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Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) saves the ball from going out as Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky (44) defends during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Saturday, April 5, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) saves the ball from going out as Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky (44) defends during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Saturday, April 5, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Antoine Poythress thought it was “crazy” that coach John Calipari and his staff had to start talking about NBA draft possibilities with players hours after Kentucky lost to Connecticut in the national title game, but he also knew the time frame for making future decisions made that a necessity.

“You have zero time and it’s hard to evaluate all this so quickly,” said Poythress, the father of UK sophomore Alex Poythress. “I have been trying to get some feedback of my own. Trying to go through this so quickly is a nightmare. It’s just difficult with such a short period of time.

“For Alex, it’s even worse because it is not very clear. Last year (making a decision about the draft) looked like a cake walk compared to this year. It is so muddy and convoluted this year.”

Poythress averaged 5.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 18.4 minutes per game this year. He shot 49.7 percent from the field (88 of 177), but was just 8-for-33 (24.2) percent from 3-point range. He also had only 17 assists and 12 steals in 40 games.

“You can file with the NCAA to give you something back (feedback-wise), but they are so conservative it is not very realistic if you are not in the top five or six guys,” Poythress said. “I guess they don’t want to steer you wrong, so they are conservative to a fault. They just basically give you the worst case scenario and throw everybody in to the mid to late second round.

“You can’t talk to any teams directly as a parent. You can’t sign with an agent to get information if you want to keep the option of staying in school open. So you are just getting information from whoever volunteers to help and some guys might give you nothing but BS. You have got to have a friend or someone who can help and even then they can all tell you is hypotheticals. The school can talk to them (NBA personnel) more than I can or Alex can. So we have to work through the school to get feedback.”

Poythress had some of his best moments in NCAA play. He scored six points in the final 4 1/2 minutes of the comeback win over Louisville. He had eight points in the Elite Eight win over Michigan. He had six points against previously unbeaten Wichita State. More importantly, he showcased the athleticism and talent that made many project him as a high NBA lottery pick before he played his first game at Kentucky.

One NBA scout offered this on Poythress (NBA scouts cannot be quoted on the record about specific players who are draft eligible): “As good as Alex looked at times during the tournament, I just don’t see how he could sneak into the first round in such a deep draft,” the scout said.

Poythress has until April 27th to decide if he wants to declare for the draft or return to Kentucky for his junior season.

“We will let Alex make the decision. Technically, his decision might not be my decision, but he has to live it and go through it all,” Poythress adi. “From my perspective, I don’t have to dribble and go through all this. I just give him my recommendation. He has to make a decision on what he needs to do. I just try to help and gather information the best I can. It’s never my decision. It is always his decision to make.

“I couldn’t imagine him being able to get the same set of information that I can get with him just being a college kid. People will tell him anything to influence him, especially with the evaluation being tougher than last year.”

Alex Poythress would be close to finishing his degree if he decides to stay at UK for another year. His father said his son changed his major to accounting and has several accounting courses he would have to take in the next year to finish his degree.

“If he doesn’t get it done, he would be close. He has been in summer school both years and takes a very good class load,” Antoine Poythress said.

While finishing his degree will have “some impact” on the UK sophomore’s decision, where he would likely fall in the draft will naturally have the biggest impact.

“Where he is projected and the risk associated with it is what Alex has to weigh,” his father said. “The second round is risky. There’s no guaranteed money, no guarantee of anything in the second round. It’s really taking a big risk. A lot will tell you if you have to go as a second round pick, why bother doing. Other factors could lead to your stock going down as the draft approached. It is not an exact science.

“Kids that go early in the second round are probably okay, but if you go 40th or later, you just taking a risk that you will even make a team. You get not guaranteed contract and a team is really not vested in you.”

He noted that a team like the Philadelphia 76ers “has a ton of second round picks” and isn’t likely to keep all those draft choices on the roster. He also said the Developmental League “is not a very good life” for young players who fail to land on a NBA roster.

