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Warriors miss Kevin Durant, but do they need him?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Along with the equipment, uniforms, basketballs and the confidence that comes with being up 2-0 in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors brought along another piece of cargo to Portland and it is the heaviest of them all. It didn’t come packed in luggage or a box; instead, it’s just wrapped in a hunch and tied with a question mark, and it is this: When do the Warriors start missing Kevin Durant? [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The back-to-back champs are now 3-0 in these playoffs without their superstar and his aching calf. And 4-0 overall in games in which Durant didn’t finish. That probably says something about the Rockets, and so far about the Trail Blazers — two teams unable to exploit his absence. However, while the (bleeping) Giants — Steve Kerr’s description of his undermanned team — are honorably playing with a sense of urgency, they aren’t buying the notion that they don’t need Durant. It’s an easy trap to fall into, to believe the outside chatter that they’re better off without him. The next two games, both at Moda Center, will either feed that belief or destroy it. Yes, because the Blazers must beat the Warriors four out of five to advance, there’s little to no chance of them denying Golden State a fifth trip to the Finals regardless of whether Durant shows up in this series or not. And that’s good for the visitors, since Durant didn’t make the trip for Games 3 and 4. “There's no mental adjustment,” said Kerr. “You just play. You go out there with what you have, and this is our third game, 3 1/2 games, really without him, and so we're just trying to hold down the fort. Hopefully he continues to progress and he has made progress, but it's a little more serious than we thought at the very beginning. So we'll see where it all goes, but he's in there all day long getting treatment. He's done a great job of committing himself to that process.” There’s a thought that, even if Durant was 80 percent, the Warriors will keep him benched to prevent a chance of re-injury, and that’s a wise decision with wide-ranging ramifications. By protecting Durant’s best interest here in this free agent year, the Warriors score big points with him and his camp less than two months before Durant must make a decision on his future. That said, what are the Warriors doing right to remain unharmed by his absence? The easy answer is they won championships without Durant and so this is more of the same-old, same-old. Except it isn’t. This actually might be more impressive. Understand that Golden State's system had to be changed here on the fly and in the middle of the postseason, not only to compensate for Durant’s 37 points per game in these playoffs, but also his defense. Once Durant was lost late in the third quarter of the fifth game of the second round, Kerr had to reach down his bench and rely on players who weren’t thrust into roles of significance and seldom saw fourth-quarter minutes up until this point. Meaning, Jonas Jerebko, Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Alfonzo McKinnie have either seen their minutes rise and/or their roles inflated in the process. Of course, most of the burden fell on the proven core: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Each of those four, in his own way, is playing at a premium, even if it’s a small sample size. “That’s what it takes in the playoffs," said Kerr. "You have to have guys playing at a really high level.” Curry seems reborn or at least sprung free of a playoff fog where his numbers and production didn’t match his regular season. He finished strong in a pair of fourth quarters while closing out the Rockets and is the most impactful player in this series so far. He’s averaging 35 points on 51 percent shooting in the three games without KD. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suspect Curry is getting a charge out of this, and his ego, which he keeps hidden, is being fed. Thompson is now clearly the second option, whereas before he was often No. 3 and often only if his shot was falling. The green light never turns yellow without Durant around, like Curry, Thompson is working without handcuffs or a leash. After hitting 20 shot attempts once in the playoffs before Durant’s injury, Thompson is now hoisting 22 a game, good for a respectable 25-point average. The Warriors are constantly feeding him and running screens for him and urging him to take the shot, even if it’s contested. For a player who insists he’ll re-sign with Golden State this summer, Thompson is getting a taste of what life must be like if he played for, let’s say, the Clippers and was the focal point of the offense. “This team's been together a long time and they trust each other,” said Kerr. “When the ball starts moving, that's when we're tough to guard.” Green has never been better this season than in the last few weeks. Recharged after losing weight immediately following the All-Star break and no longer feeling pain in his previously-injured shoulder, Green is menacing on the defensive end where once again he’s guarding all positions except point guard and doing it marvelously. In addition, he’s pushing the ball up court to help Curry and Thompson stay as fresh as possible and directing the offense from the high post. He’s averaging 10 rebounds, 6.5 assists and three blocks without KD. “You know, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and say, `Hey, man, when is K going to be back?’ We just got to play with whatever we got,” Green said. “We got to play and give him an opportunity to get back, and I think that's what really falls on our shoulders. We're a very confident group. Hopefully he's back sooner than later, but as a guy who is in the battle every night, we can't sit and look over our shoulder and wonder when he or DeMarcus [Cousins] is coming back. We have to assume they are not coming back and play with what we got. Obviously, we are hoping that they do. But while they are not out there, we just got to play.” Finally, there’s Iguodala. He stayed hibernated all regular season while averaging career lows across the board. At age 35, it appeared time had finally caught up. Instead, this was a case of a crafty veteran preserving himself for springtime, and with the amount of talent on the Warriors, he could afford to do so. Iguodala had solid moments guarding James Harden in the second round and is among those trapping Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum this round. One of the signature plays of the series was Iguodala coming up with a walk-off strip of Lillard as time expired in Game 2. “You're kind of in awe of it because not many guys can make plays like that consistently,” said Curry. So this is where the Warriors are without Durant and also DeMarcus Cousins. They were good enough to stump the Rockets (again), then proved too much for the Blazers in a pair of home games. Nobody would be shocked if they take a game in Portland or maybe finish the sweep. It’s a luxury that few teams have or could pull off even if they did. This comes from a core that’s been together for six years, a coach pulling the proper strings and a bench that isn’t shrinking in the moment. “We feel like we can still win no matter who is out there on the floor, and that's why we're in the position that we’re in and have won championships with all the injuries and all types of stuff,” said Curry. “We know what the mission is, and we're on it right now.” These Warriors are playing flashback basketball to the time before Durant came aboard — and prepping themselves for next season, when and if Durant jumps overboard this summer. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Despite title chances, Bayern coach Kovac s future uncertain

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Despite leading Bayern Munich to the verge of two titles, Niko Kovac's future as coach remains up in the air. Bayern can clinch the Bundesliga title at home against Eintracht Frankfurt — Kovac's former team — on Saturday, one week before the team's German Cup final against Leipzig in Berlin. But with persistent doubts over his authority and experience dogging his first season in charge, even a domestic double might not be enough. Bayern's management has been less than convincing in its support for the 47-year-old Croat after a season in which the team hasn't displayed the authority of before. "We'll see," Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said earlier this month to repeated questions about Kovac's future, adding that the club had bigger priorities for now. "At this time when we can achieve a lot and win two titles, we'd be well advised not to waste our energy on questions of personnel." Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz-Rummenigge was also less than forthcoming in defending Kovac, saying he had "no problem with him" and warning, "at Bayern Munich, players, management and coaches have to deliver." Kovac has struggled for authority since Bayern went four games without a win in late September-early October. The club lashed out at the media on Oct. 19 for "derogatory, slanderous reporting" of its bad run, and felt compelled to address an Instagram post criticizing Kovac from Lisa Mueller, forward Thomas Mueller's wife, for only using her husband as a substitute. Kovac, who led Frankfurt to victory over his future club in last season's German Cup final, is going for his first league title as coach. But his team missed the chance to clinch it in a scoreless draw at Leipzig last weekend and dropped points at relegated Nuremberg two weeks before. That Bayern is still in contention has more to do with rival Borussia Dortmund's inability to defend a lead. Dortmund led Bayern by nine points earlier in the season and has developed an inopportune habit of conceding late goals. Dortmund could yet win the Bundesliga title with a victory at Borussia Moenchengladbach if Frankfurt beats Bayern in Munich at the same time. Kovac, who played as a defensive midfielder for Bayern from 2001-03, said Thursday he was uninterested in the speculation over his coaching future. "I'm totally independent. I don't need to earn millions. Money is not my primary concern. Whatever comes, comes," said Kovac, who has a contract at Bayern through 2021. "I like this job and would like to fulfill my contract," Kovac said. "And I've never given up on anything in my life - never.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Curry, Lillard battle for NBA supremacy, Oakland s affection

