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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Raptors won’t lower Pascal Siakam’s load on defense due to larger offensive role

Toronto Raptors big man Pascal Siakam is emerging as a true star player, and the team thinks that he can fully handle the corresponding responsibility.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said Friday that he does not plan to lighten Siakam’s defensive workload due to his expanded role on offense, adding that he thinks the 25-year-old is good and young enough to do both at a high level. Nurse also said Siakam would defend Giannis Antetokounmpo for Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.

With Kawhi Leonard now in Los Angeles, Siakam has taken on the lead role in the Raptors offense and run with it. He is averaging 28.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game on the young season and is flashing some advanced dribble moves and pull-ups that few players his size have in their bag.

At 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Siakam also has the tools of an impact defender, and he has clearly come a long way since just a few months ago.

Report: Giants considering Dodgers staffer for manager

The San Francisco Giants appear to be crossing the picket line of their rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers in their search for a new manager.

Craig Mish of FNTSY Sports Radio said this week that Clayton McCullough, a field coordinator for the Dodgers, has emerged as a new candidate for the Giants job, which just opened up after Bruce Bochy’s retirement.

McCullough, 39, has been with the Dodgers since the 2015 season and worked under former Dodgers and current Giants executive Farhan Zaidi. Prior to that, McCullough served in various farm capacities for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Giants, who finished 77-85 last season, are fielding multiple candidates for the position though, and another used to work for the Dodgers as well.

Dave Martinez won’t rule out using Stephen Strasburg for World Series Game 7

Stephen Strasburg

Just a day after delivering the performance of his life in Game 6, Washington Nationals star Stephen Strasburg could just be called on again for Game 7.

Speaking before Wednesday’s decisive game of the World Series, manager Dave Martinez said that anyone with a Nats uniform will be asked if they are ready to do, per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. When pressed on if that included Strasburg, Martinez replied that they would talk and that the three-time All-Star would have three months of rest coming up.

The 31-year-old Strasburg was lights out on Tuesday, holding the Houston Astros to just two runs in 8.1 innings to force a Game 7. Strasburg did throw 104 pitches, but many believed that he could and should have gone for the complete game.

Regardless, one of Washington’s top pitchers will be a full go for Game 7, and Martinez is just underscoring how it will truly be an all-hands-on-deck affair.

Dwane Casey says he is not ‘salty’ about Raptors’ championship

The Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship the season after they fired longtime head coach Dwane Casey, but he is not too busted up about it.

Speaking with the media on Wednesday before his Detroit Pistons played the Raptors, Casey was asked for his feelings on Toronto’s title and said that he was happy for the organization, the players, and GM Masai Ujiri.

“I’m not salty. There’s no pepper, no hot sauce,” Casey joked, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.

Casey coached Toronto for seven seasons from 2011 to 2018, compiling a 320-238 record (.573) with six playoff appearances and four division titles. The disappointments were abundant in the postseason though, as Casey led them to just one Conference Finals berth in that span and was fired after the 2017-18 season. The Raptors then won the championship in 2018-19 under first-year head coach Nick Nurse.

Ujiri did go out of his way to credit Casey for Toronto’s title run, and with Casey since landing a decent head coaching job with the Pistons, it is easy to see why he has nothing but well wishes for his former team.

Chris Paul interested in playing for Bucks?

Chris Paul

Chris Paul is stuck on a non-contending team in the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he may have a greener destination in mind for the future.

In an appearance this week on ESPN’s “The Woj Pod,” Ryen Russillo of The Ringer said that the nine-time All-Star wanted to be traded to the Milwaukee Bucks this summer.

“I had heard he wanted to go to Milwaukee,” said Russillo, per RealGM. “Of course you’d want to go play with Giannis [Antetokounmpo].”

The idea of the 34-year-old Paul landing with the Bucks right now was always a stretch — they are already set with Antetokounmpo, George Hill, and Eric Bledsoe as their primary ball-handlers. The $80 million that Paul is still owed over the next two seasons also eliminates any possibility of a buyout.

Nonetheless, the Bucks’ title window figures to be lengthy as Antetokounmpo is not even 25 yet. Paul also used to be teammates with Bledsoe back in their LA Clippers days. Thus, you can’t rule Milwaukee out as a possible destination further down the road, especially since they would present an opportunity for Paul to stick it to a former teammate.

Dodgers finalizing deal to make former All-Star Mark Prior their pitching coach

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers are going younger with their new pitching coach.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported on Tuesday that the team is close to finalizing a deal with former All-Star Mark Prior to serve in that capacity.

Prior, who is just 39, had been the Dodgers bullpen coach for the last two seasons. The team just reassigned longtime pitching coach Rick Honeycutt to a special assistant role after 14 seasons in charge of that side of the ball.

After a brief run of brilliance with the Chicago Cubs was cut short by injury, Prior now has five years of coaching experience under his belt, both with the Dodgers and previously with the San Diego Padres as well. He will have his work cut out for him however, especially given how the Dodgers’ pitching came under fire during their latest playoff disappointment.

Hawks coach plans to give Cam Reddish time at point guard

Cam Reddish

Cam Reddish has struggled playing off the ball through his first two NBA games, so now his team may be giving him more time on the ball instead.

Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce said on Monday that the rookie star can play the 1, the 2, and the 3 for the team.

“Eventually he’ll be a lead guard at some point in his career, where he’s playing in the pick-and-roll and initiating the offense,” said Pierce of Reddish, per team beat writer Kevin Chouinard.

The 20-year-old Reddish, who has the physical profile of a wing at 6-foot-8 and 208 pounds, has shot just 3-for-15 to start his NBA career, missing all eight of his three-point tries. Though he played point guard in high school, Reddish did not do so much in college, averaging just 1.9 assists to 2.7 turnovers per game during his one season at Duke.

One of Reddish’s old college teammates is seeing his NBA team implement a similar plan for him, so there is something to be said for the versatility of this year’s rookie class.

Matt Nagy still confident in kicker Eddy Pineiro despite rough outing

Eddy Pineiro

Eddy Pineiro probably wanted to make like Southwest Airlines and get away after his poor performance on Sunday, but his coach is still confident in him.

Addressing the media Monday, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy backed the young kicker following his two missed field goals, including a potential game-winner in the final seconds, in a 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I know who he is as a person,” said Nagy, per Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “And we’ve seen it in practice and we’ve already seen him nail a 53 game-winner in Denver.

“We have all the faith in the world in him,” Nagy went on. “We know he’s going to bounce back. Ask anybody on the team. It’s the NFL. It happens. How do you respond to it? Right?”

After hooking a 33-yard attempt off the right upright in the first quarter, the 24-year-old Pineiro missed a 41-yarder that would have given the Bears the win as time expired in the fourth. He entered play on Sunday though having made nine of his ten attempts on the season, including the game-winner against the Broncos in Week 2 that Nagy mentioned.

Nagy did find himself having to defend one of his decisions before Pineiro’s miss, but Pineiro has definitely done enough to merit his coach’s support.