Nikola Jokic’s free agency presents a unique conundrum for the Nuggets

He’s gonna get paid, and the only question is when. But that decision will have ripple effects for Denver’s cap sheet.
The Denver Nuggets should have no question that Nikola Jokic is worth a maximum contract coming off his rookie deal. The only issue is when that contract should come.
Jokic was a second-round pick in 2014, and he joined the Nuggets a year later on a contract fairly typically for a second-round pick. The first three years of Jokic’s contract (totaling $4 million) were guaranteed, and Denver also had a club option on the fourth season at $1.6 million.
Within a season and a half, Denver realized it had a star on its hands.

So there is no question that when that contract comes up, Denver will gleefully pay whatever it takes to keep their best player and continue to build a good, young team around Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris.
The question is whether that will happen in 2018 with no risk of losing Jokic, or if it will happen in 2019 with some risk.
If the Nuggets pick up Jokic’s cheap option for the 2018-19 season, due to league rules Jokic would become an unrestricted free agent in July 2019. That would mean that he could sign with any club in the NBA and Denver would not have the right to match.
This is a key difference between first- and second-round picks. Those drafted in the first round can typically only become restricted free agents after four years in the league and unrestricted free agents after five seasons. (The exception comes when teams decline club options at some point in a first-round pick’s rookie deal.) Those drafted in the second round can become restricted free agents after one, two, or three years in the league (depending on the contract) and unrestricted free agents the year after.
Because Jokic is a second-round pick, the Nuggets can reject the club option for 2018-19 this summer. Jokic would then become a restricted free agent on July 1. The Nuggets would then maintain the right to match any offer sheet he signs, if he doesn’t first sign a max contract with the Nuggets.
Doing this would ensure the Nuggets do not lose Jokic.

So what’s the downside?
Declining the club option to pay him sooner would be a huge strain on Denver’s 2018-19 salary cap sheet. That could force GM Tim Connelly to cut elsewhere, hurting the team’s trajectory at a critical point.
If he becomes a restricted free agent this summer, Jokic would be eligible for a contract with a starting salary around $25 million. The Nuggets already have $105 million worth of salaries committed for 2018-19 before accounting for Jokic. The cap is currently projected to be $101 million, with a luxury tax threshold of $121 million.
As you can see, signing Jokic to a max deal this summer would put the Nuggets over the tax threshold! Denver is not typically a team willing to pay the tax, and this would limit the Nuggets’ ability to add other free agents.
There are a couple of player options that, if declined, could open up some breathing room for Denver. Wilson Chandler, a full-time starter, has a $12.8 million option. Darrell Arthur, who seldom plays, can opt in for $7.4 million. Given how tight the market is expected to be, both should probably opt in (though Chandler could be looking to lock in a multi-year deal at a slightly smaller annual number).
If Chandler opts out and the Nuggets give Jokic the max this summer, they would come in just under the tax for next season, depending on what they do with their first-round draft pick.
Being above the tax in the summer is not the end of the world. Denver could wait until the trade deadline get back under, much as the Blazers did this season by unloading Noah Vonleh at the last minute. But for a team in a cluttered middle tier of the Western Conference, being tapped out financially with this roster isn’t ideal — and that’s before the big-money extension Murray will earn down the line.

That makes the option of waiting until 2019 to pay Jokic a little more appealing. If the Nuggets were to pick Jokic’s option this summer, they would have some room to add to the roster to make a real push in the West in 2018-19. Because they’d know Jokic’s payday is just around the corner, they’d need to remain sober in adding salary. But it provides some flexibility at a critical moment.
Still, the downside risk of losing Jokic in unrestricted free agency in 2019 — or angering his camp by delaying his payday — isn’t worth the benefit here. The Nuggets should decline Jokic’s option this summer and give him the max. You don’t tinker when you have a star: you keep them secure.
But it’s not without some pain in the short-term to do so, and you wonder if the timing here won’t prevent the Nuggets from reaching the heights they seek.

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JBL Link Speakers: The Perfect Google Home Alternative?

