Mrs. Jrue Holiday - Lauren Cheney - to Represent Soon for The Stars and Stripes

Mrs. Jrue Holiday - Lauren Cheney - to Represent Soon for The Stars and Stripes

(Pardon my awful PhotoShop -- it's Friday)

If you watched any of the United States women's soccer team last night before the NBA Final, you likely saw Lauren Cheney playing a starring role for the stars and stripes in a 5-0 rout of South Korea. A game in which Abby Wambach became the all-time leading women's scorer in the international game.

In case you didn't know, Mrs. Cheney is also known as the soon-to-be Mrs. Jrue Holiday. The pair is set to marry next month.

This morning, Cheney tweeted this

So, whether Jrue ever gets a chance to play for the stars and stripes on an international stage is up for discussion.

For now, his soon-to-be wife is the true patriot.

Phillies Notes: Hector Neris looks to become three-pitch guy in 2017

Phillies Notes: Hector Neris looks to become three-pitch guy in 2017

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Hector Neris racked up 102 strikeouts, the second-most ever by a Phillies reliever, during his breakout 2016 season.

The right-hander did it basically with a two-pitch mix — a power fastball and a darting splitter that manager Pete Mackanin likes to call “an invisible pitch.”

After last season, Neris reflected on his success, which included a 2.58 ERA over 80⅓ innings, the third-most among NL relievers.

Neris determined that he would need to diversify his pitch repertoire if he’s going to continue to have success.

So during winter ball in his native Dominican Republic, he dusted off his seldom-used slider and threw it more. He’s polishing it up in this camp and plans to use it in the upcoming World Baseball Classic and during the regular season.

“I think it’s something that can make me better,” Neris said. “I’ve never had the confidence in it that I had in my other pitches, but I’m working hard on it. It will give me a third option for the hitter to think about.”

Neris threw a slider 2.9 percent of the time in 2016, according to MLB Statcast. He threw more than 49 percent splitters and 46 percent fastballs.

“In the big leagues you have to respect the hitter,” Neris said. “The hitters know me now and they know I throw fastballs and splitters. I need to have that third pitch for them to respect. When I throw it, I want them to say, ‘What is that?’”

Neris’ splitter darts down and in to a right-hander hitter. The slider will break the other way.

Neris has talked about different grips on the pitch with guest spring-training instructor Larry Andersen, who threw a million sliders in his career.

“He threw some nasty ones today,” Andersen said after Tuesday’s workout. “The pitch will help him.”

McLaren to WBC
Bullpen coach John McLaren will leave camp on Wednesday and travel to Japan as Team China assembles for the World Baseball Classic. McLaren will manage that club. He also skippered the club in 2013.

Asked if he spoke more than seven words of Chinese, McLaren quipped, “That would be pushing it. I’m still trying to conquer English.”

Team China will provide a translator for McLaren, though there is a universal element to baseball communication.

“This is my third time going to the WBC,” McLaren said. “I love it.”

Almost game time
The Phillies will play their annual exhibition game against the University of Tampa on Thursday. The Phils are expected to play many of the young players that will make up their Triple A Lehigh Valley roster. Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., who pitched at Double A Reading last season, will come over from minor-league camp to make the start. Pitching coach Bob McClure said he expected to get several projected big-league relievers work in the game.

Alec Asher will start the Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees on Friday in Tampa and Adam Morgan will start Saturday’s games against the Yankees in Clearwater.

With Magic Johnson now running the Lakers, his love of Okafor resurfaces

With Magic Johnson now running the Lakers, his love of Okafor resurfaces

The Los Angeles Lakers announced on Monday that Hall of Fame guard Magic Johnson will be the team's new President of Basketball operations. Mitch Kupchak has also been relieved of his duties as General Manager.

It's a huge shakeup for one of sports most legendary franchises.

This was of particular interest to a certain segment of Philadelphia 76ers fans who remember how fondly Magic spoke of Jahlil Okafor back when many believed the Lakers would select him with the second pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

The tweets date back to May and June of 2015:

Plenty of time has passed since the 2015 draft. Kobe Bryant certainly isn't around to help the Lakers compete in the West. They went with D'Angelo Russell with the No. 2 pick instead of Okafor. And Jahlil has had some rocky times in Philly.

But one thing hasn't changed: Okafor still holds the claim as a national champion with the Duke Blue Devils. Magic loves a winner.

Okafor is the most on-the-market player in recent memory.

With just 48 hours until the trade deadline, could Johnson be in a position to make a splash? Stranger things have happened.

Many Sixers fans are begging for it.

Lakers coach Luke Walton has said he doesn't believe in tanking, but the Sixers owning the Lakers' pick in the 2017 draft if it falls out of the top-3 certainly would encourage such a thing.

Lou Williams has been rumored to be on the block. Expect to hear the Lakers' name pop up a lot over the next two days.

Would Okafor actually be a piece for LA to build on? His skill set seems to be quite similar to that of Julius Randle. So it doesn't jump out as a great fit at first glance. Maybe he could at least be good pals with fellow Dukie Brandon Ingram. Plus, nobody knows yet what sort of vision Magic will have relative to his predecessors. It would seem foolish to part with any sort of draft assets with a team uncertain of its grand plan.

And if nothing else, the state of the Lakers over the next few months and into next season will be worth watching for Sixers fans for when that first round pick conveys.