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Russia’s claim of Mariupol’s capture fuels concern for POWs



POKROVSK, Ukraine (AP) — Concern mounted Saturday over the fate of the Ukrainian fighters who became Moscow’s prisoners as Russia claimed seizure of the steel plant-turned-fortress in Mariupol, capping a nearly three-month siege that left the strategic port city in ruins and more than 20,000 city residents feared dead.

The Russian Defense Ministry released video of Ukrainian soldiers being taken into custody after announcing that its forces had removed the last holdouts from the plant’s miles of underground tunnels. The Azovstal steel plant became a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity, and its seizure delivers Russian President Vladimir Putin a badly wanted victory in the war he began in February.

Family members of the steel mill fighters, who authorities say came from a variety of military and law enforcement units, have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine. They are considered heroes by their fellow citizens.

Convoys of buses, guarded by Russian armored vehicles, left the steel mill Friday. At least some Ukrainians were taken to a former penal colony, while Russian authorities said others were hospitalized.

Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin head of an area of ​​eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, said the Ukrainians were sure to face a tribunal for their wartime actions.

“I believe that justice must be restored. There is a request for this from ordinary people, society, and, probably, the sane part of the world community,” Russian state news agency Tass quoted Pushilin as saying.

Russian officials and state media have sought to characterize the fighters as neo-Nazis and criminals. Among the plant’s more than 2,400 defenders were members of the Azov Regiment, whose far-right origins have been seized on by the Kremlin as part of an effort to cast its invasion as a battle against Nazi influence in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has not commented on Russia’s claim of capturing Azovstal, which for weeks remained Mariupol’s last holdout of Ukrainian resistance.

Ukraine’s military had told the fighters holed up in the plant, hundreds of them wounded, that their mission was complete and they could come out. It described their extraction as an evacuation, not a mass surrender.

The end of the battle for Mariupol would help Putin offset some stinging setbacks, including the failure of Russian troops to take over Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, the sinking of the Russian Navy’s flagship in the Black Sea and the continued resistance that has stalled an offensive in eastern Ukraine.

It also furthers Russia’s quest to essentially create a land bridge from Russia stretching through the Donbas region to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The impact on the broader war remained unclear. Many Russian troops already had been redeployed from Mariupol to elsewhere in the conflict.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov reported Saturday that Russia destroyed a Ukrainian special-operations base in the Black Sea region of Odesa as well as a significant cache of Western-supplied weapons in northern Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region. There was no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.

In its morning operational report, the Ukrainian military general staff reported heavy fighting in much of eastern Ukraine, including the areas of Sievierodonetsk, Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

The Ukrainian military said Saturday that Russia is expected to relaunch an offensive on the strategically important city of Sloviansk, in the eastern Donetsk region. The city is critical to Russia’s objective of capturing all of eastern Ukraine and saw fierce fighting last month after Moscow’s troops backed off from Kyiv.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said he would not launch a counterattack into Russian territory but emphasized that the Donbas region remains sovereign to Ukraine.

Speaking at a joint media conference with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Zelenskyy said his forces were fighting to “liberate our territory” and the price of “tens or hundreds of thousands of lives” was too high to surrender it. He pressed Western countries for multiple launch rocket systems, which he said “just stand still” in other countries yet are “key” to Ukraine’s success.

US President Joe Biden signed off Saturday on a fresh, $40 billion infusion of aid for Ukraine, with half for military assistance. Portugal pledged up to 250 million euros, as well as continued shipments of military equipment.

Zelenskyy reiterated his intention to apply for European Union membership and accused Russia of blockading agricultural exports from Ukraine, which is known as the “breadbasket of Europe.”

Mariupol, which is part of the Donbas, was blockaded early in the war and became a frightening example to people elsewhere in the country of the hunger, terror and death they might face if the Russians surrounded their communities.

The seaside steelworks, occupying some 11 square kilometers (4 square miles), was a battleground for weeks. Drawing Russian airstrikes, artillery and tank fire, the dwindling group of outgunned Ukrainian fighters held out with the help of airdrops.

Zelenskyy revealed in an interview published Friday that Ukrainian helicopter pilots braved Russian anti-aircraft fire to ferry in medicine, food and water to the steel mill as well as to retrieve bodies and rescue wounded fighters.

A “very large” number of the pilots died on the missions, he said. “They are absolutely heroic people, who knew that it would be difficult, knew that to fly would be almost impossible,” Zelenskyy said.

Russia claimed that the Azov Regiment’s commander was taken from the plant in an armored vehicle because of residents’ alleged hatred for him, but no evidence of Ukrainian antipathy toward the nationalist regiment has emerged.

The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday released video of Russian troops taking into custody Serhiy Volynskyy, the commander of the Ukrainian Navy’s 36th Special Marine Brigade, which was one of the main forces defending the steel plant. The Associated Press has not been able to independently verify the date, location and conditions of the video.

With Russia controlling the city, Ukrainian authorities are likely to face delays in documenting evidence of pained Russian atrocities in Mariupol, including the bombings of a maternity hospital and a theater where hundreds of civilians had taken cover. Satellite images in April showed what appeared to be mass graves just outside Mariupol, where local officials accused Russia of concealing the slaughter by burying up to 9,000 civilians.

