How many Christmas wishes do we get as the next-to-last week of the NFL season approaches? Here are four.

That the NFL doesn’t try to sneak in one last Thursday night game, now that the TNF schedule officially ended last week. That we go a week without an MVP candidate getting knocked out with injury, after two straight weeks of it happening. That there’s not a single appearance of an index card or the phrase did not survive the ground in any game. And that there’s no reason to discuss workplace leg-shaving at any time.

As for the games themselves, 13 of the 16 spread over three days this holiday weekend have playoff implications, including, amazingly, both games that will compete with the NBA on Christmas day.

Certainly, Thomas did his part. His game, especially given his diminutive size, revolves across sacrificing his body on repeated drives to the rim. He averaged more than eight free throws per game last season. Thomas was eventually shut down for the year with a hip injury in Game 2 during the Eastern Conference Finals, but he had played through that exact hip problem earlier in that postseason before it became unmanageable. He also lost his tooth during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and didn’t even miss the second half.

Another weakness with the NCAA’s sexual assault guidelines is that there is a lack of institutional discipline for schools that lack Title IX coordinators. Each NCAA institution needs a Title IX coordinator something Baylor didn’t have until November 2014. That coordinator resigned in 2016, saying the school’s leadership wouldn’t allow her to fulfill her responsibilities.

One story came from former Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, who spoke of being repeatedly molested by USA Gymnastics and Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar, who has since been sentenced to 60 years on child pornography charges. Alarmingly, in a lawsuit filed in December, Maroney alleges USA Gymnastics tried to silence her by making her sign an NDA as part of a financial settlement that she needed in order to pay for psychological treatment.

Sure, Green bites on pump fakes and half-heartedly gambles for steals he has no chance on. Sure, he’s prone to dumb heat checks. But Green, a 36.3 percent career three-point shooter, needs no rhyme or reason to rain down buckets upon unsuspecting opponents. For this Houston team, that’s all it’s asking of him.

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The U.S. Olympic team won’t include any current NHL players.

But from journeyman Chris Bourque, the son of a Hall of Famer, to forward Jordan Greenway, the first African-American to make the Olympic roster, Team USA offers several compelling storylines.

I was playing junior at the time in Erie, down the road, and I remember watching that. A lot of people I know went to it and talked about it. Now living in Buffalo, and being a Bills fan, I can’t believe there was a game at that stadium. And I can’t believe it was 10 years ago, said Ryan O’Reilly of the Sabres.

He just wanted a chance, his father, Steve Keenum, said this week in a phone interview. He’s got to have the knack. It’s just a God-given, innate thing that he’s maximized by working hard.

As the oldest of his three children, Case made clear at an early age to Steve that he had the makeup to be an NFL quarterback even if there was no way to predict how the skill set would unfold.

Well, there will never be another Winter Classic like this one, either. Now, if we can just get the Wings and Leafs to both wear their full-color uniforms in the same game more often …

It’s part of the general manager’s job to monitor the pulse of his locker room. And according to MacMullan, Griffin sensed both [Irving’s] unhappiness and his restlessness and was preparing for the possibility that Irving would request a trade.

Well, we won’t know, will we? Unlike Irving’s trade request, some things remain under wraps for the long haul. Since both the Cavaliers and James have openly refuted Irving’s claims, that probably won’t happen.

If you haven’t read MacMullen’s awesome feature, you should set 10 minutes aside and do so here. But the gist of the trade portion of her story is this: the Cavaliers are a well-oiled, championship machine, but its pieces weren’t a perfect fit all the time.

What do we do now that the Jaguars are good? he asked.

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Pro Football Talk posed a scenario Sunday in which the Bengals trade for Browns coach Hue Jackson.

It came after reports surfaced that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis would be leaving at the end of the season after a 15-year stint as head coach.

Let’s get this straight. Jackson, who is 1-29 over two seasons with the Browns and could go 0-16 in 2017, could take over for Lewis, his former mentor, weeks after trying to trade for the Bengals’ backup quarterback. If that happens, then Lewis would become a candidate for the Browns job.

When I’d spoken to Harris a couple years ago, he’d made a big jump from his rookie to sophomore seasons. I was asking him about another offseason in the gym, and he’d barely let the question finish when he reminded me about his place as a shooting guard in the league, I’m not the best yet.

The point for him wasn’t at all to be pointed, and he was calm and clear. Harris has a goal, and he knew that was the answer to the question. He was still working, and is still working. Whether he achieves his goal or not, he intends to keep pressing himself until he’s the best. Or at least, at his best.

Touchdown Chiefs. Smith finds a wide open Tyreek Hill, who had run straight by his defender, for a 64-yard score to increase Kansas City’s lead to 10-0. The catch was Hill’s seventh touchdown of the season.

The Chargers move the chains three times and advance near midfield. But Rivers is sacked for a 9-yard loss on first down and Los Angeles fails to recover. It punts and the Chiefs will take over at their 20.

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Titans running back DeMarco Murray suffered a knee injury late in the loss to the Rams.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey said following the game the injury doesn’t look good for Murray, who will undergo an MRI on Monday.

Saints left tackle Terron Armstead injured his thigh and did not return to the win over the Falcons.

