Urban: Tejada reclaims starting job at SS


Urban: Tejada reclaims starting job at SS

July 18, 2011


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Mychael Urban

Saddled with an inconsistent offense missing its two most pure hitters and featuring precious few steady contributors, Giants manager Bruce Bochy doesn't have the luxury of running out the same lineup day after day. As a result, he has no choice but to play whatever hot hand he might have on any given day. He's used those very words -- "hot hand" -- countless times this season, to the point that you can see him struggling to write out his lineup card every afternoon while fumbling to wrap oven mitts around his pen or pencil.He used them again Monday before the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Dodgers at AT&T Park in explaining why Miguel Tejada, who lost his starting job at shortstop when rookie Brandon Crawford came up from the minors sporting a scalding stick to match his slick glove, has essentially reclaimed that job."He's earned it," Bochy said of Tejada, who was signed to a one-year deal worth 6.5 million last November 30. "I like the way he's swinging the bat, and this gives us a chance to give 'Craw' a little bit of a break."Tejada, 37, was a massive disappointment in the season's first two months, batting .217 with little pop through June 1 while displaying little of the range and athleticism that made him one of the better shortstops in baseball during his prime years with the Oakland A's. The 2002 American League MVP has since turned things around a bit at the plate, however, batting .286 with seven doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs, and he's been particularly strong in July, batting .341 (14-for-41) with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs in 12 games through Sunday.Crawford, meanwhile, is mired in a 1-for-21 slump over his past six games through Sunday -- including 0-for-9 in the just-concluded four-game series in San Diego, where Tejada went 3-for-10 with a home run."I'm searching a little bit," Crawford said. "But we're working on some things, me and hitting coach Hensley Meulens, and I think we're heading in the right direction."Special instructor Shawon Dunston said Tejada, even while sitting on the bench behind Crawford, has served as something of a mentor and one-man cheer squad for the rookie."Miggy's good for Brandon, no matter who's playing," Dunston said. "I wish every young player had a guy like Miggy to help show 'em the ropes."Tejada's defense remains a concern; he's made eight errors for a .945 fielding percentage in 36 games at shortstop, faring better during his 42 games at third base while Pablo Sandoval was out and in four games at second base recently. Crawford, 24, has made seven errors for a .960 fielding percentage in 40 games at shortstop since his promotion on May 26.But unless there's a situation in which a double switch makes sense, don't expect Crawford to be used as a late-game defensive replacement."Rarely will I do that with a young player, especially a rookie," Bochy said of a one-for-one defensive swap late in a tight game. "It's not that easy for a young player to come off the bench like that late in a game, come into a tight ballgame where the pressure's on. Miggy'll have to find ways to get it done unless there's a double switch."Monday marked the second consecutive game in which Tejada, a right-handed hitter, got the nod at shortstop over Crawford, a lefty hitter, with a righty on the mound for the opponent.
UPDATE: Tejada suffered a lower abdominal strain while failing to field a ground ball in the hole in the third inning Monday and was immediately removed from the game; Crawford replaced him.
Dribblers : Bochy said no decision has been made on whether the team will skip Barry Zito's turn in the rotation Friday to keep the rest of the starters on regular rest. Were that move made, and given the Giants have this Thursday and next Monday off, Zito might not be needed to start a game until the July 29-31 series at Cincinnati. A decision could be announced as early as Monday night after the game. Lefty Jonathan Sanchez (biceps tendinitis) will make his next rehab start Friday for Triple-A Fresno. Asked if Brian Wilson might wear his skin-tight latex tuxedo to the White House on Monday, Bochy smiled and said, "I don't think they'd let him in."

Antawn Jamison: Warriors really miss Andrew Bogut

Antawn Jamison: Warriors really miss Andrew Bogut

The Warriors were crushed by the Spurs on Tuesday night, 129-100.

According to former Warriors forward Antawn Jamison, the loss highlighted the void left behind with Andrew Bogut's departure. 

"They were such in a comfort zone when they had Bogut and they knew that he would pick up some of the deficiencies if guys got blown by -- he was always the rim protector," Jamison explained on KNBR 1050. "Anderson Varejao and Zaza (Pachulia) are great defenders but as far as protecting that rim, they are not Bogut.

[POOLE: Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors]

"And I think now they are kind of realizing how much they miss his dynamic as far as controlling that paint and being satisfied with just 'that's my job -- is to make sure I make it difficult for guys in the paint' ... it's the first game of the season, there's no need to push the panic button."

