Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Brandon Crawford's Unexpected Road to Success

Brandon Crawford was raised to be a San Francisco Giant. Growing up in Pleasanton, California in a family that had Giants' season tickets. Crawford's five-year-old face has already entrenched itself in the memory of Giants' fans, seeing him next to a "Mr. White. Do what's right! Keep the Giants in SF" sign." Who would have guessed in 1992, that five-year-old boy would play a key role in a the Giants' dynasty 22 years later.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sacramento 104 Oklahoma City 83:Kings fly through Thunder

Facing an Oklahoma City squad that had a day to think over their 117-91 loss to the Golden State Warriors, things looked bleak for the dilapidated Kings.

In the post-Michael Malone era, Sacramento had failed to keep the opposing team under 100 points in 10 games. That streak was snapped on Wednesday night with the Thunder failing to even crack the 90-point mark. The 104-83 victory marked their first double-digit win since November 22 and their largest since November 5.

After losing seven of their past 10 and coming off a 1-3 road trip, Sacramento looked rejuvenated after two days of practice. The effort and hustle was their on the court and they took advantage of Oklahoma City's off night.

Russell Westbrook had no problem jacking up 19 shots, but saw only three of them sink through the net. He was frustrated all night and it showed with seven turnovers and a (-23) mark while on the court. Though Kevin Durant wasn't much better, making just eight of his 20 shots.

While Westbrook was certainly holding back the Thunder, no one frustrated them more then DeMarcus Cousins. It wasn't even a strong night for him, he went 6-23 from the field with a technical, but he fought in the paint and made 13 trips to the free throw line in the first half.

Cousins still looks out of it when teammates don't get him involved or a call doesn't go his way, but there are plenty of more good moments than bad. He finished the night with 23 points, 15 rebounds and a (+18) mark.

The biggest star of the game was Darren Collison, who kept building his case to be a candidate for Most Improved Player. He toasted Westbrook all night, especially from beyond the arc where he scored 15 of his 24 points. Collision brought tight defense against Westbrook throughout the night.

Rudy Gay had his moments throughout the night, finishing with a game-high 28 points and 3-3 from the three-point line, contributing to the Kings great night beyond the arc (10-19). Overall, the big three of Cousins, Collison and Gay combined for 75 of the team's 104 points.

Sacramento improved to 15-20 on the season and will have a chance to be 10-10 at home with a win on Friday night versus the Denver Nuggets.

No tip for Waiters

Just two days after being pulled from the Cleveland Cavaliers starting lineup and shipped off to the Thunder, Waiters came off the bench in his debut. It was a needed change of scenery for the third-year guard, but Waiters just served up more problems.

When Waiters was called upon, he brought out the chef's special. Taking unnecessary contested shots, shooting with plenty of shot clock and disappearing on defense. He played 22 minutes and finished 1-9 from the field with four points. Waiters showed why the Cavaliers were more than happy to ship him out of town.

Clear Skies, No Thunder

It was another horrific game for Oklahoma City–shooting under 35 percent from the field and under 30 from three. If that wasn't enough to drag them down, they met the dreadful 20/20 mark of 20-plus fouls and turnovers.

Some credit can certainly go to Sacramento for playing better defense, especially putting them in position to draw charges and block shots. DeMarcus Cousins led the way with three blocks and four charges taken.

But the bigger picture is Oklahoma City just having an abysmal two-game road trip to California. They had the chance to move past .500 for the first time this season but shot 59-187 combined in their two losses to the Warriors and Kings.

We're talking about practice

It turns out two days of hitting the gym with coach Ty Corbin and re-focusing on the little things may have been just what Sacramento needed to take a step forward defensively. Corbin wanted to get back to the basics and that showed.

While you'd still like to see Sacramento cut down more on the turnovers, they won the turnover battle 16-24. Unlike in previous weeks, you saw more communication on the court and guys got in position to force stops and keep points off the scoreboard.

