Basketball season is upon us

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Basketball season is upon us

Taylor Lambert

As much as I love football and covering it in the high school ranks, this time of year starts to get a little cold, wet, and well... cold again. Standing on the sideline for nearly three hours every Friday night in the frigid temperatures and rain isn't the most amazing assignment.

While the football postseason is exciting and fun to cover, I do find myself peaking around the corner for basketball season and it's friendly confines of a covered, heated and well-lit basketball gym. Not to mention, basketball season around these parts is pretty special.

The talent in the Bay Area this season is second to none, with Aaron Gordon at Mitty, Jabari Bird at Salesian, Marcus Lee at Deer Valley, all in pretty much everyone's top 30 recruits lists in the nation. There's countless other top athletes who'll be headed to college to play as well. There's just something about basketball season which breeds excitement and this season should be no different.

My favorite place to cover hoops is the Oakland Athletic League with it's free wheeling style of play and amazing student-athletes on the floor. The excitement at an OAL game is through the roof! My favorite is when the home team throws down a dunk, the crowd explodes and you can feel the re-verb in your sternum. The OAL just knows how to put on a show and if you attend a game you will not be disappointed.

I'd also like to mention a team I'll be watching especially close this season... Deer Valley up in Antioch. When starting at Cal-Hi Sports Bay Area last year, the Deer Valley squad was the first team I interviewed and they were awesome. Starting with big man Marcus Lee -- who recently committed to Kentucky -- they're an imposing force. It's not just Lee, though, the Wolverines also have a standout point man in Kendall Smith who plays with much flair and determination. I really think Deer Valley can make some noise this season and stand up to the traditional powers in the area. Only time will tell, but I know I'm darn excited about it...  and warmer, and dryer, and happier.

Long live basketball season!

Bill King earns induction into Baseball Hall of Fame

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Bill King earns induction into Baseball Hall of Fame

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Legendary A’s radio announcer Bill King was selected the 2017 Ford C. Frick award winner, earning him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The announcement came Wednesday morning at the winter meetings, and surely the news will be greeted enthusastically by legions of fans who identify King’s voice with so many of the Bay Area’s unforgettable sports moments.

King, who passed away in 2005, won the award in his sixth time as a finalist. Current A’s play-by-play man Ken Korach, who called games alongside King and wrote a book about his career and colorful personality, lobbied hard for his induction, even reaching out individually to Frick voters before this year’s election. Contacted Wednesday, Korach's voice cracked with emotion as he searched for words to describe his feelings.

“Honestly, I’m in tears. I really am,” Korach said. “It’s incredible. i’m just overwhelmed with joy, for his family, for his fans. What Bill meant to A’s fans and fans of the Bay Area in general is the reason that he’s in.”

King was passed over numerous times in previous Frick elections, with the assumed thought being that King’s terrific versatility behind the mike actually worked against him.

Because he was so well-known and identified with as a Raiders and Warriors announcer as well as A’s, some never viewed King as a pure baseball man. But baseball was nearest to King’s heart according to Korach, who plans to travel to Cooperstown with his wife Denise for King’s induction July 29.

“It was his first love, the game he enjoyed broadcasting the most.”

King’s call of the Raiders’ zany “Holy Roller” victory over the Chargers in 1978 is a staple of vintage NFL Films footage. He described the scene for Warriors fans as the team won its first NBA title in the Bay Area in 1975. And his trademark “Holy Toledo!” marked so many A’s victories over the years.

The other seven finalists for the Frick award were Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Ken Harrelson, Pat Hughes, Ned Martin and Dewayne Staats.

“Bill King’s enthusiasm for every game he called carried through the airwaves and into the hearts of fans throughout Northern California for 25 incredible years with the Oakland Athletics,” said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idleson. “From his distinctive word choices in describing the action to his unabashed love of Oakland and the Bay Area, King crafted a career that became synonymous with the action at the Oakland Coliseum and throughout the sports world.”

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

The Buffalo Bills were running right through the Oakland Raiders early in Sunday’s contest, a never-ending assault that took its toll on defenders in silver and black.

That was the case for the most optimistic, steadfast member of that unit.

“We were giving up big plays, and I was frustrated,” star edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “Actually, I was pissed off.”

Bruce Irvin sensed a disturbance in the force. The veteran pass rusher knew how to fix it.  A little pep talk would get Mack going again.

“We feed off each other’s energy. … That dude pulls me up. I was feeling a little down towards the middle of the game, and he was like, ‘Come on. We need you. Come on. Let’s go. He pulled me up and kept pushing.”

That wasn’t the turning point in yet another comeback win. It wasn’t the only reason why defense locked Buffalo down during a run of 29 unanswered points.

It showed how strong a friendship Mack and Irvin have formed since the spring, one that helps get the best out of the other. Bonds formed from insatiable work ethic, one evident even in the offseason program.

“We’re both so hungry to be great that it just brought us together,” Irvin said. “When I got here, we talked right away. Khalil and (quarterback Derek Carr) were the first two guys I sat down with, and I told them I was coming over to play with Khalil, to help turn this thing around and become one of the top units in the league. Khalil and I just bonded quickly, and it was like we had been friends forever. It’s like whole thing was meant to be.”

It has turned out to be a productive pairing. There are 15 sacks, 94 other quarterback pressures and eight forced fumbles between Irvin and Mack this season.

Mack has the bulk of those numbers, especially during a second-half run where he has been outright dominant and jumped into the conversation for defensive player of the year. Mack has been involved in four turnovers the last two games, including game-sealing strip sacks while recovering his own fumble in consecutive weeks.

“You all don’t want to talk to Robin,” Irvin quipped. “Batman’s right over there.”

Irvin has used that line after two home victories in a row. The fifth-year pro is more than Mack’s sidekick. He’s on a roll himself, with sacks in three straight games. He uses speed and agility to create pressure off the strongside edge, dealing with left tackles on a consistent basis.

“I’m in a good groove right now,” Irvin said. “Mentality, physically, I’m in a very good place right now. It’s really showing on the field these past couple weeks.”

Irvin has been a productive defender either making plays on his side or driving traffic back towards Mack. It works both ways, with Mack drawing significant attention that often leaves Irvin in more favorable matchups.

The combination has been impactful, especially on a defense that doesn’t’ get pressure from other sources. They’ve been productive in the clutch as well, with six sacks coming in the fourth quarter. Mack has big plays the last two weeks, and Irvin has a big sack late in a victory over Houston in Mexico City.

The Raiders defense is improving, and having Irvin rushing strong recently helps Mack and the entire Raiders defense.

“He’s always been in a good groove, but there are things going well for this defense,” Mack said. “I’m on the other side, and you have coverage going well. (Opponents) try to do all the chipping and those things that play a factor in doing what we do. The fact that he’s rolling right now is not a surprise.”