Say hello to America's newest Olympic treasure

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Say hello to America's newest Olympic treasure

From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- Gabby Douglas believed two years ago, when she convinced her mother to let her move halfway across the country. Martha Karolyi became a convert over the winter, when the bubbly teenager with the electric smile developed the tenacity required to be a champion. Under the brightest lights, on the biggest stage, that belief shattered a glass ceiling. Even if the first African-American to win an Olympic all-around title didn't quite realize it. "I kind of forgot about that," Douglas said with a laugh. Don't worry, Gabby, the world is going to have fun reminding you. Douglas soared her way into history Thursday night, leading the whole way to climb a mountain paved by Ron Galimore, Dominique Dawes and a handful of others who showed the sport isn't just for the white or the privileged. "How inspiring is that?" said Natalie Hawkins, the woman who allowed her then 14-year-old "baby" daughter to move from Virginia to Iowa in 2010 after Douglas convinced her that she was good enough to compete at the top. She didn't have to wait long to find out. Douglas was still trying to get used to the feeling of having her second gold medal in three days around her neck when Oprah chimed in. "OMG I'm so THRILLED for Gabby. Flowing happy tears!!" Winfrey posted on Twitter. Karolyi, the U.S. women's team coordinator called it "history made" while Liang Chow, the coach who channeled Douglas' precocious talent, believes his star pupil is "ready to move onto higher things." She certainly looked like it on a flawless night in which Douglas grabbed the gold during her first event and never let silver medalist Viktoria Komova of Russia come close to wrenching it from her hands. Explosive on vault and exquisite on uneven bars, Douglas never trailed. Though she sealed the third straight women's all-around title for an American with a floor routine that delighted the O2 Arena crowd, it was her pretty set on beam that provided the difference. The event is a 90-second test of nerves, a twisting, turning ballet on a 4-inch slab of wood 4 feet off the ground. And for months, Douglas struggled to find a rhythm on it. She led the national championships after the first day, only to hop off the beam moments into her first rotation of the finals, opening the door for world champion and friendly rival Jordyn Wieber to claim the title. Wieber watched the Olympic finals from 20 rows up in the stands with the rest of Team USA after failing to make it out of qualifying. Teammate Aly Raisman never really recovered from a workmanlike set on bars and an uncharacteristic wobble on beam. Raisman ended up tying with Russia's Aliya Mustafina for third, but the steely Russian earned the bronze on a tiebreaker, a wrenching setback for the American captain, an integral part of the group that won the first U.S. team gold in 16 years on Tuesday. There were no such technicalities involved with Douglas, not even on the beam. She dazzled with a sparkling 15.5, never wavering, never wobbling, never losing focus. This was the same girl who was so out of sorts when the team arrived in London a couple of weeks ago that Karolyi ordered Chow to give her a little pep talk? Chow's message that day wasn't complicated. He urged Douglas to ignore the pain in her leg from a minor muscle strain and get down to business. "He just said that everyone has pain, so just go out there and you know, why are you focused on that?" Douglas said. "He said, 'You're at the Olympics, and put that behind you, and, if you don't push it now you don't have a chance, you'll regret it.'" She didn't. Not after winning her mother over with the idea her future lay in Iowa with Chow instead of her family's home in Virginia Beach. Not after those long days in the gym when she would ask herself, "Why do I have to do this?" only to go and do it anyway. And not after a little boost from Karolyi. The legendary coach made Douglas a surprising choice for the American Cup in New York in March. At the time, Karolyi said she just wanted Douglas to get some needed experience against a talented field. But she knew. She'd known for months. She'd seen it during the training camps at the Karolyi Ranch north of Houston, where Douglas started to showcase the world-class talent Chow had spent a year unlocking. Douglas went and won the whole thing that day at Madison Square Garden as an alternate, the asterisk next to her name officially making her ineligible for the title actually won by Wieber. Still, the message had been sent. Douglas was ready. "I foresee it," Karolyi said. "She charged every single competition she did better and better." By then, Douglas' mom was won over. She raised four kids largely on her own, and tearfully made the decision to let her youngest train with Chow. She doubted herself but looked at the list of "pros" and "cons" her eldest daughter wrote up, and understood go she had to let go. Just a little. Even if it hurt. "I must have lost my marbles," Hawkins said. "But she wanted this more than anything." And Douglas worked like it. Chow believes she just needed time to grow up. She's just 16. Funny, she certainly looked all grown up on Thursday night. On a night that would turn most girls her age to tears, Douglas smiled. She laughed. She acted as if she expected to be here all along. "She demonstrated she is an Olympic champion," Chow said. One that could have a major influence on her sport. Unlike some of her peers, Douglas looks like she's having fun out there. There is no drama when she competes, just joy. She has an energy that will make advertising executives swoon and likely turn her into a millionaire in the near future. But this was never about money. It wasn't even about breaking down barriers. It was simply about challenging herself. She never doubted she could be the best. Even when she was the only one who thought so. "I wanted to seize the moment," she said. History was just a bonus.

Plouffe will push Healy away from third base, but not combative situation

Plouffe will push Healy away from third base, but not combative situation

Trevor Plouffe and Ryon Healy have some history to fall back on before they even start playing together as A’s teammates.

No doubt, their futures are intertwined as well.

