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Warriors vs. Blazers: Who has the edge?

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 04:02:49 UT

Warriors vs. Blazers: Who has the edge? Bruce Jenkins’ series matchups Offense Trail Blazers Warriors Damian Lillard has been known to win games virtually by himself, and C.J. McCollum is a worthy backcourt partner. The return of Kevin Durant will be a beautiful thing to watch if Stephen Curry doesn’t have to make sacrifices. No team in the league comes close to the Warriors’ scoring potential. Defense Nurkic is a rim-protecting factor, and Al-Farouq Aminu is a long-limbed defender. The team’s defensive motivation comes and goes. The Warriors rank at or near the top in all of the key categories, and the eye test works even better. Draymond Green, who should win Defensive Player of the Year, sets the tone — especially late in games. Recent years have found the Blazers’ roster in constant transition, but Terry Stotts always finds a solution — and strong second-half finishes. Steve Kerr has his entire roster plugged into a festival of screens, cuts and ball movement. [...] he won’t let the team get complacent defensively. Chemistry Lillard sets the tone, never self-obsessed and always looking out for his teammates’ best interests. Even if the Blazers return home down 0-2, they’ll figure on a quick reversal of fortune. It’s not easy blending three legendary shooters into a flow, but Curry, Durant and Klay Thompson have the perfect temperament. [...] the bench players’ roles have been solidified. Intangibles With Lillard not afraid to speak up, the Blazers resent the idea of the Warriors’ “super team” and won’t be afraid to get a little nasty on the court. Again, Nurkic’s presence is vital. The team isn’t quite as fiercely driven as last year’s, with records in sight, but it’s close. Bench strength, notably Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, is key.




Predictions for the NBA first-round playoff series

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 01:11:25 UT

Predictions for the NBA first-round playoff series The Grizzlies made the playoffs despite missing Mike Conley for an extended period, moving low-post genius Zach Randolph to the bench and wasting $94 million on Chandler Parsons. [...] head coach Dave Fizdale, who once worked for the Warriors, made all of the pieces fit. By far the biggest first-round series from a national perspective, with stat-laden superstars Russell Westbrook and James Harden going head-to-head. Houston guard Patrick Beverley, who likes to claim he’s the best defensive backcourt player in the league, should be watched closely. Coach of the Year favorite Mike D’Antoni changed everything with Houston’s roster, now full of team-oriented players and a lot of good shooters. The Clippers performed so miserably before a late-season rush, people were forecasting the end of an era, with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick eligible to depart as free agents this summer. Little was at stake, but Utah put on a nice show at Oracle Arena on Monday night with several key players (including Gordon Hayward) missing. Rondo, dealing with a wrist injury, may have limited playing time. The Celtics are all about bold, brilliant coach Brad Stevens and a tough defensive unit led by Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley. Isaiah Thomas will be watched closely; if the Celtics falter in the playoffs, he could be trade material with the No. 1 overall draft pick looming. Ex-Cal forward Jaylen Brown hopes to showcase the vast improvement he’s made of late. A disappointing performance here could lead to major rebuilding. Cleveland tinkered with its roster right up to the final day of the regular season, seeking a defensive upgrade. Point guard Jeff Teague sprained his left ankle in the season’s final minutes but is expected to play. The Pacers’ playoff euphoria is about to wear off, quickly. The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is a genuine original, not just now but in NBA history, and there’s no real answer for his ridiculously long, springy game. The loss of Jabari Parker was offset by Khris Middleton’s return, and only a lack of consistency holds Jason Kidd’s team back. Toronto counters with the exceptional backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, back after missing 21 games with an elbow injury, and the acquisitions of defensive-minded Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker have made a huge difference. Washington needs this series, badly, and won’t settle for anything less than the conference finals.



