Pokemon Go Hoppip Community Day start time, how to catch a Shiny and More

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The Pokemon Go Hoppip Community Day will spotlight a Johto Pokemon ahead of the upcoming Johto Tour event in late February. Hoppip, the Grass and Flying-type from Gen 2, will be the spotlight Pokemon in February’s Community Day event giving Pokemon Go trainers access to this Pokemon and its Shiny variations. Not only that, but trainers can power up their Jumpluff with an exclusive move that may make them consider using the Pokemon on their teams.

There’s quite a bit to go over so we’ve got you covered with this essential Hoppip Community Day guide.

Hoppip Community Day Start Time

February’s Community Day event featuring Hoppip will begin Saturday, February 12 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time.

How to Catch Shiny Hoppip in Pokemon Go

If you boot up Pokemon Go during the six-hour event window, you’ll notice Hoppip will spawn more frequently than usual.

This is the benefit of Community Days, giving trainers an opportunity to catch as many of the spotlight Pokemon as possible as well as its Shiny. But how do you catch a Shiny Hoppip in Pokemon Go?

Well, Community Days make it so much easier. According to the Pokemon Go community site, The Silph Road the Shiny odds increase during Community Days. While the standard odds are 1 in 500 to encounter a Shiny that’s in Pokemon Go, events like Community Days boost the odds to 1 in 25. It’s very simple, actually to find a Shiny Hoppip during this weekend’s Community Day as long as you put the time into it.

Of course, trainers who don’t want to go outside during the event can use an Incense to attract the Pokemon to them. Trainers can also travel near PokeStops and Gyms to see a natural cluster of Hoppip.

To identify a Shiny Hoppip, trainers will see a different coloration in the Gen 2 Pokemon. Normal Hoppip is pink in color, but its Shiny is a bright green. It’s not hard to miss. If you’re a trainer who isn’t sure if you’ve found a Shiny Hoppip can find the Shiny symbol next to the Pokemon’s name during the capture portion of the encounter.

(Image credit: Niantic)

How to get Jumpluff with Acrobatics

Jumpluff, Hoppip’s final evolution, has never been a great battler in Pokemon Go. A part of that is its lack of variety in its moveset. However, this upcoming Community Day will give the Grass and Flying-type a big lift in the form of an actual viable Flying-type attack.

Prior to the event, Jumpluff’s only Flying-type move - either Fast or Charged - was Aerial Ace. And while that attack is a solid move that’s used mainly to get rid of the opponent’s shields than actually deal damage, Acrobatics gives Jumpluff some much-needed firepower.

Acrobatics is a 110 base power move in PVP - 100 in PVE - and will spell doom for Fighting and other Grass types Jumpluff goes up against.

To get Acrobatidcs on Jumpluff, trainers simply need to evolve Skiploom into Jumpluff from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 12. It’s Charged Attack will automatically become Acrobatics. For those who miss the event, or have a Jumpluff they want already, an Elite Charged TM can be used to swap one of its Charged Attacks for one of your choosing including Acrobatics.

Hoppip Community Day In-Game Bonuses

The following in-game bonuses will also be activated during the Hoppip Community Day event:

Trainers will earn three times the Stardust for catching Pokemon

Incense duration lasts for three hours

Lure Modules also last for three hours

Trainers can get up to three free Raid Passes from Gyms during the event

Skiploom can also appear in the overworld if you travel to a park

Trainers will receive bonus Hoppip XL Candy from Skiploom caught in parks

Pokemon Go tips | Pokemon Go Eevee evolutions | Pokemon Go Great League best team | Pokemon Go Master League best team | Pokemon Go Ultra League best team | Pokemon Go Giovanni counters | Pokemon Go Cliff counters | Pokemon Go Sierra counters | Pokemon Go Arlo counters | Pokemon Go Ditto | Pokemon Go evolution items | Pokemon Go 41-50 level guide | Pokemon Go Unova Stones | Pokemon Go A Thousand-Year Slumber | Pokemon Go shiny list | Pokemon Go XL Candy | Pokemon Go Mega Energy

Odell Beckham Jr.’s Trainer Breaks Down His Super Bowl Prep Regimen

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Jamal Liggin is a performance coach to some of the greatest athletes in the NFL.

Based in Los Angeles, his JLT Performance Gym hosts pros like Joe Haden, Stefon Diggs and Christian Kirk. This week, his state-of-the-art facility is especially busy as he preps long-time clients Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and linebacker Von Miller for their upcoming bout with the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.

