Sports – Martinez Tribune https://martineztribune.com The website of the Martinez Tribune. Thu, 09 Jul 2020 08:58:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 NFL’s hypocrisy on full display with Juneteenth and Kaepernick https://martineztribune.com/2020/06/20/nfls-hypocrisy-on-full-display-with-juneteenth-and-kaepernick/ https://martineztribune.com/2020/06/20/nfls-hypocrisy-on-full-display-with-juneteenth-and-kaepernick/#respond Sat, 20 Jun 2020 22:41:48 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14356 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ On June 19th, 1865, a proclamation was read in the city of Galveston, Texas. Union Army General Gordon Granger declared that by federal order, all slaves in Texas were now free. The date would ultimately become known as “Juneteenth”, in recognition of its historic significance. On June 12th, 2020, NFL Commissioner Roger …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

On June 19th, 1865, a proclamation was read in the city of Galveston, Texas. Union Army General Gordon Granger declared that by federal order, all slaves in Texas were now free. The date would ultimately become known as “Juneteenth”, in recognition of its historic significance.

On June 12th, 2020, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement intended to help commemorate that remarkable day.

“The power of this historical feat in our country’s blemished history is felt each year, but there is no question that the magnitude of this event weighs even more heavily today in the current climate. Juneteenth not only marks the end of slavery in the United States, but it also symbolizes freedom — a freedom that was delayed, and brutally resisted; and though decades of progress followed, a freedom for which we must continue to fight.”

“This year, as we work together as a family and in our communities to combat the racial injustices that remain deeply rooted into the fabric of our society, the NFL will observe Juneteenth on Friday, June 19 as a recognized holiday and our league offices will be closed. It is a day to reflect on our past, but more importantly, consider how each one of us can continue to show up and band together to work toward a better future.”

In addition to this press release, Goodell also announced that the NFL would earmark $250 million over the next decade in order to “combat systemic racism and support the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African Americans.”

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s efforts to bring attention to social justice in 2016 were initially criticized on ill-advised political grounds, but recent polling following weeks of nationwide protests shows that his stance is finally gaining wide-ranging support across almost all demographics.

 

Roger Goodell has been commissioner of the NFL since August of 2006. His handling of the Colin Kaepernick social justice protests in 2016 spoke volumes about his position on racism and police brutality in the USA. Because the protests by Kaepernick (and those who joined him) were unpopular and considered unpatriotic and disrespectful, the league saw attendance and TV ratings decline.

The kneeling players were considered bad for business, and those concerns drove the owners and the commissioner to outlaw the practice in 2018-enacting a new policy that threatened to fine players who were protesting during the National Anthem. Kaepernick was also essentially frozen out of the league, and hasn’t played a down since the 2016 season ended, resulting in the leader of the movement to draw attention to the causes of racism and police brutality having his platform eliminated.

In 2020, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, worldwide unrest swelled to a tipping point, and the issue of police brutality against black people became the rallying cry of an entire nation. Legislatures in sixteen different states has now created 159 different bills that have either been introduced or passed, specifically to address issues of policing and police reform (according to the website fivethirtyeight.com, referencing statistics from a database compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan association of state lawmakers).

After centuries of unrest, public opinion has finally forced action. The protests have been effective, and the views of Americans have evolved. According to a Washington Post-Scharr School poll taken in December of 2014, the killings of unarmed African American men in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri were characterized by the American public as being “isolated incidents” in 51% of respondents. 43% felt that they were representative of “broader problems in how African Americans are treated by police.” In a poll taken June 7, 2020 by the same organization, those numbers were dramatically different in response to the same question after the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis. 29% felt it was an isolated incident, and 69% felt it was a sign of a broader problem in how African American men are treated by police. The tides have turned.

The same Washington Post-Schar poll discovered that the nationwide protests were supported by both a majority of Republicans and Democrats.

The NFL, always cognizant of where their best interests lie, chose Juneteenth of 2020 to make a statement supporting the recognition of that holiday by the league for the first time, and used that platform to pledge an enormous sum of money to related charitable causes and activism avenues. It would seem to be a curious confluence of circumstances that have led the NFL, and its leader, to become suddenly sensitive to the issues of racism and police brutality. In the wake of the George Floyd killing, Goodell issued a statement:

“The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country. The protesters’ reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.”

As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league. These tragedies inform the NFL’s commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society.”

The league’s apparent hypocrisy was decried by African-American leaders in swift, harsh public rebukes.

Filmmaker and director Ava DuVernay: “This is a lie. Your actions show who you are. You’ve done nothing but the exact opposite of what you describe here. Keep Mr. Floyd’s name out of your mouth. Shame on you + the ‘consultants’ of this travesty of an organization.”

Michael Shawn-Dugar, former NFL player and sportswriter for the Athletic: Colin Kaepernick asked the NFL to care about the lives of black people and they banned him from their platform.”

If the NFL and the commissioner have genuinely revised their thinking and their moral positions about racism and police brutality, they should be openly commended. Everyone should have the right to admit that they have changed their minds, and for enlightenment about social justice issues to emerge, regardless of the circumstances. Progress in the right direction, for any reason, should be applauded and encouraged, especially when those changes are being broadcast by one of the most powerful sports engines in the entire world, the National Football League.

It is certainly a jaded perspective to attribute the sudden pivot by the NFL towards sensitivity about issues of systemic racism in this country to the changing winds of public opinion. It is facile to say that the league is merely “going with the flow” of its fans and supporters, and taking this position to capitalize on the positive public relations points it earns by its well crafted press releases, banking that their efforts will be good for the business of the league, and its owners’ bottom lines.

It’s also fair to ask where these bastions of integrity were six years ago when the Ferguson, Missouri racial riots blazed. It is also reasonable to inquire as to the general disposition of the league when Colin Kaepernick knelt for the very issues now being championed by the commissioner in bold type. There were many statements about patriotism and respect for the military, but scant few about racism and police brutality from the league offices in 2016.

Four years later, the league has seen the error of its ways, and wants the fans of the NFL and the citizens of the world to know where it now stands on these issues. It has pledged $250 million over ten years to address these issues, and that’s an excellent place to start making a real impact on the slow, painful process of meaningful change.

Now, take the next step to bring integrity and veracity to the rhetoric trumpeted by the NFL:

Hire Colin Kaepernick to be the NFL’s Ambassador for Social Justice, and give him carte blanche to use that $250 million as he, and his supporters, feel it would do the most good.

Of course, if Kaepernick would get an offer to play in the NFL again, he would obviously be free to take that job, and would resume his duties as the Ambassador for Social Justice after his playing career is over.

In the process of creating this position, Goodell would publicly acknowledge the league’s mistreatment of Kaepernick since 2016, and issue a sincere apology. What better way to put real teeth into such an effort than to recognize the issues he knelt for and to literally empower him to use the immense public platform of the NFL to help change them ?

Then, people might actually start to believe they mean what they say.

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Kaepernick’s stance might finally be resonating four years later https://martineztribune.com/2020/06/10/kaepernicks-stance-might-finally-be-resonating-four-years-later/ https://martineztribune.com/2020/06/10/kaepernicks-stance-might-finally-be-resonating-four-years-later/#respond Wed, 10 Jun 2020 22:50:05 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14329 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ After first being moved to protest police brutality during the 2016 preseason, Colin Kaepernick stated that his decision to sit during the national anthem of the 49ers third preseason game was motivated by his desire to bring attention to issues that resonated with him following the death of Mario Woods in December …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

After first being moved to protest police brutality during the 2016 preseason, Colin Kaepernick stated that his decision to sit during the national anthem of the 49ers third preseason game was motivated by his desire to bring attention to issues that resonated with him following the death of Mario Woods in December 2015. 

Woods, 26, was a suspect in the stabbing of a man in the Bayview district of San Francisco when police confronted him. After ordering Woods to drop the knife he held, five different officers fired a total of 26 bullets at Woods, killing him.  Kaepernick decided he needed to speak up, and use his platform as an athlete to help focus attention on racial injustice and police brutality. 

That decision cost him his career as an NFL quarterback.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
San Francisco 49ers Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick (Pictured L-R) take a knee during the National Anthem prior to a game against the Los Angeles Rams in 2016.

 

In light of the recent protests around the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, it is instructive to revisit Kaepernick’s efforts to highlight the institutional racism inherent in the law enforcement community, and in the nation as a whole. These are uncomfortable and emotionally charged concerns, but without trying to see today’s events through the lens of historical perspective, we miss an opportunity to learn about how the leaders of our country, and those in positions of significant influence, shifted the spotlight away from the racism the Kaepernick was decrying, and onto questions about patriotism, respect for the military, and business and financial interests. 

The message Kaepernick was so desperately and peacefully trying to get across was intentionally diluted, his pleas for urgent change drowned out by a cacophony of powerful narratives driven by those who sought to preserve the status quo.

In August 2016, before a preseason game against the Packers, Kaepernick chose to sit on the bench as his teammates rose during the national anthem. Kaepernick’s refusal to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people” drew responses locally and nationally. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he said when asked to explain his decision, referencing the Woods situation, where the five officers involved in the shooting were not formally charged with criminal activity.

