Month: August 2020
Clippers hope they can play to their capabilities, quell Mavericks’ momentum For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory Kristaps Porzingis ruled out as Clippers, Mavericks set for Game 5; Follow for game updates “He’s showing he can score at all three levels. He’s a guy who loves basketball, loves to work on his game, and he got a lot better this summer. He’s a good one for them, a big piece for now and moving forward, and he’s taking it full head of steam, for sure.”Donovan attributed much of Gilgeous-Alexander’s early success with OKC to the opportunities he had last season, when he started 73 of 82 regular-season games, averaged 10.8 points, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team.“Guys like him who get significant playing time as a rookie generally make a pretty good jump from their rookie year to their second year,” Donovan said. “They’ve got a body of work and experiences that they can reflect back upon to prepare themselves for the following year. They’ve kind of seen everything, they’ve traveled to every city, they know it back-to-backs are like, they know training camp, they have a better feel for it.“He obviously played really, really well last year and got really good, quality significant minutes for them, so I think he’s only gonna get better.”Gilgeous-Alexander concurred: “I apply something from last year every day.” “He’s got a huge ceiling to continue to get better,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s gonna have a lot of control of that because of, No. 1, how talented is and how good of a guy he is, but I think as he steps into this new situation, there’s a lot more responsibility.“As much as he probably worried last year being a rookie, ‘I’ve got to get myself ready to play,’ (now) he’s got to impact the group, he’s going to impact a group on offense, he’s got to impact the group on defense, he’s got to make people better … He’s went from a guy that probably was fifth or sixth or seven on the scouting report for the Clippers last year to a guy that’s probably one or two on a scouting report now, so he’s seeing defenses guard him a little bit differently in the past.“These are all learning opportunities for him to get better to continually grow and become the player he’s capable of.”And the fashion-conscious Gilgeous Alexander has looked good toting the extra burden: His 20.4 points per game are double what he was scoring last season and currently rank third among second-year players, behind only last season’s top two Rookie of the Year finishers, Luka Doncic (28.5) and Trae Young (26.6).“He’s been ballin’,” said Jerome Robinson, who the Clippers drafted 13th, two spots behind Gilgeous-Alexander, and who’s remained in regular contact with him, as have Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams.Related Articles What the Clippers are saying the day after Luka Doncic’s game-winner tied series, 2-2 But then the Clippers shook the NBA with the move that, yes, also floored Gilgeous-Alexander.“It was a whirlwind,” he said after practice Sunday at UCLA, where the Thunder were preparing for back-to-back games against the Clippers and Lakers. “Obviously not expecting it, then once I talked to the organization, head office, and all that stuff like that, I felt really comfortable and ready for a new opportunity.“I didn’t get much explanation. It was just, ‘It happened, sorry to let you go, but you gotta go,’” he added with a chuckle. “’All right, thank you.’”Now, following that deal that also sent Danilo Gallinari (19 points per game) and a record haul of draft picks to the Thunder, Gilgeous-Alexander finds himself playing alongside Chris Paul, another former Clipper point guard.And Gilgeous-Alexander, 21, has immediately begun living up to the lofty prospects ascribed to him, embracing a heightened level of responsibility in just his second NBA season. LOS ANGELES — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander expects trash-talking (“I won’t take it to heart, promise you that”) and hopes there won’t be boos (“I didn’t do nothing crazy while I was here”) when he takes the floor Monday as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.He said he’ll want to win “1,000 percent” — same as every game he plays. It’s just that this one is his first against the Clippers, who traded for him on NBA Draft Night in 2018, made him a rookie starter on a playoff-bound team and then included him in a blockbuster trade for Paul George this offseason.As exhilarating as George’s 70 points in his first 44 minutes as an active Clipper have been, and as impressive as his fellow newcomer Kawhi Leonard has been in fourth quarters he’s played, L.A.’s fans continue to feel a pang of regret about the team having relinquished the promising point guard to bring aboard the two superstars.Gilgeous-Alexander won over the fanbase with his smooth, savvy play, his composure and sky-high potential that promised to blossom in L.A. for seasons to come. Yea we miss you @shaiglalex #ClipperNation You have a long career ahead of you. So you never know what the future may hold. Just sayin. Lol https://t.co/32iRd6yKfI— Clip (@Clipperloyalty) November 17, 2019 Clippers vs. Mavericks Game 5 playoff updates from NBA beat reporters Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
“That spirit, that fight, whatever you want to do to try to help,” James said. “Even if you’re not shooting the ball good, being able to do things. You can always help in other ways, whether your voice or a defensive stop, or just your presence. That’s what’s fun about the game.”Much of the scene would have been difficult to explain to the NBA fans of a year ago: The digital walls of the arena projecting virtual fans in front of billowing black curtains; both teams kneeling together with referees during the national anthem in front of “BLACK LIVES MATTER” emblazoned on the court; jersey names replaced by slogans like “EQUALITY” and “HOW MANY MORE”; the legion of masked workers shuffling around a court with spaced-out seats instead of straight line team benches.But within the bounds of the court, a sense of normalcy took hold: the sneaker squeaks, the defensive call outs. And the familiarity — and fierce competitiveness — between the teams gave the game a comforting sense of gravitas.There were moments like Leonard, lining up hungrily against a defending James, waving off a screen to try to take him one-on-one. There was Green, drawing offensive fouls and popping back up from the court with a rakish grin as if he had just swiped the cookie jar clean. There was Pat Beverley, fresh out of quarantine, leaping wildly into the air while arguing to an official that he shouldn’t have been assessed a foul because, “It was all ball!”As lively as the action was, it lacked a definitive flow. The teams racked up a combined 57 fouls. Two early whistles kept Leonard on the bench for much of the first quarter as the Lakers built a 13-point lead, but the Clipper forward’s mechanical efficiency — and ability to get to the line — slowly erased that gap until the Lakers were looking at a double-digit deficit in the third quarter.The Clippers were boosted by Leonard’s consistency at the line and 3-point shooting driven by George and late arrival Patrick Beverley. But the biggest change, George thought, was that the team tried to do more dictating.