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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Report: White Sox have offered Manny Machado an eight-year deal

Manny Machado

The Chicago White Sox are serious about their pursuit of this winter’s top free agent prizes.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on Sunday that the Sox have offered star infielder Manny Machado an eight-year deal and may be compelled to go even longer. Passan also adds that Machado remains engaged with the Philadelphia Phillies and that an unnamed third team is in the mix as well.

The four-time All-Star Machado, who hit .297 last season with 37 homers and 107 RBIs, will be 27 in July. With an eight-year offer on the table, that means the White Sox are willing to commit to him all the way through his mid-30s.

Chicago is coming off a 100-loss 2018 campaign, but giving that many years to Machado would certainly be a big splash (and a big change of position on their part if you believe some previous reports from earlier this month).

Kevin Durant changed Warriors’ plays to feed Steph Curry on hot shooting night

Stephen Curry has done a lot to accommodate Kevin Durant in their three seasons together, but Sunday was Durant’s turn to return the favor.

The Golden State Warriors defeated the Dallas Mavericks by the final of 119-114, and Curry erupted for 48 points on a whopping 11 threes. After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that Durant changed some plays in the team huddle that were originally drawn up for him in order to feed his fellow MVP, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

The dynamic duo already won two championships in their first two seasons as teammates, and they may have even better synergy this year. Curry is putting up 28.8 points per game with Durant right behind him at 28.2, easily the highest tally for both players since the latter joined Golden State in 2016.

With the Warriors slowly crawling back to the top of the Western Conference standings, it’s clear that whatever speculation of a rift between the two is very much a thing of the past.

Scottie Pippen’s son commits to play at Vanderbilt

Scottie Pippen

Scotty Pippen Jr will be playing his college ball not too far from where his Hall of Fame father played his.

Pippen Jr, the son of retired six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen, revealed on Friday that he has verbally committed to Vanderbilt University.

“I’m headed to Vanderbilt,” Pippen Jr said, per Evan Daniels of 247Sports. “I picked them because I have a good relationship with the coaches. I like the school a lot. I think it’s a great fit for me academically and athletically.

“I feel like they needed me at the point guard position,” added Pippen Jr, who stands at 6-foot-1. “They just needed a point guard. They want me to come in right away and be able to play the point and help run the team.”

The three-star 2019 prospect also said that he considered Colorado State, UC Santa Barbara, DePaul, and Washington State in addition to the Commodores.

Pippen Jr averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 assists per game as a junior last season for Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, Calif. He also added 16.6 points and 2.3 assists a game for the Oakland Soldiers, an AAU team competing in the Nike 17U National Championships.

The elder Pippen attended college at Central Arkansas before his decorated 17-year NBA career. As for Vanderbilt, a 9-5 team so far this season, they will have another ex-NBA player coaching the younger Pippen next season.

Did Patrick McCaw’s relationship with Warriors unravel over Nick Young signing?

Warriors logo

We may now have a clue as to why things went south between Patrick McCaw and the Golden State Warriors.

In a piece that ran on Friday, Marcus Thompson of The Athletic reported that McCaw was upset with the Warriors for signing Nick Young two summers ago in a move that put his role in doubt. Coach Steve Kerr was also said to have made matters worse during training camp by declaring an open competition for the backup shooting guard spot. Thompson goes on to cite some unnamed insiders, who said that the Young signing was “the first grievance” that McCaw had with the team as well as “the only tangible issue” that was vocalized.

The now 23-year-old McCaw carved out a role for the Warriors as a rookie in their title-winning 2016-17 campaign, making 20 starts in 71 regular seasons appearance plus three starts in 15 playoff appearances. However, McCaw’s production dipped slightly with Young aboard the next season (albeit partially due to a bruised lumbar suffered on a bad in-game fall last March).

McCaw then hit restricted free agency last summer but refused multiple offers by Golden State to retain him and held out several months into the 2018-19 season. Late last month, he finally agreed to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers but was waived not long thereafter under bizarre circumstances. McCaw has since joined the Toronto Raptors on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum.

The former second-round pick’s handling of the entire situation with the Dubs confused many of his teammates at the time, but frustration over a perceived marginalization of his role may very well have been a legitimate gripe.

H/T NBC Sports Bay Area

Christian Yelich pokes fun at himself over awful batting cage session

Christian Yelich

Even the reigning NL MVP isn’t immune from the perils of the slow pitch.

Milwaukee Brewers star outfielder Christian Yelich hit the batting cage on Wednesday to prepare for his appearance at the California Strong Celebrity Softball Game this coming weekend. The California native was clearly taken for a loop by the speeds and produced three truly awful swings-and-misses that had him stumbling for his balance. Here’s the video, per Cut4:

Yelich was a good sport however and joked about his struggles on Twitter.

After a spectacular 2018 campaign where he hit .326 with a 1.000 OPS (both NL-leading marks) plus 36 homers and 110 RBIs, the 27-year-old Yelich has kept a low profile this offseason (besides some notable recruiting efforts). It’s probably safe to say though that he prefers hitting heaters to hitting lollipops.

