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LeBron, Cavaliers Limping Their Way Toward NBA Finals

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Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James falls to the floor as time expires in their game against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals of the NBA basketball playoffs, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers defeated the Hawks, 114-111, in overtime. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James falls to the floor as time expires in their game against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals of the NBA basketball playoffs, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers defeated the Hawks, 114-111, in overtime. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James hurts everywhere, the King of Pain.

One win from taking the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals, and one step closer to a title he covets more than any other, James leaned against a padded wall on Monday and hardly resembled basketball’s most undeniable force.

“I’m feeling all right,” he said, forcing a smile that showed he wasn’t being entirely truthful. “I’ve been better, but I’ve been worse. I think I’ve been worse.”

James moved slowly and not with his usual grace one day after his brilliant performance in Game 3 lifted Cleveland to a 114-111 win over the Atlanta Hawks in overtime, moving the Cavs within a victory of their first Finals appearance since 2007.

James wore a sleeve on his right calf, which cramped so severely he asked to be taken out Sunday night before re-considering. Instead, he pushed through the pain and delivered 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists — all after an 0-for-10 shooting start — to help the Cavs take a 3-0 series lead.

He’s battered, not beaten. James isn’t going to let anything stop him. Not now. Not this close to his fifth straight Finals or a championship.

“When you want to win, you’ve got to sacrifice your body feeling good,” he said. “That’s just what it’s about.”

With a win on Tuesday night, the Cavs can clinch the Eastern Conference title and get some rest before a Finals matchup presumably against Golden State, which leads Houston 3-0 heading into Monday’s Game 4. James has been down this path before, but never one so bumpy.

Cleveland’s season has been strewn with obstacles: extreme expectations, chemistry issues, trades and injuries, including ones in the postseason to forward Kevin Love and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who has missed the past two games with an injured left knee. James has never been on a team that’s had to surmount as much.

Before the season began, James predicted this — molding a new team into a title contender — would be the greatest challenge of his career.

“I felt it would be, and it is,” he said.

The Cavs need one more win over the rising Hawks, who showed resiliency in Game 3 by overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth when they appeared done. One play here, one there and Atlanta wouldn’t be in a 3-0 hole that no team in league history has been able to climb from.

Despite overwhelming odds, the Hawks won’t quit.

“No matter what happens, we’re still going to be confident,” forward Paul Millsap said. “We believe in our team. We believe in the guys that we have. We feel like we can do something special, whether this year, next year, whatever. We’re going to stick to this. It’s not over ’til it’s over.”

For James, the only ending he can envision is winning his third title and ending Cleveland’s 51-year championship drought.

“It’s been my goal since I got back here, not only to get back, but to win, win the whole thing,” he said. “That’s my goal. It’s part of my drive. That’s what it’s about.”

There are some other subplots heading into Game 4:

IRVING UPDATE

While his teammates got treatment and relaxed after a draining game, Irving went through another vigorous workout as Cleveland’s coaching staff and medical team kept a close eye on him.

Cavs coach David Blatt said Irving remains a game-time decision for Tuesday and the team’s lead in the series has no bearing on whether he’ll play.

“We need Kyrie on the court, and we’re not really thinking about resting him as much as we’re thinking about him being healthy to play basketball,” Blatt said. “We need him on the court, whether we’re up 1-0 or 2-1 or 3-0.”

SILENT TREATMENT

After making strong inferences they felt Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova plays dirty, the Hawks were quiet about the subject.

The scrappy Dellavedova got involved in a loose-ball scramble that ended with Atlanta forward Al Horford hitting him with an elbow and being ejected. Following Game 3, Horford said Dellavedova has “gotta learn” to play with more restraint.

Earlier in the series, Dellavedova injured Kyle Korver when he dived on the floor and rolled up on the Atlanta guard’s ankle. Korver is out for the rest of the playoffs.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was careful with his words about Horford’s ejection.

“The officials in our league have a difficult job,” he said. “We obviously see it a little differently. But that’s part of the game and part of those difficult situations. We’re moving forward.”

KING’S ENDORSEMENT

Forward Tristan Thompson’s value to the Cavs grows daily. With Love out, he’s playing more and the four-year veteran, who will be a free agent this summer, has been almost unstoppable on the boards.

“Tristan should probably be a Cavalier for his whole career,” James said. “There’s no reason why he shouldn’t. This guy is 24 years old. He’s played in 340-plus straight games, and he’s gotten better every single season. It’s almost like what more can you ask out of a guy even though we ask for more out of him?”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Activism

Oakland A’s Star Tony Kemp Tells Us Why He’s Planting Trees, Messaging with Fans

For the 2021 baseball season, Kemp teamed up with a national organization and pledged to plant 100 trees in urban communities for every stolen base and extra-base hit he recorded.