The chance to compete on American football’s greatest stage is the realization of a lifelong dream for Beckham, and the acrobatic receiver has spent his time since the NFC Championship sharpening his skillset with his trainer. Liggin gave InsideHook an inside look at the process that got them both here, from their initial meeting way back in 2014 to last-minute preparations for Super Bowl Sunday.

The humble tennis ball, of all things, plays a starring role in Liggin’s workouts with Beckham Jr. Jamal Liggin

InsideHook: How did you first start working with Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller?

Jamal Liggin: I moved to Los Angeles in 2013, and it really got started from there. I was living and sleeping in the gym. I knew that I had knowledge to give and a service to provide but not how to break in. I looked up to guys like Tom Shaw and Pete Bommarito. I met Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 and things started to steamroll from there.

How does it feel to have been working with Odell for so long and see this moment come?

I was just talking with Odell about it. He came in to put some extra work in and we talked about how this has been his destiny from day one. I’ve been all over the world with him, and he has put in the work in. It means a lot to me that he has chosen to keep me in his corner this whole time. He deserves this.

Going into a big moment like the Super Bowl, what are the gym sessions like?

This is still the season in our eyes, so I don’t want to do too much that will wear him out before or after practice. I want to keep it relatively light. There are a few explosive exercises that we utilize going into this game, where he is pulling me while sprinting. I work with a great company called BlazePod that builds light technology that helps us with reactive and cognitive training. I was able to set up one of their systems in my facility.

Odell came in the space last night and he just wanted to mess with the lights, just to fine-tune those reflexes. They are set up on the wall, and he has to react instead of anticipate. I also had him do a little mobility work and increase explosiveness, but nothing too crazy. Throw some speed drills into the mix and that’s all that we really need to do to sharpen him for the Super Bowl.

How important is recovery and sleep during the end of the season and going into a huge game like the Super Bowl?

Recovery is a huge part of the process for me. I am not going to train a guy if he isn’t running on the right amount of sleep. The first question I ask my guys when I see them is how much they got. I am glad the NFL has a partnership with Sleep Number, because their Sleep Number 360 allows me to see their sleep patterns for myself. They aren’t able to lie or mislead me. I am able to see exactly when they are getting out of bed. I have one myself so I know exactly how it works. I also have an in-house physical therapist, massage therapist and chiropractor. Those elements are just as important as the workouts.

How do these postseason sessions differ from what you do in the off-season?

During the off-season our training is very intense. We are going about five or six days a week. I like to take my guys outside often and into different elements to challenge them. I don’t want them getting too comfortable in one environment. I will have [Beckham] running hills, and then going into the weight room. Or going out to the beach for sprints, and then right back into the weight room. The benefit of having them run in sand is they don’t have the push-off they usually get on the field, and it challenges their ability to find their own explosiveness. Once they get back on the field, there is so much more power there.

What is it like being in the gym with OBJ?

Everybody has this idea that Odell is coming into the gym and just dancing the whole time. Sure he does dance, but he is taking his training very seriously. The grind hasn’t changed much over the years. OBJ has the heart of a true competitor. It doesn’t matter if he is working out with a group at my gym or on his own, he wants to be first.

Both OBJ and Von started off in my group classes. They are one-on-one guys now. They are at a point that they are really trying to take it all to that next level so they need special attention. Odell is also very giving of his time. There are rookies that I work with that will ask him questions, and he will stop for half an hour to share his experience. Everybody knows he’s a player who’s been through a few ups and downs.

How about Von Miller?

Von likes to talk shit. He likes to party and dance. He brings great energy to the workouts. I can feel spent after a full day of training, so having a guy like Von, who brings momentum himself, is fantastic. He is very optimistic about the future. He has been on this Super Bowl stage before and he’s thriving right now. My workouts with him are usually right after I have Odell in, which is great because they will be competitive with each other as well. They are always asking what times the other got on the prints or how much they were lifting.

Given that you have two of your guys going into the Super Bowl, was there any change in the way you guys train that may have had a positive effect on their performance this season?

I feel like one of the big game changers that actually came from my end was getting my own gym. Of course we had other gyms and college facilities that we were welcome at, but it’s just so much easier now that I have my own home for them.

There are a lot of people building their own gyms now, and creating spaces in their home to workout. What were the important elements that you wanted in your facility?

I’m old-school when it comes to strength. All I need is a rack and free weights. There are a lot of pieces on the market, but at the end of the day I like to rely on the classic methodologies. People walk into my gym and ask where all of the cables or air-compressor machines. Getting to put up the BlazePods was big too, because the players have fun with them. It’s nice to have a drill that has benefits while also creating excitement and breaking up the monotony.