Erik Spoelstra to take over Pat Riley’s executive powers upon his retirement?

Pat Riley may not have to look very far to find his eventual successor as lead decision-maker in the Miami Heat front office.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported in a piece on Wednesday that Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is a likely candidate to get some or all of Riley’s powers as team president whenever Riley decides to retire. Windhorst goes on to add that some other team will “probably” have interest in hiring Spoelstra for both jobs if for some reason he does not take them over with the Heat.

Riley, who will turn 74 in March, has served as president of the Heat since 1995, including two separate stints as head coach and three NBA titles. While there are a number of older and still successful NBA executives (the soon-to-be 81-year-old Jerry West with the LA Clippers for one), Riley may not want to stick around for a rebuild if Miami has to do so in the post-Dwyane Wade era.

As for Spoelstra, who is still only 48, he is as trusted as a right-hand man to Riley as any. Spoelstra joined the Heat as a video coordinator in 1995 as well and worked his way up the ranks, serving as an assistant coach from 1997 to 2008, including under Riley on Miami’s 2006 championship team. He was then promoted to head coach and has overseen two titles of his own, sporting a record of 503-340 (.597) in 11 years. The Heat have only missed the playoffs twice under Spoelstra’s watch and are currently sixth in the East this season.

A key theme of Windhorst’s piece is that the dual head coach-president role has rarely worked (see: Stan Van Gundy, Doc Rivers, the freshly-fired Tom Thibodeau, etc.). But a major exception he lists is that of Gregg Popovich, who occupies both roles for the San Antonio Spurs and was not hired into the dual position from the very start like Van Gundy and Thibodeau were. That may be the precedent that the Heat are going for, and it wouldn’t be surprising with how Riley has always gone out of his way to back Spoelstra over the years.

Luke Walton a candidate for UCLA head coach if fired by Lakers?

Luke Walton

Luke Walton may have a fallback nearby in the event that he is shown the door by the Los Angeles Lakers.

In a piece for Forbes that was published on Tuesday, basketball insider Adam Zagoria quoted a UCLA source who listed Walton’s name among the potential candidates for the team’s head coaching job.

Per Zagoria:

One UCLA source threw out a bunch of names, including Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley, TCU’s Jamie Dixon, Texas Tech’s Chris Beard and even potentially Lakers coach Luke Walton.

A second source was also quoted as saying that UCLA is going through “all the available candidates, some coaches that are coaching, some that aren’t.”

Walton, who is only 38, has brought the Lakers to a 22-19 record this season, despite not having LeBron James for the last seven games and counting due to a groin injury. However, Walton has still gone just 83-122 (.405) in three seasons as Lakers head coach and has yet to make a playoff appearance.

Interestingly enough, Walton has experience in the college ranks (he began his coaching career as an assistant for the University of Memphis in 2011) and in the Pac-12 in particular, having played for four years at Arizona. His father Bill is obviously one of the most beloved players in UCLA history as well and continues to call games for the school on ESPN. What’s more is that Walton, a former Golden State Warriors assistant, worked there with GM Bob Myers, a UCLA alum who is aiding the school in their head coaching search.

The Lakers’ contingent does expect Walton to finish the year as their coach, but it certainly couldn’t hurt for the Bruins to do their due diligence here.

Blake Griffin has not spoken with Doc Rivers, Steve Ballmer since Clippers trade

Blake Griffin Pistons

Blake Griffin was traded away by the LA Clippers nearly a year ago, but some of the wounds still appear to be lingering.

In an in-depth piece that ran Tuesday on the All-Star big’s blockbuster move to the Detroit Pistons and subsequent adjustment, ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz revealed that Griffin has not spoken to any of the Clippers’ principals since being dealt. This includes president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, who spoke with Griffin the morning of the trade to inform him of substantive discussions with Detroit and subsequently called Griffin upon the deal being finalized as well, only for Griffin to decline to answer. Also in that category are head coach Doc Rivers, who called Griffin ten minutes after Frank, and owner Steve Ballmer, who called later, with both attempts also going unanswered.

“I get it,” Griffin was quoted as saying. “Basketball is a business and they said what they had to say at the time, and that’s what I wanted to do. The only thing I wish is that [the trade] had gone down differently.”

Griffin, who will return to play the Clippers in Los Angeles for the first time since being traded, also said that he had no regrets about re-signing with the team two summers ago. He furthemore added that does not hold a grudge about their elaborate (and now notorious) “Clipper For Life” pitch.

The 29-year-old spent his first eight career seasons with the Clippers and helping springboard the franchise from laughingstock to one of the league’s top attractions. The trade that sent Griffin to Detroit last January netted the Clippers players like Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and Boban Marjanovic, all of whom have aided their impressive run to the West’s No. 4 seed this season. Griffin, meanwhile, is averaging a career-high 25.3 points (plus 8.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game) on a Pistons team that is currently ninth in the East.

Griffin did already face the Clippers for the first time last February (albeit in Detroit), and the iciness over the trade was apparent then as well.