Raiders

Monfils withdraws from SAP Open with wrist injury

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Monfils withdraws from SAP Open with wrist injury

Feb. 12, 2011
TENNIS PAGE

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) While Juan Martin del Potro took another step in his comeback from wrist surgery, Gael Monfils pulled out of the SAP Open with his own wrist injury.Monfils announced his withdrawal on Friday, just hours after beating Tim Smyczek 6-4, 7-6 (6) to advance to the semifinals. Del Potro also reached the semifinals for the first time since his wrist surgery last May, beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-2, 6-3.Monfils originally hurt the wrist in the first round of the Australian Open last month against Thiemo de Bakker. He played two more matches in Melbourne and then came to San Jose, where he won his first three matches and beat Pete Sampras in an exhibition.But the wrist was still painful and limited him almost to slice shots on his backhand all week. He had an MRI on Monday, then was examined by tournament and French federation doctors Friday before making his decision."I can't hit a backhand," he said. "I tried but my backhand was very soft. I have a better backhand than I showed here, more powerful. The worst is it hurts. It hurts."Monfils will be sidelined for four to six weeks, pulling out of tournaments in Memphis, Acapulco and the Davis Cup.The withdrawal sends Milos Raonic into his first career final after knocking off Richard Berankis 6-4, 7-6 (2). Raonic will play Ivo Karlovic in an exhibition on Saturday in place of his scheduled semifinal match.Del Potro will play defending champion and top-seeded Fernando Verdasco, who beat fifth-seeded Denis Istomin 6-4, 6-4.Del Potro is trying to regain the form that helped him beat Roger Federer in an epic five-setter in the 2009 U.S. Open final and eventually move up to No. 4 in the rankings. He was sidelined by a right wrist injury last year, playing just three tournaments and failing to win a match after the Australian Open in January."I'm feeling good this week," del Potro said. "But I'm still far off my level. I can play better. I'm getting better slowly, but I'm getting better and that's important. I know the way to find the solution to play good tennis."He is showing signs of his old form this week in San Jose, especially in the way he dismantled Hewitt, the former No. 1 player who won the U.S. Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002. But Hewitt hasn't been a top-10 player in more than five years and has slipped to 70th in the rankings after losing in the first round of the Australian Open.Hewitt had no answer for del Potro's powerful first serve that consistently topped 130 mph in the first matchup here between former slam winners since Andre Agassi beat Michael Chang in the first round in 2003.With del Potro getting 69 percent of his first serves in and winning 81 percent of those points, Hewitt was unable to find a rhythm all match. Del Potro lost just 12 points in eight service games, using a pair of aces to rally from a 0-40 hole in the final game of the first set."He's a quality player," Hewitt said. "I don't think anyone doubted him. It was just a matter of how long it would take. His first couple tournaments last year he obviously was struggling a little bit when he came back. He realized what he had to do."Hewitt lost his serve twice in each set, falling in early holes that he was unable to escape. He had a key double fault in the final game of the match, losing it when he sent a forehand wide.That gave del Potro his 15th straight win on U.S. soil, including the titles at the U.S. Open and in Washington in the summer of 2009.To extend that streak he will need to beat Verdasco, who improved to 8-0 at this tournament. Verdasco earned the key break in the ninth game of second set when Istomin's drop volley clipped the top of the net."I'm very confident in this tournament," Verdasco said. "I did win last year and that's in your mind in important moments."Raonic had six aces in each set and saved the only break point he faced all match. He earned the only break of the match in the third game of the opening set and came up with two aces in the tiebreaker to advance.Raonic made it through qualifying to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open before falling in four sets to David Ferrer. Raonic has been the biggest mover on the tour rankings this season, going from 152nd at the end of last year to 84th entering this tournament. He is expected to be around 75th after the San Jose stop.

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.