From Comcast SportsNetSEATTLE (AP) -- Investor Chris Hansen has contacted the Maloof family about buying the Sacramento Kings, setting up the possibility of the NBA's return to Seattle.Hansen's interest was confirmed Wednesday by people with knowledge of the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because no deal has been reached.One person said the Kings could sell for more than 500 million. The Kings' future in Sacramento has been uncertain because the Maloofs and the city haven't been able to come up with a long-term arena solution.Yahoo! Sports first reported the discussions between the Kings and Hansen. Yahoo! reported a possible sale could land the Kings in Seattle for the 2013-14 season, where the team would play at KeyArena as a temporary home until a new arena is constructed."I know as much as you do," Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said when asked about the situation. "If it's true, ain't it cool?"His counterpart in Sacramento thought the news anything but cool. At an afternoon news conference, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesday was significant because for the first time Kings fans know the team is for sale. Johnson said he would do all he could to try to find a buyer with a Sacramento connection to possibly purchase the team and keep it in California's capital city."We're going to fight, and we're used to being in this situation," he said.Hansen, a Seattle native and San Francisco-based investor, reached agreement with local governments in Seattle last October on plans to build a 490 million arena near the city's other stadiums, CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field. As part of the agreement, no construction will begin until all environmental reviews are completed and a team has been secured.Hansen's group is expected to pitch in 290 million in private investment toward the arena, along with helping to pay for transportation improvements in the area around the stadiums. The plans also call for the arena to be able to handle a future NHL franchise. The remaining 200 million in public financing would be paid back with rent money and admissions taxes from the arena, and if that money falls short, Hansen would be responsible for making up the rest. Other investors in the proposed arena include Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department store family.Hansen's goal has been to return the SuperSonics to the Puget Sound after they were moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. Asked in September if he could envision a team being in Seattle for the 2013 season, Hansen was cautious about finding an option that quickly.The NBA had no comment. Representatives for Hansen did not return messages seeking comment. Any franchise looking to relocate must submit its plans to the NBA by March 1 and the move must be approved by the league."As we have said for nearly a year, we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the Sacramento Kings franchise," Maloof family spokesman Eric Rose said when contacted Wednesday by the AP.The Kings' asking price would top the NBA-record 450 million the Golden State Warriors sold for in July 2010. Johnson said he's had past discussions with more than one group about possibly stepping forward as owners if the Kings were up for sale."All indications that I have seen and read and heard is they are exploring opportunities to sell the team, and that is public and that is the first I have ever heard," Johnson said. "We need to put ourselves in a position to find an ownership group and buyers to keep the team here in Sacramento."Johnson said he had not spoken with any members of the Maloof family or NBA Commissioner David Stern on Wednesday.News of the discussions came a day after officials in Virginia Beach, Va., announced they were dropping their efforts to build a new arena. Virginia Beach had been reported as a relocation option for the Kings.The Maloofs backed out of a tentative 391 million deal for a new downtown arena with Sacramento last year, reigniting fears the franchise could relocate. Johnson and the Kings broke off all negotiations in the summer with the Kings, saying the deal didn't make financial sense for the franchise.In 2011, the Kings appeared determined to move to Anaheim before Johnson convinced the NBA to give the city one last chance to help finance an arena. At one point, Johnson seemed so certain the team was gone he called the process a "slow death" and compared the city's efforts to keep the Kings a "Hail Mary."Johnson made a desperate pitch to the NBA Board of Governors in April 2011, promising league owners the city would find a way to help finance a new arena to replace the team's current outdated suburban facility. That pitch bought the Kings time, before the brokered deal between the city and the Maloofs fell apart last year.Johnson said the Maloof family still must repay a 77 million loan to the city and other lenders.While some players around the league took to Twitter on Wednesday to express their excitement about the possibility of the NBA returning to Seattle -- especially those players from the Puget Sound area -- others were more reserved."There's a part of me that's disappointed because Sacramento, I've enjoyed my times. I think Sacramento is a great town," said current Denver coach and former Seattle coach George Karl. "I'm not going to lie -- I'm happy that Seattle is going to have a team more than Sacramento. But I am disappointed that Sacramento can't keep their team."
Hard to believe, but it's been 10 years since the fist of Michael Barrett famously hit the face of A.J. Pierzynski, creating one of the most legendary moments in the Windy City Series between the White Sox and Cubs.
The punch lasted only one second, but speaking with the man who was on the receiving end of that punch, Pierzynski knows he'll be hearing about it for the rest of his life.
"It's just one of those things that happens," Pierzynski said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "Hey, you got to be remembered for something."
Fans won't let him forget it, even if some have forgotten what actually happened that day—which might also include Pierzynski. More on that in a moment.
First to the play that started it all. It occurred on May 20, 2006. While scoring a run on a sacrifice fly on a ball hit to shallow left field, Pierzynski knocked over Barrett at home plate. The White Sox catcher then moved towards the Cubs backstop to retrieve his helmet.