“The game was a little out of hand to start off. But (the Lakers) were the aggressors,” George said. “They attacked us defensively. They pressured us.Second half we came out and I thought we attacked more.”Davis’ monstrous effort helped salvage the Lakers, as the forward got to the line more than anyone else in the game and went 16 for 17. By the end of the third quarter, Davis had 22 points more than anyone else on his own team.When James checked back in at the start of the fourth, he shelved his rusty jumper for playmaking, helping complete a 17-3 run that Davis started and setting the stage for another close finish that’s been common between these teams this year.The saga of the fourth battle of Los Angeles tells the story of 2020, a year of unpredictable upheaval and blunt force emotional trauma. The Lakers and Clippers were originally scheduled to play on Jan. 28, but the game was postponed after Kobe Bryant was one of nine who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. The game was rescheduled for April 9, but then was swept away with the rest of the NBA schedule when the league went on hiatus on March 11.The fact that the game was even played at all — 184 days after it was first scheduled — felt miraculous in retrospect.While the previous games played out in front of raucous Staples Center crowds, a bubble crowd of mere hundreds showed out. But rather than the cream of Los Angeles’ rich and famous in courtside seats, it was basketball’s elite: Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan and C.J. McCollum among them. It made sense: With sparse nightlife in the bubble, why not see the first official NBA games staged in four-and-a-half months?“The environment was great,” Doc Rivers said. “You could tell, both teams were into it. I thought the NBA did as much as they could with crowd noise and all that, but at the end of the day, it’s a competition and you could feel that out on the floor.”There’s plenty for each L.A. power to work out.The Clippers need their full strength, with Lou Williams in quarantine through at least the first two games and Montrezl Harrell still attending to a personal matter. Having two leading candidates for Sixth Man of the Year back in the fold to erase that margin must have passed through the mind of team owner Steve Ballmer, who watched from a higher vantage than normal with a sheet of plexiglass separating him from his team.The Dion Waiters experiment had strong early returns for the Lakers, with 11 points, second only to Kyle Kuzma’s 16 points off the bench. The duo helped spur the second unit and the 8 for 19 finish from behind the arc. But Frank Vogel said a lot has to get better before the Lakers are playoff ready.The intensity of the game was grounding and familiar — even if everything else wasn’t. Back in March after the third installment, Davis told reporters that the Clippers battles had been “the type of games you live for” and would shape up to be a great playoff series if it every comes down to the franchises meeting for the first time in postseason history. Now in July, in a season unlike any before it, Davis didn’t think all that much had changed.“It still felt like a game back in Staples,” he said. “Always physical, it was gritty. Guys who were getting after it, competing on both ends of the floor on both teams. And that’s what makes it fun.”Related Articles Anthony Davis (34 points) and Leonard (28 points) powered much of their teams’ respective efforts, while George (30 points) came on late. James was undoubtedly rusty, just 6 for 19, but late he contested baskets and a stalwart defensive effort made the difference in the key stretch at the finish.The final sequences reminded the basketball world why an all-L.A. series would be a Western Conference Finals dream.Under the two-minute mark, George knocked down a corner three on a dish from Leonard to narrow it to a one-point game. In response, James drove into the lane for a contested lay-up. George tied it up with a three over Danny Green, flexing with both arms.James answered again with two points off a putback, screaming for the foul but regaining the lead.James said last week that getting his competitive juices flowing was the thing he missed the most. Thursday night’s game was the kind of thing he had in mind. Photos: Lakers defeat Trail Blazers in Game 4 of first-round playoff series On Mamba Night, the Lakers make short work of Blazers to take 3-1 series lead LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — From the night this NBA season began, to the night it began again, the Lakers-Clippers has carried the feel of a heavyweight bout.In March, each team seemed trim, limber, ready to contend. After a hiatus unlike any in the sport’s history at four-and-a-half months long, the Lakers and Clippers felt ungainly and awkward with lurching stops and starts — two fighters not quite in their primes, still circling and feeling one another out.PreviousThe Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers wear Black Lives Matter shirts and kneel during the national anthem prior to an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma (0) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Amir Coffey (7) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) makes a shot against the Los Angeles Clippers during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsLos Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, top, looks to pass against Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Patterson (54) during the third quarter oof an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)Los Angeles Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, right, shoots against Los Angeles Clippers’ Reggie Jackson, left, during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) celebrates with his teammates after they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James stands on the court during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)Los Angeles Lakers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, right, collides with Los Angeles Clippers Reggie Jackson, left, during an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard looks to shoot against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ JR Smith (21) and Dwight Howard (39) look for a rebound against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) looks on during a break in play against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Clippers’ Marcus Morris Sr. (31) shoots against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers Anthony Davis (3) and LeBron James (23) high-five during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, slaps hands with a teammate prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) talks with Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard (2) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, second from left, wears a Black Lives Matter shirt and kneels with teammates during the national anthem prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Imagesvia AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakes’ Anthony Davis warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)A United States flag hangs above the court with Black Lives Matter written above the NBA logo at center court prior to an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James wears a Black Lives Matter shirt as he points up and kneels with teammates during the national anthem prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James wears a Black Lives Matter shirt as he takes to the court prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James takes to the court prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James takes to the court prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)A general view of the court with Black Lives Matter written above the NBA logo is seen at center court prior to an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)A general view of the court with Black Lives Matter written above the NBA logo is seen at center court prior to an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Clippers’ Joakim Noah warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Clippers’ Joakim Noah warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Players engage in warmups prior to an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ JR Smith warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, second from left, wears a Black Lives Matter shirt and kneels with teammates during the national anthem prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Imagesvia AP, Pool)The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers wear Black Lives Matter shirts and kneel during the national anthem prior to an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AP, Pool)Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma (0) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Amir Coffey (7) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)NextShow Caption1 of 32Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma (0) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers’ Amir Coffey (7) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)ExpandBut what LeBron James in particular lacked in finesse, he finished off a 103-101 Lakers win (50-14) with pure will, sliding in front of Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the same possession to force up an errant final shot.The 35-year-old Lakers star walked off cooly as the buzzer sounded, giving his Lakers a 2-2 season tie with their rivals in a season that’s taken longer than any other in NBA history. Video: What LeBron James said about Jacob Blake … ‘Black people in America are scared’ Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and other NBA stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Josh Harrison and Neil Walker had RBI singles off Brandon League, then Paul Maholm relieved League, only to see pinch hitter Gaby Sanchez greet him with an RBI double to left field, helping Pittsburgh defeat the Dodgers 6-3 in the opening game of a four-game series.League, who has mostly been effective this season, went two-thirds of an inning, allowing three runs on three hits and a walk.“I couldn’t buy myself a groundout tonight,” League said. “I’m not sure if my sinker was not sinking or if it was location, I’ll have to check out the video tomorrow.”Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he’s not concerned about League’s performance.“You have to look at his body of work this season, he’s been really good,” Mattingly said. “You have to allow him a hiccup now and again.” Yasiel Puig is gunning for Player of the Month honors, and at this point, is there really any doubt?Puig continued to electrify the home crowd on Thursday night during a matchup of Southern California-bred starting pitchers.The Dodgers’ Dan Haren continued to pitch well at Dodger Stadium and Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole became comfortable after a rocky start.Haren’s effort was wiped out when the Pirates scored three runs in the seventh inning off the Dodger bullpen. Puig, who went into the game leading the majors with a .406 average, .509 on-base percentage and .760 slugging percentage in May, went 2 for 4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored. He now leads the National League with 25 RBIs in May.Puig also made a sensational one-handed catch against the wall down the right-field line in the eighth inning. Puig has reached base safely in 30 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the major leagues. But Puig’s exploits were not enough.Cole, making his second major league appearance in Southern California and first at Dodger Stadium, settled down after the first two innings and retired 11 in a row before Puig led off the the sixth inning with a double and Hanley Ramirez singled him home to tie the score 3-3.The Dodgers jumped on Cole early. In the first inning, Andre Ethier delivered a one-out triple down the right-field line and Puig followed with bloop RBI double to right field, dunking the ball in between second baseman Neil Walker and right fielder Josh Harrison and failing to stop until he beat the throw to second. In the second inning, Justin Turner led off with a line-drive single just out of the reach of diving center fielder Andrew McCutchen. After a Tim Federowicz sacrifice bunt, Dee Gordon delivered an RBI single up the middle under the glove of diving shortstop Clint Barmes to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.Former Dodger Russell Martin hit a two-out, solo home run on a split-finger fastball left up in the zone by Haren in the sixth inning to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.“I’m really mad about that pitch,” Haren said. “Right as I let it go I knew. I was just hoping he’d foul it off.”Haren, a Bishop Amat High graduate and former Pepperdine star who has not lost at Dodger Stadium this season, went six innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and no walks with two strikeouts. League took the loss, so Haren still has not lost in five starts at Dodger Stadium this season.“I’ve been mediocre for a few starts now, I have to get back to how I was throwing earlier in the season,” Haren said. “I’ve got to get guys to swing and miss a little more. When that many balls are put into play, bad things are going to happen.”Cole went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts. Three Pittsburgh relievers kept the Dodgers off the scoreboard. Jason Grilli closed it out in the ninth.Barmes went 3 for 4 with two runs scored, Harrison went 2 for 5 with two RBIs and Walker went 2 for 5 with an RBI for Pittsburgh.The Dodgers’ nine-game home winning streak against the Pirates came to an end.
