Warriors

The NHL looks to be destined for a lockout

666816.jpg

The NHL looks to be destined for a lockout

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- With only two days left to avoid another damaging NHL lockout, players and owners huddled in separate circles to discuss what now seems inevitable.One day after the NHL and the players' association swapped proposals each hoped would result in a new collective bargaining agreement, the sides held internal meetings and gave no indication that a deal was anywhere close.NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stuck to his vow that players will be locked out come Saturday at midnight EDT if a new CBA isn't hammered out before then. In case anyone doubted his resolve, Bettman said he received unanimous support from the board of governors on Thursday to shut down the sport for the second time in eight years."We have been clear that the collective bargaining agreement, upon its expiration, needs to have a successful agreement for us to move forward," Bettman said Thursday. "The league is not in a position, not willing to move forward with another season under the status quo."The players turned out in force just a few blocks away at another midtown Manhattan hotel. Solidarity was evident, but optimism wasn't. As of Thursday night, the sides hadn't been in contact since talks broke off on Wednesday, and no new negotiations were scheduled.The last labor stoppage caused the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season, a lockout that ended only when players accepted a salary cap and a 24 percent rollback of salaries."Right now it's not looking great," said Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who was just 17 when the last lockout ended, "but things can change pretty quickly."Following lockouts last year by basketball and football owners, Bettman says hockey management is determined to come away with economic gains, even if it forces the NHL's fourth work stoppage since 1992."Two other leagues -- the NBA and the NFL -- their players have recognized that in these economic times there is a need to retrench," Bettman said after a two-hour owners' meeting.Training camps are scheduled to open Sept. 21 and the season is slated to start Oct. 11. Damage from a lockout will occur almost immediately, and there is no telling how jilted fans and sponsors will react to another shutdown."One of the questions that needs to be asked is, if indeed they lock out, if indeed they do do that, (whether) that is reasonably calculated to make a deal more likely or less likely?" union head Donald Fehr said. "I think you can figure out the answer."Management's latest offer, made Wednesday in response to a players' proposal, will be in effect until Saturday. Once the lockout begins, Bettman says the economic damage would cause owners to offer players a less beneficial deal.Players currently receive 57 percent of hockey-related revenue, and the owners want to bring that number down as far as perhaps 47 percent -- which is an increase from their original offer of 43 percent. The union offered a deal based on actual dollars, seeking a guarantee of the 1.8 billion players received last season."The fact is, we believe that 57 percent of HRR is too much," Bettman said. "Even a brief lockout will cost more in terms of lost salary and wages than what we're proposing to do to make a deal that we think we need to make."After the current contract was agreed to in July 2005, then union head Bob Goodenow resigned two weeks later. After stints by Ted Saskin and Paul Kelly, the union in 2010 turned to Fehr, who led baseball players through three work stoppages in the 1980s and 90s.Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said Fehr is doing a far better job communicating with members than leadership did in the last lockout. Miller believes that he and his fellow players are more in the loop about what is going on than the 30 league owners, who are prohibited by NHL bylaws from publicly commenting about the negotiation process."I doubt that all the owners are as well informed as all the players," Miller said. "I don't know if that's going to get me in trouble or not. I just feel like it's kind of whatever they are told by Gary. I guess it's a little bit like politics. Some people can't watch Fox News because they think it's all spun to the right, and some people can't watch MSNBC because it's spun to the left."You have this whole thing where I'm sure they feel like a lot of what we're saying is spin."Players struck in April 1992, causing 30 games to be postponed.This would be the third lockout under Bettman. The 1994-95 lockout ended after 103 days and the cancellation of 468 games. The most recent lockout was finally settled in July 2005 -- 301 days into the work stoppage and a month after the league would usually have awarded the Stanley Cup."You get a real sense of the unity and the commitment and the participation and the understanding and the knowledge that these players have," Fehr said. "It's very gratifying."The players very much want to reach an agreement, provided that it is one which is fair and which is equitable and treats them appropriately."Bettman said the union has controlled the scheduling of the meetings and suggested players had reasons for wanting to delay negotiations. The league tried to start talks last summer, at last winter's All-Star game, during the playoffs last spring and again at the Stanley Cup finals."Looking back in hindsight, it looks like there was no urgency on the part of the players' association to engage or get anything done," Bettman said. "It's happened over the summer. I can't and won't speculate as to why that would be their intention, but it is what it is. If you look at the record and you look at it in hindsight, I think it is crystal clear."Annual industry revenue has grown from 2.1 billion to 3.3 billion under the expiring deal. Owners asked players to cut their share of hockey related revenue during a six-year proposal. Players are concerned management hasn't addressed the league's problems by re-examining the teams' revenue-sharing formula.The owners' latest offer raised the percentage of hockey related revenue given to players from the previous proposal of 46 percent. Initially, the NHL sought to drop the number from the current 57 percent to 43 percent.Having made several big concessions to make a deal in 2005, the union doesn't think it should have to make more this time after a period of record financial growth."We believe that what we proposed is in the right direction," Crosby said. "If you look at both, they're definitely different, but if you have a non-biased opinion, you look at the facts. I think our mindset and the direction we're going is one that seems like it's a little bit more fair for both sides."Bettman cited the on-ice success for teams, noting that there have been seven different champions over the course of this contract, and all clubs but the Toronto Maple Leafs qualified for the playoffs at least once.The average player salary also jumped from 1.45 million to 2.55 million over the course of the current agreement."We've had seven years of incredible competitive balance," Bettman said. "The game on the ice has never been better. That is a function of this system. The system as originally negotiated needs some adjustments. It turned out to be too rich a deal for the first seven years. We lived with it, but I'm not going to apologize for saying we need to adjust it."The thought was somehow they got slammed in the negotiations last time. They didn't. We made at the time what we thought was a fair deal. It actually turned out to be more fair than it should have been."

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

kd-steph-us.jpg
USATSI

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

It’s much too early to get legitimately nervous, much less start tumbling into a panic.

The Warriors are going to be fine.

Eventually.

They most certainly are not yet what they will become in about two weeks, when they settle in for a four-game homestand that begins Nov. 6. That’s 10 games into the season, and it’s conceivable the Warriors might be 6-4.

After a 111-101 loss to the ever-tenacious Grizzlies on Saturday in Memphis, the Warriors are 1-2 and, by their lofty standard, looking about as lost as a stray cat in a hurricane.

“We’re obviously not ready. We knew that,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re not ready to put together a full effort. And I’m not doing a great job of putting together combinations, finding the right motivation to get guys going, to get some joy and laughter in here.

“It’s just one of those rough patches. And, hopefully, we can climb our way out of it. I’m sure we will. It may take some time.”

It will take some time, and of that there is plenty.

Do not blame this lull entirely on China, not when there is so much more. The Warriors are coming off their third consecutive prolonged season, this one followed by the training camp disruption caused by spending eight days in Oakland, eight days in China, followed by eight days in Oakland leading up to opening night.

It’s easy to see the timing is off on an offense that relies on precision. The spacing is off on an offense that requires room to operate. The energy is lacking on a defense that lapses into ordinary without its bedrock intensity. Both body and spirit appear less than peak.

“We’ve been playing hard,” Kevin Durant told reporters at FedEx Forum, “but I think we’ve got to take it up a level.

“We’ll be fine. It’s 79 more games left. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

Understand, a team that won an NBA-best 67 games last season and posted a league-record 16-1 postseason doesn’t lose it because opponents load up. When the Warriors are on their game, opponents don’t matter.

For now, though, there is an individual listlessness that results in collective slumber. Stephen Curry has gambled himself in foul trouble in both losses and was booted in Memphis. Andre Iguodala missed an entire game and Draymond Green missed the fourth quarter of the first loss, a game in which the Warriors gave up a 13-point lead over the final 12 minutes.

And Durant’s 4.6 blocks per game is impressive. It also happens to be offset by his 6.3 turnovers per game.

“That’s on me,” he said. “I’m turning the ball over at a high rate right now. I’m really pissed at myself about it. I’ve just got to hold on to the ball. Just make the correct pass. I think I’m just rushing. I just need to calm down, settle down, and that would ignite the whole team. But if I turn the ball over, that’s contagious.”

The Rockets turned 17 Warriors giveaways into 21 points. The Pelicans turned 14 into 20. The Grizzlies turned 17 into 24.

Asked what has to change, Klay Thompson went to exactly the right place, saying “probably our defensive intensity from the jump.”

That’s where it starts, at least on the court. Meanwhile, there is more video work, more group texts about details and the need for more time for their bodies and minds to become one.

“We’ll be better,” Durant said. “We’re still finding a groove with each other. We’re still getting back into shape as far as playing our game, the flow, just the reads off not calling plays. We’ve got to get used to that again.”

Thompson is, however, displaying a modicum of impatience.

“We’ll come out Monday and we’ll play a great game,” he said. “I guarantee it.”

He’s probably right. The Warriors will be playing at Dallas, against a Mavericks team that is built to be devoured by the powerful.

That might be a quick fix. But it won’t be the final fix. That is weeks away.

Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series

astros.jpg
USATSI

Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON -- Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis off Sabathia which made it 1-0.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles after that before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who dropped Game 7 to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS 13 years ago today.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh inning.