Is this the end of Venus Williams' career?

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Is this the end of Venus Williams' career?

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, September 1, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) -- Two days after playing her first match in two months, Venus Williams suddenly pulled out of the U.S. Open on Wednesday, revealing she recently was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain. The 31-year-old American has won seven Grand Slam titles, including at Flushing Meadows in 2000 and 2001. "I enjoyed playing my first match here, and wish I could continue but right now I am unable to," Williams said in a statement released by the tournament. "I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon." She was supposed to face 22nd-seeded Sabine Lisicki in the second round Wednesday. Williams cited a virus when withdrawing from hard-court tuneup tournaments since losing in the fourth round at Wimbledon in late June. She returned to action Monday, beating Vesna Dolonts 6-4, 6-3 in the first round in New York, then said: "No one is more in one-match-at-a-time mode than me now at this tournament. It will just be one match at a time, for sure." According to the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation website, the disease is a chronic autoimmune illness in which people's white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Common symptoms include dry eyes and dry mouth. As many as 4 million Americans have the disease. In rare cases, it can cause arthritis and joint pain, said Dr. John Fitzgerald, director of clinical rheumatology at UCLA. Fitzgerald is not involved in treating Williams and does not know her symptoms or medical history. But, he said, if Williams has the typical symptoms, "it does not seem life-threatening or career-ending." Williams arrived at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Wednesday hours before her match was scheduled to begin and tried warming up by hitting balls. When Williams left the site shortly before 5 p.m., wearing a white sweater and purple shorts, she was asked by reporters whether she would say anything. She smiled and waved and shook her head to indicate, "No," then climbed into the back of a tournament transportation car and rode away. "All of us came with the full expectation she'd be playing today. She was geared up to play her match," said Williams' agent, Carlos Fleming. "I just hope she's OK," Fleming added, "and I hope she's healthy and going to be fine." Despite all of her past success, including a brief stint at No. 1 in the rankings, Williams was unseeded at the U.S. Open, because she has fallen to 36th after a year of little action. Since reaching the semifinals at last year's U.S. Open, Williams has played only 11 matches, and the WTA projects that her ranking now will slide out of the top 100. Her younger sister, Serena, a 13-time Grand Slam champion, is scheduled to play her second-round match Thursday. "A lot of times, they've drawn a lot of criticism. But, trust me, (in) five years, when they're gone, everyone is going to miss them. Everyone is going to realize they're going to be living legends for the rest of their lives. Two girls from Compton, dominating tennis -- that's not an everyday story," said 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick, who's known the Williams sisters for about two decades. "Venus is just the epitome of class, the way she's gone about it," he said. "I don't think she's ever even had a sniff of controversy around her. She's just done it the right way." On Monday, Venus Williams was asked about the illness that caused her to skip tournaments this summer. She said that night that her ailment had been diagnosed, but wouldn't say what it was. "It was just energy-sucking, and I just couldn't play pro tennis," she said Monday. "It was disappointing, because I had huge plans for this summer, of course, to improve my ranking. To miss out on all those points was definitely devastating. Just to miss so much time off tour was just disheartening. But I'm just really excited to be back." Lisicki said she saw Venus Williams on the practice courts and in the locker room and expected to play their match -- until the tournament referee passed along the news of the withdrawal. "She's a tough girl, and I think she'll come back. You know, it would be unfortunate if she couldn't," Lisicki said. "Serena and Venus both are amazing players, and it's nice to have them in the women's sport. I hope she comes back."

Steve Kerr responds to notion Andre Iguodala's hip strain a white lie

Steve Kerr responds to notion Andre Iguodala's hip strain a white lie

On Tuesday morning, the Warriors announced that Andre Iguodala would not play against the Mavs because of a left hip strain

"I would go with 'hip' every single night I was looking to rest a player from now on," 95.7 The Game's Damon Bruce said to Steve Kerr on Wednesday. "A little white lie goes a long way. Is it safe to say that Andre Iguodala's 'hip' is gonna look fantastic come Friday?

"I understand where you're going with this, but this was not a white lie," Kerr said in response. "Andre has had hip tightness the last three days or so.

"He played through it in Oklahoma City. And Chelsea Lane, our physical therapist, told me after the game 'Andre really needed the night off. It would be great to knock this thing out over the next few days, so let's give him tomorrow off.'

"And I always listen to the training staff ... hopefully this will knock out any potential injury."

[RATTO: With resting players, there's one obvious solution for Adam Silver, NBA]

On Monday night in Oklahoma City, recorded six points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in about 22 minutes off the bench.

