Urban: Padres might be in Giants' heads


Urban: Padres might be in Giants' heads

July 5, 2011


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Mychael Urban

Not long after Heath Bell did a brilliant impression of fellow All-Star closer Brian Wilson, giving the opposition all kinds of hope in the ninth inning before turning nasty with a three-pitch punchout and a dramatic, protracted battle that ended with a bat of Brandon Crawford breaking loudly, Andres Torres provided a fairly easy-to-decode hint of something to which the Giants would surely never admit.The Padres are in their dome again.Or is it still?

Hey, don't think winning the National League West and the NL pennant and the World Series erased all memories of how hard the Padres made the Giants work last season. Or how thoroughly dominant the Padres were over the Giants until very late in the season.Or how freaking impossible it seems to score off that parade of filthy relievers.The latter point was underscored Tuesday in front of the 39th consecutive sellout of the season, and if Wednesday mirrors it, that streak could very well end with Barry Zito trying to stave off a four-game sweep Thursday.Usually it's Luke Gregerson in the seventh, Mike Adams in the eighth and Bell, of course, in the ninth. Lately, as was the case Tuesday, it's been Chad Qualls in the seventh, subbing in for Gregerson, whose Slider From Hell had been on the disabled list since early June until he was activated Tuesday.Qualls, Gregerson, whatever. Nasty is nasty, and Qualls is nasty enough to have been the Diamondbacks' closer not too long ago. Adams is nastier still, with a two-seam fastball that hits the mid-90's on the radar gun and avoids the barrel of bats with cartoonish movement. Then Bell brings the high-90's heat and some wicked secondary stuff. When Gregerson reclaims his seventh-inning role, the Padres will be able to further shorten games to five-inning affairs. They'll need it, too, because their starters are a spotty lot, a far cry from last year's sturdy bunch. "Five and dive" seems like a solid strategy for San Diego at this point, though, because as good and deep and versatile as is the Giants' bullpen, the Padres 'pen has more clearly defined roles and is, quite simply, a bitch of a matchup for San Francisco's offense -- especially in these days of every run seeming like it needed congressional approval.No way the Giants don't feel that, and it was Torres, whose rag-to-riches story of 2010 was on par with 2011's Ryan Vogelsong heart-warmer, who inadvertently made it seem obvious.Torres was ticked that Qualls, after tagging out Torres on a dust-bowl banger at the plate that followed a wild pitch from Qualls and a perfect feed from catcher Nick Hundley, punctuated the play with some shouting and an emphatic spike of the baseball before walking off the field.Torres felt he'd been shown up, noting that as someone who's had to work so hard to get where he now is, he'd never disrespect another player and expects that professional courtesy extended back.Qualls, by the way, has been through some rough times, too. He lost his closer's role in Arizona and posted an 8.29 ERA last season before being shipped to the Rays, where he wasn't much better. So he knows of struggle, and you had to believe him when he said he meant not an ounce of malice toward Torres.In essence, he said, "Hey, it was a huge play at the time. I was pumped. Lost my marbles there a little. No diss intended, dawg."Much ado about nothing, really, but interesting nonetheless. A sports psychologist could probably have a field day with allegations of disrespect perhaps masking feelings of inferiority.Why would the Giants feel inferior to the Padres when they're the reigning world champs? Maybe they don't.But based on San Diego's 12-6 record head-to-head last year, a 3-1 mark thus far in 2011 and that lights-out bullpen to handle anything the Giants' warm-water pistol of an offense can fire at them, would you blame them if they did?

Kerr upset by 'cowards' reference: Put name on it, or don't say it

Kerr upset by 'cowards' reference: Put name on it, or don't say it

OAKLAND – A few short hours after Klay Thompson expressed indignation with an unnamed team source quoted referring to the Warriors as “cowards,” his coach stood firmly behind the All-Star shooting guard.

