Monthly Archives: September 2016

Paul Pierce to return for 19th season, then retire

L.A. Clippers forward Paul Pierce announced Monday via The Players’ Tribune that he will return for his 19th season, then retire.

“This is it, my final season,” Pierce said. “It’s time to move on from the game of basketball. Just like any difficult decision, I think you’ve got to be at peace with yourself. I’m at peace with retiring, but I’ve got one more ride left. One more season. One more opportunity.”

Pierce, who turns 39 in October, said he felt uncertainty about coming back for 2016-17 because of the grind of another NBA offseason. But upon contemplating the Clippers’ first-round playoff loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, he said unfinished business pulled him back to Los Angeles for another title run.

“I think why not give it one more shot, especially the way we went out of the playoffs, the injuries,” Pierce said at Clippers media day Monday. “Obviously, you’ve got to be good, you’ve got to be lucky, but I just want to just give it one more shot.

“Like I said, to win a championship here for the Los Angeles Clippers would be monumental, and if I can be a part of that, that’s something I thought about, and that’s something that drove me from August, starting in August on.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers addressed Pierce’s decision to make this season his last as an NBA player.

“Paul has meant a lot to me, obviously,” said Rivers, who won an NBA title with Pierce in Boston in 2008. “When you win a title with someone, just like him and KG [Kevin Garnett] and the whole group, you’re connected with that person, those people for the rest of your lives, and you should be.”

In many ways, Erving was the original athlete-businessman for NBA players. His first deal with Converse was worth an unprecedented $20,000. Erving was also part of the first licensed video game “Dr. J vs Larry Bird,” which was released by Electronic Arts in 1983. As part of his endorsement, Erving took the option to purchase 20,000 shares of the company at $1 a share. He held on to it, which was eventually worth millions. He also was an investor in a Philadelphia-based Coca-Cola bottling plant for more than 20 years.

Erving, considered the father of the slam dunk, played for five years in the ABA with the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets before the merger with the NBA. He then played more than a decade with the Philadelphia 76ers, leading them to a title in 1983. Erving, whose number is retired by both the 76ers and the Nets, was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Earlier this month, Rivers said Pierce was on the fence about returning for another season but that he believed Pierce has something left in the tank.

Pierce played the first 15 seasons of his career in Boston, nine of them for Rivers.

Rivers recruited Pierce to Los Angeles last season as a veteran presence with knowledge of how to win an NBA championship, hoping he would be the final piece to push the Clippers over the top. But injuries to All-Stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul led to a first-round postseason exit.

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.