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    How good timing presented opportunity for a quartet of Yankees prospects

    Monday, May 13, 2013, 1:02 PM [General]

    Sometimes in life, it’s funny how timing can work out and provide opportunities that might not have otherwise been there – and in the last 24 hours, a series of events in the Yankees organization that mirror the movie “Crash” have made that prophecy reality for a handful of prospects.

    The synergy started Sunday, when the Yankees placed Eduardo Nunez on the disabled list and recalled Alberto Gonzalez from Triple-A, leaving a spot open on the RailRiders’ roster; to fill it, Scranton added infielder Reegie Corona from Double-A. That might seem unremarkable out of context, but is quite a moment if you know that Corona has been in the Yankees system for almost a decade and has been waiting to return to Scranton for nearly three years.

    Corona played 105 games for Scranton in 2010 and could’ve found a utility role in the Bronx at some point, but he suffered a serious arm injury in a collision that July and ended up missing the rest of that season, as well as 2011 and 2012, recovering. The Yankees re-signed him last winter as a reserve, and after being activated at Double-A Trenton on May 1, he returned to Triple-A on Sunday, finally coming full circle in a career that was nearly ended on the same field 33 months earlier.

    On Monday, the Yankees were set to play a doubleheader against Cleveland, making up games that were rained out back in April; thus, the Yankees were allowed to call up a 26th man for the day and extended that spot to infielder Corban Joseph, who finally made his Major League debut (starting at first base in Game 1) two weeks after being recalled for two games but never playing after Kevin Youkilis went on the DL.

    With Joseph up – and RHP Brett Marshall, one of Scranton’s starting five, reportedly in Cleveland in case a pitching move needed to be made between games – the RailRiders needed a starter for Monday’s game and had an open spot on the roster for one day; as it happened, Double-A Trenton had an off day Monday, so LHP Nik Turley, who was scheduled to start Tuesday for the Thunder, will be added to pitch Scranton’s season finale against Gwinnett.

    That spot likely would’ve gone to whoever was lined up for Tuesday’s game regardless, but it’s a nice moment for Turley, a former 50th-round draft pick who spent time in Major League camp this spring and had made seven starts for the Thunder this season.

    And there you have it: a handful of events, all unrelated and most reactionary, have given one player (and possibly a second) the chance to make his Major League debuts, one to finally finish something he started three years prior, and one the biggest opportunity of his career, all in the span of a day where, to paraphrase Dante from Clerks, the Yankees weren’t even supposed to be here.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    04-29-13 Nets vs. Bulls Pregame Notes

    Monday, April 29, 2013, 6:28 PM [General]

    With backs against the proverbial wall, it’s win or go home for the Brooklyn Nets tonight as they host the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Barclays Center.

    After a loss in Saturday’s triple-overtime thriller in Chicago, the Nets are down 3-1 in the series, needing to win to force a Game 6 back in the Windy City on Thursday.

    “This is one you don’t pretend about, it’s as simple as it gets: you lose and you put the uniforms away, you win and you get to play again,” Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “In this case, we have the potential to have two of the three games here, and having home court is what you work for all year, but it’s clearly about somehow, some way, whatever you have to do, you find a way to win.”

    Game 4 truly was one for the books, with seven Nets playoff franchise records being tied or broken, but the tough loss left the Nets one game away from elimination. With Carlesimo’s future still up in the air, this could be his final game as head coach, but he downplayed that thought, saying that any thoughts about anything but Game 5 are “a waste of time.”

    “When the games come as quickly as they come, it’s very easy now to be tunneled in; our message walking off the floor Saturday was ‘Monday night’,” Carlesimo said. “By the time we got back, we had time to see most of the tape on the plane and get focused for tonight. Hopefully, if we win and keep getting some wins, it will be more of the same…if you’re thinking about anything else other than the next game right now, you’re wasting time.”

    With that said, Carlesimo was asked if any players had stepped up to address the situation, and he admitted that while he hadn’t personally, he wouldn’t be surprised if someone had taken that role.

    “We have a number of veterans, so guys don’t hesitate to say things. Usually it’s before or after a practice or a game; some guys are more comfortable doing that than others,” Carlesimo said. “I haven’t seen anything lately, but I’d be surprised if there hadn’t been (a meeting).”

    Heading into Game 5, the Bulls will be without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich, who played 60 of a possible 63 minutes Saturday but will miss tonight’s game with a severely bruised left calf. Even an hour before game time, Thibodeau said he was unsure who would start at point guard – but earlier in the day, Carlesimo said that Hinrich’s absence changes things dramatically no matter who replaces him.

    “It’s a major factor because he’s one of their best players,” Carlesimo said at the shoot-around. “Now again we’ve played them all year with guys missing and other guys have stepped up. And the one guy who’s obviously going to see more minutes is the one guy we don’t want to get more minutes.”

