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5 questions ahead of the NBA s 2017 Christmas Day games

It's already December 25 in the Philippines, but that's still a few hours away in the United States, meaning we have to wait before holiday's best tradition will take place: the NBA's annual slate of Christmas Day games. This year's batch of games sees the 76ers head to MSG to play the Knicks, the Cavaliers go to the Bay to face the Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch, the Wizards tackle the Celtics in an Eastern Conference semis redux, the Rockets battle the Thunder, also a 2017 postseason rematch, and the Timberwolves face off versus the Lakers. While you're unwrapping gifts and munching on Noche Buena leftovers, here are five questions to ponder: 1. Will the injury bug play Grinch to this set of holiday games? The Golden State Warriors officially ruled out Stephen Curry from playing. The LA Lakers just announced that Lonzo Ball is sidelined. Chris Paul is a question mark, while fingers are crossed that Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis will be able to go long when they face off. Injury report for tomorrow's game vs. Cleveland: Shaun Livingston (sore right knee), Kevon Looney (gluteal strain) & Zaza Pachulia (left shoulder soreness) are probable. Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) is out. — Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) December 25, 2017 Hurt superstars are definitely the coal in an NBA fan's stocking, but let's hope that despite the absence of some of the bigger names, the games will still be able to provide plenty of entertainment. Bonus question: We may not get Curry vs. LeBron this Christmas, but how great of a consolation gift is Durant vs. LeBron? 2. Who will be the Christmas unicorn? Kristaps Porzingis is of course, the OG unicorn, having the tag bestowed upon him by Kevin Durant. The nickname refers to the mythical convergence of height, ball-handling, skill, and three-point shooting, all of which, Porzingis possesses. He's not alone though, as the 76ers' Joel Embiid has all of that in spades too, it's just that, seeing him on court has been more rare, due to an assortment of injuries that have held him back. Imagine, I suppose, if My Little Ponies could draw DNPs. When Porzingis' Knicks and and Embiid's 76ers collide, all eyes will be on the two, as they will inevitably go head-to-head against each other. As of writing, the Knicks are in the eighth seed in the East, while a 1-9 stretch in their last 10 games has the 76ers on the outside looking in at 10th place, three back of the Knicks. Therefore, it's not just pride at stake here; the East is wide open and every game will matter, as both squads harbor postseason dreams. Bonus question: Will 76ers rookie point guard Ben Simmons wind up stealing the show? 3. Who will triumph in the Wall vs. Irving point guard duel? After some strong starts to the season, the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards, the two squads most picked to be potential spoilers to the Cleveland Cavaliers' march to yet another Finals, are going through some rough patches. The Celtics of course, lost Gordon Hayward and started 0-2, but eventually righted the ship through tough defense, only to finish just 5-5 in their latest stretch (though they're still #1 in the conference). Meanwhile, injuries to John Wall and some of their role players have really prevented the Wizards from taking off. They're 18-15, and occupy the seventh spot in the East right now. If someone's going to take charge for either side in this Christmas duel, it'll be each side's respective point guards. Kyrie Irving has embraced being the man for the green and white, while John Wall is an established superstar in the Chocolate City. A Christmas day win for either team could be the foundation for a lengthy run of wins if they can maintain momentum. Bonus question: Who will be the better Morris twin - Boston's Marcus or Washington's Markieff? 4. Which nu-super team will do the most damage, the Rockets or the Thunder? The two most aggressive teams this offseason in revamping their roster to take on the defending champs were without a doubt, the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. H-Town added Chris Paul and a bevy of long-limbed, rangy defenders who can nail open three's, while OKC formed their version of a big three by trading for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The early returns have looked better for the Rox than the Thunder. Even with Paul sidelined, the team was able to shoot to the top of the West standings, and looked even better when CP3 was healthy alongside the Beard, James Harden. On the other hand, it's been an on-going adjustment for reigning MVP Russell Westbrook to integrate the two other established stars. Their defense has been on-point, but their offense is prone to long, fatal droughts. Chris Paul has been listed as doubtful for this one (among several other Houston players), so we may not get the full experience, but this Western Conference Playoffs rematch from last season should still be interesting, even if it's just in an offense versus defense kind of way. Bonus question: Better odds of happening in this game, Harden scores 50+ for a third straight game or Westbrook adds another triple-double to his season tally? 5. Can Kyle Kuzma carry the Lakers? One can make a pretty convincing argument that Kyle Kuzma should be the Rookie of the Year. Despite not being a lottery pick, Kuz has had a major impact on the court, his scoring prowess adding quite the punch to a Lakers team that needs some (okay, a lot). Originally, this question was going to involve Lonzo Ball too, but with the Lakers announcing that his shoulder will keep him out of this game and the rest of the week, this could be a rare opportunity for Kuzma to steal the LA spotlight. Doubly so if Brandon Ingram remains sidelined too. Sure, he'll likely need to contend with the Timberwolves placing super-stopper Jimmy Butler on him, but wouldn't that be a fun duel to watch? Bonus question: How bummed are you that we won't be having LaVar Ball Christmas shenanigans with Lonzo out? The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnDec 25th, 2017

Young Celtics look to stop James, Cavaliers

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com For a few days at least, much of the talk about this rematch of the 2017 Eastern Conference finals will focus on what might have been. In what could have offered some poetic closure to the Eastern Conference portion of this season, former Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving would be taking on his old team and, specifically, LeBron James, the superstar “big brother” whom he’d dissed by demanding a trade. Meanwhile, in a more perfect pulp-fiction world, Cleveland would be setting loose point guard Isaiah Thomas on the Boston Celtics, giving him a chance for payback to the team that dealt him away the instant it sniffed the chance to land Irving. Those plotlines are kaput; Irving’s season ended in March with left knee surgery, Thomas got dealt from Cleveland at the February trade deadline. The best we’ll get now are sideline shots of Irving in street clothes on Boston’s bench, reacting to the series’ ebbs and flows. Thomas might be limited to tweeting from afar. That leaves one clear, distinct narrative: The King of the East vs. perhaps the best collection of aspirants to his throne. James is trying to cap one of his most remarkable seasons by advancing to his eighth consecutive Finals, having led the Cavaliers to the past three after four with the Miami Heat. He has coaxed and carried these Cavs along a steep learning curve, finally getting them spiffed up by the end of their sweep of Toronto. “He’s been doing this for a long time,” Boston’s Marcus Smart said after the clincher over Philadelphia. “He’s, if not the greatest, one of the greatest to do it. What better way than to go up and compete against a guy that’s [going to have] statues and things like that.” The Celtics, by contrast, are a team trying to write fresh history. They’re ahead of schedule, too, given Irving’s absence and the loss of prize free agent Gordon Hayward way back on opening night to a gruesome leg injury, coincidentally, in Cleveland. Boston put out a talented Milwaukee Bucks club in the opening round, then dumped the Philadelphia 76ers -- another rising franchise in the East – in five games. And for those who think the West has the sexier conference clash, this one offers a pretty slick matchup: James against Boston coach Brad Stevens. Widely regarded as a master tactician, Stevens -- whose Celtics lost in five games to the Cavaliers in last year’s East finals -- gets another multi-game shot. In last year’s series, James averaged these numbers to beat: 29.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 2.2 spg and 1.2 bpg. 3 quick questions and answers 1. Who guards LeBron? This is the first question (or should be) of every preview of every playoff series every year of James’ career since he first started qualifying in 2006. Toronto used the length of OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam on James but neither of the Celtics’ young, long forwards -- Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum -- would be ideal for the duty, because Boston needs their scoring. Brown will take his turn but look for Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart in the crosshairs, counting on their physical force to bother Cleveland’s star. With undoubtedly lots of help and different looks, all the while sticking close to shooters like Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Kevin Love. Said center Aron Baynes late Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): “We know where the head of the snake is and we know what we have to focus on but he’s got a lot of great role players around him and some other guys that can really create as well. 2. Will Point Guard Showdown 1A be a letdown? So instead of Irving vs. Thomas, we’ll get Terry Rozier vs. George Hill. That’s not a bad backup plan, because Rozier has had a star-is-born postseason so far and Hill has been a huge help to the Cavs after missing 3.5 games in the first round. Hill has more experience and is a scrappy defender, but Rozier -- who averaged 16.7 points and shot 47.1 percent from three in the regular season vs. Cleveland -- has speed and energy that might swing this matchup in Boston’s favor. 3. Will Love love this matchup with Horford? Kevin Love doesn’t like playing center, but Cavs coach Tyronn Lue likes the effect that has on opposing defenses. Love has an inside-outside game that makes him a tough cover for both the big fives and for more agile power-forward types. The challenge in this round is how Love copes with Al Horford, who has comparable forward’s skills. It won’t be a traditional battle of bigs, for which Love will be grateful after tangling with Toronto’s jumbo Jonas Valanciunas. The number to know 18.5 -- The Cavs scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions in the conference semifinals against Toronto, 18.5 more than they scored in the first round against Indiana (103.0). The Indy series was too close for comfort; The Pacers actually outscored Cleveland by 40 points in the series and Cavs not named James registered an effective field goal percentage of just 47 percent (the league average is 52 percent). But things were much different against the No. 1 seed, with Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith combining to shoot 24-for-38 (63 percent) from 3-point range and Kevin Love recovering from a funk to average 25 points on 54 percent shooting over the final three games. The Cavs' defense remains a question, but they always have the ability to score points in bunches. The Celtics had the No. 1 defense in the regular season and the regular season series was on the ugly side (the teams combined to score just 100 points per 100 possessions), but Boston will have to pick its poison with James surrounded by shooters that have started to shoot well. -- John Schuhmann Making the pick The Cavaliers won two of the three meetings between these teams in the regular season, with their more impressive victory coming mere days after the Cleveland roster makeover at the trade deadline. The Cavs were plus-11 in the season series, James averaged 24.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 8.3 apg, Boston shot 30-of-106 from three and ... aw, who are we kidding? Regular season results matter little now. James is determined to win his 24th consecutive Eastern Conference series to reach his eighth straight Finals. He was a maestro vs. the Raptors in drawing out his teammates’ games. The Celtics, allowing for their injuries, already have overachieved. That ends here. Cavaliers in 6......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2018

Surging, spry Sixers aim to shut down hard-working Heat

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com This is The Bonus Series, a matchup of two Eastern Conference teams whose success stories for 2017-18 largely have been already written. The Philadelphia 76ers, fully hatched from their "Process" days, have shown themselves to be a contender of the future based on the talent and potential of young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and coach Brett Brown’s chemistry with the group. Finishing with the No. 3 seed in the East and reeling off 16 consecutive victories to end the regular season qualified as overachieving, and even a loss in the first round wouldn’t steal much luster from the promising crew. Similarly, Miami again worked hard to boost itself to the No. 6 spot in the East. And the Heat did so with a whole greater than the sum of its parts. They don't have eye-popping talent, but thrive on cohesiveness, effort and the work of coach Erik Spoelstra exploiting the right matchups and flaws in opponents. The Heat aren’t so much feared as they are respected as a foe unlikely to beat itself. The teams split their four meetings in the regular season and -- with Embiid (orbital fracture) unlikely to be available any time soon -- there’s little reason to think Philadelphia’s higher seed would qualify as much of an upper hand. This could be a gritty, grimy series that shows the strengths of both teams. 3 quick questions and answers 1. Who guards Ben Simmons? The favorite to be named Kia Rookie of the Year, Simmons is a matchup nightmare. He is a 6-foot-10 point guard who probably will draw one of Miami’s frontcourt players like James Johnson as a primary defender, rather than stick any of the Heat guards in that size disadvantage. Simmons has triple-double potential, limited only by a shooting range that keeps him inside the arc. 2. Which attack is more balanced? Led by Wayne Ellington -- who sank more 3-point shots this season than any reserve in NBA history -- Miami had five shooters who each hit at least 100 from downtown. The Heat also have nine players who averaged in double digits this season and eight who led the team in scoring at least once. Then there is Philadelphia, which was the only team in the NBA this season to boast five players who scored at least 1,000 points. 3. Will we get to see the matchup that oozes personality and one-upsmanship, namely, Joel Embiid vs. Hassan Whiteside? This doesn’t depend solely on Embiid’s ability to play with a protective mask, something he figures to try at some point in the series. It also hinges on Whiteside earning time in Spoelstra’s rotation after a disappointing season -- Whiteside’s intensity waned too often, making Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo more satisfying options many nights. That said, it would be fun to see the 7-footers go at it, both in the paint and with verbal salvos before, after and between games. The number to know 113.1 -- The Sixers scored 113.1 points per 100 possessions over their 16-game winning streak to close the season. That was the second best mark in the league over the last four weeks. The Sixers were a good defensive team all season, but it was on offense where they saw the most improvement. Some of that was schedule-aided, but they were the only team that ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency after the All-Star break. They were without Embiid for the final nine games of the streak (including the game in which he was injured), played at the league's fastest pace over that stretch, and managed to cut down on turnovers. The Heat held them to just 101 points per 100 possessions in their four meetings, but the Sixers, who led the league in passes per possession and ranked second in player movement, have since become more difficult to defend. -- John Schuhmann Making the pick Truth be told, these Sixers are a little ahead of schedule -- the playoffs were a legit goal ... but the No. 3 seed? This roster and coaching staff will be learning on the postseason fly. Truth be told, this Miami team isn’t as good as the group that finished the second half of last season with a 30-11 mark. But the Heat’s success was ground out this time around, and that style should make this a fairly lengthy, exhausting series. Sixers in 6. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 13th, 2018

