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Things to know as Giants invade L.A.

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 01:42:19 UT

Culberson, a first-round draft pick by the Giants in 2007, played just six games in San Francisco before being traded to Colorado for Marco Scutaro (heck of a deal) in July of 2012. 1 in S.F.. [...] there’s no reason the Giants can’t take advantage of a massive advantage in starting pitching. Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Scott Kazmir and Brett Anderson, the latter two being placed on the disabled list Tuesday afternoon. Anderson, who was scheduled to start Thursday’s game here (that’s undecided now), has pitched in just two games this season (24.75 ERA) and is dealing with a blister on his left index finger. Kazmir experienced back and neck stiffness during a disastrous outing in Cincinnati on Monday — he wasn’t able to comfortably turn his head to the right side and look at the plate — and hit the D.L. after a Tuesday examination. If the Giants allow this tortured staff to prevail in the N.L. West, especially if Kershaw is unable to return...well, there just wouldn’t be any excuse for that. With Reddick already in the mix, replacing Puig in right field, it would seem there’s no room for the troubled Cuban outfielder. Andrew Toles, who started in right field (due to Reddick’s hand injury) on Monday and belted his first major-league homer.



With Reddick, Dodgers gain edge on Giants

Mon, 1 Aug 2016 18:38:09 UT

Reddick finally got his freedom, dealt to the Dodgers hours before the trading deadline — along with pitcher Rich Hill — for three right-handed pitchers in the minor leagues: Surely they are numb to the reality by now, but it always hurts to lose someone whose character and all-out play had become so endearing. For the moment, Reddick is a Dodger, adding much-needed depth to a team trying to chase down the Giants over the final two months. The Dodgers managed to swing this deal without giving up either of their top two pitching prospects, Julio Urias and Jose DeLeon. The centerpiece for Oakland is Cotton, who posted a disturbing 4.90 ERA in the Pacific Coast League, but that’s a hitters’ paradise.




Ageless Venus heads the field at Stanford

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 02:52:51 UT

The Bank of the West tournament is always good for some high-class tennis in the pristine setting of Stanford’s Taube Family Tennis Stadium, but the field is looking a bit vacant this year. The spotlight shines directly upon Venus Williams, who stands a fair chance of winning her 50th career title, in the event beginning Monday. In 1994, when the event was held at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, she made her professional debut at 14 and beat the world’s 58th-ranked player, Shaun Stafford, in her first match. [...] she has reached the final seven times, winning in 2000 and 2002. The No. 2 seed is Dominika Cibulkova, a Bank of the West champion (2013) and ranked 12th, thanks partly to a win at the Eastbourne grass-court tournament and a quarterfinal showing at Wimbledon. The tournament hasn’t lost a bit of its reputation — players say they enjoy the setting — but a number of factors contributed to the paltry field. “The Olympics is such a highlight, but at the same time, it’s important to play tournaments so you can continue with success on the tour,” Williams told reporters on a conference call. Remarkably, this will be Venus’ fifth Olympics, and she also will enter the doubles with her sister, Serena, the two of them bursting with confidence after winning the Wimbledon doubles title and staking a claim as the best women’s team in history. Bellis, who has played on the International Tennis Federation circuit most of the year, is ranked 220th and was given a wild-card berth into the event.



