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& lsquo;Knives Out& rsquo; director plots whodunit franchise after & lsquo;Star Wars& rsquo;

Hit murder mystery Knives Out is set to become a whodunit movie franchise, with Daniel Craig’s Southern gentleman sleuth tackling a brand-new set of suspects, its creator told AFP......»»

Category: entertainmentSource: thestandard thestandardFeb 14th, 2020

& lsquo;Star Wars& rsquo; rules cinematic universe for third straight week

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has continued to rule the cinematic universe, keeping its top ranking in North American theaters this weekend with an estimated take of $33.7 million, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday......»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  thestandardRelated NewsJan 7th, 2020

& lsquo;Star Wars& rsquo; dominates box office for second straight weekend

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker continued to soar at North American theaters, taking $72.4 million over its second weekend, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations said Monday......»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  thestandardRelated NewsJan 1st, 2020

What s next for & lsquo;Star Wars& rsquo; after & lsquo;Rise of Skywalker& rsquo; grand finale?

The Rise of Skywalker dominated movie theaters this weekend. But diminishing box office returns, scathing reviews and a plot that wrapped up the space saga’s major story arcs all beg the question—what next for Star Wars?.....»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  thestandardRelated NewsDec 25th, 2019

Force is still with & lsquo;Star Wars& rsquo; with massive box office opening

​The force is clearly still with the galactic good guys as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opened with a massive estimated take of $175.5 million in North America, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations reported Sunday......»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  thestandardRelated NewsDec 24th, 2019

Star-studded premiere for Brilliant Mendoza& rsquo;s & lsquo;Mindanao& rdquo;

Friends from the movie industry and the media recently gave a warm welcome to internationally acclaimed filmmaker Brillante Mendoza’s Mindanao during the film’s premiere at The Podium Director’s Club Cinemas. .....»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  thestandardRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2019

& lsquo;Star Wars& rsquo; struggles in a country far, far away: China

​While Star Wars fans from around the world waited in line for days to catch The Rise of Skywalker, the sci-fi series has struggled to woo film-goers in the increasingly important Chinese market......»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  thestandardRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2019

Singapore censors same-sex smooch in new & lsquo;Star Wars& rsquo;& nbsp; film

​A brief kiss between two women in the new Star Wars movie was cut from the version released in Singapore, local media said......»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  thestandardRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2019

Galaxy of VIPs at & lsquo;Star Wars& rsquo; saga

The final film in the epic “Star Wars” trilogy of trilogies brought Hollywood to a standstill Monday, as a galaxy of VIPs from the space saga that began four decades ago descended on a glittering world premiere......»»

Category: newsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsDec 17th, 2019

& lsquo;Star Wars& rsquo; fans camp out ahead of showing

Obsessed Star Wars fans with sleeping bags and a portable movie projector have started camping outside Hollywood’s Chinese Theater, more than a week before the blockbuster begins playing......»»

Category: newsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsDec 14th, 2019

Dwight Howard thriving in his smallest role yet

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — There were still a few boos when Dwight Howard checked into the game in Orlando for the first time, a few reminders of how every Magic fan still hasn’t forgotten or forgiven him for the way his stint with his first team ended. He doesn’t mind anymore. There was a time when these things would have bothered him. No more. He just turned 34. He’s in his 16th season. And by all accounts, Howard — in his second stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, his sixth different franchise — has finally seen the light. “This is a new day. This is a new moment,” Howard said. “I think it’s best if we all get out the past and focus on the moments we have in front of us.” There’s a maturity to Howard now that frankly hasn’t always been there throughout his career. He’s on a team expected to compete for an NBA title. He’s earned the trust of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the stars who collaborated in a quest to bring the Lakers back to prominence. He’s a role player, averaging career lows in minutes, points and rebounds. He’s handled it perfectly. This isn’t his second chance. It’s more like a sixth chance. “He’s thriving,” James said. “He’s thriving. It’s going to add more years on his career and it’s going to add an ingredient to our team for success because of the role that he’s accepting and he’s just making the most of it every single night. Defending at a high level, rebounding, blocking shots, catching lobs and with zero ego. Zero ego.” This is Howard’s role now. He played in Orlando for the 10th time as an opponent on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), he and the Lakers coming in and beating the Magic 96-87. Howard wasn’t called upon to do much; the Lakers were up 26-9 when he checked in for the first time, and he finished with two points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. The other 30 minutes he spent on the bench, cheering and coaching. Past versions of Howard wouldn’t have done that. “I never would have been the person I am today if I would have stayed here,” Howard said, sitting at his locker. “So I’m very thankful that everything that has transpired has transpired and it’s made me the best version of Dwight Howard.” James and Davis will be the primary focus of this Lakers season, of course. Howard is one of many subplots, but so far, he’s been exactly what the Lakers wanted. He’s not a star anymore; he’s a guy who does dirty work. “He’s at a place in his career where he had to adjust some things with regard to the role that he’s going to play on a team,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “To me, it really fit what we were looking for. Had a great meeting in the summer. He’s really bought in and (is) bringing a seriousness about his business and his approach.” Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) was a homecoming of sorts for Vogel, too, his first time back in Orlando since the Magic fired him after two seasons where the team had just about as many injuries as wins. Vogel said he hadn’t set foot in the arena since; he’s not bitter, he just turned the page. Howard is taking the same tact. The Lakers are his fifth team in five years — Houston, then Atlanta, then Charlotte with current Magic coach Steve Clifford, then Washington for nine games in what became a lost season a year ago, and now back in Los Angeles. Howard says he’s loved every place where he’s played. And he still has an affinity for Orlando. But he said it took him until this past summer — seven years after his Magic tenure, which some still call ‘the Dwightmare’ ended — to get past the anger of things that were said once he basically forced the team’s hand into a trade. “I never bashed or talked anything bad about this team,” Howard said. “But I did have a lot of bitterness in my heart towards the organization and even the fans of how they treated me when I came back. But I let it go. I was super bitter, but I let it go. And by letting it go, it just dropped all the weight that I had and it just made me a better person.” The Lakers are 22-3. No team in the NBA has a better record. They look every bit like a title contender. Howard wanted to win a title in Orlando as a star. He might win one in L.A. as a backup, and is perfectly fine with that notion. “I’m staying in this moment,” Howard said. “It’s the only moment that matters.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 12th, 2019

