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Aging like fine wine, James shines when it matters most

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND – The first 57 seconds came near the end of the third quarter, LeBron James finally heading over to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench after logging 35 minutes – 35:03, as long as we’re counting – of intense, frantic, backs-against-the-wall elimination basketball against the Boston Celtics in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. James took his seat with the idea of resting as much as he could, as quickly as he could. That’s about all he gets this time of year, when subbing James out of the game too often is like the Cavaliers loosening their grip on a balloon they’re blowing up but have yet to tie off. If the air went out of Cleveland’s balloon at Quicken Loans Arena, it was going to be out for months. Heck, given James’ possible departure in free agency this summer, the air might have been gone for good. “Obviously [if] I get a minute, couple minutes here per quarter, would be great. But it's not what our team is built on right now,” James said after yet another remarkable performance to keep the Cavs’ postseason alive. With what was left of the third on the game clock and how it played out, followed by the break between quarters, the Cavaliers’ star got about five minutes in real time to catch his breath. Then promptly subbed back in for the fourth. “Our team is built on me being out on the floor to be able to make plays, not only for myself but make plays for others,” James said. “It's just the way we've been playing, and we've been succeeding with it. “I was able to play 46 minutes today. I got my couple minutes, I guess.” He got another 57 seconds to be exact. They were less hurried, less nervous and absolutely earned, coming as they did at the very end. When James exited for good, his work was done. The Cavs had pushed this home-dominant series to its max, with Game 7 at Boston’s TD Garden Sunday (Monday, PHL time). James’ stats line was one of those gaudy/ordinary types he has spoiled his team and NBA fans with for so many years: 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He also had three steals and one blocked shot, racing back in the third quarter to deny Boston’s greyhound guard Terry Rozier after finishing a Cavs fast break an instant before. James went down as if shot early in the fourth, his team up 89-82; teammate Larry Nance fell into the future Hall of Famer’s right leg. But after a few tentative, anxious moments both for him and the folks in the arena, James was back to moving, pivoting and launching as if nothing had happened. “I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg,” said James, who seems to go through more histrionics and drama than the average player when he gets clobbered, without enduring the same level of injury. “I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I've seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one's leg standing straight up.” Not long after that, though, James was draining two bak-breaking three-pointers on consecutive trips, burning young Celtics forward Jayson Tatum both times from deep on the left wing. The second sent Boston scurrying into a timeout with 1:40 to go, and had James going a little primal along that far sideline, pounding his chest and hollering out. “The love of the game causes reactions like that,” James said. “Understanding the situation and understanding the moment that you're in. It was just a feeling that you can't explain unless you've been a part of it.” James has been a part of it plenty. This was the 22nd elimination game of his career, his eighth since returning to Cleveland in 2014. He is 13-9 overall and 6-2 in this Cavs 2.0 version. His production in these win-or-go-home games is unsurpassed in NBA history. James is averaging 34.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists, performing best when it matters most. That wasn’t always the case – James had some rough-shooting, high-turnover nights in elimination games early in his career. More recently, though, he’s everything you want but cannot get in a mutual fund: His past performances definitely are a guarantee of future results. “I’ve watched him play a lot of really great games, but that one’s right up there towards the top,” said Kyle Korver, Cleveland’s 37-year-old sniper. “It’s just so much heart. He wanted this game so bad. “I think he just craves those moments. He loves those moments. When the game is on the line, when the season is on the line, he’s just been rising up, and that’s what the great players do.” Iconic players like James and, before him, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are the ones who block whole NBA generations from achieving their dreams, hoarding Finals appearances and championship rings for them and theirs only. Celtics Brad Stevens, young as he is, has had to gameplan against James’ greatness and ability to dominate three times in playoff series now. “Does that ever come into our minds? Yeah, every time we watch,” Stevens said. “Every time you're standing out there. Every time you watch him on film. Best player in the game. Special night tonight and special night in Game 4 [44 points]. I can't say enough good things about him.” At least one of James’ own teammates didn’t always feel that way. “I've been in the league for some years and ran across him on the other side and really hated his guts,” said George Hill, the former Indiana Pacers guard who never beat James in postseason basketball before joining him via trade in February. “But to have him on our side, it kind of lets me take a deep breath of fresh air. It's just something that you really can't explain what he's doing night in, night out.” The view from the Cavaliers’ side isn’t just safer, it’s illuminating for George. “Yeah, I thought the best was when he always put us out,” the veteran said. “But to actually see it when he's on your team, I can't even put it into words. Sometimes I just think, ‘How did he make that shot?’ Or ‘How did he make that move?’ Or ‘When did he see that pass?’ Just making big plays and big shots. People always list him as not a shooter, but he's making big shots down the stretch. If it's three-pointers, layups, dunks, passes, he can do it all.” James wasn’t always so complete as a player. In some of his early forays into the playoffs, critics would pounce. Passing off a potential winning shot, for example, to less-decorated teammate Donyell Marshall. Getting ousted by a savvier, saltier Celtics crew in seven games in 2008 and in six two years later. A couple years after that, though, James would return the favor with his new crew in Miami. He dropped 45 points with 15 rebounds on Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the rest right on the hallowed parquet in Game 6, then backed it up with 31 in Game 7. Now he’s tormenting a whole new set of Celtics. “Like I said, I haven't always done it in my whole career, but I've never shied away from it,” James said. “That's either making a shot or making a play. I was taught the game the right way ever since I started playing.” So it’s talent to start, fundamentals ladled onto that and then time and experience to percolate, to ferment, to ripen James into what he is now: No one to be trifled with when there’s something to be won or to be staved off. Getting a little more introspective than usual, James talked about the maturation journey he has taken since arriving on the NBA scene still a teenager in 2003. “I've embraced a lot of situations as you grow up,” he said. “I mean, I love being a husband now. Did I embrace that at 18, 19? I don't think so. “As you get older, you just grow into more things. I didn't love wine until I was 30 years old, and now every other [social media] post is about wine, National Wine Day. So you learn and you grow and you know what's best for you as you get older. That's just all of us. I think that's what being a human being is. “At 18, I don't think I'm the same player that I am today at 33, and I shouldn't be. I'm just much more seasoned.” Fifteen seasons worth and counting, aging like all that wine. That’s the guy Boston will try to put out Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Arguably the GOAT, undeniably the BLOAT, as in Best LeBron of All Time.  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: abscbn abscbnMay 26th, 2018

