Take two: Turnover-plagued Mystics readying for Shock

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Take two: Turnover-plagued Mystics readying for Shock

Losing the season opener at home is one thing.Losing because of a steady and at times voluminous amount of miscues is quite another for the retooled Washington Mystics.Really just silly turnovers. Not reading the defense, rushing with the basketball, not making good decisions, said Mystics coach Trudi Lacey, reflecting about what went wrong in game one of the 2012 season.In her dual role as general manager, Lacey overhauled the roster after a trying 6-28 campaign, adding seven new players.It could be a product of so many new faces, people coming late to or missing training camp. Doesnt really matter, said Lacey following Thursdays practice. Weve worked on that and hopefully we are able to read each other better and read defenses.All those mistakes led to being on the wrong end of a 29-8 first half run which put the Mystics into a 13-point halftime hole. A third quarter rally pulled them close. A fourth quarter fade did not.We werent jelling enough I think, said All-Star forward Crystal Langhorne, who led the Mystics with 16 points and eight rebounds against the Sky, but also committed four turnovers. There were a lot of turnovers; unforced, not knowing where people would be. We really cleaned that up this week, worked on our offense.Beyond their offensive miscues, the Mystics allowed the Sky to shoot 62.5 percent (5-of-8) from long range.I was disappointed in our 3-point field defense, Lacey said. We had gotten better in those areas during preseason and then in the first game we got away from that and it cost us.Last season injuries exposed an inexperienced roster that frequently wilted late in games so Lacey traded for and signed veteran players. That steady presence was lacking in the opener.Thats why I brought experienced players in, to avoid the mental mistakes and lack of focus, said a critiquing Lacey, before letting her usual optimistic demeanor seep out.
Saturday, I expect it to be so much better.Thats when the Mystics face the Tulsa Shock (0-2), owners of the WNBAs worst record last season. Thats also when guard Matee Ajavon returns to game action. Washingtons second leading scorer last season practiced fully this week after missing the opener and most of training camp with a sore knee. Shes back to 100 percent, Lacey said. She adds so much to us. She plays both sides of the ballShes a competitor. Its been really good to have her out there this week.Ajavon scored 21 points in Washingtons win over Tulsa last season. The teams split the two-game season series, winning on their respective home courts.Lacey would not commit to putting Ajavon immediately back in the starting lineup - newcomers Noelle Quinn and Natasha Lacy started in the backcourt against Chicago - but said the slashing scoring threat will definitely be on the floor, I can guarantee that.The latest game will also be the second of three straight home dates for the Mystics. With two more games at home, we really need to get our wins before we start going on the road next month, Langhorne said. After the homestand, the Mystics will play five of seven away from the Verizon Center.It may be only game two of the 34-game regular season, but that opening performance, the upcoming schedule and wanting to move on from last seasons woes makes Saturdays tilt no ordinary second game.Were looking at this like its a must win, Langhorne said.

Report: Under Armour inks UCLA to biggest apparel deal ever

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USA TODAY Sports

Report: Under Armour inks UCLA to biggest apparel deal ever

Under Armour has signed UCLA to the biggest-ever apparel deal in college sports history, locking the Bruins in across all sports for 15 years and $280 million, according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com.

The move expands the company's westward expansion, which includes the massively successful investment in Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry and a newly signed deal with California-Berkeley athletics.

From Rovell:

In January, Ohio State said its 15-year deal with Nike was worth $252 million. Texas signed a 15-year deal with Nike worth $250 million in October, and Michigan signed an 11-year deal, with a four-year option, that could be worth up to $173.8 million.

Maryland has been the flagship for Under Armour and is the alma mater of CEO Kevin Plank. Notre Dame is also among the schools recently signed to the brand.

AFC North: Veteran pass rusher Freeney reportedly to work out for Bengals

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AFC North: Veteran pass rusher Freeney reportedly to work out for Bengals

Veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney has been looking for a landing spot, and the Cincinnati Bengals could be it. The Bengals plan to work out Freeney this week, according to Coley Harvey of ESPN.com

Freeney turned 36 years old in February, but looked like he still had gas in his tank last season with the Cardinals. An October pickup, Freeney produced eight sacks and forced three fumbles in just 245 snaps, and helped the Cardinals reach the NFC championship game.

Consider that Freeney’s eight sacks last season were more than anyone on the Ravens had. Elvis Dumervil led the Ravens in 2015 with six sacks.

How well Freeney would fit with the Bengals, who play primarily a 4-3, could be an issue. But Freeney’s veteran leadership might be an asset to a Bengals team trying to end years of playoff frustration. The Bengals have made the playoffs five straight seasons, but have lost their playoff opener each of those times. Freeney won a Super Bowl with the Colts, and would like to play in another before he calls it quits.

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OTAs to-do list: How much work remains at safety?

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OTAs to-do list: How much work remains at safety?

Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin today, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.

Up today …

Safeties to-do list

Tandler: In many areas what needs to be accomplished during OTAs is somewhat subtle, a tweak here and there. But at safety there are two glaringly obvious things that need to be done at safety this spring.

One is to get DeAngelo Hall fully acclimated at free safety. Last year veteran made an in-season change from cornerback, the position he played for his first 11 NFL seasons, to safety. Now he is starting the offseason program at the still somewhat unfamiliar position. It’s no longer an experiment and he needs to master the nuances of safety starting today.

The other item here is to figure out who will start at strong safety and what roles the reserves will play. Duke Ihenacho won the job last year but he lasted only a few snaps into the season before a wrist injury ended his season. David Bruton was mostly a reserve in seven seasons in Denver but he signed here with assurances that he would get to compete for the starting job. And while rookie Su’a Cravens is starting out as an inside linebacker it’s only a few steps back from there to an in-the-box strong safety spot. It will be interesting to watch who gets how much action at the position as they begin to sort it out.

El-Bashir: One of the more scrutinized positions in the coming weeks figures to be the safety spot next to DeAngelo Hall, whom I suspect can be safely penciled in as one starter.

As for everyone else? We’ll get our first look at the pecking order tomorrow, when the Redskins open practice to reporters for the first time this spring.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for:

  • Is there a rotation opposite Hall? Or is someone (David Bruton, Duke Ihenacho or 'other') clearly working as a first-teamer?
  • How is Will Blackmon deployed? Listed as a corner last season, the veteran was signed to a two-year contract extension and is now listed as a safety.
  • Su’a Cravens worked with the inside linebackers during rookie minicamp. But he’s listed as a safety. Does he get some work as a defensive back?
  • And what about special teams standout Deshazor Everett? Like Blackmon, he's also moved from corner to safety. Where, and with whom, does he work?

My sense is that there’s a lot of work to be done at this position. We’ll get our first glimpse of exactly how much work remains tomorrow afternoon.