Yi Jianlian on NBA re-entry: I think I’ll have no problem with that

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — So much unknown surrounds Yi Jianlian as the former lottery pick prepares to return to the NBA following a four-year absence.

It’s unclear exactly what the 7-footer’s role with the Los Angeles Lakers will be in first-year head coach Luke Walton’s new system.

“Oh, no question. I truly believe it will,” Oladipo said. “Because at the end of the day it’s a sport, and people are gonna be looking at some guys in the NBA to see what they’re gonna do as well. At the end of the day you just control what you can control, so your opinion is your opinion, that’s the beauty of the United States, so, do whatever you feel is best that will help you do whatever you believe.”

Kaepernick, a quarterback on the San Francisco 49ers, has drawn a great deal of attention for choosing to sit during the playing of the anthem in the 49ers’ second-to-last preseason game. After a storm of discussion and criticism for his initial action, he then chose to kneel in the final preseason game and the 49ers’ Week 1 game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Other players have chosen to join Kaepernick in his protest. Their gestures have included kneeling, linking arms with teammates and raising fists during the song.

Oladipo, who was acquired from the Orlando Magic in June, also was asked whether it’s something he had discussed with his teammates. While he said he has not, he expects to see at least a few NBA players with their own protests.

“A few people just in general I’ve had conversations with about that, I tell ’em the same thing, people’s beliefs are people’s beliefs, you know what I mean, you can only control so much, you can only control what you can control, and the most things you can control is yourself,” Oladipo said. “So whatever you believe, believe in to the utmost. But I think definitely, we’ll see a few guys in the NBA doing the same thing.”

Golden State Warriors MVP Stephen Curry said at the convention TechCrunch in San Francisco on Tuesday that he will “most likely stand” when the anthem is played.

Cancer patient uses Big Papi as inspiration to beat ‘Yankee’

BOSTON — After all these years and all those home runs — 536 and still counting, at least for another three weeks — everyone is well aware of David Ortiz’s power.

But what about the power of Big Papi?

More than ever, Geoff Blanck can attest to that.

Blanck, 45, grew up in Weston, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb where Ortiz coincidentally resides. He graduated from nearby Babson Business School and lives with his wife and two daughters in Waterbury, Vermont. Blanck is a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, old enough to have had his heart broken by Bucky Dent and to appreciate the significance of the 2004 World Series title while not taking 2007 and 2013 for granted.

Blanck isn’t out of the woods yet. Two weeks ago, his most recent scan revealed the tumor had decreased significantly in size but wasn’t completely eradicated, preventing doctors from declaring him cancer-free until at least his next scan in November.

But while there is no doubt that the Yankees are committed to Gregorius as their everyday shortstop, there is increasing evidence that they are less committed to Ellsbury, despite an onerous contract that will keep him on the Yankees’ payroll past his 37th birthday in 2020. (There is also a $21 million team option for 2021, but let’s not get silly here). How else to explain that Aaron Hicks, who is batting .213, has started 19 games in center field this season?

Syndergaard threw a modest 99 pitches, a sign that the Mets are seriously weighing bringing him back on standard rest Sunday against the Minnesota Twins, rather than using Thursday’s team day off after this series to give him extra rest.

Until the late drama, the storyline had been Noah Syndergaard seemingly emerging as the clear choice to handle a winner-take-all wild-card game for the Mets. Syndergaard allowed one run in seven innings and departed with a 3-1 lead. He now has a 1.06 ERA in his past five starts, which leads a staff that has been utilizing rookies Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman in the absence of heralded pitchers.

It was an interesting little twist to this important win that the two biggest hits — Ellsbury’s home run and another homer that immediately followed by Didi Gregorius — came from two players who were not in the starting lineup. Gregorius was out because of a rib injury suffered in a game Sunday, and Ellsbury was only in because Judge strained an oblique in the fourth inning Tuesday night.

From Jets to Mets: Why Amazin’s tossed a ‘Hail Mary’ to Tim Tebow

When Sandy Alderson initially was asked one month ago whether the New York Mets would consider signing Tim Tebow, the general manager joked: “Are you insinuating we need a Hail Mary at this point?”

Still, Alderson was intrigued by the novelty of Tebow. And the Mets ultimately announced the signing of the former Jets and Broncos quarterback to a minor league contract on Thursday. He will participate in the organization’s fall instructional league in Port St. Lucie, Florida, which runs Sept. 18 to Oct. 8.

