The Golden State Warriors’ home game against the Dallas Mavericks scheduled for Friday has been postponed following the death of Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic, the NBA announced on Thursday. Milojevic, who was 46, died Wednesday morning. He was hospitalized on Tuesday night in Salt Lake City after having a heart attack at a team dinner.
Golden State’s game against the Utah Jazz, scheduled for Wednesday in Utah, was also postponed. Neither game has yet been rescheduled.
“This is a shocking and tragic blow for everyone associated with the Warriors and an incredibly difficult time for his family, friends, and all of us who had the incredible pleasure to work with him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Milojevic in a statement. “In addition to being a terrific basketball coach, Dejan was one of the most positive and beautiful human beings I have ever known, someone who brought joy and light to every single day with his passion and energy.”
The Warriors-Mavericks game was set to air nationally on ESPN. Instead, the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the Brooklyn Nets will be broadcast in that spot on Friday.
The next scheduled game for Golden State (18-22, 12th place in the Western Conference) is Wednesday, Jan. 24 at home against the Atlanta Hawks.
Dallas’ next scheduled game is Monday, Jan. 22 at home against the Boston Celtics. On Wednesday in Los Angeles, Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told reporters that they would fly back to Dallas on Thursday if the league decided to postpone the game against the Warriors.
Fresh off of last year’s successful campaign, the USFL is gearing up for what could be an even better 2023 season — but which team will capture the title?
Led by quarterback J’Mar Smith, the Birmingham Stallions begin their defense of last year’s championship when the league kicks off this Saturday, April 15. The Philadelphia Stars, who came up just short against Birmingham in last year’s USFL Championship Game, are expected to once again be in the mix with the return of their quarterback, Case Cookus. The league’s two other playoff teams last year, the New Jersey Generals and New Orleans Breakers, are also expected to make a run at the crown.
Joining the fray of USFL teams for the 2023 season are the Memphis Showboats, who will be one of three teams that will get to play in front of their home fans this season (check out everything to know in our 2023 season primer, the complete season schedule and much more). After all the league’s regular-season games were held in Birmingham last year, three new venues have been added to the mix for 2023: Memphis, Canton and Detroit. The Showboats are in essence the Tampa Bay Bandits, who are on a hiatus in 2023 after going 4-6 in 2022.
With Week 1 on the horizon, who are the top teams? Here’s how we rank them in our Week 1 Power Rankings:
Birmingham Stallions Last season: 9-1, defending champs, defeated New Orleans and Philadelphia in playoffs Skip Holtz’s team returns the majority of last year’s championship roster. That includes Smith, who said he is roughly 10-15 pounds lighter than he was last year. Running backs Bo Scarbrough, C.J. Marable and linebacker Scooby Wright are three other key members of Birmingham’s championship team that are back for the 2023 season.
Smith is expecting more of a contribution this season from receiver Marlon Williams, who last season finished second in the USFL in touchdown catches and third in receiving yards. The two connected on a deep touchdown pass in last year’s championship game win over Philadelphia.
In 2023, Birmingham will try to do something that no NFL team has done in nearly 20 years: repeat as champion.
“I love having a target on my back,” Smith recently told CBS Sports. “It makes me play harder. I know that everyone is going to give us their best shot. I’m not going run away from their shot. I love to step up to the challenge.”
Philadelphia Stars Last season: 6-4, defeated New Jersey in playoffs, lost to Birmingham in championship game The Stars have their sights set on a championship after coming up just short in last year’s championship game. A big reason for Philadelphia’s optimism is the return of Cookus, who went 6-3 as the team’s starting quarterback last season. Cookus led a Stars offense that averaged a league-high 26.2 points per game.
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New Jersey Generals Last season: 9-1, lost to Philadelphia in the playoffs New Jersey, which tied Birmingham with the league’s best record during the 2022 regular season, is motivated this season after last year’s playoff upset at the hands of the Stars.
