Andrew Bynum gets quite a welcome in Philly

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Andrew Bynum gets quite a welcome in Philly

From Comcast SportsNet
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- He heard the roar from hundreds of Philadelphia 76ers fans chanting "An-drew By-num! An-drew By-num!" the moment he stepped into the National Constitution Center. Andrew Bynum instantly felt at home in Philadelphia. He enjoyed his first days in the city so much, Bynum made it clear he wouldn't mind playing in that No. 33 Sixers jersey for more than a season. "My first experiences here have been so great," Bynum said, "I'm really leaning toward making this my home. With that proclamation, Sixers fans erupted. The superstar the organization and their fans craved since Allen Iverson split actually loved them back. Imagine the sounds he'll hear after some clutch fourth-quarter buckets over a deep playoff run. Wearing a Sixers T-shirt, Bynum made his first appearance Wednesday since he was acquired last week from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a four-team megadeal. Former Philadelphia All-Star Andre Iguodala landed in Denver and Orlando shipped Dwight Howard to the Lakers as part of the trades. The Sixers scrapped the usual ho-hum press conference and turned Bynum's arrival into a full-blown pep rally that included moving the location from their arena to just a few hundred feet away from the Liberty Bell. The event was open to the public and fans arrived early to greet Bynum and Jason Richardson -- and plunk down 30 bucks for some hot-off-the-presses Bynum T-shirts. "It makes me super-excited," said Bynum, who never stopped smiling. The Sixers have every reason to feel giddy over this deal and what this means for the long-term future of the franchise. For years, Philadelphia has been mired in the middle of the Eastern Conference, only busting out last season under new ownership to advance to the second round for the first time in nine years. But the glow of that achievement soon faded once management realized the team had maxed out with veterans Iguodala, Elton Brand, and Lou Williams. Iguodala was traded, Brand was amnestied and Williams was allowed to walk in free-agency, freeing up some needed dollars to make a move this big. Bynum is the All-Star, the franchise player, expected to soon help the Sixers win their first championship since 1983. Only 24, the New Jersey native won two championships with the Lakers. But in Los Angeles, the offense ran through Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Bynum is The Man for the Sixers. "Obviously, there's a lot of pressure," Bynum said. "I want to be ready for it." Consider this: Until last week, Kwame Brown was listed as Philadelphia's starting center. That's called an upgrade. But once the hoopla and "Beat L.A.!" chants quieted down, two questions loomed in the building that honors the U.S. Constitution: Would Bynum put his John Hancock on a possible-five year contract extension; and how will his achy knees respond to treatment next month in Germany? Bynum is set to make 16.1 million this season in the final year of his deal. If he waits until after the season, Bynum can sign a five-year deal worth nearly 102 million. No other team could offer Bynum as many years or as much money. "I enjoy Philly, I'm from here, I don't see anything wrong," Bynum said. "I don't see any problem why I wouldn't want to stay here." Bynum is set to have injections of plasma-rich platelets that supposedly stimulate healing in arthritis-affected areas in both of his knees. Bryant, his former teammate, has credited the therapy with dramatic improvement in his own troublesome right knees and an injured left ankle. Sixers president Rod Thorn said Bynum and his surgically repaired knees checked out fine after a lengthy physical on Tuesday. "You've got to take calculated risks sometimes," Thorn said. "Players of his level don't come on the market every day." Bynum is coming off his best NBA season after averaging career highs with 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds while making his first All-Star team, starting for the West. He was the NBA's third-leading rebounder and 20th-leading scorer, while also ranking sixth in the league with 1.93 blocked shots per game. Bynum also avoided the injuries that have dogged him throughout a seven-year career since the Lakers made the New Jersey high schooler the youngest player ever drafted in 2005. Bynum played in 60 of the Lakers' 66 regular-season games, missing four due to suspension. Ah yes, that suspension. Bynum may be the best center in the East, but he brings a touch of baggage that shouldered him with a reputation as being a handful, as well as a monster rebounder. He was busted three years ago partying at the Playboy Mansion posing with a girl on his shoulders during his rehab from a torn knee ligament. Bynum served a four-game suspension this season for his vicious fouls against J.J. Barea in the Lakers' final playoff game last spring. He's has declined to participate in certain team huddles, sitting down the bench by himself. He once slapped hands with opposing fans while taking a long time to leave the court after he was ejected from a game last season in Houston. "I think somewhere along the line, maybe he said a couple of immature things here and there, but everybody has," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "I'm sure he'd be the first one step up and say, Hey, I messed up.' The unfortunate thing in life, when you make a mistake like that, it's one video replay from living it again." The Sixers would prefer more replays of Bynum's 30-rebound game like he had last season against San Antonio. Except for some minor tinkering with the deep bench players, the Sixers should be finished with their roster overhaul. They added Bynum, Richardson, Brown, Royal Ivey, Dorell Wright and Nick Young to a team counting on returners Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young to help make that second-round exit the start of something big, not a one-season wonder. With one season left on his deal, Thorn is still calling the shots, even as the organization spent the summer interviewing general manager candidates. Thorn will remain with the team next season as a consultant and the Sixers would like to have a succession plan in place. "That will happen over the next year but it's going to depend on who we can to terms with and who's out there," owner Joshua Harris said. "There's nothing imminent right now. Rod's still the GM of the team." Thorn drafted Michael Jordan in Chicago. He's the executive who traded for Jason Kidd in New Jersey and turned the Nets into winners. His boldest move with the Sixers is his best one yet.

