Kobe, Italian team are working 'intensely' on deal

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Kobe, Italian team are working 'intensely' on deal

From Comcast SportsNet
ROME (AP) -- Kobe Bryant's representatives and Virtus Bologna are "working very intensely" to bring the Los Angeles Lakers' star to Italy during the NBA lockout. Bologna President Claudio Sabatini had told The Associated Press on Friday he had reached a tentative deal with agent Rob Pelinka for a 10-game contract worth more than 3 million. "Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna and the management of Mr. Bryant are working very intensely to try and create this important deal," the two parties said in a joint statement Monday. "Reaching such a complex deal requires both sides' maximum attention for every little detail. "Everyone wants a positive outcome to the deal, the goal of which is Kobe Bryant's presence in Italy, economic interests for the 17 clubs in Serie A and more attention for all of Italian basketball." The deal, however, hinges on other clubs changing their schedules to ensure Bologna has five home games during Bryant's 10-game contract. Bologna also wants its opening five away games played in Italy's biggest arenas, and wants to avoid an early-season bye. Smaller clubs Cremona and Varese have been reluctant to alter their schedules, although the Italian league said Saturday it was intervening to help spur an agreement. "I hope that very shortly we'll have a deal," Sabatini told the ANSA news agency. "I want to thank Kobe, who demonstrated again overnight that he wants to return to Italy." Bologna would need to have the deal signed by the end of this week to register Bryant before its opening game with Roma on Sunday. With Venezia recently added as a 17th team, the Italian league released its full schedule Monday. Although it could be changed again if Bryant signs with Bologna. After hosting Roma, Bologna visits Avellino the following weekend, then plays at Olimpia Milano, which recently signed Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari. In the following seven rounds, Bologna has home games with Cremona, Varese and Sassari; away games with Teramo, Montegranaro -- which is in talks with Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani -- and Biella; and a bye in the eighth week. Bryant lived in Italy between ages 6 and 13 while his father played in the country. He still speaks fluent Italian and has said it would be a "dream" to play in the country. In New York on Saturday, NBA owners and players failed to reach a new labor deal after about seven hours of talks focused mostly on the league's salary cap structure. The sides were meeting again Monday, though time is getting short to save the scheduled start of the regular season on Nov. 1.

McAdam: Sandoval's surgery just a temporary solution to Sox problem

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McAdam: Sandoval's surgery just a temporary solution to Sox problem

CHICAGO -- His left shoulder surgically repaired, Pablo Sandoval is now out of sight and out of mind for the Red Sox.
     
Travis Shaw, who beat out Sandoval for the third base job in the spring, is showing that the Sox made the right move with his play at third and his strong start at the plate.
     
Shaw may not be a natural third baseman, or even an above-average one. But his range is superior to that of Sandoval and his offensive production strong.
     
The move was addition by subtraction. Disregard the salaries attached to both players: the Red Sox got better -- not worse -- when Shaw became the starter and Sandoval the stand-in.
    
But the notion that the Red Sox have arrived at some permanent solution here is a false one.
     
Yes, Sandoval will be gone from Fenway, exiled to Florida to rehab his shoulder, and perhaps, reshape his physique.
     
But he's not really disappearing. He'll just be in hiding for a few months. And when spring training begins next February, Sandoval will be a problem all over again for the Red Sox.
     
This surgery -- beyond repairing Sandoval's mysteriously injured shoulder - can be seen as kicking the can down the road. Sandoval's not really going away.
     
When 2017 begins, the Red Sox will still owe him $58 million over the next three seasons ($17 million in 2017, $18 million each in 2018 and 2019 and a $5 million option buyout for 2020).
     
For that, the Red Sox will get a player coming off major surgery who's performance has been in decline for several seasons, who can play only one position, and despite nominally being a switch-hitter, can actually only hit lefthanded.
     
What a treasure.
     
Trimming one year of salary off the $95 million mega deal signed by Sandoval helps some, but it's really only a small step. There's still a lot of money owed to a player who will soon turn 30.
     