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND — He arrived at the Western Conference finals wearing the jersey of the Oakland A’s, who play right next door at the Coliseum, just a five-minute drive from where he was born. Damian Lillard paused and signed a few autographs before entering Oracle Arena, because he is a man of the people, and these are his people. None of them mention that, in their hearts, they’re rooting for him to lose this playoff series, and so it goes unspoken, a truce in a sense. For this fleeting moment, they’re Lillard fans, until the ball goes up. And then it’s all for Steph Curry, all night long. There is a competition within the competition between the Warriors and Blazers, and it is the battle for the affection of Oakland. There is Lillard, the pride of the Brookfield Village neighborhood, who has blossomed into a bonafide star with the Blazers. And then there’s Curry, the symbol of a basketball renaissance here, who has raised the profile of Oakland the last several years. Now you see why The Town is a bit conflicted. A bit. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The conference championship may well hinge on the performance of these All-NBA guards. Game 1 was fairly lopsided, both in terms of the teams — Warriors 116, Blazers 94 — and the two principles. Lillard struggled Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and appeared whipped, physically if not mentally, no doubt from a grueling seven-game second round that just wrapped up 48 hours earlier. He missed 8-of-12 shots, had seven turnovers and, in a rarity for him, he was a non-factor for Portland. He’s a combined 7-for-29 in his last two games. Meanwhile, Curry rolled, dropping 36 points and the Blazers along with them. And so, this is the verdict: Portland cannot hope to stretch this series beyond four games, five tops, without the max from Lillard. He obviously means that much. And Curry, now working without the comforts of his injured co-star Kevin Durant for the second straight game, and maybe without Durant for another two games, needs to keep his skills elevated to prevent suspense from encroaching on the series. The Warriors are well aware of what Lillard has done to them in the past; he has averaged more points against the hometown team (27.0) than any in his career likely because of provincial pride. Yet Golden State is also aware that he has yet to beat them in any game or series of significance. “He’s one of the best guards in this league and carries a chip on his shoulder and it has (worked) well for him in his career,” said Draymond Green. “A special talent. I know he’s excited to be back home playing in the last year at Oracle. So it’s special for him but it don’t mean nothing to us. We’ve got to come out here and try to stop him. A tall task.” While the East Bay has given birth to its share of NBA stars, with Bill Russell, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton among them, Lillard is still freshly active and refreshingly loyal. The connection between him and Oakland remains unwavering despite fame and distance and the fact it’s his job and desire to shock the world in the next few weeks. He played at St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda and then finished at Oakland High, and a thick section of fans at Oracle Wednesday were wrapped in Blazers gear and made their preference clear. Most were either from the old neighborhood or family members. His high school coach, Damon Jones, is a Warriors season ticket holder, and Jones said: “Nobody bought me a drink tonight.” The coach added, playfully: “They gave me a hard time. When the Warriors scored, they wanted to turn around and slap five but then caught themselves at the last minute.” Jones remembers Lillard as being a promising and quick guard who picked up the nuances of the game rapidly. “He was very personable for someone his age, a solid teammate,” Jones said. “He still keeps in touch with all of his former teammates. It’s a brotherhood and he’s the leader. He’s always trying to be a positive influence on everyone around here.” Lillard returns every summer to give away backpacks with school supplies and funded the renovation of the Oakland High gym. He’s a familiar sight around town in the offseason and always approachable, and that loyalty and devotion doesn’t go unnoticed. “People here respect him,” said Raymond Young, Lillard’s AAU coach. “When he comes here to play, people here say they’re going to clap for Damian but cheer for the Warriors. Only he can get that kind of reaction. His loyalty comes from his family. His mother and father were no-problem parents. They let us coach him. He was a joy to be around. Still is.” Lillard is even more endearing because he comes from humble beginnings and is self-made. Both of his youth coaches are admittedly shocked by his impact in the NBA. He wound up at Weber State. He wasn’t highly recruited by the big schools. Even nearby Cal-Berkeley came late. “But if he goes there,” said Young, “does all this happen?” Lillard is revered in another place as well. Portland is also smitten by his loyalty; in an age of transient stars, Lillard has never wanted to play anywhere else. Perhaps this has cost him some visibility, with a majority of his games tipping off at 10:30 ET. It’s a price he’s more than willing to pay. Lillard has never taken a team this deep into the playoffs, where legends and reputations are made, and so being in the conference finals represents some new and deserved shine for him. A layer of that invisibility was peeled off in these playoffs where Lillard has come up massive. His shot from nearly 40 feet that eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round, and the bye-bye wave reaction, became iconic. Then he followed up with a strong second round as well against the Nuggets, although as that series crept to the conclusion, Lillard shot just 3-for-17 in that Game 7, then followed up with a 4-for-12 Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), proof that he might be gassed — and also that the Warriors cooked up a defensive game plan specifically for him. “Obviously it’s a little bit difficult physically and emotionally just because you’re excited about being in the Western Conference finals,” said Lillard. “You come straight here form Denver and get ready for the best team in the league. But once we lace our shoes and put our uniforms on, it’s fair and square. You got to go out there and handle your business. "They did a good job defensively and even when I was trying to find (teammates), they were getting deflections. They were making me play in a crowd. I thought they were successful at that … in this first game.” But his toughest task of all might be upstaging Curry, particularly here in Oakland. While Lillard has flourished through much of the postseason, Curry by comparison has been mild, especially by his standards. The missed layups, a famously flubbed dunk attempt and sporadic three-point shooting was unsightly. And then, after Durant limped off the floor, Curry felt a sense of urgency and a flush of greatness. He buried the Rockets with a pair of epic fourth quarters, then kept the faucet running Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). The Blazers couldn’t limit or at least slow him anywhere on the floor, especially from the three-point line, where Curry was a sizzling 9-for-15. And no missed layups. In his last six quarters of basketball, Curry has scored 69 points with 13-for-24 shooting on 3s. “I know what I’m capable of doing on the floor," Curry said, "and the situation calls for me to be more aggressive and hopefully that will continue. It’s nice to see the ball go in. I want to maintain that. I didn’t shoot well for 4.5 games the last series. Every game is different. You have to reestablish yourself and that’s my perspective no matter how I play.” Curry didn’t arrive wearing the baseball jersey of the home team, and if anything has been spotted at San Franciso Giants games across the Bay, where the Warriors will call home starting next season. But don’t get anything twisted. Curry’s bond with Oakland, developed over time, is genuine and real for someone born and bred a country away in Charlotte, and the feeling is mutual. The tug of war for the heartstrings of Oakland is subtle between the pair of franchise players on the floor in this playoff series. Call it a draw from the standpoint of whom the fans here respect and appreciate. There’s enough love to be shared by both. Yet in the basketball sense, this series is on the verge of being owned by the one wearing the jersey that reps Oakland. Curry has more momentum and better teammates, and Durant is on deck. Oakland, therefore, will indeed cheer for one of its own, for Damian Lillard. But the way this series and these playoffs are going, The Town is anxious to pop bottles with Steph Curry once again, at the usual place and time, for one last time. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2019