Presented next are the reactions from various organizations, leaders and people in positions of power and influence:

49ers coach Chip Kelly: “It’s his right as a citizen, and it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.” 

The San Francisco 49ers: “We recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.” The focus of their press release was exclusively on their team policy regarding their player’s right to participate in anthem celebrations. Racism and police brutality are not mentioned by either the coach or the team.

The NFL: “Players are encouraged, but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.” The message being sent is one that places the focus on the legality of Kaepernick’s protest in the context of league rules. No mention is made about the issue Kaepernick is protesting.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he “doesn’t necessarily agree with what he (Kaepernick) is doing,” but supports players who seek changes in society.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump: “I think it is a terrible thing, and, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him.”

One of the responses Kaepernick received regarding his sit down during the anthem was from Nate Boyer, a former NFL player with the Seattle Seahawks, and a Green Beret. In an open letter to the quarterback, Boyer wrote, “Even though my initial reaction to your protest was one of anger, I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying and why you’re doing it.” Kaepernick agreed to meet Boyer in person, and after discussing the situation, Boyer convinced Kaepernick that taking a knee during the anthem was a more respectful stance from a military perspective, and Kaepernick listened, and agreed. From that point forward, Kaepernick would take a knee during the playing of the anthem.

During the 2016 season, Kaepernick played 12 games, throwing 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions for a passer rating of 90.7, the 17th best rating among NFL quarterbacks. After the 2016 season, the 49ers released Kaepernick and he hasn’t played a down in the league since in spite of only being 29 at the time.

According to TV ratings, NFL viewership dropped by 8% in 2016. In a survey by JD Power, 30% of fans felt that the kneeling players were the #1 reason they weren’t watching the NFL.

Despite being in the prime of his career, and coming off a largely successful season in 2016, the Super Bowl quarterback could not convince a single NFL team to sign him in 2017. He believed he was being blackballed by NFL owners who were afraid to sign him for fear of the public backlash that his kneeling during the anthem might cause. None of the 32 NFL owners, only one of whom is a minority, would sign him.

49ers safety Eric Reid was the first NFL player to join Kaepernick in kneeling for the anthem. He supported his teammate, sharing his outrage about racism and police brutality and knelt alongside him before NFL contests. When Reid became a free agent after the 2017 season, he was met with deafening silence. No NFL team wanted to offer him a contract to play football, despite being in the prime of his career and still considered an above average safety.

©DANEIL GLUSKOTER
Eric Reid (25) of the Carolina Panthers takes a knee during the national anthem prior to a game against the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium last season.

 

During the one free agent visit he did make with Cincinnati, Reid reported that Bengals team owner Mike Brown asked him if he intended to keep kneeling during the anthem. He declined to provide assurances as to his intentions in that regard, and he left the visit without a contract. He remained unsigned through the summer, and only signed a one-year deal with Carolina in late September after the 2018 season had started. With the Panthers, Reid continued to kneel during the anthem, and despite being thought of highly enough for the team to resign him to a three-year extension, he was cut in March despite playing all 16 games and setting career highs in both tackles and sacks in the 2019 season.

Kaepernick decided to file a lawsuit against the NFL, arguing that he had been denied a job because of his anthem position. Reid also filed a lawsuit against the NFL, alleging that owners colluded against offering him a contract after the 2017 season because of his activism.

In 2019, the NFL settled those lawsuits for what was reported to be roughly $6 million (according to a New York Times story).

President Donald Trump in 2017: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

The rhetoric that followed Kaepernick’s efforts to shine a harsh light on racism and police brutality was largely focused on issues other than those very topics. Patriotism, respect for the flag and the military all were raised as reasons to differ with Kaepernick’s protests.  Leaders, and those in positions of influence and power (presidents, coaches, team owners and league officials) helped to shape the national conversation about Kaepernick’s position, and ultimately obfuscated the central message he sought to bring forward. Within months of his initial protest in late August 2016, he was released by the franchise who drafted him-the same franchise he led to the Super Bowl in 2012, and could not get a single other NFL owner to sign him to a contract. 

Kaepernick had been effectively silenced by those in a position to provide him a platform to carry his message to the people of the country. The issues of racism and police brutality were tertiary considerations when it came to Kaepernick. He was considered anti-patriotic, disrespectful of the flag and the military, and the fans of the NFL noted that the very protests that he started were among the reasons they weren’t watching as much football on Sundays. 

It is not known what percentage of those fans turned off by his kneeling during the anthem actually were aware of the issues he was drawing attention to. The national narrative had been intentionally redirected by those in a position to help shape the conversation-away from racism and police treatment of minorities, and onto less controversial tropes (patriotism, the military, respect for the flag)-to diminish the impact as an agent of real change he had as a professional athlete. Ultimately, that platform was withdrawn from him as well, as he remains unemployed as an NFL player.

In 2018, the NFL enacted a policy that allowed the league to fine players who wouldn’t stand during the playing of the anthem. The policy did allow for players to remain in the locker rooms without fear of being fined. The message was clear: The league didn’t want the viewing public to see its players kneeling during the anthem and to be perceived as anti-patriotic, a characterization that was bad for the business of football. The racism and brutality that was being protested by those players taking a knee did not motivate the NFL to act in such a way.

Trump response to the policy was “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners did the right thing.” 

The issue was respect for the flag and patriotism, and the president lauded the NFL owners for working to enact legislative change that enforced those principles. The league revoked the policy several months later.

In 2020, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The entire experience was captured on video by a local bystander with a cell phone, leaving no doubt as to the actual events that transpired. Within hours, enraged citizens of all ethnicities took to the streets to voice their anger and frustration as yet another African American had lost his life at the hands of a policeman. Fires were started, windows smashed and property destroyed as rioters stormed the streets of the city, and looters were caught on video pillaging stores of their merchandise. Protesters marched towards police precincts, demanding justice for their fallen brother. They screamed for the officer in question to be arrested and charged with murder, and for the three other officers at the scene, who stood by and watched as a man’s life was ended in front of them, to be similarly judged.

Trump: (via Twitter):” I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis, “A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak ‘radical left’ Mayor, Jacob Frey, gets his act together and brings the city under control, or I will send in the National Guard and get the job done right.”

Trump added, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank You!”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (via Twitter):”Americans have watched peaceful protests hijacked into violent riots that inflict the kind of injustice they supposedly oppose. Small businesses destroyed. Neighborhoods torn up. Police attacked on city streets. These riots need to stop. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Now.”

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton (New York Times Op-Ed piece):”This week, rioters have plunged many American cities into anarchy, recalling the widespread violence of the 1960’s…But the rioting has nothing to do with George Floyd, whose bereaved relatives have condemned violence. On the contrary, nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like Antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes…One thing above all else will restore order to our streets, An overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers.”

With those comments, the narrative of the situation was manipulated. That is not to say that the violence seen in the streets of cities across the USA did not merit attention or mention by leadership, but the story being tweeted, discussed by the media and seen by the entire world became more about the looting and violent rioting and less about the systemic racism and police brutality that started it all. There were promises to send in the military, characterizations of local leadership as being unfit to restore order, and direct promises of the use of force to quell the unrest. The blatant nature of the public murder was there for all to see and mourn.

The response by those in power paid a modicum of lip service to the fact that another black life had been taken by police brutality, and more energy and focus was diverted to the lawless behavior of those rioting. There seemed to be an intentional effort to reframe the events that took place in Minneapolis, and demonize the violent rioters and terrorist inciters as the primary issue to be addressed. 

In 2020, that tactic seems to have been less effective than when Colin Kaepernick took a knee, and there are people willing to say they were wrong about not recognizing that fact back in 2016.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Saints quarterback Drew Brees is the NFL’s All-Time leader in both passing yardage and touchdown passes. Last week, the 13 time Pro Bowler inserted himself into the political debate about standing for the national anthem by changing his position the day after first coming out against kneeling as a sign of protest.

 

Asked to address the potential for renewed protests by NFL players during the national anthem in response to the George Floyd situation, New Orleans Saints star quarterback Drew Brees responded: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country.” Brees had shared comments of that tenor since Kaepernick first brought the issue to the national spotlight in 2016. In 2020, however, his comments were met with swift condemnation from athletes around the world, including two of his own Saints teammates, Michael Thomas and Malcolm Jenkins. Brees was chastened, but, to his credit, he recognized how his words were missing the point, and he said so publicly in an Instagram post and via video, and took the additional step of calling himself out in a virtual team meeting with the rest of his teammates:

“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.”

Trump responded to Brees’ reconsideration of the matter:

“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high…

“We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING !”

On Instagram, Brees summed up the entire issue concisely and completely:

“We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.”

Former NFL executive Joe Lockhart, who worked as a league spokesman from 2016-2018, published an op-ed piece on CNN last weekend. In the article, he notes, “I was wrong. I think the teams were wrong for not signing him. Watching what’s going on in Minnesota, I understand how badly wrong we were.”

