Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 1


Urban: NLCS Live Playoff Blog, Game 1

Oct. 16, 2010
UPDATED: 9:53 P.M.
Mychael Urban

PHILADELPHIA -- It must be quite the mind-bend to take the mound with a huge game on the line and a full stadium of rude and rabid hecklers thirsting for your blood.OK, the bloodthirst bit is a tad dramatic. But so was the situation Brian Wilson started down tonight while locking down Game 1 for the San Francisco We-Only-Win-By-A-Run-And-Youll-Like-Its.One mistake and he either blows the save or loses the game. Four outs to get, a million reasons to be a little freaked out.Only Wilson doesnt do freaked out. We know this by now. Hes told us, in fact. Told us hes a mental assassin. Not quite sure what that means, but thats Wilson. If he had webbed feet, hed be the ultimate odd duck. Heres how he described pitching in Philly tonight: Fifty, 60,000 people screaming, thats what you want, he said to me. It doesnt matter if theyre for you or against you. You dont even hear the boos. You just feel the energy -- the energy of being out there with all these people watching. And you feed off that. Never mind the attendance tonight was just over 45,000. Thats one hell of an answer -- and one hell of an approach to dealing with the inherent stress of the gig.In other words, embrace the hate. Fear the beard and embrace the hate. One on the front, another on the back. Somebody out there is already printing T-shirts, and I better get one!Thats all for tonight, gang. Time to close up shop. Tomorrows Sunday, and dont forget to pray to Cody Ross. Because yes, he is God.UPDATED: 7:31 P.M.He didnt have his best stuff, he didnt have the greatest command, and he was working with an umpire who didnt seem to have a clue.All of which makes Tim Lincecums performance here tonight that much more impressive. His line of three runs on six hits and three walks over seven innings certainly dont look like statistical evidence of an evening of domination, but consider that the three runs came on two homers. One was a bad pitch, the other was the result of a bad ballpark. Lincecum, who struck out eight to bring his 16-inning postseason total to 22, dominated when he had to, and the seventh inning said it all.Giants manager Bruce Bochy opened himself up to some serious second-guessing when he let Lincecum hit for himself in the top of the inning. A lot of people see a one-run lead and a pitch count over 100 and think the right call is always a pinch hitter in that situation.Lincecum makes you think differently. Bochy needed another inning from his starter. Desperately. He so badly didnt want to have to use a lefty reliever this early that he had Madison Bumgarner warming up in the sixth. He wanted to save Javier Lopez to face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the eighth, but he needed Lincecum to give him a perfect seventh first.Groundout, strikeout, groundout.And whaddya know? Lopez starts the eighth and quickly retires Utley and Howard. Four outs to victory.UPDATED: 6:58 P.M.Welcome to the playoff party, Juan Uribe.Just 2-for-17 in the National League Division Series, and 0-for-2 tostart the NL Championship Series, Uribe stroked an RBI single up themiddle off some stiff named Halladay to give the Giants a 4-1 lead inthe sixth inning.Uribe was such a big part of the Giants offense all year, such ajovial and likeable player, it was painful to watch him struggleagainst the Braves. One of the happier guys youll ever meet, even inbad times, he likes to tell everyone, Uribe always up.But Uribe, deep down, was down. During battingpractice, he left the cage wincing after a round littered with foulballs, meek grounders and lazy fly balls. It wasnt a wince of physicalpain, either. It was the wince of a man weighed down.Uribe up again now, though, and that 4-1 lead seemed pretty big at thetime. But lets not forget where this game is being played. Citizens Bank Park is every bit the bandbox its said to be, and JaysonWerth just illustrated that with his opposite-field homer to cut thelead to 4-3.And if you think Tim Lincecum isnt hot under the collar right now,youre as wrong as the people I saw walking past a cheesesteak shop andinto a McDonalds today.Not only has home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins strike zone been thesize of a thimble for most of the night, the park plays like a thimbleat times, too.Whens Cody Ross up again?UPDATED: 6:30 P.M.

