By Greg GrabianowskiALGONA, Iowa (May 5) – Mother Nature derailed the opening night by one week but that did not stop 93 cars to visit the Kossuth County Speedway in Algona for the 2016 season opener on Thursday.“We had to wait a week to get started with the rain and cold last week but it was worth the wait as the drivers put on a good show,” said track manager Ron Reefer. “Things went well. We had a decent car count and track was smooth and fast. Overall, it was a good evening of racing.”The Xtreme Motor Sports IMCA Modified feature saw Tad Reutzel grab the early lead but a flat front right tire ended his night and Ricky Thornton Jr. took over the lead.Thornton’s time out front lasted only three laps as he dropped his drive shaft on the back straightway and Dustin Smith took over the lead. Once out in clean air, Smith was never challenged and cruised to the victory.Kelly Shryock finished second and Mike Jergens was third.Kevin Opheim took the lead early from his outside pole position in the IMCA Sunoco Stock Car feature, never gave it up and held off a big challenge from Derek Green to win.Ben Schultz held the outside pole position in the 24-car Karl Chevrolet Northern SportMod feature and once the green flag flew, Schultze dominated.The 21-car IMCA Sunoco Hobby Stock feature went green, white, checkered as Chanse Hollatz grabbed the lead early and went on to the victory after starting inside row two.Jay DeVries drew the pole for the Mach-1 Sport Compact feature and held that for the entire race.
It marked Gestede’s 20th headed goal since the start of 2013-14 campaign – five greater than any other player has managed in England’s top four leagues. “I don’t think our centre-backs are too happy defending against him every day in training,” said Sherwood of the 26-year-old striker. “He attacks the ball for his life and throws everything at it. He flies in, he hurts people if they get in his way, but he seems to get up himself. “He terrorises defenders – he doesn’t give them a minute – but he is more than just a battering ram. He is very accurate with his heading and his hold-up play is very good. He gives us another dimension.” Sherwood had already described Gestede’s arrival as a “bargain” following his switch from Ewood Park. However, the Villa manager admitted he was reluctant to blood his new signing, who scored 30 goals in 62 appearances for Blackburn, following a lack of pre-season action. Sherwood added: “Everyone worked hard to get Rudy in – we tracked him for a long time – well I certainly have, and I mentioned him to the scouting department. The reports were very good so everyone was in agreement that he would be a good acquisition . “His mentality is excellent, his training and work ethic is fantastic, so I am delighted for him today because he has got no right to be playing. He has only played 45 minutes of football in pre-season. Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood hailed Rudy Gestede’s instant arrival in the Barclays Premier League after his second-half header ensured there would be no fairytale start to life in the top flight for Bournemouth. Press Association Gestede, who signed from Blackburn in a £6million move earlier this month, came off the bench after an hour and opened his account inside 13 minutes of his debut. The imposing six foot four inch French striker rose above the rest of the Bournemouth defence from an Ashley Westwood corner to score the game’s winner. “I asked him if he could do a job and he wanted to start – he was disappointed not to – but we need to protect these players as much as we can.” Gestede provided the spark for the visitors in a game which Bournemouth never looked in danger of losing. Indeed it was the Cherries, playing their first match in England’s top division, who had the best chances to record a historic win. The hosts, roared on by a euphoric crowd, had more shots, more corners and more possession than their established opponents. But they spurned a number of golden opportunities – most notably in the closing 10 minutes of the opening half – to leave a sun-drenched Vitality Stadium with nothing to show from their impressive display. “I thought we were outstanding in the first half and very pleased with the display,” said manager Eddie Howe. “I think we have learned today what the Premier League is about – how difficult it is going to be if you are not clinical. “There were plenty of positives from my perspective, but also a lot to work on.”