One unsung name in all of this is Ben McLemore who has made tremendous steps forward throughout his game, but even more so on defense. The second-year guard had four steals and was pivotal to holding Oklahoma City under 40 percent from the field. After many fans were ready to call him a bust after a disappointing rookie season, McLemore's star is on the rise.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A-Rod: My Hero?

As we all know Alex Rodriguez has been accused of steroid use and has been suspended, putting a black mark on the career of one of the best players of all time and one with as much natural talent as any player in the history of the game. The .358 batting average and 54 doubles as a 20-year-old? Tarnished. The 40-40 season as a 23-year-old? Blemished. The 3 MVPs and 14 All-Star games? Tainted. So why do I still like A-Rod?
10-year-old me idolized Alex Rodriguez. As a shortstop forced to move to third base, he was my logical role model. Fast, powerful, and slick fielding (not to mention movie star good looks); he was everything I thought I was and wanted to become. I was enamored by the numbers, the personality, and the money. I was blinded by my own admiration; too caught up in watching the best player I had ever seen do things on the baseball field that not many before him could. The speed to steal 40 bases, the power to hit 50+ home runs, the bat to hit .300 every year, and the glove to win two Gold Gloves. I had never seen anything like him AND he was forced to move from shortstop to third base just like me? I thought I had hit the jackpot. In video games, I would build my team around him. In my 5th grade class we had to make our own magazines. Mine was a baseball magazine with a player spotlight on Alex Rodriguez (also had one on Sammy Sosa, boy did I know what I was talking about…). A-Rod could do no wrong in my eyes: until 2009; when he did wrong. He admitted to ESPN that he used steroids from 2001-2003 to justify the mega-deal that he had signed with the Texas Rangers. He claimed that he was clean and that we should all judge him from that point forward. I was na├»ve enough to believe him, again blinded by the admiration for A-Rod even after his move to the Evil Empire: the New York Yankees. He was my hero and I was standing by his side. Fast forward to 2013 and Rodriguez has again been charged with using steroids and has even been suspended this time. At 21, I can no longer justify defending A-Rod by using my boyhood idolization, nor can I defend him using any facts or logic. He made a mistake and compounded that mistake by making it over and over again; lying about it and making excuses when he got caught (Oddly enough Ryan Braun is doing the same thing because it worked so well for Alex…). But I can defend him by saying that there is no evidence that PEDs have any effect on a baseball player’s talent. So without evidence, why all the hate for A-Rod?
Rodriguez is a master of the press conference. Give people your time but never really say anything of substance and don’t answer the tough questions. He gives off the aura of an entertainer not a baseball player. He has become a prima donna worrying more about his image than his stats to the public eye. Who else would be furious about a camera spotting Cameron Diaz feed them popcorn? (That would be a top 3 moment in my life) The way he acts has rubbed people the wrong way and has made him into the villain that he is today. The ESPN and MLB Network coverage of him has turned people into full-fledged A-Rod haters, aiding the witch hunt against him. Maybe this is why I still hope he performs well. When sports networks are heaping praise, I am usually the one going the other way (e.g. Puig, LeBron, Tebow, any QB who ‘wins’ the Super Bowl) and that continues with Alex. All the bashing has me hoping he will rebound and have one more flash of brilliance, one more streak to remind people how good he actually is. 21-year-old me hopes for one more peek at the greatness 10-year-old me was so engulfed in. Call it nostalgia, call it blind ignorance, call it whatever you want, it is what it is; my childhood hero in “the battle for his life”.
I never became what 10-year-old me wanted (minus the good looks). I don’t have a MVP-type season under my belt at 21; in fact I am just starting my senior year of college and haven’t played a meaningful baseball game in three years. I don’t have a multimillion dollar endorsement deal and contract; I work for less than $10 an hour at a part time job on campus. But I still have the memories of what A-Rod was and what he was to me: an idol. He is a boyhood hero that everyone else has turned their back on. He brings 21-year-old me back to the backyard where 10-year-old me was pretending to be Rodriguez, he brings me back to the video games, building a team around the best player in the game because no one else deserved the spotlight. So maybe it is nostalgia that keeps me rooting for A-Rod. Maybe the romanticism of the whole thing makes me turn a blind eye to the mounting troubles of a man that I haven’t ever met, I’m not sure. One thing I am sure about though is that I would like nothing more than to see Rodriguez, the man with 647 home runs, hit #648, touch home plate, turn to the crowd and cameras, give a big DX chop, and walk off in the sunset forever. My hero.

Monday, December 3, 2012

San Francisco Giants re-sign CF Angel Pagan

The defending World Series Champions are one step closer to having the old group put back together again. The San Francisco Giants have agreed to a 4 year $40 million deal with CF Angel Pagan. The new contract comes with a $5 million signing bonus, and will pay Pagan $7 million this season , $9 million in 2014 and 2015 and $10 million in 2016.

The Giants acquired Angel Pagan last offseason when they traded OF Andres Torres and RP Ramon Ramirez to the New York Mets. Pagan immediately became the Giants starting CF but expectations were low. Pagan surpassed all expectations in 2012, finishing the regular season with a .288 BA, 29 SB's and 95 Runs. What made Pagan's season even more spectacular was his major league leading 15 triples. He also broke the Giants team record for triples in a season, which was previously held by Willie Mays. Pagan's game went beyond the stats as he provided the Giants excellent defense in a vast center field and gave the team the leadoff hitter it had been lacking for some time.

Before the Giants signed Pagan, there was speculation that Pagan was being looked at by the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, and several other clubs. The Giants also looked into CF's Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn, but focused their efforts on re-signing Pagan. Now with Pagan locked up, expect San Francisco to go hard after 2B Marco Scutaro. "Blockbuster" as he was nicknamed by his teammates was a mid-season acquisition from the Colorado Rockies. If the Giants could bring back Scutaro, they would have the same lineup that won Game 4 against the Detroit Tigers.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Real Motives Behind the Spurs Fine

This all started Thursday afternoon when San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich announced that the team sent PF Tim Duncan, PG Tony Parker, SG's Danny Green and Manu Ginobili home early. It was just hours before the team was set to face the Miami Heat in a big East vs. West game that would be on TNT. While most respected the decision and understood what Popovich was doing, NBA Commissioner David Stern was irate.

When David Stern learned what Gregg Popovich was doing he immediately issued a statement saying "I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the Spurs. Substantial sanctions will be forthcoming. Many thought Stern was collapsing under the heat of the moment and if the sanctions would be severe at all. We learned today that the Spurs were fined a whopping $250,000 by the NBA. While Stern claims to be caring about the fans, his decision had nothing to do with people in attendance or watching on television. The only thing Stern cares about is making money and it doesn't matter if logic gets in the way, they just run over it for financial gain.

Gregg Popovich made the right move in sending his star veterans home early ahead of this game. The Spurs were playing their 4th road game in 5 days, while the Heat had 4 days off at home before their Thursday night battle. If anyone should be fined it would have to be David Stern for setting up this ridiculous schedule. It puts the Spurs at a complete disadvantage to play 4 road games in 5 nights, while Miami rested at home. That is an unprecedented mismatch that was bound to turn ugly. This is an 82 game season and Popovich had to rest his veterans. San Antonio has the day off on Friday but a crucial game against the Memphis Grizzlies, a game far more important than some non conference game. It is simply absurd to fine a team $250K because a coach made a decision for the health of his players, something it appears the NBA has little interest in.

I understand fans in attendance would be upset over not being able to see Duncan, Parker, and Manu play, but you take that risk when you go to a game. I know that ticket prices are insane, and even going to one game is hard to do for families. The fine has nothing to do with you not being able to see someone play, in fact if this were a Spurs vs. Washington Wizards game we never would never have heard a peep out of David Stern. I also ask David Stern, is any part of the fine going to the fans who bought tickets. This is just another instance of David Stern reaching his hands into basketball and squeezing out every last penny. I know I am not alone when I say, I can't wait until David Stern retires.