Back in early September, Steve Kerr shared his one concern for the upcoming season:

“The thing that’s different will be a lack of rim protection,” Kerr told CSNBayArea.com. “We had great rim protection from Bogut and Ezeli, and both those guys are gone. Zaza’s a very good defender, but he’s more of a positional guy than a shot blocker.

“So there’s definitely adjustments we’ll have to make, even schematically. We’ll have some growing pains, especially on defense, as we try to make sure we get everything right and comfortable.”

Pachulia registered just two points and three rebounds in 20 minutes, and turned the ball over three times.

Andre Iguodala scored just two points in 27 minutes off the bench. He committed three fouls and was a -28 for the game.

[RATTO: Spurs show early superiority over Warriors with sum of their parts]

Ian Clark missed all four of his 3-point attempts and was a team-worst -29, while Shaun Livingston was a -15.

"The Warriors' bench to me is going to be the biggest key this year because other than that Big Four offensively, nobody was bringing firepower off the bench," Jamison declared. "We know what Livingston and Iguodala can bring to the table, but somebody else off that bench really has to come in and step up and pick up the slack as well.

"I'm not worried at all. It just put in perspective that they really miss Bogut, and the bench needs to step up."

Could JaVale McGee ultimately be the answer at center?

"If he's able to focus and realize that he can contribute so much to this team with his length and his athletic ability, if he can be one of those guys that come off that bench and control that paint, I can see him eventually becoming a starter or getting starter minutes," Jamison answered.

Player-by-player examination of the 2016-17 Kings

Player-by-player examination of the 2016-17 Kings

Opening night is finally upon us. When the Sacramento Kings take on the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, they do so with plenty of new faces from the team that finished last season 33-49. Here is a quick look at the team that will take the floor during the 2016-17 campaign with the hopes of snapping the Kings’ decade-long playoff drought.

Who’s Gone

After Sacramento decided not to pursue Rajon Rondo, the former All-Star took big money to join the Chicago Bulls. Darren Collison and Ty Lawson will be asked to fill the void left by the NBA’s leading assist man from last season. Also leaving the Kings are Seth Curry (Mavericks), Quincy Acy (Mavericks), James Anderson (Turkey), Caron Butler (free agent), Eric Moreland (free agent), Duje Dukan (Croatia) and Marco Belinelli (traded to Hornets).  

Who’s New

With Rondo leaving, Vlade Divac took a one-year, league minimum gamble on Lawson with the hopes that he can turn around his career. Veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo was inked to a 2-year, $25 million deal with a team option in year two at $1.5 million. At the wing, Garrett Temple (3-years/$24 million) and Matt Barnes (2-year/$12.5 million) were added for depth. Anthony Tolliver was brought in to play the stretch four position. He’s on a two-year $16 million deal with a team option at $2 million in year two. With two draft day deals, the Kings were able to make three selections in the first round, drafting big man Georgios Papagiannis (13th overall), wing Malachi Richardson (22nd overall) and power forward Skal Labissiere (28th overall).  

Who’s Left

DeMarcus Cousins is entering his seventh season with the Kings and expected to play a huge role in the upcoming season. Despite politely asking for a new address during the summer, Rudy Gay is back for another season in Sacramento. Ben McLemore is entering his fourth season with the Kings after being selected with the seventh overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft. Forward Omri Casspi returns for his third straight season in Sacramento, although he’s played for the Kings for five of his eight NBA seasons. Point guard Darren Collison is in the final year of his 3-year, $15 million deal that he signed in the summer of 2014. Big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos are back for year two. Cauley-Stein was selected with the sixth overall pick last year and Koufos is in the second season of a 4-year, $33 million deal.   

The Starters

Ty Lawson - Point Guard

The 28-year-old veteran will man the point guard position while Collison is out for the first eight games of the season (league suspension).  Lawson spent last year bouncing between Houston and Indiana, playing in a combined 66 regular season games. The speedy guard is coming off a down year and looking to get back to the player that averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists during the 2014-15 season in Denver. He is expected to lead the second unit once Collison returns to action Nov. 8 at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Arron Afflalo - Shooting Guard

Afflalo joins the Kings after playing last season for the New York Knicks. The 31-year-old shooting guard brings a stabilizing influence to the Kings’ backcourt. He’s bounced around the league a bit, but he can shoot from the outside (career 38.5 percent from 3-point range) and has a nice post game for a guard. He’ll be asked to play major minutes early in the year

Rudy Gay - Small Forward

When Gay signed a 3-year extension in 2014, it was with the understanding that he would form a nice 1-2 punch with DeMarcus Cousins under head coach Michael Malone. Three coaches later, Gay has already informed the team that he will opt out at season's end. He is coming off a down offensive season, but his role in George Karl’s system was limited a season ago. The 30-year-old forward has every reason to put up big numbers as he approaches free agency next summer.