“That symbol of racial injustice was reinforced every day that Colin sat on the outside of the football world. It may have seemed like a good business decision for the clubs to not sign him, and it certainly wasn’t illegal, but it was wrong.”

When people in positions of power and influence can not only recognize the true nature of the problem, but publicly admit their complicity in helping to squelch movements designed to achieve true and lasting change, the narrative is finally focused on the right things. Only with tireless, relentless and intentional open-mindedness can this country attempt to heal the racial injustice that has plagued it for more than 400 years. With the recognition of the institutionalized racism that infests some police organizations in the country, lasting change can become possible. 

George Floyd was murdered by the police. That act was at least enabled by those who sought to silence Colin Kaepernick back in 2016 when he knelt to bring attention to the racism he saw in the country he lived and worked in. Kaepernick wasn’t the first opponent of racism who saw their lives inexorably damaged based on their public proclamations, but perhaps it is not too late to recognize his courage, and to see him as a champion of a movement that still has miles to go to achieve its aims. If doing so emboldens the next Colin Kaepernick to take a stand on an issue that he/she sees as being unjust, then his sacrifice can live on in the spirit of change.

On June 7th, 2020, the Minneapolis City Council pledged to disband the Minneapolis Police Department. The members vowed to “dismantle and abolish” the department that was responsible for the death of George Floyd, and to build an alternative model of community led safety.

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49ers All-Pro tackle Joe Staley announces retirement https://martineztribune.com/2020/04/25/49ers-all-pro-tackle-joe-staley-announces-retirement/ Sun, 26 Apr 2020 00:35:19 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14286 The San Francisco 49ers announced today that Joe Staley, a three-time All-Pro tackle and six-time Pro Bowl selection, has retired from the National Football League.   “For the last 13 years, Joe Staley conducted himself in a manner that epitomizes the 49ers way and set a tremendous example for his teammates and our community,” said …

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The San Francisco 49ers announced today that Joe Staley, a three-time All-Pro tackle and six-time Pro Bowl selection, has retired from the National Football League.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER 49ers tackle Joe Staley announced his retirement on Saturday, ending a 13 year career that resulted in six Pro Bowl selections and a pair of Super Bowl appearances.

 

“For the last 13 years, Joe Staley conducted himself in a manner that epitomizes the 49ers way and set a tremendous example for his teammates and our community,” said 49ers CEO Jed York. “A consummate professional, one of the best players in the game and a great human being, Joe has left an indelible mark on this franchise and everyone he has come into contact with throughout his career. His passion, sense of humor and heart are just a few of the many traits that allowed him not only to be a team leader but also an ambassador for our game and the Bay Area.”

“One of the most respected and well-liked players in the NFL, Joe was integral to the success our organization has experienced over the last decade. I know Joe wrestled for some time with this decision because of his love for the 49ers and the game of football. As he walks away, my hope is that he does so knowing how greatly appreciated he is by the 49ers organization, my family, and our Faithful fans.”

“Forever a member of the 49ers family, Joe holds a special place in our hearts and will go down as one of the true greats in the storied history of our franchise. I look forward to supporting him, his wife, Carrie, and his daughters, Grace and Audrey, as they embark on the next chapter of life.”

Staley (6-5, 315) was originally selected in the first round (28th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft by San Francisco. Throughout his 13-year career, he started all 181 regular season games in which he appeared, as well as all 11 postseason contests, including two Super Bowls. Recently named to the 2011-2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame All Decade Team, Staley earned All-Pro honors in 2011, 2012 and 2013, in addition to being selected to six Pro Bowls (2012-2016 & 2018). Last season, he started seven regular season games and three postseason contests at left tackle.

Staley finished his career ranked fifth in franchise history for the most games played by an offensive lineman (181), trailing only T Len Rohde (208), T Keith Fahnhorst (193), G/C Randy Cross (185) and C/G Jesse Sapolu (182). A member of San Francisco’s 10-Year Club, which recognizes 49ers players whose tenures reached the 10-year mark, Staley was also a two-time recipient of the Bobb McKittrick Award (2014-15), given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best exemplifies the dedication, excellence and commitment of former offensive line coach Bobb McKittrick. In 2019, Staley was selected as one of eight finalists for the annual Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award for the fifth-consecutive season.

A 35-year-old native of Rockford, MI, Staley played at Central Michigan University, where he earned consecutive First-Team All-MAC honors in both his junior and senior seasons. He played in 46 games (39 starts) for the Chippewas and helped the team produce a 1,000-yard rusher in three of his four seasons (2003-05). He and his wife, Carrie, have two daughters, Grace and Audrey.

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How the return of Sports can help save us https://martineztribune.com/2020/04/06/how-the-return-of-sports-can-help-save-us/ Mon, 06 Apr 2020 23:38:05 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14245 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ April is arguably the greatest time of the yearly sports calendar. Opening Day ceremonies rouse fans from winter hibernations as the hope and promise of a new season beats in the chests of baseball fans across the nation. The professional basketball and hockey seasons roar down the stretch as teams jockey for …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

April is arguably the greatest time of the yearly sports calendar. Opening Day ceremonies rouse fans from winter hibernations as the hope and promise of a new season beats in the chests of baseball fans across the nation. The professional basketball and hockey seasons roar down the stretch as teams jockey for playoff position, with pivotal games dotting the schedule several times a week. The NFL draft season is in full bloom, and projections of which college stars will be chosen later this month are published on a near daily basis.

Not to be outdone, college basketball crescendos three weeks of March Madness with the championship game on the first Monday of the month. The Masters gathers the best golfers on the planet in Augusta as duffers all over the country begin to dust off their drivers as they worship the pros coming around Amen Corner on Sunday’s final round amid the azaleas. The UEFA Champions League brings the best European soccer teams through the quarter-and semi-final rounds, enthralling entire nations of frenzied acolytes.Sports normally feeds the faithful on a daily basis in April, but in 2020, it will be deathly quiet from a sports perspective.

A World Health Organization (WHO) map released on April 6th starkly illustrates how nearly every country in the world has been affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

 

Aside from the NFL draft, which (as of this writing), is planning to proceed as planned starting April 23rd without fans via live video conferencing, none of the events previously referenced will take place. Professional basketball and hockey are suspended indefinitely, and the ultimate crowning of a champion in both sports is an afterthought as the nation, and the world, battle a global pandemic that threatens to get worse before it gets better.

While sports can represent a welcome, popular and incredibly lucrative diversion to our workaday existences, the drama and pageantry of the games is rendered frivolous and entirely insignificant in the fearsome shadow of COVID-19. The virus has infected more than a million people worldwide, resulting in more than 65,000 fatalities, including over 10,000 in the USA alone as of April 6th. The corona virus is the most serious pandemic the planet has seen in at least 100 years, and scientists and epidemiologists around the world still haven’t been able to find an effective vaccine, or to predict how many more will die before they do.

Shortages of testing kits, gloves, masks and ventilators for health care workers and treatment facilities to attend to the afflicted characterize multiple population centers in the USA and around the world. The need for those resources will only grow more acute as the virus rampages through our towns and cities, and may ultimately become as critical to our management of this crisis as finding a vaccine.

Is there a way for sports to play a role in this battle?

The following suggestion does not intend to underplay or to minimize the very real threats to our health, our economy and our very livelihoods that the current situation poses. It is only with an understanding that all of those considerations must be heavily weighted when designing a proposal to revive the sporting events that distract and entertain us that the idea below is brought forward.

Admittedly, there are logistical hurdles to overcome, but a proposal from one sports addled mind envisions a way for the athletes we idolize and deify (and help enrich well beyond any reasonable proportion) to play a role in this struggle.

The plan begins by organizing a process by which the NBA and NHL both complete their seasons with actual games to determine the champions in each sport.

The leadership of each sport, in conjunction with the players, coaches and referees, meet to work out a mutually acceptable conclusion to each regular season, and design the outline for a playoff process. Then, the network entities who own the rights to the regular season games and playoffs would be involved to streamline the logistics of the presentation of the games to fans via television and internet feeds.

These games would need to be contested in neutral, secure and completely COVID-19 free environments, which would necessitate them to be played without fans. The teams would have to insure the health and virus free status of their entire traveling organization, which would likely require true individual isolation of those entities leading up to the contests for 14 days or more. The same would be required of the coaches, referees and arena workers who would staff the venues, as well as the production crews who will be broadcasting the games live. There must be an assurance of an elimination of potential risk to anyone who is involved in this campaign or the entire idea collapses.

The various leagues would have a short ramp-up period to acclimate the athletes to the rigors of daily competition, followed by a shortened finish to the regular season, probably a handful of games in both the NBA and NHL, to complete the playoff picture. Then, the playoffs would begin, featuring a best of three first round, best of five second round, then traditional best of seven conference finals and championship rounds. Given that there would be no “home games”, travel considerations would be minimized, allowing the games to be played on a relatively accelerated schedule. If the seasons were ready to go by July 1, for instance, both leagues could be done by Labor Day.

Once those very crucial considerations can be locked down, the fun starts. Every game, from the regular season contests to the playoffs, generates revenue, the vast majority of which will be directed to COVID-19 management.