The winger joined the Foxes from Blues on Monday after they activated his £3.75million release clause and he could make his debut in Sunday’s FA Cup trip to Tottenham. Leicester are second in the Barclays Premier League and Rowett believes Gray, who will battle Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton for a place, could prove a star for Claudio Ranieri. “He has certainly got the quality,” said Rowett, who played for the Foxes between 2000 and 2002. “I think he is going to have to add things to his game, which you would hope Leicester can do, and the experience of someone like Claudio Ranieri would be able to add to his game. “It’s going to be a tough challenge. He is an eye-catching player. If he starts games or if he comes off the bench for 20 minutes I am sure he can have a very big impact for them. “It is a very different challenge. A lot of game intelligence is required to work out different ways to beat players, different ways to gain a little bit of space. You have to work a little bit harder.” Gray, 19, came through the ranks at St Andrew’s and made 78 appearances, scoring eight goals, and Rowett is reportedly eyeing Sunderland’s Will Buckley as a replacement. He also confirmed he wants to bring James Vaughan back to St Andrew’s after the striker’s loan spell from Huddersfield ended. “Vaughany is one we have said quite openly we would like to try and do something with,” he added. “He is Huddersfield’s player so whatever Huddersfield want to do that’s their prerogative.” Birmingham boss Gary Rowett has backed Demarai Gray to make an impact in Leicester’s shock title charge. Press Association
HiFL_Action between UNICAL Malabites and UNILORIN Warriors The Stanbic IBTC Man of the match in the UAM Tillers versus OAU Giants game, Ebuka David, showed why he is presently the highest scorer in the tournament, with eight goals under his belt, as he scored again in the 42nd minute.Two more goals from Abata Terkuma in the 3rd minute and Anthony Elaigwu in the 48th minute completed the rout on the OAU Giants.Similarly, goals from Prince Umoh in the 9th minute and Osas Paul in the 18th minute were enough to give the UNICAL Malabites a comfortable 2-0 win over the UNILORIN Warriors despite a spirited effort from the Ilorin boys.Commenting on the matches, the Director, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing Limited, Mr. Sola Fijabi said “we now have our four finalists who will play the finals to determine the first, second and third place winners. We appreciate all the schools that participated in the 2018 HIFL because they are all winners.“They have all demonstrated good sportsmanship as they displayed fantastic football artistry. We also thank our sponsors for their support, looking forward to the next season”.The 2018 HiFL commenced on August 1 with teams from the Sahel and Atlantic conferences. The top 16 universities from 79 NUGA-member institutions played in 30 games over a period of 14 weeks in a return leg elimination format.Selected players from the 2018 HiFL will represent Nigeria at the upcoming International University Sports Federation (FISU) Games, the world’s largest collegiate sports competition.The HiFL is organised by Pace Sports and Entertainment Marketing in partnership with the Nigerian Universities Games Association (NUGA).Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram University of Calabar (UNICAL Malabites) and University of Agriculture Makurdi (UAM Tillers) are set to slug it out at the final of the 2018 Higher Institution Football League (HiFL) scheduled to hold at the Agege Stadium, Lagos on November 3, 2018.In an exciting encounter at the University of Agriculture Makurdi Stadium, the UAM Tillers turned over a two-goal deficit to defeat the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU Giants) by 3-0 wining on a 6-5 aggregate score line.The UNICAL Malabites also canceled the 1-0 deficit from their first leg match played in Ilorin with a 2-0 home win against the UNILORIN Warriors in Calabar.
The centre has been out injured since before Christmas.And staying with Pro12 team news Jared Payne is on the bench for Ulster’s meeting with Zebre on Sunday.The Ireland international has been out since November with a kidney injury. The Reds – with Tipperary’s Dave Foley and Tommy O’Donnell in their starting line-up – take on the Scarlets at Thomond Park at 7.35pm.Leinster could go top if Rassie Erasmus’s side slip up – they’re away to the Dragons at 7.30pm.Meanwhile, Bundee Aki is back in the Connacht side for Sunday’s clash away to Treviso.
AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterShare to MoreAddThisAlcona County, Mich. — A Michigan State Police Sergeant is being hailed as a hero after he stopped a 2-year-old girl from running into the street, seconds before a dump truck passed.The situation unfolded last Friday as Sgt. Richards from MSP Alpena Post patrolled the Alcona area. He noticed the 2-year-old girl unattended and wandering in the roadway. Sgt. Richards acted quickly and grabbed the girl just seconds before she was about to re-enter the street. In the video, you can see the driver of a dump truck hitting their brakes as Sgt. Richards scoops up the girl.According to MSP, the mother of the child appeared just after the incident. She had lost track of her daughter seconds prior to the situation.AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterShare to MoreAddThis Tags: Lifesaving, michigan state police, Michigan State Police Alpena PostContinue ReadingPrevious Area students get a glimpse into future career opportunitiesNext High school senior gains hope, professional career before graduating
The game against the Colorado Rockies was about to start at Dodger Stadium, and Asencion Garcia hurried through the turnstile with his family, decked in Dodgers swag. From the baseball cap sporting the “LA” logo to the jersey buttoned down his chest, everything about the Los Angeles resident at the ballgame said “Dodgers.” Sort of. Upon closer inspection, the team’s traditional blue font scrawled across Garcia’s white jersey read “Los Doyers” not the usual “Los Angeles.” “Doyers” means nothing in Spanish, but it means a lot to Garcia, and generations of Latino Dodgers fans. “Doyers” has become a nostalgic phenomena in the Los Angeles Latino community, as more and more Mexican-Americans become assimilated and lose their accents. Previous generations of Central American immigrants struggled to say “Dodgers” so it came out sounding like “Doyers.” “My parents, my uncles, they all say ‘Doyers,’” Garcia said. “My brother and I are the first Mexican-Americans in the family, and we say ‘Dodgers.’ My 5-year-old son here, he says ‘Dodgers.’” Since it first surfaced in the early 1970s, the term has become a reminder of the once-rocky relationship between Los Angeles’ Latino community and their “Doyers.” More than half a century ago. though, parts of the L.A. Latino community disavowed the Dodgers by any name. In October of 1957, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley had just announced the team would be moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to bring baseball to the West Coast. “When they moved to Los Angeles, they couldn’t say for sure where they were going to play,” said Mark Langill, the Dodgers’ team historian. Even though they had acquired the rights to Wrigley Field in the event they actually made the move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, the 22,000-seat stadium was too small and not what the Dodgers had in mind, especially since O’Malley wanted a privately financed ballpark, Langill said. The team wanted to build a 56,000-seat stadium in Chavez Ravine, a hilly area near downtown populated mostly by Latinos. “I don’t really think the Dodgers knew what they were landing in,” said Langill. “But I think when that plane landed, they really understood the landscape.” Faced with the prospect of being uprooted from their homes, residents waged the “Battle of Chavez Ravine,” an unofficial boycott in which they refused to leave their homes and accused the mayor of making illegal deals with the Dodgers. After a public referendum narrowly passed in June 1958, the mostly empty housing units in Chavez Ravine were razed for construction of Dodger Stadium in 1959, after the few remaining residents were hustled out. The stadium was completed in 1962. “It’s part of the oral history of the Eastside,” said Chris Zepeda-Millan, a political science and Chicana/o Studies professor at Loyola Marymount University. “The Dodgers symbolized the white male power structure literally displacing us.” Still, Dodgers hype intoxicated the Southland, and the team hit a home run with everyone, including area Latinos, Langill said. “Anybody that lost their home you would never convince otherwise; they’re still going to have those feelings,” Langill said. “But in general, the city embraced them from day one, from arriving at the airport to their first game in the Coliseum.” Then, Latinos represented about 10 percent of the population in Los