Curry to compete in NBA All-Star skills challenge

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Curry to compete in NBA All-Star skills challenge

Feb. 17, 2011
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NEW YORK -- Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, John Wall of the Washington Wizards and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder were selected by fans to compete against Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets in the 2011Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Feb. 19, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.For the first time, the NBA and Taco Bell gave fans the opportunity to determine participants in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge as part of the Choose Your Squad program. From Jan. 27 through Feb. 15, fans could choose their squad of four players out of eight candidates online atNBA.comchooseyoursquad. Along with the four players chosen to compete, fans also had the opportunity to vote for Baron Davis of the Los Angeles Clippers, Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers and Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs. Curry, who leads the NBA in free throw shooting percentage (.941), has followed up a solid rookie campaign by pacing the Warriors in assists with 6.0 apg while also contributing 18.4 ppg; Curry also is participating in the 2011 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam.
Rose, who was voted to start for the Eastern Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, is the only player in the league to rank in the top 10 in both scoring (8th, 24.5 ppg) and assists (9th, 8.2 apg). Wall, the overall top selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, ranks seventh overall in assists (8.9 ppg) and is second among rookies in scoring (15.0 ppg); Wall also is participating in the 2011 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam. A first-time All-Star, Westbrook is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 22.0 points, 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds.A four-time All-Star, who was voted to start for the Western Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, Paul paces the league in steals (2.47 spg) while ranking fourth in assists (9.6 apg). Paul is the only player with at least 7,500 points, 3,900 assists and 950 steals through 400 games.This years event includes a new charitable element in partnership with NBA Cares and Boys & Girls Clubs of America that will support the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens Graduate To Go initiative, a national initiative to help teens graduate from high school through real-world experiences. Each of the five participants will be paired with a teen member of Boys & Girls Club of Southern California. The teen paired with the event winner will receive a 30,000 college scholarship, while the other students will each receive an educational scholarship, all courtesy of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens. Each Graduate to Go scholar was carefully selected from applications received through the Boys & Girls Clubs in the Southern California area, based on their outstanding leadership qualities and inspiration to their peers both in and out of school.Congratulations to the players and the Graduate to Go teens taking part in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday. We are honored to partner with NBA Cares to give these deserving Boys & Girls Club teens this opportunity of a lifetime, said Greg Creed, President of Taco Bell and Chairman of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens. Experiences like this have the power to inspire teens to stay committed to their high school degree and dream big.TheTaco Bell Skills Challenge was introduced at NBA All-Star 2003 in Atlanta and features five players competing in a two-round timed obstacle course consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting stations. All players must observe basic NBA ball-handling rules while completing the course. The two players with the fastest times from the first round advance to the finals with the order of competition determined by inverse order of the first round times. At the discretion of the referee, television instant replay may be consulted for clarification of rules compliance.In addition to adding a fan vote and the new charitable element, this years Taco Bell Skills Challenge will feature an expanded field from four to five participants. Last year in Dallas, Steve Nash finished with a winning time of 29.9 seconds, joining the Miami Heats Dwyane Wade (2006 and 2007) as the only other two-time winner in Taco Bell Skills Challenge history. The Taco Bell Skills Challenge will be televised live nationally as part of the NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm, which will also feature the Haier Shooting Stars, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk. TNT and ESPN Radios national coverage will begin at 8 p.m. EST from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. The 60th NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 20, will air live on TNT and ESPN Radio, and in more than 200 countries in more than 40 languages.
Courtesy NBA Media services

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the All-Star big man to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. 
#LoyaltyisLove #sactownkingforever

Cousins, 26, averaged 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 34.4 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. #LoyaltyisLove

A post shared by DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) on