Jordan s weight reaches farther than court in NC

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CHARLOTTE -- Unlike Mark Cuban and James Dolan, the host of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game was voted in 14 times to participate and played in 13. Quite different from Micky Arison and Glen Taylor, the team owner whose arena and city will be the center of All-Star 2019 averaged 20.2 points in those 13 All-Star appearances, was named MVP three times and posted the first triple-double in the game’s history (1997). And not at all like Steve Ballmer and Joe Lacob, the guy most often credited with making Charlotte All-Star worthy this weekend ignited the annual Slam Dunk Contest with his takeoff from the foul line in 1988. He also regularly irritated former NBA commissioner David Stern into a series of fines for golfing when he should have been sitting through mandatory Friday media sessions. With a level of celebrity as arguably the game’s greatest player ever, morphed now into an off-radar role as owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan remains as famous, as popular and as successful as any or all the active All-Star participants who’ll cavort at the Spectrum Center in the city’s Uptown business district. Ain’t no other NBA owner who can say that. “You think about all these wealthy, successful owners in our league,” said Hornets president Fred Whitfield, “no one knew who any of them were, really, until they bought their team. Everybody in the world knew who Michael Jordan was before he bought his team.” Jordan’s place in the All-Star galaxy in the coming days is reflective of his unique position among those who oversee the NBA’s 29 other franchises. His impact on the team, on its fans, on their city and on the state in returning to his native North Carolina -- he grew up in coastal Wilmington before attending college in Chapel Hill -- to anchor and lend stability to the Hornets will be on full display, even if he’s hard to spot this weekend. It’s all a reminder, too, of the old movie line from a remarkably blessed character, wondering “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” Most don’t dare to imagine playing in an All-Star Game, never mind hosting one as the owner of the local team. “No,” Jordan told some Charlotte reporters Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), coming forward for one of his few appearances of the week. “As a kid growing up here in North Carolina, the first thing [was] playing basketball. And then things evolved from there -- from the University of North Carolina to Chicago. Obviously you know the history from that. “[The] opportunity to represent North Carolina in an All-Star Game from a different seat is truly amazing. It tells the path that I have taken. It gives me great pleasure to give that back to the community. It’s been a long-traveled road.” The celebration of the league’s brightest stars, and the ubiquitous banners and signage devoted to it will make it even harder than usual to visibly spot signs of Jordan’s ownership of the Hornets. For a typical regular season game, you might spy a flag emblazoned with his well-known “Jumpman” logo. Occasionally he’ll watch part of the game, rarely all, from seats at the end of his team’s bench, though he’s as likely to retreat to his suite atop the arena’s lower bowl. An in-game, timeout scoreboard video meant to stoke the crowd includes shots of GM Mitch Kupchak (“Architect of Champions”) and coach James Borrego (“Elite Pedigree”) but ends right about the time you expect some dramatic silhouette of His Airness to appear. It’s as if Jordan is as protective of his brand in running the Hornets as he is in maintaining its exclusivity in the marketplace. Doesn’t matter, though. His fingerprints are all over the franchise, as a basketball team, as a business enterprise and as a member of the community. On court, Jordan trusts his team Jordan’s greatest notoriety as an owner in a basketball setting may have come in December, when he was courtside for a tense game against Detroit. Guard Jeremy Lamb drained a 22-foot jumper with 0.3 seconds left, sending reserves Malik Monk and Bismack Biyombo onto the floor in celebration of what would be a 108-107 home victory. Trouble was, that sliver of time on the clock. Too many men. The Hornets were whistled for a one-shot technical foul and Jordan impulsively smacked Monk lightly, twice, on the back of the head. Any other owner does that, the player’s agent might file a grievance with the players union. Jordan does it and, thanks to his in-the-trenches, in-the-fraternity credibility, it comes across as a goof. “A tap of endearment,” Jordan called it later in a statement. “It was like a big brother and little brother tap. No negative intent. Only love!" Said Monk: “Big, big, big brother. But it was nothing. He was just playing.” The arc of Jordan’s career and his reputation as a stone-cold competitor make it OK if he wants to vent -- or swipe -- when things don’t go the Hornets’ way. Doesn’t matter that Jordan, who will turn 56 on All-Star Sunday, is old enough to be any of his players' dad. He still carries himself like an athlete, and their frame of reference remains, “That’s Mike.” “I’ve seen kids come up through camps,” said Buzz Peterson, Charlotte’s assistant general manager under Kupchak. “You could say Julius Erving, you could say Larry Johnson, Karl Malone, whatever, and the kids’ eyes are like, ‘Who?’ But you say Michael Jordan, they’re gonna know. That’s the separation there.” Peterson is among Jordan’s closest friends -- he beat him out as North Carolina’s prep player of the year in 1981, won an NCAA title with him as a Tar Heels teammate and is described by those who know both as someone who can disagree with the boss while staying comfortably in the inner circle. For Borrego, Charlotte’s first-year coach, interviewing to run Jordan’s team could have been intimidating. “We’re all human beings -- there’s a presence that comes with ‘Michael Jordan’ when he’s around,” Borrego told NBA.com in January. “But it’s healthy. He comes with a competitive spirit that you feel. “Michael was straight with me from Day 1. When I interviewed, he said, ‘I’m going to give you space to do your job. Whatever you need, you come to me. I’ll give you the resources you need.’ He has not tried to interfere one time. I feel his full support. … We’re starting to speak each other’s language, which is pretty healthy for us now.” Jordan keeps the coach apprised of his interactions with players, Borrego said. Other coaches should have such a resource at the ready. Hornets guard and 2019 All-Star starter Kemba Walker probably has benefited most from Jordan’s counsel. They text frequently, a pinch-me arrangement to this day for Walker. “I grew up wearing Jordans, grew up wanting to be like Jordan,” Walker said recently. “So for me to get this opportunity to be on his team means the world to me. He’s the one who believed in me -- I had no idea where I was going to go on draft night and he traded up for me. I’ve always heard the story, he was the one who actually drafted me. So it’s unbelievable. “He’s such a good dude. He understands what it is to be good. His delivery is always good. Only in a positive way, honestly.” Said rookie wing Miles Bridges: “You think there’ll be a lot of pressure having MJ as an owner. I’d seen how he got on his teammates when he played. So I was nervous, thinking if I had a bad game, he’d go at me like, ‘What’re you doing?’ But after meeting him and bonding with him, I feel like he’s the coolest owner out there. I don’t feel any pressure, I feel like he wants the best for us.” Big man Frank Kaminsky typically sits at the end of the bench, which puts him cheek to cheek with Jordan when he’s courtside. “He’s talking about what he’s seeing out on the court. Talking to the refs,” Kaminsky said. “Things other players don’t necessarily see. He still thinks the game. “You see things on the court that he sees. One game, the roll, pocket-pass, skip to the corner was open. He was saying that. We made an adjustment in a timeout, but he saw it a couple plays before that. At the end of that game, we had a big play that was a roll, pocket-pass, into the corner that put the game away. It worked the way he’d seen it.” The Hornets’ struggles during Jordan’s tenure as owner wouldn’t suggest it -- the last time this organization won a playoff series (2002), Jordan still was a player -- but there is a prestige to playing for his team. It’s not unlike being welcomed onto the list of elite athletes who endorse Jordan Brand. “I’m one of the lucky ones who’s in both,” Kaminsky said. “You’re talking about the most iconic player in sports history -- I might be biased because I grew up in Chicago -- but when you have his approval, it means a lot. You have it in the back of your mind that he wants you here.” Head smack or no head smack. Jordan grows as owner, businessman Basketball is a zero-sum game and the NBA is full of stars, even if none shines quite as brightly as Jordan. But business has room for negotiation and compromise, and deals get struck daily that leave both sides happy. There, Jordan has been beyond clutch. Funnel down everything he’s accomplished -- six NBA championships, the league’s highest career scoring average (30.1), five MVP awards, six Finals MVP, 10 scoring titles, nine All-Defensive team nods -- and it invariably ends with clammy hands. The “wow” factor is real and the Hornets are extremely careful about leveraging it. “It gives our organization a certain cachet,” said Whitfield, another longtime friend who goes back more than 35 years with Jordan. “For him to be majority owner, for him to do it in his home state as a local hometown hero, and to be able to come back and not just lead the team and the rebranding from the Bobcats to the Hornets, but his commitment to the community in giving back, it’s something that’s so special.” That’s a lot to unpack. When Jordan initially signed on with the Hornets, he did so as head of its basketball operations in 2006, purchasing a small minority stake in the team. The team was bad, the business was worse and trending down. “Back in ’08-09, the economy was in the tank and I was mandated to ‘displace’ 42 of our executives here on the business side,” Whitfield said. “When Michael bought the team, we were losing $30 million a year.’ Brought back into the league in 2004 two years after the original Hornets (1988-2002) were moved to New Orleans by reviled owner George Shinn, the Charlotte expansion team was owned -- and nicknamed -- by Bob Johnson, a co-founder of the BET television network. The Bobcats excelled only at losing and were 122 games under .500 in their first five seasons. The front office was understaffed, Spectrum Center (then known as Time Warner Cable Arena) needed renovations almost from its inception and there was a real sense that, if a buyer with deep pockets and a commitment to the area weren’t found, the franchise could be moved. In March 2010, Jordan ponied up the cash to become majority owner. But it says something that the deal stands as one of the few, if ever, instances of an NBA franchise being sold at a discount. Johnson paid $300 million for the team; Jordan purchased it for $275 million. Forbes.com recently had Charlotte worth $1.25 billion -- which ranks 28th. And Jordan reportedly has one of the biggest stakes of all NBA owners, with his share estimated at upwards of 90 percent, possibly as high as 98 percent. That’s a lot of success in nine years, despite the basketball team’s mostly middling performance. “With MJ being with the team, you got instant credibility in the marketplace,” said Pete Guelli, the chief operating officer who started on the job about 10 months before Jordan took ownership. “There had been a lot of uncertainty previously, but with his brand and his resources and his commitment, that just dissipated immediately. It was much, much easier to walk in the door and tell people about our vision for this franchise.” Rebranding the team as “Hornets” gave the franchise an existential boost -- it suddenly had a history again, complete with records, archives and true alumni. The arena got a makeover and, per Guelli, is credited for events there that generate an alleged $1 billion in revenues for local businesses. “Fortunately, we’ve been profitable pretty much since [Jordan took over],” Whitfield said. “That’s huge, especially since we haven’t gotten where we want to be on the basketball side.” Closing a new kind of game now It’s hard to overstate Jordan’s added value, not so much as some corporate or financial whiz but as a presence who brought instant motivation and energy to the staff. He imported executives with whom he had developed relationships at Nike or in other ventures and, after taking early criticism for an uncertain level of involvement, has been more diligent in recent years. “I love seeing him sitting at the end of the bench encouraging his players when he attends a game” said Charles F. Bowman, Bank of America’s market president for Charlotte and North Carolina. “And as a business person what impresses me is that he has empowered his management team to focus not only on the court but also on building bridges with the community. “He had a vision for where he was taking the team and a clear plan to get there. He has hired good people, gives them latitude to make decisions and he expects them to perform. Michael is unique -- the best player ever who is determined to keep getting better year over year as an owner.” The NBA has gotten a taste of Jordan’s growth and transition at some pivotal times. This is the legendary voice of the players who, during rancorous negotiations in the 1998 lockout, countered Washington owner Abe Pollin’s gripes about losing money by telling Pollin to sell his team. By the lockout of 2011, Jordan had moved to the other side of the table. But several members of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee saw him not as an opponent or turncoat but as a role model: someone who had transformed himself from employee to employer at the game’s highest level. “The players understood, he had been in their shoes,” Whitfield said. “He’s not forgetting what it meant to be a player. He was in the process of learning what it meant to be an owner.” When the current collective bargaining agreement was negotiated with commissioner Adam Silver and union director Michele Roberts leading the talks, Jordan was an active, powerful voice. He is an influential member of the NBA’s labor relations and competition committees. One Charlotte insider spoke to Jordan’s clout with his fellow owners in getting this weekend’s showcase -- jeopardized by a political squabble in 2017 -- back onto the league’s short list. “There’s no All-Star Game here in Charlotte if it’s not for MJ,” the person said. Last summer in Las Vegas, Silver lauded Jordan for his ability to straddle the basketball and business worlds. “He brings unique credibility to the table when we're having discussions [with the players],” he said, “and even just among the owners, he's able to represent a player point of view… Michael can say, 'Well, look, this is how I looked at it when I was a player, and these are the kind of issues we need to address if we're going to convince players that something is in everyone's interest.’ ” Jordan’s powers of persuasion apparently have been even more impressive in Charlotte and North Carolina. The executives are careful about relying on him too often -- Jordan’s most precious commodity, now that his net worth is estimated to be upwards of $1.7 billion -- is his time. But when they need Mariano Rivera to walk in from the bullpen, he is lights out. “We’ve had corporate sponsors at a golf outing, and he’s been there, maybe stayed at one hole to tell off with everybody,” Whitfield said. Or they’ll invite certain corporate sponsors to one of a few games each season in which “Club 23” is up and running at the Spectrum Center, a private club built for such purposes. They get a chance to visit, talk with and pick Jordan’s brain on the Hornets and much more. “We’ve closed all those deals,” Whitfield said. Then there was the time a local CEO wanted to finalize a sizeable sponsorship deal with the team, and had his No. 2 invite Jordan over to their headquarters for the meetings. Whitfield told the tale: “This guy says, 'You have to come to our office. Our CEO is the man in our business.' But we’re like, 'Nah, typically, CEOs come and meet in Michael’s office or in ‘Club 23’ over here.' He said no, that wasn’t going to work for them. “So Pete Guelli said, 'Let’s make a deal: We’ll take your CEO and drop him off in Beijing. And we’ll drop off Michael in Beijing. Then we’ll see who more people gravitate to. Whoever gets the least people, he has to come to the other guy’s office.'” Point made. Point taken. Said Whitfield: “The guy says, ‘You know what, I got it. We’ll be over 10 o’clock Friday morning.’” A community he calls home The Michael Jordan who once seemed determined to float above cultural and political frays as the most prudent way to serve commerce has not held back in recent years from making his presence felt. He has been more philanthropist than activist and, let’s face it, in times of the most dire need, cash beats talk every time. Charity and investing in the community can be good for business, sure. Making that a priority after Guelli’s arrival and Jordan’s purchase helped the Hornets build bridges with fans and merchants that Shinn and the original franchise’s departure had torched. More than that, though, giving back for Jordan and his team at this point in his life was the right thing to do. And do, and do, and do. The list of charitable and civic efforts Jordan and the Hornets have undertaken is long, with few outside the region or state aware of most of it. Among the highlights: - Donating $2 million to relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Florence, particularly meaningful because of the damage it did in Jordan’s hometown of Wilmington. - Dedicated $7 million in partnership with Novant Health to fund two Michael Jordan Family Clinics, set to open in Charlotte in 2020. - Serving as Make-A-Wish’s Chief Wish Ambassador since 2008, while donating more than $5 million to the organization. His relationship with Make-A-Wish began more than 30 years ago. - Contributing $5 million as a founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. - Addressing the issue of police shootings and community policing in 2016 by donating $1 million each to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. After the hurricane in September devastated so many homes and businesses in and near Jordan’s roots, he wanted to do more than to stroke a fat check. In a meeting covered by The Associated Press, he met with Stephanie Parker and her family, including four young children, after they lost their apartment in two feet of flooding. A call from the director of the Cape Fear chapter of the Red Cross brought them together. The meeting took place at a Lowe’s home improvement store. “I look around the corner, and it’s Michael Jordan. ‘Oh my God!’" Parker said. “I look at my kids, ‘It’s Michael Jordan!’ I’m not going to lie, some tears came in my eyes, because the first thing that went through my mind was when I was younger, his last game when he was on the Chicago Bulls team, and that flashback just came right in my mind.” Afterward, Jordan was coaxed by the Charlotte Observer to talk about why that disaster resonated so deeply for him. “You gotta take care of home,” he said. “Wilmington truly is my home. Kept thinking about all those places I grew up going to … You don’t want to see any of that anywhere, but when it’s home, that’s tough to swallow.” There’s basketball, there’s business and then there’s real life, which sometimes intrudes in the most desperate ways. “We didn’t know how many people in our community were hungry,” Whitfield said. “There are people in dire need, and it’s special to have that hometown hero have in his heart that ‘This is where I can help.’ “It gives not only him as a person but our organization a platform to really speak out. That commitment is what has made him a special owner, and why he’s even more beloved in our community.” Winning title No. 7 drives Jordan now To date, Jordan’s greatest achievements have come elsewhere, at least since his baseline shot as a freshman propelled North Carolina to the 1982 NCAA championship. Those Bulls championships, the “Dream Team” magnificence, his partnership with that sneaker company in Beaverton, Ore., his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction, shooting “Space Jam,” all of it -- his legacy has been crafted with others, for others, mostly far from home. (For the record, Jordan, his wife Yvette and their two daughters own a mansion outside Charlotte and an estate in south Florida). “Look, this has always been home for him,” Whitfield said. “Even though he was drafted by Chicago, WGN became a very popular station. And he just continued to elevate, so people in this state were proud to say, even though he’s a Bull, we love him. When the Bulls would come here and play at the old Coliseum, these fans who were avid Hornets fans were all pulling for Michael Jordan. “He’d score, they’d cheer loudly. The Hornets would score, they’d cheer loudly. North Carolina always felt like he was their native son who went off and achieved greatness.” Coming back first to head the franchise’s basketball operations and then as owner, Jordan’s role -- in light of the modest results on the court -- has been custodial. Yes, the club’s improved financial stability is important. But for this driven winner and NBA owner unlike all others, custodial isn’t going to cut it for long. “He did an interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine a while back,” Peterson said, “and the question was asked, ‘What would you like to do?’ And he said, ‘Win a seventh championship. Win as an owner.’ So for me, every day, I’m thinking, here’s a close friend and you want to make your friends happy, right? So each day I think, do the best you can to reach this goal for him.” Said Hornets wing Nicolas Batum: “I understand. He wants to win. He wants to compete since he was born.” It hasn’t been for lack of trying, although Jordan has made sure to keep fiscal responsibility high on every agenda. The team’s payroll for 2018-19 is approximately $122.3 million, which ranks near the middle of the NBA pack. “That Michael Jordan is one cheap dude,” said an impassioned cab driver on a recent airport run. “He’s only going to spend so much and the players they get shows it.” The Hornets never have spent into the league’s luxury-tax, and if Walker is retained when he hits free agency this summer, he’ll likely become the first Charlotte player to sign a full maximum-salary contract (though the five-year, $120 million deal Batum landed in 2016 came awfully close). Injuries and dubious moves have taken a toll, a situation that Kupchak, Borrego and their staffs have been tasked with fixing. Jordan, by all accounts, is engaged yet patient, with a playoff berth and potentially a record above .500 within reach. “I’m sure he feels like,” Whitfield said, “if he were still 30 years old and could lace ‘em up and get out there, he’d help us get over the hump. I think he would cherish it as much or more than the first six. Because I think he realizes how hard it is to get it done. “But it doesn’t bother us if the fans see his frustration sitting next to our bench. It’s important to us that they see he’s not only invested, he’s vested in what our team is trying to do. They can relate to him because they’re feeling that same frustration.” Jordan is theirs again and that’s what matters. For basketball, for business, for community and in time, just maybe, in championship. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 16th, 2019

