out me and have the confidence in me to

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ATLANTA -- Braves third baseman Chris Johnson gets to keep his dream job for another three years. Shaq Evans Womens Jersey . Atlanta was the team he cheered for while growing up in South Florida, and he idolized third baseman Chipper Jones. "In this game, not many times does a team tell a player they want him to be around for a really long time," Johnson said. "Im excited they feel that way about me and have the confidence in me to be around for a little while. Now I just want to work as hard as I can to prove theyre right." After agreeing to a $23.5 million, three-year deal announced Friday, Johnson is under contract through 2017. The 29-year-old was among the teams biggest surprises last season. A supposed throw-in to the Justin Upton trade, Johnson ranked second in the NL with a .321 average. He had 12 homers and 68 RBIs. His agreement continued Atlantas recent trend of signing a core of players to long-term deals. First baseman Freddie Freeman ($135 million over eight years), closer Craig Kimbrel ($42 million over four years), pitcher Julio Teheran ($32.4 million over six years) and shortstop Andrelton Simmons ($58 million over seven years) agreed to long-term deals before or during spring training, and right fielder Jason Heyward struck a $13.3 million, two-year deal. General manager Frank Wren said Johnsons agent approached the team early last month to see whether the sides could work out a new deal. Wren said the Braves arent placing unrealistic expectations on their third baseman. Johnson is off to a slow start, hitting .255 with one homer and four RBIs in 26 games. "I think what we saw last year -- maybe hes not going to hit .320, but weve always felt he was somewhere in the .280-.300 range as a hitter," Wren said. "His career will tell you that." In the first 304 games of his career with Houston and Arizona, Johnson hit .276 and averaged eight homers and 43 RBIs. "I think as we go forward," Wren said, "thats the kind of player he can be -- somewhere in that .285-.300 range -- and hit 10-15 home runs, drive in 70 and play solid third base." Johnson was part of the trade that brought Upton, a slugging left fielder, to Atlanta and sent fan favourite Martin Prado, pitcher Randall Delgado and three minor leaguers to Arizona on Jan. 24 last year. "Theres not many people that are going to be traded with him that arent going to be the other guy, " Johnson said. "But Im fine with that. Its good because it doesnt bother me really to be the other guy. It kind of gave me the fire to prove I need to be here and was not just a name in the trade." Johnson is making $4.75 million this season under a one-year deal. The agreement includes salaries of $6 million next year, $7.5 million in 2016 and $9 million in 2017. Atlanta has a $10 million option for 2018 with a $1 million buyout. Wren is grateful that Liberty Media, the Braves owner, has committed the money to keep another part of the core group together as the team prepares to move into a new ballpark in suburban Cobb County in 2017. "You have to be careful," Wren said. "You have to have that combination of players and especially what we did all winter was looking at really high level young talent that was either pre-arbitration or first-year arbitration and extending them. It fits into that mould." Johnson, who would have been eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, met Jones was he played for Stetson and Jones father Larry was an assistant coach with the school. Johnson never imagined he would replace Jones the year after the longtime Braves star retired after the 2012 season. "Its nuts," he said. "Its crazy. I cant believe it. Its awesome, but Im going to try to make sure I keep grinding and keep working and try to get better every day." Authentic Shaq Evans Jersey . The 25-year-old Spaniard, who joined United from Chelsea in January, scored twice, including directly from a free kick, to take his tally to three goals in his last two games. "I think he has made us better," United manager David Moyes said. Shaq Evans Jersey . Washington leads Winnipeg by one point for first place in the Southeast Division standings. The Capitals have a game in hand on the Jets.TORONTO - On Saturday afternoon, less than three years after winning an unlikely championship together in Dallas, Dwane Casey and Jason Kidd will sit on opposite ends of the Air Canada Centre sideline, getting set to make their postseason debut as head coaches. Just ahead of tip-off, as their teams stretch, shoot around and a sellout crowd - draped in white - files into the building, the two coaches will meet at centre court. Theyll shake hands, exchange a few words then return to their respective benches in the hopes of sending the other home for an early summer vacation. They havent spoken since finding out that the Raptors and Nets would face off in round one of the Eastern Conference playoffs, which isnt to say theres a lack of mutual respect between the two. On the contrary, theres actually a whole lot of it. Friendship is for the offseason, Casey always boasts. Until then, these former colleagues have a job to do, and theyre in each others way. Theyve traveled down dissimilar paths to get to this point. Casey, who celebrated his 57th birthday on Thursday, has been coaching in the NBA for over two decades. After serving as a long-time assistant under George Karl in Seattle, he spent a couple seasons as the head man with the