Monthly Archives: September 2016

Veteran Cavs don’t view age as a problem

The 50-plus year championship drought is over in Cleveland. And the group the Cavaliers are bringing back to defend that title seems almost as old as that ringless streak the Cavs ended back in June.

The Cavs open training camp Tuesday with the oldest roster in the league, with an average age of 29.7, according to RealGM.com. Their closest competition is the Los Angeles Clippers (29.6). The team they beat in the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors, is significantly younger (27.5).

While the Warriors reloaded in the offseason with 27-year-old superstar Kevin Durant, the biggest names the Cavs acquired in the summer are closer to 40 than they are to 30.

Cleveland traded for 36-year-old swingman Mike Dunleavy and signed 38-year-old Chris “Birdman” Andersen as a free agent. They’ll join a roster that already features four other thirty-somethings in LeBron James (31), Channing Frye (33), James Jones (35) and Richard Jefferson (36). If and when the Cavs come to a contract agreement with J.R. Smith (30), half of their roster will be on the wrong side of the big 3-0.

The Cavs are aware of the perception that’s out there but point to the fact that three of their top four players — outside of James — are young and in or entering their primes, in Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.

“You know, they talk about us being old and having an experienced team, but Kyrie’s young, Tristan is young, K-Love’s young, [Iman Shumpert] is young, so the core of our team and what we’re trying to do, they’re young,” said coach Tyronn Lue, ironically one of the league’s youngest head coaches at 39 years old. “Plus, LeBron has the body of a 19-year-old, so going forward I just don’t think our team is old. We do have to watch our minutes, and going forward we’ve got to have our health going into the playoffs.”

Cleveland actually got a little younger Monday when 33-year-old Mo Williams had a change of heart after announcing his intention to play one final season and instead chose to retire. His minutes at backup point guard will be occupied, most likely, by some combination of rookie Kay Felder (21), second-year vet Jordan McRae (25) or fourth-year guard DeAndre Liggins (28), who is a camp invitee on a partially-guaranteed deal, a team source told ESPN.com.

Cleveland could pursue another free agent on the market (35-year-old Kirk Hinrich, 30-year-old Mario Chalmers and 27-year-old Norris Cole have all been discussed internally, as first reported by Cleveland.com), but that is not necessarily the Cavs’ planned approach.

“We feel very comfortable with where we are at the point guard position, the versatility that we have to absorb that,” Cavs general manager David Griffin said. “We have other people that can guard the position. Because of LeBron, we have additional people that can also play the position offensively, and frankly we’re really excited about finding out what some of the younger players on our roster can do.

Now it’s up to new GM Bryan Colangelo to balance out the roster as the franchise looks to take the next step in its rebuilding efforts.

Even though he’s yet to suit up, Embiid’s fun-loving and affable personality has always been on full display. Just check out his social media accounts. After all, what other player has asked Kim Kardashian to slide into his DMs and arm-wrestled Justin Bieber?

It’s all part of the package that is Joel Embiid.

The process is about to be put to the test yet again. The Sixers and their fans have no choice but to trust it.

When it comes to this kid, you want to, even if it’s a risky proposition. Just listen to him talk.

“My coaches sometimes say I’m a little bit too competitive,” Embiid said. “But I want to win, and I feel like we should win every game. That’s all I care about — especially in this city where they’ve been looking for a team to win. I’m glad the Eagles are doing well, so I think it’s our turn.”

Michelle Obama tells Steph Curry to trash-talk President Obama next time they golf

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Tuesday with Michelle Obama to promote Drink Up, a campaign from the Partnership for a Healthier America that encourages drinking water.

Curry and President Barack Obama have become close golf buddies over the past couple of years, so Ellen DeGeneres asked Curry who the better golfer was between the two. Before he could answer, the First Lady interjected and said, “Stephen.”

O’Neal said he’s familiar with Simmons’ game because he attended LSU, O’Neal’s alma mater. O’Neal compared Simmons’ unique skill set and potential on-court impact to that of arguably the best player in the world: Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James.

“He’s a LeBron-type player,” O’Neal said Simmons, a 20-year-old forward. “What I mean by that, LeBron does a nice job of making everybody else around him better — passing the ball, doing the small things — and Ben is that type of player.”

Despite impressive averages of 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game — numbers not too far off of O’Neal’s collegiate production of 21.6 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists over three seasons at LSU — Simmons was criticized because LSU failed to meet preseason expectations and missed the NCAA tournament.

O’Neal said he views Simmons’ freshman season differently, though.

“He took a lot of flack (sic), especially at LSU with not really taking over games,” O’Neal said. “But he’s young. He’ll get to that.

“When it comes to other aspects of the game, he’s very, very intelligent. He plays the game very well.”

In 1996, then-Denver Nuggets player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf created controversy when he refused to stand for the anthem before games, saying the flag was a symbol of oppression in the nation, and that the U.S. had a long history of tyranny.