Richard Goodwin

20/02/2018 – 9:30am

JBL’s Link series of smart speakers are definitely worth a look if Google Home doesn’t do it for you

If you’re in the market for a set of new wireless speakers, and Sonos and HomePod are a bit too pricey, you definitely want to be looking at JBL’s Link series.
Why? Well, there’s plenty of choice, for one. Second, they’re great performers with great connectivity. The design of them is solid and they will look great in and around you home. They also WILL NOT mark wooden surfaces like Apple’s HomePod as well, which is always a good thing.
Why Not Google Home?
Pretty simple, really: for overall sound quality Google Home is not great; it’s not even good actually. Not compared to these JBL Link speakers or Sonos. If you want a decent Google Home audio experience you’re going to have to pony up for the Google Home Max – and that one’s pricey.
JBL’s Link speakers offer very good value for money, however, and they deliver where it counts: portability, sound quality, and connectivity. And if that wasn’t enough, they ALL feature Google Assistant, so they have Google Home matched in that regard as well.
But having an assistant like Google’s Assistant is not the be all and end all of a smart speaker. Case in point: I have three smart speakers in my home – Google Home, Google Home Mini, and an Amazon Echo – and I use exactly ZERO of them for listening to music on.
No, for music I rely on my SONOS system which is infinitely superior (and doesn’t have ANY sort of assistant ert_main_wide_image/public/2018/02/screen_shot_2018-02-20_at_09.24.12.png?itok=4DarRFEp” alt=”” />

If you’re after something small, say for your kitchen or study, the JBL Link 10 or JBL Link 20 will suffice. They’re not much bigger than Amazon’s Echo device, but they pack a punch when it comes to audio and will easily fill a small room with detailed, precise sound.
They’re also portable, and truly wireless, meaning you can move them easily and even take them out of the house if you wish – something you cannot do with Google Home or Echo, as they require a wired connection.

The JBL Link 300 and JBL Link 500 are also ideal candidates for your living room, if you watch a lot of movies and/or play video games, as they bring quite a bit more sound performance in this context. And because they’re smart speakers, you can use them to control your TV with your voice.
The JBL Link 300 and JBL Link 500 are more expensive than the smaller units, but they’re still A LOT cheaper than Apple’s HomePod and the Google Home Max. And, I’d argue, they kick our vastly superior sound quality too – though this is my own personal opinion.
You Can Pick Up The JBL Link 300 and JBL Link 500 speakers via JBL For $199 and $399, Respectively.

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Sony Xperia XA2 review: Sony is now serious about mid-range

The Sony Xperia XA2 is the latest in a long line of Sony phones I’ve reviewed since joining Alphr and, in looking it up for this article, that includes a couple I don’t even remember holding. The weird string of numbers and letters, the familiar angular shape, the reliable (but often overpriced) devices and the inevitable conclusion that “it’s alright, but you’re probably better off buying the cheaper/better X, Y or Z” mean that few have stood out.
Th XA2, however, is the first Sony device since the charming Xperia Z5 Compact that I’ve actually kept using for a while after the review has been filed and published. It’s a nippy, smart-looking phone and, unusually for a mid-range Sony device, entirely reasonably priced.
This feels like Sony taking the midrange market seriously and, given how competitive things are at the top end right now, where the company ert_main_wide_image/public/2018/02/chart2.png?itok=6vi9_3sv” alt=””/>

That puts Sony in uncharted waters: being the value option in a smartphone league table, seemingly striking the right balance between price and performance.
Still, this isn’t the phone for you if you want to play the latest intensive mobile games. While the likes of Words with Friends and Candy Crush Saga will perform without any hiccups, you’ll find it struggles with Asphalt or Modern Combat 5. Likewise, performance is fine with normal use, but try and multitask too much and things will take a hit. But again: what do you expect for a £300 smartphone?

There is, however, one small blot on the Xperia XA2’s copybook: it has an awful lot of nonsense installed by default. To be clear, none of this is compulsory and it can all be uninstalled but the company must know that bundling both Kobo and Amazon Kindle on the phone by default is overkill and that a few notifications of offers from Xperia Lounge is all anybody can really take before killing it with fire.
Sony Xperia XA2 review: Camera
Cameras are often the weak spot in mid range cameras, with manufacturers choosing to bamboozle with big megapixel numbers, rather than providing good performance. And an f/2.0 23-megapixel rear snapper might make you think Sony has done the same. Fortunately, this isn’t the case.
The main camera features a 1/2.3in sensor, phase-detect autofocus and a single-colour LED flash and the results are very nice indeed – at least in well-lit, outdoor conditions. As you can see from the picture below, both the wispy cloud and brickwork are picked up with excellent fidelity.
In low light it’s another story, with compression artefacts and chroma noise emerging but, given many phone cameras struggle with these problems to some degree, it’s hardly surprising the Sony Xperia XA2 isn’t flawless here.
As for video, the XA2 is able to record 4K video at up to 30fps but that’s not immediately obvious. Bizarrely, the 4K mode is hived off in the creative modes part of the camera app. That’s the first issue. The next is that you can’t shoot 1080p at 60fps with Sony’s superb SteadyCam image stabilisation enabled. That drops the frame rate to 30fps and the same holds true for HDR recording. Again, fine for most people – especially at this price – but slightly disappointing.
Sony Xperia XA2 review: Verdict
From reviewing many a Xperia phone over the years, I was expecting my conclusion here to be more of the same.
That isn’t the case with the Xperia XA2. For £300, you have a very reasonably-priced handset that barely puts a foot wrong. It looks the part, has a very nice screen and a camera that performs admirably in well-lit conditions.
There’s just a single fly in the ointment: the marginally weaker Honor 7X retails for £30 cheaper and has recently been seen for as little as £240. It also has one of those new-fangled 18:9 screens if that’s important to you.
Still, for me personally, the Xperia XA2 is an excellent smartphone and it’s seriously made me consider Sony when my contract expires in four months’ time. Well done, Sony.