An estimated 100,000 of the 450,000 people who resided in Mariupol before the war remain. Many, trapped by Russia’s siege, were left without food, water and electricity.

The Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol warned Saturday the city is facing a health and sanitation “catastrophe” from mass burials in shallow pits across the ruined city as well as the breakdown of sewage systems. Vadim Boychenko said summer rains threaten to contaminate water sources as he pressed Russian forces to allow residents to safely leave the city.

“In addition to the humanitarian catastrophe created by the (Russian) occupiers and collaborators, the city is on the verge of an outbreak of infectious diseases,” he said on the messaging app Telegram.

The chief executive of Metinvest, a multinational company that owns the Azovstal plant and another steel mill, Ilyich, in Mariupol, spoke of the city’s devastation in an interview published Saturday in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“The Russians are trying to clean it (the city) up to hide their crimes,” Metinvest CEO Yuriy Ryzhenkov said. “The inhabitants are trying to make the city function, to make water supplies work again.”

“But the sewer system is damaged, there has been flooding, and infections are feared” from drinking the water, he said.

The Ilyich steelworks still has some intact infrastructure, but if the Russians try to get it running, Ukrainians will refuse to return to their jobs there, Ryzhenkov said.

“We will never work under Russian occupation,” he said.


McQuillan reported from Lviv. Stashevskyi reported from Kyiv. Associated Press journalists Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Frances D’Emilio in Rome, and other AP staffers around the world contributed.


Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker back in Heat mix ahead of East finals Game 3 in Boston – The Mercury News


Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker were on the court Saturday morning for the Miami Heat ahead of Saturday night’s Game 3 at TD Garden against the Boston Celtics in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.

For the Heat, it was a significant step, considering Lowry had missed eight of the previous 10 games due to a strained left hamstring, and considering that Tucker bruised his left knee in Thursday night’s Game 2 to the degree that there were initial thoughts of requiring an MRI.

“They are both going to do their whole routine with the intention of playing,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “So, yes, they both were involved in shootaround.”

Lowry has missed the past two weeks, initially injured April 22 in the Heat’s Game 3 loss during the first round to the Atlanta Hawks, a series the Heat won 4-1.

He then returned, only to be sidelined in the East semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, which the Heat won 4-2. Prior to Saturday, his last action had been May 8 in Philadelphia.

Spoelstra stressed that the setback against the 76ers was not a setback in terms of Lowry’s rehab.

“He wanted to play Game 5 last series,” Spoelstra said of when Lowry’s stretch of four consecutive absences began. “I think we’ve handled this appropriately. I think even the ramp up before that, in the Philly series, I think we checked all the boxes. Things will happen.

“He didn’t reinjure. I think that was important, so he still was able to heal. If he did reinjure it, I think he would have been out a lot longer. It’s just he still felt it, so we erred on the side of caution and taking more time.”

Tucker left Thursday night’s loss at FTX Arena after first injuring the knee in the first half and the aggravating it in the third quarter.

But instead of an MRI there was treatment and then court time Saturday morning.

Spoelstra laughed when asked what it would take to keep Tucker, 37, out.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I think all of us, you’re kind of on eggshells with him. You can’t ask him how he’s doing. I can’t ask a trainer, because if he sees me talking to a trainer, he barks at me and yells at me if I’m talking to the trainers. I’m allowed to talk to the trainers, that is part of my job.

“But he is a throwback by every definition of that.”

The Lowry return injects a similar upgrade to what the Celtics received in Game 2, after guard Marcus Smart and big man Al Horford were sidelined from their Game 1 loss on the Heat’s court on Tuesday night.

“Obviously you have a Hall of Fame point guard,” Spoelstra said of Lowry, 36. “It won’t be 40 minutes. But whatever his minutes are, he has the experience and resume. You can’t necessarily put a weight to it; you just know what it means to your team, especially in a building like this, on the road.”

For the Celtics, guard Derrick White was back after missing Game 2 for the birth of his son. But the Celtics returned center Robert Williams to their injury report, listing him as questionable due to knee soreness. Williams was held out of the final four games of the Celtics 4-3 East semifinal victory over the Milwaukee Bucks with the knee issue, the outgrowth of previous meniscus surgery.


Masks back on at Berkeley Unified


More than two months after state officials lifted an indoor mask mandate for public school students, Berkeley Unified leaders will require students to mask up again for the last two weeks of the academic year amid a surge of COVID cases.

In a memo to parents, Superintendent Brent Stephens said all students, staff and people at district campuses and facilities must begin wearing masks on Monday. The mandate includes people attending indoor school events and indoor graduations, even those taking place off campus.

The move follows a meeting between the district’s COVID response team and Berkeley public health partners “to discuss the COVID-19 surge we are now experiencing,” the letter reads. Stephens said Berkeley Health Officer Lisa Hernandez recommended the mask reinstatement “to protect students and staff from further exposure and transmission, to ensure the completion of the in person school year and associated ceremonies.”

