Commissioner Silver backs Kanter's decision to skip London trip

LONDON (AP)  — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the safety and security of players will always be paramount for the league after New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel to London for his team’s game against the Washington Wizards.

Kanter said he feared he could be attacked or killed over his opposition to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he were to travel to London. Istanbul-based newspaper Daily Sabah reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter by Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday.

Silver, speaking ahead of Thursday’s game, says “it was never a suggestion from the league that (Kanter) was not welcome on this trip.”

“There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver says.

Kanter,

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Analyzing the cap implications of the Steelers potentially signing Ryan Shazier

Ryan Shazier will technically become a free agent this offseason, but the team can keep him on board without breaking the bank.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to pick up Ryan Shazier’s 5th year option, they thought they were locking up one of the most talented inside linebackers in the game before he would be eligible to hit free agency. What they didn’t know was that 5th year option would be viewed as a Godsend for Shazier after he was left motionless from the waist down at Paul Brown Stadium in December of 2017.

Shazier got his money, as 5th year options are guaranteed in the case of injury, and the Steelers even gave it to him in one lump sum. This gave Shazier, and his family, his yearly salary up front, to possibly help pay for any additional services necessary for his rehabilitation, but also could have helped the Steelers from a salary cap standpoint moving into 2019.

It was no shock when Art Rooney II took to multiple platforms Wednesday to talk about how the Steelers will try to work out a deal with Shazier, who becomes a free agent this offseason, so he can remain with the organization and continue his rehabilitation.

But at what cost to the team’s salary cap? I know, it sounds horrible, but the Steelers are a business and every dollar needs to be accounted for when it comes to the salary cap. According to Ian Whetstone, who contributes to SteelCityInsider and is a genius when it comes to the NFL Salary Cap, his best assumption is the team won’t owe Shazier that much to keep him in the fold.

What about the team deferring all Shazier’s money to him early last season? Did that have any significance? According to Whetstone it did.

The good news here is if these numbers are accurate, it would be very reasonable for the Steelers to give Shazier a one year contract, paying him the league minimum, and allowing him to continue to train and rehab his injury.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the rigors of the 2019 offseason.

Thunder's Noel available to play tonight vs. Lakers

* Tonight on TNT:  Lakers vs. Thunder, 10:30 ET

Oklahoma City Thunder center Nerlens Noel, who suffered a concussion roughly a week ago, has cleared the NBA’s concussion protocol and is available to play tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Word from game day shootaround. Nerlens Noel is available to play tonight vs Lakers.

— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 17, 2019

Thunder says Nerlens Noel has passed concussion protocol and is available tonight against the Lakers.

— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) January 17, 2019

Nerlens Noel has passed all concussion tests and is available tonight against the Lakers.

— Royce Young (@royceyoung) January 17, 2019

Nerlens Noel has passed the concussion protocol and is available tonight against the Lakers.

— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) January 17, 2019

Noel suffered his injury last Tuesday in the Thunder’s 119-117 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

Tests last Wednesday showed Noel

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T.J. Watt is headed to the Pro Bowl in place of Jadeveon Clowney

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have another player participating in the annual All-Star game next weekend.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a very talented roster, and for the second straight year they will be sending a handful of players to participate in the Pro Bowl. This year, they have had two players added to the roster as injury replacements.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is ironically replacing Antonio Brown after Brown claimed an injury would keep him out of the game. And now outside linebacker T.J. Watt is headed to Orlando in place of Jadeveon Clowney of the Houston Texans took himself out of the All-Star game due to injury purposes.

It isn’t as if Watt didn’t have the numbers to get himself to the Pro Bowl anyway. He had a career year in both sacks (13), tackles (68) and forced fumbles (6).

This isn’t the first honor Watt has received this season, as he was also named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in Weeks 1 and 5 of the 2018 season.

Watt will join Cameron Heyward, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner and Alejandro Villanueva as the Steelers’ representatives during the Pro Bowl.

The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 27 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

Getting the low down from Art Rooney II’s year-end Steelers interview

Antinio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Ryan Shazier, and playing in Mexico were all points of discussion.