Notes to know: 2017 NBA Christmas Day games

NBA press release Here are some important stats and info about this year's batch of NBA Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) games PHILADELPHIA 76ERS @ NEW YORK KNICKS (1am, PHL time on NBA League Pass) All-Time Head-to-Head: PHI leads 244-201 Christmas Head-to-Head: PHI leads 6-5 Christmas Day Records: PHI – 16-13 (Last: 2001) | NYK – 22-29 (2016) • Philadelphia and New York are meeting for the first time this season. • The Knicks are playing in their NBA-high 52nd Christmas Day game, a history that dates to 1947, when the team defeated the Providence Steamrollers 89-75 during the first edition of the NBA on Christmas. New York’s 22 victories are tied for the most on Christmas with the Lakers. • Philadelphia is playing on Christmas for the first time since 2001 – an 88-82 loss to the Lakers in a rematch of the 2001 NBA Finals. • New York and Philadelphia are meeting on Christmas for the first time since 1978. • The matchup features three potential first-time All-Star selections in the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis. All three international standouts have unique skill sets relative to their size and position. • Both teams have a substantial international presence. Five of the 10 projected starters hail from outside the U.S.: Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Dario Saric (Croatia) and Ben Simmons (Australia), and New York’s Enes Kanter (Turkey) and Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia). Other countries represented on the two rosters are France, Spain and Canada.   • Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek played for the 76ers for two seasons (1992-94). He was part of the trade the sent Hall of Famer Charles Barkley from Philadelphia to Phoenix in 1992. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS @ GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (4am, PHL time on S+A and NBA Premium) All-Time Head-to-Head: GSW leads 57-52 Christmas Head-to-Head: Tied 1-1 Christmas Day Records: CLE – 7-6 (Last: 2016) | GSW – 11-15 (Last: 2016) • Cleveland and Golden State are meeting for the first time since the 2017 NBA Finals. • This is the third consecutive Christmas Day matchup between the teams. The last teams to meet three straight years on Christmas were the Lakers and Heat from 2004-06. • Last season’s Christmas matchup was a classic. Cleveland rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit and Kyrie Irving made a game-winning shot with 3.4 seconds left. • Last season, the Cavs and Warriors became the first teams to meet in three straight NBA Finals. • The rosters have combined for 55 All-Star selections and eight of the last nine MVP awards. • Cleveland’s Dwyane Wade is the NBA’s winningest player on Christmas Day (10-2). This year will be his 13th Christmas game, tied for the second-most appearances behind Kobe Bryant (16).   • Teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are tied for third in scoring (301 points) and assists (76) on the NBA’s all-time Christmas Day lists, making them the active leaders in both categories. Kobe Bryant (395) and Oscar Robertson (377) are the top two in scoring. Robertson (145) and Bryant (85) are the top two in assists. • Cleveland’s Isaiah Thomas could be back in time from his hip injury to play on Christmas. Last season, Thomas finished fifth in the MVP voting – just behind new teammate LeBron James and just ahead of his point guard counterpart in this game, Stephen Curry (health permitting). • Golden State forward Kevin Durant’s 44-point performance for Oklahoma City against Denver in 2010 is the highest-scoring game by an active player on Christmas Day. WASHINGTON WIZARDS @ BOSTON CELTICS (6:30am, PHL time on NBA League Pass) All-Time Head-to-Head: BOS leads 187-111 Christmas Head-to-Head: BOS leads 1-0 Christmas Day Records: WAS – 15-7 (Last: 2014) | BOS – 13-17 (Last: 2016) • This is the first meeting between the Celtics and Wizards since their dramatic playoff series in the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Boston won in seven games. • The Celtics have four new starters since last facing the Wizards – including 19-year-old Jayson Tatum and 21-year-old Jaylen Brown – and yet Boston has gotten off to the NBA’s best start. • The Celtics are playing a home game on Christmas Day for the first time in franchise history. Boston has played 30 previous games on Christmas – 28 on the road and two at neutral sites. • In the teams’ only Christmas Day matchup, Boston defeated the Baltimore Bullets 113-99 in 1965. In that game, Bill Russell grabbed 34 rebounds for the Celtics. • Twin brothers Marcus Morris of the Celtics and Markieff Morris of the Wizards square off for the first time with Marcus in a Celtics uniform. Marcus was traded from Detroit in the offseason. • Washington’s John Wall (2010) and Boston’s Kyrie Irving (2011) were the top overall picks in their respective NBA Drafts and have each appeared in four NBA All-Star Games. • Washington’s Bradley Beal is making a strong push to be a first-time All-Star selection. He recently scored a career-high 51 points in a game against Portland. HOUSTON ROCKETS @ OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (9am, PHL time on BTV) All-Time Head-to-Head: OKC leads 107-106 Christmas Head-to-Head: First meeting Christmas Day Records: HOU – 5-4 (Last: 2015) | OKC – 5-13 (Last: 2016) • Houston and Oklahoma City are meeting for the first time since the Rockets defeated the Thunder in five games in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. • Former teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden dueled for the MVP last season. Westbrook earned the honor and Harden finished second. Harden, however, was the only unanimous selection to the 2016-17 All-NBA First Team.   • James Harden leads the NBA in scoring and narrowly trails Russell Westbrook for the assists lead. The only player to lead in both categories for a season is Tiny Archibald in 1972-73. Last season, Harden ranked second in scoring behind Westbrook and was the league leader in assists.   • The center matchup features two top young international big men in Houston’s Clint Capela (Switzerland) and Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams (New Zealand).    • Carmelo Anthony is averaging 33.2 points in five Christmas Day games, the highest mark among all players who have appeared in four or more games on the holiday. • The Seattle SuperSonics went 0-11 on Christmas Day. Since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, the team is 5-2 on Christmas. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES @ L.A. LAKERS (11:30am, PHL time on NBA Premium) All-Time Head-to-Head: LAL leads 77-29 Christmas Head-to-Head: First meeting Christmas Day Records: MIN – 0-1 (Last: 2016) | LAL – 22-21 (Last: 2016) • Minnesota and Los Angeles are meeting for the first time this season. • This year marks the Lakers’ 19th consecutive appearance on Christmas Day. Los Angeles has appeared in the second-most Christmas Day game in history (43) and is tied with the Knicks for the most victories (22).   • The Lakers made their first 11 Christmas Day appearances (1949-1959) when the franchise was in Minneapolis. • Last year was Minnesota’s first game on Christmas Day. The Timberwolves lost to Oklahoma City 112-100. • Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins averaged 37.8 points in four games against the Lakers last season, including a career-high 47 points on Nov. 13, 2016, and 41 points on April 9, 2017. • The Timberwolves, fifth in the West midway through Week 8 of the season, are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. That season, they lost in the Western Conference Finals to a Lakers team that included current Lakers coach Luke Walton. • The Lakers are seeking to build around former No. 2 overall draft picks Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball in much the same way that the Timberwolves are bringing along former No. 1 overall draft picks and NBA Rookie of the Year winners Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2017

Blockbuster trade not what Kawhi, DeRozan hoped for

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Kawhi Leonard’s turbulent last days with the San Antonio Spurs ended Wednesday morning (late Wednesday, PHL time) with a trade that neither major party involved in the deal liked. The Spurs traded Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time All-Star, along with veteran guard Danny Green, to the Toronto Raptors for four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, second-year big man Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round Draft pick, which is protected from 1-20 next year. In doing so, San Antonio ended a relationship with the player that was poised to be the Spurs’ next lynchpin, but who had grown disenchanted with the franchise and wanted out. Leonard wanted to be traded to Los Angeles, closer to his hometown of Moreno Valley, Calif. He preferred the Lakers, and made that known in June, but was not averse to playing with the LA Clippers. However, the Spurs were adamant that they would not trade him to a Western Conference team, even though there was a strong likelihood that he would only stay with any team that traded for him until next year. That is when he would likely opt out of his contract, become a free agent and go to Los Angeles. Even though the 27-year-old Leonard told the Raptors in conversations between Toronto and his camp over the last week that he did not want to go there, the Raptors were willing to take the chance, anyway. DeRozan sought assurances from the Raptors that he wasn’t being moved in recent days. Both he and his representatives met with Raptors officials during NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, according to a source, at which time Toronto insisted that it wasn’t going to trade him. Now, DeRozan feels “lied to,” the source said, and, while having no personal grudges with the Spurs, is extremely upset at the deal. Meanwhile, @DeMar_DeRozan not backing off of claim he was lied to by Toronto regarding a potential trade, per source. Extremely upset. — David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 18, 2018 Leonard also is not happy at going to Toronto, for several reasons, including the higher taxation rate in Canada than in Texas, which has no state income tax. Leonard’s camp had informed the Spurs he didn’t want to go there, but the Spurs made no promises either way. San Antonio had had significant discussions with the Philadelphia 76ers -- a team Leonard would have given a fair shake at convincing him to stay had it been able to make a deal with San Antonio. But the 76ers were unwilling to include guard Markelle Fultz, the former first pick overall in the 2017 Draft, or forward Dario Saric in any package proposals for Leonard. Leonard only played in nine games last season, citing an injured quad muscle that did not respond to treatment. But privately, Leonard was unhappy with what he thought was bad advice from the Spurs’ medical staff, and sought advice from his own group of doctors, removing himself from San Antonio to continue treatments in New York as the regular season ended and playoffs began. The Spurs did not push Leonard during his rehab, and referred questions about his status during their first-round series with the Golden State Warriors to his camp. Leonard’s uncle has acted as his agent for the last couple of years. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich informed Leonard’s camp of the trade early Wednesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in what was deemed a “cordial” conversation, according to a source. However, given the trade, Leonard is now contemplating not taking part in next week’s USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas. A final decision has not yet been made. For his part, the 28-year-old DeRozan let his feelings be known in an Instagram post early Wednesday (Wednesday, PHL time), saying in part, “Ain’t no loyalty in this game” after being dealt from the only team he’s played for in nine NBA seasons, and for whom he has been nothing but a first-class ambassador. The Raptors took DeRozan with the ninth pick in the 2009 Draft, during which time DeRozan became the franchise’s leader in several categories, including games, points and minutes played. He grew as the franchise did, helping lead it to the most successful period in its history alongside his close friend and All-Star teammate, Kyle Lowry. The backcourt did ads together, took vacations together with family and led Toronto to franchise records for wins, reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2016. At every turn, DeRozan expressed happiness at playing for and living in Toronto, even as he had to make several cross-country trips last season to be with his ailing father in Los Angeles. DeRozan remade his game as part of the “culture reset” demanded by general manager Masai Ujiri after Toronto was beaten in the playoffs by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in 2017 -- a familiar outcome, as James and Cleveland beat the Raptors in three straight postseasons. DeRozan relied less on isolation sets than he had in years past, trying to move more without the ball and give it up so others could be more involved. Toronto won a franchise-best 59 regular season games last season and was the top seed in the Eastern Conference. However, Toronto suffered another playoff loss to Cleveland, this time a 4-0 sweep. It was especially galling considering the Cavaliers had been extended to a seventh game in their first-round series with Indiana, yet still managed to rally from a double-digit deficit to shock the Raptors in Game 1 in Toronto. The Cavs then cruised the rest of the way in the series. Ujiri fired coach Dwane Casey afterward, ultimately picking assistant coach Nick Nurse as Casey’s successor. But the reset of the team wasn’t complete. The Raptors believe strongly in their young core group of players, all of whom have been developed by Toronto the last few seasons -- guards Fred Van Vleet and Delon Wright, forward O.G. Anunoby and big man Pascal Siakham. Toronto initially opted to keep its existing vets around the kids, giving DeRozan a five-year, $138 million extension in 2016, then giving Lowry and forward Serge Ibaka extensions last summer – Lowry got a three-year, $100 million deal and Ibaka got a three-year, $65 million deal. However, after the latest playoff debacle, the Raptors let it be known around the Draft that none of their players were untouchable. If Toronto can get Leonard on board, the Raptors would have a potentially dynamic defensive group on the wings, with Leonard and Anunoby capable of guarding multiple positions. Ibaka isn’t the defender he was in Oklahoma City, where he was first team all-Defensive three years in a row, but he’s still a plus defender at his position. The 31-year-old Green is entering the final year of his contract. Long considered one of the best two-way guards in the game, Green was outstanding in the Spurs’ seven-game loss to the Heat in the 2013 Finals, making 27 3-pointers in the series en route to setting a Finals record. Poeltl, 22, was taken ninth overall by Toronto in the 2016 Draft. He worked his way quickly into the Raptors’ rotation, averaging 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds last season. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 19th, 2018