    That player is Nate Robinson, who outside of the scuffle with Watson had a phenomenal Game 4; he finished with 34 points, but had a near-franchise playoff record 23 of those in the fourth quarter, including an individual 12-0 run that got the Bulls back in it, and both that finish – and Robinson’s known ability to do things like that – will greatly change Brooklyn’s game plan in stopping “Krypto-Nate.”

    “We had been fortunate…not that we had him locked up, but we had been relatively fortunate that he hadn’t done what he’s capable of. He’s one of those guys who can just get it going and get in the zone,” Carlesimo said. “Good shots, bad shots, bank shots…whatever he’s doing he can hit them. Early on in the fourth he got it going and it wasn’t as much of a concern because we were sitting on a big lead – but tonight, we’ll be looking to him a little quicker and trying to throw water on him if he gets on fire.”

    Hinrich’s absence, however, could mean a bigger game for Deron Williams, as Thibodeau noted that guarding Williams is hard enough with his starting point guard, let alone without him.

    “With or without (Hinrich), Williams is always difficult to defend. You can’t guard him individually, you have to try to guard him with your whole team and make him work,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a great player.”

    One other note: at the end of his press conference, Carlesimo was asked about the NBA’s announcement Monday that the 12 owners on the relocation and finance advisory committee voted unanimously to reject the Maloof family's proposed sale of the Sacramento Kings to hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who planned to move the team to Seattle.

    Carlesimo coached the SuperSonics in 2007-08, their final season before relocating to Oklahoma City and the Thunder, and in speaking about the current situation, he specifically praised Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson – the former NBA All-Star who also served as a co-color analyst with Carlesimo on NBA on NBC broadcasts years ago – for helping keep basketball in Sacramento as long as he has.

    “There’s going to be a lot of extremely disappointed people in Seattle, but a lot of extremely excited people in Sacramento. I feel good for KJ, because he’s worked so hard…I don’t know where the situation is at, but (if the team stays in Sacramento and gets a new arena), there’s no question who deserves the credit,” Carlesimo said. “Kevin made this happen; he could’ve rolled over a long time ago. I’m sure they were excited to get basketball back in Seattle, but Sacramento’s a great town; I’m glad I’m not on that committee and don’t have to make that decision, because Sacramento has been supportive, but Seattle supported us for many years too.”

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    04-22-13 Nets vs. Bulls Pregame Notes

    Monday, April 22, 2013, 7:32 PM [General]

    The Brooklyn Nets were successful in their playoff debut Saturday night, and look to go up 2-0 in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series when they host the Chicago Bulls tonight at Barclays Center.

    Tonight’s game can be seen live on WWOR-TV My9, and it will be another true “Blackout in Brooklyn” as all fans have a black rally towel awaiting them at their seats.

    The Nets won Saturday’s Game 1 by a 106-89 margin and never trailed in a game where their lead ballooned as large as 28 at one point. Deron Williams had a strong game, scoring a team-high 22, and Brooklyn piled up a lot of points in transition, avoiding’s Chicago’s defensive strength in the process.

    “You don’t like to play when their defense is set up; guaranteed everybody that plays Chicago, that’s one of the first things you write up on the board,” Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “When they get set up, you’re in trouble.”

    In terms of that transition success, Carlesimo credited his own defense as well as Williams for maintaining a good pace.

    “Two things happened for us the other night; one, they didn’t shoot particularly well in the first half so we weren’t taking the ball out of bounds,” Carlesimo said, “and Deron and our team did a well above average job of getting the ball up the floor so we weren’t playing against the usual Chicago defense. They were spread out all over the floor and that makes a huge difference.”

    As for Williams himself, the point guard carried his strong second half into the first playoff game, and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau had high praise for the opposing point man.

    “He’s got his explosion back, he’s a big guard – powerful and quick – and he has the ability to make the right play; it’s not only his scoring (you worry about), but he also gets easy baskets for other people,” Thibodeau said. “You can tell he’s gotten his confidence back, too, so that makes him much harder to guard because you have to give him space. Guys like that, you have to make them work.”

    On the front line, the Bulls will once again be without the “full” services of All-Star Joakim Noah, who is still dealing with plantar fasciitis and is on a minutes limit of “about 20-25” according to Thibodeau. Taj Gibson and perhaps even Nazr Mohammad will be leaned on heavily to help Noah and Carlos Boozer out in defending Brook Lopez and boxing out Reggie Evans, and Thibodeau himself noted that even when fully healthy, the Nets present a big challenge defensively.

    “They’re playing at a very high level, and the way they finished the season, Deron Williams is rolling and he runs the team great,” Thibodeau said. “They have a number of guys who can run the ball off the dribble, and you have Lopez who has great touch and plays well with his back to the basket. They have good quality depth so they test you in a lot of ways, and you have to finish your defense against these guys; if you relax at all, they’ll make you pay.”

