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Cubs hire Maddon as manager, fire Renteria
CHICAGO (AP) Right after Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay, the Chicago Cubs were mentioned as a possible landing spot for one of baseball's best managers. Flush with prospects and ready to make a splash in free agency, the Cubs already had a manager in Rick Renteria. But they just couldn't resist the lure of Maddon's sudden availability. Looking for a turnaround after five consecutive losing seasons, the Cubs announced Friday that they had hired Maddon to replace Renteria after just one year on the job. The move pairs the respected Maddon with a promising roster and a franchise with far more resources than he ever enjoyed with the small-market Rays. Renteria was fired after leading Chicago to a 73-89 record in his only season as a major league manager. It was a seven-win improvement from 2013, the last of Dale Sveum's two years in charge, but not close to reaching the playoffs or putting the Cubs in position to win their first World Series title since 1908. "Maddon - who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us - had become a free agent," Cubs President Theo Epstein said in a statement. "We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe." Epstein said the Cubs were "transparent" at all times with Renteria once Maddon became available two weeks ago. "Rick often said he was the beneficiary of the hard work of others who came before him," he said. "Now, in the young players he helped, we reap the benefits of his hard work as we move forward. He deserved better and we wish him nothing but the best." Renteria's agent, Ken Solomon, declined comment. He also said Renteria will not comment. With Renteria in the dugout, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro each had a rebound season, and young sluggers Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were among a group of prospects who showed considerable promise in their first major league action. Now it's up to Maddon to help that core group of young players to continue to improve, while paving the way for another wave of heralded prospects that includes third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Addison Russell. It's a familiar situation for the 60-year-old Hazleton, Pennsylvania native, who deftly guided several young Rays rosters into contention in the rugged AL East. Maddon opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay after Andrew Friedman left the Rays' front office to take over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 14. Maddon's free agency created a buzz during the World Series, with the talk centering on where he might go and all the possibilities for his new job. The answer became public just two days after San Francisco's Game 7 win over the Royals, with Maddon becoming Chicago's fifth manager since the start of the 2010 season and the 54th in the history of the woebegone franchise. Maddon had a 754-705 record in nine seasons in Tampa Bay, leading the club to four playoff appearances, two AL East titles and a five-game loss to Philadelphia in the 2008 World Series. The two-time AL Manager of the Year was the bench coach for six seasons under Angels manager Mike Scioscia before he was hired by Tampa Bay in November 2005. While the addition of Maddon is a coup for president of baseball operations Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, the quick hook for Renteria could turn into a problem for the front office down the road. Renteria had two years left on the contract he signed with the Cubs last November, and the inevitable turnover on the major league staff could affect Chicago's ability to attract quality coaches. Renteria, who was the bench coach in San Diego before he got his first opportunity to be a big league manager, already was looking at a different staff for his second year. Hitting coach Bill Mueller resigned after Epstein announced that Mike Brumley would not return as assistant hitting coach. John Mallee, a Chicago native, was hired to replace Mueller, Eric Hinske shifted to assistant hitting coach and former Cubs outfielder Doug Dascenzo was hired as first base and outfield coach. Now their fate is unclear. Same for pitching coach Chris Bosio, who has drawn praise for his work with Jake Arrieta and a couple other pitchers who were traded away by the Cubs after they rebounded until the tutelage of the former major leaguer. Sat, 01 Nov 2014 03:32:00 +0000
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon resigns
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Dave Brandon took over Michigan's athletic department four years ago with so many of the right qualifications: success as a businessman, experience as a university regent - and he'd played football for Bo Schembechler, too. That football program is the barometer of sporting success at Michigan, but the Wolverines have fallen on hard times recently. Those struggles - and the handful of other problems they helped magnify - led to the end of Brandon's tenure as athletic director. "Dave feels that it would be in the best interest of our student-athletes, the athletic department and the university community if he moved on to other challenges and allowed the important work of the department and the university to continue without daily distractions," school