Broadcasts will sell advertising for the contests televised or streamed, and networks will pledge a significant percentage of those revenues to the fight against the virus. Ratings would be expected to far outperform traditional benchmarks given the lack of competing entertainment options and the collective population being confined to their homes, allowing the networks to sell advertising at a significantly higher rate than normal.

Teams will be able to sell uniform patches of their choosing, with most of those funds being directed towards virus treatment and containment strategies. European soccer has long featured uniform advertising, and the NBA has begun down that road over the past two seasons. If ever there were a situation to overcome purists objections to having uniforms festooned with advertising, this is it. If necessity is the mother of invention, this pandemic can be considered the father of resourcefulness.

Individual players will feature live streams from their perspectives (on helmets for hockey players, headbands for NBA and soccer players) that will provide audio and video perspectives to fans around the world who would pay relatively nominal fees ($10-20 per person) to see and hear the game from their favorite player’s point of view. Each player would nominate a local (or national) charitable effort that is directly virus related to donate the vast majority of the proceeds of this endeavor. A portion of those funds could also be shared equally among the athlete’s teammates, eliminating the star-centric favoritism inherent in such a venture.

Venues that host games would be converted into hospitals or other treatment facilities upon completion of the games, the construction of which is generated by some of the revenue generated by the events held there. Arguments that could reasonably be raised that question the use of any resources to stage sporting events in the face of the crisis would be assuaged knowing that the end result of these efforts will be more money to combat the virus, and more health care facilities to care for those afflicted.

Wagering on the games, legalized for these contests, would be encouraged, with at least 15% of all monies wagered on the outcomes passed along directly to virus research.  Bettors are used to having to pay a premium for the privilege to do so, and would likely accept a greater rate than usual to benefit the cause in question. Betting centers from around the world would be set up to handle the massive influx of likely action, and would be heavily audited to insure that the revenue being wagered ends up where it is needed most.

 

It is important, if not instructive, to try to identify where the motivations for the various entities involved in this endeavor might lie, and thus to understand how each might be inclined to go along with such a scheme.

The Networks: The rights fees for the broadcast of NHL and NBA games are sunk costs for the networks, but without games to televise, they can’t generate valuable advertising revenue.  The opportunity to sell ads for any and all games played would likely be very enticing, especially considering that they could rely upon much higher ratings than typically expected with much of the country confined to their homes, limiting entertainment options.

The Owners: The owners of the professional sports franchises aren’t generating revenue from ticket sales and other associated event related economies, but they also aren’t paying the players their salaries in full. They would likely be footing the bill for much of the logistical requirements of the plan, so they would have to be assured that they could at least break even during this process. The sale of uniform patches to advertisers would probably be their primary source of revenue to help offset those costs.

The Players:  The players want to play games, and earn salaries. The average NHL and NBA player will have between five and six seasons to capitalize on their athletic skill. The idea that they would be losing approximately 10% of their career earnings by skipping the remainder of the regular season and playoffs is certain to hit home. Players would relish the chance to play for a championship, especially players on those teams considered playoff favorites. With the idea of selling pay-per-view video and audio access available to them (a portion of which would be earmarked for division among all roster players), the concept of playing games in empty venues might just be palatable. Their competitive and financial interests would seem to be sufficiently piqued by this idea.

The Fans: Sports fans are starving for content at the moment, so it would be easy to imagine that the chance to see live games contested between professional players as a way to distract from the very real challenges of daily existence in the world of COVID-19 would be remarkably appealing. Those with the means to do so would also fuel the pay-per-view market through individual players, and offer a unique viewing experience that can also be utilized as a tax write-off (charitable donation), easing financial concerns about paying for such a luxury.

Everyone in each of these groups would also have to realize that by their collaboration, potentially millions of dollars would be raised to help fight the pandemic both in the USA and Canada, but in the case of a possible soccer concept of the same design, in the rest of the world as well. When the end result benefits the single biggest challenge humanity has faced in decades, it is feasible to become optimistic about what it would take to overcome the hurdles required to stage these events.

History has seen collaborative efforts on a global scale in the past. Live Aid was staged on seperate continents in 1985 to help raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia and Africa, and resulted in nearly $127 million dollars of donations. It wouldn’t be difficult to project that the net result from NBA, NHL and European soccer broadcasts as described above to propagate enough interest that such a figure would be but a fraction of the total funds made available for COVID-19 relief.

Sports have always represented a way to bring people together, united in a common rooting interest that helps knit families, communities and entire areas. During the current crisis, it would seem that those types of opportunities are few and far between. Fans would know that no matter the outcome of these contests, just the fact that they are played at all could potentially benefit all of humanity. Never before would winning or losing a game seem less important.

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NBA suspends season after Utah’s Gobert contacts virus https://martineztribune.com/2020/03/11/pgjhoh/ Thu, 12 Mar 2020 06:59:26 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14182 BY MASON BISSADA This developing story was updated at 12PM Pacific Time on March 12th. The National Basketball Association has suspended its season in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi. After initially taking the precaution of not allowing fans into certain arenas for games, the league decided to …

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BY MASON BISSADA

This developing story was updated at 12PM Pacific Time on March 12th.

The National Basketball Association has suspended its season in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi.

After initially taking the precaution of not allowing fans into certain arenas for games, the league decided to suspend the season entirely when Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the Coronavirus.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The NBA announced an unprecedented immediate suspension of it’s season following the news that Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert had test positive for the Coronavirus.

 

The two-time Defensive Player of the Year is supposedly doing well according to fellow NBA player and French national teammate Evan Fournier, who tweeted “Was just on the phone with Rudy. He is doing good. Lets not panic everyone. Love you all.”

The entire Jazz roster was tested for the virus. Rumors that Gobert’s teammate Emmanuel Mudiay had also tested positive for the virus were inaccurate, but fellow All-Star Donovan “Spider” Mitchell confirmed on Instagram that he had tested positive.  The NBA advised all the teams that have played the Jazz in the last 10 days to self-quarantine until they have been tested.

The last day of the 2019-20 season was scheduled for April 15th, with the Finals set to start on June 4th. As of now, the league is suspended “indefinitely,” leaving many to believe games will not resume any time soon.

22-year veteran Vince Carter, who was planning on finally retiring at the end of the season, came to terms with the idea that he’d just played in his final NBA game during his postgame press conference Wednesday following an overtime loss to the Knicks. “Game’s been good,” Carter said after what might have been his last game. “Basketball’s been good to me. I’ve enjoyed each and every moment of it. Good and bad. So if this is it, it’s all good.”

On Thursday morning the NHL followed suit by pausing their season effective immediately, and Major League Baseball has also cancelled all remaining exhibition games in both Arizona and Florida and announced that the start of the regular season will be delayed by at least two weeks.

 

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Clippers Blow Out Warriors 131-107 as Fan Lockout Looms https://martineztribune.com/2020/03/10/clippers-blow-out-warriors-as-fan-lockout-looms/ Wed, 11 Mar 2020 06:19:05 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14175 BY MASON BISSADA In what may turn out to be the final Warriors home game with fans in attendance at Chase Center for the foreseeable future, Golden State lost in demoralizing fashion to the Los Angeles Clippers, 131-107. After the Santa Clara Health Department ordered on Monday that all gatherings of one thousand people or …

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BY MASON BISSADA

In what may turn out to be the final Warriors home game with fans in attendance at Chase Center for the foreseeable future, Golden State lost in demoralizing fashion to the Los Angeles Clippers, 131-107.

After the Santa Clara Health Department ordered on Monday that all gatherings of one thousand people or more are effectively banned due to the Coronavirus outbreak, many are speculating that San Francisco county can’t be far behind with their own such ruling. Just as the San Jose Sharks will now play their games in an empty arena, so too may the Golden State Warriors in due time. The NBA is set to make a league-wide call on Wednesday addressing further measures, and games may be closed off to the public as soon as Thursday in certain cities.

“It’s absolutely a possibility,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said pregame when asked about potentially playing without fans in attendance. “I’ve played on a couple of teams where it felt like that was the case. We’re in uncharted waters here. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We’re all just taking the approach that we have to do our jobs and come in and work.”

The Warriors organization has already taken the step of not allowing the media into team locker rooms before and after games, and setting up makeshift podiums for players and coaches outside the away locker room where scrums would usually take place.

“I mean it’s not disruptive much,” Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers said from his podium when asked about the precautions the league is enforcing. “But it’s different, this is definitely different. This is very serious and our team is taking it very serious and the NBA is taking it very serious and so there are things that we are doing different.”

Some fans seem to have already taken it upon themselves to avoid large gatherings, as a noticeable amount of seats were empty on Tuesday at Chase Center for a game that would usually draw a huge crowd.

 If fans are indeed closed off to games in the future, the question remains of how this absence will affect the way teams play. “Obviously we want our fans to be there,” Eric Paschall said postgame. “We play for our fans, but I feel like as professional basketball players, we can adjust to it because we’ve played basketball our whole lives.”

