Chargers Are Ready to Claim Their Piece of the Los Angeles Sports Market

Ahead of the franchise’s second season in Los Angeles, the Chargers want to find their own niche in their new home. The product on the field is expected to be there, so will the fans follow?

The 2018 season is shaping up to be the most anticipated year ever for the NFL in California. The MMQB’s Andy Benoit is diving into the storylines for our special offseason project: California Week. Check back regularly for more.

The Los Angeles Chargers headquarters is located in a nondescript leased office building amidst a white-collar industrial sprawl in Costa Mesa, Calif., about 45 minutes from downtown L.A. The building is located to the left of a circular courtyard. To the right of the courtyard is a vacant building, and straight behind the courtyard is a coffeehouse.

But underneath all of the hype of the new stadium and the glamour of the Los Angeles area, a hard truth remains: the Chargers are the newest team in a very crowded sports market—11 teams, to be exact. And even if the product on the field is up to snub—and it should be, as this team is a favorite to win the AFC West this year—is that enough for the Chargers to truly carve out its niche in Los Angeles? It will be a challenge, but the Chargers are up for it.

Brian Billick: Back in ’97, Dave Atkins, our running backs coach, says, Hey, we gotta talk to Randall. Randall was out of the game, living in Las Vegas, and Denny and I talked about it. So I fly out to Vegas and have dinner with Randall, and Randall was Mr. Vegas. He was the king out there. Looking back, [the restaurant] was like a scene out of Casino, the whole mob, long collar, ties. Looking back, it was like, Hoo boy, I hope I’m OK here, but I’m going to trust Randall. I was expecting Joe Pesci to come out and sit down next to us.

Sam Darnold, New York Jets: For me, I never liked going to camps, because I was playing basketball and baseball in the offseason. But my junior year I broke my foot, and I didn’t have any tape for these college coaches to see. So I had to do camps because I needed to get that recognition from college coaches to get a scholarship offer and go to school for free, which is amazing. So it was a huge deal for me to go to camps and get recognized. So it was a good thing. But at the same time I think having fun and playing multiple sports is something I’m forever going to push with kids and parents.

Chris, Kyle Long give thoughts on NFL players looking for more guaranteed money

Chargers lineman Russell Okung started a conversation last week on Twitter about how fans side with billionaire owners when players ask for more money.

He’s not the only one who has thoughts on this. Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long and brother Kyle, who plays offensive line for the Bears, spoke to Omnisport Thursday about the NFL players’ fight for more guaranteed money and the fans’ reaction to the conversation.

Fisher has said he wants another NFL coaching job, but Fox has the money to pay for a big name as it devotes major resources to Thursday Night Football and its Sunday afternoon game of the week, the most-watched program in all of TV. According to SportsBusiness Daily, Fox will pay the NFL around $550 million per year through 2022 to broadcast Thursday Night Football.

Fox could slide a big name like Fisher into its No. 2 analyst role behind Troy Aikman. The network also could use Fisher on either of its two NFL Sunday pregame shows: Fox NFL Sunday and Colin Cowherd’s Fox NFL Kickoff.

Tepper, founder and president of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management, L.P., purchased the team from Richardson for a reported $2.2 billion in May.

Speaking of the outdoor games, there’s something else different about the NHL now vs. 25 years ago: They’ve gotten really good at this traveling road show thing.

These neutral site games wouldn’t just be two names on a marquee, but the NHL coming to town. Bring the trailer with the awards and the memorabilia. Invite the local hockey community to take part in the festivities, whether it’s young players taking part in the puck drop before the game or a high-school game earlier in the day on the same sheet of ice. Again, this is what the NHL has excelled at in its outdoor games, and it can easily be repeated indoors. Make it an event.

Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan are live from Bristol to break down the biggest player movement from free agency thus far, including an in-depth look at John Tavares’ switch to the Maple Leafs with Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. Plus, winners and losers, as well as the last rant line of the season from suffering Islanders fans.