Women are having a greater impact on NBA than ever before

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press Practice is over and Boston Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson is still working. She stands under the basket rebounding and giving feedback to rookie guard Carsen Edwards as he shoots from different spots on the court. After swishing his final three attempts he jogs over to her. “Thanks, coach,” Edwards says before exchanging a high-five with Lawson. Welcome to the new-look NBA, in which women’s footprints are directly impacting every aspect of the game — from broadcasting booths, to officiating, coaching on the sidelines, front-office executives to ownership. Lawson is one of a record 11 women serving as assistant coaches in the NBA this season. While former WNBA star Swin Cash and Sue Bird are working in NBA front offices. “It’s not a fad,” said Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. “It’s opportunities going to very accomplished women who have given their life to the game.” While it may not be a fad, it is a recent trend. Lieberman remembers a time when the presence of women was hard to spot, or at best found only behind the scenes. The 61-year-old — who has broken barriers as a player, as a coach in the WNBA, head coach in NBA G League and in the NBA as assistant — learned quickly that building relationships was the skeleton key to erasing gender hurdles and opening opportunities in the league. That, along with an occasional assist from forward thinking men like former coach Don Nelson, who in 2009 hired her as the head coach of the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks’ G League affiliate. Several have continued Nelson’s vision, including San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich, who made Becky Hammon the NBA’s first full-time assistant in 2014; current Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle (he hired Jenny Boucek as assistant in 2017) and the Sacramento Kings organization, which has been responsible for hiring three women as assistants (Lieberman, Boucek and Lindsay Harding). Even the BIG3, spearheaded by founder and entertainer Ice Cube, is helping normalize the idea of women leading men, Lieberman said. “I remember Donnie did an interview and he said, ‘Maybe the best man for the job isn’t a man at all.’ He had a list of criteria he wanted to hit for his head coach. And I hit those,” Lieberman said. The women who have broken into the NBA ranks are garnering respect from players for their experience and basketball knowledge. Celtics guard Gordon Hayward said Lawson has already made her presence felt. “She’s been good as far as just the experience she has as a basketball player,” Hayward said. “Reading the game and kind of little things she sees coaching on the sideline. Having somebody that well-versed in basketball, that experience is good.” Earlier this month, Wizards assistant Kristi Toliver was on the court helping the Mystics win their first WNBA championship. On the sideline, Washington NBA All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal were wearing the Wizard assistant’s WNBA jersey and dancing from the stands . NBA players are treating the feedback from Toliver and the other women in the league with the same reverence they give their male counterparts. “The biggest thing I learned is to share your voice and what you’ve learned,” Toliver said. “Doing that has helped me communicate with my guys.” Toliver is in a unique salary situation since she coaches for the Washington Wizards and plays for the Washington Mystics — both owned by same franchise. She was only paid about $10,000 with the Wizards last year because of WNBA salary cap rules. WNBA teams can only pay all their players a combined $50,000 in offseason to supplement pay and Washington only had $10,000 left to pay Toliver. There are no such hiccups in New Orleans, where Pelicans guard Frank Jackson said he always expected to benefit from Cash and Teresa Weatherspoon, who was hired as a New Orleans assistant this season. “They were ballers,” Jackson said. “They were good at their craft and I’ve taken a lot from both of them. ... I’ve always had open eyes and open ears to anyone who plays this game.” The 21-year-old Jackson knows of the women’s exploits because he has witnessed it firsthand. And he is not alone. The WNBA has been around since most players were teenagers, and is older than others; the league was launched in 1996. “As the years go on, they’re going to get more and more recognition,” said Jackson, in his third year out of Duke. “Girls can hoop, too. ... I just think as times change, you’ll see more and more.” Cash believes the NBA is realizing having more women is important to growing the league’s overall brand, business and bottom line. “The reality is and the statistics prove it, is that having women included in your business helps you get more inclusion, helps you get the diversity you need,” she said. “Diversity of thought, not just Black, White, Asian, Latino, whatever.” Stephanie Ready, a former assistant in the then D-League, said a big factor in the opportunities women are getting are coming because the younger generation of NBA executives, such as 76ers general manager Elton Brand. She said the new crop of hiring managers are doing a better job of recognizing what women bring to the table and as the older generation retires, it will get even better. “Some people will age out,” said Ready, one of the first women to be a men’s assistant on the collegiate level with Coppin State and a former broadcaster with the Charlotte Hornets who now currently covers the NBA for TNT and Yahoo. “By that I mean the old regime of men who thought that only men could do these jobs.” Richard Lapchick, who tracks racial and gender hiring numbers for the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB, has long lauded the NBA as being the leader in gender hiring practices. He credits the leadership of Commissioner Adam Silver, who said the league needed to increase the number women coaches and referees in the NBA. Along with the record number of female assistants, five women referees will be working NBA games this upcoming season. Lapchick also believes the NBA will soon have its female head coach. Whether that is Hammon in San Antonio remains to be seen. But whoever it is, Lapchick said the move would go a long way in putting even more women in position to make basketball decisions. “I’d be surprised if it doesn’t happen before the next season,” he said, “or during the next season.” ___ AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney and AP Sports Writers Doug Feinberg in New York and Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2019