    Injuries have affected the Bulls from day one, with Derrick Rose missing the whole season and a number of guys sitting out long stretches due to injury, but that’s something Thibodeau has dealt with before – recalling past instances of being without a superstar during his time as an assistant in Houston (Yao), Boston (Garnett) and New York (Ewing) – and he knows it can’t be an excuse once you’ve gotten this far.

    “We’ve dealt with it all season long, and that’s part of the challenge – not just in how quickly you can adapt to things, but also how you adapt to guys coming back,” Thibodeau said. “We’re fortunate now that we do have a lot of guys a lot healthier than they were earlier in the season, which is a plus, but we have to get into rhythm quickly. Offensively it’s timing and spacing, defensively it’s intensity and protecting each other.”

    All that said, the Bulls will surely come out looking to gain momentum early, and coach Thibodeau knows that it starts with his defense.

    “We were disappointed obviously in the way we played, so we understand the importance of the game, and we know that we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did in Game 1,” Thibodeau said. “The challenge is to play for 48 minutes. We can’t allow missed shots to take away from our energy on defense and in rebounding; we have to play all aspects of the game.”

    And, as Carlesimo knows, the Nets can’t be complacent coming in, because the tide can always change in a hurry.

    “We gave up 54 points in the second half…it’s never a challenge for coaches to find things to be critical of or to work on, and we have a lot of things that we can do better,” Carlesimo said. “But, if we can shoot and take care of the ball the way we did the other night, that will cover up a lot of execution mistakes, and when you score that many points, that gives your defense a heck of a cushion.”

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    04-17-13 Nets vs. Pistons Pregame Notes

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 6:57 PM [General]

    Just 48 game minutes separate the Brooklyn Nets from their first playoff berth in six years, but before they get to the postseason they have one last piece of business: Wednesday’s regular season finale here at Barclays Center against the Detroit Pistons.

    The Nets are playing out the proverbial string tonight, locked into the No. 4 seed and doing a little scoreboard watching to see if they will meet Chicago or Atlanta in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs beginning this weekend.

    With their spot already locked in, interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo took the opportunity on Monday to sit four of his five starters – all except Gerald Wallace – as well as veterans Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse. Even though the nine-man rotation of mostly reserves pulled out a 106-101 win over Washington, Carlesimo had said Monday night that the same scenario wouldn’t repeat on Wednesday, and he reiterated those comments in his pre-game press conference.

    “The six guys who didn’t play Monday haven’t played since Sunday because we had yesterday off. … We don’t know what’s going to happen yet (with the playoff schedule), whether we play Saturday or Sunday, so I think it’s important to get them some run,” Carlesimo said. “They have to sweat, they have to play, and it will be much more beneficial than a scrimmage. We need to stay healthy and play well.”

    Carlesimo did not indicate which two players will be inactive – saying everyone seemed healthy and available at morning shoot-around – but did say rotation tonight will be more “get everybody involved and keep everyone healthy” than true “playoff rotation preview.”

    “We’ll play everyone. I think we’ll sub the normal way, but after that we’ll just divide the minutes,” he said. “Gerald (Wallace) might play a few more minutes than the other guys, but we’ll just divvy it up.”

    No matter what happens tonight, the Nets will finish with their fifth winning month out of six this season, their most winning months in one campaign since they recorded five in 2002-03 – the last time the franchise went to the NBA Finals – and a total equal to their total amount of winning months in the last five seasons combined.

    A win, as well, would give the Nets a season series sweep of Detroit, marking the tenth team they will have blanked, and make Carlesimo 35-19 overall since taking over for Avery Johnson, making him the most successful coach in franchise history through his first 54 games.

    All that said, as Carlesimo noted, the Nets won’t be looking past a Pistons team that took them to double-overtime in their previous Barclays meeting, but they may be anxious to just get the playoffs underway in general.

    “I think they’re anxious; I think if everybody could fast forward a couple days they’d do that,” he said. “We like to have time to prepare and everything, but I think everybody would just as soon wish it were Saturday or Sunday right now.”

    Two other notes of interest about tonight, as it relates to franchise record boards:

    -It’s likely that lowered playing team will mean Reggie Evans’ streak of eight consecutive games with 13 or more rebounds will end, but he does still have a lot at stake. Evans is on of pace to lead the NBA in both rebounds per 48 minutes and total rebounding percentage, could break Dennis Rodman’s NBA record for defensive rebounding percentage, and could become the first player in NBA history other than Rodman to have a total rebounding percentage at least 26 percent while playing a minimum of 15 minutes per game. In addition, he needs just six rebounds to tie Jayson Williams for seventh on the franchise’s NBA-era single-season rebounds list.