NFL teams are taking a short break before training camp starts, but the coaches still have plenty to think about.

Time for NFL head coaches to vacation, read a book, golf, share special time with families — and then tell ’em ‘see ya’ next year’ once football hits overdrive next month.

These coaches travel with extra baggage. No matter how near or far the 32 trek to seek relaxation, their minds will occasionally float here …

The bigger, the blingier, the better.

No one embodied that more than Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, nee Johnson, two bombastic sigils of stardom and celebration. Ochocinco had seven 1,000-yard seasons in an 11-year career somehow more notable for over-the-top touchdown celebrations and a mid-career name change. Owens, the recent Hall of Fame inductee — even if he’s not interested in attending — finished his career as a top-five wide receiver but is just as known for his play off the field as he is on it:

Just a few days later, their Super Bowl parade took them through the city to celebrate with Eagles fans who had been waiting their entire lives for that moment. The players delivered with a bash that was equal parts raucous, heartfelt, and intense.

Since then, the Eagles have done everything from throwing out the first pitch at a Phillies game to bringing the Lombardi Trophy on stage with every team’s superfan Kenny Chesney.

While it may have been crushed by the officials’ momentum-swinging ruling, the Cowboys’ defense didn’t offer much of a reason to think a stop was coming. After all, all Dallas had to do to ensure another last-gasp offensive possession was force a Packers’ punt with 4:06 left on the clock and a pair of timeouts. Instead, Green Bay drove to the Dallas 23-yard line before kneeling out the clock.

It’s worked out better for the Patriots than the Packers, but here’s every time we were cruelly tempted with a Brady-Rodgers Super Bowl just to have it yanked from our fingertips.

This one doesn’t really count; Rodgers was in the final season of his three-year apprenticeship under Brett Favre. Rather than a showdown between an 18-0 Brady and a budding Rodgers, we would have had the Ol’ Gunslinger riding again in a rematch from Super Bowl XXXI.

How about Ben Roethlisberger having an amazing 22.6 quarterback rating against the Seahawks, complete with a 9-of-21 completion ratio in the big game?

Even though he had a great 2015 campaign with the Cardinals, most believe he just wasn’t the same after the knee and elbow injuries. Some point to it as a mental issue, as evidenced with his launching of passes over receivers with frequency (i.e. not properly planting and letting the pass go early), while others will point to a roster breaking down around him.

Regardless of one’s stance, Palmer’s relationship with the Bengals ended with acrimony. And, aside from Von Oelhoffen’s semi-regrets, we’re left with a simple what could have been?.

For the Bengals, many believe that if Palmer hadn’t been hurt in that Wild Card contest, the team would have gone on and done great things. I’m not totally sold on that, given the amount of times this franchise has stumbled over its own feet, but, at a minimum, that contest would have been a coin flip if No. 9 played all snaps.

The owners of the Texans, and coach Bill O’Brien released statements, as well.

Hal’s Texans teammates also voiced their support.

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry and Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner were diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and have since returned. Berry was diagnosed in December 2014 and returned to earn Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2015. Conner was diagnosed as a junior at the University of Pittsburgh and returned as a senior.

Hal’s teammate in Houston, David Quessenberry, was diagnosed with non-Hogkin’s lymphoma in 2014 and rejoined the Texans in 2017.

G David Quessenberry, who beat non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, on Andre Hal It’s a shock and a terrible thing to go through, but he’s a fighter. He’s tough. He’s going to give it (lymphoma) hell, beat it and come back to play the game he loves.

Not only did the favored Patriots lose to the Eagles, they were bamboozled by them. That Eagles reverse-pass for a touchdown was a signature example of what the Patriots usually do to opponents: Get people flummoxed and win with creativity.

Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry both will get touches, yards for Titans

DeMarco Murray was the Titans’ feature back the past two years. He got most of the touches out of the backfield, averaging just over 18 per game in the 31 games he played for the Titans.

With the release of Murray, it was presumed Derrick Henry would take over Murray’s role.