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Oakland Athletics outfielder Tony Kemp in an undated photo. Kemp partnered with Breaking T to produce his +1 Effect merchandise. A portion of the sale proceeds go to the Players Alliance, a national organization committed to creating an inclusive culture within baseball. Photo courtesy of Tony Kemp.
Oakland Athletics outfielder Tony Kemp in an undated photo. Kemp partnered with Breaking T to produce his +1 Effect merchandise. A portion of the sale proceeds go to the Players Alliance, a national organization committed to creating an inclusive culture within baseball. Photo courtesy of Tony Kemp.

By Nick Marnell, Bay City News Foundation

Oakland A’s infielder Tony Kemp picked a great year to pledge a charitable contribution based upon his on-field performance.

For the 2021 baseball season, Kemp teamed up with a national organization and pledged to plant 100 trees in urban communities for every stolen base and extra-base hit he recorded.

Fortunately for the environment, Kemp, 30, produced the best season of his six-year major league career, compiling 27 extra-base hits and eight stolen bases to go along with a strong .382 on-base percentage. He was also one of only two hitters in the American League (with at least two plate appearances per every regular season game) to walk more often than he struck out.

“I’m glad I got the chance to play and show what I can do,” Kemp said.

The 3,500 trees Kemp donated were just the catalyst as PG&E, one of the team’s corporate sponsors, doubled down on the pledge “to further its support of environment and sustainability awareness,” company representative Lynsey Paulo said. “With PG&E’s donation, there will be 7,000 trees planted as part of this program.”

On Dec. 10, volunteers from the A’s, PG&E, the City of Oakland and various charitable organizations met at Sobrante Park in Oakland and planted 15 trees. Kemp said he will plant trees this spring in his hometown near Nashville.

One of Kemp’s partners in the tree planting venture is Players for the Planet, a national organization founded by former major leaguer Chris Dickerson. Players for the Planet asserts a goal of uniting professional athletes to create positive change for the environment. “Our programs are designed by the players so they can contribute wherever they see a need or opportunity,” Dickerson said.

“I always wanted to do a reforestation project,” Kemp said. Possibly as a giveback for the amount of lumber used in his profession? Kemp chuckled, but said his goal was much greater than replacing a handful of broken bats. “I’ve always cared about the planet. I’ve been an advocate for a recycling project for a long time. This one was a no-brainer.”

Dickerson agreed that Kemp is a committed activist. “Tony has been a tremendous advocate for giving back to the community,” he said.

Addressing systemic racism

Even though he is not a fan of confrontation, in summer 2020 Kemp became one of the most active ballplayers speaking out against racial injustice. Haunted by the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and the unfolding civil unrest, Kemp logged onto Twitter on June 5, 2020, and posted to his followers, then numbering more than 40,000: “Let’s be honest. It’s been a tough week. If any of you want to talk or want to be more informed don’t hesitate to ask me.”

That tweet prompted a series of one-on-one direct message conversations with friends, teammates and fans about systemic racism and his own life experiences as a Black man. Kemp then formalized these conversations into a campaign called the +1 Effect.

Explaining the name of his campaign, Kemp said he wanted his perspective to achieve a domino effect, of one positive conversation leading to another, and then another, through honest and respectful dialogue.

“I ask questions. Simple questions, and there is no yelling,” said Kemp, in keeping with his distaste of confrontation. “Those who yell the loudest, what are they trying to accomplish?”

Kemp shared portions of a +1 Effect conversation he had with a suburban white woman in Texas who wanted to do a better job of combating racism but feared that she had no platform.

“Of course, you have a platform and voice,” Kemp told her. “You can always be an influence and inspiration to those around you.” He went on to explain that undoing systemic racism “starts with calling out people for their offhand comments that they may not even realize are racially biased.

“Make it known that you will not tolerate racism or prejudice in any way,” he advised her, and recommended media for her to check out, including “The 13th,” Ava DuVernay’s documentary about racism in the criminal justice system; Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “1619” podcast on how slavery shapes American culture to this day; and Ibram X. Kendi’s history-driven guide “How to Be Anti-Racist.”

Supporting Black kids

Kemp also gives back through the Players Alliance, an organization of major league ballplayers who work to create an inclusive culture within baseball in order to promote racial equality and provide greater opportunities for the Black community. According to Society for American Baseball Research, since Jackie Robinson broke the color line starting with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the percentage of Black players in the MLB peaked at 18.7% in 1981 and declined to less than 10% by the mid-2000s. In 2016, only 6.7% of major leaguers were Black.