In terms of the game itself, Golden State was clearly outmatched from the jump, giving up a 28-point deficit by halftime and allowing the Clippers to extend thieir lead to 34 at one point. The Clippers, who currently hold the #2 seed in the Western Conference, hit 20 of their 44 3-point attempts (good for 45.5%) and dominated Golden State in nearly every other statistical category as well. Seven Clips scored in double figures despite no player playing over 27 minutes (their starters sat for nearly all of the fourth quarter).

“We’re playing probably the deepest team in the NBA,” Kerr said postgame. “The Clippers are loaded. Big, strong, physical team and [they] took it to us right away. They were knocking down three’s left and right. If there was anything I was dissapointed in in the first half, it was our 3-point defense.”

All-Star Kawhi Leonard led the way for Los Angeles, dropping 23 points on 9-14 shooting in just 25 minutes of play. Leonard’s midrange jumpshooting was something to behold, knocking in shot after shot whether it was contested or not (more often not, as the Warriors perimeter defense was nearly nonexistent).

For Golden State, Dragan Bender led the way with 23 points on 8-12 shooting, tying his career-high as his second 10-day contract counts down. Though much of his scoring came after the game was essentially over, Bender’s ability to pass, shoot and set screens has proven useful for a depleted Warriors roster.

Andrew Wiggins contributed another 20+ point performance, scoring 21 points on 8-16 shooting and knocking down three of his eight 3-point attempts. Since joining the Warriors, Wiggins has hit 33% of his attempts from beyond the arc, a somewhat passable number given the difficulty of some of his attempts. The form of his jumpshot appears sound, and it isn’t too much to assume that he will get more wide-open looks next year playing next to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

The Warriors will welcome the Brooklyn Nets (and an injured Kevin Durant) to Chase Center on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. It is still undetermined if fans will be welcomed as well.

GAME NOTES:

Stephen Curry missed his second straight game after being diagnosed with the flu. Kerr is optimistic that he’ll be ready for Thursday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.

Juan Toscano-Anderson left Tuesday’s game early in the first quarter after spraining his ankle. His timetable for a return is unclear.

Ky Bowman returned after missing five games with a sprained ankle, scoring 11 points on 5-6 shooting in 24 minutes of play.

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Golden State leads the league in points per game scored by rookies with 28.9 points per game. This is the highest Warriors rookie scoring average for any Warriors team in the last 23 seasons.

 

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Astros, Yankees and Twins favored to fight it out for AL flag https://martineztribune.com/2020/03/10/astros-yankees-and-twins-favored-to-fight-it-out-for-al-pennant/ Tue, 10 Mar 2020 07:01:58 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14125 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ For nearly 100 years, a majority of American League fans have been able to agree upon a common archenemy: the deep-pocketed and wildly successful New York Yankees. The Yankees have won the World Series 27 times, more than twice as many as their closest competitors in St. Louis, where the Cardinals hold …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

For nearly 100 years, a majority of American League fans have been able to agree upon a common archenemy: the deep-pocketed and wildly successful New York Yankees. The Yankees have won the World Series 27 times, more than twice as many as their closest competitors in St. Louis, where the Cardinals hold 11 titles. That kind of dominance inspires both grudging respect and utter disdain among baseball partisans, regardless of their individual allegiances among the other American League franchises. In 2020, perhaps for the first time in nearly a century, the title of “Most Disliked Team in Baseball” might finally pass from the Bronx Bombers to a new villain: the Houston Astros.

In case you’ve been transfixed by political debates, pandemic fears or stock market volatility, you are aware of the scandal that revolves around the Houston franchise and their 2017 World Series title. An MLB investigation found the team guilty of cheating during that 2017 season and postseason, using video replay monitors to decode opposing catchers signals in real time, and relaying that information to the batter at the plate by banging on a trash can behind the dugout. As a result, in January the team was fined $5 million (the maximum allowed by the MLB constitution), GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for a full season-and almost immediately fired by team owner Jim Crane-and the team was ordered to forfeit their first and second round draft picks in both the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The first pick in the 2011 MLB draft, Gerrit Cole’s free agent departure from Houston to the Yankees could tip the balance of power atop the American League. Cole has gone 35-10 the past two seasons with the Astros, and is coming off a career year in 2019 where he went 20-5 with 326 strikeouts and a 2.50 ERA.

 

Having had over a month to develop a strategy to address the issue before the team arrived in Florida for spring training, the Astros figured to express appropriate levels of contrition, regret and remorse about the scandal, and ask their fellow players for forgiveness. Suffice to say the “apologies” issued by Crane and players such as Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Justin Verlander did little to quell the rising tide of acrimony and contempt expressed by opposing players and managers. If anything, the Astros managed to throw additional gas on a fire they could have helped douse by handling the situation more adroitly.

Crane’s televised press conference was enough to inspire vitriol directed towards the franchise as well as the individual Astros players, with stars such as Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer and the Angels Mike Trout making strongly worded public statements about their displeasure over Houston’s brazen scheme. Thinly veiled threats of retribution were bandied about, causing MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to issue proactive warnings about opponents attempting to mete out frontier justice on Houston hitters via beanballs. “I hope I made it extremely clear that retaliation in-game by throwing at a batter intentionally will not be tolerated-whether it’s at Houston or anybody else,” Manfred said. The bad blood that is (and has been, for the better part of two seasons) brewing will not be easily mitigated.

It’s obvious that the Yankees will have company atop the most disliked franchise list among AL fans, and a formal poll attempting to answer the question definitively would almost certainly see the Astros finish comfortably ahead of New York.  That being said, those franchises still figure to be the two best teams in the league in 2020, and it will require significant effort to unseat them from their positions as division favorites.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
22 year old flamethrower Jesús Luzardo was highly impressive during his brief debut in 2019 and is expecting to begin the season in the A’s starting rotation.

 

The Astros, now managed by Dusty Baker,  have won the AL West for three straight seasons, and enter 2020 as the odds-on favorite to do so again. According to Fangraphs playoff odds for this season, the Astros are projected to win 98 games, nearly 10 more than the A’s, who sit second by that site’s estimation. With those 88 wins, however, the A’s figure to be in the mix for a Wild Card berth, and if their young talent takes another step forward in 2020, and both lefthanded prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk live up to their billings, the A’s could well outperform their projections and catch Houston for the AL West title.

The Astros appear vulnerable on the mound, especially after Gerrit Cole signed a $234 million deal with the Yankees. Verlander, the defending Cy Young Award winner, appears to have plenty left in the tank, but Father Time eventually takes his toll on all athletes. At 37, it is reasonable to imagine Verlander losing some effectiveness, something that #2 starter Zack Greinke, 36, might also encounter. The depth behind those two veteran aces is questionable, and while the Astros figure to score plenty of runs again in 2020, a sub-par season from their starters might just open the door for other AL West challengers.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
If Shohei Ohtani can return to the mound following Tommy John surgery and help stabilize the Angels pitching rotation, it would go a long way towards helping them compete for a playoff spot in the highly competitive American League. Ohtani played in 106 games in 2019 batting .286 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs, but hasn’t thrown a pitch since early in his 2018 rookie season.

 

Oakland seems to be the most threatening challenger to Houston’s dynasty, but the Angels, with Joe Madden now at the helm and fresh off the seven-year, $245 million deal that secured third baseman Anthony Rendon to play alongside Trout, the best player in the game, might also rise. The Angels remain without a dominant starting pitcher, and while Trout, Rendon and OF/DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani comprise arguably the best 2-3-4 batting order in baseball, they will have to overcome their lack of pitching to succeed. Seattle and Texas, in various stages of rebuilding their rosters, don’t figure to impact the division race this season.

In the AL Central, Cleveland’s three year run atop the division was abruptly ended last season by the upstart Minnesota Twins, who won 101 games and bumped the 93-win Tribe out of the playoffs entirely.  Those two franchises figure to battle for division supremacy again in 2020, though the Indians arguably took a huge step backwards this offseason, trading staff ace and two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to Texas in return for journeyman Delino DeShields and relief pitching prospect Emmanuel Clase in a cost cutting measure. Clase, who is armed with a 100 MPH cutter, will miss up to three months with a strained upper back muscle, making the trade appear even less sanguine to Tribe partisans.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Things are looking up for Nelson Cruz and the Twins. In his first season in Minnesota, he smashed 41 home runs in just 120 games to go along with 108 RBI’s and a .311 average.

 

In contrast, the Twins added former AL MVP (and A’s third baseman) Josh Donaldson on a four-year, $92 million deal, moving slugger Miguel Sano to first base full time. The Twins also tried to address needs in their rotation by re-signing Jake Odorizzi, adding free agent lefty Rich Hill, and trading for Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers. Fresh off a season where they set the MLB record for home runs in a season, the Twins offense is again formidable, and Fangraphs pegs them for 91 wins in 2020, four games ahead of Cleveland’s projected 87.