In the unlikely event that a player with that profile could interest another team, Sandoval will start have to prove that he's healthy next spring. No team is going to take on even a portion of that contract without having it demonstrated that Sandoval's shoulder is in working condition.
     
Could Sandoval then be pawned off elsewhere? Perhaps. But it will require the Red Sox to subsidize a significant portion of that contract to faciliate a trade.
     
Whatever that price may be -- half of the reminaining money? - the Red Sox should pay it. It's clear that Sandoval won't ever be a contrbuting player in Boston.
     
The Red Sox have Shaw, just 25, as their third baseman of the present and future. They have Hanley Ramirez to either handle first base or slide into the DH vacancy to be created by David Ortiz's retirement.
     
If the Sox want Ramirez to remain at first, they could seek a veteran slugger like Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion to fill the DH job.
     
Or, they could have Ramirez move to DH and promote Sam Travis to be their first baseman.
     
Whatever plan they select, there's no role for Sandoval beyond "aging, overpaid, limited role player.''
     
That's not in anyone's best interest. So until the Red Sox find a more permanent solution, don't be fooled: Sandoval remains a burden - financially and otherwise -- who will, eventually, end up elsewhere.

May 4, 2016: If expansion hits, which Pens goalie is protected?

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May 4, 2016: If expansion hits, which Pens goalie is protected?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving a warm May the Fourth Be With You to everybody out there.

*Mike Francesa has declared sports radio war on former New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, and it’s getting ugly folks.

 

*A humbled Bruce Boudreau, who really didn’t need to be humbled given what a nice man he is, will have a long line of NHL suitors interested in his services.

 

*The Northeastern University hockey team has gone to some extremes with their pregame wrestling matches.

 

*Pro Hockey Talk asks the question: if there’s an expansion draft, which goaltender should the Penguins protect given what’s going on in their playoff series?

 

*A really nice gesture within the PHT morning skate with Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper going to bat for a Lightning beat reporter that finds himself out of a job.

 

*Max Domi had a very memorable rookie season even if it didn’t end with any serious consideration for the Calder Trophy.

 

*The Nashville Predators got a little better this week with the decision to kick Mike Ribeiro up into the press box.

 

*For something completely different: these Han Solo uniform jerseys for the Durham Bulls’ Star Wars Night are the freakin’ truth.

Bruins need leaders to follow

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Bruins need leaders to follow

This is the third in a five-part series about the breakdowns that doomed the team this season, and what must change for the Black and Gold to once again get moving in the right direction. 

First things first: The leadership and general vibe around the Bruins dressing room was actually a little better last year than it was during a particularly listless 2014-15 season.

But the sometimes-motivational, sometimes-calming and sometimes-stern voices inside the room still couldn’t have been anywhere close to optimal levels as the Bruins went 3-8-1 in their final 12 games to once again finish a single point out of the playoffs. Even if the Bruin players haven’t technically quit on long-time coach Claude Julien, two straight late-season collapses make everybody wonder if the proper message and motivations are getting from the coaches to the leadership group and then on to the rank-and-file.

To lose so many games in regulation that late in the season is an indictment of the team's mental toughness. As is the disturbing tendency to shrink from the biggest challenges: The first three games of the season (an 0-3 record with a 7-16 goal differential). The Winter Classic (a 5-1 loss to the Canadiens). Milan Lucic's return to Boston (a 9-2 thrashing at the hands of Lucic's Kings). And that final, must-win game against Ottawa (a stunning 6-1 beatdown).

For whatever reason, it's seemed a lot more joyless around the Bruins on a daily basis in the last few years than it was back in their contending days, when big, bright personalities like Shawn Thornton, Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference were around. It's not something easily manufactured, or replaced once you’ve lost it. Bringing in a veteran glue guy like Max Talbot obviously wasn’t enough.

It also something captain Zdeno Chara was still smarting about during Bruins break-up day a couple of weeks ago.