Remembering Nate Thurmond: No challenge too great

Sun, 17 Jul 2016 00:20:44 UT

There are those who suggest Nate Thurmond came along too early in the NBA timeline, that the magnificence of his all-around ability would be most appreciated today. Partly because the Warriors thought so highly of Thurmond in the 1963-64 season, in which they reached the Finals against Russell’s Celtics, they traded Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers during the following season. Whether it was scoring, defending, rebounding, shot-blocking or attitude — the kind of team-first mentality so characteristic of today’s Warriors — Thurmond had it all. For 20 years, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer (Class of 1985) operated Big Nate’s BBQ on Folsom Street, and if guests were lucky, they might catch a glimpse of him. Thurmond was raw and rail-thin at the time, not truly blossoming until his senior year at Bowling Green State University, where he was named to the All-America team. Thurmond was selected to play in seven All-Star Games, but if he didn’t always get proper credit, it’s that he was more about work ethic and consistency than eye-opening episodes. Abdul-Jabbar proved to be a mighty challenge “with that great footwork and sky-hook of his,” Thurmond said, but Kareem often said nobody played him tougher. Thurmond was a two-way force in his prime with the Warriors, averaging at least 20 points per game for five straight seasons (1967-68 to 1971-72) and averaging 25 points and 18 rebounds during the team’s five-game playoff loss to Abdul-Jabbar’s Milwaukee Bucks in ’72. By the summer of ’74, at 32, his production had diminished — and he was traded to the Chicago Bulls for a promising young center named Clifford Ray and a No. 1 draft pick that turned out to be Joe Bryant — who later became known as the father of Kobe. “That was tough, mentally,” he said of the Warriors winning that championship without him. Because you think, ‘Was I doing something to hold them back?’ In his first game with the Bulls, he registered the first quadruple-double in NBA history. [...] that Chicago team nearly upset Rick Barry’s Warriors in the ’75 Western Conference finals, taking a 3-2 series lead before the Warriors nailed down the Game 7 clincher in Oakland. The Bulls traded him to Cleveland in the early stages of the 1975-76 season., and having grown up “just six blocks from where LeBron grew up” in Akron, he was on familiar ground. The Cavaliers were 6-11 at the time of the deal, but they went 43-22 the rest of the way, winning a division title for the first time in their history, Thurmond sharing time with Jim Chones at center. In a tribute that properly captured Thurmond’s value to a team, the Cavs retired his No. 42 despite his playing in just 114 games, as a part-timer, for the franchise. “Nate gave coach Bill Fitch’s young squad something they were desperately missing — a veteran leader and seasoned big man in the middle,” wrote Joe Gabriele on Cavs.com. With the emphasis shifting rapidly to the three-point shot, there are some impressive athletes down low, but none with Thurmond’s combination of two-way skills and court presence.



Kevin Durant: Superstar expectations fulfilled

Tue, 5 Jul 2016 00:26:37 UT

By the time Kevin Durant finished his freshman year at the University of Texas, the NBA scouts had seen more than enough. Here was a beanpole of a human being, the kind of kid who might need 10 years to properly connect with his body, yet appearing quite the finished product. Somewhere in the vicinity of 6-foot-11 - exact details have always been vague - he glided elegantly about the court, dribbled respectably and shot like a dream, particularly from 3-point range. Dirk Nowitzki was established as the greatest-shooting big man of all time, but this was something different, so much more than a spot-up marksman with fancy footwork. Like LeBron James and new teammate Stephen Curry, he was an original. [...] what a monumental stroke of good fortune for the Seattle SuperSonics, soon to move to Oklahoma City: Portland selected the ill-fated Greg Oden with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, leaving Durant to a franchise about to build a powerhouse. Far from his upbringing in Washington, D.C., Durant embraced OKC with all his heart, quietly signing a five-year contract extension in July of 2010 to stay in the league’s smallest market. In October 2014, he had surgery to repair a broken right foot. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich once told reporters you never see him pumping his chest or gesturing, like, ‘Look what I just did.’



