will keep gunning either way:
Good for Thomas, though it doesn't make the snub any easier to swallow. Unlike Irving and even Lowry, Thomas doesn't have an elite supporting cast to lean on when he puts up big numbers and helps the team win games.
Maybe this is the boost Thomas needs to seriously become a household name.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Western Conference is where the biggest dose of drama went down.
Westbrook has had no equal this year from a stats standpoint, hence his averaging 30.6 points, 10.4 assists and 10.6 rebounds per game. The numbers make it quite easy to overlook the fact the Thunder aren't winning a ton of games, as expected.
This isn't meant to take too much away from Stephen Curry or Harden. But Curry is chugging along with the Golden State Warriors. Harden is more deserving after exploding this season without Dwight Howard and in a new role, averaging 28.9 points, 11.6 assists and 8.3 rebounds.
But this all loops back to Westbrook. It's bad enough he is on an afterthought of a team for the time being—now he's getting snubbed when he should be featured.
The sporting world, at least, didn't go silently on the matter. Athletes and sports names from around the globe weighed in on the situation:
One underrated great element about this for Westbrook? A possible avoidance of Kevin Durant, the man who left the Oklahoma City Thunder last offseason to join the Warriors. With Durant starting and Westbrook coming off the bench, the two may never need to be on the court together.
It's a small silver lining, though. Westbrook is on a historic march decades in the making and the voting process failed him.
Call it another reason for Westbrook to keep shredding the Association as he pleases.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
Follow Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) on Twitter.
The Cleveland Cavaliers host the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night, and LeBron James offered high praise for Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich ahead of the matchup.
"I think he's the greatest coach of all time," James said after the Cavs' 118-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.
This is not a new sentiment from James, who made similar comments to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt last summer about potentially playing under Popovich when he takes over as head coach of USA Basketball for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
"It would be pretty amazing to be able to actually play for the greatest NBA coach of all time," James told Zillgitt.
Popovich and James worked together on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team that won a bronze medal; Popovich served as an assistant on Larry Brown's staff.
James noted how even though the game has changed in recent years, the Spurs continue to be one of the league's top teams every season.
"We went from a league where it was inside out, where every time you came down it was throw it to the big, and then it goes to every time down pick-and-roll, and then it goes to every time down shoot a three," he said. "Pop has been able to adjust every single time and still, for some odd reason, keep those guys under the radar. I don't understand it."
Even though James hasn't had the good fortune to play for Popovich as a head coach, the two are familiar with each other. They have met in the NBA Finals three different times, and Popovich won in 2007 and 2014.
Beyond those wins, Popovich's resume since taking over the Spurs in 1996-97 is incredible. His teams have won at least 50 games every season since 1999-2000, won five NBA titles in six appearances and reached the Western Conference Finals nine times.
There are certainly arguments to be made for coaches like Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach, among others, especially since their careers on the sideline are finished.
But Popovich is the most accomplished active head coach. He has an incredible resume that will put him on a Mount Rushmore of NBA coaches when he walks away from the game.
Surprise returns, shock eliminations and sheer unpredictability—WWE's Royal Rumble pay-per-view is a night like no other on the calendar.
And thankfully, 2017 is shaping up to be no different. This year, WWE has an array of candidates to opt for when it comes to picking the winner and the man who will advance to WrestleMania 33 to face the relevant champion in question.
There will be twists, turns and drama without a doubt, and that's just in the Rumble match itself.
Elsewhere, Kevin Owens defends the WWE Universal Championship against Roman Reigns, while John Cena will bid to tie Ric Flair's record of 16 world titles with a victory over AJ Styles.
Ultimately, however, most of the drama will come in the annual 30-man jamboree. Here's a look at the latest odds for the match, as well as some early predictions for what may happen.