PFF President Nonong Araneta reveals exciting times ahead for Philippine football

Mariano “Nonong” Araneta is pumped up for Philippine football, and it's easy to see why. The Philippine Football Federation president has divulged exciting details of the federation's plans to develop the national training center in the San Lazaro Leisure Park in Carmona, Cavite. Plus the Azkals are also getting ready for a busy few months ahead. Araneta is keen on ramping up the federation's partnership with the Manila Jockey Club in SLLP, where the FIFA Artificial Turf Pitch is situated. Already a training ground for youth national teams and club sides, Araneta says that lighting towers will soon be installed that will permit nighttime play. “We are just waiting for AFC because the lights will be bidded out,” Explains Araneta. “Hopefully they will be installed by the end of the year.” The lights will feature an intensity of 900 lux, more than the accepted 800 lux minimum for televised matches. The lights will complement the hundreds of new seats that have already been put in place around the pitch. But that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the PFF has planned for Carmona. “We have spoken to Manila Jockey Club about transferring our headquarters there,” says Araneta. “We are ready to start the bidding and construction.” The PFF is planning to purchase a 3000 sqm parcel of land within the San Lazaro Leisure Park and build a complex with dormitories, classrooms for coaching and referee courses, and a gym. “The funds are ready, initially we will be getting US$1.5 Million from FIFA,” says Araneta, who says the federation will be selling their current building in Pasig to help fund the move. But Araneta says that another option is available, to buy a different 2000 sqm plot of land beside the artificial pitch that is separate from the 3000 sqm parcel. There a grandstand could be constructed, transforming the pitch into a stadium. The headquarters could then be situated under the seating while the other site houses the dorms, classrooms, and gym. More fields are also in the pipeline in the training center. Araneta says that two artificial turf mini-pitches measuring 40 by 20 meters will be made right beside the main pitch. These will also be lighted and can accommodate recreational play and festival competitions. Incredibly, there will be yet another pitch in the training center, a natural grass regulation field within the Manila Jockey Club's racetrack. “That is for our national teams so that if they are set to play on grass, they can train there,” explains Araneta. The middle of the racetrack already has a grass area where football is played. Manila Jockey Club and PFF have yet to decide if the new grass pitch will be a brand new one or if the current surface will be improved. “We want our activities to be there,” declares Araneta. “We have already had coaching seminars there. Schools can also use our facilities. The pitch is there to be used not to be seen,” he adds with a chuckle. Araneta is a former national team player himself and is also optimistic about the near future with the Azkals. The squad is facing two big tournaments in the coming months: the AFF Suzuki Cup in November and December and their maiden appearance in the AFC Asian Cup in January 2019. Araneta says the Azkals will travel to Bahrain during the September FIFA window to play a Bahraini club side, likely on Sept 7, before tangling with the Bahrain national team on September 11. There will also be a FIFA window in October, and Araneta says the Filipinos can enjoy at least one friendly at home. Araneta hopes that Rizal Memorial will still be available before it gets spruced up in preparation for the country's hosting of the 2019 SEA Games. “Our fans will get to watch our new team,” said the president with evident pride. Crunch time begins in November, with the Azkals in a five-team round-robin group with a new home-and-away format. The Philippines will host Singapore in Bacolod's Panaad Stadium on November 13 before playing either Brunei or Timor Leste away four days later. The two ASEAN minnows will square off in a two-legged qualifying series in September to to determine who makes the group stage. On November 21 the Azkals entertain Thailand in Panaad in what promises to be a mouthwatering contest, before closing their group stage against Indonesia, probably in Jakarta, on November 25. The semis will run from December 1 to 6, with the two-legged finals being held on the 11th and 15th. After a quick Christmas break the team jets off to the Middle East on December 26, where final preparations for the Asian Cup will commence in earnest. There are plans to play in Qatar against either a club team or their national side, and then perhaps a game in Kuwait before the team goes to the United Arab Emirates. The group schedule is as follows: January 7 against Korea Republic in Dubai, January 11 versus China in Abu Dhabi, then January 16 against Kyrgyzstan in Dubai. The top two will advance to the knockout round, but the Philippines can also sneak through as one of the better third-placers. But the senior national team isn't the only competition Pinoy football fans can focus on this year. The boys U15 national team were in action while the U16 girls play in an AFC competition. The U19 men also played in the AFF U19 Championship, where they beat Singapore 2-1. The senior ladies team also notched a win against the Lion City in their AFF tournament. Araneta says the very successful PFF Women's League from last year will be run again, and that the PFF also plans a youth league. Both will be partly funded by FIFA. Of course the Philippines Football League will continue, with a League and Cup phase. The realization of these plans will be one of the achievements of Araneta's presidency. Another will be his membership in the 33-person FIFA Council, which acts as a board of directors of the organization. Araneta was recently in Russia to watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup along with other council members. Araneta is one of six Asians in the FIFA Council, alongside members from China, Malaysia, Korea Republic, Bahrain, and Bangladesh. He is the first Filipino to serve in this level of leadership in FIFA. The Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo native freely explains the benefit the country can enjoy from this connection. According to Araneta “we have firsthand information on funding, and the Philippines is part of the body that will decide on what's best for football.” He says that in the next cycle of FIFA funding he might be able to acquire an additional US$ 2 million for the development of the training center. The PFF President also enjoys the inside track when it comes to acquiring development funds from the Asian Football Confederation, since he also serves as the Chairman of the AFC Finance Committee. “All budgets pass through us. We know the funding, the revenues. We know when to ask for projects. Like the lights in Carmona, that was approved by the AFC development committee,” continues Araneta. But being part of the FIFA Council is not all glitz and glamor, confesses Araneta. He mentioned a recent Council meeting in Bogota, Colombia, that necessitated an arduous 33-hour trip through Europe for a stay that lasted just two days. Sometimes deliberations in FIFA meetings can stretch for as long as six hours. Immediately after the Bogota confab he jetted off to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for another meeting. “It's no joke,” says Araneta, who is 64 years old. But the former striker and defender has no complaints and reveals his motivation to keep on going at the job. “I went to the Youth Football League. I visited the Allianz National Youth Futsal Invitational. You see the kids playing there, you see kids play everywhere. The enthusiasm of the players is what keeps me going.” - RELEASE.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 18th, 2018

All-Time NBA Draft: The best pick from every slot

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press There’s a definitive answer every year to the question of who is No. 1 in the NBA draft. But who is the No. 1 pick of all No. 1 draft picks ever? Or No. 1 among the list of No. 2 draft picks? Those are questions that have no definitive answer, except perhaps in a handful of rare cases. Here’s a look at The Best of The Best — the top all-time NBA picks in each of the top 30 draft spots. The best No. 1 overall pick, the best No. 2 overall pick ... and so on. One note: This doesn’t include the territorial selections that were used through 1965, which ruled out Wilt Chamberlain. The list of top picks in each of the 30 draft slots: 1. KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR Arguments for the best-ever overall pick could and should be made for LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, among others. When in doubt, give it to the man who has more points than anyone who ever played the game and who mastered perhaps the most difficult shot to guard in NBA history. 2. BILL RUSSELL You didn’t know Bill Russell was a No. 2 overall pick? Jerry West was too, and he’s The Logo for goodness sake, but the 11 rings make Russell the call here. Also, it’s time to lay off Portland. Sam Bowie wasn’t the biggest “oops” pick of all time. Si Green was picked before Russell in 1956. 3. MICHAEL JORDAN The easiest pick of them all. Except for Portland in 1984, when the Trail Blazers took Bowie No. 2 ahead of MJ. OK, now it’s really time to lay off Portland. 4. CHRIS PAUL Dikembe Mutombo, Chris Bosh and Russell Westbrook were all No. 4s as well, but Paul’s body of work over 13 seasons and counting can’t be overlooked. 5. DWYANE WADE Charles Barkley will think this pick is terrible. So will fellow No. 5s Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Scottie Pippen and Vince Carter. Wade’s scoring wins out. 6. LARRY BIRD Second-easiest pick of this process. Only Adrian Dantley comes close, and he absolutely doesn’t come close. 7. STEPHEN CURRY He will be the leader in 3-pointers, by a ton, when his career is over. Fellow No. 7s John Havlicek and Chris Mullin merit consideration, but why wait? 8. ROBERT PARISH As time goes on, people might forget how vital The Chief was to those Celtics teams of the 1980s. That shouldn’t happen. 9. DIRK NOWITZKI Jordan was the only true candidate at No. 3, Bird was the same at No. 6, and Nowitzki stands alone at No. 9 as well. 10. PAUL PIERCE Pierce and Nowitzki have haunted those who made the decisions at the top of the 1998 draft — where Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby and Raef LaFrentz went 1-2-3 — for 20 years and counting. 11. REGGIE MILLER Kiki VanDeWeghe was a No. 11 pick and so was Klay Thompson, but Miller is the deserving call here. His shot was art. 12. JULIUS ERVING Drafted in 1972 and didn’t come to the NBA until 1976, Doctor J ekes out the pick here over Chet Walker — a seven-time All-Star. 13. KOBE BRYANT This could easily have been Karl Malone. But Kobe has five rings and an Oscar. 14. CLYDE DREXLER The Glide was automatic for 20 points a night for basically his entire career. Apologies to Tim Hardaway. 15. STEVE NASH Someday, this spot might go to Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kawhi Leonard. But Steve Nash going this low in 1996 should remind everyone how good that draft was. 16. JOHN STOCKTON This is yet another reminder that Sam Bowie wasn’t the only mistake made in 1984. 17. DON NELSON This was a difficult group, and Shawn Kemp was probably the better player. Nellie gets the call on total body of NBA work. 18. JOE DUMARS There are some really good players at No. 18, including Calvin Murphy and the vastly underrated Ricky Pierce. Dumars’ role on the Bad Boys was invaluable. 19. TINY ARCHIBALD When looking at No. 19 picks, two things stand out: Rod Strickland should have been an All-Star, and that Tiny was better than many remember. 20. LARRY NANCE So consistent for so long, and now with his son in the league that means more people will get educated about Sr.’s game. 21. RAJON RONDO Michael Finley and Ricky Davis also went this far down in the draft. Rondo was an absolute steal in 2006 — except he wasn’t a steal for Phoenix, which drafted him and then traded him to Boston for cash. 22. REGGIE LEWIS Still sad. Still missed. 23. ALEX ENGLISH Tayshaun Prince was so good and World B. Free was as much fun as anyone, but English had about a 10-year run where he hardly ever missed a game and dropped about 25 every time he was out there. 24. ARVYDAS SABONIS Officially, the hardest of all 30 picks. Don’t just look at his NBA numbers. Look at his whole career. He did things no big man was doing 20 years ago. Terry Porter, Andrei Kirilenko, Kyle Lowry, Sam Cassell, Derek Fisher, Latrell Sprewell all went No. 24 as well ... good luck to whoever is No. 24 is this year. There’s a legacy to follow. 25. MARK PRICE Jeff Ruland was known as “McFilthy” and became a good college coach, Tony Allen was a true defensive star, but Price’s game is too solid to miss here. 26. VLADE DIVAC Now running the Sacramento Kings, Divac gets to pick No. 2 in this year’s draft. The guy he takes there would be well-served to learn from Vlade. 27. DENNIS RODMAN Before he became a political operative, Rodman was as good at rebounding and defense as anyone in the game. 28. TONY PARKER If he had grown up in the U.S. and played college basketball, there was no chance he would have gone this low in 2001. 29. DENNIS JOHNSON Hall of Famer, five-time All-Star and someone who was as good as there was in the NBA down the stretch of big games. 30. SPENCER HAYWOOD Another Hall of Famer, and every underclassman who gets drafted this year needs to thank Haywood. His suit vs. the NBA paved the way for them. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 20th, 2018

