This guy thinks LeBron will be better this season

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This guy thinks LeBron will be better this season

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- All LeBron James has done so far this year is win the NBA's MVP award for the third time, an NBA Finals MVP trophy to go along with that one, his elusive first championship and a second Olympic gold medal. Dwyane Wade thinks his Miami Heat teammate is just getting started. With the start of Heat training camp now just six weeks away, Wade said on Friday that he expects James to be even better this coming season now that the will-he-ever-win-a-championship question has been forever put to rest. "That monkey is off his back and now he's just playing basketball," Wade said while taking a break from his annual fantasy camp, where fans pay up to 12,500 to get a four-day luxury taste of NBA life. "I think we'll see a better LeBron James -- scary to say, three-time MVP -- than we've seen. And it's because all he has to do is play basketball now. He doesn't have to worry about what he hasn't done. It'll always be something, but he's got the biggest one off his back." Wade was a James fan instead of a James teammate this summer, when the U.S. men's basketball team won its second straight Olympic gold. Wade could not play while recovering from knee surgery but was in London for part of the Olympic tournament, and he said James made playing at a high level -- such as a triple-double against Australia in the quarterfinal round -- seem "effortless." It's been that way for a while, too. Going back to Miami's win-or-go-home Game 6 in Boston of the Eastern Conference finals, James has played in 20 games with the Heat and for USA Basketball. In those, his teams are 19-1, with the lone loss being Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City. Four straight wins to close that title series, then five straight exhibition victories with the U.S. team, then an 8-0 Olympic record -- 17 straight wins in all. "He's on an amazing run," Wade said. "When you're on these kind of runs, you enjoy it. You keep going because you don't know when it's going to stop. I think he's just enjoying it right now. He's doing all this stuff without thinking about it. He's breaking records. He's in the history books. He's not thinking about it; he's just doing it. He's at a gear that I've seen myself at before when it just feels easy. He's just a gear above everyone." Soon, Wade hopes to be back at his usual gear. He's starting to hit the peak of his offseason schedule. Wade hosts his annual "Wade's World" weekend for kids in Chicago next week, then begins his book tour in New York on Sept. 4. Wade spent much of the past year writing a book about his experience as a father and the custody fight for his two sons. And as he said in London, Wade reiterated on Friday his recovery from knee surgery is going according to plan, and that he intends to be back on the court to begin workouts in a couple of weeks. That means he won't be scrimmaging the fantasy campers this weekend -- though instead of dunking on them, as he did last summer, he will take them on in a 3-point contest instead. It's far from the strongest part of his game, but he's not too worried. "I'll have some fun, be able to interact with them, make sure they're able (to) say that they lost to me again," Wade said. "I won't show up and leave. I'm here. They'll see me here all day; they know I'm a part of it. They know I'll run out on the court when they do something great and know I'll say something when they don't." Campers get to stay in an upscale hotel, receive plenty of new basketball gear, and even get coached by, among others, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Indiana's Tom Crean -- who coached Wade at Marquette. Miami coach Jim Larranaga and South Carolina's Frank Martin, a Miami native, are also on the coaching lineup. "I wish I could play," Wade said. Instead, he'll be a fan this weekend, just like he was for James in London. "I'm one of LeBron's biggest fans," Wade said. "I couldn't be teammates with him if I wasn't a fan of his game. I'm one of his biggest supporters, one of his best friends. It's good to see him succeed like this, especially because I know the stuff he's dealt with. It's in the rear-view mirror now and he's going to move forward."

Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

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Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

FOXBORO – The Patriots used the 96th overall pick – a compensatory pick that came to the Patriots after losing Darrelle Revis – on a very large man. Vincent Valentine, a 6-3, 329-pound defensive tackle from Nebraska who is more space-eater than penetrator.

Though Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said Valentine has played all over the defensive line including 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle), he’ll likely be an early-down, middle of the defensive line player for the Patriots at the outset. How does the team go about getting him on the field?

Currently, they are pretty well-stocked with big bodies. Last year’s first rounder, Malcom Brown, is going to play a lot for a long time. Terrance Knighton, added as a free agent, figures to be a major component of the defensive line. And aging Alan Branch showed in 2015 that he’s still got plenty of plays left in him.

The other 300-plus pound linemen in the mix are Marcus Kuhn, a free agent brought over from the Giants, and Joe Vellano, who’s been with the team for four seasons as an end of the roster player.

Valentine had an injury-plagued final season with the Cornhuskers and will need to tune up his body and conditioning for the NFL. He’s not a project but neither is he a plug-and-play type who can be expected to walk in and make immediate contributions. With the 31-year-old Branch nearing the end, it’s reasonable to expect Valentine to be the successor to him in the Patriots interior rotation when they go heavy on early downs and in short-yardage and goal-line.

Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

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Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

The Patriots have eight picks remaining on the final day of the draft. While they may not use all of those selections -- they currently have 80 players on the roster, leaving them with only two slots for undrafted free agents if they use all of their picks -- they still have plenty of opportunities to take chances on talented athletes Saturday. 

Here's a quick look at some of the best players available after they spent their first four selections on a corner (Cyrus Jones, Alabama, pick No. 60), an offensive lineman (Joe Thuney, North Carolina State, No. 78), a quarterback (Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State, No. 91) and a defensive tackle (Vincent Valentine, Nebraska, No. 96). 

The Patriots have one fourth-round pick, five sixth-round picks and two seventh-rounders remaining.

RUNNING BACK: KENNETH DIXON, LOUISIANA TECH

Listed as one of our top players available after Day 1, Dixon is still hanging around after nearly 100 picks have gone off the board. Perhaps his level of competition at Louisiana Tech has worked against him. Perhaps his fumbling issues have come back to bite him. Perhaps this is simply an indication of how the rest of the league considers this position. Only four backs have been drafted through the first three rounds. 

Other top running backs available: Jordan Howard, Indiana; Devontae Booker, Utah; Paul Perkins, UCLA; Jonathan Williams, Arkansas; Alex Collins, Arkansas. 

RECEIVER: DANIEL BRAVERMAN, WESTERN MICHIGAN

If ever there was a player who stood out as a potential Patriots pick, it would be Braverman. At 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, he is a prototypical slot receiver whose skill set resembles that of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Troy Brown. He's very shifty in and out of his breaks, he does a great deal of his work while risking big hits over the middle of the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way, and he churns out yards after the catch with speed and good vision. 

Other top receivers available: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia; Rashard Higgins, Colorado State; Devon Cajuste, Stanford; Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa; Keenan Reynolds, Navy.

LINEBACKER: JOSH PERRY, OHIO STATE

This Buckeye seems to fit the size profile the Patriots typically like in their receivers at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds. He runs well enough to be able to track ball-carriers from sideline-to-sideline, and he has a ton of experience coming downhill to make big hits in the running game. Perry will need some work before he's a reliable defender in coverage, but on first and second downs he could be a force. 

Other top linebackers available: Scooby Wright III, Arizona; Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt; Blake Martinez, Stanford; De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: HASSAN RIDGEWAY, TEXAS

A college teammate of Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Ridgeway is considered by many to be more physically talented than Brown was when he declared for the draft. Injuries hurt Ridgeway's productivity last season, and there are some who question his conditioning, but he understands how to be a disruptive force on the interior, both in the running game and in the passing game. If he's in shape and can maintain the level of fitness that will be expected of him as a pro, he could turn into an immediate contributor.

Other top defensive tackles available: Andrew Billings, Baylor; Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; DJ Reader, Clemson; Dean Lowry, Northwestern; Justin Zimmer, Ferris State.