GLENDALE, Ariz. >> It was after 1 a.m. Tuesday in Guadalajara when Rob Segedin decided he could finally go to sleep. His wife and infant son had already clocked out, and Team Mexico had just beaten Team Venezuela, 11-9, in the World Baseball Classic.That meant Segedin and Team Italy were still alive in the WBC. They would play a do-or-die game against Mexico later in the day.“I woke up the next morning,” he said, “and we were playing Venezuela.”Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez did not sleep that night. Shortly after Mexico’s victory, WBC officials announced that a necessary but obscure tiebreaker scenario had been miscommunicated. Gonzalez, the first baseman for Team Mexico, couldn’t rest until he received a satisfactory explanation for why his team was suddenly eliminated, and Venezuela was moving on to play Italy in an elimination game.By Wednesday, Segedin, Gonzalez, Mexico pitcher Sergio Romo and Mexico outfielder Alex Verdugo were back in the Dodgers’ spring training clubhouse. Gonzalez was still angry. He told reporters that “it’s good to be the hell out of that tournament.” He vowed never to return.While most of the country was asleep early Tuesday morning, Mexican officials submitted a written appeal to the WBC. According to the tournament’s tiebreaker rules, when three teams finish with a 1-2 record in pool play, the two teams with the fewest runs allowed per defensive inning (including partial innings) play each other to determine who advances to Round 2. The third team is eliminated.Mexico, Italy and Venezuela all had 1-2 records by Tuesday morning. Based on the WBC’s calculation of runs allowed per defensive inning, Italy’s average was 1.05, Venezuela’s was 1.11 and Mexico’s was 1.12. That’s why Italy and Venezuela played Tuesday, and Mexico went home.So why all the confusion? In its first pool play game, Mexico allowed five runs to Italy in the ninth inning of a 10-9 loss. But because Mexico didn’t record an out in that “partial inning,” it pushed its runs allowed per defensive inning to 1.12. Gonzalez said he was present at an early-morning summit among officials from the MLB Players’ Association, Major League Baseball (which sanctions the WBC) and the Mexican baseball federation. The MLBPA representatives tried to mediate a solution between MLB and Team Mexico, he said.“They heard us,” Gonzalez said. “They were honest when they would say, ‘that’s not a valid argument’ with both sides.”Ultimately, Gonzalez accepted the WBC’s definition of a “partial inning.” He accepted that if Mexico had recorded a single out in the ninth inning against Italy, his team would still be playing. But he did not accept World Baseball Classic Inc.’s written statement Tuesday that “a number of media outlets, including the WBC’s social media accounts and the MLB Network, incorrectly reported that Team Mexico rather than Team Venezuela would play in the tiebreaker, which regrettably caused confusion.”Gonzalez said Mexico’s general manager reached out to WBC officials seven times before Monday’s game, either by phone or by text, to clarify how many runs they needed to score against Venezuela to advance. His GM never got an answer. MLB did not offer a response to that specific allegation.Segedin said there was similar confusion as Team Italy watched the Mexico-Venezuela game from its team hotel.“There were MLB Players reps there, WBC reps, Italian Federation people,” Segedin said. “A bunch of different people running and going through the rules on the WBC website, trying to interpret them, because there was a little vagueness as far as partial innings.”Gonzalez said if they had the correct tiebreaker information before the game, Mexico “would have played the game differently.” For WBC officials to blame media outlets struck him as unfair.“They’re trying to become the World Cup,” he said, “but they’re not even close to being the Little League World Series.”Kenley Jansen didn’t seem to mind the calamity. The Dodgers’ closer said Wednesday that he will pitch for The Netherlands in the WBC after all, two days after insisting he would not.“I was talking to (Netherlands outfielder) Jurickson Profar, talking to Bam Bam (Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens),” Jansen said. “Just why not, you know? It’s on my schedule, so why not?”Proximity helps. The Netherlands will play a WBC semifinal game Monday at Dodger Stadium. Jansen said he was scheduled to pitch an inning in Cactus League games Friday and Tuesday anyway.“Who knows where the championship round is going to play in the next Classic? I’m a Dodger,” Jansen said. “Playing for my country in Dodger Stadium, championship round — I get my locker, I get my bullpen, I get my music. I get my fans around me, my hometown fans. I think it’s a great thing to do.”Gonzalez has participated in every WBC since it was first held in 2006. Jansen, for one, doesn’t believe Gonzalez will walk away from the tournament for good.“I think he’s just a little upset right now that they didn’t make it,” Jansen said. “Adrian’s competitive. He’s going to be upset that he didn’t make it because he wants to win all the time. That’s Adrian. He might say no today; he might say yes in four years.“I might say yes today. That’s me.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
Invisible tickets?Invisible injuries?Invisible free agents?Baseball is changing in some important but imperceptible ways. As the 2018 season begins, here are 10 easy-to-miss trends worth your attention. If each of these players is simply waiting for a major-league job, every significant injury to a player at their position will thrust their name into someone’s imagination. If they’re lucky, maybe that someone will be a major league general manager.THE HEALTH OF MINOR LEAGUE PITCHERSMaking an Opening Day roster carries more honorary significance than practical significance. It’s only one day.For pitchers, though, the difference between starting the season in the minors or the majors means a bit more in 2018. Minor League Baseball imposed a 15-second pitch clock with no runners on base at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. The only affiliated league to experiment with a 15-second clock before, the Class-A Florida State League, saw a rise in pitcher disabled list stints. There’s reason to believe that isn’t a coincidence.It’s something to keep in mind if your favorite pitcher is suddenly unavailable for a call-up, or develops an injury only after being demoted to the minors.MOUND VISITSTo combat the ever-expanding pace of play, teams will be limited to six mound visits in nine-inning games this year. In spring training, that led to some misunderstandings. Players seem to think stealing signs will be easier if pitchers and catchers can’t meet to change them.In any event, veteran umpire Ted Barrett told ESPN in March that any remaining nuances with the mound-visit rule would be clarified by Opening Day. If umpires and managers are still sorting out their misunderstandings on the field, the pace of games definitely won’t pick up.NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF PHYSICAL TICKETSDodger Stadium is among the venues introducing a new ticket-taking technology, exclusive to iPhones and Apple Watches, that will someday make physical tickets look like 8-track players. Just scan the code on your device and you’re in.YOU WOULD THINK THAT