I decided to put in colored overhead lights, because I really wanted to create a vibe in the space. I want the guys to show up and feel like they can have fun. There is an amazing sound system in there as well. Odell will come in and throw on his music. I don’t believe it’s a distraction. If anything it helps him focus on the task at hand and not have his mind wander. It keeps him in the moment. These workouts are grueling, and the tunes help with the pain I am putting him through.

OBJ and most of these guys have been training hard since high school while also having innate ability. How difficult is it to find ways to actually challenge them?

Like you said, Odell is a true athlete, which makes it difficult when I am creating drills or exercises for him to do. There isn’t much that he can’t do, so that part of is where the challenge comes in. These guys could train with anyone and still be great most likely. So part of my job is to create a program that they will look forward to in three months, not just the next day. That’s where exercises like the BlazePods and the tennis ball drill come in.

The tennis ball drill videos from you and OBJ have gone viral multiple times. Clearly it looks like a lot of fun, but what is it adding to his game?

I find it funny how much attention it has gotten, but it’s not just for show. There is real strategy behind it. It’s a great drill especially for receivers, since it works on their hand-eye coordination. They have to react to what I am doing with the ball when I through it their way. I think that it has Odell helped solidly with his single hand catches and ability flying around while never losing sight of the ball.

Do you have any advice for people who want to try it out at home or other trainers?

My bit of advice to the trainer is that they have to work just as hard as the athlete. Because if you are throwing it back to them the same every time that’s not helping them get better. You have to throw it to them low and high. I am putting in just as much effort as my players are.

What is the record for throws you have with the tennis ball drill?

I think Odell and I got up to 75 throws one time. The whole gym was going crazy because we were going behind the back and through the legs.

The life of a professional athlete is pretty chaotic, and can have plenty of distractions. Speaking on recovery, how closely are your monitoring their extracurricular activities?

I am not naive to the fact that we are in places like Los Angeles or Miami on- and off-season. There is no secret that people like to go out and have a good time. I just need them to be mindful of how many times they do that a week. They can’t be going out three or four times a week, taking vacations, and expecting good results in the weight room. I don’t want to be their dad, so I am not trying to be on their back, but of course I am going to see their social media. I will notice if I see them popping up in those late hours. All I ask is that they are mindful, and they know that by now.

There is a lot of work that goes into getting these guys ready for the season. Do you go to the games and are you able to enjoy them?

I tell my guys that it’s difficult for me to watch the games, because I can’t help but overthink every play. I try to show up at a few throughout the year just to show my support. Of course, I’m not going to miss this Super Bowl.

Players can appear in-game with new Pokémon Go Gym Trainer Contest

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Niantic already gave out some details about the upcoming Pokémon Go Tour: Johto, but we now know that there will be a new contest for players to participate in leading up to the event.

From now until Feb. 1, players will be able to submit screengrabs of their Pokémon Go Trainer profile, along with a team of three Pokémon from a list of eligible types, via Twitter to enter the Go Gym Trainer Contest. The winners will be turned into NPCs featured in Pokémon Go during Go Tour: Johto.

Niantic will judge entrants based on their choice in avatar items, general theme, and the relation between themes in tandem with their Pokémon typing of choice. Here are the full entry requirements, which must be met before Feb. 2 at 1:59am CT:

A screengrab of your trainer profile that includes your nickname and shows off your avatar.

Which type of team you’re submitting: Normal, Fighting, Flying, Bug, Ghost, Ice, Dragon, or Steel.

A list of three Pokémon that would make up your team. All Pokémon must feature at least one shared typing to match the team’s theme. These Pokémon must have been originally discovered in Kanto or Johto. Ditto, Legendary Pokémon, and Mythical Pokémon are not allowed.

Use #PokemonGOTourContest in your Twitter post to complete the submission.

Any player can enter the contest as long as they meet the contest’s guidelines, which can be found on the official Pokémon Go blog. No purchase of an event ticket is necessary. Winners will also be selected and added to the game before Go Tour: Johto begins on Feb. 26.

Blake Lively’s Legs Are Toned AF At ‘The Adam Project’ Premiere

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Blake Lively just revealed her super strong legs on the red carpet premiere of The Adam Project.

The actress, 34, arrived wearing a colorful pastel gown in support of her husband, Ryan Reynolds, who stars in the film.

To stay fit, Blake hits the gym with her trainer, Don Saladino five to six days a week. She also enjoys hiking and getting herself outdoors.

Blake Lively made quite the entrance last night at the premiere of The Adam Project. The 34-year-old Gossip Girl actress arrived in an Atelier Versace gown alongside her husband, Ryan Reynolds, who has a lead role in the film. (ICYDK: The new sci-fi drama also stars big names such as Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, and Mark Ruffalo and will be available in theaters on March 11th.)

