Patriots prepare for Round 2 of Texans' Watt

955205.jpg

Patriots prepare for Round 2 of Texans' Watt

FOXBORO -- All eyes will be on J.J. Watt Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Watt didn't have the game he would have liked to have the last time these two teams faced each other in December. And the Patriots realize he'll be hungry for another shot in the playoffs.

"Hes a force on every play," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Friday. "That guy can, no matter what play you have called, he can ruin it. Hes good at the point of attack. He makes a lot of plays on the backside, disrupts the ball, strip-sacks, fumbles, caused fumbles, batted balls. Hes an excellent pass rusher, hes quick, hes powerful, hes very long, he has good technique, gets off on the ball well. Hes a tough matchup against really anybody. He runs games well. He has a lot of ability, hes well coached and he has good technique. He plays hard. Like I said, hes really a factor on every play."

So how do you contain him twice in one season?

"I dont know how you can put more than one guy on him very often," said Belichick. "You have to block the other guys too. You have to block Antonio Smith, you have to block Shaun Cody, you have to block Brooks Reed, you have to block Connor Barwin, you have to block Bradie James. Who is blocking them? Somebody has to block them. You cant put three guys on Watt and cut everybody else loose. I dont think thats the answer. Whoever has to block him has to block him.

"But I think the way that they play, hell get matched up against everybody sooner or later -- the right tackle, the right guard, the center, the left guard, the left tackle. Weve watched a lot of their games. Ive seen everybody have to block him -- tight ends at times depending on what the play is or the protection. They stunt him a lot. He might line up on one side of the ball, but hell twist to the other side on certain calls, certain plays. I think everybody has to be ready for him."

Even the running backs.

"J.J. Watt's an exceptional player," said Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. "And we have to have some hats on him every down, every play, throughout the game, because he's a playmaker. And so, for us, if it's coming out of the backfield, catching him on the way out, running routes, whatever we have to do. We've got to get away from him, put two hats on him, make sure he's blocked, make sure he's covered up. Because he's the leader of their defense. If he gets momentum, we're going to have trouble on that.

"I might have to put a hat on him, man," added Ridley. "I mean, he's going to be causing chaos out there. But I have faith in our offensive line. They're going to do a great job. Buy hey, if they need us to help, that's what a team's for. We'll come through.

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

thunder_russell_westbrook_122316.jpg

Russell Westbrook wins NBA MVP; Rockets, Bucks take two awards

NEW YORK - Russell Westbrook was voted NBA MVP on Monday night after setting a record with 42 triple-doubles last season.

Westbrook's victory ended the first NBA Awards show, which included two wins apiece for the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for the season, and he broke Robertson's single-season record set when he had 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62.

The point guard beat out Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard to succeed Stephen Curry, who had won the past two MVP awards.

Earlier, Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon became the first player not picked in the first round to win NBA Rookie of the Year in the common draft era.

Brogdon was the No. 36 overall selection out of Virginia. The common draft era began in 1966.

"I think it's an example for guys that are told they are too short, they are not athletic enough, they are not real point guards, they are not real shooting guards," Brogdon said. "I just think it's an important message for people to see, and it can be done. It just takes a lot."

Teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award.

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni won his second Coach of the Year award, and the Rockets' Eric Gordon was Sixth Man of the Year after setting a record for most 3-pointers off the bench in his first season as a reserve.

The NBA formerly gave out its individual awards at various points throughout the postseason before switching to the awards show this season and presenting them all at once in front of the league's top players and stars from the entertainment world.

Two of the best moments came during segments that didn't include the NBA's six individual awards.

Bill Russell was presented the first Lifetime Achievement award, welcomed on stage by fellow Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. The 11-time champion as a player and the league's first black coach first pointed at them and joked that he would have kicked their butts, then told them: "You have no idea how much respect I have for you guys."

Former Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams was given the SagerStrong Award for the strength he showed after his wife was killed in a car crash in Oklahoma City. He was given a colorful jacket like the ones worn by Craig Sager, the longtime Turner Sports reporter who died of cancer this past season.

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

red-sox-matt-barnes.jpg

Improved Matt Barnes dealing with much more than mechanics

BOSTON — Matt Barnes has been coping with more than just a few bad outings on the mound, and he’s asking for help.

The Red Sox set-up man made some mechanical corrections that paid off in the eighth inning Monday night, when he struck out all three Twins he faced in a 4-1 Red Sox win at Fenway Park.

“I just simplified the mechanics,” Barnes said afterward. “Two days ago, I was trying to get with more of an up, down, and out approach. I felt better in that outing. I know I gave up a run and walked the one guy, but I felt better around the zone. And then just kind of went into a slide step, doing what Andrew Miller was doing.”

Barnes allowed four runs spanning his previous three outings, retiring just four batters while walking five. But Barnes has had a lot more to worry about than just a brief professional rut. 

He’s been devoted to helping his girlfriend, Chelsea, through the unexpected loss of her father, who was diagnosed with cancer and suffered a stroke

"Her father passed away [May 27]. That’s why I wasn’t in Baltimore for the two days [in early June], I was at his funeral,” Barnes said. "It’s tough, dealing with that, and she’s obviously having a hard time with it. She’s got her good days and her bad days. But it’s not easy. He was sick for a little while, and unexpectedly passed a lot faster than anybody ever expected him to. So, it’s been tough. She’s been alright, considering.”

There are a ton of medical bills still to be paid. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family with some large medical bills, and Barnes has asked on Twitter for people to spread the word if they’re able to.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with her which is nice,” Barnes said of his girlfriend. “Everybody who’s helped out with donations and spreading the page, I couldn’t be more grateful, and she couldn’t be more grateful.”

Barnes is a big leaguer, but he’s still young and making the major league minimum. For every $1,000 total donated, Barnes plans to send a signed baseball to a random donor.

“I felt like it was a nice way, if they’re going to help me out, I can at least do that in return for them,” Barnes said.