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30 Teams in 30 Days: After wholesale makeover, Hawks ready to rebuild

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com What offseason? That's a question many fans ask as the flurry of trades, free agent news and player movement seems to never stop during the summer. Since the Golden State Warriors claimed their third title in four years back on June 8 (June 9, PHL time), NBA teams have undergone a massive number of changes as they prepare for the season ahead. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2017-18 to the team with the best regular-season record -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Atlanta Hawks 2017-18 Record: (24-58, did not qualify for the playoffs) Who's new: Coach Lloyd Pierce, Trae Young (Draft), Kevin Huerter (Draft), Omari Spellman (Draft), Jeremy Lin (trade), Justin Anderson (trade), Alex Len (free agency), Vince Carter (free agency) Who's gone: Coach Mike Budenholzer, Dennis Schroder, Mike Muscala The lowdown: Three years after winning a conference-best 60 games, the Hawks crash-landed and clearly set their sights on the Draft lottery by the 2018 All-Star break. New GM Travis Schlenk dumped Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilasova at the trade deadline and would’ve shipped off a few more players if he could. Basically, Schlenk attempted to scrub most of the work of Budenholzer, who ran the basketball operation previously. John Collins made the All-Rookie team and Taurean Prince finished strong. However, Kent Bazemore -- the club’s highest-paid player -- sputtered and never felt comfortable being a volume scorer (12.9 points per game). The Hawks couldn’t win or generate much interest in Atlanta, putting the framework for a fresh era in place well before 2017-18 ended. The Hawks held the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III were off the board. What say you, Mr. Schlenk? He made a gutsy move, bypassing European sensation Luka Doncic in favor of Young and a 2019 protected first from the Mavericks. Schlenk admitted the Hawks’ war room was evenly split on Doncic and Young, but the ’19 first-rounder was the deal-maker. That’s not an overwhelming vote of confidence for Young, and you wonder if Hawks ownership nudged Schlenk into making the deal because of Young’s star potential. The organization dropped millions to give the newly-renamed State Farm Arena some bling over the last year and obviously crave a player with flair to move the needle in Atlanta. Young certainly brings a wow factor. He was the box office star at Oklahoma with his long-range shots and fancy passes. He also became the first collegiate player to lead the nation in scoring and assists in the same season. The Hawks say his ability to make teammates better is vastly unappreciated and will smooth his transition into the NBA. He also had a ragged second half of last season and became a social media punch line. His shot selection and accuracy raised red flags. In a sense, his final year at OU was a tale of two players: Tantalizing Trae and Tragic Trae. NBA scouts say Young's other drawbacks were his lack of size, athletic ability and defense. He was a polarizing Draft pick and the Hawks’ decision received mixed reviews at best among Hawks fans. That additional first-round pick Atlanta got from Dallas could prove beneficial for a rebuilding team that wants to collect as many assets as possible. The idea of Young becoming an Atlanta Basketball Jesus seems like a reach ... until you remember this franchise hasn’t had a ticket-selling sensation in its history. Even Pete Maravich and Dominique Wilkins weren’t basketball magnets in this college football-crazed town. With a new basketball regime in place, it was only a matter of time before Budenholzer, stripped of his basketball operations stripes, would bolt. Schlenk wanted his own people, which is standard operating procedure for a new GM. Once the season ended, Budenholzer began running off copies of his resume with the blessing of the Hawks. He landed in Milwaukee and Schlenk began searching for Budenholzer's successor. Eventually, Schlenk stayed in his comfort zone and hired Pierce. (Years ago, they both worked for the Golden State Warriors.) Pierce came with strong reviews for his work as an assistant coach, most recently with the Sixers. As a player, he rode shotgun in college at Santa Clara with Steve Nash and brings solid people skills to Atlanta. He is, however, a first-time coach and sometimes, it gets tricky when folks slide one seat over on the bench. It was no secret the Hawks wanted to jettison starting point guard and leading scorer Schroder this summer. He had legal issues and didn’t develop solid chemistry with his teammates. When the Thunder agreed to a proposal, the Hawks pounced, sending Schroder to OKC for Carmelo Anthony (who was subsequently bought out), Justin Anderson and a future first-rounder. Of course, this means the Hawks will either go with a rookie as their starting point guard or Lin (who’s should be healthy for training camp after he missed all but one game last season.) With their additional first-round pick this year, the Hawks took Huerter, a sharp-shooter from Maryland. Right now they’re getting nothing special offensively from the swing position and Huerter will get a long look as a rotational player. In order to help a young locker room adjust, the Hawks added 41-year-old Carter (who was a rookie when Young was born). Carter has become a lovable NBA senior citizen, which allows folks to overlook his declining skills. His veteran voice will help when the Hawks endure a losing streak. Still, the summer belonged to the deal the Hawks swung for Young. It’s one of those decisions that could make Schlenk look like a genius, especially if he scores big on the 2019 Dallas pick and Young pans out. The flip side? Doncic becomes the transcendent star in Dallas that the Hawks craved. The final verdict on this deal won’t be delivered for years. By then, will the Hawks be winners? Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or 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: abscbn abscbnSep 5th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Middle 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Middle 10 * * * 11. TORONTO RAPTORS 2017-18 RECORD: 59-23; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: Coach Nick Nurse; G Danny Green (acquired from Spurs); F Kawhi Leonard (acquired from Spurs) LOST: Former coach Dwane Casey; G DeMar DeRozan (traded to Spurs); F Alfonzo McKinnie (waived); C Jakob Poeltl (traded to Spurs) RETAINED: G Fred VanVleet (two years, $18.1 million) THE KEY MAN: Nurse. The former Raps assistant has extensive G League head coaching experience. But the NBA isn’t just about a coach’s Xs and Os acumen. We know Nurse can do that. But an NBA coach has to have command presence in a locker room not only full of millionaires, but full of Alpha males who have their own very strong opinions on how they should be used and how their teammates should help them. Nurse will have to show he can put his own stamp on a team that will have some new faces while still having extremely high expectations. THE SKINNY: You may well think Toronto should be higher, based on Leonard’s standing as a top-five player in the league when fully healthy. No matter what you think of DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, no one can realistically say he’s better than “The Klaw” when both are 100 percent. But, of course, we don’t know if Leonard’s 100 percent. And, trading DeRozan, who’d been the franchise’s biggest advocate during his nine seasons there -- and who had led the team to its greatest extended run of success ever -- is not a transaction without consequence for the Raptors. He helped get the best out of Kyle Lowry. He could help recruit free agents. And, the circumstances of his departure have not helped the franchise’s reputation. Still, this is a talent-based league, and Leonard has it. His and Green’s presence on the perimeter gives Toronto the chance to be a switching defensive monster -- and will help the Raptors be able to match up better with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in a late-May playoff matchup, as long as the Raptors’ young core in which it believes so strongly continues to play as well in reserve as it did last season. 12. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: Coach Mike Budenholzer; G Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trevon Duval; F Ersan Ilyasova (three years, $21 million); C Brook Lopez (one year, $3.32 million); F Pat Connaughton (two years, $3.2 million); LOST: Former interim coach Joe Prunty; G Brandon Jennings (waived); F Jabari Parker (signed with Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: G Eric Bledsoe. His departure from Phoenix early last season was messy. But once he got to Brewtown, Bledsoe solidified the Bucks at the point, averaging 17.8 points and 5.1 assists per game in 71 starts. At 28, Bledsoe faces the last year of his contract and will have to show a new coach he’s capable of running things long-term and playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo through the meat of his prime. THE SKINNY: Budenholzer’s arrival should coincide with an improvement in the Bucks’ defense, something that former coach Jason Kidd could never quite accomplish. Ilaysova’s return for a second tour in Milwaukee should help, with his celebrated charge-taking skill and Lopez’s still-substantial size a double-boon to Milwaukee’s interior D as the Bucks were bottom 10 last season in points allowed in the paint (47.4 per game). If the paint becomes a little tougher to traverse, the Bucks should finally able to use their substantial length on the wing to get back to create deflections and turnovers, and get out in transition, where Antetokounmpo and Friends do their best work and their most damage to the opposition. They’ll do so 41 nights a year for the next couple of decades in the 17,500-seat Fiserv Forum, the Bucks’ new arena that will open in early September with a concert and should pump new revenues into the Bucks’ bloodstream, giving them more financial wherewithal to keep “The Greek Freak” surrounded with high-quality talent. 13. UTAH JAZZ 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Grayson Allen (No. 21 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jarius Lyles; G Naz Mitrou-Long LOST: F Jonas Jerebko (waived) RETAINED: G Dante Exum (three years, $33 million); F/C Derrick Favors (two years, $37.6 million), G Raul Neto (two years, $4.4 million); F Georges Niang (three years, $4.9 million) THE KEY MAN: C Rudy Gobert. He’s a monster presence, the hub of the Jazz’s defensive wheel and the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year. And he has to take a step back in Utah next season for the Jazz to take the next step forward. He has to understand what Utah has in Donovan Mitchell and let that kid eat. Nobody in the league can do what Gobert does defensively. So embrace that and concentrate on that -- take the Draymond Green attitude about being the “defensive guy” on a great team (not that Jazz fans want you to do anything that Green does). Gobert’s handsomely paid and the DPOY award found him in Salt Lake City; there’s no small-market bias at work here. So let Mitchell and Joe Ingles carry the shooting/scoring load, let Ricky Rubio orchestrate, and snuff out opponent dreams at the other end, night after night. It’s what you were born to do. THE SKINNY: My God, Mitchell had a great rookie season. And Utah brought most of the band back from last season to provide advice and consent for him again, re-signing Favors, Exum and Neto each on very reasonable contracts. Doing so leaves Utah over the cap, still comfortably under the tax, and with nothing on the books that should raise an eyebrow financially. (Utah’s front office should handle my checking account for a while.) Anyway, no reason to expect any backsliding next season with the crew returning, though coach Quin Snyder will surely miss the counsel of his longtime friend Igor Kokoskov, off to run the Suns. 14. ATLANTA HAWKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Lloyd Pierce; F Justin Anderson (acquired from 76ers); G Kevin Huerter (No. 19 pick, 2018 Draft); C Alex Len (two years, $8.5 million); G Jeremy Lin (acquired from Nets); F Omari Spellman (No. 30 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trae Young (No. 5 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Mike Budenholzer; G Antonius Cleveland (waived); G Damion Lee (signed with Warriors); F/C Mike Muscala (traded to 76ers); G Dennis Schröder (traded to Thunder); G Isaiah Taylor (waived) RETAINED: C Dewayne Dedmon (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: GM Travis Schlenk. The second-year executive will be judged on how well Atlanta uses its trove of Draft picks -- three firsts this year, three firsts next year, two firsts in 2022 -- the next few years. And, ultimately, the Hawks will live or die by whether Young or Luka Doncic becomes the bigger NBA producer. Schlenk’s chances of completing the rebuild may well ride on that. THE SKINNY: The Hawks’ roster teardown is nearing completion, but the renovated Philips Arena will come online faster than the team, which now needs Young to live up to all the hype after his one season at Oklahoma. He has incredible range and great potential, but he’ll be challenged every night to stay in front of the legion of great points in this league. Pierce, the former Sixers’ assistant, is going to have a very tough time melding all the newcomers with the small core of players who survived, including John Collins, Kent Bazemore, DeAndre' Bembry and Taurean Prince. 15. LA CLIPPERS 2017-18 RECORD: 42-40; missed playoffs ADDED: C Marcin Gortat (acquired from Wizards); G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 11 pick, 2018 Draft); F Johnathan Motley (acquired from Mavericks); F Mike Scott (one year, $4.3 million); F Luc Mbah a Moute (one year, $4.3 million), G Jerome Robinson (No. 13 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Austin Rivers (traded to Wizards); C DeAndre Jordan (signed with Mavs); G C.J. Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Avery Bradley (two years, $24.9  million); C Montrezl Harrell (two years, $12 million); G Wesley Johnson (picked up player option); G Milos Teodosic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Tobias Harris. He was the key tangible piece of the Blake Griffin trade last season (the intangible being the unprotected first from Detroit in the deal that eventually became Gilgeous-Alexander after a Draft night trade with Charlotte). And Harris played quite well in his 32 games with the Clips, averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds per game. Those numbers could each well go up in a contract year and with few others outside of Lou Williams on the roster that can go get their own buckets. THE SKINNY: Amazing, but true: the Clipper player with the longest current tenure is … Wesley Johnson, who came aboard in 2015. “Lob City” is in the history books and change will be the norm here for a while, including next summer, when the Clippers expect to be a free-agent destination. The Clips did what they could with that not-insignificant restriction, but the best stuff was in the Draft, winding up with a potential long-term point in Gilgeous-Alexander and a two in Robinson that rocketed up the pre-Draft charts. Bradley’s on a very team-friendly and controllable contract, as is Patrick Beverley, whose modest 2018-19 salary isn’t guaranteed until January. Those two and Mbah a Moute can give coach Doc Rivers hope that he can get some stops on the perimeter, because while Gortat is still willing defensively and still takes a bunch of charges, he is not Jordan when it comes to rim protection. 16. BROOKLYN NETS 2017-18 RECORD: 28-54; missed playoffs ADDED: F/C Ed Davis (one year, $4.4 million); F Jared Dudley (acquired from Suns); F Kenneth Faried (acquired from Nuggets); G/F Treveon Graham (two years); F Rodions Kurucs (No. 40, 2018 Draft); F Dzanan Musa (No. 29 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shabazz Napier (two years, $3.7 million) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Suns); F Dante Cunningham (signed with Spurs); C Dwight Howard (waived); G Jeremy Lin (traded to Hawks); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Hornets); G Nik Stauskas (signed with Blazers); G Isaiah Whitehead (traded to Nuggets) RETAINED: G Joe Harris (two years, $16 million) THE KEY MAN: Co-owner Joseph Tsai. The Alibaba executive and billionaire has 49 percent of the team, and can buy majority control from Mikhail Prokhorov by 2021. Until then, they’ll run the team jointly, so no matter Prokhorov’s ups and downs, Brooklyn’s financial spigot should never run dry. Tsai reportedly has designs on expanding the Nets’ brand further in China, just as Prokhorov believed the Nets had global reach. They didn’t, at least not the post-KG and Pierce squads. THE SKINNY: If you love Ed Davis like smart people who know basketball do, Brooklyn makes the top half by bringing the ex-Blazer in on a short deal. If he plays great, he’ll cost the Nets a pretty penny in 2019, but Brooklyn has to take chances on guys who can outperform their contracts. The only thing the Nets couldn’t do was take on more ’19 salary when they’ll be in line to potentially add two max players. Won’t be easy to lure the elites, but Brooklyn also has accumulated enough assets to be able to make uneven trades for salaries if need be. In the interim comes next season, with coach Kenny Atkinson needing to continue to develop diamonds in the rough like Graham, who Cleveland wanted and who will help the Nets at multiple positions. 17. CHICAGO BULLS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: G Antonius Cleveland; C Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 7 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chandler Hutchison (No. 22 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jabari Parker (two years, $40 million) LOST: F Jerian Grant (traded to Magic); G Sean Kilpatrick (waived); G Julyan Stone (waived); F Noah Vonleh (signed with Knicks); G Paul Zipser (waived) RETAINED: G Antonio Blakeney; G Zach LaVine (matched four year, $78 million offers sheet from Kings) THE KEY MAN: G Kris Dunn. As the 24-year-old will be every season he’s in Chicago. The Jimmy Butler trade in 2017 yielded the pick that became Lauri Markannen, and he’s also a key piece to the Bulls’ future. But Chicago won’t ever get elevation again if Dunn doesn’t become an elite point guard in a league full of them. He showed signs last season that he could be just that, most notably a December in which Dunn averaged 14.9 points and eight assists, and the Bulls went 10-6. But a concussion in January derailed Dunn’s progress and his production fell sharply the rest of the season. THE SKINNY: Can Parker play the three, as the Bulls insist he can? There isn’t a ton of evidence suggesting so, and Parker’s hypothesis that he isn’t getting paid to play defense does not provide much comfort. But the Bulls will try him there alongside Markannen and rookie Carter Jr. in what would be a huge frontcourt. Almost $20 million annually for LaVine going forward is also a stretch, but less of one if LaVine comes all the way back from his 2017 ACL tear with a full training camp and season. Carter may be more important to the Bulls’ hoped-for resurgence than Parker and LaVine; the Duke big man has that much potential. 18. WASHINGTON WIZARDS 2017-18 RECORD: 43-39; lost in first round ADDED: C Thomas Bryant; G Troy Brown (No. 15 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jeff Green (one year, $2.5 million); C Dwight Howard (two years, $11 million); G Austin Rivers (acquired from Clippers); G Issuf Sanon (No. 44 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Marcin Gortat (traded to Clippers); F Mike Scott (signed with Clippers) RETAINED: G Jodie Meeks (picked up player option); C Jason Smith (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Coach Scott Brooks. Entering his third season in Washington, Brooks keeps saying he wants the Wizards to defend and play fast. But he has to follow that up with action, especially when and if John Wall doesn’t provide the on-ball defense Washington needs to have any chance to unleash a still-potent fast break. Wall is 27 and, if healthy, in his prime. The team takes almost all of its cues from him; when he’s locked in, the Wizards can compete with anyone. But when he’s indifferent, so are they -- as evidenced by their horrible record against bad teams. Brooks has to demand Wall’s best, or be ready to limit his minutes. THE SKINNY: NBA protocol almost demands you hate the pickup of Howard, such is his current perceived valued among many after multiple stops the last few seasons. The guess here is that Howard won’t hijack the Wizards’ locker room, as he had been accused of while in with the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets, especially. Howard’s skill set can help Washington, which fell off defensively last season. But there’s also not much sense he’ll be a significant pick-me-up in D.C., either. He can’t stretch the floor and he’s not especially potent finishing in pick and roll, either. But the Wizards should at least be deeper off the bench with Green, who played well for the Cavs last season, and Rivers, who gives Washington legit guard depth along with Tomas Satoransky. 19. SACRAMENTO KINGS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: F Nemanja Bjelica (three years, $20.4 million); C Marvin Bagley III (No. 2 pick, 2018 Draft); G Yogi Ferrell (two years, $4.1 million); G Ben McLemore (acquired from Kings); F Deyonta Davis (acquired from Grizzlies) LOST: G Garrett Temple (traded to Grizzlies) RETAINED: G Iman Shumpert (picked up player option); C Kosta Koufos (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Harry Giles. The Kings traded for the one-and-done forward on Draft night 2017 and redshirted him, feeling he needed a year to fully recover from the multiple knee surgeries he’d undergone the last three years. Those surgeries stopped his top-five Draft potential in its tracks, before and after a year at Duke. But Giles is back on the floor, having flashed his skills during NBA Summer League, as Sacramento gushed about his progress. If the 20-year-old is ready to roll come October, he could be an enormous boost. He’ll have to at least become a contributor, lest folks remind the Kings they passed on the likes of Kyle Kuzma and O.G Anunoby to trade for his rights. THE SKINNY: Bagley III has superstar potential, and he better become one, or the Doncic Stans among the Kings’ fan base will have aneurysms. The Kings were all over everyone, seemingly, this summer, dropping sheets on Zach LaVine, almost doing the same with Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker, and going after unrestricted free agent Mario Hezonja. All well and good, and getting Bjelica out from under Philly and prying Ferrell from Dallas were decent late July pickups. But it will be Bagley III who’ll be under the microscope. His skill sets are prodigious and he’s been working out feverishly all summer. And he wants to make a mark in restoring the Kings to where they were on the floor during the Webber Years. He worked out for them. He’s enthusiastic about them. That counts for something. 20. HOUSTON ROCKETS 2017-18 RECORD: 65-17; lost in Western Conference finals ADDED: G Michael Carter-Williams (one year, $1.5 million); G De'Anthony Melton (No. 46 pick, 2018 Draft); F Vincent Edwards (No. 52 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Trevor Ariza (signed with Suns); Luc Mbah a Moute (signed with LA Clippers); C Chinanu Onuaku (traded to Mavs) RETAINED: C Clint Capela (five years, $90 million); G/F Gerald Green (one year, $2.3 million); G Aaron Jackson (picked up team option); G Chris Paul (four years, $159 million) THE KEY MAN: Jason Biles, Joe Rogowski, Keith Jones and Javair Gillett -- the Rockets’ athletic trainers, sports performance and rehab staff. Their only mission next season, should they decide to accept it, is to get Paul through an 82-game regular season and a two-month playoff slog without breaking or pulling anything of importance that keeps him out of key games. Of course, should any of the staff be unsuccessful, the Morey will disavow any knowledge of their employment. Good luck, men. THE SKINNY: We have not yet included Carmelo Anthony, who will be signing in Houston any minute now. When he’s officially on the roster, he’ll certainly help, and we all saw that even Houston can go through extended scoring droughts in the playoffs. Having Anthony around should alleviate that. The Rockets may have had the best signing of the summer, keeping the 24-year-old Capela locked up long-term for $18 million per -- incredible value these days, given the way salaries are skyrocketing. But that was mitigated by the losses of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, who were crucial to the switching defense Houston employed and perfected by the playoffs, which threw sand in the gears of the Warriors’ impenetrable offense and would likely have propelled the Rockets to The Finals if Paul hadn’t gotten hurt in Game 5. Ennis and Carter-Williams will help some in that regard, but they don’t have the resume of Mbah a Moute and Ariza -- which means they sometimes won’t get the benefit of the doubt from refs that the old heads do. Houston’s still the clear number two to Golden State in the West, but the gap between the Rockets and the best of the rest has closed. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. 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 NewsAug 8th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Top 10 * * * 1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (acquired from Sixers); G Hamidou Diallo (No. 45 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devon Hall (No. 53 pick, 2018 Draft); F Kevin Hervey (No. 57 pick, 2018 Draft); F Abdel Nader (acquired from Celtics); C Nerlens Noel (two years, $3.7 million); G Dennis Schröder (acquired from Hawks) LOST: F Carmelo Anthony (traded to Hawks); F Nick Collison (retired); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Magic); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Celtics) RETAINED: G Raymond Felton (one year, $2.3 million); F Paul George (four years, $136.9 million); F Jerami Grant (three years, $27.3 million) THE KEY MAN: G Andre Roberson. This is real simple: with Roberson on the court last year, OKC’s opponent offensive rating was 99.2; when he was off, it was 110.7. The Thunder was a near-elite defensive unit when Roberson played and was awful when he didn’t. His Real Defensive Plus-Minus, per ESPN.com, was 4.34, second only to Utah’s Rudy Gobert (5.06). So when Roberson ruptured his patellar tendon in late January, the Thunder’s ability to use George as a weakside defender who could freelance and use his length to create deflections and turnovers (because Roberson had the strong side absolutely locked down) went away. Any chance the Thunder has next season to compete at the highest levels in the West will depend on the 26-year-old Roberson’s recovery and return to the lineup. THE SKINNY: None of us -- none -- thought George was going to stay in OKC. And we all thought Sam Presti and the Thunder were crazy for trading for him last year, because it was just going to be a one-year rental and he was going to be off to the Lakers in 12 months, and OKC would have nothing to show for its deal. But George’s presence helped convince Russell Westbrook -- also long rumored to eventually head back to Cali -- to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder. And OKC’s acquisition of Carmelo Anthony helped convince George that the Thunder was all in on competing. And even though OKC went out in the first round of the playoffs to Utah, its year-long courtship of George and his family paid off when PG-13 spurned L.A. once and for all to stay in the 405. Anthony ultimately wasn’t a good fit, but he brought back Schroder, who will give Billy Donovan a dynamic scorer off the bench that can give Westbrook a blow and keep OKC’s offense from immolating when Westbrook is on the bench, a common malady the last two years. The Thunder has been relevant in an incredibly small market now for almost a decade. With George and Westbrook and Steven Adams and, now, Schroder, all signed up through 2021, that remarkable run will continue for some time. 2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS 2017-18 RECORD: 35-47; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Beasley (one year, $3.5 million); F Joel Berry II; F Issac Bonga (No. 39 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jeffrey Carroll; F LeBron James (four years, $153 million); C JaVale McGee (one year, $1.4 million); G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (No. 47 pick, 2018 Draft); G Rajon Rondo (one year, $9 million); G Lance Stephenson; F Mo Wagner (No. 25 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Thomas Bryant (waived); G Tyler Ennis (waived); F/C Channing Frye (signed with Cavs); C Brook Lopez (signed with Bucks); F Julius Randle (signed with Pelicans); G Isaiah Thomas (signed with Nuggets) RETAINED: G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (one year, $12 million); G Travis Wear THE KEY MAN: F Brandon Ingram. The third-year man should be the major beneficiary of James’ presence going forward. Driving lanes previously clogged with defenders should now be runway clear. Opponents who previously could close out strong on Ingram will now have their attention elsewhere. Ingram need only look at James’ last stop: per NBA.com/Stats, among players leaguewide who appeared in at least 60 games last season, three Cavaliers -- Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Cedi Osman -- were among the top 20 in the league in lowest frequency of having their closest defenders within two feet of them, meaning James created many wide open looks for teammates all season. Ingram vastly improved his range last season over his rookie one, shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers. But he only attempted 1.8 threes per game last season. That number will surely skyrocket in 2018. Ingram must ready to take advantage. That will make him that much more deadly as a driver. THE SKINNY: Team president Magic Johnson was tasked with landing a whale in free agency, and he and GM Rob Pelinka bagged Moby Dick in James. Their subsequent free agent moves once Paul George opted to stay in Oklahoma City were all short-term plays with an eye toward the promising 2019 free agent class, which include the likes of All-Stars Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and DeMarcus Cousins. But that doesn’t mean Lake Show ’18 isn’t going to be the rip-roaringest circus this side of your standard Ozzy Ozbourne tour. What’s the over-under on the first time Rondo cusses out coach Luke Walton, or when we hear of a “spirited practice” that is code for “Lance ‘bowed ‘Bron in the neck and Walton sent everyone home”? The Lakers could be in The Finals or out in the first round, but what they decidedly will not be is boring. 3. DENVER NUGGETS 2017-18 RECORD: 46-36; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Thomas (one year, $2 million); F Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 41 pick, 2018 Draft); C Thomas Welsh (No. 58 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Nets); F Wilson Chandler (traded to 76ers); F Kenneth Faried (traded to Nets); G Isaiah Whitehead (waived) RETAINED: G Will Barton (four years, $53 million); G/F Torrey Craig (two years, $4 million); C Nikola Jokic (five-year, $147.7 million contract extension) THE KEY MAN: G Jamal Murray. Denver ended all pretense that the full-time point guard job wasn’t his last season and his second-year numbers were very encouraging. Among regularly playing (60+ games) floor generals, per NBA.com/Stats, Murray’s .577 True Shooting Percentage ranked only behind D.J. Augustin, Kyrie Irving, Darren Collison and Kyle Lowry. No one doubts the still-just-21-year-old Murray can fill it up, and that the Nuggets don’t need a classic ball distributor to light up the Pepsi Center scoreboard. But they do need to get more credible defensively. So does he. THE SKINNY: A great offseason for the Nuggets, who did what they said they would -- keep Jokic off the market next summer -- while clearing roster spots and minutes with two trades, and simultaneously reducing their luxury tax bill for 2019. (The Chandler trade to the Sixers also created an enormous $12.8 million trade exception for Denver through August of 2019.) Jokic should anchor one of the most athletic starting quintets in the game -- along with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, the re-signed Barton (penciled in for now as the starting three) and Paul Millsap. the Nuggets didn’t add much at the defensive end, which was their Achilles’ heel the last couple of seasons and the main reason they didn’t make the playoffs in 2017-18. Denver opted to strengthen a strength by bringing in Thomas, who’ll be in prove-it mode next season on a short deal with a coach that he knows from their Sacramento days in Mike Malone. Look for Malone to unleash Thomas on second units throughout the West. Porter Jr. was worth a flier at 14; he was the consensus likely first pick in the Draft a year ago, before his back injury took him out of all but a couple of games in his one season at Missouri. Denver can give him the entire year to rehab from two surgeries, the latest last week, and reset his clock for 2019-20. 4. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2017-18 RECORD: 58-24; won NBA Finals ADDED: C DeMarcus Cousins (one year, $5.3 million); F Jacob Evans (No. 28 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jonas Jerebko (one year, $2.1 million); G Damion Lee LOST: C JaVale McGee (signed with Lakers); C Zaza Pachulia (signed with Pistons); Head of Physical Performance and Sports Medicine Chelsea Lane (went to Hawks) RETAINED: F Kevin Durant (two years, $61.5 million); F Kevon Looney THE KEY MAN: Brett Yamaguchi, Director of Game Operations/Entertainment, Oracle Arena. One doesn’t envy Yamaguchi, whose tasks will be twofold next season: create lifetime memories for the loudest and most loyal fanbase in the league, as the Warriors play their final season at Oracle Arena (aka Roaracle) -- they’re moving into the Chase Center, their tony new digs across the Bay in downtown San Francisco, come 2019-20. And, provide atmosphere and sizzle that will help coach Steve Kerr keep his veteran core from being bored out of its collective mind during the regular season while it waits for the playoffs and a chance at a three-peat. THE SKINNY: So, sure, the best team in the league adds one of the top two or three big men in the game in Cousins. But that’s the ancillary benefit of having such a dominant organization; everyone wants to figure out a way to get to the Bay. Cousins took less money to do so; now he can take his time rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon. If that means he’s not all the way back until All-Star, who cares? The Warriors will roll Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko out at the five in non-Death lineups until Cousins is ready. Meanwhile, Kerr has to keep his vets, but especially Andre Iguodala and Shawn Livingston, off their feet as much as possible during the regular season so they’ll be good to go from April through June. Losing Iguodala for the bulk of the 2018 Western finals was almost the Warriors’ downfall. 5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 2017-18 RECORD: 22-60; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kyle Anderson (four years, $37 million); G Jevon Carter (No. 32 pick, 2018 Draft); F Omri Casspi (one year, $2.3 million); F Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 4 pick, 2018 Draft); C Dakari Johnson (acquired from Magic); G Garrett Temple (acquired from Kings) LOST: C/F Deyonta Davis (traded to Kings); G Tyreke Evans (signed with Pacers); F Jarell Martin (traded to Magic); G Ben McLemore (traded to Kings) RETAINED: Coach J.B. Bickerstaff THE KEY MAN: G Mike Conley. It’s no secret how vital Conley is to the franchise, so a return to form is vital for the veteran point, who’ll be 31 on opening night and who missed 70 games last season with a heel injury. Next season will be the third of Conley’s five-year, $150 million deal signed in 2016; remember when so many people thought the world would end when a small market like Memphis invested so much in him? Well, Conley has already dropped to fifth in the league in salary among point guards, behind Stephen Curry Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry. He’ll fall even further down the list next season, when John Wall’s massive extension kicks in, and Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker each get new contracts that could leap his. THE SKINNY: Memphis couldn’t have had a worse 2017-18 if it tried, and the Grizzlies compounded their on-court implosion by not trading Evans when everyone in the league -- seemingly, except for them -- knew he was going to walk in the summer if they didn’t. But, the Grizzlies’ front office recovered in a big way, selling the 18-year-old Jackson that he would fit right in despite not working out for the Grizz before the Draft, then doubling up on “Grit And Grind 2.0” by taking Carter, college basketball’s fiercest on-ball defender, in the second. Ownership was willing to let the front office use the full mid-level exception on Anderson, who isn’t the sexiest pickup to many fans but whose defensive numbers in San Antonio were outstanding. Temple is the ultimate good vet and locker room guy who will get a chance to play for Bickerstaff after the Kings opted to go with their young guys and he was likely out of the rotation. GM Chris Wallace was adamant that the Grizzlies could rebuild again around the aging Conley and Marc Gasol and that they wouldn’t trade Gasol after the latter’s difficult relationship with former coach David Fizdale. They did, and they didn’t. 6. PHOENIX SUNS 2017-18 RECORD: 21-61; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Igor Kokoskov; F Trevor Ariza (one year, $15 million); F Darrell Arthur (acquired from Nets); C Deandre Ayton (No. 1 pick, 2018 Draft); F Mikal Bridges (No. 10 pick, 2018 Draft); F Richaun Holmes (acquired from 76ers); G George King (No. 59 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elie Okobo (No. 31 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former interim coach Jay Triano; F Jared Dudley (traded to Nets); C Alex Len (signed with Hawks); G Elfrid Payton (signed with Pelicans); G Tyler Ulis (waived); F/C Alan Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Devin Booker (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: Ayton. Let’s not bury the lead here: he was the first pick overall for a reason, because he has franchise-turning capability. The Suns don’t need singles or the occasional double any more; they need someone to put them back on the map with big, sweaty, nasty four-baggers, night after night. (cc: mixed metaphor police.) It’s been a minute since Amar’e Stoudemire was at his destructive best, and the list of impactful bigs in franchise history is thin: Connie Hawkins, Alvan Adams, Tom Chambers, Charles Barkley, Stoudemire. Ayton has a chance to be as good as any of them, and better, and he’s a potential stash of Kryptonite down the pike to the Warriors dynasty. THE SKINNY: There’s the makings of a Jazz-like reimaging of the franchise in short order. Kokoskov not only comes from Utah’s staff, but has significant coaching chops outside of Salt Lake City. He’s been coaching since he was 24, and that was 22 years ago. He’s coached both around the world and around the NBA as an assistant and development maven, and he’ll be great at bolstering the confidence of the Suns’ young guys -- including Bridges, a mature and solid rook with collegiate titles from Villianova who’ll be able to grow quietly outside the huge media shadow cast on Ayton. Kokoskov will also make things a lot easier for Devin Booker offensively. But GM Ryan McDonough was also smart enough to surround the kids with some solid vets, starting with Ariza, who will help the Suns again become acquainted with a long-honored NBA concept called “defense.” 7. DALLAS MAVERICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kostas Antetokounmpo (No. 60 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jalen Brunson (No. 33 pick, 2018 Draft); G Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, 2018 Draft); C DeAndre Jordan (one year, $22 million); C Chinanu Onuaku (acquired from Rockets); F Ray Spalding (No. 56 pick, 2018 Draft); F Ding Yanyuhang; LOST: G Kyle Collinsworth (waived); G Seth Curry (signed with Blazers); G Yogi Ferrell (signed with Kings); F Doug McDermott (signed with Pacers); F Jonathan Motley (traded to Clippers); C Nerlens Noel (signed with Thunder) RETAINED: G/F Wesley Matthews (picked up player option); F Dirk Nowitzki (one year, $5 million) THE KEY MAN: CEO Cynthia Marshall. The former AT&T executive was put in charge after Sports Illustrated’s explosive story last February detailing a toxic workplace for female employees on the team’s business side, with sexual harassment rampant and no relief forthcoming from the supervisors who should have provided it. Marshall has been fast at work changing the business side culture, as separate investigations of who was responsible for allowing the previous environment to fester wind down. After their results are made public, it will be Marshall who will have to both enact their recommendations and sell the public that owner Mark Cuban’s organization has been fumigated for good. THE SKINNY: Dallas is banking that the 19-year-old Doncic is not only the real deal, but that he can come out of the gate in the NBA after starring in Europe and immediately give the Mavs a boost. There’s a large body of work suggesting Doncic will do just that, and accelerate the Mavs’ rebuild. Second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s improvements should also speed up, and Jordan’s presence should start to close the sieve that has plagued Dallas’s defense the last couple of years. Losing both Curry and Ferrell will hurt the Mavs’ guard depth, though, and Brunson won’t be able to work in slowly. 8. INDIANA PACERS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Tyreke Evans (one year, $12 million); G Aaron Holiday (No. 23 pick, 2018 Draft); F Alize Johnson (No. 50 pick, 2018 Draft); F Doug McDermott; C/F Kyle O'Quinn LOST: C Al Jefferson (waived); G/F Glenn Robinson III (signed with Pistons); G Lance Stephenson (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Cory Joseph (picked up player option); F Thaddeus Young (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Kevin Pritchard, president of basketball operations. He’s been instrumental in putting this team together -- first as Larry Bird’s assistant, but on his own the last year-plus since Bird left. Now Pritchard will have to deal with not just the expectations last season’s surprising turnaround season will create with fans, but with the incessant calls and texts one receives when one has a team in which six players among the team’s core are on one-year deals and free agents next summer. It is extremely difficult for a team so constituted to stay unified and keep pulling on the rope together. Human nature is human nature, and players (and their families, and their agents) need reassurances they’re part of the organization’s future, just like any drone from Sector 7G would. It’s hard to think about sacrificing minutes and shots when almost players are judged by are their numbers. Nate McMillan, meanwhile, is only concerned, as any coach is, with the game in front of him, tonight. Pritchard’s phone will rarely have an hour off next season. THE SKINNY: What does a team that surprised so many last season need? More depth, because there aren’t going to be a lot of nights off going forward. The Pacers filled in nicely with a bunch of under-the-radar players, getting Evans after a bounce-back season in Memphis and O’Quinn after good years in New York. McBuckets is running out of stops to show he can be a key contributor in the NBA, but everything is tailor made for him to succeed here: he’ll have all the space in the world playing alongside Victor Oladipo, Bogdanovic and/or Myles Turner, depending on the lineup. Holiday was very good value at 23 in the first round. And Oladipo is on his grind. The Pacers are as big a threat as anyone to Boston’s assumed ascension in the post-LeBron East. 9. NEW YORK KNICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 29-53; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach David Fizdale; G Mario Hezonja (one year, $6.5 million); G Kevin Knox (No. 9 pick, 2018 Draft); C Mitchell Robinson (No. 36 pick, 2018 Draft); F Noah Vonleh (one year) LOST: Former coach Jeff Hornacek; F Michael Beasley (signed with Lakers); C/F Kyle O'Quinn (signed with Pacers); F Troy Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Ron Baker (picked up player option); F/C Luke Kornet; C Enes Kanter (picked up player option); THE KEY MAN: F Kristaps Porzingis. It’s unlikely Porzingis will play much, if at all, next season, as he rehabs his torn ACL suffered in February. New York will be extremely cautious with a timeline, and in Porzingis’ absence, if more losing brings more figurative ping pong balls the Knicks’ way … well, they won’t complain about that, either. None if it matters if “The Unicorn” doesn’t regain his form, though. So much of the Knicks’ 2018-19 improvement, or regression, will take place off camera. THE SKINNY: Fizdale won’t have a mandate to try and win with a veteran team in his first season in New York, as was the case in his year-plus in Memphis. So he can implement his position-less/fitness regimen with the young Knicks without looking over his shoulder. New York’s planning for 2019, when it hopes to strike in a big way in free agency, but that doesn’t mean next season won’t be important. Knox will have a lot of light on him, especially after playing well during NBA Summer League, but the Knicks truly believe Robinson will make some contributions this season with his significant physical gifts. Both must continue changing the narrative in Gotham that the team’s new braintrust is rebuilding the brand the right way -- slowly, and correctly. Hezonja was a good low-cost flier for New York who’ll give Fizdale some small ball options. Hezonja came on strong the second half of last season for the Magic, who hadn’t picked up his third-year option and were hamstrung in what they could offer him as a result. 10. SAN ANTONIO SPURS 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: G Marco Belinelli (two years, $12 million); F Dante Cunningham (one year, $2.5 million); G DeMar DeRozan (acquired from Raptors); C Jakob Poeltl (acquired from Raptors); G Lonnie Walker IV (No. 18 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chimezie Metu (No. 49 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Kyle Anderson (signed with Grizzlies); G Danny Green (traded to Raptors); F Kawhi Leonard (traded to Raptors); F Joffrey Lauvergne (signed with Fenerbahce); G Tony Parker (signed with Hornets); G Brandon Paul (waived) RETAINED: C/F Davis Bertans (two years, $14.5 million); G Bryn Forbes (two years, $6 million); F Rudy Gay (one year, $10 million) THE KEY MAN: Coach Gregg Popovich. There is no way to tell, nor is it really anyone’s business, how Pop will cope with the loss of his wife Erin, who died in April during the Spurs’ first-round series with Golden State. But the NBA grind is an unforgiving one, and Popovich is adding Olympic team coach duties to an already taxing schedule. He knows best how he’s doing and you can only hope he listens to himself when or if he needs time away. THE SKINNY: Backed up against it with Leonard’s still-murky insistence for a divorce, the Spurs did as well as could be expected in getting a four-time All-Star who’ll play with a huge chip on his shoulder next season. DeRozan will certainly help San Antonio extinguish the offensive droughts that came when teams loaded up on LaMarcus Aldridge defensively. LA was sensational for long stretches last season, making second team All-NBA for the second time in his career. Belinelli, rookie Walker and Poeltl should lengthen San Antonio’s bench significantly and reduce the Spurs’ dependence on nightly brilliance from 40-year-old Manu Ginobili, if he comes back for a 17th season. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. 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 NewsAug 8th, 2018