While I love a good power couple moment, I can’t get over how amazing Blake looked in her dress. The pastel-colored gown had a low-plunging front with an accent that draped over her shoulder for a truly angelic finish. It also had a side slit that revealed her ultra-toned legs as she walked the carpet. To complete the ‘fit, she added a few bracelets, pastel earrings, and strappy heels.

Michael Loccisano Getty Images

Monica Schipper Getty Images

If you’re wondering what Blake does to stay so fit, you’re not alone. In an interview with Well + Good, her trainer, Don Saladino, revealed that she usually works out five to six days a week.

Saladino also shared a few of Blake’s go-to workouts with Harper’s Bazaar Australia, and TBH, it’s pretty intense. To warm up, Blake starts off with yoga stretches before getting into circuit training that includes push-ups, broad jumps, farmer’s carries, dumbbell work, squats, and rows. She also does the occasional 30-minute water workout in the pool.

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Even with all the high-energy workouts, Blake makes rest a priority. When talking to Well + Good about how Blake got in shape for her 2016 film The Shallows, Saladino said, “She truly listened to me every step of the way, and we both listened to her body.” He added, “If a leg day was set up for a Monday for Blake, but she was flying home the night before and stayed up all night with the baby and was exhausted, I’m not gonna make her do the full workout.”

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Despite putting in all that work at the gym, Blake’s been transparent about not being the biggest fan of working out. In a 2014 interview with Extra, she said, “I hate the gym, so what I do instead is find other ways to be active… I ride bicycles, I hike, I go out and exercise in nature and I’m active that way.”

Keep it up, Blake!

Sabrina Talbert Sabrina is an editorial assistant for Women’s Health.

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Best Pokémon team in Legends: Arceus

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Finding the perfect balance of creatures for your Pokémon squad can be a real challenge. While Pokémon Legends: Arceus doesn’t feature the same emphasis on traditional gym battles or trainer encounters, there are still plenty of intense challenges worthy of proper team synergy. With a massive assortment of over 240 Pokémon to collect and train, there’s a lot to understand, even for seasoned veterans. For players looking to truly become the very best, here’s a collection of valuable tips that will help you construct the best Pokémon team in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.

Know your type matchups

Source: iMore

One of the most unique and vital mechanics in the Pokémon franchise is type matchups. Every Pokémon is given at least one type of designation, which fundamentally determines their strengths and weaknesses when facing off against opposing monsters. The current list of 18 Pokémon types is Normal, Fire, Water, Grass, Electric, Ice, Fighting, Poison, Ground, Flying, Psychic, Bug, Rock, Ghost, Dark, Dragon, Steel, and Fairy. While some fundamentals like Fire being weak to Water are easy enough to understand, it quickly becomes more complicated as we dive into dual-type Pokémon and unconventional matchups. When assembling your team of up to six Pokémon, it’s essential to have a diverse spread of Pokémon types and move types. You never want to put all of your eggs into one basket in this regard. Let’s say your partner Samurott, a Dark/Water-type Pokémon is battling a Mr. Mime who is Psychic/Fairy. Typically, this would be an unfavorable matchup for your Samurott as Dark is weak to Fairy. However, if you have a Steel combat ability equipped, you can still land a Super Effective attack against Mr. Mime. These seemingly wildcard move matchups can help essentially any Pokémon on your team get the upper hand in desperate situations.

Type Super Effective (2X DMG) Not very Effective (½X DMG) Weak Immune Normal None Rock, Steel None None Fighting Normal, Rock, Steel, Ice, Dark Flying, Poison, Bug, Psychic, Fairy Flying, Psychic, Fairy None Flying Fighting, Bug, Grass Rock, Steel, Electric Rock, Electric, Ice Ground Poison Grass, Fairy Poison, Ground, Rock, Ghost Ground, Psychic None Ground Poison, Rock, Steel, Fire, Electric Bug, Grass Water, Grass, Ice Electric Rock Flying, Bug, Fire, Ice Fighting, Ground, Steel Fighting, Ground, Steel, Water, Grass None Bug Grass, Psychic, Dark Fighting, Flying, Poison, Ghost, Steel, Fire Flying, Rock, Fire None Ghost Ghost, Psychic Dark Ghost, Dark Normal Steel Rock, Ice, Fairy Steel, Fire, Water, Electric Fighting, Ground, Fire Poison Fire Bug, Grass, Steel, Ice Rock, Fire, Water, Dragon Ground, Rock, Water None Water Ground, Rock, Fire Water, Grass, Dragon Grass, Electric None Grass Ground, Rock, Water Flying, Poison, Bug, Steel, Fire, Grass Flying, Poison, Bug, Fire, Ice None Electric Flying, Water Grass, Electric, Dragon Ice, Dragon, Fairy None Psychic Fighting, Poison Steel, Psychic Bug, Ghost, Dark None Ice Flying, Rock, Grass, Dragon Steel, Fire, Water, Ice Fighting, Rock, Steel, Fire None Dragon Dragon Steel Ice, Dragon, Fairy None Dark Ghost, Psychic Fighting, Dark, Fairy Fighting, Bug, Fairy Psychic Fairy Fighting, Dragon, Dark Poison, Steel, Fire Poison, Steel Dragon

