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Curry in Japan to talk Tokyo Olympics, Rui Hachimura

By Jim Armstrong, Associated Press TOKYO (AP) — Stephen Curry is already looking ahead to the next challenge in his basketball career, including the chance to represent the United States at next year’s Tokyo Olympics. Just over a week since his Golden State Warriors lost a grueling NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors, Curry was in Tokyo on Sunday talking about the Olympics and the opportunity to face Japan’s newest basketball sensation. The U.S. has won the gold medal in the last three Olympics and will be the favorite to top the podium again in Tokyo with a Dream Team that could feature such stars as Curry, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. Curry decided to pull out of the Rio Olympics due to several factors, including ankle and knee injuries. “I know the energy here is going to be amazing,” Curry said. “I haven’t played in the Olympics before. I’ve played in two World Cup teams so I’ve had the experience of representing my country playing for the national team. But the Olympics, from everybody that I’ve talked to that’s played, there’s no comparison to that experience.” Curry was in Tokyo for a youth basketball clinic and was asked about Rui Hachimura, who became the first player from Japan picked in the first round of the NBA draft when he was taken with the No. 9 overall pick by the rebuilding Washington Wizards on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). “It’s exciting for the NBA to have representation from Japan and countries all over the world,” Curry said. “It speaks to how the game of basketball is growing everywhere, especially here. For him to be a trailblazer in terms of doing something that has never been done is good for this country.” The 6'8", 235-pound (2.03 meters, 106 kilogram) Hachimura averaged a team-leading 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds last season as a junior at U.S. college Gonzaga, where he was the West Coast Conference player of the year. The only other Japanese player drafted in NBA history was Yasutaka Okayama, who went 171st overall in 1981. He never appeared in a regular-season game, something just two players from the country have done: Yuta Tabuse for the Phoenix Suns in 2004-05, and Yuta Watanabe for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2018-19. The son of a Japanese mother and father from the Republic of Benin, Hachimura is the latest Japanese of mixed race to make a splash in the sporting world following the likes of Naomi Osaka and Yu Darvish. “Just from watching him play, I know he’s got good size, obviously,” Curry said. “He seems to have a high basketball IQ, good touch around the rim too. I’m sure as he gets into the NBA his game will expand. I think he fits into the direction the NBA is going right now; being able to score and put pressure on the defense no matter what the situation is.” As for the Warriors, Curry said he’s looking forward to winning more championships with the team. “The story is still going,” Curry said. “A lot of people said this is going to be the end but I’m not going to let that happen. It’s going to be fun to come back and chase more championships next year and beyond.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News20 hr. 48 min. ago

US defense will face greater challenges in knockout round

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press REIMS, France (AP) — Much of the attention on the United States rightly goes to its prolific offense, especially after that 13-goal game to open the Women's World Cup, but the team's defense has been predictably reliable so far in France. The defense has posted shutouts in the team's first three games, marking the first time the United States has not conceded a goal in the group stage at the tournament. The defending champions open the knockout round Monday against Spain. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher saw little action during the team's rout of Thailand in the opener, but matches against Chile and Sweden provided incrementally tougher tests. "To come away from group play with three shutouts, as a team defensively, I'm very proud of that," she said. "It's a goal that we have going into every game, especially as a back line, to keep clean sheets. We put a lot of time into team defending as well, all 11 players on the field are defending, and that cohesiveness is what helps bring that." The team's backline in France has shifted due to lineup changes and injuries. Veteran center back Becky Sauerbrunn was held out of the first game because of a minor injury, but came back against Chile when coach Jill Ellis rested players. Against Sweden, Ellis used the backline that is expected to start in the knockout phase, with Abby Dahlkemper alongside Sauerbrunn, Kelley O'Hara on the right and Crystal Dunn on the left. Dunn was especially effective against Sweden and in thwarting forward Sofia Jakobsson. The United States has seven clean sheets in its last eight World Cup matches — the exception being the two goals allowed in the team's 5-2 victory over Japan in the 2015 final. The United States went 540 minutes in Canada without conceding a goal, the longest streak in the tournament since Germany's record 679 scoreless minutes from 2003-11. Former goalkeeper Hope Solo allowed just three total goals and won her second straight Golden Glove as the tournament's top goalkeeper. The backline included Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg, Julie Johnston and Ali Krieger. Johnston, now Julie Ertz, has moved up into a role as a defensive midfielder in France. She sat out against Sweden because of a hip contusion but U.S. Soccer characterized the injury as minor. Krieger won a spot on the roster for this tournament because of her big-game experience after a long layoff from the team. Naeher has replaced Solo, considered one of the game's best goalkeepers ever. Solo was dismissed from the team following the 2016 Olympics. Brushing off the inevitable comparisons, Naeher has been steady in goal. "I've played with Alyssa since I was like 16 so I've known her for a really long time. It's awesome to see her step into this role because I've always known that she has the capacity and the talent to be the starting goalkeeper on this team. She's shown that," O'Hara said. "She, for me, provides a very calm consistency back there. She's also someone with steely nerves. I think she does a really good job of just putting on a game face." The United States is currently on a streak of 594 minutes since last conceding a goal. The last came in the 81st minute of a 5-3 victory over Australia in April. Echoing Naeher, Tobin Heath said the Americans have embraced team defense. "It's huge. It's a big part of what we're trying to do, both offensively and defensively. We always talk about this idea of 360 defending, where everybody's contributing," Heath said. "I think Alyssa's been fantastic. It's not easy, especially in the first two games to not face that many shots, and then to have a quality opponent like Sweden, to be on her game." If the top-ranked U.S. can get past No. 13 Spain, there's a possibility of a clash against hosts France in the quarterfinal in Paris. The fourth-ranked French, who scored seven goals in the group stage and conceded just one, face Brazil on Sunday. "I think this is the best team we've had, and we're so confident right now, we're so motivated to want to win and succeed," Krieger said. "We know what tools we have and what we need in order to break teams down and be successful in the final third. I think that's what we've showcased so far.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 23rd, 2019

