Thunder fan petitions to have name of Oklahoma town changed from Durant to Westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder fans were understandably upset when Kevin Durant announced his decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors on July 4, going so far as to even burn his jersey.

“In talking with Boston, I was given the option of taking that pick or else taking Jae Crowder. I liked Crowder but I thought he wouldn’t get much of a chance to play behind Carmelo [Anthony], so I took the pick, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early. While Cleanthony has missed lots of time in the past two seasons with us, he still has the potential to be a valuable player. Even so, I should have taken Crowder.

“Anyway, for all of us, making mistakes are part of the learning process. … We won 15 more games this season than we did last season, something that’s not easy to do in the NBA. I’d be more than happy if we could make the same jump next season.”

A few things to unpack here: Dallas traded Crowder to Boston in December 2014, and he signed a five-year, $35 million contract in the summer of 2015 to remain with the Celtics. That’s one of the more valuable contracts in the NBA at the moment. The salary cap spike has led to a massive increase in contract values for free agents, and getting a versatile player like Crowder for $7 million a year is very team friendly.

Assuming the Knicks acquired Crowder in the 2014 trade and signed him to the same contract as Boston, he would be an extremely valuable piece. Adding Crowder — who averaged 14.2 points and 5.1 rebounds last season — also would have changed the complexion of the Chandler/Felton trade; none of the players the Knicks acquired in the deal is currently on the roster.

Rubio has had several conversations with Thibodeau since he was hired. But they haven’t had the time to really dig into the situation. Thibodeau was an assistant on Team USA in Rio, so now that the Olympics are over, the two expect to have more in-depth conversations.

“In my five years I’ve been there, definitely it’s the best group,” Rubio said. “Players, coaches, you put it all together and it’s the best we’ve ever had. The excitement is real. We have really young talent that can really take us to the next level with veterans that can help. And the coach, I think, is going to be the key and the difference.”

“The past is the past, but that No. 1, I think, will always be stuck with me. It’s always going to remind people and give them memories of how I played when I was younger. I was playing reckless, and I was just ballin’. I had raw talent,” Rose said in an interview with The Vertical. “Now, with the No. 25, I think you’ll see a more mature player. You’ll see the player that you saw toward the end of last year. More under control-type of game, and I got a lot more options now this year. That No. 1 will always be engraved in me, and it’s not going anywhere. Twenty-five is just a new step, and a new step in the right direction.”

The Knicks traded for Rose in late June, the first step in putting together a club that they hope can snap the franchise’s three-season playoff drought.

Seahawks’ Michael Bennett: Scuffle at practice due to ‘dirty play’

RENTON, Wash. — A day after he was yanked from practice for the second time this summer, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said a dirty play by left tackle Bradley Sowell was the source of his anger.

“At the end of the day, I love Mike. He’s one of my favorite players in the NFL. I’ve enjoyed watching him over the years. So we talked it out real quick and we were sitting there having lunch together. So it’s nothing big.”

Bennett said he respects Sowell but that players have to look out for each other when it comes to avoiding injuries.

“There’s a code in the NFL,” Bennett said. “There are a lot of problems with the NFL when it comes to injuries and concussions and stuff like that, but I feel like a lot of the time it’s the players that can really control what happens to each other.

To be sure, it was still an extremely small sample size as the Green Bay Packers ease their Pro Bowl receiver back into the mix. But on the one-year anniversary of tearing the ACL in his right knee, Nelson ran routes against an actual defender in tight coverage for the first time.

By unofficial count, he did that three times in the one-on-one receiving drill. Twice, he caught passes against Sam Shields — one down the left sideline and another on a crossing route. The other came down the seam with Quinten Rollins in coverage.

It was after the throw down the sideline that Aaron Rodgers said he remarked to quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, “I could throw that ball with my eyes closed, because I know exactly where he’s going to be.”

“That’s the beauty of us playing together for a long time,” Rodgers said after practice.