Harden-Westbrook duo ready to do something really special

By Michael C. Wright, NBA.com HOUSTON -- Well-dressed men in the Texas heat scurried, snatching keys and pointing directions to the visitors arriving, car after car. On the third floor, down the hall from a mezzanine overlooking a lobby, sparkling with custom Calcutta marble flooring, they all gathered in a quiet, dim room, just steps away from two Rolls-Royces bathing in the sun gushing through floor-to-ceiling glass. Here in Uptown, at Tilman Fertitta’s Post Oak Hotel -- a 38-floor, $350 million property housing a Rolls-Royce showroom and Bentley and Bugatti dealership, below a heliport -- the Houston Rockets' owner has turned the team’s annual media day into a posh, star-studded event. With good reason, too. Houston’s blockbuster July trade that sent Chris Paul off to the Oklahoma City Thunder for picks and pick swaps for Russell Westbrook reunites MVPs and former Thunder stars with James Harden already in the fold for a squad now at the forefront as favorites in a now suddenly wide-open Western Conference. “I think we are a better team,” Fertitta said. “It’s gonna be extremely exciting to have one of the greatest scorers of all time, and one of the most athletic people that has played the game. I know I’m really excited. I hope they don’t let me down.” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey thinks this all-star pairing “could be really special.” “It’s so exciting because James Harden is like the best half-court player I’ve ever seen, honestly,” Morey said. “Then, Russell is maybe the best transition player, one of the best of all time as well. If you put those things together, I think we have a chance. Now, you’ve got something really special.” Searching for same goal The reality is it’s been seven years since Westbrook and Harden last teamed with Oklahoma City in the 2012 NBA Finals, and while both have developed into MVP winners and perennial All-Stars, neither has made it back to The Finals. So, burning hotter than the pomp and glitz at the Post Oak Hotel this hot summer day is the question of whether this will all work for a pair of ball-dominant stars, accustomed to running their own respective shows. They’ve certainly got a believer in former Thunder teammate Kendrick Perkins. “They’ve played together in OKC. These two former MVPs still are in their primes. There’s no way that it’s not going to work,” Perkins told NBA.com. “Am I guaranteeing they’re going to win a championship? No, I’m not doing that. But I still believe this might be the most dynamic backcourt we’ve ever seen in NBA history. We probably haven’t seen a point guard and a shooting guard like this on the same team in forever. You can’t really name one going into the season that’s better than these two guys. I just think it’s going to work.” Now retired from the NBA, Perkins joined a 21-year-old Harden and a 22-year-old Westbrook in 2010-11, when he was traded there in the middle of the season from the Boston Celtics to OKC. Perkins describes the childhood friends and former Thunder teammates as “two guys that were still trying to find their identity” back then. Still, both were destined to reach the levels they currently occupy, he says. “When I first got there, those guys were working, man. They turned out to be some beasts, dog,” Perkins told NBA.com. “Gym rats, I’m telling you. It was unreal the amount of work those guys were putting in. Russ was always the heart and soul of the team. There was no debate about it to me. He gave the team swagger. With James, we just knew it was only in due time. People always say they should’ve kept that team together in OKC. But James wouldn’t have been able to be the player he is today if he hadn’t left. Plus, James was deserving of having his own team.” Now that he’s had it since joining the Rockets in 2012-13, Harden welcomes Westbrook, who like himself, began playing the game as a child at the Challengers Boys & Girls Club in South Central Los Angeles. Interestingly, Westbrook and Harden are the only players over the last five seasons to score more than 10,000 points. Westbrook nodded in agreement with the notion his new uniform provides somewhat of a new lease on life, after spending the first 11 years of his career in Oklahoma City. Harden, meanwhile, pointed out how his new teammate “doesn’t have to stress or worry about the pressure of carrying an entire organization,” because that responsibility now falls on them both. “I think it’s good for both of us because we understand the amount of energy and effort, time and commitment it takes to be able to do that for an entire season,” Westbrook said. “Now, being together on the same team, I think it’s important that we can lean on [one another], sacrifice, and not do as much to still have an impact on the game. I think [what] a lot of people don’t know is we have a friendship first outside of basketball. I think me and him communicate and understand each other. In the games, it’s going to be easy.” 'Sit back and watch the show' Perkins saw signs of maturity from Westbrook last season, when the guard at the detriment of his own stats, deferred to Paul George in crucial situations. But both Westbrook and Harden in 2018-19 ranked in the top 15 in usage rate. So, the phrase uttered most often at media day above the guests clutching cold drinks at the hotel pool was “figure it out.” Everyone, whether Fertitta, Morey, coach Mike D’Antoni or the players, seems confident in the duo’s ability to do so. Harden already said he’s willing to take a backseat to Westbrook. “If Russ has got it going, and Russ is having one of those games that we’ve all seen before, guess what I’m going to do?” Harden asked. “Sit back and watch the show, and vice versa. You can’t sit up here and say, ‘Oh, Russ is going to have the basketball for the first half, and I’m going to have the ball the second half.' No, things happen through the course of the game that you just flow with and go with.” Perkins believes that Harden welcomes the opportunity to defer to someone else, given the physical demands of his playing style. Harden ranked No. 3 last season in minutes per game (36.8), while Westbrook was fourth (36.0). “If you’ve watched James throughout the course of a game, the things he did, he had to do because nobody else was stepping up at the time. James wants somebody else to step up so that he can take a backseat sometimes,” Perkins told NBA.com. “If you watched Russ on the court last year, what a lot of people don’t realize is that he deferred to Paul George a lot. Russ took a backseat. You’ve got to understand, too, that he’s matured, man. He’s starting to show that he can be a better leader. Think about it. When you have kids, man, and you start having a family, sh--, your whole thought process changes. You know what I mean? I just see the maturity in Russ. To me, they have to just get it done. There’s no debate about it. Like, to me, the most pressure is on Mike D’Antoni.” Entering the final year of his contract after extension talks broke down over the summer, D’Antoni will proceed cautiously throughout the preseason implementing Westbrook (who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery). D’Antoni and Morey believe Westbrook, one of the game’s most lethal penetrators, will excel in D'Antoni's wide-open offense (which focuses on keeping shooters posted on the perimeter as guards drive in). Morey mentioned that under D’Antoni, guards have historically produced career years. “You look historically at players that have worked with Mike, guards especially, they always play better,” Morey said. “I think it’s just the way he sets up the team, sets up the offense. He finds ways to get people to do the things they do well more, and again, like he said, we’re not here to change anybody or do anything. Historically like pretty much every guard that’s worked with, Mike has had their career year. That’s gonna be a little tough with Russell, given that he’s had so many.” Wearing a salmon-hued polo shirt, D’Antoni discussed plans to stagger the minutes of Harden and Westbrook throughout the season. The expectation is Harden rests in the neighborhood of 13 minutes per game, while Westbrook sits 16 minutes. In his first preseason game -- a 134-129 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Tokyo -- Westbrook logged 20 minutes, finishing with 13 points, two rebounds and six assists. D’Antoni said the final five minutes of games are “the most important thing” for Westbrook to figure out as the team approaches the regular season. “They both want to do this. So, we’ll just sit down and work it out,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t have to tell someone they have to do this, or they have to do that. We’ll figure it out together. But just the vibe of being able to discuss things, the respect they have [for one another] will translate. We’re in a good spot. Right now, it’s great. All we’re trying right now is to win a title. That’s the only agenda that anybody has, and we’ve just got to figure it out.” When word first spread about Houston’s acquisition of Westbrook, opinions naturally flowed about how he’d fit alongside Harden. Westbrook is a career 30.8% 3-point shooter on a squad that has led the league in 3-point attempts four of the last five seasons. He’s also a ball-dominant, high-usage player just like Harden. Still, everyone, insists they won’t ask Westbrook to change his style of play. That puts the pressure squarely on D’Antoni to tweak what Houston does on the floor. “The system they’ve run, just shooting layups and shooting threes with no in-between game, you have to change that with Russell Westbrook, because one of his main things is his mid-range pull-up,” Perkins explained. “The pressure is on Mike D’Antoni. Does he have to change up his style of play? Yes, he will, in order for Russell Westbrook to be who he is. We all know that Russ is not a three-point shooter. Bottom line is they’ve got two of the top 10 players in the league now, if not top 15. "These guys get it done. Back in the day when they were in OKC, they were trying to find out who they were as players. Now, it’s a whole lot different. Now, they know who they are. They’ve done everything to accomplish all the individual accolades. They only thing they haven’t done is win a championship. It’s not the players. Houston has all the players.” In addition to the glitz, glamour and star power for a franchise starving to add more Larry O'Briens to its trophy case. Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 9th, 2019

Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris looking forward to playing the LA teams next season

Denver Nuggets' shooting guard Monte Morris is coming off a breakout year during the 2018-2019 NBA season.  The third-year man out of Iowa State averaged career highs of 10.4 points and nearly 4 assists in 24.0 minutes of action per game, helping the Nuggets to surprising second-seed finish and a Western Conference Semifinals appearance.  It was a gigantic leap for the 24-year old who appeared in just 3 games for the Nuggets the previous season. Last year, Morris played in all 82 games.  "Really, I think it was just my hunger to show people that I was playing at this level," Morris said of his rise from a G-Leaguer to a key rotation player on a playoff contender. "I’m not the biggest, I’m not the quickest or the fastest, I just put in the time behind the scenes as much as I could, with film work and working on how I can help the Nuggets all around, staying on the court and making an impact, I think that was the biggest thing for me." Heading into the 2019-2020 season, the Nuggets are once again pegged to be a playoff team, but with the whirlwind of offseason moves, the team from the Mile High City isn't getting too much attention, and Morris says that being slept on is nothing new to the team.  "There’s been a lot of crazy trades in the West, so, not a lot of people are talking about us. It’s nothing new, I know last year we shocked a lot of people. We knew going into training camp - we missed the playoffs by one game the year before - our goal was to make the playoffs, and when we got it rolling real early, the coach was like, ‘Forget making the Playoffs, let’s try to get the 2-seed, let’s try to be a 1-seed!’ and that was our challenge." While other Western Conference teams made noise with their off-season moves, the Nuggets are banking on continuity and chemistry with the core of All-Star Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris all returning to the team next season. Not to mention the addition of forward Jerami Grant, who was acquired from the now-rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder via a trade. "With everybody back and adding Jerami Grant from OKC, it feels like our chemistry is going to be very well and we know what we got to do to get past where we lost last year." With all the new faces and superstar duos in the West, which team is Monte looking forward to playing with the most?  "I’d say both the LA teams. My best friend plays for the Lakers, and I know Paul George and Kawhi have the Clippers," he responded. "I’m looking forward to playing them two the most, but the West is so loaded every single night that we can’t take a game off, because you’ve got Mike Conley, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, all those guys in the West, every night, it’s going to be a battle." The best friend that Morris is referring to is Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma. Both Morris and Kuzma grew up in the same area in Flint, Michigan.  "Everytime me and him play each other because we try to go at it because we’re from the same part of Michigan, so it’s a good thing to give back to our hometown," Morris shared. "We grew up together, playing on the same AAU teams and everything, going to different camps. Our stories are a little different growing up. Kyle was more of a late bloomer and got his opportunity at Utah, whereas I went and won Mr. Basketball in Michigan an he went Prep, so our stories are a little different, but we always wanted to play in the NBA, and it’s crazy to see it all unfolding now, and when we play against each other, we talk a lot of trash to each other but it’s all love and we know we’re doing it for our bigger cause, and that’s to show that where we’re from, it’s possible." Apart from Kuzma, another Laker that has had an impact on Morris' youth is none other than the team's franchise star LeBron James. Morris shared that LeBron was someone that he looked up to as a kid.  "I would say, growing up, I looked up to LeBron James, for sure. Just the way he grew up with just a single mom and they moved a lot, and he stayed at the top of his game, his mom was his best friend, he didn’t have much of a father figure, like myself in my life, so I took his story and kind of implemented it in my lifestyle and what I stood for, how hard he worked, and I knew that anything was possible." Morris is currently in the Philippines for an NBA 3X event at the SM Mall of Asia on August 3-4, along with NBA legend Muggsy Bogues.     .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 31st, 2019

