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Archives for: September 27, 2016

Clock ticking toward potential front-office shakeup for Lakers

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The clock is ticking ever closer toward a potential front-office shakeup for the NBA’s glamour franchise, the once mighty — but now rebuilding — Los Angeles Lakers.

The timeline was first set in April 2014, when Lakers part-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss told the Los Angeles Times that he would step down within three years if the team hadn’t made a deep playoff run by then.

The Lakers, who opened training camp at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, are entering the final season of Buss’ self-imposed deadline — one that Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss has time and again publicly stated that she will make sure her brother honors.

There’s a chance — if not a strong possibility — that Jim Buss’ potential departure won’t be the only one within the Lakers front office, though it’s unclear what exactly might happen. It has long been widely speculated, though, that if Jim Buss departs, so too would Lakers longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak.

In the past, Kupchak has deferred questions about Jim Buss’ deadline to turn around the Lakers, who have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons and are coming off their worst campaign in franchise history after finishing 17-65 last season.

The New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, who was among those to open this year’s ESPYS with a plea to stop the violence, said the Knicks likely will do something collectively to address the social turmoil.

“I think we’re in the same state,” he said. “I think it’s actually getting worse.”

Similarly strong assessments have been expressed around the league for months, as the list of U.S. cities dealing with protests — including Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Ferguson, Missouri, and now Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina — over gun violence and racial turmoil continues to grow.

Anthony, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul talked openly in July about how players and coaches can help create substantive change in cities across the country.

In a league in which about 75 percent of the players are black and some have enormous social-media followings, plenty of eyes will be on the NBA to see what it does after NFL players and some athletes from other sports have taken to kneeling during national anthems or raising a fist in an effort to spark discussion about race relations and other matters.

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Shaq: Ben Simmons is a ‘LeBron-type player’

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Last week, former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While speaking with the media, O’Neal was asked by CSN Philly about the 2016 rookie class and if any players stood out as future stars.

“I don’t know all of them, but I know my guy’s going to be pretty good, Ben Simmons,” O’Neal told CSN Philly, referring to the Philadelphia 76ers rookie who was picked No. 1 overall.

“I’m a better golfer, but obviously in golf you play with handicaps so everything’s fair,” Curry added. “The last two times I’ve played, I’ve lost to him.”

Curry said his handicap is two, but he wouldn’t divulge President Obama’s handicap, claiming it’s “top-secret” information.

Curry did admit, however, that the president is an avid trash-talker during a round of golf.

“During his speeches, he has that very slow cadence that kind of draws you in,” Curry said. “He brings that same kind of vibe to his trash talk. So I’ll hit a shot out of bounds, and he’ll just look like, ‘Yeah, that’s not a good shot. I’m going to need you to do better next time.’ So it gets under your skin, too, because I’m like, ‘I know. I hit out of bounds.'”

Michelle Obama then gave Curry some sound advice for next time he golfs with the POTUS: “You should trash-talk back, Stephen.”

“Give him some things to say,” DeGeneres quipped.

“Talk about his ears,” Michelle Obama said. “Here’s one: As you’re putting, say, ‘The shadow from your ears is messing up my putt.’ Try that one.”

Now imagine the flip side, going into Rounds 3 and 4 with a combination of Curry and Thomas or Paul and Lowry, for example. If you can pull something like this off, you’ll be set in the assist, steal and 3-point categories and benefit firsthand from all the frontcourt value that falls your way between picks 25 and 50.

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Vin Scully: ‘I will say goodbye in San Francisco, and then that will be it’

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Vin Scully says the last ballgame he will broadcast is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ regular-season finale — regardless of whether they reach the playoffs.

“I’m going to say goodbye at Dodger Stadium the last game with Colorado. I will say goodbye in San Francisco. And then that will be it,” he told The Times.

Cole’s fastball registered in the 93-96-mph range Monday, but velocity couldn’t compensate for a lack of command. Of the 11 straight heaters that he threw to Cesar Hernandez and rookie Roman Quinn to begin the game, eight missed the strike zone. Cole recovered from the back-to-back walks to freeze Maikel Franco on a 96-mph fastball and get Ryan Howard swinging on a slider, and it appeared he had found his equilibrium.

But everything unraveled in the second. Freddy Galvis drove a fastball into the seats to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead, and Cole proceeded to give up a single to Odubel Herrera, a double to Cody Asche, consecutive walks to Jeremy Hellickson and Hernandez and a run-scoring double to Quinn. Once the inning mercifully ended with the Pirates down 5-1, he called it a night.

The Rangers have won largely because they’ve stymied the Astros’ big bats. Carlos Correa is hitting .167 in 66 at-bats and George Springer is hitting .149 in 74 at-bats. Springer has been the final out in four of the losses, three in which he represented the tying or winning run. The two were a combined 0-for-7 on Tuesday. In fact, Astros other than Jose Altuve were 1-for-25 on Tuesday.

Altuve is hitting .275 against the Rangers this season. His teammates are hitting .212.

“We had guys on base all night,” manager Joe Maddon lamented of the loss. “We had many opportunities to score, and we did not do it.”

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and Backman both have characterized Backman’s departure from the Las Vegas 51s as a resignation, although multiple published reports have labeled it as Backman being fired. Those reports portrayed Backman as being insubordinate, asserting he disregarded instructions to bat Brandon Nimmo leadoff and to use Michael Conforto against left-handed pitching.

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Mike Trout is still the AL’s best player, but he won’t win MVP

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ESPN’s Dan Szymborski has an interesting look at baseball’s MVP races and argues why Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout should still be the top candidate in the American League. Of course, we know the case against Trout: The Angels aren’t going to make the playoffs, so his performance has apparently played out in a vacuum of meaninglessness. Szymborski presents a chart that lists how much a team’s World Series odds would decrease minus the individual performances of key players. The top two players here are Indians right-hander Corey Kluber and Cubs slugger Kris Bryant. This is the conventional “who means the most to his team” MVP argument. Trout is nowhere to be found, since the Angels aren’t contenders.

Trout is universally regarded as the best all-around player in baseball. He holds a significant lead over Mookie Betts in Baseball-Reference WAR, 9.3 to 7.8 (and 8.4 to 6.9 on FanGraphs). If you asked 30 general managers which player they would want on their team, knowing they would get that player’s 2016 performance, all 30 would likely take Trout. Yet he’s not going to be named American League MVP — and not just because the Angels are 62-77. Voters still love their conventional AVG, HRs, RBIs stat lines. In that department, Trout doesn’t stand out from Betts or Jose Altuve:

Trout: .323, 27, 88

Betts: .316, 30, 100

Altuve: .344, 22, 92

The Mets did go the pure showman route back in 2000, when they invited entertainer Garth Brooks to Mets camp. He went 0-for-17 in what was deemed mostly a charitable endeavor. The Tebow signing is more of a hybrid — some baseball legitimacy with a lot of upside benefit based on the novelty.

For whatever it’s worth, Alderson insisted the signing was made on baseball merits.

“While I and the organization, I think, are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven by baseball,” Alderson said. “This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort. We are extremely intrigued with the potential that Tim has. He has demonstrated over his athletic career that he is a tremendous athlete, has got character, a competitive spirit. Aside from the age (29), this is a classic player-development opportunity for us. As an organization, we’re going to provide that development opportunity for Tim.”

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