National League preview capsules

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 21:52:48 UT

National League preview capsules Yasiel Puig has to be centered and productive, or he’s dealt in midseason. ... Led by Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill — and fingers crossed with often-injured Hyun-Jin Ryu — the rotation looks as stable and healthy as it has been in years. Matt Cain will get a chance to reward the team’s loyalty — but Ty Blach and Tyler Beede loom in the wings, and it’s time for a change. ... There’s uncertainty throughout the bullpen, but new closer Mark Melancon should make a world of difference. ... Alarming rash of spring injuries seemed an ominous sign. ... The pitching is said to be improved, with high hopes for Jon Gray, but that’s the springtime hope every year — and results prove otherwise. ... For viewing purposes, a treat with Ian Desmond (still recovering from a broken hand)joining Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and potential star David Dahl in a very solid lineup. Defense and bullpen will bring this team down. ... Ex-Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco starts at Triple-A. ... Seventeen of the first 20 games are against 2016 playoff teams. Asked what he’d tell the fans, managing partner Peter Seidler told the L.A. Times, “We look ’em in the eye and say 2019 is probably the earliest you’ll see our strategy working.” Inspiring moments ahead for Wil Myers and power-hitting RF Hunter Renfroe, but there’s no masking baseball’s worst rotation, including what remains of Jered Weaver. The curses have vanished and it’s a young, exciting team on the rise. ... Feared hitter Kyle Schwarber returns from knee surgery, and Javier Baez, a shining star, can’t move ahead of SS Addison Russell or 2B Ben Zobrist. Fowler is a solid addition, on the field and in the clubhouse. ... Departed LF Matt Holliday replaced by Randal Grichuk. ... First-rate prospect Alex Reyes has been lost to Tommy John surgery, but the rotation (including ex-Giants right-hander Mike Leake) still looks respectable. Clint Hurdle, 15th season (1,043-1,087), 7th with Pirates (509-462) Much has been lost, including (apparently) the prime of Andrew McCutchen and third baseman Jung Ho Kang, dealing with DUI and sex-assault issues in Korea, with an indefinite return. ... David Freese moves into the mix at third. ... The pitching staff misses C Russell Martin, but there’s promise with Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow. ... Outfield will lead the way if a revived McCutchen joins Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte. The “Brew Crew” is looking entirely too faceless, and even announcer Bob Uecker can’t paint a glowing portrait. ... Ex-Giants catcher Andrew Susac (neck, back) opens on the disabled list. ... Eric Thames, who played in Korea the past three seasons — and belted 124 homers — returns to play 1B. Ex-Giant Adam Duvall got a chance to play regularly last year and crushed 33 homers. ... With rotation pitchers Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani not due to return until June, 40-year-old Bronson Arroyo is making a comeback and promises to “pull off the impossible.” Yoenis Céspedes, somehow even more physically imposing than ever, will make a serious run for MVP. ... Mets figure they got a break when closer Jeurys Familia (domestic-violence charges) drew only a 15-game suspension. Management didn’t give Baker a reliable closer, an issue that might need fixing at the trading deadline. Bryce Harper crashed to earth too heavily last year (injuries a factor) to be called a preseason MVP candidate. ... Pressure’s on the top of the order with new CF Adam Eaton and SS Trea Turner, potentially one of the most exciting players in either league. Whether Dee Gordon, suspended for 80 games last year, returns in top form. The Braves discard ballparks like stale lettuce, and sure enough, another one opens this year. ... Picture phenom Dansby Swanson at shortstop and 43-year-old Bartolo Colon on the mound. ... The lineup looks decent if Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips have some [...]



Boycott the Raiders? Don’t be so sure

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:09:00 UT

The springtime air is filled with rage and rebellion, as chilly as the northwest winds, as the Raiders plan to leave soulful, grassroots Oakland for a domed stadium in fake-town Las Vegas. Of all the fan bases in America, none is more devoted to game day — at the stadium — than Oakland’s. It’s a festival of tailgating, face-painting and raw passion that dates back decades. [...] this year’s Raiders lineup rates with the NFL’s best, a Super Bowl well within reach. How long can you hold out before feeling that overwhelming desire to see your team in person? [...] we can all push for the Raiders setting up temporary camp in Levi’s Stadium, San Antonio, wherever, for the 2018 and ’19 seasons. Grim duty for Raiders players and their wives and kids:



Philosophies clash, and Warriors prevail

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 05:17:45 UT

Curry and Thompson suffered alarming head injuries during consecutive games in the 2015 playoffs, each at the somewhat inadvertent hands of Trevor Ariza. Curry’s sprained knee, because of a slippery Houston floor, came in the first round of last year’s playoffs and proved to be significant. [...] there’s the matter of Harden, who ticks off everyone around the Warriors with his self-promoting MVP campaign. Maybe not such a good idea, it says here, if Harden enters the Rockets’ first-round series with a troubling handicap. [...] that marked the grim climax of a stretch of hellish travel, an aberration in every sense, and Kerr has said he plans to play everyone this time, assuming Green’s ankle (tweaked Tuesday night) holds up. The Spurs would love to finish with the Western Conference’s best record, but if they can just share the top spot with the Warriors, they’ve already clinched the tiebreaker: A seventh game would be on the Spurs’ court, and there’s nothing the Warriors can do to change that. If the Warriors get the fiercely motivated Spurs who routed Cleveland by 29 points Monday night, look for one of the most entertaining and revealing games of the season. Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue was actually laughing after the game, amazed at “how much faster they were” and a Popovich system that changes only in personnel — never effectiveness. The key players off the Spurs’ bench Monday — Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Pau Gasol, David Lee and the explosive Jonathan Simmons — all had brilliant games. The Cavaliers were left in a daze, questioning their toughness, rotations and postseason future. The Warriors and Spurs play the type of basketball lodged only in their opponents’ dreams.



Baseball goes mad with new idea

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 00:05:29 UT

[...] it’s the top of the 10th inning, all tied up, back from the commercial break and ... wait a minute, there’s a runner at second base? “Oh, glad you asked,” says the representative from Major League Baseball. [...] we just sort of stash him there to start all the extra innings. “Let’s see what it looks like,” Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, told Yahoo Sports. Yes, we all know that attendance tends to wane after regulation time, people fearing a game that won’t end. Imagine, too, if you’re the pitcher starting such an inning. When an engaging, articulate Brian Wilson was mowing down hitters with blazing fastballs en route to the Giants’ 2010 world title, no one could have imagined him years later with the Dodgers: belligerent, beyond eccentric, with a preposterous beard (featuring that little thing dangling off the edge).



Magic’s arrival good news for Luke Walton

Sun, 5 Feb 2017 05:18:25 UT

Larry Bird, Boston Garden, an NBA championship and a team unsurpassed in clever, relentless ball movement. [...] when Walton took his Los Angeles Lakers into Boston Garden on Friday night, he got a grim reminder of his predicament. There’s nothing those old Celtics can do to help Walton now, but there is help on the way from a storied rival. When Magic Johnson was appointed a Lakers adviser this past week, it got everyone’s attention. Johnson will reportedly have a crucial role in personnel decisions, and he will report directly to team President Jeanie Buss. Upon the death of wildly successful Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Jim was given control of basketball operations as executive vice president. The decision to fire Jim would have to come by family vote (there are four other siblings involved), and no other outcome would satisfy the exasperated L.A. fan base. If the Lakers keep their first-round draft pick (they have to land in the top three) and get a chance to draft UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball, would they offer Russell in trade for veteran help? Shaquille O’Neal calls him “one of the greatest point guards in NBA history,” and while that might be a bit strong, Williams’ showmanship genius recalled the great Pete Maravich. Yogi Ferrell is no mystery to anyone who followed his college career at Indiana, where he holds the career assist record and was a Big Ten All-Defensive choice as a senior, but he went undrafted in 2016 and fell into D-League obscurity. Dallas signed him to a 10-day contract Jan. 28, and now he’s a full-fledged star, averaging 17.8 points in his first four games (all wins) and scoring 32 in Friday night’s 108-104 win over Portland. [...] the Mavericks say they’ll sign Ferrell to a two-year contract, at the minimum salary, when his temporary deal expires. Getting extensive minutes due to Pau Gasol’s hand injury, a slimmed-down Lee is experiencing a career revival at 33.



