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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An Inside Look At North West and Penelope Disick’s Lavish AF Birthday Party

North West and Penelope Disick probably had the best weekend of their entire lives after the Kardashian-Jenner clan joined forces to throw them a candy themed birthday party.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians fans watched the whole thing play out on Instagram, with Kim and Kourtney Kardashian organising an extravagant bash in one of their backyards complete with more sweet treats than Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.








North West and Penelope Disick's extravagant AF candy themed party

Instagram

Images from the event showed North and Penelope (who are a year apart in age) dressed up in matching brightly coloured outfits while their friends and family played on the rainbow board game path and giant toadstools.

Other decorations from the event included gum-shaped balloons, giant gummy bears, oversized lollipops, a candy themed bouncy castle and a huge candy bar spelling the words: “Happy B-Day Penelope and North.”








North West and Penelope Disick's extravagant AF candy themed party

Instagram

This comes as Kim took to social-media to wish her firstborn child the most magical birthday on record: “Happy Birthday my sweet girl! The last 6 years have been the best of my life raising you and seeing you grow up. ‘Mommy loves you forever and beyond!”

As for the main event, the girls had a matching set of rainbow coloured birthday cakes that were covered in gumdrop buttons and topped with star-shaped decorative toppers. 








North West and Penelope Disick's extravagant AF candy themed party

Instagram

Brb, just going to spend the next five hours thinking about how the Kardashian-Jenner clan throw more expensive parties for their children than we could throw for an entire wedding.

What a world.

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Trump’s picks for administration jobs keep dropping out. But why?

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Andrew Puzder’s Senate confirmation hearing was scheduled to begin Thursday.
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WASHINGTON – On his first day in office, President Donald Trump formally nominated Andrew Puzder as his labor secretary, handing a key position in his administration to a fast-food magnate whom he’d boasted would save businesses from “the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations.”

But Puzder couldn’t even save himself.

Puzder, who ridiculed his own restaurant employees as “the best of the worst” and said he’d like to replace them with robots, withdrew his nomination less than a month later amid devastating revelations he had once employed an undocumented housekeeper and failed to promptly pay taxes on her.

Puzder was one of the first, but not the last, of Trump’s nominees to fall. The pattern has been repeated again and again and again, with more than five dozen of Trump’s picks for various jobs either withdrawing or seeing their nominations pulled before they were put through the confirmation process in the Senate. 

“We’re way over two years into this administration, and there are very large blocks of the government where you simply don’t have confirmed leadership,” said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that has been tracking the nominations process.

Sixty-one of Trump’s nominees have taken themselves out of consideration or saw their nominations pulled – nearly twice the casualty rate under Barack Obama, who had withdrawn just 32 nominations at the same point in his presidency, according to data collected by Stier’s group.

In Trump’s case, the number is actually higher. The Partnership for Public Service data includes only job candidates who were formally nominated. It doesn’t count nominees for federal judgeships or candidates who Trump said he intended to nominate but who took themselves out of the running before their official paperwork was sent to the Senate.

The chosen-but-not-formally-nominated dropouts include Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, who Trump announced last spring that he would appoint to the Federal Reserve’s board of governors.

Both quit before Trump ever made their nominations official: Cain withdrew in April after his selection for a position overseeing the central bank touched off a considerable backlash among Democrats and some Republicans in Congress. Moore dropped out less than two weeks later following an uproar over his controversial writings about women and other issues.

Critics, including some Republicans in Congress, have openly suggested Trump’s high withdrawal rate is caused by the administration’s failure to properly vet the backgrounds of potential nominees.

Some blame the president himself. Trump has complained that the vetting process is “too ugly and too disgusting” and, at times, has chosen to follow his gut instincts instead of the counsel of his advisers – with occasionally disastrous results.

“The president who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ has chosen so many conflict-of-interest-ridden lackeys to run our nation’s government, precipitating a parade of ethics scandals, resignations and withdrawals,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Schumer said the Trump administration seems to have a two-part test for vetting nominees: “Views that are far out of the mainstream and a willingness to enable the president’s constantly changing positions no matter what.”

“This approach is failing the American people,” he said.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Here’s a closer look at a dozen of Trump’s most high-profile nominees or picks who flamed out before they went through the confirmation process:

Andrew Puzder

Position: secretary of Labor

Formally nominated: Jan. 20, 2017

Withdrew: Feb. 15, 2017

Puzder, who at the time was chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast-food chains, faced a torrent of criticism over workplace conditions at his restaurants, his opposition to raising the minimum wage and expanding overtime eligibility for workers, and his derogatory comments about some of his employees. But the final blow to his nomination was his admission that he had once employed an undocumented housekeeper and failed to promptly pay taxes on her. Puzder withdrew before he even received a confirmation hearing in the Senate.