Roethlisberger throws for 5 TDs, Steelers rip Panthers 52-21

By Will Graves, Associated Press PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't playing like a team missing Le'Veon Bell. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 328 yards and five touchdowns, James Conner ran for 65 yards and a score before leaving late with a possible concussion and the Steelers pounded the Carolina Panthers 52-21 on Thursday night for their fifth straight victory. Antonio Brown added eight receptions for 96 yards — including a 53-yard touchdown in the second quarter — to cap an eventful day that began with the star wide receiver being cited for reckless driving after police clocked Brown's Porsche driving over 100 mph down a busy highway in the northern city suburbs. While Bell — a three-time Pro Bowl running back who still hasn't signed his one-year franchise tender — tweeted his thoughts as he watched on television, the Steelers (6-2-1) rolled on without him. Bell has until next Tuesday to sign a contract if he wants to play this season. His teammates have long since tired of talking about Bell's status and at this point, the AFC North leaders appear to be doing just fine on their own. Carolina not so much. The Panthers (6-3) saw their three-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt in a city where they've never won. Carolina fell to 0-4 all-time in Pittsburgh and was never really in it after the Steelers scored 21 points in the game's first 11 minutes. Cam Newton completed 23 of 29 for 193 yards and a pair of flips to Christian McCaffrey that the second-year running back turned into scores but Newton's showdown with Roethlisberger never materialized. The Steelers sacked Newton five times and rarely let him get comfortable. Newton didn't help matters when he threw off his back foot out of the Carolina end zone while trying to avoid getting sacked in the first quarter. Pittsburgh linebacker Vince Williams raced under the floater and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 14-7 lead they never came close to relinquishing. McCaffrey finished with 138 yards total offense (77 yards rushing, 61 yards receiving) and accounted for all three Panther scores but it wasn't nearly enough. Pittsburgh's 52 points matched the most ever surrendered by the Panthers in franchise history. Carolina allowed the same total in a 52-9 loss to Oakland on Dec. 24, 2000. The Steelers held the 36-year-old Roethlisberger out of practice during the short week in an effort to keep him fresh. Roethlisberger responded with one of the finest performances of his career, completing 22 of 25 passes while spreading the ball to nine different players on his way to a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. Roethlisberger's first pass turned into a 75-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster on Pittsburgh's first offensive snap and his last came on a 6-yard toss to rookie Jaylen Samuels on the first play of the fourth quarter. In between he did a little bit of everything. Roethlisberger even showed off his legs, scrambling for 18 yards in the third quarter on a play that ended with Carolina safety Eric Reid getting ejected for targeting after Reid appeared to dive at Roethlisberger's head as the quarterback attempted to slide. Reed, signed by Carolina in September six months after filing a grievance alleging collusion by the NFL to prevent teams from signing him because of his participation in racial injustice protests during the national anthem alongside former San Francisco 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick, went out to shake Roethlisberger's hand as a peace offering before making his way to the Carolina locker room. UP NEXT Panthers: Travel to Detroit on Nov. 18 to take on the Lions. Carolina is 6-2 all-time against Detroit. Steelers: Visit Jacksonville on Nov. 18. The Jaguars beat Pittsburgh twice on the road last season, including a 45-42 upset in the divisional round of the playoffs.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 9th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