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GammaNow Lets Your PC Mine Overwatch Loot Boxes

Cryptocurrencies are one of the hottest trends in technology right now and there have been countless headlines recently about how lucrative they can be. There are puzzle games that offer a Bitcoin as a reward and even cryptocurrencies based on memes; there seems to be no stopping the cryptocurrency train.

For those who have yet to jump aboard that train, a company called Aura is helping gamers get in on it with its GammaNow service. GammaNow is an app that uses the idle processing power of a PC in order to power the Gamma blockchain network, which pitches itself as an alternative to the Ethereum network (which itself is a rival to Bitcoin). After a computer sits idle for around 20 seconds, GammaNow will kick in and begin to use the processing power to process tasks on the network and in doing so, users will earn Gamma Points.
These points, in turn, can be traded in for Overwatch loot boxes, Hearthstone card packs, and Riot Points (for use in League of Legends) with support for other PC games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2 to come. 30,000 Gamma Points is equivalent to 24 Overwatch loot boxes, 3500 Riot Points, and 15 Hearthstone card packs (60,000 Gamma Points is worth 51 loot boxes and 40 card packs), though the exact mining time required to earn that much is unclear.

GammaNow is currently in beta but Aura confirms plans to add support for a second GPU (to allow users to continue using their primary GPU for gaming). The company also vows to make tweaks and changes based on the feedback from GammaNow beta users, including feedback on which new rewards users would like to see offered in the GammaNow marketplace.

Unsurprisingly, GammaNow is already proving to be incredibly popular. As of the time of writing, the app’s website states that it has paused sign-ups due to a “sudden influx of users” and encourages potential users to sign up to its waitlist instead.
While the world of cryptocurrency can seem incredibly complicated, many gamers are probably enjoying the simplicity of the app and the fact that it is free to get involved. The notice from Aura confirming that GammaNow will always be free and that the company hates microtransactions may have also increased the appeal to jaded gamers.

GammaNow is not the only app banking on gamers’ interest in cryptocurrencies, with other examples including the game Reality Clash which pitches itself as Pokemon GO with guns. These are unlikely to be the last crypto/gaming initiatives either so those with a huge interest in the scene have a lot of opportunities to get involved.

Source: Forbes, GammaNow

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Tamron Tease New Lens for CP+ 2018

Mac users, Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar 2018 is out now and available for just $69£64 for new users, with big discounts for upgrading users. We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended“. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.
Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10£9 on Luminar.

Download Luminar & Try Free »

Windows users, Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar 2018 is out now and available for just $69£64 for new users, with big discounts for upgrading users. We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended“. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.
Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10£9 on Luminar.

Download Luminar & Try Free »

Ahead of next month’s CP+ photo show, Tamron Japan have released a teaser for a new lens on their Instagram channel. There aren’t any further details yet about the new optic, so stay tuned…

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Samsung Galaxy S8: how to stop bootloops after the Oreo update

Following a beta testing period of a few weeks, Samsung started rolling out Android 8.0 Oreo with Samsung Experience 9.0 for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ earlier this month. The update was stopped just a few days later. We now know Samsung put the brakes on the update due to a number of users reporting bootloop issues. An update to fix the problem is in development, but if you’ve already installed the faulty Oreo update and you’re experiencing bootloops, here are a few tips and tricks to solve the problem.

