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Kurtenbach: The real reason the Warriors find themselves on the brink of elimination against the Rockets

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - 20 hours 33 min ago

HOUSTON — This is a moment.

For the first time since Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in the summer of 2016, Golden State is not only facing a worthy adversary and a clear and present danger — they’re actually facing elimination in a playoff series.

A 98-94 Game 5 loss to Houston has put the Warriors in a 3-2 hole in these Western Conference Finals, and they only have themselves to blame for that.

Thursday’s contest was a bizarre affair, highlighted more by failure and folly than execution — for the second-straight game in this series, the margin between victory and defeat was thin, but the Warriors deserved to be on the wrong side of that line.

As such, their margin for error in this series is now nonexistent.

Despite ceding control of the series and putting themselves in a precarious scenario ahead of Saturday’s Game 6; despite failing to execute on any of their three opportunities to tie or win the game in the final 42 seconds of Thursday’s contest, the Warriors were positive and upbeat following the loss.

Perhaps seeing Rockets guard Chris Paul come up lame with a hamstring injury in the final minute of the game sparked the optimism ahead of two truly must-win games — Paul was spectacular in the second half, scoring 18 of his 20 points.

Or maybe the challenge of having to come from behind excited Golden State — they’re finding out how the other half lives in this series.

Either way, you’d never have gotten the sense after Thursday’s loss that the Warriors were heartbroken.

“I feel great about where we are right now,” Kerr said after the loss.

Yes, you read that right.

“That might sound crazy,” Kerr said. “But I feel it.”

“I know exactly what I’m seeing out there and we defended the beautifully tonight,” Kerr continued. “Just too many turnovers, too many reaches. If we settle down a little bit, we’re going to be in really good shape.”

Golden State Warriors’ Quinn Cook (4) fights for the ball against Houston Rockets’ Clint Capela (15) in the second quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference finals at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas., on Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

That optimism is, if you can believe it, understandable — the Warriors believe that they have lost the last two games more than the Rockets have won them and that provides them confidence — but it’s not totally justified.

Yes, the Warriors’ defense held the Rockets to 37 percent shooting in Game 5 (30 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line) but the Rockets missed more than a handful of wide-open looks in the first half — misses that allowed the Warriors to tie a game that the Rockets controlled from the opening tip — before they reverted into a rote, collectively idle isolation offense, reminiscent of their Game 1 loss.

Should the Warriors’ defense — through skill and a bit of luck — be on the receiving end of a similar offensive output in Game 6, they’ll be in good shape.

But they won’t be guaranteed a win, because the big issue for the Warriors heading into the two biggest games of the Durant era is their offense.

Over the last two games, it’s clear that Golden State is having an identity crisis on that side of the ball. It’s an internal conflict that only becomes apparent when things don’t go well — one that’s not contentious in spirit or camaraderie, but in flow and scoring output.

In Game 5, the Warriors’ offense looked a bit better than it did in Game 4, but it was nothing like the stylish, free-flowing, ball-moving, full-game attack that led the team to two titles and three straight NBA Finals berths — the Warriors were stuck between stations, alternating between Kevin Durant isolations and Stephen Curry initiations.

The latter worked — the Warriors looked fantastic when Curry was the offensive firestarter. The ball moved, players moved, and the inside-outside attack perplexed the Rockets.

The former option — Durant isolations, typically in the post, though increasingly (and almost always fruitlessly) starting near half-court — was not as successful, as the Rockets finally started throwing extra attention the forward’s way, daring him to make a pass that he rarely took (he had zero assists in the game).

“Yeah, they’re switching a lot when I get in the post now,” Durant said Thursday. “I can feel them bringing a guy over, so I just got to make the right play.”

He didn’t do that enough in Game 5 — he had zero assists in the game and now has one field goal in the last two fourth quarters of this series.

That’s simply not enough from an All-World player.

Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green (23) grimaces during their game against the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference finals at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas., on Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

More importantly, gone is the Warriors’ engrossing blend of one-on-one skill and five-man cohesion. It’s crumbled under indecision, the Rockets’ physical and daring defense and Durant’s inefficiency.

No, these days it looks like the Warriors are running two different offenses — determining which of the two nearly diametrically opposed attacks to run at the start of any given possession.

In a series defined by offensive identity, the Warriors are showing — in a backdoor manner — how important it really is. They’re proving how disjointed their offense can be at the worst possible time.

And frankly, it’s not all that surprising that the Warriors are struggling to put it all together on the offensive end — this is the first time in months they’ve had the capability to even try to mesh the two looks.

Thanks to a Grade 2 left MCL sprain, Curry did not play in this postseason until Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals. When he did re-join the team after what was effectively an 11-week absence, he was out-of-shape and wary of messing up the good thing the Warriors had going.

You see, the Warriors ran their offense through Durant in their first-round win over the Spurs and it was something they were keen to continue doing against the Pelicans. Curry didn’t want to get in the way. As such, Durant remained the offensive fulcrum, took off in Game 4, and the Warriors won the series in five games.

And as Curry struggled to find his shot in the first two games of this series, Durant was a buoy for the Warriors offensively. But since Curry found his stroke in Game 3, KD has failed to match his impact from earlier this postseason.

The result is what we’ve seen over the last two games — an offense with two identities and a coaching staff and player roster that refuses to pick a side.

They could get away with this issue against lesser opponents, but not against these tough and direct Rockets (though the Paul injury could change that).

Still, Golden State is right there. Such is that prodigious talent.

“I think they’re angry,” Kerr said of his team. “I think they know that they could have won this game — could have won the last game. This is the worst situation we’ve been in since Kevin’s been here.”

The Warriors — like they were with everything else Thursday (it’s almost as if they aren’t aware they’re down 3-2) — are optimistic that they are close to finding the mesh point on the offensive end, but they’ll have to prove that is, in fact, the case in Game 6.

If not, this team’s offseason could start much, much earlier than anyone expected only a few days ago.

CCS softball: St. Francis gets another shot at Open title

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - 20 hours 38 min ago

SAN JOSE — With the tying runs on base in the final inning and Watsonville’s most dangerous hitter at the plate, it was a close your eyes moment for St. Francis on Thursday night at PAL Stadium.

Fortunately for the Lancers, pitcher Jordan Schuring stayed the course.

“I know she can hit, and I know that I can pitch,” Schuring said. “I just have to stay calm and do what I know how to do and trust that the outfield, the infield, everybody has got my back.”

With the count in Juliana Wilson’s favor, Schuring got the catcher to pop up to second base. When the next batter popped up to second as well, the game was over.

St. Francis held on to win 4-2 to advance to the Central Coast Section Open Division softball final for the second consecutive year. Once again, the Lancers will meet Mitty for the crown, this time hoping for a different result.

“No surprise that they’re in it,” St. Francis coach Mike Oakland said. “I am glad we’re getting an opportunity to play them again. It’s nice.”

What did it take to win Thursday?

“It took a lot of grit,” Schuring said. “We play a game in the bullpen called grit, where we just need to win every pitch. For me that’s what it took. I needed to win every single pitch, and I needed to be gritty and get gritty like my coach says.”

Watsonville beat St. Francis 3-0 early in the season and wasted no time grabbing the lead in the semifinal.

Maliyah Sandin singled two batters into the game and Wilson followed with a triple to right to give Watsonville a 1-0 lead.

St. Francis erased the deficit in the second. Monet Guido singled to center and Sophia Roth smashed a triple to right. An error on the play brought in Roth to put the Lancers in front 2-1.

“Huge hit,” Oakland said. “That was awesome for her.”

St. Francis widened the lead to 4-1 in the fifth as Hailey Prahm’s infield single knocked in a run and an error on the play accounted for another run.

Watsonville made it 4-2 in the sixth on a triple by Maya Guerrero and a run-scoring ground out by Zaira Pena.

Schuring struck out the first batter of the seventh, then yielded a single. An error followed, putting runners at first and second for Wilson, who was intentionally walked in the fifth.

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“The catcher scares me,” Oakland said. “I was about ready to walk her at the end there. I just couldn’t pull the trigger, with putting the tying run at second base. But, man, she is scary. Got her to pop up on a 2-0 pitch. I bet you nine times out of 10 she drills that thing over the fence. Got lucky there. Definitely dodged a bullet.”

Check back later for updates.

Final: St. Francis 4, Watsonville 2. Lancers move on to play Mitty for CCS Open title Saturday | @VytasMazeika @coachnatesmith @JensenPhil @HaroldAbend pic.twitter.com/Wj5Y1dcGnf

— Darren Sabedra (@DarrenSabedra) May 25, 2018

CCS softball: Mitty to defend its Open Division title

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 23:42

REDWOOD CITY — Nothing is certain but death, taxes and Archbishop Mitty softball. Or at least it feels that way during the Central Coast Section playoffs.

For a 20th time, the Monarchs will play for a CCS title after knocking out St. Ignatius 7-1 during Thursday’s Open Division semifinal at Hawes Park in Redwood City.

It’s the fifth-straight year Mitty advanced to the last day of the season at PAL Stadium in San Jose.

“It’s an expectation every year,” said Mitty coach Joe Gron, whose team has lost only once in the postseason since 2011. “From the beginning, that’s our ultimate goal. … It’s to win a championship and get another banner up on the fence.”