However, Middleton could earn a lot more in free agency next summer. He’s a borderline All-Star in the prime of his career (turning 27 in August) and there will be a demand for his shooting and defense. An extension for Middleton would start at $15.6 million, ranking him 16th in annual salary among current small forwards.

Like former second-round picks Josh Richardson and Norman Powell, Malcolm Brogdon is eligible to receive a four-year, $46 million extension starting July 29. And like both players, Brogdon has outperformed the three-year, $3.8 million contract he signed in 2016.

However, Milwaukee could wait until the summer of 2019, when Brogdon becomes a restricted free agent and take advantage of his $1.9 million cap hold instead of having a double-digit cap hit. The risk is that Brogdon puts together another solid (injury-free) season and the discount from a current extension is gone if he signs a big offer sheet from a competitor.

I believe the only place Antonio wants to play is the Chargers, Tomlinson said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. I think he has the mind frame of ‘if I go play its gonna be for the Chargers; if it’s not the Chargers, then I’m good; I won’t play.

The Chargers, who publicly bid Gates farewell in April, recently contacted Gates’ representation about a possible reunion. Their starting tight end, Hunter Henry, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the offseason program.

Virgil Green has 71 catches for 807 yards and four touchdowns in his seven-year career. None of the other tight ends on the roster has a regular-season catch.

Gates, 38, had a career-low 316 yards and a career-low 10.5 yards per catch last season, but he has 927 receptions for 11,508 yards and 114 touchdowns in his career.

Emily Kaplan, national reporter: All season, I believed Tavares would opt for loyalty and the Islanders. Over the past few days, my gut tells me the San Jose Sharks. GM Doug Wilson — forever chasing the biggest names — finally gets his man. If Tavares really wants to win a championship, the two suitors best-equipped to win now are the Lightning and Sharks. Only one of those teams has the cap space to make it work on the spot.

Boston fell to 3-4 against its rivals this season, and 12 more games are left.

Judge connected for his 21st homer, a two-run drive in the seventh off Justin Haley. The former Fresno State players eagerly chatted for a while behind the cage during batting practice — after facing each other for the first time in the majors, the rookie reliever angrily kicked at the mound dirt as Judge circled the bases.

We were really good friends, and it’s a joy to see him having success, Judge said. We respect the competition. He might strike me out tomorrow, and I’ll tip my cap to him, and it’ll be see you down the road.

New York Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. took batting practice with the Yankees. Showing a sweet swing, he homered over the left-field wall.

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia and knuckleballer Steven Wright will see a doctor Monday. Both are on the 10-day disabled list.

Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (strained hamstrings) threw 48 pitches in a simulated game at the spring complex in Tampa, Florida. He’s expected to pitch in a minor league rehab game in the middle of next week, then could rejoin the Yankees.

If Sanchez gives the Braves a chance for a save opportunity in the ninth inning, Arodys Vizcaino could close it out. Vizcaino was placed on the disabled list June 24 with shoulder inflammation, took a rest day Sunday after throwing a side session Saturday and could be activated for the opener.

Vizcaino last pitched June 17. Before going on the DL, he posted a 1.82 ERA, converted 15 of 17 save opportunities and struck out 33 in 29 2/3 innings in 30 appearances.

If I feel like it’ll help our team — we explore every trade of players of certain magnitude or superstar, first-ballot Hall of Fame-type of players, Ainge said Friday after the Celtics formally introduced first-round pick Robert Williams at the Auerbach Center. We’re going to take a look and kick the tires and see if there’s something there. But that’s all.

I think those things are unlikely.

Ainge admitted that the Celtics are in a quality position with the ability to thrust themselves into any pursuit of star talent — like they did a year ago when they acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers — but he also gushed about the potential of his current roster.

New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman sent a clear message during the draft.

He’s all-in on quarterback Eli Manning going into his age-37 season, and there’s an urgency to win now. How do we know?