The White Sox are finally emerging from their lengthy rebuilding effort, and figure to take a step towards contention this season after adding free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal and lefthanded starters Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez to their young core of intriguing talent. Luis Robert is the best prospect in the American League, and after the White Sox signed him to a six-year $50 million deal before he ever played a single major league game, they see him as their centerfielder on Opening Day, and the likely odds-on favorite to claim the Rookie of the Year Award. Chicago might be a year away from menacing the Indians or Twins atop the division, but if their young talent develops quickly, they could be in the Wild Card mix. The Tigers and Royals are the bottom feeders in the Central, and neither figures to factor into the playoff picture this season.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
In his first season in the Bronx, DJ LeMahieu was the Yankees MVP and nearly won a batting title, setting career highs with 109 runs scored and 197 hits on the way to a .327 average.

 

The AL East arguably produces three playoff teams in 2020. Fangraphs forecasts the Yankees at 95 wins, the Rays at 91 and the Red Sox at 88, with each of those squads given at least a 50% chance of earning a playoff position. The Yankees addressed arguably their biggest need by luring Cole away from the Astros, strengthening their own team while damaging their chief competitors for the AL pennant. Their lineup is still formidable at nearly every position, anchored by home grown stars Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez, who will be supported by shortstop Gleyber Torres to form the heart of an offense that fell a single HR shy of the Twins record for most dingers in a season last year. Each of those players is 27 or younger, and don’t figure to suffer any age related decline.

The injury bug, however, does seem to have an affinity for New York. After losing several key players for huge chunks of the 2019 season (yet finding replacements in third baseman Gio Urshela and outfielder Mike Tauchman who helped ease the pain of those injuries), the Yankees had to be planning on better health for their players this year. Perhaps they had better revise that notion. Luis Severino, who made only three starts last year with a variety of ailments, underwent Tommy John surgery in late February, and will miss all of 2020 and most of 2021. He was being counted on to be the #2 starter behind new ace Cole, in front of #3 starter LHP James Paxton. Paxton underwent back surgery in February, and could be out until June, leaving the Yankees vulnerable in the starting pitching department. Sluggers Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are also expected to miss extended stretches at the start of the season.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Rays ace Charlie Morton continues to get better with age, posting career highs in wins each of the past three seasons. In 2019 he went 16-6 without missing a start while also setting personal bests with 240 strikeouts and a 3.05 ERA in 194 innings. He also won both of his starts in the postseason.

 

Given the quality of Tampa’s rotation, featuring 2018 Cy Young Award winning lefty Blake Snell, veteran Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05 ERA) and 6’8” fireballer Tyler Glasnow (6-1, 1.78 ERA in an injury marred season), any slippage by the Yankees could open the door for the small payroll ($59 million vs. the Yankees $246 million) Rays to play David to the Yankees Goliath.

Boston made headlines this offseason primarily because they traded outfielder Mookie Betts, 27, to the Dodgers. Betts, who is a free agent after 2020, is perhaps the second best player in baseball behind Trout, but he was steadfast in his insistence that he’d test the market instead of signing a contract extension, and that led the Red Sox to ship him and David Price to the Dodgers for a package that included outfielder Alex Verdugo. That decision was perceived by Boston fans to be motivated by strictly financial concerns, and has led to great unrest among the New England faithful.

Despite losing Betts and Price, the Red Sox still feature a roster of star caliber talent, including leftys Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez, and middle-of-the-order mashers Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and DH J.D. Martinez, each of whom hit .300 or better with 30 HRs and on base percentages north of .360. Still, it would require significant steps forward by their rotation and supporting cast to propel Boston back to the playoffs, but considering that the core of the 2018 World Series winners remains largely intact, counting them out entirely would be foolhardy.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The son of a Baseball Hall of Famer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. wasted little time serving notice of his arrival in the Majors after a May call-up, blasting 15 home runs with 69 RBI’s and a .272 average in his first taste of big league pitching.

 

The Blue Jays have an enviable collection of young position player talent, led by infielders Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, each of whom is the son of a former major league star. They added Hyun-Jin Ryu from the Dodgers as a free-agent acquisition to front their staff, and could be joined in Toronto by flame throwing right-handed pitching prospect Nate Pearson, who has touched 104 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball, but figures to start the season at AAA. The Orioles don’t figure to have much to look forward to as they attempt to climb from the ashes of three straight last-place AL East finishes, losing at least 108 games the past two seasons. They will not be counted upon to gain much ground in the rugged division in 2020.

Here are my predictions for the American League in 2020:

West: Houston Astros

Central: Minnesota Twins

East: New York Yankees

Wild Cards: Oakland A’s, Boston Red Sox

Pennant: Minnesota Twins

MVP: Mike Trout

Cy Young: Gerrit Cole

Rookie of the Year: Luis Robert

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Steph out with flu, but Warriors storm back to beat 76ers https://martineztribune.com/2020/03/07/steph-out-with-flu-but-warriors-storm-back-to-beat-76ers/ Sun, 08 Mar 2020 07:24:54 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14138 BY MASON BISSADA  The Golden State Warriors narrowly defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 118-114 in what was one of the most thrilling games of the season despite a myriad of injuries to star players on both teams. Entering the fourth quarter down eight, the Warriors (once again without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green) clawed their way …

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BY MASON BISSADA

 The Golden State Warriors narrowly defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 118-114 in what was one of the most thrilling games of the season despite a myriad of injuries to star players on both teams.

Entering the fourth quarter down eight, the Warriors (once again without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green) clawed their way back to tie the game with just under four minutes to go in regulation, thanks in large part to Damion Lee and Eric Paschall’s shot-making. Down the stretch, rookie Mychal Mulder hit the biggest shot of his young career, knocking down a deep three to claim the lead for Golden State as Chase Center erupted with applause, possibly the loudest it’s ever been for a non-Curry game this season. With seconds left, Marquese Chriss swatted away Mike Scott’s layup attempt that would’ve given the Sixers the lead. Philadelphia was forced to foul Mulder to extend the game, and the rookie hit two clutch free throws with just seven seconds left to ice the game and give his team the win. Mulder (career-high 18 points, 5-10 FG) was a team-high +15 for the Warriors, and the fact that Steve Kerr had him on the court in the final minutes of a close game speaks to how much he’s impressed on just a 10-day contract.

“A couple games ago, I asked [Mulder], “do you ever get butterflies ?” Damion Lee recalled postgame when asked about Mulder’s play in the clutch. “He’s like ‘nah, never.’ He’s stone-cold and not bashful. Having him out there, being able to space the floor, defend, he’s a high IQ guy as well. He had the highest plus-minus. That’s huge for a ‘10-day’ guy” (Lee put ‘10-day’ in air-quotes, implying that Mulder will inevitably be brought back on another contract).

Lee was once again the team’s offensive engine, scoring a team-high 24 points on 10-17 shooting. He’s been without a doubt Golden State’s best offensive player this season. His offensive rating of 105.2 is the highest for any player on the team who has played 20 games or more. He hit a clutch and-one layup to put his team ahead down the stretch, proving his struggles at the end of Thursday’s game against the Raptors didn’t affect his confidence in the slightest.

Eric Paschall has settled into his sixth-man role, scoring 23 points off the bench on an efficient 8-12 shooting. His midrange isolation game is deadly, and he’s become crafty at drawing fouls in those situations (7-7 from the line on Saturday, including two in the clutch). Paschall’s playmaking has also improved as of late (six assists on Saturday) and his ability to handle the ball allows him to find his teammates in transition or in halfcourt sets.

Marquese Chriss put up one of his most impressive stat lines of the season, filling the box score with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Chriss near triple-double showcased his excellent playmaking skills with passes out of the post.

“One of the first things we noticed in training camp was (Chriss) ability in the high-post,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said postgame when asked about Chriss passing. ”When he would catch the ball, he was always really good with the dribble-handoff stuff. We’ve always had a guy in that role, whether it was Andrew Bogut or David Lee or Draymond Green. You need a good passer in that spot given the shooting that we have and the way we like to play. Marquese showed that ability right away.”

If Chriss can carry this kind of passing skill into next season when he has two elite jumpshooters (Curry and Klay Thompson) flanking him, he’ll make for an excellent backup center if not a starter.

As a team, Golden State did an excellent job of limiting their turnovers (a season low seven) while still moving the ball, as they assisted on 30 of their 44 made field goals. Though the personnel has changed drastically in the last year, Kerr’s “beautiful game” offense reveals itself every now and then.

The 76ers entered Saturday’s matchup without either of their All-Stars, as Ben Simmons (nerve impingement in his lower back) and Joel Embiid (left shoulder sprain) both sat. They were also without their starting shooting guard, Josh Richardson, who was out while going through concussion protocol. Being shorthanded, it was up to their other notable names, Tobias Harris (24 points) and Al Horford (22 points 10 rebounds, seven assists), to carry the load. The duo did just that, taking advantage of Golden State’s lack of size and punishing them in the post. It’s a luxury for Philadelphia to have those two as secondary options to their franchise cornerstones, although the fit has been less than perfect this season.

After an exciting return game against the Raptors, Stephen Curry was once again sidelined, this time due to the flu. The Warriors organization made it very clear that this was just a normal influenza virus and not COVID-19 (coronavirus). Draymond Green also sat with left knee soreness.