“We’re trying to get Black players to mentor kids who can’t afford equipment to play baseball,” Kemp said. “Black kids look up to us, and we’re trying to help these kids understand that they can succeed in Major League Baseball.”

Kemp, though, is realistic about the slim chances for kids to make it to the big leagues, as Kemp himself fought through early life and career struggles. His parents divorced when he was 12. He was repeatedly optioned to the minor leagues while with the Houston Astros.

Kemp drew on his inner strength and closeness to his family — especially his older brother Corey — to help get him through the rough patches.

Corey told his brother that it was never going to be easy for him to succeed in athletics because Kemp was the little guy.

“They’re always going to be looking at the big guy,” Corey Kemp said. “You’ve got to keep a chip on your shoulder, get back out there and continue to perform.”

The advice worked. “I realized there will always be guys physically stronger than me,” said Kemp, who is 5-feet-6-inches tall and 160 pounds. “But they will never be stronger mentally.”

Understanding that the baseball hopefuls he mentors will need a fallback position should their baseball dreams flame out, Kemp imparted reality to the young athletes when he demonstrated the importance of a strong educational foundation at an Alliance event in Oakland.

“I got out a book and a baseball. I asked the kids to stand on each one and see which one provided more stability,” he said. “They got the message. I told them that getting a degree is always the end goal.”

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Bay Area

Oakland Planning Commission Approves A’s Stadium Project Environmental Study

Of the 53 public speakers at the meeting, 32 opposed approving the EIR, raising significant concerns about the impact of the project. Speakers included representatives of community organizations, spokespeople for major Port of Oakland businesses and the ILWU, the union representing Port longshore workers.

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Melody Davis speaks at a demonstration before the Planning Commission meeting at Oakland City Hall on Jan. 19, 2022, at a rally opposing Oakland A’s owner John Fisher’s real estate and stadium development of Howard Terminal. Photo courtesy of Gene Hazzard.
Melody Davis speaks at a demonstration before the Planning Commission meeting at Oakland City Hall on Jan. 19, 2022, at a rally opposing Oakland A’s owner John Fisher’s real estate and stadium development of Howard Terminal. Photo courtesy of Gene Hazzard.

By Ken Epstein

Billionaire developer John Fisher’s goal of building a $1 billion baseball stadium as part of a $12 billion real estate project on public land at the Port of Oakland took a significant step forward this week as the Oakland Planning Commission unanimously approved city staff’s final Environmental Impact Report, despite widespread community concerns.

While a victory for Fisher and Mayor Libby Schaaf, who is an outspoken proponent of the development, the Planning Commission vote on Wednesday is only a recommendation. The report will now go to the City Council, with a review expected to begin in February before a vote on approval.

City staff are still in the process of negotiating with the A’s corporation over the financial impacts and other issues that are part of a Development Agreement which ultimately must go to the City Council for approval.

While there were 227 attendees at the Zoom commission meeting, city staff had posted the wrong link to the meeting on the city’s Planning Commission webpage making it likely that many people were unable to watch or participate in the meeting.

Of the 53 public speakers at the meeting, 32 opposed approving the EIR, raising significant concerns about the impact of the project. Speakers included representatives of community organizations, spokespeople for major Port of Oakland businesses and the ILWU, the union representing Port longshore workers.

In their unanimous vote in favor of the 3,500-page document, commissioners brushed aside residents’ concerns about the flaws and omissions in the report, as did Schaaf, who seemed exuberant in a press statement announcing the commission’s decision.

“Tonight’s Planning Commission recommendation to send the final Environmental Impact Report on to the City Council for certification is a huge win for our entire region and puts Oakland one step closer to building a landmark waterfront ballpark district with the highest environmental standards,” Schaff said.

One speaker who raised concerns was Nathan Landau, transportation planner for AC Transit.

“Unfortunately, there are still some very serious unanswered questions on how this (project) will affect the AC Transit system,” he said. “We don’t see a document that addresses these things. (The
City) needs to dig deeper and develop an adequate transportation system” to support the proposed stadium.

Another speaker was Susan Ransom of SSA International, which handles 65% of the goods that go through the Port. She said the final EIR report was “speculative” presenting a “misrepresentation of the facts about water safety and maritime impacts,” which city staff has failed to discuss with the Coast Guard.

Before the project is finally approved, the Council must consider the General Plan Amendment, Rezoning, the Development Agreement and the preliminary development plan.

Approvals are also necessary from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and the State Lands Commission.

