49ers

Mark Sanchez can co-exist with Tim Tebow, right?

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Mark Sanchez can co-exist with Tim Tebow, right?

From Comcast SportsNet
FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey (AP) -- The message was the same from the New York Jets' two quarterbacks: We can do this. And, not only that, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow think they're going to have lots of fun along the way. A brewing quarterback controversy? Not if you ask them. "I think we'll have a great working relationship," Tebow told the sea of reporters at his introductory news conference on Monday. "We talked about that, just supporting one another in our roles. I'm excited about that opportunity. I think we'll have a great relationship and hopefully we'll be able to thrive together." Sanchez, meanwhile, was nowhere near the Jets' packed practice facility. He was home in California -- and didn't even watch Tebow smile his way through his first New York close-up. "I heard he did a pretty good job," Sanchez said on a conference call five hours later. "How did he do?" Well, Tebow handled himself just fine in the spotlight, a situation Sanchez has been accustomed to during his first three NFL seasons. "As the quarterback of the Jets, I'm getting wins for this team," Sanchez said. "That's my primary focus. If Tim is going to help us win, I'm excited about that." They've known each other for a few years, and Sanchez even hosted Tebow at the University of Southern California on a recruiting trip. "He's a very classy person with a lot of integrity," Tebow said. "He's also fun to hang around. I think our quarterback room will be a lot of fun." Sanchez was equally as complimentary, dishing out the praise for his celebrity backup. "He's such a good guy, people don't want to believe it," Sanchez said. "There's no such thing as that good of a guy, but he is. He's a great guy, a great competitor, and he's going to make a great teammate." Both quarterbacks said all the right things about themselves, each other and the goal they share. "I would give my whole heart to be the best Jet I possibly can be," Tebow said, "and help this team win football games." Added Sanchez: "Our team goal is what's most important, and that's winning." Sure, it all sounds good, but is it realistic? Consider that Tebow is a confident and polished rock star who has been a winner on the field. Oh, and he walks in as the Jets' most popular player, thanks to a huge contingent of fans who have followed him from the University of Florida to the Denver Broncos and now to New York. "I really don't feel like it will be too much of a distraction because I honestly will try not to pay too much attention to it," Tebow said. "The reason we're doing this today is because I have bosses, too, and they wanted me to stand up and talk to all of you. I can blame it on them because they made me do it." He laughed a few times, grinned throughout and went out of his way to dismiss any speculation that this could be one potential sticky situation. But make no mistake: Tebow is a competitor whose desire is to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. His shortcomings are well-documented with his flawed mechanics, questionable decision-making and 46.5 percent completion rate last season. Tebow also has a resume filled with stirring comeback victories and a playoff win -- all last season with the Broncos. The game plan -- at least for now -- is to have Tebow serve as the backup to Sanchez, who coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum insist is the unquestioned starter. If Sanchez slips up or struggles, that's when the real test will be. After all, the Jets committed to Sanchez when they signed him to a three-year extension a little more than two weeks ago. Tebow is also going to have plenty of playing time, in all kinds of roles. And, if that comes from under center, that sounds good to him. "I think, first and foremost, I'm a football player first and then a quarterback, although that is my dream, that's what I want to be," he said. "But however I can help the team, however I can make a difference, however they can use me, I'll be open to it and work as hard as I can." Ryan has suggested that Tebow could see as many as 20 plays a game, a massive amount for a backup quarterback. That means Sanchez will have to head to the sideline for a good handful of those, and that's something that doesn't exactly excite him. But, also not looking to stir any controversy, Sanchez chose his words carefully. "It's well-documented that I'm not thrilled about playing wide receiver or coming off the field," he said. "But that's just how I'm programmed, and any quarterback is programmed like that. The way I feel about the wildcat really is secondary. I'm a team guy and I'll do whatever it takes to win. If changing a few things up a couple times a game is what we need to do, I'm totally on board."

Montana, Clark scheduled to address crowd at Levi's Stadium

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AP

Montana, Clark scheduled to address crowd at Levi's Stadium

SANTA CLARA -- Dwight Clark and Joe Montana are scheduled to address the crowd Sunday at Levi’s Stadium at halftime of the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.

