Athletics

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.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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USATSI

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

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USATSI

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.