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Former Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison Joins New England Patriots to Start Playoff Push

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In a somewhat of a surprising move, the defending champion New England Patriots have just acquired Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison after being waived by the team this past week. Although a surprise to some, Harrison sited the team’s commitment to it’s youth movement while baiting him along all season with promises of a secured role as the reason for his departure from the team. Playing sparingly for just under 30 snaps for the first 12 games of the season and recording only one sack for the season, his frustration was understandable.

“After the first week of the season, I said to them, it’s clear you want to play your younger guys and I understand, so why don’t you release me. You go on your way and I’ll go on mine. They said, ‘No, no, no, we got a role for you.” Harrison told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Ironically, the failure to appear in the Steelers week 14 loss to the New England Patriots was when Harrison felt enough was enough. “If I didn’t play in the biggest game of the year, that told me I wouldn’t get any more snaps. So all that lip service you gave me before didn’t matter.”

The thought of the defending champions adding a big name to their already talented roster could easily be looked at as the rich getting richer, but unfortunately the Patriots haven’t had any resemblance of consistency from some key defensive positions all season, so the move makes sense on their end. Players such as Cassius Marsh and Eric Lee were given ample opportunities all season long, but struggled, with the former being released and the latter experiencing severely reduced playing time. There were also several key names like Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard who were lost to free agency and Rob Ninkovich to retirement.

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Harrison during his peak years as a Steeler was a five time pro bowler and defensive player of the year.

With his brief retirement from football in 2014, the question of what Harrison has left should be raised. However, with the Patriots reputation of turning nothing into something, it wouldn’t be foolish either to think they could get the best of what’s left of the former defensive player of the year at age 39. In spite of all of the question the Patriots defense has faced all season, they are still sitting on a first round bye for this year’s playoffs as well as the record tying most 12 win seasons in NFL history, so Harrison won’t be too pressed to return to being “Deebo” on the field.

When asked about Harrison’s departure, former teammate Maurkice Pouncey told the Boston Herald “He erased his own legacy. If you didn’t want to be here, come out and say it. Don’t make it look like it’s the team’s fault. You think the team and the organization wanted to get rid of James Harrison? Come on.”

Admitting this move wasn’t the easiest choice to make, Harrison ultimately called this a business decision. “I made a decision on what was best for me.”.

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NBA G League Announces Player Salary Increase for Upcoming Season

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An official statement from the NBA G League came earlier Tuesday announcing an increase in base salaries from $26,000 to $35,000 and $77,250 from a previous $75,000 for players with a league based salary also known as a two-way contract. Additional money can also be earned by players through affiliate player bonuses and NBA call-ups in which an average player could be bringing in $85,000 and $385,000 for two-way contract players.

The NBA, who pays the G League salaries is experiencing some of the highest volumes of popularity it ever has, so naturally there would be a trickle down effect. Over the years the league has done it’s part in attempting to establish itself as a legit minor league system and grow its own brand whether it be through live game streams, or re-branding itself with Gatorade. Now with the increases in salary, the league is setting itself up to be on par with Europe to provide top high school talent with an alternative to the NCAA while providing a suitable income.

With 30% of NBA rosters containing G League players this season and the majority of the NBA teams having G League affiliates, there is a growing sense that its presence will only continue to grow. However there are still concerns that the average player still runs the risk of getting lost in the shuffle thinking back to the days of the G League when barely any call-ups were made. Ultimately the NBA’s willingness to help this league evolve into a growth and development “farm system” as opposed to a shelf for afterthoughts will be the deciding factor in their ability to draw emerging talent.

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Triple G Committed to May 5 Fight as Promoters Scramble to Finalize Details

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With the suspension of “Canelo” Alvarez by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for multiple failed drug tests in February, the team behind Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin is now making a concerted effort to make sure he will still be fighting on Cinco de Mayo. While the withdrawal of Alvarez is a letdown for the boxing world, Golovkin remains indifferent of the situation or who his potential next opponent will be.

“Now is my time. I’m ready to fight with anyone, we’ll see. I will be ready to fight on May 5 in Las Vegas,” Golovkin told ESPN Deportes. “Canelo withdrawal is not my problem, I’m ready to fight. I am a professional and I know how I should do things. It should not be a problem for me [to fight on May 5].”.

There still however remains concerns that the fight will even happen due to time to find a suitable opponent and to promote the event. Golovkin’s management seems to have already settled on moving the May 5th fight to the StubHub Center, nicknamed the “war grounds” in Carson, California which would be a far more intimate location in comparison to the MGM Grand Garden.

While the venue will play a big part in selling this fight, ultimately the obvious main draw would be the fighters. Boxing names such as Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan, Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Billy Joe Saunders have all been brought up, but no official decision has been made as of this moment.

“I’m not interested in fighting anyone else. Golovkin is the one I want. He keeps saying he wants to unify – well here I am and I’m ready to have it with him.” told Bad Left Hook.

Despite Saunders’ enthusiasm, O’Sullivan still seems to remain as the favorite to fight Golovkin, and Derevyanchenko is Golovkin’s International Boxing Federation mandatory opponent now that Alvarez has withdrawn.

Alvarez is set to meet with the Nevada Athletic Commission to hopefully get his suspension reduced to be able to face Golovkin later this year. Within the next week or so more concrete details of the uncertain Cinco de Mayo fight as well as the future of Alvarez-Golovkin should emerge.

 

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Villanova Takes Down Feisty Wolverines for Second Title in Three Years

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Closing out to yet another wild and unpredictable NCAA tournament, the Villanova Wildcats found themselves hoisting the championship trophy after a resounding 79-62 win over the Michigan Wolverines. The Wildcats joined some rare company after the win, being one of the few NCAA championship teams to win every game by double digits as well as one of the few two win multiple titles in a three-year span.

While the 17 point win would indicate Villanova more or less had their way, the Wolverines put up a good fight early on, holding the Wildcats to 1-9 shooting from three-point range and making timely buckets, specifically through big man Moritz Wagner. The turning point however came in the form of tonight’s most outstanding player, Donte DiVincenzo, who lifted his team with 31 points off the bench.

“Honestly I didn’t look at the score at all” DiVincenzo told ESPN. “I didn’t know how many points I had. I didn’t know any of that. I was just trying to make the right play. And Omari (Spellman) was setting unbelievable screens for me and getting me open. And I was just feeling it.”

Perhaps the loudest supporter of DiVincenzo tonight was national Player of the Year Jalen Brunson who only finished with just nine points, but in the fashion of a true leader, embraced what would benefit the whole as opposed to just himself.

“It just shows how much depth we have, and that we don’t care who gets the credit” said Brunson post game.

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Villanova guards Donte DiVincenzo (left) and Jalen Brunson (right) celebrating post game.

In a tournament filled with upsets, the Wildcats lived up to their ranking as a number one seed, showing their resiliency in every round, with every member of the team having a key role regardless of status. While the Wildcats year after year seem to always put competitive teams on the floor, it’s not until you start to pile up on titles that you begin to be talked about as an elite program, and the Villanova is definitely in that discussion now,

“When you come to Villanova,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright post game. “You come because you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”.

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