Kawhi Leonard: 10 things to know

NBA.com staff report Kawhi Leonard has quickly risen from unheralded prospect to global superstar during his eight-year NBA career. With his highly anticipated free agent decision made, here are 10 things to know about the two-time Finals MVP. * * * Raised In California: Kawhi Anthony Leonard was born on June 29, 1991, in Los Angeles, California. He was the youngest of five children with four older sisters. During his freshman year of high school, his mother was out of town for work during his team's basketball tryouts so he missed the session. He played football instead that season and didn't start playing basketball at Canyon Springs High School until his sophomore year. Mr. Basketball: He played his next two seasons at Riverside King, where he went on to win California's Mr. Basketball during his senior year. After the tragic death of his father in 2008, he scored 17 points the next night and broke down in his mother's arms after the game. "Basketball is my life, and I wanted to go out there and take my mind off it," he said postgame. Aztec Legend: Kawhi took his talents to nearby San Diego State University for his collegiate career. He was dominant in college, especially on defense, as he led the Aztecs to back-to-back Mountain West Conference tournament championships. His team reached the Sweet 16 before being eliminated by eventual NCAA Tournament champion UConn during his sophomore season. After the tournament, Kawhi declared his intention to enter the 2011 NBA Draft. Draft Night Deal: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called the decision to trade for Kawhi on Draft night the "toughest" decision he had to make during his 20-plus seasons in San Antonio. The decision was difficult because the Spurs had to part ways with valued young guard George Hill in the deal with the Indiana Pacers. But the move paid off for San Antonio as Kawhi quickly adjusted to the NBA game and showed flashes of star potential. He finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting and earned a spot on the 2012 All-Rookie First Team. Mr. Economical: Despite his early success, Kawhi didn't let his first NBA paychecks steer him away from his frugal ways. During his first few seasons in the NBA, he continued to drive the same Chevy Malibu he drove in college. "It's paid off," he said in 2004. "I don't have a car note on it. It's good on gas. It's a good commuter car if you don't want to drive your luxury car." His friends and family eventually convinced him to buy a Porsche, which he would only drive on gamedays. Daily Grind: Kawhi quickly earned a reputation in San Antonio for his work ethic as he trained alongside legendary Spurs players Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Longtime Spurs assistant coach Chip Engelland helped Kawhi perfect his shooting form by having him study the forms of Kobe Bryant and Richard Jefferson. Breakthrough Moment: The hard work paid off for Kawhi as he continued to blossom on the title-contending Spurs. After losing to the Miami Heat in seven games during the 2013 Finals, the Spurs returned to The Finals in 2014 and avenged their defeat with a 4-1 series win over Miami. Kawhi was key for San Antonio with averages of 17.8 points on 61.2 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks. At age 22, Kawhi became the third youngest player in NBA history to win Finals MVP and the youngest since Magic Johnson in 1980. Out Of The Spotlight: His rise to fame during the 2014 Finals didn't change his day-to-day mindset. According to Engelland in 2017, "He hasn’t been tricked by any of the NBA glamour or bright lights, big city. A lot of smart, great players have been. You get lost and forget the process, forget why you began to play. With him, it’s like, ‘What’d you do last night?’ ‘Watched a little TV. I was with friends. My mom cooked dinner.’ Those are very common nights for him.” Derailed By Injury: The two-time Defensive Player of the Year enjoyed a relatively injury-free start to his career with the Spurs. But everything changed when he re-aggravated an ankle injury during Game 1 of the 2017 West finals. The injury, and subsequent recovery, forced Kawhi to miss the remainder of the series and all but 9 games during 2017-18. After the season, Kawhi expressed his desire to be traded by the Spurs. He was dealt to the Toronto Raptors on July 18, 2018. Legendary Company: It was a storybook season for Kawhi and the Raptors as he led Toronto to their first NBA championship in franchise history. Kawhi was unstoppable throughout the playoffs with clutch play after play, including an instantly iconic series-winner in the East semifinals. He joined LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in NBA history to win Finals MVP with two different teams......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 6th, 2019

Hard but challenging -- Valdez on film acting debut

Volleyball star Alyssa Valdez gets a chance to trade the usual game plan instructions from her coaches to memorizing lines and acting in front of a camera under a film director with her debut movie “My Letters to Happy.” The Creamline team captain plays a supporting character in the film that stars Glaiza De Castro and TJ Trinidad. For Valdez, who had some cameo appearances on ABS-CBN teleseryes and variety shows, acting on the silver screen is a welcome challenge for the accomplished athlete.       “Masaya ako sa experience ko with them. I’m very happy na tinanggap ko po ang opportunity na ito kasi it’s very different, different element and different environment for me,” said Valdez on Friday during the press conference of the film written and directed by Pertee Brinas at the Woorijib House of Korean Buffet in Tomas Morato, Quezon City. @AlyssaValdez2 on her experience filming #MyLettersToHappy @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/mJ1uyOsmqW — Mark Escarlote (@fromtheriles) June 28, 2019 “I think it was very hard, actually, kasi in volleyball your emotion is based on a situation given to you but here you make that situation kung ano ang ibibigay sa’yo ng director,” she said. “May mga actors’ cue nga akong natutunan dito, yun na ang ginagawa ko. It was very hard but challenging but I really enjoyed it kasi once in your life you have to try something different, something to open a lot of opportunities also and to know yourself better.” Valdez plays the role of Cindy, a trusted assistant and trainee of Trinidad’s character Albert, who will meet the character of De Castro’s Happy in a story of finding happiness and battling mental illness.   Director Brinas, a volleyball fan himself, reveals that he made the character of Cindy with Valdez in mind. “Volleyball fan kasi ako. Sinusulat ko pa lang siya, siya na ‘yun, siya talaga ang gusto kong mag-play ng role kasi parang nung ginagawa ko ang script naisip ko na kailangan ng pampa-balance kasi maraming serious moments ‘yung film,” Brinas explained. “Kailangan ko ng somebody, ayoko naman siya na comedy ah, kailangan mo lang ng pampa-balance sa material mo para di siya masyadong mabigat,” the film director added. “Gusto ko talaga si Alyssa, sabi ko ‘kaya nya ito, kaya nya ‘to’.” My Letters to Happy opens in cinemas nationwide on July 17......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 28th, 2019

