Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins Passes

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Former Philadelphia 76ers center Darryl Dawkins, whose flair on and off the court made him a star, died Thursday at age 58, according to multiple reports.

Dawkins, who went by many nicknames but is probably best known as Chocolate Thunder, played 15 seasons in the NBA, his first seven with the 76ers after going straight from high school to the league as the No. 5 overall pick in the draft.

The flamboyant center had a penchant for naming his vicious dunks, some of which were Rim Wrecker, Dunk You Very Much and Spine Chiller Supreme. In 1979, Dawkins shattered backboards in two separate games.

Dawkins helped the 76ers to the 1982 NBA Finals, which they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games. He was dealt to the New Jersey Nets before the following season, when the 76ers swept the Lakers in a rematch.

Dawkins went on to play for the Utah Jazz and the Detroit Pistons, whom he retired with after the 1988-89 season.

Serena Getting Ready for Historic Run

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Serena Williams could face Maria Sharapova for her second straight major semifinal as she seeks to complete the Grand Slam at the U.S. Open.

Thursday’s draw filled the top-ranked Williams’ quarter of the bracket with Americans, nine in all.

In the third round, Williams could face 29th-seeded Sloane Stephens, who beat her in the 2013 Australian Open and is coming off her first WTA title in Washington this month. Another up-and-coming U.S. player, 19th-seeded Madison Keys, could await in the fourth round.

And in the quarterfinals, one potential opponent is her sister, 23rd-seeded Venus Williams. Another possible quarterfinal foe is 12th-seeded Swiss teen Belinda Bencic, who recently upset Williams in Toronto en route to a breakthrough title.

Williams is seeking to complete the first Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988. She beat Sharapova in the semifinals of Wimbledon for her 17th straight victory over the Russian on the way to her second “Serena Slam” — four major championships in a row, but just not in the same year.

Second-seeded Simona Halep and fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who lost to Williams in last year’s U.S. Open final, are in the other half of the draw.

 

Wilson Speaks…….

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The Seattle Seahawks are more invested than ever in Russell Wilson, both offensively and financially, so it was no surprise when coach Pete Carroll expressed worry Monday when asked about the NFL’s stance regarding questionable hits on quarterbacks.

As for Wilson?

“Nah, I don’t have any concerns,” he told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.

Wilson even seemed perplexed by the debate rekindled Saturday when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs hit Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford low on a read-option play, something Wilson and the Seahawks use with devastating effect. Wilson’s 849 rushing yards in 2014 led all quarterbacks and were a major reason Seattle piled up 408 more yards on the ground than any other team.

“Honestly, you play football the way it’s supposed to be played,” added Wilson, who did not see Suggs go low on Bradford, a play that drew a penalty but should have been considered legal according to NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino. “I think that’s the way I look at it.”

Wilson, who signed a four-year contract extension worth nearly $88 million last month, excels at breaking off chunk runs while evading the full brunt of defenders’ tackles and often coasts out of bounds untouched.

But he is frequently exposed. Wilson, who has scored 11 career touchdowns on foot, has averaged more than 100 rushes per year in his three NFL seasons with a career-high 118 coming in 2014. And there is some angst in Seattle about how he could be affected by an unsettled offensive line that could have three players starting in new spots.

“You’re always worried about your franchise quarterback, right?” tight end Jimmy Graham, who cost the Seahawks Pro Bowl center Max Unger in a March trade, told USA TODAY Sports. “Especially when your franchise quarterback does some read-option stuff. But Russ is really smart with it and has a really good understanding of when to take chances and when not to.”

Still, Carroll said he would seek further clarification from Blandino and the league about what kind of leeway defensive players will be afforded.

“Yeah, I have seen a couple of them and really thought that they were worthy of being noted as penalty plays,” Carroll said. “Obviously we’re really tuned into that. We’re counting on the league to do a really good job of doing that well so we take care of the QBs. You can force this thing about they are a runner when they don’t have the ball in their hands and the ball is already handed off and gone. Guys need to make good decisions hopefully. So we’ll be very much a part of that discussion if things continue like it’s going, because it’s not right.

“We’re really tuned into that, so I’m anxious to see what comes up, because it certainly is not the way to want it to go. I would think, as we always err in the preseason to over-officiate, I think this is an area in particular that I’m sure we’ll hear something this week.”

And making a point of emphasis to the NFL probably can’t hurt, even for a player as generally savvy as Wilson is about self-preservation.

“Rightfully, Pete’s gonna defend his running quarterback,” former Seahawks quarterback Brock Huard, who now covers the team for ESPN Radio in Seattle, told USA TODAY Sports.

“All they’re gonna ask for is to hit (Wilson) above the waist. Don’t dive at the knees. If you want to hit me in the sternum or the chest plate when I hand off or I’m riding that mesh point a little bit longer and defenders have indecision, I think you’re OK with those hits. It’s the knockout shots below the waist – rolling into the knees and ankles – that I think any coach will rightfully defend.”

