Tue, 25 Oct 2016 04:39:29 UTNBA Western Conference preview NBA Western Conference preview L.A. CLIPPERS (53-29): Can’t understand the preseason excitement about a team that never quite delivers. Hopelessly incompetent owner Vivek Ranadive not accountable for anything. L.A. LAKERS (17-65): The players have energetically bought into Luke Walton’s approach. SAN ANTONIO (67-15): Head coach Gregg Popovich calls the Warriors “an anomaly” in that nobody can match their small-ball game. Harrison Barnes fighting heavy skepticism as a go-to guy, which the Mavs want. Hope for the playoffs if Marc Gasol and Mike Conley somehow stay healthy. New head coach Dave Fizdale was once a Warriors assistant. HOUSTON (41-41): It’s all up to James Harden, who says he wants to pass the ball (he’s got the skills) and play defense. Chances of that over 82 games: none, assuming it’s just an average club and vulnerable to malaise. NEW ORLEANS (30-52): Anthony Davis is hurt again (ankle), and that’s a disturbing pattern. [...] though, this halfcourt offense is bound to stall. PORTLAND (44-38): Damian Lillard says he’s too proud to join a “super team,” and he has a dynamite partner in C.J.McCollum, but the Blazers need some work. Injuries to Favors and Gordon Hayward slowed the preseason buzz, but this team is a threat, having added Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and efficient PG George Hill. MINNESOTA (29-53): The NBA’s best up-and-coming team with Karl-Anthony Towns already a prime-time center.
Tue, 25 Oct 2016 04:32:39 UTNBA Eastern Conference preview Dwight Howard is back home, boldly defying his critics, but he’s a demand-the-ball guy who has no post-up game — and head coach Mike Budenholzer likes a blur of offensive movement. Al Horford is gone, and point guard Dennis Schroder will make ’em miss the departed Jeff Teague. CHARLOTTE (48-34): One look at the center position (Roy Hibbert, or possibly Cody Zeller) and it’s instant gloom. [...] there will be special moments from Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who returns from shoulder surgery. Making Frank Kaminsky the ninth overall pick (2015) sounded risky at the time, and little has changed. TORONTO (56-26): Built around the dynamic DeMar DeRozan-Kyle Lowry backcourt once again, but the Raptors’ streak of division titles will end at three. [...] head coach Jeff Hornacek got a tremendous break when Phil Jackson said he wouldn’t have to play the triangle offense. Lin shouldn’t be that vital on any team, but this could mark a career rebirth under new head coach Ken Atkinson, an assistant during “Linsanity” in New York. The mood will brighten considerably if the supremely talented Joel Embiid, who has missed two seasons with foot problems, fulfills his preseason promise. Mike Dunleavy’s a nice addition for three-point shooting. Kyrie Irving intends to be the NBA’s top point guard, no questions asked. Andre Drummond needs to improve on that 35 percent free-throw shooting. MILWAUKEE (33-49): The league’s most intriguing experiment: 6-10 Giannis Antetokounmpo running the offense as a point guard-forward. With Khris Middleton out, recently acquired Tony Snell becomes the starter at shooting guard.
Thu, 20 Oct 2016 06:13:10 UTThe thrills came early, but perhaps most impressive was the finish of Wednesday’s Red Bull Heavy Water event, an 8-mile stand-up paddling endurance test from Ocean Beach to the St. Francis Yacht Club. After more than an hour of punishing physical challenge — too much for some of the competitors to handle — three men from Maui powered their way to finish at full throttle, looking as if they had plenty to spare. Victorious Connor Baxter, second-place Kai Lenny and third-place Zane Schweitzer have been friends and competitors since they were kids on Maui, each proficient in multiple disciplines. The original 40-man field was diminished because of travel commitments when the race was delayed a day, and three competitors failed to complete the race. [...] 20 grand is good money in the surfing world, and endurance paddling is something these athletes would do for free. Surveying the launching spot at the north end of the Great Highway around 11 a.m., an exuberant Lenny proclaimed, We’ll have some carnage out there. With a solid swell in progress, the competitors had to paddle out through the treacherous Ocean Beach shorebreak three times before heading northward to the Golden Gate Bridge. Baxter, still running up the beach, decided to paddle out about 30 yards north of Lenny, and the decision paid off. Smiling and gracious in defeat, Lenny looked reasonably tired but hardly exhausted — a near-inconceivable state after what he called a total grind.
Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:08:01 UTThe Red Bull Heavy Water event, an international stand-up paddling race launching at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, has been postponed until Wednesday at noon. The surf and weather conditions were favorable on Tuesday morning, but according to a Red Bull spokesman, the event was postponed due to “unforeseen circumstances” and will “definitely” run on Wednesday.
Mon, 10 Oct 2016 02:21:22 UTThe 2012 World Series opened at AT&T Park to the sights and sounds of Pablo Sandoval home runs, Barry Zito curveballs, Tim Lincecum working relief and Madison Bumgarner nailing down Game 2 with seven innings of two-hit ball. Feeling eminently confident, they stormed through two wins in Detroit and shut down the Series before it ever gained serious intrigue. Game 1 winner Jon Lester has spoken openly about winning the World Series and how the Cubs and their fans would react to their first title since 1908. After Game 2, catcher David Ross said, “We’re not your typical best team in baseball” because the Cubs never seem to win the same way twice. [...] there is outright hilarity when it comes to Travis Wood, the relief pitcher who hit a roaring Game 2 home run. There’s nothing like a festive party on team flights with a big victory in hand. After the Giants’ dramatic 3-0 win over the Mets in the wild-card playoff game, they were delayed by traffic for two hours before reaching the airport, but it hardly dimmed the mood. Witnesses said that once the players got settled in the air en route to Chicago, they began firing pillows at each other.
Thu, 6 Oct 2016 22:30:40 UT
Wrigley Field has become his personal nightmare, but the Giants-Cubs playoff series has come calling. Giants fans should feel confident that, barring a catastrophe, Krukow will join Duane Kuiper in the radio booth for Friday night’s Game 1, sounding just as enthusiastic as ever. Stairs are an entirely different story, particularly heading down. Because there is so little foundation in his legs, he needs to grip a railing and summon all of his arm strength to ease his way through it. Virtually all major-league ballparks have elevators and ramps to aid the disabled, but Wrigley is a glaring exception. [...] that the Giants have survived the wild-card playoff game, on a Madison Bumgarner masterpiece and Conor Gillaspie’s three-run homer against the Mets, Krukow knows he can’t stay away.
Wed, 24 Aug 2016 01:42:19 UTCulberson, 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.
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.
Mon, 18 Jul 2016 02:52:51 UTThe 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.
Sun, 17 Jul 2016 00:20:44 UTThere 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.
Tue, 5 Jul 2016 00:26:37 UTBy 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.’
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.”
Thu, 16 Jun 2016 19:09:02 UTCoaches 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.”
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.
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