“As we are not a health agency, we must rely on these experts to guide us,” Stephens wrote. He indicated the district is seeing an increase in classroom COVID clusters, which could suggest the virus is spreading.

“Our collective goal in the final weeks of school is to ensure the last two weeks and accompanying celebrations can be attended by as many of our students and families as possible,” the memo reads. “We have kept our schools open through surges this year due largely to community-wide adherence to our mitigation strategies.”

The district is also taking other precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus at a time when graduations, final classes, celebrations and senior trips are in full swing.

It is resuming close contact notifications, asking staff to move back to Zoom meetings and outdoor events when possible and recommending all students and staff experiencing “even one COVID-19 symptom” to stay home and test for the virus.

The district is experiencing a continued shortage of substitute teachers and growing number of staff absences, leaving administrators “working in our classrooms as teachers while teachers are forgoing their planning periods to fill in for colleagues who are ill,” Stephens wrote.

Orioles promote top prospect Adley Rutschman to majors in most significant move of rebuild thus far – The Mercury News


From the moment he was selected with the first pick of the 2019 Major League Baseball draft, Adley Rutschman was the face of the Orioles’ rebuild. Starting Saturday, he’ll finally be the face of their major league roster.

The Orioles will promote Rutschman, a 24-year-old catcher, and he’s expected to make his major league debut Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays. The top prospect in the organization and, in the eyes of several publications, the sport, Rutschman has been long-awaited at Camden Yards since Baltimore drafted him out of Oregon State.

By virtue of the Orioles’ franchise-worst 115-loss season in 2018, Mike Elias inherited the first overall pick in the 2019 draft when he became Baltimore’s executive vice president and general manager, promising to build an “elite talent pipeline” that would allow the Orioles to be a perennial playoff contender. In what he described as the most important decision of his first year at the front office’s helm, Elias made Rutschman the centerpiece of the organization’s rebuilding efforts by choosing him over Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and University of California first baseman Andrew Vaughn.

Rutschman has maintained that status as Elias has built a farm system that now ranks among the best in baseball.

Both Witt and Vaughn reached the majors before Rutschman, but he likely would have already arrived if not for a series of ill-timed setbacks. The minor league portion of the 2020 season, expected to be his first full campaign as a professional, was lost to the coronavirus pandemic, though Rutschman thrived at the Orioles’ alternate training site in Bowie. He then starred in the upper minors in 2021, batting .285/.397/.502 with 23 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A to position himself to join the Orioles in 2022.

He might have done so as a member of their season-opening roster if not for a right tricep strain suffered on the cusp of major league spring training, delaying the start of his season by about a month. Across three levels of the Orioles’ farm system in 2022, Rutschman hit .309/.427/.515.

After a quiet first full week back with Triple-A Norfolk in which he went 3-for-21 — though one of those hits was his first home run — Rutschman homered twice and caught in each of the Tides’ first three games of this week, showing his physical readiness for the major league level coming off the injury. Even as he played practically every game he could in 2021, Rutschman regularly mixed in starts at first base and designated hitter with his work behind the plate, preparation that should allow Orioles manager Brandon Hyde to keep Rutschman’s switch-hitting bat in the lineup on days he doesn’t catch.

Regardless of where he plays, the fact Rutschman will be in the Orioles’ lineup is the most significant move of the team’s yearslong rebuild thus far. Rutschman will be the second of Baltimore’s top 10 prospects to debut in 2022, joining right-hander Kyle Bradish, who he’ll likely catch in Saturday’s debut. Within his final four games played with Norfolk, Rutschman also caught Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, a pair of pitchers who preceded him as first-round picks and directly follow him in prospect rankings. They could also appear at Camden Yards sometime this season among a wave of talent.

Rutschman’s selection signaled the most significant move in the early stages of Baltimore’s rebuild. His arrival his is the surest sign yet of a potential turn toward contention, though he ‘ll join an Orioles team that is 16-24 and last in the American League East. To create spots for Rutschman on their major league and 40-man roster, the Orioles designated catcher Anthony Bemboom for assignment. Robinson Chirinos, a 37-year-old backstop Baltimore signed to a major league deal this offseason, will serve as a veteran presence around Rutschman in his first taste of the majors.

In Baltimore’s lineup, Rutschman will bat alongside others who have established themselves as potential pieces of the franchise’s future since he was drafted, such as outfielders Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays and first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, who is on the injured list with a wrist injury but expects to return this weekend. It’s only a matter of time before that group plays together, making the Orioles’ seemingly bright future feel the closest it has since Rutschman was drafted.


Retire? East Bay pianist, teacher Bob Athayde has other ideas


Bob Athayde didn’t get the memo on retirement.

After 45 years in the classroom, including a perpetual-motion run as Stanley Middle School’s band director since 1986, he’s way overdue for a little rest and relaxation. There are fish to catch, books to read, and a cushy easy chair to provide respite from gravity.

But the only sitting that Athayde seems to have planned involves a piano bench (you can catch him playing solo at La Finestra piano lounge in Moraga and holding down the Thursday jam session at Bonehead’s Texas BBQ in Lafayette).

