What’s next for Lakers after Anthony Davis trade? Top free agents to target

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SportsPulse: It’s the trade we’ve all been waiting for and one that will shape this offseason and the NBA landscape for years to come. It also makes the Lakers an instant contender in the West.
USA TODAY

With soon-to-be free agents Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson more than likely out of the picture next season after suffering injuries in the NBA Finals, the Western Conference door is wide open.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers walked right through.

Superstar big man is Anthony Davis is headed to L.A. to join LeBron James, putting the Lakers, who have missed the postseason for a franchise record six consecutive seasons, on the path to title contention. But they’re not done yet.

They still have cap space to work with this summer, but the amount of money they can offer in a contract depends on the date that the Davis trade becomes official. There are a lot of moving parts and things can always change, but as of right now, it’s looking like the Lakers won’t have enough to offer a player a max contract. 

Will a player be willing to take less to suit up alongside two of the most talented players in the league? Or will the Lakers pursue less expensive free agents — guys like Danny Green, JJ Redick, Ricky Rubio or Bojan Bogdanovic — to build out the roster and help in the depth department? 

We take a look at the top free agents for the Lakers to target ahead of the start of free agency on June 30.

Kawhi Leonard, Toronto

A trio of Leonard (who’s arguably the best player in the world right now), James and Davis would be unprecedented, as it would put three of the league’s top-seven players on one team. The idea is one thing, but actually making it happen is another. Luring Leonard from Toronto — he just led the Raptors to the first championship in franchise history — or beating out the LA Clippers in their pursuit will be no easy task for the Lakers’ front office.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte

The Lakers need a point guard after trading away Lonzo Ball, and Walker, 29, is reported to be one of the team’s top targets. To make matters more interesting, he recently said he’d be open to taking less than a supermax contract to remain in Charlotte. Why take less money to stay on a team in limbo instead of a team on the verge of championship contention? The three-time All-Star has only seen the postseason twice — losing in the first round both times — during his eight-year career, and he’s coming off his best season yet. 

Kyrie Irving, Boston

Irving forced his way out of Cleveland after winning a championship alongside James, so would he really head to Laker Land to team up with him again? It’s certainly possible, and Irving admitting in January that he called James to apologize for how he acted as a younger player suggests that their relationship is just fine. Irving is also reportedly interested in playing in New York, and the Knicks and Nets are both possibilities. 

Jimmy Butler, Philadelphia

His recent history of locker-room issues aside, Butler remains one of the best two-way players in the league, and he’ll be pursued by many teams this summer — including the 76ers, who he helped lead to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Toronto. He may not be the best fit alongside James and Davis from a floor-spacing perspective, but the front office can always add more shooters. 

Tobias Harris, Philadelphia

The Lakers made it a priority to keep Kyle Kuzma in the Davis deal, and he and Harris have a similar playing style. Still, the 26-year-old Harris is coming off a career year, and he’s more than talented enough to be the third option on a championship contender. He averaged a career-high 20 points and 7.9 rebounds last season.

D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn

Another player coming off a career year, Russell emerged as one of the league’s best young point guards during his second season in Brooklyn. Russell, of course, was drafted No. 2 overall by the Lakers in 2015 and played there for two years before being dealt to the Nets. But that was an old regime, and if the Nets pursue Irving in free agency, that could leave Russell, a restricted free agent, looking for a new home. 

Khris Middleton, Milwaukee

A first-time All-Star this season, Middleton, 27, is a two-way talent worth pursuing. He’s long and can play multiple positions and score in a variety of ways, and he’s spent most of his career as a No. 2 option behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, proving that he has no problem playing second (or third) fiddle to a superstar. 

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Iran to surpass uranium stockpile limits within days: AEOI

Iran has said it will breach the internationally agreed limit of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium within days, ramping up the pressure on the remaining signatories to save the 2015 nuclear deal.

The spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi, said on Monday Iran would reach the allowed 300kg level of enriched uranium at levels mandated by the agreement with world powers on June 27.

“We will go further from that ceiling, not only that but we will also increase production drastically. After we pass the limit of 300kg the pace and the speed of enriched uranium production at the lower rate will also increase,” Kamalvandi said on Monday, speaking on television from Iran’s Arak nuclear plant.