DOC VOLLEYBALL: Storming The (Blue) Keep

Winning twice in the elimination round to continue a 15-game streak, the Ateneo Lady Eagles couldn’t have asked for a better match-up in the Finals in the form of the UST Golden Tigresses as past encounters would easily sway towards a blue momentum. The top seed however went in for a surprise as the Sisi Rondina-led pack showed a whole different UST team from the eliminations and proved why her team was the best offensive team at the expense of the best defensive team for a crucial first game sweep. With a dominant three-set win over the Lady Eagles, the Golden Tigresses have breached the gates and are within reach of the throne. At this point, with momentum undoubtedly behind the Tigresses, it is quite interesting how the Lady Eagles will be able to hold their ground and last wall of defense and eventually mark a counter offensive from the inside should they wish to extend the series to a deciding championship match. Swift Claws One glaring difference between how UST played in the elimination round and the way they won Game 1 of the Finals series was the speed of their play. Despite being in the back seat for most of the elimination round, veteran setter Alina Bicar dug deep since the semifinals and has been the crucial factor in their win against the Lady Eagles even more so than the stellar dominance of Queen Tigress Sisi Rondina. Throughout her UAAP career, Bicar has been a fairly overlooked setter due to noticeable lapses in consistency, decision making and quality (height and speed) of sets. Perhaps one saving grace Bicar had prior to this season’s step-up since the semifinals would be how fast the ball is released from her hands. In Game 1 however, it was a more potent Bicar who was on display as her setting (even the bump sets at that) was noticeably faster and with better trajectory that enabled her spikers to play through the solid net defense of the Lady Eagles. Though still utilizing the combination plays in the middle that are more likely to get blocked by tall and anticipating middles such as Bea De Leon and Maddie Madayag, Bicar’s decision-making was also a massive level up from how she played during the eliminations and the past seasons. Perhaps now that she has established a consistent shoot play to the left wing that proves problematic against the Atenean blockers, Bicar would find less reliance on combination plays that have less efficiency than a simple fast open to Rondina or Eya Laure. It is however an injustice to UST if credit won’t be given to the massive performance of their queen, Sisi Rondina. Just a quick look of her highlight reel is enough to tell the whole story of how she led the pack in decimating the Blue Defense be it up front or on the floor. Though expected to drop cherry bombs straight to the middle of the court to showcase her athleticism as seen throughout her career, Game 1 showed a Sisi Rondina who had long targets that proved to be a one-two punch for both the blockers and floor defenders of Ateneo. First, by going for long angle or line shots, Rondina ensures that she hits her maximum reach enough to work around the tall walls of the opponent. Second, by going for long targets, Rondina often landed her attacks on the perimeter of the blue court (a floor defense lapse exposed and exploited by rival Lady Spikers in their second round encounter). With Bicar’s fast sets, Rondina had more time and reach to work around the block and floor which proved too problematic for the Lady Eagles. Lastly, though it was a given that Rondina had the spotlight, the collective effort from Laure, Ysa Jimenez, KC Galdones and Caitlyn Viray was also a massive difference from the elimination round where UST has been branded as just a two-woman attacking team. Viray’s unorthodox set-up for a right pin attack despite being a middle and Galdones’ power from the middle earned crucial points for the team. Despite taking a backseat from her usual numbers, Eya Laure showed enough firepower to support Rondina a couple of which came from a low fast back play from Bicar which I’d like to see more of albeit pushed a little more to the right pin but with the same height and speed. Blunted Talons Right from the start of the match, the early assault of the Tigresses proved too much of a challenge for the Lady Eagles much like a dragon queen swooping over an army and decimating the wall of defense. UST clearly made prior work of how to circumvent the main asset of the Lady Eagles being their block by going for fast plays and long shots targeting unguarded zones such as high line and sharp angle. UST evading De Leon and Madayag’s defense set-up was already a big part of the equation as their offense proved successful in limiting the block points of the two middles to an unusual two and one kill blocks, respectively. It has been shown throughout the season that the main scoring output of the Lady Eagles are primarily the two middles and opposite Kat Tolentino. While there have been noticeable improvement from the second round towards the end of eliminations from both openers Ponggay Gaston and Jules Samonte, output from the left wing was sorely missing for the Lady Eagles for Game 1. A high output from transition could have been Ateneo’s saving grace as UST was successful in limiting them to just 17% in the passing department which is clearly not enough to active their main assets which are their middles. A combined effort of 16% efficiency by Samonte and Gaston (25% and 7% respectively) was clearly not enough to support Tolentino’s 28% efficiency to mount a counter offensive on the instances they had control of the first ball. In addition, it was noticeable how the Lady Eagles failed to capitalize with their block to hold UST at bay on a particular rotation in which only Rondina and Viray are up front and would attack from both pins without any benefit of a middle going for at least a decoy quick hit. With two relatively obvious spiker options, no quicker approaching, and no pipe or backrow attack tendencies, that specific rotation would have been the easiest for the Lady Eagles to earn points in succession. Moving forward, should the elimination top seed wish to force a Game Three, the main concern is obviously to ensure that Rondina can be neutralized. Sisi will definitely rack up the points, but by limiting her options in her attack angles, the Lady Eagles can have a relatively easier work with their defense. First option would be to slow down the setup of Bicar by serving her blind side. Should this option prove ineffective, the best possible option would be to serve long in the seam of zone 5 and 6 and target Rondina or Laure’s right side of their axis to keep them in the court as much as possible as they wind up for the approach. Doing so, their down the line shots would be a challenging option making it easier for Madayag and De Leon to block the sharp angle. Though Rondina is just one piece of the equation and much more can be expected of Laure, Jimenez, Viray, and Galdones in the upcoming match, ensuring that Bicar is hard pressed in setting up a fast play through well placed serves will be Ateneo’s best bet to force a decider match for the Season 81 throne.    .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 14th, 2019

No extra drama needed for Nuggets, Blazers in Game 7

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER -- All the posturing you can muster won’t win you this all-important game. No amount of name-calling, shoving, screaming, shouting or tough guy antics and gestures will save you when it’s all on the line in Game 7 of the NBA playoffs. And there are enough guys playing for both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers that know it, even if most of them have only observed a Game 7 from the stands or even further afar. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s a simple proposition, these Game 7 affairs. You win, you play on. Your season continues and all of the goals you set are still attainable. You lose, you’re done. None of the things you believed in before that last opening tip of the season remain. Pack up your stuff and head home for the summer. That’s the reality, the fate both the Nuggets and Trail Blazers are facing Sunday afternoon (Monday morning, PHL time) at Pepsi Center, the all-important Game 7 showdown in the Western Conference semifinals that will define one team’s season and render the other’s mute. There’s a finality to it, a certain air of drama that cannot be found anywhere else in the postseason. So it doesn’t matter if you have “sassy *** dudes, frontrunners,” as Blazers reserve guard Seth Curry put it after things got chippy late in Game 6 Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), one side or broadcast talent on the other taking cheap and unnecessary shots at injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, Sunday afternoon's (Monday, PHL time) business is an up-and-down affair for all involved. Win and you play on or lose and you’re done. “I’m looking forward to Game 7,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Games 7s are special.” No extracurricular activity from either side will change that fact. “Both teams want to win the game,” said Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. “Basketball is an emotional game. Of course, we’re going to talk trash or whatever. Both teams just want to win the game.” That doesn’t mean you don’t look for every advantage possible to help fuel your cause. Blazers big man Zach Collins played a huge role in making sure this series found its way to Game 7, joining Rodney Hood in providing a huge boost off the bench in Game 6. And it was more than just his season-high 29 minutes and playoff career-high 14 points and five blocks. It was his physicality and activity around the rim and in the paint on both ends of the floor, his refusal to allow the Nuggets to find a groove. “We’ve just got to go in and keep playing our game,” Collins said. “I said it after the game, [Denver] has been way too comfortable for a lot of games in this series and [in Game 6] we made them a little uncomfortable. We just need to continue that, regardless of if it’s a Game 7 or not. Obviously, it’s win or go home for both teams. It’s going to be very difficult, especially in [Denver] to go in and get a win, but we can do it.” The Nuggets leaned on their sterling 34-7 record at Pepsi Center during the regular season, the best home mark in the league, as a confidence booster two weeks ago. “We have the best home court advantage in the NBA,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We’re going to rely on that once again and try to close it out in Game 7.” The Nuggets owning that recency advantage: they needed a Game 7 win here to survive the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, means something. The game and that series provided lessons Malone’s postseason rookies need to tap into this time around, even if they don’t realize it now. “It’s weird,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “Everybody keeps talking about experience. And I just want to say that we’ve been here before. [We go] back home and regroup like we did for San Antonio, come back with energy and just … be ready to play. I think we had too many lapses [in Game 6]. Dame [Lillard] felt really comfortable, he wasn’t comfortable last time, so we need to be tougher on him … like I said, just regroup, come back and get a win.” If only it was that simple. The pressure to get out of the first round is one thing. The opportunity to make the conference finals is a different monster. The Nuggets last played in a conference final in 2009, when Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Nene led the way. That group had a mix of seasoned pros who had championship (Billups) and extensive experience (Billups and Martin) competing on a championship level, to go along with younger and emerging superstar talent like Anthony. And they were ultimately no match for the Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol-led Los Angeles Lakers. So these current Nuggets are well within their right to acknowledge the very real anxiety that comes with a game of this magnitude. “No nerves, “Jokic said. “I just felt something different the first game of the playoffs because it was something different. Just because we call it the playoffs, Besides that, everything else is the same.” The Blazers haven’t seen a Game 7 since a 2003 first-round series against Dallas. But they do not believe the absence of experience in this case makes any bit of difference. “It’s just another game -- a game we want to win, obviously,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said. “We understand what’s at stake. Somebody’s got to go home. Somebody’s got to go to Cabo, go to Cancun, as Chuck [Barkley] would say. For us, it’s go out there and compete, find the coach’s game plan, understanding that it’s going to be a pretty hostile crowd and they’ll be confident at home, but we’ve got to bring the energy and pressure just like we did [in Game 6].” Damian Lillard has guided his team this far and promised to stick to the basics in the days and hours leading up to the game. Rested bodies and minds are crucial. “The number one thing is have our minds right,” he said. “Don’t overthink, don’t make some big crazy deal or anything like that. We’re going to play a basketball game. It’s a big game and we’ve won on their floor before and we know what type of mentality we had when we did that. We’ve got to go out there, be tough, be physical, be sharp in our scouting report, play for each other, play with each other on both ends and just put the pressure on them. “Make them earn everything on their offensive end and then when we get the ball, make sure that we get shots up,” Lillard continued with his simple but extremely detailed breakdown of what needs to be done. “Value every possession, don’t go out there turning the ball over, playing into their hands where they get an opportunity to get their crowd involved. So that has to be our mentality, to just be sharp, be physical, go in there ready to take the game, because the only way it’s going to happen is us going in there and taking it.” It’s a Game 7, after all, no extra drama needed. 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 NewsMay 12th, 2019