Vincent Viola

Position: Army secretary

Formally nominated: Jan. 20, 2017

Withdrew: Feb. 3, 2017

Viola, the billionaire owner of the Florida Panthers and a West Point graduate, earned plaudits from Trump for “distinguished military service” and a “highly impressive” track record in business. But Viola quickly pulled his nomination after citing difficulties in divesting himself from his businesses.

Mark Green

Position: Army secretary

Nomination announced: April 7, 2017

Withdrew: May 5, 2017

Green, a physician and Iraq war veteran, was Trump’s second pick for Army secretary after Viola withdrew his nomination for the post. But Green quickly came under fire from advocacy organizations for gays and lesbians, who denounced him as “a social issues warrior,” and from other minority groups over comments that some considered derogatory toward the Islamic faith and its followers. Green called the attacks “false and misleading” but nevertheless took himself out of consideration before he was formally nominated for the job. A Republican aligned with the tea party, he was elected to Congress last November as a representative from Tennessee.

More: Sen. John McCain: Army secretary nominee’s past comments ‘very concerning’

Tom Marino

Position: director, Office of National Drug Control Policy

Formally nominated: Sept. 5, 2017

Withdrew: Oct. 17, 2017

Marino, at the time a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, withdrew from consideration for the drug czar’s job less than two days after reports he backed legislation that restricted the enforcement of opioid laws. The Washington Post and 60 Minutes reported that Marino was the key lawmaker behind legislation, which made it virtually impossible for the Drug Enforcement Administration to freeze suspicious narcotics shipments from drug companies.

More: Trump’s drug czar nominee withdraws after his role backing opioid industry exposed

Matthew Petersen

Position: U.S. District Court Judge, District of Columbia

Formally nominated: Sept. 11, 2017

Withdrew: Dec. 18, 2017

Petersen, a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, had served on the Federal Election Commission with then-White House Counsel Don McGahn but had no trial experience when Trump chose him for a lifetime federal judgeship in the District of Columbia. At his confirmation hearing, Petersen was unable to answer basic questions about legal procedure while being grilled by Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. Days after a video of the exchange went viral on social media, Petersen withdrew, saying his nomination had become a distraction for the administration.

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K.T. McFarland

Position: U.S. ambassador to Singapore

Nomination announced: Jan. 8, 2018

Withdrew: Feb. 5, 2018

McFarland, who had served as Trump’s deputy national security adviser, was tapped twice for the Singapore ambassadorship. Trump first picked her for the job in May 2017, but the nomination stalled in Congress as she came under scrutiny by investigators looking into contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives. Trump announced the following January that he would resubmit McFarland’s nomination, but she withdrew from consideration less than a month later.

More: K.T. McFarland to leave White House amid NSC shakeup

Steven Gardner

Position: Director, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

Formally nominated: Jan. 8, 2018

Withdrew: Sept. 6, 2018

Gardner, a Kentucky mining consultant who had questioned whether humans play a role in climate change, won praise from coal groups but criticism from environmentalists when he was chosen to lead the Interior Department’s mining agency. But Gardner pulled his nomination before he ever got a confirmation hearing. He blamed his departure on his inability to reach a consensus on the terms of an ethics agreement despite a year of negotiations with the Office of Government Ethics.

Ronny L. Jackson

Position: Veterans Affairs secretary

Formally nominated: April 16, 2018

Withdrew: April 26, 2018

Jackson, a Navy rear admiral, served as physician to the president and received glowing reviews from both former President Barack Obama and Trump before the president picked him to become secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Trump disclosed in February that Jackson was his choice for the job and formally nominated him a few weeks later. By then, Jackson had come under withering criticism for a lack of management experience and for accusations by colleagues that he improperly dished out opioids, drank on the job and fostered a hostile work environment at the White House medical office. He withdrew his nomination after just a few weeks.

Ronald Vitiello

Position: director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Formally nominated: Aug. 16, 2018

Withdrew: April 4, 2019

Vitiello was serving as acting director of the agency responsible for enforcing immigration laws within the nation’s interior when Trump nominated him to become the permanent director. But Trump withdrew the nomination last April as the agency was dealing with a surge in illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump said he wanted ICE to go “in a tougher direction.” Vitiello resigned from the agency six days later.

Heather Nauert

Position: U.N. ambassador

Nomination announced: Dec. 7, 2018

Withdrew: Feb. 16, 2019

Nauert, a former Fox News host who at the time served as the State Department’s spokesperson, withdrew her name from consideration amid concerns about her qualifications for the high-profile ambassadorship. Though Trump had announced that she was his choice for the job, she was never formally nominated.

