NFL makes a decision about the Pro Bowl

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NFL makes a decision about the Pro Bowl

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- After a promise from players that the game will be more competitive, the NFL will hold the Pro Bowl in Honolulu next Jan. 27, a week before the Super Bowl. Commissioner Roger Goodell had made it clear canceling the all-star game was a possibility after the uninspired play of this year's 59-41 AFC victory. Following discussions between the league and the players' union, the NFL announced Wednesday that Aloha Stadium would host the Pro Bowl for the third straight year. It will be the 33rd Pro Bowl in Hawaii. "The players have made it clear through the NFL Players Association that they would like the opportunity to continue to play the Pro Bowl in Hawaii," said NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson. "We will support the players on this initiative to improve the Pro Bowl. We have had many discussions with the players in recent years about the Pro Bowl and they recognize that the quality of the game has not been up to NFL standards. We look forward to working with the players toward the goal of improving the competitiveness of this season's game." The Pro Bowl was held in Hawaii from 1980-2009. In 2010, the NFL moved the game to the week before the Super Bowl for the first time, and it was held in Miami, site of the Super Bowl that year. The Pro Bowl returned to Hawaii for the 2011 and 2012 games but remained one week before the Super Bowl. "The players believe that the Pro Bowl is an important tradition," NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth said. "We worked hard with the league to make sure the best players in the NFL are honored for their achievements on the field." News of the Pro Bowl's return was met with praise by Hawaii tourism officials and Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Both Abercrombie and Mike McCartney, chief executive of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, hinted the state plans to deepen its ties to the league by helping it establish relationships in Asia -- a continent with several major markets for tourism to the Aloha State. "Beyond Hawaii's shores, we look forward to assisting the NFL in expanding upon their relationships in Japan, and help them to establish a presence in China -- both important markets for Hawaii tourism," McCartney said. McCartney said the relationship of more than 30 years goes beyond the Pro Bowl game itself and both the state and the NFL would work on improving the overall experience. "Hawaii looks forward to building upon our long-standing relationship with the NFL Pro Bowl well into the future," McCartney said. Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said he was "thrilled that the NFL Pro Bowl is going to return in 2013." "Our residents, visitors, military, and many others look forward to this exciting event," he added. "There is electricity in the air when the Pro Bowl is approaching and the festive atmosphere continues even after the game as people stay here to enjoy our beautiful island home. The Pro Bowl has long had the support of the city and county of Honolulu." David Uchiyama, the chief negotiator for the tourism authority in its talks with the NFL, said the state is pushing to follow the current one-year deal with a longer agreement that would put the Pro Bowl in Honululu at least five times in seven years. Uchiyama said the current deal's financial terms were similar to the previous one, with the state paying the league about 4.2 million to host the game. He added his talks with the league have included introducing longer-term ideas that reach far beyond the Pro Bowl, such as establishing a developmental league based in Hawaii. "That's really a dream," he said. Goodell had expressed his displeasure with this year's game several times, acknowledging it could be scrapped if the level of play doesn't improve. "The issue is we recognize it is an all-star game, but we also believe fans expect more from an NFL game," he said recently. "If we believe we can achieve that, we want to give them every opportunity to do that." For last January's game, TV ratings were strong, with 12.5 million viewers, making the Pro Bowl the most watched of all all-star games for the 2011 season.

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NHL explains why the Malkin goal was not overturned

NHL explains why the Malkin goal was not overturned

A crazy second period got a little more insane late with a disputed go-ahead goal from Evgeni Malkin. After Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist slid into Philipp Grubauer on the goal, Barry Trotz challenged the play for goalie interference.

The challenge was unsuccessful.

The NHL released an explanation of the call:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed that the actions of Washington's Daniel Winnik caused Pittsburgh's Patric Hornqvist to contact Grubauer before the puck crossed the goal line. The decision was made in accordance with Note 2 of Rule 78.7 (ii) which states, in part, that the goal on the ice should be allowed because "the attacking Player was pushed, shoved or fouled by a defending Player causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper."

Therefore the original call stands - good goal Pittsburgh Penguins.

You can view the play in the video above.