Art Rooney II made his end-of-the-year press interviews on Wednesday, first with a small group of reporters and then on the Steelers Live show on Steelers.com. Thanks to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Steeler fans were given some insight as to the private interview. Some of the topics discussed in either instance were the following:

On evaluating the 2018 season, especially not making the playoffs:

“It was a tough way to end the season. It felt like we had a chance, and it really came down to just a few plays here and there in the season, literally at the end there. So it’s disappointing that we didn’t make it. It felt like we had a team, particularly the last three weeks of the season, playing well and playing some of the playoff teams and playing well against them. So it’s disappointing.”

“I think the two things that if I had to pick out a couple things that were a problem. One was a kicking game was below average and below where we expected in to be. And second is the minus turnover ratio. That’s always a problem. We can’t be on the wrong side of that.”

On how he would evaluate the players and the coaches:

“I think that when you don’t make the playoffs, nobody is absolved. You just have to say that the players coaches, staff, front office, everybody’s got to do a better job.”

“I think we have a core group of players that can get us back to where we want to be. I look forward to working on this off-season and trying to get the pieces back in place.”

On Mike Tomlin’s performance:

“I think everybody left room for improvement. When you don’t make the playoffs you look at everything and everyone. Coach (Tomlin) and I have talked about a number of different things. And Kevin (Colbert) the same way. So we have work to do.”

On the promotion of Shawn Sarrett:

“Shawn was probably going to get an opportunity eventually somewhere, and so we’re glad it’s here. He’s been mentoring with Munch for a number of years now. So he’s comfortable in the room and he knows the guys and the guys know him. So we think he’ll be able to step up and do the job.”

On an extension for Ben Roethlisberger:

“Ben had a strong year physically and mentally. I think he’s in a good place and, as you look around the league and see guys playing into their 40’s at the quarterback position, there’s no reason to think that Ben can’t be one of those guys.”

On the Antonio Brown situation:

“I would have liked to have been able to talk with him and understand a little better from his perspective what went on the last week of the season.”

On Ryan Shazier in 2019:

“We’re going to continue to work with him and figure out how that works.”

“He just continues to be an impressive young man who is making progress beyond what anyone predicted he would make. He was jogging in the workout room the other day, so I wouldn’t underestimate him.”

On Le’Veon Bell:

“We’ve got a decision to make, so we’ll probably have some discussions with his representative here in the next few weeks and kind of talk through that.”

On playing in Mexico:

“All I can tell you is we keep volunteering to make the trip and would love to go down there sometime. We have a great fan following down there in Mexico.”

On various other topics only answered in the private interview:

Hope is the last thing to die when you’re a Steelers fan

Even as the Steelers last realistic chance at a postseason berth was snuffed out in Baltimore, I still held out hope for a tie in Tennessee.

In fairness, hope is the last thing to die for a fan of any team, but since this is a Steelers site, I had to customize my title for clicks, baby!

Now that that’s out of the way, I thought it was fitting that the Steelers last bit of playoff hope was tied to, well, a tie between the Colts and Titans on Sunday Night Football in the final game of the regular season. It was fitting because a tie is how Pittsburgh began the 2018 campaign. It was a 21-21 come-from-ahead tie with the Browns in Cleveland on September 9, and I’ll be damned if that Week 1 mistake by the lake didn’t come home to roost on December 30.

There were the Steelers and their fans standing around at Heinz Field following an ugly 16-13 victory over the vacation-bound Bengals, hoping and praying for Cleveland to knock off the Ravens in-order to make the AFC North title, something that seemed like an inevitability just six weeks earlier, the ultimate fantasy brought to life.

This was Pittsburgh’s last realistic chance at the postseason, and after Baker Mayfield and Co. failed to come through in the final seconds at M&T Bank Stadium, everyone who either loved the Steelers and/or worked for them, walked away dejected, the stark reality of another year without a seventh Super Bowl parade at the end of the rainbow quickly sinking in.

But I’ll just bet there were at least a few folks (perhaps more than just a few), some Steelers employees, many more just plain old Steelers fan, who hadn’t quite given up on that one last possibility.

I’m talking about a tie between Indianapolis and Tennessee, a result that, thanks to, well, tiebreakers, would have allowed the Steelers to sneak into the dance as the AFC’s sixth seed.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly hadn’t quite given up hope. Even as I co-hosted my final regular season edition of the Hangover with Bryan Anthony Davis, I was keeping tabs on the score of the game. Even though I was sick as a dog and really couldn’t wait to go to bed after the show was over, I was keeping tabs on the score in Tennessee.