Through his first 57 appearances this season, Iguodala averaged 25.7 minutes per game. Since Kevin Durant's injury, Iguodala is averaging 29.1 minutes per game.

How much influence do trainers and/or physical therapists have in determining if a player suits up or takes a night off?

"Coaches have always had to rely on the medical staff to help them with the decision-making process," Kerr explained. "I think where we've made progress is in the amount of information that we have. As a coach, my job is to kind of gauge where the players are. But we have a lot more knowledge now with some of the technology where the training staff actually can measure how fatigued a player is.

"I think it's a little easier these days for the training staff to come to the coach and recommend something and have some data to back it up."

Kerr is an advocate for reducing the number of games in the regular season, but he understands that's not a reality.

"I don't think that's gonna happen," he said. "I think it would be great, honestly, if they cut it back to 75 games ... but, let's be honest, there's a lot of revenue at stake."

Bullied by Bucks, Kings unable to match playoff intensity

Bullied by Bucks, Kings unable to match playoff intensity

SACRAMENTO -- The NBA learning curve is steep. On Wednesday night in Sacramento, the young Kings faced one of the league’s up and coming players and a team fighting for a playoff spot. The atmosphere was foreign and the Kings didn’t respond well in the 116-98 loss to the Bucks.

Milwaukee came out of the gate and bullied the Kings. They threw a young Sacramento team all over the court on their way to a 69 point half. To add to the insult, some of the Bucks veterans even taunted the Sacramento crowd as they shot a stunning 61.4 percent from the field before the intermission.

“I think we got pushed around a little bit in the first half,” rookie Skal Labissiere said. “But they’re trying to make the playoffs still. They’re trying to make the eighth spot. So we have to be a little bit more physical with them and not let them punk us around.”

What the Kings saw from the Bucks is the mindset of a team fighting for a playoff spot. Wednesday night’s contest is what you see in the tail end of a season when one team has something to play for and the other has gone with a youth movement.

“They’re playing physical, they’re not backing down from nobody,” Buddy Hield said. “They have something they’re playing for. Obviously we don’t right now because our season is out of reach.”

Sacramento’s veterans looked at the game as a learning experience for the younger players. They need exposure to this type of game late in the season. They need to see what the expectations will be in a year or two when the Kings hope to be in a similar situation.

“These guys have to go through it, they have to learn it and then hopefully when we make the playoffs in the coming years, they’ll be able to understand that it jumps to another level,” Garrett Temple said. “The first 50 games is one level, the the next 30 is another and that playoff is different animal.”

Building a winner usually comes in stages in the NBA. By the time you sneak into the playoffs, you have already come close once or twice and the first round matchups are usually against seasoned winning clubs.

That is something the Bucks will learn soon enough. With the win, they are now tied for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, but nothing is certain. They currently sit a game out of the eight spot and just 2.5 from falling to ninth and missing the playoffs entirely.

If they squeak in, they will play either the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics or Washington Wizards in Round 1.

Every game is magnified when you have something at stake late in a season and the Kings were never able to match the intensity of their opponent.

All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo put on a show. The star forward dominated every player the Kings threw at him on his way to a 32-point, 13-rebounds, six-assist performance.

“People think I’m crazy to say that - if he gets a 3-point shot, he’ll be the best player in the league,” Temple said of Antetokounmpo. “He can penetrate, he has great court vision, can handle the ball, not to mention he’s 6-11 and a wiry strength that you don’t understand unless you’re play against him. He can literally play 1-5 in this NBA and he has a mismatch at every position.”

Labissiere drew the first look on Antetokounmpo and it didn’t take long to see that the rookie was overmatched by his opponent’s versatility. Willie Cauley-Stein had some success early in the second half, using his length and getting physical with the star forward, but the game was already decided.

It’s a process. With a youth movement comes games like the one against Milwaukee. All you can ask for is effort, which Sacramento has shown. Despite the team’s 3-11 record since the All-Star break, there is progress, especially from the core of first and second year players.

“They’re getting better and better,” Tyreke Evans said. “They’re still learning the game, but as they’re playing, they’re working hard. They’re working hard in practice, getting reps up. It’s going to take time, it’s not going to happen overnight. They’re going to have good games, they’re going to have bad games. You’ve got learn from it.”

Sacramento is in the middle of a seven game stretch against teams tuning up for the playoffs. The schedule doesn’t get any easier Friday when the Kings travel to Oracle Arena to face the Golden State Warriors. It’s another chance to learn on the fly.