Stanford's 'Moose' clearing lanes

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Stanford's 'Moose' clearing lanes

PALO ALTO -- Has there ever been a more appropriate nickname for an offensive lineman than Moose? It leaves little to no room for interpretation about size or demeanor.

And except for the fact that Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin is extremely articulate -- and lacks antlers -- the nickname fits him as snugly as his shoulder pads.

Thats how he introduced himself to me (the first time I met him), joked quarterback Andrew Luck -- whose blindside is protected by the 6-foot-6, 304-pound Martin.

Martin was crowned with the moniker when he was in fifth grade. He was too big to play Pop Warner football in California, so during a flag football game, one of his teammates first called him Moose.

I guess I was mauling people, Martin said. It stuck since then.

It's how he still introduces himself -- though not to his professors.

"I'm more comfortable with Jon or Jonathan Martin in an academic setting," he said.

So when his name is called in the first round of the NFL draft -- probably not too long after the guy hes protecting -- chances are it will be Jon or Jonathan.

He has natural tools, said head coach David Shaw. An old coach once told me you have to find the guy that can do the things that you cant teach. And you cant teach a guy to be 6-5, 304-pounds and be athletic. And thats what he is.

Hes long. Hes got long arms. Hes tall, but hes flexible. He can kick and punch, and a lot of the publicity hes gotten is from NFL draft rankings, because he looks like an NFL tackle. Guys like that dont come around very often to be able to do the things he can do.

Its tough to statistically quantify the progress of an offensive line or lineman. But there are a few telltale signs. For example Stanford has increased its rushing total every week, from 141 yards against San Jose State to 205 against Duke to 242 against Arizona. Luck has only been sacked twice (though one was him running out of bounds). Those are pretty good figures.

Hes a tireless worker, Luck said of Martin. He takes a lot of pride in being consistent and using the right technique he sets such a great standard for the younger guys. Hes very meticulous, which I appreciate, obviously.

(The offensive line has) done a great job. They are still hungry they take pride in the fact that they want to be a physical group.

Martin started in 27 of the past 29 games since redshirting in 2008. He said he still needs some work on his pass protection (Luck would disagree), but he might be the best run blocker in this years draft class.

I really like those drives at the end of games when you get to run the ball for 10 straight plays, Martin said. Its a pretty gratifying feeling."

Shaw has asked Martin to do more than just protect the presumptive top pick in the NFL draft. With three starters from the offensive line graduating last season, Martin and David DeCastro became the veterans of the line. Tackle Cameron Fleming, center Sam Schwartzstein and guard David Yankey had never started a college football gamed prior to the season opener. And if the group was going to meet their coaches expectations, Martin and DeCastro were going to have to whip them into shape.

The roles those two guys played were so vital, Shaw said. Its one thing when the coaches demand it of a young player. Its an entirely different deal when the veteran players, the guys they see in the locker room, in the weight room, and in the training room demand it of them also. There is no soft place to land when you dont do it right. And thats a good thing. David and Jon have been very vocal in their expectations about how the line should play. And each game its getting better.

The younger players speak highly of Martin, calling him, among other things, an impressive leader. Hes made it an emphasis that as a line and a team, he wont accept anything but their best effort. Martin arrived at Stanford in the midst of the culture change and has seen firsthand the strides the program has made. His hope is that he leaves it in better shape than when he first arrived.

We want to win. We expect to win, Martin said. Thats where the standard has been set. Before, it was just to get to a bowl game. Now we have higher aspirations to win the Pac-12. Its been a fun process to be a part of.

Myers: 'It's painful' that Kerr not able to treasure being in NBA Finals

Myers: 'It's painful' that Kerr not able to treasure being in NBA Finals

OAKLAND -- Warriors coach Steve Kerr is no closer to resuming full-time duties than he was a week ago, or even a month ago.

Out since April 23, when he announced he was taking a leave of absence to address chronic pain in the wake of multiple back surgeries nearly two years ago, Kerr has been a constant presence the past two weeks but not on the bench during games.

“He’s doing everything but coaching, but at this point, he’s not able to coach,” general manager Bob Myers said Thursday after practice. “I wish could say that he was. I’m sure he wishes he could as well. But that’s where we are.