It should be an emotional day, as 36 members from the team that defeated Dallas in the NFC Championship Game and went on to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title are expected to attend.

Montana is scheduled to be surrounded by his former teammates and speak from the field at halftime. Clark is likely to be situated in a suite, where he is expected to make some remarks. Clark, 60, announced in March he was diagnosed with ALS.

Former 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross, appearing on the 49ers Insider Podcast, said he is looking forward to seeing so many of his teammates from the squad that served as a springboard for five Super Bowl titles under the ownership of Hall of Famer Eddie DeBartolo.

“I can’t wait to see (Clark),” Cross said. “I can’t wait to see Eddie. I can’t wait to see Joe. There is a core group of guys I’ve gotten to see a few times a year since we all went our separate ways. There are guys I’ll get a chance to see, in some cases, (for the first time) since almost around the time we parted ways in the early-‘80s.”

The NFC Championship Game on Jan. 10, 1982, is best-remembered for “The Catch” – Clark’s leaping, finger-tip grab of a Montana pass for a 6-yard touchdown with 51 seconds remaining.

The 49ers defeated the Cowboys 28-27 at Candlestick Park. Coach Bill Walsh’s team went on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI.

“For those of us who played on the Niners charity basketball team with both Joe and Dwight, and knowing their hoop skills and the way they could jump, we weren’t terribly surprised at: A, how high he threw it; and, B, how high Dwight got,” said Cross, who was blocking from his right guard position near the sideline and had an unobstructed view of the play.

“If Dwight got his fingers on it, it was going to be a catch. That was the thing about D.C., you won’t find too many instances in which he had a ball on him or near him that he dropped. There wasn’t much doubt.”

Steph Curry the most game-altering player to ever step foot on a court

Steph Curry the most game-altering player to ever step foot on a court

Programming note: Warriors-Rockets coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm on NBC Sports Bay Area, and continues immediately after the final buzzer.

OAKLAND -- As the curtain is raised on a new NBA season, the conventional wisdom is the league consists of four distinct tiers, only one of which has a single member. That would be the Warriors, alone at the top and projected to lock up the No. 1 postseason seed several weeks before the season ends.

The reigning champions boast a collaborative work environment, a diverse and creative co aching staff and, conceivably, the most dangerous roster in NBA history. The Warriors are to the NBA what Tesla is to the electric car market and, moreover, they have the benefit of having Stephen Curry at the wheel.

And it’s quite a benefit when you have the most game-altering player, regardless of position, ever to set foot on a court.

[SHILLER: Kerr: Curry better now than his unanimous MVP season]

The Rockets, who come into Oracle Arena to open the season Tuesday night, make no attempt to hide their aspirations. They want to push the Warriors in hopes of knocking them over. Warriors coach Steve Kerr concedes that his system is based largely on principles created by former Warriors coach Don Nelson and advanced by Mike D’Antoni, now the coach in Houston.

The Rockets, however, do not have a Curry. Neither did the Knicks or the Suns, D’Antoni’s previous NBA teams. The closest he ever came was in Phoenix, with Steve Nash running the point.

“Steph is like Nash on steroids,” Kerr says. “He’s faster and quicker and he’s shooting from 35 feet instead of 25 feet.”

Curry’s presence is not the only reason the Warriors have been able to separate themselves. It’s also a product of being the only team with four legitimate All-Stars, each of whom is uniquely superior. No one combines movement and catch-and-shoot excellence as well as Klay Thompson. No one affects a game in more ways, at both ends, as well as Draymond Green. No one even begin to approximate the gifts Kevin Durant or Curry. Can you imagine a Warriors opponent rummaging through its roster trying to form a scout team?

And while Durant may be the toughest matchup in the NBA -- and the better bet for league MVP -- it’s Curry who flavors the essence of the Warriors.

“Everything we do revolves around Steph,” Kerr says. "If you want to say who affects the game the most offensively, Steph’s the best player in the NBA.”

Kerr has been around the NBA for 30 years, been teammates with Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan and an opponent of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Curry is indeed a different beast, a transformative figure in a toned but hardly imposing 6-foot-3, 190-pound physique.

The Curry Effect has been generated by the devastating power of 1,545 3-pointers in five seasons, and the way they rain despair down upon the faces of opponents. He frightens defenses in such a way it opens up scoring avenues for his teammates.