Mentality of giants : Self-belief fueling Klopp s Liverpool

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

Nuggets put Blazers on the ropes with series-shifting Game 5 rout

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com DENVER — Two points separated the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers after the first four, grueling games of these Western Conference semifinals. They piled up the same number of three-pointers and free throws as well. The games were that good, that tight, and the difference between the two teams was negligible at best. Then Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) happened. Paul Millsap happened. Nikola Jokic happened. Jamal Murray happened. The manifestation of a Nuggets team that’s been dancing with a destiny that leads to the Western Conference finals, finally happened. Their 124-98 rout of the Trail Blazers in Game 5 at Pepsi Center was the sort of declaration Nuggets coach Michael Malone has been predicting for his team since they were locked into a back-and-forth struggle with the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] They evened the series Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Portland, showing mettle beyond their years by snapping the Trail Blazers’ 12-game home winning streak that dated back to the regular season, with an inspired effort to stave off the certain doom of a 3-1 deficit. Tuesday night’s (Wednesday, PHL time) salvo was a seismic shift in the opposite direction. The Nuggets’ biggest lead was 31 points and their intentions were plain for everyone to see. Millsap roasted the Blazers for 24 points and eight rebounds, dominating while being featured more and executing his considerable advantage in small-ball situations. “The best thing about Paul Millsap is he’s true to himself, he never tries to be something he’s not,” Malone said. “He’s not a rah-rah guy, he’s not a guy that’s going to be screaming and yelling. But I think his calm demeanor has an effect on our group. Young team going through all of this for the first time and when you can look to a four-time All-Star with 90 playoff games under his belt, that’s reassuring. He’s kind of the calm for our team and I think that has a tremendous impact on all of our young players.” Two in particular during this postseason and this series, to be sure. Jokic led the way with 25 points, 19 rebounds and six assists before fouling out late, leaving little doubt as to who deserves to wear the crown as the best big man in the league right now. Murray was splendid again, with 18 points and nine assists, while his backcourt mate Gary Harris chipped in with 16 points and six rebounds. Will Barton and Malik Beasley scored 10 points each off the bench, leading a 33-point bench scoring effort that will need to travel back to Portland for Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Game 6 if the Nuggets have any chance of winning three straight and ending this series in six games. “We know going to Portland for Game 6 is going to be really tough,” Malone said, referencing his team’s Game 6 struggles in the first round. “Game 6 in San Antonio, we did not come ready to play, mentally or physically. I hope that we have a much different mindset going in to Portland for Game 6.” The Blazers have some serious tweaking to do, in a short amount of time, as well. Their starters didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, Terry Stotts acknowledging that the 30-point hole his team was fighting out of might have been too large, given the circumstances. And the need to preserve the energy of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the crew for what sets up as their biggest game of the season was obvious. “At this point, it’s one game at a time facing elimination,” Lillard said. “We know that we’re more than capable of getting it done in the next game. We don’t feel like we’ve played our best basketball yet, and with our back against the wall, we don’t really have a choice. Our mindset is to just get to the next one, take care of home and make it back here.” Stotts has adjustments to make before Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) as well, after the Nuggets bludgeoned his team in the paint for a 66-44 scoring advantage, while also outrebounding them 62-44. The decision to switch Enes Kanter’s primary defensive assignment from Jokic to Millsap Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), with Al-Farouq Aminu being tasked to try and contain the much bigger Jokic, backfired as Millsap went to work immediately on Kanter. “They just played harder than us,” Kanter said. “I think that was probably … even the coach said, probably this was our worst basketball the last six weeks. Shots didn’t fall in, on defense we weren’t really communicating with each other, we didn’t really trust each other. We’ve just got to learn from this and just go home and take care of home, because right now, that’s the most important game of the year.” The atmosphere Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Moda Center promises to be electric. The Blazers have long enjoyed one of the best home atmospheres in the league. But will it serve as the advantage it has in the past when the Nuggets are fresh off two straight huge wins in this series, the first on that floor? “We have two must-wins,” Stotts said. “Somebody was going to have a must-win after tonight and it’s us. So we have two must-wins ahead of us.” That four-overtime loss in Game 3 Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) could have been the emotional breaking point for the Nuggets. It wasn’t. A school shooting Tuesday morning (late Tuesday, PHL time) in a Denver suburb where Malone lives with his wife and daughters rattled the coach and an entire community. That sort of life-altering event could easily have sidetracked Malone and his team. They persevered. The Nuggets were locked in from the start. When it became clear that the Blazers weren’t going to be able to keep up the pace, they kept pushing until the final buzzer. They understand the opportunity staring them in the face; a conference finals date with the two-time reigning champion Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets, who are tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at Oracle Arena. It’s a wild shift for a team that failed to play its way into the playoffs last year on the final night of the regular season, only to rebound and earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase this season. If the atmosphere for Game 4 or even Game 5 seemed overwhelming, Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) promises to be otherworldly for both of these teams that were previously separated by so little. 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 NewsMay 8th, 2019

Raptors go big, earn crucial Game 4 victory to even series

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com PHILADELPHIA — The Eastern Conference semifinals series between the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers has turned into a game of survival. The Raptors prevailed in Game 4, a 101-96 victory that evened the series at 2-2, because Kawhi Leonard continues to play absurd basketball. Sunday's (Monday, PHL time) damage: 39 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, along with the biggest shot of the series so far, a pull-up three-pointer over Joel Embiid at the shot-clock buzzer that put the Raptors up 94-90 with 1:01 to go. Through four games, Leonard is averaging 38 points on a ridiculous effective field goal percentage of 69 percent. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] That effective field goal percentage, with more than half (51-of-89) of his shots having come from outside the paint, is better than anybody in the league shot on at least 300 field goal attempts this season – with the top seven guys being bigs who took almost all of their shots in the paint. "The stuff that he can do to create his own shot," said Sixers coach Brett Brown, "is Kobe-like for me. He's just so gifted in relation to doing that." Nobody else on the Raptors has an effective field goal percentage that even reaches the league average (52.4 percent) in the series. Pascal Siakam (50.0 percent) is the closest, but was clearly suffering from his bruised right calf on Sunday, shooting 2-for-10, including 0-for-7 outside the restricted area. So, with or without a healthy Siakam, Raptors' coach Nick Nurse has been searching for answers – "You're looking for some type of spark," he said pre-game – someone or something he could count on, knowing that Leonard could not beat the Sixers by himself. Patrick McCaw was introduced to the non-garbage-time portion of the series on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), but the big change for Toronto in Game 4 was Toronto playing … big. Since the start of this season, Serge Ibaka has almost exclusively played center. After starting alongside Jonas Valanciunas each of the last two seasons, Ibaka played just 13 total minutes with Valanciunas before the trade deadline. After Valanciunas was dealt to Memphis for Marc Gasol, Ibaka and Gasol played just 31 regular-season minutes together. Through eight playoff games, Ibaka and Gasol were on the floor together for just three total minutes. And through the first three games of this series, they had each shot 6-for-20, with Ibaka registering a minus-17 in his 49 minutes. But with 5:27 to go in the first quarter on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Ibaka checked in for Siakam instead of Gasol. And it wasn't just about Siakam's injury, because the starting power forward played almost 29 minutes on Sunday, including a couple of minutes in a do-or-die fourth quarter with both Ibaka and Gasol on the floor and Leonard playing the two. When Siakam has sat, the Raptors have typically played Leonard or Norman Powell at the 4. On Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Nurse chose to go big, quite an adjustment to make with the Raptors facing a 3-1 series deficit if it didn't work. "Tonight was one of those nights," Ibaka said, "where we say, 'You know what? Even though we didn't have an opportunity to play together a long time, we're going to just try it out there.' We've been playing basketball for so long. We're just going to try to figure it out and play hard." The two bigs played more than 23 minutes together on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), with almost half of that coming in the fourth quarter, when the Raptors' season was seemingly on the line. The game was tied at 75 entering the fourth and Toronto was down four after the first few Philly possessions. But Nurse stuck with the two bigs and actually played them with Siakam and Leonard for a couple of minutes in that fourth quarter. The risk paid off. Ibaka and Gasol combined to hit three big shots, they spaced the floor well enough to let Leonard do his thing, and the Raptors held Philly to just 5-for-21 shooting in the final period to regain homecourt advantage in the series. "The biggest thing I felt tonight was the rebounding," Nurse said, of the bigs playing together. "It just felt like we were getting pushed around a lot by the glass the last two games. That would happen with our small lineup, they were just throwing it up there and revving their engines and flying to the rim. Tonight we just had more size, that way, and it kind of looked like the rebounds were affected by that." The Raptors' defensive rebounding wasn't any better in the Ibaka-Gasol minutes (when they grabbed 16 defensive rebounds and the Sixers' grabbed five offensive boards) that it was otherwise (19 and six). But it was better than having Siakam on the bench and a smaller power forward on the floor through the first four games (18 18 defensive rebounds, 10 Philadelphia offensive boards). With the rebounding improvement, the Sixers scored just 40 points on 44 possessions with Ibaka and Gasol on the floor together. They scored 56 points on 50 possessions otherwise. On the other end, Gasol (7-for-13) and Ibaka (6-for-12) each made as many shots as they had made through the first three games. It was just enough support for Leonard for the Raptors to get the biggest win of their season. "He's comfortable being a 5," Gasol said of Ibaka. "I'm able to play both positions a little bit. So it's simple. Defensively we mix it up, and the actions that they try to run we just need to figure out, and talk, and communicate and be on the same page, not just the two of us, but the whole team." Philly's output was affected by another ailment befalling Joel Embiid, who felt ill all day and shot just 2-for-7. The Sixers still outscored the Raptors by 17 points in Embiid's 35 minutes, but they were unable to survive the 13 minutes Embiid was on the bench: the Raptors won those handily, 33-11. "We're all going to look at what he shot from the floor, his free throws, whatever," Brown said of his center. "Cut to the chase, go to the bottom line, and look at his plus-minus. Despite him being ill and despite seven shots, or what he shot at the free throw line, and really his free throws were quite good up until the fourth period, he ends up a plus-17. It's just another reminder of how important he is to our team." Maybe that's the big story from this game. But Embiid's plus-17 breaks down to a plus-1 in the 20 minutes he played with both Ibaka and Gasol on the floor, and a plus-16 in fewer than 15 minutes against just one of two. The NBA playoffs are different than the 82-game grind of the regular season. Sometimes, they require something that you've never done before. In Game 4 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), the Raptors went big for the first time this season and, as Nurse put it, "did just enough" to get a crucial victory. John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Arsenal, Chelsea in strong positions in Europa League semis

