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Thinking Out Loud: Sliding Providence needs more support from underclassmen

02.12.16 at 5:12 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering why I can never find my glasses when I need them.

— The Friars’ drop to 20th (17th in the coaches poll) is predictable. Two losses without winning in a week will do that, even if one of those losses was to the new No. 1 team. The DePaul loss was crushing, however, and shows how fleeting good fortune can be. I blame myself. That’s the first — and only — game when I missed the pregame shootaround on the road this season.

— I’ve had several conversations with Friars fans who have asked if I’m disappointed with the team’s performance lately. Sure, you always want to win, but disappointed? Absolutely not. First of all, I’m enjoying a great ride watching this team play, and these coaches coach. Plus — a little secret here — this PC team isn’t really a top-10 team, so get over it. That’s not what this team is.

— Are the Friars still good? They probably have the two best players on the court at any given time that Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil are together. But as we can all observe, these Friars need a third or fourth wheel to consistently perform in order to be really good, and the candidates are underclassmen still learning to play at the highest level in the sport.

— Top-10 good is questionable, at best. But still pretty good, and good enough to beat a lot of other pretty good teams around the country. No. 1-ranked Villanova knows how good the Friars can be. So don’t sweat the rankings, they’re fun, but they’re also ultra-subjective. Bring on March Madness.

— Oh, got my tickets this week for the NCAA Tournament first and second rounds at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. And then realized I may not be there if the Friars make the field of 68. Teams can’t play at home (right, Dayton?) so that’s a good problem to have, I suppose.

— Admittedly, the Marquette loss in double overtime this week was very frustrating. Ed Cooley was despondent afterward, but by the time the team landed back in Providence in the wee hours of Thursday morning, sights already were set and focused on Georgetown. Development is still a key factor here, and the problem is it isn’t happening fast enough for anyone’s liking.

— Bentil’s 42-point, 12-rebound performance was eye-popping wow. Only one other player in the country has put together a 40/10 double-double this season — freshman phenom Ben Simmons at LSU (43 points, 14 rebounds vs. North Florida). If the Friars can make any kind of a run in the final six games of the regular season, he’s a legit candidate for Big East Player of the Year, with all due respect to his teammate Dunn.

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RB Matt Forte says Bears won’t re-sign him, making him free agent

02.12.16 at 12:08 pm ET
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Matt Forte

Matt Forte

In an Instagram post Friday morning, running back Matt Forte announced his days as a member of the Bears are over.

“Despite my wishes, my days as a member of the Chicago Bears have sadly come to an end,” wrote Forte. “I was informed earlier this week from the GM that they will not be attempting to re-sign me in free agency.”

Although he seemed disappointed with the team’s decision to move on, the two-time Pro Bowler made it clear he harbors no ill will toward the organization.

“I will remain forever grateful for my time spent in Chicago and being able to play for an organization with such a rich history,” Forte said. “My only regret is not being able to win a Lombardi trophy for the best fans in all of sports. I’m excited about the next chapter of my NFL career. But, Chicago will always be home.”

Forte played eight seasons for the Bears, who drafted him out of Tulane in 2008. Statistically, he is the second-most productive running back in team history.

“These decisions are never easy, especially given what Matt has meant to our team and community. We have a tremendous amount of respect for him,” Bears owner Ryan Pace said. “Matt is one of the all-time great Bears and did an excellent job for us on and off the field last season. He was a tremendous teammate. We thank him for his professionalism and wish him the very best as he continues his career.”

Forte is set to hit free agency, where he undoubtedly will be a hot commodity for teams in need of a feature running back.

Read More: Chicago Bears, Matt Forte, NFL,

Louisiana governor: Budget deficit could lead to shutdown of LSU football program

02.12.16 at 11:37 am ET
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In a televised statewide address on Thursday night, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warned citizens of what might happen should lawmakers deny his proposal for a package of tax increases.

While the Governor had a long list of potential consequences if his proposal is not passed, some of the most significant included shutting down hospice services and taking people off of kidney dialysis.

“The health care services that are in jeopardy literally mean the difference between life and death,” Edwards said.

He did not stop there, however. He went on to add that there would be cuts to higher education in the absence of these taxes. LSU, one of the state’s most prominent universities, would suffer major blows for both education and athletics .

Writes Julia O’Donoghue of NOLA.com: The governor went so far as to say that LSU football was also in jeopardy, due to a threatened suspension of spring classes that would jeopardize college athletes’ eligibility next year. He said the state would no longer be able to afford one of its most popular programs with middle class residents — the TOPS college scholarship — without tax hikes. 