WOULD LOWER OVERHEAD, BUT …… tickets aren’t getting cheaper, at least in Southern California. According to VividSeats.com, the median price of a Dodgers ticket rose 11 percent from 2017 to 2018, from $75 to $83. Angels tickets rose 20.9 percent, from $48 to $58.Looking to the secondary market? No help there. The average Dodgers ticket rose 16.5 percent to $92, according to TicketIQ.com.At least neither team won the World Series. The Houston Astros inflated ticket prices more sharply than any team over the winter, and now own baseball’s most expensive median ticket at $96.CONCUSSIONSBaseball’s concussion risk might be miniscule compared to football and hockey, but it’s demanding more attention than ever.Dale Scott didn’t umpire a game last year after April 14, when an errant foul ball left him with a concussion. He chose to retire at age 58. Yasmani Grandal and other major league catchers recently invested in Force3, a company that manufactures what they hope is a safer mask.FASTBALLS, OR THE LACK THEREOFPitchers have thrown fastballs at a declining rate since 2008, when pitch type was first reliably tracked. At one point in last year’s playoffs, Astros pitcher Lance McCullers threw 24 curveballs in a row. Why? It’s his best pitch.As more and more pitchers embrace this strategy – and eschew the conventional wisdom of “establishing the fastball” – there’s little reason to believe the trend will stop.THE YULI GURRIEL SUSPENSIONFive games without pay, effective later: that’s the suspension Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel received during last year’s World Series for making a gesture and uttering a phrase that many interpreted as racist. Yu Darvish, then with the Dodgers, quickly encouraged fans to forgive and move on.Gurriel’s suspension begins Thursday. He told reporters in January that he’s already completed the sensitivity training mandated by Commissioner Rob Manfred. Meanwhile, The Athletic reported that various advocacy groups have reached out to Manfred with their own concerns.In a perfect world, we won’t be writing about the incident after this week.THE LAST 3,000TH HIT FOR A WHILEA week from Friday, the Angels will give away an Albert Pujols figurine commemorating his countdown to 3,000 career hits. Pujols is healthy and sitting on 2,968 hits. It isn’t too ambitious to expect another 32.And hey, why not celebrate early? There won’t be many 3,000th hits in the years to come. After Pujols, Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who turns 35 in April and is under contract until 2023, is next with 2,636. Robinson Cano, 35 years old and the owner of 2,376 career hits, is third on the active list.It’s a dying milestone. Better celebrate it while we can. THE BASEBALLSESPN recently commissioned a USC professor, Meng Law, to put a batch of eight baseballs through a CT scanner. It was a blind study, so Law didn’t know the source of the baseballs.It turns out, four of the balls were bought off eBay after being used in the first half of the 2015 season (and authenticated by MLB). The other four were used in the 2017 season. All Law could tell was that half of the balls were significantly less dense than the other half.As you might have guessed, the 2017 baseballs were less dense. Other studies have supported the conclusion that the composition of balls changed in the second half of the 2015 season, which coincided with a rise in home runs. MLB is expected to complete a study of its own, in consultation with independent experts. There is no timetable for the announcement of the results.THE UNSIGNED FREE AGENTSIt makes no sense to pay attention to players who aren’t on the field. Then again, can you remember a year when a dozen similarly talented players in their early-to-mid-30s remained unemployed on Opening Day?The ranks of the jobless include Matt Holliday, Jose Bautista, Mark Reynolds, Melky Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Brandon Phillips, Seth Smith, Stephen Drew, Carlos Ruiz, Andre Ethier, Greg Holland, Joe Blanton, John Lackey, Ricky Nolasco and Scott Feldman. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
Things were bound to act like an Uncle Charlie Hough knuckleball, starting with the fact the game had a 90-minute rain delay, graphics that blocked the screen and comments that scrolled too fast to even read at times.In 2017, MLB and Facebook did a trial run, borrowing 20 games from local rights holders for a Friday national simulcast on the social media platform. Assured all would work well enough, Facebook decided it was worth bribing the MLB folks with a reported $35 million – about $1 mil in extra walking-around-money per team – to lock in a 25-game exclusive rights fee to have a weekday, otherwise non-descript contest taken away from two teams and put on its service.What could go stupid wrong with this?Strange bedfellowsFirst, many have recently dropped Facebook, fearing their information was being compromised. But for those who participated, Facebook was in a position to mine data from this MLB relationship and sell it off to third-party advertisers about where one was viewing a game, and what kind of comments were being made. Beautiful.Next, those who paid up to $120 a year for all out-of-market game access on MLB.tv were now told that, no, this one is now not part of that promise. Complain if you wish. Faced with a futuristic prospect of having Facebook, YouTube, Amazon and/or Twitter on board as a new revenue stream and distribution partner. Major League Baseball experienced a whole bunch of post-Easter egg all over its interface last week.Maybe not everyone was able to watch the entire hard-boiled humiliation. It’s a shell game that’s still buffering.We’re all for healthy competition when it comes to the traditional media platforms producing live games – it’s our expectation that someday sooner than later in your lifetime, you’ll experience a Super Bowl on some sort of service you know best nowadays as a way to order inflatable palm trees and sturdy tiki torches to decorate a patio for a summer luau without running to Costco.But in the first exclusive Facebook Watch episode Wednesday – a Phillies-Mets game from New York that would have otherwise gone unnoticed to the local TV markets as well as the MLB.tv out-of-market package – it got caught in the dragnet of a current tarnished, maybe-soon-outdated Internet social media company still trying to explain how millions of its customers had personal data improperly shared with political ads during the 2016 presidential election. Doug McIntyre did.The L.A.-based morning host of his own KABC-AM (790) news talk show, a Daily News columnist, and a home-grown Mets fan took to his Thursday morning program to amplify his disgust in the whole process.He even registered a complaint online at MLB.com, but the tone-deaf result was that MLB.tv agreed to credit his account for that lost game and then cancel the service – neither of which McIntyre demanded. He was then forced to go through another half-hour-plus process of re-registering.“Facebook has done nothing wrong in trying to grow its business with livestreaming,” McIntyre said. “Even though it was sloppy and the feed crashed, those things happen, and they’ll work on the technology.“The problem is that the MLB sold out their fans. Their slog is ‘every out-of-market game all season long.’ They violated the contract, and violated our trust in having a package that promised all out-of-market games. That’s the great frustration in all this. So week after week, another two teams’ fans will have the same issue, and there’ll be complaints, but not enough to make a large difference.“We live in bizarre times where people are now asking for government regulation on digital use, going against what the free market usually does to regulate itself.”As McIntyre also connected dots, this isn’t all that different from how the Dodgers, with the MLB’s blessing, have used fans as collateral damage in their distribution struggles. If enough people disconnected their DirecTV service in Southern California over the Dodgers/SportsNet LA issue over the past five years, parent company AT&T would have seen enough in a cost benefit analysis that its brand and customer base had been damaged. Neither things happened.So we continue to take one for the team, the league and the suspect social media platform, and slog forward.Who’s up next?The Dodgers, Angels and every MLB team go into each season knowing they could have as many as nine games lifted from their local schedule and taken by ESPN, Fox or TBS. That’s one thing. The exposure is pretty good, and the teams are compensated well.Games on Facebook are announced at the start of each month, so we know that only Milwaukee-St. Louis (April 11), Kansas City-Toronto (April 18) and Arizona-Philadelphia (April 26) are locked in for more fun and games.Yet those three national networks would probably fight harder to keep a Dodgers or Angels game for themselves at some point in this six-month season rather than have Facebook snatch it away, so the odds aren’t as likely that Southern Californians will suffer this layer of confusion and anxiety just witnessed by many in the Philly and N.Y. markets not prepared for this inconvenience.The Dodgers are one of seven teams, along with the Blue Jays, Pirates, Astros, Rockies, Orioles and Nationals, whose games are available on either an RSN or, when lucky enough, a national broadcast, so cord cutters don’t always do well surviving this situation.The other somewhat ironic part to this is some Dodgers followers have already figured out some end-arounds to the SportsNet LA access — Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) or a Virtual Private Network (VPN), watching on Chromecast or Roku, hiding their L.A. location from MLB.tv through Unlocator.com, which unblocks streaming services.But Facebook has also been a cyber-communal gathering spot for not-so-secret society of those who transmit their SportsNet LA feeds onto their FB accounts. It has created a group-watch experience, complete with commentary, that some rather enjoy.There is some merit to this way in which people are going to use Facebook and MLB feeds, one that behooves both companies to get ahead of it. But ultimately, if MLB thinks it is tapping into a younger demo by having a Facebook relationship, someone there must know that, while there are plenty in the 18-to-34 range among the 2.2 billion monthly active users, the average age skews at 40 and older.The numbers that came out of the Wednesday experiment also show there were 1.1 million engagements and 4.3 million views of at least three seconds, along with 68,000 comments. Not at all a threat to the main delivery of games over TV sets.As Michael Mulvihill, the Fox Sports guru of research, strategy and analytics, explained on Twitter on Thursday, the average length of a view on the Facebook game was just a little more than three minutes as people likely popped in and out.“The audience for Facebook’s game supports the idea that streaming is only a complement to TV for sports, not a replacement,” Mulvihill said. “When your audience is (more than) 90 percent lower than the lowest-rated broadcast game ever, that’s not much of a case for replacement.”Facebook released a statement Thursday that read in part: “We’re still in the early days of having live sports on Facebook Watch and are learning with every broadcast we have on the platform.”Tony Petitti, the deputy commissioner of business and media for the MLB, said earlier in the week to New York Newsday that “we are just trying to figure out ways to bring our content to as many platforms where fans aggregate as possible … Obviously it might be a little tricky, but we want to be respectful of our fans. There’s always going to be, when you test new things, a little bit of disruption.”As to how that disruption measures out, we’ll leave it for Cambridge Analytica to crunch the numbers for its Facebook friends.Measuring media mayhemWhat smokes* HBO’s presentation (Tuesday, 10 p.m.) of the documentary “Andre The Giant” comes primarily from the Bill Simmons Media Group and WWE, one of the original “30 for 30” pieces that Simmons had lobbied for almost 10 years ago when he was at ESPN. The narrative of André René Roussimoff, who died at 46 in 1993, was how a man 7-feet-4 and almost 500 pounds survived as an athlete and actor at a time when he really wasn’t in on the joke.* ESPN has a “SportsCenter All-Access” real-time look into “what it takes to create the iconic sports news and information program” on Tuesday at 7 p.m., following the Yankees-Red Sox telecast, and continuing until 9 p.m. Steve Levy and transplanted Fox Sports West guy Michael Eaves anchor with Elle Duncan and Marty Smith to go around the studios, control room and highlight-editing work spaces. Sounds slightly intriguing as much as it can be self-serving.What chokes* The L.A. market wasn’t much help in getting a viewership push behind Monday’s NCAA men’s basketball national championship game that featured a one-sided Villanova victory over Michigan. With the game on TBS predictably drawing fewer eyes than it would on CBS – it did an all-time low 10.3 overnight — L.A. came in at 8.0, 49th out of the 56 markets. L.A. was even less robust for Saturday’s Final Four, also on TBS, with a 5.7 rating (47th nationally).* As part of the new ESPN+ over-the-top, $4.95 service that ESPN will launch starting Thursday, a 15-episode “basketball analysis show” called “Detail,” created and hosted by Kobe Bryant, will be available through the NBA playoffs, the parties announced this week. Otherwise, the “exclusive content” for this on-demand platform for the redesigned EPSPN app isn’t all that impressive — limited live MLB, NHL, PGA, tennis, MLS and boxing events, but no NFL. There is also access to a documentary on the volatile life and times of former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight (who ESPN then decided to hire as a college hoops analyst), and the “30 for 30” doc library. If you want to be an “early adapter” to this service, knock yourself out. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco Jansen’s eponymous foundation plans to donate four more lockers to hospitalized children in the next year, with financial assistance from the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.Baseball, by comparison, offered Jansen few recent memories worth revisiting.Jansen derived no glory in ending Game 5 of the National League Division Series on the mound against the Washington Nationals. He had enjoyed a fine view from the bullpen as Clayton Kershaw surrendered a pair of home runs to tie the score in the eighth inning, and Joe Kelly allowed a go-ahead grand slam in the 10th, of the Dodgers’ season-ending 7-3 loss. The question of why the most decorated closer in franchise history was not on the mound for any critical late-inning moments cast a shadow over the team’s latest postseason exit.