NBA Awards: James Harden wins MVP, Lou Williams named sixth man of the year

  • NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, poses in the press room with the most valuable player award at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

    NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, poses in the press room with the most valuable player award at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

  • NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, arrives at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

    NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, arrives at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

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  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver, left, presents the most valuable player award to James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

    NBA commissioner Adam Silver, left, presents the most valuable player award to James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver, from left, presents the most valuable player award to James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, as Harden’s mother Monja Willis looks on at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

    NBA commissioner Adam Silver, from left, presents the most valuable player award to James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, as Harden’s mother Monja Willis looks on at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, left, winner of the most valuable player award, appears in the press room with his teammate P.J. Tucker at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

    NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, left, winner of the most valuable player award, appears in the press room with his teammate P.J. Tucker at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

  • NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, left, winner of the most valuable player award, poses in the press room with his mother Monja Willis at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

    NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, left, winner of the most valuable player award, poses in the press room with his mother Monja Willis at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

  • NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, poses in the press room with the most valuable player award at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

    NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, poses in the press room with the most valuable player award at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 25, 2018, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

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It was only fitting for James Harden to win the first NBA MVP award of his career in the Los Angeles. The Houston Rockets guard was born in Bellflower, Calif. and played basketball at Artesia High School in Lakewood.

The MVP award put a bow on a season in which Harden led the Rockets to the league’s best record in the regular season. He averaged 30.4 points per game and finished as the league’s scoring champion.

Harden had 86 first place MVP votes. LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was the only other player to receive first place votes (15 total).

Check back for more

Road-weary Dodgers hang on to beat Cubs, 2-1

  • Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell, bottom, is forced out at second by Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Enrique Hernandez after Albert Almora Jr. hit into a double play during the eighth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell, bottom, is forced out at second by Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Enrique Hernandez after Albert Almora Jr. hit into a double play during the eighth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, of Japan, throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, of Japan, throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers falls to the ground dodging a wild pitch during the first  inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs  at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers falls to the ground dodging a wild pitch during the first inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Duane Underwood Jr. throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Duane Underwood Jr. throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez celebrates his home run with manager Dave Roberts during the second inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez celebrates his home run with manager Dave Roberts during the second inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon watches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon watches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Duane Underwood Jr. reacts after the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Duane Underwood Jr. reacts after the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the first inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the first inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Cubs’ Ben Zobrist reacts after striking out against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Chicago Cubs’ Ben Zobrist reacts after striking out against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Duane Underwood Jr. #51 of the Chicago Cubs pitches during the first inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Duane Underwood Jr. #51 of the Chicago Cubs pitches during the first inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp reacts after grounding out as Chicago Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez looks on during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp reacts after grounding out as Chicago Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez looks on during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Chris Gimenez #53 of the Chicago Cubs tags out Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Chris Gimenez #53 of the Chicago Cubs tags out Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Chris Gimenez #53 of the Chicago Cubs tags out Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Chris Gimenez #53 of the Chicago Cubs tags out Justin Turner #10 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers’ Justin Turner is tagged out at home by Chicago Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez while trying to score on a hit by Cody Bellinger during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Los Angeles Dodgers’ Justin Turner is tagged out at home by Chicago Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez while trying to score on a hit by Cody Bellinger during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the second inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the second inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Joc Pederson #31 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to flying out to end the fifth inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs  at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Joc Pederson #31 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to flying out to end the fifth inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Yasmani Grandal #9 of the Los Angeles Dodgers catches a bunt hit by Chris Gimenez #53 of the Chicago Cubs during the fifth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Yasmani Grandal #9 of the Los Angeles Dodgers catches a bunt hit by Chris Gimenez #53 of the Chicago Cubs during the fifth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Enrique Hernandez #14 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to a called third strike as Chris Gimenez #53 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the fourth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Enrique Hernandez #14 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to a called third strike as Chris Gimenez #53 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the fourth inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Enrique Hernandez #14 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to turning a double play to end the eighth inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Enrique Hernandez #14 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to turning a double play to end the eighth inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to striking out Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs to end the seventh inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to striking out Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs to end the seventh inning of a game at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Max Muncy #13 congratulates Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers after his solo homerun during the eighth inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs  at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Max Muncy #13 congratulates Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers after his solo homerun during the eighth inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to hitting a solo homerun during the eighthinning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to hitting a solo homerun during the eighthinning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a solo homerun during the eighth inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a solo homerun during the eighth inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Enrique Hernandez, right, celebrates with left fielder Matt Kemp after their 2-1 win against the Chicago Cubs during a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Enrique Hernandez, right, celebrates with left fielder Matt Kemp after their 2-1 win against the Chicago Cubs during a baseball game in Los Angeles, Monday, June 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25:  Bob Baffert who trained the triple crown winner Justify throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to a game between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: Bob Baffert who trained the triple crown winner Justify throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to a game between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on June 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES — When the Dodgers finished a six-game, seven-day trip Sunday in New York, all they had left in the tank was seven solo home runs. They needed all of them to beat the Mets.

Then came the hard part. Sunday night, the team plane spent four hours on a tarmac before leaving New York; a cross-country flight followed. Batting practice was optional before Monday’s game against the Chicago Cubs. Even starting pitcher Kenta Maeda did not have the luxury of flying into Los Angeles early.

It didn’t matter. Maeda pitched seven shutout innings, and solo home runs by Kiké Hernandez and Chris Taylor gave the Dodgers the runs they needed in a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

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The Dodgers have won four consecutive games. They are 1-1/2 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, who lost earlier in the day Monday, for first place in the National League West.