Whether the 29-year-old Tebow, now an outfielder, reaches the big league club probably is immaterial to the organization. The opportunity alone for the Mets to plaster their brand everywhere as Tebow generates national attention for his baseball pursuit will be worthwhile to the team. And let’s just say the Mets should see a nice boost in attendance at their spring training facility as well if Tebow ultimately is assigned to a minor league affiliate the Mets own, such as the Class A Florida State League club based in Port St. Lucie.

After he exited Wednesday, fears were that Strasburg would need a second Tommy John surgery after having the procedure in 2010.

“It’s good to hear it wasn’t what everybody was speculating,” manager Dusty Baker said Thursday.

“Waiting on news is always nerve-racking. You should have been with me waiting on news that I had cancer … toughest part of my cancer was the three-month checkup, six-month checkup. Waiting on news is not very pleasant.”

Strasburg signed a seven-year extension worth $175 million in May. He had an MRI before inking that deal, and Lessard said Thursday that Strasburg’s elbow looks “basically the same” as it did then.

The Nationals entered Thursday night with an 8?-game lead over the Mets in the NL East.

Asked who will take Strasburg’s spot in the rotation, Baker said the team hadn’t decided yet.

“We have the personnel that we have,” he said. “You can’t count on somebody else coming in here. So we have to the best for the situation with what we have and then make a determination on who is to take his place now and possibly later or is it a better option to not have Stephen or do we not count Stephen out? Those are our options, and the Lord knows and can heal Stephen with the help of our trainers and doctors.”

Yet perhaps the teams aren’t to be differentiated by their strengths. As easy as it is to dwell on the positives, most good baseball teams have a lot of those things in common. It might be better to identify the weaknesses. The reasons why given teams might not be the last one standing. It’s important to see your own team for what it is. It’s important to see other teams for what they are. In the interest of keeping things well-rounded, I’ve tried to highlight the weakest meaningful area for every team still in the hunt.

Clayton Kershaw to pitch simulated game vs. Single-A hitters

DENVER — In the same setting and under similar circumstances, the Los Angeles Dodgers will conduct another simulated game for ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

With Cole out, the Pirates’ Opening Day rotation has been completely overhauled. Gone are Francisco Liriano and Jonathon Niese (traded) as well as Jeff Locke and Juan Nicasio (in the bullpen). In came veterans Ivan Nova (trade) and Ryan Vogelsong (bullpen, disabled list) alongside rookies Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Brault, Monday’s starter.

That group has actually pitched well lately despite Cole’s extended skid. Pittsburgh’s rotation ranks third in the NL with a 3.92 ERA since the All-Star break.

So subsequent Kershaw news has been released at a trickle. Water isn’t the only thing they are rationing in Southern California.

When could we see the NL’s best pitcher on the mound for the Dodgers again?

Taking into account the front office’s tendencies, Kershaw’s own competitiveness, and the Dodgers’ need for starting pitching, a possible timetable could go as follows:

SUNDAY OR MONDAY: Kershaw will pitch in at least one minor-league game with the first coming at Class A Rancho Cucamonga this weekend. The regular seasons in the three top levels of the minor leagues end Monday, so time is of the essence. Any Dodgers affiliate would like nothing better than to close out its season with a visit from a three-time Cy Young Award winner, but Kershaw’s objective won’t be to add to the promotion schedule — he will be trying to build up his pitch count in an outing to 60, while throwing four or five innings.

SEPT. 10 OR 11: There will be a decision to be made the second weekend of the month. Do the Dodgers go with one more minor-league outing for Kershaw, possibly with Rancho Cucamonga or Triple-A Oklahoma City, both of which would be in the playoffs at that time? Or do they trust Kershaw for a six-inning outing at Miami against the Marlins? Kershaw has talked about enjoying his time under manager Don Mattingly, but he should still have no qualms about hurting Mattingly’s wild-card chances with a strong outing at Marlins Park.

SEPT. 12: If the Dodgers are intent on taking it a little slower with Kershaw’s return, there is a chance one of baseball’s biggest names could make his major-league return on one of baseball’s biggest stages. The Dodgers open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 12, and what a spectacle it would be if Kershaw pitched in the series. The left-hander has never pitched in Yankee Stadium, a little detail that would heighten the experience even more – especially if the Yankees can keep their own playoff hopes afloat this long. Nothing like announcing your presence with a return in New York.

Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara eyes Labor Day return to bullpen

BOSTON — Given how the Boston Red Sox bullpen has labored for the past month, getting injured setup man Koji Uehara back by Labor Day would be a welcome development.

