Lin, Knicks are surging up the NBA standings

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Lin, Knicks are surging up the NBA standings

From Comcast SportsNet

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- As Amare Stoudemire walked into the New York locker room with a towel over his shoulders, the coaching staff followed. When the door closed, one jubilant voice inside screamed: "How Bout Those Knicks!" How about em, indeed. Fueled by a dose of Linsanity and a timely coaching change, the Knicks are making a furious charge toward a division title. Knocking off a 76ers team in full swoon was the latest step. Stoudemire had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the Knicks to their fifth straight victory, 82-79 over fading Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Jeremy Lin scored 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Carmelo Anthony had 10 to help the Knicks pull within three games of the Atlantic Division leaders and clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker. "It's been our goal," Anthony said. "That's never changed." The game ended with thousands of New York fans chanting, "Let's go Knicks!" They had reason to celebrate after Stoudemire hit a pair of big buckets down the stretch to clinch the win. The Knicks scored fewer than 83 points in a win for the first time since Nov. 14, 2005, vs. Utah (73-62). Linsanity has turned into Winsanity as the Knicks are unbeaten since Mike D'Antoni stepped down exactly a week earlier. "I was sweating a little bit tonight," interim coach Mike Woodson said. "But I learned that my team is not going to buckle, and I honestly believe that they believe they can win any game that they play now." Elton Brand had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers. Jrue Holiday scored 16. This could be a crushing week for the Sixers with Boston set to visit on Friday. The Celtics are only a game back for the division lead and an automatic top-four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. "You've got to look at the division right now. Have to," Brand said. "We have to step up, win some games, and find a way to get some separation from New York and Boston." Each team was backed by a Hollywood heavyweight supporter: Co-owner Will Smith rooted on the Sixers and Spike Lee sat adjacent to the Knicks bench. Smith and Lee exchanged some laughs, and Smith pointed to his black 76ers cap when he was shown on the big screen in front of 20,470 fans. The Sixers shook off a miserable start and a double-digit hole to make a run at the Knicks in the fourth. Lou Williams, perhaps the NBA's best sixth man, nailed a 3-pointer that tied the game at 63-all. Stoudemire, though, returned the favor with a monster dunk and a loud roar that was gleefully met with cheers by all the Knicks fans. Stoudemire hit a pull-up jumper next time down and the Knicks led by four. Lin followed with a runner and Lee, wearing a No. 17 jersey, leapt from his seat and applauded as the Knicks ran his way for a timeout. Lin delivered from the free throw line, sinking two for an eight-point lead, then feeding Anthony for a 16-footer that gave the Knicks the breathing room they needed. Lin was 10 for 10 from the line. The Sixers kept coming, and nearly turned the game around in the final 2 minutes. Trailing by three, Brand blocked Lin's shot that led to a fast-break attempt for Andre Iguodala. Iguodala missed the layup, and the empty possession would finish off the Sixers. For good measure, Iguodala shot an airball in the final minute. "We have to do a better job of being a better unit," Iguodala said. Meanwhile, the orange and blue took over, and chanted for the Knicks, completing a double-dose of defeat for Philadelphia. The Sixers never led and trailed by as many as 12 points when they finally found a groove in the third. Thaddeus Young's dunk pulled them within two and Iguodala buried a 3-pointer from the corner -- only his third basket -- for a 49-48 lead. Philadelphia was invaded by a fleet of Knicks fans that gave this one a postseason feel -- for Madison Square Garden. But the Sixers fans came alive along with their team and went wild when, after the Sixers blew the lead, Williams nailed a 3 to pull them to 59-58 to end the quarter. Only 10 days earlier, the Sixers handed the Knicks their fifth straight loss, 106-94. Stoudemire sat alongside Anthony for the entire fourth quarter. Both were needed this time around, especially with Lin having a miserable first three quarters. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots and had only two assists -- one on a long pass to a streaking Anthony for a thunderous dunk. Lin wasn't the only scorer who couldn't buy a bucket. Iguodala, who averages 12.2 points, didn't score his first field goal until there was 45 seconds left in the first half. He scored 13 points. Of course, Linsanity is so 15 minutes ago now that Tebowmania headlines New York. "I'm just excited for him and to see what he does," Lin said after the Jets acquired Tim Tebow. "We'll see what happens next year. But I'm excited, obviously, that he's going to be in New York." The Sixers missed their first 14 shots -- Spencer Hawes even fired an airball on the 10th attempt -- and committed five turnovers in the first quarter. "Never seen anything like that before. 0-14?" Brand said. The only part more amazing than their futility from the court was that they only trailed by eight points. The Knicks did their part at the end. "We're building, we're getting better, we're feeling more confident," Lin said. "We're creating a team identity." Notes: Knicks G Baron Davis returned after sitting out two games with a strained right hamstring. "I want to make myself available," he said. ... Knicks F Jared Jeffries left in the fourth quarter with a sore right knee. ... Flyers Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds sat courtside. Hartnell tossed shirts into the crowd. ... The Sixers are 6-12 after a 20-9 start.

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.