From Comcast SportsNetARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington knows one thing he'd change if he could: He'd make sure his everyday players got more rest during the season.Or they might still be playing, and not already several days into what will be a long offseason."I could have looked at not having all my regulars play as many games as they played," Washington said Tuesday. "I think if I could have changed that, and got them some opportunity to get more rest, they'd be much fresher as we went down the stretch. It could have been a difference. I question myself for that."After going to the last two World Series, Texas failed to win even one game this October. They lost 10 of their last 14 overall, including a sweep at Oakland to end the regular season before losing Friday to Baltimore in the first win-or-go-home AL wild-card card.Not counting the postseason game, Texas had seven players who appeared in at least 147 games. Adrian Beltre, the 33-year-old third baseman who just finished his 15th major league season, was among five Rangers who played in at least 156 games."Maybe I played them into the ground," Washington said.The Rangers, who won 93 games, face some significant changes in their roster since eight players will be eligible for free agency.The most notable is slugger Josh Hamilton, and general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday that the team is "not going to make a kind of pre-emptive proposal at this point." The two sides put negotiations on hold earlier this year with the expectation that Hamilton would test the free-agent market."I think that effectively what we decided internally and agreed on with Josh and his representatives during the spring was that was the process," Daniels said. "We're going to let it play out. If you put yourself in his shoes, if you've got this far, you're going to test the market, find out what's out there. I think that's understandable."The Rangers were division leaders for a majors-best 178 games this season, taking the AL West lead four games into the season and staying there alone until be caught by Oakland in the 161st game. They then lost the division crown on the final day of the regular season, 12-5 to the A's after having a 5-1 lead.That made the Rangers a wild card, and they lost 5-1 at home to Baltimore on Friday night."Bottom line it was a very good year, it was a very disappointing finish," Daniels said. "I think we're all on the same page that we want to build on that and get back to where we want to be, which is contending year in, year out for a world championship."That was the consensus feeling among team president Nolan Ryan, Daniels and Washington during a season-ending news conference, which came on the same day the Rangers would have been playing Game 3 of the AL division series had Texas won the AL West title.Instead of batting practice at Rangers Ballpark, stadium workers were stripping away the grass in foul territory between the third-base line and the visitor dugout.The Rangers payroll this year topped 120 million. Ryan, who is also part of the team's ownership group, said there have been numerous discussions about team's budget for 2013 that will not be affected by the lack of revenue-generating home playoff games."Overall, we're probably all pretty much in agreement of where we're headed and how we're doing as organization," Ryan said, without getting into specifics. "I think that we all have thoughts and opinions on how we can improve our ballclub, and those will be expressed obviously during meetings going forward. But overall I think everybody's on the same page."Aside from Hamilton and catcher Mike Napoli, the other potential free agents are pitchers.Ryan Dempster came from the Chicago Cubs in a July 31 trade, and the Rangers will not pick up a 9 million option on Scott Feldman, who will get a 600,000 buyout instead. The others are relievers Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe and Roy Oswalt, the three-time All-Star added midseason who wound up in the bullpen after Dempster was acquired.Hamilton hit a career-high 43 homers and drove in 128 runs but was lustily booed by Rangers fans while going 0-for-4 against the Orioles, the same team he hit four homers against on May 8.There was also the dropped routine popup in the regular-season finale, a two-out tiebreaking miscue that allowed the A's to score two runs and go ahead to stay. He missed five games on a September trip because of a cornea problem he said was caused by too much caffeine and energy drinks."Obviously I think Josh probably would have liked to finish stronger and we would have liked to see him finish stronger," Ryan said. "Will it impact our position as far as going forward? No, I don't think so. We'll consider the entire season because it is an entire season that affects the outcome."
At least 51 Redskins will be making the trip to London on Thursday night, including some who are pretty banged up. And there is hope that the other two will be able to make it across the pond.
“We're taking everybody, which is a good thing,” said coach Jay Gruden. “If something happens on Friday or Saturday, we can make adjustments if needed.”
He later clarified the statuses of tight end Jordan Reed and cornerback Josh Norman. Both of them are in the NFL’s concussion protocol, at least partially.
“I’m not too sure about this — Thursday they are going to the independent doctor and if they’re cleared they’ll go on the trip,” said Gruden. “If not, if we’re still having some pain and setbacks, at that point we’ll make that decision to probably leave them back.”
In other words, stay tuned on those two key players.
Two players were out of practice on Wednesday. Reserve linebacker Terrance Garvin was out with a hip injury, and starting running back Matt Jones missed with a knee problem.
The injury was as much a surprise to Gruden as it was to reporters when they saw that Jones was not participating in practice.
“He just came in, I guess, today, had some soreness laterally,” said Gruden. “Had some pain cutting, has to problem running straight ahead so we kept him out today.”