It’s why even if Nelson doesn’t play in either of the two remaining preseason games, Rodgers doesn’t seem worried about getting the chemistry back with his top receiver. When Nelson last played in 2014, he posted career highs with 98 catches and 1,519 yards to go along with 13 touchdowns.

Forty-five of Nelson’s 49 career regular-season touchdowns have come from Rodgers, who became a starter in 2008, the year Nelson was drafted.

“We’ve got a thousand reps together,” Rodgers said.

Nelson still hasn’t not done any 11-on-11 work in practice; he said he expects that may come next week.

Tony Romo moves into different role: mentor

Now they are as inexperienced at the position as they were in 2004.

“There is so much to the day that you can’t possibly learn it all,” Romo said. “Their job is to ask questions, watch tape, learn, get out there and throw the football and work on their technique and fundamentals, work on their thought process. Also, through osmosis, just learn from being around it. These guys really do a great job of that. They are both hard-working guys. They set themselves up for being successful.”

As Romo watched the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams, Prescott was impressive in his debut, completing 10 of 12 passes for 139 yards with two touchdown passes. Showers was not as fortunate to play with some starters, completing eight of 15 passes for 99 yards, but he had a scramble that led to a 47-yard completion to Vince Mayle.

Romo spent the game on the headsets.

“He was into it,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “I said, ‘Tony, a big part of this is we’ve got these young guys and they’re going to need your presence.’ He was into it, looking through the photos and the video and kind of talking through some of the things that came up and kind of talking about some of the plays that we’re going run and how to look at them. He did a great job of being a leader with those guys in between series.”

The Cowboys’ plan entering training camp was to have Kellen Moore as Romo’s backup, but he broke his fibula in the second padded practice and is likely out until November. The Cowboys flirted with the possibility of signing Nick Foles and had discussions with the Cleveland Browns about Josh McCown.

They could re-visit the position before the season starts, but they are committed to giving Prescott and Showers snaps.

“I couldn’t ask for a better mentor, better leader of the quarterback room,” Prescott said. “He’s an offensive coordinator behind the center basically. The things he talks about in the meetings and he comes out here and puts them on the field each and every day. It’s just great to see.”

Prescott said Romo will quiz the quarterbacks in the film room as they watch the practice film. He seeks their advice and opinions as well. Testaverde did the same thing to him.

Romo is 36. He is in his 14th season and is signed through 2019. He has constantly changed how much longer he is going to play, anywhere from four years to eight years, but he knows his time is closing.

“I mean any time you can pass on your knowledge and help especially good people, guys you see a little bit of yourself in with the work ethic, I think it’s exciting to see them succeed and compete,” Romo said. “I want them to be successful. The hope and goal is for one day to pass that one and let these guys run off and play, Kellen included. Hopefully they can carry on the level of play we want at the quarterback position.”

NFL, ESPN and Hall of Fame scramble after game cancellation

Scoff if you want at the NFL’s extra preseason game, but it’s a big deal. It often sells out in Canton, Ohio. And it does huge ratings. Last year’s Hall of Fame game between the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers drew about 11 million viewers. Game 3 of the NBA Finals this year drew an average of about 16.5 million viewers, to put that into perspective. Starters rarely play in the game. Most of the players in the contest won’t make the final roster of either team. Yet, people tune in because we’re so desperate for football.

It’s not just the television crowd. Last season’s Hall of Fame game officially drew 22,364 fans. Capacity for Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium is listed at 22,354, according to the Canton Repository, so the game does very well in town. The Hall of Fame said it would refund all tickets, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter said that would cost the non-profit Pro Football Hall of Fame about $4 million.

When Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker got on a microphone at midfield to explain to those in attendance what happened, the fans booed him. Players from both teams clapped for him to show some support, but it didn’t help. The fans continued to boo throughout Baker’s announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we know a lot of you came a long way,” Baker told them. “Here at the Hall of Fame, we have the greatest respect for players. We have the greatest respect for player safety … as a result of some painting on the field today, some questions arose about player safety. We met with both teams, we talked to both sets of players. I can tell you, I had a son that played in this league [former Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Sam Baker], and if [this] had happened with him on the field, I would have wanted somebody to make the same decision.”

