From Comcast SportsNetLONDON (AP) -- The Miracle of Medinah.One of sport's greatest comebacks was celebrated across the continent with those words Monday after Europe's historic and emotional victory over the United States in the Ryder Cup.Nowhere was the win more special than in Spain, the home of European captain Jose Maria Olazabal and the inspirational late Ryder Cup stalwart Seve Ballesteros."This one is for you, Seve," ran the front-page headline of Spanish sports daily Marca, echoing the thoughts of Olazabal and all of Europe's players who overcame a 10-4 deficit late Saturday afternoon to win 14 12-13 12 in Medinah, Ill.Ballesteros, who died from a brain tumor in May 2011, was everywhere Sunday. His image adorned European bags and shirts, his name was sung by Europe's fans well into the night and his spirit was invoked by players wearing the navy trousers and white polo shirt that were the Spaniard's trademark.His name was on everyone's lips Monday, too."What happened yesterday went beyond sports -- what that group of individuals achieved was incredibly difficult," Ivan Ballesteros, Seve's nephew and vice president of the Seve Ballesteros foundation, told The Associated Press by telephone. "We want to thank Jose Maria for remembering Seve not just throughout the week but for always keeping his memory alive."Ballesteros' family kept it simple on their official website with the message: "Thanks Europe, Thanks Jose Maria."The British media, already spoiled by an unprecedented summer of sporting success this year that included the London Olympics, added another memorable triumph to the list."After London 2012, Bradley Wiggins, Andy Murray and the rest, we were due an anti-climax. But this sporting year is incapable of dullness, one-sidedness, hollow drama," the Daily Telegraph said.Britain had heroes everywhere -- from Luke Donald beating Bubba Watson in the opening singles to the tight victories secured by Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.Justin Rose beat Phil Mickelson with a birdie at the 17th that was perhaps the key turning point Sunday. And then there was Ian Poulter, who started Europe's charge by making five straight birdies in the final match of Saturday's fourballs to take a crucial point and leave the score at 10-6 going into the final day."I'm officially taking two years off and I'll see you at the next one," said Poulter, who won a match-high four points and was labeled the "modern-day Seve" by McIlroy.It was a German, Martin Kaymer, who rolled in a putt on the 18th hole to beat Steve Stricker on Sunday and ensure that Europe retained the cup."I never had such a feeling before," Kaymer said. "I'll never forget it and I'll be telling my grandchildren about it."Pictures of the German celebrating his putt -- pumping both fists -- were splashed across newspaper front pages."Wunderbar," blared the headline in Britain's Daily Express.With a nod to Europe's economic troubles, the Irish Times said: "Martin Kaymer, a cool German, gave Europe a massive bailout that contributed to the most unlikeliest comeback in Ryder Cup history."Twitter was awash with Ryder reaction from sports personalities past and present who stayed up late to cheer on Europe from afar."The victory was epic!" Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, a keen golfer, tweeted.Paul Casey, an English golfer who played in three Ryder Cups from 2004-08, added: "Woke up this morning and it wasn't a dream. The most amazing Ryder Cup ever! Well done lads, especially JMO."Four-time Olympic rowing gold medalist Matthew Pinsent of Britain offered his own take."Ironic that in the cold light of morning the US played better in the team formats than we did and EUR were great individually,'" Pinsent tweeted.Belgium -- hardly a golfing stronghold -- reveled in having one of its own in the winning lineup. Nicolas Colsaerts was a virtual unknown in Belgium a few months ago, but Europe's biggest hitter graced the front pages of two of the country's main newspapers Monday after making a memorable debut that included beating Tiger Woods in Friday's fourballs."After beating Tiger Woods on Friday, Colsaerts could celebrate again last night," boasted Belgium's Het Laatste Nieuws.The 2012 match, though, will forever be remembered as the one where Europe did Seve proud.Olazabal failed to fight back the tears Sunday as he dedicated victory to his close friend and playing partner at the closing ceremony. On Monday morning, "Ollie" surfaced with bags under his eyes, clutching the cup."If someone had to write a script for it, that would be the ideal one," Olazabal said. "For that to happen, Seve had to have something to do with it."
The last calendar year has produced a lot of change for Wizards guard Trey Burke and even more could be in store this summer with the potential of his first free agency as an NBA player. Part of the change Burke has already endured has been good. Part of it has been what few professional athletes would welcome: a significant decrease in playing time.
After winning the Naismith Award as the country's best college player at the University of Michigan, and after leading them to a spot in the NCAA championship game, Burke was the ninth overall pick in 2013. Now four years after being drafted by the Utah Jazz, Burke is a role player for the Wizards, earning 12.6 minutes per game. Once the star, he is now the backup, a complementary piece.
All of that is a lot to process and there are several ways of looking at it. Burke chooses to focus on the positives and take a glass half-full perspective.
"We’re in a really good position right now as far as playoff standings. I feel like me never being in the playoffs, that’s a stage that I’m looking forward to," Burke said.
Burke is aware of his contract status, of course. But playing on a winning team has helped keep his mind off of what lies ahead. The Jazz fell short of the playoffs in each of the three seasons he spent there. This is new territory for Burke and he is excited about it.
"I try not to consciously think of [my contract]," Burke said. "Obviously, it’s hard to but just going throughout the season, it’s good to be on a winning team. It’s good to be on a team that is going to give me a chance to play come April. That’s all you can ask for, really."