Use the above Pokémon type chart to help determine the right beast for the battles ahead. If you’re a new player, learning the types of different Pokémon will undoubtedly require a little trial and error. However, catching Pokémon or defeating them in battle will unlock their type information in your in-game Pokédex, which you can reference at any time should you need a friendly reminder. There isn’t a one-type fight all in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, but with a large number of powerful Rock and Fire Noble Pokémon in the game, having at least one powerful Water-type on your team is highly recommended. Know your Natures

Source: iMore

Much like its type, a Pokémon’s Nature significantly influences its inherent strengths and weaknesses. Nature is a randomized mechanic in Pokémon Legends: Arceus that often increases one stat at the expense of another. For example, a Pokémon with a Brave Nature will have increased Attack and decreased Speed. While certainly not as critical as type matchups, dedicated players can leverage specific natures to alter a Pokémon’s stat advantages. Unlike previous Pokémon entries, there is no breeding in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. This means the only way to get Pokémon of a specific nature is by catching as many as possible until you’re satisfied with the result, then using the farm in Jubilife Village to grow Nature Mints. You can check a Pokémon’s Nature by selecting Check Summary in the party or pastures menu. The desired Nature will vary dramatically based on the Pokémon type and your intended playstyle.

Raises Lowers Adamant Attack Special Attack Bashful None None Brave Attack Speed Bold Defense Attack Calm Special Attack Attack Careful Special Defense Special Attack Docile None None Gentle Special Defense Defense Hardy None None Hasty Speed Defense Impish Defense Special Attack Jolly Speed Special Attack Lax Defense Special Defense Lonely Attack Defense Mild Special Attack Defense Modest Special Attack Attack Naive Speed Special Defense Naughty Attack Special Defense Quiet Special Attack Speed Quirky None None Rash Special Attack Special Defense Relaxed Defense Speed Sassy Special Defense Speed Serious None None Timid Speed Attack

If your goal is to train a tanky Snorlax who can consistently endure a beating, you’ll likely want it to have the Sassy Nature, which increases its Special Defense while decreasing its Speed. Don’t worry too much if you find yourself in a situation where you’re unable to catch a Pokémon with the Nature you’re hoping for. Simply pay the farmer in Jubilife village 10,000 Poké Dollars for a Mint Harvest until you get the Mint associated with your desired Nature. In the case of our Snorlax here, a Sassy Mint would get the job done. EV train your Pokémon

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Once you’ve gained a confident grasp of type matchups as well as Natures in Pokémon Legends: Arceus and are happy with your curated selection of six Pokémon, it’s time to begin the process of EV (Effort Value) training. The mechanics of EV training can be overwhelming for newer players, but understanding how they work and impact your Pokémon is critical for building the ultimate Pokémon team. Raising these value levels, determined on a scale from 0 to 10, directly improves each one of your Pokémon’s base stats. Thanks to a major overhaul of the allocation system for Effort Value points, EV training is easier than ever in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Players can earn various Grit items, which can be used to raise any Pokémon’s stats. These items include Grit Dust, Grit Gravel, Grit Pebble, and Grit Rock. Grit items are precious and thankfully can be earned simply by engaging with many of the game’s core mechanics like catching and battling. However, if you want to acquire these training items quickly, check out our guide on the best ways to farm Grit.