Hi, its me again. Cody Ross.You remember me, right? Big home run a few innings ago?Just in case yall missed it, I did it for you again. See, I cant control what Tim Lincecum or Carlos Ruiz or that scary-looking Jayson Werth does.But when someone does something that threatens to steal my thunder, I take it right back.Ruiz takes Timmy deep to wipe out the 1-0 lead I gave him? Fine. Heres another, pretty much a carbon copy of the first. I dont know what the big deal is about this Roy Halladay, anyway. Hes no Madison Bumgarner, Ill tell you that right now.Not that I wouldnt take Madison deep. After all, I am Cody Ross! Its what I do. Its my new thing: Playoff god.I dont know what that Werth fella is doing with that look of his,either. He looks like he should be wearing cutoff jean shorts, Red Wingboots and a short-sleeved, red flannel shirt -- chopping wood somewheredeep in the Ozarks, a half-empty case of Hamms on its side nearby,while the 20-year-old boom box with a broken antenna behind him grindsout Gammas greatest hits.Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. Homers. Halladay. Me. King Kong.Its pretty cool. But I am getting a little tired of carrying an entire team on my back. Lil help?

UPDATED: 6:05 P.M.

The bottom of the third inning was a serious test for Tim Lincecum, and he passed it. Barely.Carlos Ruiz opened it by slamming a way-high fastball the other way fora game-tying homer, and Roy Halladay followed with a single.(Is there anything Halladay cant do, by the way? Does he cook gourmetdinner for the team after his starts, then head to the studio to laydown some tracks for his No. 1 album before heading home to sleep onthe bed he made himself while on a Peace Corp trip? Uncle.) Lincecum erased Halladay with a double play, but then came a double, awalk and a passed ball by Buster Posey to move the runners to secondand third with two out.At the plate: Ryan Howard, whod doubled off Lincecum in the secondinning and generally owns Big-Time Timmy Jim. Going into the at-bat hewas batting .350 (7-for-20) with three homers against the Freak, andthere isnt another person alive whos taken Lincecum deep three timesin the big leagues.Yet if theres one thing above all others that has fueled Lincecums greatness, its his ability to get bigger than the moment. Runners in scoring position? Lincecum usually grows from 5-foot-10 to 7-foot-10.On a 2-2 count, then, he absolutely buried an 86-mph slider that buried Howard and silenced the sellout crowd.As he walked off the field toward the dugout, Lincecum looked 10-foot-2.

UPDATED: 5:41 P.M.

Im Cody Ross, and yes, I sold my soul.I sold it for moments like this, becoming the first player to get a hit off Roy Halladay in the postseason. With a homer. On the road. In the NLCS.After almost single-handedly getting the Giants here.And again, off Roy Freaking Halladay.Soul, schmoul. You see that little skip I took out of the batters box?You see my teammates going bonkers, like kindergarteners being told the field trip has been changed from the Museum of Natural History to Baskin-Robbins?You see that smile on my face in the dugout after almost killing Mark DeRosa with a chest bump?It was worth it. And no, the Amish look Im rocking wasnt part of the deal.UPDATED: 5:31 P.M.Remember all the love that Pat Burrell got when he came back here for the first time with the Giants? He was showered with cheers, and it was a nice little moment for the man who spent most of his career in the City of Brotherly Love.Then he had the audacity to hit a homer. And then he homered again. Now they hate him.As Burrell strode to the plate for his first at-bat of the NLCS, he was booed hard. Plenty of boos during the pregame introductions, too.But wait. Now they love him again. He just struck out, missing a Roy Halladay slider off the outside corner by a good foot. Cheers all around.The cheers got louder when Halladay retired Juan Uribe to end the top of the second, his 11th consecutive postseason inning without allowing a hit. Youve probably heard hitters say the ball looks like a beach ball when theyre locked in. It must look like a chickpea when Halladays locked in.Tim Lincecum appears pretty dialed so far, too, putting to rest any concern that hed be over-amped for his first road playoff start. He just shrugged off a leadoff double by Ryan Howard with a classic escape: strikeout, popup, fly ball.So there will be no double no-hitter. A whole bunch of zeros, though? Thats a pretty safe bet right now.UPDATED: 5:12 P.M.Michael Buffer? Seriously? Oh, its gonna be a long night for Giants fans forced to follow this bad boy via Fox. Could be a long night for the Giants, too, if Roy Halladays first inning is any indication. Actually, it might be a short night. Strike one, strike one, strike one. Thats what Halladay does. He gets ahead of everybody, and he just got through Andres Torres (first-pitch lineout), Freddy Sanchez (0-2 flyout) and Aubrey Huff (1-2 groundout) in an eight-pitch hurry.Thing is, the Giants cant sit back and wait. Halladay is the kind of pitcher against whom you have to be aggressive early in the count, because hes not going to walk you. Its why his games, as long as the opposing pitcher works at a decent pace, are usually over within a couple of hours or so.Tim Lincecum likes to work fast, too, and while he gave up a couple of deep drives in the bottom of the first, he got through it on seven pitches. So make your trips to the bathroom or fridge quickies, folks. This isnt the Yankees and Red Sox in a four-hour slog. This is Doc vs. the Freak, both of them sprinting.