2019 NBA Trade Deadline roundup

NBA.com staff report Here's a recap of all the deals done immediately before the 2019 NBA Trade Deadline. Sixers add Ennis for pick swap Sixers receive: F James Ennis Rockets receive: Rights to 2021 second-round pick swap Official Release: Sixers Instant Analysis: After trading several rotation pieces while bulking their starting lineup, the Sixers began to add depth behind the star-laden openers. The well-traveled Ennis has proven able to contribute effectively as a starter or off the bench through four-plus NBA seasons in Houston, Memphis, Detroit, Miami and New Orleans. * * * Three-team deal ends with Mirotic to Bucks Pistons receive: F Thon Maker Bucks receive: F Nikola Mirotic Pelicans receive: F/C Jason Smith F Stanley Johnson Four future second-round picks (via Detroit) Official Release: Bucks | Pistons | Pelicans Instant Analysis: The Bucks completed a two-stage, three-team deal heading into the deadline. First, discontented big man Maker went to Detroit for Johnson ... who was then redirected with veteran Smith and four second-round picks to the Pelicans for Mirotic. Adding yet another sharpshooting big around Giannis Antetokounmpo should only heighten the matchup nightmares Milwaukee presents. * * * Third move for backcourt duo Pacers receive: G Nik Stauskas G Wade Baldwin IV Rights to Maarty Leunen 2021 second-round pick Rockets receive: Cash considerations Official Release: Pacers Instant Analysis: This marks the fourth team in as many days for the backcourt duo, who began the week playing for Portland and have made stops in Cleveland (for Rodney Hood) and Houston (in a three-teamer with Sacramento) on the way to Indiana. Neither have earned much in the way of playing time, though Stauskas still carries the weight of a 3-point threat in the making. * * * Grizzlies trade Memphis stalwart Gasol to Toronto Raptors receive: C Marc Gasol Grizzlies receive: C Jonas Valanciunas G Delon Wright F/G CJ Miles 2024 second-round pick Official Release: Raptors Instant Analysis: With their fellow Eastern Conference contenders making moves, Toronto didn't sit still, adding a talented veteran center to their formidable mix. The transition should be eased since Gasol played with Kyle Lowry (2008-09, in Memphis), albeit before the point guard elevated above his current All-Star plateau. The Grizzlies gain a solid pivot in Valanciunas, a prospective wing piece in Wright and the satisfaction of sending Gasol on to a winning situation. * * * Bradley headed to Memphis Grizzlies receive: G Avery Bradley Clippers receive: G/F Garrett Temple F JaMychal Green Official Release: Clippers | Grizzlies Instant Analysis: Once the Clippers unloaded Tobias Harris to Philly, the focus became clearing further cap space, with flyers on Temple and Green, both expiring contracts. Bradley, a hard-nosed defender in the Memphis mold, should fit in nicely wherever deployed by the Grizzlies. * * * Zubac locker room reshuffled in LA Lakers receive: C Mike Muscala Clippers receive: F Michael Beasley C Ivica Zubac Official Release: Clippers | Lakers Instant Analysis: The deal clears a cap hold off the Lakers' offseason books, as Zubac was set to enter restricted free agency. With no major moves prior to the deadline, the Lakers have apparently lasered in on the summer options. * * * Fultz finally redirected, to Orlando Magic receive: G Markelle Fultz Sixers receive: F Jonathon Simmons Protected 2019 first-round pick 2019 second-round pick Official Release: Magic | Sixers Instant Analysis: After an injury-marred season-plus with the Sixers, 2017 No. 1 overall pick Fultz will attempt to find his footing in Orlando, where he's headed in exchange for Simmons and a pair of 2019 draft picks. Simmons helps flesh out the rotation depth in Philly, while the picks begin the asset rebuild after this week's trade for Tobias Harris. * * * Blazers acquire Labissiere Trail Blazers receive: F Skal Labissiere Kings receive: F Caleb Swanigan Official release: Kings | Blazers Instant Analysis: Two West coast teams swap young forwards in the hopes that a change of scenery will more fully unearth their respective talent. * * * Guard swap in the South Hawks receive: G Shelvin Mack Grizzlies receive: G Tyler Dorsey Official Release: Hawks | Grizzlies Instant Analysis: It's a return trip to Atlanta for Mack, who played 172 games for the Hawks from 2012-16. He will help soak up minutes behind and mentor rookie guard Trae Young. The Grizzlies get younger with Dorsey, who is reunited with former Oregon teammate Dillon Brooks. * * * Greg Monroe to Nets, then waived Nets receive: C Greg Monroe 2021 second-round pick Raptors receive: Cash considerations Official Release: Nets Instant Analysis: The Nets gain a second-round pick in order to help the Raptors save dollars against the cap and luxury tax. Monroe, however, was waived after being acquired. * * * Hawks acquire Jabari Bird Hawks receive: G Jabari Bird Cash considerations Celtics receive: Conditional 2020 second-round pick Official Release: Hawks Instant Analysis: Bird hasn't played in a game this season, and was expected to be waived by Atlanta. * * * Shumpert to Rockets in three-team trade Rockets receive: G Iman Shumpert G Nik Stauskas G Wade Baldwin IV 2021 second-round pick Kings receive: G Alec Burks 2020 second-round pick Cavaliers receive: G Brandon Knight F Marquese Chriss 2019 first-round pick 2022 second-round pick Official release: Cavaliers Instant Analysis: The Rockets reshuffled their bench depth with this three-team trade. Shumpert help bolster the Rockets' guard rotation as they battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Shortly after this deal was announced, the Rockets dealt Stauskas and Baldwin IV to the Indiana Pacers (see above). For the Kings, Shumpert was less necessary to their team after acquiring Harrison Barnes from the Mavericks in a separate deal on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 8th, 2019