Golden State will next welcome their in-state rival Los Angeles Clippers to Chase Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

GAME NOTES:

Golden State snapped their season-high losing streak of ten games with the victory. It was the third longest in franchise history.

The Warriors field goal percentage of 55% marks a season-high.

Golden State has won seven of their last eight home games against Philadelphia.

Exactly three years ago on this date, the Warriors set the record for the longest regular-season home winning streak in NBA history, winning their 45th consecutive home game by defeating the Orlando Magic. Golden State would go on to extend the streak to 54 games.

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2020 likely to be a full-blown rebuild for San Francisco’s Giants https://martineztribune.com/2020/02/25/2020-likely-to-be-a-full-blown-rebuild-for-san-franciscos-giants/ Tue, 25 Feb 2020 08:00:59 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14041 BY J.A. SCHWARTZ The San Francisco Giants enter 2020 in the earliest stages of a reimagining of their roster. In 2019, they eschewed the chance to trade free agents-to-be reliever Will Smith and franchise icon Madison Bumgarner because of their position in the standings in late July, a justifiable decision that paid homage to the …

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BY J.A. SCHWARTZ

The San Francisco Giants enter 2020 in the earliest stages of a reimagining of their roster. In 2019, they eschewed the chance to trade free agents-to-be reliever Will Smith and franchise icon Madison Bumgarner because of their position in the standings in late July, a justifiable decision that paid homage to the core of a team-and their fans-who had won three championships during the decade. The team faded badly down the stretch, finishing at 77-85, third in the NL West but 29 games behind the division champion Dodgers, and a full 12 games behind the second Wild Card spot.

Now Smith closes games for the Braves, while Bumgarner will front the rotation in Arizona after signing a 5-year, $85 million deal, leaving the only team he’s ever known as a professional. Given that their rivals in Los Angeles added talent to an already dynastic roster (seven straight division titles), acquiring superstar outfielder Mookie Betts and starter David Price from Boston, the Giants certainly aren’t entertaining visions of a division title in 2020. They likely have their sights set on more modest goals, though President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi will be ever vigilant for new avenues to improve his franchise.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Gabe Kapler has some big shoes to fill as Giants manager after Bruce Bochy’s 13 year run yielded the first three World Series titles in San Francisco history.

 

Bruce Bochy, who managed the Giants for 13 seasons, retired after the 2019 campaign with 2003 wins over 25 years as skipper. He brought three championships to San Francisco, and is widely considered a lock for Hall of Fame induction. Bochy was able to coax the best out of his charges, and leaned heavily on Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval to lead the team to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Gabe Kapler was tapped to take over the managerial duties from Bochy, and he’ll enter 2020 with a 161-163 record (a .497 winning percentage that is ironically identical to that of his predecessor Bochy) amassed during two years in Philadelphia. Kapler will also inherit Posey and Sandoval, both 33 by late March, as the veteran leaders on a team that figures to be indoctrinating their best young prospects onto the roster over the next several seasons.

With the MLB roster limit expanded to 26 players for the 2020 season, here is a look at how the Giants might deploy their assets in late March.

Catcher: This job belongs to Posey, who is coming off his worst year as a professional. He hit .257/.320/.368, career low marks in every category. His .368 slugging percentage was his second year in a row below .382, with his offensive productivity dropping below the league average for the first time in his stellar career. Signed through 2021, Posey will try to reverse his downward trend with the bat.

He figures to be backed up by 30 year-old journeyman Rob Brantly, or switch hitting Tyler Heineman, 28, who was signed as a free agent in January. Heineman might possess some latent upside, coming off a year where he broke out offensively at AAA for both Arizona and Miami (.336/.400/.590, 13 HR). Neither backup likely factors into the Giants long term solution at the position. Top prospect and 2018 second overall draft pick Joey Bart, 23, finished 2019 at AA, and may well end up seeing the majors at some point in 2020. He is the heir apparent to Posey behind the plate.

1B: Brandon Belt, 32 in April, will again anchor first base. He also struggled in 2019, hitting .234/.339/.403 with 17 HR and 57 RBI. Coming off his poorest offensive effort in his nine years in San Francisco, Belt, who is under contract through 2021, will hope to bounce back in 2020.

2B: With incumbent second baseman Joe Panik having been released in August after six largely effective seasons with the team, the Giants will turn to prospect Mauricio Dubon to hold down the position. Dubon, 25, was acquired from Milwaukee in July in the trade that sent pitchers Ray Black and Drew Pomeranz to the Brewers, and hit .300 with 20 HR at AAA last year before appearing in 28 games with the Giants at the end of the year. Should he stumble, 28-year-old Wilmer Flores, a free agent signee who spent 2019 in Arizona, is on the roster ready to step in. Flores had his best offensive season last year, hitting .317/.361/.487 over 89 games, and will help push rookie Dubon for the starting job.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
A three time Gold Glove winner, Brandon Crawford begins his tenth season with the Giants as the anchor of their infield, and with Mauricio Dubon as his new double play partner following the release of Joe Panik last summer.

 

SS: Brandon Crawford, 33, will continue to hold down the starting shortstop job which has been his since 2012. Crawford has proven capable defensively and remarkably durable during his time with the team, never appearing in fewer than 143 games over his eight full seasons in San Francisco. Like many of his teammates, Crawford struggled through one of his weakest offensive seasons in 2019, hitting .228/.304/.350, his least effective effort at bat since 2012. Signed through 2021, Crawford will be given every opportunity to regain his stroke at the plate. Donavon Solano, 32, figures to fill in at short when Crawford requires a rare day off.

3B: Veteran Evan Longoria, 34, figures to hold down the hot corner for the Giants again in 2020. Longoria is signed through 2022, and is coming off his best season since joining the team in 2018, hitting .254/.325/.437 with 20 HR and 69 RBI. He also continues to play defense at a high level, and the five-time Gold Glove winner will be relied upon to pair with Crawford to keep the left side of the infield safe from ground balls seeking outfield grass. Both Flores and Solano can slide over to third to spell Longoria if the need arises.

CF: 26 year-old OF Stephen Duggar will enter the season as the likely every day centerfielder for the Giants. A sixth round pick of the Giants in 2015, Duggar will be entrusted with the role coming off a season where he hit .234/.278/.341 in the Majors after a scorching start at AAA.

LF: The primary left field job figures to belong to Alex Dickerson, 29. Acquired in June of 2019 from the Padres, Dickerson hit .290/.351/.529 with six homers and 26 RBI in 56 games with San Francisco and brings a veteran lefty bat to the lineup. He may well find himself in a platoon situation with 36 year-old Hunter Pence, who resurrected his career in Texas last year, mashing at a .297/.358/.552 clip with 18 HR and 59 RBI. Pence, who was a starter for the Giants during their 2012 and 2014 playoff runs that led to World Series titles, changed his swing before the 2019 season and had his best year at the plate since 2011.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
A career minor leaguer, Mike Yastrzemski made the most of his first shot at the Majors last season, batting .271 and leading the Giants with 21 home runs in just 107 games.

 

RF: Right field will belong to Mike Yastrzemski, 29. The Giants traded to acquire Yastrzemski from Baltimore on the eve of the 2019 campaign, and he seized the opportunity to play on a regular basis, hitting .272/.334/518 with 21 HR and 55 RBI in 107 games as a rookie. Austin Slater, 27, figures to perform in a utility role.

Starting Pitching: The 2020 Giants will be looking for an ace to front their rotation now that Bumgarner has joined the competition in Arizona. Johnny Cueto, 34, may well get the Opening Day nod for the team. Signed to a six-year, $130 million contract before the 2016 season, Cueto has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons, making a total of only 13 starts. Cueto underwent Tommy John surgery in August of 2018, and will be counted on to provide innings for a Giants staff that lacks a true #1 starter.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The Giants are hoping that Johnny Cueto’s comeback from Tommy John surgery is complete as he’s being counted on to eat innings as the staff’s new ace. Since going 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA during his first year with San Francisco in 2016, injuries have limited the right-hander to a total of 38 games in the past three seasons.

 

Jeff Samardzija, 35, enters his final year under contract with the team after signing a five-year, $90 million dollar deal before the 2016 season, and starts the year as the #2 starter. Samardzija went 11-12 with a 3.52 in 181 innings for the team in 2019 during his 32 starts. 29 year-old Kevin Gausman, who split last year between Atlanta and Cincinnati, will be the presumptive third starter. He struggled last year, going 3-9 with a 5.72 ERA in 102 innings, but had pitched significantly better from 2014 through the 2018 seasons. The Giants are hoping to recapture his effectiveness in his first season with the team.

Lefty Drew Smyly, 30, figures to hold down the fourth slot in the rotation. Smyly emerged as a dominant young starter in Detroit and Tampa Bay between 2012 and 2016, but then missed all of the next two seasons with shoulder issues. He finally returned to the Majors last year, going 4-7 with a 6.24 ERA over 21 starts and 114 innings in Texas and Philadelphia. The final rotation job is likely to go to 2014 first round draft pick Tyler Beede. Now 26, Beede battled to a 5-10 record with a 5.08 ERA, making 22 starts and throwing 117 innings for the Giants in 2019, who hope he can continue his development and emerge as a young anchor to the staff going forward.

