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Brooklyn Nets hired like a European soccer team in making Steve Nash their head coach



Steve Nash speaks during induction ceremonies at the Basketball Hall of Fame, in Springfield, Mass., Sept. 7, 2018.

Elise Amendola/The Associated Press

On Thursday morning, the Brooklyn Nets hired B.C.’s Steve Nash to be their next head coach.

This wasn’t a surprise so much as a bolt come down out of a clear sky. The former general manager of Canada’s national men’s basketball team has never coached, nor expressed any clear desire to do so.

Now he’ll try his luck with Brooklyn, an NBA franchise that projects more as a travelling soap opera than a basketball team.

Brooklyn features two enormous stars whose talent is roughly proximate to their egos – Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Both are prone to me-first-ism and the occasional public meltdown. They’re what you’d call a handful.

Were they not so good at their craft, you’d say they were the wrong people to build a team around. Which still means they are probably the wrong people to build a team around. But the Nets have money and these were the two best pieces they could buy. It’s now up to Nash to realize the investment.

Nash has undeniable bona fides – two-time NBA MVP, a Hall of Famer. The people defending the hire on Thursday tended to lean hard on his “smarts” and “intellect” – which is the way NBA insiders say “scrawny white guy.” The people who didn’t like it took issue with the fact that Nash is jumping the queue.

Basketball Hall of Famer Steve Nash has been named head coach of a Brooklyn Nets squad that will be led by the dominant Kevin Durant next season, the NBA team said on Thursday. Reuters

Both sides misunderstand why Nash got the job. This isn’t a basketball hire. This is a soccer hire. This is how the biggest clubs in Europe pick their coaches. And it’s got very little to do with coaching.

In soccer, you hire a coach with one thing in mind – how his name rings out. Is it the sort of name that makes people down in the pub say, “Him? Oh, he’s good.”

It’s even more important that players feel this way. They should be awed by the coach’s name. They should feel they would look like fools were they ever to speak ill of him or be seen disagreeing with him.

They should fear the coach, not in the old ‘if this guy hates me, he will ruin my life’ way, but in the new ‘if this guy doesn’t love me, it must mean I’m crap’ way.

These sorts of coaches are exceedingly hard to come by. Alex Ferguson of Manchester United was such a coach. Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool and Pep Guardiola of Manchester City are such coaches.

Nobody cares if Guardiola can properly position his men to defend free kicks. That’s not his job. He hires people to do the actual work of instruction.

Guardiola is there to corral a bunch of self-regarding bajillionaires who all think they are the biggest thing to hit Earth since the Chelyabinsk meteor. He is there to feed and water a string of thoroughbreds. Occasionally, one of them has to be sent off to the glue factory and that’s Guardiola’s job, too.

Guardiola was a very good player in his own right and just happened to be the Barcelona coach when a certain Lionel Messi was coming into his own. Plus, he looks fantastic strutting the touchline in a cashmere sweater. And that’s it. That’s how you build a legend.

Then you use the legend to bend other men to your will.

The three soccer examples referenced here didn’t just arrive on the scene looking three feet taller than their peers. They needed years (in Ferguson’s case, many years) to establish themselves.

That’s a big hassle for the people who run sports teams. Cultivate talent? Ugh. How much will that cost? Once you’ve done it – and there’s no guarantee you will – the guy up and leaves for a bigger team.

The Nets were already more like a soccer team than any other North American franchise. They are attempting to procure a title by buying top players. There’s no shame in it, but it’s not the fashionable thing.

The fashionable thing is tanking for a few seasons and hoping to get lucky in the draft. (Come to think of it, there’s a lot more shame in the fashionable thing.)

What this means is the Nets must win right now. They don’t have the luxury of giving Durant, Irving and the 10 serfs trailing in their wake time to get used to each other. This team must be good right away. And it will be, as long as Durant and Irving are not trying to kill the coach, their teammates, each other, or all three at once.

Maintaining that balance requires a charismatic figure in charge. One who gives off the strong scent of authority even alphas recognize.

The Nets tried to go the retail route with this. They reached out to the only current NBA coach who has that top-end Euro pedigree – San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.

Is Popovich a great coach? On the one hand, he’s won five championships. On the other hand, I think I could have told Tim Duncan, “Go stand in the middle and be really good.”

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter whether Popovich is a great coach. What matters is that NBA players believe he is.

Brooklyn wanted Popovich so that when Durant comes into his office and announces, “I’ve decided I would like to take 70 shots a game,” Popovich can say, “No. Close the door on your way out.”

When retail didn’t work out, Brooklyn decided to try wholesale. That’s how Nash ended up with a four-year deal.

Is this fair? Well, is anything? People have begun to treat sports hiring like it’s casting a high-school play. Like everyone who worked on the lighting crew last year gets to play a lead this time.