The eighth-seeded Monarchs (19-7) earned a chance for back-to-back Open titles after claiming the inaugural crown almost exactly 365 days earlier.

“I’m so excited, I’m so ready,” said Mitty junior Hannah Edwards, who jumped with joy after striking out the side in the seventh inning. “You’ll be seeing me jumping up a lot more.”

It’s a rematch with No. 2 St. Francis (22-6), which eliminated No. 3 Watsonville by a 4-2 margin at PAL Stadium in Thursday’s other semifinal for a shot at avenging last year’s 9-5 loss in the final.

It’s still up in the air if Edwards will be back in the circle.

That’s because fellow junior Savanna Smith shut down No. 1 Carlmont (23-2) in the quarterfinals during a 3-1 victory for Mitty.

“We’re going to keep that a surprise for now,” said Gron, with a grin.

“That’s the way it’s been for three years since they came in as freshmen for me,” he added. “They’ve been bouncing back and forth and it’s an unselfish duo because pitchers of their caliber I think probably care to be out there every single game.”

“We love each other,” Edwards said of her and Smith. “Freshman year was a rocky start for us and then now we’re just like best friends. We’re all happy for each other’s successes, because if not then it’s not going to help the team.”

No. 5 St. Ignatius (19-6) struggled to barrel the ball against Edwards, who tossed a three-hitter with one walk and 12 strikeouts.

Her lone blemish? An unearned run on a bases-loaded walk to freshman cleanup hitter Leila Hennessy in the bottom of the third.

Edwards retired 13 of the next 14 hitters in cruise-control mode.

“She pitched awesome,” Gron said. “Her off-speed was on today, which was keeping batters off balance — and then just hitting spots besides that. She came out fired up.”

In the circle, St. Ignatius sent its ace for the past four years.

Dartmouth-bound Maddie Augusto also happens to be the only senior on the roster.

“You don’t replace her,” St. Ignatius coach Derek Johnson said. “You hope that the girls that you have in the queue are getting their reps in, whether it’s in travel ball or wherever else they may be working on their pitching, but you don’t replace her. She’s a four-year starter. She’s done amazing things for the program.”

A throwing error in the top of the third accounted for the first two runs of the game, then Mitty senior Mariah Dewey ripped a RBI double to left-center to make it 3-0.

Dewey went 3-for-4 with a double, a feat matched by leadoff hitter Diamond Holland, who scored twice.

It’s all part of a lineup that gives even Mitty’s own pair of aces nightmares.

“The last stretch, especially here, we’ve been really, really hitting the ball and attacking,” Gron said. “That’s the biggest thing, when we attack it’s a tough out through the lineup.”

“We do scrimmages all the time and me and Sav still look at each other all the time, ‘That was a good pitch, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong — they’re just hitting everything,’ ” Edwards said. “It’s a challenge and it really helps us prepare because they’re some of the best hitters in CCS, so it’s kind of like we’re getting that extra help.”

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The Monarchs tacked on another three-spot in the fifth inning during a five-hit rally, then added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a RBI double by catcher Madelyn Joy Salonga.

For the Wildcats, who hadn’t won a CCS playoff game since 2009, it was time to say goodbye.

“We had our awards banquet earlier this week and one of the girls mentioned, ‘You know, Coach Derek will turn everything into a life lesson,’ ” Johnson said. “And I told them, ‘That’s what I’m here for. They don’t pay me to win softball games, they pay me to prepare you for life after softball is over.’ Even to the end here I told them, ‘You go down fighting, you go down cheering up to the last out.’ ”

Why Charles Barkley thinks Warriors may still have a big advantage

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 23:14

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Charles Barkley believes the odds of the Warriors returning to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year just got a lot better Thursday night, even with their second straight loss.

The TNT analyst warns Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s recent substitution pattern, or lack thereof, makes Houston more vulnerable against the Warriors, despite its 98-94 victory that leaves his team one win from the Finals.

“Mike D’Antoni is stubborn, he’s only playing seven guys,” said Barkley said. “You’ve got to worry that it might catch up to them if we have to play two more games.”

D’Antoni shortened his rotation to include just two bench players the last two games, securing much-needed wins. But at what cost? There may be no correlation, but his 33-year-old star point guard Chris Paul, who has played 42 and 38 minutes the past two games, hobbled off the floor Thursday night with a right hamstring injury. His status for Saturday night’s Game 6 is in question as the team will update his condition Friday.

It’s worth noting Paul played more than 36 minutes in just one game during the regular season, but has been on the floor for at least 37 minutes in four of the Rockets’ last six playoff games, including a season-high 42 Tuesday.

Houston’s forwards Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker, who have played large roles in the Rockets’ defensive pressure, both played larger minutes than usual the past two games. Each played 42 minutes Thursday after Ariza logged 41 minutes and Tucker 42 on Tuesday. Until two days ago, Tucker had only seen more than 38 minutes of action once the entire season. And, before Tuesday, D’Antoni hadn’t played Ariza more than 39 minutes since early January.

The NBA’s schedule also isn’t doing the Rockets any favors as there’s just one day off in between the final five games of the Western Conference Finals. If there’s a Game 7, of course.

“You’ve got to wonder, not just Chris Paul, but all those other guys now that we’re playing every other day is (D’Antoni) going to be able to go four straight games playing seven guys?” Barkley asked. “That’s pretty much what he might have to do.”

Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue with D’Antoni’s plan since it’s put the Rockets in position to knock off the defending champions. However, Barkley believes Kerr may have been taking a longer range look at the series Thursday.

“Even Steve Kerr realized last game he didn’t play a lot of guys (so) he stretched his bench out tonight,” said Barkley, noting 10 Warriors saw action. “That might come back to help (Kerr) in the next game. And if D’Antoni is going to stick to playing seven guys it might hurt them next game and Game 7.”

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Contrarians, though, will point out that extending their bench play didn’t seem to help the Warriors much Thursday as Shaun Livingston, David West, Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook and Nick Young combined to score just two baskets in a total of 53 minutes. Still, the quintet had a cumulative plus two in the plus/minus category.

There remains an easy way for D’Antoni and the Rockets to assure themselves of having four days off, though. Just beat the Warriors again on Saturday and rest up for the start of the NBA Finals next Thursday.

Will Chris Paul be able to play Game 6 against Warriors?

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 23:04

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HOUSTON — With 51.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Chris Paul did a spin move against Quinn Cook and fell to the ground in pain.

He held his right hamstring as his team ran down onto defense, and was eventually taken out of the game with 22 seconds left and did not return.

Late Thursday night, the Rockets confirmed that Paul suffered a right hamstring injury. He received treatment after the game and will continue treatment for the next 48 hours or more. He will be evaluated Friday morning.

On a night when Harden was zero-for-11 from beyond the 3-point line, it was Paul who led the Rockets to a pivotal 98-94 win over the Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, giving the Rockets a 3-2 lead and pushing the Warriors to the brink of elimination.

And Paul’s health could potentially change the series, though it’s too early to tell the severity of the injury.

“Definitely changes things,” Klay Thompson said. “He made some huge shots tonight, some really tough ones, that were kind of deflating at times when he double-pump faked and threw it in. But that’s basketball and he’s a great player. But I’m not concerned if he plays or not — it’s about us at this point.”

Draymond Green echoed that sentiment, crediting Paul with keeping the Rockets afloat — but saying the Warriors can’t put too much thought into whether Paul will be on the court in Game 6 on Saturday.

“That’s their focus, not ours,” Green said. “Ours is to prepare as if he’s playing. If he’s not, then we’ve got to make an adjustment. I’d rather adjust to him not playing than try to adjust to him playing.”

After going zero-for-seven from the field in the first half, Paul exploded in the second half, finishing with 20 points on six-for-19 shooting, including making four 3-pointers.

With 6:29 left in the third quarter, Paul swished a 3-pointer over Stephen Curry. Paul then imitated Curry’s signature shimmy while staring him down.

Even Curry gave him credit for that move.

“It was well-deserved; tough shot,” Curry said. “If you can shimmy on someone else, you’ve got to be all right getting shimmied on. So I’ll keep shimmying, and maybe he will too. We’ll see what happens.”

It was for high-stakes moments such as that one that led Paul to request to be traded to the Rockets in June.

In his 12 seasons in the NBA before this one, Paul had never been past the second round of the playoffs. So, he decided to join forces with James Harden, who was struggling to get over a hump of his own — getting past the Western Conference Finals — in hopes of accomplishing something neither had been able to muster on their own.

“I think what Chris has done is he’s given them another option,” Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said. “In the past, this team was all James in the pick-and-roll. Now they can rest James and put Chris in the pick-and-roll. He’s obviously a phenomenal player.”

Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said Paul was very upset he couldn’t finish the game.

“His spirits aren’t great,” D’Antoni said. “He wanted to be out there, and for sure he’s worried and all that. That’s normal. We’ll see [Friday] how it goes.”

D’Antoni said Paul was remarkable in Game 5, adding that even if you’re not a Rockets fan, you have to appreciate his performance on Thursday.

“If you can’t root for him, then you have some problems,” D’Antoni said.

