Kastles go for 27 without Olympians

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Kastles go for 27 without Olympians

For the second season in a row, the Washington Kastles have the best record in World TeamTennis at 10-0 allowing them to notch the No. 1 seed for WTT Finals.Washington has won 26 consecutive matches and will look to keep the streak alive through Saturday with four matches remaining in the regular season.Following tonight's last home match of the season versus Philadelphia, the Kastles will play road matches at New York Wednesday, Kansas City on Friday and Springfield on Saturday.If Washington wins its 27th consecutive match tonight, the Kastles will pass the 1916 New York Giants (MLB) for the second-longest winning streak in major U.S. pro sports history. The Lakers present the next hurdle with the 33-game undefeated run by Los Angeles during the 1971-72 NBA season.The challenge tonight will be posed not only by the Freedoms (4-6), but the Kastles' own depleted squad as Leander Paes, Venus Williams and Anastasia Rodionova will be competing at The Olympic Games in London.Paes and Rodionova have passed the torch for two of the top doubles players in the world, 19th-ranked Raquel Kops-Jones and 45th-ranked Treat Conrad Huey, to make their debut tonight for Washington.For Huey, who was born in Washington, raised in Alexandria and graduated from the University of Virginia, playing for the Kastles is somewhat of a homecoming. Before becoming a two-time All-American for the Cavaliers, Huey was a three-time Washington Post Player of the Year while attending St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School. Meanwhile, Bobby 'The Closer' Reynolds doesn't seem too worried about stepping up in Leander's absence, "It's going to be tough, obviously to fill-in for a six-time Olympian and obviously Anastasia and Venus, but we have a lot of good people coming inso we'll see what happens."
PROJECTED MATCH-UPSMS: Bobby Reynolds (WAS) vs. Luka Gregorc (PHL)WS: Edina Gallovits-Hall (WAS) vs. Kristyna Pliskova (PHL) MD: ReynoldsTreat Conrad Huey (WAS) vs. GregorcJordan Kerr (PHL) WD: Gallovits-HallRaquel Kops-Jones (WAS) vs. Kr. PliskovaKarolina Pliskova (PHL)MXD: HueyKops-Jones (WAS) vs. KerrKr. Pliskova (PHL)

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Morning tip: Explaining my official media ballot for NBA All-Star starters

Morning tip: Explaining my official media ballot for NBA All-Star starters

Initially, I was against media voting. Then after seeing the early returns from the popular vote -- Zaza Pachulia being second among frontcourt players in the West and Dwyane Wade being second among guards in the East -- it felt like my duty to dismount my high horse to inject common sense into the process.

It's just one vote, and arguments can be made for other players besides the ones I choose. While Wade's popularity is understandable, why is Derrick Rose ahead of John Wall and close to overtaking Kyle Lowry? 

NBA players and select media, which account 25% each of the total to determine the starters for the Feb. 19 showcase in New Orleans, participated for the first time as the voting closed at 11:59 p.m. ET Monday. 

Fan voting, which has been reduced from 100% to 50% of the equation to determine the starters, also closed at midnight. The starters will be formally announced on Thursday.

NBA coaches will select the reserves which will be announced Jan. 26. That's seven roster spots for each conference. 

My media All-Star ballot for both conferences was submitted several days ago. Unfortunately, only weighing in on the starters is especially difficult in the East. Before calling my vote absurd, consider that Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen voted for himself and Luke Babbitt. It can always be worse. 

[RELATED: Wizards wear 'Never Stop Dreaming' shirts to honor MLK]

East guards

John Wall (Wizards): There’s no other guard in the conference who is in the same zip code. Career-highs in points (22.9), assists (10.2) and steals (2.2) togo with 4.6 rebounds. And now he’s playing better defense has a team with a winning record which put him over the hump in my reasoning. That the bench has underperformed most of thes season which has prevented the Wizards from closing out more games isn't the fault of the star player. Regardless, he has them in the thick of the playoff race.

DeMar DeRozan (Raptors): The best pure scorer in the conference with a shot-making ability that's second to none. He's averaging a career-high in points (28.1) and on the second-best team. The master of the mid-range, he stands alone for now.

East frontcourt

Jimmy Butler (Bulls): With  Dwyane Wade now in Chicago, Butler has played as a small forward and posting career numbers (24.9 points, 6.8 rebounds). Like Wall, his team's lack of early success isn't because he's not exceptional at his job. 

LeBron James (Cavs): Is there any need to get into details beyond the fact that it's LeBron James? Didn't think so. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks): Just as many of the others, he's putting up career numbers, 23.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.8 steals on 53.5% shooting playing multiple positions. The only mark against him is his team's record.