    -Brook Lopez comes in as the only NBA player averaging at least 19 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks per game, and he also comes in with a Player Efficiency Rating of 24.6; if he can maintain that PER, he will finish the season as the Nets’ new NBA-era franchise leader in that category, surpassing the 24.5 PER posted by Vince Carter in 2004-05.

    And, finally, a Happy Birthday goes out to point guard C.J. Watson, who will do some balling on his 29th birthday tonight.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    04-09-13 Nets vs. 76ers Pregame Notes

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 6:39 PM [General]

    It’s not often you hear the phrase “do or die game” for a playoff-bound  team in the waning weeks of the regular season, but tonight, it is in fact do or die for the Nets as they host the Philadelphia 76ers here at Barclays Center.

    Tonight’s game, which can be seen at 7:30 p.m. on My9 (WWOR-TV), is do or die for Brooklyn in terms of their quest for an Atlantic Division title; the Knicks’ magic number is down to one, meaning the next Nets loss or Knicks win will clinch the division for the orange and blue.

    Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo isn’t worried about that, however, as much as he is worried about the matchup between Brook Lopez and Philly’s Spencer Hawes, another 7-footer who like Lopez plays very well away from the basket.

    “They’re two very versatile bigs, who can both play away from the basket, rebound and pass,” Carlesimo said. “Spencer’s ball skills are very good, and they run a lot of things through the elbow with him. He can pas the ball well outside and go out and shoot threes, and he made a couple against us last time.”

    Lopez is very familiar with Hawes, as the two were Pac-10 rivals during their freshman seasons at Stanford and Washington respectively and have been together in the NBA for five years now, but so is Carlesimo; the Nets’ interim coach admitted that he and Hawes live nearby one another, and he actually got an up close and personal look at the big man a few months back.

    “He’s a neighbor of ours; he lives a couple of blocks away from the house, and he was actually over at the house over the All-Star break, playing with the kids in the back yard,” Carlesimo said. “He’s a good player, and he’s continued to improve this season, so it’s going to be important for us to make him defend and get more pressure on his jump shots; they’re a good jump shooting team, and we didn’t defend that well last time we played them. It’s hard to defend seven-footers, but we have to do it.”

    Jrue Holiday, Philly’s All-Star point guard, is the other player Carlesimo is worried about; citing the league’s modification of the rules on hand checking, Carlesimo says that a quick player like Holiday is becoming “virtually impossible” to guard effectively, let alone stifle.

    “It’s enough of a problem in the open floor, but in the pick and rolls, it’s really a problem now,” Carlesimo said. “Once one of their bigs gets a piece of Deron (Williams) or whoever’s covering him, then it becomes a real adventure. It’s almost better in the open floor; once you introduce the bigs into it, you knock guys off-kilter a little bit. Maybe it was too much the other way when you could do pretty much anything with your hands, but now it’s virtually impossible to guard the quick player.”

    That will be even harder perhaps if Joe Johnson, who has missed the last three games while battling a recurrence of plantar fasciitis in his left heel, will be unable to go. Johnson is listed as a game-time decision, and about 90 minutes before tipoff, Carlesimo didn’t know Johnson’s status but said if he does play, his workload will be all based on feel.

    “I haven’t seen him yet, but (if he does play) we’ll see how he feels,” Carlesimo said of Johnson’s availability. “He won’t go for huge minutes, but if he feels good, we’ll try to get maybe 30 or so out of him.”

    Two other notes of interest around game No. 77 of the season:

    -When asked about Nets minority owner Jay Z’s new sports management agency and the effect it might have on the Nets if he begins to represent basketball players and divest his interest in the team, Carlesimo said it would be “disappointing” to lose someone who has been very influential in not only the move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, but the identity shift that has come with it.

    “He had an enormous amount to do with the rebranding of the team; I wasn’t close to it at all, but from what I’ve seen, it would be hard to overstate his importance in this all,” Carlesimo said. “I like his involvement in the team; he’s at the games, and maybe he’s around more than I realize behind the scenes, but he’s an excellent fan, one that wasn’t just around this year, but a lot in the past too, which is very telling to me.”

    -Prior to tip-off, the Nets will display the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 1955 World Championship banner at center court. April 9, 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the first game played at Ebbets Field, and according to a team release, the pennant, which is on loan from the Brooklyn Historical Society, will be brought out by Brooklyn Dodgers fans who regularly attended games at the old field that was located roughly two miles from the Barclays Center in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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  • Sometimes in life, it’s funny how timing can work out and provide opportunities that might not have otherwise been there – ... more
  • With backs against the proverbial wall, it’s win or go home for the Brooklyn Nets tonight as they host the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 ... more
  • The Brooklyn Nets were successful in their playoff debut Saturday night, and look to go up 2-0 in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal ... more
  • Just 48 game minutes separate the Brooklyn Nets from their first playoff berth in six years, but before they get to the postseason they ... more

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