“I’m always on the same page with Doc,” Jansen said of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “You can question this game. It’s a what-if game. If they had put me in earlier and something would have happened – there’s always a what-if. I’m ready to (pitch) any time. Understanding that he wanted to lengthen that game knowing there’s no one behind me. … It didn’t work out. Like I say, we win together, we lose together.“As long as I can play in this game, hopefully Doc can be my manager. That’s how awesome, a great man, energetic, the positive mindset, what he built in the clubhouse – it wasn’t like this before he came here.” Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire The Dodgers’ World Series loss to the Houston Astros in 2017 has invited deeper questions than usual.A series of recent reports in The Athletic cited pitcher Mike Fiers among four “people who were with the Astros” in 2017 who said the team illegally stole signs during the season.Stealing signs without the use of electronics isn’t outlawed by Major League Baseball. However, the former Astros allege the team used a television monitor in the hallway leading to the home dugout at Minute Maid Park to decode opposing catchers’ signals in real time. By banging on a trash can, an audio signal relayed the coming pitch to Astros hitters. MLB is investigating the allegation.Any Dodger would be justified feeling embittered by the seven-game World Series loss. Jansen said he’s ready to move forward, and let the Astros take their punishment.Related Articles Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start LOS ANGELES — Dodgers pitcher Kenley Jansen had little interest in thinking about the past Tuesday, except as it concerned his son, Kaden.A bacterial infection sent Kaden Jansen, who was 2 years old at the time, to a hospital in 2017.“We went to New York for Christmas,” the pitcher said. “You plan all this great stuff that you have to do out there and the reality is our kid got sick. High fever. Spent some days in the hospital. I remember that we didn’t have any toys, nothing.”Flash forward a couple of years. Jansen donated two 4-foot tall lockers full of iPads, video games and stuffed animals to the Ronald Reagan Medical Center at UCLA. It was a welcome distraction for a handful of kids Tuesday afternoon, one that Jansen was happy to pay forward. “It’s baseball, man. They’ve still got to hit it,” Jansen said. “Teams try everything. It’s time for Major League to control that part. Put a blurry sign where fans aren’t going to see (the catcher’s fingers). If some teams cheated about that and they have to pay a big fine, or someone’s going to be banned forever or lose their job, they can’t be in this game.”Jansen finished the 2019 regular season with a 3.71 earned-run average, a career high. Jansen’s eight blown saves were also his most ever. That – more than ceding critical Game 5 innings to Kershaw and Kelly – seems to be motivating Jansen’s offseason training.“I probably will get my mind back to baseball at some point,” he said. “I’ll be working hard this offseason going three times a week to Dodger Stadium, to continue to become a better pitcher, to get back to where I used to be.”
Other than Jordan Hill posting 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting on surprisingly effective mid-range jumpers, no other Laker shot above 50 percent. The most egregious offenders included Nick Young (20 points on 5-of-18 shooting), Jodie Meeks (13 points on 4-of-11 shooting) and Wesley Johnson (0-of-7 shooting). It added up to the Lakers setting a season-low in points, shattering their record when they posted only 85 points Nov. 8 against New Orleans.The Lakers’ 24 turnovers also matched a season high, and mostly reflected their lacking point guard depth. Kendall Marshall’s three points on one shot attempt and four turnovers in five minutes hardly offered much promise in his first game since joining the Lakers two days ago. The ball handling didn’t fare much better for Young (four turnovers), Meeks (four) and Henry (three). “We made some careless passes, myself included,” Meeks said. “Guys got to get used to running the point guard spot, including myself, Xavier, and Kendall.” All those elements snapped the Lakers’ two-game winning streak and halted the temporary elation they could tread above water without their star players. After holding the Warriors (15-13) to 34-percent shooting in the first half, Golden State broke open with a 22-point lead they never relinquished. Golden State also poured it on when forward Marreese Speights picked up a flagrant foul type 2 and an automatic ejection after wrapping his hands around Young as he drove to the basket with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter. By that point the Lakers trailed 83-65.“I knew if I got ejected, we’d head to Phoenix (on Monday) with just another person out,” Young said. “I had to think about a lot in a quick moment, but I still kept cool. I’m glad my teammates came to help me.”As the Lakers have shown all season, their fortunes can change. But they’ll have to do so knowing they have a depleted cast once again. Hence, why it should hardly surprise many that the Lakers’ 102-83 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday at Oracle Arena contrasted to when the Lakers unseated Minnesota the night before despite missing three point guards and Kobe Bryant?Pau Gasol couldn’t even leave his hotel room because of a respiratory issue, an illness that plagued him earlier this season but not enough to keep him out of the starting lineup for the first 26 games. That forced the Lakers (13-14) to field their 12th different starting lineup featuring seldom-used Chris Kaman and a player named Xavier Henry whose recent stretch at point guard marked the first time he manned the position since playing AAU basketball. “We ran out of gas,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We tried to battle. But we ran out of energy. We’re not going to be smooth. There’s no way. We have 15 point guards out.”The Lakers actually have four, but the point well taken. Kobe Bryant (fractured left leg), Steve Nash (nerve issues in back), Steve Blake (hyperextended right elbow) and Jordan Farmar (strained left hamstring) all remained sidelined. Add in Gasol’s absence, and the Lakers lost a combined 45.39 points those players collectively average. In related news: Lakers shot 26 of 80 from the field (32.5 percent).“Those players definitely make it easier for the other players,” said Kaman, whose 17 rebounds was offset with 10 points on a 5-of-17 clip. “But our offense works consistently with guys who aren’t playmakers if we move the ball. We didn’t move the ball very well. When we did, guys had a lot of open looks and they just didn’t make them.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error OAKLAND — Here’s the good news about the Lakers:They’ll never take nights off. They boast the versatility, work ethic and teamwork on a roster that represents a sum greater than its parts. They even can feature a role player ascending toward a career night.Here’s the bad news about the Lakers:They’re not talented enough to do that on a consistent basis.