Tehran said it would reduce compliance with some elements of the nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the deal. Under it, Iran had agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on May 8 the remaining signatories – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia – had 60 days to implement their promises to protect Iran’s oil and banking sectors from reimposed US sanctions.

Commenting on Monday’s announcement, Ali Fathollah Nejad from the Brookings Doha Center said “The aim is to increase the bargaining leverage and to put increasing pressure on Europe”.

“This is more symbolic than substantial because Iran is not going to commit any violation. They’re going to go as far as possible to the threshold but won’t break it because they’ll lose European support. And for now, this is not the Iranian strategy.”

‘There is still time’

Kamalvandi said they were still waiting for officials to tell them what the second phase of the strategy for reducing commitments to the JCPOA would be but said the deal could still be salvaged.

“There is still time … if European countries act,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said the atomic energy spokesman noted Iran had heard “good words” from Europe but had not seen any action.

“He’s very clear that if the Europeans don’t hold up their end of the deal within the coming weeks, the Iranians are in the position to increase their percentage. That is something that it will be up to the leaders of Iran to decide.”

Iran renews nuclear deal ultimatum at Tajikistan summit 2:14

Rouhani had said in May that Iran could resume high-level uranium enrichment if world powers did not uphold their part of the nuclear deal.

Tehran would increase uranium enrichment levels “based on the country’s needs,” Kamalvandi also said.

He said there were two scenarios. One would be to increase the enrichment up to five percent for the use in the Bushehr power plant, or to increase it up to 20 percent for a research reactor in Tehran.

Both levels would be above the 3.67 percent enrichment allowed under the nuclear deal, and put the country closer to being able to produce weapons-grade material.

The chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Nuclear Committee, Mojtaba Zonnour, said that Iran would quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) altogether if Europe’s JCPOA signatories fail to do their share of saving the agreement before the 60-day deadline, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday.

Iran says its decision to reduce commitments under the nuclear deal is within its rights under the 2015 agreement.

Gulf tensions

Responding to Monday’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Iran to be hit with sanctions if it violated the 2015 accord.

“Should Iran make good on its current threats and violate the nuclear agreement, the international community will need to immediately impose the sanctions regime that was agreed upon in advance, the ‘snapback sanctions’,” Netanyahu said.

Iran’s move comes amid rising tensions in the Gulf after a series of unexplained attacks on ships and infrastructure in the region, which the US has blamed on Iran or its proxies.

Two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last Thursday reported explosions on board that sparked fires with the crews abandoning the vessels. The US accused Iran of attacking the ships.

Tehran has vehemently denied the allegations and on Sunday Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, suggested the US may have staged the tanker attacks because of “the failure of its harsh sanctions” on Tehran, according to the official IRNA news agency.

The US military last week released a grainy video it said showed an Iranian boat removing an unexploded mine as part of its proof of Tehran’s involvement. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was other evidence beyond the video to show it was “unmistakable” that Iran was responsible for the suspected attacks.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Pompeo said Washington did not seek war with Tehran.

Saudi Arabia and Britain have backed the US claims.

European Union foreign ministers, meeting on Monday said they are still looking for more information on who might be behind the attacks, and called for restraint. 

The escalating tensions have caused a spike in oil prices and concerns of a conflict in the region.

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Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins shares unreleased photo he found ‘at the bottom of a box’

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A new documentary being released 50 years after the Apollo 11 mission shows it like you’ve never seen it before.
USA TODAY

Stunning photos from the Apollo 11 mission are still coming out almost 50 years after a person first walked on the moon. 

Michael Collins, who was the Command Module pilot during the historic flight, shared what he says is a previously unreleased photo of the three astronauts in the crew.

“The crew. Found this at the bottom of a box. Don’t think it was ever used by @NASA. #TBT @TheRealBuzz,” Collins tweeted Thursday with the “Throwback Thursday” hashtag. 

The photo shows Collins standing against a moon replica. Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong are photographed on the other side of the moon, with Armstrong’s hand on Aldrin’s shoulder.

Collins had also signed the photo at some point.

$50 million per seat: NASA wants to open International Space Station to private travelers as early as 2020

USA TODAY has reached out to NASA for comment on the photo.

