Houston braces for Linsanity

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Houston braces for Linsanity

From Comcast SportsNet
HOUSTON (AP) -- Jeremy Lin is starting over in Houston. He will have to explain why he said he would have rather stayed in New York. The 23-year-old undrafted point guard out of Harvard is scheduled to meet the Houston media on Thursday, two days after the Knicks opted not to match the Rockets' bold three-year, 25 million offer sheet. Shortly after the deal became official on Tuesday night, SI.com reported that Lin had acknowledged in an interview, "Honestly, I preferred New York. But my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me." The Rockets certainly did. "They made a very compelling pitch in terms of what I could bring to the team and for the city," Lin said in a statement released through the team on Wednesday. "I am also impressed with (Houston owner Leslie) Alexander and the management's commitment to improving the team." Houston had Lin in training camp in December, but waived him because the Rockets already had Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry. He got to New York when the Knicks claimed him off waivers, was briefly dropped to the developmental league, was recalled, and then got his chance to play when coach Mike D'Antoni put him in after the Knicks' record dropped to 8-15. He scored 25 points in a 99-92 win over New Jersey Nets, and "Linsanity" was born. Soon, New York was in playoff contention, and Lin was having drinks named after him. Lin said Wednesday that he "loved this past year with the Knicks and truly appreciate the opportunity that New York gave me," even though the team decided to let him go. "The way the fans fully embraced me and our team was something I'll always cherish forever," he said. "It was an extraordinary and unforgettable time that was easily the best year of my life." And now it's on to Houston, which made its biggest move in years and got its man. The Rockets not only filled a position of need, but also snagged a player who might re-establish the franchise in Asia, where the team enjoyed massive popularity during Yao Ming's career. Lin is American-born, but of Chinese and Taiwanese descent. His timing is perfect to capitalize on the NBA's explosive growth in China. He will wear No. 7 for the Rockets, a change from the No. 17 he donned with the Knicks. The team began taking pre-orders for Lin jerseys online on Wednesday. Lin was the buzz of sports radio in Houston on Wednesday and the topic exploded on social media. About 18 hours after the move became official, the Rockets' Twitter page had picked up 3,000 new followers, and the Facebook page added 10,000 "likes." Rockets forward Patrick Patterson is eager to work with Lin, and feels he is an ideal fit for coach Kevin McHale's system. "With the type of athletes that we have, we like to run up and down the court in transition. We like to do pick and rolls," Patterson said before the Rockets' summer league game Wednesday night in Las Vegas. "And that's what he thrives well in: pick and rolls, getting to the basket, getting layups, creating opportunities for each player on the team on the floor." Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson said in Las Vegas that the team hopes Lin brings stability to the point guard position for many seasons in Houston. "We expect Jeremy to come in and be our point guard," Sampson said. "We're not looking for anything other than that. He's a high-character kid, plays hard, really good off pick and rolls. I think he's good in transition. We're going with a really young team next year and Jeremy, with his work ethic and his leadership, I think he's going to be what we really need." Before the season arrives, general manager Daryl Morey still has work to do. The next major priority for Houston is finding a big man. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is still available in a potential trade, but that might be long shot. The Rockets expect to sign Bulls center Omer Asik to a three-year, 25 million offer sheet that is similar to Lin's deal. Beyond that, Morey must replenish a roster that has been gutted over the past two weeks. The Rockets traded Chase Budinger and Samuel Dalembert and stockpiled draft picks for a package aimed at enticing Orlando to send them Howard, a six-time All-Star. Houston made three first-round draft picks, selecting Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb, Iowa State forward Royce White, and Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, who all remain unsigned. The Rockets lost unrestricted free agent Dragic to Phoenix, began their pursuit of Lin, and traded Lowry to Toronto. They withdrew their qualifying offer to guard Courtney Lee, completed a sign-and-trade that sent center Marcus Camby to New York, and used the amnesty clause to waive forward Luis Scola. On Wednesday, the Rockets waived forward Jon Leuer and center Jerome Jordan. Leuer came to Houston in the Dalembert trade with Milwaukee, and Jordan was acquired in the Camby deal.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days.