At No. 2, the Giants went with a running back, which indicates a need to build around Manning. Gettleman also acquired Will Hernandez to strengthen the interior of the offensive line. The UTEP product should help keep defensive tackles away from Manning and clear lanes for Saquon Barkley.

Barkley immediately elevates the Giants backfield that currently rosters 31-year-old Jonathan Stewart, 2017 fourth-rounder Wayne Gallman, third-year ball-carrier Jalen Simmons and undrafted rookie Robert Martin. 

Secondly, it would serve the Jets well to give Bridgewater time on the field to showcase him as a trade asset. Once Darnold starts, there’s no turning back, but it’s not going to happen until midway through the year at the earliest. McCown has never started a full 16-game season, and he’s not going to start at age 39.

The Browns need a lead cornerback after trading Jason McCourty to the New England Patriots. The front office acquired slot cornerback T.J. Carrie and E.J. Gaines. The latter put together a solid year with the Bills, but injuries have cost him several games in the past three seasons. 

It helped that their rookie class was one of the best in league history. They became the first team in half a century to possess both the Offensive (Alvin Kamara) and Defensive (Marshon Lattimore) Rookies of the Year, but it didn’t stop there. First-round offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and second-round safety Marcus Williams also became tremendous assets as regular starters. 

There’s no reason to believe those four won’t continue to improve coming off their first full offseasons in the league. And if that happens, a team that was a Super Bowl contender in 2017 might actually become a favorite in 2018.  bucks_238

Yawkey Way name change gets green light from Boston

Boston officials Thursday approved changing the name of Yawkey Way, the street outside Fenway Park, because of allegations that former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was a racist who resisted hiring black ballplayers in the 1940s and ’50s.

The Red Sox filed a petition with the commission in February and said that restoring the Jersey Street name is intended to reinforce that Fenway Park is “inclusive and welcoming to all.”

Principal owner John Henry told the Boston Herald last year that “I am still haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived.”

Yawkey owned the Red Sox from 1933 until 1976. The Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball franchise to field a black player, when infielder Pumpsie Green was called up in 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson debuted for the Dodgers.

Prior to that, the team chose not to sign several prominent black players, including Robinson and Willie Mays.

The Yawkey Foundations acknowledged that in its statement but said the good it has done far outweighs the negative, including the more than $300 million the foundation has provided to organizations throughout the city.

Snell enters the game against the Red Sox riding a most unusual streak for him: He has posted back-to-back starts without a walk, representing the first time he has done so during his professional career since way back when he was a rookie baller in 2011 — and he faced just seven batters in each of those games back then, compared to 23 and 25 during his active streak.

Remarkably, Snell has done this despite having yet to improve upon the one aspect of his game that might result in a significant breakthrough — getting strike one. Through five starts, he has a mere 54 percent first-pitch strike rate, and in both of his walkless outings, his rate was just 52 percent. In fact, since his major league debut on April 23, 2016, Snell’s 55.1 percent first-pitch strike rate is fourth worst among pitchers who have faced at least 1,000 batters.

In other words, Snell is going to need to show some sort of improvement getting ahead in counts before I’d fully buy into the idea that he’s at the level of a top-40 fantasy starting pitcher. Considering some of his other improvements, however, I am more than willing to buy in at anything even slightly beneath that price point, because I think it’s an area in which he’ll improve.

For one, Snell has shown a noticeable increase in fastball velocity since a mid-2017 demotion to Triple-A Durham so he could refocus and polish his mechanics. As a rookie in 2016, he averaged 93.5 mph with the pitch, and in his first eight starts of 2017 (pre-demotion) he averaged 93.6 mph. In his 21 starts since then, he has seen that speed increase to 94.8 mph. As a result, Snell has allowed a .307 wOBA with his fastball during that span, down from .412 in his career before the demotion.

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Story’s power, Freeland’s arm help Rockies beat Padres 8-0

Kyle Freeland’s left heel throbbed after being hit by a liner.

The pain actually helped him bear down and make some of his best pitches.