It didn’t take long for Johnny Manziel to find himself back on the football field.Just one week after signing with the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football, the controversial quarterback made his league debut Sunday against the Birmingham Iron. HERE’S JOHNNY. @JManziel2 now under center for the @aafexpress on @nflnetwork 📺. pic.twitter.com/0FWDaDh5BE— The Alliance (@TheAAF) March 25, 2019Manziel was under center for three drives in the second and third quarters of Memphis’ 31-25 comeback overtime win over Birmingham, finishing 3 of 5 with 48 passing yards, 20 rushing yards, one sack and a failed two-point attempt. Johnny Manziel’s first completion as a member of the Express.#BHMvsMEM | #AllAboard pic.twitter.com/S017L3PHm5— Memphis Express (@aafexpress) March 25, 2019The 26-year-old was cut late last month by the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL for violating his contract but promised he’s ready to make the most of his latest opportunity.”I guess I’ve just changed the way I used to live life,” Manziel told reporters last week. “I got immersed and lost in a bunch of things that only gave me temporary happiness. (Now), I started focusing on things I really care about: family, football, trying to better my life and have a routine that makes things work, and not one that makes things break like they did a couple years ago.”When asked if he eventually wants to find his way back into the NFL, he responded: “Absolutely. Without a doubt.”
The group Calvin Kattar trains with is not officially known as the “New England MMA Syndicate,” but I’ll be damned if that isn’t a terrific name for the collection of talent from in and around Massachusetts that get together and train. If this catches on, I want royalties … or at least a shout out for creating the name.Anyway…Kattar is one of those guys no one thinks about when listing the dangerous, emerging threats in the featherweight division because he’s a quiet, unassuming guy who simply goes out there, handles his business and slides back into the shadows. A perfect illustration of this is that while he’s stationed at No. 15 in the latest UFC Fighter Rankings update (I know, I know), Shane Burgos is positioned at No. 13.Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearKattar stopped Burgos 18 months ago at UFC 220 and while “Hurricane Shane” has responded with consecutive victories, including a split decision triumph over Cub Swanson at the start of last month in Ottawa, the 31-year-old from Methuen, Massachusetts has gone 1-1, dropping a decision to Renato Moicano, who sits at No. 5 in the rankings, before finishing Chris Fishgold in the first round of their meeting last October.I know rankings are subjective and flawed, but Kattar being positioned behind Burgos despite a head-to-head victory is part of what leads to guys like Kattar being overlooked and dismissed, even though he’s very much an intriguing name in the loaded 145-pound weight class.All of that could change after this weekend, of course, as Kattar will step in the cage against former title challenger and divisional stalwart Ricardo Lamas in the first of four preliminary card bouts set to air on ESPN.Although he’s just 4-4 over his last eight fights, Lamas remains a crucial cog in the featherweight machine; the kind of guy you have to beat in order to ascend to the next level of competition and establish yourself as a true factor in the division.And Kattar has the tools to be a factor.Standing five-foot-11, he has good height and a strong frame for the division, and while his reach isn’t anything special (72 inches), Kattar does a very good job of working behind a long, clean jab, making people pay for staying at range and using it to set up all the other aspects of his game.If you go back and watch his fight with Burgos, which was close through two rounds before Kattar turned up the intensity and put him away in the third, you’ll see it was the constant pressure of that jab in Burgos’ face that eventually created the opportunity for “The Boston Finisher” to crash forward and get the finish.Continuing to work alongside guys like Rob Font and Joe Lauzon is only going to help him sharpen those weapons even further, as both are polished boxers with a good understanding of the importance of a quality jab.To me, Kattar feels like one of those guys who is going to slowly and steadily work his way into the Top 10 and take up residence there for a couple years, turning back hopefuls and toppling veterans while giving the best of the best a run for their money. He was neck-and-neck with Moicano for most of their clash at UFC 223 and if that’s your only loss to date in the UFC, that’s pretty darn good.He’s like a featherweight version of Al Iaquinta — tough as nails, pretty good everywhere, but not great in any one particular realm. He’s just a well-rounded, quality competitor who has already shown an ability to thrive against solid competition in one of the most talent-rich divisions in the UFC and there is no reason to believe that will change any time soon. Beating Lamas this weekend in Chicago isn’t going to vault him into title contention or even really generate a great deal of buzz because (a) people don’t appreciate how good Lamas is either, (b) there are much bigger matchups on the card that will rightfully garner more attention and (c) there are other upstarts in the division who are much closer to being in the mix, but none of that means Kattar should be completely cast aside and forgotten about for the next several months.A win on Saturday would push his record to 4-1 in the Octagon and should be enough to carry him into a matchup with the winner of one of the other quality featherweight fights currently on the schedule. A fight with another veteran name (Jeremy Stephens?) would work as well.I know this fight isn’t sexy and there isn’t really anything that jumps off the screen about what Kattar does inside the cage. However, we just got finished talking about the importance of victories in the wake of Elias Theodorou’s release, so here’s a guy with a quality record, working his way up the ladder in one of the deepest divisions in the sport, poised for another stern test.That’s the kind of guy that everyone should be paying attention to and eager to see more from, so hopefully this gets you a little more amped up to see what Kattar brings to the table this weekend at UFC 238. Prior to every event, Under the Radar will cast the spotlight on an up-and-coming talent who shows the potential for growth in his or her division and isn’t getting enough attention as they head into battle.Name: Calvin KattarRecord: 19-3 overall; 3-1 UFCDivision: FeatherweightTeam: New England MMA Syndicate