The Orlando Sentinel, which is releasing a 50th anniversary commemorative book on the Apollo 11 mission full of photos from 1969, reported that its staff members didn’t recall ever seeing the photo after going through NASA’s and its archives for the book.

Collins, now 88, was part of the three-man Apollo 11 crew, which made the first manned lunar landing in July 1969. While Armstrong and Aldrin landed and walked on the moon’s surface, Collins stayed in lunar orbit.

Collins was also part of the Gemini 10 mission, which was his first spaceflight and spacewalk.

Forget about the moon: Donald Trump says NASA should focus on ‘much bigger things’ … like Mars

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter: @RyanW_Miller

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Candidate Pete Buttigieg: ‘almost certain’ that the United States has had gay presidents

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In an interview, Democratic Candidate, Pete Buttigieg, said that if he wins in 2020, he doesn’t think he’ll be the first gay President of the United States.
Buzz60

WASHINGTON — Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy has fueled speculation about how the American electorate would react to its first gay president. 

But, according to Buttigieg, he would not be the first gay president. 

In an interview with “Axios on HBO” aired on Sunday evening, Buttigieg asserted that it’s “almost certain” he would not be the first gay president. 

Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana mayor running for the Democratic nomination, had been asked if Americans might react adversely to his sexual orientation.

He responded: “I’ll respond by explaining where I want to lead this country. People will elect the person who will make the best president. And we have had excellent presidents who have been young. We have had excellent presidents who have been liberal. I would imagine we’ve probably had excellent presidents who were gay – we just didn’t know which ones.”

More: Buttigieg back in South Bend after police shooting

More: Buttigieg says he would vote to impeach Trump, talks Al Franken resignation during Fresno town hall

When asked specifically if the United States ever had a gay president, he said, “I mean, statistically, it’s almost certain.”

He wasn’t sure which one, though.

“My gaydar even doesn’t work that well in the present,” Buttigieg added. 

Some have speculated, though, that Buttigieg would not be the first gay president. 

In a Washington Post column at the end of March, Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, speculated that James Buchanan, who was president from 1857 to 1861, might actually have been the first gay president.

Emanuel argued that Buchanan might have had a relationship with William Rufus King, a politician who served as a senator, ambassador, and Franklin Pierce’s vice president briefly before King’s death.

King and Buchanan lived together before Buchanan became president, and after the two stopped living together, Buchanan noted in a letter to a friend that he was now “‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them.”

Buchanan also added that he would not be able to give “ardent or romantic affection” to a woman if they lived together.

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LGBTQ rights have come a long way in the U.S. But the community still faces threats in the form of legalization, discrimination and even violence.
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Scepticism as Sudan moves to put Omar al-Bashir on trial

Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir has appeared in public for the first time since his overthrow by the military following months of mass protests against his 30-year-long autocratic rule. 

Dressed in a white robe and turban, the toppled leader was seen on Sunday as he was escorted under heavy guard from a maximum security prison in Sudan’s capital Khartoum to the prosecutor’s office.

There, prosecutors informed him he faced charges of “possessing foreign currency and acquiring suspicious and illicit wealth”, according to the official SUNA news agency. 

He was given one week to raise objections, questioned on additional unspecified corruption charges, and taken back to Kobar prison. 

If al-Bashir does not appeal, he could appear in court as early as next week, Sudan’s acting Chief Prosecutor Alwaleed Sayed Ahmed said on Saturday. 

In Khartoum, the moves against the 75-year-old former president triggered derision and scepticism from critics who dismissed it as an attempt by Sudan’s new military rulers to deflect attention from a recent bloody crackdown on protesters, as well as its reluctance to cede power to a civilian-led transitional administration. 

They also questioned the likelihood of al-Bashir receiving a fair trial in Sudan or being held accountable for the most egregious of charges against him.

The former leader, who came to power in a coup in 1989, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide relating to abuses by Sudanese forces in the country’s Darfur region between 2003 and 2008. 

Instead, al-Bashir’s first trial looks set to be on charges of violating a decree he imposed in February as part of an effort to quell anti-government protests sparked by rising food prices and a currency crisis.

At the time, as protests gathered pace across the country, al-Bashir had imposed a state of emergency and made it illegal to carry more than $3,000 in foreign currency. 