But how crazy was that to even think a tie was even possible? Yeah, sure, ties are more possible now than they’ve been since overtime became a reality in the mid-70’s (thank you, 10-minute overtime periods), but in a do-or-die situation, where the winner cashes in the final postseason ticket, how would either team even allow it to come down to that?

If I’m either team in that situation, and I know there’s only one avenue to the Promised Land, what do I care about taking risks? True, I don’t want to lose, but I also don’t want to walk away without winning. If the game is tied in the final seconds, I’m pulling out all the stops. Even if it leads to a loss, oh well, a tie wasn’t going to get me anywhere but home on my couch, anyway.

OK, now that I’ve cleared up just how unrealistic a tie truly was, I want to take you back to the morning of December 31, 2018. Was I thinking about some rockin’ New Year’s Eve party I would attend later that evening? Was I making a list of all of my New Year’s resolutions I would drop by January 15?

Neither.

I was thinking about the Colts and Titans game, and about how there was no way the Steelers could miss the postseason, especially with 2018 being the 10-year anniversary of the team’s Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in Tampa Bay.

Did the game end in a tie? Did the miracle happen?

When I checked my phone to see a final score of 33-17 (it didn’t matter who won or lost), I was even more dejected than when Mayfield’s fourth-down pass was intercepted by C.J. Mosley.

I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I held out hope for a tie. I can’t believe I was sad when I found it it wasn’t a tie.

That’s me, I’m a Steelers fan…a Steelers fan all the way to the bitter end.

Pistons' Griffin fined $15,000 for verbal abuse of game official

NEW YORK — Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin has been fined $15,000 for verbal abuse of a game official, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred at the conclusion of the Pistons’ 100-94 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday, Jan. 14 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

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Steelers sign safety Marcelis Branch to a reserve/future contract

The Steelers added another player to the roster on Wednesday with the signing of defensive back Marcelis Branch.

The Pittsburgh Steelers added yet another new name to the 2019 roster on Wednesday with the signing of safety Marcelis Branch to a reserve/future contract, according to the NFL’s transaction database. They first brought him in to Pittsburgh for a tryout just over a week ago.

Originally signed by the Atlanta Falcons and as undrafted free agent in 2017, Branch was released at the end of training camp before being re-signed to their practice squad. After rejoining the Falcons on a reserve/future contract in 2018, he was once again released at the end of preseason, but was unable to find a place on a practice squad last year.

As per DraftScout.com, Branch finished his career at Robert Morris University with 251 tackles, seven interceptions and 21 pass break ups. Named North Eastern Conference Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, Branch joined the team as a cornerback and moved to safety in his senior season.

Branch is the 16th player signed to a reserve/future contract by the Steelers so far this offseason.

5 Steelers To Watch: Way too early offseason edition

Pittsburgh Steelers K Chris Boswell

With the Steelers offseason happening a little earlier this year, I thought it would be timely to look at some players on the current roster and how their futures in the Steel City may pan out. This list isn’t all-inclusive when it comes to free agents: in fact, it’s quite the opposite! Below you’re going […]

5 Steelers To Watch: Way too early offseason edition appeared first on Steel City Underground.

Antonio Brown responds to criticism from Bruce Arians and Emmanuel Sanders via Twitter

With so many negative reports circulating about him in the media every day, it is a surprise that Antonio Brown was able to hold his tongue for so long.

It is starting to feel like Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown cannot get a day off from the media as of late, thanks in large part to a growing list of former team members more than willing to talk about him in the press. But given that none of theses names who have been adding their two cents over the past few weeks have spent any time in the Steelers locker room this season, it should comes as no surprise to learn that AB has had enough of their opinions.

In the light of the harsh criticism offered by former teammate Emmanuel Sanders over the weekend and the unflattering remarks from his former offensive coordinator on Tuesday, Brown took to Twitter on Wednesday to offer a response.

A comment that would not go unnoticed by Sanders.

Brown did not limit his responses to Sanders and Arians, picking out a number of random posts to answer, ones that gave him an opportunity to let everyone know he was paying close attention to all the negativity.

Until Brown finally delivers on his big interview, he will remain the villain for most fans, and even then it is unlikely he will change many minds. Sadly, after Art Rooney II had revealed earlier in the day that no one in the organization had yet heard from their troubled receiver, it would appear that time might be running out for AB to rebuild his relationship with senior management.