“When I wake up in the morning I practice for a couple of hours and normally would go to school,” Athayde said about his impending schedule change. “That’s been my life’s work. I’m hoping energy comes into me instead of energy going out. I definitely want to play more.”

His final weeks at Stanley have been marked by several celebrations. It continues on May 22, when friends and family have organized an afternoon hang at St. Perpetua Church in Lafayette. Hosted by the Lafayette Summer Music Jazz Workshop, the innovative program that Athayde founded in 1998, the farewell features a jazz combo led by his son his, multi-instrumentalist Kyle Athayde.

“My sister Ellie will be there too,” said Kyle, 34, referring to bassist Eliana Athayde, the youngest of four musical Athayde siblings. “She’s She’s getting off the road just in time.”

A gifted improviser and composer who leads the talent-packed big band Kyle Athayde Dance Party, he came through the Stanley Middle School music program and got to witness his father at work up close. For many middle schoolers the idea of ​​attending the same campus as a faculty parent, let alone sharing a classroom, would induce an epic cringe.

Rather than provoking angst, Athayde said the experience “was amazing. I loved having him as a teacher. All of the ways he provided opportunities and inspired other students, it was all there for me too.”

The music opportunities available at Stanley Middle School are the result of Athyade cultivating support from throughout the community, including
the Stanley PTA, the Lafayette Partners in Education, the Generations in Jazz Foundation, and the Julia Burke Foundation, which has also paved the way for one of his primary post-Stanley endeavors.

Rather than winding down, he’s getting set to mark his post-retirement career by launching a new educational initiative. With support from the Julia Burke Foundation, he ‘ll be consulting with schools that can make use of his program-building insights.

At a meeting with the Julia Burke Foundation, “They asked, ‘What are you going to do after Stanley?’ and I said ‘Help schools and teachers in need.’ ‘Who funds that?’ ‘Nobody.’ ‘We’ll fund it.’ Since the pandemic happened all the music programs are in need. I can go anywhere in the US and work with them.”

Athayde has a gift for attracting people with something to give and a shrewd eye for identifying stellar musicians who are also effective educators. When he launched the Lafayette Summer Music Jazz Workshop his first move his was to recruit veteran saxophonist Mary Fettig, a universally esteemed player who provided the program with instant gravitas and made it easy to attract other talented teachers.

“If she calls someone, they’ll join,” Athayde said. “She was the first director of curriculum. At first we had a few fine players who were not engaged teachers. But little by little we kept bringing back the people who could teach.”

Success has bred success. Students who came through program and went on to become professional musicians return summer after summer to teach and coach Stanley students during the school year. Moraga-raised trombonist / composer Alan Ferber, 47, credits Athayde with changing the course of his life his by connecting him with trombone teacher Dean Hubbard.

A Grammy-nominated bandleader based in New York, Ferber has been teaching at the Lafayette Workshop since the mid-aughts, observing how “Bob is really an advocate for getting people who grew up in his orbit to come back to teach. I ‘ve also done a few workshops in his Stanley class his and he ‘ll have some music blasting for his students before they start, getting them pumped up.”

Athayde feels he’s leaving the Stanley music program in good hands, and he’ll continue at the Lafayette Workshop. His unretiring retirement his looks like a whole new musical adventure.

Contact Andrew Gilbert at jazzscribe@aol.com.


When: 2-6 pm May 22

Where: St. Perpetua Church, 3454 Hamlin Road, Lafayette

More information: RSVP to Ginni Reynolds ginreyn@comcast.net, www.facebook.com/events/2800669926901353/

Foothill’s NCS baseball win highlighted by catch



Division I

‘One of the best plays we’ve ever seen’

The toughest position to play on the baseball field at Foothill High in Pleasanton isn’t shortstop or third, catcher or center field.

When the sun starts to set on a spring evening and the glare from the cars parked above the berm to the left of home plate sparkles – not to mention the tanbark on the berm – left field can be a defensive nightmare.

Payton McMillan lost his breath playing the position Friday.

But he made the catch.

McMillan delivered the play of the day – if not the season – while helping top-seeded Foothill breeze to a 9-0 victory over Heritage in the quarterfinals of the North Coast Section Division I playoffs.

Coach Angelo Scavone, who graduated from the Pleasanton school in 1988, has had two left fielders who figured out how to play left field at Foothill. McMillan is one of them.

What makes it so tough?

“Well, you have the tanbark, so No. 1, you can’t see the ball off the bat,” Scavone said. “Then you have the windshields with the glare and the sun is in your eyes the entire game, especially when you play at 5 o’clock. He’s been unbelievable out there.”

Heritage had runners at first and second in the fifth when Jalen Owens lofted a ball to deep left field. McMillan, who was playing shallow, charged back and caught it before hitting the fence. He got up, fired the ball to the infield, and then went back down from having knocked the wind out himself.


When the infield umpire ruled that a Heritage runner did not tag up at second before moving to third, the catch started an inning-ending double play that kept Foothill in front 6-0.