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NBA playoffs: Warriors falter in Game 5 loss to Rockets

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 21:35

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HOUSTON – The ball fumbled out of Draymond Green’s hands. Did the Warriors also fumble their championship fortunes?

The Warriors walked away with a 98-94 loss to the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday, an outcome filled with squandered opportunities down to the last moments that may leave the Warriors second-guessing themselves all summer. The Warriors trail the Rockets, 3-2, and Houston could close out the series in Game 6 on Saturday at Oracle Arena.

This marks the first time since acquiring Kevin Durant last summer that the Warriors faced a playoff elimination game. Do not bring such bad news, though, to coach Steve Kerr.

“We’re two wins from making the NBA Finals. It’s a pretty good worst situation to be in,” Kerr said. “We’re right there. We found some things tonight that worked for us. I’m extremely confident we’ll take care of business. We just have to be a little sharper.”

The Warriors might want to sharpen their late-game execution.

Unlike in the Warriors’ Game 4 loss, they called timeout for the final play when Rockets forward Trevor Ariza missed the second of two foul shots as the Rockets nursed a 96-94 lead with 9.1 seconds remaining.

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First issue: Green grabbed the rebound, but the timeout was not granted until 6.7 seconds were left on the clock. The Warriors also had to advance the ball full-court instead of from half court.

“The ball kind of squirted loose,” Kerr said. “I was calling timeout. Sometimes they’ll give it to you, but Draymond, because he fumbled it, it bounced. They said he took a dribble. That’s kind of a judgment call.”

Second issue: Curry said Kerr drew up a play for him to drive down the length of the court. Yet, Curry saw Houston center Clint Capela and guard James Harden approaching him. So, Curry threw a pass to Green past the timeline in hopes to create a give-and-go. The ball bounced off of Green’s knee, though, and Rockets guard Eric Gordon stole the ball with 2.4 seconds left.

Said Curry: “Things are happening so fast. You try to make a read and you think it’s right in that situation.”

Said Green: “We wanted to get the ball to Steph. We got the ball to Steph, and he hit it ahead to me and I fumbled the ball. Nothing more, nothing less.”

It did not end well for the Warriors in their other late-game moments, too.

After Green drilled a 3-pointer to cut the Rockets’ lead to 95-91 with 1:15 remaining, Warriors reserve guard Quinn Cook missed a 26-foot 3-point attempt with 42.7 seconds left. Curry then missed a seven-foot floater with 22.4 seconds remaining.

“When I let it go, it felt good,” Curry said. “Just a little strong off the glass. I thought I could try to initiate a little bit of contact.”

All of which summed up an ugly night.

Durant had 29 points, but he shot 8-of-22 from the field and he missed all four of his attempts in the fourth quarter. Thompson had 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting, but he was fighting an injured left knee that happened in Game 4. Curry added 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting, but he only went 2-of-8 from 3-point range.

Though Harden had 19 points on 5-of-21 shooting and 0-of-11 from 3-point range, Rockets guard Chris Paul scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, though he was diagnosed with a right hamstring injury afterwards. Gordon added 24 points off the bench, a sharp contrast to the Warriors’ four points among the reserves. It did not help the Warriors missed key veteran Andre Iguodala for the second consecutive game with a left knee injury. Nor did it help the Warriors committed 16 turnovers, granted the Rockets multiple trips to the free-throw line (27-of-32) and allowed the Rockets to take more 3-point attempts (43-30).

All of this brought reminders of the Warriors’ stagnant play in a Game 4 loss, but Kerr insisted the “movement was better; the offense was better.”

So much that Kerr defended Durant’s high-volume shooting despite encouraging him in the third quarter to trust his teammates more.

“The guy is such an amazing talent and he does so much for us,” Kerr said of Durant. “You have to go to him on the block and put the ball in his hands. I’m sure there are some shots he’d like to have back. But he kept us in it.”

Still, Durant missed all of four of his shots in the fourth quarter and admitted he would like to vary his looks in the post.

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“They’re switching a lot when I get in the post now. I can feel them bringing a guy over, so I just got to make the right play,” Durant said. “Probably have to mix it up a bit and see where I can get different catches and touches because they’re kind of figuring stuff out for us.”

The Rockets also figured out how to stifle the Warriors’ backcourt.

Curry went scoreless in the first quarter, did not take a shot until missing a 3-pointer at the 4:20 mark and did not score until the 10:38 mark in the second quarter. Thompson also went scoreless in the first quarter and did not make a field goal until converting on a layup with 7:38 left in the second quarter.

And to think, plenty anticipated the Warriors and Rockets would trade baskets in this series. While Golden State ranked first in the NBA in total offense (110.3 points per game) during the regular season, the Rockets finished third (109.5 points per game). In Game 5? Different story.

“Defense is high right now, but we’ve got to continue that effort and just make a couple more plays to take care of our turnover problem we’ve had the last two games and build some momentum back to our side,” Curry said. “We have an opportunity to do that.”

That might hinge, though, on if the Warriors can execute late-game plays much better in Game 6 than what they have shown in Games 4 and 5. Their season might depend on it.

Follow Bay Area News Group Warriors beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Raiders’ Mark Davis confirms he abstained from anthem vote

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 17:53

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ALAMEDA — Raiders’ owner Mark Davis confirmed Thursday he abstained from a vote of NFL owners attempting to compel players to stand for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

There were conflicting reports regarding Davis’ vote. Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine tweeted that Davis abstained and the NFL Network’s Steve Wyche said on the air that the only abstention belonged to 49ers owner Jed York.

Also told that Mark Davis was one of the most eloquent speakers on the social justice issues—and that he abstained from the vote as well.

— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) May 24, 2018

Asked for a clarification, Davis said in a text message to the Bay Area News Group that he had indeed abstained but would not comment until “I have spoken with players.”

Davis feels strong enough about social issues that in 2016 he had Tommie Smith light the flame in honor of his father Al Davis in Mexico City, the city where Smith and John Carlos were stripped of their medals and expelled from the Olympics in 1968 for raising a gloved fist during the national anthem in protest of racial oppression.

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In an interview with ESPN last September, Davis said he had previously told players he would rather they not protest while in uniform and that he met with quarteback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack to explain his decision to have Smith light the torch.

“I can no longer ask our team to not say something while in a Raider uniform,” Davis told ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez. “The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride. Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers. That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.”

In 2016, Raiders defensive end Bruce Irvin and linebacker Malcolm Smith raised a fist during the anthem in Nashville. Last season, several Raiders players took a knee and locked arms for the anthem when the Raiders visited Washington — a day in which there were league-wide protests over racial oppression and police brutality as a response to critical comments made by President Trump.

Running back Marshawn Lynch did not stand for the anthem at any point last season, choosing to sit on a cooler, usually surrounded by support staff. Lynch has never commented publicly on his decision to sit.

The owners vote is currently being reviewed by the NFL Player’s Association. Under the NFL policy, players could elect to stay in the locker room during the national anthem and teams could be subjected to fines for having employees who don’t stand.

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Andre Iguodala is out for Game 5, Klay Thompson will play

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 17:50

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HOUSTON — Andre Iguodala is out for Game 5 of the Warriors’ Western Conference Finals series against Houston on Thursday, missing his second straight game because of a left lateral leg contusion.

Klay Thompson, who was listed as questionable for Thursday’s game after sustaining a left knee strain in Game 4 on Tuesday, will play.

Iguodala suffered the injury when he collided knees with James Harden in Game 3 on Sunday. Iguodala also sat out in Game 4 because of the injury.

“Just day-to-day,” Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said. “He has gotten better each day. He’s dying to play, but he’s not healthy.”

Iguodala has averaged 7.9 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 4.9 rebounds in 27.5 minutes over 13 games this postseason, starting in all but one of them.

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A’s bullpen pieces together solid outing in win over Mariners

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 16:25

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OAKLAND — It was all hands on deck for the A’s pitching staff, and it got the job done.

After losing starters Andrew Triggs and Brett Anderson to injuries over the weekend, the A’s designated Thursday’s game against the Mariners as a bullpen game. Josh Lucas got the ball first, and the baton was then passed four more times amongst A’s relievers in a 4-3 victory over the Mariners to avoid a sweep in front of 12,633 fans at the Coliseum.

Lucas, who was on a limit of 50 pitches, allowed two runs in two innings of work before handing the ball to manager Bob Melvin. Chris Hatcher, Yusmeiro Petit, Lou Trivino, and Blake Treinen followed Lucas, and though not a single pitcher threw a clean inning, they all managed to get out of trouble as they combined to allow just one run on seven hits with one walk over seven innings of work.

Basically putting together bullpen games without planning it twice last week due to the early exits of Triggs and Anderson, the A’s bullpen has become used to this type of scenario.

“We’ve had to do this a few times. We’ve had some practice at it,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, referring to the two. “It’s one thing trying to cover a day, but you’ve got to have an eye for tomorrow and the next day and the next day. We don’t have an off-day for a while. So using guys multiple innings was key for us today.”

Petit earned the win, and his scoreless three innings particularly stood out for Melvin. Taking over in to begin the fifth for the A’s (26-24) after two scoreless innings by Hatcher, Petit kept his pitch count low at just 31 pitches over the three innings to serve as the bridge to Trivino and Treinen.

