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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Matt Barnes jokes about becoming Sparks GM, reuniting with Derek Fisher

Matt Barnes

The Los Angeles Sparks need a new general manager, and Matt Barnes sees a golden opportunity.

The retired NBA swingman took to Twitter this weekend to tease a candidacy for the Sparks GM job.

Barnes’ interest definitely seems to be in jest because the current head coach of the Sparks is none other than Derek Fisher, whom Barnes once drove nearly 100 miles to confront in the midst of Fisher dating his ex-wife.

The Sparks are looking to fill the GM job after longtime position holder Penny Toler was fired following her use of an ethnic slur in a postgame speech. While Barnes insists his beef with Fisher is a thing of the past, he probably won’t be getting the job with the Sparks any time soon.

Dave Roberts: Dodgers were surprised by Max Scherzer’s Game 2 relief appearance

Max Scherzer

The Washington Nationals went with an unexpected reliever during Friday’s NLDS Game 2, and Dave Roberts is admitting that he got thrown for a loop.

Nationals ace Max Scherzer entered during the eighth inning nursing a 4-2 lead and struck out the side in order on 14 pitches, as Washington went on to earn the victory and even their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at 1-1. After the game, Roberts, the Dodgers manager, reacted to the move.

“We weren’t expecting that,” he said, per Bill Plunkett of the OC Register. “Obviously it was a big game for them to play for the split on the road.

“Yeah, I was surprised,” Roberts continued. “But obviously they have the option of using [Scherzer] Game 3 or Game 4 now.”

Scherzer, who just posted his fifth straight season with a sub-3.00 ERA, got the start for Washington three days prior in their NL Wild Card game victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. The team will now get a full day off before the series shifts back to Nationals Park for Game 3 on Sunday.

Of course, Roberts used a similar gambit against these very same Nationals a few years back, so he probably should have known to expect the unexpected.

John Franco also wants consideration for Mets manager

New York Mets

The New York Mets’ managerial vacancy is attracting interest from a number of diverse candidates, including one especially familiar face.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported on Friday that retired All-Star reliever John Franco would like consideration for his former club’s skipper opening, saying that he would “be happy to listen.”

The now-59-year-old Franco, who is fifth on the all-time list with 424 saves, pitched for the Mets for 14 seasons from 1990 to 2004. During his time in New York, he made an All-Star team and led the NL in saves twice.

Franco currently works as a club ambassador for the Mets and now adds his name to a growing list of candidates to succeed the fired Mickey Callaway, one that also includes another notable contemporary of Franco’s.

James Johnson sent home from Heat camp for failing to meet target weight

The Miami Heat have the strictest fitness regimen in the NBA, and forward James Johnson experienced that firsthand this week.

The team announced on Tuesday that the veteran would miss the beginning of training camp for failing to meet their conditioning requirements. On Friday, Johnson’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, clarified that the absence was due to Johnson not reaching the weight goal set by Heat president Pat Riley.

“[James] did not fail the conditioning test,” said Bartelstein, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “He passed the conditioning test with flying colors. He was a plus 4 in how he passed the test. The only issue is Pat feels very strongly that there is a certain weight level where J.J. performs best.

“The Heat are strong proponents of weight and body fat,” Bartelstein added. “They put a lot of time and effort into trying to figure out what is the absolute optimal level for players to perform. Even though he passed the conditioning test, and James feels like he’s in really good shape, Pat thinks there’s a level he wants him at, and he wasn’t there and he wanted him to focus on getting that taken care of, which is what James is doing.”

The 32-year-old Johnson, who is listed at 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, averaged 7.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season. Though he has missed all four days of training camp thus far, he has not been fined or suspended by the Heat, Jackson adds.

Riley is particularly known for his drill sergeant-like approach with players, so it’s no surprise to see him demand accountability until expectations are met.

Cooper Kupp says he is now significantly faster than he was before ACL tear

Cooper Kupp

Cooper Kupp is fully recovered from last year’s left ACL tear and then some.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times revealed in a feature this week that the Los Angeles Rams wide receiver had to re-learn how to run following his injury, and after poring over tape of his stride, he is now much faster.

Per Farmer:

He had to re-learn how to run after surgery, and used that as a way of eliminating the imperfections in his stride. He meticulously studied video of his form, breaking it down in super slo-mo, and the results were astounding. He said he’s between 1.5-2 mph faster than he was before his injury.

Kupp, 26, suffered the tear in Week 10 of last season and missed the rest of the year, including the Rams’ run to the Super Bowl. This season though, he is already at 32 catches for 388 yards and three touchdowns (all tops on the team) through four games.

The former third-round pick’s superhuman recovery might seem unheard of, but we did see a similar case of an athlete with a freakish post-ACL-tear feat.

Kings trying to trade for Steven Adams?

Steven Adams

Steven Adams no longer appears to fit the Oklahoma City Thunder timeline, and one fellow Western Conference team may be trying to deal for him.

Sean Deveney of Heavy.com reported this week that if there was a favorite to trade for the seven-footer, it would be the Sacramento Kings. Deveney notes that the Kings had interest in Adams prior to free agency this summer and discussed a potential deal with the Thunder but that talks did not get very far because the asking price for Adams was too high.

The 26-year-old Adams, who averaged 13.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season, is enterting the third year of a four-year, $100 million contract.

Depending on what Sacramento would give up for Adams, he could make for an odd fit on a team that already has young frontcourt players like Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley who need minutes. The Kings also went out and signed big men Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes this offseason. Still though, Adams landing in Sacramento would be an interesting turn of events, especially given his history of sorts with the team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo getting shooting tips from new teammate Kyle Korver

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s below-average jumper is probably the only thing preventing it from being “game over” for the rest of the league, but now one of his new teammates could be ensuring our imminent doom.

At the team’s first day of training camp on Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks star said that he has been getting shooting tips from Kyle Korver.

“It’s really important [that] I always try to talk to him a little bit,” said Antetokounmpo of Korver, per Eric Woodyard of ESPN. “And he’s a great guy. He’s not trying to get in your head or overstep and talk too much to you.

“Whenever he gives me tips, I always try to listen … one of the best shooters to ever play the game,” Antetokounmpo added. “He’s definitely going to help this team, definitely going to help a lot of players develop their shooting ability.”

Korver, who signed with the Bucks this summer, is one of the top shooters in NBA history — he went 39.7 percent from deep as a 37-year-old last season and is at 42.9 percent on three-point attempts for his 16-year career.

Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, won league MVP this season with 27.7 points per game on 57.8 percent from the field despite connecting on just 25.6 percent of his three-point tries. From the looks of it, Korver just might be the sensei who helps Antetokounmpo get to his much-ballyhooed final form.

Ron Adams giving up role as Warriors defensive coordinator

Warriors logo

One of Steve Kerr’s top assistants is taking on a new role this coming season.

Connor Letorneau of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Tuesday that Ron Adams will no longer be leading the Golden State Warriors defense and will be passing that responsibility to fellow assistant Jarron Collins. This will free up the 71-year-old Adams to scout opponents, foster relationships with young players, and help stabilize a team that is in transition, Letorneau writes.

Adams had been the coordinator of the Dubs’ defense for the last five years, coinciding with their five straight trips to the NBA Finals and three titles.

Though he was pursued by another big-name squad this summer, Adams is back for his sixth season in Golden State and will now be taking on more of a glue role for the Warriors in a time that they definitely need it.