Japan hails Hachimura s NBA selection as new era for sport

By Jim Armstrong, Associated Press TOKYO (AP) — Japanese basketball officials, fans and media hailed the selection of Rui Hachimura in the NBA draft, saying the move will usher in a new era for the sport in Japan. Hachimura became the first player from Japan to get chosen in the first round of the NBA draft, taken with the No. 9 overall pick by the rebuilding Washington Wizards on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). "The Birth of the NBA's Hachimura, a huge step for Japan," read the headline in the Nikkansports newspaper's online edition. The 6'8", 235-pound (2.03 meters, 106 kilogram) forward averaged a team-leading 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds last season as a junior at U.S. college Gonzaga, where he was the West Coast Conference player of the year. The only other Japanese player drafted in NBA history was Yasutaka Okayama, who went 171st overall in 1981. He never appeared in a regular-season game, something just two players from the country have done: Yuta Tabuse for the Phoenix Suns in 2004-05, and Yuta Watanabe for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2018-19. "The fact that Hachimura, a product of the Japanese basketball system, has been selected in the NBA draft makes us very proud," said the Japan Basketball Federation's Yuko Mitsuya. While it has grown in popularity with the introduction of a pro league in 2005, basketball still lags far behind baseball and soccer in Japan. Hachimura's NBA career is sure to help the sport grow in leaps and bounds. The son of a Japanese mother and father from the Republic of Benin, Hachimura is the latest Japanese of mixed race to make a splash in the sporting world following the likes of Naomi Osaka and Yu Darvish. "This is a huge step forward for Japan," said Keisuke Tsutsumi, an office worker who follows the NBA. "It will take the sport to a new level here." Hachimura's junior high school coach Joji Sakamoto welcomed the news of his draft selection. Sakamoto coached Hachimura in his native Toyama Prefecture and said he saw potential in his student from a young age. "I told him to visualize his dream, and now it will be a reality," the 59-year-old Sakamoto said. Japan's education minister Masahiko Shibayama said Hachimura had given hope to a generation of young players in his home country. "It's really wonderful," Shibayama said. "By taking a prominent role in a league that is difficult for Japanese players to enter, he will give hope to many Japanese people." Hachimura's rise couldn't come at a better time with Tokyo building to host the 2020 Olympics. Japan's national men's team has qualified as host country and Hachimura could play a leading role at both the Olympics and the World Cup in China later this year. Wizards interim general manager Tommy Sheppard mentioned the 21-year-old's play for Japan's national team. "For Japan to qualify for the world championships, he's the focal point. And when the (Tokyo) Olympics come in 2020, he's going to be the focal point of that country on that basketball team," Sheppard said. "To be able to shoulder that load at his age — the maturity he has — I think that's going to bode well for him in the NBA.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 22nd, 2019

Press isn t dwelling on past miss against Sweden

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press LE HAVRE, France (AP) — A devastating missed penalty kick by Christen Press in a loss at the Olympics could have been the lowest point of her career. Instead, it was a motivator and defining moment for the American forward. "I think when I look back on my career, all the moments that I'm most proud of have come after failure," she said. "That's the easiest one to point at and look at, and look at that clear failure, and then evaluate how I did in responding to it. "I think the strength that it takes to step back up and be courageous and let it go, and to continue to fight for your dreams and not let the outside noise affect what you're doing, I am very proud of that." The missed final penalty kick during a shootout against Sweden in the quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio Olympics helped eliminate the United States and a tearful Press was consoled by her teammates. It was the earliest Olympic exit for the Americans. As the United States prepared to face Sweden on Thursday at the Women's World Cup, Press said she's only watched pieces of that match. The Swedes — led then by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage — bunkered in on defense against the Americans. Tied after three rounds in the shootout, Sweden captain Caroline Seger got past U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo before Press sailed the Americans' fifth penalty kick over the crossbar. Lisa Dahlkvist wrong-footed Solo to give Sweden the 4-3 shootout victory. Solo infamously called the Swedes "a bunch of cowards" after in alleging they played a defensive match to choke the Americans' chances. The rematch between the two teams is a highlight of four Thursday games in France, but the United States is not interested in dwelling on that defeat as it attempts to win a second consecutive Cup. "I think players and coaches are not focused on what was, we're focused on what will be," coach Jill Ellis said. "That's really where you have to be. You've got to look forward. That's the past." Press played for clubs in Sweden for two years from 2012-14 and again in 2018 between stints in the National Women's Soccer League. She came off the bench in the 13-0 rout of Thailand in the opener, but Press got the start as part of seven lineup changes for the 3-0 victory over Chile on Sunday. The United States has played Sweden six times in the group stage at the World Cup, including a 0-0 draw four years ago in Canada. The only meeting since the Olympics was a 1-0 U.S. win in a 2017 friendly at Goteborg. Press, playing in her second World Cup, admitted Thursday there might be a bit of revenge at play. "Despite the fact that it's been three years, you don't forget the taste in your mouth when you fail and when you lose in a world championship," Press said. "And I think there's a little bit of that that will definitely act as motivation.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 20th, 2019

US wants win vs Swedes, even if it would mean tougher path

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press LE HAVRE, France (AP) — Victory is the goal for the United States in its group stage finale against Sweden, even though a loss might give the Americans an easier path through the knockout rounds of the Women's World Cup. "I think it's in our team's DNA to want to win and do really well," defender Abby Dahlkemper said Tuesday, two days ahead of the Group F finale. The defending champion U.S. and Sweden both enter with two wins and have clinched berths in the round of 16. The top-ranked Americans have the better goal difference and with a win or draw would play Spain in the round of 16 and could face No. 4 France in a quarterfinal at Paris' Parc des Princes and No. 3 England in the semifinals. The team that finishes second in the group meets the Netherlands or Canada in the round of 16, then could have a quarterfinal against No. 2 Germany, which would not have the backing of a large home crowd the way host nation France does every match. U.S. coach Jill Ellis says she can't convince her players not to tackle in practice, so asking them to hold back against Sweden is a losing cause. Ellis thinks it is dangerous to try to tailor results based on possible matchups. "We want to win every game, so I think that's where we're at and that's what we want to do," Ellis said. "I think if you get too much into manipulating or planning or overthinking something, I just don't think that that's a good message." The United States has played Sweden six times in the group stage at the World Cup, including a 0-0 draw four years ago in Canada. They met again in the quarterfinals at the 2016 Olympics, where the Swedes — led by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage — bunkered in on defense and advanced on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. It was the earliest exit for the Americans at an Olympics. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo infamously called the Swedes "cowards." The only meeting since then was a 1-0 U.S. win in a 2017 friendly at Goteborg. After the U.S. opened with a record-setting 13-0 rout of Thailand, Ellis changed seven starters in a 3-0 win over Chile. "If you want to go far in the tournament, you've got to have (fresh) legs," Ellis said, explaining her rotation. No. 9 Sweden started with a 2-0 victory over Chile and followed with a 5-1 win over Thailand. "It's going to be a completely different match, and it will be very important for us, naturally," Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson said. "When you go into the second round we'll have more matches against teams like the U.S. rather than matches against the one with Chile. But we have to win the matches to get through it, it's all about how games develop and how players perform but it will be a different match and we will approach it differently tactically." No. 13 Spain made its World Cup debut four years ago and was eliminated in the group stage. "They're both talented," La Rioja defender Celia Jiménez said. "I think any team that qualifies for the World Cup, it's because they're good enough. The U.S. has a really powerful team, they play a direct game, they like to be dangerous, but at the same time I think Sweden is as well a really good team. They also tend to play direct, so they kind of are similar teams.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 19th, 2019