Indeed, when Uehara got injured, the Red Sox weren’t sure he would pitch again this season. Pectoral injuries are less common in pitchers than shoulder issues. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski recently noted that Detroit Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez missed the final month and a half of last season with a pectoral strain.

“I have learned more humility, for that I am grateful,” Puig said. “I am going to keep working so my teammates can see my situation and be able to give advice to other players about what has happened to me.”

Ichiro floated an opposite-field single off Mets right-hander Rafael Montero with two outs in the fourth inning of a scoreless game at Citi Field to match Boggs for 27th place with 3,010 hits. He notched hit No. 3,011 with two outs in the eighth and came home on Xavier Scruggs’ RBI double.

It’s been a year of milestones for Ichiro, who entered 2016 just 65 hits shy of 3,000. The veteran became the 30th player in MLB history to reach the benchmark on Aug. 7 with a triple at Colorado.

Next on the all-time list is Rafael Palmeiro, who is 26th with 3,020.

But Ichiro has been in a slump, going 1-for-18 in his last eight games before he reached in the fourth. He is getting more playing time in right field with Giancarlo Stanton on the disabled list with a Grade 3 left groin strain, as manager Don Mattingly has been going with Ichiro against right-handed starters and recently acquired Jeff Francoeur against lefties.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani was a member of the Gators’ pitching staff from 2009-11, so he was a freshman when Tebow led the university’s football team to a national title.

“It was great watching him,” DeSclafani said. “He’s a legend at that school, obviously. I heard he was really good at baseball before playing football at school. There are so many people that are against him and a lot who are for him. Personally, I’m for him. бн I think he’s a genuine guy that just wants to play sports.

John Wall: ‘We have a tendency to dislike each other on the court’

Familiarity doesn’t always breed friendship, and that’s something Washington Wizards stars John Wall and Bradley Beal are hoping to finally smooth over heading into this season.

“It’s tough because we’re both alphas,” Beal said. “It’s always tough when you have two guys who firmly believe in themselves, who will bet on themselves against anybody else, who want to be that guy. We both can be that guy.”

With Beal signing a five-year, $128 million max contract this offseason and Wall in the middle of an $80 million deal that runs through the 2018 season, the two still have time to get things on track in D.C.

Apparently even the sight of Durant’s last name is too much for Nazari. According to this article in The Oklahoman, the name of the city is actually pronounced Doo-Rant, unlike the Warriors forward’s last name.

As of 10:10 p.m. ET Thursday, the petition was just 45 supporters short of its goal of 1,000.

That is the mentality he took on over the summer with Spain, a team filled with proud veterans who take lesser roles when they get together in the summer to compete in the Olympics.

Rose has missed nearly 40 percent of his games since the start of the 2012-13 season, due primarily to multiple knee injuries, so his health will always be a concern. But the 27-year-old former MVP believes he has much more to offer.

“I feel like I’m not done,” said Rose, who will be a free agent next season and also changed his number to honor the late Chicago basketball star Benji Wilson. “It’s a new start. I feel rejuvenated, and when you put all that together, when I step on the floor, I really don’t know what to expect. What I’m doing right now is just preparing myself for something big. I think we have a chance to win every game, and in the league, that’s rare.”

The team goal is to rebound from a 41-41 season that saw the Wizards go from being a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference to missing out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season. New Washington coach Scott Brooks will be tasked with getting Wall, 25, and Beal, 23, on the same page.

“Here’s this grown man calling she’s never talked to, and she said, ‘Who’s this?'” Walton said. “And Elvin says, ‘Is Billy there?’ And my mom says, ‘I’m Billy’s mother. Who is this?’ And Elvin says, ‘Tell Billy, Big E is calling and we need him to open the gym tonight.’ I’m on the floor, and my mom puts her hand over the phone and says, ‘Billy, who is this guy Biggie? He sounds old. Is everything OK?’ I said, ‘Mom, that’s Big E! Give me the phone!’

“I was never so embarrassed in my life. Elvin and I are still close friends. All of those guys all still my friends to this very day.”

The Rockets relocated to Houston in 1971 when Walton was at UCLA, meaning San Diego lost two NBA teams in 13 years. That’s not counting the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors, who hoped to become contenders in 1973 by picking Walton in the underclassman portion of the draft and signing Wilt Chamberlain as a player-coach. The Los Angeles Lakers, however, still technically had Chamberlain under contract and sued to prevent him from ever playing for the Conquistadors. Walton, meanwhile, opted for the NBA after finishing his college career and being selected first overall by Portland in the 1974 draft. The Conquistadors were rebranded as the Sails in 1975 but folded 11 games into the season.