Timberwolves, where he coached Nets veteran and future hall of famer Kevin Garnett. In 2011, his third season as Rick Carlisles lead assistant in Dallas, Casey helped guide the experienced Mavericks to an unexpected championship, with Kidd starting at point guard. Kidd, now 41, was in season 17 of his illustrious 19-year career. He was a retired NBA player for 10 days before becoming a head coach this past summer. "First of all, I texted him and [asked] him if hes lost his mind," Casey joked, asked about Kidds move to the bench earlier this season. The Nets controversial decision to hand the reins over to Kidd, fresh off his final campaign in New York, was met with more criticism than any coaching hire in recent memory. When his first season as a bench boss got off to a rocky start many called for his head, but he had a steadfast supporter in Casey, who knew it was only a matter of time before Kidd and his veteran Nets team rocketed back to top of the East. "Hes going to be a good coach because he was a computer on the floor and he just has to transfer that to his players," Casey said ahead of a late November meeting between the two teams. The Nets were 3-10 going into that game. "It takes time." "Hes one of the toughest minded guys Ive been around and Ive coached, and Ive been around some strong minded guys, but he was definitely one of them," Casey added prior to their next meeting, two months later. The Nets, 10-21 on Jan. 1, had won five in a row before losing in Toronto that night. "I knew mentally he was going to stay strong and stay into it and it would be a matter of time." Brooklyn would go on to finish the campaign with the second best record among Eastern Conference teams in 2014 and Kidd became a two-time Coach of the Month winner. As Casey met with the media Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours before Game 1, the Raptors coach was caught off guard when one reporter pointed out that he and Kidd would be sharing their playoff head coaching debuts. "I never thought about that," he said in earnest, but hes not the least bit surprised to see his counterpart in the position that hhes in. Calvin Pryor Green Jersey. "Jason was always a step ahead of the curve," said Casey, the Easts Coach of the Month for December. "I think point guards are coaches on the floor, they should be. Theyve gone through their whole career figuring out things on the fly, on the court. So I think thats the difference in Jason. Jason has been a thinker his whole career and hes doing a good job with Brooklyn." For these old friends, this series should turn into something of a chess match. The Nets rookie coach has a veteran-laden roster at his disposal. A big factor in his teams 2014 reversal of fortunes has been Kidds commitment to a small lineup, starting a couple of point guards in the backcourt and using Paul Pierce as their mobile, perimeter-oriented power forward. "I think they established an identity, much like we did," Casey told TSN.ca in an exclusive conversation Friday. "I think putting Pierce at the four position was a huge turnaround for them. Solidifying the smaller lineup really helped them." Casey has the benefit of a versatile roster. With Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors can go against the grain and put pressure on the visiting Nets with a size and strength advantage or they can match-up using their own version of the small lineup. "Philosophy is personnel driven," Casey wisely pointed out. With Johnson and Patrick Patterson - two versatile forwards who can rebound and also step out and defend on the perimeter - Torontos coach is confident his team can utilize both their small and big units with success in this series. "Its going to be huge," he said of that versatility. "If we stay big weve got to really pound the boards and take advantage of it if they stay small but at the same time theyre such a lethal three-point shooting team. Its hard for our bigs, with our mentality to get out and guard the three-point line in those situations so were going to have to figure that out as far as when we do go small, who has the advantage. If we have an advantage on the boards or inside well try to do that but if were getting killed with three-point shooting then well have to make some adjustments." Caseys quiet confidence and poise has rubbed off on his team all season but those characteristics have never been more important than they are now. By now youve heard of their inexperience, Caseys embraced it because, what choice does he have? They cant pretend like theyve been somewhere they havent, they wont pretend to be something theyre not. If you want to count them out because of it, Casey understands, but he doesnt advise it. "I dont want to diminish [experience], its very important," he said. "In any walk of life its important if youre going to do a job at a high level to have as much experience as you can possibly have. We are who we are, we cant change it. The way our guys get experience is to go through this. But at the end of the day you still have to go out and play the game. Theres been a lot of young teams that beat older teams in the history of the game and were ready for that challenge. I think were better with a chip on our shoulder, being the desperate team. I think we struggle when were the favourite so I like that part about it. I dont even talk about it to our players, about experience. Hey, they dont know any better, so lets go play the game." ' ' '
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