For US men, Gold Cup finally brings chance for revival

By Dave Campbell, Associated Press BLAINE, Minn. (AP) — The overarching goal for the fledgling U.S. men's soccer team, as frequently stated by new coach Gregg Berhalter, has been to improve the perception of this sputtering program within the cutthroat hierarchy of global soccer. Though a strong performance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup probably won't move the needle much, the Americans surely would benefit, simply, from winning. Their opening game against Guyana on Tuesday night at Allianz Field in St. Paul, the new home of Major League Soccer's Minnesota United, will mark the first competitive match for the U.S. since the infamous defeat at Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10, 2017, that kept the team for qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. It follows a stretch of 18 consecutive friendlies. "There will be some nerves, but for us it's just about continuing to make progress throughout this tournament," Berhalter said last week after a training session at the National Sports Center in Blaine, a suburb of Minneapolis. "I think part of our profession is playing under pressure, playing in big events, and this is a great opportunity for us to learn." The 20-month gap between competitive games is the longest for the Americans since a 38-month span following a loss to Costa Rica on May 31, 1985, their final qualifier for the 1986 World Cup. Their next match that counted was a draw at Jamaica on July 24, 1988, their first qualifier for the 1990 World Cup. The U.S. won the biennial Gold Cup in 2017, a sixth title in 14 editions of the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean. Mexico, the clear favorite, has won seven such crowns. Before any mental energy can be spent on assessing the ability to compete with their border rival to the south, though, the Americans, who are ranked 30th in the world, must advance from the group stage. On the surface, Panama (75th), Trinidad and Tobago (92nd) and Guyana (177th) don't appear to be daunting competition, but the way the U.S. team played this month in exhibition losses to Jamaica (1-0) and Venezuela (3-0) there will be no guarantees of automatic wins. The Americans are missing injured players DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks and Tyler Adams, all first-choice starters. "If it doesn't go well you can just feel that more pressure is going to build, more questions will be asked, more scrutiny will be on Berhalter and the federation, and the outside noise is only going to get louder," said former U.S. midfielder Stu Holden, now a Fox analyst. "That's why it's really important that this team has a really good showing in this tournament." With the U.S. women leading their side of the world rankings and off to a dominant start this month in France at the Women's World Cup , the men's team won't be able to avoid the comparison game. The Americans can't mute the fan angst that has followed them for nearly two years, either, but they can at least take a meaningful step forward in the Berhalter era by displaying some potential within the pressing, possession-prioritized style he has rolled out . "We want to progress. Of course that also means winning the games, but we want to develop our style," midfielder Weston McKennie said. "Our goal is to make people see U.S. Soccer as something different as what they see now, probably." McKennie is one of the 20-year-old up-and-comers the program has staked itself to in the quest to not only return to the World Cup in 2022 but do some damage on the sport's biggest stage. The other, of course, is Christian Pulisic , who is joining English Premier League power Chelsea from Germany's Borussia Dortmund for a $73 million transfer fee. That is a record price for an American player. Veterans of the national side like Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are still around, among just six holdovers from the roster that went to Trinidad. They are joined by Pulisic, defenders Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream, and forward Paul Arriola on what has become a youngster's team. Getting this team in sync, socially and psychologically, might be just as important of a task for Berhalter as with the technical implementation of his system. "In warmups, they have to give each other high-fives," Berhalter said. "We do team events off the field, like going to movies together and going to restaurants together. I think that's really important to build that team chemistry." Now more than ever. "Everyone right now outside has their opinions about us, and the past couple of games, and that's perfectly fine," forward Paul Arriola said. "For us the message stays the game, and it's staying together as a team. That's how you're going to win an international tournament.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 18th, 2019

Germany gets another 1-0 win at World Cup, beating Spain

By Rob Harris, Associated Press VALENCIENNES, France (AP) — As Germany clung on for another 1-0 win at the Women's World Cup, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg could sense the unease in her team. And considerable relief in edging past Spain. So when the final whistle blew in northern France on Wednesday the coach quickly gathered her players on the field. "There was some tension," she said. "I told my players we pushed our limits." The way her side lost possession of the ball still grated. But Voss-Tecklenburg ultimately reminded the squad to be proud and united in the pursuit of a third world title. The Germans are finding it far from easy going at the start of Group B, relying on Sara Däbritz's goal in the 42nd minute against the run of play to prevail against the skillful Spanish. "In the last 15 minutes in the first half," said defender Sara Doorsoun, "we came together and said, 'OK be more self-confident.'" Däbritz had the confidence to be in the right place to pounce. After goalkeeper Sandra Paños couldn't keep hold of Alexandra Popp's header, Däbritz got on the end of the loose ball and bundled it into the net. "We were playing some great football," Spain coach Jorge Vilda said through a translator, "and in the end some mistakes cost us dearly against a strong side." Until that point, the confident passing, the intensity and much of the verve had been coming from Spain in heavy rain. "When we got the ball they put a lot of pressure on our defense," Doorsoun said. "It was definitely tough to get the ball." Playing in only their second World Cup, the Spanish were more than just equals to a second-ranked team that has made at least the quarterfinals in all eight editions of the FIFA tournament. What was missing was the ability to complete well-worked moves with a goal. When a high ball was sent to Nahikari Garcia in the 14th minute, the forward broke through the center backs. But with only goalkeeper Almuth Schult to beat, Garcia sent the ball wide. "We showed what Spain can do on the pitch and I think the team is strengthened by our performance," said Vilda, whose side opened with a victory over South Africa. "We have to never been as close as we are now ... and we need to use this as a basis for growth." So does Germany, which opened with the 1-0 victory over China. "We know that we have to play better," Doorsoun said. "But mentality of the team is good." But Germany will still be without Dzsenifer Marozsan for the final group game against South Africa as the midfielder recovers from a broken toe. "In the difficult situations she helps out every player," Voss-Tecklenburg said, "because she doesn't lose many balls. It would have been great to have her with us. We tried to compensate her loss.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 12th, 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

