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Buster Posey leads Giants back to World Series

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Buster Posey leads Giants back to World Series

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) On a team known for stellar pitching, bushy beards and quirky personalities, the unquestioned leader of the San Francisco Giants is their understated catcher, Buster Posey.

From his prowess behind the plate, shepherding the staff through its ups and downs, to the bat that won the National League batting title, Posey is the biggest reason the Giants are back in the World Series for the second time in his three big league seasons.

``I'd hate to think where we would be without him,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``The numbers, they speak for themselves. But also his leadership on this club. We saw what life was without him last year. ... I don't know a player that's made a bigger impact on a club than what he has on our club. He's just a tremendous talent. We're lucky to have him.''

Posey has returned from a horrific, season-ending injury in 2011 to the top of the sport this year: starting All-Star catcher, batting champion, likely NL Most Valuable Player and World Series trip.

It's a remarkable story that Posey even made it back on the field this year, much less performed the way he did. It was his devastating injury that derailed the Giants' repeat hopes a year ago and led many to question whether Posey should ever catch again.

In May 2011, Posey broke a bone in his left leg and tore three ankle ligaments when bowled over at the plate by the Florida Marlins' Scott Cousins.

``I was excited just to be back on the field at the start of the season,'' Posey said Tuesday. ``I definitely appreciate this year just as much if not more. When I was here in 2010 it seemed like everything happened really, really fast. This year I had the chance to understand the difficulty of a long season and the ups and downs you have over the course of the year. It's something you want to enjoy while you're doing it and soak up every minute of it.''

Sam Francisco never really recovered from that blow and was unable to make it back to the postseason last year without its star catcher.

But his presence at the start of spring training this year set the tone for the entire season in San Francisco. He batted .336 to become the first catcher to win the NL batting title since the Boston Braves' Ernie Lombardi in 1942.

``For what he has been doing behind the plate for us has been tremendous all year,'' ace Matt Cain said. ``He has done such a great job from coming back from last year's injury to doing what he's doing this year. I don't think you can really put it into words what he's done. Not a lot of guys could do what he's done. That's a special talent.''

Posey added 24 homers, 39 doubles and 103 RBIs while managing the pitching staff and dealing with the wear and tear of crouching each night behind the plate and absorbing the foul tips and balls in the dirt that making catching such an arduous chore.

Bochy spelled Posey a bit by giving him 29 starts at first base, but both the Giants and Posey are adamant his future is behind the plate.

``We really treated him with kid gloves there early, and as we got deeper into the spring training I got more and more comfortable with how much he could catch,'' Bochy said. ``This game is not that easy, especially when you miss as much time as he did last year and yet it didn't take him long to get into the flow of the game, get his timing at the plate and get back to handling the pitching staff.''

Posey has been far from his best this postseason as teams have often tried to pitch around him in key spots to face his less dangerous teammates. He batted .178 the first two rounds with two homers and six RBIs, but it was his grand slam that broke open the clinching Game 5 of the division series.

And now he's back in the World Series.

With his boyish looks and supreme talent, Posey is almost a Bay Area version of New York Yankees great Derek Jeter, both heralded first-round picks who helped restore tradition-rich franchises to greatness.

They both won Rookies of the Year and World Series titles in their first seasons, quickly earning the respect of their veteran teammates. Both made it back to the Fall Classic in year three. Each manage to avoid controversy while being his team spokesman.

``Buster is so professional about how he goes about his business,'' Bochy said. ``There is a calmness about him, about the way he plays, very well prepared. He has the ability to slow down the game, and I think he leads by example on how he prepares and how he plays, and how he handles himself. So he's definitely a leader in this ballclub and guys feed off him.''

Posey is the face of the franchise and far different from the last position player to hold that title in San Francisco. He is quintessential anti-Barry Bonds, quickly turning any praise toward him to his teammates even if they may be less deserving. He was even one of the most outspoken Giants criticizing teammate Melky Cabrera this summer when the outfielder got suspended for testing positive for testosterone.

``The more you've played it's a little bit easier to be a leader,'' Posey said. ``I try to help guys any way I can. I want to contribute whether it's pointing something out you might see that somebody is doing or whatever.''

