15-year-old with cancer inspires Giants to rout

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15-year-old with cancer inspires Giants to rout

From Comcast SportsNetEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Adam Merchant had a wish and a command for the New York Giants.The 15-year-old fan from Barre, Vt., attended practice and then Sunday's game with the Packers thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He wanted the Giants to snap their two-game slide and get out of their offensive funk.So he ordered the Giants to "play like world champions," and they delivered a 38-10 rout of the Green Bay Packers."That was the theme of our meetings," coach Tom Coughlin said.Eli Manning came back from the bye week with a rested arm, and that offensive slump was tossed aside. The Giants (7-4) said they turned things around for themselves, and for Merchant, who has cancer."They have one wish," Manning said after throwing for three scores to set a team record with 200 TD passes for his career. "It is sad when you think about it -- they have one wish, what you want to do, and he wanted to come to Giants practice ... and to a game."He said, Go show everybody you are the world champions and why you are the world champions and play that way.' Everybody got fired up and played the way we know we can."The Packers (7-4) certainly did not. The showcase game was decided early as the Giants outscored the Packers 31-10 in the opening half to end Green Bay's five-game winning streak. While New York took a two-game lead in the NFC East, Green Bay fell out of a tie with Chicago atop the NFC North.The Packers were missing such key starters as linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive back Charles Woodson and receiver Greg Jennings, and it showed. After being manhandled in last season's playoffs by the Giants, who went on to win the Super Bowl, the Packers weren't much more competitive this time. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times, including twice by Mathias Kiwanuka, who spent much of the game at defensive tackle rather than in his usual linebacker spot."When your quarterback is under pressure like that, it affected me tonight," coach Mike McCarthy said of his play-calling. "I probably didn't call the best game I've called. You have to protect your quarterback. It's your No. 1 responsibility. That's not what we're looking for."New York's balanced attack was guided by Manning, who had his first strong game in a month with 249 yards passing."I never thought my arm was tired, never felt like it," Manning said. "After a week off, you come back to practice, it felt good, alive, balls coming out with a little pop on it."After 10 weeks, it definitely needed a little rest."Coughlin knew Manning would return with some extra verve."There was no doubt he was going to come back and play well," Coughlin said. "I think the rest really helped him. ... Eli said he felt as if he was coming back for the start of the season. I was very confident he would come back and be Eli."Ahmad Bradshaw gained a combined 119 yards and scored a touchdown. He had the first big play of the night to begin the offensive onslaught.New York struck early with a brilliantly conceived screen pass to Bradshaw off a fake reverse to Victor Cruz. Bradshaw sped down the field before being caught at the Green Bay 2, a 59-yard pickup that led to Andre Brown's scoring run.Brown later broke his leg; Coughlin did not say which leg after the game."It will be a tough loss, he is an important player," Manning said.Green Bay didn't flinch, with Jordy Nelson getting behind Corey Webster in single coverage down the right sideline for a 61-yard TD reception from Rodgers.The scoring flurry went back in the Giants' favor -- and pretty much stayed there -- when Manning hit Rueben Randle in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard TD. It was the first score for the rookie and Manning's first touchdown throw in four games, and he set it up with, of all things, a scramble in which he laid his shoulder into Packers cornerback Tramon Williams for a 13-yard gain."It sparked our sideline," Coughlin said. "It would not be the recommended way. To see him do that kind of sent the message to the rest of our team: Whatever you have to do to succeed, do it."Webster's interception led to Lawrence Tynes' 43-yard field goal late in the first quarter for a 17-7 lead, and the Giants weren't nearly done. Manning's 9-yard connection with Cruz tied him for the club record with 199 TD passes, and after Osi Umenyiora's strip-sack of Rodgers was recovered by Jason Pierre-Paul at the Green Bay 23, Bradshaw scored from the 13.The 31 points were the most New York scored in a half all season and nearly equaled the 33 it scored in its two losses before the bye.And the Giants had more offense in them. Manning threw his 200th TD pass to move ahead of Phil Simms, a 13-yarder over the middle to Hakeem Nicks, who stretched the ball over the goal line as he was tackled."There was a different enthusiasm in practices," Manning said, "and I think that paid off in the game."It paid off for the Giants, and for their young fan."It kind of hit home," Justin Tuck said. "You got this kid that don't know us from James and watches us on TV every Sunday and it's so profound."NOTES; The Giants lost safety Kenny Phillips with a knee injury in the third quarter. He was making his first appearance since Week 4, when he was sidelined with a knee problem. ... Giants right tackle David Diehl sustained a stinger in the first half. ... Green Bay lost safety M.D. Jennings (rib), DE C.J. Wilson (knee), and RB Johnny White (concussion). ... Rodgers was 14 of 25 for 219 yards, one TD, one interception and one lost fumble.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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USATSI

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO -- Those following the Warriors and their effort to rage through the playoffs should put away those thoughts and hopes that Steve Kerr will return to full-time coaching later this week or sometime before the NBA Finals.