Plouffe officially joined Oakland on Wednesday when the team announced his one-year deal that’s worth $5.25 million, plus incentives based on various numbers of plate appearances. General manager David Forst said on a media conference call that he envisions Plouffe as the primary third baseman. That means Healy — coming off an impressive rookie campaign at third — will see the majority of his innings at first base and designated hitter.

Plouffe and Healy grew up in Southern California and both went to Crespi Carmelite High School, though Plouffe, 30, is five years older. But it wasn’t until this winter that they’ve gotten to know each other better, as the rainfall in Southern California drew them both to the same indoor training facility.

They played for the same high school coach, Scott Muckey, which is how Plouffe first heard of Healy.

“I remember hearing about him when he was in high school,” Plouffe said Wednesday. (Muckey) told me about Healy and the kind of player he was. He didn’t give players a lot of credit, so when he did, I took notice.”

Healy works out in the offseason at the Hit Factory in Newberry Park. Earlier this winter, Plouffe popped in with Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.

“It’s kind of coming full circle,” Healy said. “We never thought, being (five) years apart, that we would be teammates. We haven’t had (much of a) prior relationship, but he’s always reached out to me when appropriate. I’ve heard nothing but nice things about the guy. We worked out , chatted and exchanged numbers, and we’re starting that relationship early.”

Plouffe was limited to 84 games last year with Minnesota due to rib and oblique injuries, hitting .260 with 12 homers and 47 RBI. Before that, he averaged 18 homers and 68 RBI from 2012-15, twice topping the 20-HR mark. The Twins non-tendered Plouffe in December rather than pay him the roughly $8 million he was likely to receive in arbitration. That made Plouffe a free agent.

He and Healy make compelling workout partners, as Plouffe’s arrival in green and gold is likely to push Healy over to first, where he played in college and early in his minor league career. But it’s not a combative situation, and the offseason workouts help to build chemistry.

“I was kind of taking my reps at third and first, continuing doing that routine to be prepared for that possiblity,” Healy said. “It doesn’t seem like anything is set in stone. I still have to prove to them I’m ready to play major league baseball come spring time.”

The right-handed hitting Healy will form a platoon at first with Yonder Alonso, Forst said, and see time in a DH rotation that figures to also include Khris Davis, Stephen Vogt, Matt Joyce and possibly others. But Forst noted that Healy also needs to stay sharp at third base.

“It’s easy to envision a scenario where (Plouffe) gets the bulk of time at third base and we still have 500 plate appearances for other guys like Ryon. We have every intention of getting at-bats for Ryon. Trevor is not gonna be out there 162 times, we know that. Ryon is going to have to continue to be ready at third base.”

Forst said the A’s are still scanning the free agent and trade market for potential additions, both on the position-player and pitching side.

Oakland reportedly has agreed to a two-year contract with reliever Santiago Casilla that has yet to be finalized.
 

NBA Gameday: Round 2 of Durant vs Westbrook

NBA Gameday: Round 2 of Durant vs Westbrook

Programming note: Warriors-Thunder coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

OAKLAND -- The Warriors close out their midseason 24-day Northern California residency Wednesday night with yet another game accompanied by drama.

Two days after thumping LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers completely out of Oracle Arena, the Warriors will face MVP candidate Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder -- AKA Kevin Durant’s former team.

The Warriors (35-6) may have to do it without shooting guard Klay Thompson, who went to Portland to visit a gravely ill family member but hopes to return in time for the game.

The Warriors are playing their ninth game out of 10 at home; the other one was up the road in Sacramento. They’re 8-1 since returning from Cleveland on Dec. 26.

Oklahoma City (25-18) is on the fourth leg of a seven-city road trip that spans 13 days, though the Thunder will return home for three days of workouts before going to Utah next Monday.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 13.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Stephen Curry vs. Westbrook: Though the point guards won’t often be in direct matchup -- Thompson, if available, will spend the majority of time defending Westbrook -- each is crucial to his team’s performance. Regardless of who gets the primary assignment on Westbrook, the Warriors will have to rely on team defense and make him a volume shooter. If Curry outplays Westbrook, OKC has no chance.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: No injuries listed; G Klay Thompson (family issue) listed as questionable.

Thunder: C Steven Adams (concussion) is listed as out.

LAST 10

Warriors: 8-2. Thunder: 5-5.

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won the first meeting this season, 122-96, on Nov. 3 at Oracle and have won seven of the last eight meetings. The teams met last postseason in the Western Conference Finals, which the Warriors won in seven games.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

KD: Durant has made it clear that facing his former team is different than any other opponent. There is evidence behind this. Playing with visible intensity, he torched OKC for a season-high 39 points in the Nov. 3 game in Oakland. Don’t be surprised if he delivers another impressive performance.

THE PAINT: With Adams out, the Thunder’s interior defense is appreciably weaker. OKC could start backup big man Enes Kanter, who is vulnerable, but more likely will go with a smaller lineup, with Jerami Grant at center. In either case, expect the Warriors to attack at every opportunity.

OKC O: The Thunder offense is weakest in two specific areas: turnovers and 3-point shooting. Westbrook’s ball domination contributes to both. He averages 5.4 giveaways a game and the Thunder, as a team, ranks 29th in 3-point shooting percentage (32.6). The Warriors lead the league in steals and in 3-point defense.