Nationals

Hornets win matchup of Doc, Austin Rivers 90-78

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Hornets win matchup of Doc, Austin Rivers 90-78

BOSTON (AP) Greivis Vasquez scored 15 points with 11 rebounds and Austin Rivers won his first NBA game against his father on Wednesday night as the New Orleans Hornets beat coach Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics 90-78.

Al-Farouq Aminu had 18 points and nine rebounds and Anthony Davis had 10 of each for New Orleans, which won for the sixth time in seven games and stopped Boston's six-game winning streak. Austin Rivers scored eight points against his father's team; they became the fourth father-son matchup in NBA history.

Paul Pierce scored 12 points with 10 rebounds before fouling out in the final minutes. He shot 5 for 16 from the floor and made one of seven 3-point attempts as Boston went 4 for 18 from beyond the arc. Kevin Garnett scored 15 and Rajon Rondo had 11 assists.

The Hornets were just 2 of 17 from 3-point range. But they have won eight of 12 since an 11-game losing streak that stretched through much of December.

Doc and Austin Rivers spoke briefly during pregame warmups, and Austin Rivers got a big cheer from the opposing crowd when he checked into the game with 4:19 left in the first half. Doc Rivers leaned back to say something to the assistant coaches sitting behind him and cracked a brief smile.

Austin Rivers spent much of his first stint on the court staking out a position on the right side, which placed him in front of the Celtics' bench; there was no interaction with his father's team. With about a minute left in the first quarter, he muscled a hook shot in for a basket, but his father had no reaction.

Rivers was 3 for 6 from the field and 2 for 4 from the line. He also had two fouls and an assist in 23 minutes.

The Celtics opened a 21-10 lead but then allowed six straight points, including a drive by Rivers. The Hornets scored 11 consecutive points midway through the second quarter to turn a five-point deficit into a 38-32 lead; they led by one at halftime, then scored the first eight points of the third quarter to make it 52-43.

It was 61-49 when Pierce made a turnaround jumper and, after Rondo swiped Vasquez's bad pass, Jason Terry hit a 3-pointer. Jeff Green blocked Ryan Anderson, and Terry made a short jumper; Terry had another 3 and, later in the quarter, a steal to set up Pierce for a jumper in the final seconds that made it 67-63.

But the Celtics kept missing shots, failing to score from the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter until 2:04 remained in the game. By then, the Hornets had turned a four-point lead into an 87-71 advantage. Boston shot 7 for 23 in the fourth quarter.

Notes: Rivers is the fourth NBA coach to face his son, joining Mike Dunleavy (Mike Dunleavy Jr.), George Karl (Coby) and Butch van Breda Kolff (Jan). ... The Hornets opened the game 3 for 13 from the floor and missed all five of their 3-point attempts in the first period. New Orleans also committed six turnovers in the first, yet trailed just 25-20 after one. ... Celtics F Chris Wilcox did not play for the second straight game. Rivers said he was available. ... Garnett passed Patrick Ewing and moved into 16th place on the NBA's career scoring list.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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USA TODAY Sports

MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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