Instant Replay: Warriors overcome poor shooting, hold off 76ers

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AP

Instant Replay: Warriors overcome poor shooting, hold off 76ers

BOX SCORE

Despite struggling from 3-point distance for most of game, the Warriors managed to grind out a 119-108 victory over the 76ers Monday at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

All five starters scored in double figures, with Kevin Durant putting in a game-high 27 points to lead the way. Klay Thompson had 21 points, Stephen Curry 19, Zaza Pachulia 16 and Draymond Green 14.

Curry had the toughest night of all, shooting 7-of-23 from the field -- and 0-of-11 from deep, the worst such performance of his career. The Warriors as a team were 6-of-29 from deep.

The Warriors (50-9) shot 44.9 percent overall, only the third time this season they’ve been below 45 percent in back-to-back games. They shot 42.0 percent in beating Brooklyn last Saturday night.

Six players scored in double figures for the 76ers (22-37), with forward Dario Saric totaling a team-high 21 points.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Green and Pachulia share the honors, with Pachulia becoming an offensive force and Green being such a dynamo that even his turnovers couldn’t negate his positive impact.

Green’s line: 14 points (5-of-10 from the field, 1-of-3 from deep, 3-of-6 from the line), 11 assists, six rebounds and five steals. He played 37 minutes and finished plus-22.

Pachulia’s line: 16 points (5-of-5 from the field, 6-of-7 from the line), five rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. He played 19 minutes and finished plus-1.

TURNING POINT:
After a Robert Covington 3-point pulled Philadelphia within three, 59-56, with 11:19 left in the third quarter, the Warriors came back with a 10-0 run -- requiring only 79 seconds -- to go up 69-59 with 10:00 remaining.

The 76ers got no closer than seven over the remainder of the game.

INJURY UPDATE:
Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L hand contusion) was listed as probable and upgraded to available 90 minutes before tipoff. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.

76ers: G Jerryd Bayless (L wrist surgery), C Andrew Bogut (personal), C Joel Embiid (L knee contusion), F Ben Simmons (R foot fracture) and C/F Tiago Splitter (R calf strain) were listed as out.

WHAT’S NEXT:
The Warriors return to action Tuesday, when they visit Verizon Center to face the Washington Wizards. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Pacific.

2017 spring practice important for Cal, Stanford for different reasons

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AP

2017 spring practice important for Cal, Stanford for different reasons

It’s only February, but this week marks the beginning of the 2017 football season in the Bay Area. Spring practice has arrived.

Most schools now begin “spring” practice in the winter. In the Pac-12, for example, Oregon State began on February 17, Arizona on Feb. 18 and Colorado on Feb. 22. Stanford’s drills start this Tuesday, while Cal’s kick off on March 15.

Schools are limited to a total of 15 sessions, and safety concerns have led the NCAA to strongly recommend that only eight involve full-contact drills. Indeed, if you ask most head coaches what they hope to gain from spring ball, the first thing most of them say is, “I hope no one gets hurt.”