Grit Items Effective Range Grit Dust +1 Effort Value from level 0-3 Grit Gravel +1 Effort Value from level 3-6 Grit Pebble +1 Effort Value from level 6-9 Grit Rock +1 Effort Value from level 9

To unlock a Pokémon’s full potential, you’ll need to raise each one of their stats to level 10 on the EV scale. You can quickly see where a Pokémon stands with its EVs by checking their summary in the party menu. To raise any particular Effort Value, simply select the Grit item you wish to use from your inventory and choose the stat you wish to improve. Each Grit item only works within a specific range. Use the above chart as a point of reference when enhancing your Pokémon’s Effort Values. Reaching level 10 is very item-intensive, so make sure you’re quite happy with your Pokémon before committing these Grit items. A powerful team example

Source: iMore

While there are countless combinations for constructing a mighty squad in Pokémon Legends: Arceus and it’s difficult to say one particular team is definitively “the best,” I’ve taken some time to build a group of six Pokémon with diverse type and move matchups that should easily handle even the most challenging encounters. I’ll be breaking down the specific Pokémon I’ve chosen, their types, Natures, and movesets. This example should give you a strong understanding of building your personalized ultimate Pokémon team. Samurott

Source: iMore

Type: Water/Dark Nature: Hasty Moves: Iron Tail (Steel) - The target is slammed with a steel-hard tail. This may also lower the target’s defensive stats.

Source: iMore

Type: Steel/Dragon Nature: Naïve Moves: Giga Impact (Normal) - The user charges at the target using every bit of its power.

Source: iMore

Type: Psychic/Fairy Nature: Modest Moves: Psychic (Psychic) - The target is hit with a strong telekinetic force to inflict damage. This may also lower the target’s defensive stats.

Source: iMore

Type: Normal/Ghost Nature: Naïve Moves: Aerial Ace (Flying) - The user confounds the target with speed, then slashes. This attack never misses.

Source: iMore

Type: Fire/Fighting Nature: Adamant Moves: Stone Edge (Rock) - The user stabs the target with sharpened stones. This move has a heightened chance of landing a critical hit.

Source: iMore

Type: Grass/Ground Nature: Careful Moves: Sleep Powder (Grass) - The user scatters a cloud of sleep-inducing powder that makes the target drowsy.

Source: iMore

As someone who has played Pokémon for decades now, I know firsthand just how technical some of the deeper game mechanics can be. Hopefully, this team example and collection of crucial tips will help you when training up your very own powerhouse team. With thousands of possibilities and a vast roster of amazing Pokémon to choose from, experimentation is one of the most exciting things about playing a new Pokémon game. It delivers a satisfying experience centered around catching and exploring for casual players. And for more dedicated players, it offers a deep endgame experience with plenty of worthwhile challenges. Even early on in the year, it’s clear that Pokémon Legends: Arceus is one of the best games on Switch in 2022.

How Miles Bridges Put Himself in Perfect Position

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The Hornets are locked in an early-season battle with the Warriors, winners of seven straight games. The teams have been trading blows for more than 47 minutes, with the lead changing hands 25 times. With 45 seconds to go, the score is tied at 102.

Charlotte has possession side out, and LaMelo Ball throws an inbounds pass to Miles Bridges, who quickly fakes a handoff to Ball, turns around and finds himself matched up with one of the greatest defenders in NBA history: Draymond Green.

Both products of the state of Michigan—Bridges from Flint, Green from Saginaw—the two players have long known each other, with Green taking a big-brother role in Bridges’s life when the latter was a sophomore in high school. So it would be fair to assume this matchup, in the waning moments of a tie game, meant a little bit more to both players.

“Draymond has been trash-talking me since I was like 15,” Bridges says.

“As the older brother, you don’t want to lose—you don’t even want to get scored on,” Green says, his voice growing slightly exasperated as he recalls what happens next.

Bridges starts driving right, then crosses over back to his left, only to be cut off by Green. But the Hornets forward adjusts quickly, spinning back to his right, absorbing some contact from Green and, finally, hitting a soft hook with his off hand over the outstretched arm of his big bro. 104–102, Hornets.

“I’m still pissed off,” Green says of the Hornets’ 106–102 win.

Jordan Johnson/NBAE/Getty Images

After the game, Green acknowledged the outcome in a group chat filled with Michigan State alums that both he and Bridges belong to. He tried to beat others to the punch before the jokes started flying.

“Miles f—— gamed me,” Green wrote.

Earlier in his career, Bridges wouldn’t have been asked to make a decision late in the game with the ball in his hands. But his spinning hook against Green in November was an example of the star turn Bridges has taken for the Hornets this season—a development that has him in contention to win the NBA Most Improved Player Award.

Bridges is currently averaging 20.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game—all career highs by a considerable margin. For good measure, he is also posting career bests in steals (1.0) and blocks (0.9). The only other players putting up those numbers in every category? LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns.

“Sometimes I’ll sit down and just think, Wow, this really is my dream,” Bridges says. “My first three years, I knew I could play better and help the team more. I’m glad the work is finally paying off.”