“That would not be an option to leave school early to end up there,” Poythress said about his son. “He played great the last few weeks and  great in the tournament. He was relaxed and played great down the stretch. He made big plays at the right time when they really needed them. He played big, played good defense down the stretch in about every game and played well against different styles coming at him.

“Then again, his stat line not very good. He averaged less than six points per game. Field goal attempts and all were down (from last year) and points per minute were down cause he did not shoot as much.

“He just has a tough decision to make. He’s got to weigh a lot of things. He enjoys school. He enjoys the environment and being at Kentucky. It’s just a mater of getting minutes to show all he can do in longer stretches. That would be ideal for him. He just has to sit down and think and decide (about what to do) before he runs out of time.”

Antoine Poythress said the good thing is that his son is not being forced to make a bad decision because he can return to UK and be the most veteran player — and likely team leader — on another talented team.

“You don’t want to make a bad decision. That’s the most important thing,” Antoine Poythress said. “He can always come back. He’s not out there on a ledge with no options. He just has a decision to make versus having a decision made for him.”

Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Knight (11) puts up a shot against New Orleans Pelicans' Brian Roberts (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Milwaukee Bucks’ Brandon Knight (11) puts up a shot against New Orleans Pelicans’ Brian Roberts (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) — Long after the end of practice, the sound of a bouncing basketball echoed down the hall and up the stairs from the Milwaukee Bucks practice court.

It is Brandon Knight again, coach Larry Drew’s point guard pupil doing the basketball equivalent of staying late after school to study. He’s certainly not giving up in an injury-filled, challenging first season in Milwaukee.

“With Brandon, first of all, every night he steps out on the floor, I know he’s going to give me 110 percent effort,” Drew said.

At 9-43, the Bucks had already clinched a losing campaign before the All-Star break. They will be the only team in the NBA without double-digit wins when the season resumes Tuesday at home against the Orlando Magic.

No choice: Knight must remain positive. The point guard position is a leadership position by default, even for a third-year pro who’s just 22 and still learning.

“It’s a type of leadership where you’ve got to be positive no matter what,” Knight said.

It is part of the maturation of Knight, a self-described “quiet guy” who would much rather be that teammate who led by example. In that respect, the extra time in the gym — he’s usually one of the last players to leave the court — isn’t surprising.

But being more vocal was something he had to pick up in his one college season at Kentucky, and then in his two years with the Detroit Pistons. Now he has more responsibility in Milwaukee, both off and on the court.

Knight missed a few games at the start of the season with a sore right hamstring, one of numerous injuries that have hampered Bucks players all season. Since then, he’s been a lineup mainstay. Knight is averaging a career-best and team-high 16.7 points, along with 4.9 assists.

“He attacks the basket the same (ways) he did in Detroit, but he’s carrying more of a load here with all their injuries,” New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams said last week.

Knight is shooting 34 percent (69 of 199) from 3-point range while also averaging 3.5 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-3 guard can look fearless when he lowers his shoulder and drives the lane.

“Something that I had to grow into going into this level,” Knight said. “I had to be stronger, that you’ve got to go in, you’ve got to seek contact … That’s something that I think I’ve shown this year and gotten better at.

The distributor role of the point guard job is a work in progress. For instance, Knight had four assists and five turnovers on Feb. 10 against Boston before notching nine assists without a turnover two days later against the Pelicans. He scored 22 each time.

“You can’t really have a night where you’re not on your game, because you can be exposed on any night,” Knight said. “You’ve got to be able to adapt from game to game and year to year. Something in your game has to improve.”

The Bucks early on seemed to have trouble meshing, which might be in large part due to all the injuries that led to an inconsistent lineup. Since then, young players including Knight have had to step more to the forefront.

A former NBA point guard himself, Drew said Knight is still soaking up knowledge, along with the intangibles that a point guard picks up just through experience.