But shortly after he was overthrown on April 11, the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which replaced the former leader, said security forces had seized more than $113m worth in cash in three currencies from his residence. 

If al-Bashir is found guilty of violating the emergency decree, he could face at least 10 years in prison.

‘In mourning’ 

Prosecutors have also opened other criminal probes against al-Bashir, including on charges of money laundering, financing “terrorism” as well as “ordering the killing of protesters” – the latter is an offence that carries the death penalty in Sudan. 

Although protesters had demanded al-Bashir be held accountable for alleged abuses during his tenure, the timing of the upcoming trial has left many suspicious.

Jalela Khamis Kuku, a human rights activist, said the TMC was trying to deflect attention from protesters’ call for accountability over the June 3 raid on a protest camp outside the military headquarters. 

The sit-in began on April 6, days before al-Bashir’s toppling and continued as protesters stuck to demands for civilian rule. But as talks over the composition of an interim body faltered, soldiers opened fire on the sit-in.

According to a Sudanese doctors’ group, more than 100 people were killed in the June 3 raid. Some of their bodies were disposed of in the Nile River, hundreds were wounded and dozens of women raped. 

However, the Health Ministry put the death toll at 61.

“The priority has to be for the lives lost because the whole country is mourning,” Kuku said via phone from Khartoum. 

“Those who were responsible for killing protesters since December should be held accountable. Those who were responsible for the deaths of the protesters at the sit-in must be held accountable, the military council should name those who gave the orders, that’s what we should focus on now.”

The TMC initially denied trying to disperse the protest camp, but on Thursday admitted that it had ordered the removal of the protest camp. The violence occurred after some soldiers “deviated” from the plan, said Shams al-Din Kabashi, a TMC spokesman.

He acknowledged that “violations happened” without elaborating. 

‘Not credible’

Waleed Madibo, the founder of the think-tank Sudan Policy Forum, said the move against al-Bashir was also aimed at distracting the international community. 

He added that al-Bashir was unlikely to receive a fair trial under the TMC. 

“The whole process is not independent and is not credible,” he said. “Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC, so rather than taking him to court for having killed or influencing the killing of half a million human beings, you’re taking him to court for having embezzled [tens of millions of dollars].”

Meanwhile, al-Bashir’s summons to the prosecutor’s office also came as Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of the TMC, appeared to walk back on previous agreements made with protest leaders on the structure of an interim government.

“Our problem with the [protest alliance] is that they want to form an unelected parliament to eradicate us,” he said, referring to an earlier deal in which the military and protesters agreed to a three-year transition period, governed by a civilian-led executive council and a civilian-led legislative body.

“We’re ready to form a technocratic government. But our problem is that the parliament will not be an elected one,” he told supporters in Khartoum. 

The general, who is commonly known as Hemeti, is also the commander of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Force, which protesters accuse of being behind the violence at the sit-in. 

Hemeti promised the death penalty for those involved in the attacks. 

“We are working hard to take those who did this to the gallows,” said the general.

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Ranking the NFL Teams Best Set Up for the Future

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    A long-term vision is hard to execute in the NFL.

    Coaching and front-office personnel turnover comes with a win-now environment, so teams fortunate enough to win consistently tend to have the well-plotted plans.

    For some teams, a comfortable outlook centers around a star quarterback. In fact, it’s almost a requirement. But a mixture of available funds, upside at other positions and future assets doesn’t hurt, either.

    The following teams aren’t guaranteed to contend for the Super Bowl as soon as 2019. But the foundations they’ve constructed around clear-cut plans are so superb that they should not only stand the test of time but also let the squads compete for a while—if decision-makers continue to properly pursue the visions.

    These are the NFL teams best set up for the future.

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    A team from the New York area probably isn’t the first to come to mind for a list like this.

    One of the city’s two squads continues to suffer public criticism for draft strategy and decisions at quarterback. The other is the New York Jets, who seemed to be doing fine until they abruptly fired general manager Mike Maccagnan well after the draft.

    But really, shoving that aside for a moment, everything else looks great for the future. Even after inking Le’Veon Bell to a contract, the Jets stand top six in cap space and have four more years of Sam Darnold on a rookie deal.