None of this explanation is incorrect. Winnik trips Hornqvist which causes him to slide into Grubauer. But from my point of view, it's not the trip that's the issue.

As Hornqvist slides into Grubauer, he clearly — and seemingly intentionally — hits and pushes Grubauer's pad with his stick. Unless the rule means that a player can legally do whatever he wants to a goalie so long as he was pushed into him (which we all know is not the case), this goal should have been called back for goalie interference.

RELATED: Eller pulls the Caps even at 5

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Kelly Oubre shows signs of development on both ends vs. Blazers

Kelly Oubre shows signs of development on both ends vs. Blazers

The development of a talent as raw and intriguing as Wizards forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. rarely happens overnight. Usually it's small steps along the way that ultimately add up to a finished product. On Monday afternoon against the Portland Trail Blazers, there were two things Oubre did that may qualify as significant signs of progress.

First, on the offensive end. The Wizards blew out the Blazers after getting off to a scorching hot start in the first quarter. They scored 37 points in the first and 75 in the first half, both season-highs. Oubre helped lead that charge with 10 points of his own in the first quarter on 2-of-3 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from the line.

He kept it going in the second quarter with a bucket just over a minute in that saw him go around Evan Turner with a crossover. Oubre went right, dribbled behind his back and got to the rim where he finished with contact. 

Oubre, 21, has shown this season he can knock down threes, finish on the fastbreak and scrap for putbacks in the lane. But beating a man off the dribble is a sign of young player growing more confident in his ability to put the ball on the floor.

"He's working on it. He knows that's not his greatest strength," guard Bradley Beal said. "Now he's perfecting it a little bit. He's using it to his advantage. He understands that he's knocking down more threes, so teams are going to run him off the line. He knows that he can now use his athleticism to get to the basket versus having to force up a tough one. He's got a pretty good package going for him. His three-ball is falling and he's starting to put it on the floor, which is even better."

[RELATED: Head-to-head: Wall and Beal best Lillard and McCollum]

Oubre finished with 18 points, just one off of the career-high he set against Bucks on Dec. 10. He finished 5-of-8 from the field, 3-of-4 from three and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. His three threes matched a career-best.

But defense is where Oubre may have taken another step on Monday. Sensing he has a player with unique versatility on the defensive end, head coach Scott Brooks decided to deploy Oubre on Blazers superstar guard Damian Lillard in the second quarter. 

Oubre helped limit Lillard to just 6-of-17 shooting and his contribution was the product of something Brooks had wanted to experiment with.

"Kelly did a great job of getting in his handle and making sure that he didn't get anything easy when Kelly was guarding him in that second quarter," Brooks said.

"I'm definitely exploring it. I'm just trying to find ways that he can impact the game defensively... when he's locked in, he can guard multiple positions. I've been trying to experiment to throw some more point guard responsibilities on him defensively. Nothing against the other guys. It just gives a bigger player on a scoring point guard. I thought he was really good on Lillard."

[RELATED: Beal: "Our fans are awesome and we feed off of their energy"]

With more minutes offered, Oubre has helped improve the Wizards defensively this season. Brooks has often gone with lineups featuring both Oubre and Otto Porter along with John Wall and Beal. He feels those four can easily switch between guarding multiple positions.

This strategy took that to another level. Now Oubre was being asked to guard the smallest and fastest guy on the team.

"I can guard whoever on the court, honestly. That’s how I feel. Whoever they ask me to guard I’m going to guard them, take the challenge and have fun with it," he said. "Just staying down on his pump fakes, making it tough for him, using my length to disturb him and just making sure I keep him in front of me because he’s one of the quickest guards in the league. I think I did a solid job of that."

Oubre won't figure it all out in one afternoon against a struggling team, of course. But his teammates and coaches have pointed out certain times this season where it was obvious to him that he was showing improvement. Monday was one of those times.

"He's steady growing. He's constantly turning into what we want him to be and the kid that we drafted him to be. We just need him to continue to be aggressive," Beal said. 

"I think the biggest thing is that he's definitely transitioned with his humility. He's grounded. He's always wanting to get better. He works hard and it's showing on the floor."

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Blazers]