Dub Dynasty: Warriors sweep Cavs for second straight title

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — Golden State. Golden still. Stephen Curry scored 37 points, NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant added 20 and a triple-double and the Warriors stamped themselves a dynasty after winning their second straight title and third in four years Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), 108-85 over the Cleveland Cavaliers to complete a sweep and perhaps drive LeBron James from his home again to chase championships. Overcoming obstacles all season long, the Warriors were not going to be denied and won the fourth straight finals matchup against Cleveland with ease. "This is so hard to do and doing it three out of four years is incredible," guard Klay Thompson said. It was the first sweep in the NBA Finals since 2007, when James was dismissed by a powerful San Antonio team in his first one. His eighth straight appearance didn't go well either, and now there's uncertainty where the superstar will play next. James finished with 23 points and spent the final minutes on the bench, contemplating what went wrong and maybe his next move. Act IV between the Warriors and Cavs featured a drama-filled and controversial Game 1. But from there on, Durant, Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest of this California crew showed why they're the game's gold standard. And they may stay that way. "Can't get enough of this feeling so we're going to celebrate it together," Curry said. Not wanting to give the Cavs or their fans any hope despite the fact that no team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in the NBA playoffs, the Warriors built a nine-point halftime lead when Curry ignored a closeout by James and dropped a three-pointer. Then the league's best team tightened the screws on Cleveland in the third quarter, outscoring the Cavs 25-13 and prompting Golden State fans to begin those drawn-out "War-eee-orrss" chants that provide a perfect musical accompaniment to their three-point barrages. By the start of the fourth quarter, the only question was whether Curry would win his first NBA Finals MVP or if it would go to Durant for the second year in a row. And again, it was Durant, who added 12 rebounds and 10 assists — more satisfaction and validation for a player who couldn't beat the Warriors so he joined them. After surviving a rougher-than-usual regular season and beating top-seeded Houston in Game 7 on the road in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors withstood an overtime scare in Game 1 and joined an elite group of teams to win multiple championships in a four-year span. Only Bill Russell's Boston Celtics, the "Showtime" Lakers and the Los Angeles squad led by Kobe and Shaq, and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls have been as dominant in such a short period of time. The Dub Dynasty. The path to this title was more precarious than the first two for coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors, who overcame injuries, expectations, a built-to-dethrone-them Rockets team and the brilliance of James, who scored 51 points in the series opener and carried a Cavs team from the beginning of their rollercoaster season until the end. It may have been the final game in Cleveland for the 33-year-old, who is expected to opt out of his $35.6 million contract for 2019 next month and become a free agent. James was pulled from the game with 4:03 left, and he slapped hands with the Warriors before heading to the bench. He plopped down in a chair and draped a towel over his broad shoulders, looking like a boxer on a corner stool. James averaged 34 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10 assists in the series, but as has been the case in the past, he didn't have enough help. Another Summer of LeBron is officially underway and there are already teams stretching from Philadelphia to Los Angeles hoping to land the three-time champion, who may have to go elsewhere to put together a cast strong enough — and as James made clear this week, smart enough — to bring down the Warriors. Right now, the Warriors are on another tier and with Durant expected to re-sign with them in weeks and Curry, Thompson, Green and the rest still young and hungry, their reign could last much longer. Heading into the playoffs, the Warriors appeared vulnerable. There were lingering questions about Curry's sprained left knee that sidelined him for almost six weeks and kept him out of Golden State's first-round series against San Antonio. Kerr was forced to mix and match lineups, and it became obvious the Warriors weren't going to go 16-1 and storm their way to a title like they did in 2017, when their only postseason loss came in Game 4 after the Cavs made 24 three-pointers. Kerr used 27 different starting lineups during the regular season, which ended with a head-scratching 40-point loss to Utah. The Warriors began defense of their title as a No. 2 seed and their season was in serious jeopardy when they fell behind 3-2 to presumptive MVP James Harden and the Rockets. But Golden State, catching a break when Houston star guard Chris Paul was forced to sit with a hamstring injury, showed a champion's poise by winning two straight. That set up another reunion with James and the Cavs. Maybe the last. TIP-INS Warriors: Curry made a three-pointer in his record 90th consecutive postseason game and extended his mark for three's in road playoff games to 44. ... Green is the only visiting player to post a triple-double in the playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena, doing so in Game 6 of the 2015 finals. ... Became the ninth team to sweep a finals and first to win consecutive titles since James did it with Miami in 2012 and 2013. ... Golden State has won a road game in 19 straight playoff series, tying the Heat's NBA record. ... With his 43-point performance in Game 3, Durant joined Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal as the only players to score at least 25 points in their first 13 finals games. Cavaliers: Appeared in its 26th NBA Finals game, moving past Atlanta/St. Louis into 10th place all-time. ... James averaged 34 points in his 13th postseason, his second-highest total. BROWN OUT Longtime network broadcaster Hubie Brown injured his knee while sitting courtside preparing before the game. He was treated by a medical staff on site and taken to the hospital. The 84-year-old Brown was replaced on the radio broadcast by Jon Barry. Brown was working his 17th NBA Finals......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2018

LA Lakers prepare for busy offseason

NBA.com staff report It has to be tough to watch the Eastern Conference finals for the Los Angeles Lakers' brass. While they are mired in a rebuilding campaign that has lasted longer than anyone in the organization is comfortable with, their rivals in Boston are playing in a second straight Eastern Conference finals during what was supposed to be their rebuilding stretch under Brad Stevens. The Lakers and Celtics, the NBA's leaders in all-time titles won, measure themselves against each other, even when they're not on the same level on the court. That might be why the Lakers are making it clear ahead of next month's draft that no one on the roster is "untouchable" as Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka continue the heavy lifting in remaking the roster and trying to do in the rugged Western Conference what the Celtics have done in the East the past two seasons. It could make for an interesting time for some of the talented youngsters the Lakers already have in the fold. Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times explains: To be clear, the Lakers are not actively shopping any of their players. They are willing to listen to offers and could move one of them — even a member of the talented young cadre of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram or Josh Hart — if an offer blows them away. Publicly the Lakers have remained mum on the subject. When Magic Johnson, president of basketball operations, was asked during a news conference in April whether he would consider trading any of his young core this summer, Johnson declined to entertain the question. Since a regime change in the spring of 2017, the Lakers have worked to position themselves to have the option to be major players in the free-agency periods of this summer and 2019. Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka made clear they were planning to save salary cap space for two summers that will have talented free-agent classes. LeBron James and Paul George are expected to be free agents this summer, while next year's class could include Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Klay Thompson. Leonard might be available this summer if the Spurs choose to trade him. The All-Star forward played in only nine games this season while recovering from a right quad injury, leading to tension between him and the team. There are those around the league who believe the Lakers would be his preferred destination. In order to keep their salary cap flexible, the Lakers refused to offer any multiyear contracts to free agents last summer. They focused on one-year deals in free agency (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and acquiring expiring contracts in trades (Brook Lopez, Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 21st, 2018

Long-awaited matchup arrives for Rockets, Warriors

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com James Harden and the Rockets must get past the Warriors to reach their first Finals since 1995. Finally, it’s here. The series the NBA world has been waiting for from the moment Chris Paul requested a trade last summer that sent him to the Houston Rockets to join forces with James Harden has arrived. It's the Rockets vs. the four-time Western Conference and two-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors for West supremacy. The Rockets had a feeling they could see this journey through to this point, even when the teams met on opening night at Oracle Arena. Houston was built to beat the champs, and did it twice in their three regular season encounters. Rockets center Clint Capela voiced his opinions on the matchup after a January win, saying his team was superior to the champs. And he’s just as eager for this match up, in which the Rockets hold home-court advantage. “I’m real excited,” Capela said. “This [Warriors] team is going to be hard, it’s going to be a fight. There’s going to be a lot of adjustments after every game. It’s going to be a chess game. Of course, we’re going to be ready. They’ve been to The Finals three straight years. So we’re just excited. Everybody's excited about it. I’m sure all the NBA fans are excited about it, too.” The Warriors are fired up, too, and have heard all the chirping. “Now you’ve got to play the game,” All-Star forward Draymond Green said. “You wanted us, now you’ve got us.” The Warriors are attempting to conquer the West for a fourth straight season, but this will be their first West finals without home-court advantage. Doing it against a team specifically designed to take them down just adds to a battle wrought with connections. Harden, Paul, Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all won gold medals together, be it on the Olympic or World Cup of Basketball stage. Harden and Durant were teammates on the Oklahoma City Thunder team that lost The Finals in 2012. Paul’s LA Clippers squad in 2014 was the last West foe to knock the Warriors out of the playoffs before The Finals. And the Rockets were the team the Warriors beat in the 2015 West finals to jump-start their would-be dynasty. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni pioneered the style the Warriors have used to dominate the league while he was coaching in Phoenix, where Warriors coach Steve Kerr was the Suns GM. The three-pointers will fly from all directions. Both teams are capable of defending at a championship level. The personnel on both sides is ideally matched. Perhaps best of all, though, is that both teams are healthy and without any ready-made excuses overshadowing this showdown. It’s best on best, a test of collective wills between the “cream of the Western Conference crop,” as Curry declared after the Warriors and Rockets each won their West semifinal series just hours apart on May 8 (May 9, PHL time). The NBA world has been waiting on this heavyweight showdown. Now, it’s finally here. 3 quick questions and answers 1. Who flinches first, Kerr with his “Hamptons Five” lineup or D’Antoni with his Harden-Paul-Capela trio? Against every other team in the league, the Warriors’ small-ball unit of Durant, Thompson, Curry, Green and Andre Iguodala has a clear advantage. No one else has three shooters like Durant, Curry and Thompson playing alongside the versatile Green and Iguodala. The Rockets come close with Harden, Paul and Capela alongside defensive specialists and three-point marksmen Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker. It’ll be a fascinating study in styles watching them matchup against each other. But advantage Warriors ... until we see someone crack the code against the "Hamptons Five." 2. What’s more valuable -- Houston's home-court advantage or Golden State's experience? Home-court advantage is always preferred. The Warriors know that. It’s been good to them in each of the past three seasons grinding through the West playoffs to The Finals. But it’s not infallible (as the Cleveland Cavaliers taught us, rallying from a 3-1 Finals deficit to take Game 7 at Oracle Arena). Which is exactly why the Rockets need to have the threat level turned all the way up for Games 1 and 2. Lose either one of the first two games at Toyota Center and the Warriors will pounce in this series. 3. Who is the biggest wild card for each team? And, are they capable of swinging this series? It’s Eric Gordon for the Rockets and whichever big man (JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney or perhaps Jordan Bell) that Kerr taps for service for the Warriors. Gordon has to shoot more consistently than he has thus far in the playoffs (34.2 percent overall, 31.4 percent on three-pointers) if the Rockets hope to match the Warriors basket for basket. The Warriors have a big man for basically every season, it’s just a matter of which one will fare best against a much-improved Capela. He has outplayed two more heralded bigs (All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns and the Jazz's Rudy Gobert) in each of the Rockets’ series to date. Overall, though, there's too much star power in this series for any role player to swing the momentum for more than a few minutes. The number to know 100.7 --The two best offensive teams in the regular season have been the two best defensive teams in the playoffs, combining to allow just 100.7 points per 100 possessions on their way to the conference finals. In the first round, the Rockets and Warriors held the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs to 5.6 and 5.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than they scored in the regular season, respectively. And in the conference semifinals, they held the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans to 7.0 and 16.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than they scored in the first round, respectively. The Rockets' starting lineup has allowed just 92 points per 100 possessions in its 153 minutes, having forced more than 21 turnovers per 100 (the best mark among lineups that have played at least 75 minutes). The Warriors' "Hamptons Five" lineup, meanwhile, has allowed less than 87 points per 100 possessions in its 54 minutes, and the champs have allowed just 94 points per 100 possessions in 250 total minutes with Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala on the floor together. These teams aren't just here because of how potent their offenses are, and the team that advances to The Finals will be the one that continues to defend at a high level. -- John Schuhmann Making the pick The Rockets made it their mission to put together a group to avenge their 2015 and 2016 playoff failures, with the Warriors serving as their primary target. They’ve got home-court advantage, an inspired Paul and what appears to be all of the requisite parts needed to interrupt the Warriors’ dynasty plans. But do they have the nerve to snatch it all from Golden State, which took a measured approach to 2017-18 and has seemingly flipped the proverbial with another championship run on the line? Experience over ambition this time. Warriors in 6. 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 11th, 2018

