Jeremy Lin to host hoops camp in China

673266.jpg

Jeremy Lin to host hoops camp in China

From Comcast SportsNet
BEIJING (AP) -- NBA star Jeremy Lin says he hopes to boost young players' enthusiasm for basketball at a four-day camp he plans to host this month in southern China. Lin said Thursday at a news conference in Beijing that he expected 80 kids to attend. His Asian heritage makes him a huge draw in the homeland of former Houston Rockets star Yao Ming. Lin says "I want every kid to leave the camp feeling like they had really fun time" and "they can't wait to go back home and continue to play." His visit to China is his first since emerging as an NBA star with the New York Knicks. He will move to Yao's former team next season on a three-year deal worth 25 million.

Mailbag: Should Sharks trade a d-man for scoring help?

hockey-generic.jpg

Mailbag: Should Sharks trade a d-man for scoring help?

Tuesday’s practice was canceled, as the Sharks boarded an afternoon charter flight to Los Angeles with the dads in tow for the annual fathers trip. That leaves us some extra time for a mailbag…

Why is no line set over halfway through the season? (Kevin Cocquyt @KevinCocquyt39)

The shuffling up of lines is one of those aspects of the game that I think gets overblown a bit. I can’t put a number on how many times Pete DeBoer has prefaced his reply to a question about the latest line changes with the phrase, “we’re not married to any lines…”

That said, I do think the preference would be to ice a more consistent top six at this point. The fact that they haven’t found a left wing to consistently skate on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski is concerning. On the second line, it remains to be seen if Kevin Labanc can stick with Logan Couture, or if he’ll start to fade a bit in his first NHL season. The other players that started the season on the second line, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker, have been moved all up and down the lineup all season long (more on that below).

Tomas Hertl’s absence has thrown a monkey wrench into all of this, of course. Assuming he gets back next month, there’s still plenty of time to get the lines sorted out for the playoff push. Regardless, though, they are almost always fluid, and keep in mind when DeBoer made a major change to his lines last playoff run – moving Patrick Marleau up to the second line and Chris Tierney to center the third line in the middle of the Nashville series – the Sharks finished off the Predators in the second round and went on to beat the Blues in the Western Conference Final.

So I guess my message here would be, don’t panic all that much at this point. It’s a long season.

Largest surprise and disappointment with the Sharks halfway through the season? There's a lot to pick from on both fronts. (Drew Cormier @DrewCormier)

I’ll give you one obvious and one maybe less obvious for both.

I’ll start with biggest surprise. It has to be Labanc. I know he tore up juniors last season, but this is still a kid who just turned 21 years old and wasn’t a high-round draft pick (sixth round, 2014). I knew the organization was high on him, and I even had him down as a dark horse player to make the team out of camp, but to come up so soon, and play regularly on a top scoring line and score seven goals – more than Donskoi, Boedker, Tierney, Joe Thornton and Joel Ward – is impressive, and, frankly, surprising.

One guy that’s gone under the radar a bit, though, is Brenden Dillon. The 26-year-old defenseman is simply faster and more mobile than he was last season, and he’s really made this defense corps one of the best in the NHL one-through-six. I know the numbers don’t show it, as Dillon has just four assists and a minus-five rating, but he’s a better player than he was last season.

As for disappointment, Boedker remains at the top of that list, even after his hat trick against the Oilers. He just doesn’t seem like the type of player that fits in with this forward group. At this point, I have to think there’s some buyer’s remorse there with Boedker owed $4 million a season through 2019-2020.

But another player that just hasn’t taken that next step so many thought he would is Donskoi. He was downright electrifying on some nights in the playoffs last season, and I thought this season we might see him get to 15-20 goals and 40-50 points. Instead, he’d be on pace for just 28 points in a full 82-game season. I thought he’d be better.

What do you think [Justin] Braun is worth? Can he be used as part of a deal for a top scoring forward? We need extra scoring. (Backhand Shelf @ChrisRivs)

I can understand the concern with the Sharks’ lack of scoring, and that many of their key forwards seem to be underperforming. Perhaps adding a little more scoring punch to their roster at the trade deadline is something that Doug Wilson will explore.

But, I don’t see any way this team will move one of its top four defensemen for a scoring forward. The strength and identity of this team this season has been its defensive structure and its ability to limit the opposition from getting shots and scoring chances in front of goalie Martin Jones. Moving Braun, or any of their other big minute defensemen, just wouldn’t make any sense.

I do, however, expect they’ll lose at least one of their current top six before next season, either through a trade or the expansion draft. That could very well be Braun, who might not get protected. In the meantime, though, they need him on the blue line.

Former Giants OF Gregor Blanco agrees to deal with NL West rival

Former Giants OF Gregor Blanco agrees to deal with NL West rival

After five seasons with the Giants, outfielder Gregor Blanco has a new home.

The veteran outfielder has agreed to a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to his agent Wilfredo Polidor.

The deal includes an invitation to spring training.

The deal includes a $1 million base salary if Blanco makes the major league roster, according to SB Nation's Chris Cotillo. Blanco has a chance to earn an addition $2.7 million in performance-based incentives and has an opt-out of April 1 in the deal.

Shortly after Polidor made the announcement, Blanco thanked the D'backs on Twitter for the bringing him to the organization.

"Thanks to the @Dbacks for let me part of a dream the same dream I got another ring another championship let's all dream together we can doit," Blanco wrote.

Blanco bounced around from Braves to the Royals from 2008 to 2010, but found a home with the Giants prior to the 2012 season.

Over five seasons with the Giants, Blanco appeared in 649 games. He hit .259/.338/.360 with 244 runs scored, 78 doubles, 24 triples, 19 home runs, 157 RBI and 75 stolen bases.