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Sports News Headlines: The Lastest NFL/NBA/NHL/MLB News

Clock ticking toward potential front-office shakeup for Lakers

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The clock is ticking ever closer toward a potential front-office shakeup for the NBA’s glamour franchise, the once mighty — but now rebuilding — Los Angeles Lakers.

The timeline was first set in April 2014, when Lakers part-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss told the Los Angeles Times that he would step down within three years if the team hadn’t made a deep playoff run by then.

The Lakers, who opened training camp at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, are entering the final season of Buss’ self-imposed deadline — one that Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss has time and again publicly stated that she will make sure her brother honors.

There’s a chance — if not a strong possibility — that Jim Buss’ potential departure won’t be the only one within the Lakers front office, though it’s unclear what exactly might happen. It has long been widely speculated, though, that if Jim Buss departs, so too would Lakers longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak.

In the past, Kupchak has deferred questions about Jim Buss’ deadline to turn around the Lakers, who have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons and are coming off their worst campaign in franchise history after finishing 17-65 last season.

The New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, who was among those to open this year’s ESPYS with a plea to stop the violence, said the Knicks likely will do something collectively to address the social turmoil.

“I think we’re in the same state,” he said. “I think it’s actually getting worse.”

Similarly strong assessments have been expressed around the league for months, as the list of U.S. cities dealing with protests — including Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Ferguson, Missouri, and now Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina — over gun violence and racial turmoil continues to grow.

Anthony, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul talked openly in July about how players and coaches can help create substantive change in cities across the country.

In a league in which about 75 percent of the players are black and some have enormous social-media followings, plenty of eyes will be on the NBA to see what it does after NFL players and some athletes from other sports have taken to kneeling during national anthems or raising a fist in an effort to spark discussion about race relations and other matters.

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Shaq: Ben Simmons is a ‘LeBron-type player’

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Last week, former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While speaking with the media, O’Neal was asked by CSN Philly about the 2016 rookie class and if any players stood out as future stars.

“I don’t know all of them, but I know my guy’s going to be pretty good, Ben Simmons,” O’Neal told CSN Philly, referring to the Philadelphia 76ers rookie who was picked No. 1 overall.

“I’m a better golfer, but obviously in golf you play with handicaps so everything’s fair,” Curry added. “The last two times I’ve played, I’ve lost to him.”

Curry said his handicap is two, but he wouldn’t divulge President Obama’s handicap, claiming it’s “top-secret” information.

Curry did admit, however, that the president is an avid trash-talker during a round of golf.

“During his speeches, he has that very slow cadence that kind of draws you in,” Curry said. “He brings that same kind of vibe to his trash talk. So I’ll hit a shot out of bounds, and he’ll just look like, ‘Yeah, that’s not a good shot. I’m going to need you to do better next time.’ So it gets under your skin, too, because I’m like, ‘I know. I hit out of bounds.'”

Michelle Obama then gave Curry some sound advice for next time he golfs with the POTUS: “You should trash-talk back, Stephen.”

“Give him some things to say,” DeGeneres quipped.

“Talk about his ears,” Michelle Obama said. “Here’s one: As you’re putting, say, ‘The shadow from your ears is messing up my putt.’ Try that one.”

Now imagine the flip side, going into Rounds 3 and 4 with a combination of Curry and Thomas or Paul and Lowry, for example. If you can pull something like this off, you’ll be set in the assist, steal and 3-point categories and benefit firsthand from all the frontcourt value that falls your way between picks 25 and 50.

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Vin Scully: ‘I will say goodbye in San Francisco, and then that will be it’

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Vin Scully says the last ballgame he will broadcast is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ regular-season finale — regardless of whether they reach the playoffs.

“I’m going to say goodbye at Dodger Stadium the last game with Colorado. I will say goodbye in San Francisco. And then that will be it,” he told The Times.

Cole’s fastball registered in the 93-96-mph range Monday, but velocity couldn’t compensate for a lack of command. Of the 11 straight heaters that he threw to Cesar Hernandez and rookie Roman Quinn to begin the game, eight missed the strike zone. Cole recovered from the back-to-back walks to freeze Maikel Franco on a 96-mph fastball and get Ryan Howard swinging on a slider, and it appeared he had found his equilibrium.

But everything unraveled in the second. Freddy Galvis drove a fastball into the seats to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead, and Cole proceeded to give up a single to Odubel Herrera, a double to Cody Asche, consecutive walks to Jeremy Hellickson and Hernandez and a run-scoring double to Quinn. Once the inning mercifully ended with the Pirates down 5-1, he called it a night.