Despite long odds, Toronto Raptors will continue to fight

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND – Losing the first game is a relative wake-up call, no big deal, a call to tweak and adjust. Losing the first two is urgent, something more troubling, a sense of one’s playoff life flashing before one’s eyes. Losing four? It’s oh-vah. Oh-four is 1, 2, 3, Cancun, “gone fishin’” and next season rolled into one. That leaves an 0-3 deficit, which mostly is sad. At 0-3, the story essentially has been written, a struggling team’s fate decided. In the NBA, there is no wiggle room whatsoever – 129 teams in league playoff history have fallen behind 0-3 in a best-of-seven, 129 teams have lost those series. Only three such teams even rallied enough to force a Game 7: the 1951 Rochester Royals against New York, the 1994 Denver Nuggets against Utah and the 2003 Portland Trailblazers against Dallas. And yet, nothing is official. The plug hasn’t been pulled, flatline or not. That was evident Sunday (Monday, PHL time) when someone asked Toronto’s Kyle Lowry one of those big-picture, assess-this-season questions. “Our season ain’t over yet,” the Raptors point guard said, instinctively pushing back. “Ask me that question when it’s over.” Narrator: It’s over. Most who stayed up late Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) consider Toronto’s series against the Cleveland Cavaliers to be over not only because they trail 0-3 but because of the way they got there. Specifically, LeBron James’ unlikely, drive-left, shoot-right, one-footed bank shot at the buzzer that won it, 105-103. It enthralled the sellout crowd at Quicken Loans Arena, but appalled the Raptors’ traveling party of three dozen or so. Folks who care probably have watched the final play multiple times. The Raptors officially haven’t watched it other than in real time. Coach Dwane Casey intentionally did not subject his players to a film session Sunday (Monday, PHL time). “We know what the issues are, what they were,” Casey said after the team’s light workout at the practice gym inside the Cavaliers’ arena. “From a team standpoint, 17 turnovers broke our back. Some of our schematic things we didn’t cover properly broke our back. The things that led up to the end of the game are what we need to clean up.” More precisely, it was the things that led up to the fourth quarter that cost Toronto. From that point, the Raptors were pretty good, outscoring the Cavaliers 38-26 while sinking seven of their 11 three-point shots. They got all the way back from a 14-point deficit in the quarter, tying at 103 only to have their hearts stomped on by James’ spectacular finish. Before that final quarter, though, Toronto was too reckless with the ball. It had missed 16 of its 22 from the arc. And one of its two All-Stars, wing DeMar DeRozan, had played his way to Casey’s bench, with 3-of-12 shooting, unimpressive defense, a mere eight points and a minus-23 rating. Casey’ explanation for not putting DeRozan back in the game was simple: The guys he was using were rolling. It was a snapshot of the bottom-line approach he and his staff will need again in Game 4 Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). DeRozan, naturally, doesn’t want anything like it to happen again. This LeBron/Cleveland stuff has been heavy enough: nine consecutive playoff defeats, three straight postseasons being put out by the Cavaliers and, personally, the onus in this man’s NBA of 2018 to be 0-for-16 from three-point range in the 13 playoff games since 2016. DeRozan didn’t run from the lousy stew of frustration, anger, resignation and embarrassment he felt while his brothers kept plugging. As Saturday turned into Sunday – an “extremely long night,” DeRozan said – the Raptors’ leading scorer in 2017-18 (23.0 ppg) ruminated pretty good. “It was rough. As a competitor, definitely rough,” he said. “But I think it’s something you carry over to today. Let it fuel you. ... I’ve had lots of [times] where I got down on myself. It’s all about how you respond. “There’s really nothing much you can do, honestly, but watch the time go by. Wait for when the time comes to be able to get this feeling off you. And in order to get that feeling off you is to go back out there, help your teammates and get a win.” Lowry, asked how they would manage that, reduced his formula to one word. “Rumble,” he said. “No matter what, you rumble. Rumble, young man, rumble.” Toronto did play with overdue physical force in Game 3 and will make that a priority again. Rookie OG Anunoby’s individual defense on James has been solid, generally without overt double-teaming. Through the three games, though, the Raptors have committed 18 more fouls and 20 more turnovers, too many mistakes when losing Game 1 in overtime and Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) by that single bucket. Whenever it gets here for the Raptors, the summer is going to be longer than they’d hoped. So, going out strong does matter. “You choose to continue to fight,” Casey said of his players. The Toronto coach recalled his days as an assistant in Seattle, when the SuperSonics fell behind 0-3 against Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the 1996 Finals. Rather than fold, they won the next two games at home in the 2-3-2 format to force the series back to Chicago. Said Casey: “Guys just made up their minds, ‘We’re not giving in. We’re not quitting. We’ve got too much sweat equity.’ We won the regular season conference title. Guys put in the work to get where they are. We’ve got a group of young players who committed to getting better and did. “The easy thing to do is just to write us off and write ourselves off. But you choose to be a warrior. You choose to continue to fight.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Argentina s destiny tied to Messi

By Debora Rey, Associated Press BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Without Lionel Messi, would Argentina even be going to the World Cup? The team’s destiny is more closely tied to the Barcelona forward than ever before. There are plenty of doubts for coach Jorge Sampaoli ahead of the tournament in Russia. Defender Javier Mascherano is reaching the end of his career, while striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Lucas Biglia both experienced injury problems recently. Paulo Dybala is yet to deliver for his country despite all the promise on display at Juventus. Much of the squad also carries the burden of mass disappointment, following three successive losses in finals: the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America Centenario. Argentina secured its spot in Russia in the last round of South American qualifiers thanks to Messi’s hat trick against Ecuador. The deficiencies in the team were underscored in a 6-1 loss to Spain in a friendly in March. Here’s a closer look at the Argentina team: COACH The 58-year-old Sampaoli took over in June 2017 to replace Edgardo Bauza when Argentina was on the verge of missing a World Cup spot. Sampaoli was never a footballer and didn’t manage a first division club at home, developing his career in Peru and then Chile. His success at Universidad de Chile pushed him to the Chilean national team in 2012. At the 2014 World Cup, Sampaoli’s Chile reached the round of 16 but lost to host Brazil on penalties. But a year later, Chile won its first-ever title while hosting the Copa America. Sampaoli’s first experience in European football came with Sevilla in 2016, but he quickly left to carry Argentina to the World Cup in its last four games of the South American qualifiers. Drawing inspiration from Marcelo Bielsa, Sampaoli likes his teams to attack as a block to impose their superiority. But Argentina is still to implement his style after 10 matches. GOALKEEPERS Sergio Romero was set to be Argentina’s No. 1 in his third World Cup. But River Plate’s Franco Armani has become a competitor. Although Romero has World Cup experience, being David de Gea’s understudy at Manchester United hasn’t given him much playing time. Armani has not played for Argentina, but is now a people’s favorite at home. The team’s other options are Nahuel Guzman (Tigres, Mexico) and Wilfredo Caballero (Chelsea). DEFENDERS Manchester City center back Nicolas Otamendi is the only player assured of a spot in the backline, with a likely partner in Roma’s Federico Fazio. Marcos Rojo (Manchester United) and Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton) are still improving after being sidelined with knee injuries. Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla) and Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisboa) are ahead in the preferences to be on the right and left flanks, respectively, with Fabricio Bustos (Independiente) and Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax) behind. MIDFIELDERS Until the dismal loss to Spain, Sampaoli’s preferred option in the center was Lucas Biglia, but the AC Milan player will be racing to be fit for the World Cup after injuring his back. Biglia’s injury raises the stakes for veteran Javier Mascherano, who will go to his fourth World Cup at the age of 33. The lack of better options should present opportunities to Ever Banega (Sevilla) and Manuel Lanzini (West Ham). Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente) and Matias Kranevitter (Zenit) could also feature. FORWARDS Expect Messi and Angel Di Maria to make the team sheet. Aguero is expected to be center forward, but Sampaoli has to consider other options since the Manchester City forward injured his knee. Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain is an option, but he was wasteful in the three finals Argentina lost. Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi could make it to the squad due to the doubts over Aguero. Juventus’ Dybala has never recovered from saying it was hard for him to play with the best player in the world. Sampaoli now considers him as a natural replacement for Messi or a potential No. 9. GROUP GAMES Based in the Moscow region, Argentina opens its Group D campaign in the capital against Iceland on June 16. Then there’s a trip to Nizhny Novgorod to play Croatia on June 21, followed by a meeting with Nigeria in St. Petersburg on June 26......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 2018

Blazers overall good season ends on a disappointing note

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Another late-season surge, another first-round exit. The Portland Trail Blazers head into the offseason with plenty of questions, with speculation that big changes could be ahead. Minutes after the Blazers were swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the opening round, Blazers coach Terry Stotts was already addressing how Portland gets better going forward. Stotts said he has confidence that Portland President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey will keep the team pointed in the right direction. “It’s tough to evaluate after a playoff loss,” Stotts said. “We had a good regular season. We did a lot of positive things in the regular season, but ultimately you’re defined by the postseason. I think it’s still a little early right now to say what direction we’re going to go and what needs to be done moving forward, but one thing is that Neil is really good.” Portland made it to the playoffs for the fifth straight year after finishing the season 49-33 and winning the Northwest Division title for the seventh time in franchise history. The Blazers were boosted by a 13-game winning streak that started with a victory over the Golden State Warriors just before the All-Star break, and secured the third seed in the Western Conference. The team’s streak matched the franchise record. Damian Lillard drove the team’s success during that span. In March he averaged 27.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists. He also set a franchise record by making 64 straight free throws. He was named the West’s player of the week twice. But New Orleans was able to contain him in the playoffs. He averaged 18.5 points during the series, after scoring 26.9 per game during the regular season. “We had ups and downs early in the season, but we were really solid. We had a great group. We played together for the entire season. We stuck together for the entire season. You work so hard to give yourself the opportunity to play in the playoffs and it’s disappointing to lose it,” Lillard said. The Blazers have lost 10 straight playoff games. They were understandably stunned when the Pelicans took the first two games at the Moda Center. While they fought in Game 4, it was too late. New Orleans had the momentum. No sixth seed had ever swept a No. 3 in a best-of-seven series. But the cracks were already there, when the Blazers lost four of their last five to end the regular season. Perhaps that late-season surge had caught up with the team. “We had a very successful regular season, but kind of faltered down the stretch,” CJ McCollum said. “We lost games that we felt like that we should have won, but put ourselves in a position to have home court, but lost home court as well. Losing in the first round is never ideal and never something that you want to experience, but it is what happened and we have to learn from it.” Already there were rumors regarding Stotts’ future with the team, not to mention the status of several players. Olshey emphasized on Sunday that there would be no hasty decisions, especially in light of what the team accomplished during the regular season. “It’s our job to be measured and not overreact,” Olshey said. But like many of the players who faced reporters following exit interviews, Lillard was unsure of the solution. “I’m not sure. I’m not the guy making decisions,” he said. “It’s a great organization. I think everyone has done a great job. Coach Stotts has done a great job since Day 1. We’ve been in the playoffs five years straight.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 23rd, 2018