Sports is not fair. That’s why we call it sports. Not everyone gets a chance, and not everyone who gets one deserves it.

Will Nash be a good coach? It hardly matters. He’s not there to teach Kyrie Irving anything. He’s there to make sure Irving is in the proper frame of mind to perform when it counts, whether that is via flattery or threats or wheedling or whatever it takes. He’s a father figure, a therapist, a best friend and – because some guys seem to like this once in a while – a worst enemy.

The only way to judge Nash is on his record. Once we’ve seen that, everyone will say they knew all along this was the best/worst idea ever.

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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Lundqvist's former backups praise him with Rangers era ending –



There was concern, and goalie Steve Valiquette said he remembers getting an email from Rangers assistant general manager Don Maloney.

“He was asking me to come back from Russia on a contract because Henrik wasn’t having a great training camp and they weren’t 100 percent sure about him,” said Valiquette, who played for New York in the 2003-04 season and from 2006-10. “They wanted a little more assurance to have a guy that was around. They probably would have used me if they were thinking he needed time in the minors to back up Kevin Weekes for a bit.”

Lundqvist started the 2005-06 season with the Rangers anyway.

“And, sure enough, Henrik, his second start, I remember him standing on his head against [the] New Jersey [Devils],” Valiquette said of Lundqvist saving 20 of 21 shots in a 4-1 home victory Oct. 13, 2005. “It was off to the races from there.”

The Rangers bought out the final season of Lundqvist’s seven-year, $59.5 million contract ($8.5 million average annual value) on Wednesday, making the goalie known as The King an unrestricted free agent for the first time after playing all 15 of his NHL seasons with New York.

Lundqvist will be free to sign with any team when free agency begins Oct. 9, marking the end of the most successful era for a Rangers goalie.

The 38-year-old is 459-310-96 with a 2.43 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and 64 shutouts, and 61-67 with a 2.30 GAA, .921 save percentage and 10 shutouts in the postseason. Lundqvist, sixth on the NHL wins list, is New York’s leader in games played (887), wins, shutouts, saves (23,509), and time on ice (51,816:19), along with starts (130), wins, shutouts, saves (3,567) and time on ice (7,935:25) in the postseason.

Valiquette, Weekes and Martin Biron, who each backed up Lundqvist in New York, spoke to and shared insight into the goalie’s distinguished career with the Rangers.

Legendary work ethic

Biron said that by the time he joined the Rangers, he already heard enough about Lundqvist’s work ethic to know what to expect. Or so he thought.

“I got on the ice and I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is times 10 what I expected his work ethic to be and I already expected it to be high,'” said Biron, who was with the Rangers from 2010-14. “It was unreal.”

Weekes recalled Lundqvist’s affinity for facing breakaways in practice. He said most goalies shy away from the shootout drill unless it is required because they risk getting exposed, but Lundqvist was different.

“He wanted them, and requested them,” Weekes said. “Why? He had that much fire. He wanted that 1-on-1 challenge.”

Lundqvist is the NHL leader in shootout wins with 61. He has played his entire NHL career with the shootout, which was implemented in his first season, and without tie games.

“When we’d go to a shootout and Hank was in net, I’d just get ready to leave the ice like, ‘This is done,'” Valiquette said. “I’ve already seen him for 20 minutes the day before in practice and the day before that and the day before that shut everybody down. He was just different. When I was playing with him as a practice partner, I’d be keeping score on the drills we’d be doing so I could try to meet his level, and it was so difficult to ever get close to him.”

Video: Henrik Lundqvist Great Saves

Celebrity status, ‘obsession with hockey’

Lundqvist became an A-list celebrity in New York, where Biron recalls seeing him dine with John McEnroe, and even play guitar onstage with the tennis legend on another occasion.

“He doesn’t talk about it a lot and he doesn’t go out and promote himself in that way,” Biron said of his former teammate’s celebrity status. “It’s just him, it’s the way he is, and it works for him. He is comfortable in who he is.”

Lundqvist also became known off the ice for his fashion sense. Weekes said Lundqvist was ahead of the fashion curve when he arrived in New York from his native Sweden in 2005, both with the clothes he wore, specifically the skinny suits, and with how he wore his pads.

“He was an innovator in terms of his strapping on his pads, the way they were configured, the way he wore his pads, the functionality of how the pad was set up based on how he played, his stance,” Weekes said. “If you stand up straight and you roll your ankles to the outside, that’s how his feet looked if you were behind him. That didn’t make sense because, if anything, you’d want your feet to be straight or more inward so you have inside edge, but I don’t know, it was so different from what I had seen and what we had really seen.”