Despite missing six days on the bereavement list last month, Petit’s 32 innings pitched are the most in the league by a reliever. But with the rest of the bullpen also overworked lately, Petit said he has no room to complain.

“We have a great bullpen. We haven’t had much of a chance to rest lately, but this bullpen is a lot different from years past here,” Petit said. “This is what the team wanted. This has been a tough month for us physically, but now the really tough part is coming. The mental part. But we have to keep working physically as well to last the whole season. It’s six months, not two months. We have to keep fighting. The season is only getting started.”

The A’s were outhit by the Mariners 10-5, but five timely double plays turned by Oakland’s defense prevented any big damage over several innings in which the Mariners were threatening to score.

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Blake Treinen took over with runners on first and third with two outs in the eighth. Though he allowed a run to bring Seattle (29-20) within one, Treinen held on for his 11th save of the season. It was his sixth save this season in which he’s recorded four outs or more.

The A’s did all their damage on offense in the first inning.

Facing Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly brought home Matt Joyce for their first run, Stephen Piscotty delivered the big blow a couple of batters later with a two-run double off the wall in left field. Piscotty scored almost immediately after on a single to left by Dustin Fowler.

The final three runs came with two outs, and proved to be key, with Hernandez soon settling in to retire 16 of the final 17 batters he faced before departing after six innings.

“I think the most important thing was the four runs we scored in the first,” Petit said. “Being able to hold the lead the rest of the way was going to be the battle. Getting those four runs in the first, we knew we had a good chance to win. (Seattle) had a good battery out there today facing us, so we knew we had to do our jobs and do the little things to win the game.”

INJURY UPDATES

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Paul Blackburn has made significant progress from his right forearm injury. After throwing 45 pitches in extended spring training Monday, Blackburn will throw another three innings Saturday in Arizona. If all goes well, the next step would be to go on a rehab assignment with one of the A’s minor league affiliates.

The right-hander is currently on the 60-day disabled list, eligible to come off May 28.

Ryan Buchter continued playing catch from 75 feet Thursday as he works back from a left shoulder strain that has kept him out of action since April 25. Melvin was unsure of when the left-hander would begin throwing on flat ground, saying the club is taking more of a day-by-day approach depending on how Buchter is feeling.

Vindicated Reuben Foster joins 49ers offseason training

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 14:08

SANTA CLARA — Linebacker Reuben Foster joined the 49ers in their voluntarily offseason program Thursday, some 2 1/2 months after he agreed to steer clear of it amid felony domestic-violence charges that a judge emphatically dropped on Wednesday.

Thursday marked the 49ers’ third organized team activity this week, and those sessions will continue the next two weeks before a mandatory minicamp June 12-14.

General manager John Lynch welcomed Foster’s return less than an hour after Judge Nona Klippen dropped felony domestic violence and criminal threats charges against the 24-year-old linebacker,  citing a lack of evidence in the prosecutors’ case that totally unwraveled when Foster’s ex-girlfriend, Elissa Ennis, testified last week she fabricated the assault out of financial motives.

Although he’s been away from official 49ers matters, Foster hasn’t been totally estranged, having kept in contact weekly with coach Kyle Shanahan and receiving support from teammates. Safeties Adrian Colbert and Jaquiski Tartt escorted Foster to court Wednesday, and cornerback Richard Sherman did so at Foster’s April 12 arraignment.

Left tackle Joe Staley, the longest tenured 49ers player, said at Wednesday’s State of the Franchise event: “I’m real excited about the news. Obviously it’s a real positive. I’m excited to see him come back, whenever he comes back to the building, to give him a hug and move forward.”

The NFL still will have a say in whether he faces suspension. Foster is due back in court June 6 for a pretrial hearing on an assault-weapons possession charge that Klippen reduced to a misdemeanor. He also has a court date June 20 in Alabama on a marijuna possession charge that could count against him in the NFL’s substance-abuse program.

Foster has yet to comment on any of his legal issues this offseason.

While he worked out on his own, the 49ers opened their offseason program without him in mid-April, and they shifted into organized team activities this week.

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Korey Toomer, a veteran acquired in free agency, lined up in Foster’s presumed spot on the first-string defense Tuesday next to fellow inside linebacker Malcolm Smith, while the second-team tandem featured draft pick Fred Warner and a rotation of Elijah Lee and Mark Nzeocha.

Veteran Brock Coyle, who last year paired well next to Foster upon NaVorro Bowman’s release, tweeted his approval of Wednesday’s legal news by simply noting: “Welcome back my brother.”

“He’s ready to show that he is the best linebacker in the league,” Foster’s agent, Malki Kawa, tweeted upon Wednesday’s ruling.

Foster, if fully cleared from a conditioning standpoint, figures to line up next to Smith on the first-string defense. Smith, formerly of the Raiders and Seattle Seahawks, did not play last season because of a pectoral tear, and Foster missed seven games because of injuries (ankle, rib, shoulder).

Warriors: No plans to host Lonzo Ball’s brother for pre-draft workout

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 13:52

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It seems some misinformation may be flowing from Big Baller Brand’s camp regarding LiAngelo Ball and the defending world champs.

The Warriors denied a HoopsHype report they’ve scheduled a private, pre-draft workout with the 19-year-old Ball, the younger brother of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball.

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In refuting the report, a Warriors spokesman said Thursday the team has no current plans to meet with LiAngelo, who quit UCLA’s team in his freshman season after being arrested for shoplifting in China on a team trip this past season. HoopsHype listed the Warriors, Clippers and Lakers as having arranged private meetings with Ball before the NBA Draft on June 21.

The most most respected scouting services and mock drafts don’t project Ball being selected in the upcoming draft. However, he was impressive Wednesday during the Pro Basketball Combine in New York, a gathering of players not invited to the NBA Draft Combine.

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After leaving UCLA, Ball played professionally in Lithuania for 12 games before leaving after a dispute between his outspoken father, Lavar Ball, and the team. Still, the 6-foot-5 swingman was a three-star recruit out of Chino Hills High, where he led California in scoring at 33.8 points per game two years ago. That part of his resume could help Ball land an NBA camp invite and perhaps a spot on a G League roster in the fall.

Warriors’ Steve Kerr calls the NFL’s national anthem policy idiotic

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 12:44

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HOUSTON — Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr denounced the NFL’s new policy on the national anthem as idiotic on Thursday. It requires NFL players to stand if they are on the field during the performance — or else be subject to a fine. NFL players also have the option of remaining in the locker room.

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VIDEO: Steve Kerr reacts to NFL’s new National Anthem Policy

“I think it’s just typical of the NFL,” Kerr said at Thursday’s shootaround in Houston before the Warriors play the Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. “They’re just playing to their fan base and they’re basically trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism, nationalism, scaring people. It’s idiotic, but that’s how the NFL has handled their business. I’m proud to be in a league that understands patriotism in America is about free speech and about peacefully protesting.

“I think our leadership in the NBA understands when the NFL players were kneeling, they were kneeling to protest police brutality, to protest racial inequality. They weren’t disrespecting the flag or the military, but our president decided to make it about that. That NFL followed suit, pandered to their fan base, created this hysteria.

“This is kind of what’s wrong with our country right now. People in high places are trying to divide us, divide loyalties, make this about the flag, as if the flag is something other than what it really is. It’s a representation of what we’re really about, which is diversity, and peaceful protest and right to free speech. It’s really ironic actually what the NFL is doing.”

The NBA has been more tolerant and encouraging of its players speaking out against social injustices and ills. For example, after LeBron James and Kevin Durant denounced Fox News’ Laura Ingraham’s comment that they should “shut up and dribble,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he was proud of them.

But the NBA has a national anthem policy as well, which requires players, coaches and trainers to “stand and line up in a dignified posture” during the performance.

“Adam and the league’s leadership, we feel like we’re partners — players, coaches, management, league management, we feel like we’re all partners,” Kerr said. “I’m really proud of our players around the league for really being community leaders, being outspoken for good, for the change we need. I know [Thursday] we’ll be honoring the victims of the Santa Fe shooting. A lot of our players have been outspoken in terms of gun safety, gun violence, and our league supports it. We’re proud to be part of a whole group that is just trying to make our country better and make some changes for the better. So I’m proud of the NBA for that.”

Kerr, who played in the NBA from 1988 through 2003, said the NBA’s attitude around social issues has progressed throughout the years.

“I think it’s evolved over time,” Kerr said. “When I came into the league, I don’t think social issues were at the forefront of society. I think we were at a better place in terms of what was happening in the world. I think we were more united. I think the country has been divided over the last decade or so, or maybe since 9-11. Since that time, I think the league and the players have grown closer in terms of becoming partners and trying to improve communities. I think [former NBA commissioner] David Stern had a lot to do with that. And I think Adam Silver has really taken that leadership mantle and made it a priority.”

As for Game 5 on Thursday, the Rockets will hold several tributes for the 10 victims and their families of the Santa Fe High shooting.

The choir from Santa Fe High will perform the national anthem, and there will be a moment of silence and a video tribute before tipoff. The Rockets will wear patches on their jerseys that read: “Santa Fe HS.” Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta also invited the school’s seniors and administrators to attend the game.