Angeles, said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles and professor of political science and Chicana/o studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The city’s current Latino population is more than 50 percent, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Knowing their constituency and the changing demographics of the city, the Dodgers began looking for someone who could represent the growing Latino population. “The dream was to find a box-office star, someone from Mexico, because of the demographic shift,” Langill said. That’s when 20-year-old Fernando Valenzuela stepped up to the plate for not only the Dodgers, but Latino baseball fans who were hungry for representation in the major leagues. “Fernando was the one that lit the torch and really connected the team with the fans. If you [had] a box-office star from Mexico, it made it a lot more personal from the Latino standpoint. And suddenly, the English-speaking fans were fascinated by this superstar from a Mexican village.” With Valenzuela’s trademark wind-up and fast climb to becoming the National League’s top rookie and pitcher in 1981, “Fernandomania” ensued, even combatting “an anti-immigrant sentiment” at the time, Zepeda-Millan said. “The Latino communities, especially in L.A., were feeling the brunt of that,” he said. “[Baseball] is America’s pastime. This was the whitest sport you can think of at that time.” Valenzuela emerged as a role model for a fresh-faced generation of Mexican-Americans too young to remember the Battle of Chavez Ravine. “We saw him and said, ‘Hey, we could be good at that, too,’” Zepeda-Millan said. “That’s when Latinos finally adopted the Dodgers, and their love affair with the Dodgers began.” Latino fan base growing Roughly 24 percent of this season’s Major League Baseball rosters’ players are from Latin American countries, a dip from 27.3 percent last season, according to media reports. Overall, 241 players, or 28 percent of all MLB players, were born outside the U.S., Fox News Latino has reported. According to the Dodgers, 43 percent of their fan base this season was made up of Latinos. Twenty-eight percent speak English only, and 19 percent speak Spanish only. Latino fans attended an average of about eight games this season, the team’s statistics showed. “The Dodgers have been a part of Latino culture in L.A. for decades. Both go hand-in-hand,” Dodgers Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Lon Rosen said in a statement. “We are extremely proud of the legacy of Latino Dodgers past and present. Their impact on and off the field cannot be matched. We embrace the cultural significance of the term ‘Doyers’ used throughout Los Angeles and even by our own players. It’s a part of the club’s identity.” In 2010, the Dodgers trademarked “Los Doyers” after shirts and jerseys sporting the phrase proved profitable for businesses around Chavez Ravine, according to reports. A cease and desist letter was sent to any business selling the merchandise. Loyola Marymount’s Guerra said he’s attended parties on the Eastside where everyone will watch a muted television, but listen to the radio play-by-play of Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin — “the Vin Scully of Latinos,” Guerra said. “Baseball is an incredibly strong sport in Latin America,” he said. “When immigrants came over, it was easy for baseball to be part of the immigrant integration story in Los Angeles.” Juan Gonzalez, a Dodgers fan from Pacoima who attended a recent game, said hearing “Los Doyers” takes him back to the 1988 World Series, when his family would scream at the television for the “Doyers” to whip the Oakland A’s. “For the Dodgers to pick it up, it’s pretty cool,” Gonzalez said. “Every time I hear ‘Los Doyers,’ it reminds me of my family.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