What’s happening to your phone? Bootloops are when your phone gets stuck restarting over and over again. You’ll know it’s happening when you see your phone manufacturer’s logo on the screen and then the Android system starts to load, and then all of a sudden if fails to start up properly and the boot process begins again and again until the phone’s battery dies.
So, you’re trapped in a bootloop. What now?
Normally, one might call up customer support and describe the problem. Then they might tell you to send them your smartphone or bring it to the nearest service center. That’s a pain, and it might be unnecessary if you use the following tips. Android has its own built-in way of solving these issues called Recovery Mode, and we’ll show you step-by-step how to take advantage of it here.
Note: Sometimes bootloops can prevent you from entering Recovery Mode. Don’t worry, there’s a way around this. If you’re unable to turn your device off, which is the first step of both of the processes we detail below, just let it bootloop until the battery dies. Leave the phone powered off, and then plug it in. Once it has some juice, you’ll be able to get it to enter Recovery Mode by following the steps below.
Clear the cache with Android’s Recovery Mode
Android smartphones have their own Recovery Mode, which allows you to perform a select few basic functions like clearing the cache partition. To enter recovery mode, follow these steps:

Turn off the phone
First press the Bixby button then the Volume Up button simultaneously and hold both down
Then also press the Power button and hold it
Hold down all three buttons together until “Samsung Galaxy S8” or “Samsung Galaxy S8+” appears on the screen
Then let go of all the buttons
The screen will say “Installing system update” for a few seconds
After that, it will say “No command” for a few more seconds before it enters Android Recovery Mode
Once that happens, use the Volume Up and Down keys to navigate to “Wipe cache partition”
Select and confirm this option with the Power button, then your smartphone will reboot

If this doesn’t work, then you can move on to the next option below, which can also be found in the Recovery Mode.

When your Galaxy S8 or S8+ is stuck in a bootloop after updating to Oreo, Recovery Mode can help. / © AndroidPIT

Wipe data and restore factory settings with Recovery Mode
Before recommending this step, we would usually recommend backing up your data. But, if your phone is trapped in a bootloop, then you’re unfortunately too late to do that. Doing this will remove all your data from your phone’s internal storage.

Turn off the phone
First press the Bixby button then the Volume Up button simultaneously and hold both down
Then also press the Power button and hold it
Hold down all three buttons together until “Samsung Galaxy S8” or “Samsung Galaxy S8+” appears on the screen
Then let go of all the buttons
The screen will say “Installing system update” for a few seconds
After that, it will say “No command” for a few more seconds before it enters Android Recovery Mode
Once that happens, use the Volume Up and Down keys to navigate to “Wipe Data / factory reset”
Select this option with the Power button
After it warns you that it will wipe the phone, select “Yes” with the Volume buttons and press the Power button to confirm
The phone will then restart

You should be out of the bootloop after following the above process. Although you’ll have to set everything up again from scratch, at least you’ll still have a usable Galaxy S8 or S8+. If the bootloop problem persists nevertheless, you should contact Samsung.
Did these tips work for you? If you’re having other issues with your Galaxy, leave a comment below so the AndroidPIT community can help.

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Wikipedia’s free-to-access program for developing countries is being sunset

A half-dozen years after launching Wikipedia Zero, The Wikimedia Foundation is sunsetting the program. Announced in 2012, it was the result of partnerships with mobile carriers, designed to waive the cost of accessing the free encyclopedia in developing countries, where data fees presented a barrier to accessing the site’s seemingly bottomless well of information.
The Foundation says it provided free access to more than 800 million people, through 97 carrier partnerships in 72 countries over the course of the program’s life. Still, it cites “low awareness of Wikipedia outside of North America and Europe” as a key factor in its decision to discontinue the program. Changes in mobile data costs are also a factor here — Wikimedia says interest in and adoption of the Zero program have both dropped sharply since 2016.
As such, no additional partnerships will be formed this year, and those still in existence will be allowed to expire. Meantime, the organization says it’s exploring more ways to service the developing world, including campaigns designed to raise awareness of Wikipedia’s missions in various countries. In a blog post, the Foundation mentions on-going partnerships in Iraq and Nigeria.
“These successes have given us several ideas for where we may take our partnership work next,” it writes, “and over the coming year, we will explore other ways we can leverage the findings from our research and the Wikipedia Zero program to direct future work with partners.”

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FIFA 19: release date, rumours and formats

Enjoying FIFA 18? Of course, you are – and yet you wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t a tiny bit of you already thinking ahead to the next instalment. FIFA 19’s release date is still some way away, but we’re beginning to get a few details.
While information about FIFA 19 is pretty thin on the ground at the moment, we’ll continue updating this page as we get more information. Here’s what we know about FIFA 19 so far.
FIFA 19: Features
You may think there’s only so much you can tweak a game where the rules of the sport it’s based on have barely shifted in over 100 years. That’s true to a degree, but EA usually has an innovative trick up their sleeves beyond just a squad numbers and kits update.
You can be pretty confident that The Journey will return for a third season – and it’ll probably star Alex Hunter or one of the other bit-part players who have made their name in the first two seasons. A bit of a shame, given how many other interesting stories there are to tell in the world of football, but you can’t blame EA for persisting with a winning formula.