Foothill’s Payton McMillan makes the catch of the day in left field against Heritage on Friday in the NCS Division I quarterfinals. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

“My center fielder told me to come in on the ball a little bit to keep the sun out of my eyes,” McMillan said. “Then I saw the ball off the bat and said, ‘Oh, shoot.’ I started running back and lost it in the sun a little bit. I was just like, ‘OK, I am just going to go to a spot.’

“I saw it at the last minute and was able to be in the right spot to give myself an opportunity to make that catch. I have no idea how I was able to get that ball in. I knew there was a guy on second and I was trying to get it in to at least keep the guy from getting to third.”

PLEASANTON CALIFORNIA - MAY 20: Foothill's Nick Walsh (4) stands on second base against Heritage High School at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, Calif., on Friday, May 20, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)
Foothill’s Nick Walsh stands on second base after hitting a two-run double Friday. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

Foothill scored four runs in the first to take command and added two in the fourth. Nick Walsh had three hits, including a two-run double in the first, and Tyler Gebb pitched 5 ⅔ innings for his 13th victory this season.

“We played really well,” Scavone said. “Pitched well, good defense and we hit a little bit. Tyler is such a strike-thrower and he is hard to hit. We had really good plays at second base, third base and the left fielder made one of the best plays we’ve ever seen.”

Foothill (24-4) will play host to No. 4 seed California in the semifinals Tuesday.

Heritage, seeded ninth, finished 16-11.

  • PHOTOS: Scroll to the bottom for more Foothill-Heritage pictures
PLEASANTON CALIFORNIA - MAY 20: Foothill's Tyler Gebb (14) pitches in the first inning against Heritage High School during the North Coast Section Division I quarterfinals at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, Calif., on Friday, May 20, 2022. (Shae Hammond /Bay Area News Group)
Foothill’s Tyler Gebb pitches in the first inning against Heritage on Friday. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)

No. 4 California 2, No. 12 Granada 1

Raoul Fabian knocked in the game-ending run in the bottom of the seventh as California survived a tense quarterfinal against Granada.

Nic Bronzini struck out 12 in six innings for California, but the run he allowed in the sixth tied the score.

California loaded the bases in the seventh, then celebrated a berth in the semifinals when Fabian delivered.

The Grizzlies improved to 23-5. Granada finished 16-11.

No. 7 Liberty 1, No. 2 Clayton Valley Charter 0

Liberty made a first-inning run hold up as the Lions went on the road and stunned Clayton Valley Charter to advance to the Division I semifinals Tuesday at De La Salle. In two playoff games, Liberty has scored four runs but has allowed just two.

Division V

No. 1 Berean Christian 3, No. 9 The Bay School 0

Griffin DeRusso knocked in two runs in a three-run fifth and Tom Reed and Sebastian Gonzalez combined on the shutout as Berean Christian beat The Bay School in an NCS Division V quarterfinal.

Berean will play host to No. 4 University in the semifinals Tuesday. University beat No. 5 St. Vincent de Paul 7-3.

No. 2 Fremont Christian 10, No. 7 Stuart Hall 1

Joe Banda had two hits and knocked in four runs and Daniel Lopez had two hits and drove in three runs to lead Fremont Christian to a win at home over Stuart Hall in the NCS Division V quarterfinals.

Troy Frazier allowed a run and struck out nine in four innings as Fremont Christian advanced to play at home Tuesday against No. 3 Branson, a 10-0 winner over No. 11 Athenian.


Division I

No. 2 Heritage 5, No. 7 Clayton Valley Charter 3

Summer Lagomarsino hit a two-run single in the third and drove in another run in the fifth as Heritage advanced to the semifinals with a win at home over Clayton Valley Charter.

Based on how balls bounced, is a rivalry brewing for Heat? – The Mercury News


As he walked off the Miami Heat practice court Monday, veteran forward and converted hockey fan Udonis Haslem shook his head.

“Not good. Not good,” he said. “The Lightning, that’s not good for us, right?”

He was talking about the Florida Panthers’ second-round matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the two-time-defending Stanley Cup champions. And he recognized an intrastate rivalry percolating because of the Panthers’ rise to contender status.

The day after Haslem’s forecast, ahead of what turned into 0-2 direness for his adopted Panthers, another intrastate rivalry received a jolt, with the Orlando Magic winning the NBA lottery, the first pick in the June 23 draft now theirs.

That, of course, is a big deal.

And the Magic certainly have done big things with such selections before, turning previous No. 1 selections into Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway (through trade) and Dwight Howard.

The Heat, by contrast, with the notable exception of Dwyane Wade, largely have created their success through free agency or trades, including LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Jimmy Butler, and, yes, Shaq.

Yet where the two Florida franchises have never converged is a playoff series of heft. When the Magic were up, the Heat were down, and vice versa, with this season as the latest evidence.

In the Heat’s 34 seasons, they have faced the Magic in the playoffs once, winning in the best-of-five 1997 first round.

Otherwise, for all the bluster of former Magic executive Pat Williams at the franchises’ inceptions, not much.

It was Williams, in fact, who went as far as to try to create a trophy for the annual season series, noting of the trophy, “It’s an ugly, ugly trophy. It cures hiccups, it’s so ugly.”

So perhaps something real now, with the lottery-winning Magic actually with a chance of getting up to where the Heat stand?