There’s more to it than that, of course. Typically, spring is the time teams look to fill spots lost to graduation, resolve competition for starting spots, move players to new positions, and evaluate redshirts and early-admit freshmen. It also can be a time to find a quarterback and install a new system, which is the case at Cal this spring.

In certain parts of the country, spring practice is a much bigger deal than it is here in the Bay Area. As longtime Texas sports information director Jones Ramsey used to say, “we only have two major sports at Texas—football and spring football.”

In the SEC and Big Ten, huge crowds are commonplace for the spring intra-squad game. Last year for example, Ohio State drew 100,129 fans to its spring game. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Penn State and Nebraska routinely draw 75,000 to 90,000. Cal and Stanford are thrilled if 3,000 fans show up.

Perhaps the most significant spring practice in the history of Bay Area football took place in 1968 at Stanford. Head coach John Ralston had been recruited from Utah State in 1963 to turn around a moribund program that had won 14 games in five years, low-lighted by an 0-10 record in 1960.

But Ralston’s run-oriented attack wasn’t producing the kind of results Athletic Director Chuck Taylor had hoped for when he hired him. Taylor, a member of Stanford’s 1941 Rose Bowl championship team that introduced the T-formation to college football, and coach of Stanford’s ‘52 Rose Bowl team that lived and died by the forward pass, made a not-so-gentle suggestion to Ralston after three middling seasons: throw the football.

So Ralston recruited a couple of local quarterbacks who could sling it—Jim Plunkett from San Jose’s James Lick High School and Don Bunce from Woodside—and announced that he would switch to a pro-style passing game for the ’68 season. Spring practice would serve as the test kitchen for Ralston’s new offense.

Back in those days I was a wet-behind-the-ears sports editor of the Stanford Daily. My timing was good, as I was fortunate enough to cover the ’68 spring practice and football season. In the spring game, Plunkett completed 22 of 39 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns to solidify his hold on the starting job.

That fall, Stanford opened with San Jose State and Plunkett made his debut by throwing for four touchdowns—including three bombs to quarterback-turned-wide receiver Gene Washington—in a 68-20 rout. No one who was in the stadium that day will ever forget it…it was the beginning of a new era in Stanford football and, in many ways, a new era in college football.

Two years later, Plunkett led Stanford to the conference title and an upset win over Ohio State’s team of the decade in the Rose Bowl. He also won the Heisman Trophy over Notre Dame’s Joe (don’t call me THEES-man) Theisman.

Bunce, the forgotten quarterback, backed up Plunkett for two years before red-shirting his senior year (1970) so he’d have the job to himself in 1971. All he did was win another Pac-8 championship and Rose Bowl.

This spring has the potential to be another important milestone for Stanford and Cal with a new coaching staff at one school and major holes to fill at both.

Cal: New coach Justin Wilcox and his team open spring ball on Wednesday, March 15. The Bears will have three open practices—Friday March 24 at 3:30, Saturday, April 8 at 11 a.m., and the spring game on Saturday, April 22, also at 11. The Pac-12 network will televise the spring game and admission is free. Cal’s March 24 practice will be preceded by “Pro Day” (also open to the public) at 10 a.m., when selected graduating players will work out before NFL scouts and coaches.

In addition to installing a new system and introducing a new coaching staff, Wilcox must find a replacement for record-setting quarterback Davis Webb (a key attraction on Pro Day). Wide receiver Chad Hansen, last season’s breakthrough star, returns to make the new QB’s job easier.

Stanford: The Cardinal divides spring practice into two sessions—February 28-March 12 and April 3-15, separated by a three-week break for dead week, finals and spring break. Four practices will be open to the public—Saturday, March 4 at 10 a.m., Sunday, March 12 at 11:45, Saturday, April 8 (time tbd), and the spring game on Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m., which also will be televised on Pac-12 network.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday, March 23 is open to the public at 11:15. The main attractions will be running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, both of whom are turning pro after their junior seasons. Unlike McCaffrey, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays.

Coach David Shaw has a quality replacement for McCaffrey in junior Bryce Love, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry during the season and broke two long plays in the bowl game. But he will have to replace Thomas, record-setting kicker Conrad Ukropina, and possibly quarterback Keller Chryst, who is rehabbing from knee surgery.

We’ll be back with a roundup after the conclusion of spring ball. In the meantime, let's hope both Cal and Stanford unearth a few nuggets and that no one gets injured.