“Obviously if you don’t have the effort, you won’t have results," he said. "I can’t really tell you that the whole season’s been a disappointment. We’ve shown some positive stretches and things that we’ve done well, and we improved. But when times were [there] to fold up or respond, we always kind of find ourselves taking steps backwards. That was one of the things that was disappointing, and frustrating.

“I think that we are close, but close is not close enough. We’ve seen the last two years that we missed the playoffs by a point, two points. It’s just, I mean, we’re there, but obviously the commitment has got to be on a higher level. The execution has to be on a higher level, and that’s like I said, every individual has to be better in that area. Like we’re always saying, Game 1 and Game 82, they shouldn’t be different. Every game counts. Every point counts.”

Those disturbing trends had Julien looking inward for answers.

“What I did was a self-evaluation . . . " he said. "Do I still have the ear of the dressing room? Are they still hearing?"

And in the end, Julien -- who could easily have found another job (like with the Senators) had he left Boston -- feels he's up for the challenge.

"I don’t want to be that guy that bails just because all of a sudden you hit a bump in the road," he said. "I want to be that guys that perseveres. It’s okay to be remembered right now as the winningest coach in Bruins history" -- a plateau he reached during the season -- "but I’d rather be remembered for a guy who had enough character to go back to the trenches, dig his heels in and help turn this organization around.”

Those sentiments certainly send the right kind of stubborn, determined and positive message the Bruins need to hear. But it’s also going to take something different from the players.

Chara and Patrice Bergeron have led by example with feverish work ethics, and a daily approach that doesn’t leave any room for compromise from those with a different agenda. But neither is a rah-rah, emotional-touchstone player, someone who can easily break the tension when things start going south . . . as they did in the final month in each of the last two seasons. This is where a Thornton, a Boychuk or a Ference would have known the proper way to challenge a wayward teammate, to stand up and bear the brunt of a withering critical jab from Julien, or simply pick just the right time to crack a joke that would ease the tension. Or to know when it was vital to stand up for a teammate on the ice, and show the kind of backbone and feistiness that the Bruins have sorely lacked in the last two years.

These are little things to be sure, but they can turn into very big things if neglected. While the Bruins were choking on fumes in their dressing room in the season’s final 12 games, Thornton was in Florida with his Panthers teammates enjoying the “Kevin Spacey in Space” hooded sweatshirt phenomenon that people around the team say Thornton came up with midway through the season.  

Those kinds of little touches go a long way in building a winner, and making sure the weight of expectation never gets too heavy.

It simply feels like those expectations, combined with the serious erosion of talent/depth, have sucked some of the fun out of being a Bruin, and that really comes across at critical times during the season. It also feels like some players are simply straying from the system more than before, and not being pulled into the collective group as they might have been in the past.

Chris Kelly is the kind of player who can be instrumental in those areas, and certainly has the experience -- along with the respect of his teammates, and the willingness to say what needs to be said -- to be that kind of leader. There’s a reason Kelly was re-introduced as an important voice late in the season as he rehabbed from his broken leg, even though he wasn’t all that close to a return to the lineup.

Needless to say, Kelly’s presence is missed when he’s injured and away from the group for an extended period, like last season. That will be a consideration as the 35-year-old approaches free agency on July 1; he may have greater value to the Bruins than he would anywhere else around the NHL.

“From a . . . [team] glue standpoint, obviously . . . there was a void with Chris not being part of our locker room. Claude and I had a lot of talks about that," said general manager Don Sweeney. While admitting "Chris’ health is what we have to evaluate, first and foremost, as to when he can contribute on the ice to us", Sweeney hinted there may be more to the decision than that.

"Sometimes, those guys, it’s not necessarily the stat line always, but there’s some glue there that you do miss when he’s not [around]," said Sweeney. "[Kelly is] a little under-appreciated in that regard.”

Still, the Bruins need more than Kelly and the lead-by-example authority of Chara and Bergeron. Talent is always the most important deciding factor in the ultimate fate of a hockey club, but the simple fact is that the B's underachieved in each of the last two seasons with teams that should have made the playoffs.

That’s the ultimate warning sign that things aren’t as good as they could be, or should be, and need to be changed.