Valiquette said Lundqvist’s celebrity, his style, the suits, the hair, the custom pads and his own crown logo all created a misrepresentation of who he really is and what he cares about.

“People can think that he’s more into fashion or the distractions become too much with the celebrity around him, and it’s never the case,” Valiquette said.

Valiquette recalled having dinner with Lundqvist one night in Pittsburgh, where the conversation turned to hockey, the Rangers and goaltending. It was then that he realized how much Lundqvist loved the game.

“I was floored by his knowledge of how our defensive zone should be structured around how he needs to see the puck off the release,” said Valiquette, a Rangers studio analyst for MSG Network. “He was talking about how the player defending in front of him, if the pass came from below the goal line to the slot area, that he needs our player to go at their player on the body so the shooter couldn’t shoot across the net but he only had to protect that strong side. He was bringing out napkins and moving the salt shakers around, and it really dawned on me that this guy really had a massive obsession with hockey and he wanted to become a master of all things.”

Biron said, “He was very critical. He thought he could save every one of the shots he would face, and really that’s the good quality of every great goaltender. There would be goals he would say, ‘I should have had that.’ I’d look at him and say, ‘You know what, you and Dominik Hasek maybe, but the rest of us mortals would say that’s a pretty good goal.'”

The end

Weekes watched closely how Lundqvist handled this season, navigating through the changing of the guard to Igor Shesterkin once the rookie was called up by the Rangers from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Jan. 6. Lundqvist started four of New York’s final 29 games before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, then started and lost the first two games against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers because Shesterkin was unfit to play. The Rangers were swept in the best-of-5 series.

Weekes called it a master class in professionalism and grace but said he knew the reduced role was eating away at Lundqvist inside.

“He never had that type of adversity,” said Weekes, an NHL Network analyst who played for the Rangers from 2005-07. “He didn’t have to worry about contracts. For the most part until the latter stages nobody was messing with his ice time or playing games with him. No PR people are going to give you the wrong address when you’re going to a team function. The organization for him was always red carpet. So what’s happened in the last couple years for him, I can’t imagine how hard it’s been because all of a sudden you’re not treated the same way.

“The reality isn’t the same and you don’t have the ability to override. The automatic decision isn’t, ‘Hey man, this is yours because you’re you.’ Publicly he’s shown a lot of grace. He’s a first-class person, a Hall of Famer, philanthropic. But I’m sure his heart and his soul and his psyche are broken in a thousand pieces because this was a very different reality for him.”

It’s an even stranger reality now that Lundqvist knows he won’t be back with the Rangers next season.

He could sign with another team and continue his quest to win the Stanley Cup. He could retire from the NHL, return to Sweden and play a few more seasons, maybe team up with his twin brother Joel Lundqvist, a center for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. Or he could hang up the pads for good.

Whatever happens, the goalies who played with him, who saw his rise to royalty in New York, have a shared perspective on why Lundqvist will one day have his No. 30 retired at Madison Square Garden.

“He’s going to leave this game as the most respected guy that any of us ever played with,” Valiquette said. “That goes a long way. That’s a legacy. That’s not a one-off thing. You’re talking about a legacy.”

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Rays win AL Wild Card Series 2020 –



ST. PETERSBURG — Making the postseason in 2019 was a big accomplishment for the Rays. It was the first taste of the playoffs for a young core, something the organization knew would pay dividends moving forward.
Following that experience, the Rays secured the No. 1 seed and won the American

ST. PETERSBURG — Making the postseason in 2019 was a big accomplishment for the Rays. It was the first taste of the playoffs for a young core, something the organization knew would pay dividends moving forward.

Following that experience, the Rays secured the No. 1 seed and won the American League East for the first time since 2010, both things they appreciated and acknowledged. But their level of success this season will be determined more by what they accomplish in October.

ALDS presented by Utz, Game 1: Mon., time TBD on TBS

Tampa Bay’s chase for the first World Series championship in franchise history is off to a strong start, as it completed a sweep of Toronto in the best-of-three American League Wild Card Series with an 8-2 win in Wednesday’s Game 2 at Tropicana Field.

Box score

The Rays advance to the AL Division Series and will face the winner of the Indians-Yankees Wild Card Series matchup in Game 1 on Monday at Petco Park in San Diego.

“Every win in the postseason is that much more [momentum],” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We played good right at the end of the year and got where we needed to be from a pitching standpoint. Now, it’s just trying to ride that wave of momentum, and these guys do an unbelievable job at creating that.”

In order for the Rays to accomplish all their goals, their pitching staff will likely have to lead the way, much like Blake Snell and the bullpen did in their Game 1 win over the Blue Jays. But in Game 2, it was the offense that carried Tampa Bay.