EA has recently spurred talk that there may not even be a FIFA 19, as the series migrates to a subscription service that’s updated each season for subscribers. It’s something not entirely untested, with the Madden mobile game being updated for the last three years.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson first floated this idea in an interview with Bloomberg, saying: “There’s a world where it gets easier and easier to move that code around — where we may not have to do an annual release. We can really think about those games as a 365-day, live service.” While he doesn’t namecheck FIFA directly, some are speculating that FIFA 19 might be the perfect vehicle for this.
I’m dubious, personally. When FIFA still prints money, I don’t see EA taking a gamble and moving to subscription just yet. The company did release the Euro 2012 game as DLC for FIFA 12, and given World Cup 2014 then became a standalone release, you suspect it didn’t do as well as they’d hoped. Plus, of course, to switch to subscription you still need a base game – and it can’t be FIFA 18, so one way or another FIFA 19 is coming this year…
FIFA 19: Formats
That FIFA 18 will appear on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC is a no-brainer. The good news is that after a five-year hiatus away from Nintendo, FIFA 18 made its debut on the Switch. With the Switch continuing to sell like hotcakes, it’s hard to imagine a world where FIFA 19 doesn’t make the leap to the handheld-hybrid.

Hopefully, the large install base will encourage EA to make it a full conversion this time. Last year’s, good as it was, was missing The Journey thanks to using a different engine – the same reason the PS3 and Xbox 360 editions missed out.
Speaking of which, FIFA 18 did appear on Xbox 360 and PS3. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled the same trick again, but the series must be approaching its final years on last generation hardware.
FIFA 19: Release date

Nobody knows the FIFA 19 release date for sure yet, but we can hazard a pretty good guess. Here are the release dates of the last decade’s worth of FIFA games:

























Notice a pattern forming? Yep, it’ll be out in September 2017. October at a push, but almost certainly September – and typically EA Access members get access a few days before everyone else, so it may be worth looking into subscribing.
This is a page in progress, and we’ll update it with more information about FIFA 19 as we get it.
Images: Hector Alejandro, Marco Verch and Christopher Johnson used under Creative Commons

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The Google app has a screenshot editing feature in beta

The Google app is now rolling out a built-in screenshot editor with beta version 7.21, starting last Friday, which will give users better sharing and editing tools, as spotted by 9to5Google. The screenshot editor also works in Chrome custom tabs. You can enroll in the beta through the Google Play Store.
The editor can be toggled on by heading into the Google app settings, under Accounts & Privacy and finding the “Edit and share screenshots” toggle at the bottom of the list. Then every time you take a screenshot in the Google app or a Chrome custom tab, a panel will slide up, letting you preview, edit, or share the image to other apps. You can also crop the screenshot and draw on it.
Stock Android and Pixel phone users are likely to benefit from this feature, as it makes editing screenshots a bit easier than the standard Android option.

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Austin Dillon gets tattoo on his butt after winning Daytona 500

The NASCAR driver now has “Daytona 500 champ” tattooed on his posterior.
How else would you celebrate winning the Daytona 500 than getting a tattoo on your butt? That was Austin Dillon’s thinking as he did just that mere hours after winning NASCAR’s biggest race.
Dillon and some Richard Childress Racing crew members got tattoos Sunday night following Dillon’s dramatic Daytona 500 win. It is unclear where the crew members placed their new tattoos, but the 27-year-old driver decided to get “Daytona 500 champ” inked on his posterior.
“It’s a pretty cool looking tattoo. You’ll never be able to see it; (my wife) is probably the only one who can see it for a while,” Dillon said, via , at the Daytona 500 champion’s breakfast on Monday.
Dillon won the Daytona 500 after contact with race-leader Aric Almirola on the final lap. Almirola attempted to block a charging Dillon, but when he moved up the track to cut off the No. 3 car, Dillon never slowed and Almirola connected with Dillon’s front bumper. That sent Almirola crashing into the backstretch wall while Dillon went on to take the checkered flag.
“I did what I had to do there at the end,” Dillon. “We had a run and I stayed in the gas. It is what it is here at Daytona.”

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