A legitmate argument can be made for Kyrie Irving or Isaiah Thomas over Wall as the starter. The double-doubles, however, convinced me to go with Wall. My first draft had Wall and Thomas but there's no justification for leaving out DeRozan. Plus, I didn't think two point guards was the right call just because the conference is deep at the position. No other guards are in double digits with double-doubles. They may average a few more points than Wall, but to average what he does and still make others around him better by setting them up is harder in my opinion. Thomas is a fourth-quarter closer. Kyle Lowry is having a better season than last when he was a starter. Both are All-Stars no matter how you cut it. Irving is on the best team and he's going to get in on that alone (he's also the popular vote leader), but the Cavs don't win when he plays and LeBron James sits (winless this season when that happens). I hold that against him and would put every point guard under serious consideration above him for that reason alone. He gets too much credit for hitting the big shot in the Finals Game 7 last year or in the first meeting with Golden State this season. He needs James to be this effective. Not vice versa. I'm in the minority with this line of thinking because Irving's talent is undeniable, but that's my thinking.

If I could pick reserves, mine would be Thomas, Lowry, Irving, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love, Paul George and Joel Embiid.

[RELATED: Wall sees new national TV game as good sign for Wizards]

West guards

Russell Westbrook (Thunder): Averaging a triple-double at the midway point with career-highs of 30.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.5 assists. He has 20 triple-doubles for the season.

James Harden (Rockets): His numbers are still there, and he's a hair shy of averaging a triple-double, too. His team is elite, and 28.4 points, a league-high 11.7 assists and 8.3 rebounds are impossible to overlook.

 

West frontcourt

Kevin Durant (Warriors): Best player on the team with the best record. His numbers haven't dipped much in his first year there, 26 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 blocks and a career-low 2.3 turnovers. He's shooting a career-high 53.7% and almost 40% from three.

Anthony Davis (Pelicans): His career-highs of 29.3 points and 12.3 rebounds have turned around the season for team just a few games out of the eighth playoff spot, The Pelicans opened the season 0-8.

Kawhi Leonard (Spurs): The 24.6 points are his career-high, and his team's best defender is shooting better than 40% from three again for the team with the NBA's second-best record.

There wasn't nearly as much grief involved in voting for the starters as all of the above in the West are clear-cut more deserving. This is the one season where Mike Conley should be rewarded after not making the team because of the numbers game at point guard. He's excelling on a winning team, averaging 20 points and shooting 40% from three. Could've easily gone with Eric Gordon instead given how integral he is to the Rockets' success, but Conley has paid his dues and is an underrated two-way player.

My reserves (if I had a vote): Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Conley, Gordon Hayward, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins and Marc Gasol.

[RELATED: Michael Jenkins vents about underappreciation of John Wall]

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Need to Know: An early look at first-round draft possibilities for the Redskins

Need to Know: An early look at first-round draft possibilities for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 17, 100 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL free agency starts 52
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of potential first-round draft picks for the Redskins

We’re at a nice, round 100 days until the NFL draft starts. The deadline for underclassmen to declare has passed and the first of the postseason all-star events, the East-West Shrine game, is starting up this week. It’s time to look at some possibilities for the Redskins’ first-round draft pick, which is No. 17 overall.

We’re still not sure of what defensive scheme the Redskins will run this year but it’s likely that they could fit Stanford DE Solomon Thomas into it. He’s not the classic edge rusher type but he is big (6-2, 275), violent and he can collapse the pocket.

—Michigan S Jabrill Peppers is a top-five pick according to one NFC executive but it’s a little early to put him up that high. He’s a versatile defender and he has drawn comparisons to Troy Polamalu, Charles Woodson, and Tyrann Mathieu. If he’s there at 17 the Redskins might find it hard to resist pulling the trigger.

There has been very early buzz about the Redskins having some interest in Michigan State DL Malik McDowell. He can play end in a 3-4 front or tackle in a 4-3 and provide disruption and pass rush from either spot. The 6-6, 276-lb. McDowell was a top-five prospect on many early boards but he stock has slipped to the point where he could be available for the Redskins.

The upgrade the Redskins are looking for at inside linebacker could be Florida ILB Jarrad Davis. He’s tough, tenacious, smart, and instinctive. The most important part of the combine for him won’t be his 40 time or bench press, it will be the medicals. He has missed some games with assorted injures including a torn meniscus in 2014.

Another flexible linebacker who could help inside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3 is Vanderbilt LG Zach Cunningham. At 6-3, 230 he plays very well in space and he shows a great ability to take on blockers. He needs work on tackling and pass rushing techniques but he has the tools to be an impact defender very quickly.

Although a defender would be a popular and logical pick here, the Redskins could go off script. After the 2015 draft, it was reported that Scot McCloughan might have taken Todd Gurley if he had been able to trade back from No. 5 overall to a little later in the first round. So I think it would be a mistake to dismiss the possibility of him going with an offensive skill player such as Florida State RB Dalvin Cook if he’s on the board and McCloughan has him rated as the best available player.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.