“Things that you just can’t go out there and teach him,” Drew said. “There are things that happen within the flow, and point guards have to be able to instinctively make those plays.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

It was no surprise with Kentucky playing in Brooklyn that there would be talk about John Calipari and the NBA even though Nick Nicholas, who covered the game for me, said there was “hardly any New York press” at the game because of NFL, major league baseball and Knicks-Nets stories occupying the media. Nicholas also noted there “wasn’t any promotion (except on Barclays website) for the game.But after the game, Calipari was asked if speculation about him returning to the NBA bothered him. Enjoy his long answer to the question.

“I don’t listen to any of it, and I don’t think my team does. Every year I’ve ever coached, if there was a college job open, I was going there, a pro job, a high school job – I was taking every job going, and I just don’t buy into it,” Calipari said. “The greatest thing for me: It took me 20 years to get a job like Kentucky. It took me 20 years to get a job like Kentucky.

“Where guys had jobs for 20 years, it took me 20 years to get a job like this. And then we get the job and all the sudden –  we’re doing great academically. We had a 3.4 grade-point average last term. For three years we’ve been a B-average as a team. We’ve graduated 10 players – 10 in four years. So it’s not at the expense of academics, but we’ve had 17 players drafted, nine (actually 13) in the first round, two (No. 1) picks.

“And I’m able to do that, help families, win games and do what the university wants me to do, and all want to do is be about players first. And I want to challenge them and not be afraid to challenge them and put them on a stage. This is like you’re putting them in – I’d say Carnegie Hall – but it’s the stage you want to be on. And I’m able to sit there and say, ‘OK, here we go.’

“I’m proud of Willie Cauley. ‘Well, he only gets one-and-done guys!’ No one knew Willie Cauley. Look at Willie. Look at Eric Bledsoe. All the sudden, what’s happened is they come here and they’re able to reach their dreams and change – you’re talking about, I say this all the time: We have kids that are first college graduates in their families, and we have a chance to rectify that; now all the sudden – you have generational poverty; they’re family’s been in poverty their entire existence, and now all the sudden that changes. And I have an opportunity to do that, more than any place I’ve ever been.

“And I loved working at UMass. And I loved working at Memphis. This is a different deal on a lot of fronts. So all the stuff about – you just think: It took me 20 years to get this job. Twenty. Now, I’ll say this: I don’t know how long I can stay in this seat and live. I’ll be honest with that one. But right now, I’m having fun doing it. I don’t feel our fans – everyone says our fans are crazy; our fans are crazy, but they don’t expect us to win every game and they don’t expect us to win the championship. They want us to be in the hunt. We’ve won eight in 110 years. We haven’t won 100 in 110 years; we’ve won eight. And so, yeah, they want you in the hunt. They want you in the hunt for recruits and all that. We are. So I think we’ve got the greatest fans.

“How about this one? Cleveland State has us (beat), and plays a great game. Do you know our fans gave them a standing ovation when they left the court? Gave them a standing ovation. Didn’t boo them. Gave them a standing ovation, our fans. And that’s why I say this is a unique place. So I’m going to run it out and have some fun with it and hopefully do some great things for kids and the university is happy with what’s happening with them and then we’ll see.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

Once again, the NBA rumors are flowing about John Calipari — this time getting a mega deal with the New York Knicks. Once again, the Kentucky coach is doing all he can to downplay them.

“I don’t pay any attention to it. The job I have to do here, to develop these kids and get ‘em right is all-encompassing. My focus is here and I don’t get into all that, rumors and innuendo. And it won’t be the last one that’s out there, and I just don’t deal with it,” said Calipari Friday.

Would he like to go back to the NBA?

“I’m good where I am. I’ve said it publicly. What makes this unique – and I mentioned today driving in, I was reading a new book, and it’s about purpose – and the purpose here is real clear to me. I’m getting someone’s child, and my job is to develop them in all areas, not just on the basketball court, to prepare them for reaching their dreams,” Calipari said. “And when they reach their dreams, they become successful and understand the bigger picture.

