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Penn State RB Saquon Barkley Signs With Roc Nation

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Penn State RB Saquon Barkley has decided to enter the NFL Draft. The two-time Big 10 offensive player of the year hired Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation firm to represent him joining the Rams running back Todd Gurley and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette.

Barkley spoke to ESPN about his decision to sign with Jay-Z’s sports management group.

“It was a really easy decision,” Barkley said. “A lot of people came around my way, but they were focused on me and they did a great job at selling my family on setting me up for life, bringing value outside of football. I felt like it was harder for other agencies to pitch that family feel when they were working with 30 or 40 guys.”

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Barkley rushed after 1,271yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. Barkley is currently rated as the No.1 running back on most draft broads.

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Derrius Guice Signs With Kendrick Lamar’s Sports Agency

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Joe Robbins

Kendrick Lamar is following Jay-Z’s lead and getting into sports management. Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), which represents the likes of Kendrick Lamar, SZA, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock, announced Friday that it is opening up a sports division and its first client will be former LSU running back Derrius Guice.

“They were the first guys who came to me, just like LSU was the first school to offer me a scholarship,” Guice said. “I didn’t forget that.”

Guice rushed for 3,074 yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons at LSU and was especially prolific as a junior. In 12 games, the 5’11”, 218-pound back totaled 1,375 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage.

Jay Z founded Roc Nation Sports—which represents stars like Dez Bryant, Kevin Durant, Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette—while rapper Lil Wayne has found a niche with Young Money Sports.

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NBA Trade Deadline: Central Division

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The expectation coming into every NBA season is that a Lebron James-led team is going to be in the NBA Finals. Lebron has a record seven straight NBA Finals appearances and will look to make it eight in a row this season. However, for one of the first times in what feels like a lifetime, Lebron’s team is not only not the best team in the NBA, they’re not even one of the best teams in the East. The Cavaliers are currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference and are sitting a full 6 games behind the first place Boston Celtics. So, a couple questions come to mind: how can Lebron and the Cavs alter their team before the deadline in order to make another championship run? What can other teams in their division do before the deadline to keep up with and possibly surpass the Cavs? Let’s find out.

Cleveland Cavaliers: 1st in Central Division (27-17)

Who: Tristan Thompson

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Why: The Cavs are still a huge question mark at the halfway point. They had a stretch earlier in the season where they won 18 out of 19 games. However, they have lost 4 out of their last 5, including back-to-back 25+ points losses in games where the team seemed to absolutely fall apart. There are a lot of rumors swirling around that Lebron is going to be leaving Cleveland after this season for greener pastures, but one thing is for certain: if you want to keep Lebron around, you need to surround him with enough talent to be successful. Tristan Thompson is the first of many players I can see the Cavs shipping off before the February 8 deadline. Thompson is having a lackluster season, averaging just over 5 points and 5 rebounds per game and although that hinders his tradeability, it doesn’t distinguish it. Paired with draft assets and someone like Iman Shumpert, Thompson makes for interesting trade bait. The most likely move is the Cavs dealing Thompson and some other mix of assets to the Los Angeles Clippers for DeAndre Jordan. The Cavaliers have expressed a large level of interest in Jordan and although the Clippers’ interest in a possible deal remains to be seen, I see this as the most likely way for Cleveland to deal Thompson and his abysmal contract. Whether this deal can make the Cavaliers relevant in the East again is another question in it of itself.

Milwaukee Bucks: 2nd in Central Division (23-21)

Who: Malcolm Brogdon

Why: At the beginning of the season, the Bucks set a goal that they wanted to win 50 games this season and win a first-round playoff series. Fast forward to where we are now and the Bucks are just behind schedule for achieving their goal. This is an extremely talented team, led by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, however they just seem to be missing one key piece; a rim protector. The Bucks are currently ranked 24th in the NBA in overall defense and their starting center, John Henson, is averaging a measly 8.5 points and 1.5 blocks per game. The Bucks need a big man inside who can alter shots but average close to a double-double in points and rebounds as well. Unfortunately for them, in order to get a player of this caliber, they will need to shop around a possible future star in Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon was the Rookie of the Year in the NBA last season and is keeping up with that pace this season, averaging 13.3 points per game and shooting 47.9 percent from the floor. I would only look for the Bucks to move Brogdon if he is going to be part of a blockbuster deal that somehow involves the Bucks receiving DeAndre Jordan or Demarcus Cousins. Aside from those possibilities, I could see the Bucks being small-time buyers at the deadline and not moving anyone of substance.