The Rangers have won largely because they’ve stymied the Astros’ big bats. Carlos Correa is hitting .167 in 66 at-bats and George Springer is hitting .149 in 74 at-bats. Springer has been the final out in four of the losses, three in which he represented the tying or winning run. The two were a combined 0-for-7 on Tuesday. In fact, Astros other than Jose Altuve were 1-for-25 on Tuesday.

Altuve is hitting .275 against the Rangers this season. His teammates are hitting .212.

“We had guys on base all night,” manager Joe Maddon lamented of the loss. “We had many opportunities to score, and we did not do it.”

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and Backman both have characterized Backman’s departure from the Las Vegas 51s as a resignation, although multiple published reports have labeled it as Backman being fired. Those reports portrayed Backman as being insubordinate, asserting he disregarded instructions to bat Brandon Nimmo leadoff and to use Michael Conforto against left-handed pitching.

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Mike Trout is still the AL’s best player, but he won’t win MVP

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ESPN’s Dan Szymborski has an interesting look at baseball’s MVP races and argues why Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout should still be the top candidate in the American League. Of course, we know the case against Trout: The Angels aren’t going to make the playoffs, so his performance has apparently played out in a vacuum of meaninglessness. Szymborski presents a chart that lists how much a team’s World Series odds would decrease minus the individual performances of key players. The top two players here are Indians right-hander Corey Kluber and Cubs slugger Kris Bryant. This is the conventional “who means the most to his team” MVP argument. Trout is nowhere to be found, since the Angels aren’t contenders.

Trout is universally regarded as the best all-around player in baseball. He holds a significant lead over Mookie Betts in Baseball-Reference WAR, 9.3 to 7.8 (and 8.4 to 6.9 on FanGraphs). If you asked 30 general managers which player they would want on their team, knowing they would get that player’s 2016 performance, all 30 would likely take Trout. Yet he’s not going to be named American League MVP — and not just because the Angels are 62-77. Voters still love their conventional AVG, HRs, RBIs stat lines. In that department, Trout doesn’t stand out from Betts or Jose Altuve:

Trout: .323, 27, 88

Betts: .316, 30, 100

Altuve: .344, 22, 92

The Mets did go the pure showman route back in 2000, when they invited entertainer Garth Brooks to Mets camp. He went 0-for-17 in what was deemed mostly a charitable endeavor. The Tebow signing is more of a hybrid — some baseball legitimacy with a lot of upside benefit based on the novelty.

For whatever it’s worth, Alderson insisted the signing was made on baseball merits.

“While I and the organization, I think, are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven by baseball,” Alderson said. “This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort. We are extremely intrigued with the potential that Tim has. He has demonstrated over his athletic career that he is a tremendous athlete, has got character, a competitive spirit. Aside from the age (29), this is a classic player-development opportunity for us. As an organization, we’re going to provide that development opportunity for Tim.”

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Who’s the best contracted NBA player from Australia and NZ?

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The Boomers may have walked away from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games without a medal, but the overall success of the campaign cannot be understated.

They entered the Olympic tournament as the No. 11-ranked team in the FIBA standings, but victories against Lithuania (No. 3), France (No. 5) and Serbia (No. 6) should see them move comfortably into the top 10.

That success comes on the heels of Ben Simmons and Thon Maker being drafted with the No. 1 and No. 10 picks respectively in the 2016 NBA draft, and hence light has never shone brighter on Australian basketball.

Australia currently has eight contracted players for the 2016-17 NBA season, behind only Canada, France and Brazil on the international players list. Include New Zealander Steven Adams — and it’s not like Australia doesn’t have form in that regard — and the number rises to No. 9.

(Aron Baynes was also born in New Zealand, but he’s well and truly Australian having played for the Boomers.)

So, of the contracted NBA players from Australia and New Zealand, who is the cream of the crop?

1. Andrew Bogut (Dallas Mavericks)

Career figures: 10.3 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game, 2.3 assists per game, 1.6 blocks per game.

2. Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs)

Career figures: 7.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.6 steals per game.

3. Steven Adams (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Adams had his coming out party during the 2015-16 NBA playoffs, asserting himself as the Thunder’s go-to man behind megastars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

With Durant fleeing town, the No. 2 position is open and Adams is primed to become the Robin to Westbrook’s Batman off the back of averaging almost a double-double during 18 playoff games.