Five things we learned from Game 3 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 123-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the 2019 Finals Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at Oracle Arena: 1. What Stephen Curry learned … Curry was remarkable in Game 3, consciously seizing more of Golden State’s offensive burden to make up for Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s absences and turning that desperation into something historic. With 47 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, the Warriors point guard became only the ninth man to score at least 45 points in a Finals game. The lesson in that? Curry learned for a night what it has felt like for LeBron James on many such occasions. James put himself on that specific list a year ago when he logged 51 points, eight board and eight assists against Curry’s team in Game 1, same court. Like Curry, James’ team lost that night as well. Struggling mightily in something of a one-against-five predicament is the sort of things James has done often, while Curry never had faced it during Golden State’s five-year run to The Finals. They both -- James in the past and Curry on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) -- had legit NBA players around them. But the responsibility to put up points fell in both cases mostly on their shoulders. This was even a chance to revisit the 2015 Finals MVP selection, which attracted some attention on social media Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) over bogus speculation about the voting process. Andre Iguodala won the award that June, getting seven votes from the panel of media reps to James’ four. Curry got no votes. The point was, Curry had as a single game Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) what James had as an entire series in ’15. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, scoring 38.5 percent of Cleveland’s points (215-of-561) while assisting on 52.7 percent of his teammates’ baskets while he was on the court. Now Curry is the guy in position, if Golden State loses the series, to get a few MVP votes in a losing effort. By the way, Jerry West is the only player to win the Finals MVP trophy in a losing effort. And West is one of the nine to score 45 or more – he did it three times, but his Lakers teams went 1-2 in those games. (The others: Michael Jordan three times, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson once each. Their teams all won on their big scoring nights.) 2. Is the scoreboard broken? It’s tempting to say that the Warriors’ attack is in broken-record mode, except the resurgence of vinyl might not be sufficient yet to bring that phrase back into the mainstream. So we’ll go with a cultural reference that’s more classic than archaic. Think of The Beatles’ “Revolution 9,” but substitute “109… 109… 109…” Yeah, it’s been about as monotonous and unsatisfying for Golden State as it was on the White Album. At least Warriors coach Steve Kerr was somewhat bemused by his team’s scoreboard consistency. In each game of these Finals, Golden State has scored 109 points. “I just knew we were going to score 109 points because that’s all we’re going to do the rest of this series,” Kerr said. “So if we’re going to keep scoring 109, we got to keep them to 108.” The Warriors kept Toronto to 104 points in Game 2. Some of that was to their credit, some to the Raptors’ misfires and mid-game chill. The simplest stat? Toronto launched 38 three-pointers in both games. The night the Raptors made 11, they lost. When they made 17, they won. Getting Thompson back for Game 4 could make a big difference there. He is one of Golden State’s best defenders. For that matter, Durant’s length could assert itself as a defensive weapon, too, if he comes back later in the series. As for 109 being a winning points total, here is some background: taken in isolation, averaged over a full Finals, that would have been plenty to win 19 of the past 20 championships. The lone exception? In 2017, when Cleveland averaged 114.8 ppg yet lost because Golden State was putting up 121.6 nightly. In 2018, the Warriors averaged 116 points to the Cavaliers’ 101. The only other times a Finals team in the past 20 years averaged within five points of 109 were the Spurs in 2015 (105.6) and in 2007 (104.4) and the Lakers in 2002 (106.0) and 2000 (104.8). Obviously, a few of those were in the game’s relative “dark ages” for use of the 3-ball, but all four won championships. The Warriors are scoring enough points to win. 3. ‘Boogie’ fever has broken   DeMarcus Cousins called his decision to sign with Golden State for a cut-rate contract, while rehabbing from an Achilles injury, his “chess move.” He wound up joining the defending champions and favorite to three-peat, and got his game back in time to contribute. Cousins subsequently suffered a quadriceps injury but returned in time to participate in The Finals. Only thing is, he looked like he was back playing checkers in Game 3. The Warriors center stood out Sunday (Monday, PHL time), scoring 11 points with 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. But those numbers drooped to four points, three boards, three turnovers and 1-for-7 shooting in Game 3. Cousins went from plus-12 impact in Game 2 to minus-12 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The big man looked a step slow and appeared to be bothered by Toronto’s length, in the forms of Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. With little lift these days, he’s playing a little smaller than his 6'11", 270-pound specs. And given how long he was off and the mere eight minutes he got in Game 1, what Cousins did in Game 2 was starting to look more adrenaline-fueled than a reliable return to form. Since Curry handled just about everything else for Golden State in Game 3, he was asked afterward about Cousins’ “regression.” The point guard handled the awkward moment well -- being asked a critical question about a teammate might have tempted Curry to blow it off or lie. Instead, he talked of the Warriors’ shared responsibility on defense and noted a few calls offensively that didn't go Cousins' way. Then Curry added: “Like any great player, if you have a rough game, that resiliency to bounce back and the confidence to know that you can still go out there and impact the game, that’s something that he’ll bring, and we all will follow suit for sure.” 4. Danny Green’s big moment Understandably, when an All-Star and potential Kia MVP candidate gets traded, the deal becomes all about him. Next, folks focus on the key player or players swapped out and how the move might work for the other team. Only then do we play much attention to the guy or guys accompanying the All-Star to his new destination. That’s how it’s been for Danny Green for much of the 2018-19 season. Green and Kawhi Leonard were teammates in San Antonio for seven seasons. They went to two Finals together with the Spurs, winning rings in 2014. But when Leonard wanted out after an injured and rancorous 2017-18, the deal the Spurs put together with Toronto shipped out Danny Green, too. The reality of NBA trades is that salaries must match up, so teammates often become collateral damage to even up the dollar sufficiently to satisfy league rules. Sometimes, a teammate is thrown into a deal because he and the star are chums. A familiar face gives the featured guy some comfort -- or someone to carry his bags. But Green was a helpful playoff performer in his own right with the Spurs -- in his 12 Finals games before this year, he had made 52 percent of his three-pointers. And in 2013 he made 27 of them against the Miami Heat, a Finals record that was his for all of three years until Curry drained 32 in 2016. Green struggled with his shot in the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, going 4-for-23 on three-pointers. But his marksmanship early in Game 3 and against near the end of the third quarter propelled the Raptors’ victory. 5. Those rebounds are offensive   Toronto dominated on the offensive glass 15-6 in Game 2 and lost. Golden State dominated on the offensive glass 13-5 in Game 3 and lost. Typically, that’s a positive category for the team that wins it, something coaches hate when the other guys are reclaiming their own misses time and again. But lately, the demerits associated with offensive rebounds have loomed larger than the benefits. You grab a shot you or your teammate missed, that ought to be a good thing. But the Raptors in Game 2 (37.2 percent) and the Warriors in Game 3 (39.6 percent) were beset by inaccuracy, so there were more offensive rebounds to be had, period. The other down side of a generally positive stat is how you go about getting them. If you get overeager and the defense controls the errant shot, you might denude your transition defense. Both the Raptors and the Warriors in Games 2 and 3 respectively built considerable edges in second-chance points off their offensive rebound totals. Toronto had a 23-0 scoring advantage Sunday (Monday, PHL time), yet lost by five. Golden State held it 23-12 Wednesday, yet lost by 14. The losing team in both cases slightly won the battle of fast-break points, but offensive-rebounding strategy still forces a choice on teams. “We have a general kind of rule of thumb that once a shot goes up, we tell our guys to make a really quick, good decision,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before Game 3. “Either they're going hard to the offensive rebound or they're going hard to defense transition. … There's certain moments of the game – I mean, some of those late are almost scrambles, right, you're behind five and you're throwing it up there and everybody's trying to rebound, just to keep the game alive as well.” It’s a stat worth watching, even if it’s inversely related lately to the games’ outcomes. Sing it loud, sing it proud ???????? #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/8HfjoM9Cht — Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) June 6, 2019 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 7th, 2019

Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman set for July 20th

Eight-division world champion and reigning WBA (Regular) Welterweight World Champion Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao of the Philippines will be returning to the ring later this year.  Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KO) will be taking on undefeated reigning WBA (Super) Welterweight World Champion Keith "One Time" Thurman in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 20th and will be aired on FOX PPV.  The bout was initially announced by boxing insider Mike Coppinger and was later confirmed by Pacquiao himself SOURCES: The welterweight title fight between Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman has been finalized for July 20 in Las Vegas on FOX PPV and will be formally announced tonight on the broadcast of Jarrett Hurd-Julian Williams — Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) May 11, 2019 The summer just got a little hotter! pic.twitter.com/SxcZsEauNq — Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) May 12, 2019 The 40-year old boxer-slash-senator is coming off a successful title defense against Adrien Broner back in January, his first defense of the WBA's secondary world title, which he captured with a TKO win over Lucas Matthysse back in 2018.  The 30-year old Thurman (29-0, 22 KO), a native of Clearwater, Florida, is coming off a near-two year absence with a unanimous decision win over Joselito Lopez to retain the WBA crown.  Thurman owns wins over the likes of Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, and Robert Guerrero......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2019

Mentality of giants : Self-belief fueling Klopp s Liverpool

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Like the rest of the soccer world, Juergen Klopp had his doubts. Given the scenario — the big first-leg deficit, the presence of Lionel Messi on the other side, injuries to important players — the Liverpool manager just wasn't sure, deep down, that his team could come back from 3-0 down to beat Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals. So he laid down a challenge. "I said to the boys before the game, 'I don't think it's possible, but because it's you I think we have a chance. Because you have the mentality of giants,'" Klopp said, recalling some of his final words before kickoff on arguably the greatest night of soccer in Anfield history. That Liverpool managed to pull off the most unlikely of 4-0 victories in the second leg is a testament not only to the quality of the team Klopp has put together but also the belief he has instilled in a group of players who don't know when they are beaten. They've shown it all season. The late goals — however bizarrely they have come — in wins over Everton, Tottenham and, most recently, Newcastle have kept Liverpool in the Premier League title race with Manchester City to the final weekend. The backs-to-the-wall 1-0 win over Napoli in the final group game in the Champions League, which sent the Reds through courtesy of the head-to-head tiebreaker of goals scored. The mental fortitude to rebound from losing to Real Madrid in last season's Champions League final in the most painful way, certainly for Mohamed Salah after his first-half shoulder injury in that match. So maybe the comeback against Barcelona was natural for this machine that Klopp has created, albeit one that has yet to win a trophy under the German coach. And it feels entirely justified that if Liverpool is to fall short in the Premier League — the team is one point behind City with a game to play — it still has the chance to end the season with some silverware in a competition that has become so synonymous with this storied English club, a five-time European champion. "I am really happy having another chance to get things right," Klopp said, referring to the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in Kiev. "Last year, we felt we have to go back, we cannot let it stand like this. I am not sure it will happen again, so it's so special." For Klopp, it is a chance to end his six-match run of losses in cup finals stretching back to the 2013 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, when he was coach of Borussia Dortmund. Since then, he has lost two German Cup finals with Dortmund and then three title matches with Liverpool — in the English League Cup (2016), the Europa League (2016), and last year's Champions League. "I know what people say about me and losing finals," Klopp said in one of his many candid moments in a post-game news conference during which he often seemed lost for words. There's certainly no self-doubt among his players. Check out, for instance, Andrew Robertson pushing Messi on the head with two hands while the Barcelona forward was on the ground one minute into the match. This a defender who, in 2017, was playing for Hull but is now one of the most highly regarded left backs in the world. Look at Trent Alexander-Arnold, who — at the age of 20 — had the audacity to pull off a 79th-minute corner routine in which he pretended to walk away from the ball only to spin around and cross for Divock Origi to sweep in the fourth and clinching goal while Barcelona's defenders looked the other way. It was such clear-thinking amid the furnace that was Anfield on Wednesday. And then there's Origi, an afterthought at Liverpool at the start of the season after spending last year on loan at Wolfsburg in Germany before being reportedly close to sealing a loan move to Huddersfield. Now here he is, scoring the late winner against Newcastle on Saturday and adding two more against Barcelona three days later. Salah was out, recovering after a concussion. Roberto Firmino was missing, too, with a muscle strain. And Naby Keita was recently ruled out for the season. Even during the game, Robertson was taken off at halftime with a calf injury and captain Jordan Henderson played on after hurting his right knee in the first half. Henderson was everywhere in the second half, eclipsing more-esteemed Barcelona midfield rivals Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic and helping to nullify Messi as the Argentine dropped deep. "The belief we have in the changing room is amazing," Henderson said. "Look at the supporters and the lads." Indeed, the night ended with Liverpool's players and coaching staff standing arm-in-arm in a line in front of jubilant supporters in The Kop, singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" — the club's anthem. Together, they'll head to Madrid for the final, feeling it's their destiny to win European soccer's biggest prize for the sixth time......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

Red Sox manager Alex Cora won t visit White House

CHICAGO (AP) — Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora will not attend the ceremony at the White House on Thursday honoring the 2018 World Series champions. Cora cited the Trump administration's response to Hurricane Maria in his native Puerto Rico as the reason for his decision. "The government has done some things back home that are great, but we still have a long ways to go," he said on Sunday following a 9-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. "That's our reality. It's pretty tough to go celebrate when we're where we're at. I'd rather not go and be consistent with everything." Cora recently said he might attend the ceremony and say something, but had a change of heart after speaking with family and friends. "We talked about it and decided (not going) was the best way to do it," he said. Cora said he informed the Red Sox of his decision a few days ago. Boston plays at Baltimore Monday through Wednesday and has a day off on Thursday. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts also said on Sunday he won't visit the White House......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Boxing: Jerwin Ancajas targets seventh title defense against Ryuichi Funai