    Bell, by the way, is one of the best offensive weapons in the NFL and will join budding receiving weapons Robby Anderson and Chris Herndon in helping along Darnold, who only took 30 sacks a year ago behind a solid line.

    Don’t forget the defense, which corrected plenty of issues this offseason with the big signing of linebacker C.J. Mosley. Quinnen Williams, the draft’s third pick, will pair with Leonard Williams to form one of the NFL’s more formidable trench duos. Behind them, breakout star Jamal Adams patrols the field at safety.

    Provided the building strategy doesn’t change much, the Jets are in a good position to keep beefing up a quality roster well before Darnold needs an extension.

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    It’s almost easy to forget about the Houston Texans given the star power and up-and-down nature of the AFC South.

    Yet here they are. Deshaun Watson is just 23 years old and completed 68.3 percent of his passes last year for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns. The running game squeezed another solid year out of Lamar Miller. DeAndre Hopkins might be the league’s best receiver and almost causally put up 115 catches for 1,572 yards and 11 scores. He’s only 27, and Will Fuller V is 25.

    On the opposite side of the ball stands J.J. Watt, who quietly had another 16 sacks last year. Jadeveon Clowney and his nine sacks are back on a franchise tag with the front office presumably poised to use some of its top-10 cap space on a new deal. The secondary has a long-term leader in Justin Reid even if it is shuffling names right now—they’ll all get to play behind one of the best pass rushes in the league.

    The biggest road bump for Houston moving forward is the line that gave up 62 sacks of Watson last year. But two top-55 picks went to addressing that area, as did at least one free-agency move. If the coaching and line play improves and Watson adjusts to get the ball out quicker, everything about the Texans will scream contender for a long stretch.

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    NELL REDMOND/Associated Press

    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is only 30 years old. The 2015 MVP has plenty of good football left in him, even if last year was an odd campaign and this summer is about his rehab.

    It helps that the Panthers keep getting stronger around him, though. Christian McCaffrey ripped off 1,098 rushing yards and seven scores last year while averaging five yards per carry and also led the team with 107 catches for 867 yards and six more scores. First-round wideout DJ Moore quietly had 788 yards.

    This offseason, the offensive line got a big upgrade with center Matt Paradis and even retained offensive tackle Daryl Williams before getting a possible starter in second-round pick Greg Little.

    No. 16 pick Brian Burns will boost a pass rush that only had 35 sacks last year. But Mario Addison had nine of those off the edge, and Kawann Short continues to be one of the most underappreciated interior linemen in the league. Joining him there is Gerald McCoy to form a tandem in front of Luke Kuechly and an improving secondary.

    Even with Newton’s contract, Carolina ranks among the top 20 teams in cap space. Newton will eventually need a new deal, but everything is coming along nicely for a team that could be a surprise contender again as soon as 2019.

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings are something of an outlier on this list in the cap-space department.

    They don’t have much of it—but it isn’t hard to see why.

    Varying narratives surround Kirk Cousins, but he’ll be only 31 years old in August and during his first year in town completed 70.1 percent of his passes with 30 scores. He’s got a star running back behind him with Dalvin Cook and droves of interesting weapons, starting with Adam Thielen (1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018) and Stefon Diggs (1,021 and nine).

    First-round pick Garrett Bradbury will join the fray and boost an offensive line that allowed 40 sacks of Cousins last year, and second-round tight end Irv Smith Jr. will flank the recently extended Kyle Rudolph. Defensively, Minnesota allowed only 21.3 points per game last year with 50 sacks and returns the major names.

    The cap situation seems bleak, but at the same time, the Vikings are top five in average age. The Rudolph extension created more space. Other contract restructures and cost-effective cuts are surely coming, and Everson Griffen’s $13.5 million contract for 2020 will probably come off the books, to name one possibility.

    Money is something of an afterthought for Minnesota because the players under contract have the jealousy-inducing combination of production, youth and upside to keep the Vikings in contention.

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears aren’t doing too shabby for themselves either.

    Mitchell Trubisky is still on a rookie deal, and love or hate his future prospects, the team around him last year showed that even journeyman production can get the Bears far.

