Cubs

Steve Nash will play alongside Kobe Bryant

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Steve Nash will play alongside Kobe Bryant

From Comcast SportsNet
PHOENIX (AP) -- Steve Nash is going to the Los Angeles Lakers, a Pacific Division rival the two-time MVP point guard tried so hard to beat, with little success, in his eight seasons with the Phoenix Suns. At Nash's request, the Lakers and Suns reached a sign-and-trade deal, with Los Angeles using the trade exception it got when it sent Lamar Odom to Dallas to facilitate the transaction. The 38-year-old Nash, who spent the past eight seasons with the Suns, was a free agent but a sign-and-trade agreement was necessary for the Lakers to afford him. He agreed to a three-year, 27 million contract. In return, the Suns get four draft picks -- first rounders in 2013 and 2015 and second rounders in 2013 and 2014. Nash's agent Bill Duffy said the deal was finalized Wednesday. In a statement released by the agent, Nash said that after he and the Suns agreed to part ways, he re-approached them to ask to pursue a sign-and-trade deal with Los Angeles "because it is very important to me to stay near my children and family," who live in Phoenix. "They were very apprehensive and didn't want to do it," Nash said. "Fortunately for me, they reconsidered. They saw that they were able to get assets for their team that will make them better, assets they would not have otherwise had and it made sense for them to do a deal that helps their team get better." There had been sign-and-trade talks with New York and a lucrative free agent offer from Toronto. The deal will put Nash on the floor with the team he tried so hard to unseat as a Western Conference power, teaming him with Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and at least for now, Pau Gasol. The Suns at least get something in the loss of their longtime leader and one of the city's most popular athletes, although no one to help immediately, unless some or all of the picks are used in future trades. Nash's Phoenix teammate, Jared Dudley, tweeted that Nash "has not only been the best but the most unselfish player I ever played with. I only wish him the best. He deserves everything. Steve Nash has made many players millions. Only fitting to trade to a team that has a chance to win the ship and pay what he deserves." Nash has never made it to the NBA Finals. He was last in the Western Conference finals against the Lakers in 2010, when the Suns lost in six games and Los Angeles went on to win the NBA title. The sign-and-trade agreement first was reported by sports personality John Gambadoro of KTAR radio. The Suns drafted Nash in 1998 but traded him to Dallas after two seasons because Phoenix already had Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd at the position. Nash played six seasons for Dallas but bolted when owner Mark Cuban declined to spend big money to keep him. Then-Suns owner Jerry Colangelo brought a plane load of team players and officials to Dallas to woo Nash. Nash thrived in Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun system, earning MVP honors in 2005, when he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 assists, and again in 2006, when he averaged a career-high 18.8 points and 10.5 assists. Nash averaged fewer than 10 assists only once, 9.7 in 2008-09, and topped 11 per game five times in his eight years with Phoenix. Despite his age and the fact his team failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row, Nash was second in the NBA in assists last season at 10.7 and averaged 12.7 points. His 53 percent shooting rate was a career high. He is one of the most accurate free throw shooters in NBA history at 90.4 percent. His 9,916 assists rank him fifth in NBA history behind, in order, John Stockton, Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson. The Suns resisted trading Nash during his final season and insisted they were interested in bringing him back, but they never seriously were in the discussion. Toronto and New York dominated the talk until the Lakers came on with a flash on Tuesday. Nash's arrival should rejuvenate the Lakers, who lost in the second round for the second straight postseason after their back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. The Lakers struggled to move from departed coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense to new coach Mike Brown's system during the lockout-shortened season, with four-time All-Star forward Gasol particularly failing to fit in while getting pushed to the third option on offense most nights. Nash's peerless playmaking abilities and veteran presence could smooth over those problems, particularly after a full training camp to define the Lakers' roles in Brown's offense. Los Angeles hasn't had an elite point guard alongside Bryant for several seasons, failing to address Derek Fisher's gradual decline while the rest of the West got better. The Lakers got sub-par play last season from the 37-year-old Fisher, who was traded to Houston at the deadline. The five-time NBA champion was replaced in the starting lineup by journeyman Ramon Sessions, who provided speed and scoring but struggled badly in his first career playoff run, nearly disappearing from the Lakers' lineup. Sessions' decision last month to decline his player option for next season means his career with the Lakers is finished unless he's interested in returning as a backup, an unlikely prospect. The draft picks probably don't mean too much to the Lakers, who have traded away their first-round picks the past three seasons. They haven't drafted a regular starter since 2005.

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Willson Contreras’ third-inning home run might not have ended up standing out too much in an All-Star Game featuring a jaw-dropping and record-shattering 10 dingers.

But, obviously, it will always stand out to the guy who hit it.

“I enjoyed every single second that I spent out there.”