Gregory Hodge, candidate for Oakland mayor said, “Oakland’s physical and social infrastructure has deteriorated to the point of crisis. While we love our teams, we love our neighbors more. Paying their fair share is a tangible way for team owners to show that they love Oakland’s people more than making a profit.”

“What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander, the wise elders used to say. Let’s expedite an authentic community-driven process to bring fresh development ideas to the Coliseum neighborhood as we have seen in the latest round of supporting the A’s in their Howard Terminal effort. Our City’s administration owes that same level of expedience, efficiency and respect to AASEG (African American Sports and Entertainment Group).”

Loren Taylor, Oakland city councilman and candidate for mayor said, “Looking forward to having answers to questions addressed and answered before coming to council for a vote”

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Activism

Oakland Voters Reject Spending Taxpayer Money for A’s Howard Terminal Project

“As part of any major corporate development or sports stadium plan, local governments in California make the creation of a Community Benefits Fund part of the deal. This is money paid by the developers to fund important projects that local citizens identify, including addressing homelessness, affordable housing, crime prevention, and education programs. “How do you think the proposed $450 million Community Benefits Fund connected to the Howard Terminal Stadium project should be paid for?

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Oakland A’s logo
Oakland A’s logo

Two-thirds of voters would not support candidates who voted to spend taxpayer money on project

By Ken Epstein

A new poll of Oakland voters, conducted by a professional polling company, indicates that Oakland voters reject spending taxpayer money to build a new A’s stadium, retail and condominium project at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland.

Further, nearly two-thirds of voters say they would not support candidates for mayor or City Council who voted to spend taxpayer money for the Howard Terminal development.

The first question — without being presented any additional information — was: “From what you’ve heard or read, do you support or oppose the Oakland City Council spending taxpayer money to help build a new A’s baseball stadium next to the port at Howard Terminal.”

The results were 46% opposed, 37% in favor and 17% did not know.

Opposition was significantly higher among residents of Council districts 5 and 7, opposed by 56% to 36% in District 5 and 59% to 37% in District 7.

A’s fans — 53% of the electorate — supported using tax money 44% to 42%. Those who are not A’s fans were opposed to spending taxpayer money by 53% to 26%.

The results of the second question about who should pay community benefits was even more strongly in opposition to taxpayers footing the bill for the A’s corporation.

Here is the question:

“As part of any major corporate development or sports stadium plan, local governments in California make the creation of a Community Benefits Fund part of the deal. This is money paid by the developers to fund important projects that local citizens identify, including addressing homelessness, affordable housing, crime prevention, and education programs.

“How do you think the proposed $450 million Community Benefits Fund connected to the Howard Terminal Stadium project should be paid for?

“a) By the A’s because the project is being built using taxpayer money, and the team should pay their fair share of community benefits like all other developers do. OR

“b) By Oakland City taxpayers without any money from the A’s, because the waterfront development will create a new entertainment, work and residential destination while keeping the last professional team in Oakland.”

An overwhelming 81% to 15% said that the A’s should use their own money and not rely on taxpayer money to pay for the $450 million in proposed community benefits.

The next question asked was, “Do you agree or disagree with this statement: The City of Oakland should NOT spend over $800 million in taxpayer money to keep the A’s in Oakland when the city has other major needs like homelessness, affordable housing, and crime?”

The results: 69% agreed that the city should not spend over $800 million to keep the A’s in Oakland. Support for taxpayer spending drops from 37% to 27% when the “over $800 million” figure is presented.

In a separate poll question, 70% of Oakland voters said homelessness was one of their top two priority issues, followed by 60% who picked crime and 40% affordable housing. Only 5% said “losing pro sports teams” was a top problem.

Finally, voters were asked how this issue would impact their vote for mayor or City Council in this year’s elections.

The question: “After hearing this information, which of the following two candidates would you vote for in the next election for City Council or mayor in Oakland if their positions on other issues were the same?

“a) Candidate A who voted FOR spending over $800 million in taxpayer money for infrastructure improvements to make the Howard Terminal baseball stadium a reality. OR

“b) Candidate B who voted AGAINST spending any taxpayer money to support an A’s Stadium at Howard Terminal, even if the A’s may move out of Oakland. “

The results: Two-thirds (65%) said they support Candidate B, who voted against taxpayer money for the Howard Terminal Stadium, “even if the A’s may move out of Oakland.”

Support for Candidate A, who backed the spending of taxpayer money for the stadium stood at only 29%.

The poll, conducted by FrederickPolls, was released by the East Oakland Stadium Alliance. The sample size was 509 interviews of Oakland registered voters. The interviews were conducted Dec. 8-16, 2021. The margin of error was 4.4%.

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