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Bottom 10 * * * 21. DETROIT PISTONS 2017-18 RECORD: 39-43; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Dwane Casey; New executive Ed Stefanski; G Bruce Brown (No. 42 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jose Calderon (one year, $2.3 million); C Zaza Pachulia (one year, $2.3 million); G/F Glenn Robinson III (two years, $8.3 million); G Khyri Thomas (No. 38 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Stan Van Gundy; G Dwight Buycks (waived); F/C Eric Moreland (waived); F Anthony Tolliver (signed with Wolves) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: F Blake Griffin. And he will be for some time. The Pistons need him to be his former All-Star self again, able to take slower defender to the basket, able to stretch the floor if he plays the five in small-ball lineups. They need him to be a playmaker, to get Reggie Jackson more looks off the ball and Andre Drummond some high-low lobs at the rim. They need him to sell tickets at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit’s revitalized downtown -- a building that seems to be more for the NHL’s Red Wings than the NBA’s Pistons. And they need Griffin to be an anchor that draws players to the Motor City during the life of his extension. THE SKINNY: Owner Tom Gores agonized over firing Van Gundy, but he finally did so, and was fortunate that Casey was available and willing to step right back into the fray after being cashiered in Toronto. Casey will be quite in his element building a defense around Drummond, but, like Van Gundy, Casey will need Jackson to stay healthy; he’s missed a combined 67 games the last two seasons. Detroit did well for not having a first-round pick to come out of the Draft with two solid guard prospects deep in the second in Thomas and Brown. However, the new coaching staff will have to get more out of the team’s last three first-rounders: Stanley Johnson (2015), Henry Ellenson (2016) and Luke Kennard (2017). 22. BOSTON CELTICS 2017-18 RECORD: 55-27; lost in Eastern Conference finals ADDED: G Brad Wanamaker (one year, $838,000); C Robert Williams (No. 27 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Shane Larkin (signed to play in Turkey); F Abdel Nader (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C Aron Baynes (two years, $10.6 million); F Jabari Bird (two years, $3 million), G Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) THE KEY MAN: F Gordon Hayward. All indications are he’s well on his way back from that horrific injury he suffered on opening night last season. He can do so many great things in coach Brad Stevens’ system, and if he’s 100 percent by the playoffs, Boston may well be the one team that can match up, player for player, with Golden State in a Finals meeting. (Remember this when people inevitably say I ranked the Celtics 23rd in offseason moves.) THE SKINNY: Boston got its biggest work done after Smart couldn’t loosen up an offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings or Dallas Mavericks, and eventually worked out a deal for less than he sought to return. Smart’s deal puts Boston in the tax for the foreseeable future, but the Celtics knew that was the next step in keeping a Finals-capable core group together. With Kyrie Irving and Hayward expected back on line Stevens can throw so many different lineups out there, all committed to stifling opponent movement with long, switching defenders led by Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Williams was worth an end of the first flier, though he didn’t get off to a great start. If he gets a good wake-up alarm on his phone, he has a chance to be the Celtics’ center of the future. 23. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 2017-18 RECORD: 52-30; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: F Wilson Chandler (acquired from Nuggets); F/C Mike Muscala (acquired from Hawks); G Zhaire Smith (No. 16 pick, 2018 Draft); G Landry Shamet (No. 26 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shake Milton (No. 54 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former GM Bryan Colangelo (resigned); F Justin Anderson (traded to Hawks); G Marco Belinelli (signed with Spurs); F/C Richaun Holmes (traded to Suns); F Ersan Ilyasova (signed with Bucks); G/F Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C/F Amir Johnson (one year, $1.5 million); G T.J. McConnell (picked up team option); G J.J. Redick (one year, $12.2 million) THE KEY MAN: G Markelle Fultz. His rookie year laid waste by a combination of injury and the yips -- which the Sixers have finally copted to -- Fultz is reportedly rebuilding his shot successfully under the learned eye of development coach Drew Hansen. If that carries over to the fall, Fultz will get a true opportunity (he had some cameos late in his rookie season) to show a skeptical Philly fan base he was worth the top pick in 2017, and worth Philly trading up to get him. He definitely could fill a need with the 76ers for a second playmaker to go with and occasionally in place of reigning Kia Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. But if Fultz has another setback, physically or otherwise, it will be hard for him to stick much longer in Philly -- not a town known for patient reflection with regard to its sports teams. THE SKINNY: Coach Brett Brown was quite clear when he said the Sixers were hunting for a superstar this summer with the cap space they’d assiduously cleared the last couple of years. But the summer has come and gone and there’s no LeBron, no Kawhi, no trade, at least not yet, for Jimmy Butler or anyone else at that level. Belinelli and Ilyasova both played huge roles for Philly in the playoffs; maybe Fultz (see above) takes on some of that role, and Chandler will help. But this doesn’t feel like a successful offseason for one of the real risers in the East. 24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 2017-18 RECORD: 49-33; lost in first round ADDED: G Seth Curry (one year, $2.7 million); G Nik Stauskas (one year, $1.6 million); G Anfernee Simons (No. 24 pick, 2018 Draft); G Gary Trent Jr. (No. 37 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G/F Pat Connaughton (signed with Bucks); F/C Ed Davis (signed with Nets); G Shabazz Napier (signed with Nets); C Georgios Papagiannis (waived) RETAINED: C Jusuf Nurkic (four years, $48 million) THE KEY MAN: Assistant coaches David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbets, Dale Osbourne, Jim Moran, John McCullough and Jonathan Yim. With the Blazers mostly landlocked the next two seasons -- they’re currently above the projected luxury tax line both for next season and 2019-20 -- there aren’t likely going to be many significant roster changes for a while. And in the West, especially, standing pat is often falling behind. It will thus fall to Portland’s excellent staff behind coach Terry Stotts to maximize the production of the current group. They can point with some pride to success stories like Will Barton and Allen Crabbe, now in Denver and Brooklyn, respectively, along with Maurice Harkless and Al-Faroqu Aminu. For Portland to take another step up, they’ll have to coach up someone like 2017 first-rounder Zach Collins or this year’s first-rounder, Simons. They must have them exceed expectations to become a third legit star behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. THE SKINNY: Lillard insists the rumblings heard in some quarters that he’s unhappy in Portland aren’t true, and the franchise better hope he’s being honest. The decisions the Blazers made in 2016 continue to lock them in place; if they catch a favorable first-round matchup (a grumbling Rockets team in 2014; an injury-strafed Clippers squad in 2016), they can advance a round. But last year’s 4-0 sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans had to give everyone pause. How does Portland respond mentally? Re-upping Big Nurk in the middle on a very reasonable deal -- $12 million for a starting center was the going rate five years ago, when the Wolves gave Nikola Pekovic a five-year, $60 million contract -- was necessary. But losing Davis, a locker room and fan favorite for superior work ethic, will hurt, even though Collins should sop up a lot of those minutes. 25. ORLANDO MAGIC 2017-18 RECORD: 25-57; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Steve Clifford; C Mohamed Bamba (No. 6 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Briscoe (three years, $3.9 million); F Melvin Frazier (No. 35 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jerian Grant (acquired from Bulls); F Justin Jackson (No. 43 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jarrell Martin (acquired from Grizzlies); C Timofey Mozgov (acquired from Hornets) LOST: C Bismack Biyombo (traded to Hornets); G Mario Hezonja (signed with Knicks); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Grizzlies); G Shelvin Mack (waived); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: F Aaron Gordon (four years, $82 million) THE KEY MAN: G D.J. Augustin. A vet’s vet, he’s played 10 years in the league and started 226 games for eight teams, including 56 over the last two for the Magic. He’ll enter this season as the unquestioned starter at the point with Elfrid Payton in New Orleans and Orlando still looking to solve its long-term search for a point guard. It’s Augustin’s turn. THE SKINNY: At some point, Orlando’s yearly gambles on size and potential will pay off. Bamba could be the goods; he’s got a demeanor and toughness that should keep him together while he learns the craft at the pro level. But -- again -- it will take some time for Bamba, like 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Isaac, and Gordon, in whom Orlando invested a sizeable sum in July, to flourish. And Magic fans rightly can ask exactly how long they’re to remain patient. Clifford is supposed to improve the defense, but so was Frank Vogel … and so was Scott Skiles … and so was Jacque Vaughn. 26. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Tony Carr (No. 51 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elfrid Payton (one year, $3 million); F Julius Randle (two years, $17 million) LOST: C DeMarcus Cousins (signed with Warriors); G Rajon Rondo (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Ian Clark (one year, $1.7 million); F Nikola Mirotic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Owner Gayle Benson. Mrs. Benson took control of the team after the death of her husband, Tom, last March. She displayed great grace in the days and weeks after Tom Benson’s death, making it clear at the time she had no interest in selling the team and would continue to make outlays to keep the team competitive. The Pels didn’t blink last summer giving Jrue Holiday $126 million, and that will have to remain the case going forward if New Orleans is to repeat its surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals last spring. THE SKINNY: Can’t lose your starting point guard and your starting All-Star center in one offseason -- no matter what the circumstances -- and come out of it with high offseason marks. And especially when Rondo seemed like the perfect fit for the team. Mirotic mentioned during the Warriors series how good Rondo was at picking him up and connecting him quickly with the team after he was traded to New Orleans from Chicago. And, yes, coach Alvin Gentry mentioned he may have exchanged cusses with Rondo every now and again, too. Life in RondoWorld. The path forward is narrower, but not impassible; Randle can be tantalizing at times, maddening at others, but he could plug-and-play at the four, and he can take some of the playmaking burden off of Holiday. But big minutes on the ball for Holiday again is not what New Orleans had in mind. Payton is going to have to perform immediately. And losing “Boogie” Cousins is a big minus. It’s not what the Pelicans gave up to get him. It’s the fit and flow he had with Anthony Davis before the injury, and what the promise of a return this season could have meant toward carrying the momentum of last year forward. 27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: F Anthony Tolliver (one year, $5.7 million); G Josh Okogie (No. 20 pick, 2018 Draft); F Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Cole Aldrich (waived); F Nemanja Bjelica (signed with Kings) RETAINED: G Derrick Rose (one year, $1.5 million) THE KEY MAN: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. He signed for big, big money by NFL standards (three years, $84 million), and the Vikings have Super Bowl aspirations. So all the light will be on the Vikes most of the fall and winter in Minneapolis, keeping it off of the still-young Wolves, who won’t be able to sneak up on anyone after breaking their long postseason drought. THE SKINNY: The Wolves should be positioned to build on their playoff run, especially if Butler can get through a full season healthy and Karl-Anthony Towns adds consistency to his prodigious talents. But they didn’t do much in the offseason, and the team that they beat out on the last day of the regular season, Denver, looks to be much improved. Tolliver should help the Wolves’ depth; they essentially traded him for Bjelica, and he shot slightly better on 3-poiners last season than Belly. Plus, they don’t come better as a guy than Tolliver and he can help Minnesota in the locker room. The issue of Butler’s contract isn’t going away; there will be a reckoning at some point, and he’ll have a lot more options next summer than free agents had this summer. Until then, coach Tom Thibodeau has pretty much the same team that he has to cajole better defense out of next season (22nd in Defensive Rating; 17th in points allowed). 28. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 2017-18 RECORD: 36-46; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach James Borrego; GM Mitch Kupchack; C Bismack Biyombo (acquired from Magic); F Miles Bridges (No. 12 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devonte' Graham (No. 34 pick, 2018 Draft); F Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55 pick, 2018 Draft); ; G Tony Parker (two years, $10.2 milliion) LOST: G Michael Carter-Williams (signed with Rockets); C Dwight Howard (traded to Nets); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Magic); G Julyan Stone (traded to Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: C Cody Zeller. It’s a guess -- Borrego could opt for Frank Kaminsky III -- but Zeller would seem to be the replacement at center for Dwight Howard, who wound up in Washington after the Hornets traded him to the Nets. Zeller started 58 games two years ago and was very good in screen and rolls with Kemba Walker. Zeller only played in 33 games last season because of a left knee injury; if he returns to form, the Hornets could pick up offensively and actually have a little more diversity at that end than last season. THE SKINNY: Team owner Michael Jordan cleaned house after a disappointing 2017-18, bringing another Tar Heel back home in the veteran Kupchak. Kupchak dispatched Howard and then got Mozgov’s guaranteed 2019-20 season off his books to take back Biyombo, who’d left Toronto two years ago for $72 million from the Magic and who’s got a player option for 2019-20. Well before then, the Hornets are going to have to decide what to do with Walker, who’ll be one of the top free agents available next summer if Charlotte can’t get him re-signed or extended. The Hornets were 8.8 points worse when the two-time All-Star was off the court rather than on. Nicolas Batum has to make a return to the all-around talent that enticed Charlotte to trade for him and give him a $120 million extension; he averaged just 11.6 points per game last year, his lowest in three years. Howard’s presence in the paint may have clogged things up some, but that’s no longer the case. 29. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 2017-18 RECORD: 50-32; lost in The Finals ADDED: F Channing Frye (one year, $2.3 million); G Collin Sexton (No. 8 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Jose Calderon (signed with Pistons); F Jeff Green (signed with Wizards); F LeBron James (signed with Lakers); C Kendrick Perkins (waived); F Okaro White (waived) RETAINED: F Kevin Love (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: GM Koby Altman. Altman has a blank slate now after trying to steer a championship-contending ship that had been stripped of a few propeller blades in the last 13 months. With James gone, as well as former GM David Griffin, the 35-year-old Altman has team owner Dan Gilbert’s charge to rebuild the Cavs without taking them down to the studs (as the Cavs did after James first departure in 2010). Altman’s next task after working out Kevin Love’s $130 million extension is clearing the roster of all the veterans brought in the last three years mainly because of their ability to play off of James. THE SKINNY: There weren’t any widespread jersey burnings this time in the Land. James left for L.A. with relative good will from his hometown, having delivered the championship it had waited 52 years for in 2016. Truly, the Cavs’ rebuild started the minute Kyrie Irving demanded a trade; last season seemed more rearguard action than an attack at another title. Extending Love through 2023 with no outs -- keeping him locked with rookie Sexton through the latter’s last controllable season before hitting unrestricted free agency -- gives Cleveland a base upon which to build. Cap room will follow in 2019, but next season will be difficult; Sexton has a lot of toughness and potential, but rookie point guards tend to get their lunch handed to them. 30. MIAMI HEAT 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: None LOST: None RETAINED: G Wayne Ellington (one year, $6.2 million); F/G Derrick Jones Jr. THE KEY MAN: G Josh Richardson. Like many of his teammates, Richardson got an extension a couple of years ago -- four years and $42 million. Last season, he was (again) a solid two-way player for Miami -- almost 13 points per game, 84.5 percent from the line, 37.8 percent on 3-pointers. But if the Heat is going to shake out of the middle lane in which it currently seems stuck, Richardson will have to expand. Miami’s current roster makes it complicated; Pat Riley thinks Richardson’s probably more of a two, but he plays mostly three for coach Erik Spoelstra because Miami’s best lineups were small ball ones. Another offseason at P3 in California will help Richardson continue his development. THE SKINNY: No, Heat people: I don’t hate your team. But when you have no Draft picks, and you have no cap space, and thus you literally could do nothing in the offseason, and basically did nothing in the offseason, and your biggest, most newsy event was whether your 36-year-old future Hall of Fame guard will come back for one more season or play over in China … well, what am I supposed to do with that information? Rank you first? The question is, how much better is your team now than it was at the end of last season? It’s essentially the same team; other than the likes of Richardson (see above) or Justise Winslow, it’s not like there’s a great step up expected from Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, is there? The Heat is not any better than last season. It isn’t any worse. It just … is. So, 30. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. 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 NewsAug 8th, 2018

Consensus Mock Draft: Ayton a lock? Bagley rising, Doncic falling

By Drew Packham, NBA.com The Consensus Mock Draft is a compilation of the best mock drafts around the web. We bring them together to come up with a good estimate of how the 2018 NBA Draft could play out. For the first time in their history, the Phoenix Suns have the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. But what will they do with it? Go with talented big man DeAndre Ayton, who played college ball nearby at Arizona? Or do they go with the international phenom Luka Doncic, who has been one of the most celebrated players in Europe? We'll find out June 21 (June 22, PHL time). Until then, we'll continue to monitor the Mock Drafts around the web to come up with a clearer picture of what might go down. Some notes as we enter the final week before next Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) draft: - There's now a complete consensus at No. 1: Deandre Ayton appears to be the pick here, as the Suns get their big man to rebuild around. Previous looks had the Suns going with Luka Doncic, but now all 10 mock drafts have Phoenix going with the talented big man who played down the road at Arizona.       - The real intrigue begins at No. 2. Luka Doncic once appeared to be a lock at this spot, but it now appears the Kings are leaning toward either Duke’s Marvin Bagley III or taking a chance on Michael Porter Jr. (Sacramento is reportedly high on Porter, and could even trade down if they think they could get him lower.)       - Things will really get interesting at No. 3. In our look at the 10 mock drafts, no player appears three times (Jaren Jackson Jr.). Doncic, Bagley and Trae Young each appear twice.       - Doncic’s spiral is fascinating. He now appears most commonly at No. 4 to the Grizzlies (four times), and one site (NBADraft.net) has him slipping all the way to Dallas at No. 5. Doncic has long been considered one of the Top 2 prospects and most-NBA ready despite being just 19-years-old, thanks to strong experience in Euroleague action with Real Madrid.       - Seven of the 10 mocks have Bagley going No. 3 to the Hawks. The other three have Michigan State's Jackson heading to Atlanta.       - Oklahoma guard Trae Young has seen his stock rise a bit. Two mocks currently have him going to the Hawks at No. 3, but no one expects him to fall past the Knicks at No. 9.       - Miami shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV has seen some increased buzz since our last look. He previously appeared on just three of our 10 mocks, but now shows up in six mocks, as high as No. 10 to the 76ers (twice) and most commonly at No. 13 to the Clippers (three times).       - No one seems to have any idea where Michael Porter Jr. will land. In a surprising update, Basketball Insiders and USA Today both have Porter going No. 2 to Sacramento. But two mocks also see him falling as far as No. 8 to Cleveland. Porter could be a pivotal piece to this year’s draft.       - One player gaining some ground in the mocks is Kentucky swingman Kevin Knox. In our first look he only appeared on a few mocks, but now he shows up in the lottery on eight of the 10 mocks. The Ringer has him going at No. 7 to the Bulls, but most see him landing in the end of the lottery.       - After the top pick, the rest of the lottery appears to be anyone's guess. Bagley appears six times at No. 2 and Mo Bamba shows up six times at No. 6 to Orlando, but no one else shows up more than five times at any draft position. This should change between now and June 21, but for now there's a lot of uncertainty.       - Nine players appear on all 10 mocks we survey: Ayton, Doncic, Bagley, Jackson, Young, Bamba, Porter, Mikal Bridges and Wendell Carter Jr. MOST COMMON PICKS No. 1 (Suns): Deandre Ayton (10) No. 2 (Kings): Marvin Bagley III (6) No. 3 (Hawks): Jaren Jackson Jr. (3) No. 4 (Grizzlies): Luka Doncic (5) No. 5 (Mavericks): Jaren Jackson Jr. (4) No. 6 (Magic): Mohamed Bamba (6) No. 7 (Bulls): Michael Porter Jr. (3) No. 8 (Cavaliers): Wendell Carter Jr. (5) No. 9 (Knicks): Mikal Bridges (4) No. 10 (76ers): Mikal Bridges (4) No. 11 (Hornets): Kevin Knox, Miles Bridges (3) No. 12 (Clippers): Collin Sexton (4) No. 13 (Clippers): Robert Williams (5) No. 14 (Nuggets): Kevin Knox (3) Most common (above): Pick at which the player is most commonly projected, with number of mock drafts in parentheses. For example, Deandre Ayton is projected to go first in all 10 of the mock drafts listed below. Top 14 (below): To calculate the consensus, we awarded 14 points for every mock draft in which the player went first overall, 13 for second, continuing to one point for the final lottery pick. The player with the highest point total represents the top overall selection, which is as follows: No. 1: Deandre Ayton | Phoenix Suns Arizona | Position: C | Height: 7-1 Status: Freshman Most Common: 1 (10) Physical specimen who has size to shine in post, but agile and talented enough to develop outside game; should contribute from Day 1 to whomever lands him No. 2: Marvin Bagley III | Sacramento Kings Duke | Position: PF | Height: 6-11 Status: Freshman Most Common: 2 (6) ACC Player of the Year has all the makings of a small-ball center or power forward who can make defenses sweat -- all while rebounding at a prodigious rate No. 3: Luka Doncic | Atlanta Hawks Real Madrid | Position: SG/SF | Height: 6-8 Status: International Most Common: 4 (5) Versatile Slovenian is one of most NBA-ready international prospects ever; talented distributor who can play both guard positions No. 4: Jaren Jackson Jr. | Memphis Grizzlies Michigan State | Position: PF | Height: 6-11 Status: Freshman Most Common: 5 (4) Outstanding defender who boasts an emerging offensive game that gives him great two-way potential No. 5: Michael Porter Jr. | Dallas Mavericks Missouri | Position: SF | Height: 6-10 Status: Freshman Most Common: 7 (3) Teams will be wary of his back injury which limited him to just three games at Mizzou, but he can shoot, which with his length, makes him a valuable weapon No. 6: Mohamed Bamba | Orlando Magic Texas | Position: C | Height: 7-0 Status: Freshman Most Common: 6 (6) Long, talented defender was second in the country in blocked shots per game last season (3.7) and fourth in total blocks (111), drawing comparisons to Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela No. 7: Trae Young | Chicago Bulls Oklahoma | Position: PG | Height: 6-2 Status: Freshman Most Common: 8 (3) Talented scorer led the nation in scoring (27.4) and assists (8.7) per game, but will need to improve on defensive end in NBA No. 8: Wendell Carter Jr. | Cleveland Cavaliers Duke | Position: PF/C | Height: 6-10 Status: Freshman Most Common: 8 (5) Do-it-all big man draws comparisons to Al Horford; has huge hands that allow him to catch and score in the paint, while also having the physicality to finish through contact No. 9: Mikal Bridges | New York Knicks Villanova | Position: SG/SF | Height: 6-7 Status: Junior Most Common: 9, 10 (4) The All-Big East first team selection who helped Villanova to a title is considered one of the best two-way prospects, drawing comparisons to Kawhi Leonard No. 10: Miles Bridges | Philadelphia 76ers Michigan State | Position: SF/PF | Height: 6-7 Status: Sophomore Most Common: 10, 11 (3) The first team all-Big 10 selection averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds a game for the Spartans and was a finalist for the Wooden Award No. 11: Collin Sexton | Charlotte Hornets Alabama | Position: PG | Height: 6-2 Status: Freshman Most Common: 12 (4) Was second in SEC in scoring (19.2 per game); his toughness and competitive streak are viewed highly by pro evaluators, even drawing comparisons to Russell Westbrook No. 12: Kevin Knox | LA Clippers Kentucky | Position: SF/PF | Height: 6-9 Status: Freshman Most Common: 11, 14 (3) Showed potential as a perimeter threat and was an all-SEC freshmen team selection while starting 37 games at Kentucky No. 13: Lonnie Walker IV | LA Clippers Miami | Position: SG | Height: 6-4 Status: Freshman Most Common: 13 (3) A long, explosive, athletic shooting guard who put points on the board in bunches from the perimeter and on the break No. 14: Robert Williams | Denver Nuggets Texas A&M | Position: PF/C | Height: 6-9 Status: Sophomore Most Common: 13 (5) Was an SEC all-Defensive Team selection, finishing in Top 20 nationally both in defensive rating and total blocks; questions remain about consistency of effort MOCK DRAFTS ESPN.com 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Jaren Jackson Jr. 4. Luka Doncic 5. Mohamed Bamba 6. Wendell Carter Jr. 7. Michael Porter Jr. 8. Trae Young 9. Kevin Knox 10. Mikal Bridges 11. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 12. Collin Sexton 13. Lonnie Walker IV 14. Miles Bridges Last updated: June 14 The Ringer 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Luka Doncic 4. Michael Porter Jr. 5. Jaren Jackson Jr. 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Kevin Knox 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Trae Young 10. Mikal Bridges 11. Collin Sexton 12. Miles Bridges 13. Lonnie Walker IV 14. Zhaire Smith Last updated: June 13 NBADraft.net 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Trae Young 4. Jaren Jackson Jr. 5. Luka Doncic 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Mikal Bridges 8. Michael Porter Jr. 9. Wendell Carter Jr. 10. Miles Bridges 11. Collin Sexton 12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 13. Zhaire Smith 14. Robert Williams Last updated: June 13 SI.com 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Jaren Jackson Jr. 4. Luka Doncic 5. Michael Porter Jr. 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Trae Young 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Mikal Bridges 10. Lonnie Walker IV 11. Kevin Knox 12. Collin Sexton 13. Robert Williams 14. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Last updated: June 12 USA Today 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Michael Porter Jr. 3. Marvin Bagley III 4. Luka Doncic 5. Jaren Jackson Jr. 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Wendell Carter Jr. 8. Trae Young 9. Collin Sexton 10. Mikal Bridges 11. Miles Bridges 12. Lonnie Walker IV 13. Robert Williams 14. Kevin Knox Last updated: June 15 SB Nation 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Luka Doncic 3. Jaren Jackson Jr. 4. Trae Young 5. Marvin Bagley III 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Miles Bridges 8. Michael Porter Jr. 9. Mikal Bridges 10. Wendell Carter Jr. 11. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 12. Collin Sexton 13. Robert Williams 14. Chandler Hutchison Last updated: June 11 Bleacher Report 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Mohamed Bamba 4. Luka Doncic 5. Jaren Jackson Jr. 6. Trae Young 7. Michael Porter Jr. 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Mikal Bridges 10. Lonnie Walker IV 11. Miles Bridges 12. Collin Sexton 13. Robert Williams 14. Kevin Knox Last updated: June 11 Net Scouts 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Luka Doncic 3. Marvin Bagley III 4. Jaren Jackson Jr. 5. Mohamed Bamba 6. Wendell Carter Jr. 7. Michael Porter Jr. 8. Trae Young 9. Collin Sexton 10. Miles Bridges 11. Kevin Knox 12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 13. Robert Williams 14. Mikal Bridges Last updated: June 5 CBS Sports 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Luka Doncic 4. Michael Porter Jr. 5. Jaren Jackson Jr. 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Trae Young 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Collin Sexton 10. Mikal Bridges 11. Miles Bridges 12. Robert Williams 13. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 14. Kevin Knox Last updated: June 15 Basketball Insiders 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Michael Porter Jr. 3. Trae Young 4. Luka Doncic 5. Marvin Bagley III 6. Jaren Jackson Jr. 7. Mohamed Bamba 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Mikal Bridges 10. Miles Bridges 11. Kevin Knox 12. Robert Williams 13. Lonnie Walker IV 14. Troy Brown Last updated: June 13 ESPN Insider: Jonathan Givony SI.com: Jeremy Woo Net Scouts: Carl Berman Bleacher Report: Jonathan Wasserman Basketball Insiders: Steve Kyler CBS Sports: Gary Parrish SB Nation: Tom Ziller  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2018