The Celtics took this pick outright from the Nets as part of the Pierce/Garnett trade. The Nets finished 21-61 in 2015-16 and finished in the No. 3 slot, which the Celtics used to pick Brown. Brown represents the best the Celtics currently have from the Brooklyn trade, but there’s a lot more to come.

This pick arrived from Dallas as part of the Rajon Rondo trade in 2014. The pick was protected 1-3 and 15-30 in 2015, so it did not convey until the next year. Yabusele spent last year dominating in China and could play for the Celtics next year.

The 20-year-old Croatian 7-footer just completed an excellent season for Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul and is expected to join the Celtics next year. He finished second to top 2018 prospect Luka Doncic for the Euroleague Rising Star award.

December was made for Todd Gurley putting the offense on his back and the defense starting to make more impact plays for Wade Phillips. Their strong special teams, however, took a big dent in losing Greg Zuerlein.

The Saints haven’t deviated much from their formula — run the ball, control the clock and have the defense make one or two game-changing plays. They still need to avoid going on the road to start the playoffs, however.

I really don’t care how many points I average, Butler said after the Wolves’ 98-97 loss to the Nets on Wednesday. I just wanna win. That’s that. I don’t care about how many points I average per month, I don’t care about any of that. If we don’t do our job as a whole here and win games, it really doesn’t matter.

Truth be told, it was Butler’s scoring that mattered when Minnesota rattled off 10 wins in 15 December games. After averaging 16 points in October and 18 points in November, Jimmy Buckets ran amok for 27 points per game in December. It was the 12th-highest scoring output in the league for the month.

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Gettleman was fired as the Panthers general manager after spending the previous four seasons with Carolina.

I don’t think the NFL did us any favors by moving it back, Harbaugh said Tuesday, per ESPN. But they don’t care about us. So, we just have to care about ourselves. We have to take care of our own business. That goes for our team, for our fans and for our city. Let’s go win the football game.

Harbaugh, missing or ignoring the point about competitive integrity, added, I don’t know what their considerations are at the league office, and why they do what they do. I really don’t care, other than the fact that I hope our fans are OK with it. I hope they’re into it. I hope people get there. The people who have plans, I hope they give their tickets to someone else so they get there. I want the place to be packed and loud.

… I am not a perfect man, but the claims by my former assistant are simply not true and her demands for a financial settlement are outrageous. I am saddened that these accusations and investigation have caused my family additional stress.

As of Tuesday, with the firing of Rodriguez, the Pac-12 will have five new football coaches when the 2018 season begins. Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA have also made moves this offseason.

Let me address that right now: I don’t care what position it is, you can never have too many great players at one position, Gettleman said.

Gettleman was hired Thursday to replace Jerry Reese, and when pressed about his plan and where he intends to take the franchise, he had a fairly simple response.

My plan is to come in here every day and kick a��. That’s my plan and I’m going to keep doing it until they take my key card or the good Lord calls me home.

He comes to the Giants as a familiar face after spending 15 years as a personnel executive with New York prior to his time in Charlotte.

Paul gave Houston its first lead since the second quarter with a 3-pointer that made it 127-125 with 2:40 remaining in the first overtime.

The Lakers got two free throws from Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart added a basket on a goaltending call to make it 131-129 with about a minute to go in the first OT.

Black tied it up before Hart missed a 3-pointer to give Houston the ball back. Paul put Houston on top with a short jumper with four seconds remaining, but P.J. Tucker fouled Ingram and he made both free throws with 0.8 seconds left in the first overtime to tie it at 133-133.

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The team doesn’t want a parade like this – what team would – but recognizes it goes with not winning a game.

USC’s Sam Darnold has proven capable of ultimately becoming a star NFL quarterback, but Ohio State exposed the biggest issue for the Trojans’ QB all season long he simply needs more reps against good defenses.

Even though the Buckeyes lost their best cornerback, and one of the best cover men in all of college football in Denzel Ward before the game, Greg Schiano runs a sophisticated defense that exposes mistakes.

Darnold still commits too many turnovers, something he will have to cut down at the next level. The Buckeyes are good at forcing good QB’s to make a lot of poor decisions, and they lived up to expectations Friday.

The redshirt sophomore made a lot of impressive passes in the Trojans’ loss to the Buckeyes, but he turned the ball over twice in the first quarter including one on what looked to be a horrible interception which turned into a pick-six for Ohio State.

McNeil, 38, lives in Granville, outside Columbus, and works in purchasing for a family business. He grew up in Bath (where LeBron James resides) and attended Miami (Ohio) University. He retains fond memories of going to Browns games with his Dad, and has three children younger than 10.

McNeil has learned the logistics of this kind of event are complex. He has a GoFundMe account set up to help pay for the expenses, which include insurance, bathrooms and security. The company that makes Excedrin has donated about $8,000, saying Browns fans have had a lot of headaches. Single digit temperatures bring a whole new level of safety concern.

Critics have spoken to McNeil, mainly via social media, telling him they feel the parade is just one more embarrassing event for the city of Cleveland.

The Browns have one win in the last two years, he said. That’s embarrassing enough to me as a fan.

He also points out that the day will not be a lot of fun for him.

I’ll be the guy picking up trash, making sure security is there, McNeil said. These are not glamour jobs I’m left with. For those giving me a hard time about being a publicity grabber, I’m the the guy checking people in and making sure they are safe.

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