ESPN said on its broadcast that Baker made the call to not play, after talking to coaches, executives and the athletic training staff of both teams. They couldn’t ensure the safety of the players.

”We are very disappointed for our fans, but player safety is our primary concern, and as a result, we could not play an NFL game on this field tonight,” the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement.

“Someone had to make a very tough decision, and I respect that,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck told ESPN.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams said the field wasn’t good last year for the Hall of Fame game, and criticized the NFL for it.

Hey @NFL it was that terrible last year but u didn’t cancel the game we had our kicker tear his acl and a few mcl strains so thanks????
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) August 8, 2016

In the stadium, the Hall of Famers were introduced to the crowd, singer Lee Greenwood went on with a show that was meant for halftime, and players milled around for a while, seemingly unsure what to do without a game to play.

ESPN did its best to entertain fans that tuned in expecting to see football. It wasn’t easy, especially considering Charles Woodson, Matt Hasselbeck and Randy Moss were on the “Monday Night Countdown” set with Berman for the first time. ESPN signed off from Canton at 9 p.m. and went to “SportsCenter.”

It wasn’t that long ago when Eli Manning could just roll out of bed and show up at practice, feeling good and full of energy. He was younger then, of course. These days, at age 35, he says “it takes me about an hour to get loosened up.”

But that’s about the only concession to his age that the New York Giants quarterback is willing to make, and there aren’t any obvious signs of other age related issues at all. His arm looks as strong as ever. His numbers have only gotten better over the last two years. And he doesn’t look like a player fighting off an inevitable decline.

“He’s getting better,” Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said.

He better be, because Manning is the key to the Giants’ immediate future or, as GM Jerry Reese put it, the Giants “are on his back.” They spent $200 million on rebuilding the defense and left the offense largely as is because they are confident it can succeed in the hands of their franchise quarterback.

But if he begins to show any signs of age or of a late career decline, it would mean big trouble for the start of the McAdoo Era. And it could mean a long wait before the Giants are contenders again.

For now, though, the Giants don’t have to worry about a long search for their next franchise quarterback because the one they have has thrived in his two seasons under McAdoo’s offense. In 2014, he set a career high in completion percentage (63.1), and he threw a career high 35 touchdown passes last season while topping 4,400 yards in back to back seasons for the first time in his career. He even threw a total of just 28 interceptions in those two seasons nearly the same total he threw (27) in 2013 alone.

He’s made it clear he loves McAdoo’s offense, which was a huge reason Giants management promoted the offensive coordinator to head coach, and the numbers show it obviously works. The only question has been how long Manning can physically keep going and improving as he nears the end of his long career.

DeSean Jackson defends Josh Norman’s much-scrutinized practices

Coach Jay Gruden said it during his news conference and he’s not just pumping up a guy: Linebacker Martrell Spaight looks good. He’s typically facing backups, so keep that in mind, but you can start to see why the Redskins drafted him in 2015. Spaight had a terrific play Thursday when he read RB Keith Marshall running to his left, shot through the line untouched and stopped him for a loss. I’ll have more on this later, but Spaight has worked hard in coverage. What he doesn’t have to work hard on is hitting the hole with violence. That’s what he showed at Arkansas and he’s showing more than a few glimpses in camp.

Mentioned rookie lineman Matt Ioannidis the other day and I’ll touch on him briefly again: He falls into occasional lapses where he stands too upright looking for the ball. When he doesn’t do this, he can be effective and he does move well laterally. For now, it’s part of the transition from college.

With Trent Williams sidelined, second-year Arie Kouandjio took snaps at left tackle Thursday afternoon with the third unit. Ty Nsekhe worked with the starters and continues to hold his own whenever he’s on the field. Those long arms pay off for him.