Nakitaan ko siya ng potensyal -- Glaiza de Castro on Alyssa Valdez

Alyssa Valdez drew nothing but praise and admiration from director Pertee Brinas and accomplished actors TJ Trinidad and Glaiza De Castro in her film debut as an actress in the movie My Letters to Happy.   Stepping out of her comfort zone, Valdez gave justice to the character she played according to Brinas. Valdez plays the role of Cindy, a trusted assistant and trainee of Trinidad’s character Albert, an all work and no play businessman, who will meet the character of De Castro’s Happy in a story of finding happiness and battling mental illness.  “Well, ‘yung character kasi niya hindi siya ni-require mag-ala TJ or ala-Glaiza. Kasi this film really required a lot from these two, kahit sina TJ at Glaiza na sila, maraming demands sa kanila ‘yung film na ito,” said Brinas, who wrote the character of Cindy with Valdez in mind to play the role. “‘Yung kay Alyssa naman it was just right so ang grade ko sa kanya, she did it perfectly kasi hindi ko [pwedeng sabihin] maso-spoil eh. ‘Yung hiningi ng character sa kanya kaya niyang ibigay,” he said. “Nakita niyo naman sa trailer, Alyssa pa ba ang nakita niyo doon? So on a scale of 1-10, it was a 10. Or 9.5 sige para may room for improvement.” De Castro, who plays a positive and exuberant person filled with boundless love for life but would eventually plunge to depression, said that she saw great potential in Valdez.  “Di kasi kami magka-eksena pero sa workshop nakitaan ko naman siya ng potensyal. Oh di ba pa-judge?” she said. "Hindi, pero kasi ang sarap din tingnan ng isang tao na raw. Na hindi pa siya filtered sa kahit na anong acting methods or techniques di ba? So natural talaga siyang lalabas.” De Castro was also generous in her admiration of the volleyball star's professionalism. Valdez juggled filming the movie and playing for the Cool Smashers in the ongoing Premier Volleyball League Season 3 Reinforced Conference. “Ang hirap mag-judge pero ‘yung fact lang na nagpunta siya from the very start at humabol sa kanyang training para um-attend ng workshop namin 10 na ‘yun eh, ‘di ba? Kasi kumbaga kung raket lang ‘to or parang gusto niya lang ma-experience ito, hindi na niya seseryosohin,” said De Castro. “But alam ko busy rin siya na tao and syempre priority niya ‘yung profession niya but still she took time to meet us and to work with the other actors.” For Trinidad, who was with Valdez in most of her scenes, the volleyball star was quick to adapt to a new environment and did her job well.   “I can’t judge or I can’t rate. On a scale of 1-10, ‘yung pag-rate ko is I guess the first thing I told her na parang ‘wag pairalin ang hiya kasi syempre first time niya eh, she had to come out of her shell pa. So after the first day, she’s getting comfortable na,” he said. “So at the end of the day hindi naman igu-go ni direk ‘yan kapag hindi siya satisfied sa scene.” My Letters to Happy opens in cinemas nationwide on July 17......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 28th, 2019

