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Posted 1:57 am, 09/29/2018

ALAMEDA Youth Kevin Labanc Jersey , Calif. (AP) " After nine seasons without competition in the broadcast booth, Jon Gruden needed only a few plays of the exhibition season to get his old sideline persona back.

A holding call that wiped out a touchdown brought out the temper that earned Gruden a nickname from the slasher movie “Child’s Play” during his first stint as coach in Oakland.

“Chucky came out for a brief moment right there,” Gruden said.

It was a moment Raiders fans had been waiting for ever since Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay following the 2001 season. Oakland lost the Super Bowl to Gruden and the Buccaneers the following year and managed just one more winning record since.

The good will might have ended when the Raiders traded their best player before the start of the season, dealing elite pass rusher Khalil Mack to Chicago for a package that includes two first-round picks.

Owner Mark Davis had been recruiting Gruden since he took over the franchise following the death of his father, Al, in 2011, and finally got his man this past offseason with a $100 million, 10-year contract to replace Jack Del Rio following a 6-10 season.

“It’s an honor to be back here and it’s a great story, but I also just want to do everything I can to try to help this team win again,” Gruden said. “I love the Raider fans Jake Muzzin Jersey , I love Oakland, and that’s the primary reason why I’m standing here.”

The love is mutual, as evidenced by the hundreds of fans who showed up at a preseason party hosted by Gruden at a local sports bar, and the excited crowds at the exhibition games.

But for all the nostalgia and Gruden’s talk of bringing the game back to 1998 when Al Davis first hired him as a head coach, Gruden will need to show his style has adapted since he last coached in Tampa Bay in 2008.

He has won over his players with his passion, knowledge and attention to detail, but none of that will matter without results on the field.

“What you see is what you get. Rah-rah guy,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “I’ve never seen a person’s face stay red for seven periods at practice. The whole practice he is just red. He’s a great motivator.”

Here are some other things to watch:

MISSING MACK: Mack held out for the entire offseason and training camp while seeking a long-term contract that came after he was traded to the Bears. His absence leaves a big void. He won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016 and leads the NFL in QB pressures with 185 1-2 since entering the league, according to SportRadar. Oakland’s defense struggled the past few years even with Mack on the field. Gruden and new coordinator Paul Guenther will now need rookie Arden Key and veteran Bruce Irvin to make up for the loss.

DRIVE THE CARR: QB Derek Carr went from MVP candidate during a 12-win 2016 campaign to a struggling young passer a year ago as he dealt with an early-season back injury and suspect play from his receivers. Much has been made of how Carr will mesh with Gruden’s hard-driving personality, but the early signs are the two are hitting it off. Whether that leads to improved play remains to be seen. Carr will likely take more snaps under center in Gruden’s offense than he has in the past Derick Brassard Jersey , but also will have more freedom to change plays at the line of scrimmage.

“He has a photographic memory. It comes so easy to him,” Gruden said. “He’s got the offense mastered more than I do, that’s for sure.”

INSIDE PUSH: The Raiders struggled to generate consistent pass pressure the past few seasons even with Mack and Irvin on the outside because of a lack of an inside rush. That’s why Oakland used two draft picks to upgrade that spot by selecting P.J. Hall in the second round and Maurice Hurst in the fifth. Hurst had been projected as a first-round pick before being sent home from the combine with a heart issue that the Raiders say is not a concern. Hall and Hurst have shined in the preseason and figure to provide a big boost to the defense.

POUND THE ROCK: Gruden has stressed a power-running game since getting hired in January and has the pieces in place to make it work. Oakland has a stout interior of the offensive line with center Rodney Hudson and guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson. Marshawn Lynch played well in the second half of last season after coming out of retirement and looks even faster this year. Blocking tight end Lee Smith and fullback Keith Smith provide more support. Gruden hopes Doug Martin can regain the form that helped him run for more than 1,400 yards in 2012 and ’15.

COVER IT UP: The Raiders have been rotating through cornerbacks ever since Reggie McKenzie became GM in 2012. They hoped they solidified one of those spots last year when they drafted Gareon Conley in the first round, but he played only two games because of injuries. Conley looks healthy now and could be part of the most talented group of cornerbacks Oakland has had in years with free agents Rashaan Melvin, Leon Hall and Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie also in the mix.

OAKLAND, Calif. " Last year’s Western Conference finalists go head-to-head in the first round of the NBA Playoffs this season when the injury-handcuffed San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors meet in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series Saturday afternoon.

The Spurs will be seeking their sixth championship in 20 years without star forward Kawhi Leonard, who has missed all but nine games this year with tendinopathy in his right quad.

Meanwhile, standout point guard Stephen Curry will be a spectator due to a sprained left MCL when the Warriors begin their quest for a third championship in four years.

Both perennial All-Stars are presumed out for the entire series, although no formal announcement has been made.

Curry is scheduled for a re-examination of his injured knee Saturday on the three-week anniversary of having suffered the injury. The Warriors hope to get him back at some point during the postseason Andrew Shaw Jersey , presuming either that the news is better than expected Saturday or they can survive the first round without him.

Curry averaged 31.5 points when the Warriors swept the Spurs 4-0 in the Western Finals last May en route to the championship. Leonard got injured in the first game of the series.

Neither team has demonstrated championship form this season.

The Spurs had an 18-year run of 50-win seasons snapped when they went 47-35, good for just the seventh seed in the West.

They enter the postseason having lost five of their last nine, including 122-98 at New Orleans on Wednesday night in the regular-season finale, which dropped them into the seventh position and a matchup with Golden State right off the bat.

That means nothing, Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili claimed, when all 16 playoff teams start 0-0 in the playoffs.

“We have got to play above where we have been playing. We really have to improve in many ways,” he noted. “Hopefully, we do that and we raise our game to the next level.”

The Spurs still feature two of the greatest winners the league has ever seen in Ginobili and Tony Parker, who have teamed for 131 playoff wins, equaling the most of any tandem in NBA history.

What the Warriors lack in playoff-win quantity they make up for in quality. Klay Thompson Patrick Maroon Jersey , Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala were all key players in last year’s record-tying 16-1 stampede to the title.

Like the Spurs, the Warriors struggled down the stretch, losing 10 of their last 17 to finish seven games behind Houston for the best record in the West.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who played for San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich during the Spurs’ ongoing championship era, sounded like his mentor when he labeled much of what happened in March and earlier this month as “meaningless.”

“This has been such a chaotic month with all the injuries and meaningless games,” Kerr insisted. “We’ve been frustrated we haven’t performed very well. But the good news is we have performed well for four years. We know who we are and what we’re about.”

The Warriors took the season series 3-1 from the Spurs this year, winning both games in Oakland.

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