“Student athletes across the state would be ineligible to play next semester,” Edwards said. “I don’t say this to scare you. But I am going to be honest with you.” 

The Tigers have been a perennial championship contender in college football. They finished the 2015 season ranked 20th in the nation with a record of 9-3.

Read More: LSU, NCAA Football,

Browns LT Joe Thomas: ‘Sad end to the story’ for Johnny Manziel

02.12.16 at 11:10 am ET
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Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel

While Johnny Manziel had doubters in Cleveland from the day he was drafted, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas was one of those who believed the former Heisman Trophy winner could be successful in the NFL. Manziel’s most recent off-field issues apparently will cost the QB his roster spot with the team.

“Obviously we hoped Cleveland was going to be where he became that starting NFL quarterback and was the starter in Cleveland for a long time, but it didn’t work out for a lot of reasons,” Thomas told reporters. “I’m sure he’d say that a lot of them were his own fault. So hopefully he’ll get his life on track and be able to use those talents at some point here in his career.”

When he first arrived in Cleveland, Thomas quickly took a liking to Manziel both on and off the field. Needless to say, the way Manziel’s Browns career will end is not how Thomas envisioned it.

“It’s a sad end to the story in Cleveland for Johnny,” Thomas said. “He’s a guy that personally I like. I believe he has a lot of talent. He’s got the talent to be an NFL quarterback, but it obviously hasn’t worked out so far.”

The story that most recently has haunted Manziel is an alleged domestic violence incident with his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, which is under investigation by Dallas police. Many have voiced strong concern for the quarterback’s mental health and well-being, including Manziel’s own father.

“It’s just a sad turn of events right now,” Thomas said. “It’s hard to really say too much about allegations because plenty of innocent people get accused of things all the time, so you don’t really know exactly what happened and obviously I wasn’t there so I don’t have a first-hand experience to go off of. … But whatever he’s dealing with, I hope that he’s able to get that under control and get things straightened out, and hopefully if football’s important to him, be able to put everything he has in his life into football.”

In order to have any chance in the league, Manziel will need to prove he has changed off the field.

“I hope that he has success with that, but obviously the other things that are going on in his life are more important right now,” Thomas said. “He needs to get those things solved and straightened out before he wants to make a comeback in football.”

Read More: Cleveland Browns, joe thomas, Johnny Manziel,

Friday’s Morning Mashup: Rockets reportedly shopping Dwight Howard, who says, ‘I’m not running’ from adversity

02.12.16 at 8:24 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: All-Star Celebrity Game, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: All-Star Rising Stars Challenge, 9 p.m. (TNT)
College basketball: Dayton at Rhode Island, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Ohio at Buffalo, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Monmouth at Rider, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: UCLA at Arizona, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
College hockey: Maine at Notre Dame, 6:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Multiple reports indicate the Rockets are shopping Dwight Howard, although the veteran center insists he’s not asking for a trade.

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Rockets are working with Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, to find the eight-time All-Star a new home, but Fegan told ESPN that’s not the case.

“I’m not privy to what the Rockets are doing or not doing with respect to Dwight Howard,” Fegan said. “What I can say, with 100 percent certainty, is that Dwight has not and has never asked the Rockets for a trade. And neither have I.

Howard later backed his agent, telling ESPN, “Dan’s statement is true. I have not asked the Rockets to trade me, nor have I talked about right trades. I want to win. I want this situation to work. I chose this team. And I’m not running because we have been faced with some adversity.”

The Rockets, who replaced Kevin McHale with interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff 11 games into this season, are 27-28 following Wednesday’s 116-103 loss to the Trail Blazers, after which Bickerststaff referred to the Rockets as “a broken team.”

Howard is due to earn $23.3 million next season but is expected to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent. That makes him an option to be traded before next Thursday’s deadline.

There has been speculation that the Celtics will pursue Howard — they certainly could use a center who averages 14.6 points and 12.0 rebounds a game — although there are longstanding questions about Howard’s desire to do what it takes to be a champion. The C’s are said to be interested in Hawks veteran Al Horford, who supposedly is being shopped as well.

— The two teams most affected by the death of Monty Williams’ wife held a moment of silence before they played Thursday night in Oklahoma City.

Williams, the former Pelicans coach who now is an assistant with the Thunder, is on indefinite leave from the team as he tends to his children — three of whom were injured in the car crash that took Ingrid Williams’ life.

