Raiders

Defining Lance Armstrong

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Defining Lance Armstrong

If this is Lance Armstrongs passive-aggressive version of admission that he did everything every other successful cyclist of his era did, fine.If it his last desperate attempt to middle finger the u.s. Anti-Doping Administration, fine too.If it is his only way out after years of trying to bully compatriots into silence and being bullied by a collation of the more powerful, well, paybacks a bitch.But he chose an interesting way out by saying he intended to concentrate on his work with cancer patients. Not exactly the O.J. search-for-the-killer-on-the-golf-course defense, this.RELATED: Armstrong to be stripped of Tour de France titles
So let him do that. If thats how his career ends, then it least it ends well. Especially if he keeps all these good works he keeps trumpeting to himself.Armstrongs disgrace doesnt interest me all that much, because I never held him in particularly high esteem one way or the other. I wasnt that invested in his legacy anyway, because legacies are, to put it elegantly, crap, and those who attend to their legacies while still in their prime deserve the crap they take.But deeds do matter, and if he intends to do the same work to fight cancer while in disgrace that he did when he was an international icon, then good on him. It wont make me feel any better about him, but its not about what I think of him anyway.RELATED: Tour de France not commenting on Armstrong case
Its what the people he says he intends to help think of him, while hes helping them.But we can grade him this much: If he does what he says he is going to do, and does so without cameras or hagiographers or a phalanx of P.R. people, fine. He at least walked this part of his talk. If he decides as he said Thursday, that he is tired of protecting his reputation and just wants to do the work of the angels, then he can do it quietly, and reap whatever rewards are to be had either in quiet satisfaction or in whatever afterlife is provided for us all.You see, reputations are what people will argue about with Armstrong for the next few days. He will either be judged as a victim or as a fraud, either as a nobleman besieged by the jealous or as a guy who bullied others until he was bullied himself by someone bigger, as the ultimate shame of his sport or as its ultimate sacrificial lamb.But judgments will be made, and Im fine with all of them. Let him be whatever you want him to be. He doesnt own his reputation anyway. Nobody does. It belongs in the eye and on the tongue of the beholder.So whats he got now then if he hasnt got that? Hes got his oft-stated vow to help those with cancer, and if I must cast a vote on his reputation, then I prefer to wait to see if he did what he said he would do in this arena.And whether he did it with as much fervor when nobody was looking as when he was bracketed by cameras and handlers and publicity hounds. Service is most sincere when it whispers, and those who how shout Look what Im doing! are interested more in you looking than in them doing.So if you must define Armstrong as a cyclist, have at him. Whatever he has coming, he will get. As a human being, he still has a chance at redemption, but if he does it the way he should, a lot of people will never know. Its called selflessness, and it isnt measured in sound bytes or clips of well-crafted paragraphs.In short, to save his reputation, he must care only about saving others. And in the end, only he will know whether he was worth the bother.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.comAP Images

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

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USATSI

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'

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AP

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.