Former Indy nemesis Antonio Cromartie: ‘Love the irony’ of joining Colts

INDIANAPOLIS — New Indianapolis Colts cornerback Antonio Cromartie has a history with his new team.

Cromartie didn’t shy away from saying that he did not have a great 2015 season with the Jets. The four-time Pro Bowler said part of the reason behind his struggles was because he was dealing with a groin injury. Cromartie doesn’t have the same catch-up speed that he once has and he has a tendency to gamble too much.

“[He is] long, athletic, fast, [has] ball skills, [is] intelligent, smart [and] knows the game as well as anybody I’ve been around,” Pagano said.

Cromartie shot down the rumors that he was thinking about returning during the offseason. He said not signing with a team earlier in the offseason allowed his body to rest up.

“The reason I would agree with that is because of the situation you have with Vontae Davis and you already have a guy that understands the defense,” Cromartie said. “I think the pass rush is going to do a heck of a job with those guys being healthy. We just have to do our job on the back end and make sure we cover and help the front seven get sacks too.”

Everybody is so preoccupied with these quarterback-related questions surrounding the New York Jets (yes, I’m guilty of it, too) that we’ve ignored the main storyline, the most important purpose of the preseason:

Preparing the starting quarterback for the regular season.

Let’s not forget, Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t played a lot of football over the past few months. He missed the offseason (see: contract dispute) and played only 22 snaps in the first two preseason games. Even though that’s not an unusually low number, compared to other starters, it’s time to rev the engine and get into regular-season mode.

The Jets will go as far as Fitzpatrick takes them, so let’s put aside the secondary quarterback matters and focus on No. 1.

Clearly, the starting offense has a ways to go. It generated exactly zero points in three possessions last Friday night against the Washington Redskins. If the objective was to keep it vanilla and lull future opponents into a false sense of confidence, Fitzpatrick & Co. succeeded.

“It wasn’t as pretty as we would have liked it to be,” said Fitzpatrick, who has attempted only 13 passes [seven completions] in the preseason. “The good thing is, we still have a little bit of time to iron some things out. The bad thing is, we didn’t play as crisp or as clean as maybe we should have. It was a nice measuring stick for us. We’ve still got some work to do, obviously, and we have to continue to get better every day.”

Troymaine Pope goes from factory job to Seahawks’ backfield

But part of the preseason is about getting quality reps on film. If Pope doesn’t make the roster, maybe he has a chance for the practice squad — whether it’s with the Seahawks or another team.

“I really thought we saw some stuff in practice that showed us the special quickness that he has,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s very elusive. He has a good burst and a good sense. I went right back after watching him and the kind of yards he made in high school. He had some huge years in high school, and he had a really big year his senior year in college. He’s made a lot of touchdowns and scored a lot of points. It was exciting to see a young guy come through like that.”

The Kansas City Chiefs gave Pope a look in the spring but didn’t see enough from him to offer up a spot on the 90-man roster.

He was asked after Thursday’s game whether he’s had a chance to reflect on the last month of his life.

“I don’t want to look back on it,” Pope said. “I just want to continue to strive towards my dream. That’s all I’m going to continue to do is work towards my dream.”

Recent history shows that a four-man depth chart doesn’t equate to team success or help the development of young passers. According to Elias, six teams in the past 10 years opened with four quarterbacks, and only two of them made the playoffs: the 2007 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 2009 Jets.

Those six teams probably thought they were outsmarting everybody by keeping four, figuring it was a way to address short- and long-term needs, but guess what? Of the 18 backups on those six depth charts, only one developed into a legitimate starter: the Redskins’ Kirk Cousins.

The most famous example occurred in 2000, when the New England Patriots carried Drew Bledsoe, John Friesz, Michael Bishop and a sixth-round pick named Tom Brady. The team went 5-11, but the decision paid off in the long run, obviously. Don’t put too much stock in that situation, though. Brady was a million-to-1 shot, and he went from afterthought to icon.

That’s fantasy football. History tells us that the reality is closer to the old John Madden axiom. Paraphrasing Madden: If you have too many quarterbacks, you don’t have any.

“If I was in a training camp like this, I don’t know if I could’ve made it because they’re not hitting, they’re not jamming each other and stuff like that,” said Chrebet, a member of the Jets’ Ring of Honor.

At 5-foot-10 and 188 pounds, Chrebet was undersized, but he was strong and relied on his strength to gain separation. But you know what? A football player is a football player, and he could have played in any era. He has 7,300 receiving yards to prove it.