LeBron s free agency decision could swing NBA s balance of power

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- These combo coronation-funerals can be tricky. Imagine the crowning of a new monarch where the royal subjects couldn’t stop chattering about the freshly deposed or deceased predecessor. Where the traditional cry of continuity and succession, “The king is dead! Long live the king!” got flipped, with what was overshadowing what is. That’s pretty much how it went Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena, with the Golden State Warriors’ latest NBA championship having to share the stage with speculation, instantly revved up, about LeBron James and the choice he’ll soon make about his next employer. The Warriors are the kings, claiming pro basketball’s throne yet again by completing a sweep of James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals. But of course, James is the King, and as so many of us learned in sophomore English – thanks, CliffsNotes! – “Uneasy lies the head (of those who fret and obsess about the future whereabouts of the NBA superstar) that wears a crown.” Long live the kings! The King is ... gone? There was so much energy before, during and after Game 4 Friday (Saturday, PHL time) poured into the last game/next game conjecture about James, the Cavaliers and seismic shifts in the league’s 2018-19 landscape that even the player’s surprise reveal near the end of the night – a bruised and bandaged right hand – couldn’t derail it. Turns out, as James ‘fessed up, the sore shooting paw was an injury he had been playing with ever since Game 1 in Oakland eight days earlier. He had “self-inflicted” it in a fit of pique when he smacked a whiteboard in the visitors’ dressing room at Oracle Arena after Cleveland’s overtime loss in the series-setter, an outcome driven at least in part by some teammates’ mistakes and an arcane wrinkle in the NBA’s replay rules regarding block/charge fouls. Despite the hordes of media people chronicling every waking detail of the Finals, James had kept the injury on the down-low (along with the possibility that J.R. Smith’s nickname amongst his Cavs teammates might be “whiteboard”). The cameras zoomed in and clicked in a paparazzi frenzy of motor drives every time James raised the hand, wrapped in black tape, above the table during his postgame podium remarks. Whether a legit Page-2-the-rest-of-the-story factor in the championship series or a too-late alibi, the contused hand wound up as a sidebar to where James plans to be using it when training camps open in a few months. As of Friday (Saturday, PHL time), it had been 95 months since “The Decision,” the 2010 announcement that James made in a tone-deaf vanity TV production that he was taking his talents from Cleveland to South Beach. Nearly 47 months had passed since he broke the news of his return in a Sports Illustrated ghost-written essay, envisioning much of what actually has unfolded in the four years since. Now savvy insiders and casual observers alike presume James will be on the move again, pushed to leave the franchise he has defined in an urgent search for more and better talent with which he can compete. As in, y’know, some horses, some horses, his kingdom for some horses. James’ free-agency process next month (he can opt out of a $35.6 million deal in the final season of his current contract) is expected to dictate the market of player movement this summer like an oversized domino. It easily could swing the balance of power, if not quite at Golden State’s lofty level then immediately below it. The monster he helped create Dr. Frankenstein eventually was done in by his macabre creation, and it can similarly be argued that James has no one but himself to blame for the predicament in which he again finds himself. He set in motion the machinery of the super team, after all, when he chose to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami eight years ago. Oh sure, the Boston Celtics in 2007-08 got there first by luring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce, but that was about knitting together three stars, all age 30 or older, for what would be their last best chance to win in an extremely limited run. That group won one title, went to two Finals in three seasons and was done, Allen leaving to join James & Co. with the Heat while Garnett and Pierce morphed into trade chips for Boston POBO Danny Ainge. When James, Wade and Bosh teamed up, they were in their basketball primes and their initial giddy boasts of “not four, not five, not six” championships turned off fans league-wide as much for its portent as its pretension. That crew went 4-for-4 in Finals, winning two rings before James, nudged by staleness and chafing as well as his grand plan for northeast Ohio, went home. From there, a line can be drawn through the ill-conceived 2012-13 L.A. Lakers of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol all the way to this season’s Houston Rockets of James Harden and Chris Paul and the talent-gorged Golden State roster. James was the centerpiece as Cleveland replicated the Big Three concept around him with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, two younger, playoff-stymied All-Stars. The new-look Cavaliers went to the Finals in their first season together and clambered atop the basketball world to win the franchise’s first NBA title by the end of the second, becoming the first team in league history to do so after digging a 1-3 hole in the best-of-seven series. In that moment, regardless of the two Finals trips that followed, James’ bill was stamped: Paid In Full. Misguided fans might burn his jersey if he leaves again, but James burned the mortgage after that Game 7 in Oakland in 2016 as far as any remaining obligation to fulfill. “I came back because I felt like I had some unfinished business,” he said after elimination Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “To be able to be a part of a championship team two years ago with the team that we had and in the fashion that we had is something I will always remember. Honestly, I think we'll all remember that. It ended a drought for Cleveland of 50-plus years, so I think we'll all remember that in sports history.” James added: “When you have a goal and you're able to accomplish that goal, it actually – for me personally – made me even more hungry to continue to try to win championships. And I still want to be in championship mode. I think I've shown this year why I will still continue to be in championship mode.” In other words, James intends to sustain his high level of performance. He expects to win. And he presumably will do whatever – and go wherever – is necessary to achieve that. There’s no perfect fit So what does that mean for the NBA’s best player (never mind what the annual MVP balloting says in any given season)? It means this: compromise. There is no ideal situation, certainly no easy answer to the guesswork surrounding James’ looming free agency. He could transform any of the 30 teams, but not without some trade-offs for him, for them or for both. Most of them won’t be in play. Teams in markets such as Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Portland, Sacramento, the Twin Cities and so on can’t scratch James’ itches for either championship-worthy depth chart or spotlight. New York and Chicago, among the biggies, are out of synch with his timeline. Toronto? No way James is resettling his brand north of the border, and given his stated desire for teammates who have not just sufficient basketball skills but also mental toughness, well, the Raptors teams he and the Cavs have dominated do not qualify. The Boston club that stretched Cleveland to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals is built for the long haul and would have to surrender much of that to adjust to James’ career calendar. There’s a little Kyrie problem lurking there and, truth be told, the Celtics look to be on their way and are doing just fine without the 33-year-old heading, one of these years, toward decline. At some point in each of the 2018 Finals’ final three days, James spoke admiringly of the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs title teams that blocked his path whether in Miami or Cleveland. He was at it again even as the Warriors were dousing the opponent’s locker room at The Q with Moet champagne. “I made the move in 2010 to be able to play with talented players, cerebral players that you could see things that happen before they happened on the floor,” James said. “When you feel like you're really good at your craft, I think it's always great to be able to be around other great minds as well and other great ballplayers. “That's never changed. Even when I came here in '14, I wanted to try to surround myself and surround this franchise with great minds and guys that actually think outside the box of the game and not just go out and play it.” Where might James find that now or recruit that swiftly? Hard to say. There are asterisks and “buts” everywhere: * If he were to sign with the Houston Rockets, James would be hitching his star to Chris Paul, a buddy with an injury history that’s about the mirror opposite of his own. He would be teaming up with an elite coach in Mike D’Antoni, something he’s never had (though Miami’s Erik Spoelstra was just young and unproven, on his way to big things). But it also would require another big ask of James Harden, who had to adapt last summer to Paul’s arrival and need for the ball. * If James chooses the Lakers, he has the chance to hit reset with the league’s glitziest franchise, in a market that can meet his every off-court wish and where he and his family already own one or more ultra-comfortable homes. The Lakers have young talent to help James transition into a lower-usage veteran’s role, favored status as a destination team for other top free agents and the salary-cap space to get it done this summer with the likes of Paul George or his pal Paul. But that roster might not be capable of insta-contending, which could burn a season or two when James’ clock most definitely is clicking. * If it’s San Antonio, James could link up with the elite coach in Gregg Popovich, where the winning culture is in the DNA rather than some acquired taste. The Spurs have talent, particularly if Kawhi Leonard finds happiness again there. But they might not have enough to rattle the Warriors’ cage. And for all their professed admiration, James and Popovich might both fare better by keeping their relationship long-distance vs. the 82-game grind. * If it’s Golden State? Perish the thought. The NBA might have to board up itself if competitive balance were capsized to that extent. And as Draymond Green shrewdly noted on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), if James climbed aboard, it likely would require him and several other Golden State teammates to be dispatched to parts unknown. * If James prefers to stay East, where the winning comes easier, he could pick Philadelphia. The Sixers have two foundational young stars at positions that matter most, center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons. But Simmons is a non-shooter at the moment, the antithesis of what makes a great complementary LeBron teammate. As for Embiid, James never has had to play off of and service a top center. And Philly might feel like a basketball-only move, with the hungriest and most demanding of any new fan base he would embrace. * If it’s Miami – wait, could it be Miami? Could he go second-home again? The Heat always strive to be competitive and offer a talent base deep enough for the East and lots of familiarity. But they also have players such as Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters whose mental approaches don’t seem to fit the model James was cooing about in Golden State and with the Tim Duncan-era Spurs. * That brings us to Cleveland, where it’s possible James might choose to remain. Staying with the Cavaliers, after leading them to four Finals and that heady 2016 title, would be the easiest choice as far as pressure to win. He owes these fans nothing anymore – in fact, had the bargain been offered to them in 2010 (“LeBron will leave and win elsewhere for four years, but will come back and deliver a championship and four Finals trips”), most would have grabbed it. Here, James and the fans who have watched him even through the interruption develop from ridiculously touted high schooler to one of the world’s most famous athletes could grow older together. Then he could partner up and buy the team from owner Dan Gilbert for a long-term future. Certainly, staying has a certain place in his and the rest of the James clan’s hearts. “The one thing that I've always done is considered, obviously, my family,” he said at series end Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “Understanding especially where my boys are at this point in their age. They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago. I've got a teenage boy, a pre-teen and a little girl that wasn't around as well. So sitting down and considering everything, my family is a huge part of whatever I'll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that.” It’s worth noting that as James contemplates his options as a modern pursuer of championship excellence, the prospect of him moving again qualifies at some level as a failure. Not just by the support system in Cleveland, where he and Gilbert have their friction and James gets snidely mentioned as the team’s unofficial GM and head coach, but by him too. He’s the one who went off to seek his “college education” in south Florida in what it takes to win, whether on the court, in the front office or in and around the seams 365 days a year, straight out of the Pat Riley handbook. The teams about which James talks so glowingly in Oakland now and in San Antonio then have cultures he covets, stability up and down the flowchart he craves. In Cleveland, for a variety of reasons, his team has been incapable of establishing and maintaining that to a lasting degree. He is part of that missed opportunity and he has to own it, no matter if he goes or stays. James is inseparable from the dynamic of the Cavaliers’ ever-changing and often melodramatic roster maneuvers. Spending big, swapping out draft picks to import current stars and supporting players, and overvaluing secondary guys like Smith and Tristan Thompson are risks the Warriors and the Spurs largely avoided thanks to shrew drafting and laudable continuity. The Cavs’ scrap heap, by contrast, is high with traded picks, scuttled plans, panic deals, short-term patches and folks such as former coach David Blatt and former GM David Griffin. And maybe James could have nurtured a little better relationship with All-Star point guard and 2016 title sidekick Kyrie Irving, enough to have kept Irving from bailing on them all with his trade demand last summer. Now he’s on the verge of casting about again, prioritizing what matters most for however long he continues to play. James is more at peace with it than he was before, particularly in 2010, and surely can enjoy the leverage he wields and the riches it delivers. But there is a burden there as well, one that could be seen as completing a circle. So many of the NBA’s greatest stars have been stuck playing and living in the Age of LeBron, right? Their paths to the Finals blocked, on one whole side of the league, by him and his? Well, LeBron James is stuck now in the Era of the Warriors, freshly swept and anxious to close the gap. What goes around comes around, though the key more pressing of the big W’s now is, where? Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 11th, 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