In early October, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Corona updated the “welcome” message on its street corner marquee. In addition to reminding worshipers about the times for the Sunday services, the clip-on letters spelled out a reminder:“Be Like Vin Scully … Notice And Praise The Good In Everyone.”It was as if God just dropped the mike. There may not be another perfect thing to say, write or preach about our choice for the 2016 Southern California News Group Sports Person of the Year.It was a year so improbable for nominees very well deserving of our annual recognition for the person, place or things that made the most news, good or bad, in our circulation area. ‘VIN AND WILLIE WERE HOLDING HANDS’During Scully’s final broadcast in San Francisco as the Dodgers ended the regular season on Sunday, Oct. 2, the long-time rival Giants unveiled a plaque in the AT&T Stadium press box to commemorate the site of his final call after more than 9,000-plus games.Willie Mays, whom Scully said was the best player he ever saw as a broadcaster, was part of the ceremony. Knowing that Mays was all but blind these days at age 85, Scully gently took Mays’ hands, led him over to the plaque on the wall, and ran Mays’ fingers across the raised letters as he read them aloud.Rob Menschel was with Scully in the press box that weekend as part of the production crew. The special moment he saw came the day before, on Saturday, when Mays met with Scully before that game. Menschel was shooting video.“When I looked in my camera viewfinder, I noticed something that was truly beautiful: Vin and Willie were holding hands,” said Menchel. “I focused on their hands. They continued their conversation for another five minutes so Vin could return to his game preparation.“In a 10-day span that was filled with highly emotional and unforgettable moments too numerous to name, that one topped them all for me. Vin was seated at his position at the announcer table, leaned toward me with eyes wide and in a voice barely above a whisper, said just three words: ‘Willie Mays. Wowww!’ It was said with all the reverence of a young boy who had just seen his idol Mel Ott up close for the first time.”As Scully and his wife, Sandi, flew home Sunday afternoon, a line of firefighters were on the runway at Van Nuys Airport as the plane taxied to stop on the runway. The trucks then turned on their hoses and honored him the traditional retirement spray of water.“I was already very emotional from that day,” Scully said, “but to see that, I almost broke down again.”MORE TRIBUTES AS THEY COMEIt’s just been about three months since he said his last words on the air. In addition to an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” these things also happened:• Near the end of the Nov. 20 episode of the iconic Fox series “The Simpsons,” a message filled the screen: “We’ll Miss You, Vin Scully.”Executive producer and head writer Al Jean claimed responsibility, thanking Scully for all the years that, whenever a baseball broadcaster was included in an episode, Harry Shearer channeled his inner-Scully as the cartoon voice.“Harry has done a terrific impression of Mr. Scully all these years and he has been very gracious about it and an inspiration to me and baseball fans everywhere,” said Jean. “In our small way we wanted to honor his retirement.”Added Shearer: “He’s one of the few exceptions of my general rule — that I only do characterizations of people of whom I have a critique. I grew up in L.A. with Vin Scully, he was with me when, as a child, I liked baseball, and he was all around me in the years since, when I couldn’t have cared less about it.“But regardless of my feelings about the game, my feeling about Scully remained the same throughout the years — a master broadcaster, a master storyteller. I’ve known a few of the guys at his level in various sports, and Scully was the gold standard in every way.”• He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award from President Obama during a ceremony at the White House.“It’s not like I discovered penicillin,” Scully said.“When he heard about this honor, Vin asked with characteristic humility, ‘Are you sure? I’m just an old baseball announcer’,” Obama remarked to the gathering. “And we had to inform him that, to Americans of all ages, you are an old friend.”• While in Washington, D.C., Scully appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” as host John Dickerson broke away from the usual politicans-in-the-news format to do a five-minute piece with him.“Several people who work on the show are fans of his, with executive producer Mary Hager chief among them,” said Dickerson. “But that wasn’t enough of a reason to have him on. Scully is an American icon who has brought joy and excitement to millions. For all the reasons he was being celebrated at the White House, we wanted to talk to him. “We’ve had a lot of politics this year. We wanted to do a show reflecting on the idea of gratitude for Thanksgiving. What drew us was his authenticity, his direct and sincere approach to his work and to life, and his humility. What a joy he was to talk to.”Scully, with the medal still around his neck, left Dickerson with a story that had the message: “Don’t be afraid to dream.”