If it was anybody else, nothing would have happened. This story you're reading would never have been written.
But this was Pierzynski, one of the most hated players in baseball, the notorious monkey in the middle of everything.
This Sox was about to get socked.
"I went up to get my helmet. He grabbed me and said, 'I didn't have the ball (bleep)," recalled Pierzynski. Barrett threw a right hook that hit Pierzynski square in the left cheek, producing an image that has been permanently burned into the minds of Cubs and White Sox fans.
Or so we thought.
A decade later, Pierzynski says he frequently comes across people who have somehow forgotten what actually occurred.
"What's happened now is most people don't remember what really happened. They just know Barrett and I got into a fight," Pierzynski said. "Most people actually think that I hit him. People (say to me) 'Remember that time you punched Barrett and knocked him down?' So, it's kind of funny how it's kind of changed over the years."
But still, many people do remember the punch quite well, especially Cubs fans who relish in heckling Pierzynski whenever he comes to town, like earlier this month when his Braves played the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“They’ll say things like, ‘Michael Barrett's coming. Look out!’ And I'll be like, 'Yeah, whatever,'" Pierzynski said. “Or they’ll yell ‘Hey, you suck! Or I hate you!’ Then it’s like, ‘Okay, great. Welcome to the club.’”
The White Sox won the game that day 7-0, but Cubs fans have had a victory of sorts ever since—the memory of Barrett pelting their White Sox nemesis, a guy who pestered them for years.
But even Pierzynski himself seems to remember the play differently than everyone else. His account of what occurred will probably get under the skin of Cubs fans.
What else would you expect from A.J.?
"He didn't really hit me though, that's the thing," said Pierzynski. "He kind of just pushed me. It was weird, because he grabbed me and we were so close. It wasn't like (Rougned) Odor when he hit (Jose) Bautista where he wound up. I mean, it was so close that he just kind of pushed me off balance.
"And (third base coach Chris) Speier grabbed me right away and then like 10 guys from the White Sox jumped on top of him. And poor (Cubs outfielder John) Mabry who was my hitting coach in St. Louis. I know we were laughing about it when I was in St. Louis. I think he ended up in the hospital with broken ribs and he had nothing to do with it."
Call it a punch, call it a push, most athletes who take a hit like that would be so humiliated they’d never want to talk about it again.
“I literally laugh about it. It’s funny to me,” Pierzynski said. “Now my kids are of the age to use the internet, so now that’s like the first picture that always comes up, and they’re like, ‘Why did you get in the fight with the guy?’ I tell them the story and they have to explain it to their friends. It’s just one of those things that happens in your life. Hey, at least it happened on national TV and gives people something to talk about.”
Six weeks after the fight, Barrett sought out Pierzynski at Wrigley Field before the White Sox and Cubs resumed the Crosstown Series on the North Side. The two shook hands, made amends and the feud was over.
But the two have not spoken to each other since.
“I haven’t seen him,” Pierzynski said. “I mean, we played a little bit, but I haven’t seen him off the field.”
What would you say to him?
“I don’t know. ‘Hey, how you doing?’ I don’t even know what he does anymore.”
Barrett is currently the minor league catching coordinator for the Washington Nationals. Attempts to interview him for this story were unsuccessful.
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At 39, Pierzynski isn’t sure how much longer he’ll play. He already has enough baseball memories to fill multiple lifetimes. But his recollections of those classic White Sox-Cubs games will never fade.
“I played in Yankees-Red Sox, I played in Dodgers-Giants, Cardinals-Cubs, nothing matched the intensity," he said. "Maybe it was because I was on the White Sox and there was such a dislike for the other team, not only in the fan base, but also kind of the organization. It’s just kind of there.
"It just brought out the best. It always seemed like it brought out the best in both teams. It was always the one game you circled, and it was like, ‘Okay, we’re playing the Cubs coming up in a week. Everyone be ready.’”
Pierzynski was always ready—maybe not for Barrett’s fist—but the face that took the beating that day gave us all a knockout Cubs-White Sox moment, one we will never forget.
The White Sox take on the Cubs in the Crosstown Classic tonight, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with an hour-long White Sox Pregame Live at 6:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.
Tonight's starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (2-5, 4.41 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.60 ERA)
|White Sox HR leaders||Cubs HR leaders|
|Todd Frazier (28)||Kris Bryant (25)|
|Brett Lawrie (12)||Anthony Rizzo (24)|
|Jose Abreu (11)||Ben Zobrist (13)|
|Tuesday||James Shields (4-12, 4.99 ERA)||Kyle Hendricks (9-6, 2.27 ERA)|
|Wednesday||Jacob Turner (0-1, 14.73 ER||Jason Hammel (9-5, 3.35 ERA)|
GAME PREVIEW: Click here to make sure you're ready for the action.
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Back in January, before the Bears promoted Dowell Loggains from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, CSNChicago.com took an advance look at Loggains and how he might fit with Jay Cutler were the Bears to make Loggains yet another in the long list of coordinators for Cutler. With the start of training camp at hand, a longer look at this pivotal coach-player situation comes into focus.