President Mark Schlissel said. "I agree with this decision." Schlissel announced Brandon's resignation at a news conference Friday, and although the tone was respectful and appreciative, the president acknowledged that the athletic department has gone through a rough stretch recently. Brandon's departure comes amid another disappointing football season - and concerns over everything from the school's concussions protocol to student attendance at games. Football coach Brady Hoke's future has been in doubt for a while because of his team's lack of progress, but Brandon also became a target of disgruntled fans and students. Schlissel was asked if he was prepared to fire Brandon if the athletic director hadn't resigned. "I'm not at all prepared to deal in a hypothetical," Schlissel said. "But he and I had been working closely, as you might imagine, through the controversial events of recent weeks. "We discussed iteratively the best way to set the athletic program in a stronger and positive direction, and we've been working closely together on that. It was Dave that mentioned and raised the prospect of his decision to resign." Will Hoke be the next to go? The timing of Brandon's departure gives Michigan a chance to find a replacement athletic director before the end of the football season, when a decision on Hoke's status could come. But Schlissel indicated he would take as long as necessary to find a new AD. Jim Hackett, who graduated from the university in 1977 and like Brandon played football for Michigan, will serve as interim athletic director. Schlissel indicated Hackett could potentially be empowered to make the decision on Hoke's status. "Football, like all of our programs, are evaluated by the athletic department through the season, but particularly at the end of the season, so I would imagine that the interim athletic director will be intimately involved in charge of the evaluation of football," Schlissel said. "The interim AD is the athletic director until we hire a permanent AD. I feel comfortable hiring deans and provosts. I feel a little bit less comfortable - I'm not the guy to make a decision about a particular coach. We have an athletic program that I delegate that authority to." Brandon did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. His resignation becomes official Saturday, and the university has agreed to pay him a total of $3 million through 2018. "I'd like to thank Dave Brandon for his commitment to Michigan," Hackett said. "The athletic department is in great financial condition. We have new varsity sports that will continue to make Michigan a destination for aspiring student-athletes, and Dave worked extremely hard to modernize Michigan's athletic facilities." But those successes have a hard time registering when the football team is playing poorly. Michigan for years was a power both in the Big Ten and nationally, but not anymore. The Wolverines are 3-5 heading into Saturday's homecoming game against Indiana. Brandon, a former university regent, became Michigan's athletic director in 2010, stepping down as CEO of Domino's Pizza Inc. and returning to his alma mater to take over the sports program. He made a major change after less than a year on the job, firing Rich Rodriguez after three tumultuous seasons as football coach. Hoke was hired to replace Rodriguez and took Michigan to the Sugar Bowl in his first season, but the program has declined steadily since then. Hoke and Brandon faced sharp criticism for the coaching staff's handling of quarterback Shane Morris' head injury in a game this September against Minnesota. Morris was allowed to play briefly after a hard hit. He was later diagnosed with a probable concussion. Brandon said communication was a problem - both during the game when Morris was hit, and over the next couple of days. The school announced a change in protocol soon after. The team's lackluster performance has been accompanied by a growing sense of malaise among fans. Empty seats in the area at Michigan Stadium where students sit have become common. Brandon has acknowledged that the decision to replace assigned seating for students with general admission in 2013 did not go over well. That policy was quickly changed, and the school recently announced that it was cutting student ticket prices next year. Brandon was not without his supporters. John Beilein - the school's successful basketball coach who was hired before Brandon took over - called the AD a "great leader" recently. Under Brandon, Michigan began playing night football games at the Big House, a move that proved fairly popular. "I've spoken regularly with Dave over the last few weeks, and we both want what's best for Michigan athletics, which is to be able to pursue the highest levels of excellence in all aspects of our programs," Schlissel said. "I believe Dave has always had the best interests of the University of Michigan in his mind and in his heart." Fri, 31 Oct 2014 22:08:00 +0000
James leads Cavaliers past Bulls, 114-108 in OT