Another rookie, Su’a Cravens, is starting to feel more comfortable and playing a little faster. You can see his instincts starting to emerge. He covered a checkdown with good speed, racing up to make what would have probably been a 2-yard gain. He broke before the pass so it was a good read. Cravens showed good reaction on a run earlier in the practice, filling the gap fast. And on a boot to his left, Cravens did a nice job covering Ryan Grant on a cross.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins capped a two-minute drive with a fade to the left corner of the end zone for receiver Pierre Garcon, who was covered by Bashaud Breeland. Cousins had two plays earlier that jumped out, one good and one not so good. On the first, Cousins connected with Rashad Ross in front of Norman but the corner never had a chance. The ball was out before Ross had planted and turned. On the next play, Breeland read the play, undercut Grant and nearly intercepted the ball.

Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman fired back at Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, who took a jab at Norman on Twitter over his Madden NFL 17 ranking.

After a video from practice surfaced last week of wide receiver Pierre Garcon running past Norman in a one-on-one drill, Peterson replied to a tweet by saying, “but he’s the highest rating lol madden is a joke.” Norman, who actually broke up the pass on the video, received the No. 1 ranking among cornerbacks in Madden NFL 17; Peterson was fourth.

Norman responded on Twitter with a Kermit the Frog meme and said, “guess they ain’t put NO #RESPEK! On your name #4.” On Thursday, Norman, who signed a five-year contract in April worth up to $75 million, was perplexed by Peterson’s initial tweet.

“That guy? Come on, man,” Norman said about Peterson on Thursday. “Be No. 4 and be happy. Come on, don’t talk about me, I’m not talking about you. I mean, I’ll still continue to work and try to be better than No. 1. Where that is, I don’t know, but I’m working toward that. Obviously he’s somewhere trolling other people. He should be worried about what he’s doing on the field and if he gets beat up this year. He shouldn’t be trolling me.”

Norman has battled Garcon and DeSean Jackson in practice, losing on occasion and winning on others. His losses have been shown on video. Peterson then mentioned in another tweet that of the three games Jackson has played against him, he’s only had one big play, which happened to be for 56 yards in 2014.

Richard Sherman: Tharold Simon will be better than me

“The kid’s a player, he just needs to put it all together and hopefully he can stay healthy and it’ll be a fantastic year for him.”

At a fluid 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds with physicality and an ornery disposition, Simon fits the Seattle cornerback mold under Pete Carroll. His potential is one of the reasons the Seahawks believe this year’s version of the famed Legion of Boom secondary could be the deepest and most flexible yet.

“Physically (Simon is) the best he’s been since we’ve had him,” Carroll said this week. “It kind of shows up, he had two huge plays today. We’re just going to let a lot of time go by, we’ll get a lot of snaps and see how it plays out. It’s really good to have that kind of depth, that kind of competition going on at that spot.”

The Seahawks can thank their nucleus of talented, smart and proud veterans for their status as annual NFC superpowers. If they’re going to fulfill this year’s Super Bowl expectations, though, they’re going to need promising breakout candidates such as Simon, Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett and Thomas Rawls to realize their potential.

Former Browns and Titans castoff Terrance West isn’t just pushing for a roster spot in Baltimore. He’s building a strong case to surpass Justin Forsett and Javorius Allen as the Ravens’ top running back.

Through a week of training camp, the Baltimore Sun lauded the slimmed-down West as the team’s “most explosive offensive player.” ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley followed suit on Thursday, noting that West has been the offense’s “No. 1 playmaker.”

West developed a reputation as a headcase in Cleveland after the Browns traded ahead of the hometown Ravens to select the FCS record-setting Towson standout in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Traded to Tennessee for a seventh-round pick early last September, the mistake-prone West lasted just two games with the Titans before he was summarily waived in mid-November. Landing on his feet in Baltimore, he rushed for 180 yards on 46 late-season carries.