Career figures: 6.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.7 apg, 1.0 bpg.

4. Matthew Dellavedova (Milwaukee Bucks)

Dellavedova is taking his championship experience from Cleveland to the youngest side in the league, where he’ll likely play second fiddle to Michael Carter-Williams but should see much increased average minutes.

Off the back of a stellar Olympics campaign, in which he finished with the highest number of assists, Delly will be looking to translate that form into the coming NBA season.

For those who don’t know, Anthony’s dad, Carmelo Iriarte, who died when Melo was only 2, was a member of the Young Lords, the Puerto Rican group of the 1960s and ’70s that pushed for social justice.

And it’s not as if Anthony doesn’t talk about this part of his life. Ask him about his family and he might even show you tattoo of the Puerto Rican flag.

Yet, I still hold out hope. Imagine hearing this during a USA Basketball game:

“An 18-footer by Anthony as the U.S. takes a commanding lead. The New York Knicks star has been a strong voice this summer, speaking out against police violence. Many fans might not know that Anthony is an Afro-Latino whose father was Puerto Rican. Even as black athletes are speaking out, an Afro-Latino is leading the way.”

After the season, the team was sold and moved to San Francisco, eventually becoming the Golden State Warriors. While Chamberlain left his native Philadelphia — only to eventually return — Harvey Pollack never did.

Boutet is 52 now. The Braves have been gone from town nearly 40 years and moved yet again, to Los Angeles. But in his mind’s eye, Boutet can still see himself and his dad climbing the steps in old Memorial Auditorium and settling into the blue or orange nosebleed seats to watch Bob McAdoo, Randy Smith and Ernie DiGregorio.

Dr. Jack Ramsay, like McAdoo a future Hall of Famer, coached the Braves for four seasons before moving on to Portland in 1976-77 and winning a title in his first season there.

“When you think about what could have been here with the Braves, it’s really something,” said Boutet, an elementary school teacher and avid Braves memorabilia collector who sits on the board of directors of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. For the last few years, Boutet has been part of an effort to establish a brick-and-mortar sports museum to preserve the city’s sports history.

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Even in triumph, U.S. concedes more experience needed

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Ten first-time Olympians. Six players who had never played a game for the senior national team before they got here. The shock to the system of three single-digit games in one single Olympics wasn’t all that surprising to USA Basketball officials once you did the roster math.

“I just wanted to clear the air for all these people,” Wall said in a video published to the Twitter feed of the LeBron James media platform “The Uninterrupted.”

“Listen, that doesn’t matter to me,” Wall said. “If I produce like I’m supposed to on the basketball court and take care of myself and image, I’m going to be fine with making money. That’s not why I play the game of basketball.”

Wall’s soliloquy comes days after he and fellow Wizards guard Bradley Beal discussed their apparently conflicted relationship in interviews with Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.

Beal signed a five-year, $128 million max contract this offseason with Wall in the middle of an $80 million deal that runs through the 2018 season.

“Me, talking about Bradley Beal [making] more money, I’m not mad. I’m happy. He’s my teammate,” Wall said Friday. “He came out at the right time when the contract money came up. I can’t control that.”

“Melo’s for sure the leader,” Team USA sixth man Paul George offered. “He’s the voice of this team.”

“We don’t have enough time,” Colangelo said of the outgoing coach, “to talk about how much he has meant to our program.”

Hard as it was to keep track of all the understandable praise flying around, Sunday’s gold-medal dismantling of Serbia was ultimately Durant’s day. He managed to trump the retiring Coach K (who leaves his post with a record of 88-1) and the record-setting Anthony (who became the first men’s basketball player in Olympic history to win three golds) with a performance on par with the 30 points he uncorked in the 2012 gold-medal game in London.

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Cowboys’ pass-rush question remains, but is backup QB answered?

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FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys opened training camp in Oxnard, California, with issues and they returned to their new practice facility, The Star, with issues. Some are old. Some are new. Some have been answered. Some haven’t.

Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory

They remain on the reserve/did not report list. As of late last week the Cowboys have had zero contact with McClain. Gregory, according to sources, is at a treatment facility. The approach from the coaching staff and locker room has been out of sight, out of mind. Two years ago the Cowboys needed McClain in a bad way, so they bent over backward in dealing with his idiosyncrasies. With accountability being one of the themes of this year’s camp, there doesn’t seem to be any longing for McClain’s return. So why is he on the roster? Jerry Jones is the last holdout. If something were to happen later in the season, the Cowboys could always see if McClain is in shape to play football after his 10-game suspension ends. There appears to be more in-house sympathy for Gregory, but some of that may be due to the team’s questions about the pass rush.