Ten takeaways from NBA All-Star 2018 weekend

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com There's a certain flair and pageantry that gets added to any sporting event when Los Angeles is the host city. When it came to the 2018 NBA All-Star festivities, Hollywood did not disappoint in living up to its standard.   From the arrival of a handful of players late last week to the throng of celebrities, NBA legends and, of course, actual All-Stars on the court for Sunday night's All-Star Game, big and bold moments marked this All-Star weekend that was. This is by no means the be-all, end-all list for the weekend. But, if you somehow missed them, these 10 moments and events -- listed in no particular order -- will stand out in NBA All-Star lore for years to come: AN ALL-STAR (GAME) COMEBACK The format change for the 67th All-Star Game, with captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry choosing their rosters, proved to be a rousing success. And the game itself, with its final frantic minutes, were worth all of the hand-wringing. The defense-wins-when-it-matters final seconds living up to all of the promise that accompanied the reset for both the players involved and all of us watching. Team LeBron’s furious 28-12 comeback in the final six minutes made the game an actual, real life competition. Both sides going at it and wanting to win in the worst way is all anyone was asking for -- well that and a televised player draft (which may be coming soon ...). POKE THE PROCESS? First-time All-Stars Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) all acquitted themselves quite well in Sunday night’s (Monday, PHL time) game. Embiid stood out among the crowd, though, and might have taken home MVP honors if Team Stephen had held on to their late lead. He gave as good as he got from Team LeBron (see his back and forth with Russell Westbrook early and physical tussles with LeBron late), which is exactly what you expect from The Process. BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY(?) What we can say about Fergie’s soulful rendition of the national anthem that NBA Twitter (and the rest of humankind) haven’t already said? Barkley: Can we talk about Fergie's National Anthem... 😂 pic.twitter.com/RwZMYpLzsr — Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) February 19, 2018 LIVING LEGENDS ABOUND One thing that never gets old during All-Star weekend is seeing the living legends of the game in the flesh, usually in groups and basically everywhere. And from the Legends Brunch to All-Star Saturday Night (Sunday, PHL time) to Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) game, the stars were out all over Los Angeles. No sport celebrates its rich history better than the NBA. 'THE BROW' REPS FOR 'BOOGIE' Anthony Davis represented the the right way for his All-Star New Orleans Pelicans teammate DeMarcus Cousins at the start of the game by wearing Boogie’s No. 0 jersey for Team LeBron. The Big Easy bromance between the superstar big men is real. NEW WAVE OF FUTURE STARS Friday night’s (Saturday, PHL time) Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars contest lived up to its billing, as the Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown headlined the game filled with some of the league’s most exciting young stars, several of whom could be making appearances on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) in Charlotte next year and Chicago in 2020. L.A. SHINES BRIGHT As we mentioned, the city of Angels didn’t disappoint as the host for All-Star weekend and this marked the sixth time the league’s showcase event was held here. From the party scene that seemed to stretch all over the Southland to the concentration of stars that made the Staples Center, LA Live and the downtown area the epicenter of the basketball universe for the long weekend, LA delivered. SHOOTER’S PARADISE For all of the great shooters who have captured the hardware over the years, none have ever done what Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker did to take home the JBL Three-Point Contest title Saturday night (Monday, PHL time). Booker’s 28 points in his final round duel with Splash Brother and 2016 champion Klay Thompson was an event record. He knocked down a wicked 20 of his 25 shots in that monster final round. LEBRON AN MVP ON AND OFF COURT The oldest player in Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) game turned out to be the best on and off the court. LeBron James collected his third Kia All-Star Game MVP trophy on the strength of his near triple-double performance (29-points, 10 rebounds and eight assists). Some of his best work came in his response to a battle LeBron and his peers have been fighting all season. “Shut up and dribble,” as Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham suggested LeBron and Kevin Durant should do after they dared to discuss social and political issues in our current climate, was met with the ultimate clap back from the face of the league. His nuanced and eloquent words during Saturday’s media day session was the perfect response. A STAR IS BORN ON SATURDAY NIGHT If you didn’t know Donovan Mitchell’s name before State Farm All-Star Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time), you do now. The Utah Jazz rookie stole the show in the Verizon Slam Dunk contest, introducing himself to the world that doesn’t have NBA League Pass with a masterful performance in the event known for launching new stars. Mitchell’s use of family (his little sister Jordan), newfound friends (comedian Kevin Hart and his son) and history (Jazz dunk champ and legend Darrell Griffith/a Vince Carter Toronto Raptors jersey) proved timely. Mitchell out-dueled the Cleveland Cavaliers' Larry Nance Jr. for the title, securing the title with his ode to Carter on his final dunk. 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 NewsFeb 20th, 2018