Steve Kerr, in his news conference prior to the Warriors-Trail Blazers game Friday night, said he, too, was not happy to see such a quote attributed to an unnamed team official in an ESPN The Magazine story portraying All-Star forward Draymond Green as someone whose firebrand ways grate on coaches and teammates.

“I talked to Draymond about it; I haven’t talked to the team about it,” Kerr said. “It upset me, too.

[POOLE: Klay 'pissed' that 'cowards' quote about Warriors went unnamed]

“I don’t know who said that. I’d guarantee it wasn’t any of our coaching staff. I would be shocked if it was anybody in basketball management. We don’t do that. Nobody ever said that to me, not even to the press. But nobody ever said that to me, like, ‘those guys played like cowards.’ So I have no idea where that came from.”

Thompson on Friday morning made it clear that he was less bothered by the content of the story than by the idea that someone within the organization, in describing the Warriors’ performance in losing Game 5 of the NBA Finals – with Green grounded by suspension – would refer to the team with such an unflattering term.

Though not as animated as Thompson was, Kerr clearly is concerned with the long-term ramifications of such a comment.

“It’s upsetting because you want to keep things in-house,” he said. “If somebody wants to say something, then they should put their name on it. If you don’t feel like you can put your name on it, you shouldn’t say it.”

Kerr paused ever so briefly before noting how media operates in the second decade of the new millennium.

“But on the other hand I also know how it works these days,” he said. “What is ‘an unnamed source?’ Who are ‘sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking?’ It’s gotten harder and harder to control stuff, to keep things in-house these days because what used to be a credible source is now . . . the standards are a little bit lower . . . I just know that sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking is an extremely vague phrase and who knows who that might be?”

Kings aim to build solid foundation under Joerger once and for all


Kings aim to build solid foundation under Joerger once and for all

Matthew 7 verse 24-27: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Not to get biblical on anyone, but the parable above is a perfect metaphor for the the Sacramento Kings. For years, they have built their house on sand only to watch it all wash away when the rains come. And the rains always come, that is the NBA world.

The Kings have tried a new approach this season. They are counting on head coach Dave Joerger to build their new house on a rock. A foundation of defensive principles mixed with a structured offensive system built to withstand the ebbs and flows of a normal NBA season.

In order to create this new foundation in Sacramento, Joerger and his staff almost had to turn their sneakers and workout gear for loafers and blazers. This is basketball academia and the Kings are going to need plenty of time in the study hall.

“The one thing I noticed out of coach Joerger, was he was teaching,” former Kings guard turned CSN analyst Doug Christie told the Kings Insider Podcast. “He has the floor. He was going through things and talking through things and they would run through it. And all of the sudden they would stop, and he would teach again.”

What Christie describes from the first week of training camp is coaching 101. But for many of these players, they’ve never seen something like this. Center DeMarcus Cousins is entering his seventh NBA season and Joerger is his sixth head coach.

Whether the coaches before Joerger were quality or not, none of them have tried the robust task of introducing such a refined system. And so the Kings coach must start at the very beginning with a mixed bag roster that will look substantially different at the trade deadline, next summer and even the summer after that.

The hope is that the foundation will survive. A core must be developed to carry the system from one iteration of Kings players to the next. Whether the youth of the team -- Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis -- are part of that core is yet to be determined.

But what is known, is that for the first time in a while, a head coach has been brought and given free run of the house. When Joerger signed a 4-year, $16 million deal this summer after leaving the Memphis Grizzlies, it was to build a program, not just take over the reigns from the outgoing George Karl.

To make matters more complex, Joerger is trying to go from a free flowing system to something very regimented. He is a system guy. And many of his players either played with Karl last season in Sacramento or under Karl in Denver. Right or wrong, Joerger has to break his players of their previous habits and install new directives.   

“You’re just trying to keep building and we just keep working at it and guys are trying to make a change from one system to another system and it’s always difficult no matter what the system,” Joerger told CSN California.