Stephen Moore

Position: Federal Reserve Board of Governors

Nomination announced: March 22, 2019

Withdrew: May 2, 2019

Moore, an economics writer and critic of the Fed, was chosen for a seat on the seven-member board as part of Trump’s plan to change the central bank’s direction. But critics questioned his qualifications for the position, and his controversial writings on women and other topics touched off an uproar. (Moore once wrote that he wasn’t a big believer in democracy and called the use of female referees at sporting events “an obscenity.”) Citing “unrelenting attacks on my character,” Moore pulled his name from consideration before he was formally nominated.

More: Why Donald Trump’s Fed picks Stephen Moore and Herman Cain have caused such a ruckus

Herman Cain

Position: Federal Reserve Board of Governors

Nomination announced: April 4, 2019

Withdrew: April 22, 2019

Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, was known to millions of Americans for the “9-9-9” tax plan he pushed during his 2012 bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Like Stephen Moore, Trump chose him for a seat on the seven-member Federal Reserve board as part of his plan to change the central bank’s direction. But Cain’s possible nomination was met with a backlash among Democrats and some Republicans in Congress who cited sexual misconduct allegations against him that had surfaced during his failed presidential campaign. With his chances of confirmation virtually doomed, Cain pulled his name from consideration before he was ever formally nominated.

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Anthony Davis Became Lakers’ ‘Only Chance to Get a Star’ Next to LeBron in LA

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) after an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, March 31, 2019. The Lakers won 130-102. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

As the Los Angeles Lakers ventured into a precarious offseason—through the playoff-less first year of LeBron James, past the bizarre departure of Magic Johnson and all its aftermath—one truth became clear in rival front offices around the league.

If the Lakers wanted a top-shelf star to lift some of the burden from James’ shoulders next season, they had better pull off a trade for Anthony Davis.

“It might be their only chance to get a star this summer,” a high-profile agent told Bleacher Report.

And so the news Saturday that L.A. had finally landed AD in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, was more than a coup. It was a necessity. Even before the catastrophic injuries suffered by Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson during the NBA Finals, the Lakers’ hopes for a big free-agent score were dwindling, multiple league sources told B/R.

Though free-agent meetings technically can’t be arranged until the start of the moratorium, which begins at 6 p.m. ET on June 30 this year, it’s standard practice for teams to emerge from the Chicago draft combine in May with at least some soft commitments from agents. But as one Western Conference executive put it, the Lakers left Chicago last month “empty-handed.”

There were a few factors. It didn’t help that the Lakers won only 37 games and missed the playoffs—James’ first non-playoff season since his second year in the league. Johnson so awkwardly stepping down from his job as team president—and then throwing shade at almost everyone in his wake—did nothing to dispel prospective free agents’ fears about the lack of leadership and organizational stability in the purple-and-gold recesses of Staples Center.

But a trip to the draft lottery and organizational dysfunction weren’t the biggest factors resonating with stars who might otherwise consider the Lakers, said two people who are close to multiple top-level free agents.

The biggest factor? LeBron.

“It’s not that he got hurt; it’s that even when he wasn’t hurt, they felt like for the first time in his career, he didn’t look like LeBron—especially defensively,” a longtime Eastern Conference executive told B/R. “If you’re a top-level player and you’re going to L.A. to play with LeBron, and it’s the first time you don’t feel like he’s actually LeBron, that’s not going to get better.”

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

James will turn 35 in December of his 17th NBA season, and he’s coming off a year in which he played a career-low 55 games. Everything about his career to this point has defied belief, especially when it comes to his durability. But he’s at the stage when decline happens fast.

Even before Durant and Thompson went down with injuries that are expected to cost them all or most of the 2019-20 season, the Lakers were not on their short list of teams to consider this summer, two people familiar with their plans told B/R.

There’s a feeling among rival executives that winning a title and another Finals MVP in Toronto could cause Kawhi Leonard to veer off his intended path of the Raptors being a one-and-done scenario on the way to his desired home on the West Coast. But if Leonard is going to leave, the destination will be the Clippers, two executives said.

ACL injury or not, the Lakers weren’t holding out hope for a free-agent meeting with Thompson, even though he was born in L.A. and spent his high school years in Orange County.

So if you’re wondering why the Lakers surrendered Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks—including the No. 4 pick in next week’s draft—that’s why. Their chances of landing a comparable player in free agency were grim.

“They were very scared,” the Eastern Conference executive said.

Yet in today’s NBA, fortunes change faster than the weather. Less than 48 hours after the Raptors won their first championship and the Warriors began coming to grips with an offseason of massive uncertainty, the Lakers have an All-Star to pair with LeBron and have been installed as favorites to win the 2020 title.