James hits game-winner over Butler as Cavs top Wolves in OT

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James hit a jumper over Jimmy Butler at the buzzer in overtime, giving the Cleveland Cavaliers a 140-138 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). A WINE & GOLD WALKOFF WINNER pic.twitter.com/WjzmLrBTsl — Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 8, 2018 Moments after James blocked Butler's potential game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds left, he caught a long pass from Jeff Green, created some space from Butler near the foul line and sank his fade-away shot to end Cleveland's eight-game losing streak on national television. BLOCKED BY JAMES pic.twitter.com/WBWqFOgXE8 — Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 8, 2018 The crowd erupted and James was mobbed by his teammates as the Cavs got a much-needed win to ease tensions during a prolonged slump. Cleveland has won just seven of its last 20. James finished with 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in 48 minutes. He also passed Zydrunas Ilgauskas (5,904) on Cleveland's all-time rebounds list. Butler scored 35, and Karl-Anthony Towns 30 for the Timberwolves, who were in position to win in OT before James came to Cleveland's rescue. Butler drove the left side and had a step on rookie Cedi Osman before getting off a short shot. However, James, who had missed a three-pointer that would have won it in regulation, came from the weak side to reject it and set up the dramatic finish. The Cavs had lost their eight previous network broadcast appearances this season, prompting James to say last week following a lopsided loss to Houston that he and his teammates should be dropped from any more telecasts. Finally, they were primed for prime time. J.R. Smith added 20 points and Isaiah Thomas had 13 points and seven assists in one of his best games in weeks. Towns made all six of his three-point attempts and Minnesota drained a season-high 19 3-pointers. With the NBA trade deadline set for 3 p.m. Thursday (early Friday, PHL time), the Cavs are looking for a deal to salvage a season quickly slipping away. The team has been hesitant to part with the first-round pick it acquired during the summer in the Kyrie Irving trade, but Cleveland may have no choice in order to add a quality player capable of pushing the team back into title contention. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was back on the sideline after leaving Tuesday's (Wednesday, PHL time) loss in Orlando in the first half with an unspecified illness. Lue said "I'm fine" when asked about his health, but did not provide any details. The Cavs were coming off their latest embarrassing performance in a string of bad ones in Orlando on Tuesday night. Cleveland blew a 21-point lead and scored just nine points in the fourth quarter against a Magic team that has won just 17 games. Cleveland appeared in control when Thomas hit a three-pointer to give the Cavs a 124-116 lead with 3:57 left, but the Timberwolves went on an 8-0 run over the next two minutes to tie it. TIP-INS Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins reached 6,000 career points. At 22-years, 349-days, he's the sixth-youngest player to reach the plateau. James is the youngest at 21-years, 89-days. ... Coach Tom Thibodeau has been impressed with Wiggins' development. "He's more of a complete player now," he said. "The impact that he's having on winning. We've seen he's a gifted scorer, he's shown that throughout his career, but now he's doing other things — the defense, the passing, the hustle plays." ... Thibodeau and Lue go back to their days on Doc Rivers' staff in Boston. Thibodeau understands the mental and physical grind for coaches, and expressed concern about Lue's well-being. "I hope Ty's taking care of himself," he said. "That's the most important thing is his health. He's a great guy, he's done a great job here. So always concerned about that." Cavaliers: Dwyane Wade sat out as he continues to rest on the second night of back-to-backs. The 36-year-old played 22 minutes at Orlando. ... G Iman Shumpert, who has been linked to some trade possibilities, sat out with left plantar fasciitis. ... Lue dismissed a comment made by Thomas after the loss to the Magic that one of the Cavs' biggest issues is that they don't make enough in-game adjustments. "That's not true," Lue said. ... Thomas turned 29 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). UP NEXT Timberwolves: At the Chicago Bulls on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Cavaliers: Begin a stretch of three straight road games before the All-Star break on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in Atlanta......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 8th, 2018

Old School Power Rankings 2017-18: Weeks 3 and 4

By Scott Wraight, NBA.com If you want to bump the King from his throne, you'd better come strong. Real strong. It's true, if you have hopes of ascending to the top of the mountain this season, you'd better turn in some memorable performances, triple-doubles, 40-point efforts and then some. That's what happens when the club opens its doors to "youngsters."  Even if you do all that, there's no guarantee you'll be sitting at the head of the table, not when a certain four-time MVP goes off for 57. Good luck, folks. Notes: - Season statistics are through games of Nov. 2 (Nov. 3, PHL time) - Any player who turns 32 during the regular season can be added to the rankings. 1.  LeBron James (32), Cleveland Cavaliers Previous rank: 1 Last weeks' stats: 7 games, 31.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 8.6 apg Season stats: 28.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.7 apg Anytime you open the two-week period with a 57-point performance, you ain't going anywhere. Period. Mr. James could've put up bagels the rest of the way and it wouldn't have mattered (We say that knowing it never would've happened). And here's the real scary part: LeBron is eclipsing career-highs in FG% (57.9), FT% (81.4), assists (8.7) and blocks (1.3). Like a fine wine, right?   2.  Marc Gasol (32), Memphis Grizzlies Previous rank: 3 Last weeks' stats: 6 games, 19.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 4.3 apg Season stats: 20.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.4 apg It was looking like a ho-hum stretch for Gasol ... until he exploded for 35 and 13 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Like James, Gasol is setting career-highs in several categories: 9.3 rebounds (would tie his mark set in 2009-10), 1.9 blocks (would tie his mark in '11-12) and 1.6 3-pointers made per game. He's also just four double-doubles away from matching all of last season's total. 3.  LaMarcus Aldridge (32), San Antonio Spurs Previous rank: 2 Last weeks' stats: 7 games, 20.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.0 apg Season stats: 22.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.4 apg Despite slipping one spot, Aldridge had a relatively productive period, including a 32-point showing Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). But the big thing for Aldridge is rest. In three games with no rest, he averaged 14.3 points and 43.2 FG%. In two games with one day of rest, he totaled 23 points and 59.4 FG%. And in two games with two days of rest, Aldridge went for 26 points and 57.1 FG%. 4.  Carmelo Anthony (33), Oklahoma City Thunder Previous rank: 4 Last weeks' stats: 6 games, 16.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.3 apg Season stats: 20.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.5 apg Unlike James and Gasol, Anthony is going the other direction in a couple of categories. After shooting just 34.9 from the field over the last two weeks, Anthony is sitting at a career-low 41.8 for the season. His previous low was 42.6 in '03-04, his rookie season. Anthony is also averaging just 1.5 assists, which would be the lowest of his career by a wide margin (2.6 in '04-05 and '12-13). 5.  Taj Gibson (32), Minnesota Timberwolves Previous rank: 8 Last weeks' stats: 6 games, 12.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 0.8 apg Season stats: 10.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.3 apg Maybe the brisk Minnesota air has reinvigorated Gibson, who is putting up career numbers across the board. Playing a career-high 30.5 minutes, he's shooting 53.6 from the field, 83.3 from the line and hauling in 7.7 rebounds -- all career bests. Gibson also already has five double-doubles, putting him on pace to break his career-high of 18 double-doubles in '09-10. 6.  Paul Millsap (32), Denver Nuggets Previous rank: 5 Last weeks' stats: 6 games, 16.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.7 apg Season stats: 15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.9 apg Millsap started to week in grand fashion, pouring in 27 points and nine rebounds on Nov. 3. Unfortunately, he followed that up the next night with six points and zero rebounds against the Warriors. He did, however, bounce back nicely with four straight games of 16 or more points including tying a career high with six blocks on Nov. 9 (Nov. 10, PHL time) against the Thunder. 7.  Trevor Ariza (32), Houston Rockets Previous rank: NA Last weeks' stats: 7 games, 14.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.1 apg Season stats: 10.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.6 apg The Rockets put up 142 points in a win over the Suns and Ariza contributed just 11 points? Huh. Despite that showing, it was still a solid two weeks for the small forward, who went for double-digit scoring in five of six games including two steals in four straight. He's also connected on at least three three's in six of his last eight games. 8.  Zach Randolph (36), Sacramento Kings Previous rank: 10 Last weeks' stats: 6 games, 15.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.3 apg Season stats: 13.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.8 apg Randolph, who has started every game this season for the Kings while averaging 25.4 minutes, is getting with the times and taking his game out beyond the arc. Before this season, the most three-pointers Z-Bo had made in a season was 25 back in '08-09 with the Clippers. This season, he already has eight (8-for-20), putting him on pace for 40-45.  9.  Courtney Lee (32), New York Knicks Previous rank: NA Last weeks' stats: 6 games, 13.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.3 apg Season stats: 11.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.8 apg Lee has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. Starting and averaging more than 33 minutes, he's scored in double figures in four consecutive games while connecting on at least two treys in three straight. In fact, Lee has made at least two three's in 7-of-14 games and is shooting a career-high 47.2 from deep. 10.  J.J. Redick (33), Philadelphia 76ers Previous rank: Just missed Last weeks' stats: 6 games, 17.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.0 apg Season stats: 14.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.1 apg Redick started the stretch nicely, snatching his first 30-point game of the season (31 points with 8-for-12 three's). He followed that up with five straight games of double-figure scoring, though two of those (10 on Tuesday, PHL time, 11 on Thursday, PHL time) left much to be desired. Much of Redick's success is tied to his long-range accuracy, which has been off in the early going (35 percent). Just missed the cut: J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, J.J. Barea, Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortat Will turn 32 this season: Dwight Howard (Dec. 8), Gerald Green (Jan. 26), Rajon Rondo (Feb. 22), Corey Brewer (March 5), Kyle Lowry (March 25), Marco Belinelli (March 25). The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 18th, 2017