“I was thinking more about my heel than my mechanics,” Freeland said.

San Diego lefty Eric Lauer (0-1) had a rough outing in his major league debut. He allowed seven runs, six earned, over three innings.

“Like I said to him on the mound when I took the ball from him, `There’s going to be a lot of really good days ahead. You’re going to remember this because you’re going to come back from this one and have a lot of really good days,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “Definitely not the debut I know he was looking for, but humble beginnings are a good place to start from.”

One consolation: Lauer picked up his first big league hit on a bloop single.

“It kind of hurt my hand a little bit but I’ll take it,” Lauer said.

With its season at stake, Indiana played hard, aggressive and tough.

And it showed with a record-breaking victory margin.

Kevin Love hurt his left wrist on a hard fall midway through the second quarter and wound up scoring just seven points while shooting 3 of 10 from the field.

James took a shot, too, cutting the side of his left eye when he ran into Thaddeus Young’s elbow on a drive late in the first half. No foul was called and James returned with a bandage protecting his face.

But with a relaxed Oladipo figuring out how to defeat the Cavs’ double teams, he rediscovered his shooting touch. Oladipo finished with 13 rebounds, 10 assists and was 11 of 19 from the field and 6 of 8 on 3s to keep the Pacers in charge most of the game.

After the Pacers erased a 22-17 deficit with a 12-2 run, the Cavs never led again.

“We just got hot,” said Paul, who had 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the third quarter and 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting in the game. “Guys started making shots. We talked going into the game about being aggressive, and I think we all just tried to do that.”

Houston, which led by one point at halftime, opened the second half with an 11-0 run as Harden and Paul combined for all the scoring. The Rockets led by double digits the rest of the game, putting the Timberwolves on the brink of elimination as the series returns to Houston.

“Obviously everybody will look at the 50 points that we scored in the quarter, but it was our defense,” Paul said. “We finally started getting them to take tough shots, we were getting rebounds and we’re tough in transition. You’ve got James coming downhill, myself and the way we’ve got the court spaced with shooters is big. That really turned it up for us.”

The sharpshooter is still listed as questionable for Game 1 on Saturday.jets_029

Mo Bamba: Jump straight to NBA from high school would have ‘taken game to next level’

Top NBA draft prospect and former Texas freshman Mohamed Bamba said the opportunity to go straight from high school to the NBA would have been too good of a chance to pass up — had the means been in place — and that it would have “taken my game to the next level.”

Bamba, who last month declared for June’s draft and is a projected lottery pick, said Wednesday in an interview on ESPN’s The Jump that his one year in college has no doubt been invaluable.

“It would have taken my game to the next level,” Bamba said of a jump to the NBA out of high school. “Because now, what’s so night and day between being a college student-athlete, is that you got to split up times for different things — all right, now I have to actually study and write this essay; I have to crank it out because it’s due tomorrow at 10 a.m.

“But now, I’m literally, the only thing I’m studying is myself. I’m really, like, fully invested in my body, and I’m really liking this professional thing.”

When asked what it would mean to be drafted by his hometown New York Knicks, the Harlem native indicated he hasn’t tempered his expectations.

Wearing an Embiid jersey, the Philadelphia-born rapper rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before tipoff of Game 5. He received a thunderous ovation from the Wells Fargo Center crowd upon introduction and was seated courtside, next to 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin and comedian Kevin Hart.

Before and after the Sixers’ win, Mill met with players and team personnel in the team’s locker room.

“It was like this mass happiness, hysteria,” Rubin said after Philadelphia’s victory. “The city’s so excited to have him. The team’s so excited.”

Mill, whose real name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, had been fighting for his release while appealing a two- to four-year sentence for a probation violation.

His controversial incarceration has drawn response from the sports community.

Rubin has been one of Mill’s biggest supporters. He tweeted Tuesday that he was on his way to pick up the rapper from prison, and hours later posted a photo on Instagram of the two heading to Game 5.jets_130