“It’s devastating any time you hear a story like this,” Kerr said. “What’s equally as devastating is the number of times we hear these stories. I remember in The Finals two years ago, maybe it was the Conference Finals, we had a moment of silence for the Orlando victims at the Pulse nightclub. That was two years ago. We still haven’t done anything in our country. Our government still hasn’t done anything in terms of gun safety laws.

“The Santa Fe victims were victims because the parent of the shooter didn’t luck the guns up. Why don’t we have laws to lock the guns up? Basic safety laws make so much sense, yet we’re tied up in this idiotic political battle, ideological battle. There are so many common sense gun reform measures that we can take, yet we refuse to do so out of ideological philosophies. And yet kids continue to get slaughtered. We’re going to honor those victims tonight and their family members, and everybody is going to be sad and everybody is going to be devastated. But nobody is going to do anything about it. It’s disgusting.”

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The future of Pac-12 football in two words: Vegas, baby (the Hotline plan’s to make Las Vegas the centerpiece for two major events)

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 12:04

USC and Alabama made their assumed collision official on Wednesday, confirming they will meet in AT&T Stadium to start the 2020 season.

It’s not only a rematch of their 2016 opener. The showdown will also mark the fourth Week One intersectional duel in a five-year span for the Pac-12:

Washington and Oregon take their shots at Auburn in ’18 and ’19, respectively, then the Trojans get another shot at Bama.

All four games are in Atlanta or Arlington, provide the Pac-12 participants with tremendous exposure in first-class venues, and guarantee multi-million dollar paychecks.

And yet: The events are a few thousand miles east of ideal for the conference.

What Pac-12 football needs … what it must secure in coming years … is to create a mammoth football presence in Las Vegas, starting with an annual Labor Day weekend showcase game at the Raiders’ stadium (completion date: 2020) against marquee programs in the Big Ten.

“We can do for football what we’ve done for basketball,” said Pat Christenson, the president of Las Vegas Events. “In the past, the problem was we didn’t have the facility.”

Were the Hotline named czar of Pac-12 football, the first move would be to overhaul the schedule: End the outsourcing, bring it in house, and eliminate all instances of competitive disadvantages.

Out second move? Make Vegas the conference’s home-away-from-home, to an even greater extent than it is for men’s basketball.

The Hotline has been mulling the Las Vegas concept for months, seeking out naysayers both inside the conference and within the world of college football event planning.

None exist.

“It would be great, but it’s not a Pac-12 decision,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said during a conversation last month about football scheduling. “It would be great for TV. But the entities that host would have to replace the home gate.”

Ah, yes: The cash outlay. We’ll get to that in a moment. First, the broader view:

Playing a marquee opponent in Las Vegas on Labor Day weekend is only half of the Hotline’s master plan for Pac-12 football.

The other half, which has been discussed publicly with commissioner Larry Scott, is to move the conference championship game to Las Vegas — make Sin City the regular-season bookends

The Pac-12 is under contract to stage the title game in Levi’s Stadium through the 2019 season, with an option for 2020.

Beyond that?

“As we get closer,” Scott said during a press conference in December, “we’ll talk to the 49ers and Levi’s and consider all the options.”

Three facilities could be in play:

1. Levi’s
2. Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park (i.e., the new home of the Rams and Chargers)
3. Las Vegas Stadium (i.e., the new home of the Raiders)

The Pac-12 could create a neutral-site rotation for the game, or it could pick a long-term home.

We’ve seen the atmosphere in Levi’s for four years, and it’s perfectly acceptable.

L.A. Stadium would make a great site for the first edition of the championship, but the event could quickly grow tired in the L.A> marketplace (think: basketball tournament in Staples Center), especially when USC and UCLA aren’t involved.

Additionally, playing in Hollywood Park one month before the Rose Bowl feels like too much Southern California in too condensed a timeframe. Would fans pay to travel for the conference championship if they’re anticipating a date in the Granddaddy?

Las Vegas Stadium, on a permanent basis, is the answer, but not merely because of the success of the men’s basketball tournament. They’re different events, after all: Football involves three hours of competition between two teams whose identity isn’t determined until mid- or late November; basketball unfolds over four days and is guaranteed to involved all 12 schools.

But the Pac-12 tournament’s success is clearly an indicator of the potential for football, which would no doubt draw a sizable number of fans from southern Nevada in addition to the traveling contingent from the participating schools.

And here’s a Hotline suggestion (free of charge):

The conference could buff up fan and media interest in the Friday night football game by staging a high-profile men’s basketball game in T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.

That component would require buy-in from the schools, because they control the non-conference schedules, but finding a blueblood opponent shouldn’t be difficult for event organizers given the potential for recruiting exposure. (Findlay Prep and Bishop Gorman are stocked with 4- and 5-star prospects.)

Heck, you could make it a doubleheader with UNLV involved.

Imagine Washington or Oregon facing USC for the football championship on Friday night, with Arizona or UCLA playing Kansas or Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, followed by UNLV vs. Gonzaga — and maybe you package the tickets to all three events.

If that isn’t a high-profile weekend for the Pac-12, nothing is.

But again, the football championship weekend is only half of the Hotline’s master plan — and probably the easier half to organize and produce.

The Week One showdown … a western version of the Atlanta and Arlington games … is more difficult to execute, and it’s more difficult for one reason: The money.

The Pac-12 could help to identify a participant — the inaugural game would be years away, because many of the non-conference schedules are set through the early 2020s — but the conference would not be part of the financing plan, just like the SEC isn’t involved in the financing of games in AT&T Stadium and Mercedes Benz Stadium.

The money comes from the event organizers and TV partners and must be enough to convince both teams to give up a home game.

Sure, USC, Oregon and Washington will benefit from the exposure and competition that comes with playing in Atlanta and Arlington, but they can’t lose money on the experience. (The Ducks, for example, will receive $3.5 million for the Auburn game next season.)

Which brings us to the best opponent for the Week One showcase.

Despite all the pomp that would come from a duel with the SEC powers, that might not be the most realistic approach.

For one thing, they already have Week One options in Arlington and Atlanta, which are easy trips for their fans. For another, the SEC schools don’t have significant alumni bases in the west — at least, not like those of the Big Ten.

The way to make the Week One showcase work financially is to lean on the Big Ten and create a mini-Rose Bowl, if you will: Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State would be the top targets in a rotation, possibly with Iowa and Nebraska involved, depending on states of those programs.

The game would be four months before the actual Rose Bowl, enough distance that fans coming from Ann Arbor or Columbus or Madison or State College wouldn’t hesitate to lay their money down twice.

Plus, many of those schools have huge followings on the west coast — Michigan reportedly has 41,000 alums in California alone — and would undoubtedly love to stage a holiday weekend fundraiser … err, football extravaganza … in Las Vegas.

Would the event have to involve the Big Ten? Not necessarily. Maybe you’d mix in Texas or Oklahoma, maybe you’d grab an SEC team once every four or five years. But the Big Ten would be the primary opponent.

As for the cash outlay, well, that would come from an entity that didn’t exist until last month.

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In April, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval established, through executive order 2018-7, the Southern Nevada Sporting Event Committee, whose task is to implement a system for attracting major events to Las Vegas, whether it’s the NFL Draft, the Super Bowl or the college football championship.

The Pac-12 title game and an annual Week One intersectional showcase would seem to fit the model.

“Additional opportunities to attract major sporting events and associated activities to our state are arising, especially with the addition of the new stadium,” Sandoval said in a statement accompanying the unveiling of the committee.

“As such, I believe it is prudent for the Sporting Event Committee to examine the possibilities and report back to me and the Legislature on what’s possible and how Nevada might secure new and bigger sporting events.”

Essentially, the committee’s charge is to recommend “a system to secure the events and a funding mechanism for the event,” said Christenson, whose group, Las Vegas Events, will be represented on the committee.

“We’ve got a good relationship with the Pac-12 through basketball,” he added. “And we can do a neutral-site football game now that we have a stadium capable of hosting the event.”

Why we need your support: Like so many other providers of local journalism across the country, the Hotline’s parent website, mercurynews.com, recently moved to a subscription model. A few Hotline stories will remain free each month (as will the newsletter), but for access to all content, you’ll need to subscribe. The good news for Hotline faithful: I’ve secured a discount: 12 cents per day for 12 months. Click here to subscribe. And thanks for your loyalty.

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*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to pac12hotline@bayareanewsgroup.com

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*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.

 

NBA playoffs: Klay Thompson expected to play in Game 5 vs. Rockets

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 11:51

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HOUSTON — The Warriors expect Klay Thompson to play in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday after nursing a left knee strain that limited him in the team’s Game 4 loss. Though Warriors coach Steve Kerr said veteran forward Andre Iguodala has made “incremental progress” in a left lateral leg contusion that sidelined him for Game 4, Kerr called Iguodala’s availability for Game 5 a “game-time decision.”

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WATCH: Steve Kerr discusses the status of Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala for Game 5 versus the Rockets

While Thompson participated in all of morning shootaround, Iguodala participated in select portions of it. Iguodala participated in shooting drills at the end of morning shootaround, while Thompson watched game footage with Warriors assistant coach Chris DeMarco.

“He needs more treatment,” Kerr said of Iguodala. “He’l probably warm up. We’ll see what happens.”

