Magic Johnson: Is Stern racist? 'Ridiculous'

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Magic Johnson: Is Stern racist? 'Ridiculous'

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Magic Johnson said it's "ridiculous" to suggest that David Stern is racist, saying it's OK to disagree with the NBA commissioner but that you "can't attack the man and what he stands for." Johnson was responding to comments made by attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NBA players' association, who told the Washington Post that owners are treating players like "plantation workers" during the ongoing lockout. That was similar to the comments Bryant Gumbel made last month on his HBO show, when he said Stern "always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer treating NBA men as if they were his boys." But Johnson said Stern has always done right by players, noting the number of blacks such himself, Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas who have followed their Hall of Fame playing careers by going into management or ownership positions. "This league is more diverse than any other league and has more minorities in powerful positions than any other league," Johnson said during a phone interview. "That's all about David Stern and his vision and what he wanted to do. He make sure minorities had high-ranking positions from the league office all the way down to coaches and front office people." Stern did not comment, though told the Washington Post that Kessler's conduct "is routinely despicable." However, players such as Johnson and Bill Russell called the league office to support Stern, who is leading owners in a bitter dispute with the players but who has not lost their support, according to Johnson. "It was David Stern who took this league worldwide. And so those guys know it was because of David Stern and what he was able to do," Johnson said. Johnson recalled it was Stern who offered him a place in the 1992 NBA All-Star game, even over some players' wishes after he had retired the previous November because of HIV. And it was Stern who included Johnson that summer on the Dream Team that won the Olympic gold medal. And it was Stern, he said, who called him after Johnson's comments about Thomas in his book ignited a public feud between the longtime friends, urging Johnson to work it out. "He has always done what's right for both the players and owners. I'm going to have to say this personally, David, he didn't have to do that. That's the type of commissioner he is. "He always is looking out for the players and what's best for the league and I disagree with anybody who says he's trying to be a plantation owner. It's ridiculous we're even talking about it." Stern, 69, is likely nearing his final years on the job after becoming commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984, just as Johnson and Larry Bird were renewing the longtime rivalry between the Lakers and Boston Celtics. Johnson said he's "tired of people taking shots" at Stern, especially because so many of them have jobs connected to the NBA that Stern created. So Johnson urged those criticizing Stern during the lockout to "not go to the gutter." "We should be saluting him, he shouldn't be torn down, especially something that he's not," Johnson said. "He's a tough business man and a smart business man. That's what he's supposed to be."

Jon Lester vs. Clayton Kershaw doesn’t live up to expectations as Dodgers sweep Cubs

Jon Lester vs. Clayton Kershaw doesn’t live up to expectations as Dodgers sweep Cubs

LOS ANGELES – In a Cubs season that has already gone off script – or at least not followed the dynasty-in-waiting narrative – it made perfect sense that a Jon Lester vs. Clayton Kershaw matchup at Dodger Stadium would devolve into a slugfest and a bullpen battle.

Randy Newman’s voice – “I Love L.A.” – blasted from the sound system late Sunday afternoon as the Dodgers put the finishing touches on a three-game sweep of the defending World Series champs. The Cubs led for one half-inning during this entire weekend and will wake up in San Diego on Memorial Day as a 25-24 team.

This 9-4 blowout again showed that the Dodgers should be a force in October. Forget about the way forward-thinking manager Dave Roberts basically tried to MacGyver his way through last year’s National League Championship Series with three pitchers – Kershaw, lefty curveball specialist Rich Hill and star closer Kenley Jansen.

“That’s the big separator between what I saw last year and right now – how they’re pitching,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

It didn’t matter that Kershaw got knocked out in the middle of the fifth inning after Willson Contreras, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo launched home runs and the Cubs generated 11 hits off the three-time Cy Young Award winner.

Kershaw still outlasted Lester, who dropped his head, stared at the grass and walked off the mound with one out and two runners on in the fourth inning. The Cubs had earlier fallen into a 6-1 deficit after Lester gave up two three-run homers to Cody Bellinger and Kike Hernandez.