“The guys come in with a chip on their shoulder, kind of like unfinished business a little bit,” said offensive coordinator Steven Smith, via the league’s website. “The guys came in ready to go and focused on getting it done and making things happen that we didn’t finish last year.”
The Generals lost one of their key players from last year’s team to the NFL in Cowboys All-Pro return specialist KaVontae Turpin. Reigning Offensive Player of the Year Darius Victor is back, however, along with fellow running back Trey Williams. Last season, the duo helped the Generals average a league-high 161 yards on the ground per game.
Quarterback is the big question mark. De’Andre Johnson, the team’s backup last season, is looking to win the job over Kyle Lauletta, a former Giants draft pick who made two starts for the Maulers last season.
New Orleans Breakers Last season: 6-4, lost to Birmingham in the playoffs One of the league’s four playoff teams in 2022, New Orleans will usher in a new era in 2023. The team has a new coach in John DeFilippo, who won a Super Bowl in 2017 as the Eagles quarterbacks coach.
New Orleans’ top-ranked defense is expected to again be among the league’s best. The big question is at quarterback, as the Breakers have a three-man competition between McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Davis Cheek and Aqeel Glass. The front-runner to win the job is the 34-year-old Bethel-Thompson, a two-time Canadian Football League champion who decided to move to the USFL instead of spending another season in Winnipeg.
“It’s all betting on one year, which is tenuous but also challenging,” he recently told the Toronto Sun. “Every game matters. Every practice matters. Every throw matters. If I don’t perform physically or mentally, or maybe play half the year and then get benched, I could very well have ended my career as opposed to having four more years in the CFL. It’s moving all your chips in on a pretty bizarre hand.”
Memphis Showboats Memphis’ possible advantage at quarterback moved them up several spots on this list. Showboats coach Todd Haley recently announced that his starting quarterback will be Brady White, who enjoyed a prolific college career at Memphis that included throwing for a school-record 10,690 yards and 90 touchdowns.
“Brady has kind of cemented himself as the starter here as we get the season going,” Haley recently told Fox Sports. “But Ryan (Willis) and Cole (Kelley) are talented guys that have impressed us throughout this process. I don’t think it’s beyond thinking that you’ll see all these guys play at some point.
“The name of the game is winning. So, whoever gives us the best chance to win will be the guy handling the football most of the time. But Brady, having been with us most of the time last year, definitely had a head start. I know he’s excited about being in Memphis, where he played his college football. He’s like a superstar walking around town down here. I know he’s enjoying and embracing that, and we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
Memphis’ offense also includes Alex Collins, a veteran NFL running back who nearly ran for 1,000 yards in 2017 with the Seahawks.
Houston Gamblers Last season: 3-7 Houston was much better than its 2022 record indicated. You could say the Gamblers were snake-bitten after losing five straight games where they led in the fourth quarter. The defense was Houston’s strength, but the unit underwent a total transformation this offseason. The defense will include 14 new players, including expected standouts in defensive end Eli Howard and linebacker Isaiah Pryor.
The Gamblers’ offense is expected to be significantly better, largely because of the expected uptick in play from quarterback Kenji Bahar. If Bahar is able to complement Houston’s talented running game (led by Mark Thompson), this could be the surprise team for 2023.
Pittsburgh Maulers Last season: 1-9 On and off the field, the Maulers underwent massive changes this offseason. They changed their color scheme to mimic the black and gold flavor of the city they represent. Speaking of Pittsburgh’s fabled football history, the team hired a former Steelers Super Bowl-winning assistant coach, Ray Horton, as their new head coach.
One of the things that is expected to stay the same in Pittsburgh is a Maulers defense that was one of the USFL’s better units last season, led by former NFL first-round pick Reuben Foster. Pittsburgh’s offense has the weapons to be a solid unit, but its success will likely come down to whether James Morgan or Troy Williams can provide steady play at quarterback.