Ex-Giants reliever Sergio Romo signs with the Dodgers

Sat, 4 Feb 2017 04:27:45 UT

Sergio Romo, the Giants’ longtime standout reliever, reportedly has agreed to a one-year deal with the Dodgers. The deal is contingent upon a physical exam for Romo, who’s pitching for Mexico in the Caribbean Series, and might not be announced until Monday. After relieving Javier Lopez during the Cubs’ four-run, ninth-inning rally in the decisive Game 4 of the NL Division Series at AT&T Park, Romo gave up Ben Zobrist’s run-scoring double down the right-field line, cutting the Giants’ lead to 5-3. By the time Will Smith and Hunter Strickland managed to finish that inning, the eventual World Series champion Cubs led 6-5 and were on their way to the NLCS. What the Dodgers undoubtedly noticed, though, was that Romo posted a 2.98 ERA in 2015 and 2.64 last year, in each case allowing fewer hits than innings pitched. With Miguel Cabrera representing the Tigers’ last hope in Game 4, and everyone in the ballpark expecting a slider, Romo blew a fastball past Cabrera for a called strike three to end the Series.



Warriors reveal Clippers’ lack of foresight

Sat, 4 Feb 2017 02:46:40 UT

Warriors reveal Clippers’ lack of foresight Every time the Clippers get crushed by the Warriors, which is all the time, people shake their heads and wonder, What’s wrong with those guys? The score got interesting in the final minutes before a 133-120 final, but head coach Doc Rivers admitted the performance level “wasn’t even close tonight.” With the Warriors missing starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia, the Clippers had to figure they had some plays that would work. [...] no matter who’s on the floor, even the end-of-the-bench guys, the Warriors play a selfless, fast-moving, pass-oriented offense that represents the pinnacle of offensive fundamentals. Here’s the Clippers’ track record of influential players selected in the draft over the past 15 years: [...] that’s on Rivers, a capable head coach who has proved to be a dismal failure as general manager. [...] it won’t make a bit of difference against the Warriors, not with Anthony looking for isolation matchups and playing ineffective defense. The All-Star weekend’s three-point contest won’t be the same without Curry, who called it a tough decision. Honestly, this All-Star weekend is the slowest, schedule-wise, I’ve had, and I wanted to capitalize on that rest. Thoughts turned to the Giants’ Will Clark when, in tennis, Andy Roddick was elected to the Hall of Fame. [...] many others in that category — Michael Chang, Amelie Mauresmo, Yannick Noah, Jana Novotna, Gabriela Sabatini, Marat Safin, Virginia Wade — are tennis Hall of Famers.



Turmoil rises in the East in NBA

Sun, 29 Jan 2017 06:36:37 UT

The Cavaliers need a backup guard, they’re not moving the ball like a championship team, and their lack of depth has him leading the league in minutes played (37.6 per game). The Cavs consistently play terrible defense. Can you imagine the clever, selfless Rubio hooking up with James and Irving, a shooting guard at heart? With the Bulls’ chemistry falling apart, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade unleashed a harsh, vague assessment of the team’s younger players (sources say the targets were Michael Carter-Williams and Nikola Mirotic). Coach Fred Hoiberg has no control over the team, to the point where Butler — benched along with Wade at the start of Friday night’s game against Miami — walked straight to the bench after drawing his second foul in the second quarter, instructing Taj Gibson to go take his place. [...] there’s the Knicks’ sudden urge to unload Carmelo Anthony, who apparently would waive his no-trade clause to join the Cavaliers, Celtics or Clippers. Follow-up to Connor Letourneau’s Chronicle piece about the Warriors’ popularity on the road: Coach Steve Kerr doesn’t buy into the nonsense of resting healthy starters. Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter, who decided to clobber a padded chair in anger and caught the metal frame, breaking his arm. Under the new collecitive bargaining agreement, it is now impossible for a team to have two players on its roster who were acquired via trade and signed with their original team using the “designated rookie max” contract extensions. In the wake of Bill King’s long-overdue election to the writers’ wing of the baseball Hall of Fame, longtime Bay Area marketing ace Andy Dolich has launched a campaign backing King for the Curt Gowdy Media Award, basketball’s Hall of Fame equivalent. The list of inductees includes Chick Hearn, Marty Glickman, Marv Albert and Hubie Brown, among other iconic types, but also some broadcasters who didn’t remotely compare to King, merely the best basketball play-by-play man who ever lived.