Seahawks (0-2) …but Looking Good

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Chiefs coach Andy Reid insists he has a handle on who will start along the offensive line when Kansas City opens the regular season, assuming a couple guys get healthy.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll? He remains decidedly noncommittal about his own.

Alex Smith threw for 81 yards and a touchdown behind a hodgepodge bunch of blockers — and also tossed an interception that was returned for a touchdown — as Kansas City beat Seattle 14-13 in their preseason game Friday night.

BOX SCORE: CHIEFS 14, SEAHAWKS 13

“You know what? For being a makeshift group, I thought they were OK,” Reid said of his line, which was missing left tackle Eric Fisher to an ankle injury and right guard Jeff Allen to a knee sprain. “They tightened up a little bit and got better.”

Meanwhile, the Seahawks turned over three of their five starters on the offensive line from their preseason loss to Denver, and the result was some patchy protection for Russell Wilson. He finished 9 of 15 for 78 yards, most of that coming on three completions to Jimmy Graham.

“We’ve got some stuff to clean up,” Carroll said.

The play of the game from Seattle’s perspective was Bobby Wagner’s interception, which he returned 25 yards for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 10-7 halftime lead.

“I just sat back and read his eyes,” said Wagner, who scored his first touchdown since he was a high school tight end. “I’ve never had a pick-six in my life. It felt amazing.”

Chase Daniel led the Chiefs (2-0) on an 86-yard go-ahead drive to open the second half, hitting tight end James O’Shaughnessy from 1 yard for the score. The backup QB has been sharp in two preseason games, throwing four TD passes without an interception.

R.J. Archer played better than he did last week for the Seahawks (0-2), who lost regular backup Tarvaris Jackson to a high ankle sprain in a loss to Denver. But Archer was unable to move his team into range of a winning field goal in the final minutes Friday night.

“I was pleased with the intensity of the running and the hitting across the board,” Carroll said. “A ton of good things happened. I can’t wait to see the films.”

Steve Sarkisian….. Big Issues in So. Cal

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If there’s one public event where the USC football coach needs to be at his most professional and inspirational, it is the annual preseason Trojans family banquet known as “Salute to Troy.”

Steve Sarkisian knew this, yet there he was Saturday night, apparently intoxicated, slurring his words, uttering an expletive and acting so unsteady that he left the stage before his remarks were complete.

On Sunday, an apology was issued by Sarkisian, and a public scolding was given by Athletic Director Pat Haden. But given the circumstances, are words enough?

Are the Trojans doing their rebuilt reputation a disservice by abiding yet another off-the-field humiliation? More important, are the Trojans doing Sarkisian a disservice by refusing to address what could be a bigger issue?

“I sincerely apologize to my players and staff and to our fans for my behavior and my inappropriate language at our kickoff event Saturday night,” Sarkisian said in a statement that did not mention the root of the problem.

The biggest issue here isn’t the curse word that Sarkisian used on stage — audible in a brief video clip — or that he apparently ripped several other schools by saying, “They all suck.” This sort of trash talking is easily forgiven when it comes from excited coaches during pep-rally style events; just ask UCLA’s Jim Mora.

The biggest issue is that Sarkisian made these statements while apparently impaired, even though this was one night when he absolutely had to know he would need his wits about him. The judgment here wasn’t just lacking, it was nonexistent, which should scare USC into wondering whether this issue could run far deeper than one night and a couple of cocktails.

“I met with Coach Sarkisian and I expressed my disappointment,” Haden said in a statement. “While details of our conversation will remain between us, I’m confident he heard my message loud and clear.”

The only message that rang loud and clear through the sports world Sunday was that USC might have a serious problem with its head football coach that might require more than a wrist slap. This would not be only for the Trojans’ benefit, but for Sarkisian’s sake as well.

What USC fans witnessed Saturday night, others say they have witnessed before. That smoke can no longer be ignored now that Sarkisian has publicly gone up in flames.

Evan Mathis Talking to Seahawks?

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ESPN’s Adam Schefter had previously reported on Thursday that  Evan Mathis may not keep the meeting because he had interest from other teams.

Mathis, who was released by the Eagles last month, has been connected to a few different teams in various rumors over the last few weeks. The New York Jets reached out to his agent in early August before deciding that his price point was too high, while the Dolphins were reportedly interested too, but only if his price came down.

Mathis is 33, but he is also arguably the best guard in football. Over the last four seasons, he ranked first in three of those years and second in the other (despite playing only nine games) among guards in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in both 2013 and 2014. He is particularly effective as a run-blocker, and he helped clear the way for LeSean McCoy and one of the NFL’s most effective running games over the last few years.

