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Kerr keeps Warriors winning with yoga, creative approach

em>By Janie McCauley, Associated Press /em> OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Anderson Varejao lowered his 6-foot-11 frame into a runner's lunge and raised one arm high into the air to add a twist, demonstrating after a recent shootaround the new yoga pose he just learned. Then, he took it up a notch and attempted an airplane balancing pose on one leg with his arms spread wide. The Golden State Warriors have become yogis. Coach Steve Kerr is committed to changing things up, and he gave Golden State a day off from the practice floor one day last week so the players could practice yoga instead. In the middle of a prolonged stretch at home with a more regular routine, the schedule allowed for some improvising. 'I really liked it,' Varejao said. 'I'm going to do more.' Doubt you'll see Draymond Green or Klay Thompson doing downward-facing dog again soon — though Green might be talked into another try eventually. 'I'm bad,' Green said. 'Yoga isn't for everybody. I think it's a great thing, I just don't think my body is made for all of those different positions. I did well at a few of them. It's hard, it's tough. My body really isn't cut out for yoga.' The very next night after the group class, during warmups for a home game with the Pistons, player development coach Bruce Fraser pulled his foot to his opposite inner thigh for an impromptu tree pose. He laughed as an amused Shaun Livingston watched from the baseline. Andre Iguodala is an experienced yogi who can really cat-cow and is considered top on the team, often taking classes. Center Zaza Pachulia also can forward fold with the best of them. They took prominent positions in the class led by Lisa Goodwin, Golden State's director of corporate communications and also a yoga teacher, at a Berkeley studio — a first for Kerr taking the team away from team headquarters for a yoga session. No surprise, two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry can bring it on the mat, too. 'We've had some optional yoga sessions at our facility. This is the first time we took everybody and made it mandatory,' Kerr said. 'It was good.' The temperature was about 92 degrees for the hour-long power vinyasa class, so it was steamy. Everybody was drenched in sweat by the end for final resting pose, or savasana. 'My muscles felt good,' forward James Michael McAdoo said, rubbing his stomach where his core got a workout. 'It was fun. It was hot in there, like working in a sauna. I told our strength and conditioning coach, 'You got to step up your game. Lisa embarrassed us.'' 'It's awful, it's pitiful,' Thompson said of his own yoga ability. 'It's something I worked on and it's something I actually enjoy. More than just being physically challenging, it's an incredible mental workout. It tests your pain tolerance and your ability to push yourself mentally. That's why I like it. It was really good. I think it helped a lot of us — everybody, even the coaches.' Along with the experienced yoga veterans, there were some first-timers. A few found it extremely tough. 'I'm not the most flexible,' acknowledged player development coach Chris DeMarco. Assistant coach Mike Brown described his debut as 'terrible.' 'For me, it was really hard, but it was fun,' he said, later adding, 'I nearly passed out.' Ron Adams, another assistant who focuses on preparing Golden State's defense, happened to work out in the hottest corner of the room for his first time practicing in that high temperature. 'It's such a cleansing exercise,' he said. The Warriors aren't the only ones doing it. Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy has scheduled yoga time for the Pistons, saying: 'It's got its value, no question about it. Would I consider doing it with them? Probably not.' Kerr goes whenever he can fit it in, typically taking an hour-long class during the lunch hour on game days when the schedule — and his body — allows. It's a time he can focus on taking some deep breaths, literally, away from the pressure-packed NBA workload and just be just another yoga student for 60 minutes out of his day. This weekend marks one year since Kerr formally returned to the bench last Jan. 22 against Indiana after a lengthy leave of absence to deal with complications from a pair of back surgeries. Current Lakers coach Luke Walton led the way during a record 24-0 start and went 39-4 before Kerr's comeback on the way to winning Coach of the Year after an NBA record 73-9 finish. While the 51-year-old Kerr still has some discouraging, physically challenging moments dealing with pain and headaches, he considers himself fortunate to be on the sideline doing what he loves. 'I guess normal is a good way to say it. He seems like his old self,' Curry said. 'You know he's been through a lot just physically trying to recover from the surgeries he's had. I can't imagine the frustration, how long it took and things he had to do and all the doctors he's met with. His whole story is crazy. We're obviously happy to have him back but not only that, you see him with energy and his presence like he wants. It's been good to see.' Whether Kerr will take his team back to yoga any time soon, time will tell. The Warriors are at the season's midway point and the 'dog days' of January as Kerr has put it. Golden State was home for all but a night from Dec. 26 until leaving for Houston on Thursday for Friday's game against the Rockets, with just a quick bus ride to Sacramento as the lone road trip in a 10-game stretch during that span. Because there was so much time to practice, the yoga day was a nice change of scenery. 'Just to get away and go do something else,' Green said. 'We're still together doing something productive. But, it's not for me.' .....»»