Daniel Murphy makes (game-ending) out against Mets

WASHINGTON — This just in: Daniel Murphy is human.

As good as the Washington Nationals’ second baseman has been in his first season in D.C. — and he arguably has been as good as anyone in baseball — he has been downright superhuman against the New York Mets. Entering Tuesday, Murphy was batting .412 with seven homers and 21 RBIs and had at least one hit in each and every game against his former team. As if that weren’t enough, he went out and collected two more hits in his first four at-bats Tuesday.

“I was trying to put it in play,” he said. “I was unsuccessful. I saw curveballs and fastballs.”

Murphy’s manager was a little more forthcoming.

“Blevins has been around a long time,” Dusty Baker said, trying not to act shocked that Mr. Met-killer came up short. “They know Murph as well as Murph knows them. It’s a situation where they got Murph tonight, but Murph’s gotten them many, many, many, many, many, many times.”

The Cubs had the bases loaded twice early in the game and failed to score both times. Kris Bryant struck out in the second inning after Cardinals manager Mike Matheny used a quick hook on lefty starter Jaime Garcia, replacing him with hard-throwing righty Alex Reyes. The move proved fruitful as Reyes threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings, though he walked six. Three of those walks loaded the bases again in the fourth, but Jorge Soler flied out.

“They did the right thing at the right time,” Fowler said of Cardinals pitching.

Why is this important, other than for determining where the Cubs will clinch the division? For the same reason it was important during their loss Saturday at Houston. One way for a great team to lose unexpectedly in the playoffs is to come up short with that one hit when it’s needed most, that one hit they got plenty of times in Games 1 through 162, but for whatever reason escapes them in October.

Using the past four games as an example, the Cubs missed on chances Saturday and lost 2-1, then came out and pounded the ball Sunday, winning 9-5. They did enough Monday at the plate to take a low-scoring affair 4-1 before losing one of those Tuesday. In a best-of-five series, that means a 2-2 tie.

One idea to speed up September games: Limit the number of relievers

On Friday, television cameras panned the San Francisco Giants’ bullpen, with the pitchers sitting shoulder to shoulder, seemingly struggling to find enough room for all of the bodies, and Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper mentioned that the Giants were carrying seven left-handed relievers. Now almost a week later, San Francisco’s bullpen is composed of 14 pitchers.

Umpire Jim Joyce, however, never saw the ball hit the bat and ruled it a wild pitch. He let play continue as Indians baserunners Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez circled the bases while Astros catcher Jason Castro argued with Joyce, who then called time after Lindor and Napoli had crossed home plate and while Ramirez was still running around the bases.

“I had a player discussing with me what had happened and he was emphatic about it,” Joyce told a pool reporter after the game. “I’m not going to let bases loaded, keep rolling. To use a little bit of common sense and some fair play on that one, I wanted to call time and figure out what had happened.”

Joyce then met with the rest of the umpiring crew, but he didn’t change the call. Hinch came out of the dugout to protest the call and was ejected.

“I went to each crew member and asked them the same thing,” Joyce said. “If any of them had it hitting the bat, I would have turned around and called a foul ball. My partners couldn’t help me on it.”

Said Hinch: “I think everybody in the ballpark saw the play the way it happened except for the four guys on the field.”

Even the Indians’ and Astros’ Twitter accounts seemed incredulous over the call.

How good pitching stymied the NL wild-card teams on Friday

To borrow a term that Joe Lunardi and others in the college basketball world regularly use, the five NL wild-card race bubble teams all lost on Friday night.

— Marty Callinan

Cardinals (lost to Reds, second NL wild card)

— Mark Simon

Mets (lost to Nationals, trail Cardinals by 2 games)

Rookie A.J. Cole held the Mets to one run in six innings to earn his first win in his fourth career major league start. Cole threw 67 percent strikes, his best rate in those four starts.

His 37 percent called-strike rate (also his best) was aided by a few strike calls on close pitches. A look at the strike probabilities of each pitch he threw indicated he got 3.7 called strikes above what an average pitcher would have gotten, the seventh-highest rate for a Nationals starter this season.

Cole had good offspeed stuff. The Mets were 0-for-7 (with two walks) against his slider and changeup.

— Mark Simon

Pirates (lost to Brewers, trail Cardinals by 2 1/2 games)

The Brewers used seven pitchers in a 1-0 win, something previously unheard of in major league history, but which has now happened three times in the last three seasons, per the Elias Sports Bureau. The Brewers have done it twice (the other instance against the Pirates in 2014). The Mets have done it once (in 2015 against the Nationals).

The Brewers got their fifth shutout of the season, their first since July 4. The common thread between the seven pitchers was that they finished hitters off. Pirates hitters were 1-for-14 with five strikeouts in two-strike situations.