2018 MLB preview: AL Central

By The Associated Press Capsules of American League Central teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Cleveland Indians 2017: 102-60, first place, lost to Yankees in ALDS. Manager: Terry Francona (sixth season). He's Here: 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, LF Rajai Davis, RHP Alexi Ogando. He's Outta Here: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Joe Smith, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Boone Logan. Projected Lineup: SS Francisco Lindor (.273, 33 HRs, 89 RBIs, 44 2Bs, 15 SBs, 10 errors), 2B Jason Kipnis (.232, 12 HRs, 35 RBIs in 90 games), 3B Jose Ramirez (.318, 29, 83, AL-leading 56 2Bs), DH Edwin Encarnacion (.258, 38, 107), 1B Yonder Alonso (.266, career-high 28 HRs, 67 RBIs with Athletics and Mariners), RF Lonnie Chisenhall (.288, 12, 53 in 82 games), C Roberto Perez (.207, 8, 38, club went 44-22 in his starts) or Yan Gomes (.232, 14, 56), CF Bradley Zimmer (.241, 8, 39, 18 SBs, 0 errors), LF Michael Brantley (.299, 9, 52 in 90 games) or Rajai Davis (.235, 5, 20, 29 SBs with Oakland and Boston). Rotation: RH Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA, 265 Ks, 2nd Cy Young Award), RH Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 3.29, 226 Ks), RH Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19, 10-1 in final 13 starts), RH Mike Clevinger (12-6, 3.11, 137 Ks in 121 2/3 innings), RH Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.28, 12.67 Ks per 9 innings). Key Relievers: RH Cody Allen (3-7, 2.94, 30/34 saves, 96 saves past 3 seasons), LH Andrew Miller (4-3, 1.44, 2 saves), RH Dan Otero (3-0, 2.85, walked just 19 of 511 batters since 2016), LH Tyler Olson (1-0, 0.00 in 20 innings over 30 games), RH Zack McAllister (2-2, 2.61 in 50 games). Hot Spots: Kipnis and Brantley. The former All-Stars have been hindered by injuries in recent years, but both appear on track to bounce back in 2018. The Indians need them to produce. Cleveland is better defensively with Ramirez at second base, but he'll stay at third as long as the 31-year-old Kipnis hits. Kipnis has been mentioned in trade talk for two years. Brantley, once considered one of baseball's best all-around talents, has played in only 101 games since 2015. Outlook: No team has felt postseason pain lately quite like the Indians. They blew a 3-1 lead and lost the 2016 World Series to the Cubs, and squandered a 2-0 advantage in last year's best-of-five Division Series against the Yankees. With arguably baseball's strongest rotation led by Kluber, the Indians are poised to possibly end a championship drought approaching its 70th anniversary. Alonso must help the offense offset the losses of Santana and Bruce. Francona won't have Shaw in the bullpen anymore after the durable reliever pitched in at least 74 games each of the past four seasons. Winning the AL Central won't suffice for the Indians, who are determined to finish the job this year. ___ Minnesota Twins 2017: 85-77, second place, lost to Yankees in wild-card game. Manager: Paul Molitor (fourth season). He's Here: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Jake Odorizzi, DH-1B Logan Morrison, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Zach Duke, SS-3B Erick Aybar, RHP Michael Pineda. He's Outta Here: RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Bartolo Colon, C Chris Gimenez, DH-1B Kennys Vargas, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Glen Perkins, LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Michael Tonkin. Projected Lineup: 2B Brian Dozier (.271, 34 HRs, 93 RBIs, 106 runs), 1B Joe Mauer (.305, 7, 71, .384 OBP), 3B Miguel Sano (.264, 28, 77, 173 Ks in 114 games), DH Logan Morrison (.246, 38, 85, .868 OPS with Rays), LF Eddie Rosario (.290, 27, 78), SS Eduardo Escobar (.254, 21, 73), CF Byron Buxton (.253, 16, 51, 29/30 SBs), RF Max Kepler (.243, 19, 69), C Jason Castro (.242, 10, 47). Rotation: RH Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA, 5 CGs, 211 1/3 IP, expected to begin season on DL), RH Jose Berrios (14-8, 3.89), RH Lance Lynn (11-8, 3.43 with Cardinals), RH Jake Odorizzi (10-8, 4.14 with Rays), RH Kyle Gibson (12-10, 5.07). Key Relievers: RH Fernando Rodney (5-4, 4.23, 39/45 saves with Diamondbacks), RH Addison Reed (2-3, 2.84, 19 saves with Mets and Red Sox), LH Taylor Rogers (7-3, 3.07), LH Zach Duke (1-1, 3.93 in 18 1/3 IP with Cardinals), RH Ryan Pressly (2-3, 4.70), RH Trevor Hildenberger (3-3, 3.21, 1 save), RH Phil Hughes (4-3, 5.87 in 53 2/3 IP). Hot Spot: Left Side Of The Infield. Sano had surgery in November to have a rod inserted in his left shin after a stress reaction kept him out for the last six weeks of the 2017 regular season, and the burly slugger has struggled to keep his weight down. He's also been under investigation by Major League Baseball, facing potential discipline, for alleged harassment of a woman during an encounter in 2015. Jorge Polanco, who got so hot at the plate down the stretch of his first full season as a regular in the lineup that he wound up third in the batting order, was suspended for the first 80 games this season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Escobar can fill in capably at shortstop, but he's also the top backup for Sano if the All-Star has to sit for any reason. Outlook: After their massive 26-win turnaround last season, earning Molitor the AL Manager of the Year award and a new contract through the 2020 season, the Twins were already on the upswing with their 25-and-under core of Berrios, Buxton, Sano, Rosario and Kepler. Then, after spring training began, they traded for Odorizzi and signed Morrison and Lynn, all at market-bargain prices. They've already had some setbacks, with finger surgery for Santana expected to keep him out for most or all of April, and the gut-punch news of Polanco's suspension, plus the uncertainty that surrounds Sano. But this is a team, even with the bold offseason moves made by AL heavyweights Boston and New York, and the strength of reigning AL Central champion Cleveland, that has the talent and spunk to be right in the playoff mix. With Hughes and Tyler Duffey on track for long-relief roles and a spate of well-regarded prospects set to fill out the rotation at Triple-A Rochester, this is as much starting pitching depth as the Twins have had in years. After using 16 different starters in 2017, they needed that. Rodney, Reed and Duke were important additions to bolster the bullpen, too, after Minnesota relievers ranked 22nd in the majors with a collective 4.40 ERA. ___ Kansas City Royals 2017: 80-82, third place. Manager: Ned Yost (ninth season). He's Here: RHP Jesse Hahn, CF Jon Jay, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Justin Grimm. He's Outta Here: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, LHP Jason Vargas, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Mike Minor, OF Melky Cabrera, LHP Scott Alexander, DH Brandon Moss, RHP Mike Morin, LHP Ryan Buchter, RHP Trevor Cahill. Projected Lineup: CF Jon Jay (.296, 2 HRs, 34 RBIs with Cubs), 2B Whit Merrifield (.288, 19, 78, AL-leading 34 SBs), 3B Mike Moustakas (.272, 38, 85), C Salvador Perez (.268, 27, 80), 1B Lucas Duda (.217, 30, 64 with Mets and Rays), DH Jorge Soler (.144, 2, 6), LF Alex Gordon (.208, 9, 45), RF Paulo Orlando (.198, 2, 6), SS Alcides Escobar (.250, 6, 54). Rotation: LH Danny Duffy (9-10, 3.81 ERA), RH Ian Kennedy (5-13, 5.38), RH Jason Hammel (8-13, 5.29), RH Jakob Junis (9-3, 4.30), RH Nate Karns (2-2, 4.17). Key Relievers: RH Kelvin Herrera (3-3, 4.25, 26/31 saves), RH Wily Peralta (5-4, 7.85 in 19 games, 8 starts with Brewers), RH Brandon Maurer (2-2, 8.10 in 26 games with Royals; 1-4, 5.72 in 42 games with Padres), RH Justin Grimm (1-2, 5.53 with Cubs), LH Brian Flynn (5-3, 5.40 at Triple-A Omaha), RH Kevin McCarthy (1-0, 3.20), RH Brad Keller (10-9, 4.68 ERA at Double-A Jackson). Hot Spots: Just About Everywhere. The Royals struggled to score last year, and losing Hosmer and Cain in free agency won't help. They'll turn to Moustakas, who set a club record for home runs in a season, and newcomers Jay and Duda to ignite the offense. The only starting pitcher with a track record of success is Duffy, while the bullpen features plenty of unproven talent that must show it can close down games if the Royals are to approach .500 this season. Outlook: This was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Kansas City, when most of the Royals' top players hit free agency en masse. With Moustakas and Escobar finding little market, both returned to Kansas City with prove-it contracts. That gives the Royals a fighting chance to stay competitive into July, and then all bets are off. But the reality is there are still far too many holes, both in the lineup and on the pitching staff, for the Royals to be considered contenders. They would do well to match the 80 wins they had last season, and could be a big seller at the July 31 trade deadline, which would allow them to replenish a shallow farm system and begin their rebuilding job in earnest. ___ Chicago White Sox 2017: 67-95, fourth place. Manager: Rick Renteria (second season). He's Here: RHP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo. He's Outta Here: LHP Derek Holland, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Al Alburquerque, RHP Jake Petricka, C Geovany Soto, OF-2B Alen Hanson, RHP Zach Putnam. Projected Lineup: 2B Yoan Moncada (.231, 8 HRs, 22 RBIs), RF Avisail Garcia (.330, 18, 80), 1B Jose Abreu (.304, 33, 102), DH Matt Davidson (.220, 26, 68), C Welington Castillo (.282, 20, 53 with Orioles), SS Tim Anderson (.257, 17, 56), 3B Yolmer Sanchez (.267, 12, 59), LF Nicky Delmonico (.262, 9, 23), CF Adam Engel (.166, 6, 21). Rotation: RH James Shields (5-7, 5.23 ERA), RH Lucas Giolito (3-3, 2.38), RH Reynaldo Lopez (3-3, 4.72), RH Miguel Gonzalez (8-13, 4.62 with White Sox and Rangers), RH Carson Fulmer (3-1, 3.86) or LH Hector Santiago (4-8, 5.63 with Twins). Key Relievers: RH Nate Jones (1-0, 2.31, 11 appearances), LH Luis Avilan (2-3, 2.93 with Dodgers), RH Joakim Soria (4-3, 3.70, 1 save with Royals), RH Juan Minaya (3-2, 4.53, 9 saves), RH Gregory Infante (2-1, 3.13), RH Danny Farquhar (4-2, 4.20 with White Sox and Rays). Hot Spot: Bullpen. A particular strength for the first half of 2017 is now a major question mark after Chicago traded away Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and closer David Robertson last season. Soria has 204 career saves but his best days might be behind him, and there aren't many other proven late-inning options. Renteria and respected pitching coach Don Cooper might have their hands full mixing and matching while trying to figure out how to hold leads. Outlook: For a team with five straight losing seasons and a record that ranked among baseball's worst last year, the White Sox are generating plenty of buzz. That's because they're loaded with promising young players after going all-in on a rebuild prior to last season. The moves have sparked a belief that better days are ahead. Moncada and hard-throwing pitchers Giolito and Lopez showed promise in the majors last season. Right-hander Michael Kopech, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and outfielder Luis Robert are elite prospects on their way in the minors. Garcia, coming off a breakout season, is looking to prove he's not a one-hit wonder. Anderson hopes to bounce back from a trying season in which a close friend was shot to death. Abreu is back after the slugger was viewed as a potential trade candidate this winter. Left-hander Carlos Rodon is expected to be out until at least June following shoulder surgery last September. It's not clear when he'll be ready. Rodon also was sidelined at the start a year ago because of shoulder and biceps problems. The big question is whether he'll ever develop into the pitcher the White Sox envisioned when they drafted him with the No. 3 overall pick in 2014. ___ Detroit Tigers 2017: 64-98, fifth place. Manager: Ron Gardenhire (first season). He's Here: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Mike Fiers, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Victor Reyes. He's Outta Here: Manager Brad Ausmus, 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Anibal Sanchez, INF Andrew Romine, RHP Bruce Rondon. Projected Lineup: CF Leonys Martin (.172, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs with Mariners and Cubs), 3B Jeimer Candelario (.283, 3, 16 with Cubs and Tigers), 1B Miguel Cabrera (.249, 16, 60), RF Nicholas Castellanos (.272, 26, 101), DH Victor Martinez (.255, 10, 47), C James McCann (.253, 13, 49), LF Mikie Mahtook (.276, 12, 38), SS Jose Iglesias (.255, 6, 54), 2B Dixon Machado (.259, 1, 11). Rotation: RH Michael Fulmer (10-12, 3.83 ERA), RH Jordan Zimmermann (8-13, 6.08), LH Francisco Liriano (6-7, 5.66 with Blue Jays and Astros), RH Mike Fiers (8-10, 5.22 with Astros), LH Daniel Norris (5-8, 5.31) or LH Matthew Boyd (6-11, 5.27). Key Relievers: RH Shane Greene (4-3, 2.66, 9/13 saves), RH Joe Jimenez (0-2, 12.32), RH Alex Wilson (2-5, 4.50, 2 saves), LH Daniel Stumpf (0-1, 3.82). Hot Spot: The Farm System. After finishing tied for the worst record in baseball last year, the Tigers enter 2018 with no real expectations of success at the big league level, so the question is how quickly the franchise can make it through this rebuilding stage. Franklin Perez, a right-hander acquired last season when Detroit traded Justin Verlander, is expected to be out at least until June with a lat strain, and right-hander Matt Manning is also dealing with an injury. Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows are other pitching prospects to watch as they try to work their way toward the majors. Wins may be few and far between in Detroit, but Tigers fans will hope Cabrera — one star who avoided the roster purge of the last year — can rebound from a rough season. Outlook: The Tigers traded Verlander, Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez last season, then dealt away Kinsler during the offseason. There could be more big moves on the horizon — Fulmer, Iglesias and Castellanos should all have some trade value, but each of them is young enough that he could be useful to the Tigers when they become competitive again. That's especially true of Fulmer, the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. Barring a huge surprise in terms of on-field results, the biggest suspense this season might revolve around how general manager Al Avila approaches the next few steps in the rebuild......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