In fact, Westgate Superbook listed the Lakers as 9-2 favorites before L.A. agreed to the deal for Davis; L.A.’s updated odds are 3-1. The Clippers, who don’t even have Leonard yet, are 7-1, while the Raptors are 10-1.

What does that tell you? (Sorry, Raptors fans.)

In the immediate aftermath of the Davis news, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported the Lakers will target Hornets point guard Kemba Walker in free agency. The word in league circles is that Walker is in play, especially if the historically frugal Hornets balk at paying him the supermax (five years, $221 million).

It’s not known how Walker feels about L.A., but a person who knows him well told B/R the Lakers don’t have to worry about competition from the Knicks or Nets; Walker is not interested in returning to his native New York, the person said.

Walker also said recently that he’d be willing to take less to stay in Charlotte if it would help the Hornets build around him.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29: Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets seen on court during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 29, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Then there’s the ever-unpredictable Kyrie Irving, who could certainly benefit from a reunion with James in L.A., and Jimmy Butler, who is equally unpredictable and has long prioritized market size over other, less glamorous factors.

Which brings everything full circle, back to the man around whom the last decade-plus of NBA basketball has revolved: LeBron. There are two people who clearly do not share the concerns about James’ impending decline, and they happen to be the two most important people in the consummation of Saturday’s blockbuster trade.

They would be Anthony Davis and Rich Paul, who represents both Davis and LeBron. Paul, incidentally, would vehemently object to any concerns about LeBron no longer being LeBron. Indeed, when we spoke recently, he correctly pointed out that when James injured his groin on Christmas Day against the Warriors, the Lakers were a playoff team and James was in the early discussion for MVP.

Hard to argue with that.

Given all the factors, though—the Warriors losing two of their biggest stars, the Raptors potentially losing their Finals MVP, and smart free agents looking past the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and instead focusing on the details—it’s also difficult to call this trade anything but what it was for the Lakers.

A must.

   

Ken Berger covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KBergNBA.

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1 killed, 7 injured in Philadelphia graduation party shooting

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1 killed, 7 injured in Philadelphia graduation party shooting

Authorities say four teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 suffered gunshot wounds to their legs.

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PHILADELPHIA – Authorities in Philadelphia say one person has been killed and at least seven others have been shot during a graduation party.

KYW-TV reports the shooting occurred Sunday shortly before 10:30 p.m. near South 70th Street and Reed Bird Place. Authorities say four teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 suffered gunshot wounds to their legs. Four adults in their 20s were shot in various parts of their body.

Police said the one fatality was an adult.

The shooting is one of numerous homicides that occurred amid a rash of gunfire around the city that also wounded a number of other people throughout the weekend.

Authorities have not provided a motive for the shooting.

No arrests have been made in the shooting.

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Nigeria suicide attack: Triple blasts kill at least 30 in Borno

Thirty people were killed late on Sunday in a triple suicide bombing in northeast Nigeria, emergency services reported.

Three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall in Konduga, 38km from the Borno state capital Maiduguri, where football fans were watching a match on TV.

“The death toll from the attack has so far increased to 30. We have over 40 people injured,” Usman Kachalla, head of operations at the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), said on Monday.

An earlier toll from the blasts, the bloodiest in months, gave 17 dead and 17 wounded.

The attack happened around 9:00pm (18:00 GMT), Ali Hassan, the leader of a self-defence group in the town, said.

The owner of hall prevented one of the bombers from entering the packed venue.

“There was a heated argument between the operator and the bomber who blew himself up,” Hassan said by phone.

Two other bombers who had mingled among the crowd at a tea stall nearby also detonated their suicide vests.

Hassan said most of the victims were from outside the football viewing centre.

“Nine people died on the spot, including the operator, and 48 were injured,” Hassan said.

Kachala said the high number of fatalities was because emergency responders had been unable to reach the site of the blast quickly. Nor were they equipped to deal with large numbers of wounded.

“Lack of an appropriate health facility to handle such huge emergency situation and the delay in obtaining security clearance to enable us deploy from Maiduguri in good time led to the high death toll,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack bore the imprint of Boko Haram, which has led a decade-long campaign to establish an Muslim state in northeast Nigeria.

The last suicide attack was in April this year when two female suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the garrison town of Monguno, killing a soldier and a vigilante and injuring another soldier.

Konduga has been repeatedly targeted by suicide bombers from a Boko Haram faction loyal to longtime leader Abubakar Shekau.

The faction typically carries out suicide attacks against soft civilian targets such as mosques, markets and bus stations, often using young women and girls as bombers.

The fighters are believed to sneak into the town from the group’s haven in nearby Sambisa forest.

Eight worshippers were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in the town last July.

Boko Haram’s campaign has claimed 27,000 lives and forced some two million to flee their homes.

The violence has spilled into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting the formation of a regional military coalition to battle the group.

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