In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

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AP

In retirement, Andre Ward will have days when he desperately wants back in

Andre Ward finally did what he said he would do – retire before the sport of boxing retired him.

Now we’ll see if boxing intends to leave him be.

Ward announced his retirement via Twitter Thursday morning, seemingly ending the career of one of the world’s greatest fighters in the elusive pound-for-pound category. He now plans to get into media, which is a battle of its own (ask Teddy Atlas when he talks with Stephen A. Smith how rewarding that can be).

But there’s that word “seemingly.” Boxers have a greater incidence of unretirement than any other sport because they miss what they do, they are typically surrounded by people who like the paydays the boxer’s fights provide, the unpaid tax debts some incur never go away, and sometimes they just don’t have anything better to do.

And then one day they find out they can’t do anything at all because of the punishments that come with violent sport, and then they become either tragedies or cautionary tales. Almost nobody gets to 95 like Jake LaMotta did.

Ward has said repeatedly that would never happen to him, that he was in control of his destiny and would remain so. And you want to believe him, because he would be that rarest of boxing stories – the unmitigated success.

It will be his toughest fight, however, far tougher than Sergei Kovalev. Boxing has this weird thrall upon its practitioners that can prove irresistible, if not outright necessary, and Ward will have to train as hard to repel its call as he did when he was neck-deep in it. It will not be easy, and he will have days when he desperately wants back in.

But retired fighters typically make poor unretired fighters, and the more one unretires, the worse the future becomes. So Andre Ward has to win this one more than any other fight.

And maybe it will be an easy victory for him – but it is a victory that will have to be achieved every day, almost like fighting alcoholism. Boxing is bad for you, and though it has been good for Andre Ward (as far as anyone knows), being an ex-boxer will be even better. He has done what needs to be done, and now he needs to do something else, one that doesn’t require putting his body and brain at risk for our amusement.

If this can be done, Andre Ward can achieve it. But neither he nor anyone else should think it will be any easier than understanding an Adalaide Byrd scorecard. Post-boxing will be difficult and rewarding business. All he has to do is master it every day for the rest of his life.

How to free agent: Iguodala played Rockets, market like a fiddle this offseason

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USATSI

How to free agent: Iguodala played Rockets, market like a fiddle this offseason

Andre Iguodala was very nearly an ex-Warrior, which we suspected at the time and had reaffirmed by ESPN’s Chris Haynes.

He was reportedly very close to joining the Rockets after "the best recruiting presentation of all time" from GM Daryl Morey that included a plan to beat the Warriors and highlighted how much more money Iguodala would take home, after taxes and cost of living, in Texas. Houston thought they had him.
 
But the fascinating lesson in all the twists and turns of his free agency/hunt for maximum value is how rare situations like his actually are.
 
He took control of his negotiations, something most players don’t (or feel they can’t) do. He was working with the casino’s money in that he had several teams that wanted him, rather than the other way around. He was negotiating with people who had targeted pitches from which he could make easy and educated choices.
 
It was free agency in heaven. Most aren’t that good.
 
Then again, most players aren’t Andre Iguodala, whose comfort in his own skin, both as a player and otherwise, gives him an advantage most athletes don’t have. They live in an uncertain world, where one is always an ACL, a bad personal choice, a foolish decision or just plain bad luck away from the street.
 
In other words, free agency would work for him because he had developed the tools to make it work for him.
 
But it also serves as a healthy reminder for the Warriors’ brain trust that they are not the be-all and end-all that so many of their acolytes think they are. They may already know that – one suspects they do – but knowing how close they came to losing one of their own, one they wanted desperately to keep, is a good post-it note with the legend, “Not everybody loves you unconditionally all the time. Not even you.”
 
In short, while they lucked their way into Nirvana (nobody could have figured Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green would grow as they have), they had to work hard to polish it (Kevin Durant) and even harder to maintain it (Iguodala).
 
So the lesson is this: Dynasties are hard to make, even harder to maintain, and they don’t even have one yet.

Expect Raiders-to-Vegas to hit snags, not roadblocks

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AP

Expect Raiders-to-Vegas to hit snags, not roadblocks

There have been whispers at the edges of the Oakland Raiders-to-Las Vegas deal that kinks are beginning to show in the ongoing negotiations between the team and the city and state.
 
Kinks, though. Not insurmountable problems.
 
Rumors in both Oakland and Las Vegas that the Raiders have been examining the possibility of extending their temporary lease with the Coliseum to include the years 2020, 2021 and 2022 have picked up steam in the last several days, but the issues that have caused this impetus are described by sources at both ends of the deal as “not yet large enough to cause a real problem.”
 
As one source said, “The casinos want this (Raider deal to get done), and the casinos get what they want.”
 
The main sticking point is negotiations between team, the city, the state and the University of Nevada Las Vegas, which just hired a new athletic director, Desiree Reed-Francois, who is an expert on facilities use and once worked for the Raiders and the NFL Management Council as a legal assistant. She has been adamant about issues of stadium use (the Raiders and Rebels are to share the stadium), and the Raiders apparently have been playing standard NFL hardball on their part.
 
One source said that may not be the only issue involved, but that it is a considerable one – considerable that is, if you list the issues at hand. “Everyone wants the deal done, but they don’t want UNLV to get muscled too badly,” he said.
 
But the issue is enough that the Raisders have inquired about 2020-2, and Scott McKibben, the executive director of the Oakland stadium authority, told the Las Vegas Sun last week that he would be willing to negotiate a lease extension “for 2019 and beyond, if necessary.”
 
McKibben told the newspaper that the city currently loses money when the Raiders play at home, and would want changes in the current lease provisions for negotiations on an extension to proceed. Talks have not yet progressed because construction on the Las Vegas site have not yet begun.
 
The reason given by most experts as to why the stadium has not yet begun its construction phase is that any work done before there is an agreement would happen on the Raiders’ dime, not the city’s or state’s, and any potential liability would be the team’s to assume as well.

Thus, according to sources, the Raiders are talking about a lease extension in Oakland as a leverage play against Las Vegas.
 
Thus, we have your standard game of multi-headed chicken being played out in two states by two cities and two athletic organizations that have stalled the team’s expected relocation, at least a bit.
 
But, as that source said at the top of this piece, “The casinos want this,” and in Las Vegas, the house always wins. It’s just one more Raideresque complication in a litany of them.