That could take more than this year’s No. 1 pick, whether it is Gonzaga forward Chet Holmgren or Auburn forward Jabari Smith or Duke forward Paolo Banchero.

Yes, it could leave the Magic with the best NBA power forward in the state (or at least as long as Bam Adebayo is listed at center), considering the Heat’s revolving door at power forward in recent years of long-in-the-tooth Jae Crowder, Trevor Ariza and, now, PJ Tucker.

But there also simply are too many questions on the Magic roster, from the health of Jonathan Isaac to the contract uncertainty with Mo Bamba, to what exactly might come of Cole Anthony, Wendell Carter or even the ultimate upside of Franz Wagner or Jalen Suggs.

We have been at this crossroads before, where the draft could transform the Magic to something closer to what Pat Riley has fastidiously developed in South Florida.

There was Suggs last year at No. 5, Bamba at No. 6 in 2018, Isaac at No. 6 in 2017, Mario Hezonja at No. 5 in 2015, Aaron Gordon at No. 4 in 2014 and, yes, even current Heat guard Victor Oladipo at No. 2 in 2013.

To put that in perspective, since 2013, the highest Heat pick was Justise Winslow, at No. 10 in 2015, needing to go back to Michael Beasley at No. 2 in 2008 as the Heat’s last single-digit first-round pick.

The fact is the Heat could use some legitimate competition in their division, with 16 games annually against Southeast rivals.

The Charlotte Hornets are going through another coach. The Washington Wizards are wobbling amid Bradley Beal uncertainty. The Atlanta Hawks regressed, as their first-round ouster at the hands of the Heat showed.

So now, from the depths of 22-60, come the Magic with their No. 1 selection, in a draft without a consensus No. One.

But, for now, because of Tuesday night’s Ping-Pong balls, at least hope again.

“We’re at the stage right now where we’re not a need-based team,” Magic executive Jeff Weltman said.

Actually, they very much are in need.

As is any hope of the true arrival of an intrastate rivalry.


SPEAKING OF: With the Magic (again) landing the No. 1 lottery pick, it left the Heat in a group of six franchises yet to earn the top overall selection (albeit not for a lack of trying in 2008, when the hoped-for target was Derrick Rose). The other five are the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz. Of that group, only Indiana was in this year’s lottery, exiting with the No. 6 pick.

NEW PERSPECTIVE: Tim Hardaway has gone to the dark side. OK, perhaps it’s not that extreme, but the New York Post revealed that the former Heat All-Star guard has been working as a scout for the New York Knicks, including at the Chicago pre-draft combine. Hardaway, whose post-playing career included time as an assistant on the Detroit Pistons staff of former Heat coach Stan Van Gundynow finds himself at work with an organization that stood as the fiercest of rivals during his Heat playing career, but also a franchise that twice had his son, current Dallas Mavericks guard Tim Hardaway Jr., on its roaster. Hardaway will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September.

ON THE MEND: In the wake of sustaining an ugly knee injury in the Philadelphia 76ers’ season-ending loss to the Heat in the East semifinals, veteran 3-point specialist Danny Green vowed a return by midseason. “I will be back for All-Star break. You got to believe it,” he said on his SiriusXM podcast, Inside the Green Room. Such an ACL tear often can take a full calendar year for recovery. It is a tricky spot for Green, 34, whose $10 million with the 76ers for next season can be excised by the 76ers if he is waived prior to July 1. “My body and my bones usually heal pretty well. I don’t have any bad habits,” he said. “So, yeah, I think I’ll be back in time to help a team in the playoff run and show and prove that I’m able to still play at that level to help a team get a win in the playoffs.” Green was injured during a rebound scramble against the Heat, with 76ers center Joel Embiid falling on Green’s knee.

STILL GOING: The NBA journey continues for Alvin Gentry, with the 67-year-old former Heat coach named vice president of basketball engagement for the Sacramento Kings. The front-office job was offered in the wake of his dismissal his as interim Kings coach. Gentry took over as Kings coach from Luke Walton after Sacramento’s 6-11 start, with the Kings closing 30-52 and missing the playoffs for an NBA-record 16th consecutive season. Gentry was a Heat assistant coach from 1991 to 1995, serving as Heat interim coach at the end of 1994-95 before Pat Riley took over.

SETTING THE RECORD: Former Heat center Amar’e Stoudemire appeared on ESPN’s First Take to clarify that his departure as a Brooklyn Nets developmental coach was not because of reported differences with Kyrie Irving. Instead, Stoudemire, 39, said his observance his of not working on the Jewish sabbath proved too limiting. “Not working on Friday night and Saturdays is difficult for anyone to grow in the coaching space because coaching is such a grind,” said Stoudemire, who converted to Judaism in 2020, four years after the completion of his one-season Heat tenure. “It requires you to be there full-time. And for me, I was unable to grow in that space, so I did not want to continue coaching. And, on the flip side, the Nets organization wants people who can be there full-time, and I totally understand that.”