UPDATED: 4:53 P.M.

Its finally here. The National League Championship Series. The final hurdle a team must clear on the way to the World Series.Its a big damn deal, and the atmosphere outside Citizens Bank Park before Game 1 reflects that. This is not a baseball game. This is an event.Baseball goes all out for these things. Everything outside the yard is swathed with NLCS logos, and if youd like to own something with that logo on it, theres a huge merchandise tent in which you can get that 45 t-shirt youve always wanted.The street just outside the front entrance to the yard has been converted into a gigantic street party, and from the looks and sounds of things, which are already getting a tad sloppy, nobody has been financially dissuaded from imbibing in 12 beers. (Is the NLCS an aphrodisiac? To the red-clad couple making out next to the row of port-a-potties it is.) For sustenance, you can pick up some meat cooked on whats being hyped as the Playoff Grill. Makes you wonder what they did with the Regular-Season Grill.Theres even a huge stage, featuring with a local band pumping out covers of everything from the Beatles to Queen to Miley Cyrus.You think Paul McCartney is cool with his timeless classics being followed by Hannah Montana tunes?Who knows. But everyone here seems pretty cool with whats about to happen.Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum? Big damn deal.

Warriors stay ready, strike gold amid the 2017 NBA Draft scramble

Warriors stay ready, strike gold amid the 2017 NBA Draft scramble

OAKLAND -- Considering their status as reigning champs without a pick, members of the Warriors personnel department could have turned out the lights and left team headquarters to watch the NBA Draft from a nearby tavern.

They instead stayed in business mode Thursday night, observing the draft-night chaos up close, waiting for the right moment and the right player.

And for the second consecutive year, the Warriors paid a team for its 38th overall draft pick, sending a reported $3.5 million to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the rights to Oregon big man Jordan Bell, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

“Everybody we talked to had a lot of good things to say about him,” president/general manager Bob Myers said. “He’s one of the few guys we looked at and really wanted to see if we could get. I actually was not optimistic we would be able to get him. But somehow it came to fruition.”

Myers added that the Warriors, along with many mock drafts, projected Bell as a first-round pick.

Bell led the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage (63.6) while shooting almost exclusively in the paint. The 6-foot-9 center/forward was sixth among Pac-12 rebounders at 8.8 per game and 13th in steals at 1.3 per game.

The Long Beach Poly High product possesses a wingspan a fraction shy of 7-feet and bears, by some accounts, a resemblance to Draymond Green inasmuch as he is a defense-first player with a deep reservoir of energy.

It’s a comparison that Bell, asked about it, embraces.

“Draymond, because people always say I’m undersized,” Bell told Basketball Insiders last month. “He’s one of those players you can’t really say what position he is, but he’s a force on defense.”

Moreover, Myers cited Green as one of the players best suited to mentor Bell.

“Draymond is a good one,” the GM said. “He’s not afraid to tell players what he thinks. He’s going to be a good teacher.”

Bell in three seasons became the Ducks’ all-time leader in blocks. He blocked eight shots in a Midwest Regional win over Kansas that sent Oregon to the Final Four. He became during the NCAA Tournament the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon (in 1985) to snag at least 12 rebounds in five consecutive tournament games.

“Defending is one of my best attributes,” Bell told Basketball Insiders. “Being able to switch 1-through-5. Play small ball. Blocking shots. Timing. Decision-making on offense.”

These are the characteristics that prompted the Warriors to put a red-letter “B” next to Bell’s name on their draft board -- even though his offensive skills are unrefined.

“We love his ability to defend,” Myers said. “He could probably defend most positions, and in the NBA that’s huge. To be able to switch pick-and-rolls, rebound, block shots, finish, there are a lot of boxes he checks.