“If something changes and he feels better, I’ll sit here or, better -- he would sit here -- and tell you. But right now, I can’t say that he’s going to be coaching.”

Though Kerr did not address media Thursday, he indicated earlier this week that he would be comfortable going into the NBA Finals, which begin June 1, with acting head coach Mike Brown at the helm.

“We’re 12-0,” Kerr told NBCSportsBayArea.com. “I feel great about where the team is. I know we can play better. I think the challenge we’re about to face, one way or the other, is going to take us to another level.”

The Warriors under Kerr finished the regular season with a league-best 67-15 mark, earning the No. 1 overall seed for the playoffs. Kerr coached Games 1 and 2 of the first round against Portland before surrendering head coaching duties to Brown.

The Warriors are 10-0 since Brown took over, 27-1 over their last 28 games since March 11.

Still, they would like Kerr to regain health and join them in their quest for a second championship in three years.

“It’s hard for me; I’m kind of in this basketball mode,” Myers said. “But he’s a person and he’s not feeling well. And that’s what makes it hard. More than how it reflects on our team is how he’s feeling that makes it very difficult to have to sit here and say that the man that’s hugely responsible for us being in The Finals for three years in a row, in a moment that he should be treasuring, can’t do it.

“It’s painful. And I know it’s painful for him, more than anybody. And I wish and he wishes and I’m sure you guys do, too, that there was something that could get him there. But right now, we’re not at that point.”

Giants notes: 'Disappointing' road trip; Nuñez hopes to return Friday

Giants notes: 'Disappointing' road trip; Nuñez hopes to return Friday

CHICAGO — As they packed up at AT&T Park eight days ago, the Giants talked of taking their momentum on the road. It sounded pie-in-the-sky given the way they had played in April and on the previous trip, but when they took the first two in St. Louis, players started to believe they had finally turned the corner. 

And then came a Sunday loss, and three of four at Wrigley Field. There was no happy flight Thursday. The Giants lost 5-1, again looking flat against a less-than-elite pitcher, and ended up with a 3-4 trip. They’ll finish the first two months of the season without a winning road trip. They're 9-19 away from AT&T Park. 

“It’s disappointing,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Once you win the first one here, you’re hoping you get greedy and take the series, but we didn’t. That’s disappointing.”

The Giants entered the road trip with a 6.62 starters’ ERA on the road, but pitching wasn’t the issue. Sure there were too many meatballs — most of the 10 Cubs homers in this series came on pitches left right over the fat part of the plate — but the starters did their job. The lineup couldn’t keep up. The Giants had just five hits Thursday and finished the trip with 24 runs in seven games. They started the trip nine games out in the West and finished 11 back of the Rockies, their largest deficit since 2013. 

“You come here and take the first game with our (top) guys throwing after that and you’re hoping for a better result,” Jeff Samardzija said. “We started out good and that St. Louis series puts you in a good spot to salvage the trip. We’ll go home now with six solid games on our home turf and they’re six big games for us.”

The Braves and Nationals come to town. The Giants will see Jaime Garcia on Friday, followed by Mike Foltynewicz and R.A. Dickey. 

--- Samardzija’s run without a walk ended at 154 batters when Ian Happ drew a free pass in the seventh. The streak was the best of Samardzija’s career. 

--- Eduardo Nuñez said he got treatment on a tight hamstring throughout the game and he’ll go in early Friday to continue treatment. He hopes to start Friday. 

--- Christian Arroyo was hitless in three at-bats, dropping his average to .191. Before the game, Bochy talked at length about Arroyo’s recent struggles and the plan with him going forward. 

--- If you missed it earlier, I took a tour of the visiting bullpen here. After going in there, I talked to some more pitchers about what they don’t like. It seems to mostly be the fact that you’re separated from the game. One said some of the relievers who pitched Monday had no idea it was raining because they had been getting loose inside for several innings. Seems like there’s a pretty easy fix here: The Cubs can just turn part of that Under Armour wall into a chain-link fence, or have some sort of window that opens up to the outside but doesn’t interfere with outfielders. Maybe next year …