DeMarcus Cousins - Power Forward

The franchise cornerstone big man is fresh off Olympic gold and looking for his first playoff berth. After averaging 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last season, Cousins has clearly cemented himself as the game’s best pivot. He’ll be asked to open the game at the power forward spot, but will spend most of his season manning the center position. He’s taylormade to play in Joerger’s high-post style of play and primed for his third straight All-Star bid.

Kosta Koufos -- Center

Teams around the league like to start big and then make mid-quarter adjustments. Koufos knows Joerger’s system from their time together in Memphis. He will get the nod early, but expect plenty of Willie Cauley-Stein, Matt Barnes, Anthony Tolliver and Omri Casspi alongside Cousins as Joerger looks for the right mix. Koufos is a defensive-minded big that can rebound and score efficiently around the hoop. He’s in the best shape of his career and will likely be asked to open the game guarding the opponent's tough big.

The Rotation

Garrett Temple

While Collison is out, the Kings will ask Temple to play plenty of point guard minutes behind Lawson. After game eight, the versatile wing will play minutes at the 1, 2 and 3 as a perimeter stopper. He’s not a scorer, but Temple is a great locker room influence and plays with an infectious tenacity that fans will instantly appreciate.    

Ben McLemore

After starting 190 games in his first three seasons in the league, McLemore will get an early shot to play behind Afflalo at the two. He’s had plenty of struggles, but the former first round pick can shoot, he’s a big time leaper and he has the tools to be a very good NBA defender. If he can’t show that he’s ready to play rotational minutes during Collison’s absence, it could be a long season on the bench for the 23-year-old guard.

Omri Casspi

Casspi was a lethal weapon last season as both a starter and a reserve for Karl. He shot an impressive 40.9 percent from 3-point land and 48.1 percent from the floor on his way to a career-best 11.8 points per game. Casspi is in a dogfight for minutes with Tolliver, Barnes and Temple. He missed time during camp with a hip issue and an illness, but he finished camp strong. When the Kings go small, expect Casspi and Barnes to form a strong forward combination.  

Matt Barnes

At 36, Barnes showed that he has plenty left in the tank last season playing for Joerger in Memphis. Not always the most popular player amongst the fans, the Sacramento-native plays a gritty brand of basketball that has earned him the trust of his coaches and teammates. He’s likely not going to log 28.8 minutes or average 10.0 points per game like last season, but he’s a quality veteran presence that can still run the floor like a gazelle and lock down forwards on defense.

Anthony Tolliver

The Kings shocked the NBA world a bit with their investment this summer in the 31-year-old Tolliver. Another team-first guy, Tolliver can hit the open 3-ball, play defense and shock you with a sneaky block here and there. Joerger loves veterans and this is one handpicked by new assistant GM Ken Catanella. Can he bring the “Tolliver Effect” to Sacramento?

Willie Cauley-Stein

It’s not that Cauley-Stein has fallen out of favor in Sacramento, but he’s up against some serious veteran contenders for minutes this season. The lanky defensive stopper still looks slightly uncomfortable in the Kings’ new system. He will get his bearings eventually and make a nice addition to Joerger’s small ball lineups. Cauley-Stein has never been asked to run a high post or hit a 20-foot jumper in his young career. He’ll get minutes, but how many will depend on quickly he can acclimate to the new offensive and defensive schemes.

The Rest

Skal Labissiere

The rookie out of Kentucky has been the talk of camp. He has tremendous length and athleticism, but he’ll need time to develop. Labissiere will see time in Reno with the Bighorns, but expect the Kings to keep him around the team so their staff can develop this top tier talent.

Georgios Papagiannis

Another young big that needs development time in Reno, Papa G has trimmed down considerably since we first saw him walk in the door. The Kings will be patient in bringing the 7-foot-1 center along. He is a giant with a soft touch both inside and outside. If he can learn the high-post system and continue to show improvement in his physique, the Kings might be onto something in year two and three.

Malachi Richardson

Lost in a numbers game at the wing, Richardson will commute back and forth from Reno with his fellow rookie class. The smooth shooting guard/forward has great size and length to play the two, but his shot selection and accuracy must improve to make an impact at the NBA level. Coaches rave about his demeanor and he routinely beats veterans in 3-point shootouts after practice.