Relief pitching: 2019 closer Will Smith left as a free agent to join Atlanta, leaving the stopper’s job this year in a state of flux. Lefty Tony Watson, 34, figures to have the first crack at claiming the role, and has 30 saves over his nine year career to date, though none as a Giant. Shaun Anderson, 25, and Jandel Gustave, 27, might be next in line for saves should Watson falter.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
After nine years in the Majors, Tony Watson figures to get his first shot as a closer for the 2020 Giants following the departures of Mark Melancon and Will Smith.

 

Anderson collected two saves for the 2019 Giants in his rookie season as he transitioned from a starting role to the pen towards the end of the season. Gustave showed well in his debut with the team last year, pitching to a 2.96 ERA over 24 innings of relief. Sam Coonrod, 27, will continue his development in the majors, hoping to improve on a promising rookie campaign that saw him go 5-1, 3.58 in 27 innings for the team. Tyler Rogers, 29, will bring his heavy sinker to the pen again in 2020. Rogers went 2-0, 1.02 over 17 IP last year, generating an elite 69% ground ball rate as batters struggled to lift his best pitch.

Jarlin Garcia, 27, will be the top lefty behind Watson in Gabe Kapler’s bullpen after being claimed off waivers from the Marlins earlier this month. Garcia went 4-2, 3.02 in 50 IP in Florida in 2019. The final two pen jobs will be contested between righties Trevor Gott, 27, and Dany Jimenez, 26. Jimenez was a Rule 5 selection from the Toronto organization, and must be kept on the active roster in 2020 or be offered back to the Blue Jays. The Giants are hoping that his elite minor league strikeout figures (93 in 59 IP between A and AA last year) make him an appealing option as the season unfurls.

©DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Joey Bart was the second overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft. Groomed as Buster Posey’s heir apparent, he’s likely destined for more seasoning at the Minor League level before being added to the Giants 26-man roster.

 

The Giants will transition from a team led by Bochy and Bumgarner into a new era of baseball under the leadership of manager Gabe Kapler and the veteran guidance of Posey, Belt and Crawford. The next wave of future core franchise cornerstones may well arrive later this year when Bart (#32 on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects for 2020), makes his debut. 2017 first round pick outfielder Heliot Ramos, 20,(# 63 on BA’s top 100 list) might be next in line to break in, though he figures to begin the year at AA Richmond with Bart.  2019 first round pick outfielder Hunter Bishop profiles to one day join Ramos in the Giants outfield, and will begin the year at Augusta, the Giants low A affiliate.

The top prospect in the system, and the #19 overall prospect in the game by BA’s list, is shortstop Marco Luciano, a 2018 international signee from the Dominican Republic.  He could accompany Bishop to Augusta to begin 2020. The top pitching prospect in the system might be 21 year-old lefty Seth Corry, the Giants third round pick in the 2017 draft out of Lone Peak High in Highland, Utah. Corry dominated at Augusta in 2019, going 9-3, 1.76 with 172 strikeouts in only 122 innings. By 2022, each of these young players should be contributing to the team at the major league level, and may represent the nucleus of the next generation of franchise leaders. It would be unrealistic to expect the team, as currently comprised, to challenge for a playoff berth in 2020, but Zaidi is laying the groundwork for the next championship Giants team.

 

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Shorthanded Warriors Fall to Zion and the Pelicans 115-101 https://martineztribune.com/2020/02/23/shorthanded-warriors-fall-to-zion-and-the-pelicans-115-101/ Mon, 24 Feb 2020 06:09:27 +0000 https://martineztribune.com/?p=14033 BY MASON BISSADA The yet-again shorthanded Golden State Warriors put up a tough fight on Sunday night against one of the league’s most exciting young teams, the New Orleans Pelicans, falling short by a score of 115-101 at the Chase Center. Despite holding a double-digit lead at halftime, Golden State (who only had nine available …

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BY MASON BISSADA

The yet-again shorthanded Golden State Warriors put up a tough fight on Sunday night against one of the league’s most exciting young teams, the New Orleans Pelicans, falling short by a score of 115-101 at the Chase Center.

Despite holding a double-digit lead at halftime, Golden State (who only had nine available players) allowed the Pelicans to chip away at the deficit in the third quarter before essentially surrendering in the fourth. New Orleans outscored Golden State 69-45 in the second half, cutting down on their turnovers (nine in the first half as opposed to four in the second) and taking advantage of the Warriors negligible rim protection.

Top overall pick Zion Williamson continues to live up to the hype, putting on a show for Warriors fans who have been deprived of highlights for the majority of the season. Williamson seemed to be dunking on every other possession, flying over the top of defenders like Eric Paschall and Andrew Wiggins with trampoline-like explosiveness. Williamson scored 28 points on 13-20 shooting, showing off his skillset beyond athleticism with a soft touch around the basket and impressive footwork.

“He’s explosive, strong and he knows how to play,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said of Williamson postgame. “He makes really good passes out there, recognizes double teams and scores so easily around the rim because of his power. He’s a really great, young player without much experience at all. He’s only going to get better.”

Finding Williamson for a majority of his alley-oop slams was Jrue Holiday, who dropped a season-high 15 assists to go along with his 23 points. Holiday’s ability to play alongside other playmakers like Lonzo Ball (nine assists) and Brandon Ingram (17 points, five assists) make him a dynamic all-around guard. In addition to Williamson, Holiday often found rookie Nicolo Melli (20 points off the bench) who hit six of his seven 3-point attempts. With three ball-handlers in their starting lineup and the Warriors lack of a true perimeter stopper (Draymond Green sat with a right pelvic contusion), it’s no surprise that the Pelicans had 34 assists on 46 made baskets.

Damion Lee was once again Golden State’s go-to offensive weapon, dropping yet another 20+ point game with 22 points on 9-15 shooting and 4-8 from downtown. 15 of those points came in the first quarter, in which Lee scored 13 of the Warriors first 15 points. Lee’s jumpshot and energy in transition make him an excellent offball guard. He rarely forces bad shots, even when he’s made a few jumpers in a row. Ideally, he’ll be an excellent backup shooting guard to Klay Thompson next season.

Jordan Poole continues to impress with his late-season resurgence, scoring 19 points on 8-14 shooting to go along with five assists. Poole’s passing has become a real asset for him, and gives Kerr a reason to keep him on the court even when his shots aren’t falling. His passing has also allowed him to surpass Ky Bowman as the team’s starting point guard until Steph Curry returns.

“Just try to get your teammates into good positions, get them where they want the ball,” Poole said when asked about his role as a lead ball-handler. “Be smart when you got the ball in your hands and you kind of got to control the tempo and it’s small things like that. Try to get a good shot, don’t go too many possessions without getting up good looks. It’s a lot of stuff that goes into it.”

Juan Toscano-Anderson had one of his more impressive games as a Warrior, scoring a career-high 16 points on 6-10 shooting and hitting three of his five three-pointers. Toscano-Anderson had multiple dunks, showing off his hidden athleticism and often playing the stretch-4 role due to a short-handed roster. His combination of size and shooting ability make him a very-poor-man’s three-and-D wing, something teams can never have enough of in today’s NBA.

In his first game with the Warriors after signing a 10-day contract with the team earlier in the day, former lottery pick Dragan Bender (six points, five rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes) showed flashes of what drew scouts eyes back in 2016. His passing instincts are solid for a big man, and his floor spacing is desirable in theory (though it has never been fully realized throughout the first four years of his career). His rim defense is underwhelming, but the Warriors will have to make due while Marquese Chriss is out with left calf soreness. 

“It’s fun to be out there,” Bender said postgame. “It’s a really good system. Just watching those guys play the last couple years, and playing against them, it’s a fun place to be.”

Andrew Wiggins (who turned 25 years old today) had one of his worst offensive games as a Warrior, shooting just 3-16 from the field for eight total points in 34 minutes of play. Wiggins jumpshot wasn’t falling, but he found other ways to be effective, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking two shots. Wiggins will begin to see easier looks once he is surrounded by more experienced offensive players, but until that time he may continue to force up difficult attempts out of necessity.

Golden State simply had no defensive answer for Williamson, and this was likely the key factor in tonight’s loss. It would have been intriguing to see how Draymond Green would’ve approached the defensive assignment of Williamson, seeing as he is one of the few players in the league that is big enough to contain him in the paint while also mobile enough to slow him down on drives.

Golden State next welcomes the Kings to the Chase Center on Tuesday, facing off against Sacramento at 7:30 p.m.

GAME NOTES:

Dragan Bender, the #4 overall pick in the 2016 draft, averaged 5.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 20 minutes per game over the first four seasons of his career.

Prior to tonight’s matchup, Golden State had won 13 of their last 14 home games against New Orleans and 25 of their last 28 overall.

Golden State will split the season series with New Orleans, going 2-2 against the Pelicans this year.

Damion Lee has scored 20+ points in all three of his matchups against New Orleans this season, averaging 21.7 points per game.

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