Thunder star Kevin Durant broke down while speaking with the media during the team’s morning shootaround, saying, “I just love Coach Monty so much, man. I feel for him,” before ending the interview after 15 seconds.

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Read More: Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Mark Davis, Monty Williams

Thursday’s Morning Mashup: NBA mourns Thunder assistant Monty Williams’ wife, who dies after car crash

02.11.16 at 8:07 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NHL: Bruins at Jets, 8 p.m. (NESN)
NBA: Pelicans at Thunder, 8 p.m. (TNT)
College basketball: VCU at UMass, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: St. Francis (Pa.) at Robert Morris, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: UConn at Temple, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Florida State at Syracuse, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Eastern Kentucky at Morehead State, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Iowa at Indiana, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Oregon at California, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Illinois State at Evansville, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Radford at UNC Asheville, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Gonzaga at Portland, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Oregon State at Stanford, 11 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Clippers coach Doc Rivers could be forgiven if his mind wasn’t completely on Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Celtics at TD Garden.

That’s because the wife of Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams, Rivers’ longtime friend, died Wednesday night from injuries sustained the night before in a car crash.

Ingrid Williams, 44, was hit while driving just outside Oklahoma City by a car that crossed the center line. The other driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

Rivers has known the couple since before they were married, and his son Austin played for Williams for 2 1/2 seasons before being traded to the Clippers. Rivers was informed of Ingrid’s death after Wednesday’s game, and he fought back tears when speaking to the media.

“I’m heartbroken,” Rivers said. “Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair. There’s no better human being in the world than Monte and Ingrid. Sometimes you question everything, and this is one of those times.”

Condolences poured in for Williams from around the NBA.

Tweeted Pelicans star Anthony Davis: Completely devastated. Ingrid Williams was like a 2nd mother to me when I got to NOLA. My thoughts & prayers are with Monty & the family.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone let his emotions show when coaching his team to a win over the Pistons.

“I apologized to the team. The first half, I coached very angry,” Malone said. “I don’t know if you guys heard, Monty Williams, a good friend of mine, his wife was killed in an accident. … So I apologized to them because it’s taking my anger out on them, and they don’t deserve that.”

Terrell Owens was not selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, his first year of eligibility. He undoubtedly eventually will get in, but it won’t be because he campaigned for it. According to him, that’s behavior better left to Cris Carter.

Speaking on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” show, Owens expressed his displeasure with Carter’s frequent criticism, dating back to when they both played. Owens referred to a 1998 playoff game in which Owens’ 49ers team eliminated Carter’s Vikings from the playoffs, after which Carter referred to Owens as “mediocre.”

“For somebody like that, for Cris Carter to come out and say something like that, I just felt like it was disrespectful,” Owens said. “And so now, you look at where I am statistically, I’ve surpassed him. And from what I heard, from a lot of guys, he begged his way into the Hall of Fame.”

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Read More: Cris Carter, doc rivers, Hope Solo, Monty Williams

GM John Elway: Broncos defense ‘in the argument to be one of the best ever’

02.10.16 at 12:20 pm ET
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The Broncos were feted at a victory celebration in Denver on Tuesday. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)

The Broncos were feted at a victory celebration in downtown Denver on Tuesday. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)

After finishing the season as the NFL’s top-ranked defense and dominating throughout the postseason, the Broncos brought a Lombardi Trophy back to Denver and celebrated with their fans Tuesday.

At the team’s victory parade, general manager John Elway raised some eyebrows when he said the defense should not only be considered elite, it should go down as one of the best in the history of the league.

“To me, to sit here and say, if you look at it, if you look at the performance in that Super Bowl, they are in the argument to be one of the best ever,” Elway said. “It’s hard to say that they’re going to be that, but they’re in the argument, which is a [great] compliment to them.”

Elway was the man who constructed the defense piece by piece following Denver’s blowout loss to the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos transformed from an offensive-minded team to one that was carried by its defense.

“I know one thing: I wouldn’t want to play them. I’m glad I didn’t have to play them,” Elway said. “Obviously, we’re biased in the fact that we rode their coattails all the way to the championship.”

Denver’s mayor estimated that a million fans turned out for Tuesday’s celebration, with players riding a convoy through city streets after an outdoor concert.

Read More: Denver Broncos, John Elway, NFL,

Video: Bernie Sanders relaxes in New Hampshire by playing basketball

02.10.16 at 10:04 am ET
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Much has been made about Barack Obama’s love of basketball and his pickup games at the White House. Bernie Sanders, who hopes to succeed Obama as president, showed Tuesday he’s got game as well.