Cuban s tanking talk raises key issue for NBA

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst The NBA fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 for being honest. Cuban told Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer Julius Erving on Erving’s podcast a couple of weeks ago that he told his players during a recent dinner that “losing is our best option. Adam (Silver) would hate hearing that…(but) we want the players to understand. As a player, you know that even though you may not agree, but at least if you respect the fact that someone took the time to talk to you, and you understood their perspective, you’re going to give me your feedback, but you’re part of the process.” But the league fined Cuban for what it called “public statements detrimental to the NBA” three days later. And Silver sent a memo to all 30 teams last week detailing the league’s position. “Throughout this period,” Silver wrote, “we have been careful to distinguish between efforts teams may make to rebuild their rosters, including through personnel changes over the course of several seasons, and circumstances in which players or coaches on the floor take steps to lose games. “The former can be a legitimate strategy to construct a successful team within the confines of league rules; the latter -- which we have not found and hope never to see in the NBA -- has no place in our game.” Yet Cuban did not in any way, nor has any evidence to the contrary emerged, state the Mavericks were losing games on purpose; that is, players were intentionally missing shots, or not putting forth effort on defense to let the other team score, or anything like that. (Even Silver acknowledged in the memo that the league has “no basis at this time to conclude that the Mavericks team is giving anything less than its best effort on the court, and Mark has assured us that this is not the case.”) So, why the fine? Was what Cuban said so incendiary? ‘’Mark knew his comments were public, so it surprised me that he was so candid, but that's who Mark is,” said one very high-ranking official from another team over the weekend. “To me his comment wasn't indicating tanking as their strategy but more about setting the expectation that playoffs were not a possibility. The only consolation of not making the playoffs is being in the lottery. You can't blame a team from trying to turn the lemon (losing) into lemonade (top 4 pick). The league needs to find a way not to reward losing.” Exactly. What Cuban said was spot on -- losing to improve the Mavericks’ Draft position was, and is, the best and quickest way for Dallas to get better and start winning games again. That doesn’t mean everyone agreed with Cuban being so blunt. “I think it was a totally inappropriate to say that to players,” said another extremely high-ranking team official for another team. “Whatever the team’s strategy may be, I firmly believe that the players should always play to win. The fine is meaningless to Mark; in fact, sometimes I think he enjoys the publicity he gets from the fines.” But. We ask people to be truthful and not lie about their intentions. We tell our kids that no lie is worth telling, and that telling the truth, no matter how painful, is always the best choice. So Cuban is honest and tells the truth, that short-term losing makes more sense for his franchise’s long-term interests, and he’s relieved of 600 large by the league. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers are lauded -- and revel in their slogan, “Trust the Process,” celebrated by the team’s most ardent supporters -- whose central tenet was to lose, and keep losing, until you could draft a player good enough to build around and win down the road. Which is, exactly, what Dallas is doing now. Indeed, increased tanking is the logical extension of an analytics-dominant league. If three is greater than two -- the reasoning behind the primacy of the 3-pointer in today’s NBA -- then doing anything you can to get more ping-pong balls in the hopper is the correct thing to do. You can’t just embrace the parts of doing it by the numbers that are pleasant. This is the flip side. Burying one’s head in the sand and pretending teams don’t do this doesn’t make sense. Everyone does it in every sport, or don’t you recall “Suck for Luck,” the chant of Indianapolis Colts’ fans before the 2012 NFL Draft? What of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros losing 324 games from 2011-13? Were they trying to win games, or did we all imagine them going from $102 million in payroll in 2009 to $26 million by 2013? “I resist the word ‘tanking,’ but I’m very pro ‘rebuilding,’ when it’s necessary,” said Los Angeles Dodgers President Stan Kasten, who in a former life ran the Hawks as general manager in the ‘80s and ‘90s, by telephone Sunday. “And, it’s painful,” Kasten said. “You’ve got to explain it to your team, your fans, to your front office, to your coaches, to your wife, to your kids, to the country club. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s nobody’s first choice. But if it’s necessary, it’s often the quickest way to get the team back to winning. And don’t lose sight of that.” Kasten’s Dodgers lost the World Series to the Astros, who methodically built their team the last four years around young drafted players like Series MVP George Springer, last fall in seven games. But not only is he not angry with Houston for the way management took the franchise’s foundation to the studs -- compared with his high-spending Dodgers -- he admires the speed with which they went from worst to first. “I have real feelings about what they did,” Kasten said. “Because Mark Walter (the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, the global firm that bought the Dodgers in 2012) and I, before we bought the Dodgers, we were looking at Houston. Because they were available. And truthfully, when we looked at where they were, we were going to do the same thing. It had to be done. Because they were not on a track to win. And frankly, I don’t think I could have done it as fast, or as well, as (Astros owner) Jim Crane, or (GM) Jeff Luhnow. Because doing that, to the extreme, takes real intestinal fortitude.” Kasten makes a strong distinction between a team cutting payroll and going young and that winds up losing, and one that’s actively seeking ways to lose more games. “All of these owners are hyper-competitive, and they want to win,” Kasten said. “And truthfully, the quickest way to win, at least if you look at the last three world champions, is to rebuild and get young and get prospects and do it that way. And if you don’t think that’s the better way to go, ask the fans in Houston and Chicago and Kansas City how they feel. You won’t get one fan who disagrees with what is done. It is the quickest way to win.” Please do not misunderstand. I hate tanking. I hate the idea of introducing losing into your shop, even indirectly. It’s like a virus, extremely difficult to get rid of once it gets in a franchise’s bloodstream. A ticket is, in essence, a contract between parties: I pay top dollar, you give me top-dollar product in exchange. When a team tanks, it violates that compact; I don’t recall any team that’s given fans a tanking discount. It is also very difficult to tank effectively in the NBA. The last three teams with the best odds of getting the No. 1 in the Draft going into the Lottery -- Boston (2017), Philadelphia (2016) and Minnesota (2015) -- have indeed won. But prior to that, the team with the best odds didn’t get the first pick for 10 consecutive years, and 22 times out of the last 25 years. And even the teams that did buck the odds and get the first pick often picked wrong, or did I miss Anthony Bennett Night in Cleveland, or the Andrea Bargnani statue outside of Air Canada Centre? “The Draft is often a crap shoot anyway,” the official from the second team said. “So why not give your fans the best product that you can and then draft Donovan Mitchell,” as Utah did this season. The Jazz traded for the rights to the Kia Rookie of the Year candidate, who was taken near the bottom of the Lottery (13th overall by the Denver Nuggets). This came a season after the Jazz went 51-31 and won its first-round playoff series. I agree. Tanking does not reward excellence in team building -- good drafting, good free-agent signings, good player development -- it rewards the exact opposite of that. It’s a Golden Ticket that doesn’t even require you to buy an Everlasting Gobstopper. But, tanking is reality. You can’t pretend it isn’t. And the only way to completely get tanking out of pro sports is to eliminate the Draft in all sports, including the NBA. We don’t want to have that conversation, do we? Personally, I’d love it. Can you imagine the fight that would set up between interested teams -- and who wouldn’t be interested? -- in a certain 7-foot-1 freshman center almost certain to leave school early who currently plays for a school that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately? Would he help the Lakers? The Knicks? The Bulls? The NBA team in the state in which the college player currently plays, which rather desperately needs another star to pair with its one really great player (whose name, if you must know, rhymes with “Nevin Cooker”)? Would he help any team in the league that doesn’t currently employ Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid or Karl-Anthony Towns in the middle? Most assuredly. And if he could control where he wanted to go, and for how much, the process would be must-see TV. Yet, while the real-world implications would be fascinating, I’m not sure how you could eliminate the Draft without loosening the underpinnings of the entire pro basketball enterprise (and, yes, one could make a moral case for doing just that, as it does go against the whole Manifest Destiny thing to artificially bind someone to a company rather than letting them market their services to the highest bidder). If there was no Draft, why would any player with Lottery-level talent go to college? Yes, there would be the occasional Grant Hill/unicorn who wants to go to college to better themselves intellectually and/or embrace the person growth that often comes from being on your own for four years. But, while sad to say, most kids with NBA dreams go to college because that’s the path through which they can ultimately get to the pros the fastest. With no Draft, and few of the top college-age players thus needing/wanting to go to college, you’d have a very different March Madness than you have now. And as that is a multi-billion enterprise, both for the broadcast networks that air it (including Turner Sports, which runs NBA.com) and the colleges that reap the financial deluge it produces, the likelihood of across the board support for a new player acquisition model is slight. Not to mention, you’d have a much different salary structure in the NBA, as there would be no rookie slotting for drafted players. And if you think the game’s superstars would stand idly by and watch more of that cheddar that they helped produce go out the door to guys who haven’t yet done anything … you’d be wrong. So, the Draft isn’t going anywhere. Which means the NBA must decide whether it wants to continue to be shocked, shocked that tanking is going on in its league, or accept the reality that there is not much patience for being in the middle ground in a league where every team is now worth more than $1 billion. There is only, as Pat Riley said a long time ago, winning and misery. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. 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 NewsMar 6th, 2018

Curry goes off again, Warriors top Nuggets for 5th straight

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Stephen Curry scored 32 points and dished out nine assists in another superb performance during his sensational recent stretch, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Nuggets 124-114 on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) to avenge an ugly home loss to Denver in late December. Nikola Jokic had his first triple-double of the season with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as four players scored 20 points or more for the Nuggets, who were coming off a 106-98 loss at Sacramento on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Klay Thompson scored 19 on his bobbblehead night while Draymond Green added a season-high 23 points and 10 assists in the defending NBA champions' fifth straight victory on a night when Kevin Durant sat out his third consecutive game with a strained right calf. In his 12th 30-point game of the season, Curry hit a long three-pointer with 56.1 seconds left in the third and the Warriors led 93-81 going into the final quarter after the Nuggets had fought back to tie it midway through the period. The two-time MVP has scored 29 or more points in seven straight games. In four games before Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), he was averaging 36 points, six rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals in 31.8 minutes since returning from an 11-game absence with a sprained right ankle. The Western Conference Player of the Week for last week, Curry strained his left knee in the first half, headed to the locker room to have it taped and then returned. Golden State's David West contributed 10 points, scoring in double figures for a third straight game to go with six rebounds and four assists while becoming the 127th player in NBA history to play in 1,000 regular-season games. Thompson made his initial four shots and Green scored eight quick points, connecting on his first three field goal attempts. He dished out five assists as Golden State raced ahead 27-20 -- a far cry from the Warriors' previous performance in a 96-81 loss to Denver at Oracle Arena on Dec. 23 (Dec. 24, PHL time). The Warriors shot 3-for-27 in that game from three-point range but topped that with four three's in the first quarter Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) and finished 13-for-30 from deep. Thompson's three-pointer with 4:10 left in the third made it 78-71 after Denver had tied the game 89-all at the 6:57 mark of the period. The Nuggets held the Warriors to a season-low scoring performance here last time that snapped their 11-game winning streak. Golden State has won 7-of-8 since. Denver got 22 points from Gary Harris, and 21 apiece from Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles. DURANT UPDATE Kerr said Durant "didn't feel quite right" after going through shootaround earlier in the day. "We're all on the same page that until he feels right, he's not going to play," Kerr said. "Hopefully the next couple of days he'll clear that hurdle and be ready to go." GREEN FINED Green was fined $25,000 by the NBA for publicly criticizing the league's officiating in comments after Golden State's 121-105 win against the Clippers on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). CURRY THE OWNER? Curry has people helping him explore options to buy into the NFL's Carolina Panthers. Jerry Richardson announced he plans to sell the franchise while he is under investigation for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. "It's a pretty interesting opportunity," Curry said after Monday's (Tuesday, PHL time) shootaround. "I've had conversations with plenty of people about the right way to go about it and kind of the different approaches I could personally take. Obviously I have a day job, but I've got people that are plugged in and trying to see how to make that happen. I've had nothing really to say about it besides that I'm very interested and very willing to do what it takes to make that happen." TIP-INS Nuggets: Denver limited its turnovers to 11 after committing a season-high 26 at Sacramento two days earlier that led to 40 Kings points. ... Denver is 3-11 on the road vs. Western Conference teams. Warriors: Andre Iguodala hit his first three-pointer in nine games he's played since Dec. 18 (Dec. 19, PHL time), snapping an 0-for-12 funk from deep when he made one in the first. ... Golden State rookie Jordan Bell took a hard fall in the second quarter and moved gingerly afterward. ... Newly crowned U.S. figure skating national champion and Olympian Nathan Chen attended the game, watched Curry's warmup, and was set to meet him afterward. UP NEXT Nuggets: Host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Warriors: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) seeking a 13th consecutive victory in the rivalry......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2018

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst The season starts on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). You’ve been waiting patiently all summer with your questions. Fire away.     1. So … what’s the point of playing this season? The Golden State Warriors are still the prohibitive favorites to repeat this season, next season and into the foreseeable future. But it was good to see a good chunk of the Western Conference -- the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, to name three teams -- not fold before the first card is dealt. That fact alone is incredibly important. The Warriors are still the best team in the West, without question. But if teams don’t even try to get better, or spend money to compete, the whole rationale for playing fades away. The Thunder could have rode Russell Westbrook alone to another first-round playoff loss, watched him walk out the door in free agency next summer and thrown up its hands, plead ‘woe is us and all small-market teams,’ and enjoyed a luxury tax-free life for the next few years. The Rockets could have just kept selling tickets to fans to watch James Harden and his pals shoot 50 threes a game for the next two or three years. It’s an appealing brand of basketball. Denver could have just kept building through the Draft, climbing a few more wins here or there for a while, and snuck into the eighth seed, choosing to be comfortable rather than bold. But they didn’t. They’ve called and raised. In all likelihood, it won’t be enough to beat Golden State. But those teams can sleep well at night. They’re not cheating their players, or fans. 2. So, is OKC now a legit threat to the Warriors? The short answer: no. But it’s closer. Carmelo Anthony will be as good a third option as anyone in the league has, though; he will eat regularly on the weak side as defenses scramble to handle Westbrook-Paul George pick and rolls; a quick seal and ‘Melo will be off to the races. If coach Billy Donovan goes small ball with Patrick Patterson at the five, there will be many nights when OKC drops a 130 spot. Yes, the Thunder’s defense is going to be an issue; while Enes Kanter was a sieve off the bench, he was coming off the bench, playing behind Steven Adams. Anthony will be starting and playing big minutes, many at the four. But it won’t matter most nights when the Thunder is up 20 to start the fourth quarter, after 36 minutes of Westbrook sorties, George 3-pointers and transition dunks, and Carmelo post-ups and spot-ups (he shot 44.8 percent last season on catch and shoot shots. Among forwards who played 30 or more minutes last season, per NBA.com/Stats, only Kevin Durant, Otto Porter and Kawhi Leonard shot better). The Thunder can guard you with George, Andre Roberson and Adams and they can outscore you with Westbrook and George and ‘Melo. They have a solid bench (Patterson, Ray Felton, Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines) and Westbrook won’t be physically spent by the end of the 2018 playoffs. Wait; what am I saying? Of course he’ll be spent. But he’ll also be playing way deeper into May. 3. Did not getting Anthony hurt Houston or nah? The Rockets -- okay, Chris Paul -- wanted this done bad. It won’t hurt Houston in the regular season, when Paul and James Harden will dominate. And while Harden didn’t like Kevin McHale’s critique of his leadership, Mac was spot on. That doesn’t make “The Beard” a bad guy or teammate -- people gravitate to their comfortable roles in life, and CP3 is a natural-born leader. Harden will, one thinks, be more comfortable with slightly less light on him. They’ll do fine playing together and off one another. But the shadow of the Rockets’ implosion from deep -- 29 of 88 on three-pointers the last two games against the Spurs in their Western Conference semifinals series -- still hangs over them. Ryan Anderson was negated in the postseason. There’s a reason CP3 pushed for ‘Melo so hard. The Rockets will need unexpected consistent offense from a P.J. Tucker or Luc Mbah a Moute in May if they have any hopes of playing in June. 4. Can we just start the Cleveland-Boston East finals now? Maybe Toronto, with C.J. Miles shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers to complement Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, will break up what seems inevitable. Maybe Washington, with its super-solid starting five intact, now has the mental toughness to bust past the second round, where it’s been beached three of the last four postseasons. But it doesn’t feel like that. Boston, ultimately, should be a lot better this season than last. It will take a while for coach Brad Stevens to figure out the rotation and whether Jaylen Brown can really stick at the two, but ultimately, the Celtics have two dynamic playmakers/scorers in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and with Al Horford providing the glue at both ends, they’re going to be a load by the end of the season. And while Cleveland will have to wait a while for Isaiah Thomas, the Cavs have more than enough firepower until Thomas can make his debut. Whatever Dwyane Wade has left will be accentuated playing with James, and Kevin Love (holy moly, is he underrated) will feast drawing slower, bigger centers out to him on the perimeter. J.R. Smith doesn’t like losing his starting job to Wade, and he should be ticked. But he nonetheless will help Cleveland’s bench, which will be incredibly difficult in its own right with Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver complementing Smith. And that’s before Thomas returns, which will put Derrick Rose on that second unit. There won’t be any rest for defenses who’ll then have to contend with a rested James, et al, coming back. It says here that not only will the Cavs not miss Irving offensively, they could be even more diverse and difficult to guard this season. Not to mention that James is supremely motivated to make an eighth straight Finals. 5. Could Curry break his record of 402 3-pointers in a season? At first glance, with Durant and Klay and Draymond (and, now, Nick Young) all needing to get fed as well, it would seem impossible for Curry to best the mark he set two years ago, on the 73-9 regular season team. But consider: coach Steve Kerr thinks a new guy always blossoms in his second year with the Warriors, which means Durant should be even more lethal offensively this year, as the Warriors’ offense reaches an even higher level of efficiency. And the way they move the ball, it’s not a stretch to think that with defenses tripping over themselves to get to Durant, Curry could get into one of those ridiculous grooves that could leave him within striking distance of 402 by the end of the season. 6. Could the last one in the Eastern Conference turn out the lights? The New York Knicks were hardly a power in the East before trading Anthony, but his departure creates one more team that will struggle to win 35 games this season. With the paucity of talent there should be at least four 50-win teams in the East -- Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington -- with the Milwaukee Bucks knocking on the door. 7. Who’s going to regret their offseason? The Bucks were fine off the court -- their new arena is already more than halfway constructed and looks like it’s going to be a gem -- although the surrounding mall that is supposed to be part of the complex is not going up as quickly. But the Bucks didn’t address their bigs-heavy roster and move some of the surplus -- how can coach Jason Kidd keep all of Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker and John Henson happy with Thon Maker scarfing up more and more frontcourt minutes? -- for the shooting Milwaukee still needs. The East is so open, and Milwaukee is so close to breaking through into elite status with Giannis Antetokounmpo an elite performer. 8. Rudy Gay -- sneaky good pickup? Gay says he’s cool starting or coming off the bench for the Spurs, but he’d best as San Antonio’s sixth man, at least to start things. Bringing Pau Gasol off the bench didn’t work so well, so if he’s starting at center, coach Gregg Popovich can’t go small ball with “Cousin” LaMarcus Aldridge at the five and Gay at the four alongside Kawhi Leonard. (Current state of Spurs fans’ cuticles here and here as they consider a season with an extended Klaw absence if this quad injury doesn’t improve soon.) The Spurs could have some serious firepower in reserve if Gay and Patty Mills come off the bench, but Mills or Dejounte Murray will likely have to start at the point until Tony Parker comes back. 9. Speaking of Popovich … Should he and Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy stick to sports? No. 10. Who’s gonna be Kia Rookie of the Year? I say Markelle Fultz. What, you thought I was gonna pick against a DeMatha Catholic man? (Actual unretouched photo of me as a sophomore at the most successful high school in the history of the United States may or may not be here). Playing off of Joel Embiid, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington … it’s hard to see Fultz not looking really good when he should have all kinds of room to operate. Lonzo Ball will put up bigger numbers, and Tatum will be on a better team. But Boston was good last year, and Jayson Tatum will likely not play as much as the others. The Sixers are poised for a big jump up in the standings, and that’s always a narrative that voters like and get behind -- which is what will hurt Dennis Smith Jr.'s chances in Dallas. 11. What does Dwyane Wade really have left? Now that the inevitable buyout of Wade’s $24 million deal by the Bulls has led to the equally inevitable trek to Cleveland to play with James, can the 35-year-old Wade still be a significant contributor on a title contender? Given the general dysfunction in Chicago last season, you can dismiss most of the good and bad numbers Wade put up, with two exceptions: he still averaged almost five free throw attempts per game, and he shot 31 percent on 3-pointers -- not great, but more than double his anemic 15.9 percent behind the arc in 2015-16, his last with the Miami Heat. Wade obviously knows the cheat code for how to most effectively play off of James, so he’ll use the regular season to learn his teammates and be ready for the playoffs. But can Wade hold up over seven games defensively if he has to chase, say, Bradley Beal around, or try to deny DeRozan his preferred mid-range spots, and still be productive offensively? 12. Back to the Sixers -- how good will they be? My guess is they’ll pretty good in the 60 or so games I anticipate Embiid will play this season -- I’m assuming several designated off days for him during the season, not another injury. The mix of young talent (Fultz, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Covington) and crafty vets (Redick, Amir Johnson) should mesh to make the 76ers a very tough team to defend. But Philly has to resolve the Jahlil Okafor situation, and in fairness to him, give him a fresh start somewhere else with a trade as soon as possible. If I were a good team that would be hard-pressed to add a free agent any time soon and feels a player short of true contention -- I’m looking at you, Memphis Grizzlies and Wizards -- I’d work hard to get the new, slimmed-down Okafor on my squad while he’s still on his rookie contract and make him the focal point of a kick-ass second unit. 13. Should we feel some kind of way about the Trail Blazers? I’m picking up what you’re putting down. A full season of the “Bosnian Beast” in the middle, it says here, will vault Portland into the top four in the West. Note I said “full season.” That means Jusuf Nurkic has to give coach Terry Stotts between 65-70 starts for the above premonition to be, as they say in the legal world, actionable. If so, Nurkic’s underrated scoring and passing out of the post will only make Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum that much more deadly out front, along with improving Portland’s defense. Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Blazers were 11.6 points per game better than the opposition with those three on the floor together and a +5 when their regular five-man lineup with Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu joined the guards and Nurkic. And that’s pronounced, “Noor-kitch,” accent on Noor. 13. A little movie break ... Kevin Costner’s accent in “Robin Hood” -- worst ever, right? Yes, but Natalie Wood’s in “West Side Story” was painful, too. 14. Many have written the post-CP3 Clippers off. Should they? The Clippers are my darkhorse this season -- if they do the right thing and go small more often. They’re doing it more in practice so far than in games because Danilo Gallinari is working through a foot injury, but Blake Griffin at the five and Gallinari at the four could be spicy during the regular season. That would mean Sam Dekker and/or Wes Johnson would have to become credible and dependable at the three, allowing coach Doc Rivers to play a Pat Beverly-Milos Teodosic backcourt more often, which will just be fun. This would, of course, mean less DeAndre Jordan, and … that may not be the worst thing. Nothing against DJ, who is the best defensive big in the league, bar none. Unfortunately, the NBA isn’t about defense any more -- at least not in the traditional sense. Even someone like Jordan who doesn’t just block shots, but also helps snuff out opposing pick and rolls, becomes less valued by the league’s advanced stats crowd if he doesn’t contribute more offensively. The three has gone a long way to tyrannizing the defense-dominant big man out of the game. (Zach Lowe recommends the Wizards try to get Jordan via trade, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard that name mentioned in connection with Washington, the idea being the only chance the Wizards have of beating Cleveland or Boston is to slow them down enough defensively that Wall-Beal-Porter can try and keep up offensively. Washington is definitely a load when Wall gets locked in on D and creates turnovers, and the idea of Jordan inhaling lobs from Wall is enticing to think about. But the Wizards are not -- not -- going to take on a fourth big contract, and Jordan’s surely going to opt out after this season; he’s rightly expecting a massive payday in 2018, and the Clippers certainly now have motive and means to retain him.) Anyway, some Lou Williams, Austin Rivers and/or Teodosic and Willie Reed off the bench isn’t bad, either. 15. Could Kyle Kuzma be the best rookie on the Lakers this season? Don’t @me, LaVar. Kuzma has followed up a very strong Vegas Summer League with high notes in preseason, averaging better than 19 points per game for the Lakers. He’s been dazzling at times, displaying in-between skills that intrigue, and showing why so many teams were trying to trade back into the first round to get the Utah forward before L.A. snagged him with its second and much less heralded first-round pick last June. And there will be minutes available at the four this season. So far, Kuzma has displayed unusual strength for a rookie and confidence in his ability to score. Of course, he’s inexperienced, and like all rookies, has to differentiate between an open shot and a good shot. The other, more famous first-rounder, Lonzo Ball, will almost certainly be the better all-around player in time. For this year, though … hmmm. 16. What does a Hawks fan have to look forward to this season? Honestly, not much. But they’ll always be well-coached and get better. I’d pick one of the young players, like rookie John Collins or second-year small forward Taurean Prince, and concentrate on them during the season. See what they do with their minutes on the floor, and watch how they gradually expand their games at both ends. Seeing a young guy get better as he gains experience and accepts coaching is one of the great joys of watching the NBA every night. 17. Orlando? What gives there? The team’s new braintrust of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond will need some time to fix the roster -- a mélange of athletic wings that have trouble defending and guards that have trouble shooting. The former is addressed somewhat with the signing of Jonathon Simmons from San Antonio, but I don’t see a solution to the latter with any of the existing backcourt contributors. Unless coach Frank Vogel figures out some way to get more turnovers/runouts from his group, they just can’t get in transition enough for their length and legs to make a difference. 18. New Orleans? What gives there? The short answer is, I have no idea. All of NBA Earth has DeMarcus Cousins out of there one way or another (he’s an unrestricted free agent in ’18 and wants to be on a contender/the Pelicans will never pay him what he wants and will have to trade him by the deadline/no way he and Anthony Davis fit together/Wall agitates for a reunion with his former Kentucky big man in D.C./your departure theory here) by this time next year, but we’ll see what coach Alvin Gentry has come up with for “Boogie” and “the Brow” after a summer to think it over. Rajon Rondo being out hurts their depth, but I have to be honest -- I don’t see how he and Jrue Holiday can possibly work together in a backcourt, and Holiday’s the guy the Pelicans just gave $125 million to, so he should probably have the ball in his hands every night, shouldn’t he? I like Ian Clark and Frank Jackson down there, but that untethered three spot burns a hole in the New Orleans sun. Well, at any rate, should be more fun than watching reruns of My Life on the D-List. 19. Favorite D-List Muppet? Beaker. 20. LeBron is leaving Cleveland again after this season, isn’t he? Everything points to yes, and a relocation to Los Angeles to play with the Lakers or Clippers next year – except … what if the Cavs win it all again this year? That’s not an impossible scenario -- in fact, it’s a pretty simple one to lay out: Cavs run roughshod through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs again, get through a good but hardly great Boston team in the conference Finals and set up a fourth straight encounter with Golden State. It’s easy now to say the Warriors dominated the Cavs in last season’s Finals -- but only if you ignore the fact that Cleveland led by six with just more than three minutes remaining in Game 3, only to see the Warriors score the game’s last 11 points to take a 3-0 lead instead of 2-1. And given that Cleveland vaporized the Warriors in Game 4, a 2-2 series would have meant the Cavs just needed to win once in Oracle -- which they’d done twice in the 2016 Finals -- to have a real shot at repeating. The point is, the difference between the teams isn’t as big as Draymond Green would have you believe; the Cavs have no fear of the Warriors, and Jae Crowder gives coach Tyronn Lue a viable on-ball defender for Kevin Durant, leaving LeBron free to play off of Green. And: that unprotected Nets pick, whether one or three or five or seven, is Cleveland’s best recruiting tool. LeBron knows everyone in college basketball and he can literally pick whoever he’d like to finish his career with in Cleveland before handing over the reins. I’m not saying he’s definitely staying, either -- only that his departure isn’t the lead pipe cinch some would have you believe. The season to come will have a lot to do with his next decision. 21. So, how will the playoffs go this season? Eastern Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto, Milwaukee, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia Western Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Memphis, Utah, Minnesota Eastern Conference semifinalists: Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Milwaukee Western Conference semifinalists: Golden State, Houston, OKC, San Antonio Eastern Conference finals: Cleveland over Boston Western Conference finals: Golden State over OKC (you heard me) NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland (in seven games) 22. Tell me something crazy that’s going to happen this season that no one’s predicting! Giannis Antetokounmpo. NBA MVP, 2017-18. 23. Are you high? No, ma’am. 24. So, why 24 questions? As always, we start the season with 24 questions (or predictions, or issues, whatever) in honor of Danny Biasone, the late owner of the Syracuse Nationals, whose discovery in 1954 helped save the league. At that time, the NBA was in the midst of a literal slowdown, in large part by teams that were desperate to figure out some kind of way to stay competitive with George Mikan, the league’s first superstar big man, and his team, the Minneapolis Lakers. Teams would hold the ball for minutes at a time without shooting in an effort to shorten the game and give them a chance to beat Minneapolis late. But the end result was boring -- very boring -- basketball. At the owners’ meetings that year, Biasone came up with an idea. NBA games were 48 minutes long. Biasone figured out that in a normal game, one not waylaid by the slowdown tactics, about 120 shots -- 60 per team -- were taken. So, why not just divide the number of minutes in every game -- 2,880 -- by the number of shots in an average game -- 120 -- to come up with some kind of a time limit in which a team had to shoot. And thus, the 24-second shot clock (2,800/120) was born. With the implementation of the shot clock in the 1954-55 season, scoring went way up, as did the quality of play. Teams were now running up and down the floor in order to try and beat the shot clock, complementing the “fast break” game that many colleges had played for years. But the new style in the pros was immensely popular with fans. And it still is. Plus, there’s just something iconic about that clock counting down every 24 seconds. It’s unique to the NBA. Thus, we ask 24 questions, in honor of the guy who owned a bowling alley as well as the Nationals for much of his adult life, and probably enjoyed the bowling more. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. 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 17th, 2017

