Lakers discuss best ways to make statement as a team

Before holding media day for the 2016-17 season at their training facility on Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers’ coaches and players met to discuss athletes’ recent national anthem protests against unjust treatment of African-Americans in the United States, a movement that first gained recognition from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Or, as Warriors forward Draymond Green put it: “Everybody is going to grow. And are you going to with 74 games? To be quite frank with you, I don’t want to win 74 games or 75 games. It’s brutal.”

“I’ve never played alongside a guy like Derrick,” Anthony said. “I’ve played alongside other point guards, different style, different type of point guards. To play alongside an explosive guy like Derrick, someone who can pick the pace up, who can push the pace throughout the course of the game, someone who’s a threat at that position — I think for me, the only thing that I can do is go out there and play basketball and enjoy playing basketball again and having fun with the game.

“I’m excited. I haven’t felt like this in a long time.”

If this season is going to go the way the Knicks hope, it likely will be because Anthony and Rose play well together and off of one another. As ESPN analyst and ex-Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy recently said, the play and health of Rose is the big unknown for the Knicks.

Rose, Anthony and many other Knicks have been scrimmaging together at the team facility and at a gym in Manhattan recently. Anthony said he likes what he has seen from Rose — as well as the rest of his new teammates — in those scrimmages.

“He’s extremely focused right now, he’s healthy, he has a different mindset, he has a clear mind and he’s ready to go and try to help us with our goals,” Anthony said of Rose, who is facing a civil suit alleging sexual assault, as well as a criminal investigation.

Rose said Monday that he’s feeling great coming into the season — thanks in part to a longer offseason (he missed the playoffs for the first time in his career). Rose also said he’s trying to emulate Kobe Bryant’s dribble efficiency this season.

Isaiah Thomas surprises 14-year-old Celtics fan … twice

When 14-year-old Robbie McNulty saw someone walking toward him on a playground in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last week, he didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary. The man looked a lot like the usual hoopsters he might encounter while getting up shots at St. Peter’s Park.

A closer inspection revealed it was actually Boston Celtics 5-foot-9 All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, who asked McNulty if he could shoot with him for a bit.

“[McNulty] was the only kid there,” Thomas told the Globe. “So I’m like, ‘I’m just going to go get some shots up with him.’ When I walked over, he rebounded his own shot and turned around and I’m like, ‘Can I get a couple shots?’ And he stopped. He didn’t even say a word, like his eyes were so big. He just stopped and froze and I’m like, ‘Pass me the ball.'”

McNulty, who just entered his freshman year of high school, posted the picture on Instagram with a caption that noted, “Isaiah Thomas played basketball with me.” Thomas even replied to the post from his Instagram account writing, “Nice rebounding for u.”

Make sure you draft point a point guard in the first two rounds.

This might seem like common knowledge for longtime fantasy hoops players who realize the importance of a point guard-heavy roster, but it rings truer in 2016-17 than it has in years.

Humor me for a second and think back to your youth, when you passed time by playing tic-tac-toe. You remember, don’t you? If you were anything like me, typically your first turn always seems like a good move.

That’s similar to the way the first round of fantasy hoops drafts feel this year.

Looking through ESPN’s updated rankings, you see a top 12 filled with big names like James Harden, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George, who tantalize you with their upside and overall talent at positions other than point guard.

While there are other lower-ranked point guards, the problem is the steep drop-off after the first two rounds; Rajon Rondo (46) and Goran Dragic (50) are the next two point guards in the top 50, and both are over 20 picks lower than Bledsoe.

What we learned: Kyle Hendricks is great, and Rougned Odor is clutch

It’s time to admit that Kyle Hendricks is the Cy Young front-runner. Right? No? Maybe? I don’t actually know. What I do know is that the Chicago Cubs’ starter is 15-7 with a 2.03 ERA after he took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Cardinals. He lost the no-no when Jeremy Hazelbaker led off the ninth with a home run on an 0-2 changeup. Hendricks is so good at manipulating the ball and working it around the edges of the strike zone:

“I don’t want to say I had to make levity of the situation, but I definitely had to have something distracting because I was going to some pretty dark places,” Blanck said. “I immediately named the tumor ‘Yankee’ because I hate the Yankees. And then, when I got introduced to what treatment was going to be like, it seemed very fitting to name the chair ‘Big Papi’ because he’s a Yankee killer.”

The first round of chemo began March 21. Four and a half months later, Blanck had lost his hair but not his faith, because he passed time during many of his most draining treatments by sitting on “Big Papi” at the University of Vermont Medical Center and watching Ortiz wallop opposing pitchers in one of the greatest seasons ever by a 40-year-old slugger.

“Early in the season in April, when you’ve got a lot of day games, I was always sitting there watching the Red Sox,” Blanck said. “The nurses, every day when I came in, they would put a sign up, a picture of Big Papi with a quote and tape it to my chair. I was always wearing one of my Red Sox shirts. So they all started getting into it as well. For those first several months, sitting there and reading about it and watching the Red Sox every afternoon when I was getting sicker and sicker, it was a relief. It was an awesome distraction all summer.”