Remarkably, Contreras repeated his feat from two seasons ago, when he hit his first big league homer on the first big league pitch he ever saw. Ditto on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, when he launched the first pitch he saw as an All Star out over the wall in left field.

“When I hit the ball and thought it was gone, I went back to 2016, playing in Chicago. It was the same thing, first pitch for a homer,” Contreras, all smiles, said following the American League’s 8-6 victory. “I’m really blessed with these kinds of situations. Those moments, they’re going to be history and they’re going to be in my mind and my heart.”

Contreras’ long ball was the highlight of the evening for fans watching back home in Chicago. Javy Baez got a hit in his first All-Star at-bat but was outdone by his teammate. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hitless in his two trips to the plate.

And while it will be a highlight on this night for Cubs fans, it will be a highlight forever for Contreras, who enjoyed the heck out of his first All-Star experience.

“‘I did it, I did it,’” he said when asked what was going through his head. “I knew it was something special. And I wasn’t trying to do too much because these guys are nasty, throwing 98 in the first inning. I just tried to get the hit out.”

The nasty guy he went deep against was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, whose 2.27 ERA on the season made him a very worthy inclusion on the AL roster. But Contreras was more impressed with the guy who started the game for the National League, raving about Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer after the game.

“He was great, man. Great stuff, he gets so into the game,” Contreras said. “I would like to have him one day on my team or play with him for a few years. That guy is amazing.”

That’s not the current Nationals star Cubs fans are dreaming about, Willy, but point taken.

But it wasn’t Snell or Scherzer or even Baez or Jon Lester, also in the NL dugout, who Contreras was thinking about the most during his home run trot. Instead, Contreras was thinking about his grandfather, Ernesto, who passed away a few years ago.

“My grandpa, he died in 2015,” Contreras said. “I grew up with him.

“He didn’t play ball. But I feel like every time I go out there and step into the box, he’s at my back. It just feels amazing when you hit a homer or do something special, look at the sky and you know that he’s there smiling somewhere.”

It all made for a pretty incredible night for Contreras, who has officially and loudly taken his place among baseball’s best on the game’s biggest stage.

The only thing that was missing? The ball.

Yeah, Contreras didn’t get the ball, not that he really expected to. But if you’ve got it, he wants it.

“I don’t think they’re giving it back,” he said with a grin.

We’ll see. Social media’s a powerful tool. So reach out.

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Manny Machado as a Dodger creates a formidable foe out west for the Cubs

Well, it's finally happening, or at least it's going to happen. The Athletics' Ken Rosenthal reported during the MLB All-Star game that the Baltimore Orioles had agreed to officially move their franchise player Manny Machado. Neither team has confirmed anything at this time, but the deal has reportedly been as close to a done deal for the last day or so, and it would seem Machado is destined for finish his 2018 campaign in Hollywood. 

Of course, with this addition, the reigning National League champions look primed for another deep postseason run. Though, the club is clinging to a half-game lead in the NL West, with Machado in tow the Dodgers are right with the Cubs and Brewers as the elite squads in the National League. It could be argued the Dodgers didn't necessarily 'need' Machado, with an offense that was already in the top 10 in runs scored, but Machado might be the perfect addition for the Dodgers. 

After losing their young star shortstop Corey Seager for the season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers were in need of a more permanent solution at shortstop. And despite Machado's defensive metrics showing a steep decline in his glove at shortstop, the Dodgers will welcome his robust slash line of .315/.387/.575 while ignoring any shortcomings on defense. 

But what this means for the Cubs, who are only two games off the 2016 World Series club pace, is the path to another championship will likely require another run-in with the Dodgers. The club's biggest threat has been at this point the Brewers, but it's not hard to envision the Dodgers distancing themselves as the clear favorites in the National League with Machado in the heart of the order.

The good news for the Chicago is at least Machado didn't end up in Milwaukee, but that also could mean the Brewers make a more concerted effort to acquire pitching before the July 30th deadline. The Cubs will also see the return of Yu Darvish, who despite only managing to win one game this season in a Cubs uniform, will be a massive upgrade over the scuffling Tyler Chatwood. If the Cubs pitching can start producing like many expected them to before the start of 2018, and guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant start to hit alongside All-Stars Javier Baez and Willson Contreras, it's not hard to imagine the Cubs separating themselves from the pack in the 2nd half of season. 

The Dodgers are no strangers to blockbuster deadline deals, acquiring Yu Darvish in a similar three-month rental situation, but the Cubs getting a bat like Rizzo right and an arm like Darvish healthy would be better than any deal Theo Epstein could make to improve this team. And if it's not enough, the Cubs have a solid track record of grabbing former Dodger rentals in the off-season. The push for the playoffs starts Thursday for the north-siders.