Zion Williamson brings rare potential to New Orleans

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Eventually, as with every NBA Draft, there will be a “re-draft” of the Class of 2019. That’s the irresistible exercise in hindsight from media outlets that rank a particular year’s prospects not on their projected value but on actual demonstrated value five, 10 or more seasons into their professional careers. Some players will rise. Others will fall. “Bust” and “sleeper” tags will be dispersed accordingly. This team or GM will be lauded for an especially savvy selection, that one will be razzed for the quality player or players on whom it whiffed. But the through line of the dreams-come-true event Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Barclays Center, the lone selection that will not or at least should not change, is Zion Williamson. Williamson is the sure thing, the “can’t miss,” consensus No. 1 pick bound for the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s a 6'7", 285-pound freshman from Duke whose comps aren’t merely established players currently in the NBA but some of the game’s legends. So think Blake Griffin, sure. But also think LeBron James. And Charles Barkley. And, for that matter, every other wide-body who’s ever played with muscles on muscles, above-the-rim explosiveness, balletic body control and an instantly recognizable game that’s as charismatic as it is freakish. Yeah, awfully small subset. “I’m looking forward to playing against everybody,” Williamson said soon after his selection. “I want to be the best. I feel I have to earn everybody’s respect.” It’s not just a matter of Williamson’s game tickling NBA fans’ fancy, either. He managed, in almost his first official pro moment, to capture a lot of their hearts too. No sooner had Williamson – the first No. 1 pick to be born in this millennium (July 6, 2000) – strode to the stage in his cream-white suit, tugged on a Pelicans draft cap and embraced NBA commissioner Adam Silver, he dropped his guard to let the world share his emotions in the moment. His status as college basketball’s best and his draft position had been established months ago. There was no new mystery as to when his name would be called by Silver at the podium. And yet, when the first ESPN microphone was poked in front of him, with his mother Sharonda Sampson at his side, the big guy lost it. He choked up and blinked back tears, not quite winning that battle. “My mom sacrificed a lot for me,” Williamson said. “I wouldn’t be here without my mom. She did everything for me. I just want to thank her.” Several interviews and maybe 20 minutes later, Williamson explained how the horribly kept secret of his No. 1 selection could trigger his response. “Because I love the game of basketball,” he said. “You can hear people say things like, ‘Oh, it was likely I was going to go No. 1.’ But I guess you don’t know until you actually go through it.” What mattered most to Williamson about his mother’s role in his life? “Tough love,” he said. “She was always be the first one to keep it real with me. … She put aside her dreams just so me and my brothers could have a chance at ours.” The love already heading Williamson’s way in New Orleans was less tough and more unconditional at this stage, for the teenager represents a re-birth for a Pelicans franchise rocked by the loss of All-Star forward Anthony Davis. Davis, coincidentally, was the No. 1 pick in 2012 and generally considered the top prospect to hit the Draft before Williamson. But after six-and-a-half seasons and only two trips to the playoffs, Davis asked in December to be traded, despite having more than two-plus seasons left on his contract. David Griffin, the Pelicans' new vice president of basketball operations, had hoped that Williamson’s arrival might convince Davis to stay. When that didn’t happen, Griffin swiftly shifted to Plan B, arranging to trade the discontented big man to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that won’t be official until July. Now New Orleans, which has won just two playoff series in its 17 seasons and failed to qualify 10 times, has a new cornerstone. Williamson figures to be under team control contractually for as long or longer than Davis stuck around, with teammates relocated from L.A. such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart to run with him and Pelicans holdovers. “What excites me the most is the fact that they’re young and they’re close to my age,” said Duke’s third No. 1 overall pick (Elton Brand in 1999, Kyrie Irving in 2011). “So they can help me a lot more, like how to deal with this transition. I think we can build something over there.” The essential block is Williamson, who swept college basketball’s major awards with a game that strains credulity. At 285 pounds, his listed weight is greater than almost every big man in the NBA, but he has quick-twitch speed and thrives in the open court. He can stare down into the rim before slamming home dunks with unnerving ferocity, and he is a deft and willing passer. Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 30 minutes for the Blue Devils, while making 68 percent of his shots. He and fellow Top 10 picks R.J. Barrett (New York, No. 3) and Cam Reddish (Atlanta, No. 10) helped Duke reach the Elite Eight, with Williamson earning ACC Tournament MVP along the way. He’s not a perfect player – his jump shot and range need work – but he already is working to complement his transition and low-post repertoire. Defensively, Williamson has the motor and mobility to switch assignments and quick hands to dislodge the ball without fouling. As a rebounder, his verticality is matched by, well, his horizontality in controlling the air space above and around him. “His size, his athleticism, his power is visible,” former St. John’s coach and Naismith Hall of Famer Chris Mullin said. “But to me his speed is really incredible from end to end. “I would morph Charles Barkley and Shawn Kemp and put them together [as a comparison]. When he gets to the NBA and he plays with that extra space they have in the wide key, he’s going to be a monster.” Williamson arrives with hype – no, make that expectations, because of all he’s shown already on courts around America – that rival what James shouldered when he arrived from high school in 2003. His plan for lugging that responsibility: “Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do it, because I feel people remember winners.” The selections immediately after Williamson were nearly as predictable, based on intelligence and mock drafts that solidified in the days before the Draft. Murry State guard Ja Morant was chosen by Memphis at No. 2, and Barrett’s ensuing selection by the Knicks delighted their always boisterous fans in the stands at Barclay. The order of the next four choices was jumbled from some predictions. Yet by the time the smoke cleared, sure enough, the seven players projected to come off the board soonest had slotted into the night’s top seven spots. That included Virginia forward De’andre Hunter to Atlanta at No. 4 (via the Lakers, in the aforementioned Davis trade that has yet to be completed), Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland to Cleveland at No. 5, Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver to Minnesota at No. 6 and North Carolina guard Coby White to Chicago at No. 7. Just because there wasn’t a lot of suspense at Barclays didn’t mean there was no intrigue. Much of that came from unusually heavy trade action – all technically unofficial – that had teams moving up, down and all around to snag picks, dump picks or clean up their salary-cap positions in anticipation of free agency that starts June 30. The timing of the Draft, relative to when the NBA’s new business year begins, had players donning caps of teams they’ll never play for, while speaking guardedly about those for whom they really were picked. A reported nine trades impacted draft decisions made in the first round alone. There even was a moment when Morant, in his post-Draft media session, gave a shout-out to veteran Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, whose spot he’ll presumably be taking once Conley’s trade to Utah officially goes through. But there’s no such uncertainty about Williamson, the through line of this year’s class, the true line in his heartfelt reactions Thursday (Friday, PHL time) and broad-shouldered hope of a Big Easy franchise in need. Williamson showed his grasp of the NBA’s and sports’ need for fresh icons, in effect accepting his status as a legend in waiting. “You know, times change,” he said. “That’s why there are so many debates about who people think the greatest players of all time are. If you were in the time of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, you’d probably say one of those two. If you were in the time of Jordan, you’d say Jordan. In our generation, a lot of them say LeBron. “So times changes and I think younger fans like younger players.” You don’t have to be young, though, to have your eye on Zion. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 21st, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 4 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 105-92 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Friday at Oracle Arena: 1. Dynasties eventually become ‘die-nastys’ Will we get one more game at Oracle Arena? The scene of so much Golden State wonderfulness the past five seasons? A building about to be abandoned when the Warriors move from Oakland to a state-of-the-art arena across the Bay? Hold up. Asking one more game out of the Warriors seems a lot at the moment. These guys just suffered their second consecutive home playoff loss by 10 points or more, something that hasn’t happened to this franchise in 50 years. After three straight games scoring precisely 109 points, the Warriors came up 15 short Friday (Saturday, PHL time). They are 0-9 overall this season when held to double digits, and 0-11 in the playoffs during the Steve Kerr era, when they score 94 or fewer. And now they’re on the wrong side of a 3-1 deficit, lacking everything from certain healthy bodies to an edge, a sharpness that was missing in the second half. Granted, Golden State once held a 3-1 edge in a Finals, all the way back in 2016 … when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers chased them down and became the only Finals team to claw out of such a chasm. The Warriors did the same to Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference finals. So they not only have a blueprint, they have the know-how and an opportunity to do it again. Like Kerr before him on Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) postgame podium, Warriors forward Draymond Green spoke of simply trying to win one basketball game, the next game, as the proper way to dig out of this series hole. But then he dropped his guard and mentioned winning three in a row, something the Warriors have done often. But they’re a whole year removed from doing that in a Finals (last year’s sweep of the Cavs) with a healthy Kevin Durant. This is a more worn-down, tired team. In fact, Game 4 was more than Golden State’s 102nd game of 2018-19, regular and postseason combined. It was the 102nd playoff game of their five consecutive Finals runs, which means they have crammed an extra season-plus into their schedules compared to the underachievers