Blanck chronicled his fight on Facebook and his wife, Shalagh, kept a blog. At one point, Blanck wrote that he hopes somebody, “I’ll be able to get one of those Big Papi hugs,” that Ortiz has doled out to his Red Sox teammates since 2003.

It didn’t happen Tuesday, although Blanck and his family got the next-best thing. Through friends, they were given tickets to the Red Sox game against the Baltimore Orioles and sat in box seats next to the dugout. They also were escorted onto the field before the game. While they didn’t get to meet Ortiz, Geoff, Shalagh and their daughters Emma, 13, and Annecy, 11, took pictures in the dugout and were greeted by Red Sox president Sam Kennedy.

Stephen Strasburg dealing with strained flexor mass in elbow

Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg is dealing with a strained flexor mass in his right elbow but his UCL is intact, trainer Paul Lessard said Thursday.

Strasburg had an MRI on the elbow earlier Thursday, one day after leaving a start in the third inning.

Lessard said the injury is not necessarily season-ending but offered no timetable for Strasburg’s return.

“I’m thinking let’s take care of the swelling and get him to a pain-free range of motion, and then we’ll start a strengthening program,” Lessard said. “I’m just worried about the next four or five days right now.”

Strasburg felt a pinch in the back of his elbow Wednesday night, and was forced to make an early exit in his first start since returning from the disabled list.

“Unfortunately, it just happened on one pitch,” Lessard said. “It’s just an acute injury vs. an overuse injury.”

Strasburg previously had been out since Aug. 17 because of soreness in his right elbow. He left Wednesday’s start after 2 1/3 innings and 42 pitches, allowing a run on two hits, before NL East-leading Washington went on to defeat Atlanta 5-4 in 11 innings.

Before going on the disabled list, Strasburg allowed 19 runs over his final three starts, including nine over 1 2/3 innings in a loss to Colorado his last time out. In his first 17 starts, he was 13-0 with a 2.51 ERA.

It was Strasburg’s second stint on the disabled list this season. The right-hander missed 17 games in June with an upper back strain.

How to define “in the hunt”? That’s its own problem, so to keep things simple, I’m just including everyone within five games of a playoff spot as of Sept. 8. We’ll proceed in alphabetical order. Here are the reasons why each good team could come up short.

Tebow won the Heisman Trophy for the Florida Gators in 2007 and helped the team take two national championships. He played professionally for the Denver Broncos and New York Jets from 2010 to 2012. He spent training camps with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 and 2015, respectively, but never played in the regular season for those teams.

Since 2013, Tebow has been a college football analyst for ESPN. Alderson said Tebow will be excused a couple of days each week from fall instructional league to fulfill that commitment.

“Tim is committed to his role at SEC Network and ESPN this fall,” Stephanie Druley, ESPN senior vice president, event and studio production, said in a statement. “We have always been supportive of Tim’s athletic pursuits. His new schedule will allow him to continue as a college football analyst on SEC Nation this fall.”

Former major league pitchers Dallas Braden, who is now an ESPN analyst, and C.J. Nitkowski questioned how serious Tebow was about playing baseball based on the arrangement to give him excused days off each week.

Mike Leake sent to DL after case of shingles

MILWAUKEE — The St. Louis Cardinals placed pitcher Mike Leake on the 15-day disabled list Monday because of shingles and recalled left-handed reliever Dean Kiekhefer from Triple-A Memphis.

The Cardinals, 68-61 entering Monday, own the second wild-card spot in the National League.

The staff ace is on his way back after throwing two innings in a simulated game earlier this week, but more still needs to happen before he takes his rightful place atop the Dodger Stadium mound.

All of this is speculative, of course, and dependent on how Kershaw’s back responds until his next outing.

And now they get to see what happens as he tries to make it in their sport, baseball.
On Tuesday in Los Angeles, former Heisman Trophy winner, two-time national-champion Florida Gators and former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will hold a showcase for Major League teams as he attempts to land a contract to begin a new career in professional baseball.

As usual with Tebow, who has been working as a broadcaster on ESPN, there are many supporters and probably just as many doubters. Ever since his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports, announced Tebow’s intent to try to play pro baseball, the social media universe and skeptics have swarmed on this story. Many called it a publicity stunt.

But a handful of current and former Major Leaguers who have observed Tebow closely and from afar over the years seem to agree on three main points: that Tebow’s sincerity shouldn’t be questioned, that he faces a long, tough road to the Major Leagues, and that even despite the odds, an athlete of his caliber with a work ethic as solid as his deserves to at least be taken seriously.

“He works his tail off, and you know the intangibles are there,” Aardsma said. “For me, it’s about baseball IQ. Where does he stand with the baseball part of it? The athleticism, the work ethic, the clubhouse demeanor, that all plays. And you see the passion. Honestly, he’s losing money by doing this, so you know it’s not a publicity stunt. If he wanted that, I mean, he’s already on TV. What more do you need?”

Aardsma added that Tebow is in incredible shape and that his power is “no joke” and neither is this latest pursuit.

“I don’t think it’s a crazy notion, because I know the athleticism that it takes to play baseball and I know he’s got that athleticism,” Aardsma said. “Plus I love the idea that somebody’s still passionate about this game, no matter who you are. We need to be passionate about this game.”