CHICAGO (AP) LeBron James scored 36 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 114-108 in overtime on Friday night. James was at his best after struggling the previous night, scoring eight points in the extra period, and the Cavaliers picked up the win the after opening with a loss at home to New York. Derrick Rose scored 20 points for Chicago, but his first meaningful home game in about a year was spoiled by a sprained left ankle and a dominant performance by the Cavaliers' megastar. Rose, sidelined for most of the past two seasons by knee injuries, came up hobbling in the first half and headed to the locker room in the fourth quarter. Cleveland rallied from five down in the closing minute of regulation after blowing a nine-point lead to start the fourth quarter. James took over in OT, flipping in a wild reverse layup and scoring Cleveland's first eight points in the extra period. The Cavaliers were still clinging to a 106-104 lead after Kirk Hinrich hit two free throws with 46.8 seconds left. But Tristan Thompson iced it moments later with a hard dunk after rebounding James' jumper to make it a four-point game with 24 seconds left. Thompson tied franchise record with 12 offensive rebounds. Sat, 01 Nov 2014 03:10:00 +0000
Warriors, Thompson agree to maximum extension
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Golden State Warriors saw no reason to wait on securing Klay Thompson's future with the franchise. The Warriors signed Thompson to a four-year maximum contract extension worth about $70 million on Friday, a person with knowledge of the deal said. The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team does not disclose terms, also said there is no opt-out clause for either side. The contract will keep Thompson with the team through the 2018-19 season. The Warriors confirmed a multiyear deal with Thompson. It was the final day for Thompson and the team to get a deal done or the shooting guard could become a restricted free agent next summer, when the Warriors would have had an opportunity to match any offer sheet he signed. Golden State decided not to risk the relationship turning sour in restricted free agency or another team putting a clause in an offer sheet that might've made it difficult to match. And Thompson and his agent, Bill Duffy, got what they wanted all along: a maximum deal and financial security now. "It's hard for me to express how excited and happy I am to know that I will be playing in front of the best fans in the NBA for a long time," Thompson said in a statement. "This team, under this ownership group and with this collection of players, has an incredibly bright future. I could not ask for a better situation and am extremely thankful." Warriors general manager Bob Myers and Thompson will hold a news conference to formally announce the deal before Saturday night's home opener against the Los Angeles Lakers. In a statement, Myers also praised ownership's commitment to winning and said the team is "excited to have one of the top young players in the NBA under contract for the next several years." Golden State drafted Thompson out of Washington State with the 11th overall pick in 2011. He has become one of the NBA's top two-way guards and teamed with fellow "Splash Brothers" star Stephen Curry to form one of the league's best backcourts. Thompson averaged 18.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists last season, helping the Warriors reach the playoffs for the second straight year. He shot 44.4 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from 3-point range. Curry congratulated Thompson for the extension on Twitter, writing: "Splash bros continue." The Warriors decided to build around the tandem when they refused to include Thompson in any trade talks with Minnesota for Kevin Love this offseason, believing all along that he and Curry could carry them to a title on their streaky shooting strokes. Thompson began to validate the decision over the summer, dazzling during the FIBA World Cup in Spain to help the U.S. win gold. The payday will put more expectations on Thompson, especially with fans still split about losing Love to Cleveland, but he appears ready for the challenge. Thompson led the Warriors with 21.7 points per game in the preseason, shooting 50.9 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from beyond the arc. He also scored 19 points in Golden State's season-opening 95-77 win at Sacramento on Wednesday night. First-year coach Steve Kerr, a former NBA player and general manager with the Phoenix Suns, said before the extension was announced that Thompson never looked affected by the negotiations. "It can definitely affect a player to think about all that stuff, worry about injury, whatever. I'm pretty confident in Klay that he's just going to play," Kerr said. Thompson's contributions go beyond shooting and scoring. At 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, the lengthy Thompson often defends the other team's best guard. That includes covering everybody from the Clippers' Chris Paul to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, taking pressure off teammates on the perimeter, most notably the undersized Curry. Myers made extending Thompson's contract one of his top offseason priorities, and he predicted from the get-go that it could go right up to the deadline. The Warriors were also trying to balance Thompson's needs with their own payroll concerns. After all, the team will be facing similar scenarios with Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli next year and has increasingly less room to wiggle under the salary cap with its current roster. Thompson's deal eclipses the contract Curry signed prior to the 2012-13 season when he was due for an extension. Golden State signed Curry to a $44 million, four-year extension on Oct. 31, 2012. Curry, who started his first All-Star Game for the Western Conference last season, was coming off a second surgery on his right ankle in as many years that summer, and questions persisted about his durability. That risk worked out well for the Warriors. Curry's contract has become one of the league's best bargains, and Golden State is banking on Thompson's talents to evolve in much the same way now, especially with the league's next television deal widely expected to increase player salaries. --- Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP Sat, 01 Nov 2014 02:44:00 +0000
Wolves give Ricky Rubio 4-year, $56M deal
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The clock was ticking down toward the deadline for reaching agreement on an extension of his rookie contract, and just like he does on the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio took charge. "I was talking with my agents and I told them I really wanted to stay here," Rubio told The Associated Press in a phone interview late Friday night. "I told them to make something work. At the end of the day it did happen and I'm happy about it." About two hours before the midnight Eastern deadline, Rubio signed a four-year contract extension worth $55 million that includes another $1 million in incentives, bringing an end to a long and sometimes tense negotiation between the flashy Spanish point guard and the team that drafted him in 2009. Rubio averaged 10.1 points, 8.1 assists and 2.3 steals but shot just 37 percent in his first three seasons. The shooting numbers led some to say the Timberwolves would have been better off waiting to see how Rubio performs this season before extending him an offer given that they would have had the ability to match any offer that he received on the open market next summer. But owner Glen Taylor has long been big on loyalty, and he reached out directly to Rubio earlier this week to make one last push. "I want to call Minnesota home for a long time," Rubio said. "That's why I signed the contract. My mom's going to get mad at me, but I don't leave home when I'm here. This is my second home. I really feel very welcome here." As salaries stand right now, Rubio's $13.75 million average annual salary starting next season will be more than high profile point guards like Tony Parker, Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry and Ty Lawson. Rubio's representatives targeted Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe's five-year, $70 million deal to eclipse, and ended up coming very close despite not having the leverage that Bledsoe had as a restricted free agent. In Rubio, Taylor and Flip Saunders, the team's president of basketball operations, head coach and minority owner, see a dynamic 24-year-old point guard who is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. Rubio made an immediate impact as a rookie on a long-suffering team, helping them climb to the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff picture in early March before he tore two ligaments in his left knee in a game against the Lakers. He played all 82 games last season and said he feels as healthy this year has he has been since the injury. Rather than wade through the potentially tricky waters of restricted free agency next summer, the Wolves engaged agents Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana of Relativity Sports to get a deal done. "Ricky is only in his fourth season and because of his work ethic and determination, we are confident that he will continue to grow as a player and a team leader," Saunders said in a statement. "We look forward to many great years ahead of Ricky in a Timberwolves uniform." And after trading Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, Rubio also became the player that will lead youngsters Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett into the post-Love era. "He came to us with such high expectations and he immediately proved why we were so high on him," Taylor said. "Unfortunately he got hurt at the end of his rookie season, but he has worked so hard to come back and we believe he has a long and successful career ahead of him. He's a great foundation for our franchise and we're very happy to keep Ricky here long term to work and grow with the young nucleus that we have." One of the league's best passers, Rubio got quite an assist from the NBA's new television deal. The league signed new agreements with ESPN and Turner totaling $24 billion earlier this month. It remains unclear just how soon the massive extensions will flood the league with cash and send the salary cap soaring, but the inevitability helped the Timberwolves feel more comfortable writing a bigger check to lock Rubio in. With Kemba Walker signing a four-year, $48 million deal with Charlotte and Goran Dragic and Rajon Rondo figuring to cash in next summer, Rubio's deal may not look quite so large when the salary cap starts to rise. "You're getting paid more, you have to earn it," Rubio said. "You have to show why you're getting paid this money. Of course there's going to be extra pressure. I wanted to be more of a leader and take this team to another level." --- Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski Sat, 01 Nov 2014 04:26:00 +0000