Go with the Warriors, and don’t ask why

Sun, 19 Jun 2016 00:55:17 UT

With all due acknowledgement to LeBron James, the injuries and the creeping specter of doubt, I like the bigger picture: When you’ve passionately followed a team all year, from press row or a big-screen TV or the radio accompaniment to an evening’s chores, you know certain things. The Warriors have built something as sturdy as Mount Rushmore, but it’s nothing you can touch, or capture in a photograph. The 73-win regular season will always mean something profoundly significant, just for how it made people feel, month after month. Right before he headed to the locker room, ejected from Game 6 in Cleveland, Curry glared at the Cleveland bench and pointed a finger. The man is seriously, quietly angry right now, over his multitude of injuries, the hits on his reputation and the fact that his wife, so emotional over the Finals melodrama, got herself in trouble. What a montage of greatness he produced over the last two games: thunderous dunks, generous dish-offs, fallaway jumpers, bullish drives, shots so rudely rejected and more than a hint of intimidation. All the talk was about Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant this season, as far as who really owns the league, but nobody measures up to James in his current state: back-to-back 41-point games and a step away from Cleveland’s first pro-sports title since 1964. In the history of sports, said veteran Richard Jefferson, Not many people have said, ‘Everyone get on my back: city, state, team, organization, get on my back and I’m going to lead you.’ Even if his outside shot falters, there’s not nearly enough rim protection with Andrew Bogut out and Andre Iguodala almost certainly hurting. In one of Lee Jenkins’ terrific Sports Illustrated pieces, Draymond Green described what it’s like for the opposition when the Warriors, crafting the ultimate change of pace, get Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Iguodala and himself on the floor together. Walking outside Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, you notice Timofey Mozgov among the giant painted faces on the wall. Check the stat sheets from the Cavaliers’ early playoff series, and Channing Frye comes off as a sort of crazed, unstoppable Ray Allen from three-point range. Spiritually uplifted by fatherhood and finally realizing that he can’t shoot a team into the trophy ceremony, he’s deferring to James and Irving and playing the toughest defense he can muster. Great line by his 7-year-old daughter, Demi, when interviewed by ESPN on Thursday night: “I’m just proud of him because he made the championship without getting kicked off the team.”




Kerr’s experience invaluable to Warriors

Thu, 16 Jun 2016 19:09:02 UT

Coaches live in constant fear of being tuned out by their players. In turn, the players need a consistently reliable, reassuring voice from the man in charge. If the Warriors prevail - just as they did last year, in the same arena, same Game 6, same date on the calendar - Steve Kerr will have earned his seventh championship ring. To say that he’s “been there” - including three championship rings with the Chicago Bulls and two more with San Antonio - is putting it mildly. From the outside, nobody knows quite what to make of Tyronn Lue, coaching NBA ball for the first time after replacing Cleveland coach David Blatt in midseason. The Cleveland Plain Dealer revealed (through NBA TV) that before Game 5, Lue drew upon Mark Twain when he addressed the team. Remembering that Klay Thompson complained about a screen set by Timofey Mozgov in Game 3 (Thompson later backed off the charge), Jefferson was appalled to hear Thompson call the NBA “a man’s league” after LeBron James made a public issue of Draymond Green’s trash-talking. Thursday marked the deadline for the Cavs’ J.R. Smith to address the player option in his contract for next year. Sources indicate he allowed the deadline to pass, thus freeing him to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Facing elimination in playoff series over the years, LeBron is averaging 32.4 points, the best in NBA history (minimum five games), followed by Michael Jordan’s 31.3 and Wilt’s 31.1. No team has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals, and only two games took it to a Game 7: From iconic NBA writer/TV personality Pete Vecsey: “If the Warriors win, Stephen Curry will have won two more titles in Cleveland than LeBron James.”



Warriors’ Green primed for Game 6

Wed, 15 Jun 2016 18:47:41 UT

Draymond Green was honest, apologetic and determined as he addressed a large group of media Wednesday afternoon before the Warriors’ shootaround. The Warriors still have Game 7 in their pocket at home, if necessary, but they discovered last year how sweet it can be to win a championship on the road - and they’re right back in the same arena. [...] what does his return mean for Cleveland? “He’s their best defender,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. [...] I’ve said it all along that he is the best guy in the NBA as far as reading when to help, triple switches and kicking guys out of mismatches, knowing when to go and when not to go. If LeBron James comes out in dominant fashion, as he did in Game 5 at Oracle, more than a few Warriors fans will be muttering “Uh-oh.” Sager is probably the most respected sideline reporter in NBA history, but because he has always been in Turner Broadcasting’s employ (TNT and TBS), he’s never been able to work a Finals.