Get Embiid, NBA centers in the All-Star game

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 00:02:23 UT

Get Embiid, NBA centers in the All-Star game The man behind the NBA’s most intriguing story, Joel Embiid, has the right idea. “There’s a lot of talented big men in the league, especially at the center position,” he told CSN Philly after the 76ers’ victory over Portland on Friday night. The NBA should think about putting the center back on the All-Star ballot. Frontcourt backups (three): Embiid’s inspired play, with its magnificent combination of power and finesse, has the long-dreadful 76ers thinking playoffs (more on that below). Thomas has been owning the fourth quarter, and Wall’s end-to-end forays are an absolute treat. Wild cards (two): Kemba Walker, long overdue for his first All-Star appearance, and Kyle Lowry. Wild cards (assuming Chris Paul’s thumb injury keeps him out): Utah’s underrated Gordon Hayward and Mike Conley, the great Memphis guard who has overcome two serious injuries and plays as smart as any guard in the game. Recoil in disdain, if you must, at his isolation-driven game, but this great scorer has been treated like dirt by Knicks President Phil Jackson. [...] Jackson complained that Anthony holds onto the ball too long (an accurate assessment, but one best delivered in private). For all of his faults, he deserves some respect — and an All-Star appearance would soothe his troubled mind. Ben Simmons, the wondrous 6-10 forward who plays like a point guard, is expected to come off the injury list and make his NBA debut after the All-Star break. With 30 seconds left and the Raptors needing a hoop, Lowry’s three-point shot was blocked by Covington. With the ball back in his hands, Lowry tried a driving layup and got rejected by Embiid, as the crowd went nuts. Durant and Westbrook simply can’t afford to be avoiding each other during All-Star weekend, stewing in their personal feud while being stalked by the media.



Carmen Policy part of BASHOF’s 2017 class

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 06:00:00 UT

Carmen Policy, the front-office mastermind of Eddie DeBartolo’s ownership, is one of five people to be announced Monday as the latest inductees into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. The class also includes jockey Russell Baze, Olympic volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings, former Giants third baseman Matt Williams and Bill Cartwright, the USF alum who went on to become an NBA mainstay. Policy joined the 49ers in 1983 as the club’s vice president and counsel, and he proved to be a man of wisdom and perspective as the team scored Super Bowl victories in 1985, 1989 and 1990. Policy was named the NFL’s Executive of the Year in 1994 by the Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly in a vote of NFL executives and owners. In 2006 he passed Laffit Pincay Jr., who had been the sport’s leading rider with 9,530 victories, and Baze kept racing until the age of 57. Prestige beckoned at tracks around the country, but Baze preferred to work mostly at Golden Gate Fields, where he racked up 54 jockey titles, and Bay Meadows, where he earned 40 more. Time and again, her Olympic Games appearances became must-see viewing, and in tandem with Misty May-Treanor, she won gold medals in beach volleyball in 2004, 2008 and 2012. After giving serious thought to retirement, she found a new partner in April Ross, and although they were defeated by Brazil at the ’16 Rio Games, their successful fight for the bronze medal brought countless hugs, tears and admiration. Walsh Jennings is local all the way, having starred at San Jose’s Archbishop Mitty High School, then moving on to Stanford, where she became the second player in NCAA history to be named first-team All-American in all four seasons she played (1996-99). After a long coaching career, Cartwright returned to USF last March as director of university initiatives, helping mentor students and develop connections with USF alumni and the San Francisco community.