The work could quite literally pay off for Bridges, as the best season of his life is coinciding with his upcoming restricted free agency this summer. It’s a story line that’s lingered around Bridges throughout this season. In the summer, he reportedly declined a $60 million extension from the Hornets. During a one-week stretch in October, Bridges scored at least 30 points in three different games and opponents joked with him that he was playing for that big contract. (In their defense, Bridges says even his mom was surprised by his scoring outburst.)

Ask anyone on his team, however, and it becomes clear Bridges’s improvement is motivated by his desire to elevate his squad.

“He’s trying to win first and foremost,” third-year swingman Cody Martin says. “You can tell when somebody is playing for their stats—he’s playing to win. Those stats are coming because we need that.”

Bridges put in the work during the offseason and it’s paying off. Chris Keane/Sports Illustrated

Says Hornets coach James Borrego: “A lot of players can say they don’t play for stats, but they don’t live it. Miles has lived it for the four years I’ve been with him. He’s a team-first guy. He doesn’t miss practice. He doesn’t miss games. He doesn’t take a shootaround off.

“His challenge has been: How do you handle a contract year? And his true character has shined. He’s not asked for more touches, more plays. Whatever it takes for us to win, he’s willing to do it.”

At 6​​'6" and 225 pounds, Bridges is built like a prototypical perimeter scorer, but he does a little bit of everything for the Hornets. He sets screens for LaMelo. He handles the ball in pick-and-rolls. He runs dribble handoffs from the elbow. He’s a blur in transition. He defends opponents’ best scorers. And he largely succeeds in most of these areas. According to NBA.com, Bridges is in at least the top third of the league in points per possession as a pick-and-roll ballhandler or pick-and-roll roller, and in transition, off isolations or coming off handoffs. Simply put, there’s no one way Bridges scores his points. His leap has come from improving all aspects of his game, something he worked tirelessly on over the summer.

In addition to his work in Charlotte, Bridges hit the gym multiple times a day with trainer Chris Johnson in Los Angeles. In the morning, it was all ballhandling drills. In the afternoon, he was working on in-game situations, such as attacking closeouts and using secondary moves and spins (all of which Green saw firsthand Bridges’s progress). And every day, Bridges finished with countless shots launched from the perimeter.

Versatility was imperative for Bridges. He admits his first two years in the league, he couldn’t be matched up with guards in certain drills. With Johnson over the summer, Bridges went through some of the same workouts as Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey. And now when Bridges has the ball at the top of the key, he can come off a screen and whip a pass to the corner if the defense collapses on him.

“You have to put in the work more than anything,” says Gordon Hayward, the 12th-year veteran who went from averaging under six points a game his rookie season to more than 20 his final year with Utah in 2017. “It’s the behind-the-scenes work that goes unseen. And then a little bit of it is opportunity, having a bigger role, having the offense run through you more. It’s a combination, but certainly he’s put in the work.”

Green has played a big brother role throughout Bridges’s basketball career. Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images

It helped that Bridges got a taste of having more opportunity last season. Bridges was frustrated his second year in the league, when Charlotte was a young team and he wasn’t made a priority for touches. With the Hornets hampered by injuries in the second half of last season, Borrego put the ball in Bridges’s hands more often, kick-starting the process of turning him from role player to decision-maker. That’s the area where Green has particularly noticed improvement.

“He’s become much more trustworthy with the basketball,” Green says. “That’s the growth you want to see in a young guy. The reality is just about everyone should be in the gym getting better. And most guys do. But does your decision-making improve year to year? Because that’s what it really takes to win at a high level.”

At the start of training camp, Borrego says he knew he needed Bridges to be more involved in the offense, even if he didn’t have a specific number of touches in mind. As the Hornets’ coaching staff grew more comfortable trusting him with the ball, Bridges says he also made it a point to remain coachable. It’s a point of pride for him to experience the payoff that’s come from receiving coaching and working relentlessly on all aspects of his game. But Bridges says he’s most proud of being able to create more for his teammates.

His excitement grows when he talks about how much he loves basketball and how much he enjoyed spending all those hours tweaking his game in the summer. When asked if it was important to him to make the All-Star team (Bridges did not), he says, “As long as we win, everybody’s going to get the glory.”

As far as personal glory goes, Bridges is in line to be recognized with a healthy payday this summer, either from Charlotte (which can match any offer he receives) or another team with cap space. Could the Blazers, trying to retool around Damian Lillard, make an offer? What about the home-state Pistons? There is no shortage of teams who would be interested in Bridges’s varied skill set. Comparing him to other players at his position salary-wise, it’s possible Bridges earned himself in the neighborhood of an extra $30 million by playing out the last year of his current deal.