ALLEN’S PILGRIMAGE: Former Heat guard Ray Allen recently participated in the PeacePlayers Initiative in Jerusalem, promoting understanding and friendship between young Israeli and Palestinian athletes. The event was hosted by America’s Voices in Israel together with the Arison Family Foundation. “There’s something fascinating, the idea of ​​being here – just being connected to the Holy Land,” Allen told the Jerusalem Post. “I’ve heard it several times this week – people ask me why I’m here, as if only Jewish people travel to Israel.” He stressed, “There’s a common bond you can share with someone through basketball, regardless of what language you speak.”


500. Consecutive sellouts for the Heat at AmericanAirlines/FTX Arena, counting regular season and playoffs. The streak began April 23, 2010, three months before the Big Three collaboration of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. It is the fifth-longest such streak in NBA history, second among active streaks to the Dallas Mavericks’ 868. (Such streaks do not include the COVID-restricted 2020-21 season.)


Level the playing field for small media and Big Tech


In the early days of the internet, the world welcomed the information superhighway, hailing it the great equalizer and embracing its promise.

Most of us thought we have innovation in technology that will decentralize information. It will empower voices and viewpoints overlooked by the gatekeepers of mainstream media.

We now do live, work, play and learn in a technocracy where everything we need to know is within reach that some imagined decades ago. But only two companies, Google and Facebook, control most of the infrastructure that brings that information to us. The duo are the chief engineers pre-determining how we get our information, from which sources and who gets compensated for it.

Google and Facebook have created their own playing field. And it is not even. Everyone can get on, but very few get rewarded.

Big Tech’s crowd-and-conquer approach leaves a news media landscape that is vulnerable to the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories. Their dominance sucks the air out of the media economy and has given Google and Facebook a stranglehold on the online news and ad market that has allowed them to benefit from journalistic content without paying for it.

News publishers have seen ad revenues fall by more than 80% from 2005 and 2020, according to Pew Research Center. This dramatic decrease in industry-wide earning heightens racial inequities that were already disturbing.

Nowhere is this challenge felt more than in the front offices and newsrooms of the Black press and those of other publications run by minority owners serving America’s ethnic communities.

Many minority newspapers are acutely under-staffed and resourced, preventing them from providing the kind of comprehensive coverage that they once did. Pew also reports that five of the eight Black newspapers in the United States reporting recent circulation data saw their circulation drop by at least 10%. Only one paper had a circulation of over 50,000.

This grim reality affecting minority communities is urgent for several reasons.

First, people of color comprise roughly 40% of the US population yet remain underrepresented in mainstream newsrooms that often under-report or overlook issues of importance to their communities. People of color, particularly African Americans, are also woefully underrepresented in tech – less than 4% of Google and Facebook’s employees are Black.

Accordingly, mainstream outlets will not fully capture the intra-community dynamics that the Black press and minority-owned papers do, or effectively counter campaigns designed to disenfranchise people of color. For example, the Black press has historically countered disinformation campaigns intended to instigate racial hatred or discouraged African Americans from exercising their right to vote.

Second, Black and Hispanic Americans value local news. Our communities are more likely to say topics typically covered by local news outlets are important to us, such as jobs, commodity prices, crime, schools, traffic and transportation. Black Americans stand out when it comes to trust in local news organizations. We are more likely to believe information coming from local outlets than White Americans.

Third, the Big Tech duopoly not only reroutes advertising dollars away from traditional publications, but it is keeping new minority owned media channels from being developed, as founders don’t see a path to financial sustainability. They leverage behavioral data and use clever tactics to keep users on their sites as they limit publishers’ ability to monetize their content with shifting algorithms.

The only way to loosen Big Tech’s vice grip over our lives is robust antitrust enforcement and targeted legislation. The effort will require action from lawmakers in Congress, federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, statehouses and state regulators.

One of the most promising pieces of legislation is the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA). The JCPA would allow print, broadcast or digital news companies to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook to secure fair compensation for their journalism and help direct the flow of subscription and advertising dollars back to small and minority owned publishers.

While Big Tech occasionally distributes grants to minority owned press outlets, these outlets ought to be compensated consistently for the value they provide the platforms — not just at the whims of Big Tech’s generosity.

The JCPA is promising because it is designed to benefit small and medium-sized publications such as minority news outlets that have never enjoyed a proportional share of advertising revenue relative to their readership numbers. Legislation is never a be-all end-all, but the JCPA is an important step to ensure that minority media outlets finally get their fair share.

Our representatives in Congress should pass the JCPA and provide minority-owned papers with a level playing field, fulfilling the early promise of the Internet.

The majority of ethnic media publications are asking for opportunities to remain functional as independent for-profits because our work champions, the interests of the communities we serve and the ideals of our Democracy.

Regina Brown Wilson is executive director of California Black Media.

May 21, 2022 – The Mercury News


“Simple Saturday” columns focus on improving basic technique and developing logical thinking.

Cy the Cynic says that if at first you don’t succeed, hire somebody to do it for you. But you can’t bring in someone to substitute for you as declarer. Learn the techniques.

Against today’s 3NT, West leads the ten of hearts: jack, queen, king. Declarer wants to win the next eight tricks. West is likely to have started with five hearts, and if the defenders get in and cash four hearts, South will be down one.