In back-to-back shutouts, the Dodgers (31-20) had already beaten a Cy Young Award winner dealing with questions about his velocity and looming free agency (Jake Arrieta) and a three-time World Series champion who’s 38 years old and now has a 5.18 ERA (John Lackey).

“It’s always tougher the second time, because everybody’s gunning for you,” said Ben Zobrist, who should be back in the lineup on Monday after missing two games with a sore left wrist. “Your expectations are even higher than they were before.

“But this team is definitely equal to the task. That’s not the problem as much as we just got to get back to the fundamentals and execution of the little details in the game. And everything else kind of takes care of itself.”

Joe Maddon has no choice but to ignore noise and put his faith in young Cubs lineup

Joe Maddon has no choice but to ignore noise and put his faith in young Cubs lineup

LOS ANGELES – Right around the time Theo Epstein was asked when the Cubs might consider sending Kyle Schwarber down to Triple-A Iowa, Ian Happ became the new shiny object for fans and the Chicago media.

In less than 200 at-bats, Schwarber went from World Series legend to dropping from the leadoff spot to being a platoon player to getting shipped away in a fantasy-baseball trade for pitching. 

Unless the Cubs moved Javier Baez, because Gold Glove-caliber middle infielders on a 25-homer, 90-RBI pace just fall from trees. Not to mention someone already proven on the biggest stages as a National League Championship Series co-MVP and World Baseball Classic star.

Even Happ is coming back down to earth as the league adjusts to him. Still, Cubs manager Joe Maddon has no choice but to block out the noise, trust all this young talent and believe in the players who delivered last October.    

“The best I can do is talk to the player himself, which I’ve done with ‘Schwarbs,’” Maddon said before Sunday’s game at Dodger Stadium, staying upbeat and in character after back-to-back shutouts. “That’s just the nature of the industry. That’s a part of it that makes it so much fun, too, for the fan, the fact that they can interact and throw out their conjecture like that. 

“Internally, it has nothing to do with how we react to anything. And you have to talk to the player, because he’s always feeling these outside sources pressing down on him. He really shouldn’t, but they’re human beings. 

“How do you prevent that from really infiltrating? It’s just conversation with the guys themselves. That’s about it. You ask the player to really not pay attention and listen to that. 

“But, again, with all the tablets and the different sources available to follow what’s going on, it’s almost inevitable they’re going to hear or read something. So you got to stay positive with them. And we have to have that conversation with them to maintain their confidence.”

The Sunday lineup constructed to face Clayton Kershaw featured eight position players between the ages of 22 and 27: Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Happ, Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras, Addison Russell and Albert Almora Jr.

A team built around offensive firepower woke up that morning ranked eighth and ninth in the NL in runs scored (231) and OPS (.736). A .222 batting average with runners in scoring position placed the Cubs 15th out of the NL’s 15 teams. “The best explanation I can offer is that we’re hitting young,” Maddon said. “You look at the end of last season and how well a lot of the guys that are struggling right now performed under those circumstances. I believe we’re going to come back and do that.

“In the meantime, they need our support. They need our conversations, so nobody’s left in the dark or wondering what everybody’s thinking about around here. They need openness. And if you get that, they’ll come back.” 

[MORE: The learning curve for Ian Happ]

The Cubs have bigger problems, like an inconsistent rotation that has kept this team hovering around .500 and prevented any real sense of momentum. This is still largely the same group of hitters that beat Johnny Cueto, outlasted Madison Bumgarner, eliminated Kershaw and wore down Corey Kluber during last year’s World Series run.

“They’ll get it together,” Maddon said. “We haven’t even come close to hitting that real offensive ‘go’ moment. We haven’t been there and we’re still paddling pretty well. That moment’s coming. 

“Whether it’s Happ making adjustments, Contreras making adjustments, Addison making adjustments, these guys were pretty good at the end of last season in some really difficult moments, so they’ll be back.”