Magic seek better results, more wins with mostly same roster

em>By Terrance Harris, Associated Press /em> ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A disappointing season for the Orlando Magic in previous years was followed by drastic changes to the roster during the offseason. They’re taking a different approach this season. Instead of adding an impact player or trading a disappointing star, the Magic chose to follow up their fifth straight non-playoff season by not making a significant change to their roster. Even second-year coach Frank Vogel isn’t quite sure what to expect. “We will have to take a big jump if we want to consider ourselves competing for a playoff spot,” Vogel said when asked how well this season’s team is constructed for success. “We weren’t close last year and we didn’t make a bunch of changes, so the improvement has to come from within. It has to come from player development. That’s the task that has been put in front of me and that’s what I’m embracing.” The team is banking on continuity to help turnaround its fortunes. For the first time since the 2014-15 season, the Magic have a second year coach. That means the second year of Vogel’s defensive system and the continuation of the small-ball offensive scheme Vogel gave into midway through last season. And while there isn’t a superstar on the roster, Orlando returns the starting five of Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic that wrapped up last season’s 29-53 finish. The most significant additions are No. 6 overall pick Jonathan Isaac, who entered the NBA draft after a one-and-done year at Florida State, and Jonathon Simmons, a perimeter defense specialist who joined the club as a free agent from San Antonio. New president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman has defended the decision to virtually stand still and not make wholesale change to the roster. Weltman is in listen, learn and evaluate mode now. “We come in without a history with some of the organization and the players and we have to give ourselves the time to understand what it is that we have,” Weltman said. “But what our hope is is to put everybody in the best possible situation to succeed while we are making those evaluations.” __ Here are some other things to know about the Magic this season. strong>PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR? /strong>Even without doing much to improve their roster, the Magic could be on the brink of ending their five-year playoff drought. But it has much less to do with their improvement and more to do with three teams that were in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season but are now in rebuild mode. That creates an opportunity for Orlando to be the postseason chance. Atlanta, Indiana and Chicago have overhauled their rosters, opening up possibilities for teams that were on the outside of the playoff race last season like Philadelphia, Miami and Orlando. strong>PAYTON’S PLACE: /strong>There probably hasn’t been a Magic player more scrutinized than Payton. His perimeter shot isn’t consistent and his on-ball defense has left a lot to be desired. But clearly the Magic believe in Payton. A lot of that has to do with the improvement he made once Vogel shifted to the small-ball lineup last season. He had five triple doubles and averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 2.5 turnovers after the All-Star break. strong>BEING DEFENSIVE: /strong> Vogel is a defense-first coach but he inherited a team that was anything but that last season. The continuity of players gives the Magic a chance to be improved defensively this year. The addition of Simmons will also help. He has the athleticism to get after opponents on the perimeter like the Magic couldn’t last season. strong>PERIMETER PROBLEMS: /strong> In a league where the three-point shot has taken over, the Magic have struggled from beyond the arc. That could continue to be the case unless Gordon and Payton improve immensely and Fournier and Ross become more consistent. The Magic ranked 29th in the NBA last season in three-point shooting after making just 33 percent from long range. strong>JONATHAN ISAAC IMPACT? /strong> Isaac’s impact may not be obvious. At 6’10” and 210 pounds, the 20-year-old may not be ready to deal with the physical aspects of playing in the NBA. But his length and athletic ability gives him a chance to be a solid defender off the bench while he bulks up. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2017

Jordan s weight reaches farther than court in NC

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CHARLOTTE -- Unlike Mark Cuban and James Dolan, the host of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game was voted in 14 times to participate and played in 13. Quite different from Micky Arison and Glen Taylor, the team owner whose arena and city will be the center of All-Star 2019 averaged 20.2 points in those 13 All-Star appearances, was named MVP three times and posted the first triple-double in the game’s history (1997). And not at all like Steve Ballmer and Joe Lacob, the guy most often credited with making Charlotte All-Star worthy this weekend ignited the annual Slam Dunk Contest with his takeoff from the foul line in 1988. He also regularly irritated former NBA commissioner David Stern into a series of fines for golfing when he should have been sitting through mandatory Friday media sessions. With a level of celebrity as arguably the game’s greatest player ever, morphed now into an off-radar role as owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan remains as famous, as popular and as successful as any or all the active All-Star participants who’ll cavort at the Spectrum Center in the city’s Uptown business district. Ain’t no other NBA owner who can say that. “You think about all these wealthy, successful owners in our league,” said Hornets president Fred Whitfield, “no one knew who any of them were, really, until they bought their team. Everybody in the world knew who Michael Jordan was before he bought his team.” Jordan’s place in the All-Star galaxy in the coming days is reflective of his unique position among those who oversee the NBA’s 29 other franchises. His impact on the team, on its fans, on their city and on the state in returning to his native North Carolina -- he grew up in coastal Wilmington before attending college in Chapel Hill -- to anchor and lend stability to the Hornets will be on full display, even if he’s hard to spot this weekend. It’s all a reminder, too, of the old movie line from a remarkably blessed character, wondering “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” Most don’t dare to imagine playing in an All-Star Game, never mind hosting one as the owner of the local team. “No,” Jordan told some Charlotte reporters Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), coming forward for one of his few appearances of the week. “As a kid growing up here in North Carolina, the first thing [was] playing basketball. And then things evolved from there -- from the University of North Carolina to Chicago. Obviously you know the history from that. “[The] opportunity to represent North Carolina in an All-Star Game from a different seat is truly amazing. It tells the path that I have taken. It gives me great pleasure to give that back to the community. It’s been a long-traveled road.” The celebration of the league’s brightest stars, and the ubiquitous banners and signage devoted to it will make it even harder than usual to visibly spot signs of Jordan’s ownership of the Hornets. For a typical regular season game, you might spy a flag emblazoned with his well-known “Jumpman” logo. Occasionally he’ll watch part of the game, rarely all, from seats at the end of his team’s bench, though he’s as likely to retreat to his suite atop the arena’s lower bowl. An in-game, timeout scoreboard video meant to stoke the crowd includes shots of GM Mitch Kupchak (“Architect of Champions”) and coach James Borrego (“Elite Pedigree”) but ends right about the time you expect some dramatic silhouette of His Airness to appear. It’s as if Jordan is as protective of his brand in running the Hornets as he is in maintaining its exclusivity in the marketplace. Doesn’t matter, though. His fingerprints are all over the franchise, as a basketball team, as a business enterprise and as a member of the community. On court, Jordan trusts his team Jordan’s greatest notoriety as an owner in a basketball setting may have come in December, when he was courtside for a tense game against Detroit. Guard Jeremy Lamb drained a 22-foot jumper with 0.3 seconds left, sending reserves Malik Monk and Bismack Biyombo onto the floor in celebration of what would be a 108-107 home victory. Trouble was, that sliver of time on the clock. Too many men. The Hornets were whistled for a one-shot technical foul and Jordan impulsively smacked Monk lightly, twice, on the back of the head. Any other owner does that, the player’s agent might file a grievance with the players union. Jordan does it and, thanks to his in-the-trenches, in-the-fraternity credibility, it comes across as a goof. “A tap of endearment,” Jordan called it later in a statement. “It was like a big brother and little brother tap. No negative intent. Only love!" Said Monk: “Big, big, big brother. But it was nothing. He was just playing.” The arc of Jordan’s career and his reputation as a stone-cold competitor make it OK if he wants to vent -- or swipe -- when things don’t go the Hornets’ way. Doesn’t matter that Jordan, who will turn 56 on All-Star Sunday, is old enough to be any of his players' dad. He still carries himself like an athlete, and their frame of reference remains, “That’s Mike.” “I’ve seen kids come up through camps,” said Buzz Peterson, Charlotte’s assistant general manager under Kupchak. “You could say Julius Erving, you could say Larry Johnson, Karl Malone, whatever, and the kids’ eyes are like, ‘Who?’ But you say Michael Jordan, they’re gonna know. That’s the separation there.” Peterson is among Jordan’s closest friends -- he beat him out as North Carolina’s prep player of the year in 1981, won an NCAA title with him as a Tar Heels teammate and is described by those who know both as someone who can disagree with the boss while staying comfortably in the inner circle. For Borrego, Charlotte’s first-year coach, interviewing to run Jordan’s team could have been intimidating. “We’re all human beings -- there’s a presence that comes with ‘Michael Jordan’ when he’s around,” Borrego told NBA.com in January. “But it’s healthy. He comes with a competitive spirit that you feel. “Michael was straight with me from Day 1. When I interviewed, he said, ‘I’m going to give you space to do your job. Whatever you need, you come to me. I’ll give you the resources you need.’ He has not tried to interfere one time. I feel his full support. … We’re starting to speak each other’s language, which is pretty healthy for us now.” Jordan keeps the coach apprised of his interactions with players, Borrego said. Other coaches should have such a resource at the ready. Hornets guard and 2019 All-Star starter Kemba Walker probably has benefited most from Jordan’s counsel. They text frequently, a pinch-me arrangement to this day for Walker. “I grew up wearing Jordans, grew up wanting to be like Jordan,” Walker said recently. “So for me to get this opportunity to be on his team means the world to me. He’s the one who believed in me -- I had no idea where I was going to go on draft night and he traded up for me. I’ve always heard the story, he was the one who actually drafted me. So it’s unbelievable. “He’s such a good dude. He understands what it is to be good. His delivery is always good. Only in a positive way, honestly.” Said rookie wing Miles Bridges: “You think there’ll be a lot of pressure having MJ as an owner. I’d seen how he got on his teammates when he played. So I was nervous, thinking if I had a bad game, he’d go at me like, ‘What’re you doing?’ But after meeting him and bonding with him, I feel like he’s the coolest owner out there. I don’t feel any pressure, I feel like he wants the best for us.” Big man Frank Kaminsky typically sits at the end of the bench, which puts him cheek to cheek with Jordan when he’s courtside. “He’s talking about what he’s seeing out on the court. Talking to the refs,” Kaminsky said. “Things other players don’t necessarily see. He still thinks the game. “You see things on the court that he sees. One game, the roll, pocket-pass, skip to the corner was open. He was saying that. We made an adjustment in a timeout, but he saw it a couple plays before that. At the end of that game, we had a big play that was a roll, pocket-pass, into the corner that put the game away. It worked the way he’d seen it.” The Hornets’ struggles during Jordan’s tenure as owner wouldn’t suggest it -- the last time this organization won a playoff series (2002), Jordan still was a player -- but there is a prestige to playing for his team. It’s not unlike being welcomed onto the list of elite athletes who endorse Jordan Brand. “I’m one of the lucky ones who’s in both,” Kaminsky said. “You’re talking about the most iconic player in sports history -- I might be biased because I grew up in Chicago -- but when you have his approval, it means a lot. You have it in the back of your mind that he wants you here.” Head smack or no head smack. Jordan grows as owner, businessman Basketball is a zero-sum game and the NBA is full of stars, even if none shines quite as brightly as Jordan. But business has room for negotiation and compromise, and deals get struck daily that leave both sides happy. There, Jordan has been beyond clutch. Funnel down everything he’s accomplished -- six NBA championships, the league’s highest career scoring average (30.1), five MVP awards, six Finals MVP, 10 scoring titles, nine All-Defensive team nods -- and it invariably ends with clammy hands. The “wow” factor is real and the Hornets are extremely careful about leveraging it. “It gives our organization a certain cachet,” said Whitfield, another longtime friend who goes back more than 35 years with Jordan. “For him to be majority owner, for him to do it in his home state as a local hometown hero, and to be able to come back and not just lead the team and the rebranding from the Bobcats to the Hornets, but his commitment to the community in giving back, it’s something that’s so special.” That’s a lot to unpack. When Jordan initially signed on with the Hornets, he did so as head of its basketball operations in 2006, purchasing a small minority stake in the team. The team was bad, the business was worse and trending down. “Back in ’08-09, the economy was in the tank and I was mandated to ‘displace’ 42 of our executives here on the business side,” Whitfield said. “When Michael bought the team, we were losing $30 million a year.’ Brought back into the league in 2004 two years after the original Hornets (1988-2002) were moved to New Orleans by reviled owner George Shinn, the Charlotte expansion team was owned -- and nicknamed -- by Bob Johnson, a co-founder of the BET television network. The Bobcats excelled only at losing and were 122 games under .500 in their first five seasons. The front office was understaffed, Spectrum Center (then known as Time Warner Cable Arena) needed renovations almost from its inception and there was a real sense that, if a buyer with deep pockets and a commitment to the area weren’t found, the franchise could be moved. In March 2010, Jordan ponied up the cash to become majority owner. But it says something that the deal stands as one of the few, if ever, instances of an NBA franchise being sold at a discount. Johnson paid $300 million for the team; Jordan purchased it for $275 million. Forbes.com recently had Charlotte worth $1.25 billion -- which ranks 28th. And Jordan reportedly has one of the biggest stakes of all NBA owners, with his share estimated at upwards of 90 percent, possibly as high as 98 percent. That’s a lot of success in nine years, despite the basketball team’s mostly middling performance. “With MJ being with the team, you got instant credibility in the marketplace,” said Pete Guelli, the chief operating officer who started on the job about 10 months before Jordan took ownership. “There had been a lot of uncertainty previously, but with his brand and his resources and his commitment, that just dissipated immediately. It was much, much easier to walk in the door and tell people about our vision for this franchise.” Rebranding the team as “Hornets” gave the franchise an existential boost -- it suddenly had a history again, complete with records, archives and true alumni. The arena got a makeover and, per Guelli, is credited for events there that generate an alleged $1 billion in revenues for local businesses. “Fortunately, we’ve been profitable pretty much since [Jordan took over],” Whitfield said. “That’s huge, especially since we haven’t gotten where we want to be on the basketball side.” Closing a new kind of game now It’s hard to overstate Jordan’s added value, not so much as some corporate or financial whiz but as a presence who brought instant motivation and energy to the staff. He imported executives with whom he had developed relationships at Nike or in other ventures and, after taking early criticism for an uncertain level of involvement, has been more diligent in recent years. “I love seeing him sitting at the end of the bench encouraging his players when he attends a game” said Charles F. Bowman, Bank of America’s market president for Charlotte and North Carolina. “And as a business person what impresses me is that he has empowered his management team to focus not only on the court but also on building bridges with the community. “He had a vision for where he was taking the team and a clear plan to get there. He has hired good people, gives them latitude to make decisions and he expects them to perform. Michael is unique -- the best player ever who is determined to keep getting better year over year as an owner.” The NBA has gotten a taste of Jordan’s growth and transition at some pivotal times. This is the legendary voice of the players who, during rancorous negotiations in the 1998 lockout, countered Washington owner Abe Pollin’s gripes about losing money by telling Pollin to sell his team. By the lockout of 2011, Jordan had moved to the other side of the table. But several members of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee saw him not as an opponent or turncoat but as a role model: someone who had transformed himself from employee to employer at the game’s highest level. “The players understood, he had been in their shoes,” Whitfield said. “He’s not forgetting what it meant to be a player. He was in the process of learning what it meant to be an owner.” When the current collective bargaining agreement was negotiated with commissioner Adam Silver and union director Michele Roberts leading the talks, Jordan was an active, powerful voice. He is an influential member of the NBA’s labor relations and competition committees. One Charlotte insider spoke to Jordan’s clout with his fellow owners in getting this weekend’s showcase -- jeopardized by a political squabble in 2017 -- back onto the league’s short list. “There’s no All-Star Game here in Charlotte if it’s not for MJ,” the person said. Last summer in Las Vegas, Silver lauded Jordan for his ability to straddle the basketball and business worlds. “He brings unique credibility to the table when we're having discussions [with the players],” he said, “and even just among the owners, he's able to represent a player point of view… Michael can say, 'Well, look, this is how I looked at it when I was a player, and these are the kind of issues we need to address if we're going to convince players that something is in everyone's interest.’ ” Jordan’s powers of persuasion apparently have been even more impressive in Charlotte and North Carolina. The executives are careful about relying on him too often -- Jordan’s most precious commodity, now that his net worth is estimated to be upwards of $1.7 billion -- is his time. But when they need Mariano Rivera to walk in from the bullpen, he is lights out. “We’ve had corporate sponsors at a golf outing, and he’s been there, maybe stayed at one hole to tell off with everybody,” Whitfield said. Or they’ll invite certain corporate sponsors to one of a few games each season in which “Club 23” is up and running at the Spectrum Center, a private club built for such purposes. They get a chance to visit, talk with and pick Jordan’s brain on the Hornets and much more. “We’ve closed all those deals,” Whitfield said. Then there was the time a local CEO wanted to finalize a sizeable sponsorship deal with the team, and had his No. 2 invite Jordan over to their headquarters for the meetings. Whitfield told the tale: “This guy says, 'You have to come to our office. Our CEO is the man in our business.' But we’re like, 'Nah, typically, CEOs come and meet in Michael’s office or in ‘Club 23’ over here.' He said no, that wasn’t going to work for them. “So Pete Guelli said, 'Let’s make a deal: We’ll take your CEO and drop him off in Beijing. And we’ll drop off Michael in Beijing. Then we’ll see who more people gravitate to. Whoever gets the least people, he has to come to the other guy’s office.'” Point made. Point taken. Said Whitfield: “The guy says, ‘You know what, I got it. We’ll be over 10 o’clock Friday morning.’” A community he calls home The Michael Jordan who once seemed determined to float above cultural and political frays as the most prudent way to serve commerce has not held back in recent years from making his presence felt. He has been more philanthropist than activist and, let’s face it, in times of the most dire need, cash beats talk every time. Charity and investing in the community can be good for business, sure. Making that a priority after Guelli’s arrival and Jordan’s purchase helped the Hornets build bridges with fans and merchants that Shinn and the original franchise’s departure had torched. More than that, though, giving back for Jordan and his team at this point in his life was the right thing to do. And do, and do, and do. The list of charitable and civic efforts Jordan and the Hornets have undertaken is long, with few outside the region or state aware of most of it. Among the highlights: - Donating $2 million to relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Florence, particularly meaningful because of the damage it did in Jordan’s hometown of Wilmington. - Dedicated $7 million in partnership with Novant Health to fund two Michael Jordan Family Clinics, set to open in Charlotte in 2020. - Serving as Make-A-Wish’s Chief Wish Ambassador since 2008, while donating more than $5 million to the organization. His relationship with Make-A-Wish began more than 30 years ago. - Contributing $5 million as a founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. - Addressing the issue of police shootings and community policing in 2016 by donating $1 million each to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. After the hurricane in September devastated so many homes and businesses in and near Jordan’s roots, he wanted to do more than to stroke a fat check. In a meeting covered by The Associated Press, he met with Stephanie Parker and her family, including four young children, after they lost their apartment in two feet of flooding. A call from the director of the Cape Fear chapter of the Red Cross brought them together. The meeting took place at a Lowe’s home improvement store. “I look around the corner, and it’s Michael Jordan. ‘Oh my God!’" Parker said. “I look at my kids, ‘It’s Michael Jordan!’ I’m not going to lie, some tears came in my eyes, because the first thing that went through my mind was when I was younger, his last game when he was on the Chicago Bulls team, and that flashback just came right in my mind.” Afterward, Jordan was coaxed by the Charlotte Observer to talk about why that disaster resonated so deeply for him. “You gotta take care of home,” he said. “Wilmington truly is my home. Kept thinking about all those places I grew up going to … You don’t want to see any of that anywhere, but when it’s home, that’s tough to swallow.” There’s basketball, there’s business and then there’s real life, which sometimes intrudes in the most desperate ways. “We didn’t know how many people in our community were hungry,” Whitfield said. “There are people in dire need, and it’s special to have that hometown hero have in his heart that ‘This is where I can help.’ “It gives not only him as a person but our organization a platform to really speak out. That commitment is what has made him a special owner, and why he’s even more beloved in our community.” Winning title No. 7 drives Jordan now To date, Jordan’s greatest achievements have come elsewhere, at least since his baseline shot as a freshman propelled North Carolina to the 1982 NCAA championship. Those Bulls championships, the “Dream Team” magnificence, his partnership with that sneaker company in Beaverton, Ore., his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction, shooting “Space Jam,” all of it -- his legacy has been crafted with others, for others, mostly far from home. (For the record, Jordan, his wife Yvette and their two daughters own a mansion outside Charlotte and an estate in south Florida). “Look, this has always been home for him,” Whitfield said. “Even though he was drafted by Chicago, WGN became a very popular station. And he just continued to elevate, so people in this state were proud to say, even though he’s a Bull, we love him. When the Bulls would come here and play at the old Coliseum, these fans who were avid Hornets fans were all pulling for Michael Jordan. “He’d score, they’d cheer loudly. The Hornets would score, they’d cheer loudly. North Carolina always felt like he was their native son who went off and achieved greatness.” Coming back first to head the franchise’s basketball operations and then as owner, Jordan’s role -- in light of the modest results on the court -- has been custodial. Yes, the club’s improved financial stability is important. But for this driven winner and NBA owner unlike all others, custodial isn’t going to cut it for long. “He did an interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine a while back,” Peterson said, “and the question was asked, ‘What would you like to do?’ And he said, ‘Win a seventh championship. Win as an owner.’ So for me, every day, I’m thinking, here’s a close friend and you want to make your friends happy, right? So each day I think, do the best you can to reach this goal for him.” Said Hornets wing Nicolas Batum: “I understand. He wants to win. He wants to compete since he was born.” It hasn’t been for lack of trying, although Jordan has made sure to keep fiscal responsibility high on every agenda. The team’s payroll for 2018-19 is approximately $122.3 million, which ranks near the middle of the NBA pack. “That Michael Jordan is one cheap dude,” said an impassioned cab driver on a recent airport run. “He’s only going to spend so much and the players they get shows it.” The Hornets never have spent into the league’s luxury-tax, and if Walker is retained when he hits free agency this summer, he’ll likely become the first Charlotte player to sign a full maximum-salary contract (though the five-year, $120 million deal Batum landed in 2016 came awfully close). Injuries and dubious moves have taken a toll, a situation that Kupchak, Borrego and their staffs have been tasked with fixing. Jordan, by all accounts, is engaged yet patient, with a playoff berth and potentially a record above .500 within reach. “I’m sure he feels like,” Whitfield said, “if he were still 30 years old and could lace ‘em up and get out there, he’d help us get over the hump. I think he would cherish it as much or more than the first six. Because I think he realizes how hard it is to get it done. “But it doesn’t bother us if the fans see his frustration sitting next to our bench. It’s important to us that they see he’s not only invested, he’s vested in what our team is trying to do. They can relate to him because they’re feeling that same frustration.” Jordan is theirs again and that’s what matters. For basketball, for business, for community and in time, just maybe, in championship. 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 NewsFeb 16th, 2019