Ask Bridges about his incredible foresight and he instead makes it clear he never meant to make this season some massive gamble on his talent. His desire to improve his game came more from wanting to make the playoffs than anything else. He says he may have even accepted Charlotte’s contract offer over the summer if not for his agents.

“If it wasn’t for them I probably would’ve taken the deal,” Bridges says. “They got more confidence in me than I have sometimes.”

Bridges’s success in the midst of his contract situation—particularly as someone coming from Flint, where Bridges says you “take risks every time you walk outside”—is not lost on Green, who knows how ruthless the business side of basketball can be.“I’m sure he could have taken some extension for way less than what he’s worth,” Green says. “You’re talking tens of millions of dollars. These aren’t small differences. Let’s say he turned down $30 million. There’s a certain level of stress that comes with that. There’s a level of pressure that comes with that. Miles has two young kids. It takes someone super elite at what they do to deliver under that pressure.

“It’s great to see guys win from a player perspective. You could’ve taken less money, and it would’ve been celebrated for the general manager. He bet on himself, and it’s going to pay off for him tenfold. It doesn’t always go that way.”

What will happen in the summer is likely the least of Bridges’s concerns at the moment. As much of a revelation as he’s been, the Hornets have struggled as a team recently. Charlotte was 28–22 on Jan. 28 after a win over the Lakers—punctuated by Bridges letting Russell Westbrook know he was too small after barreling through him for a fourth-quarter score. But the Hornets lost nine of 10 after that night and entered the All-Star break ninth in the East, with only a one-game lead over the Wizards for a spot in the play-in tournament.

Even with Bridges scoring at least 20 points in five of his last six games before the break, Charlotte hasn’t been able to capitalize. If there’s a silver lining for the upcoming playoff chase, it’s that two of those losses in the recent downturn came in overtime, and another was by one point. The Hornets are close, and the rotation should be bolstered at some point if Hayward can return from a left ankle injury.

And if the Hornets retain Bridges in the offseason, they’ll have a promising core to build around for the future. Ball, 20, just made his first All-Star Game. Bridges, 23, has developed a great chemistry with his point guard over the last two seasons. And the young duo has succeeded despite a crowded perimeter rotation in Charlotte, with Hayward, Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr. also requiring shots and touches.

Hornets stars Bridges and Ball have developed good chemistry on and off the floor. Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty Images

It helps that Bridges’s yearning for team success is genuine. He’s especially good buds with Ball and Rozier. The three often hang out together on the road. (For those wondering, Bridges, Ball and Rozier like to keep it simple and binge-watch TV shows like BMF or Power. Rozier, as the veteran and thus the one with the biggest room on the road, is usually on hosting duty. And like most people, Bridges thought Seong Gi-hun should have gotten on the plane at the end of Squid Game.)

What the Hornets lack on the floor at the moment is a stingy defense. While Bridges eagerly takes on assignments against nearly every position, it’s not enough for a team that ultimately lacks perimeter stoppers and stout defense at the rim. The frontcourt has been an issue all season long, and while the recent acquisition of Montrezl Harrell should boost scoring, it won’t help the backline of the defense.

Bridges is desperate to make the playoffs, not only to experience it for himself but to enact a culture change and make Charlotte “a basketball city again.” That commitment to lift up not only himself but everyone around him is what impresses Borrego the most about Bridges.

“It’s not easy to verbally lead in the NBA,” Borrego says. “Most guys don’t have the ability or the willingness. Miles, to his credit, is willing to challenge his teammates and hold himself accountable as well. I love what he’s doing on the floor, but I’m most proud of his ability to lead and the courage he’s shown to put himself on the line.”

“The guy who’s communicating, the guy who’s huddling up people on the free throw line, the guy who when it’s going wrong says we need to get stops, I have a tremendous amount of respect for them,” says Green. “When you have a leader who is becoming more comfortable with his own voice, I understand the success that follows.”

Bridges is having fun with all of it. He enjoys being a leader. He gets texts from Hornets owner Michael Jordan praising his big games. He notices opposing teams are playing harder and resting their stars less in Charlotte. He likes the increased attention from defenses, further adjusting his game as the season goes on. He continues to file away areas he can improve in, such as reading defenses when he has the ball in his hands.

What’s most rewarding for Bridges, though, is not the potential payday, nor the growing recognition from fans or media. It’s what he experienced in that game against his big brother Draymond, what every NBA player hopes to be: a difference-maker in the game’s biggest moments.

“Does your team depend on you to win the game?” Bridges says. “I play a big part if we’re going to win or not, so I gotta show up every night. My first three years, if I didn’t show up some games, people would pick up the slack. Now they need me to play up to where I’m playing for us to win. Just to know how important you are to the team, I’m happy to be in this position.”

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