Good problem at running back

The Cowboys have too many of them. Constructing a 53-man roster with five tailbacks does not make much sense, but it is doable. Ezekiel Elliott will be the starter. Alfred Morris has shown to be a great fit for the scheme. Lance Dunbar, who was activated off the physically unable to perform list Sunday, can be a third-down back. Rookie Darius Jackson has shown the ability to play in this league. Darren McFadden has yet to practice because of a broken elbow suffered in June. He is on the non-football injury list, and the hope is he will be ready for Week 1. But if he’s not, the Cowboys could delay a decision by keeping him on NFI, which would mean he’d miss the first six games. That’s one way to solve a puzzle with too many pieces.

On Friday night, Griffin had two runs in a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. On one, he rolled right, faked a throw and took off for 14 yards. Before anyone could touch him, he slid. On the second, he ran the read-option around left end and gained 22 yards, then slid again.

Whether he said anything on the field isn’t known or material.

Because when Cleveland coach Hue Jackson saw those slides, he smiled. Griffin was doing exactly what the coach wanted him to do. On each run, Griffin’s speed and quickness could have gotten more yards. But they also would have led to hits, exposing himself to potential injury.

“Sometimes,” Jackson said, “more is not better.”

Of the many criticisms that dogged Griffin in Washington and followed him to Cleveland, one was his refusal to slide. Time and again, coaches would tell him the wise thing was to slide and avoid a hit. Time and again, he would take a hit. Griffin has had two major injuries to his knee, a concussion and a fractured ankle, all on plays when he improvised, none on designed runs.

Griffin emphasized that he never wanted to give up on a play, so he was reluctant to throw the ball away or to slide. When he tried to slide, it looked as if he had never been taught how to do so.

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Tom Brady lauds Gisele Bundchen’s Rio strut, Jimmy Garoppolo’s play

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“He works his tail off to prepare, and I know he has the respect of everybody,” Brady said. “I think that’s what you always do — try to come out here and earn the respect of your teammates and your coaches. You have to put the work in, you have to show you’re willing to show up every day and do whatever it takes to get the job done.

“It’s been fun to see his development. We got off to a good start the other night and hopefully we keep it going; we have three days of practice coming up against the Bears that will be good preparation for our team. We have to use them really well.”

Sunday marked the team’s first practice since the preseason opener, and it was held in hot, humid conditions that challenged Brady and his teammates.

“A couple days off, we’ve been off our feet and you try to get back into it, and your body is not quite ready,” he said of conditioning in the heat. “You just have to fight through it the best you can.”

Brady’s post-practice interview with reporters lasted less than five minutes. It marked the second time he has answered questions from the press since training camp opened July 28.

Candace Gregory and her husband, Danmon, were taking an after-dinner stroll around the Inner Harbor of Baltimore on Wednesday night when they saw an unexpected gesture of generosity.

More unexpected was the person making the gesture.

It was Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, in town for the preseason opener against the Ravens the following night.

Newton and a group of teammates were leaving dinner at Sullivan’s. The NFL MVP was carrying two bags of food that Candace later realized contained a full meal, not leftovers.

As they rounded the corner, Candace and Danmon — in town for business — watched as Newton gave one of the bags to a man sitting beside a bus stop with a sign that said, “Homeless Please help hungry — food.”

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Malik McDowell: I’ll stay at MSU absent projection as top-3 pick

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Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil was the presumptive No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 draft long after he left his college eligibility on the table and entered this year’s draft. But when the Tennessee Titans traded the top pick to the Los Angeles Rams, Tunsil’s status as the top pick suddenly tumbled. It tumbled even further on draft night, but it was the Titans trade that blurred Tunsil’s draft projection first.

Truth is, nobody — not MSU coach Mark Dantonio, not an NFL personnel executive, and certainly not an agent or family member — can tell McDowell with any real certainty whether he would be one of the draft’s first three choices. Too much can happen between January and April.

And of course, McDowell can always change his mind about the threshold for his decision.

Here’s the current depth chart at quarterback for the Seahawks: Russell Wilson … and two guys with zero NFL experience.

Jake Heaps signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent last year and was cut during the 2015 preseason. He joined the Seahawks three months ago. Then there’s 2016 undrafted free agent Trevone Boykin, a short-by-NFL-standards quarterback who was a threat with his arm and his legs in college.