South has options. He can take nine tricks if he picks up the diamonds: five diamonds, two spades, a heart and a club. If the club finesse works, South can win four clubs, two diamonds, two spades and a heart. Which route should he take?

South can combine his chances, a common technique. He takes the KA of diamonds, and when East’s queen falls, South is home.

If at first South didn’t succeed — both defenders played low diamonds — South would finesse in clubs.


You hold: SAK 4 HK 4 3 DK 5 2 CAJ 10 5. Both sides vulnerable. After two passes, the player at your right opens three hearts. What do you say?

ANSWER: Your opponent’s preempt has left you with no room to look for your best contract; you must guess. You should assume that your partner has a fair share of the missing points. Bid 3NT. If the defenders lead hearts, you can hold up your king and hope to isolate the preempter’s long hearts.

North dealer

NS vulnerable


S 9 6 2

HJ 7

DAJ 10 4 3

CQ 9 4


S 10 7 3

HA 10 9 6 2

D 9 8 6

CK 2


SQJ 8 5

HQ 8 5

DQ 7

C 8 7 6 3



HK 4 3

DK 5 2

CAJ 10 5

North East South West
Pass Pass 1 C Pass
1 D Pass 2 NT Pass
3 NT All Pass

Opening lead — H 10

(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Brown’s homer sends A’s to 4-2 victory over skidding Angels



ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics haven’t shown much power at the plate the first quarter of the season. Yet it was the long ball that played a big role in their victory Friday night.

Seth Brown hit a go-ahead home run in the fifth inning as the A’s bounced back with a 4-2 win over the skidding Los Angeles Angels.

“We’ve got some guys in the lineup that can do damage. It was good to see the ball go out of the park,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “In this ballpark it does fly a little bit better than Oakland. It was good to see a result.”

After Jed Lowrie walked with one out, Brown drove a fastball from Chase Silseth (1-1) down the right-field line to give the A’s a 3-2 lead. The outfielder began the night batting .186 but is 7 for 16 over the last four games after starting the month with a 4-for-39 slump.

All four of Brown’s homers this season have come on the road, and three have put the Athletics in the lead.

“I’m starting to find a little bit of a rhythm, getting a little bit more comfortable and simplifying things,” Brown said. “Everybody has kind of kept pushing along and it’s good to see the offense come alive.”

Lowrie also went deep and scored two runs for Oakland, which had dropped four of five. Sam Moll (1-0) got the win and Dany Jimenez picked up his eighth save.

It was the first time since April 21 against Baltimore that the A’s hit two or more home runs in a game. They entered next-to-last in the American League with 23, and with the worst batting average in the majors at .205.

“We’ve talked about getting back to how we played offensively the first 10 games. Jed had a big homer and Seth had quality at-bats,” Kotsay said.

Anthony Rendon had two hits and drove in a run for the Angels, who have lost a season-high four straight games.

“We won games up there (last weekend) but didn’t beat them up offensively. We have to be better against them offensively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “A lot of our issues against them the past couple seasons is we didn’t hit them hard.”

Oakland grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Lowrie drove Silseth’s splitter into the right-field seats. The Angels tied it in the home half when Shohei Ohtani drew a walk, stole second and came home on Rendon’s base hit to right.

Los Angeles went ahead 2-1 in the third. Taylor Ward led off with a double and scored on Mike Trout’s double.

Oakland extended its lead to 4-2 in the sixth when Kevin Smith’s sacrifice fly scored Luis Barrera.


The Angels struck out 13 times, including seven looking. They were held without a hit after Rendon’s two-out double in the fifth. Their only baserunner over the final four innings was when Luis Rengifo walked in the sixth.

“Sometimes we get too picky. We have to get more assertive in the strike zone,” Maddon said. “They threw some quality pitches but we did get too passive at times, too.”


Silseth pitched six scoreless innings in his major league debut at Oakland last Saturday, but struggled at times in his second matchup with the A’s. The right-hander allowed three runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings with six strikeouts.

Oakland right-hander Paul Blackburn narrowly missed out on his fifth win of the season. He went 4 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on six hits with five strikeouts. He has allowed two runs or fewer in seven of eight starts this season.


Athletics: Daulton Jefferies was placed on the injured list due to right arm nerve irritation. Kotsay said the right-hander has been diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, but is seeking a second opinion. Left-hander Kirby Snead was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, while right-hander Jake Lemoine and left-hander Zach Logue were recalled.

Angels: Ward hit the right-field wall hard after catching Tony Kemp’s fly ball in the ninth inning and came out of the game. Maddon said Ward was being evaluated after the game. … C Max Stassi (COVID-19 list), LHP José Quijada (right oblique strain) and RHP Archie Bradley (left abdominal strain) will begin rehab assignments at Class A Inland Empire on Saturday.


Athletics: RHP Frankie Montas (2-4, 3.67 ERA) is fourth in the AL in innings pitched (49) and tied for fifth in strikeouts with 53.

Angels: RHP Michael Lorenzen (4-2, 3.57 ERA) has registered quality starts in four of his six outings this season.


More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports