Monthly Archives: September 2016

NBA coaches and players speak out about racial violence in U.S.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games, citing racial injustice and police brutality, has sparked a major reaction across the sports world. During the NBA’s media days around the country on Monday, players and coaches spoke out about the social issues the U.S. is facing.

San Antonio Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich gave a pointed response when asked his thoughts about social unrest in the country.

And Kupchak again deferred such questions as the youthful Lakers, without the retired Kobe Bryant, opened training camp.

“I’m not really in a position to debate some of the stuff,” Kupchak said. “I’m not even sure what was said with certainty. From my point of view, we’ve created a team that has a lot of young talent that can grow into, I believe, really good [players] and hopefully NBA players that can leave an imprint on this league.

“I think we’ve surrounded them with some older veterans that can help us win games. I’m excited about our coaching staff. I want to see improvement in the young players. I want to see some production from our rookies. And I want our team to be fun to watch. And I want them to have fun playing. And I want them to get better as the season goes along.

“I don’t know how that translates to anything else under my control. Wins and losses, I couldn’t pick a number. I could guess. I would not guess in front of [media]. That’s not something I would do. I’d have to stare at it for the rest of the year.”

Kupchak did state, however, that the Lakers’ improvement would be measured in part by wins.

“I think it’s really dangerous to answer such important questions that have confounded so many people for hundreds of years, to ask me to give you my solutions, as if I had any, in 30 seconds,” Popovich said. “So if you want to be specific about a question, I’ll be more than happy to answer it because I think race is the elephant in the room in our country. The social situation that we’ve all experienced is absolutely disgusting in a lot of ways. What’s really interesting is the people that jump right away to say, one is attacking the police, or the people that jump on the other side. It’s a question where understanding and empathy has to trump, no pun intended, has to trump any quick reactions of an ideological or demagogical nature. It’s a topic that can’t just be swung at; people have to be very accurate and direct in what they say and do.”

“We want to do it in the right way,” Anthony said Monday. “Whatever we do, we want to do it as a collective group.”

Anthony also said he wants to continue to bring awareness to these issues.

Point guards hold the key to New York Knicks’ summer 2017 plans

Training camp is still a few weeks away. Opening night is nearly two months away. So there’s plenty of time to talk about pertinent issues surrounding the 2016-17 New York Knicks.

Among them: Will Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings stay healthy? How much of the triangle offense will Jeff Hornacek implement — and how much will he tweak? Do the Knicks have enough in the second unit to contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference?

Answers to all of these questions, of course, will arrive in the coming months.

Will the Knicks be among those teams? That depends largely on what happens with Rose and, to a lesser degree, free-agent-to-be Jennings.

Here’s why:

But if Jennings can carry the scoring load on a nightly basis, that will make things easier for Jeff Hornacek & Co.

A six-year veteran, Jennings flashed brilliance in Milwaukee before enduring injury-riddled stints with the Pistons and Magic. He suffered a torn left Achilles in January 2015, and in the last half of the 2015-16 season with the Magic he produced 20 points or more on three occasions, as well as a pair of double-digit assist outings.

He signed a one-year, $5 million deal with New York over the summer; he’s expected to provide insurance for Rose and provide a spark as the first player off the bench.

Jennings said in July that Jackson expects him to win the NBA’s Sixth Man award this season. He’s fine with those expectations, as well as coming off the bench in New York after starting 90 percent of his first 460 regular-season games.

“At the end of the day, right now I just want to win, man. I just want to be in a winning environment,” Jennings, whose teams have won 45 percent of the games he’s played in, told Donahue. “I’m in the biggest market, the greatest basketball city, the Mecca, so who cares [about coming off the bench]? Let’s just win. We win, the whole city loves us.”

The Knicks have missed the playoffs for the past three seasons. But Jennings, who has worked out with Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah, Kristaps Porzingis, Vujacic and others over the summer, believes New York can snap that drought this season.

Alex Reyes could supplant Jaime Garcia in Cardinals’ rotation

Can the St. Louis Cardinals afford to have two rookie pitchers in their starting rotation when the games become do-or-die? Can they afford not to? After all, it is the veterans who have gotten them into this touch-and-go spot.

“I’m trying to figure out what’s going on, whether it’s push things a little more or back off. I’m doing everything that’s in my power to be the best I can for the team, and unfortunately, I’ve let my team down,” Garcia said. “I’ve been through tough times before, and I’m going to continue to do what I can to fight and be there for the team.”

And more and more often, it seems as if he is not when the team is about to play a “most important” game.

Ellsbury has not been the player the Yankees thought they were getting when they signed him before the 2014 season. He is batting .266 overall as a Yankee, .270 this season, and has only 78 stolen bases in three seasons, and none since Aug. 21. But he is certainly still this team’s best option in center field and at the top of their lineup, and one they are financially committed to for four more seasons.

The good sinking action he gets on his fastball and changeup means he induces a lot of soft contact, which ties into a debate: How much of the Cubs’ historic defensive numbers are the result of great defense, and how much derives from the ability of Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and the rest of the staff to limit hard contact? Your opinion on that might determine how you view Hendricks as a Cy Young candidate, considering he isn’t near the top of the league in strikeouts (15th) or innings (10th). The Professor, however, has a big lead in ERA, has allowed eight runs in his past eight starts and has a 1.33 ERA since the All-Star break. The biggest knock against him in the Cy Young race might simply be the perception that he’s the Cubs’ No. 3 starter (indeed, the Cubs rearranged their rotation today so Lester is lined up to start the playoff opener), no matter the numbers.