Warriors’ home clincher would be Bay Area rarity

Mon, 13 Jun 2016 15:51:11 UT

Warriors’ home clincher would be Bay Area rarity Grab a comfortable chair, take all of the Bay Area’s professional teams in the major sports — Warriors, Sharks, A’s, Giants, Raiders, 49ers — and list all of the occasions on which they celebrated a world championship in their stadium or arena. The Warriors will try to join the 1973 and ’74 A’s — Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and the boys — in this oddly exclusive club. For the sake of Bay Area pride, remember that the 1984 49ers won the Super Bowl at the old Stanford Stadium, and that the Athletics put the 1989 Earthquake Series out of its misery at Candlestick Park (you could visit those sites on a nostalgic journey, except they no longer exist). Strictly speaking, though, the number is two — over the 295 combined seasons these franchises have completed in Northern California. All of which brings hearty laughter in Miami, where the Marlins had a hometown party in just their fifth year of existence. Just as they spoiled a festive Cleveland party in Friday night’s Game 4, they won last year’s championship in that same arena. Upon returning in this year’s regular season, a fanciful Stephen Curry said it still smelled like Champagne. Due to a scheduling conflict, those Warriors didn’t even get to play at their Coliseum Arena home, winning Games 2 and 3 at the Cow Palace and finishing off a four-game sweep against the Bullets in Landover, Md. Not that they gave a hoot about locale. Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was the scene of their ’72 title, but Game 7 of the ’73 Series was in Oakland (Ken Holtzman over the Mets’ Jon Matlack, homers by Campy Campaneris and Reggie Jackson). Once again at home for Game 5 of the ’74 Series against the Dodgers, they clinched the title behind Blue and Blue Moon Odom (who got the win in relief) with homers by Ray Fosse (off Don Sutton) and Joe Rudi (off Mike Marshall). The classic eighth-inning relay throws from Jackson to second baseman Dick Green to third baseman Sal Bando, cutting down Bill Buckner. When it comes to the Bay Bridge series in ’89, do you recall much from the clinching Game 4? Perhaps Rickey Henderson’s game-opening homer off Don Robinson, or the very last play, picturesque flip from second baseman Tony Phillips to the covering Dennis Eckersley at first. Go with “The Long and Winding Road” as a fitting theme song. For the record, they won Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl (Fred Biletnikoff the MVP and Willie Brown racing 75 yards on an interception return for a touchdown) and Super Bowl XV in New Orleans (Jim Plunkett the MVP, three interceptions by Rod Martin). Seriously, rickety old Stanford Stadium? NBA Finals




Kevin Love ruled out of Warriors-Cavs Game 3

Wed, 8 Jun 2016 17:36:32 UT

The Cavaliers haven’t made an official announcement, but the news was reported by ESPN and cleveland.com. Jefferson played 26 minutes in Game 2, scoring 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting with five rebounds.



Warriors’ biggest playoff wins since moving west

Mon, 30 May 2016 00:45:59 UT

With Wilt Chamberlain, Guy Rodgers, Tom Meschery and Al Attles scoring in double figures (39 for Wilt), the San Francisco Warriors beat the Bob Pettit-Cliff Hagan St. Louis Hawks 105-95 to reach the Finals, where they lost to Boston in five games. First round, 1987, Game 5 of a best-of-five against Utah: First round, 1991, Game 4 against San Antonio: Insiders felt the Warriors had no business beating the Spurs, but the 110-97 win ended the best-of-five series, thanks to Tim Hardaway (32 points), Chris Mullin (23) and Mitch Richmond (17). First round, 2007, Game 6 of the “We Believe” series against Dallas: [...] considered the greatest series upset in NBA playoff history, it was finalized 111-86 with all of the starters — Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Matt Barnes, Andris Biedrins and Stephen Jackson — contributing mightily. With the Warriors down 2-1 and looking vulnerable, coach Steve Kerr and his staff replaced center Andrew Bogut with small forward Andre Iguodala in a small-ball lineup and changed the series’ tone with a 103-82 win, Iguodala and Stephen Curry each scoring 22 points.