Thompson has averaged 19.4 points on 43.8 percent shooting and 4.1 rebounds in 38.1 minutes during the playoffs. Iguodala has averaged 7.9 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 4.9 rebounds in 27.5 minutes during the postseason.

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How Alonzo Powell became a gatekeeper of San Francisco’s best baseball stories

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 11:10

HOUSTON–Thirty five years after Alonzo Powell signed his first contract with the San Francisco Giants, the franchise courted him again.

The reputation Powell developed as a Houston Astros assistant last season bumped him to the top of the Giants’ list in their search for a hitting coach last October, but Powell was not a traditional candidate.

Most coaches are transplants, hardened by years on the road bouncing around small-town America where they pay their dues on coach buses. Powell earned his stripes just as others who preceded him did, but he can recall a time when he paid more than just his dues.

It didn’t quite cost $2.75 for a MUNI fare back when Powell took the 28-line up 19th Avenue to San Francisco’s Lincoln High School, but he shelled out for regular rides.

“It ran right down my street so I didn’t have an excuse to be late for school,” Powell said.

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Before the AT&T Park batting cages became Powell’s home away from home, that designation belonged to Aptos Playground off of Ocean Avenue.

Powell said he started playing baseball when he was eight or nine years old, joining the team at St. Emydius over in the city’s Ingleside District. Powell’s coach piled the team into the back of a Toyota flatbed truck and shuttled them through various neighborhoods for weekly games.

That routine sufficed until Powell’s eighth grade year, when he was faced with a tough decision.

“I went to Aptos (middle school) and I had to make a choice,” Powell said. “If you played for Aptos you couldn’t play for St. Emydius and in baseball, we had a really good baseball team at Aptos so I wanted to play at Aptos.”

Powell continued his baseball career at Lincoln, which matched up with Serra High School in the early 80s. Though the Giants’ first-year hitting coach eventually played professionally, Powell knew that when Serra traveled up to West Sunset Playground, he would not be the best player on the field.

“My friends now joke that we were 25 years ahead of the game,” Powell said. “We would walk Barry Bonds in high school because we knew we couldn’t get him out.”

Bonds wasn’t the only player who received special attention, though. Powell remembers defenses shifting so far back onto the outfield grass at West Sunset that he hit a few 400-foot outs during his time at Lincoln.

Plenty of the public city fields Powell played on didn’t have outfield fences he could crush home runs over, and that hasn’t changed in the last 40 years. The lack of walls is ironic, though, because when it comes to baseball, most city natives are boxed in.

“In baseball you need space,” Giants scout Jalal Leach said. “If you’re in the city or in an urban environment, the fields are probably limited. So it’s easier to play something like basketball because it doesn’t take as much space.”

Since Powell debuted with the Montreal Expos in 1987, only four other players born in San Francisco who graduated from one of the city’s public high schools have appeared in Major League Baseball games.

Micah Franklin (Lincoln) took 37 plate appearances with the Cardinals in 1995, Harvey Pulliam (McAteer) hit eight home runs over six years with the Rockies and Royals from 1991-1997, Kevin Jordan (Lowell) spent seven seasons as a part-timer with the Phillies from 1995-2001 and O’Koyea Dickson (Washington) went 1-for-7 with the Dodgers last season.

“A lot of guys weren’t really playing baseball in the area so it was really hard to get a better game for him,” Dickson’s father, Richard, told me last September. “(O’Koyea) had to go out of San Francisco to get better games.”

While the suburbs surrounding San Francisco are ripe with Major League talent, the 13th most populous city in the country hasn’t figured out how to produce a crop.

Powell sprouted anyway.

After finishing four years at Lincoln, he enrolled at City College of San Francisco and impressed scouts with his performance in a fall league. He realized, though, that he trailed behind others on the outfield depth chart and didn’t figure to play much in his first year of junior college ball.

So at 17 years old, Powell bet on himself. The hometown Giants offered a professional contract and he put the pen to paper.

“I found a loophole back then in the draft,” Powell said. “If I left City, I was eligible to sign. So I was like, okay, sit on the bench at City College or sign a professional contract.”

Powell spent three seasons in the Giants organization and played home games in Clinton, Iowa, Great Falls, Montana and closer to home in San Jose. Struggles at the plate made him question whether leaving school was a chance worth taking, and when his phone rang at the end of 1985, he feared the Giants were releasing him.

Instead, the Montreal Expos acquired him in a trade.

“I had the chance to go to an organization that obviously saw more than I saw in myself at that time,” Powell said. “I got there and had a good spring and played for Felipe Alou.”

For Powell, leaving a franchise flush with mentors that included Jeffrey Leonard, Chili Davis and Rich Murray was not easy, but it did further his chances of playing in the Major Leagues.

In the spring of 1987, injuries had ripped apart the Expos depth chart while Tim Raines and Andre Dawson couldn’t attract free agent offers. Powell earned the Opening Day nod in left field and played in 14 games before he was sent back to the Minor Leagues.

Powell eventually resurfaced and appeared in 57 games with the Seattle Mariners in 1991, but the fact Powell ever received a chance in the big leagues is a success story in its own right.

Few players born in San Francisco even matriculate to the college level and an even smaller percentage move onto pro ball. The Giants’ 24th round draft choice in 2017, Nico Giarratano, grew up in the city and graduated from St. Ignatius in the Sunset District in 2013, headlining a team that ended the school’s 100-plus year section title drought in 2012.

But Giarratano admits he’s not like most city residents. His father Nino is the head coach at USF and he spent years preparing his son for a potential life in baseball.

“I just knew that with my dad being the coach at USF, he knew what it takes because he played himself,” Giarratano said. “I just knew that he would work every day with me. I didn’t know necessarily there was a chance, I just worked to try to get better every day.”

Like Powell and Leach, who was born in the city but attended high school at San Marin in Novato, Giarratano believes the city’s inability to consistently produce Major League talent is a product of a multi-sport mindset.

“I just think because the city is so diverse with sports,” Giarratano said. “No one focuses on one thing, let alone just baseball. I think I was just very fortunate to have my dad as a coach and be able to practice every single day with someone who had that knowledge.”

If Giarratano beats the odds and advances through the Giants’ system, he’ll become the third native of the city to play for the hometown team since 2000. Leach recorded his only Major League hit with the Giants in 2001, while former San Francisco reliever Tyler Walker graduated University High in Pacific Heights and spent five seasons as a member of the Giants bullpen.

When he’s not busy scouting, Leach leads the Baseball Mentoring Program in Sacramento where he’s passionate about youth development. Powell is hoping to have a similar impact on the community, but closer to the neighborhood where he grew up.

In previous years, Powell has brought equipment back to Lincoln and in the future, he hopes to hold clinics for city coaches and possibly organize a group of former local players to set up a clinic on a larger scale.

For now, Powell is plenty busy working with an improved Giants lineup that’s helped keep the team afloat in the National League West.

“He’s been great with us,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s just got a good feel for hitting but a very positive attitude. He’s got a great way about him and really, he’s fit on this staff very nicely. We’re glad to have him and we’re lucky to have him.”

Thirty five years after the Giants first offered Powell an opportunity to join the franchise, it was Powell’s experience with a forward-thinking organization like the Astros and the recommendations of several influential voices that convinced the club to bring him home.

If he chose to, Powell could spend all day explaining why Big Rec in Golden Gate Park is his favorite city field and tell stories like the one about his home run over the 400-foot left field fence at Silver Terrace near the Bayview. But after winning a World Series with the Astros and returning home, Powell has a more important job than being a gatekeeper for some of the city’s best baseball tales.

“To have the opportunity to have a World Series ring that’s something you’re never going to forget,” Powell said. “But I think Tom Brady said it best, now I’ll try to get the next one. Hopefully I can do that here.”

Here, in Powell’s words, is home.

Sports: On air highlights

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 11:00
Friday TVRadio Baseball

