Why this is a 'critical' time for Drew Brees


Why this is a 'critical' time for Drew Brees

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Drew Brees wants a long-term extension with the Saints completed before the club's offseason training program begins in April. The quarterback also says he is concerned about how New Orleans is being portrayed in the wake of the NFL's bounty investigation The Saints' more pressing concern is not perception, but the reality that Brees may not practice or play under his current franchise tag designation. "I'd say that this is a very critical period here over the next short while until we start April 16th," Brees said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "What I'm really focused on is continuing to negotiate toward a long-term deal and I really am not going to look too far down the road other than just what's right in front of me. "I want to make sure that this is done the right way." In addition to his disappointment with the pace of contract talks with New Orleans, Brees discussed his concerns about the NFL's bounty investigation of the Saints. Brees said he has been on a "fact-finding mission" since the NFL released some of the findings of its bounty probe on March 2. The quarterback said he doesn't know all the fact about the bounty scandal. He said, however, he is under the impression some current and former defensive teammates are worried they'll be punished, and have their reputations tarnished, primarily because of bravado and tough talk that is not meant to be taken literally, but which is common in football locker rooms. "I feel like the perception might not match up with reality in this thing," Brees said. "I think the perception is that we have our entire team, our entire coaching staff, our entire organization involved in this bounty thing where we're actually going out with malicious intent to hurt people and end their careers, and that's so far from the truth. "I know the NFL staged a two-year long investigation and that they have documentation that proves certain things," Brees continued. "There are still some unanswered questions and things that we don't know, so it's hard to speculate. All I can do is speak on behalf of my teammates, knowing who they are and what they represent, and our organization, how we pride ourselves on professionalism and doing things the right way and treating people the right way." Brees said what bothers him most about the bounty probe is that the Saints are being portrayed as a bunch of "hit men." "That we're a bunch of guys out with malicious intent to seriously injure people and end guys' careers, that we take pride in that, that we compensate guys for that, we incentivize guys for that," Brees said. "That's really disheartening for me when I look at all that we've been able to accomplish over the last six years. ... It's somewhat of a black eye for the organization right now and I would just hope that people would reserve their judgment until all the facts come out, until the truth is known, instead of speculation." Since the Saints were eliminated by San Francisco in the divisional round of the 2011-12 NFL playoffs in January, Brees has been splitting most of his time between homes in San Diego and New Orleans with his two young sons and wife, Brittany, who is expecting a third boy in a little under five months. Brees spoke to the AP by phone from California. He is conducting interviews this week as part of his promotional work with Dick's Sporting Goods, which is offering the chance for a sweepstakes winner to go on a shopping spree with the quarterback. Although he hopes not to miss any work with the Saints, Brees made it clear that he is uncomfortable working under the franchise tag. He noted that the only time he has done so was his final season in San Diego, which ended with a career-threatening injury that left him with few suitors in free agency. The Saints were one of those suitors, and Brees said he intends to end his career in New Orleans, albeit under a contractual agreement that he sees fit. However, Brees declined to answer directly whether he would practice or play if a new extension is not complete by the time next season arrives. "I won't give an answer other than that was never my intent when I entered into these discussions with the Saints," Brees said. "It was to extend the deal and to sign long term and finish my career in New Orleans. ... That's what I'm working wholeheartedly toward and that's really all I can say." Brees is the reigning AP Offensive Player of the Year. In 2001, he set NFL single-season records with 468 completions, 5,476 yards passing and a completion percentage of 71.2. The quarterback is expected to receive a contract paying in the range of, if not more than, the 18 million-per-year deals that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning had signed in recent seasons. Manning, however, was released by Indianapolis after missing all of last season with a neck injury and is back on the free-agent market. When Brees eventually returns to the field, he'll rejoin one of his favorite targets, wide receiver Marques Colston. The Saints re-signed Colston to a five-year deal. But Brees will be without free agent All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, who signed with Tampa Bay. "That's tough. Tough to lose him, period -- even tougher to watch him go to a divisional opponent in Tampa," Brees said. "He's been a mainstay for four years on the offensive line, a huge part of that Super Bowl run and you're happy for a guy like that who's certainly worked hard. You hate to see him go, but that's the nature of our league and this business, and when you draft guys and they become great players, I guess it's impossible to keep them all." Brees added he is confident general manager Mickey Loomis, Saints scouts and coaches, who took a chance on Nicks in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, would find a way to make up for his departure. "We've been very competent at drafting. ... That's a big tribute to Mickey and the scouting department and coaching staff," Brees said. "We've done a great job of finding free agents to fill spots."

Walton wins debut as Lakers finish off Rockets


Walton wins debut as Lakers finish off Rockets


LOS ANGELES -- Jordan Clarkson scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers won coach Luke Walton's debut, holding off the Houston Rockets 120-114 on Wednesday night.