    Part of that is because the Bears fielded an offensive line that allowed Trubisky to get sacked only 24 times. An effective running game helped. Another facet was the passing game, headed by 2018 second-round pick Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson II and diversified with Tarik Cohen out of the backfield.

    Then there is the defense, which figures to keep doing the heavy lifting. Chicago stole Khalil Mack via trade last year and added him to a group with a budding top-10 safety in Eddie Jackson, a star corner in Kyle Fuller and one of the league’s most dominant players up front, Akiem Hicks. The result was the Bears allowed just 17.7 points per game and tallied 50 sacks.

    Chicago made mostly quiet moves this offseason and still ranks in the top half of the league in cap space and top 20 in average age. Its future is clearly built around shutting down the Kirk Cousins- and Aaron Rodgers-type players in the division, and that should keep taking the Bears far on an annual basis.

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys are just fine regarding cap space—a conversation that will change once the front office starts nailing down extensions for key faces.

    But even when that number shrinks, the Cowboys will stick around in the contender’s circle for a long time.

    Dak Prescott, one of those guys who will eat up some cap, just completed 67.7 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions in just his age-25 season. Ezekiel Elliott, another, ran for 1,434 yards and six scores on 4.7 yards per carry. Yet another, Amari Cooper, came over and had 725 yards and six scores in nine games.

    That is enough to stay in contention for a long time, though it sure doesn’t hurt that the offensive line is one of the better units in football. And the defense hardly allowed 20 points per game, in large part because Leighton Vander Esch is one of the next great NFL linebackers. Demarcus Lawrence and his 10.5 sacks are back, and budding secondary members like Chidobe Awuzie and Byron Jones should keep improving as a result.

    Barring a gaffe by the front office, the foundation for a prosperous stretch of seasons is there.

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns haven’t seemed ready to carve out a path of extended playoff contention for a long time.

    But things in the NFL change quickly.

    Baker Mayfield inspired hope last year after the team moved on from Hue Jackson and finished the season with 27 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions, not to mention a handful of wins. A running game that averaged 4.6 yards per carry last year only got better with the arrival of Kareem Hunt.

    And speaking of arrivals, Odell Beckham Jr., who is still just 26 years old, is aboard and will pair with Jarvis Landry. Feel free to pepper in intriguing high-upside pieces like David Njoku and Antonio Callaway as starters.

    The defensive side isn’t too shabby either. Myles Garrett had 13.5 sacks last year, Larry Ogunjobi had 5.5, and Sheldon Richardson came over in free agency. A value-minded draft, led by Greedy Williams at No. 46, improved the depth of the foundation.

    The hype machine backing Cleveland at least makes sense at this juncture. Thanks to the (mostly) long-term outlook they’ve applied to the rebuild, the Browns are in a good financial spot too, which has them prepared to dole out big contracts if the roster realizes its potential.

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    This one doesn’t need a ton of explaining, right?

    Most everything else goes out the window with a player like Patrick Mahomes under center. He’s on a rookie deal, just 23 years old and one season removed from completing 66 percent of his passes for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions.

    Mahomes is the sort of player who uplifts pretty much anything around him. Kareem Hunt might be gone, but the offensive line and threat of Mahomes don’t figure to have many problems since the other three players with 50 or more carries last year also averaged at least 4.5 yards. And even if Tyreek Hill isn’t available, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins will hit on expanded roles.

    The focus falls on the defensive side of the ball, which underwent a major overhaul with a base change. But even if the unit is a mess in its first year, Mahomes provides some long-term leeway. And the talent makes for a superb foundational block for future years too. Most teams would give up quite a lot to be able to build around Frank Clark, Tyrann Mathieu and Emmanuel Ogbah.

    Even if the defense struggles and Mahomes trends back toward the mean, the Chiefs have quality cornerstones and the youngest roster and can get creative with the cap if needed.

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The guy who helped start an offense frenzy, Sean McVay, isn’t going anywhere.

    McVay’s staff might have been plundered this offseason, but he’s still the foremost offensive mind in the league when he isn’t grappling with Bill Belichick on the opposite sideline.

    A year ago, Jared Goff—just 24 years old—broke away from the silly bust label to complete 64.9 percent of his passes for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions. Todd Gurley II ran for 1,251 yards and 17 scores behind an elite line, and four players caught 40 or more passes, including the underrated Cooper Kupp, who played only eight games.