• Sports Illustrated included Scully in the finalists for its Sportsperson of the Year Award.An SI cover piece on Scully in May included this from writer Tom Verducci: “Vin Scully is only the finest, most-listened-to baseball broadcaster that ever lived, and even that honorific does not approach proper justice to the man. He ranks with Walter Cronkite among America’s most-trusted media personalities, with Frank Sinatra and James Earl Jones among its most-iconic voices, and with Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor and Ken Burns among its preeminent storytellers.”• For the first time in its 19-year history, the Pasadena-based non-profit Baseball Reliquary included Scully as a candidate for its Shrine of the Eternals. It is a divine place known as the “People’s Hall of Fame” to honor individuals “who have altered the baseball world in ways that supersede statistics.”Executive Director Terry Cannon explained that it was time.“One of the many reasons was our appreciation for his generosity to the Baseball Reliquary and to the Shrine of the Eternals over the years,” said Cannon. “Vin mentioned both the Reliquary and the Shrine on several occasions during his broadcasts in recent years … There has never been anyone of his stature in the world of baseball to acknowledge a grassroots, fan-based organization like the Reliquary, and that was certainly much appreciated by our members.“Should Vin be elected, it would be my pleasure to let him know that he was now an Eternal himself. And, of course, I would not have to go into a long explanation as to what we are all about, which is often the case. Vin would know exactly what the significance is of induction.”The awards keep coming. Next month, the Southern California Sports Broadcasters will bestow its first Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award, and Scully would be the first recipient. The Dodgers will honor him again at the stadium on May 3 – adding him to their ring of retired player numbers.We may be limited in finding new ways to notice and praise the goodness of Scully, but it’s an easy call. We keep trying. Such is this eternally grateful recognition as well.PREVIOUS WINNERS OF THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NEWS GROUP/LOS ANGELES NEWS GROUP SPORTS PERSON OF THE YEAR AS THE BIGGEST NEWSMAKER:2015: UFC fighter Ronda Rousey2014: Clippers coach Doc Rivers2013: Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig2012: Dodgers ownership team of Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson2011: AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke2010: New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush2009: Thousand Oaks teenage sailors Zac and Abby Sunderland2008: Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez2007: Galaxy midfielder David Beckham2006: Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti2005: USC running back Reggie Bush and USC quarterback Matt Leinart Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Stan Kroenke pulls off a move that brings the Rams back to L.A. Kobe Bryant’s final NBA season capped by a 60-point performance. Mike Trout’s second AL MVP season. Clay Helton’s USC football team going from 1-3 to a Rose Bowl berth with quarterback Sam Darnold. Lorenzo Ball’s dynamic transition from Chino Hills High to UCLA. The Sparks’ WNBA title sparked by Nneka Ogwumike. The return of California Chrome.And now, did the impossible just happen – Scully, who turned 89 just after last Thanksgiving, has also dropped the mike?He gave Los Angeles ample warning that his 67th Dodgers’ season would “realistically” be it for him. Those of us with separation anxiety or fears of abandonment thought he could change his mind once the season began.From the moment he appeared before an adoring crowd as part of the team’s Fan Fest in January at Dodger Stadium, to having the stadium’s address changed because of the street leading into was named for Scully, through his final memorable call in the Dodgers’ final home game on Charlie Culberson’s walk-off homer, Scully took more selfies and shook more hands – and perhaps granted more wishes – than Santa Claus.So many well-wishers would come up to the broadcast booth in the course of the season that a security guard had to make sure you were on the list. A Scully appreciation night in late September, with a memorable speech delivered by Kevin Costner, will be forever kept on the DVR.
Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood reached the All-Star break with a 10-0 record and a 1.67 ERA, having allowed just two home runs in 15 games. His velocity dropped some during the second half of the season, and his ERA over the final 12 games was 3.89 as he allowed 13 home runs in 71-2/3 innings.Wood will take the mound for Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night having pitched just once in the past 30 days. The Dodgers didn’t get to his turn in the rotation during their NLDS sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, then Wood started their only loss of the five-game NLCS with the Cubs, allowing three home runs in 4-2/3 innings (seven strikeouts).The Astros will hand the ball to right-hander Charlie Morton exactly a week after he pitched five shutout innings and combined with Lance McCullers Jr. on a gem against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS.Worth noting, both Wood and Morton were drafted by the Atlanta Braves, though they were not in the system at the same time. THE LINEUPS: WORLD SERIES GAME 4DODGERS at ASTROSWhen: 5:20 p.m.Where: Minute Maid Park, HoustonTV: Fox/Ch. 11 THE PITCHERSDODGERS LHP ALEX WOOD (16-3, 2.72 ERA)vs. Astros: 1-0, 0.00 ERAAt Minute Maid Park: 1-0, 0.00 ERA (one start)Postseason: 0-1, 5.25 ERA (one start)Hates to face: George Springer, 1 for 3Loves to face: Josh Reddick, 0 for 4ASTROS RHP CHARLIE MORTON (14-7, 3.62 ERA in regular season)vs. Dodgers: 0-1, 6.55 ERAAt Minute Maid Park: 11-7, 4.19 ERA (21 starts)Postseason: 1-2, 5.30 ERA (four starts)Hates to face: Andre Ethier, 2 for 2, walkLoves to face: Logan Forsythe, 0 for 3, two strikeoutsUPCOMINGSunday, Game 5: Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (18-4, 2.31 ERA) at Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90 ERA), 5 p.m., Fox/Ch. 11 Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
The horrific fall Kobe Bryant took nearly six months ago shattered his left Achilles tendon. The injury doomed the Lakers’ playoff fortunes. Bryant’s ongoing rehab has fueled uncertainty for the Lakers (2-2) entering tonight’s game against the Dallas Mavericks (2-1) at American Airlines Center on when he will return, let alone how he will play.Despite the skepticism, one important segment remains unfazed.Former Atlanta Hawks forward Dominique Wilkins, former Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas, Pistons guard Chauncey Billups and Hawks forward Elton Brand represent a panel of NBA players that have injured one of their Achilles tendons. They also remain unanimous Bryant will return and play with enough effectiveness that already ensured him five NBA championships and a fifth-place standing on the league’s all-time scoring list.“It absolutely means something,” Bryant said, when informed about the optimism. Brand, at 28, ruptured his left Achilles tendon while playing against former Clippers teammate and current Lakers forward Chris Kaman in an offseason workout in 2007. Brand played only eight games the following year and has faced a statistical decline in five years since in stints with Philadelphia, Dallas and Atlanta.Billups, at 35, tore his left Achilles tendon in 2012, sidelining him for the remaining 35 games with the Clippers. He returned the following season, but an injured left peroneal tendon limited him in 20 games. In interviews with this newspaper, Wilkins, Thomas, Brand and Billups explained their optimism for Bryant’s recovery and offered their perspectives on how they handled their respective Achilles injuries.How do you see Kobe Bryant recovering from his Achilles injury?Wilkins: “He’s doing the right thing in not trying to rush it. That patience is going to pay off. Kobe has that competitive nature and work ethic. Those two qualities alone will bring him back and play the well.”Thomas: “I believe he can still go out and be his dominant self. If he can’t, mentally how would that affect him? I haven’t met one great player that has ever accepted being dominated gracefully. (laughs)”Billups: “Kobe’s going to be fine. He’ll be back playing and doing the things he normally does. If you work hard in your rehab, it’s going to show on the court.”Brand: “He wasn’t the greatest player and the best player in the league through all those years for nothing. He works tirelessly. He’s going to find a way.”Will Bryant have to change his game?Wilkins: “Having that Achilles tendon tear is going to make him pace himself and appreciate the fundamental side even more. He won’t rely on that athleticism that he had. I went through that. It makes you a better player. Not that he needed to be better. It’s just a different way to stay effective.” Thomas: “He’s still going to be able to score. He’s going to be able to still post, get to the foul line and his jump shot is always going to be money. Will he be as explosive as a dunker as he was last year? That I don’t know. But will he be able to score? Absolutely.”Billups: “Somebody like him accomplished every single thing he could ever want to accomplish. This just brought on another challenge for him and