“John Wall gave a million back to charity, DeMarcus Cousins gave a million back to charity when they signed contracts. And you see it here. And so my focus is on just, hey, this is what I’m doing. Here’s a purpose that is one that’s … it’s a heavy thing because you got people’s children. But this stage and what we do and how we prepare them has worked. So we’re just gonna keep working that way.”

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Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.

FILE - In this March 18, 2013, file photo, Washington Wizards' John Wall, front, drives past Charlotte Bobcats' Josh McRoberts, rear, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C. Wall has agreed a contract extension with the Wizards. Two people familiar with the deal say it is worth about $80 million over five years. They spoke to The Associated Press  on condition of anonymity because the team's announcement on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, did not reveal financial terms. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

FILE – In this March 18, 2013, file photo, Washington Wizards’ John Wall, front, drives past Charlotte Bobcats’ Josh McRoberts, rear, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C. Wall has agreed a contract extension with the Wizards. Two people familiar with the deal say it is worth about $80 million over five years. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team’s announcement on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, did not reveal financial terms. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — John Wall has a new contract and big hopes down the road for a championship, something Washington hasn’t done since 1978.

At a news conference Thursday to announce a contract extension for five years and $80 million, the Wizards’ star point guard sat beside owner Ted Leonsis, team president Ernie Grunfeld and coach Randy Wittman. In the front row was Wall’s family, including his mother, Frances Pulley. She raised her children by herself after Wall’s father died when he was 9.

Asked about his family’s support, Wall looked into the crowd and began answering. He couldn’t finish, turning his tear-filled eyes toward the floor. Leonsis patted his back.

“I was trying not to look at my mom for one,” Wall said later. “She’s the most emotional person. It was like a breathtaking moment, seeing my mom and seeing everything she worked for.”

With his contract set, Wall said he would donate a million dollars to charitable organizations in the D.C. area.

Grunfeld drafted Wall with the first overall pick in 2010. Now he has him through the 2018-19 season.

“The day we drafted John, we said we wanted to build this franchise with him and around him,” he said. “The last three years, he’s shown he’s capable of leading this franchise where we want to go and that’s back to the playoffs.”

Wall’s ailing knee last season cost him considerable time, and the Wizards any shot at the playoffs. The team rose up when Wall returned, playing near .500 ball after a 5-28 start. Washington last reached the postseason in 2008.

“My main thing as a person, I’m not a follower. I like to be a leader,” Wall said. “I feel like I would have had the opportunity to go anywhere,” Wall continued. “I feel like I’d be a follower trying to build a legacy somewhere else. I feel like I’m a person who gives my word and my commitment to where I started and that’s where I’d like to finish. We haven’t been to the promised land of winning a championship for years. I know we’re a long way from there, but that’s my main goal before my career is done, to win one here.”

That’s exactly what the team owner wanted to hear when he flew out to California last month to meet with Wall and his agent.

“The discussion really was that I want to make sure I heard from (John) that this won’t amp up your personal goals, but it will be more about team goals,” said Leonsis, who also signed off on contracts this offseason involving Wizards swingman Martell Webster and free-agent guard Eric Maynor.

“I also made a commitment to having a drama free offseason. I think this organization has had enough drama. To get these people signed and in, get it all done so the focus is just on basketball I thought was the right strategy for us to pursue.”

For his three years, Wall is averaging 16.9 points, 8.0 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He joins Clippers guard Chris Paul among active players averaging at least 16 points, eight assists and four rebounds for their career.

LEXINGTON – The NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards will play a pre-season game in Rupp Arena on October 19th at 7:00 p.m., the Bluegrass Sports Commission (BSC) and Global Sports Management (GSM) announced today.

The game will feature three former UK players, Anthony Davis and Darius Miller from the New Orleans Pelicans and John Wall of the Washington Wizards.  