DE JESUS: Genius, disciplinarian, champion coach

This story was originally published on May 7, 2017 De La Salle University head coach Ramil De Jesus came inside the press room of the Big Dome for a post-game interview wearing the same smile he had in the past nine times the Lady Spikers closed the UAAP season as champions. The only difference in those championship interviews were the players that accompanied him to answer questions from reporters. From Iris Ortega-Patrona, Desiree Hernandez, Maureen Penetrante, the legendary Manilla Santos, the Big Three of Cha Cruz, Paneng Mercado and Jacq Alarca, to Michel Gumabao and beast-mode-don’t-care Aby Marano to Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Kim Dy and gem of a setter in Kim Fajaro – all of them stood beside a genius and architect of DLSU’s successful volleyball program. Victory after victory, De Jesus built his reputation as a one of the best women’s volleyball mentors in the country. Last Saturday, De Jesus added another feather to his cap when he steered the Taft-based squad to back-to-back titles in the 79th UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at the expense of archrival Ateneo de Manila. Two decades since his arrival to the school of a different shade of green after playing for Far Eastern University, delivered 10 titles and brought the Lady Spikers to the Finals 17 times.   De Jesus shared the secret of his success. “Siguro, sistema siguro then hard work. And then, well-disciplined ‘yung mga bata. Siguro, ‘yun ‘yung key,” he said. His success earned him the respect of his peers including three-time UAAP men’s volleyball champion Oliver Almadro of Ateneo, who was once one of his lieutenants, and players alike. DLSU embraced him as one of its own. “Natutuwa ako kasi kahit hindi ako alumnus doon niyakap nila ako bilang parang doon na din nag-graduate,” said De Jesus. “Hindi ko naman napapansin ang mga nanyayari sa akin sila lang ang nakakapansin, binigyan nga ako ng award. Happy, very happy (ako).” De Jesus is known to be a no nonsense coach. Strict, straightforward and a disciplinarian – traits he inherited from FEU men’s coach Kid Santos.                He doesn’t like fanfare and as much as possible keeps attention away from him. De Jesus carefully chooses his words but when he gives one, everybody listens. He means business all the time.   Brilliance of De Jesus 246-65. De Jesus knows how to win and his career win-loss record says it all. The main reason why DLSU trusted De Jesus to handle the team for that many years – a rare feat considering that a UAAP coach’s tenure is very volatile.   It was summer 20 years ago when former basketball Olympian and influential DLSU sport personality Ramoncito Campos brought in a young mentor in De Jesus to save the school’s volleyball program, which then had yet to win a title since joining the league in 1986.           He entered the UAAP volleyball scene during the time when powerhouse teams Far Eastern University and University of Sto. Tomas, then mentored by legendary coach August Sta. Maria, were the ones lording over here the competition. Of course the road to glory didn’t come easy but his first tour of duty gave DLSU a chance to feel what it was to be in the Final Four when the Lady Spikers finished fourth a year when after strings of forgettable seasons. Quenching the thirst to salvage some pride in the sport that will eventually be DLSU’s second most valued contest next to basketball, the Lady Spikers began to hunger for the crown – something the school never felt before since winning it all back in 1976 as a member of the NCAA.   De Jesus submitted his team to Spartan-like training and hammering discipline and slowly molded the Lady Spikers to a championship-caliber squad. In Season 61, DLSU challenged FEU for the crown but the Lady Tamaraws’ championship experience prevailed. The loss only fueled De Jesus’ desire to bring the Lady Spikers to the throne even more. With the core of ace hitter Ortega-Patrona, setter Valerie Bautista, Sally Macasaet, Sheryl Magallanes, Demelle Chua, Hollie Reyes and then sophomore Ivy Remulla, De Jesus steered DLSU on the right track for another shot at the crown. Midway in the season Bautista got pregnant. De Jesus, calm and composed, knew what to do. He converted open spiker Reyes into a setter and the gambit worked as DLSU once again punched a ticket to the Finals, this time against UST – a very hungry team looking to reclaim the title. A year removed from the throne, UST was ready for the kill. But the Espana-based squad went against a famished team – DLSU will not leave the sweltering University of the Philippines Human Kinetics Gym without the championship trophy. In front of a crowd - dwarf-sized compared to the multitude of fans that troop bigger venues of today – the Lady Spikers wrote history. DLSU slew a giant in a thrilling five-set game behind the stellar performance of Ortega-Patrona, who won that Season’s Most Valuable Player award – the first of many incredible volleybelles that will bag the highest individual honor under De Jesus’ tutelage.     It was an incredible feat but it won’t see a repeat in the next three years.              Grand Slam After their breakthrough title, the Lady Spikers had three straight bride’s maid finishes behind FEU. Heartbreaks brought by Ortega-Patrona’s falling out with De Jesus over a disciplinary issue in Season 63 and the unstoppable power of FEU's Monica Aleta, who won three straight MVP awards while towing the Lady Tams to a three-peat. Like a chess master, De Jesus learned from his mistakes before pulling off a feat that will cement his name as one of the greatest. With Hernandez, Penetrante and a young Santos as his main pieces, he steered the Lady Spikers to a rare three-peat. DLSU brought into heel FEU, UST and Adamson to complete a grand slam. A four-peat loomed for the celebrated Lady Spikers but fate played a cruel trick on them after UAAP suspended DLSU in Season 69 because the Green Archers' basketball squad fielded two ineligible players the previous year.       When the ban was lifted in Season 70, De Jesus and the Lady Spikers were again under the radar as title contenders together with the defending champion UST, FEU and Adamson. But team was forced to file a leave of absence from the school while the tournament was ongoing because Alarca saw action despite incomplete academic credentials to be eligible to play. All of the team’s won games where Alarca played where forfeited and the Lady Spikers ended up at seventh place. It was a painful setback but it also served as a rallying point for DLSU. With Santos playing her final year and the emergence of enigmatic but then rookie libero Mel Gohing in Season 71, the Lady Spikers denied the then graduating Rachel Anne Daquis and FEU back-to-back crowns. DLSU relinquished the throne to the Angeli Tabaquero and Aiza Maizo-led Tigresses the following year. The Lady Spikers avenged their loss the next season in a rematch with UST behind Alarca, Mercado, Cruz, Gumabao and Gohing in the start of De Jesus’ second three-peat.   DLSU-Ateneo rivalry Nobody really knows when UAAP volleyball picked up the tremendous following it has today. Maybe it needed something for people to get hooked into. A continuous rivalry, perhaps? For six straight years DLSU and Ateneo did just that. The storied rivalry between La Salle and Ateneo spilled from the basketball court to the taraflex mat of volleyball. De Jesus had in his bench the core of veterans Cruz, Gumabao and Marano back and freshmen Galang, Reyes and Demecillo when they met in the Season 74 Finals a young and promising Lady Eagles side – much like the Lady Spikers De Jesus inherited 14 seasons back. Led by Fille Cainglet, Dzi Gervacio and a fresh recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school Alyssa Valdez, Ateneo gave DLSU a tough challenge for two seasons but the Lady Spikers repelled them both times. Then came Lady Eagles Thai mentor Tai Bundit. For three years in a row, De Jesus’ system bested the rest of the field including that of then Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb. However, a coach who barely spoke English or Filipino provided him a challenge in Season 76. DLSU with an intact core led by Marano, swept its way straight to the Finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage. Ateneo crawled its way to the championship round through a series of do-or-die games. De Jesus is an old-school type of coach. His system is hinged on well-planned strategies and tactics. He was pitted against Bundit’s Thai-style of play anchored on a heartstrong mantra and a ‘happy, happy’ approach of the game. Bundit dances on the sideline, an animated fellow during the matches. De Jesus is stoic as always. When the two collided for the title for the first time, Bundit shocked De Jesus and DLSU when Ateneo beat them thrice in a four-game series that went the full distance. Bundit and the Valdez-led Lady Eagles did it again the following year, completing a season sweep at the expense of the Lady Spikers, who struggled to pose any form resistance in the Finals after Galang went down with a season-ending ACL tear in the semis. It was a devastating loss to say the least. But De Jesus, a general who fought many battles for the green and white, stuck with the weapon that brought him success – his ability to adjust. Outdueled by Bundit in their last six matches, De Jesus found a way to stop the rampaging Lady Eagles in their first meeting in Season 78. Ateneo equalized in the second round and even took the top spot after the elimination. The Lady Spikers and the Lady Eagles would eventually meet in the Finals for the fifth year in a row. De Jesus was ready for Ateneo. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of the Lady Eagles and used it to his advantage to win the series opener. The then graduating Valdez brought Ateneo back in Game 2 to tie the series, but DLSU completed its long-awaited revenge in the decider and gave Reyes, Demecillo and Galang a fitting sendoff gift.                  Road to back-to-back Losing five veterans including three of their key players heading into Season 79 gave De Jesus one of the toughest challenges he ever faced as a DLSU mentor.  Setter Kim Fajardo returned for her swan song together with fourth year playes Kim Dy, Dawn Macandili and Majoy Baron. Desiree Cheng also came back after a year of absence due to a knee injury, but De Jesus was still left to navigate with a relatively young crew.  “Sa laht nang nai-form kong team, ito yung medyo (up and down) yung performance,” he said. “Sobrang babaw ng bench, wala ka halos (mahugot) pagtingin mo, wala ka makuha.” DLSU struggled early and was on the losing end of two elims matches against Ateneo. “Ateneo nu’ng buong elimination NU lang ang halos tumalo. Sabi ko ano bang meron ang team na ito?” he said. “Pinilit lang naming habulin.” “Kasi alam ko nag-start kami medyo hilaw ang team namin. Early part ng first round natalo kami sa UP sabi ko pukpok pa tayo, habol pa,” De Jesus added. “Ang nakakatuwa sa mga bata, ang determinasyon na humabol nandoon.” When the De Jesus found himself leading the Lady Spikers to a sixth straight title series against Bundit and the Lady Eagles, he knew his squad was ready to defend their crown. And protect it they did in a series sweep capped by a dramatic five-set victory.    “Siguro buong eliminations, nire-review namin ang mga games, nakikita mo yung difference, ‘yung advantage at disadvantage ng team, so siguro doon kami nag-focus, kung saan kami medyo dehado. Concentrate kami sa training,” he said. “Ine-explain ko rin sa players kung ano yung dapat naming gawin, although mahirap. So, tanggapin na lang nila.” In a rare moment, when Ateneo’s Jho Maraguinot sent her attack long that signaled DLSU’s back-to-back championships, De Jesus let his hair down a little. He was jumping, dancing, celebrating the victory and even held his hands up, both his palms wide open as confetti dropped and the deafening roar of the crowd and banging of the drums echoed inside the arena. De Jesus won his tenth title. When the celebration subsided, De Jesus fashioned the same smile he wore in his past nine championships as he was led inside the pressroom of the Big Dome. Only this time around, Fajardo, Cheng and Dy were the ones who followed him from behind.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 20th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: Playoffs first-timer you re most eager to see?

NBA.com blogtable Which first-time playoff performer are you most eager to see? * * * David Aldridge: Why, Mr. Process, of course! How can you not be geeked to find out what Joel Embiid will do on the big stage? There's so much that he (and Ben Simmons) have to learn about playoff basketball, and there will no doubt be stumbles and fumbles along the way. But Embiid has Finals MVP talent; he's capable of dominating games at both ends of the floor and handling the media crush that comes in the postseason with charm and aplomb. He is, as Erik Spoelstra likes to say, built for this. Steve Aschburner: Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio, if only because there’s some justice for the feisty point guard in reaching the postseason a few days ahead of the team that discarded him (assuming Minnesota gets there Wednesday night). Rubio has improved as a shooter for the third consecutive year and has had a solid season overall for Utah, a team that potential Western Conference foes are smart to dread. The difference in Rubio’s production from Jeff Teague, the point guard who replaced him in Minnesota (at a considerable bump in pay), was slight, with Teague more stylistically suited to Tom Thibodeau’s Wolves but Rubio the better defender. Based on seeding, Rubio’s season is likely to last longer, too. Shaun Powell: Joel Embiid is the choice, if only because of everything he has gone through, injury-wise -- and continues to go through, given his eye socket injury. He's made for the spectacle because of his massive talent and robust personality, which should play favorably on the big stage. The NBA playoffs are better off with the league's young stars still around to get some shine, and the spotlight will love Embiid. And vice versa. John Schuhmann: Ben Simmons. I not only want to see how he performs, but also how opponents defend him. Will he be able to play with the pace that he wants to when defenses are more focused on getting back in transition? How will his inability to shoot from distance affect the defense when he doesn't have the ball? The Sixers have improved offensively as the season has gone on and they keep the ball and bodies moving, so it will be interesting to see what opposing defenses try to take away from them. Sekou Smith: The more I see from Ben Simmons, the more intrigued I am by his game. What will his limitations as a perimeter shooter mean for the walking triple-double? How will he adjust in a playoff atmosphere to defenses designed (and daring him) to beat them with outside shots? Is he capable of adjusting and remaining just as effective with the added pressure of the postseason? I apologize for answering a question with a couple questions of my own, but it's strange for there to be this must intrigue about a player we've studied so intently all season. That said, Simmons and Joel Embiid together make the Sixers a must-watch for as long as their maiden playoff voyage lasts......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 12th, 2018