2019 NBA All-Star Diary: Day 1

5:20 A.M. – For some reason, I woke up 10 minutes before the alarm on my cellphone was scheduled to ring. Maybe it was jetlag. Maybe it was excitement. It didn’t matter, I had to get up from bed to prepare for the 2 hour and 30 minute drive from Durham to Charlotte. Me and my colleague, TJ Manotoc had taken a detour from our planned schedule to visit Duke University. Now, that we were done with that, it was time to revert back to our primary task of covering the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. During our drive back to Charlotte, I looked out the window to the sight of clear skies telling me that it was going to be a good day. 8:50 A.M. – The first task for journalists covering the NBA’s mid-season event is to secure a media pass. This is basically an ID that gives one clearance to all events that are happening throughout All-Star Weekend. After parking our rented car and walking to the designated hotel for the media credentials pick-up, we were ready to head to our first activity of the day. 9:35 A.M. – Hosting the best young players in the league was the Bojangles Coliseum where the first media availability session was about to take place. The Mountain Dew Rising Stars is first major event of All-Star weekend and we were given the opportunity to see the players from Team U.S. and Team World up-close to field in questions. Rookie sensation Luka Dončić drew the biggest crowd of reporters from all over the world. Because it would be tough for me to ask the Slovenian a question, I decided to go to another podium where this year’s number on overall pick, Deandre Ayton was sitting. “Deandre! Who’s the toughest center you’ve played against so far in your rookie season?” I asked. “Uuuhhh… nobody. Not yet. All the centers I’ve played against so far haven’t really went at me yet. I think they were just playing though the rhythm and not really going at me,” replied Deandre. I saw another player drawing a huge crowd and realized it was Ben Simmons, who is currently my second favorite NBA player behind Blake Griffin. After waiting for a little while, I pounced on the opportunity to field in a question. “Ben, with the current Sixers lineup, what do you think are the weaknesses that you guys need to improve on so that you can win the championship this year?” The 6’10” point guard from Australia looked right at me and said, “Offense. Defense.” Honestly, I was a little bit disappointed because I was expecting a more thorough answer but I guess that’s how it is sometimes. These athletes are asked a million questions and it might be a struggle for them to stay consistent with regards to being accommodating to people. Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young and LA Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma were two other players I visited. With so many players on both rosters, it would be extremely difficult to get to converse with all. But, seeing them right in front of you and having an opportunity to talk to them was an amazing experience. 11:00 A.M. – All media had been requested by the organizers to clear the court so we could witness Team World practice for the night’s event. Even though I got a very short answer from Simmons, I still observed him. Watching him dribble the ball up the floor and make long strides to the basket for dunks was a sight to behold. He could even knock down three-pointers. 11:45 A.M. – It was now the turn of Team U.S. to take the floor for practice. Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum looked like they could be the best players on the squad but I was particularly looking at Young and his ability to shoot the ball and handle it exceptionally well. Kuzma was also taking every drill seriously. Just like he would the Rising Stars. 1:06 P.M. – After gathering content, TJ and I decided to have a late lunch at Denny’s. We looked at the schedule and realized that our next activity would not be happening until nine in the evening. More time to sleep, I thought. 2:23 P.M. – TJ dropped me and our luggage off at Springhill Suites, our hotel for the next three days. He left me there to check-in while he returned the rental car to the airport. But, as I went to the counter, I was told by the front desk that our room would not be available until 3:00 P.M.. That’s when I decided to look around. 2:45 P.M. – I went to the Hornets Fan Shop to look at the NBA All-Star merchandise and saw an interesting selection of hats, jerseys and all kinds of memorabilia. And then, I noticed a man carrying a box which contained a pair of Nike Adapt BBs, the shoes I tested last month in New York. I asked him where he got them and told me to check out the “Jordan pop-up shop” across the Spectrum Center. 2:55 P.M. – While walking on the street, I saw a long line outside a building. It turns out, this was where that man got his Nike Adapt BBs. It was a Foot Locker – House of Hoops pop-up shop which sold various sneakers that were scheduled to be released specifically during the NBA All-Star weekend. Because of my unforgettable experience in Manhattan, I decided to join the line for a chance to get my own pair of the most futuristic basketball shoes Nike has ever made. Thankfully, I was given a wristband with a number, allowing me to leave the line to check into the hotel. 3:15 P.M. – I checked into our hotel room and felt thankful that it had such a great location. Springhill Suites was right across the Spectrum Center, the venue of NBA All-Star weekend and of course, just down the block from the pop-up shop. As soon as TJ arrived, I left to resume my quest to buy the shoes. 4:46 P.M. – Finally, I was a proud owner of my very own Nike Adapt BB. I felt like my trip to the New York was given more meaning now. Also, I felt like this was one of the reasons my journey has taken me to Charlotte. But, there was still more work to be done. 8:30 P.M. – Less than an hour before tip-off of the Rising Stars game, TJ and I did a Facebook Live discussion right outside the Spectrum Center to update fans back at home about what has happened so far at the All-Star event and what we should look forward to. 8:55 P.M. – We couldn’t believe it. Our assigned seats were located high up in the bleachers. On the very last row. I was breathing heavily after making the climb up the arena. All of a sudden, the players looked more like ants compared to the giants that they were during our morning sessions with them. 10:54 P.M. – Team U.S. defeated Team World behind the 35 points and 6 rebounds of Kuzma, who was named MVP of the Rising Stars. Kuzma was also one of the easiest players to talk to among his peers. 11:05 P.M. – Just when I thought we were given a lot of access to the players, we were given more. There was another media session which commenced right after the game! 12:11 A.M. – Another thing the NBA is very generous with is food. TJ and I ended our long day at a restaurant and bar that the league booked for us international journalists. As we chomped down our food, we talked about how the NBA All-Star weekend would take a lot of our time from us, including our sleeping hours. TJ has been covering this annual event since 2011. He’s used to the grueling schedule. Me, I’m just soaking it all in. I have a few hours left before I have to get up and work again. As always, I’m going to try to have as much fun as possible. After all, it’s the NBA All-Star. It’s supposed to be fun......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 16th, 2019

UE star Kath Arado confident change has come for more matured UE Lady Warriors

MANILA, Philippines---Kath Arado is ready to prove that University of the East won't be an immediate check mark for other teams. Like Arado, the rest of the UE Lady Warriors are eager to put the whole UAAP Season 81 women's volleyball field after their dark days just four years ago. Arado is already an established defensive force for the Lady Warriors having won the co-Rookie of the Year in Season 77, with University of Santo Tomas' EJ Laure, the Best Digger, and the Best Receiver awards. Her team, however, hasn't received the same success but the years of futility is what fueled UE to get charged up for the 2019 tournament. "I have high hopes for this season because firs...Keep on reading: UE star Kath Arado confident change has come for more matured UE Lady Warriors.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 23rd, 2019

MVP Ladder: Giannis bolsters case with key win in Houston

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t think he’s quite “there yet” when it comes to the Kia MVP chase. With all due respect, Mr. “Greek Freak,” the basketball world begs to differ. You are definitely there, sir, based on your performance through the midpoint of this NBA season. In fact, if there were hardware to hand out from Kia Race to the MVP Ladder HQ at this point, Antetokounmpo would be the recipient (edging out a crowded field that includes the reigning MVP, James Harden). By the grace of the scheduling gods, the two leading candidates just happened to hook up on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), the official halfway point of 2018-19. And they put on a show worthy of MVP mention, with Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks knocking off Harden’s Houson Rockets at Toyota Center. Harden continued his torrid scoring streak, collecting his league-leading 14th 40-point game of the season. In doing so, he tied Tracy McGrady for the second-longest 30-point streak since the ABA/NBA merger at 14. (Kobe Bryant has the record at 16 straight.) But Harden didn’t have his most efficient outing (shooting 13-for-30 overall with nine turnovers) as the Bucks took control late. All Antentokounmpo did was shred the Rockets for 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting to go along with a career-high 21 rebounds, five assists and yet another showcase performance for his MVP resume. (The Bucks pounded the Rockets to the tune of a 70-24 advantage in points in the paint and outscored them 19-2 in fast break points.) The Bucks have won seven of their past eight games heading into today’s game against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. They’ve stormed the top of the Eastern Conference standings and own a 10-5 record over Western Conference opponents with Antetokounmpo as their undisputed leader and, yes, MVP. Not there yet, huh? Yeah, right. * * * The top five this week in the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 26.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.3 steals Antetokounmpo seems to be the only person on the planet who isn’t moved by his consistent brilliance this season. If he doesn’t think he’s "there yet," then the rest of the league should brace themselves for whatever comes next. He’s been an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor, but particularly as an offensive catalyst on one of the most improved teams in the league. Doing it without the aid of a reliable long-distance shot is what has made watching Antetokounmpo crush the competition so intriguing. If there was any skepticism about the Bucks being both a legitimate threat in the East and a title contender, that should be vanishing as the second half of the season begins. As long as Antetokounmpo stays focused and healthy (he’s probable Saturday, PHL time, with right quadriceps soreness and a left hip bruise), the possibilities are endless. 2. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 33.9 points, 8.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals Harden has moved into hallowed ground with his current scoring barrage, as his 14 straight games of 30-plus points ties Hall of Famer (and fellow Rockets legend) Tracy McGrady for the second-longest streak since the ABA/NBA merger. Those debates about whether or not Harden is the best offensive player ever aren’t out of line, not when you consider the way he generates offense for himself and his teammates. Harden has a chance to obliterate the record with the Rockets’ friendly upcoming schedule (they play seven of their next 10 games at Toyota Center). The only glitch for Harden as he's hit this nuclear level is the one key flaw in his game is rising, too. He’s averaging 5.7 turnovers this season, which ties his career-high from 2016-17. He's up to 7.3 tpg in his last five games, which he, of course, would point out is world-class nit-picking of a guy playing as well as he is. 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 28.9 points, 5.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals Curry shot a rather un-Splash Brother-ish 5-for-19 in Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) home win against the New York Knicks, which includes an ugly 3-for-12 showing from three-point range. That was a huge come down from his 42-point outburst (including 10 made three-pointers) Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a road win against the Sacramento Kings. But as often happens with a rare rough shooting night for the two-time former MVP, Curry displayed a brilliant floor game against the Knicks. He finished with 14 assists (and just one turnover) while grabbing seven rebounds as Klay Thompson went off for 43 points and Kevin Durant dropped 24. Curry’s had just three hiccups since returning from his 11-game, groin-injury induced absence on Dec. 1 (Dec. 2, PHL time). Over his last 18 games, Curry has failed to score at least 20 points only once. What should worry the Chicago Bulls, who visit Oracle today, is what Curry has done in those other two games after he struggled (averaged 32.0 points). 4. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals MVP voters must decide if the work Leonard did while he was playing outweighs how good the Raptors were all season whether he was in or out of the lineup. As convenient as it might be to try to diminish what Leonard has done by knocking him for the games he missed, you’d be wise to pay attention to just how good he's been when he plays. The Milwaukee Bucks can certainly attest to his impact after what Leonard did to them Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). He logged 30 points and a season-high five steals, playing his trademark lockdown defense, as the Raptors won the battle between the NBA’s top two teams (in the standings). Leonard has such tight control over his own game that he continues to play as efficiently as anyone on this list. He has notched eight games this season where he’s scored 30 or more points while shooting better than 50 percent, including his last two games (30 on 50 percent shooting in the win against the Bucks and 31 points on 61.1 percent shooting in their recent win against the Hawks). 5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets Last week: No. 7 Season stats: 19.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.5 steals Jokic continues to deliver for the Nuggets in every category, doing his crafty best to help keep coach Michael Malone’s team at the top of the Western Conference. He notched his 21st career triple-double (18 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) win over the LA Clippers. It was his second straight triple-double, coming two days after lighting up the Heat in Miami for 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. In doing so, he tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second-most career triple-doubles by a center and can now chase Wilt Chamberlain’s big man record of 78. Jokic will probably dig into that deficit considerably the season if he keeps playing the way he has to kick off 2019 (27.2 points on .523 shooting, 12.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals in his last five games). Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets are focused on team goals first, of course. After missing out on the playoffs on the season's final night in 2017-18, they’re making sure to avoid any such drama this time. * * * The next five 6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers 8. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers 9. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 10. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans And five more: DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers;Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. 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 NewsJan 12th, 2019

Rookie Ladder: Big performances abound at season s midway point

By Drew Packham, NBA.com Due to a much-needed holiday break on my part, it’s been two weeks since we last checked in on this impressive rookie class, and they didn’t disappoint since then. There have been some monster games in the past 14 days including the following: - Luka Doncic scored a career-high 34 points on Dec. 29 (PHL time) in New Orleans, going 7-for-10 from beyond the arc (10-for-16 overall) in a 114-112 loss to the Pelicans.       - Deandre Ayton scored a career-high 33 points with 14 rebounds (10 offensive) and four steals (also a career high) on Dec. 30 (PHL time) in a 122-118 loss to the Nuggets. Ayton was 16-for-20 from the field.       - Landry Shamet scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Sixers to a 132-115 win over the Wizards on Jan. 9 (PHL time). Shamet was 8-for-14 from three-point land in what was easily his biggest night of his career.       - Hawks rookie Kevin Huerter scored a career-high 22 points on Jan. 1 (PHl time) in a 116-108 loss to the Pacers. Huerter was 8-for-15 from the field, going 6-for-8 from beyond the arc.       - Pelicans rookie Frank Jackson scored a career-high 17 points Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) in 17 minutes in a 114-95 win over the Grizzlies, then topped that two nights later with 19 points -- hitting all four three-point attempts -- in 19 minutes in a 140-124 win over the Cavs.   We’ve just hit the midway point of the season, and big games should start becoming more common as teams falling further out of the playoff race give their youngsters more opportunities. * * * 1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks Last week: No. 1 Doncic dominated his third matchup with No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, notching 30 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. It was Doncic’s fourth 30-point game of the season, while no other rookie has more than one. It was also his seventh game with 20-5-5. All other rookies have combined for five such games. Over the past two weeks, the Slovenian has averaged 22.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 40 percent from 3-point land. 2. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns Last week: No. 2 While Ayton has had some monster games over the past two weeks -- averaging 16.2 points and 9.7 rebounds over nine games -- he’s also had some clunkers in the New Year. In a 121-111 loss to the LA Clippers, Ayton finished with four points and five rebounds with four turnovers, then struggled mightily in Wednesday’s (Thursday, PHL time) loss to the Mavs. In 20 minutes, the big man had six points and five rebounds while hitting just 1-of-7 shots. "For the first time, I think I ever, went scoreless in the first half and stuff like that just started to get to me a little bit," said Ayton. "It was just me being the bad egg today. I'm going to apologize to them about this, but yeah, it was a bad game for me." 3. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks Last week: Not ranked Young has shot more consistently over the last two weeks, shooting 44.7 percent overall and 47.4 percent on three-pointers. I’ve hammered Young repeatedly for his poor shooting numbers, so I have to give him props for his turnaround. Over his last nine games, he’s averaged 15.9 points and 7.6 assists and has generally looked more in control and selective with his shots. Young continues to lead rookies in assists at 7.3 per game, which puts him ninth among all players. 4. Kevin Knox, New York Knicks Last week: No. 3 Knox was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December after averaging 17.1 points and six rebounds. The 6'9" forward out of Kentucky is certainly on the rise, but also admitted he may not even be done growing. “Doctors said I have a half-inch or an inch left in the tank,” Knox told the New York Post recently. “You never know -- hopefully I have an inch [left]. Maybe 6-10, 6-10.5. If not, I’m perfectly fine with where I’m at.” For his part, coach David Fizdale is letting his young prospect grow with more minutes and responsibility. “Right now, he’s gained momentum, and [I want to] keep him rolling. It’s starting to become I need him on the court. That’s pretty good to say about a 19-year-old. We need him out there.” 5. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies Last week: Not ranked Jackson has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 11 games, but his rebounding and foul troubles are areas of concern. Jackson is first (or worst, depending on how you look at it) among all players in fouls per game (3.9) and is just sixth in rebounds per game among rookies. "Because of how long, tall and narrow he is, when guys lock him up he has a hard time escaping or staying on balance," Bickerstaff told The Commercial Appeal last week. "To be honest, with him, with his length and athleticism, he needs to be trying to escape people more and not let them get their hands or body on him where they can wedge him out." These are all things the 19-year-old will figure out, as Bickerstaff says. “The way he works, the way he studies, he's going to figure it out.” * * * Just missed the cut: Rodions Kurucs, Brooklyn Nets Kurucs falls out of the top five, but it was a close call thanks to an impressive night in Boston. Kurucs tied a career high with 24 points. He finished 8-for-15 from the field, hitting a career-high five triples on eight attempts. Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls Carter has scored in double-digits in five of his last seven games, with a pair of double-doubles to close out 2018. Most notably, he had a 17-point, 13-rebound, three-block showing in a win over the Wizards on Dec. 28 (Dec. 29, PHL time). Landry Shamet, Philadelphia 76ers Shamet not only scored a career-high 29 on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), but he also set personal bests by making eight three's (one shy of Dana Barros’ team record set in ‘95) on 14 attempts. He scored 15 of his points in the third quarter when he was 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. “It just happens,” Shamet said afterward. “That might not be the answer you’re looking for, but it’s just simple, and it just comes in the flow of everything.” Frank Jackson, New Orleans Pelicans This could be an anomaly and Jackson won’t stick around these parts, but he deserves some love for his work off the bench. With E’Twaun Moore nursing a quad injury, Jackson has stepped up, scoring 17 points in a win on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), followed by 19 in Wednesday’s (Thursday, PHL time) win over the Cavs. Jackson was 11-for 15 overall in the two games, going 7-for-12 from three-point land (7-for-7 from the FT line). Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers Sexton has scored in double figures in his last six games, but the Cavs are mired in an 11-game skid and the rookie is dealing with his own shooting woes. During the slide, Sexton is shooting 32.4 percent from the field, 35.5 percent on three-pointers. * * * (All stats through Jan. 10, PHL time).....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2019

Liverpool goes 6 points clear after Man City slips again

By Tony Jimenez, Associated Press Rafael Benitez has little doubt Liverpool is ready to end a 28-year wait to win the English title. While Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp refused to get carried away after his team surged six points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 4-0 win over Newcastle on Wednesday, Benitez was certain his former club had the quality to stay in first place for the rest of the season. "They showed they are good enough to win the title," Benitez said after watching his Newcastle side being dismantled at Anfield. "They have a very good team but a very good squad. When you want to win a league title you need to be consistent and they can do it." Defending champion Manchester City, which started the day in second position, suffered its second surprise loss in four days when it was beaten at Leicester 2-1. Tottenham followed up a 6-2 romp at Everton on Sunday with another big win as a 5-0 thrashing of Bournemouth took the London club one point ahead of Manchester City in the standings after 19 rounds, the midway point of the season. Paul Pogba grabbed two goals to help interim coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrate his first home match in charge of sixth-placed Manchester United with a 3-1 victory against bottom club Huddersfield. Eden Hazard scored his 100th and 101st goals for the club as Chelsea won at Watford 2-1, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted his 13th league goal in Arsenal's 1-1 draw at Brighton. Fulham climbed off the foot of the standings by drawing with Wolverhampton 1-1. A double from Lucas Digne led Everton to win at Burnley 5-1 and Crystal Palace, which beat Manchester City on Saturday, drew with Cardiff 0-0. LOW-KEY KLOPP Newcastle last won in the league at Liverpool in 1994, and its latest chance was damaged as early as the 11th minute thanks to a striker's finish from defender Dejan Lovren. Three minutes after the break, Paul Dummett hauled down Mohamed Salah in the box and Liverpool's top scorer bagged his sixth goal in five matches by converting the penalty. Xherdan Shaqiri made it 3-0 with 11 minutes to go, then substitute Fabinho bundled home a corner as the home team kept its 12th clean sheet of the campaign, the same number it achieved when last winning the title in 1990. Klopp, however, played down the significance of Liverpool's six-point lead. "That means nothing," he said. "I had no idea how any other teams were playing. Afterwards I got the results and I can say it didn't do a lot for me. It is just information. It's good we have six more points, but that is pretty much all." GUARDIOLA GLOOM Manchester City recalled Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne after Saturday's shock defeat at home to Crystal Palace but it had little effect as Pep Guardiola's men lost again at Leicester. Bernardo Silva gave the visitors a 14th-minute lead before Leicester, which caused an upset of its own at the weekend by winning at Chelsea 1-0, rallied with goals from Marc Albrighton and Roberto Pereira. To add to City's troubles, defender Fabian Delph was sent off for a bad tackle near the end. "The reality is we have lost three in four," Guardiola said. "We have made an incredible amount of points at this stage and if we can get the same, or more, in the second half of the season then we are fighting to win the championship. But at the moment, the reality is two teams are better than us." SON SHINES Two goals by Son Heung-min and one apiece from Christian Eriksen, Lucas Moura, and Harry Kane helped Tottenham outclass Bournemouth 5-0 and record an eighth win in nine league games. Just like Klopp, however, Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino refused to get overly excited: "It doesn't mean too much to us to be second or third, or first, I think the most important thing is where you finish in May.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 27th, 2018