Indiana Pacers: 3rd in Central Division (24-22)

Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Who: Al Jefferson

Why: The Pacers have been one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season. At the beginning of the season, they were given an over/under win total of just 30.5. At the halfway point, they are only 7 games away from eclipsing that win total. Victor Oladipo has been a revelation for Indiana this year and behind the solid play of Bojan Bogdanovic, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and company, the Pacers have been an exciting team to watch. However, they still have a lot of work to do if they’re going to compete for a playoff spot in the East. Their main position of need would be the point guard spot, where journeyman Darren Collison has played well this season. But, Collison is not going to wow you and if you’re going to be a playoff team, you need someone with a bit more pizzazz. Al Jefferson is the most likely asset Indiana would offer in a trade based on the fact that I don’t think they would be ready to pull the trigger on getting rid of either Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis (that will need to happen eventually though). Jefferson has a great contract and makes for a very good fringe starter at center for a team that is short in that position. What the Pacers could get back for Jefferson remains to be seen, but a pairing of him and a first round pick could be intriguing for teams shopping for a center. While I wouldn’t be absolutely shocked if the Pacers deal either Sabonis or Turner to the Hornets for Kemba Walker, I just don’t see Indiana taking a chance like that which makes Jefferson the safest trade bait they have to offer.

Detroit Pistons: 4th in Central Division (22-22)

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Who: Avery Bradley

Why: Detroit has an interesting decision to make when it comes to the trade deadline; are they buyers or sellers? The Pistons are currently sitting at .500 just over halfway through their regular season and with injuries to Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson, they seem to be going nowhere fast. The question they need to answer before the deadline is whether they can see the second half of the season being more of a success than the first half or if they should cut their losses and build for the future. I would go with the latter. Despite the great play of Andre Drummond this season, this team doesn’t have nearly enough firepower to compete for a playoff spot in the East. From a statistical standpoint, Avery Bradley has had a pretty solid season since coming over from Boston. However, he has been extremely inconsistent and his play on the defensive end has been sporadic at best. Although Bradley hasn’t worked out in Detroit, he is still a decent trade prospect for a contender that is looking to add some bench talent. If I were the Pistons, I would actively shop Bradley to make room for rookie Luke Kennard to see if he can be the guy moving forward.

Chicago Bulls: 5th in Central Division (17-28)

Who: Nikola Mirotic

Why: With the trade of Jimmy Butler in the offseason, it seemed as though the Bulls would be entering full rebuild mode this season and at the halfway point, that rebuild mode is in full swing. But, unfortunately for the Bulls, they have been winning too much as of late. I know that sounds strange in a game where the goal is to win. However, when you are rebuilding and developing young talent, the best thing that can happen to you is getting a top pick in the draft. The 2018 NBA Draft is going to be loaded with stars so getting a top pick should be the primary objective for a team like the Bulls, who sit 11 games below .500. As for Mirotic, he leads the team in points per game at a clip of 17.7 and now that he is healthy, he makes for a great trade asset that the Bulls can dangle in the face of a contender. While trading Mirotic might cause a bit of an uproar among fans who saw the face of their franchise get traded less than a year ago, it’s time for Bulls’ fans to face facts; the rebuild is on and you must embrace the tank. Trading away Mirotic would show that Chicago is ready to do just that.

That’s a wrap for the Central Division. Check back tomorrow when I’ll wrap up the East and talk about how one surprising contender can make a big splash at the deadline.

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Drake And The Raptors Are Donating Millions To Youth Groups

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Drake continues to be an ambassador for the NBA and more notably for his hometown team the Toronto Raptors.  Drake and Raptors President Masai Ujiri held a press conference in the arena atrium to announce their $3 million (USD $2.4M) donation to help two basketball initiatives.

A million Canadian dollars will go to refurbishing 12 local community basketball courts over the next three years, while $2 million will go to the nearly century-old nonprofit federation Canada Basketball to develop the sport from the grassroots to pro.

This “Welcome Toronto” project “is an immersive brand experience focused on art, community and ball,” according to the franchise, and includes six themed nights per year for the next three years, new OVO-edition uniforms and an OVO-designed black and gold home court — but it’s the charity donation that makes it most important to Drake.

“The biggest thing I’m most proud of with this partnership is the million dollars that we’re going to be giving to the city to redo these courts” said Drake “hopefully, to create an amazing atmosphere for anyone in that community to come out and either play casual basketball or potentially breed the next generation of Canadian basketball superstars, which goes to our other donation of 2 million dollars to Canada Basketball who have produced incredible talent.”

The Toronto Raptors and Drake's OVO announced the "Welcome Toronto" program which includes donations to charity, plus OVO-themed attire and home court.

The Raptors announced six Welcome Toronto games for which they’ll wear the black-and-gold, OVO-inspired uniforms they unveiled last week, games that will be played on a black-and-gold Air Canada Centre court designed specifically for the occasion.

The games are: Jan. 26 vs. Utah, Jan. 28 vs. the Los Angeles Lakers, Feb. 2 vs. Portland, March 23 vs. Brooklyn and April 6 vs. Indiana.

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