Forget about it, unless you know something he doesn’t.

And if you do, he wants to hear what you have to say.

Don’t get it wrong: Kerr wants to coach, would love to coach. That’s why, even as he feels like hell, he’s hanging around the team like a languid groupie. He wants to be with the Warriors in the heat of battle because they’re his team, within the culture he instilled, and he would like nothing more to get another chance to win The Finals.

But because the procedure he underwent more than two weeks ago at Duke Spine Center did not deliver the relief he’d hoped for, Kerr knows he’s not up to the task and, therefore, continues to operate as sort of a associate head coach to acting head coach Mike Brown.

“Mike is doing great,” Kerr told NBCSportsBayArea.com late Monday night, after the Warriors clinched a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with a 129-115 Game 4 win over the Spurs. “He’s such a wonderful human being. He’s so unselfish and team-oriented. I’m proud of him and the job he’s doing, along with the rest of the staff. I wish I could be out there with them. And maybe I will. I don’t know. We’ll see.

“He’s a great partner. And we’re in this together, obviously, but he’s got to make decisions with the staff without me. He’s done a great job of navigating the games. We’re undefeated, so he’s doing something right.”

Kerr can only help from the perimeter. The demands of the job require the coach be able to function at near-peak levels, particularly before and during a game, and he simply can’t. He knows there will be times, all too often, when the discomfort becomes unbearable to such a degree he hardly can think straight.

The agony is visible. The players see it. The staff sees it. Brown sees it, feels it and hears it. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of Kerr’s best friends -- as well as a good friend of Brown -- was able to see it during the Western Conference Finals.

“I've spoken with Steve and Mike; we're friends,” Popovich said two hours before Game 4. “We've known each other a long time. But as far as Steve's concerned, it's just a crap situation.

“You know, he's done a phenomenal job. And when you're going through that pain every day and that frustration of not being able to do what you want to do, it's hard to enjoy it at the fullest level. So I feel badly for him all the time but hopeful that stuff will get figured out.”

Nobody wants that more than Kerr, who has tried nearly everything any respectable specialist has recommended. So far, there has been no miracle.

So Kerr forges ahead, getting his Warriors fix by being around the group. By meeting with coaches and players. By meeting with general manager Bob Myers. Kerr was with the Warriors throughout their stay in San Antonio. He was at practices and shootarounds, sometimes on the floor and sometimes sitting in the stands observing from afar.

“I need to be around the guys,” he said. “I don’t want to miss this. Just being in the locker room, being able to talk to the guys means a lot to me. I’m thrilled for them. It’s fun to see how happy they are with three straight trips to The Finals. It’s pretty incredible.”

Kerr has been with the team for at least a few hours every day since May 10, less than a week after his procedure at Duke.

Kerr’s presence has been invaluable, both physically and psychologically, according to staff and players.

“Coach just empowers everybody,” Kevin Durant said. “His message is still the same. Even when he wasn't there in the Utah series, you could still feel his presence. That's what great leaders do.”

Participation, making himself feel useful, is one form of therapy that gives Kerr a semi-satisfying break from the misery.

“He watches film, and he watches the game,” Brown said. “So he gives his perspective from where he is. He gives insight on what we should be doing going forward, what he felt we could have done better, what we did that was good. So he just gives his input, mainly. He addresses the team every once in a while. He doesn't always do that, but he'll address the team from time to time.”

There was some belief that Kerr could return to full-time coaching within a week or so after the procedure, for which he declined to provide details. Warriors CEO Joe Lacob expressed hope Kerr might return “sooner rather than later.” Had it been as successful as Kerr and the doctors hoped, he would have.

That was May 5. Kerr announced he was stepping aside on April 23. As of Wednesday, he was been on leave for a full month.

Asked if he plans to travel during the NBA Finals, Kerr said he hopes so: “It’s like a month away,” he said, exaggerating the nine-day layoff.

He’d rather say with certainty that, yes, he will be accompanying the team because, after all, he’s the head coach.

And he will say that, the moment his body tells him it’s OK to do so.