It wasn't easy, nor was it immediate that Burke took this approach. He was dealt to the Wizards on July 7, 2016 for a 2021 second round pick. Getting traded out of Utah was not necessarily the worst thing, as he was given a fresh start elsewhere. But that fresh start happened to be in a place where one of the NBA's best point guards calls home.
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The Wizards have John Wall, who just made his fourth consecutive All-Star game. If playing time was Burke's priority, this wasn't the place he would find it.
"It was a little process [coming to terms with the trade]. When I got traded, I did want to play right away," Burke explained. "But this league is a business and you learn the politics side and the business side when you go through something like that. For me, I had to be patient to get into a situation and get an opportunity where I was going to be able to show who I really was. Here, I’m still obviously getting limited minutes, but when I’m out there I think I’m producing at a pretty good level. I’m just helping this team win when those guys go out of the game. That’s how I look at it, man."
Burke, it turns out, has formed a productive relationship with Wall. Not only do they get along off the court, with Wall referring to Burke as his "little brother," but Burke has embraced playing behind a superstar at his position.
"It’s been great. With me being in a contract year, as a player you can either pout about not getting the type of minutes you want, or you can look at it as an opportunity. You’re playing behind one of the best point guards in the world right now. You get an opportunity to see how he approaches the game each and every day. For me, that’s how I look at it," Burke said.
"I take this year as a learning year for me. I don’t want to look at it in the aspect of I’m not getting the minutes I want to get. The opportunity is going to present itself. I’ve just gotta be prepared, be willing and able to watch him every day and see what he’s doing out there on the court and see the game from a different perspective. I think that’s what I’ve been doing."
Burke is still a young player himself. At 24, he's closer in age to the rookies than some of the veterans. Of the rookies, Tomas Satoransky is older than Burke and Sheldon McClellan is just a month younger.
Though he's 24, Burke has already seen the expectations for his career adjusted. When he entered the league as a lottery pick, big things were predicted for him. Now he's focused on finding longevity in what is arguably the most exclusive league in professional sports. There are just 450 roster spots in the NBA, compared to 690 in the NHL, 750 in MLB and 1,696 in the NFL.
Burke wants to have one for himself for as long as he can.
"I know that I plan on having a long career in this league," he said.
"Trey’s 24 years old," head coach Scott Brooks said. "He has a lot to learn and he still has years to get better. You have to have that mentality. If you don’t, you’re going to be out of the league pretty quick. He has a lot of basketball in him and he’s still in a stage of his career where he should get better. The minutes are not ever going to be high volume minutes here because the guy in front of him is really good, but his minutes are important. He has to continue to challenge himself to be a good player when he gets those six or seven minutes when he’s on the floor."
There will be plenty of time for Burke to ponder his future. For now, he's happy to be along for the ride with the Wizards, who at the All-Star break are on pace to have their best season as a franchise since 1978-79. This level of winning is new for the Wizards and it's new for Burke, too.
"I just had to be patient to get an opportunity where the fun was back into it. I think here in Washington, that’s what it’s feeling like. We’re all having fun on and off the court. Everybody is happy when you win," he said.
Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2017.
Starters: Duke Ihenacho, Will Blackmon
Backups: Deshazor Everett, Josh Evans
Injured/Reserve/Waived: Donte Whitner, DeAngelo Hall, David Bruton
Free Agents: Duke Ihenacho, Whitner
Rewind: The Redskins tried to get by in 2016 without a serious investment in the safety position. In August the plan was for Washington to start DeAngelo Hall and David Bruton at the safety spots. Hall suffered an injury in Week 3, Bruton in Week 4, and neither player would return.
Bruton's play was never starter level, and his replacement for many snaps came in the form of Donte Whitner. Once a great player, Whitner was past his prime, and though he got a ton of action for the 'Skins, was often a liability. Ihenacho missed tackles, but curiously got fewer snaps than Whitner. Deshazor Everett flashed in his few opportunities with the defense, but also rarely got snaps. Blackmon made some plays and gave some up, but fought injuries and was converting to the saftey position from corner for the first time in his 10-year career.
Fast forward: One big piece of the safety puzzle should come with Su'a Cravens' move from linebacker to safety. A physical, intelligent player, as a rookie Cravens proved a nose for the ball and a sure tackler. He will help the 'Skins in the back of the defense. What player lines up next to him will be a major question. Cravens does not have elite speed, and Washington will need to pair him with a safety that can handle deep middle coverage.
It's very hard to see Bruton or Whitner back on the roster in 2017, and Ihenacho seems like a long shot as well. After dealing with injuries for multiple seasons, Hall will need to rework his deal to stay with the 'Skins, something the veteran admitted in his locker clean out interview with the media.
Blackmon has another year left on his deal, and is a versatile option for the 'Skins defense. His natural position, however, is corner, and the 'Skins should effort to get Blackmon back on the outside of their defense. Everett deserved to play more than Whitner late in 2016, but didn't, which creates questions. Everett should at least get a chance to compete for more playing time in 2017. There is also speculation that Bashaud Breeland could transition to safety, but that seems far fetched.
It's important the Redskins look to bolster the safety position this offseason, be it in free agency or the draft. After the defensive line, safety may be the greatest position of need for Washington. Cravens has all the tools to be great, but he still is a young player with zero NFL experience in the secondary. Scot McCloughan should take steps to cement a solid player next to Cravens, as well as more depth at the position to sustain injuries, like what happened in 2016.