Maeda (5-4) allowed only three hits – all singles – walked one batter, and struck out nine. He did not factor into the decision in his most recent start, also against the Cubs, last Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

Hernandez hit his career-high 13th home run of the season against Cubs starter Duane Underwood Jr. in the second inning. Taylor, who hasn’t started since injuring his left hamstring June 20 in Chicago, hit an insurance homer in the eighth inning against reliever Justin Wilson.

The Dodgers’ 48 home runs in June lead the major leagues and rank fourth-highest of any month in franchise history.

After Maeda exited the game, Taylor’s home run proved necessary. Left-hander Scott Alexander allowed singles to Ian Happ and Willson Contreras to begin the eighth inning. He avoided further damage when pinch-hitter Addison Russell grounded into a forceout, courtesy of a nifty play by Hernandez at shortstop.

The inning ended when Albert Almora Jr. grounded into a double play, also started by Hernandez, and finished by a beautiful pick at first base by Cody Bellinger.

In the ninth inning, Kenley Jansen locked down his 20th save of the season despite allowing a run on a Javier Baez sacrifice fly.

More to come on this story.

Alexander: These Dodgers have quick-strike capability

LOS ANGELES — Remember the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew?”

It was 1974, the Dodgers were starting to stand up to Cincinnati’s vaunted Big Red Machine, and the folks at their new flagship radio station decided that the home nine needed a catchy nickname of their own, so voila! Hard hats.

Those Dodgers won 102 games and reached the World Series. And they hit 139 home runs, led by 32 from newcomer Jim Wynn, aka the Toy Cannon.

No, they don’t produce nicknames like they used to. But we digress.

Today’s Dodgers entered Monday night’s homestand opener against the Cubs with 102 home runs in 76 games and added two more in this one to give them 48 in the month of June. They provided an exclamation point Sunday with seven solo shots, including Justin Turner’s winner in the 11th for an 8-7 victory over the Mets, with five more games to run up their June total.

“We have a really deep roster, to where even the guys who aren’t playing are really talented, and we’re not losing any steps,” said Cody Bellinger, who smashed a pair on Sunday at Citi Field after hitting a grand slam on Friday.

They are on pace for 217 homers in 162 games, which would be within launching distance of last year’s 221, the franchise record. That team launched 53 in June.

So, if you’re so inclined, what nickname fits this bunch? The Sledgehammers? The Blue Bulldozer?

How about Slug City? The manager probably would approve, since it involves extra-base hits overall, not just home runs.

“You look at our lineup, and we’re built to slug,” Dave Roberts said Monday afternoon. “That’s just the way it is. Each night we have six or seven or eight guys who can hit a homer at any point in time.

“And so when now you have a team-wide approach, where guys are taking their walks when they need to and swinging at strikes, they’ll slug. (Hitters are) taking their walks, and when they get an opportunity to capitalize on a mistake they’re hitting it for (power).”

Consider:

• While going 15-5 in the month before Monday night, the Dodgers led the National League in not only home runs but in extra-base hits (88), slugging percentage (.527) and OPS (.868).

• Six players are in double figures in homers: Bellinger and Max Muncy with 15, Matt Kemp with 13, Kiké Hernandez with 13 – including one in the second inning Monday night – Yasmani Grandal with 11 and Joc Pederson with 10.

• The guy everybody expected to lead the charge, Turner, has just three. But he’s played just 31 games and is still playing through discomfort in the right wrist that was injured in spring training. Give him time.

And consider the backstories. Muncy essentially came out of nowhere. Bellinger’s weaknesses were supposedly exposed in last year’s postseason. Kemp was the guy no one expected to break camp with the team but could be in the National League’s starting outfield at next month’s All-Star Game. Pederson got off to a great start as a rookie on 2015 (20 home runs going into the All-Star break) but had struggled to find consistency since.

Kemp’s success has had a lot to do with strike zone discipline, Roberts said.

And Pederson has “been the poster child of really changing who you are as a major league hitter,” the manager added. “He could always slug … but I think that now he’s as under control as I’ve ever seen.”

If there is a common denominator or magic formula, it might be an instruction so simple we all heard it as kids: Swing at strikes, don’t swing at balls. It’s no accident that Bellinger and Muncy are also the team leaders in walks, with 36 and 35 respectively before Monday night.

“Stand in the zone and get a good pitch to hit,” hitting coach Turner Ward said. “That’s what we do damage on. … There’s a patient aggressiveness that we’re trying to maintain. And when we do that, we’re really good.

“… When we’re staying in the zone so good that it produces a walk, it makes the guy behind you better. And that’s what we’re trying to focus on: How can I make my teammates better by controlling the zone?”

Really, there is no magic formula, or at least not one that’s legal. The launch angle is the popular explanation for power surges these days, but as Ward reminds us, Ted Williams was preaching that 60 years ago. And if you uppercut and still hit the top of the ball, it’s not going to be launched anywhere.

So exercising plate discipline and punishing mistakes is as good an explanation as any for a power surge. That, and a willingness to adjust, since the pitcher/hitter duel constantly evolves as each side has more information at its disposal.

“That’s the cat-and-mouse game,” said Bellinger, forced to adapt after pitchers zeroed in on his weaknesses in the 2017 postseason. “You just try and stay on top of it when they’re trying to make an adjustment (on) you, try to make it right back.”

Or, as Ward put it, borrowing a phrase from Clayton Kershaw:

“Adjust or die, OK?”

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter