Kings

Tiger gets first win on PGA Tour since '09

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Tiger gets first win on PGA Tour since '09

From Comcast SportsNet
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Tiger Woods hit so many great shots that he couldn't single one out as the best. Winning was as sweet as ever, even after a PGA Tour drought that stretched over 923 days and 27 tournaments. The best part about posing with the trophy at Bay Hill? The conversation was back on golf, his favorite subject. Just two weeks ago, Woods gingerly climbed into a golf cart and was taken off the golf course at Doral with soreness and swelling in his left Achilles tendon, the same injury that caused him to miss three months and two majors last year. On Sunday, no one questioned his health. Woods marched to a five-shot victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational that restored his confidence and gave him momentum going into the Masters two weeks away. "This was coming," Woods said. "I've been close a number of times, basically since Australia. Just had to stay the course." Only a month ago, there were concerns that Woods could no longer make the important putts. He had missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the last hole to lose in the second round at the Match Play Championship. He missed several putts just as close when he crashed out in the final round at Pebble Beach. But there he was at Bay Hill, knocking in two big par putts on the back nine to keep his distance from Graeme McDowell. "I just never got close to him," McDowell said. And then there's the book by his ex-swing coach, Hank Haney. "The Big Miss," which goes on sale Tuesday, has been such a sore spot with Woods that he lost his cool with a reporter earlier this month. The book reveals a driven player who is self-centered and rarely satisfied, no big surprise except that it was a side of Woods he tried to keep private for all these years. Woods added a chapter to his own book Sunday. He won for the 72nd time on the PGA Tour -- one short of Jack Nicklaus in second place on the career list -- and 84th time worldwide. It was the 16th time he won by at least five shots, and his seventh win at Bay Hill tied the PGA Tour for most wins on a single golf course. Woods owns both marks. He also has won seven times at Firestone. "I think he really just kind of nailed home his comeback," McDowell said. "Great to have a front-row seat watching maybe the greatest of all time doing what he does best -- winning golf tournaments." The only thing missing was the host himself. Palmer's blood pressure increased during the final round from new medications, and he was taken to the hospital about 15 minutes before the tournament ended as a precaution. Alaistair Johnston, vice chairman at IMG and his longtime business manager, said Palmer would be kept overnight. "Nobody is overly concerned," he said. Woods goes to No. 6 in the world, returning to the top 10 for the first time since May 22. "Heading home now and I can't stop smiling. Thanks to Otown fans and everyone watching for all the love. Get well soon, Arnie," Woods tweeted about three hours after his win. On a Bay Hill course that was crisp, fast and dangerous, Woods ran off four birdies on the front nine to build a four-shot lead, then kept his mistakes to a minimum for a 2-under 70. He quickly stretched his lead to three shots on the opening hole when McDowell, who closed with a 74, caught a buried lie in the bunker and made double bogey. After that, it was vintage Woods. From 267 yards away in the fairway on the par-5 sixth, Woods hit a 3-iron that climbed over the water and landed softly to just over 15 feet away to secure a birdie. Two holes later, facing a tight pin over the water, he ripped an 8-iron from 182 yards that barely cleared the bank and caught a slope to within 4 feet for birdie. The lead was four at the turn, and McDowell never got closer than three the rest of the way. Ian Poulter had a 74 and finished alone in third, and while he never looked behind him to see what Woods was doing, he could hear it. This is a win that will resonate. "He's always a force to be reckoned with when he's not playing his best golf," Poulter said. "And obviously, he's playing a lot of good golf right now. The shots he's hit, just looking at the highlights, he's got a lot of his game back. And when he starts rolling putts in, he's dangerous. So he's going to be a force for everybody at Augusta." Woods finished at 13-under 275. It was the first time Woods had won on the PGA Tour since Sept. 13, 2009, at the BMW Championship. His last win against a full field had been Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters. Twelve days later, Woods drove into a fire hydrant outside his home, and it wasn't long before revelations of multiple extramarital affairs that led to divorce and cost him an impeccable marketing image. Woods has won back the support of fans who love to see great golf, though corporate support has been lagging. Woods downplayed the significance of Sunday, pointing out on more than one occasion that he considers it his second win since the scandal. He counts the Chevron World Challenge last December, when he went birdie-birdie to beat an 18-man field of top-50 players. But this was significant -- a PGA Tour event with a full field, and a strong field at that. And with a performance so clean that he was never seriously challenged on the back nine. "I've gotten better, and that's the main thing," Woods said. "I've been close for a number of tournaments now. And it was just a matter of staying the course and staying patient, keeping working on fine-tuning what we're doing. And here we are." So where does he go? Next up is the Masters, which looms larger than ever. Woods figures to be a big favorite, along with Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, all of whom have won in the first three months of the season. "I've won here on a few occasions going into Augusta, which has always been a good feeling," Woods said. "I still have got some work to do, but I'm excited about the things that we have accomplished. It's been very good." It felt better than that on the 18th hole, when the familiar red shirt was accompanied by a smile that had not been seen in some time at the end of a tournament.

After tough start to season, Kings make organizational shift towards youth

After tough start to season, Kings make organizational shift towards youth

The time has come. After losing five straight and 10 of their last 12 games, the Sacramento Kings sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings at 13-30. With playoffs well out of reach, the team is making an organizational decision to go young.

You could say that the Kings made this decision last February when they dealt DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans. You could also point to draft day 2017 when the team traded down and turned the 10th overall selection into picks 15 and 20, giving the team three first round selections, an early second rounder and rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic coming from overseas.

Sacramento walked into the 2017-18 campaign with ten players on rookie scale deals, including nine first round selections with two years of NBA experience or less.

After a rocky first half, the team is going to a complete youth movement. The plan is for the veteran core of George Hill, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph to rotate in and out of the lineup over the final 40 games of the season. 

Both management and the coaching staff is on the same page with the decision, NBC Sports California has confirmed. Two or three players will sit each night as they team explores what they have in youngsters.

"Going forward, what I'm going to do is, we're going to play a rotation where two of our five veterans are going to be out every night. It might be some times there'll be three. It's an opportunity for some other guys to get some minutes as we go throughout the course of the season. I've got it laid out...I've got about five or six games laid out, and every week I'll go out again because you want to communicate with those guys when they're not going to play. Other guys, they've got to be ready. If you're in the first three years of your contract, you can expect to play a little, or a lot, or none, but you should be ready to play," Joerger told the media after the Kings' loss to the Thunder on Monday night.

Developing young players was the top priority coming into the season. With the team struggling, the franchise's decision to speed up the transition from veterans to inexperienced players comes as no surprise.

Prized first round selection De’Aaron Fox has already 22 of 35 appearances for the Kings and is settling into the starting point guard position. Since returning from injury, the 20-year-old out of Kentucky is posting 14.3 points and 6.7 assists over 32.5 minutes per game.

Despite early season struggles with consistency, the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft is improving. With the ideological shift in direction by the franchise, it is now Fox’s show, but he’s not the only one expected to produce.

Willie Cauley-Stein has taken a huge leap forward in his third season with the team as well. After struggles in his first two years in the league, Cauley-Stein is averaging career-highs in points (12.0), rebounds (6.5), assists (2.2), steals (.9), blocks (.8) and minutes played (26.2).

With his confidence at an all-time high, Cauley-Stein is going to be asked to do even more with a reduction of minutes by Zach Randolph. The lanky 7-footer will have an opportunity to prove he is a go-to weapon in the final 40 games of the season.

The Kings have a pair of wings that appear ready to excel in Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield.

Bogdanovic has made tremendous strides through his first few months in the league and he’s clearly ready for a bigger role. The presence of Hill and Temple has forced Bogdanovic to play out of position at the small forward position.

The 25-year-old Serbian has already seen a surge in minutes and production during the month of January. Bogdanovic has scored in double-figures all six games this month and he’s averaging 15.3 points on 55 percent shooting from field and 50 percent from long range. He has a maturity to his game after spending years playing professionally in Europe and Joerger has relied heavily on him throughout the early season.

Hield has improved in year two, especially on the defensive end. He came out of Oklahoma as a pure scorer and hasn’t disappointed. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard is shooting over 44 percent from 3-point range this season and showing a good feel for the game as a volume scorer off the bench.

The front office and coaching staff have an outline of what Fox, Cauley-Stein, Bogdanovic and Hield project as players, but there are plenty of other youngsters on the roster that the club needs more time to assess.

Skal Labissiere has fought his way out of a rough patch and is showing signs of improvement. His rebounding numbers have steadily jumped up and he’s figuring out how to defend stretch fours on the perimeter.

Before his injury, Frank Mason III was making strides as the team’s backup point guard. The second round pick is solid, but struggled with his shot before going down with a plantar fascia injury. He’ll be back in early February and should slide right back into the rotation.

Justin Jackson and Malachi Richardson have taken turns bouncing between the Kings and  the Reno Bighorns. Jackson has a maturity about him on the floor, but he’s been inconsistent with his shot and needs to get stronger.

After earning his way into the rotation last season, Richardson has struggled when given the opportunity this year. He’s worked tirelessly on his body and he’s a great practice 3-point shooter. He’s learning to play the 2, 3 and even some stretch four this season, which shows versatility, but he passes up too many open looks.

Lastly, the Kings have a complete unknown in 7-foot-2 center Georgios Papagiannis. Like Richardson, the giant out of Greece has worked hard to reinvent his body. He’s clearly quicker and more agile than he was in his rookie season, but at 20-years-old, he’s still considered a project.

It might be 10-15 games earlier than expected, but at some point this season, the Kings were going to throw their young players to the wolves and see how they fair. Sitting out games is a tough pill to swallow for veterans, but with just 13 wins through the first three months of the season, the writing has been on the wall for a while.

What the Giants’ farm system lost in trade for Andrew McCutchen

What the Giants’ farm system lost in trade for Andrew McCutchen

San Francisco’s second splash of its offseason reloading plan came to life Monday with the acquisition of outfielder Andrew McCutchen in a trade with the Pirates.

In trading for the five-time All-Star, the Giants held on to top prospects Heliot Ramos, Chris Shaw and Tyler Beede. The win-now move bolstered the Giants’ outfield — one that needed the most help in all of baseball — while the Pirates again have a potential big piece in their outfield with Bryan Reynolds headed to Pittsburgh. 

While the farm system took a win in keeping its biggest names, let’s look at what the Giants’ future lost with the addition of McCutchen. 

Bryan Reynolds, 22, OF
The Giants clearly have their own prospect rankings. Baseball America (5) and MLB Pipeline (4) ranked Reynolds ahead of Steven Duggar, who is the Giants’ No. 8 prospect by Baseball America and No. 6 by MLB Pipeline, after the 2017 season. Duggar is expected to compete for the Giants’ starting job in center field unless they make another big move like signing Lorenzo Cain. 

There’s a reason Reynolds is ranked so high though. The Giants’ top pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, is a switch-hitter who is primarily a center fielder, but like Duggar, he played all three outfield positions in 2017. 

"I think it's too early to dictate if he'll be in a corner or center," Nestor Rojas, Reynolds’ manager for the San Jose Giants, said to me in July. "He's really good and he has the tools to play center field. He's got speed and he's got range. He can do really well in all three." 

Reynolds slashed .312/.364/.462 with 10 home runs at Advanced Single-A this past season. He was the Giants' lone representative at the Futures Game and named San Jose Giants MVP. Even if he never unlocks his power, Reynolds is expected to be a solid big leaguer one day with well-rounded overall tools. 

[READ: How Reynolds went from undrafted to Giants' top 2016 pick]

Kyle Crick, 25, RHP
Crick was expected to be a future ace when the Giants took him No. 49 overall as a high school pitcher back in 2011. Control issues hampered him mightily. 

Down in the minors, Crick flashed dominance on the hill at times with a fastball that reaches the upper 90s. Still, command won the battle and the Giants turned Crick into a reliever. The move may have saved his career. 

As the Sacramento River Cats’ closer in Triple-A last season, Crick recorded six saves with a 2.76 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 29.1 innings pitched. Crick earned his call-up to San Francisco and was solid for the Giants. He put together a 3.06 ERA in 30 games out of the bullpen, giving a glimpse of what he can be in the future. 

Crick has always been full of potential. Now as a reliever, he’s starting to turn it into results at the highest level. The Pirates may have a future shut-down arm in the ‘pen, but in the Giants’ reload, there are plenty of in-house options that can do the job he was expected to do in 2018.