The Rays rattled off four singles, including a Manuel Margot RBI hit, in the first inning against Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu to take an early 1-0 lead. In the second, the offense delivered the knockout punch against Ryu. Kevin Kiermaier led off with a single, and that was quickly followed by a Mike Zunino two-run homer to extend the lead to 3-0.

Randy Arozarena continued the rally with a one-out double. Yandy Díaz drew a four-pitch walk, and then the Rays were given a gift by the Blue Jays’ defense, as Margot reached on a Bo Bichette error to extend the inning and load the bases. That proved to be costly as Hunter Renfroe hit the first postseason grand slam in franchise history to cap off the six-run second.

“We showed the potential of what we can do on both sides of the ball,” Zunino said. “Obviously, in Game 1 we had Blake throw an absolute gem and we were able to scrape enough runs to win, and today showed the bats coming alive and Tyler allowing just two and the bullpen keeping it where it was. I think it just solidifies who we are as a team.”

On the mound, Tyler Glasnow picked up right where the pitching staff left off Tuesday. The right-hander opened the game with three consecutive fastballs to Cavan Biggio to record a strikeout. The last heater came in at 99.3 mph at the knees to get Biggio looking and set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Glasnow struck out eight and allowed two runs on six hits over six strong innings. His only mistakes were two pitches to Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen, who turned both into solo home runs. Rays pitching has allowed only three earned runs over the past 29 innings, dating back to the regular season. Tampa Bay also improved to 10-2 in games started by Glasnow in 2020.

“It feels great,” Glasnow said of moving on to the ALDS. “We had a bunch of confidence going into this. Everyone went out there with no pressure, just kind of loose like we’ve been all year. Especially in that second inning, just to watch the momentum and the adrenaline from the grand slam, it was a pretty special moment.”

The Rays will play in the ALDS for the sixth time in franchise history. Over the weekend, they’ll fly to San Diego, a city they hope to call home for the next few weeks, as Petco Park will also host the AL Championship Series. The World Series will take place at Globe Life Field in Arlington beginning Oct. 20.

Now, Tampa Bay will play either Cleveland, which it hasn’t faced this season, or New York, which it went 8-2 against during the regular season.

If the Rays play the Yankees, it’s fair to assume that the two teams won’t be smiling at each other on or off the field. The last time the two AL East rivals faced off, New York closer Aroldis Chapman threw a 100 mph fastball over Mike Brosseau’s head, which led to Cash’s postgame warning about his “stable” of pitchers that throw 98 mph.

Regardless of whether the Tribe or Yanks advance, they’ll be tasked with knocking off a Rays team that is tough to beat.

“Who we play, I don’t want to say is irrelevant, but if we can control what we can control, that’s the biggest thing for us,” Zunino said. “Our pitching staff, our bullpen and if we can have quality at-bats, I like our odds against anybody.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.

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Jays season comes to an end – Bluebird Banter



Blue Jays 2 Rays 8

Unfortunately this one was over early. It wasn’t the way I expected Hyun Jin Ryu to do in his first (hopefully not last) playoff start in a Blue Jays uniform. Obviously the extra day of rest didn’t help.

Ryu wasn’t sharp and Bo Bichette forgot how to play short. By the end of the second it was 7-0.

In the first inning, Ryu gave up four singles, allowing just one run, helped out by a great throw from Lourdes Gurriel when Mike Brosseau tried to stretch his single into a double. Then, with 2-outs, Hunter Renfroe hit a ground ball to Bo, and, instead of taking a step and getting his momentum going to first, he threw it flat footed and well high. This one didn’t cost us any runs.

Second inning started out single and Mike Zunino home run. 3-0. Then it was out, double, out, walk followed by an easy ground ball to short. But Bo booted it. It should have been the last out of the inning, but instead Renfroe hits a grand slam and it was 7-0 and it was pretty much game over.

The Rays got another run in the third off Ross Stripling.

About the only fun we had was watching Nate Pearson throwing 2 innings of perfect relief, with 5 strikeouts.

On offense the only fun was Danny Jansen hitting two solo homers.

We had 7 hits total. Danny’s 2 and a single each from Vlad, Grichuk, Hernandez, Shaw and Panik.

Jays of the Day? Well, let’s give one to Danny and one to Pearson.

Suckage: Bichette (0 for 3, plus the 2 errors) and Ryu (7 runs, 3 earned).

That was a heck of a ride. What a weird season.

Thank you to everyone for joining with us for all the ups and downs. I’m lucky to have you all to share this little sandbox.

We don’t close shop for the off-season. We’ll be looking back at the season and looking forward to next season (presuming). And, among the other stuff, I’ll return to the OOTP season that we were playing before the actually season started. That should carry us through to Christmas.

We had 889 comments in the GameThread. I led us to crushing defeat.

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