Taking place the day after UK Basketball’s annual Big Blue Madness, the game will help tip off  the basketball season for Big Blue Nation and provide a unique opportunity to be a part of the excitement of NBA basketball.

“This game will be an exciting weekend of basketball for Kentucky fans. They can start off the weekend with Big Blue Madness on Friday and an NBA game on Saturday,” stated Maury Hanks, President of Knoxville-based Global Sports Management.

“We are excited to partner with Global Sports Management to bring this unique event to Rupp Arena.,” said Terry Johnson, Executive Director or the BSC.  “It will bring thousands of fans to central Kentucky and be a terrific addition to our sports calendar.”

Tickets range in price from $10 – $250 and go on sale to the public Friday, August 2 at 10 a.m. They can be purchased at the Rupp Arena box office or at RuppArena.com.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:

Anthony Davis – Pelican’s star and former Wildcat great

“I am very excited to return to Rupp and compete with two of the BBN’s finest and members of the Wildcat family, John Wall and my teammate, Darius Miller,” said Pelican’s star, Anthony Davis.

Dell Demps – General Manager, New Orleans Pelicans

“We look forward to playing a preseason game at the University of Kentucky that has such a great basketball tradition and look forward to the opportunity to play in front of their fans that are so passionate about the game,” said Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps.

“It’s an additional treat for UK alums Anthony Davis and Darius Miller to play against John Wall and allow them to reconnect with the Kentucky fans and community.”

Ernie Grunfeld – President, Washington Wizards
”We look forward to bringing the Wizards to Lexington and having John Wall back at Rupp Arena,” said Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld.  “As a former SEC player, I know the passion, enthusiasm and excitement of the Kentucky fans will provide a great atmosphere for the game.”




The Bluegrass Sports Commission is governed by a board of directors and is an independent, non-profit 501c3 responsible for recruiting, growing, executing and attracting sporting events of all sizes and types that serve the Central Kentucky by increasing economic activity and/or improving the quality of life for its citizens.
 
The mission of Global Sports Management is to collaborate across sports to improve individual, team and franchise performance and explore ways in which sports can maximize its impact on society, business and the overall quality of life.

Vaught’s note: Maybe reading about the game John Wall had Friday can at least temporarily make you forget the way UK played against Vanderbilt. Or maybe not. Either way, he had a great game.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Heard the one about the point guard who can’t shoot? That’s supposed to be John Wall.
Helpless from long range for so long, the Washington Wizards point guard had his best shooting game as a pro Friday night, a night so successful that the names Larry Bird, Jim Furyk and Jason Kidd were kicked around when discussing what went right.

In fact, Wall was in such a good mood following his season-high 29-point performance in a 96-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets that he joked about his beloved Kentucky Wildcats’ 16-point loss to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

“We were national champs last year. … We stunk it up tonight,” said Wall, who was trash-talking just anybody in the locker room whose school was on the NCAA bubble. “You see we just lost by 20. I ain’t worried about the brackets.”

Wall also doesn’t seem to be worried about his jumper, even though his outside touch has been mostly absent since he was chosen No. 1 overall in the 2010 draft. Against the Hornets, however, he went 12 for 15 from the field, including 3 for 3 from 3-point range and 9 for 12 from 13 feet and beyond.

How unusual is that? He entered the game just 3 for 20 from 3-point range for the season, and he was a mere 3 for 42 last season. The only previous time he had made three 3s in a game was a 3-for-7 performance against the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 23, 2010, during a rookie season when he took — and missed — the 3 more often, going 34 for 115.

Wall’s .800 field goal percentage was his best in any game in which he’s taken more than a half-dozen shots. He had a 5-for-6 night against the Milwaukee Bucks last month. Wall has been shooting better the last few games, and he and coach Randy Wittman agreed that it has a lot to do with confidence — and finding a consistent stroke.

