Lakers loving LeBron’s leadership in 1st practice together
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, September 26
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Although the Lakers’ first official practice of the LeBron James era was focused on defense and learning new terminology, they ended it with a good old-fashioned 3-point shooting contest.
The Lakers’ new superstar was just another teammate during the spirited back-and-forth competition Tuesday. When James wasn’t draining his own 3s, he marveled along with everybody else at the surprising perimeter prowess shown by JaVale McGee, the 7-foot veteran with exactly one 3-pointer during a game in his 10-year NBA career.
The Lakers have many weeks of work ahead to become a cohesive team assembled around James, but he can already sense they’re heading down the right path. They’re planning to have plenty of fun along the way, too.
“I’m not a very patient guy, but I understand that I have to be patient right now,” James said. “I’ve got to be patient with myself, too, because this is a new start for me. It’s my first year in a new system. I know how to play the game of basketball, but this is all new to me, too. So I have to be patient with myself, not only with my teammates.”
James was both upbeat and businesslike after his first workout under coach Luke Walton, who entered the NBA in the same draft class as James in 2003. The Lakers will hold double practices and a scrimmage on the first two days of camp leading toward their preseason debut in San Diego on Sunday night.
James intends to enjoy the process in his new city.
“We’re here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to someday hoist the trophy,” James said. “Obviously that’s the end of the road, but you have to have those types of championship habits every day, not only on the floor, but off the floor as well. … Everyone is excited to get back to work. That’s a good thing. No one is coming in today and wishing it was still summer. It’s the best time of the year. Basketball season is back up, baseball season is on its way to the playoffs, and the NFL is in Week 4. So what could you ask for as a sports fan?”
James naturally becomes the center of attention on any team, and he quickly assumed a leadership role for the Lakers. He’s also eager to see his veteran teammates assert themselves to help the Lakers’ young returning core, whether it’s Rajon Rondo instructing his fellow guards on assignments, or Lance Stephenson vocally calling out defensive instructions in half-court work.
“He’s LeBron. He’s one name,” Rondo said. “It speaks for itself. He’s been a leader and a mentor in this league for a long time, on and off the court. He has a blueprint off the court as well. So he embraces his role. He embraces all the pressure that he’s ever dealt with in his career, and he’s always risen above the occasion.”
Although Walton and James are just getting to know each other, the coach is grateful that his new star is leading by example from the opening practice.
The Lakers have lacked this level of respected on-court leadership in the two seasons since Kobe Bryant’s retirement, but LeBron and his fellow new veterans have strong ideas about how an NBA team must approach its work to be a winner.
“I could see it yesterday,” Walton said. “The way he’s approaching (practice) has changed from the pickup we were playing in the summer. It definitely set the tone. We’re on a journey that started today, and we’re very serious about the business that we got done today.”
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Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders enjoying new role with Lions
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, September 25
DETROIT (AP) — Barry Sanders shook hands with fans, posed for pictures and engaged in small talk outside a suite at Ford Field before the Detroit Lions opened the season against the New York Jets.
At halftime, the Hall of Fame running back was on the field to turn a huge key, and the stadium’s speakers blared with the sounds of an engine revving.
Sanders is in his second season as an ambassador for the team, a paid role that is sending him on the road for Detroit’s game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
“It’s definitely nice to be back after the first few years of being retired and there not being much communication,” Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press. “So, certainly just being able to be involved with certain things that the team is doing from a community outreach standpoint and that sort of thing, for me, it’s great.
“And, just being able to be around the game a little more and certainly around the Lions family a little more for me is meaningful so I do appreciate that.”
The Lions like the arrangement, too.
Sanders visits suite holders during games and attends meet-and-greet sessions along with going to other team functions such as its draft party.
“It’s great having him around and back in the fold, interacting with fans and corporate sponsors,” Lions president Rod Wood told The AP. “He’s probably if not the best player in Lions history, he’s in the handful of the best.
“And, he’s definitely the most remembered by our fans.”
While it may seem like a logical connection between the former star player and the only NFL team he played for, their relationship was not smooth in the years following his sudden and surprising retirement just before training camp began 1999.
Sanders is always showered with cheers in the Motor City these days. But he was booed in public at times back in the day by fans who were still unhappy he walked away from the game after 10 spectacular seasons when he was on the verge of becoming the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
“I hated that it came to the point where he was getting booed,” said Lomas Brown, one of Sanders’ former teammates. “He’s one of the greatest ever and he did it all here in Detroit. There are still some people holding a grudge today, but that’s been gone for a while.”
Brown hopes the Lions take another step in their relationship with Sanders by honoring him with a statue at Ford Field.
“It’s hard to believe there’s not one,” Brown said.
Wood declined to say if there are plans to erect a Sanders statue.
“We’ve talked about things we haven’t announced,” Wood said.
When Calvin Johnson announced his retirement two years ago, it reminded people of Sanders’ decision to walk away from the game.
Like Sanders, the former star receiver chose to leave the Lions and the league with years left on his contract and seemingly some solid seasons left in his career.
Johnson retired two years ago and the team has tried and failed, so far, to rekindle its relationship with him.
As Sanders was the honored guest in Wood’s suite for a game earlier this month, Johnson was in a nearby luxury box on the same floor.
“I know Lions fans appreciate Barry’s role with the team because he’s the greatest Lion and one of the greatest running backs — if not the greatest — to play the game,” said Johnson, who declined to talk about his relationship with the team.
Brown believes time will take care of whatever issues are keeping Johnson from being a part of the organization in some way.
“If the Lions continue to reaching out to him and being warm to him, I think it’ll happen,” Brown said.
Wood is working on it.
“It’s still goal of the organization, and me in particular, to get Calvin back in the fold,” Wood said. “It was good to see him at the (Jets) game.”
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Hall of Fame Barry Larkin not a candidate for Reds manager
Tuesday, September 25
CINCINNATI (AP) — Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin is not a candidate to become the Cincinnati Reds manager.
President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams said Tuesday that Larkin prefers to remain in his current role of helping develop minor leaguers.
A Cincinnati native, Larkin spent his entire 19-year big league career with the Reds.
Manager Bryan Price, who was fired on April 19 along with pitching coach Mack Jenkins after a 3-15 start. Bench coach Jim Riggleman was promoted to interim manager and Danny Darwin was brought up from Triple-A Louisville to replace Jenkins. Louisville manager Pat Kelly took over as Cincinnati’s bench coach.
Kelly, third base coach Billy Hatcher and first base coach Freddie Benavides were interviewed during Cincinnati’s series at Miami last weekend, Williams said. Riggleman and former Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, who joined the Reds in spring training as a scout, also will be interviewed, according to Williams.
Cincinnati also has identified external candidates and hopes to have a manager in place by the end of October.
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