on lottery teams sitting at home. From the looks of it Friday (Saturday, PHL time), these guys are ready to be toppled, like the Lakers in 1989 and again in 2004, like the Heat in 2014 and the Cavaliers last June. The boisterous Raptors fans who staged their takeover of the Warriors’ building after Game 4 were merely mirroring what their favorite team did on the court from halftime on. Golden State could not stop it. Rudy Tomjanovich might still be inclined to scream into the darkness. (“Never underestimate the heart of a champion!”) But pride only takes you so far, and that’s mostly what the Warriors have left. 2. Third quarter? That’s Toronto’s now It took the Raptors more than 18 minutes to score 30 points Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), stymied by the pace of the game and particularly Golden State’s scrappy, hustling defense. Immediately after halftime, it took Toronto only 12 minutes to put up 37. The time of death for Golden State on Friday was immediately after Kawhi Leonard drained consecutive three-pointers – “F-you” shots, teammate Fred VanVleet memorably coined them – that boosted Toronto from a four-point deficit to a 12-point advantage. The Warriors already had played well enough to rightly feel they should have had a bigger cushion; falling behind so rudely seemed to buckle the defending champs. That they feel third quarters are their birthright made the switcheroo intolerable. “We had a big problem with the third quarter in Game 2,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We had to make some adjustment there to try to combat the way they come out of the half. We made the decision to put Fred in, [first] in Game 3 and then Game 4 again. Mostly it's to try to keep up pace of our offense going. It gives us two point guards out there that can push the ball, get it in and get it going, and it kind of paid off. “I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half really changed the whole feel of everybody. Everybody was like, ‘Okay, man, we know we are here, let's go,’ and we just kind of kept going from those two three's.” For the Warriors, who have done that to so many others, turnabout was a pain in the rump. “Oh, this sucks,” Draymond Green recalled thinking as Toronto took control of the quarter. “It sucks really bad. You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum.  Every time we did, they answered.” Green was asked about the difficulty of rattling the stone-faced Leonard with whatever defensive tactic Golden State could muster, and brushed the question aside. “I don't think you're ever going to rattle Kawhi. Not sure we used that word one time in our scouting report, ‘We're going to rattle him,’” Green said. But it’s not just Leonard now. It’s the Raptors. Time after time, whenever Golden State revved up with a couple of scoring possessions, signaling to their fans they ready to make a run, Toronto snuffed it with a three-pointer or a well-executed pick and roll. They’ve got a team of Kawhis-in-training, unflappable lately if not as inscrutable. “Most teams will take cues from their leaders or their star players, so I think that spreads around a little bit,” Nurse said. But he also praised vets such as Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and VanVleet for how steady they’ve been. Now, with the temptation to imagine hoisting a championship trophy, the Raptors might be expected to buy into the stat that, of the 34 teams in The Finals who have led 3-1, 33 of them got their rings. But this team is so focused, so resolute in taking care of business down to the smallest and most mundane task, that all Nurse might have to do is remind them how many aspiring champs won three games in a Finals and still headed into summer empty-handed. (It's 19.) No trophy, no rings. 3. A surge from Serge The chemistry between Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry was evident in their playful banter on the podium Friday night. Each slipped into his role, Lowry as the instigator, Ibaka as the target of his playful jibes. “You joining me?” Lowry asked, as Ibaka got to the podium a half minute after him. “Serge Ibaka, everybody. You all know him. Nice outfit. Worth a lot of money. Is that jacket real leather?” “Yes, it’s real leather,” Ibaka said. "Pants too tight, he can't even sit down,” Lowry said. On court, Ibaka’s defensive impact and 20 points in reserve dampened a lot of Warrior enthusiasm. There are nights when Ibaka comes across like Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a large, lumbering and rather stiff option near the rim with very little to say. Some nights, he even seems to be asleep. But still waters often run deep, too deep for the Warriors in Game 4, it turned out. Ibaka’s here-today, gone-tomorrow shooting touch had him playing in a way that none of Golden State’s three centers – DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney or Andrew Bogut – could match. “Once he gets into the series," Nurse said, "which he did in Game 3 with the blocked shots and the rebounding and stuff, he seems to stay in the series. He usually gives you all of it.” Said Lowry, about knowing when a Serge surge is coming: “He doesn't say anything. When Serge is effective defensively is when he's at his best. I think the scoring just comes. We're going to make sure he gets that pick-and-pop jump shot, he's rolling … When he brings that intensity and that fierceness, it's kind of tough to stop him on both ends of the floor.” 4. Stephen Curry had a bad game One of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever was entitled, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese, a profile written when Sinatra obviously was ill of body and temper, and didn’t even grant Talese an interview. So our headline kind of tells the story as his did: Curry, one of the top five players in the NBA and probably the greatest overall shooter of all time, was not his two-time MVP self. He wasn’t even the Game 3 version (47 points). The Warriors point guard scored 20 fewer points in this one, and was 2-of-9 from three-point range. He missed all five of his shots from the arc in the first half and he picked up some obvious frustration fouls. Curry played 43 of the 48 minutes, and Golden State was outscored by 11 points when he was on the court. “It wasn’t his best game,” Kerr said. Evaluating Curry, for the Warriors, was going to come down to breaking down video and keeping the faith. Evaluating him, for the rest of us, is getting complicated these days by a sense that Curry did not get his due in past Finals – at least in terms of winning the Bill Russell Award as Finals MVP. But that’s no excuse to don rose-colored glasses every time he hits the floor. As scintillating as his performance was in defeat Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) as the Warriors’ only healthy threat, his Game 4 work was raggedy and unproductive. “They have been aggressive all series and trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. “I missed some shots early that I usually make, especially from the three-point line. But overall, I thought I got good looks.” Every game doesn’t need to be a referendum on the level of Curry appreciation. He might have deserved more consideration as Finals MVP in 2015, when Andre Iguodala snagged it with a strong performance in the clinching game. And even though Kevin Durant was an easy choice in 2017, there were some who felt Curry was more essential (including this voter). In some cosmic and just way, Curry probably should have been recognized with hardware somewhere among the three. But all signs are pointing to Leonard now, so Curry might have to muddle along with "only" those two Maurice Podoloff trophies for regular-season MVP, along with his All-NBA berths and assorted accolades, his ginormous contract and bounty of commercial endorsements, three rings (unless this series turns around) and a better life than most people who’ve ever walked the planet. 5. Durant to play in Game … 8? It’s possible that Durant will come walking through Rick Pitino’s proverbial door and seize what’s left of the championship series by the throat, playing like the two-time Finals MVP he is. Failing that, if there’s a Game 6, maybe that’s the night Durant at least does a Willis Reed impersonation, limping through the Oracle tunnel to a thunderous roar and hitting a couple of early shots to inspire his teammates to something special. (There still, alas, would be a pesky Game 7 for which to account, back in Toronto, likely muddying the drama.) Then again, maybe Durant doesn’t come back at all. For The Finals or with the Warriors, period. Speculation at this point is all over the map. Some think the Warriors planned to hold him out until things got really dire, to buy extra healing time and maybe not use him at all. Others now believe Durant’s rehab process of his strained right calf back-slid to some degree on Thursday, when he participated in a checkpoint workout with the training staff. A few folks think he never was going to return, regardless. After all, the All-NBA forward hasn’t played since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), missing nine fairly important games. This is a league where injuries typically face an “If this were a playoff game, would he play?” threshold. Durant has been nearly as absent from this NBA postseason as LeBron James. Look, all injuries are different, and even the same type of injury can have different timelines with different sufferers. Klay Thompson rushing back from his hamstring issue after skipping only Game 3 is at the crazy-resilient end of the durability scale. Kevon Looney basically rose from the ashes, giving the Warriors a rim runner and 10 points with six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. He had been ruled out for the rest of the series after suffering a rib cartilage fracture in his crash to the floor in Game 2. After anticipation of Durant’s availability got out in front of his reality for a few days, the chatter is more tempered now. There’s a shrug and a whiff of uncertainty folded into every mention. If Durant had his Thursday workout, he would have played Friday (Saturday, PHL time). If he had a setback … Heck, at this point it might be more pragmatic for the medical peeps to declare him out and let the Warriors who’ve come this far see this through, yea or nay. “As far as KD, there's been hope that he will come back the whole series,” Draymond Green said. “So that's not going to change now. Obviously we hope to have him, but we'll see what happens. We don't make that final call, he don't really even make that final call.  His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. And if he can, great. And if not, you still got to try to find a way to win the next game.” The Warriors had been holding out hope for Durant’s return as if he was their ace in the hole, imagining him with zero rust or rhythm issues once back and no limitations on his gait. But he has passed the “In case of emergency, break glass” point of urgent help possibilities. Now Durant resembles more the keg hanging from a Saint Bernard dog’s collar. It’s a nice idea, but when was the last time one of those dogs saved somebody who literally drank from the little barrel? Toronto is in a foreign land, by NBA standards. But it ain’t the Alps. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2019