Joerger left a veteran team where four of his core players had played together for six seasons. That is not a luxury he has in Sacramento. Outside of Cousins, no player has been on the roster more than three seasons. Continuity of coaches aren’t the only issues that the Kings players have faced.

After losing to the Clippers Tuesday night at the Golden 1 Center, Joerger pointed to this exact issue.

“We’re not saying we want to be like the Clippers, we want to be like all those teams, where we can keep our guys together long-term and build that chemistry and build your system,” Joerger said. “We’re trying to run something that we’ve been working on for two-weeks. They’re running stuff they’ve been running for six years.”

Before coming to the Kings, Rudy Gay had spent time with Joerger in Memphis when he was an assistant coach. They know each other well, but this is different. This is the first time Gay has worked with Joerger as a frontman. While the experience is new, the veteran wing appreciates the system being implemented, even if he doesn’t know how long his stay in Sacramento will be.

“It’s not difficult at all, this is what I prefer,” Gay said following practice earlier this week. “I prefer structure. My whole career I’ve had structure and that’s what I prefer and what I excel in.”

Gay has made it known that he would like a new basketball home, but it has nothing to do with Joerger or his system. He has seen the value of structure in his previous stops and he has also seen what a free flowing system can do. He even had a message for his teammates on the subject.

“Whether they like it or not, it works,” Gay said.

Joerger ran a 147-99 record in three seasons in Memphis. He led the Grizzlies to the playoffs in all three seasons, a place the Kings haven’t been in a decade. He has a tried and true system that even the Kings’ young players are drawn to.

“Joerger’s (system) is all about reading, it’s just making your basketball IQ higher,” Cauley-Stein told CSN California. “It’s really teaching me the game.”

Cauley-Stein, who just had his third-year option picked up by the team on Friday, is trying to transition from John Calipari’s style at Kentucky, to Karl’s system in his rookie season, and now to Joerger’s game plan.

“It’s not tough, it’s just different,” Cauley-Stein said of the transition. “You just have to get used to it. I like it better honestly. More structure. A reason why you’re running something instead of just free playing pickup.”

The reaction from the rest of the roster has been similar. From Cousins’, “I love it, I love it, I love it,” quote to veteran Anthony Tolliver, who is new to the team, but fully on board with the structured system.

“If you’re used to playing free-flowing and not calling plays everytime, to calling plays every time and being more organized, honestly, I prefer being in a system like this,” Tolliver said. “I just feel like things are more predictable. I feel like everyone stays involved more and the ball moves better.”

Tolliver’s experience is similar to what Cauley-Stein is seeing. Free flowing can often mean isolation or exclusionary. As role players in this system, it’s important that you are prepared to be a viable part of the offense, not just a pawn.

“You’re alway touching the ball, you always get to make a pass, you get a chance to make plays, it’s fun to play like that,” Cauley-Stein said. “You don’t get stuck in the dunkers zone or stuck in on the baseline and watch them play 4-on-4.”

For Joerger, it’s a tough transition. He is used to rolling out a small group of newbies and have his veterans there to help drive home the point. He now has a collection of players that have either played in a completely different system or are new to the team.

“I just keep telling myself - ‘stay on task, stay on task, stay on task,’” Joerger said. “That means being demanding on what’s important to us, how we go about our business, how we practice everyday. Stay on task.”

There will be good nights and bad as the Kings move through the 2016-17 season. Some nights everything will click and they will have no issues competing. Other nights they will win on talent alone. Don’t discount how dominant a players like Cousins and Gay can be. Lastly, there will be those nights when fans boo and they get run out of the gym. This is the NBA and the level of talent is incredible. Chemistry and cohesion take time. A new system will take time. The Kings will once again ask for patience. They’ll ask you to look at the big picture.

Joerger will stay on task. Cousins will roam the high post. But nothing is guaranteed. They are trying to building on rock this time and not sand. It’s not exactly a new concept, but a novel one in Sacramento.