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Darvish wants to prove himself in final year of Texas deal

STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer br /> DALLAS (AP) — Yu Darvish marked his five-year anniversary as a Texas Ranger this week. Now healthy again, he wants to prove how good a pitcher he is. 'It's not much about my contract, but coming back from Tommy John surgery,' Darvish said through his interpreter at the Rangers' winter banquet Friday night. 'This will be my second year to see how my body reacts and how much I can do to prove how good of a pitcher I am. That's what I'm looking forward to.' Darvish is entering the sixth and final year of the contract he signed with the Rangers in January 2012 after seven seasons in Japan. While the 30-year-old Darvish is 46-32 with a 3.29 ERA in 100 career starts for Texas, he missed all of the 2015 season because of the surgery and didn't pitch for the Rangers last season until May 28. Darvish was 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings during the regular season. But in his first AL Division Series start last October, he gave up a career-worst four homers. Three of them were in the same inning of a 5-3 loss to Toronto in Game 2 of the best-of-five series that the Blue Jays swept. 'I would love to pitch in that kind of situation again this year,' Darvish said. 'And I would like to pitch very well.' Darvish said he just started throwing again and feels 'really good.' Texas spent more than two years scouting Darvish and getting to know him personally before committing more than $107 million to get him. On top of his guaranteed $56 million contract, the Rangers had to pay in the old system a massive $51,703,411 posting bid to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, his team in Japan. The 2017 season could have become a player option without a buyout had Darvish won the Cy Young and finished second-through-fourth another time, or finished second in the voting once and second-through-fourth two other times. Darvish finished second behind Max Scherzer in the 2013 AL Cy Young voting, when the Rangers right-hander was 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and a league-high 277 strikeouts. He was an All-Star each of his first three seasons (2012-14), a span in which he had 680 strikeouts before getting shut down late in the 2014 season because of elbow inflammation. 'I am really grateful to the Texas Rangers organization by just giving me this big of a contract. They've been taking care of me really well,' he said. 'So I just want to show the Rangers how much I can do and then show them that they were right giving me that contract.' Darvish said he considered it too much of a risk just two years after surgery to compete in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Then, he smiled and said, 'At the end, let me tell you that I didn't get offered' a spot. NOTES: The Rangers announced they will retire uniform No. 7 during an August ceremony to honor former catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week and will be inducted with the class of 2017 on July 30 in Cooperstown, New York. The only other Rangers to have their numbers retired by the club are Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan (No. 34) and former manager Johnny Oates (No. 26). .....»»

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Willett struggling to rediscover game before Masters defense

STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Danny Willett has 2½ months to rediscover his game before making a pressure-filled return to Augusta National as the defending Masters champion. br /> Odds are that won't be long enough. Willett finished 2016 in a rut after dealing with fresh levels of attention for being a major winner as well as a mid-season swing change. Following a short off-season when he sacrificed practice to enjoy a break from golf and his first Christmas as a father, his start to 2017 is hardly encouraging. br /> Rounds of 74 and 76 saw Willett become the biggest name to miss the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Friday. He was 121st in a 126-man field, with his second round marred by a quadruple bogey 9 at the 10th when everything that could go wrong did go wrong. br /> Next comes the defense of his Dubai Desert Classic title in two weeks. Then all roads lead to Augusta for the Masters starting April 6. br /> 'I think if I'm playing bad, the attention will die down quite nicely, to be honest,' Willett said, when asked if the build-up to the Masters will be a hindrance. br /> Initially, the green jacket weighed heavily on the shoulders of Willett. Everyone wanted a piece of him after he capitalized on Jordan Spieth's back-nine collapse to be a surprise winner of the Masters. He popped up inside Wimbledon's Royal Box, and was a guest at the World Snooker Championship in his home city of Sheffield. br /> The attention died down, allowing him to return his focus to golf. But he is without a win since Augusta and has only three top-10 finishes in that eight-month period. br /> 'At the end of last year, I was working hard and doing the right things, but it was like I was knocking my head against a brick wall,' Willett said. 'I wasn't analyzing it properly. It was all just bad. It wasn't, but that's how I analyzed it.' br /> Willett is trying not to get too down about his play in Abu Dhabi. Finishing with two birdies — and two more decent birdie chances — in his final four holes helped, but couldn't disguise his problems in the previous 32. br /> His main issue was pulling lots of shots as he tried to hit a cut. That led to a triple-bogey 7 on Thursday and a quadruple-bogey 9 at the 10th hole on Friday, when he drove left into the desert, went out of bounds with his third shot, found a bunker with his fifth, and then three-putted. br /> Willett said he was 'slightly shocked' at the contrast between his form on the range and his form on the course. br /> 'Christmas golf-course rust,' Willett said. 'All joking aside, I know there were a few horrendous scores in there, but there was some better stuff in there, too.' br /> ___ br /> Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80 br />   .....»»

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