The Vermont Senator shot hoops with his grandchildren in Concord, New Hampshire, while waiting for the final results of Tuesday’s New Hampshire Democratic primary — which he won handily over Hillary Clinton. (Donald Trump, fresh off his appearance on Dennis & Callahan with Minihane on Monday, won the Republican primary.)

The 74-year-old showed some skill, banking in a series of short shots.

Sanders said in a previous interview that he was a “very good athlete” and his Brooklyn elementary school won the borough championship. He ran track at Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, where he said he ran a mile in the impressive time of 4 minutes, 37 seconds.

Sanders has another connection to sports: He was part of the bipartisan House Committee on Government Reform panel that grilled Roger Clemens and other Major League Baseball players on the use of steroids in baseball in 2005.

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Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Browns deny using concussion protocol to cover up for intoxicated Johnny Manziel

02.10.16 at 8:21 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NBA: Clippers at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA: Lakers at Cavaliers, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Rockets at Trail Blazers, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Tulane at East Carolina, 6:15 p.m. (ESPNews)
College basketball: Butler at Seton Hall, 6:30 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: Providence at Marquette, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: LSU at South Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Memphis at Houston, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Baylor at Kansas State, 8:15 p.m. (ESPNews)
College basketball: Iowa State at Texas Tech, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Tulsa at SMU, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Washington at Utah, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: San Diego State at Fresno State, 11 p.m. (CBSSN)
NHL: Rangers at Penguins, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: FA Cup, West Bromwich at Peterborough United, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Johnny Manziel’s departure from Cleveland can’t come soon enough for the Browns.

On Tuesday the team denied an NFL Network report that it covered up for the fact that Manziel showed up at for practice the final week of the season in an intoxicated state by placing him in the concussion protocol.

NFL Network’s Michael Silver, using an unnamed Browns player as his source, reported that the team “lied” to protect Manziel, who took a couple of hard hits during the team’s Dec. 27 loss to the Chiefs.

“Johnny Manziel came to our facility on the morning of December 30th and complained of concussion symptoms,” the team said in a statement. “He was tested by an independent neurologist and entered the league’s concussion protocol. He remained in the protocol until January 12th after being cleared by the independent neurologist.”

Manziel missed the final regular-season game against the Steelers, and he missed a scheduled medical checkup the morning of that game after reportedly visiting Las Vegas the previous day.

Similar speculation emerged that week, with then-coach Mike Pettine strongly denying the team covered for Manziel.

Silver sent out a series of tweets defending his report, but he backtracked slightly, saying he takes the Browns at their word and regrets using the word “lied.”

The Browns have indicated they plan to release Manziel, who is being investigated by Dallas police after his ex-girlfriend accused him of hitting her in an incident last week.

— The Clippers came down on star Blake Griffin, suspending the injured forward four games and docking him an additional game’s salary because his broke his hand punching a member of the equipment staff last month. The suspension will begin when Griffin returns from his injury in a few weeks.

“We have made it clear that this conduct has no place in the Clippers organization,” team owner Steve Ballmer and coach Doc Rivers said in a joint statement. “Blake is remorseful and has apologized for his actions. He is a valued member of our Clippers family and we support him as he rejoins the team.”

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Read More: Blake Griffin, Johnny Manziel, Phil Jackson,

Panthers coach Ron Rivera defends Cam Newton’s actions during, after Super Bowl

02.09.16 at 10:32 am ET
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Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been heavily scrutinized this week for his actions both on and off the field on Super Bowl Sunday.

Newton came under fire when he appeared to back away from a loose ball after fumbling in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Then during his postgame press conference he gave mostly one-word answers before abruptly walking out on reporters, saying, “I’m done, man.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera apparently is not as concerned as fans and media members. In an interview with Pro Football Talk, Rivera defended his quarterback’s decision not to dive after his fourth-quarter fumble.

“I think he was looking for the rebound. When that group of guys came diving in, when it ricocheted backwards, he tried to turn and get after the ball,” Rivera said. “When you look at the circumstances he was looking at, I have no problem with that.”

As for Newton’s postgame surliness, Rivera said it simply was the result of the QB’s competitive nature.

Said Rivera, “The one thing about Cam that I think a lot of people have to understand is he hates to lose. He really does. And a lot of great ones have that.”

Rivera said the experience can all be used as a lesson for the future.

“Unfortunately, we just didn’t win the big one,” the coach said. “I think he’ll learn and grow from this situation and come back stronger next year.”

Read More: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera, super bowl