Michigan Panthers Last season: 2-8 Michigan might be the USFL’s biggest enigma. Led by first-year head coach Mike Nolan, the Panthers could make a surprise playoff push while turning Ford Field into a massive home-field advantage. Michigan has a formidable rushing attack and is expected to field a good defense.
As with several other teams, quarterback is the big question in Michigan. The Panthers’ offense will be led by either Josh Love (who spent time with the NFL’s Rams and Panthers) or Carson Strong, an undrafted rookie last season who spent time with the Eagles and Cardinals.
Super Wild Card Weekend is in the books, and we’re already onto the next round of action in the 2024 NFL playoffs. Six teams have moved on. Another six have been left behind. While the latter clubs will no doubt hurry to begin planning for the offseason, those who remain in the mix for this year’s Lombardi Trophy have plenty of their own hurdles to clear in the coming weeks.
On that note, here are the biggest questions facing each of the teams remaining in the playoffs:
Baltimore Ravens: Can Lamar get over the hump? Past playoff games may not directly affect Lamar Jackson going into their Divisional Round matchup with Houston, but just like Dak Prescott in Dallas, he’s still got big-stage boxes to check, entering with a 1-3 record as a playoff starter. He’s been more efficient as a passer and decision-maker in Todd Monken’s system, but now it’s time to deliver in a must-win scenario.
Buffalo Bills: Can they survive more injuries on ‘D’? We all know Josh Allen, James Cook, Stefon Diggs and Dalton Kincaid are capable of getting this team on the scoreboard. But after missing key starters in Rasul Douglas and Tyrel Dodson, Buffalo’s defense took more hits against Pittsburgh, losing Taron Johnson and Terrel Bernard, among others. They’ll need as many reinforcements as they can get versus Kansas City.
Detroit Lions: How long will the clean pockets last? They deserve all the credit in the world for bringing playoff hopes to fruition, and Jared Goff was particularly sharp in their back-and-forth with the Rams. But almost all his work came from a pristine pocket. We know Goff is a different quarterback when pressured — more affected than most — and the Buccaneers are coming into town after a blitz-crazy domination of the Eagles.
Green Bay Packers: How far can the youth movement go? Jordan Love looked unstoppable slinging it against the so-called “elite” Cowboys defense in Green Bay’s blowout wild-card win. The speed at his disposal was also apparent. But facing the 49ers is a different task, with even more experience and physicality on the other side. Is it possible the Packers are a year ahead of schedule? Or are they so electric to play spoiler again?
Houston Texans: Can the defense hold up? There are precious few questions about C.J. Stroud right now, especially after the remarkable rookie QB shredded the Browns’ vaunted defense in the wild-card round. But Joe Flacco’s reckless passing may have aided their own “D,” whereas Lamar Jackson and Co. should pose a greater threat this weekend. They’ve been a bit more vulnerable through the air.
Kansas City Chiefs: Will they stay committed to the run? Let’s be real: When push comes to shove, it’s Patrick Mahomes who’s built to propel this team, as well as the Chris Jones-led defense, whose physicality completely befuddled the Dolphins. But Isiah Pacheco has been an underrated key for their success; the Chiefs are 8-2 this year when he gets at least 15 carries, helping balance an attack also featuring an emergent Rashee Rice.
San Francisco 49ers: Can they live up to the hype? No one really denies the all-star talent they’ve got on both sides of the ball, not to mention the sidelines. Now it comes down to meeting expectations. Brock Purdy’s last playoff start ended early due to injury, and Christian McCaffrey is coming off a calf issue. If they’re both healthy along with the other pillars of Kyle Shanahan’s attack, they’re well positioned to advance.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can they tighten up in opposing territory? Baker Mayfield was on fire dicing up the porous Eagles defense on Monday, as was Todd Bowles’ pass rush, but the crazy thing is Tampa Bay probably could’ve — or should’ve — beaten Philly by even more. Mayfield took a couple sacks that pushed them out of field-goal range, and drops also hurt potential scoring series. They’ll need to be sharper to beat Detroit.