Urban: Only direction is up for Giants


Urban: Only direction is up for Giants

August 17, 2011


Follow @MUrbanCSN
Mychael Urban

You had the better part of Monday and all day Tuesday -- make that Black Tuesday. You absorbed the crushing loss Monday and the impending feeling of disabled-list doom, a reality realized first thing Tuesday. And as Tuesday's shadows grew longer and darker, you saw another and another and another of your guys go down.Then, as if the baseball gods -- or, as our own Mr. Ray (of Sunshine) Ratto suggested, the devil himself -- were, um, hell-bent on letting you know you'd hit rock stinking bottom, you got clapped in the ear with a metal rake in the form of another walk-off loss, in extra innings no less.

RELATED: Ratto -- If Giants struck Faustian deal, bill clearly due
The despair with which you've dealt, Giants fans, has been justified beyond a doubt.But your time for wallowing in the self-pity that comes with overexposure to doom, gloom and talk of the trainer's room comes to an end as of Wednesday's first pitch in Atlanta.
RELATED: Preview -- Hurting Giants now have to face Braves' Jurrjens
There is but one direction to go from rock bottom, and now is the time to starting thinking in that direction.Why? Several reasons. The first being that what you've been feeling for the past 48 hours is unhealthy. Obsess on the negative for too long and you cease to be a fan. You become Robert De Niro in "The Fan."Reason two is the National League West standings. Your boys are 3 12 games out of first place with considerably more than a month of baseball to play. That's chump change, and please don't use that phrase as a springboard to the obvious joke sitting there on a tee for you about the current state of San Francisco's offense. That's unhealthy, too.RELATED: Ratto -- Giants down, but not out
Reason three: the remaining schedule. After wrapping up in Atlanta, the Giants face exactly one team left in that month-plus with a winning record, and that team is the team they're chasing, the out-of-their-tree-right-now Diamondbacks.
Granted, your guys haven't exactly been bounding joyously atop the allegedly soft spots of the schedule of late, but remember, that was while they were headed for Black Tuesday and rock bottom. For reason four, we return to those Diamondbacks. You don't really think they're going to keep playing this well, do you? Come on. Their next five games alone are against Philly and Atlanta, and you only get one beat-Roy-Halladay-with-an-epic-ninth-inning-rally a year. They will come back to earth as sure as the Giants will start climbing from the earth's core.Or did you not notice that they have exactly two starting pitchers who'd be in the Giants' rotation, and maybe three relievers who'd have get a sniff out of the Giants' bullpen?Sure, Arizona's offense looks like a juggernaut comparatively, but it is one Justin Upton slump from looking meek, and Upton has been smoking-hot for a good three months now. It's not easy to keep up that pace, particularly when engaged in a pennant race with an entire team on your 23-year-old shoulders.So now let's wrap up this admittedly and purposely glass-half-full exercise with reason No. 5: drama.The Giants have shown time and again that they absolutely thrive on it. They create ungodly messes for themselves and delight in the cleaning up. Well, this is about as messy as it's going to get, and while it sure would be nice to have Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez and Carlos Beltran and Sergio Romo and a No. 5 starter worth his ankle tape, there remain some pretty capable janitors at the ready with mops and buckets.Nate Schierholtz will not be out long. The law of averages tell you there has to be at least one really good month of baseball inside Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Miguel Tejada. Brandon Belt, as long as they stick with him, will chip in. Pablo Sandoval is dying for his close-up. Oh, and those guys on the mound will help some, too.It's always darkest before dawn, we're told. Well, in this case the opposite could prove true. It was dark as dark gets at dawn -- heck, at noon -- on Wednesday, and that means it can't get any darker.

Kings' Cousins has 'one goal' entering new season

Kings' Cousins has 'one goal' entering new season

SACRAMENTO -- A season without expectations. That is what everyone, from Dave Joerger to Vlade Divac, has said entering the 2016-17 Sacramento Kings season. But on the eve of opening night, DeMarcus Cousins wants no part of that.

“I have one goal, that’s playoffs,” Cousins told media members on Tuesday before the team boarded a plane for Phoenix. “That’s success for me right now.”

Cousins has never tasted the playoffs in his first six seasons in the NBA. In fact, the Kings are trying to snap a decade long drought dating back to the 2005-06 season during the Rick Adelman era.

Joerger made the playoffs the previous three seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies. He isn’t ready to make promises, but he laid out his path for success this season following practice.

“The first thing we’ve got to do is learn how to compete,” Joerger said. “The second thing then is to learn how to win. We’re not a young group, so if we can get to stage one quickly, then we can can to stage two. If it takes all year to get to stage one, that’s okay, that will be a progression.”

Vegas has the Kings win total set at 34, good enough for third worse in the Western Conference. To add insult to injury, Sacramento’s odds of winning the NBA Championship are set at 500/1.

“I don’t really care what people think,” Cousins added. “I don’t care what their expectations are. I know what we’re putting in on the daily. I know we’re in here working, we’re trying to get better everyday. All we can do is worry about one another and go out and perform every night.”

The Kings will be a work in progress throughout the season. With an entirely new coaching staff and eight new faces on the opening night roster, this is a team in need of seasoning. Chemistry will take time, but this is a veteran team with plenty of experience.

“It’s a great group of guys,” forward Omri Casspi said. “I feel like once the season starts, everything will fall into play on the court as well.”

Joerger has been busy putting in his defensive principles all camp in an attempt to patch the largest hole the Kings had from a season ago. A key phrase keeps coming up when players are asked about Joerger’s style of coaching, specifically of the defensive end, where his teams routinely rank amongst the league’s best.

“The attention to details on the defensive end,” Casspi said of what Joerger has brought to the table. “We always have a guy in the way and we really play the lanes.”

Attention to detail is almost a buzzword in Sacramento. Joerger’s system is very different from what the Kings ran last season. There will still be switching, but not nearly as much. Joerger’s teams play tough, aggressive, inside-out defense. They clog the lane and protect the rim, which should play to the strengths of the roster.

“Offensively, I think we can play with the best, we’ve always been talented offensively,” Cousins said. “Defensively is where we’ve always struggled. Do I think we’re in a comfortable place? No, but I think we’re on the right path. We’ve still got a lot of growing to do.”

Cousins may feel that the Kings can score with the best, but he’s learning an entirely new system. For the first time in his career, the two-time All-Star will man the high-post on a regular basis. The offense will run through him on most plays and will be expected to become a distributor, as well as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.

“I still can play my game, be the same DeMarcus, but I think it’s better for the team,” Cousins said. “It helps our spacing. I think it plays to our advantage. I don’t think it’s a sacrifice at all.”

The offense might be perfect for Cousins’ skill set, but he’s just seeing the most rudimentary parts of the scheme at this point. With so much focus on correcting the defensive inadequacies, Joerger has hardly cracked his playbook during camp.

“About a quarter or a third,” Joerger estimated when asked how deep into his offensive sets he’s gotten so far. “It’s been tough, but I’d rather try to get better at smaller set of stuff than not being very good a whole bunch of things.”

Joerger will implement new wrinkles as the season goes on. The high-post system has plenty of room to expand as the players become more acquainted with the principles. When it’s run to perfection, this offense is pretty to watch. But even in its basic form, the high-post is an efficient and structurally sound system.

“I’m a lot more comfortable than the last time we talked,” Cousins said with a smile. “Coach has a lot, we’re learning a lot, it’s new options every day. But I’m definitely in a better place now.”

Early in the season, the Kings’ focus will be on developing and improving, not so much worrying about who the new next opponent is on the schedule. It’s been a long camp, including a week layoff between the team’s last preseason game and their first regular season game. For now, the players are just ready to get the ball rolling on a new season and dispense with facing each other in practice every day.

“I feel like it’s time to get started,” Casspi said. “We’re all excited and happy and ready to go to Phoenix.”

The Kings open on the road against the Suns on Wednesday night, before returning for their home opener Thursday evening against the Spurs. They play the Timberwolves on Saturday, but then take off on a five game road trip back east.

“Two weeks from now I’ll be begging for a practice, right now we’re all kind of begging for a game,” Joerger said.

The action will come fast and furious over the next few weeks. Eight games in 12 nights, including six road games is tough for any team. For a group that is just learning each other, the trial by fire begins Wednesday.

Cal’s Sonny Dykes: Quick turnaround ‘not ideal’ for Bears


Cal’s Sonny Dykes: Quick turnaround ‘not ideal’ for Bears

BERKELEY  — Two days before California plays its second game in less than a week against a well-rested USC team, coach Sonny Dykes was still trying to figure out why the Golden Bears were put in this position.

The quick turnaround and short week following Friday's double-overtime win against Oregon forced Cal to condense its normal schedule, something that wouldn't bother Dykes so much if there weren't so many other factors involved.

The Bears already had to trim a day off their regular routine because Thursday night's game is on the road. On top of that, several Cal players are in the middle of midterm exams, reducing their availability for practice even more.

It's a topic that Dykes has been simmering over for a few weeks now and one he wasn't ready to back off of Tuesday.

"When you sit down and look at the schedule, clearly it's not ideal," Dykes said "It's one of those deals where you just go, 'How in the world did this ever happen? How could somebody let this happen?'"

Cal (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12) was coming off a 12-day break when it beat Oregon in Berkeley on Friday night in a game that lasted nearly 4 ½ hours and didn't end until almost midnight local time. The Bears ran 118 plays offensively against the Ducks, which Dykes said was the equivalent of playing two games.

On the other hand, USC (4-3, 3-2) hasn't played since thumping Arizona 48-14 on Oct. 15.

While some team would have had to play the Trojans coming off a bye, Dykes can't understand why the Bears were selected to do it on short rest — and on the road.

"We've had to make a lot of schedule changes and do a lot of different things out of the norm," Dykes said. "It's one thing to do it on six days' notice. It's another to do it on the road. But our guys have handled it well."

The Bears shortened their work week to try to get everything in.

Players were given Saturday off but were back on the field Sunday afternoon. Cal practiced on its normal day off, Monday, but several players were unable to attend due to academic responsibilities.

"The challenge you always face is making sure that you balance keeping them fresh with getting enough reps and developing your young players," Dykes said. "Just teaching them all the things you need to teach them about your opponent in a limited amount of time. We've got to balance getting some work done but at the same time making sure we're fresh."

Cal's players don't seem bothered by the quick turnaround.

Defensive back Cameron Walker and left tackle Aaron Cochran said the short week means more emphasis on studying USC and doing extra film work.

Quarterback Davis Webb, on the other hand, doesn't think it will be much of an issue at all.

"It's a challenge but I think it's a mindset at the same time," Webb said. "We understand that's how the schedule rolled for us this year and there are no excuses. We have to play a tough team on Thursday night and we look forward to the challenge. If you don't know the game plan and what they're going to do by Thursday then you're in trouble."