Venus, Kastles advance to WTT finals

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Venus, Kastles advance to WTT finals

CHARLESTON, S.C. September 15, 2012 Defending World TeamTennis champions Washington Kastles defeated their arch-rival, the New York Sportimes, 19-15 in the WTT Eastern Conference final, propelling the team into Sundays championship match for the second consecutive year and extending the teams historic win streak to 31 matches.

With the match tied and one set remaining, four-time Olympic gold medalist Venus Williams blasted her way past Ashley Harkleroad 5-1 in women's singles to clinch a spot for the Kastles in the WTT Finals for the third time in four years.

Weve been in this situation before and we knew how to win. There was a lot of pressure on us, but we just knew we had to put the ball in play and go for the shot, said Venus Williams. It shows why we are a great team.

The arch-rival Sportimes had been the Kastles toughest opponent during the regular season, including a thrilling 21-20 Washington win on July 21, when Venus Williams rallied from six games down in the final set to complete the franchise's largest comeback ever.

Next up is the Western Conference champion Sacramento Capitals. They defeated the Orange County Breakers 25-15 on Friday to advance to the WTT championship match. The Kastles defeated Sacramento 21-19 on July 18.

In posting 31 straight victories, the Kastles have the second-longest winning streak in major U.S. professional sports history and are within range of the 33-game streak by the NBAs 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers. They have already passed the respective records of 17 straight wins set by the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992-1993, 21 straight wins by the NFLs New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004, and 26 wins by the 1916 MLB New York Giants.

This years 14-0 regular season by the Kastles marked the first time in major U.S. professional sports history in which a team has had consecutive unbeaten regular seasons. Last season, in addition to winning a second WTT title in three years, the Kastles posted a perfect 16-0 record a first in WTT history.

Kastles closer Bobby Reynolds was named the 2012 WTT Male Most Valuable Player. Kastles Coach Murphy Jensen was selected as 2012 Coach of the Year, the second straight season he has won that honor.

The 37th WTT regular season ran July 9-28. The championship is being played this year in September to accommodate players who participated in the Olympics and US Open.

Old man Tracy McGrady shakes cane at Bradley Beal for wanting max deal

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Old man Tracy McGrady shakes cane at Bradley Beal for wanting max deal

Tracy McGrady, 37, is proving that there's no minimum age for former players to complain about today's NBA.

Two weeks after McGrady lamented Stephen Curry's unanimous MVP Award as evidence of a "watered-down" league, he set his crotchety sights on Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal. 

The two-time scoring champion appeared on ESPN's The Jump on Tuesday and scoffed at Beal wanting a max contract this summer. Via Bullets Forever:

If he's a max player, then I'm coming back.

Ha. First of all, no you're not, Tracy. Everyone saw you in the All-Star Celebrity Game this year. 

Second, there are few people less qualified to shake their canes at Beal than T-Mac.

Yes, a five-year, $92 million extension seems like big money for a player who averaged 17.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season. But let's rewind to 2000 when McGrady signed his first max contract at age 21.

This from The Philadelphia Inquirer archives:

The Magic worked out sign-and-trade deals with the Pistons and Raptors, resulting in a nice extra chunk of cash for Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady.

Both players signed seven-year, maximum-salary deals worth $93 million with their old teams, then were traded to the Magic.

So what did T-Mac do to merit max money? Average 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game the season prior ... not exactly numbers that blow Beal out of the water. 

Also, Beal has started 21 playoff games so far in his career and put up 21.2 points per game in the postseason. McGrady, meanwhile, had recorded 16.2 points per game in only three playoff appearances before signing his max. (Don't you just love Basketball-Reference.com?)

So the two players will likely end up getting similar money for similar production in their first big NBA contracts, but Wizards fans should hope that's where the parallells end.

While McGrady made seven-straight All-Star appearances, his career was derailed by major injuries and postseason futility. T-Mac never advanced past the second round of the playoffs until signing with San Antonio at the start of their 2012 Finals run. 

Womp womp. 

Future Maryland guard gets Team USA training camp invite

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Future Maryland guard gets Team USA training camp invite

Future Maryland guard Kevin Huerter has been invited to attend the Team USA U18 training camp in Colorado Springs from June 14-18, the organization announced in a press release on Wednesday. 

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon is an assistant on the Team USA staff, along with Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie. Texas head coach Shaka Smart will be the team's head coach.

Huerter, a 6-5 guard from upstate New York, is rated as the 59th-best player in the class of 2016 by Rivals.com. He has signed his letter of intent to play at Maryland.

He figures to be part of the backcourt rotation in 2016-17 for Maryland that also includes Jaylen Brantley, Anthony Cowan, and Dion Wiley. Guard Melo Trimble has still yet to announce whether he will return to Maryland for his junior season. The deadline to withdraw and return to school is Wednesday.

Watch highlights of Huerter below.

Kirk Cousins is comfortable taking 'ownership' of Redskins' offense now

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Kirk Cousins is comfortable taking 'ownership' of Redskins' offense now

A year ago at this time, Robert Griffin III was the Redskins’ starting quarterback and Kirk Cousins was an afterthought, relagated to taking second and even third team reps.

Now, Cousins is The Man in Ashburn. And it’s changed everything, especially how he leads in the huddle, team meetings and the locker room.    

“Well, you have permission now to take ownership,” Cousins said Wednesday after the second of 10 OTAs practices at Redskins Park. “As a backup or as a guy competing for the spot, it doesn’t get received really well when you start to try to take ownership. It looks like you’re trying to jockey for the position and be one of those guys. You just try to handle it the right way.”

Last offseason, Griffin received all of the first team reps throughout the spring and summer, while Cousins and Colt McCoy split the second and third team snaps. In fact, Jay Gruden didn’t hand Cousins the keys until late August. 

This offseason, it's all different. Griffin is gone and Cousins is coming off a record-breaking season. And, if Cousins doesn’t sign a long-term deal in the coming weeks, he'll play for almost $20 million in 2016. Either way, Cousins is expected to be the highest paid player on the team...in addition to being the most important player on the team.

“Now as the starter, you really can take ownership,” Cousins continued. “And it feels like it did back in college when you were the starting quarterback and you had the chance to really assert yourself.”

Cousins added: “I enjoy being able to do that, and I think it helps me as a quarterback to have ownership because at the end of the day, I’m the one holding the football in my hands.”