Vince Carter enjoying his decision to go to Atlanta

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Vince Carter could have gone anywhere. To a contender, to chase a ring. To retirement, because he has nothing left to prove. To television, which seems like it will be his next vocation whenever his playing days end. Instead, he chose Atlanta — a young team, a rebuilding team, a team that probably has minimal chance of making the playoffs. And he’s happy. “I’m with a great bunch of guys,” Carter said. “I enjoy helping young guys who want to learn, who are willing to be coached and let you coach them and ask questions. It’s a small thing, but it’s a major thing — because if you’re asking questions, that means you’re trying to learn and grow. And these guys are all great.” He’s the NBA’s oldest active player, someone who turns 42 next month. When he was drafted in June 1998, neither Trae Young nor Kevin Huerter had been born yet. And they’re the starting backcourt for the Hawks this season, Carter’s 21st in the league, with Atlanta being the eighth team he’s played with. Carter talked with Dwyane Wade during the offseason about their options; Wade was considering retirement, and Carter was deciding where to play next. Wade said Carter doesn’t need a ring to complete any sort of legacy, and applauded the decision to go to Atlanta. “It’s very cool,” Wade said. “I think everybody on the outside has what they think someone should do. I was like, ‘Man, it’d be cool if he went back to Toronto.’ I had my story for him. But he decided to continue to do things the way that he’s done it, and I think it’s him understanding the importance of what he has to offer to the game and young players, and an organization that wanted him to come in and give that.” There are no regrets. Barring a change of address or another season — which is possible — Carter’s career will end with him getting to the conference finals only once, and never appearing in the NBA Finals. The closest he got was with Orlando in 2010, when the Magic lost the Eastern Conference finals to Boston in six games. “It’s easy to go sit on the bench and watch your team win and not really contribute,” Carter said. “Yeah, with my voice, I could contribute. But I want to do both.” So Carter is hanging with the kids. “It’s good for me,” Carter said. “Keeps me young.” RAPTORS RISING Toronto is off to the best start in the NBA at 20-4, four games clear of Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference already (and four games in the loss column ahead of Philadelphia as well). The scary thing is, it could have been better. It’s been forgotten, but the Raptors’ season also includes a three-game losing streak — all in a five-day span last month. They lost by 16 against New Orleans to fall to 12-2, then wasted a 19-point lead and lost to Detroit, then watched Kawhi Leonard miss late in regulation in what became an overtime loss to Boston. They’re 8-0 since, and first-year coach Nick Nurse has his team rolling. “Nick has done a really good job with this team and the way they play,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. THE WEEK AHEAD A game per day to check out this week: Oklahoma City at Detroit, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): Former teammates Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson seem to like going head-to-head. San Antonio at Utah, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time): The Spurs struggled with the Jazz last season, and this opens a tough road back-to-back. Philadelphia at Toronto, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): The Raptors have opened up a sizable lead in the East, and face a good test here. New York at Boston, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): After a sluggish start, the Celtics are starting to look like the team many envisioned. Golden State at Milwaukee, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the same floor is must-watch. Miami at L.A. Clippers, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): Wade is eager for this — his wife and their newborn daughter are currently staying in Los Angeles. Milwaukee at Toronto, Sunday (next Monday, PHL time): A matchup of two of the East’s best teams, and it’s never too early to think about positioning. HISTORIC WARRIORS Not even two months into the season, and the Golden State Warriors have already done something that no team in more than 50 years has accomplished. The Warriors are the second team in NBA history, joining the 1961-62 Los Angeles Lakers, to have three different players with a 50-point game in the same regular season. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have reached 50 already this season. The 1961-62 Lakers’ trio to do so: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Rudy LaRusso. Could Golden State get a fourth into the 50-point column? Who knows, but remember, DeMarcus Cousins — who hasn’t played yet this season — has a pair of 50-point games in on his career resume......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2018

PBA: Marqus Blakely disappointed as he misses playoffs for the first time

It was not to be for the Marqus Blakely and the TNT KaTropa pairing.  The 2017-18 PBA season of the KaTropa had prematurely ended at the hands of the two-time defending conference champions Ginebra San Miguel with a deflating 112-93 loss Sunday evening at the Big Dome.  For the first time in his PBA career, the veteran import failed to make a postseason, a far cry from his glory days as the reinforcement of the Grand Slam San Mig Coffee team coached by none other than Tim Cone. Per PBA head statistician Fidel Mangonon III, it is also the first time since the 2015 PBA Governors' Cup that the flagship franchise of the MVP group failed to qualify to the playoffs. As the third import for the embattled conference which also saw a coaching change in the person of Bong Ravena and consultant Mark Dickel, Blakely knew that it was going to be a gigantic task to help tow the team to a top-eight finish. "We came together as a team. Got a couple of wins, but unfortunately, we didn't finish strong. That's one thing that veteran teams and teams with chemistry can do," Blakely said. "There's a lot of things going on in this conference. I think for what we had, the time that we had, we did all right. We did pretty well. I figured it takes a little bit more time and practice to get where we wanted to be." The Metuchen, New Jersey native however did not point fingers at anybody else but himself, for he believed that the team could get over the hump, but unfortunately for them, they could not. He also shared that he had a light moment with Cone, whom he has not seen since their Grand Slam finish back in 2014. "[I]t's just good to see him, talk to him. Unfortunately, he was on the other side. We just talked for a little moment." The decision on whether to return to the country or not as a player will not rely entirely on himself, but Blakely assures he'll be ready if any team calls him for another tour of duty. Meanwhile for Cone, Blakely will always have a special place in his heart since he was his second import since Sean Chambers back in 1996 to have completed the rare three-peat. "I have so many many fond memories of Marqus and how he turned around our program at that time. He came in and played with such heart and intensity. He’s defensive-minded and he turned everybody that way and how we played. He’s a great influencer," the winningest coach in PBA history said. "I have just tremendous feelings for Marqus. He’s a great guy. He’s a great competitor." Blakely meanwhile returned the love the seasoned coach gave to him. "I miss him, too," before ending it with a laugh.  __ Follow this writer on Twitter, @philipptionary. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 4th, 2018

Q& A: Hornets Walker starts season in scoring groove

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com With the new season underway, and with his game as hot as almost anyone to start, Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker was asked what impressed or surprised him about the first 10 days or so of 2018-19. “Nothing besides my own play,” Walker said, laughing after a shootaround Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “Nothing besides seeing my name near the top of the NBA scoring, which is pretty weird.” Eh, maybe not so weird. Walker, a two-time All-Star, is the Hornets’ all-time leading scorer. At 28, the former ninth overall pick in the 2011 Draft is in his prime as a player. The 41 points he dropped on Milwaukee on opening night and the fact he’s gone for at least 23 every game since (with three more games of 30 or more) seems like the next logical step. It earned him the season’s first Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor and as Week 2 ended, his 31.7 ppg trailed only Golden State’s Stephen Curry (33.9) and Portland’s Damian Lillard (33.8). “It was [gratifying]. Who wouldn’t want it to keep going?” Walker told NBA.com. “I know teams will be gearing up on me and double-teaming me. But I just want to win, man. I want to get back to the playoffs any way possible. I don’t care what I average the rest of the year.” Walker, in the final year of a four-year, $48 million deal he signed in 2014, never has shot the ball so well -- 40.5 percent from the arc, 46.6 percent overall. Neither has he shot it so often and from such range. Walker is averaging 23 shots, including more than 11 3-point attempts. His usage rate of 33.5 trails only Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (35.1) and his 29.4 PER puts him ahead of Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Is it sustainable? That was one of multiple topics Walker talked about with NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner: *** Steve Aschburner: On Media Day, you made it sound as if you would hit this season hard from the start, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen. How do you explain it? Kemba Walker: I knew I had a good summer. I put in the work and the time and the effort to get better. And I’m healthy -- I haven’t felt healthy like this in a long time. Over the last three summers, I wasn’t healthy, having knee surgeries and ‘scopes. So I was rehabbing. This summer, I had a chance to work on my game. Being able to work on my shooting over a long period of time really helped as well. SA: You took as many 3FGAs last season as you shot your first two seasons combined. Now you’re launching them at a pace (11.3 per game) to break Steph Curry’s single season record (886). Is this a conscious change by you or a reaction to the league’s preferred style? KW: Both. The league definitely has changed from the time I first came in. Everybody’s shooting more threes, no matter their position. Me, I’ve just become more confident. I worked on my shot tremendously to get to this point. I’m comfortable now shooting it, whenever I can get to my spots. SA: What’s your preference -- pull-up threes, spot-up threes or those halfcourt threes like Steph takes? KW: Not at all [laughing]. Steph is a different type of shooter, maybe the best to ever shoot the basketball. But I’m comfortable shooting them however. It doesn’t matter. If I can get ‘em up, I try to make ‘em. But I do love for my teammates to create for me and get me some easy ones. It does take some stress, some pressure, off of me. SA: Your coach, James Borrego, has talked of using you more off the ball. Does that suit you? KW: It really helps. It gets me a little bit of rest, and it opens up a different dynamic in my game. As well as giving other guys a chance to have the ball in their hands and create for others. But the main thing is, it just keeps me fresher, which is huge for me. SA: What’s your take on the Charlotte rookies? KW: Oh, I’m a huge fan. Devonte’ [Graham] really hasn’t gotten a chance to play yet, but I’ve always been a huge fan, even when he was at Kansas. Just love his game, love his poise. And that’s skill -- I don’t think people understand how much of a skill it is to be poised, especially at a young age. It’s something that I didn’t have, something that took me a very long time to get. Miles [Bridges], he’s a hard-playing kid. Smart, always in the right spot on both ends of the floor. I can see him getting more minutes as the season progresses. SA: Malik Monk is a second-year guy who didn’t have the most satisfying rookie season. What do you see from him, and can he become a reliable backcourt mate? KW: Oh yeah, he’s growing. Every single day. His efficiency will come. He needs time to learn, needs time to develop, to figure out where his shots are going to come. He’s getting better already. He’s passing the ball really well, getting other guys involved. He needs to know we need him every night, with him coming off the bench for us. SA: Your rookie season was about as challenging as could be -- delayed by a lockout, rushed through training camp and a quickie preseason, and then a 7-59 experience. Did that set you back as a player? KW: Nah, it wasn’t a setback. It was humbling. I took it as a point in my career where I was going through adversity. It was tough -- nobody likes to lose -- and through my basketball career I felt I had been a winner. But I just stuck to it, just kept working hard. SA: You said you don’t want to talk anymore about your free agency next summer -- and your general manager, Mitch Kupchak, is on record saying, “Our intention is for him to end his career in a Hornet uniform.” Some people wonder what the market might be, though, given how many terrific point guards are out there. So let’s address that another way: what is it like competing with all those rivals? KW: It’s unbelievable, man. Every night. Every single night, somebody is there to … I can’t even explain it. Every team, there’s so many great point guards out there who are just ready to showcase their talents. There are young guys ready to show how good they are. Yeah, it’s a point guard league. SA: We’re seeing more and more teams switching everything defensively. How hard is that on a 6-foot-1 point guard? KW: It’s … tough sometimes. Some matchups, you don’t want to get. But I rely on my teammates to help out as much as possible. The most challenging part probably is boxing guys out. But I’m always up for the challenge. SA: Some players talk or at least play like defense is optional. Your thoughts? KW: Not at all. I’m paid to do it all. It’s not even about being paid -- I’m just competitive. I want to play defense. I want to score. I want to do it all. SA: I’ve often wondered what it’s like to play for the team that Michael Jordan owns. Other teams, the owners aren’t basketball experts. But that’s not the case for the Hornets. Is it intimidating? KW: I wouldn’t say intimidating. I love it. I want my owner to have played. He knows what’s going on, he knows how it feels after losses, after wins. Traveling. Being tired. He’s been through it. He knows what it takes to win games in this league. Even though basketball’s a bit different now from when he played, but still, he knows. I feel like I’m at an advantage because I can go to him, I can ask him things. Or he can just come to me, or text me or call me to let me know things. And let me know how to get past things. No, it’s an honor for us, it’s an honor for me to have him as an owner. SA: How is basketball different from when Jordan played? KW: For me, just the threes. A lot of bigs shooting threes. The bigs are different in general, you know? Back with MJ, I feel like the shooting guards and the forwards were dominant, and it was more of a post-up league. Now it’s a point guard’s league for the most part. And it’s not a post-up league much anymore. There are so many threes up in the air. SA: Do you little guys resent the stretch-fours and stretch-fives coming out onto your turf these days? KW: Yeah, man, it’s crazy. But it’s fun. Just seeing the development and the change. Even from when I first got in the league it wasn’t like that. But guys are so talented nowadays, it’s unbelievable. SA: Tell me about the Big Brothers Big Sisters work you do, mentoring four kids -- two boys and two girls -- in the Charlotte area. KW: Just to be in their lives. I take ‘em out to eat, take ‘em to Dave & Buster’s every now and then. It’s fun. I try to avoid the cameras. It’s not for social media. It’s not for anything but them. The kids are doing great in school. That’s the biggest progress, that’s what you want. They’ve really started to love basketball now -- they come to games sometimes. It’s been fun to see them grow, each and every time I see them. One of the kids, his mom passed away. I know it’s been a struggle for him. For me to be able to help get his mind off of that for a time, just be there for him, that’s definitely rewarding for me but I hope it’s more rewarding for him. SA: You’re in your eighth season, and you’ve played a total of 11 playoff games. What stands out for you about the postseason? KW: I remember every game. We played Miami twice. The first year [2014] was when they had LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. They swept us, but I thought we played really well. Obviously it wasn’t enough -- they had three Hall of Famers. I remember the level of intensity those guys played with. I remember telling myself, the next time I get to the playoffs, I’m going to try my best to play like that. The next time [2016], that’s what I did. People thought we might get swept again, but we went to seven games. It was really fun. The whole atmosphere was so intense. I loved it. You have to take your game to a whole ‘nother level. You have to play hard every possession, every second of those games. The competitiveness, the toughness, everything goes up. SA: A problem that team had, it still has -- you’re carrying such a big load offensively. Do you need a second reliable scorer, and is that guy on the roster now? KW: Of course. We need it. I’m not going to have huge games every night. It’s on one of these guys to step up. I think guys are still searching for their roles at this point, especially with a new coach, new system. We’re still learning. But as the season progresses, I think they will. We have guys who are capable of putting points up for us. SA: The All-Star Game this season is in Charlotte. You’ve been selected twice. What would you think of playing in that game in your market? KW: That’d be amazing. To be in Charlotte, the team that drafted me, the team I’ve played with for eight years now, it would be a really special moment. Hopefully I can get there. It’d be fun. A really important and fun moment in my career. 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 NewsOct 30th, 2018

Warriors dominance in the West shows no sign of relenting

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com We have reached the point in this Golden State Warriors’ chokehold on the Western Conference where it turns spooky: The last team out West to deny the Warriors (technically) no longer exists. Yes, the LA Clippers are still right where they’ve always been. But all other traces of May 3, 2014, when they beat the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, have turned to dust. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford -- they’re all gone. Usually, it’s the loser who feels the cold repercussions and fallout of a first-round defeat in the playoffs. But what’s often lost as the Warriors run the table in the West is how they’ve shattered so many teams, schemes and dreams along the way. In hindsight, four years ago was not the beginning of “Lob City” and the Clippers. It was the beginning of their end. The wreckage left behind by the Warriors over the ensuing 53 months underlines the undeniable truth: They’ve taken ownership of their very own West Side Story. They had a record-setting 73-win regular season. They’ve won 12 straight West payoff series (and 15 of 16 playoff series overall). Only twice – the West finals in 2016 and '18 -- did they endure the indignity of needing to survive Game 7 in the West playoffs. In short, this dynasty shows no signs of dying this season. If anything, the argument can be made -- even before it’s proven as fact -- that the 2018-19 Warriors are their most talented team yet. All-Stars Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson welcomed a fifth, DeMarcus Cousins, to their mix this summer. That is not typical in the NBA, folks. “This," Durant said, "is going to be an exciting season. Fun.” The Warriors’ five All-Stars (two of whom are former Kia MVPs) are still in their prime. And given that Andre Iguodala tends to transform from a fossil to an X-factor when spring arrives, perhaps only injury or another uncontrollable circumstance will keep the Warriors from making it an NBA-record five straight Western Conference crowns. “In terms of encouraging each other, being in tune with some of the things that might be thrown at you, whether it's injuries, whether it's a couple of slumps on the court, whatever the case is, we adapt really well and we don't stay down for too long,” Curry said. The Rockets, who won 65 games a season ago, are perhaps the most realistic challenger to the Warriors out West. But it's quite possible that Houston is weaker than it was in 2017-18. To understand how high the Warriors are sitting on the throne, you must survey what they’ve left behind. Just look at how the biggest threats in the West have either hit dead ends or maxed themselves out trying to chase the Warriors since 2014. Memphis Grizzlies: At one point, they were considered the toughest matchup for the Warriors because they were polar opposite in style. Half-court and methodical, the Grizzlies took a switchblade to the basketball, slowing the tempo. And they exploited Golden State’s lone weaknesses: Interior size and overall strength. They physically beat up the Warriors in the paint (Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol) and on the perimeter (Tony Allen). Additionally, Mike Conley was at times a handful at point guard at a time when Curry was winning MVP awards. But health and age wore the Grizzlies down and eventually forced them into a current reinvention that likely won’t reap benefits until after the Warriors are finished. Oklahoma City Thunder: As one of only two West teams (Houston being the other) to force the Warriors into a seventh game, OKC was prime for a takeover in 2016. That season, OKC eliminated a 67-win San Antonio Spurs team in the West semfinals. Durant and Russell Westbrook were healthy, humming and helping the Thunder to a 3-1 lead in the West finals. That, however, was their apex, and the costly collapse was heightened by the “Klay Game” (41 points in Game 6). Imagine, if not for a fateful turn of events -- Klay’s 3-point rampage, KD’s second-half Game 7 vapor and the Warriors losing the 2016 Finals to Cleveland -- maybe Durant sticks around in OKC. At any rate, the post-2016 West finals reconstruction being done by the Thunder (Exhibit A: The short-lived Carmelo Anthony experience) is falling short so far. Portland Trail Blazers: They were never seriously considered a thorn to the Warriors, and still aren’t. It’s just that they played themselves. They were fooled by the events in 2016, when they beat the injury-hampered Clippers in the first round. They were then somewhat competitive against the Warriors in the West semifinals (winning one game by 12, losing another in OT and the elimination game by just four). Flushed with false hope, that summer the Blazers handed out rich extensions to rotational players and, unfortunately, locked themselves into a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since. San Antonio Spurs: Like the Grizzlies, the Spurs caused trouble for the Warriors because of their disciplined style that put the brakes on the pace. San Antonio ruled the West just prior to the Warriors’ run and the proud franchise wasn’t willing to relinquish its hold so easily, causing the Warriors to shiver by winning the regular season matchup from 2014-16. Still, like Memphis, the Spurs turned gray almost overnight. Tim Duncan retired, Tony Parker lost some zip and then, of course, came the sneaky Zaza Pachulia foot plant that KO’d Kawhi Leonard in the first game of their 2017 series. It hasn’t been the same for the Spurs, who shipped off the disgruntled Leonard this summer. Houston Rockets: While the Warriors were able to build around Curry to create a dynasty, the Rockets are in their third attempt to do likewise with James Harden. The Dwight Howard experiment was an exploding cigar, and then the strategy of turning Harden into a point guard failed to draw blood. Chris Paul arrived last season and the best record in the West followed, but Paul has always limped at the wrong time. True to form, his body failed him in the conference finals, just when the Rockets were up 3-2 on the Warriors and primed to issue a stunning statement. The conference-wide process of teams searching for the formula to bring an end to this “Golden” era has taken on an interesting twist. Except for the Rockets, who shuffled their deck slightly this summer, other West contenders are on a semi-defeatist two-year plan. As in: We’re not ready now, but look out in a coupla years! LeBron James joined the Lakers this summer, but it’s hard to take them seriously when LeBron himself says his new team isn’t breathing the same air as the defending champs. His supporting cast is a mix of pups with no playoff experience and vets who’ve seen better days. It’s foolhardy to doubt the potential of any team with LeBron — eight straight trips to the championship round is no joke, even if it came through the East. But they’ll stand a better chance next season, especially if they’re bringing Kawhi or Jimmy Butler by then. There’s also the Utah Jazz, a Spurs-like operation led by a pair of Spurs alums in GM Dennis Lindsey and coach Quin Snyder. Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is a star in the making, but you need more than one of those to match Golden State. Perhaps in time, Mitchell will get a shotgun rider, but Utah is a tough sell for A-list free agents. Houston stands out from the pack with Harden, Paul and center Clint Capela, who gave the Warriors fits last spring. They’re still an attractive, turnkey team. Adding Anthony provides scoring, but does he impact a potential West finals rematch in 2019? With Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute gone, where is the perimeter defense coming from? Is it possible that Houston, with Paul aging, had its best chance last spring and didn’t cash in? It’s also possible the Warriors will do everyone in the West a favor and destroy themselves in the very near future. Durant can become a free agent next summer. Thompson’s contract is up, too, although he’s been very clear about his preference to stay even if that means making below market value. “What’s happening right now is going to be really tough to replicate for anybody,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You have the proverbial window, however you want to put it. We have an incredible opportunity that’s just not always going to be here. We want to take full advantage not only from a success standpoint but from an enjoyment standpoint. “We’re well aware that it’s not going to last forever.” But that’s getting ahead of the story here, which is whether the Warriors will fall shy of The Finals for the first time since 2014. A three-time champion is bringing everyone back and will add a bonus whenever the healing Cousins returns. Basketball can sometimes be a funny game and anything can happen to throw this scenario for a loop. Until then, however, it's hard to imagine anything derailing another season of Warriors dominance. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or 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 16th, 2018