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press The possibility of an all-English final in the Europa League grew likelier after Arsenal and Chelsea moved into strong positions in the semifinals on Thursday. Arsenal will take a 3-1 lead into the second leg against Valencia after coming from behind through two goals by France striker Alexandre Lacazette and a 90th-minute volley from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Emirates Stadium. Chelsea also rallied to earn a 1-1 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt, with Pedro Rodriguez scoring the potentially crucial away goal in Germany to extend his team's unbeaten run in the competition to 16 games — a record. Neither Arsenal nor Chelsea is guaranteed a top-four finish in the Premier League, which earns automatic qualification for next season's Champions League. Winning the Europa League also offers that reward, which is why the teams have taken the competition seriously. The final is in Baku, Azerbaijan, on May 29. It had previously been a disappointing week in Europe for English clubs, with Tottenham and Liverpool losing the first legs of their Champions League semifinals against Ajax (1-0) and Barcelona (3-0), respectively. MR. EUROPA LEAGUE A three-time winner of the competition with Sevilla, Unai Emery is on course for another Europa League final in his first season at Arsenal. He has his lethal strike partnership to thank for that. The potency of Lacazette and Aubameyang continues to make up for Arsenal's weakness at the back, which was exposed again when Valencia took the lead off a corner in the 11th minute. A delivery to the far post was headed back across the face of goal by Rodrigo, and Mouctar Diakhaby rose above Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka to nod in from close range. Arsenal has been saving its best performances for the Europa League of late — back-to-back wins over Napoli in the quarterfinals were followed by three straight losses in the Premier League — and the English team hit back almost immediately through Lacazette in the 18th. He played in Aubameyang with a superb through-ball and was then on hand to receive a squared pass from his fellow striker to stroke the ball into an empty net from the edge of the area. Lacazette made it 2-1 eight minutes later when his header from Xhaka's first-time cross could only be palmed over the goal line by Valencia goalkeeper Neto. Lacazette missed out on a hat trick by wasting two clear-cut chances in the second half, but Aubameyang gave Arsenal a two-goal cushion heading into the second leg next Thursday by volleying home at the far post from Sead Kolasinac's floated cross. "I hope that third goal will be important," Aubameyang said. "We started a bit nervous because we lost the last three games, I think that's normal. We are human, but after that we had a good reaction." LOFTUS-CHEEK IMPRESSES With Eden Hazard only starting on the bench, Chelsea needed another player to be its attacking inspiration and it proved to be Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The powerfully built England midfielder has had to bide his time this season, with Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley often starting ahead of him, but he has forced his way into the starting lineup in recent weeks and was Chelsea's best player in Frankfurt with his passing and runs from deep. Fittingly, it was Loftus-Cheek who set up Pedro's 45th-minute goal, shrugging off a couple of defenders and laying the ball off to the Spanish winger, who shifted it onto his left foot and swept in a finish from 15 yards (meters). That canceled out Frankfurt's opener from Serbia striker Luka Jovic, who glanced in Filip Kostic's cross for his ninth goal of this season's competition — a tally bettered only by Chelsea's Olivier Giroud. Chelsea defender David Luiz struck a free kick against the crossbar in the second half but the visitors were hanging on near the end, with Sebastian Rode heading over from close range and Giroud getting away with a handball in his own area. The video assistant referee system is not being used in this season's Europa League until the final. "I think, in the end, we deserved the win," said Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri, who is looking to win his first trophy in 29 years as a coach. "But 1-1 away is not so bad.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

Vince Carter says he will play next season in NBA

NBA.com staff report Vince Carter isn't ready to hang it up just yet. On The Ringer's "Winging It" podcast with teammate Kent Bazemore and co-host Annie Finberg, Carter said he's ready to play season No. 22 in the NBA. Carter, who spent last season with Atlanta, said that he would like to return to the Hawks. Looks like @mrvincecarter15 will play a 22nd season. He gave a definitive “I’m coming back,” on the Winging It podcast he does with @24Bazemore that dropped Tuesday. When asked if he'd play for the Hawks, he said, “I would like to. We’ll see what happens.” — Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) April 30, 2019 The conversation about Carter's future comes about five minutes into the podcast as he and Bazemore are discussing the retirement seasons of Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade. Carter then shared his thoughts on Nowitzki announcing his plans to retire after his final home game with the Dallas Mavericks. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] "I think he was at peace with his career and what he accomplished and felt it was time to go ... not ya boy," Carter said. Bazemore: "You coming back?" Carter: "Yep, I'm coming back, bro. I'm coming back." Finberg: "You coming back to the Hawks?" Carter: "I would like to. We'll see what happens." At the Hawks' exit interviews, Carter, 42, said he hoped to play another season in Atlanta. He averaged 7.4 points per game and served mostly as a reserve for the 29-53 Hawks. In early April, Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said of Carter: “[he] showed us what a true leader looks like. He showed us an unbelievable talent in this game can also be an unbelievable teammate. ... We’re not worried about what decisions he’s going to make moving forward. I’m still in awe we were able to get him all year the way we got him.” Carter ranks 20th on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 25,430 points. Among active players, Carter currently ranks in the top five in games played (2nd), minutes played (3rd), three-pointers made (3rd), field goals made (3rd) and points (2nd). He crossed the 25,000-point mark last season with a 14-point game against the Toronto Raptors -- who he played for from 1999-2004 -- on Nov. 21 (Nov. 22, PHL time). Fittingly for the former Slam Dunk Contest champion, he surpassed the 25,000th mark with a dunk. Overall, he finished the season as one of the Hawks' leading three-point shooters (38.9 percent). Carter also helped call a game on TV for Fox Sports Southeast, doing so on the April 3 (April 4, PHL time) broadcast vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. He has made it clear throughout the last few seasons of his career that moving to broadcasting remains his goal once his playing days are done. Carter signed a one-year veteran minimum contract last summer, making the Hawks the eighth team he played for (joining the Raptors, Orlando Magic, New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings). He wanted to play for the Hawks because they offered a chance to earn extra minutes. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2019

Blue Jays ownership involved in bringing Bautista back

ROB GILLIES, Associated Press   TORONTO (AP) — Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said ownership got involved in the re-signing of veteran Jose Bautista. Atkins said Thursday the desire of Edward Rogers, the controlling shareholder of Rogers Communication, to help was 'abundantly clear.' He said thanks to Rogers, they don't have to rebuild. The free agent slugger looked like he might sign elsewhere but agreed to an $18.5 million, one-year contract this week that includes mutual options for more years. A longtime fan favorite, Bautista hit 22 homers with 69 RBIs last year while batting .234 in an injury-slowed season. The Blue Jays' failure this offseason to re-sign fan favorite Edwin Encarnacion didn't go over well in Toronto, which led the AL in attendance last year. Atkins expects Bautista to perform more like the 2015 season than the 2016 season.  He hit 40 homers and had 114 RBI in 2015. He blamed injuries for Bautista's subpar 2016. He said they've seen the 36-year-old work out this offseason and expect him to play right field for the bulk of the 2017 season. 'I would expect him to be a defender that we can rely on,' he said. Bautista gets an $18 million salary this year, and the deal includes a $17 million mutual option for 2018 with a $500,000 buyout, payable if either side declines. There is a $20 million option for 2019 that becomes guaranteed if Bautista has 300 games played during the next two seasons and doesn't have a physical impairment that would prevent him from playing in 2019. Bautista also could earn $1.5 million annually in bonuses based on home attendance: $150,000 each for 3.5 million and 3.6 million, $250,000 apiece for 3.7 million and 3.8 million, and $350,000 each for 3.9 million and 4 million. Toronto drew 3.39 million at home last season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Wizards survive Grizzlies, earn 13th straight home win

em>By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press /em> WASHINGTON (AP) -- A vastly different team at home, the Wizards won their 13th consecutive game in Washington by edging the Memphis Grizzlies 104-101 Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) behind two late layups from John Wall, who finished with 25 points and 13 assists. James Ennis III missed a potential tying three-pointer at the buzzer for Memphis. The Wizards are just 4-13 on the road but now 18-6 at home, where they've compiled their longest winning streak since a 15-game run in the 1988-89 season. Washington never trailed and led by as many as 19 points in the first half, then held on after a 10-0 run by Memphis made it a two-point game with 2.5 minutes left. That's when Wall took over, scoring on consecutive drives. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Man United soccer's top moneymaker again after 11 years