“Larry Bird didn’t have the picture-perfect shot, but he shot it the same way every time,” Wittman said. “Jim Furyk has the ugliest golf swing in America, but it’s the same one over and over again. That’s why he’s good. John, he’s got to make it the same shot. He can’t take two different shots.”

Wall claims not to be bothered by his can’t-shoot rap.

“You look at Jason Kidd, he didn’t start making 3s until late in his career,” Wall said. “At long as I can make the mid-range and improve my game and help my teammates out, that’s all that matters to me.”

Wall’s performance, which included nine assists, brought some electricity to what looked to be a humdrum game between teams all but certainly headed for the NBA lottery. Eric Gordon scored 20 points for the Hornets, who have lost five straight on the road and five of six overall.

“John Wall was disrespected tonight,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. “We just let him shoot shots like he couldn’t make them, and he made us pay.”

Known more of his speed and ball-handling, Wall looked ready for a game of Around the World from the get-go. He made a 19-foot jumper on Washington’s first possession and hit from 15, 24, 26 and 23 in the first half alone.

He casually sank a leg-kick fadeaway from just inside the arc late in the third quarter and nodded his head repeatedly after his next one, a 15-foot swish. He scored the Wizards’ final six points of the period, with a coast-to-coast, scoop-shot layup and a pair of free throws putting Washington ahead 74-64, the first double-digit lead by either team in the game.

Playing at the faster pace that Wittman likes, Wall had then-season highs of 27 points and 14 assists in a 95-90 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday and put up 23 and 10 in a 106-93 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

“These last two games, I told him, ‘Take these home and study these,’” Wittman said. “This is the way, from the pace standpoint, that we have to play.”

Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site. Victoria recently attended an NBA game between Anthony Davis’ New Orleans Hornets and Patrick Patterson’s Houston Rockets.

UK coach John Calipari and Darius Miller exchange hugs at the celebration at Rupp Arena Tuesday. (Clay Jackson photo)

UK coach John Calipari and Darius Miller exchange hugs at the celebration at Rupp Arena Tuesday. (Clay Jackson photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Even before Kentucky beat Kansas in the national championship game, rumors were already flying that John Calipari could well be coaching the New York Knicks next  year.

No way.

That was my reaction and has been. Calipari likes it at Kentucky and could be establishing a run of success few coaches will match and has changed the way everyone has to think about recruiting with his success at UK. His wife likes Lexington and his son, his youngest child, is a high school student. I just can’t see him uprooting Brad to coach a pro team. His son interacts with the UK players often and travels with the team. Just can’t see him doing that with a NBA team.

Plus, Calipari has made it clear time after time he’s not ready to leave. Anyone who saw the emotion at the Adolph Rupp Award ceremony when Calipari cried as he presented the award to Anthony Davis would understand why Cal is a college coach.

But don’t take my word for it. Look at what Calipari  posted at coachcal.com today — AND BELIEVE HIM.

Calipari: “Big Blue Nation, breathe. Relax. Calm down. Enjoy the championship.

I just talked to Mike DeCourcy and Andy Katz and they asked me if I was going to jump to the NBA. What?! I We just won the championship a day and a half ago. The only three things I’m trying to decide on is when I’m going to go see a few recruits, how I’m going to get through all these voicemails and when do I get a chance to get some sleep.

But for those of you that need to hear it again, let me repeat what I told Andy and Mike: I’m not going anywhere. I have the best job in the country. Why would I leave after we’ve just won a national title? We’re trying to catch UCLA, folks. I’ve got more money than I’m ever going to need or my family can spend, so I don’t have to make a decision based on finances.

Let me assure you that you will see me at NBA games this summer … to watch our former players. I’m not going to give up my lifestyle based on a few rumors, and I will continue to go to NBA games to see my family, friends and former players. I’m even going to a game tonight.

But relax, Big Blue Nation. Sit back and enjoy this special time. We’ve waited 14 years for this, so let’s not let anyone ruin this for us. No one’s stealing my joy or my players’ joy. Don’t let them steal yours.”

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