Are the Sixers too young for playoff success?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The learning curve of the Philadelphia 76ers has taken on a new, more direct and simpler geometric shape. It’s now a straight line, pulled and yanked that way by an impatient team determined to take the expressway from now on. And so this is where The Process has led them, to the NBA playoffs, a place exclusively reserved for Big Boy Basketball, where we get to see if the Sixers will skip another floor in their rapid developmental rise or if youth is about to get served a lesson. Hey, if nothing else, it beats wiping away the stench of losing, which is what coach Brett Brown was doing this time the last few years before this club finally grew up and as we now see, blew up. "This year we exceeded 50 wins and when you do that, you get into NBA elite territory which is something different for us,” he said. “But what’s interesting is we want more. We have more room to grow and we want to do that now.” Yes, the Sixers, finally sprung free of the dark ages, have crashed the annual spring show and are doing so rather emphatically in addition to surprisingly. Surely you saw this coming this quickly, no? On Christmas Eve they were 14-18. Their sensational big man, Joel Embiid, was getting the kid glove treatment, rarely playing extended minutes or consecutive games because of his brittle injury history. Their top draft pick, Markelle Fultz, was out with a bad shoulder and a broken jumper. Obviously, they’d just emerged from their four years of Tankapalooza with the trepidation of a chick stumbling from the nest. And quite simply, four months ago they just weren’t good enough to be lumped with the lead pack. Yet. But since then, what the hell just happened? “This group has come together from a toughness standpoint, a spirit standpoint,” Brown said. To say the least. The Sixers are 50-game winners, with a strong Kia Rookie of the Year candidate in Ben Simmons and a top-10 talent in Embiid, whose orbital injury that cost him the final eight regular season games should be healed for the playoffs at some point. Everything has fallen into place to make Philly a basketball destination once again, and these Sixers find themselves in a unique situation heading into the weekend. That’s because the playoff landscape in the East is favorable for someone like Philly to pull a surprise or two. Can they last a round? Of course; they’ll be a favorite initially. How about reaching the Eastern Conference finals? That’s trickier, and it’ll come down to matchups, but stranger things have happened. And, the NBA Finals? Well. Consider that there’s no true beast taking up space in the East and sending shivers everywhere. All of the contenders are showing a scratch or two: Toronto brings a blah playoff history; some of LeBron James’ supporting cast in Cleveland is untested; the Celtics are without Kyrie Irving, not to mention Gordon Hayward. The Sixers are the wild card in the playoff picture. Their wart is their inexperience in these matters. And so: Are they too young to be taken seriously? “I understand why people might think that, but I think we’ll be fine,” said JJ Redick, the resident senior citizen at age 33. “I don’t expect any of us to play differently than we have lately. These young guys are all gamers.” The Sixers are uniquely built; their twin core of Simmons and Embiid has played a combined three NBA seasons. Redick is the only starter with playoff experience and is also the only player in the rotation who ever played a major role in the playoffs. The Sixers are cubs compared to most of the East, even those teams below them. Essentially, the veterans on the Sixers orbit around the youngsters, instead of vice versa. Brown regularly takes the temperature of his players and has yet to pause at the results he’s seeing. For the most part, this has worked out better than he and they expected. “At this stage you figure how you deliver a team to the playoffs, how do you arrive at the playoffs,” Brown said. “Well, you can check three boxes: Their health, their spirit and their form. And finally: Are they playing good basketball? They’re all very interconnected, they’re all closely intertwined. Those things rule my day when I watch film and see how hard and long we’re going to go in practice. These guys have embraced and improved in those areas. Our defense has been excellent and we’re regularly getting 30 assists as a team, another example of a team enjoying each other’s company.” This makes for an interesting postseason baptism. There’s hope in Philly that Simmons and Embiid and Robert Covington and Dario Saric won’t know the difference between March basketball and May basketball. “We’ll just come and play the same way we’ve been doing,” Simmons said. The other advantage for Philly is Simmons appears well beyond his years. His expression is stoic, no matter the game circumstances, and his poise has yet to shatter memorably and cost the Sixers when it counts. He’s giving 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists a night and had at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in 58 games, second only to Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He is the first rookie in NBA history to average eight assists on a 50-win team. It remains to be seen how a 56-percent free throw shooter will respond if he’s put in that situation with the game on the line. Otherwise, his court direction and ability to reach the rim should not suffer from springtime stage fright. “Ben sits behind a glass wall and watches everyone else on the other side,” Redick said. “There’s nothing that affects him. He plays with the same demeanor and purpose no matter what’s going on around him. He brings a calm presence, and the maturity he plays with is beyond his years. Impressive.” Brown said: “He’s the stone cold Rookie of the Year and to me it’s not even close.” Philly’s best player is Embiid, though, and he’ll play with a mask once he does return, perhaps sometime in the first round. If he doesn’t suffer any lasting effects from the facial injury (vision, lack of balance), he’ll be the premier big man on the floor in the East. This allows the Sixers to exploit their low-post advantage over the Celtics, Raptors and Cavs should Philly meet any of those contenders along the way. The Sixers are also working with a pair of bonuses in Fultz and Ersan Ilyasova, two players they didn’t anticipate being in the playoff mix just a few months ago. Fultz is finally free of his shoulder woes and his shooting is starting to come around, to the point where Brown says he’ll find a role for Fultz in the rotation. Basically, the Sixers feel safe enough to put him on the floor, something that would’ve been a reach before he was activated, when he showed a nasty mechanical hitch in a jumper that somehow went south on him. “We don’t feel we’re going to be caught off guard with him,” Brown said. Ilyasova was gift-wrapped to Philly by the Hawks at midseason and has since been a solid source of scoring (17 points in a two-point win over Cleveland last week) and deepened the Sixers’ bench, allowing Brown to use a variety of different lineups and strategies. In all, the manner in which the season has come together is paying off at the right time for Philly. “We didn’t have this level of maturity in November and December,” Redick said. “If you look at some of our losses early in the season I felt they were immature losses. We’re more focused, more together, developed a mental toughness. Sometimes in life and in this league you have to go through things and experience things to grasp how to do them. There’s no better learning tool than the actual experience. So blowing a lead or coming back from a large halftime deficit, you have to do those things to understand that you can do it. Having those lessons early in the season has prepared us to have a great run since Christmas; we have the second best record in the league since then. This is better than what I expected or even hoped for. It’s been a long sustained growth period.” What does it all mean? Well, even though they’re entering the playoffs with the force of a hurricane, this isn’t the NCAA tournament. This is best-of-seven basketball, which means a team must prove itself worthy of moving on, instead of hoping to get lucky or hot. In the case of Philly and others in the East, that means beating LeBron four times in a series, and that hasn’t happened since 2010. You could also make the case the Sixers are playing with house money at this point, no matter what happens; after enduring The Process and painful progress, this is a blessing, a reward. The Sixers aren’t seeing it that way, though, not after growing up in a hurry. They want to seize the opportunity now, and any playoff success will largely depend on how they handle this as first-timers. Your guess is as good as Brown’s. “You really don’t know what to expect,” Brown said. “There’s no body of work. I will give our guys the benefit of the doubt. The poise they have shown in the regular season, the poise they’ve shown in big games and key moments, gives me tremendous confidence that we will handle this stage with a greater level of poise than what I might have guessed in October, or what I might have guessed not so long ago if you asked me questions about how will rookies and young guys handle this very different part of the season.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

2018 MLB preview: AL Central

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

Duke, Kentucky again rely on freshmen in NCAA Tournament

By Joedy McCreary, Associated Press DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke and Kentucky are viewed as the masters of the one-and-done era, winning championships with extraordinarily young rosters. Both programs have a chance to do it again. After several potential one-and-done phenoms were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the opening weekend, the Blue Devils and Wildcats are the teams still playing that have rosters stacked with high-profile freshmen. Duke, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region, starts four freshmen — led by Wooden Award finalist Marvin Bagley III — while Kentucky, the South’s No. 5 seed, features Kevin Knox as its centerpiece. The Wildcats (26-10), arguably the biggest beneficiary of a run of upsets in the South, play ninth-seeded Kansas State on Thursday night in Atlanta. The following night, Duke (28-7) faces a rematch with 11th-seeded Syracuse in a Midwest semifinal in Omaha, Nebraska. Hall of Fame Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said his freshmen are “not afraid of the moment. It’s how much preparation do they have for the moment? “We’re trying to condense about four years into eight months,” he said. “I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. You just kind of live it.” Among the star freshmen who didn’t make it to the tournament’s second weekend were Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Oklahoma’s Trae Young, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr., Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Texas’ Mohamed Bamba. Young and Bamba have already declared for the NBA draft, and Ayton joined them Wednesday . Both the Blue Devils and Wildcats have previously had predominantly young teams cut down the nets at past Final Fours. Kentucky won a national title in 2012 behind top-two draft picks Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, while Duke’s most recent national title came in 2015 behind three one-and-done freshmen — Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones. This Duke team has looked capable of joining that squad, with four freshmen averaging double figures in their two NCAA Tournament games, led by Bagley’s 22.0 scoring average. Another of those freshmen, forward Wendell Carter Jr., believes the Blue Devils are “reaching our peak at the right time” and have “developed into a team that can crush another team, our opponent. “I try not to look ahead about this being my last year or anything,” Carter said. “I’m just living in the moment.” The Blue Devils have three players — Bagley, Carter and point guard Trevon Duval — in the top seven members of the 2017 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. The fourth freshman, Gary Trent Jr., was rated No. 17 by the service. The highest-rated members of Kentucky’s class are Hamidou Diallo, Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt — who are ranked 10th-12th by 247Sports — as well as Nick Richards, who’s No. 18. (Point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander arrived as a relatively unheralded recruit.) No other top-20 ranked players are still playing in the NCAA Tournament. “No one really cares what the (NBA) is telling you to do, you’ve just got to come out and do what you do best,” Knox said. “And that’s why (coach John Calipari) has sat down with each and every one of us and told us what we need to do for the team, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.” Calipari has said his group “needed to fail as a team” to figure out how to win. The Wildcats in January dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2014, then in February lost four in a row to NCAA Tournament team. But Kentucky enters the Sweet 16 on a five-game winning streak and are the highest remaining seed in the South. Of his group, Krzyzewski said he doubts “they have ever felt pressure.” It showed last weekend when the Blue Devils beat both Iona and Rhode Island by at least 20 points to cruise into their 26th Sweet 16. “It’s not just pressure being off, it’s confidence growing,” Krzyzewski said. “We know (as coaches), if we lose, that’s it. But they don’t look at, ‘That’s it.’ No, the reality is, that’s it, and that’s a different way of looking at it. “Dealing with reality is good. Being nervous about it is not good.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 21st, 2018

Ahead of biggest match in history, Thomas Dooley wants the Azkals to go back to ‘enjoying football’

In the coming week, the Philippine Azkals find themselves back on the pitch as they’re set to play twice, in an International Friendly match against Fiji on Thursday, March 22nd, in their final 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifier match against Tajikistan on Tuesday, March 27th, both at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila. While the match against Fiji is just a friendly and will serve as a tuneup, the match against Tajikistan is quite possibly the most important match in Philippine football history. A win next Tuesday sends the Azkals into the AFC Asian Cup tournament for the first time in history. And to make sure that they Azkals play at their best in both those games, head coach Thomas Dooley wants to see his boys having fun on the pitch. “The most important thing that I want to see is the players having fun, enjoying the game, enjoying football, because that’s the main focus that we had in this camp, we want to have a positive camp,” said Dooley during the pre-match press conference, Wednesday. After beginning the Group Stage of the qualifiers with back-to-back wins against Nepal and Tajikistan in early-mid 2017, the Azkals went on a three-month stretch that saw them draw all their succeeding Qualifiers matches, including a 0-0 draw in their second round go-around against Nepal. A win would have already sealed the Philippines’ spot in the AFC tournament. Now, ahead of their upcoming matches, Dooley says that he’s liking what he’s seeing from the team. “I can see that in the last couple of days, we only had two days, three and a half, but I can see that it’s a great atmosphere that we have, and just would see that in the game [Thursday] that they’re enjoying to be there, playing nice football, and the playing the way we would like to play against Tajikistan.” While having fun is an important aspect of the game, Dooley isn’t losing sight of the ultimate task, which is to get wins. “We want to win those games of course, we want to win any game, but if I have to make a choice between winning games tomorrow and Tajikistan, I would rather lose [on Thursday] and win against Tajikistan, but it’s not like that in life. You have to always prepare for every single game.” “Players have to take it serious, and the most important thing I want to see is the players enjoying to be back on the field, with a fresh mind and a fresh brain and fresh legs and bodies, and this is something I would like to see, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to see that.” Dooley added.   Catch the Azkals as they take on Fiji in an International Friendly Match on Thursday, March 22nd, LIVE on LIGA channel 86 and LIGA HD channel 183. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 21st, 2018