Sound familiar? Seahawks coach Pete Carroll certainly thinks so.

“Something good every day, really he’s handling it,” Carroll said recently of Boykin, via PFT. “He is in command of the huddle. He has got a terrific physical ability; he can throw, he can run, he can do all that stuff in similar style. He can do the same things that we try to do with Russ.

“So now it is just a long journey to get him right in a lot of areas. He has got the makeup, it appears, and I am really excited about him. We know, we have watched him play enough, he’s got football kind of playmaking abilities. He is always able to make things happen and in a very similar fashion as Russell did. We’re very confident that he has a chance to help us.”

San Francisco 49ers

When the 49ers get back to work Tuesday, one of their objectives remains sorting through their wide receiver options, particularly in the slot. Bruce Ellington is the odds-on favorite there, but Bryce Treggs has flashed some potential of late and DeAndrew White could also figure into the mix. Coach Chip Kelly likes Ellington because of his sense of spacing, pointing to his time on the hardwood. “He’s got his background as a basketball player,” Kelly said. “So he understands spacing, he understands how to attack a zone, he understands where the soft parts of a zone are. There’s a correlation between guys who played basketball or have a basketball background and then kind of understanding how to operate in there. So I think he’s got a real good feel for working in the slot.” — Nick Wagoner

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With ‘jitterbugs,’ Vontaze Burfict eases back into Bengals lineup

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Burfict estimated he was part of 23 plays in his first workout of the season, and was encouraged by how he played.

“Every time I practice, I practice at 110 percent like it’s a game,” Burfict said. “[Joint practices next week] against Minnesota and the practice against my teammates, those will be my game-time game reps.”

Here are some other observations from the Bengals’ latest practice:

In addition to the welcome sight of Burfict in shoulder pads, the Bengals had to be pleased to see tight end Tyler Eifert go through some conditioning and rehab exercises on a side field. Eifert is trying to return from a May ankle surgery in time for the start of the season. He was joined there by rehabbing receiver Jake Kumerow (hamstring) and linebacker Trevor Roach (hamstring). Tight end Matt Lengel (undisclosed) hasn’t practiced all week.

Lewis said cornerback William Jackson III could return at some point this season after he undergoes surgery to reattach the pectoral muscle he tore in practice Monday. It’s still a serious injury, and it could land the rookie on injured reserve, possibly with the designation to return.

Much of Thursday’s practice was devoted to red zone and special-teams work. On special teams, the Bengals practiced standard kickoffs and squib kicks. In red zone territory, quarterback AJ McCarron had a tough time getting passes into the hands of his wideouts before finally connecting with A.J. Green on a touchdown Green was “penalized” for. Officials, in town to share the latest league rule changes with the Bengals, flagged Green when he punted the ball a short distance after his score. Just before that touchdown, a pair of McCarron passes into the end zone were dropped by rookie receivers Tyler Boyd and Rashaun Simonise. Another was tipped away by middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.

DETROIT — James Shields has once again taken exception with the comments of his former team’s owner.

While he understands that San Diego Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler is frustrated by his team’s poor performance, the White Sox pitcher said Thursday his effort should never have been called into question.

Fowler was once again critical of his former players in response to the comments made earlier this week by Matt Kemp in The Players’ Tribune. Kemp, who was traded to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, said he had built a reputation for “being selfish, lazy and a bad teammate.”

Fowler, who previously singled Shields out in a June radio interview, ripped some of his highest-salaried players, many whom have been traded, in a San Diego Union-Tribune story on Thursday.

“I’ll be damned if we’re going to pay high-priced talent to sit on their butts and not perform,” Fowler said.

Though he wasn’t directly named in this current round of criticism, the comments didn’t sit well with Shields, who was traded to the White Sox in early June in exchange for Erik Johnson and minor leaguer Fernando Tatis Jr.

“(Fowler and Kemp) have their own deal and he has his own thoughts about him, so I’m not going to comment on that,” Shields said. “But one thing I do know is, I hope he’s not putting me in that category as far as not trying. You can ask anybody around the league, let alone in the San Diego organization — I worked my butt off every single day. I prepared myself the way I needed to prepare myself on a daily basis. And I pour my heart out every time I pitch on the mound.”

Fowler has been critical of his team twice in the past few months, including on the team’s flagship radio station shortly after Shields was tattooed for 10 runs in his final start with the Padres on May 31. On Thursday, Fowler said he’s happy to have rid the franchise of Kemp and others.

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