Time to Play 'Guess the Giants Lineup'

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Time to Play 'Guess the Giants Lineup'

Jan. 12, 2010GIANTS PAGE

Based on recent comments by general manager Brian Sabean and president LarryBaer, the Giants seem fairly comfortable with the notion of Buster Posey beingthe starting catcher on Opening Day. So lets assume, for the sake of todaysexercise, that the latest round of "interest" in Yorvit Torrealba doesnt leadto anything.In other words, were assuming that the team the Giantshave now, offensively, is the team with which theyll try to snap their playoffdrought.Whats the lineup? Heres the way I think it might shake out:1. Aaron Rowand, CF
Hes obviously notthe prototypical leadoff man, but its the spot in which he was most productivelast season, primarily because he made subtle approach changes when leadingoff. When he wasnt leading off, he was a straight hacker, and nearly anautomatic out. Besides, there is no prototypical leadoff man on this teamunless Eugenio Velez or Andres Torres is starting, and in this lineup theyrenot.2. Freddy Sanchez, 2B
A No. 2 hitter should be a high-average man who can handlethe bat well. He needs to hit behind runners when appropriate, drop down somebunts, run a little bit and be something of a gap-to-gap RBI guy in the eventthat the bottom of the order sets the table for him after the first inning.This is Sanchez to a T.3. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
The third hitter should be your best hitter, and Panda isthat for the Giants, hands-down. You want him to bat in the first inning, everygame. This is the biggest no-brainer in the lineup.4. Aubrey Huff, 1B
Your cleanup hitter need not be a high-average orhigh-on-base guy, but he needs to be a good RBI guy with above-average pop.Huff, even in a down year, drove in 85 runs last season, and that would havemade him second in RBIs on the 2009 Giants. He should at least be able to dowhat Bengie Molina did last year, and unlike Molina, he can score from secondon a single more often than not. 5. Mark DeRosa, LF
The No. 5 hitter should be a decent RBI guy, too, of course.Ideally, hed have more pop than DeRosa, but its not like DeRosa is a Punch-and-Judy type. Hes a smart, experienced hitter who has a decent track recordwhen it comes to situational hitting. 6. Nate Schierholtz, RF
I still cant figure out why the Giants dont think morehighly of this guy. Hes a very good hitter, and hes proven it at every level.Hes not a big power guy, but hes an excellent all-around player who drivesthe ball on occasion and runs well and runs smartly. Its time to plug him inand leave him alone. If he can get his OBP up, hed be a good No. 2 hitter --with Sanchez leading off -- if Rowand falls flat up there. 7. Edgar Renteria, SS
Heres hoping that his struggles last year really were tiedto his failing health, because hes been a very good hitter at times during hiscareer. If he gets back to being that, youre looking at a nice bottom of theorder.8. Buster Posey, C
Nobody doubts this guys talent, and Im all for startinghim right away. The dude was the Minor League Player of the Year, for cryingout loud. Cut him loose, bat him down low to minimize the pressure hes likelyto place on himself, and let him take whatever lumps come his way. The kidsthe real deal. Lets see it right now.So there you go. Not all that bad, is it? Not amazing, but probablybetter as a whole than last years offense -- as long as certain guys pull moreweight than they did last year and others make modest improvements. My lineup is just one option, though. What do youthink? Id love to see this turn into a raging debate, so leave your thoughtsbehind. If you havent registered, it only takes a minute. So haveat it. Tell me Im dumb and why youre smarter. Tell me Im smart and whyyoure smarter. Or just tell me what you think. Looking forward to hearing fromthe die-hards.
-- Mychael Urban

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

Young Kings' inexperience rears ugly head in loss to Jazz

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings showed their age Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. They couldn’t buy a basket early. They could do no wrong in the second and third quarters. And when the chips were down, they couldn’t stop a charging Utah Jazz team from pulling away for the 112-82 blowout.

Utah led by as many as 20 in the first quarter and it looked like it was going to be a long night. The Kings shot just 31.6 percent in the game’s first 12 minutes and they allowed the Jazz to knock down 5-of-11 3-pointers early.

“We started off slow and in a hole and tried to come back,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.

The Jazz pushed the lead to 24 in the opening minutes of the second quarter and then Ben McLemore happened. The fourth-year guard went off for 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the second as the Kings cut Utah’s lead to just seven at the intermission.

“It’s nice to see him back in there and getting rhythm and feeling good about himself,” Dave Joerger said of McLemore. “He is able at his size to get off of people that are holding. With his athleticism, he can be an effective cutter and he can be an effective pin down player.”

The 24-year-old wing finished the night with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but he was one of just three Kings players to notch double-figure scoring as the ball movement dried up for long stretches.