2. Rougned Odor, MVP candidate? This was brought up on a national baseball show, after Odor hit what proved to be the game-winning home run for the Rangers in the top of the 12th inning. It gave his team a 4-3 win over the Astros. The Rangers obviously have a big lead in the AL West, but they’re also two games up on the Indians for the AL’s best record and home-field advantage, something to push for, considering the Rangers are 47-22 at home.

Anyway, Odor is doing a lot of great stuff this season. He has 31 home runs, has knocked in 85 runs, plays a key defensive position and has done all this at 22. He’s one of just 28 players 22 or younger to hit 30-plus home runs and, along with Alex Rodriguez, the only middle infielder to do so. He has also delivered a lot of big hits for the Rangers, and this was his second go-ahead home run in extra innings. But he isn’t an MVP candidate, and it isn’t close. Because he rarely walks — just 17 times, which means he could join Andres Galarraga as the only players with 30 home runs and fewer than 20 walks — his OBP is just .306.

No. 1 pick Jared Goff might not even be Rams’ No. 2 QB

Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick who is expected to become the face of the Los Angeles Rams, isn’t even a No. 2 quarterback right now.

The video was captured for “A Season With Florida State Football,” a TV show that premiered Tuesday on Showtime. “I really don’t think they needed it,” Winston said of the speech. “I think Coach Fisher was going to get in their tail — like he could barely talk — but he was still getting on them. I just felt like I needed to say that.”

At the half, the Noles were down 28-13. Francois had led a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive with 0:28 remaining that made the comeback even possible. On the drive, he found Travis Rudolph over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown, taking a big hit as the ball left his hands.

When Powell was through, Kaepernick and Reid stood and embraced. It was a meaningful moment for Kaepernick.

“It was amazing,” Kaepernick said. “Me and Eric had many conversations and he approached me and said ‘I support what you’re doing, I support what your message is, let’s think about how we can do this together.’ We talked about it at length and we wanted to make sure the message that we’re trying to send isn’t lost with the actions that come along with it.”

Those lengthy discussions led to another long conversation on Thursday afternoon at the team’s hotel. There, Reid and Kaepernick met with Nate Boyer, the former Army Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks long snapper. Boyer had written a letter to Kaepernick on ArmyTimes.com during the week and Kaepernick invited him to attend the game as his guest.

Boyer traveled here from Los Angeles and spent 90 minutes exchanging thoughts and ideas with Kaepernick and Reid. One of the goals was to find a way to show respect to the military while still standing up for what they believe in.

“Nate told us how he felt,” Reid said. “He actually showed us the text-messages that his buddies were sending, how they said they were pissed about what [Kaepernick] did, but they still understood why he was doing it. Which led to the decision for him to not sit but to take a knee, to show respect to the people that felt hurt by that action. So I think that it was very big of him to change his physical position, to taking a knee, to show respect to those people, but still stand up for the message he was trying to portray.

“I knew that I wanted to support him. I felt uncomfortable about sitting, I didn’t know if that was something I wanted to do. That’s why it was great that it came up in conversation of ‘hey why don’t we take a knee?’ It would be more respectful and Nate agreed with that. That’s how it happened.”

Goff completed only 3 of his final 12 passes over the next seven drives, giving the ball up twice while deep in his own territory. Goff dropped a third-down snap from the shotgun with less than two minutes left in the first half, beginning to drop back before securing the football and giving the Vikings possession inside the 10-yard line. On his next snap, Goff tried to set up a screen pass, but had the ball tipped by Justin Trattou and subsequently intercepted by Toby Johnson.

In the end, Goff completed only 37.5 percent of his passes, more than 25 percentage points below last season’s league average.

Three of his passes were dropped, but three of his third-down passes were overthrown.

He nonetheless expressed optimism.

Starter-turned-reliever Joe Kelly part of Red Sox’s first wave of call-ups

BOSTON — Yoan Moncada will hog the headlines, but he won’t be the only player to join the Boston Red Sox on Friday.

To mark the annual expansion of major league rosters in September, relievers Joe Kelly and Robby Scott, and infielder Deven Marrero will be called up from Triple-A Pawtucket, the Red Sox announced late Thursday night. In addition, catcher Ryan Hanigan will be reinstated from the disabled list after missing nearly all of August because of left ankle tendinitis.

“Sometimes I feel fine, sometimes I feel tired,” Chapman said before the game. “Sometimes I feel good pitching three in a row. Sometimes I don’t.”

OK then. Well, Maddon declared him out, adding that Chapman may not be available Friday, either. Meanwhile, setup men Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop remain out. And if the game came down to matchups, the Giants somehow crammed 11 relievers into the tiny visitor’s clubhouse at Wrigley Field. You gotta love September.

This is why Maddon said before the game that even though he’s overseeing a team with a 15 1/2-game lead in the National League Central, he still shows up at the park every day wondering how he’s going to figure out his bullpen.

“The only part that’s difficult every day for me is the bullpen,” Maddon said. “Everything else is exactly the same. Nothing changes.”

Maddon’s consternation would not have been eased had he known what he’d get from starter Mike Montgomery. The power lefty has been solid for the Cubs since he was acquired from Seattle in late July. But on Thursday, the kind of command problems that have bedeviled Montgomery through his professional career surfaced.

Montgomery, who might have been making his last start for a while with John Lackey set to return from the disabled list, walked three batters, hit another, uncorked two wild pitches and gave up a booming home run into the wind to Hunter Pence. He departed after four innings and 58 pitches, just 32 for strikes.

That left Maddon with a short bullpen and a lot of innings ahead. The Giants were up 4-3 after Montgomery left, so there wasn’t much margin for error, either. No problem. First, rookie Rob Zastryzny put up two perfect innings without allowing a ball out of the infield.