Filipino boxing world champion Jerwin "Pretty Boy" Ancajas looks to continue his reign of dominance when he puts his IBF Super Flyweight World Chamionship on the line for the seventh against Japanse challenger Ryuichi Funai in Stockton, California this Saturday, May 4th (Sunday, May 5th, Manila time.) The 27-year old Ancajas has lorded over the IBF's 115-pound division since 2016, and has since dispatched all challengers, including the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Teiru Kinoshita, Jamie Conlan, and even compatriot Jonas Sultan.  Ancaja's 17-fight winning streak was snapped however, when he and Mexican Alejandro Santiago Barrios figured in a 116-112, 111-118, 114-114 Split Draw back in September of 2018.  Now, the Panabo, Davao del Norte-native looks to bounce back from that lackluster performance and return to his dominant ways.  Standing in front of him will be a longer and taller challenger in Japan's Funai.  The 33-year old Tokyo native is riding a wave of momentum as he heads into his first shot at a world championship on a seven-fight winning streak, with six of those wins coming via KO or TKO.  The number one-ranked IBF contender will be making his United States debut as he looks to dethrone the long-time Super Flyweight king.    Catch Jerwin Ancajas vs. Ryuichi Funai LIVE this Sunday, May 5th 10:30 am on ABS-CBN S+A channel 23!   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2019

Germany launches bid as favorite to host Euro 2024

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The German soccer federation has formally launched a bid to host the 2024 European Championship. Federation president Reinhard Grindel says it will choose 10 stadiums and work with Transparency International during bidding ahead of UEFA's decision in September 2018. German organizers of the 2006 World Cup are criminal suspects in a Swiss federal investigation of irregular payments linked to FIFA. Still, Germany has been seen as the favorite to host Euro 2024 since reaching a deal with England to withdraw from competing to host the Euro 2020 semifinals and final. A combined Scandinavian bid has also been suggested for Euro 2024. However, UEFA said last month a maximum of two hosts would get direct qualification to the 24-team tournament. UEFA set a March 3 deadline for federations to express interest. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Bundesliga will be ready to use video review next season

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The Bundesliga says it will be ready to use video review next season. FIFA's rules making panel, known as IFAB, is working with leagues to introduce Video Assistant Referees (VARs) ahead of likely approval for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. FIFA wants video review only for potential 'clear errors' in four situations: Goals being scored, penalties being awarded, players being sent off, and cases of mistaken identity. IFAB should decide early next year on using VARs at the World Cup. Germany's top league kicks off next season in August. A Bundesliga statement says it opted for a system 'where all VARs will be assembled at a single location on the day of play,' as the NBA and MLB use. In Russia, FIFA could opt for VARs working at the stadium as part of each referee's support team. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Klinsmann believes US Soccer made progress before his firing

GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer br /> LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jurgen Klinsmann is proud of his half-decade in charge of the U.S. national team, and the coach believes he left successor Bruce Arena in a position to make the Americans even better. Klinsmann made his first public remarks since his firing when he spoke Friday at a convention of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in downtown Los Angeles. Klinsmann agreed to speak at the session before losses in the first two games of the final round of World Cup qualifying led to his dismissal. Klinsmann also was the program's technical director for his final three years in charge, supervising every aspect of the team's development and training. 'The results will tell in the future if it helped Bruce to achieve the goals that are set,' Klinsmann said. 'But I think whenever you have the chance to put your stamp on a program, you do it with everything you have, and that's what I tried to do. I think we achieved a lot within the system of U.S. Soccer, connecting a lot of dots — even though there are so many out there that are disconnected, which we know. But now it's there for the next group of leaders to continue that.' When his team lost at home to Mexico and at Costa Rica late last year, falling into an early hole in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Klinsmann was fired by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Nov. 21 after 5 1/2 years. Klinsmann didn't appear to agree with the decision, but he understands how it was reached. 'You have to be measured against benchmarks,' Klinsmann said. 'You cannot lose to Costa Rica and Mexico (if) that's the benchmark. Then that's the benchmark, and you have to live with that.' Klinsmann took the U.S. job after stints in charge of the German national team and Bayern Munich. The Americans won 16 games in his first year in charge, and they later claimed the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and a spot in the second round of the 2014 World Cup. But the program encountered several recent setbacks, and criticism grew for Klinsmann's style and strategy. The Americans still reached last year's Copa America semifinals before getting routed 4-0 by Argentina. Klinsmann wryly recalled that loss, saying it was a 'fair question' to ask how U.S. Soccer could accept such a blowout. Hyperbolizing, he said a team led by Lionel Messi 'could have given us eight' against the best American squad. Arena, who coached the U.S. from 1998 to 2006, opened the first training camp of his second stint this week, welcoming roughly 30 Major League Soccer-based players to a month-long camp. The U.S. resumes qualifying at home against Honduras on March 24, then plays four days later at Panama. Arena's roster includes several players ignored by Klinsmann, who at times seemed to preferred those on European clubs. He also engaged in public clashes with popular veterans, most notably leaving Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup team. Klinsmann, a World Cup champion player with West Germany in 1990, looks at his relationships with the top American players through the lens of experience now. 'I think as a player, you are kind of in a mindset where you know it always better than the coach, so you go through your career as a player and you never have the perfect coach,' he said. 'Later on, when you become a coach, you realize you were so wrong.' Klinsmann got a standing ovation from the audience of soccer coaches after his hour-long remarks during an interview and question-and-answer session. The coaches in attendance asked Klinsmann extensively about his technique and philosophy around numerous aspects of the job. 'As coaches, it's important to look outside and see, 'How do they do it there?'' Klinsmann said. 'We are always learning. I want to encourage you to understand how a better plan can be built.' As for his unfinished work with the U.S. team, Klinsmann sounded philosophical about that, as well. 'I think we all need to be aware that we're just part of a certain timeline, and then somebody else takes over and takes it to the next level in his own way,' he said. 'But a lot has been done in the last five years which I've been really proud of.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