When he was called up as a rookie, there were questions about how he called a game compared to veteran Bengie Molina. But he quickly earned the trust of most of the staff, although Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito threw primarily to backup Hector Sanchez this season.

``We work really well together,'' starter Ryan Vogelsong said. ``He's real easy to work with. He's got a good idea of what he wants to do back there, and he's got a pretty good idea what I want to do on my end. He's great. He's one of the best I've ever thrown to.''

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Report suggests Barack Obama is trying to recruit Masai Ujiri to Wizards

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Report suggests Barack Obama is trying to recruit Masai Ujiri to Wizards

The Wizards are reportedly preparing to make Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri a massive offer to run Washington's NBA franchise. And they may have some big-time help recruiting him to D.C. 

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, is trying to persuade Ujiri to leave the NBA champions to join the Wizards, according to The Athletic's Ethan Strauss. 

"I hear Barack Obama's a part of that whole Masai recruitment to D.C.," Strauss said on a recent episode of the "Back To Back" podcast. "I've heard Obama wants Masai in D.C. Obama wants to do something with basketball."

Obama and Ujiri are close friends. Obama was in attendance at Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Toronto, while Ujiri attended the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2015 when Obama was in office. 

The Wizards' potential offer for Ujiri is reportedly for six years, $60 million, and could possibly include an ownership stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment and other responsibilities within the company, sources have told NBC Sports Washington. 

And hey, it doesn't hurt to have the former Commander in Chief making your sales pitch.

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Sekou Doumbouya visits Wizards hoping to sell them on his defense

Sekou Doumbouya visits Wizards hoping to sell them on his defense

WASHINGTON -- The Wizards hosted one of their final prospect workouts in anticipation of the June 20 NBA Draft on Friday, as six players battled in three-on-three drills with every member of Washington's front office and coaching staff in sight. But behind the glass wall of the dining lounge at the Wizards' practice facility at St. Elizabeth's was the player everyone wanted to see.

Sekou Doumbouya, who is projected to land in the lottery on draft night, made a visit to Washington to speak with Wizards personnel. He did not participate in the workout, but through face-to-face interviews gave the Wizards an up-close look at a player who may or may not be on the board when they are on the clock with the ninth overall pick.

Doumbouya is the youngest player in the draft at just 18 years old, with his birthday not until late December. He is originally from Guinea but played professional basketball in France. Given his age and the fact he played in a second-tier league before making the leap to the NBA, Doumbouya holds some mystery as a prospect.

In his meetings with teams, Doumbouya has tried to hammer home one point in particular.

"My defense," he said. "I can play everywhere [because] if you play defense, you can play everywhere in the league."

Defense certainly stands out when it comes to Doumbouya's potential. He is 6-foot-9 with a reported 7-foot-2 wingspan. At his age, he could keep growing. And at that size, he has the mobility to guard multiple positions, force turnovers and maybe even block some shots.

The Wizards need help with just about every area of their defense. They were 27th in defensive rating last season and 29th in points allowed. They couldn't defend the perimeter or the lane, allowing the fourth-highest three-point percentage (37%) and the fifth-most three-point makes (12.1/g), while also allowing more field goals within five feet of the rim than any team (22.1/g) and the third-highest percentage (64.2%) in that range. 

Doumbouya projects as the type of defensive anchor who could help in a variety of ways. He could step out to guard three-point shooters while also clogging lanes to the basket with his length.

The questions for Doumbouya center around how NBA-ready he is at his age and experience, and what his ceiling will ultimately be on the offensive end. Doumbouya, though, believes he can be especially effective in transition.

"Fastbreak," he said when listing his strengths. "I love running [the floor]."

Whether Doumbouya will be available at the ninth pick depends on who you ask. Most mock drafts have him at nine or lower, but his athleticism and versatility could entice a team that picks before the Wizards.

The Hawks, whom Doumbouya met with the day after seeing the Wizards, are a team to watch. They have the eighth, 10th and 17th picks in the first round, so they can afford to take a risk. They could snag Doumbouya at No. 8, then go with a safer pick or two with their other selections.

But there is a very good chance Doumbouya is the best player available when the Wizards get set to make their pick. If he does, defense will be his biggest selling point.

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