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer br /> LONDON (AP) — Manchester United is a long way from winning the English Premier League again but is back on top of another table — as soccer's biggest moneymaker. For the first time since 2005, Manchester United overtook Real Madrid in top spot in the soccer finance rankings compiled by accountancy firm Deloitte even as it sits sixth in the Premier League. In 2015-16 when United won only the FA Cup and failed to qualify for the Champions League, the 20-time league champions generated 515.3 million pounds (689 million euros based on the annual average; now about $632 million). Spanish champion Barcelona had 620.2 million euros in revenue and Real Madrid, which won an 11th Champions League title in May, dropped to third on 620.1 million euros in Deloitte's 20th annual rankings. United's stay at the top could be short-lived with the pound weakening since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June and the failure to reach the Champions League. Despite Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as manager, United is struggling to break back into the top four Champions League qualification places let alone win the first Premier League title since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013. But United, owned by the Florida-based Glazer family and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has maintained an ability to attract sponsors. 'Manchester United have had to wait 11 years to regain their position as the world's leading revenue-generating club and it has taken phenomenal commercial revenue growth to help them achieve this,' said Dan Jones of the Deloitte sports division. 'In recent years, their ability to secure commercial partnerships with value in excess of that achievable by their peers has been the crucial factor in enabling the club to regain their place at the top of the Money League.' The top five is completed by German champion Bayern Munich and Manchester City. The eight English clubs in the top 20 account for 45 percent of the accumulated revenue in the standings of 7.4 billion euros — up 13 percent from the previous year. Leicester, a first-time winner of the Premier League, makes the cut for the first time, squeezing into 20th place on 128.7 million pounds. West Ham returns to the top 20 and should move up from 18th place (143.8 million pounds) following its move last summer to Olympic Stadium. The other Premier League teams are: Arsenal (seventh at 350.4 million pounds), Chelsea (eight at 334.6 million pounds), Liverpool (ninth at 302 million pounds) and Tottenham (12th at 209.2 million pounds). The weight of English clubs in the revenue rankings should increase next year with the rise in television revenue. Premier League clubs should each earn at least 100 million pounds a season as part of the rights deals worth more than 8.3 billion pounds over three years. The only French team represented in the rankings is Paris Saint-Germain, which fell two places to sixth with revenue of 520.9 million euros. Zenit Saint-Petersburg is the only Russian team included, improving a place to 17th by generating 196.5 million euros. Along with Bayern, German also provides Borussia Dortmund (11th at 283.9 million euros) and Schalke (14th at 224.5 million euros). Juventus heads the list of four Italian teams, in 10th place on 224.5 million euros, followed by AS Roma (15th at 218.2 million euros), AC Milan (16th at 214.7 million euros) and Inter Milan (19th at 179.2 million euros). Deloitte warns that the enhanced English broadcast deals could see at least one of the Milan teams fall out of the top 20 next year. Joining Barcelona and Real Madrid in the rankings from Spain are Atletico Madrid in 13th place at 228.6 million euros. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Chile amateur goes from no big victories to Masters

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Toto Gana hit what he described as the 'best shot I've hit in my whole life,' a wedge to 3 feet for a birdie to win the Latin America Amateur Championship and earn a trip to the Masters in April. His best shot produced his biggest trophy. Asked what his greatest achievement in golf was before his victory in Panama, the 19-year-old from Chile said: 'I didn't have any achievements, to be honest. I had won a couple of tournaments at home when I was really, really young.' The Latin America Amateur completed its third year, a stroke-play tournament created by Augusta National, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient to spur growth in that part of the world. It follows the successful launch of the Asia Pacific Amateur. The Asia Pacific Amateur is producing a higher pedigree of champions — Hideki Matsuyama won twice, and the winner last year was Curtis Luck, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. The last two Latin America winners were surprises — Gana and 16-year-old Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica last year. The other winner was Matias Dominguez of Chile, who was a junior at Texas Tech. Gana said the only hard part about his victory was beating Joaquin Niemann of Chile, one of his best friends who won the Junior World in 2015 at Torrey Pines. 'I really never thought I could win this tournament because all the other players have won many other tournaments, very big tournaments,' Gana said in a conference call after his victory Sunday. 'What I did was keep a cool head. When I saw that I had a chance to win, I believed in myself that I could do. And I gave it my all.' Chile will have a player represented at Augusta National for the second time in three years. The only other Chilean player at the Masters was Enrique Orellana, who missed the cut in 1964. Gana has flair, and he showed how much passion he has for golf when explaining how he got started. 'When I was a little boy, 8 years old, my stepfather taught me to play golf on the practice range,' he said. 'When I shot a really nice shot, I never quit.' Gana will be enrolling at Lynn University in Florida. ___ BLOOMING START: Justin Rose played the Sony Open as part of the new 'strength of field' regulation on the PGA Tour that requires players who played fewer than 25 events last year to add a tournament they had not played in four years. Rose was so excited about this year that he might have started earlier if he would have been eligible. He failed to win a PGA Tour event for the first time since 2009. But in a year slowed by injury, Rose geared himself for golf's return to the Olympics and won the gold medal in Rio. That was worth an exemption into the four majors (Rose already is eligible for them), but the PGA Tour did not offer a spot in SBS Tournament of Champions. 'I didn't inquire,' Rose said about Kapalua. 'But in my mind, I was surprised that it didn't count in a way, just because, why wouldn't it? It's a one-off thing.' He thought maybe the tour would only give a spot to Kapalua if the gold medalist was already a PGA Tour member, much like it treated the HSBC Champions early on in its World Golf Championships history. Rose chuckled, however, when he realized his history in Hawaii. 'It's funny enough, I don't have the right to say I should have been at Kapalua,' he said. 'Because I've won six years in a row and I've only been once.' A birdie on the final hole at the Sony Open gave him second place alone, which was worth $648,000. ___ PLAYING TO HIS STRENGTH: Jason Dufner is the defending champion at the CareerBuilder Challenger, where he won last year for the first time since the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. What changed? Very little. He attributed the drought to a neck and shoulder injury that he suffered at the 2014 Masters. Dufner tried to play through it all year until he was forced to pull out of his title defense in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, which kept him off the Ryder Cup team. Playing with the injury led to bad habits with his swing, which led to bad shots, too many memories of bad shots and eventually shattered confidence. 'People don't realize, once you start playing, you have to redo everything,' Dufner said. 'You see it with a lot of guys coming back. It takes them 6, 8, 12 months. I spent 2015 trying to get back to where I was.' Where he wants to be is one of the top ball-strikers in the game. As for putting? He manages. Dufner has finished no higher than No. 143 in the key putting statistic over the last four years, and while he has to pay attention to his setup, it's not as though he's going to abandon what got him here (his swing) to pour everything into becoming Jordan Spieth. 'I've been putting bad for 17 years,' he said. 'It's tough to change. I can hit it good enough to make up for it. I'll wait for my weeks where I putt good and try to win.' ___ THE RACE TO MEXICO: Mackenzie Hughes won the RSM Classic, and his first thought was going to the Masters. Now that it's beginning to sink, the Canadian rookie has reason to consider other tournaments that were not on his schedule at the start of the season. First up is the World Golf Championship in Mexico. The top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings through the Honda Classic are eligible for the Mexico Championship, and there are only six tournaments between now and then. That's also true for Pat Perez, who tied for third at Kapalua and is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup. Rod Pampling is at No. 6. The other World Golf Championships event in March is based off the world ranking, so those three players have much more to do for them to get into the top 64. One player who might have secured his spot was Kevin Kisner, who shot 60 in the third round of the Sony Open and wound up in a tie for fourth. That took Kisner from No. 51 to No. 41, making it difficult to fall that far in two months. ___ DIVOTS: Justin Thomas moving to No. 8 in the world means that six of the top 10 players are under 30. ... The Golf Writers Association of America has voted former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem for the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf. For the GWAA's award for press cooperation, it was a tie between Ben Crenshaw and Stewart Cink. They will be honored at the GWAA annual awards dinner on April 5 in Augusta. ... The three courses used for the CareerBuilder Challenge — PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West Nicklaus and La Quinta — ranked among the top 10 in easiest courses on the PGA Tour last year. ... The fourth Latin America Amateur Championship will be played at Prince of Wales Country Club next year in Santiago, Chile. ... The European Tour now has eight events in its Rolex Series with China-based HNA Group signing a five-year deal to be title sponsor of the French Open. That will raise the purse to $7 million in line with other Rolex Series events. ___ STAT OF THE WEEK: Justin Thomas hit 34 drives that went at least 330 yards during his two weeks in Hawaii — 20 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, 14 at Waialae Country Club. ___ FINAL WORD: 'If there's no defense, then you ought to be able to make birdies. If there's wind, you ought to be struggling.' — Kevin Kisner. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Clutch Rodgers leads Packers past rallying Cowboys, 34-31

SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Sports Writer   ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — This time it was a catch, and another win for the Green Bay Packers. Call it a 'Half Mary' from Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to a toe-dragging Jared Cook on the sideline, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Packers to the NFC championship game with their eighth straight win while thwarting a huge Dallas rally in a 34-31 victory in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday. The throw on the run from Rodgers to Cook — confirmed on review — wasn't nearly as debatable as Dez Bryant's famous catch that wasn't in the Cowboys' divisional round loss to Green Bay two years ago. Cook kept both feet inbounds with a knee just above the ground out of bounds. And it came after the Cowboys tied the game twice in the final 5 minutes behind rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their playoff debut. It was the third field goal of more than 50 yards in the final 1:38 — two from Crosby and one from Dallas' Dan Bailey. And Crosby had to make the winner twice after Dallas coach Jason Garrett called timeout before the first attempt. Rodgers, who sparked last week's wild-card win over the New York Giants with another Hail Mary before halftime, is headed to an MVP showdown with Atlanta's Matt Ryan next Sunday. It will be his third NFC title game — all on the road. Green Bay's win was the first by a road team after 12 straight home victories in the playoffs dating to last season. The Cowboys (13-4) almost became the third team in the Super Bowl era to win in the playoffs after trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter. The first was Dallas in 1972, when 'Captain Comeback', Roger Staubach, rallied the Cowboys for a 30-28 win over San Francisco. Instead, Dallas ended up with its fifth straight loss in the divisional round and a 21-year drought in trips to the NFC championship game. Prescott got the Dallas rally going with a 40-yard touchdown toss in the first half to Bryant, the first playoff TD for the star receiver. Then he set the stage for the first tying score on a 6-yarder to Jason Witten, also the first postseason touchdown for the 14th-year tight end. Rodgers led the Packers to a go-ahead 56-yard field goal from Crosby with a big boost on a pass interference penalty against rookie Anthony Brown that wiped out an interception from Jeff Heath, whose pick earlier in the game helped Dallas rally. The Cowboys answered with a 52-yarder from Bailey. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Draxler scores again as PSG wins 1-0 at Rennes

JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer br /> PARIS (AP) — Winger Julian Draxler's second goal in as many games showed why Paris Saint-Germain signed him as the defending champion won at Rennes 1-0 in the French league on Saturday. Running onto an astute pass from midfielder Marco Verratti, and without breaking stride, the German curled in a delightful shot from the left of the penalty area into the bottom right corner in the 40th minute. 'It was a great goal,' Verratti said. 'We needed a player like this.' PSG moved level on points with Monaco, which is in second place thanks to a better goal difference and plays on Sunday, as does leader Nice. Draxler joined from Wolfsburg this month in a deal reportedly worth up to 47 million euros (about $49 million), and scored an equally good goal on debut in a 7-0 rout of Bastia in the French Cup last weekend. 'He worked hard, scored a good goal,' PSG coach Unai Emery said. 'He's brought his quality to the team.' The 23-year-old Draxler, a regular for Germany at last year's European Championship, struggled to settle in at Wolfsburg after joining from Schalke early into last season and failed to score this season. His arrival may not be great news for Angel Di Maria, who has been mostly out of form this season and faces tough competition from Draxler on the left wing, and from Lucas on the right. It was a good day for Draxler, but not for Edinson Cavani, who stormed angrily past Emery when he was substituted with 20 minutes left. Di Maria also came on, and fell over backward trying to play a quick pass on a PSG counterattack. PSG won its previous three games, scoring 14 goals and conceding none, but they were at home and against poor sides. A trip to Rennes — which had lost only once at home — offered a much tougher test, especially considering PSG lost four times away from home in the first half of the season. 'It's a big win for us,' PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi said. 'We're not very confident away from home and needed the points.' PSG started in determined fashion and Cavani should have scored after just 40 seconds. Having missed four chances in midweek when PSG beat Metz 2-0 to reach the League Cup semifinals, Cavani fluffed this one by poking wide of goal after being put clean through. PSG dominated the first half, with Rennes panicking and frequently losing the ball. Verratti was enraged when he was not given a penalty after running onto Draxler's excellent pass and rounding goalkeeper Benoit Costil, who appeared to take him down. But the referee instead gave Verratti a yellow card. 'It's a huge mistake. It was a penalty,' Verratti said. He was still arguing with referee Benoit Bastien as the players prepared to start the second half. Bastien also showed PSG midfielder Thiago Motta a yellow card in the 62nd, although he appeared to fall down as he rounded Costil. 'Well done to the referee for not getting conned,' Costil said after the game. '(Verratti) was falling down before I came out and the second one (Motta's) was even more blatant.' ___ OTHER MATCHES Forward Majeed Waris scored twice as Lorient beat fifth-place Guingamp 3-1 to earn a vital win in its relegation scrap. The win moved the Brittany side off the bottom of the table, with Metz dropping to last ahead of its game on Sunday. Having started the season strongly, Toulouse is drifting further away from the top five after losing at home to Nantes 1-0, with Emiliano Sala scoring. Winger Issiar Dia scored the winner as Nancy climbed up to 11th by beating Corsican side Bastia 1-0. Also, it was Angers 1, Bordeaux 1, and Montpellier 1, Dijon 1. On Sunday, Nice faces Metz, while Monaco has a tough game at Marseille, and Caen hosts Lyon. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Federer to meet qualifier Melzer in 1st round at Aussie Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — While Roger Federer spent his time at Melbourne Park on Saturday talking about his comeback at a news conference, dozens of lower-ranked players were still at work trying to earn a spot in the main draw of the Australian Open. Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer was among them, along with Americans Noah Rubin and Bjorn Fratangelo. Melzer's reward for his 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Rajeev Ram out on Court 13 was a first-round match on Monday night against 17-time major winner Federer on Rod Laver Arena. Federer has won the Australian title four times, and reached the semifinals or better in 12 of the last 13 years, but hasn't played a match for rankings points since Wimbledon. When the draw was conducted Friday, the 17th-seeded Federer landed on position 24 and had three blank slots above him, reserved for players who advanced through qualifying. Melzer ended up in position 23, while Fratangelo's 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Hiroki Moriya and Rubin's 6-2, 6-4 win over Evgeny Donskoy resulted in them finishing up in positions 21 and 22. They'll meet in the first round, with the winner advancing to the second round to play the winner of the Federer-Melzer match. Melzer and Federer are both 35 and both had significant time off in 2016 with injuries. Melzer, who reached a career-high No. 8 ranking in 2011, missed the first part of last season recovering from surgery on his left shoulder and slipped as low as No. 550. Federer missed the last six months to let his left knee recover and ended the season ranked 16th. Federer didn't know who he'd be playing when he sat down for his pre-tournament news conference. 'Yeah, it would be good to know who I play. I guess I could tell you what I think,' he said. 'Once it's out, it's actually a good thing because then you can start actually mentally preparing for the Aussie Open. Is it a lefty, a righty? It's a big deal. Is he a big server, a grinder? 'A bit of an unknown here the first round because that's the part of the draw I care most about because of having not been playing.' He won't have to do too much research. Federer has a 3-1 record against the left-handed Melzer, winning three times in 2010 but losing their last head-to-head in straight sets on clay in Monte Carlo in 2011. Czech veteran Radek Stepanek, seeded top in the qualifying tournament, had a 6-2, 6-4 win over John-Patrick Smith to reach the Australian Open main draw for the 14th time. He has a 14-13 win-loss record to date, never advancing beyond the third round. His best run at a major was reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2006. Among the other qualifiers was Alexander Bublik, who recovered from a break down in the third set to beat deaf South Korean teenager Lee Duck-hee 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Bublik will play No. 16 Lucas Pouille in the first round. Two Americans were among the women's qualifiers, with Julia Boserup winning through to a first-round match against 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and Jennifer Brady advancing to her debut in the main draw at a major, where she'll play Johanna Larsson. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Packers confident facing Cowboys without injured Nelson