FIFA set to approve bigger, richer World Cup on Tuesday

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   FIFA is set to make the World Cup bigger and richer, even if the price to pay is lower quality soccer. FIFA President Gianni Infantino hopes his ruling Council will agree Tuesday to expand the 2026 World Cup to 48 nations, playing in 16 groups of three teams. A decision could be delayed if some Council members demand to know exactly how many qualifying places each continent will get before agreeing to scrap the 32-team format. It has been successful, popular and profitable since 1998 and is locked in for the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar. The prize of 16 extra places, and the biggest increases to Africa and Asia, has 'overwhelming' support from FIFA's 211 member federations, Infantino has said. Their promise of extra funding from Zurich could also be secured by FIFA's forecast 20 percent rise in rights fees paid by broadcasters and sponsors. 'Financially, the 48-team format is the most appealing or successful simply because the sporting element is prevailing and every match is important,' Infantino said two weeks ago. 'The decision should not be financially driven, neither in terms of revenue or costs ... but the driver should really be the development of football and boosting football all over the world.' World Cup champion Germany is not in favor. It argued that diluting the number of European and South American teams — which won all 20 titles since 1930 — could 'strengthen the imbalance' seen at some tournaments. 'The (German soccer federation) fundamentally believe that the current 32-team format is the best option,' its president Reinhard Grindel said last week. Germany has no delegate at Tuesday's meeting though Grindel is set to join the FIFA Council in May. FIFA acknowledged the risk of lower standards in a research document sent to members last month, as first reported by The Associated Press. The 'absolute quality' of soccer, defined by high-ranked teams playing each other most often, is achieved by 32 teams, FIFA said, citing 10,000 tournament simulations made to reach that conclusion. Still, Infantino promised voters more World Cup places and funding raises before his election last February. FIFA expects $5.5 billion income tied to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, though 25 of 34 sponsorship slots are unsold. The research document predicted the equivalent of $6.5 billion revenue from a 48-team tournament in the '16x3' format, which would send two teams from each group to a new Round of 32 knockout bracket. All 80 matches would play in an exclusive time slot. Currently, 64 World Cup matches have 56 broadcast slots because the eight four-team groups play their last matches simultaneously. FIFA predicts organizing costs for '16x3' rising from $2 billion to $2.3 billion, giving a potential profit rise of $640 million. Though a '16x3' World Cup would still need a maximum of 12 stadiums, the demand for 16 more top-quality training camps and hotels suggests FIFA would look for 2026 hosts with existing capacity. A North American bid from two or three of the United States, Canada and Mexico is currently favored in a contest that could start within weeks. Five options are open Tuesday, including staying with 32 teams. Infantino campaigned last year on a 40-team promise, in either eight groups of five teams or 10 groups of four teams. Neither impressed voters in recent regional meetings of FIFA member federations. When the FIFA leader first proposed 48 teams, it included an opening playoff round. The 16 winners would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional 32-team group stage. FIFA members disliked 'one-and-done' teams going home before the 'real' World Cup kicks off. It would also stretch to a 39-day event with more short-notice travel for fans. Africa and Asia could be the big winners, and FIFA hopes new teams would include another Iceland, Wales and Costa Rica — over-achieving teams and feelgood stories at recent tournaments. Still, hapless Tahiti was outclassed at the 2013 Confederations Cup, conceding 24 goals in three games. 'The goal of expanding the FIFA World Cup,' it has told members, 'is to further advance the vision to promote the game of football, protect its integrity and bring the game to all.' ___ Entry quotas for 2018 World Cup: Europe 14 (including host Russia to qualify direct); Africa 5; Asia and South America 4.5 each; North, Central America and Caribbean 3.5; Oceania 0.5. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

A guide to FIFA's options for expanding the 2026 World Cup

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   FIFA is preparing to decide Tuesday on adding 16 more teams to the 2026 World Cup for a 48-team tournament. President Gianni Infantino's favored format would break with soccer tradition to play in groups of only three teams. Two would advance from each group to a Round of 32 knockout bracket. If agreed by the Infantino-chaired FIFA Council in Zurich, the 2026 hosting contest could formally open in weeks. A co-hosted North American bid is widely seen as the best option. Here are some things to know about overhauling the greatest competition in the world's most popular sport: ___ WHY EXPAND? A bigger World Cup was an Infantino campaign promise before his election last February, when his plan was 40 teams. It might have been key. Infantino's momentum for victory in a second-round poll was a three-vote lead over Sheik Salman of Bahrain in the first. Sheik Salman had promised only to review if more World Cup teams were wanted. Infantino also pledged to give more of FIFA's money to member federations — all 211 are now entitled to $5 million from each World Cup — and send more to continental and regional soccer bodies. So, more teams also had to mean more games, earning more revenue from broadcasters and sponsors. The '16x3' format arguably works better with only group winners advancing. But that would leave total matches unchanged at 64. Infantino also wants to create fervor in the extra countries which would qualify. In the short-term, competing national teams attract more sponsors. The long-term goal is appealing to more young people who are the future players, fans and officials. Expect to hear much FIFA talk of helping the next Costa Rica or Iceland — feelgood stories at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 — by inviting 16 more teams to the party. ___ 48-TEAM OPTIONS A near-consensus is growing around the '16x3' option revealed just one month ago. All 80 games would be played in exclusive time slots. That's more hours of TV exposure for sponsors and sales time for broadcasters in the same 32-day tournament period. By advancing two teams from each group, a Round of 32 ensures most teams still play at least three matches. FIFA's own analysis predicts this format will raise revenue by 20 percent from the equivalent $5.5 billion forecast from the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The flaw for purists is planning for penalty shootouts to settle drawn group matches. If each game has a 'winner' that guards against teams colluding on a mutually favorable result in the last group games. Previously, Infantino suggested an opening playoff round of 16 matches to decide who would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional 32-team group phase. That was unacceptable to many FIFA members federations who said 'one-and-done' teams were not part of a real World Cup. It also would stretch the tournament to 39 days. ___ 40-TEAM OPTIONS Infantino's plan from one year ago is now almost friendless. Either of two options, 10 groups of four teams or eight five-team groups, gives lopsided or weak match schedules, FIFA judged. In '10x4,' only 76 matches are played and only six group runners-up advance from a muddled tiebreaker process to a Round of 16. In '8x5,' the 88 matches include meaningless ones in a flabby group phase ripe for collusion. Also, the four semifinalists would play eight matches and that workload is unacceptable to European clubs releasing employees to national-team duty. ___ PROVEN 32-TEAM FORMAT Why fix something that is not broken? Germany, the defending champion, has publicly asked this question. The 32-team format and perfect 64-match bracket has worked well since being introduced at the 1998 World Cup in France (where Europe had 15 teams). FIFA acknowledged that it produces the best soccer — 'the highest absolute quality' of games pitting high-ranked teams against each other. Recall that former winners Italy, England and Uruguay were drawn in the same 2014 World Cup group — and yet Costa Rica finished top. Still, enough of FIFA's 211 members want change and their chance to play. ___ WHO WILL PLAY? A big question is likely not being resolved Tuesday. FIFA has yet to announce exactly how many entry slots each of six confederations would get for their own qualifying program. Quotas for a 40-team World Cup were proposed in December 2015 by a FIFA advisory group that included Infantino, then UEFA's general secretary. Some saw a cynical move to sweeten skeptical FIFA voters who were being asked to vote through modernizing and anti-corruption reforms on the same day they picked a new president. Then, assuming a single host nation would get automatic entry, the proposal for sharing 39 qualifying slots was: Europe 14; Africa 7; Asia 6; South America 5; North, Central America and Caribbean 5; Oceania 1; plus a final slot awarded 'based on sporting merits using a method yet to be defined.' Going from 40 to 48 can add at least one more from each continent. Who could those new teams be? On current form, maybe Wales and Panama, Congo and Burkina Faso, Uzbekistan and Oman, will bring something new to the 2026 World Cup. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