Limited in practice were wide receivers Jamison Crowder (groin) and DeSean Jackson (hamstring/shoulder); guard Brandon Scherff (shoulder), offensive tackle Trent Williams (knee), Reed, Norman, offensive lineman Spencer Long (chest), cornerback Bashaud Breeland (ankle) and tight end Vernon Davis (groin).
With six offensive starters limited and Jones out, Gruden had to alter practice somewhat.
“We had to do kind of a slower tempo on the offensive side of the ball because of the amount of injuries we had,” said Gruden.
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The new season begins for the Wizards on Thursdsay at the Atlanta Hawks (CSN, 6:30 p.m.). While coach Scott Brooks hasn't made his starters official, this is a good educated guess on who to see introduced on opening night.
They do plenty of things well but some minor adjustments to their games will go a long way to flipping a .500 record in 2015-16 into a winning record and a playoff appearance.
PG John Wall: He’s almost all the way back from having surgeries to both knees May 5. Wall’s only issue is conditioning. He averaged 20 points and 10 assists last season, though defensively he wasn’t All-NBA anymore. It’s not about his final stat line but more about two key numbers that will determine his advancement on the offensive end. 1) Turnovers. Averaged a career-high 4.1 giveaways last season, in part, because he carried a lion’s share of the offensive burden. Below 3.0 should be his target and with Brooks moving him off the ball more often that should help. 2). Three-point shooting. The one area where Wall lags behind other competition at his position is defenses will go under screens on the pick-and-roll or double others while leaving him open at the three-point arc. He has never shot better than 35.1%. If he can hit 40%, it’s a whole new ballgame.
SG Bradley Beal: He has $128 million reasons to take his game to the next level. While health is a major factor, that’s true of every single player. Beal has to be more than a shooter and move out the teens with his points average up to the 20s. Shooting guards like James Harden and DeMar DeRozan separate themselves from the pack because of some unique abilities that Beal has yet to show. 1). Foul line. For his career, Beal attempts just 2.8 free throws per game. That’s not enough. His goal is 7-8 a game and he has to shoot better than 78%. 2). Creating for others. Beal routinely would face blitzes from multiple defenders who didn’t respect other scorers on the floor. Beal can loosen those coverages by lifting his assists from 3.0 and rebounding from 3.7. Brooks will attempt to help by giving him the ball in different positions on the floor.
SF Otto Porter: The skills are there, but the assertiveness isn’t always present. The Wizards require a third scorer who can get more than 11.6 points per game. He was drafted No. 3 overall in 2013 because he was considered the safest bet – and the most polished – because of his high basketball IQ. It’s time that he uses it. 1). Focus on mid-range. Porter isn’t really a three-point shooter. Despite his 36.7% from deep last season, he hovered below 30% for most of the season and this contributed to his disappearing act (as did his habit of looking at his feet before shooting). Though the mid-range game is a lost art in NBA with everyone in love with the three-ball, this is Porter’s strength. He can hit threes but he prefers to be moving to the ball on that catch. 2). Off-ball movement. He’s great at finding holes in the defense for shots in the paint. This type of player should average more than 1.2 foul shots a game and 1.0 assists, which are his career averages. His vision is too good for that.
PF Markieff Morris: Twenty-seven games after being traded to D.C. last season felt more like a lengthy training camp. The Wizards went from the bottom of the table in rebounding to top six during games with Morris. He’s a perfect example of how a player’s actual rebounding numbers (5.9) isn’t necessarily representative of his impact on rebounding for a team. 1). Stretch four. Morris doesn’t have to be a specialist from three-point range but more accurate than 31.6% to force defenses to respect him, which will spread the floor even more for Wall and Beal. He has good form. If he can bump up his touch by 5%-7% it would make a world of difference. 2). Defense. When he's committed he can use his 6-10 frame.
C Marcin Gortat: Averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds in a down season is pretty good output for centers today. Like Porter, he has been prone to spikes and dips for long stretches. He runs the floor extremely well and is the best screen-setter on the team. Wall and Beal can play a two-man game with him, which allows the offense to have better flow and less predictability. 1) Pick-and-roll defense. This has been a major weakness with the Wizards as more and more teams ditch play sets for basic pick-and-roll actions to create mismatches. The communication between the frontline and backline haven't been consistent for the last two years, and now that Gortat is responsible for making a lot of the defensive calls it will be on him. 2). Less finesse and more power at the rim. Gortat has a habit of fading away from the basket too much, particularly when he's facing shot-blockers such as Hassan Whiteside. Gortat has to go at those kind of players who will take the bait when showing them the ball. He can get more whistles that way, put them in foul trouble and get to the line more.
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