The Associated Press br /> The Green Bay Packers were better prepared to play without Jordy Nelson after the star receiver was ruled out of the NFL divisional playoff against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. br /> Nelson had an NFL-high 14 touchdown catches in the regular season as quarterback Aaron Rodgers' top target in the Packers' prolific passing attack. But he suffered broken ribs in a tackle as the Packers beat the New York Giants 38-13 in the wild-card round last weekend, and still wasn't right on Friday. br /> The offense struggled to hit big plays in 2015 while Nelson was sidelined for the entire season with a knee injury, but Green Bay proved last week that it can win without him, scoring all their points after he left. br /> With Rodgers, the league's best quarterback over the past two months, connecting regularly even on desperation passes, the Packers have won seven straight games. br /> And in Nelson's absence, Rodgers still has Randall Cobb, who caught three touchdown passes against the Giants, Davante Adams emerging as a playmaker, and Jared Cook as an athletic target at tight end. The Packers should do their share of scoring against a Dallas defense that ranked 26th against the pass. br /> Then again, sensational Cowboys rookies Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott, operating behind the best offensive line in the NFL and complemented by Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, also should supply points. br /> Elliott and Precott are the third rookie running back-quarterback starting tandem in the playoffs in the Super Bowl era. Of note, the other two pairs lost their playoff debuts. br /> The Cowboys and Packers share an NFL postseason history that dates back five decades. Dallas holds a 4-3 edge, but since they beat the Packers three years in a row in the 1990s, they haven't been back to the NFC Championship game in 21 years. br /> All four home teams this weekend are tipped to win, especially the New England Patriots, who are 15 1/2-point favorites over the visiting Houston Texans, just the sixth time in 50 years that a team has been favored by at least 15 points in a playoff game. br /> New England has won its past four meetings with Houston at Gillette Stadium by a combined 150-49, but the Patriots say they aren't taking anything for granted against the NFL's top-ranked defense. But how does Houston, which lost 27-0 in September to a Patriots team without Tom Brady, go about beating a team that the odds-makers say is one of the most unbeatable in playoff history? br /> Running back LeGarrette Blount has taken a lot of pressure off Brady's arm this season, rushing for a New England single-season record 18 touchdowns and career-high 1,161 yards. And the defense has been creating turnovers at a high rate during their ongoing seven-game win streak. br /> That walking boot being worn by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after Pittsburgh's win against Miami last weekend is very worrisome to the Steelers. But Roethlisberger tends to always show up in the playoffs, and he's expected to perform against the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday. br /> The Steelers eased past the Chiefs 43-14 on Oct. 2, but that was in Pittsburgh. Kansas City is better now than it was back then, although so are the Steelers. br /> If the Chiefs can get pressure on Big Ben and somewhat control Antonio Brown, the league's most dangerous receiver (and non-quarterback), and running back Le'Veon Bell, it can use its relatively conservative offense to its advantage. But will coach Andy Reid turn the reins loose a bit when the Chiefs have the ball? br /> The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game in 23 years. br /> Then again, the Atlanta Falcons are the only team among the eight left who have not won a Super Bowl. br /> Facing the Seattle Seahawks at home on Saturday is one of those prove-it games for Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and wideout Julio Jones. Which opponent to better prove that your offense, and an improving defense, are capable of a long postseason run than against the big kid on the NFC block? br /> The Seahawks bring superior experience, coaching, and swagger. br /> Seattle is as accomplished as any NFC playoff team, and many of the key contributors to its recent success remain on the scene: Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin. And now that Thomas Rawls seems healthy, there's a running game to complement Wilson, Baldwin and tight end Jimmy Graham. br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Jaguars hire Marrone, bring back Coughlin, extend Caldwell

MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer br /> Jacksonville's coaching search landed someone from its past and present. The Jaguars can only hope the old-school combination leads to better results in the future. Owner Shad Khan hired Doug Marrone as head coach Monday and brought back Tom Coughlin to oversee football operations. Marrone replaces Gus Bradley, who was fired in late November after going 14-48 in three-plus seasons. The Jaguars (3-13) also gave general manager Dave Caldwell a two-year contract extension. So Marrone, Coughlin and Caldwell are now signed through 2019, giving the new regime a three-year window to, at the very least, make Jacksonville relevant in the AFC South. 'I have confidence that one day soon we'll look back on today's news as the moment that inspired and ultimately established the Jacksonville Jaguars as a football team that wins, week to week and season to season,' Khan said in a statement. 'The results will speak for themselves in time, but with Tom coming in to join Dave and Doug, there is no question the Jacksonville Jaguars are a stronger football team today.' Marrone and Caldwell will report to Coughlin, meaning Jacksonville's first coach is now in charge and will have final say in personnel decisions. Marrone is the fifth head coach in franchise history, following Coughlin (1995-2002), Jack Del Rio (2003-11), Mike Mularkey (2012) and Bradley (2013-16). 'I think Doug has earned the respect of the offensive players, and I'm excited for him to get this opportunity and the direction of this team,' quarterback Blake Bortles told AP in a text message. Coughlin, a winner of two Super Bowls in 12 seasons with the New York Giants, will serve as executive vice president of football operations. Coughlin, who led the Jaguars to four playoff appearances in his first five years, will have final say in the NFL draft and in free agency. Caldwell has been the primary decision maker in all personnel moves the last four years. 'I am honored to welcome Tom Coughlin back to Jacksonville, where winning was customary under his leadership,' Khan said. 'I know he expects the same in his return to head our football operations, and that's good news for us and Jaguars fans everywhere. The extension of Dave Caldwell's contract speaks to his excellent work thus far and the continued importance of complementing our talented and promising roster.' Khan, who hired Jed Hughes of Korn Ferry International to help with the search, also interviewed Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mike Smith, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin for the head coaching job. He ended up keeping Marrone, who served as Jacksonville's interim coach for the final two games. The Jaguars won one and blew a late lead in the season finale at Indianapolis. Players seemed to rally around him, but after the loss to the Colts, rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey said a 'complete flip will serve us good.' Marrone and Coughlin could provide that. They surely will bring a different vibe, a much more disciplined approach that will put more emphasis on winning games than Bradley did. 'I can see what they're doing,' veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis told AP. 'These are good moves for a young team, a team that needs to be held to a certain standard. Marrone's a good man. He's good for the culture. 'It's not like we're bringing in a brand new coach and he's going to wipe the face of the earth of everything we've built.' Marrone likely will keep offensive coordinator Nate Hackett, providing some stability for the inconsistent Bortles. The 2014 first-round draft pick has had three play callers in three seasons. Marrone has been Jacksonville's assistant head coach/offensive line coach since January 2015. He joined the team after two seasons as Buffalo's head coach. He guided the Bills to a 15-17 record before opting out of his contract because of uncertainty over potential organizational changes. The Bills went 9-7 in Marrone's second season in 2014, the franchise's only winning record since 2004. The 70-year-old Coughlin led the Jaguars to a 68-60 record in eight seasons. Coughlin resigned last January after a dozen years with the Giants, but made it clear he wanted to return to the NFL. He served as a senior adviser to the league's football operations department this season. 'He's got so much experience on myself or on any coach that we have in this building and he's a great individual, so I think you can always learn from people,' Caldwell said after Bradley was fired. 'There's always a place for knowledge.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Giants need to turn their attention to fixing the offense

TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer br /> EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (AP) — Hiring Ben McAdoo to replace Tom Coughlin as coach, spending a mint on the defense in free agency and picking up a couple of gems in the first two rounds of the NFL draft got the New York Giants back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Despite a one-sided wild-card loss to the Packers on Sunday, there is much optimism looking toward 2017. The team went from 6-10 the past two seasons to an 11-5 regular-season mark that included a pair of wins over the NFC top-seeded Dallas Cowboys. All general manager Jerry Reese has to do in the offseason is fix the offense this time around, with a lot less money to spend in free agency. The unit that was supposed to be the strength of the team failed to score 30 points in any game and wrapped up the year by scoring less than 20 in the final six games, including Sunday's 38-13 setback to the Packers. The running game was among the worst in the league and 36-year-old Eli Manning never had much time to throw. Odell Beckham Jr. was his big weapon — 101 catches, including 10 touchdowns — but there was little else outside of him and rookie Sterling Shepard, the second-round pick. 'We felt that we had the talent and the coaching in the scheme this year to have a better year than we had,' McAdoo said. 'We obviously fell short from an offensive prospective.' The offensive line might need the most attention. Left tackle Ereck Flowers, the No. 1 pick in 2015, has underperformed, and right guard John Jerry and right tackle Marshall Newhouse will be unrestricted free agents. A decision has to be made on the future of receiver Victor Cruz. He played after missing most of the last two seasons but was limited to 39 catches playing on the outside instead of his normal slot position, which was given to Shepard. 'Obviously you can't do everything in one year, or one draft, or one free agency period,' Reese said. 'We have things that we can build on. We want to continue to build on every position and upgrade where we can, and build as strong a football team as we can, moving forward.' Most of the players in the locker room felt the foundation was set for the future and a fifth Super Bowl title for the Giants. 'I'm by no means satisfied,' linebacker Devon Kennard said. 'I don't think anybody in this locker room is satisfied with how things ended. It's going to be motivation for us moving forward.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017