Djokovic wins, then poses for selfie, Murray advances

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Defending champion Novak Djokovic and top-seeded Andy Murray posted straight-set wins on Wednesday to reach the Qatar Open quarterfinals, but only Djokovic was asked to pose for a selfie by his opponent after the match. Djokovic, a 12-time Grand Slam champion, honored the unusual request of Horacio Zeballos of Argentina after his 6-3, 6-4 win. 'I just have to mention making a selfie after the match was over, that was the first time that I ever had this kind of experience in my career,' Djokovic said on the court. 'So, Horacio, well done. Very original.' Murray had a challenging outing against Gerald Melzer of Austria, the younger brother of former world No. 8 Jurgen Melzer, before advancing to the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (6) 7-5 win. 'He played great, great tennis and was dominating large parts of the match,' said Murray, who was on the defense through much of the match. 'He made it extremely, extremely difficult. I was a bit lucky to through in two sets today. 'I think he's playing much better than someone ranked 69 in the world,' Murray added. In the first set, Murray required nine set points before Melzer mis-hit a forehand to surrender the set. In the second, Melzer saved two Murray match points on his own serve in the ninth game, and then broke for 5-5. Murray broke Melzer's serve on a fourth break point in the 11th game and then sealed the victory on a third match point when Melzer blasted a shot long. 'Today was a perfect example of the depth in the men's games just now,' Murray said. 'I actually played pretty good, but he was hitting the ball huge from both sides. You need to be ready for every single match.' Murray, a two-time champion in Doha, will face Nicolas Almagro of Spain in the quarterfinals. Djokovic never offered Zeballos a break point opportunity, but could only carve out one service break in each set against the Argentine's serve. 'Credit to Zeballos for playing some fearless tennis,' Djokovic said. 'He was stepping in and trying to go for his shots. He wasn't backing up to the baseline.' Djokovic will play qualifier Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic, in the quarterfinals. At 38, Stepanek, who ranked a career-best No. 8 in July 2006, is the oldest ATP Tour quarterfinalist since a 42-year-old Jimmy Connors reached the final eight at the 1995 Halle tournament. Stepanek defeated wildcard entrant Arthur De Greef of Belgium 6-3, 6-2 for his quarterfinal berth. Spaniard Fernando Verdasco needed six match points, three in the second set tiebreaker, to upset fourth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium 6-1, 7-6 (6). Verdasco will play sixth-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the last eight. The other quarterfinal will pit third-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic against fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who beat Dustin Brown of Germany 6-1, 6-3. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2017

Ronda Rousey gets knocked out in 48 seconds in comeback fight

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Ronda Rousey was stopped 48 seconds into her comeback fight Friday night, losing to bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 on Friday night. Rousey (12-2) returned from a 13-month absence and never managed to get her footing against Nunes (14-4), who rocked Rousey with her very first punches. Rousey staggered and stumbled backward while Nunes relentlessly pursued her and landed multiple shots. Referee Herb Dean stopped the bout with Rousey still on her feet, and Rousey briefly protested the stoppage before leaving the cage in her mother's arms. Cody Garbrandt also won the men's bantamweight title in the penultimate bout, battering champion Dominick Cruz to earn a surprising decision victory at T-Mobile Arena in the UFC's traditional end-of-the-year show in its hometown. Rousey couldn't compete in her first fight since losing her belt to Holly Holm 13 months ago in her first career defeat. Rousey became arguably the world's most famous female athlete and a combat sports trailblazer while she rocketed atop the UFC, but a year away from the sport apparently did little to heal the holes in her game. Nunes claimed her belt with a violent stoppage of Miesha Tate at UFC 200 in July, completing an unlikely ascent for a Brazilian veteran whose skills have improved in recent years. Nunes lost three fights earlier in her career to opponents beaten easily by Rousey, but Nunes' work ethic and toughness propelled her into the biggest fight in the women's game against Rousey. Rousey hadn't fought since November 2015, when Holm stopped her with a head kick in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. Rousey had never lost or been in much trouble while the former Olympic judo medalist rocketed to the top of her sport with a series of one-sided victories, but Holm's veteran striking made Rousey look amateurish before the dramatic finish. Rousey nearly vanished from public view after her loss, taking time away from the gym and attending to her acting career. After the bantamweight belt changed hands two more times in her absence, Rousey agreed to return for a shot at reclaiming her title. The UFC also was sold during her absence to WME-IMG, the entertainment conglomerate that also represents Rousey's career. But Rousey refused to promote this pay-per-view show, leaving Cruz and Nunes to do most of the work. While Rousey's media blackout will hurt her cut of the pay-per-view revenue, it didn't affect her guaranteed payday of $3 million, matching Conor McGregor for the biggest disclosed check in UFC history. Earlier, Garbrandt (11-0) remained unbeaten with a virtuoso performance to claim the belt held for the past 11 months by Cruz (22-2), who ended up with a gaping cut over his left eye. Garbrandt used precise striking, multiple takedowns and remarkable charisma to win over the judges, who all favored him by scores of 48-46, 48-46 and 48-47. Cruz hadn't lost an MMA fight since March 24, 2007, winning 13 straight bouts in a career marked by multiple comebacks from major injuries. The 25-year-old Garbrandt is a native of Uhrichsville, Ohio, who trains in the Sacramento-area gym of veteran fighter Urijah Faber. Cruz and Garbrandt taunted each other repeatedly during the promotion of their bout, and their genuine dislike translated into a frenzied five-round fight. Garbrandt lived up to his boundless promise with a resourceful effort against Cruz, who was favored to defend his belt. Instead, Garbrandt landed more shots and did more damage from the opening round. Both fighters landed significant strikes in the first two rounds, but Garbrandt turned the fight in his favor early in the third round during the exchange that opened the cut on Cruz's face. Garbrandt put on a performance in the fourth round, repeatedly knocking down Cruz when he wasn't dancing away from the champion. The unfriendly rivals congratulated each other after the bout, but Cruz didn't appear surprised when Garbrandt's hand was raised. After receiving his belt, Garbrandt wrapped it around the waist of Maddux Maple, a 10-year-old leukemia survivor from northern Ohio who has been his motivational talisman. Garbrandt's first title defense could be against T.J. Dillashaw, who dominated John Lineker in a unanimous-decision victory moments earlier at UFC 207, winning 30-26 on all three cards. Dillashaw (15-3) showed off precise striking and a superior ground game to trounce the Brazilian brawler. 'Come try me!' Garbrandt shouted at Dillashaw afterward. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2016