Seattle would make a nice fit for Mathis. Putting Mathis in front of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch would help clear the way for what has been one of the league’s best rushing attacks despite rather pedestrian blocking at times. The Seahawks also lost two of their best interior linemen this offseason. Guard James Carpenter signed with the Jets, while center Max Unger was included in the Jimmy Graham trade. The Seahawks’ offensive line looked like a mess in their preseason opener against the Denver Broncos, with Wilson getting strip-sacked by Von Miller on the second play from scrimmage as the most prominent example.

The fit here might come down to money. The Jets deemed Mathis too expensive for their tastes despite having just over $5.2 million in cap space with which to sign him. The Seahawks, per Spotrac, have slightly more than $5.3 million in cap space right now. Some of that needs to be saved for bonuses and incentives for players on the roster, and they also have star safety Kam Chancellor holding out for more money right now. Mathis supposedly wants a salary commensurate with the $5.1 million base pay he would have gotten from the Eagles this season, which makes sense for him but may not for his suitors.

 

Kam Chancellor’s Holdout

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 Looks like there is no end in place to Seattle Seahawks’ safety Kam Chancellor’s holdout. Kam Chancellor’s holdout won’t end unless the Seattle Seahawks address his contract concerns, his agent said Wednesday, August 19, per ESPN.

Just last week, a report from the NBC Sports’ ProFootballTalk suggested that safety Chancellor believed he would be paid accordingly based on his performance-level play as one of the top safeties in the National Football League (NFL).

Kam Chancellor’s agent, Alvin Keels addressed the situation:

“Nothing has changed. He will not report without his contract being addressed this season. The team and I have been in contact, but we haven’t been able to agree on any compromise.”

 

RGIII Hurt…Gruden to Blame?!

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There is nothing surprising about the conclusion of Robert Griffin III’s Thursday evening. As the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins lay in a concussed heap upon FedEx Field, you could feel the collective grimace of the fans who witnessed the hit live, the despair of those watching on television, and the hindsight of those on social media. Griffin getting violently hit in the backfield is nothing new to anyone in Washington. It’s been a staple in D.C. for four years. Griffin drops back to pass, his first option is gone, he scrambles, he gets hit, and you wait 2-8 seconds to see if he will get up.

Last night, he didn’t.

The question this morning is what was coach Jay Gruden thinking leaving Griffin in? Griffin dropped back eight times, hit six times, and sacked three times. How could Gruden not see it coming?

It’s a valid question, sure. But the fact of it is, whether Gruden kept his quarterback in or not, Griffin’s fate was inevitable. It might not have happened in a preseason game against the Lions. Instead, it could have been Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins and Ndamukong Suh, or Week 2 against the Rams, the beneficiaries of the three Redskins’ first round draft picks it took to bring Griffin to Washington.

Griffin was going to go down, it was just a matter of when.

There isn’t one singular cause for the pain of Griffin’s NFL career. Rather, it’s been a series of unfortunate, incompetent, and unlucky events that have lent themselves to his plight. There is his size and struggle to pass in the pocket. There is the Redskins offensive line, or lack thereof, which outside of Trent Williams has been virtually nonexistent these past four years. There is the coaching. First, Mike Shanahan and then Jay Gruden, who both at different times threw their quarterback under the bus to save themselves. At times, Griffin has been his own worst enemy. Like in the days leading up to Thursday’s game when Griffin proclaimed himself the best quarterback in the league.

When you start to add it all up, you realize it’s all bad because it never got the chance to be good. The truth is, Griffin didn’t go down Thursday night. He went down during Week 9 of 2012 and never got back up.

 

Schneider Top NFL GM

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Seahawks GM John Schneider owns a laundry list of accomplishments that have turned Seattle into one of the more dominant teams over the last three seasons. 

It’s no surprise then that Sporting News – in a ranking of all 32 GMs across the league – named Schneider the NFL’s top guy. 

Per David Steele of Sporting News: “Back-to-back Super Bowls, with one win, are too much to ignore. Schneider has done a lot in a short time to put the Seahawks among the elite, and he’s doing a lot to keep them there: he found a way to keep Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner in a place and has achieved the balance of maintaing the core and knowing who to replace, and when.”

Steele doesn’t even mention the draft maneuverings of finding talent in later rounds. Players such as Richard Sherman (5th round), Kam Chancellor (5th round), K.J. Wright (4th round) and Wilson (3rd round), among others, have all played significant roles for the club. Even guys who are no longer with the team such as Byron Maxwell (6th round) and Malcolm Smith (7th round) contributed to their Super Bowl win over the Broncos. 

What’s scary is the Seahawks are primed to be great for at least the next couple years, with much of their core locked up through the 2017 season. 

Schneider certainly deserves his fair share of praise and recognition.