Giants at Cubs 11 a.m. NBCBA 680

Angels at Yankees 4 p.m. MLB

Diamondbacks at A’s 6:30 p.m. NBCCA 95.7

College baseball

SEC Tournament 1 p.m. SEC

Big Ten Tournament 1:30 p.m. BIGTEN

UCLA at Oregon State 4 p.m. PAC12

SEC Tournament 4 p.m. SEC

Big Ten Tournament 5:30 p.m. BIGTEN

Stanford at Washington 7 p.m. PAC12 90.1

Cal at Arizona State 7 p.m. PAC12BA 90.7

Golf

European Tour: BMW PGA Championship 2 a.m. GOLF

European Tour: BMW PGA Championship 6 a.m. GOLF

Champions Tour: Senior PGA Championship 10 a.m. GOLF

PGA Tour: Fort Worth Invitational 1 p.m. GOLF

LPGA Tour: Volvik Championship 4 p.m. GOLF

Hockey

AHL playoff: Toronto at Lehigh Valley 4 p.m. NHL

Memorial Cup: semifinal 7 p.m. NHL

MMA

Bellator 200: Carvalho vs. Mousasi 6 p.m. SPIKE

LFA 40: Aguilar vs. Le 6 p.m. AXSTV

Motor sports

IndyCar: Indy 500 final practice 8 a.m. NBCSN

IndyCar Lights Series 9:30 a.m. NBCSN

IndyCar: Pit Stop Challenge 10:30 a.m. NBCSN

NBA playoffs

Celtics at Cavaliers 5:30 p.m. ESPN

Soccer

MLS: SJ Earthquakes at Los Angeles 8 p.m.    1050

Softball

NCAA Tournament: Tennessee at Georgia 2 p.m. ESPNU

NCAA Tournament: Arkansas at Oklahoma 2 p.m. ESPN2

NCAA Tournament: LSU at Florida State 4 p.m. ESPNU

NCAA Tournament: Texas A&M at Florida 4 p.m. ESPN2

NCAA Tournament: Alabama at Washington 6 p.m. ESPNU

NCAA Tournament: Arizona at UCLA 6 p.m. ESPN2

NCAA Tournament: South Carolina at Arizona State 8 p.m. ESPNU

NCAA Tournament: Kentucky at Oregon 8 p.m. ESPN2

Tennis

ATP Geneva Open 5 a.m. TENNIS

Women’s International Strasbourg 5 a.m. beIN

Track and field

IAAF Diamond League 7:30 p.m. NBCSN

Saturday TVRadio Baseball

Braves at Red Sox 10 a.m. MLB

Royals at Rangers 1 p.m. FS1

Diamondbacks at A’s 1 p.m. NBCCA 1550

Giants at Cubs 4 p.m. FOX 680

Padres at Dodgers 7 p.m. MLB

College baseball

Big Ten Tournament 7 a.m. BIGTEN

Big South Championship 9 a.m. ESPNU

SEC Tournament 10 p.m. SEC

Big Ten Tournament 11 a.m. BIGTEN

Utah at Washington noon PAC12

SEC Tournament 1 p.m. SEC

UCLA at Oregon State 2 p.m. ESPNU

Big Ten Tournament 3 p.m. BIGTEN

Stanford at Washington 3 p.m. PAC12 90.1

Cal at Arizona State 6 p.m. PAC12 90.7

Big Ten Tournament 7 p.m. BIGTEN

Boxing

Super lightweight: Ramirez vs. Mendez 6 p.m. FS1

Arena football

Wasghinton at Albany 3 p.m. CBSSN

Golf

European Tour: BMW PGA Championship 4:30 a.m. GOLF

Champions Tour: Senior PGA Championship 10 a.m. NBC

PGA Tour: Fort Worth Invitational 10 a.m. GOLF

PGA Tour: Fort Worth Invitational noon CBS

LPGA Tour: Volvik Championship noon GOLF

Hockey

AHL playoff: Toronto at Lehigh Valley 4 p.m. NHL

Motor sports

Formula One: Monaco GP practice 3:55 a.m. ESPN2

Motorcycle: FIM Superbike World Champ. 5 a.m. beIN

Formula One: Monaco GP qualifying 3:55 a.m. ESPN2

NASCAR Monster Cup: practice 6 a.m. FS1

NASCAR Xfinity: qualifying 7 a.m. FS1

NASCAR Monster Cup: final practice 8 a.m. FS1

NASCAR Xfinity: Alsco 300 10 a.m. FS1

Motocross: Lucas Oil PRo Championship 1 p.m. MavTV

Motocross: Glen Helen Classic 3 p.m. NBCSN

Auto: Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series 5 p.m. MavTV

NBA playoffs

Rockets at Warriors 6 p.m. TNT 95.7, 95.3

Soccer

Champions: Real Madrid vs. Liverpool 11:30 a.m. FOX

NWSL: Chicago vs. Orlando 12:30 p.m. LIFE

Softball

NCAA Tournament: Arkansas at Oklahoma 10 a.m. ESPN

NCAA Tournament: Tennessee at Georgia noon ESPN

NCAA Tournament: Texas A&M at Florida 2 p.m. ESPN

NCAA Tournament: LSU at Florida State 4 p.m. ESPN2

NCAA Tournament: Arizona at UCLA 4 p.m. ESPN

NCAA Tournament: Alabama at Washington 4 p.m. ESPN2

NCAA Tournament: Kentucky at Oregon 6 p.m. ESPN

NCAA Tournament: South Carolina at Arizona State 6 p.m. ESPN2

Tennis

ATP Geneva Open 3:30 a.m. TENNIS

ATP Geneva Open 6 a.m. TENNIS

Women’s International Strasbourg 6:15 a.m. beIN

Track and field

IAAF Diamond League 1 p.m. NBC

Sunday TVRadio Baseball

Angels at Yankees 10 a.m. MLB

Diamondbacks at A’s 1 p.m. NBCCA 95.7

Giants at Cubs 5 p.m. ESPN2 680

College baseball

ACC Championship 9 a.m. ESPNEWS, ESPN2

Big East Championship 10 a.m. FS2

Conference USA Championship 11 a.m. CBSSN

Big Ten Championship 11 a.m. BIGTEN

SEC Championship noon ESPN2

Golf

European Tour: BMW PGA Championship 4:30 a.m. GOLF

PGA Tour: Fort Worth Invitational 10 a.m. GOLF

PGA Tour: Fort Worth Invitational noon CBS

Champions Tour: Senior PGA Championship noon NBC

LPGA Tour: Volvik Championship noon GOLF

Hockey

Memorial Cup: final 4 p.m. NHL

MMA

UFC Fight Night: prelims 8 a.m. FS1

UFC Fight Night: Thompson vs. Till 10 a.m. FS1

NBA playoffs

Cavaliers at Celtics (if nec.) 5:30 p.m. ESPN

Motor sports

Motorcycle: FIM Superbike World Champ. 4:55 a.m. beIN

Formula One: Monaco Grand Prix 6 a.m. ESPN

IndyCar: Indianapolis 500 9 a.m. ABC

NASCAR Monster Cup: Coca-Cola 600 3 p.m. FOX

Soccer

MLS: Sporting KC vs. Columbus 3 p.m. FS1

Softball

NCAA Tournament: Arkansas at Oklahoma 10 a.m. ESPN

NCAA Tournament: Tennessee at Georgia noon ESPN

NCAA Tournament: LSU at Florida State noon ESPNU

NCAA Tournament: Alabama at Washington 4 p.m. ESPNU

NCAA Tournament: South Carolina at Arizona State 6 p.m. ESPNU

Tennis

French Open: First-round 2 a.m. TENNIS

French Open: First-round 7 a.m. TENNIS

French Open: First-round 9 a.m. NBC, TENNIS

WNBA

Seattle at Las Vegas 5:30 p.m. NBA

Letter: NBC Bay Area Sports doesn’t reflect diversity of Warriors and Giants players or their fans

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 10:06
NBC Bay Area Sports doesn’t reflect diversity of Warriors and Giants players or their fans

Re: “Warriors Outsiders more like insiders” (Page B1, May 20):

A recent column by Chuck Barney highlighted two new, “fresh” additions to NBC Bay Area Sports. What he did not mention was that they are white, on a network that is already overwhelming white, both in covering the Warriors and the Giants.

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The organization overlooks people of color, in light of most of the players being black, and a fan base much more mixed than reflected at Bay Area Sports. As we are now in the NBA playoffs, we always see TNT and ESPN with broadcasters of color. Back at Bay Area Sports, Monte Poole never really got a shot at being a front-line broadcaster. Kelenna Azubuike should be named to replace Jim Barnett, but the network has yet to announce this.

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The culture of NBC Bay Area Sports needs to change so that its talking heads better reflect the diversity of Warriors fans.

George Fulmore
Concord

 

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A’s get stadium advice from man who championed Petco Park

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 10:01

In one breath, John Moores, one-time owner of the San Diego Padres, advises Oakland A’s ownership to be patient in the pursuit of a new downtown ballpark. In the next, the driving force behind the construction of Petco Park gets real.

“I don’t think I’d do that project again,” Moores told Forbes contributor Barry M. Bloom in a recent profile. “It was just too hard.”

Conceptually, Moores sees the value of a new A’s ballpark in Oakland (as do A’s managing partner John Fisher and president Dave Kaval).

“I would be hard-pressed to leave the San Francisco Bay Area to that one super team,” Moores said, referring to the Giants. “In some ways owning the A’s would be a dream franchise just because of the spillover from Silicon Valley.”

Moores, of course, didn’t have a second team in town (with irksome territorial rights) to consider when he decided to push for a downtown stadium in San Diego. Nor did he have to privately finance the project, as will the A’s. But his ballpark odyssey has parallels with what the A’s are going through. Start with the laborious search for a ballpark site.

Moores had to pass two public task force searches for a location. After gaining approval, he had to win voter support to build on the site. That happened in 1998, shortly after the Padres played in the World Series. Even at that, Moores had to fight his way through what he called “city politics” which included 16 “nuisance lawsuits” brought by a councilman against the ballpark effort.

The A’s, as we all know, sniffed around Fremont before striking out in San Jose. They zeroed in on a small plot near Laney College, only to have the Peralta Community College District give them the bum’s rush. They now are assessing two locations — the Coliseum site and Howard Terminal.

Competitively speaking, neither team served its fans well during the stadium process. In the 14 seasons before moving into Petco Park, the Padres had only two winning records. A’s ownership (hence management) has a well-earned reputation of benign neglect where the team’s roster is concerned — consistently offloading promising young talent and All-Star caliber players as opposed to paying them market value.