Warriors chasing unique brand of history

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 00:54:41 UT

Monday evening arrives like a long-awaited film premiere. The Cleveland Cavaliers are in town, riding a four-game winning streak against Steve Kerr’s club dating to last season’s Finals. In the league’s long history, no team reached the pinnacle behind three phenomenal outside shooters and only marginal inside presence. Plenty of championship teams had unlimited scoring potential, but always with that inside option: Figuring out a halfcourt set with three of the greatest shooters the league has ever seen, only rarely even considering a down-low option, minus that vital element of rim protection on defense? The 1990-91 Warriors played to uproariously jubilant crowds at (what was then called) the Oakland Coliseum Arena with Chris Mullin averaging 25.7 points, Mitch Richmond 23.9 and Tim Hardaway 22.9. The Cavaliers think they can rough up the Warriors, play with their instincts, inflict some more self-doubt. [...] you know, you’re a Millennial. Appalled by last week’s disgrace in Oklahoma City, where the last 24 seconds of the Thunder-Rockets game took nine minutes to play, Commissioner Adam Silver called for change because “obviously, people, particularly Millennials, have increasingly short attention spans.” In reality, the Millennials joined Baby Boomers, children of the Great Depression and the Ben Franklin Fan Club in complete disgust. [...] how about that Millennial who studies a sporting event with undivided attention, drawing fresh and intriguing conclusions? The last time the Cavaliers visited Oracle, it was Game 7 of the Finals and a seminal moment for coach Tyronn Lue, only months into the job. Stop being so passive! Then Lue repeated those words, in essence, in front of the team at halftime. What’s going to change, exactly, if the Kings and DeMarcus Cousins follow through with their planned contract extension through 2023?



Replacing an iconic sportswriter, with class

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 23:07:27 UT

Mark Foyer seemed to be everywhere at once, filling pages of the Half Moon Bay Review with stories, features and commentary on the local high school to the great delight of athletes and their parents. The nature of the disease leaves no guarantee when or even if a patient will fully recover, but Foyer believes he will. [...] in the interim, a very generous and hard-working fellow has stepped in. Having John fall into our lap,” said Review editor Clay Lambert, “was like manna from heaven. Murphy is only a part-time employee of the Review, hired after the paper sent out a desperate plea via Craigslist, but he reaches out to the wide expanse of Half Moon Bay High School sports — freshman teams, junior varsity, varsity, soccer, wrestling, volleyball, water polo, whatever is in season — in his weekly dispatches. A friend since grade school, Menlo School boys basketball coach Keith Larsen, describes the 60-year-old Murphy as “a man with zero ego” and “about as laid-back a person as you’ll ever find.” [...] he works with special-education children who would be lost without the proper guidance. Working mostly for daily newspapers, Murphy passed through San Mateo, Watsonville, Victorville, San Bernardino and Riverside over the years, later hooking up with Prep2Prep, featuring high school coverage in California and several other states. Not once, he says, did he ever aspire to cover major sports or be a big-time columnist. In a Review piece published in August, Lambert wrote, Other sportswriters would have longed for bigger stages and more important contests — and he did find ways to cover national and even international events, often on his own dime (a track and field aficionado, Foyer attended the World Championships in Edmonton, Paris, Helsinki, Osaka and Berlin in the 2000s). The walls of Foyer’s hospital room are decorated with cards, photos, letters and Facebook posts from well-wishers. Within days he was in the emergency room at Mills-Peninsula Hospital, his body essentially shutting down, and he has yet to return home. Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare autoimmune disorder that attacks the peripheral nervous system and leaves the body in a paralysis-like state. Learning to swallow, feeling slight movement in his legs and fingers, standing up (with assistance) for two or three minutes in physical-therapy sessions, or sensing a bit of pain in the hip — “the muscles are waking up,” he says. Among the posted newspapers clippings is a Review column from Murphy, headlined “Call me interim bard until Foyer gets back.” “It’s really remarkable,” said Traci Yerby, whose son, Ryan, was recently featured for his accomplishments in two sports and the classroom. The kids always loved seeing all his articles, and John has taken it over so well. The Sporting Green is highlighting a series of “Holiday Heroes,” all of whom are making the world a better place through sports.




Craig Sager — A distinctive voice silenced at age 65

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 20:31:03 UT

Sager waded into some tense situations in his time, always with a thin smile and a look of utter calm. Because he worked for Turner Sports, Sager never got the chance to work the NBA Finals — until last year, when he returned to action after a two-year absence. In a glowing tribute to his reputation, TNT granted his temporary release so he could work part of the Warriors-Cleveland series for ESPN/ABC. “Craig was as vital to the NBA as the players and coaches,” commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. A story I’ll never forget, from Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins: Sager perched on a barstool regaling strangers with a story about Dennis Rodman, who went AWOL from the Pistons in 1993 and planned to commit suicide, until Sager tracked down the Worm on the second floor of a Detroit strip club.