Utah made adjustments in the second half to slow McLemore and the Kings did a poor job of responding. They over dribbled the ball, leading to just 14 assists on the night.

The Jazz on the other hand looked like a finely oiled machine. With big man Rudy Gobert anchoring the post, they made cuts at the rim and found open shooters all around the perimeter.  

“They hit shots, a lot of shots, a lot of threes,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “That breaks the game wide open when you’re hitting threes and a lot of stuff is going in.”

Sharpshooter Rodney Hood dropped in 5-of-5 from long range, scoring 18 points in just 24 minutes of play. Gordon Hayward knocked down 3-of-5 from deep for a team-high 20 points. Overall, Utah outscored the Kings 39-6 from 3-point range.

Despite the rough start and the barrage of 3-point makes by the Jazz, Sacramento cut Utah’s lead to just two midway through the third quarter. And then the playoff bound Jazz dropped a 52-24 run on Sacramento to finish the night off.

Joerger allowed his core of young players plenty of time on the floor. Skal Labissiere played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss, coming away with nine points and seven rebounds.  

“I’m definitely learning a lot,” Labissiere said. “It’s the best way to learn to be out there against guys like that. Whenever I’m out there, I’m always learning something. I just try to give my best.”

Rookie Georgios Papagiannis added eight points and three rebounds in 20 minutes and Buddy Hield struggled for one of the few times in a Kings uniform, scoring just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

It’s a process. With the playoff chatter over and done with, the Kings are bound to have a few more night’s like this in the final seven games of the season as they transition to a full youth movement.

 

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

How Warriors became better team right before the return of Kevin Durant

When Kevin Durant returns, which could happen as soon as next week, the Warriors will be an appreciably better team than they were when he left.

Better because in Durant’s absence, veteran wing Andre Iguodala found the best of his game and fully regained his shooting confidence.

Better because David West, who spent the first two quarters of the season acclimating to his new teammates and the third on the injury list, has settled in and turned up his fire and production to a level that pleads for more playing time.

Better because Stephen Curry is dancing and Klay Thompson is cooking and Draymond Green is destroying opposing offenses.

Better because everybody on this team can sense the postseason and is making the mental adjustment, while knowing they’ll get an emotional bounce from Durant’s presence on the floor.

“Obviously, you hate to see KD go down; he’s going to be back soon,” Curry told reporters after a 110-98 win over the Spurs in San Antonio. “But we never really lost confidence in ourselves. There was no panic. We’ve just battled.”

Consider that the Warriors, who own the best record in the NBA, are coming off two nights during which they also proved to be the best team. Going into Houston and San Antonio on successive nights, they extended their seven-game win streak to nine, the longest active streak at a time when all playoff teams wish to peak.

By wiping out a 22-point deficit to a Spurs team that simply doesn’t allow that but did anyway even with Green completely off his offensive game.

And this was done with Durant observing and cheering from the bench in street clothes while also learning more about his teammates and appreciating what they’ve been able to accomplish.

Most notably, as a team, what they’ve done on defense. After recovering from the body blow that was losing Durant, losing five of seven in the process, the Warriors have pulled off a dazzling stretch during which they’ve taken apart all comers.

Prior to holding the Spurs to 41 percent from the field, the Warriors limited the explosive Rockets to 38.8 percent, the Grizzlies to 44.7 (34.8 in the decisive second half), the Kings to 48.2, the Mavericks to 35.9, the Thunder to 42.5, the Bucks to 40.4, the Magic to 37.2 and the 76ers to 43.8.

“We play a finesse style . . . but when we’re at our best, you talk about our defense,” Curry said. “It’s about having each other’s back, trying to do little things, physically, to keep teams out of the paint and off the glass.”

What has happened is most everybody in the playing rotation has grown in the absence of Durant. And while some had to if the Warriors were to withstand his loss, that they managed to do so is significant. The evidence is visible and palpable, never more than late Wednesday night.

“We have what it takes to win all sorts of ways,” Curry said. “Whether you’re down 15 and can’t figure out what’s going on in the first quarter, or you put together a beautiful performance for 48 minutes, it doesn’t matter. Night in and night out, you’ve just got to be ready to play."

At no point this season have the Warriors had reason to feel as good as they do returning home to Oracle Arena, where they will play six of their final seven games. Winning five more games gives them the No. 1 overall seed, regardless of what the Spurs do.

They’re on top of their game and they’re a few games away from adding the man who was their best player through the first 60 games.

By all appearances and insinuations, Durant will be back for the final two or three games of the regular season. That beats any trade-deadline deal eight days a week.