Cousins returns from injury, returns to form and delivers win

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — It was the moment the Warriors waited so long to see, and finally it arrived in the nick of time: The still-recovering former All-Star, out of the starting lineup for more than a minute, returning and dismissing the noise about how the team is better without him by impacting the game in multiple ways and pulling the Warriors to victory. And get this: If the Warriors are truly fortunate, Kevin Durant will recover soon and duplicate what DeMarcus Cousins just did. In the NBA Finals. If he does, it could serve a critical blow to Toronto’s chances of pulling off a late-series surprise. “We know what we’re dealing with here,” said Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. Cousins provided the help that the two-time defending champions needed Sunday (Monday, PHL time) to draw even in the series and snatch momentum with a 109-104 victory at Scotiabank Arena. He played more than anyone thought, rebounded more than anyone imagined, defended and scored more than Toronto bargained for, and gave the Warriors what they missed the last 6 1/2 weeks with him on the shelf. The 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots from Cousins didn’t fully encapsulate how much relief he brought to the Warriors. He had a galvanizing effect on a team that used an 18-0 run to start the second half to seize control of Game 3 and then used Andre Iguodala’s three-point shot to ice it. They haven’t been in one piece since April 15 (April 16, PHL time), in the first round against the Clippers, when Cousins chased a loose ball, stumbled and grabbed his left leg. The torn quad required no surgery but a lengthy rehab period, and this after Cousins went through a 10-month rehab for a torn Achilles' tendon in the spring of 2018. He was feeling beat up. Cousins attacked the process anyway, determined to return from an injury that normally would mean the end to his postseason, for the simple reason that he hadn’t been to the playoffs in his career to this point. There’s also a matter of free agency awaiting in July; a strong return could improve his bottom line. “Once they told me I have a chance, a slight chance, of being able to return, it basically was up to me and the work I put in,” he said. “So I put the work and the time in and with God’s grace I’m able to be out here and play the game I love.” Cousins was clearly out of rhythm from the layoff in Game 1, his timing rusty, his execution unsure. He played just eight minutes without scoring a basket or drawing much attention from Toronto. But Warriors coach Steve Kerr made the surprise decision to start Cousins three nights later, and that faith was repaid handsomely. Cousins was active, his confidence growing stronger by the minute -- 27 of them, actually, and he only asked to be subbed out once. “We came in thinking he can maybe play 20 minutes,” said Kerr. “He was fantastic and we needed everything he gave out there: his rebounding, his toughness, his physical presence, getting the ball in the paint, and just playing big, like he does. We needed all of that.” What the Warriors hoped was for Cousins to be the best big man on the floor. In Game 1, that honor went to Raptors center Marc Gasol, who uncharacteristically became a prime scoring option for the Raptors with 20 points, most on open jumpers. Cousins didn’t give him that amount of breathing space in Game 2, and Gasol (six points) was never a factor. Cousins' teammates offered rave reviews. Steph Curry: “Obviously you get more comfortable with more minutes and playing aggressive. He puts a lot of pressure on their defense. It’s a big lift for us. More to come.” Draymond Green: “The more he plays, the better feel he gets. He was great on both ends. It allowed us to play through him in the post. Toronto knows. They’ve got to honor that, and we know what he’s capable of doing if they don’t.” Cousins had an amusing reaction to learning he was in the starting lineup — “I was like, ‘Cool’” — and feels as though he has more to give. “When I step on the floor, I’m going to leave it out there,” he said. “I want to be on this stage. This is what I’ve worked for my entire career, to have this opportunity to play for something.” Cousins spent seven years in purgatory in Sacramento, where he racked up losses and technicals. It was a frustrating time for him; he had no faith in the franchise's leadership and it soured his attitude. His trade to the Pelicans two years ago was met with enthusiasm; he teamed with Anthony Davis to form an intimidating front line, but the Achilles’ injury cut short his time on the floor and, ultimately, in New Orleans. The team refused to offer him a contract last summer, leading him to join the Warriors at a discount. So his purpose is to salvage what’s left of the season, capture a ring for his troubles and see what it brings this summer. And then there’s the matter of Durant. The two-time Finals MVP hasn’t been cleared for full-contact practice, and the Warriors will hold only one prior to Game 3. Kerr said it’s “feasible” that Durant could play with only one practice under his belt, yet that’s not the ideal scenario. What Cousins does is buy them more time with Durant. With the series tied 1-1, and the next two games in Oakland, and Cousins apparently rounding into form, there’s a bit less urgency to see Durant on the floor. Yet it appears to be a matter of when, not if, Durant will see action in this series. And it might be at the perfect moment, with Klay Thompson suffering a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter that forced him off the court. The All-Star guard later told Kerr he’s fine and that the hamstring tightness is minor, but his status will be determined by MRI. Given what’s happened so far, the Warriors can never be too careful or take the rosy view when it comes to muscle issues. They’ve established a theme that tells the story of their 2019 postseason, and it’s not one they designed or even wanted, but it fits their existence nonetheless: “recovery” and their ability to do so on all front. It's not just injuries. Even in sweeping Portland, Golden State had to recover from deficits of 17, 18 and 17 points in the Western Conference Finals. Trailing 1-0 in these NBA Finals, they recovered from 12 down to win on the road for a 23rd straight series, an NBA record. What the Warriors reminded everyone at Scotiabank Arena, in case folks forgot, is that they’re champions and bring plenty of know-how to this series, and are fully capable of winning games by any means necessary. “It’s big respect for them,” said Kawhi Leonard. “They have been here each of the last four years, won the last two, and you’ve got to take the challenge. They’re a great team.” But the Warriors would rather put a fully-loaded and healthy squad -- one that is clearly the class of the NBA -- on the court and win with that. This NBA Finals might finally get the Warriors at full strength. If not, they still might be more than the Raptors can handle. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2019

Raptors on brink of first Finals berth in franchise history

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO -- Twenty-one would be a very cool number for the Toronto Raptors. Before they get it, though, they’ll need to get one. And one would be beyond cool. Off the charts, historic, potentially transformative and largely indescribable. Twenty-one: That’s how many teams in NBA playoff history will have overcome an 0-2 start to win a best-of-seven series, if the Raptors manage to close out the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. Whether it happens in Game 6 Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena or in Game 7 back in Milwaukee Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), Toronto would buck outlandish odds -- this is the 289th series to begin with the same team winning the first two games, so we’re talking a seven percent likelihood (20-of-288). [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] One: That’s all that stands between the Raptors and the first NBA Final appearance in Toronto franchise history. One more victory in the next three days would validate the risks and twists of this 2018-19 season for the Raptors, while exorcising nearly a quarter century’s worth of demons. One little win and Toronto finally will break through, capping a stellar six-year run of promising regular seasons and heartbreaking postseasons. They will have earned, in the face of so much uncertainty, their best shot yet at a championship, even if it means going through the mighty Golden State Warriors. When Raptors president Masai Ujiri traded for star forward Kawhi Leonard, he was gambling not just that Leonard could recover from the right quadriceps injury that scuttled his 2017-18. He was guessing that swapping in Leonard for former All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan could push Toronto to, well, right where they’re at. And he was hoping Leonard, a rent-a-player able to leave this summer in free agency, would enjoy the whole experience enough to let Ujiri pay him $220 million over the next five seasons. It’s impossible to know where things stand on that last front, owing to Leonard’s inscrutability and a decision that’s still six weeks away. But the Raptors never have gotten this far, so there is an opportunity here to be savored, with more potentially to come. “It would be a very, very long summer thinking about what could have been or what you could have done,” guard Fred VanVleet said, framing things a bit negatively after raining 7-of-9 three-pointers on Milwaukee in the 105-99 Game 5 victory. “So we've just got to go out there and have no regrets. … One win away from the Finals sounds pretty good to me.” Sounds a little easier, maybe, than it actually will be. The Raptors are at home for Game 6 and the crowd at Scotiabank crowd, already dialed high, will be able to let it rip without any fear -- immediate fear, anyway -- of failure. But Milwaukee will be desperate. Giannis Antetokounmpo has pledged that his team will not “fold.” And the Bucks have zero interest in a knock-knock year, believing all season that they were good enough to reach and win the championship. They wouldn’t be human if they weren’t shaken by the three consecutive defeats Toronto has dealt them. The Raptors have managed to surround and partially stifle Antetokounmpo, while still firing out enough to bother Milwaukee’s three-point shooters into repeated misfires. The Bucks’ defense has been probed and poked like a cut-rate steak. They resorted again to some uncharacteristic switching in Game 5 but had most of their success inside the arc. Late in the pivotal loss, they got beat for five offensive rebounds, when grabbing two or three might have swung the outcome. “It's win or lose,” coach Mike Budenholzer said Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in a conference call with reporters. “When you win, there are things that [still] are concerning and unsettling that you need to work on and improve. I think there's just enough possessions where there's a couple of rebounds that stand out. “Can we do a little bit better job in some of our activity in certain situations. Offensively, I think at times can our spacing be better and our ball movement be better? But I would say it's like a lot of games. We didn't get it done.” One area in which Budenholzer refuses to budge, dire circumstances be darned, is in his use vs. overuse of Antetokounmpo. The load the Greek Freak carries when he’s on the floor, the activity he generates, leads to fatigue and wear-and-tear that requires regular breathers. Extending his star’s minutes, Budenholzer believes, would lead to less “peak Giannis” rather than more, an inevitable tradeoff of quality over quantity. And the Bucks need every bit of Antetokounmpo’s best, or what’s left of it in their 97th game of the season. “Giannis, it's so impressive what he does and how important he is,” Budenholzer said. “I maintain that him getting appropriate rest, appropriate kind of just a chance to catch his breath, refuel… At the end of the day, you need to be able to produce and perform, including in the fourth quarter.” At the possible end of your season, though, you’ll have plenty of time to refuel if the opponent pounces while your star sits. Said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, in his own teleconference: “It's a ‘whatever it takes’ game. It's an unlimited-minutes night. This is just like any other critical must-win game.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 25th, 2019