Of Damon, Davis and Winn

Of Damon, Davis and Winn

Jan. 28, 2010

Randy Winn probably woke up this morning and wondered if he was dreaming. As a nearly direct result, Rajai Davis own dream could soon turn into a nightmare.And theyll both have Johnny Damon to thank.Dumped by a team that failed to make the 2009 playoffs after one of the worst years of his largely productive 10-year career, Winn signed Wednesday with the 2009 world champions for 2 million dollars.The Yankees are favored to win it all again in 2010, you know, so far as landings go, thats about as soft as they come. And good for Winn. He wasnt a very good player for the Giants last season, but he was a good Giant in general. He should be remembered fondly as a class act who played hard and treated fans well.That brings us to the man Winn is replacing in Gotham: Damon. Damon, too, is a class act who plays hard and treats fans well. Hes a better player than Winn, but his agent, Scott Boras, priced himself out of the Yankees range.I cant believe I just wrote those words, but its true. Damon was too expensive for the Yankees.Now Damons asking price is dropping considerably, and it could end up affecting yet another class act who plays hard and treats fans well.Rajai Davis.Davis, remember, was a revelation during the second half of last season. He almost single-handedly made the As watchable with his speed, hustle and omnipresent smile, and it was a heck of a story because hed been cut by -- full circle alert! -- the Giants in early 2008.So heading into the offseason, he seemed a safe bet to start in center field for the As in 2010. He was a safe bet to start even after the Coco Crisp signing.Rajai Davis, Opening Day starter in the big leagues. He liked the sound of that.Oh yeah, man, he told me last month, the enthusiasm, pride and joy pouring from the phone. I like the sound of that a lot!Suddenly, its starting to look like he might not get to hear it. The As have been interested enough in Damon to have some substantial conversations, and for the right price theyll pull the trigger and make him their starting left fielder, moving Davis to the bench.Damon doesnt seem like a great fit in Oakland, where he struggled in 2001. He hits a lot of foul balls, and a lot of foul balls are outs in Oakland. He has a terrible arm, and a DamonCrisp combo would make the Coliseum's left-center gap every bit as inviting to triples as right-center is at AT&T.But Damon is a better all-around player than Davis, who still has to prove that the final three months of last season werent a fluke. Damon doesnt have to prove anything. His rings and numbers speak for themselves.Sadly, in this strange three-headed saga, there cant be a win-win-win. Theres just a Winn, a proven winner (Damon), and Davis, whos but a signature away from taking a very tough loss.-- Mychael Urban

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How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’


How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'


Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive. 

“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”

While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged. 

“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”

Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game. 

The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.