Venus, Kastles face Capitals in WTT Finals

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Venus, Kastles face Capitals in WTT Finals

Venus Williams isn't retiring anytime soon. She curtly addressed the issue in a pre-match interview, but cemented her staying power on the court versus the New York Sportimes in the World Team Tennis Eastern Conference finals.With the score tied at 14 all, heading into the last event, Williams proved why she was a master of her craft. After Ashley Harkleroad broke her to lead 1-0, Venus regained her focus and armed with her serve cruised through the next 5 games, leading the Kastles to a 19-15 victory.The victory allowed the Kastles to extend their win streak to 31 consecutive matches, clench the Eastern Conference title, but most importantly land a spot in the World Team Tennis finals. It marks the Kastles third trip to the finals in the past four years.Williams now has an opportunity to win one of the few titles that has eluded the star during her illustrious career.
On why the Kastles have been so successful, Venus simply said, "because we are the dream team!"While the Kastles were able to edge their rivals, the Sacramento Capitals could prove just as tough in the finals. Washington survived the Capitals in the regular season 21-19 and the Capitals are coming off a solid performance as they swept all 5 sets to beat the Orange County Breakers, 25-15 Friday night in the Western Conference finals.
The Caps will be without marque player Sam Querrey, who is representing the U.S. team in Davis Cup action, but will be joined by Coco Vandeweghe. Vandeweghe is starting to make some noise on the circuit having had a solid run in the Bank of the West Classic, eventually falling to Serena Williams in the finals; 7-5, 6-3. The Kastles are now one win away from completing a second consecutive 16-0 season, which would also draw them within one of the longest winning streak in major U.S. pro sports history. The Los Angeles Lakers won 33 straight NBA games in 1971-72.The Kastles will seek to add to their 2009 and 2011 WTT titles when they meet the Sacramento Capitals this afternoon at 3:30 pm live on NBC Sports Network.

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John Wall's new contract makes Wizards' future clear in terms of salaries and personnel

John Wall's new contract makes Wizards' future clear in terms of salaries and personnel

With a four-year extension that runs through the 2022-23 season, the Wizards and John Wall have hitched their wagons for the longhaul. Wall has committed to playing in Washington through his Age 32 season. Now that he is firmly in place, the Wizards' future in terms of salaries and personnel is quite clear.

Wall, who turns 27 in September, will be there through 2023. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, who each turned 24 last month, are under contract through 2020-21 with Porter's final season including a player option.

The Wizards have almost $100 million committed for that 2020-21 season, meaning they are tightly locked in with Wall, Beal and Porter leading the charge. Center Ian Mahinmi is the only other Wizards player with a contract beyond 2018-19.

Washington is in a good spot given Wall, Beal and Porter are all young and still improving. They will reach their ceiling as a trio at some point, but even after winning 49 games and their division this past season, it doesn't seem like they are there quite yet. All three could conceivably make another significant leap. If any combination of them do, the Wizards' will be sitting pretty.

[RELATED: NBA reacts to John Wall's new contract]

Wall is probably closer to reaching his peak than the other two given he is further along in his career and already a perennial All-Star and All-NBA selection. The question regarding him may be how his game will age over the course of this contract which now runs six more years.

Wall shared some insight into how he hopes his game develops over the next several years in an interview with NBATV during a Wizards' Summer League game. He mentioned improving his post-up game as a big guard and also his three-point shot. Wall pointed to Jason Kidd, who found new life later in his career as a consistent three-point shooter.

Following Kidd's lead is perfect for Wall. Kidd was a very similar point guard at Wall's age. At 6-4 and with incomparable speed, he overmatched many of his opponents with pure physical superiority. Like Wall, Kidd was a pass-first guard but could score plenty without being a major threat from three. 

[RELATED: Wall and Wizards' union is a display of commitment rarely seen]

But later in his career, Kidd developed an outside shot and it helped him play until he was 39. Kidd was still making All-Star teams as late as 36.

Wall just completed his Age 26 season and through seven years in the NBA he's shot 32.1 percent from three on 2.7 attempts per game. At the same age, Kidd had shot 32.7 percent from three on 3.2 attempts per game. That is almost identical.

Kidd actually didn't truly hit his stride from three until his mid-30s, once he wasn't the fastest anymore and he needed to expand his game. From age 34 through 39, Kidd shot 37.8 percent from beyond the arc including over 40 percent in 2008-09 and 2009-10 at 35- and 36-years-old, respectively.

By the time Kidd was done, he was one of the top three-point shooters of all-time. He currently ranks eighth in NBA history with 1,988 career threes.

We don't know exactly how Wall's game will progress over the next few years. What we do know is that it will be in Washington and with Beal and Porter as his running mates.

[RELATED: Wizards are building something special in Eastern Conference]

 

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Orioles can't keep up with Houston's offense

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Orioles can't keep up with Houston's offense

BALTIMORE -- The Houston Astros gasped, watched in dismay and jumped for joy in the span of a few minutes.

When the unusual sequence of events was complete, the American League's best ballclub was well on its way to another victory.

Marwin Gonzalez stepped in for injured Colin Moran and delivered a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the sixth inning to propel Houston past the Baltimore Orioles 8-4 on Saturday night.

Moran fouled a ball off his left eye and had difficulty standing before being carted from the field with a towel pressed against his bloody face.

"It was a pretty scary incident," manager A.J. Hinch said. "I go on the field and he's got blood on the face. Blood, it isn't generally seen in our sport."

Moran was taken to a hospital, where he was "evaluated for everything from a concussion to a fracture," Hinch said, adding that he expected the rookie to land on the disabled list.

After play resumed, Gonzalez ended a nine-pitch at-bat by driving a 2-2 offering from Darren O'Day (1-3) over the right-field wall and onto Eutaw Street. It was Houston's first pinch-hit homer of the season, and it capped a five-run uprising that wiped out Baltimore's 4-1 lead.

"The range of emotions goes to extreme thrill, for Marwin to come off the bench and work an at-bat," Hinch said.

As he headed to the plate, Gonzalez knew he had to turn his attention toward getting a hit off O'Day.

"That was a scary moment for us," Gonzalez said. "I just focused to have a good at-bat, but I got a homer and that was even better for the team."

O'Day also experienced an array of emotions -- from bad to worse.

"I've had good friends who've had accidents like that and never knew if they were going to play again or didn't get to play again, so I hope he's OK," the pitcher said. "But as a professional you've got to try and block that out."

Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel homered for the Astros, who will seek to complete a three-game sweep on Sunday. Houston has won eight straight over the Orioles spanning two seasons.

Astros right-hander Collin McHugh allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings in his season debut and Francis Martes (3-0) pitched 2 1/3 innings of hitless relief.

McHugh went 19-7 in 2015 and 13-10 last year before being diagnosed with right shoulder tendinitis at spring training. He was shut down after one inning in a rehab start for Triple-A Fresno on April 6, returned to the mound on June 30 and pitched in four games with Double-A Corpus Christi before being activated Saturday.

McHugh showed no ill effects from the layoff -- until the fifth inning. After issuing a leadoff walk to Seth Smith, he got two quick outs before it started to rain. An instant later, Adam Jones drove a 2-0 pitch into the left-field seats.

Manny Machado followed with a single and Jonathan Schoop chased McHugh with a shot that wasted no time clearing the left-field wall.

Gurriel shaved the margin with a two-run drive off Chris Tillman in the sixth, and Gonzalez completed the comeback.

"He fouled off some good pitches until he got a bad one," O'Day said.