David West has been playing basketball for 25 years, the last 18 in the NBA and in high-level Division I at Xavier. He has been an opponent and teammate of Curry. He has played with and against greats, from the primes of Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson and LeBron James, but can’t even begin to summon a fair comparison to Curry -- all because of the 3-ball.

“It’s become such a psychological weapon,” West says. “Having been on other teams and knowing how a coach will try to prepare, you can tell. A coach wants to protect the rim and guard the 3-point line. And it’s an absolute nightmare, because you’re giving up layups. You’re basically going against what you’ve been trained to do. You’re giving up layups and paint points, because these (3-pointers) are too deflating. These are too defeating. These are too damaging to the psyche.”

For an example, go no further than the comments of Clippers coach Doc Rivers after his team took a 144-98 lashing last Jan. 28.

"At halftime, I asked the guys what's hurting us, and they said 'the 3'," Rivers said after the game at Oracle. "And I said 'You’ve got to be kidding me. We're even. We were 8-for-13 and they were 8-for-13.

“It's amazing the mental thing when they make a 3. They needed Curry to make a halfcourt shot to tie us (in first-half 3-pointers). They had 46 points in the paint. The paint is what killed us tonight. Their drives, their cuts, their layups, and our guys are still thinking about the 3-point shots. That didn't hurt us. It did later, but in the first half it was all the layups."

Yet it was Curry’s triples -- including a 51-footer to close the half -- that tortured the Clippers. It’s all they could think about.

It’s all the Spurs can think about, too, because San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich demands his team guard the arc. The minute Curry gets free and hits one from deep, Pop is out of his seat calling w timeout, knowing that one often leads to two and then three.

“This is something we’ve never seen,” West says. “There have been great shooters. But nobody has ever inflicted the type of psychological damage that he does.

“They’re knockout shots.”

Curry’s 3-point shooting has spawned a legion of wannabes, pale imitators firing from 25, 30 and 35 feet. As much as Wilt Chamberlain, and then Michael Jordan, did for the dunk, Curry’s influence has been far greater because shooting the deep ball seems so much more realistic thank soaring for a dunk. The belief is that one can practice toward being a great shooter, whereas dunking generally requires superior athleticism.

So, now, you see 3-pointers coming off the fingers of players from all five positions. Even such centers as DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns won’t hesitate to float out beyond the arc and let it fly. Lurking beneath it all is the Curry Effect.

No team in the NBA averaged fewer than Minnesota’s 21 3-pointers per game, while D’Antoni’s Rockets launched a league-high 40.3 per game. Contrast that to 10 years ago, before Curry entered the league. The 76ers took the fewest treys, 10.0 per game, while Nelson’s “We Believe” Warriors and D’Antoni’s Suns tied for most attempts with 24.0.

Now, straight out of a D’Antoni fantasy, here come the Rockets, not only shooting a high volume of triples but spacing the floor -- as Curry does -- by setting up from well beyond the line.

“They’re saying, ‘All right, we ‘re going to space the floor to three feet beyond the 3-point line, because that’s even harder to guard.’ I never thought I’d see that,” Kerr says. “But Steph has played a role in that. So guys are actually practicing deeper shots. So there’s no question he’s making an enormous impact on the game and he’s changing the game.”

There is little doubt that rules changes, particularly on defense, also have had an effect on the direction of the game. Hand-checking is illegal but many teams are willing to employ variations of a zone defense.

Yet Curry continues to wage an assault on the record book. His 402 triples in 2015-16 were more than 116 better than the previous league record, his own at 286, set a year earlier. Curry owns four of the top five single-season bests, with the other belonging to Thompson.

Curry is 10th on the all-time list, with 1,971 3-pointers and it’s conceivable he could climb into the top five before his 30th birthday in March. Of the nine players currently ahead of him, four are retired and the five active players are all at least 36 years old.

So, yes, he’s changing the game. And Popovich, not a huge fan of the 3-pointer, doesn’t want to see any more changes. With Curry crushing triples during the 2015-16 season, the Spurs coach responded to those musing about a possible 4-point line.

Popovich wondered, well, why not a 5-point line before he answered his own question.

“The problem is, Steph would probably kill us.”