D'Angelo Russell scored 20 points and Julius Randle added 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the young Lakers, who got off to an exciting start in the franchise's first season without Kobe Bryant since 1995.

With a revamped roster coming off the worst season in the 16-time champion team's history, Los Angeles surged in the fourth quarter of an auspicious opener under Walton, the 36-year-old former Lakers forward.

James Harden had 34 points, a career-high 17 assists and eight rebounds for the Rockets, who lost in former Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's debut on the Houston bench.

The Lakers played an up-tempo, aggressive offensive game under Walton, and nobody seized the moment better than Clarkson, who came off the bench in his first game since signing a $50 million contract. His 3-pointer put the Lakers up 116-112 with 1:48 left, and the Lakers hung on while the Rockets missed a long series of open shots in the final minute.

Brandon Ingram scored nine points in the No. 2 pick's NBA debut for the Lakers. Timofey Mozgov had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Luol Deng had seven points in their Lakers debuts.

After matching the franchise record with 14 first-half assists, Harden tied his career high with his 16th early in the third quarter. The Los Angeles native managed only six points in the fourth quarter, going 1 for 5, and his teammates were a combined 5 for 16.


Hall of Famer Bill Walton proudly wore a purple Lakers T-shirt to his son's official coaching debut. Walton's mother and three brothers also attended the game. "The Walton force will be strong tonight," Luke said with a grin. "There's definitely nerves and excitement right now, but mostly there's no time to think about how incredible this is, and the opportunity. It's more focused on watching film and getting the prep work in for tonight's game."


The Lakers fired D'Antoni after he went 27-55 in 2013-14, the first of a franchise-record three straight non-playoff seasons. When D'Antoni was asked before the game about reflecting on his time in LA, the coach quickly quipped: "I try not to. ... No, I loved it. I actually did. Manhattan Beach is probably the greatest place to stay. Great friends. They treated me nice, (Lakers owner) Jim (Buss) and (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak). It just didn't fit. It just didn't work."


Rockets: Clint Capela, the 6-foot-9 Swiss forward, replaced Dwight Howard in the middle of the lineup.

Lakers: Metta World Peace began his 17th NBA season, picking up three fouls in his first two minutes while guarding Harden. ... Before the game, they solidified their young core by picking up their 2017-18 contract options on Russell, Randle and Larry Nance Jr. ... Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, director Peter Berg, YG, Kendall Jenner, Karlie Kloss, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attended the game.


Rockets: At Dallas on Friday in the opener of a home-and-home series.

Lakers: Open a four-game road trip at Utah on Friday.

Instant Replay: Cousins, Kings cruise in opener vs Suns

Instant Replay: Cousins, Kings cruise in opener vs Suns


The Sacramento Kings rolled into Phoenix’s Talking Stick Resort Arena and blew away the Suns on Wednesday night by a final of 113-94. The young upstart Suns tried to make a game out of it in the early fourth quarter, but Sacramento turned to their veterans who delivered down the stretch.

DeMarcus Cousins got into foul trouble early, but still found a way to drop in 24 points and grab six rebounds in 24 minutes manning the middle. Once he was in the flow of the defense, Cousins came to the aid of his teammates, stepping in and cutting off the baseline on multiple possessions.

Like Cousins, Rudy Gay didn’t look great early, but he still managed to score 22 points in the win. There was a sequence in the third quarter when Gay came alive on the defensive end, blocking back-to-back shots on the same defensive possession..

Starting for Darren Collison, Ty Lawson ran the offense better than expected, posting nine points, six rebounds and seven assists in 35 minutes of action.

Garrett Temple filled in as the reserve point guard spot and added 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

Matt Barnes provided a spark off the bench, tossing in 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

Eleven of 12 players that stepped on the floor for Sacramento scored and nine players players dropped in six points or more in the win.  

Eric Bledsoe had a nice night for the Suns, scoring 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting with five assists. T.J. Warren chipped in 14 points and five rebounds while playing solid defense on Gay early. Devin Booker added 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but he missed all three of his long range shots.  

STANDOUT PERFORMER -- Cousins couldn’t set the tempo early, but when he got it rolling in the third quarter, it was lights out for the Suns. There are plenty of nights that Cousins will be asked to do more, but with a big lead, the Kings didn’t need a typical showing from their All-Star center.

TURNING POINT -- Sacramento finished the first half on a 16-1 run and took a 57-38 lead into the intermission. The Suns kept it within 20 for most of the night and even made a run at the end of third, but the game was decided in the few minutes leading to the intermission.

INJURY UPDATE -- Sacramento enters the season with a full roster of healthy bodies. Matt Barnes struggled with a rib injury during camp, but played a big 27 minutes for the Kings  in the opener.

WHAT'S NEXT -- The Kings return home from Phoenix following the game where the the San Antonio Spurs are waiting for them. Thursday night’s home opener marks the first official game in the new Golden 1 Center as the Kings look to improve to 2-0 on the season.