    The defense wasn’t exactly a slouch either, which is what happens when a unit gets constructed around a generational player like Aaron Donald. He’s only 28, by the way, and coming off a season in which he tallied 20.5 sacks.

    Naturally, most of the offseason adds went to Donald’s unit in the form of helpful veterans like Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle. Second-round pick Taylor Rapp could end up starting, too. Even with those older players, the Rams are tied for the fourth-youngest roster, and their key pieces should keep the arrow pointing up so long as McVay can stay ahead of the curve.

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Not too long ago, everyone seemed to have doubts about Andrew Luck given his shoulder injury.

    But the issue seems well in the rearview at this point. Luck is entering his age-30 season after a return campaign that featured a 67.3 completion percentage with 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns against 15 interceptions.

    Luck took only 18 sacks last year thanks to the remarkable commitment by the Colts to fix that problem. T.Y. Hilton is still around after going for 1,270 yards and six scores, and Eric Ebron was used situationally to the tune of 13 touchdowns. The running game averaged 4.2 yards per carry with a platoon approach led by Marlon Mack and his 908 yards and nine scores in 12 games.

    Even the defense surprised in 2018, allowing just 21.5 points per game. Darius Leonard was such a rookie star at linebacker that it’s easy to forget about 2017 No. 15 pick Malik Hooker, who continued to emerge. He’s flanked by quality upstart Pierre Desir as well as top-35 pick Rock Ya-Sin.

    The Colts entered the offseason viewed as a team ready to splurge on big names. Instead, they still have a top-five cap number, a top-10 average age and a top-five quarterback. They also make the most of their talent via scheme and coaching, prodding the best out of guys like Margus Hunt.

    While Indianapolis isn’t Belichickian in its level of impressive just yet, it sure seems poised to assume the role if New England ever steps aside.

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‘Hey, Hey, Hey’: Bill Cosby posted for Father’s Day – leaving many to diss ‘America’s Dad’

Bill Cosby may be in prison, but his social media accounts still posted a Father’s Day message Sunday. 

“Hey, Hey, Hey…It’s America’s Dad…I know it’s late, but to all of the Dads… It’s an honor to be called a Father,” the post reads, “so let’s make today a renewed oath to fulfilling our purpose — strengthening our families and communities.”

Attached is an old video of Cosby talking about slavery and racism.

Cosby is incarcerated in Pennsylvania following his April 2018 conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004. He was sentenced to three to 10 years

More: Bill Cosby thinks prison is an ‘amazing experience,’ compares himself to MLK

But his spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, told USA TODAY that Cosby requested a Father’s Day message be posted from him.

Wyatt said Cosby wanted to support a group called Man Up.

“Mr. Cosby’s (message) consisted of telling these men who have been incarcerated for many years, but are up for parole soon…to…take the word “disadvantage” and remove the “dis,” and start focusing on the advantage,” Wyatt said. “That advantage is to be better fathers and productive citizens.”

Lots of commenters were unimpressed, with @baywinter_40 summing things up: “OMG no,” @YourFriendCrud saying “YIKES” and @Michaelramos227 asking “Aren’t you in prison?”  

“You really can’t read a room, can you?” @DammitDrakey observed.

“45k views and only 378 likes. I think it’s safe to say America fired you, pops,” said @KayleighShae.

“Not so much dad as the creepy uncle we all stopped inviting to Thanksgiving. You’re still not invited, Bill,” tweeted @TheSoundofSnooz. 

A lot of responders let their GIFs do the talking:

Though @LaFawndah added the observation, “This isn’t going to go well.”

@Emm_Belle tweeted, “Hey, hey, hey… it’s time for you to go away”

The response wasn’t all negative, though. @i_luv_me247 tweeted a GIF of Beyoncé and the message, “Thank you, Sir ..and a Happy Father’s Day to you TOO!!”

“Happy Father’s Day mr Cosby aka Dr Hugstable,” tweeted @BornLegendary36.

And @JayhawkChalk also had a GIF, plus, “Thanks Bill. You too.”

The last time there was a post to Cosby’s Twitter account was June 2, to mark the death of chef Leah Chase, known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, who died June 1 at age 96.

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