Philippine Azkals back with high spirits, high morale ahead of important matches

New year, fresh start. Heading into an important pair or matches, the Philippine Azkals have been refreshed and rejuvenated, according to team captain Phil Younghusband. Speaking at the pre-match press conference for their International Friendly match against Fiji on Thursday, March 22nd, Younghusband shared that there’s an overall upbeat feeling among the members of the men’s senior national football team. “I think definitely, being with the players three or four times now, spirits are high, everyone’s happy to be with each other.” The Azkals’ match against Fiji will serve as a tuneup for arguably the most important match in Philippine football history, their match against Tajikistan in the final matchday of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers on Tuesday, March 27th. A win over Tajikistan will ensure the Azkals’ entry into the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, a first in Philippine football. When the Azkals saw action in the Asian Cup Qualifiers in early November of 2017, ‘fresh’ wouldn’t be an accurate way to describe the players. The Azkal’s last three AFC Asian Cup Qualifier matches happened within a span of three months, and majority of the National Team callups also had club duties to attend to. Simply put, the players were quite tired. “I think coach mentioned earlier, I think this time around, compared to last year, we had a busier schedule last year and players were doing a lot of travelling, so when we were together, you could sense an air of tiredness,” Younghusband added. Now, the Azkals are coming into their next pair of matches coming off a four-month break and with a lighter schedule. Already, Younghusband sees a change in the atmosphere. “During this camp, everyone seems to have more energy, everyone seems to be laughing more, everyone seems to be smiling more, everyone seems to be more confident,” “I think going into the next two games, against Fiji and against Tajikistan, the players’ morale is very high, it’s good to see.” Younghusband added.   Catch the Azkals as they take on Fiji in an International Friendly Match on Thursday, March 22nd, LIVE on LIGA channel 86 and LIGA HD channel 183. Kickoff is at 7:30 PM......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 21st, 2018

New era, new challenges emerge for Warriors

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst "It’s the lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself. He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest." -- Muhammad Ali Ali defended his heavyweight championship 20 times, during two eras: when he was young and unstoppable, after beating Sonny Liston in Miami in 1964, and when he was old and vulnerable, after beating George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. He was the fastest heavyweight ever in the first era; he was smart and could take a punch in the second. A generation later, the Golden State Warriors are defending their NBA title for a second time, in three years. But they, too, are doing so in two eras. In 2014, no one had seen anything like what Golden State did on a basketball court, and how Stephen Curry’s and Klay Thompson’s shooting range changed the geometry of NBA defenses. They stretched to the breaking point trying to get out to Curry and Thompson. They couldn’t figure out how to handle the Warriors’ five-man switching defenses. They couldn’t stand up under Golden State’s withering pace. There is no need to hold a telethon yet for the Warriors, three years later. They are 49-14 today, with four All-Stars among their five starters, including Kia MVP candidate Kevin Durant, in the prime of his career, who wasn’t there when the Warriors first beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 Finals. They are still first in the league in Offensive Rating, first in True Shooting Percentage, first in Effective Field Goal Percentage. They still are unsolvable to most opponents. But maybe not all, not anymore. The margin of separation between Golden State and the rest of the league is still there, most of the time. But there are tiny signs of slippage. Tiny. You recall what Warriors assistant coach Bruce Frasier said in the preseason, when no one is injured and everyone thinks they’re going 82-0. “Teams are starting to figure us out a little bit,” he said then. “We’re talented, so that sometimes overrides strategy. But I feel like teams are figuring certain things out to do to counter what they’ve seen. Year one, it was really hard, because it was all new. The pieces have changed a little bit, but I feel like our challenge will be to see if we can layer on some of the offense, our fluid movement, and counters, and change things up, and execute better. Defense is always big, too, so I wouldn’t go into the complacent (problem). I think it’s going to be more execution, and how smart can we really be, and can we keep that energy up through this year?” In each of their previous three seasons, the Warriors led the league in margin of victory -- 10.1 points in 2014-15, 10.8 points in 2015-16 and 11.6 points last season. This year, though, they’ve fallen to third, behind the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors -- and their win margin is down to 8.5 points per game. Two years ago, the Warriors were fourth in the league in Defensive Rating (100.9). Last season, Golden State was second (101.1). This season, the Warriors are fifth, at 103.4. In 2014-15, they were 14th in the league in points allowed in the paint; this year, they’re 24th (to be fair, they were 23rd last year, when they won it all anyway). Are they bored? Tired? Aging? Is their bench inconsistency this year the result of vets saving themselves for the playoffs, or guys just getting old? And will it matter against anyone other than Houston? “Once you start getting a little older, it’s harder and harder,” guard Shaun Livingston said last week. “We definitely need the youth, we definitely need the health. We’ve got to be healthy. We’ve got to be healthy. Sometimes you see teams that maybe are over the hill -- they have the experience, but maybe not (the ability). It’s human nature. Obviously, I don’t think we’re there yet. We’ve got guys that are still in their prime. It’s mental now.” In the Jean-Pierre Coopman phase of their latest title defense (oh, how one misses spectacles like Ali fighting Coopman, the “Lion of Flanders” -- with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier on the call!), the Warriors came to Washington last week. There was no White House visit on the docket, only time with D.C. area kids and a trip to the African-American History Museum, with owner Joe Lacob and GM Bob Myers on the trip as well. They have been in the public eye for five years now, back to Mark Jackson’s last season as coach, when the Splash Brothers exploded into the national consciousness. That’s a long time for one NBA team to have all that light and heat on it. For a minute, the Warriors tried to convince themselves that there was a backlash building against them nationally, that people had grown tired of their 3-pointers and video game point totals. It was, of course, a ridiculous posit -- Golden State and its players are more popular than ever, the love for Curry such that he felt perfectly comfortable posting a photo of the glass table he accidentally smashed in his hotel room on Instagram, any criticism surely to be muted amid America’s love for the two-time MVP.   when you feel like you’re on the @pgatour so you gotta get some swings going in the hotel room 😂😂😂 #idiot A post shared by Wardell Curry (@stephencurry30) on Mar 1, 2018 at 1:33pm PST “There was a little guy who was probably eight years old, and he came up and introduced himself,” Steve Kerr said. “His name was Ryan, and I’m talking to him, and he goes ’oh, my God, there’s Quinn Cook!’ And he ran over to Quinn Cook. Not Steph, not me -- he loved Quinn Cook. That was cool.” Throughout the Warriors’ run, they’ve faced down different challengers in the Western Conference -- the first iteration of the Rockets with Harden, a hybrid inside-out attack where Houston unhappily and unsuccessfully tried to meld Harden and Dwight Howard in the post. The Durant/Russell Westbrook one-two combo in Oklahoma City. The Spurs, morphing from the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker-led team to the Kawhi Leonard-dominant one. The “Lob City” Clippers, followed by the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin halfcourt version. But this season’s Rockets, with Paul at the point, may be the most unique and dangerous threat to the Warriors. They are much more than a team that just rains 3-pointers on you -- though they most certainly do that, and do it historically well. They’re also an outstanding defensive team, with the additions of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute giving them a grit they haven’t had in past seasons to pair with the shot blocking and rim presence of Clint Capela. The numbers are stark: Houston is 32-1 this season when Paul, Harden and Capela all play, including two wins over the Warriors The Rockets have no obvious weakness. They have no fear of Golden State, either, having won two of the three meetings with the Warriors this season. It’s not just that they’re good, it’s how they’re good that makes them look like the greatest challenge yet to Golden State’s hegemony in the West. “I mean, yes, because they do it a different way, I guess,” Curry said last week. “They adopted the power of the three ball and try to use it as a main weapon, and obviously with James and CP together. Honestly, we know that they’re playing well. We’re chasing that number one seed and keeping tabs on how they’re playing and whatnot. But at the end of the day, we’ve got a lot of time left before we have to face them again. We know they’re serious. But so are we.” The Warriors have had to deal with great adversity during their run, to be sure. The biggest challenge came about this time last year, when a collision between teammates -- Zaza Pachulia and Durant, in D.C., ironically -- culminated in a Grade 2 MCL sprain and bone bruise for Durant, taking him out of the lineup at the worst possible part of the season. Golden State had just ripped off wins in 23 of its previous 27 games since a lamentable Christmas Day loss to the Cavs. Curry had started to figure out how to play with KD, and vice versa. They were in the middle of a brutal stretch of seven road games in eight overall, with the one brief return home to play the Celtics. When Durant went down, the initial fear was that he’d torn his ACL and would be out for the season. The Warriors’ locker room was funeral after the Wizards game. “Obviously, we were trying to figure out if he was like ’done-done’ for the year, or whether or not there was going to be a chance he’d return,” forward David West said. “We were, at the time he got hurt, we were just starting to figure out the sort of roles, everybody was getting comfortable with roles. We basically had to reset., change some of the functions we were doing. We lost a few games  trying to literaly just figure out and recalibrate and re-balance. That was one of those periods where we were just looking at each other, trying to start this thing -- we lost this huge, huge piece.” Yet the Warriors figured it out on the fly. And how they responded then provides a big clue to how they might respond to the challenge the Rockets present to them now. “It took us, I think we needed to get home before we were able to stablize,” Kerr said. “I want to say we lost three of the last four on the trip or something  (they did lose three of four, but one of the three losses was at Oracle in that one home game with the Celtics). We got home and righted the ship and got going. But sometimes (an injury is) a galvanizing force when a guy gets hurt, and you have to do certain things. Like, for us, when Kevin got hurt, we talked about it and we said we have to be the best defensive team in the league. We don’t have that luxury of throwing the ball to Kevin and saying ’get us 30 points tonight.'” During that stretch without Durant (March 2, 2017 to April 5, 2017), who returned just before the start of the playoffs, the Warriors led the league in the league in Defensive Rating (100.0, just head of San Antonio’s 100.2), first in opponent field goal percentage (.429), tied for second in opponent 3-point percentage (.316) and fourth in opponent points allowed per game (100.9). And once Durant returned for good, the Warriors again flexed. They tore through the West, winning all but one game en route to a third straight NBA Finals. And they took the Cavaliers apart in five games for their second title in three years. “You could see Draymond, Klay, Andre, Shaun, those guys, even Loon (Kevin Looney), were like, ’we didn’t have KD last year,’ ” West said. “For someone like myself, I just followed their lead. Klay got a little more aggressive. Draymond sort of settled everybody defensively. And we started winning.” That muscle memory will come in handy this year. Durant and Curry have missed time with injuries, and Golden State hasn’t figured out things at center just yet. (Would it shock me if rookie Jordan Bell played a big role there down the stretch? No, it would not.) But the Warriors still are smoking people in the second halves of games; per teamrankings.com, the Warriors lead the lead in third-quarter scoring margin at 5.3 points per game, more than double the margin of the second-place Denver Nuggets. Whether it’s adjustments or something else (“mainly, fiery halftime speeches, Knute Rockne style,” Kerr opines), they have again put a lot of opponents away with 12 minutes to spare. Since the All-Star break, they’re fourth in the league in opponent field goal percentage (.433) and Defensive Rating (100.3). “This year, obviously, knock on wood, we want to stay healthy,” Curry said. “We want to continue to push in the right direction. Every year’s different. That’s the fun part about this league. No matter how much success you’ve had and what your expectations are, it’s a different journey every year. We’re right in the middle of that right now. We have an amazing record, considering how we’ve played. I think we’d all say we haven’t lived up to our own expectations. That’s okay. We have an opportunity to build the right habits and the right momentum going into the playoffs this year and do it, all 15 guys.” Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 6th, 2018