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It’s easy to see the value of a completed project. You just close your eyes and dream. Petco Park is a vibrant component of San Diego’s East Village neighborhood. AT&T Park has transformed San Francisco’s China Basin. It’s the labor pains that are the killer. Fourteen years after Petco Park opened for business, they still appear to be aggravating Moores.

“I don’t think (Petco Park) would’ve ever gotten done today,” Moores said. “If you looked back and you had perfect knowledge of the way it turned out, I’m not sure that the San Diego people would’ve approved.”

Sharks’ Evander Kane on seven-year deal: “I always wanted to stay in San Jose”

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 08:52

SAN JOSE — Evander Kane said earlier this month the biggest priorities any player has in finding a place to play long-term were money, a chance to win and a comfortable lifestyle off the ice.

Kane feels he’s found all three.

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Kane put pen to paper on a seven-year contract extension with the Sharks worth $49 million, making him the highest-paid forward on the team and automatically one of the pillars of the organization.

“I always wanted to stay in San Jose,” Kane said Thursday from Greece, where he is vacationing. “After the season, that thought never left my mind and I was happy we were able to get something done.”

According to capfriendly.com, Kane will make $9 million next season and $8 million in 2019-20 — with $5 million in signing bonuses spread between the two years. He will make $6 million in 2020-21, 2023-24 and 2024-25, and $7 million in 2021-22 and 2022-23. Spread out over the last five years of the contract will be another $7 million in signing bonus money.

The deal — which came together quickly — also includes a modified no-trade clause, as Kane can pick three teams he’s willing to be traded to, according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.

“It was a simple conversation and negotiation,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. “All I really asked of Evander was, ‘Do you want to be a Shark?’ Not only was his answer yes, but his actions were.”

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Kane, who will be 27 in August, would have been one of the NHL’s more high-profile unrestricted free agents had the Sharks not signed him by July 1. Kane, at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, has 354 points in 574 career NHL games.

But after he was traded by the Winnipeg Jets in Feb. 2015 and the Buffalo Sabres this past February — experiencing off-ice issues in both locations — Kane found a home in San Jose.

“The one thing about this team, this group and this organization is they allow you to be yourself,” Kane said. “They embrace you for who you are and it’s a very unselfish group that makes it super-easy to come into and mesh well with.”

The contract — hefty considering Kane has scored 30 goals in a season just once in his NHL career — is among the richest in franchise history.

Just in the last 19 months, the Sharks signed defensemen Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to deals worth $64 and $56 million, respectively, and goalie Martin Jones to a six-year, $34.5 million contract. Kane was coming off a six-year deal worth $31.5 million that he signed with Winnipeg in Sept. 2012.

Sharks forward Evander Kane (9) fights for the puck against the Vegas Golden Knights’ Colin Miller (6) in the second period of Game 3 in the second-round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs in San Jose on April 30. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

Still, the Sharks have now locked down a player they hope will be one of their franchise cornerstones for the next seven years.as they continue to try and transition into a younger, faster unit.  Kane figures to be a consistent goal-scoring threat, not to mention a pain in the backside to play against.

“It’s good to be wanted,” Kane said. “I wanted them just as much as they wanted me. The fact we were able to work out a deal so quickly reflects that.”

Kane’s new contract checks off one item on Wilson’s summer to-do list, which includes re-signing pending restricted free agents Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney to new deals and getting a long-term agreement for Logan Couture, who can become a UFA in July 2019.

Joe Thornton, slated to become a UFA on July 1, has said he wants to return to San Jose and captain Joe Pavelski, whose contract expires at the same time as Couture’s, could also be in line for a new deal from the Sharks.

With Kane’s deal complete, though, the Sharks have just over $67 million tied up in 21 contracts for the 2018-19 season, according to capfriendly.com. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this year that the league’s salary cap for next season will be in the $78-82 million range, perhaps limiting Wilson’s options for acquiring a big name free agent this summer such as John Tavares of the New York Islanders.

“We still have ample cap space,” Wilson said. “We still have some players, our own players that I have some negotiations to do with. We’ll still have cap space after that.”

Thank you to the entire @sanjosesharks organization for this opportunity. I’m privileged to be able to call San Jose home for the next 7 years. Can’t wait to get back on the ice with my teammates and play in front of our sharks fans everywhere! EK9 pic.twitter.com/EjCNlgmR3w

— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) May 24, 2018

Kane’s signing could add to the sales pitch Wilson might have for Tavares that the Sharks remain committed to winning a Stanley Cup now and in the future.

“People know that we are always going to spend to the cap and are capable of doing that,” Wilson said. “We’ve repeated many times over that one of our jobs is to make it be a place that players want to play.”

Kane finished last season with 29 goals and 25 assists in 78 regular season games, including nine goals and five assists after he came over from the Sabres in a Feb. 26 trade as he found instant chemistry on a line with Pavelski.

He was made to feel at home with the Sharks right from the start, with Thornton picking him up at San Jose International Airport the night of the trade. The Sharks were 12-6-1 for the last 19 games of the regular season — securing a spot in the playoffs — after Kane was acquired.

“Playing my first game and just how easy the transition was in the room and just how great the guys were,” Kane said, “it really started me off on the right note and it just kind if carried on from there.”

For his NHL career, Kane has 186 goals and 168 assists in 574 career games. He entered the league as the fourth overall pick by Atlanta in 2009. His most productive season came in 2011-12 with the Jets when he scored 30 goals and finished with 57 points.

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In his first trip to the NHL playoffs, Kane had four goals and one assist in nine games. The Sharks advanced to the second round before they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in six games.

“San Jose and the Sharks organization, Doug and the ownership that we have made it a real easy choice for me to not test the market,” Kane said. “Like I said at the end of the season with my priorities, San Jose ticked off every box and it made it a real easy decision for me and my family.”

As a condition of the Feb. 26 trade, the Sharks now owe the Sabres their first round draft choice in 2019, although the pick is lottery-protected, meaning it can be moved to 2020. If the Sharks did not resign Kane, the pick would have been a second-rounder.

CCS baseball: St. Francis blanks Mitty to reach D-II final

Bay Area Mercury News Sports - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 07:06

SAN JOSE — Second-seeded St. Francis and No. 3 Mitty had to wait a long time to play their Central Coast Section Division II baseball semifinal on Wednesday evening. When the two teams locked horns 1 hour, 45 minutes after the scheduled 7 p.m. start time at San Jose Municipal Stadium, folks in attendance were treated a dandy.

The Lancers prevailed 2-0 over the Monarchs, who had the tying runs aboard when the precarious final out was recorded — an ever-so-close force play at second.

St. Francis (23-8) faces the No. 1 seed — Soledad (24-5) — at Municipal Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m. with the section title at stake. Soledad went 11 innings to edge No. 12 Christopher 6-5 in the opener, the reason for the delayed start for the nightcap.

St. Francis coach Matt Maguire has led his alma mater to a section title game in his first season at the helm.

“I’m proud of these guys,” said Maguire, class of 1998. “It’s pretty cool. They bought in. They accepted me as the new guy. I didn’t change much. It’s baseball.”

The contest quickly shaped up as a pitchers’ duel between sophomore Joey Schott of St. Francis and Mitty’s Josh Seward — the West Catholic Athletic League pitcher of year. Seward, featuring a filthy change-up, went five innings, absorbing a tough defeat.

Schott, who relies on a three-pitch repertoire of fastball, slider and change-up, allowed four hits. Schott was relieved in the top of the seventh after walking leadoff hitter Joe Yorke.

“You can’t say enough about Schott,” Maguire said.

“It was a great fan base,” Schott said. “A lot of people came out here. It was a close game.”

Replacing Schott was another sophomore, lefty Gianluca Shinn, who gave up a single to Connor Leaverton before fanning two pinch-hitters, then inducing a 5-4 ground out to earn the save.

Having himself a night was senior Cole Sperling, who was sterling on the bases and in the field. Sperling accounted for the game’s both runs, scoring all the way from first in the fourth inning to break a deadlock on a double by Cooper Foard, who came through on a 3-2 count with two out.

Sperling walked a second time in the bottom of the sixth, scoring on a deep drive to right-center off the bat of Justin Torres, who was credited with a RBI triple to make it 2-0.

Earlier in the game, Sperling singled, then stole second in the second inning, but Seward left two runners stranded to get out of it.

Sperling added a shoestring catch to rob Nick Yorke, the WCAL Player of the Year, of a hit leading off the top of the sixth.

“We knew Mitty was going to be a tough game,” Sperling said. “We came out strong and did what we needed to do. We made all the plays on the field we needed to make.”

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Baylor-bound Ricky Martinez had two singles for the Lancers, while Mitty had a double by Jonah Advincula and a pair of singles by Leaverton.

Nick Yorke, a sophomore, teamed with second baseman Miguel Cebedo to turn a dazzling 4-6-3 double play in the fourth inning.

The Monarchs and Lancers split blowouts in the WCAL regular season, but did not meet in the WCAL tournament. Maguire said the long wait for first pitch merely had to be dealt with.

“It’s Murphy’s Law, right?” Maguire said. “It was a great game before us. Our guys handled it well.”