something he can say, I’m going to conquer that too. That’s the mentality that he’ll take on and do whatever it takes to be successful.”Brand: “I think he’ll still be able to drive and be explosive like he was last year where he was finishing at the rim because his body and his knees were feeling better. I think he’ll still be able to do it.”What did you make of Bryant making two free throws on a torn Achilles and walking off the court on his own?Wilkins: “I thought immediately then, that even though he tore his Achilles, he’s ahead of his recovery because he walked off the floor. A lot of people who tear those Achilles tendons, you can’t even walk or get off the floor.” Thomas: “I didn’t want anybody to help me walk off the court. Bill Laimbeer and I used to talk about this all the time. We don’t want anyone carrying us off. If we’re leaving the court, we’re walking off on our own or we’re limping off on our own. When I saw Kobe limping off on his own, I saw that as a great player’s lonely walk and journey off the court.”Billups: “You can stand there and shoot. If I could’ve just stood there, I would’ve been able to play the rest of the season. If I could stand right there, I would’ve kept it and shot it. But you just can’t run. (laughs)”Brand: “I couldn’t even walk. That’s why I was amazed Kobe had the strength and resilience to go over and knock down those free throws. People don’t understand that usually you can’t even get on your tippy toes after that happens.”How did you process your injury?Wilkins: “I was thinking how I would come back and if I would come back. At that point, I was determined to prove all the critics wrong. I just did that. I worked for nine months, twice a day. I came back and had my best all-around season.” Thomas: “I had already announced I was retiring. So I knew it was the end. It was kind of a joyous moment for me knowing that as an athlete I had given my all and I had left it all on the court. I wouldn’t have wanted to go out any other way than having my body break down and knowing that I didn’t have anything left to give.”Billups: “I was devastated. I’m an older player. I was wondering about the ramifications that come with that. I was in my free-agent season. There was a lot of expectations for me on the team [with the Clippers]. You know have an uphill battle in front of you.”Brand: “The doctor said this could put a damper on my career or it could be over. You just don’t know how you’re going to rehab from something like that.”What challenges did the rehab process entail?Wilkins: “It was time consuming. But at that time, I didn’t think of it that way. Now that I look back, I’m wondering how I did that. But I was trying to look at the goal at the end of the road.”Billups: “I set short goals all the time. Obviously your end goal is to get back on the floor. I set a lot of short goals and getting out of the boot and going from there to being able to walk a little faster to being able to to when’s the first itme I’m going to be able to golf. I set very short-sighted goals. That’s what kept me engaged.” Brand: “It was painful. The sensitivity and the scar tissue being built up, you have to break that down. There’s a lot of flexibility and strengthening exercises with regular icing, electronic stimulation and the [weight-bearing] treadmill. It was tedious.” How did your game change once you returned?Wilkins: “I learned how to play the game on the ground more than in the air. I learned to become even more fundamentally strong. When I was shooting and stuff like that, it made me appreciate the little things more, such as back-to-the basket moves, jump hooks and fadeaways.”Billups: “You have so much time off from that foot and that side of your body. Of course your leg is not as strong and your left leg. Mine wasn’t that strong as my right leg when I first came back. You have to deal with that and compensating a little bit because it’s not as strong. That’s probably what led to my peroneal tendon being overworked. That’s how I can relate those. It all stemmed from my Achilles.”Brand: “Once I started playing, mentally for me it was tough for me to jump off my left foot again. I didn’t have the same explosiveness that I had. I regained and then I lost it. I didn’t have it. I had to change my game a little bit where I jumped off two feet and I was a little bit slower.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error What does Bryant take away from their respective recoveries?“You obviously look at the situations that were successful and try to draw from that,” Bryant said. “I try to ignore the ones that weren’t successful just to stay positive.”There’s plenty good and bad.After rupturing his right Achilles Jan. 28, 1992, at 32 years old, Wilkins returned in nine months the following season, increased his scoring average from 28.1 points per game to 29.9 and made two more All-Star appearances before retiring seven years later.Thomas tore his right Achilles tendon that same year, marking his last game of a storied 14-year career that entailed two NBA titles, one Finals MVP and 12 All-Star games.