No change made by the Bears this offseason carries the weight of the one moving Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator to replaced departed Adam Gase. Quarterback Jay Cutler is coming off the best statistical season of his career, founded on the ball-security foundation instilled by Gase and Loggains. The Gase-to-Loggains succession plan projects to catapult Cutler, and with him the offense, to a next level.
For now, as they were when Mike Martz, Aaron Kromer and others took the Chicago O.C. job, all the right things are being said:
From Loggains on Cutler’s improvement under Gase and himself: “I don’t think Adam or I should take the credit,” Loggains said. “I think Jay made the choice to improve and work on the things that we asked him to work on. And I hope that process continues.”
From Cutler: “I’ve known Dowell like I’ve known Adam, for a long time… . The backbone of this offense is still the same. Even if Adam was here I think we still would have changed some stuff and got better in certain areas. So we’re just kind of continuing down that road.”
But Cutler having a positive relationship with an incoming coach means…nothing.
Indeed, his history is not encouraging, even with coaches he ostensibly thought highly of coming in, even ones already on staff or had worked with him previously.
Mike Tice was promoted from offensive line coach to coordinator when Mike Martz was fired after the 2011 season, Cutler’s previous best for avoiding interceptions. Tice had been instrumental in balancing the offense in 2010 when Martz’s schemes and protections were getting Cutler annihilated.
But by mid-2012, Cutler’s relationship and communications with Tice had deteriorated to the point of backup Josh McCown needing to serve as go-between.
Notably, the 2012 friction was developing even as the Bears were on their way to a 10-6 season, and with Jeremy Bates having been hired as quarterbacks coach. That was based in part on Bates’ relationships with Cutler from a 2006-08 overlapping stint with the Denver Broncos. Cutler’s relationship with Tice was toxic, and Bates went down along with Tice and the rest of Lovie Smith’s staff after that season.
The Bears have added Dave Ragone, a member of the Tennessee Titans staff with Loggains and having played two NFL games in 2003. But the Bears’ offense will turn on the Cutler-Loggains axis and it relationship elements, both football and inter-personal.
“There’s definitely some honesty there,” Cutler said, smiling. “He’s not afraid to tell me when I’m completely wrong and rightfully so. I like to tell him whenever I think we’re not doing things right or we need to change things.
“I think at the core of that we kind of cut through some stuff and we get things done a little bit quicker… .No one’s really sensitive. We just try to get it done.”
When Gase talked, Cutler listened. Will Cutler’s receptors stay open when something goes wrong, as something invariably will sometime in an NFL season? That is on Cutler, and his openness to yet another coordinator was at the root of his improvement to a career-best passer rating of 92.3.
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Loggains has been notably vocal during open practices, with more than Cutler alone. That is a departure from Gase’s demeanor, although Gase was more than capable of tough love when anyone on his side of the football needed it.
“I think it’s a mutual respect,” Loggains said of his Cutler relationship. “I think I respect him and he respects me. I think that when you have that mutual respect then all dialogue is legal. So whatever I say to him, he knows where it’s coming from and vice versa.”
Some questions hanging over Loggains have less to do with Loggains himself, but rather his background.
Gase came to the Bears from two years as offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos under John Fox. Gase, quarterbacks coach for the preceding two seasons, moved into that job when Mike McCoy was hired to coach the San Diego Chargers.
The Denver gig included three seasons working with Peyton Manning. While Manning needed scant coaching at that point in his career, the point was less how much Gase coached Manning as much as what Gase brought with him from his time with Manning. Gase knew from up close what a Hall of Fame quarterback looked like.
Loggains’ NFL career stops have accorded him time with no one approaching Manning’s stature. Not surprisingly, in time with three different teams, Loggains has not been involved with an offense that ranked in the top half of the league:
|2015||Bears||QB||21st ydg, 21st pass, 23rd pts.|
|2014||Browns||QB||27th pass, 27th pts.|
|2013||Titans||O.C.||21st ydg, 21st pass, 19th pts.|
|2012||Titans||QB/O.C.||26th ydg, 22nd pass, 23rd pts.|
|2011||Titans||QB||17th ydg, 15th pass, 21st pts.|
The Tennessee Titans’ quarterbacks during Loggains’ years there were Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. The 2014 Browns put up the seventh-highest passing yardage in franchise history, with Brian Hoyer, Connor Shaw and Johnny Manziel as their quarterbacks.
No slight of any of the quarterbacks, but a point around Loggains might be not how little the offenses achieved in his time with them, but rather, how much.
“I think that I’ve had an opportunity working with Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland and Adam Gase this last year, obviously there’s stuff I’ve taken from both of them,” Loggains said. “Going back in the quarterback room, I think it was good for me. It was a good experience. Things you obviously change are, ‘hey, in Tennessee I like the way we did this and we’ll bring that here. In Cleveland, I like the way we did whatever.’. So it’s gaining knowledge from being around other people and being in different situations.”