“ . . . We just like the way he plays basketball. We’ll find a place for him.”

The Warriors also are closing in on a deal for one of Bell’s Oregon teammates. Forward Chris Boucher is expected to sign a two-way contract with the team.

“That’s something we’re trying to move toward,” Myers said of Boucher, who is rehabilitating an ACL surgery.

“But we like players that win. We like players that can play. I don’t care what school they are or what their background is, or what position. Winners. That’s what we’re trying to do, is win. If we end up getting that done, that’s another player that was on a very good team.”

Kings finish 2017 NBA Draft with night that can turn franchise around

Kings finish 2017 NBA Draft with night that can turn franchise around

SACRAMENTO -- The Kings had a big draft night. The kind of night that might turn a franchise around. They entered the evening with three picks, including two in the top 10. With their first selection, they filled the franchise’s biggest need when they drafted De’Aaron Fox and then they went to work.
Vlade Divac and his team of front office execs jumped on an early trade, dealing the No. 10 overall selection to the Portland Trail Blazers for No. 15 and No. 20. North Carolina’s Justin Jackson was too appealing to pass on, and like Fox, he fit a major position of need. 
Sacramento came back with the 20th selection, taking one of the biggest risk/reward picks in the draft. Duke’s Harry Giles is playing on rebuilt knees, but before that, he was one of the top prospects in all of basketball. If he can stay healthy, the Kings may have drafted the biggest steal of the night. 
They topped off the evening with the selection of Wooden and Naismith Award winner Frank Mason III with the 34th overall pick. The Kings entered the night without a single point guard and they ended it with two very exciting options. 
“I’m very excited about the talent that we brought here tonight,” Divac said. “They’re going to just be an addition to what we’re trying to build here in the second half of the season.”
The Kings turned down overtures to move up to draft Fox. The 19-year-old speedster will step in and immediately compete for the starting point guard spot and he’s very excited to be a King.
“It’s just the vibe that I got when I was out there,” Fox told local Sacramento media via phone. “I felt like they really wanted me.” 
John Calipari is known for his bevy of All-Star bigs throughout the league, but he’s also produced a long line of big-time guards. Sacramento is hoping that Fox can live up to the billing of other former Calipari guards like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall. According to Divac, the Kings were so high on Fox, they would have taken him higher. 
“Screaming,” Divac said about the reaction in the room to Fox falling in their lap. “It was a guy that we all loved and in some way, if we had the number 1 pick, he would’ve been our guy.”
“De’Aaron is our future,” Divac added.
Without a perfect fit at 10, Divac made an adjustment on the fly to add more assets. The decision to trade 10 for 15 and 20 was very similar to the last season when the Kings dealt the eighth overall pick for No. 13, 28 and the draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic. By splitting the pick in two, the Kings were able to land two talented pieces that mesh with the current roster build.
Jackson and Fox know each other well. The duo played AAU ball together and Fox says he considers Jackson an older brother.  He is friends with Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere from their Kentucky connection.
“I feel like we can grow together,” Fox said of the Kings’ young core. “Of course, it’s going to take some time, but every franchise takes time.”
Fox is the jewel of the night and Jackson will compete for time at the wing, but Giles is the wildcard. The 19-year-old big can play the four and the five and has elite potential. 
“I’m so excited he was there for us at the 20,” Divac said. “That kind of talent you can’t pass.”
The Kings have done their homework on Giles. The type of knee injury that he sustained is similar to former NBA players Danny Manning, Amaré Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin. Manning and Martin each played 15 years in the league and Stoudemire lasted 14 seasons before retiring in 2016. After meeting him in person in Sacramento and working him out, they are very confident that he will be able to overcome his injuries and have a successful career in the NBA. 
Mason III will remind Kings fans of Isaiah Thomas, another undersized point guard that fell to the second round. The Kansas star posted 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Jayhawks last season. He’s a hard-nosed leader that can jump out of the gym and will instantly become a fan favorite in Sacramento. 
It’s a huge haul. Sacramento added two points guards, a wing and a big from some of the best basketball schools in the country. More than that, they added high character winners to a changing culture. 
For the first time in a while, the Sacramento Kings have accumulated assets. They have hit the ground running in their attempted rebuild and for one night, they are the talk of the NBA.