Cavaliers should have beaten Raptors by now

Thu, 26 May 2016 22:36:10 UT

Given a choice between watching the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals and a dentist’s monthly set of X-rays, one hesitates to answer. Every time the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors leave their country, they forget everything they knew about the game. [...] it went over the first five games, not so much about the victories but how horribly these teams played on the road. Not that it’s such a stunning phenomenon; the Warriors know all about falling completely apart away from Oracle Arena, and there have been more across-the-board playoff blowouts by 30 or more points this year than ever before. Over the past month or so, the Cavs have made it clear that when LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are in sync, they can play exciting, team-oriented basketball with the best of them. Teammates thought Love needed a stern lecture — Richard Jefferson reportedly had the most pointed comments — and a more sympathetic Channing Frye said Love needed “constant reinforcement” that the players and the city of Cleveland are behind him.



Soccer’s Leicester City: a sports tale for the ages

Tue, 3 May 2016 04:19:03 UT

Greece’s national soccer team pulled a near-inconceivable upset at the 2004 European Championships, at 150-to-1 odds. The harsh reality of British soccer is that downtrodden teams get tossed out of the Premier League, banished to lower divisions until they right the ship. Just a year ago, in April, the Foxes were at the bottom of the standings and needed a miraculous finish to stay among the Premier League’s elite 20. Whether it’s a clutch hit, a decisive touchdown or even a one-sided affair, our champions gather on the field of triumph and take their celebration right into the locker room. There are no playoffs in the Premier League, only a 38-game, August-to-May schedule that crowns a winner at the end — and, for Leicester City, a first-ever appearance in next year’s prestigious Champions League. The Foxes’ players assembled Monday night at the home of Jamie Vardy, their dynamic offensive leader, to watch Tottenham-Chelsea on television, and it was a thriller. [...] came a brilliant, game-tying goal by Eden Hazard, the heralded attacking midfielder who was part of the Belgian team that knocked the U.S. out of the 2014 World Cup (2-1 in the round of 16). The Foxes play the game aggressively, relentlessly, never settling into the safe, defensive stance that has turned fans against some of the most established winners in Europe. [...] last June, Ranieri was a sort of not-quite manager, having worked at high levels — Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan — but never winning a league title.



For Warriors’ Walton, the present and future collide

Thu, 28 Apr 2016 01:51:09 UT

From the moment the Lakers fired coach Byron Scott, Luke Walton’s name shot to the top of the list of replacements. The feeling here is that Walton will spend another season with the Warriors, pushing hard for another NBA championship, and gain more invaluable experience under Steve Kerr, veteran assistant Ron Adams, sage consultant Jerry West and hoops-wise general manager Bob Myers. Walton was part of two championship teams in his nine seasons there, he’s a Southern California guy to the core, and he strikes most everyone as an ideal candidate. Buss, son of legendary Lakers owner Jim Buss, is portrayed as a clueless sort who revels in the celebrity angle. Two years ago, he promised to step down after the 2016-17 season if the Lakers hadn’t established themselves as title contenders (past the second round of the playoffs). Kobe Bryant’s exorbitrant contract has vanished, and if they clear all the marginally talented players off the books, as expected, they’ll have some $60 million in cap space — making them players for Kevin Durant, among other top free agents. Walton could certainly co-exist with Buss and Kupchak, but what if Jackson were to escape his Knicks contract and run the Lakers along with his longtime companion, Lakers co-owner Jeanine Buss?



Warriors to benefit from Clippers’ injuries

Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:01:17 UT

The Warriors are in no hurry to start the second round of the NBA playoffs, not with Stephen Curry out at least two weeks with a sprained knee, and it appears they will get their wish. The first order of business is to finish off the Houston Rockets, with Game 5 of the first-round series Wednesday night at Oracle Arena, but Curry’s injury seems decidedly mild when measured against Chris Paul’s broken hand and the possible loss of Blake Griffin. Paul, the Clippers’ exceptional point guard and team leader, fractured the third metacarpal on his right hand in the third quarter of a 98-84 loss to the Trail Blazers that evened the series at 2-2. Griffin, who missed some three months with an injury to his left quad, reaggravated the injury during Monday night’s game and wore a look of discouragement as he watched the final minutes from the bench.