Rockets add All-Star Paul as they look to take next step

em>By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press /em> HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets believe adding Chris Paul to a team led by James Harden helps close the gap with Golden State. They’ll find out how they stack up against the NBA champions early when they open the season on the road against the Warriors on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). “We’re looking forward to trying to get as close as we can or better than Golden State,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They seem to be the ones that set the bar and we know it’s a high bar but we have a lot of potential and now it’s up to us to try and do the work and get it done.” When the Rockets orchestrated the blockbuster deal with the Clippers in June to acquire Paul, a nine-time All-Star, the obvious question was how he and Harden would coexist. Harden was Houston’s point guard last season. D’Antoni knows there will be bumps along the way as they adjust to each other, but loves having two players of their caliber running his faced-paced offense. “Normally my offenses have been one kind of Hall of Fame point guard,” he said. “And now we’ve got two that will be on the court the whole time and I’m real excited about that.” He’s not worried about it not working out and said that in his experience if players want something to work out it normally does. “If you give them freedom and you have certain philosophies that you want them to do they’ll figure out what’s comfortable for them,” he said. “And putting them into spots where both of them can succeed and adjusting a little bit to me that’s the process.” Paul isn’t worried either, not after what he’s seen from D’Antoni and Harden since arriving in Houston. “One of the best things about this transition has been the communication aspect of it,” he said. “We talk about just about everything so it doesn’t get to a point where it’s out of control ... I think as long as we do that everything will be fine. Harden finished second in the NBA in scoring last year with 29.1 points a game and also was the runner-up in MVP voting to Russell Westbrook in a season where the Rockets were eliminated by the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. He knows his numbers could drop playing with another scorer like Paul but also believes his presence improves the team overall. “He’s one of the best we’ve ever seen at facilitating,” Harden said. “And his attention to detail while he’s playing is something I haven’t seen or something I haven’t played with ... he can make me better.” Paul, who has been criticized for failing to get the Clippers out of the second round of the playoffs in his time there, is very clear about his motivation for joining this team. Chasing a title is all that matters to him at this point in his career. “It means everything,” he said. “If I was fine with anything else I probably would have just stayed where I was.” Some things to know about the Rockets as they prepare for the season: strong>CAPELA’S NEXT STEP: /strong> Center Clint Capela had a career-high 12.6 points and 5.4 rebounds last season in his first year as a starter after Dwight Howard left. But he averaged just under 24 minutes a game as he worked on his strength and conditioning. The Rockets hope the fourth-year player can give them about 30 minutes a night as he continues to develop. “His next step is that,” D’Antoni said. “I think he will. It’s a matter of getting older, stronger, getting into a man’s body.” strong>IMPROVED DEFENSE: /strong>Though Houston lost defensive specialist Patrick Beverley in the trade for Paul, D’Antoni believes the defense will be better this season thanks to the addition of Paul, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. The Rockets had one of the league’s most potent offenses last season, but their defense wasn’t nearly as good. “We need to be in the top five defensively,” D’Antoni said. “If Golden State’s No. 1 offensively and No. 1 or 2 defensively, duh — we’ve got to be up there or otherwise we’re not going to win.” strong>NEW OWNER: /strong> The Rockets have a new owner after billionaire casino and restaurant owner Tilman Fertitta bought the team from Leslie Alexander this offseason. Fertitta paid a NBA-record $2.2 billion to buy the team after losing out to Alexander when he bought it in 1993. The businessman, who owns the Golden Nugget casino and is the star of a reality show called “Billion Dollar Buyer” on CNBC, promised he wouldn’t be as out front and hands on as Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, but he’ll certainly be more visible than the 74-year-old Alexander was. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

10 things to know about NBA All-Star 2019

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — With All-Star festivities set to officially begin Friday (Saturday, PHL time), here are 10 things to know going into the weekend: BACK TO CHARLOTTE Charlotte hosted NBA All-Star weekend in 1991, and now gets it back a second time to join 14 other cities that can say it hosted the league’s showcase midseason event on multiple occasions. Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, St. Louis, Los Angeles and the L.A. suburb of Inglewood, California, are the other previous multi-hosting All-Star cities. The Bay Area, the Detroit area and the Dallas area are also two-time hosts, though never technically twice in the same city. LEBRON’S RECORDS LeBron James now has the record for most All-Star captaincies: Two. He and Stephen Curry had the jobs last year when the captain’s format was first introduced to the All-Star weekend, and he and Giannis Antetokounmpo have the jobs this year. But James’ records revolving around this game hardly stop there. By starting on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), James will tie Kobe Bryant with 15 starts in the All-Star Game. James will also extend his record of consecutive starts, which will also rise to 15. Some of the other All-Star records James already holds include total points (343), field goals (141) and three-pointers (35). And by playing two minutes, James will increase his All-Star total in that stat to 416 — one more than Bryant for No. 2 on the all-time list. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has played the most All-Star minutes, 449. FOULING OUT Bold prediction: No one will foul out on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). The last player to foul out of an All-Star Game was Hakeem Olajuwon in 1987. Chris Paul was the most recent to come close, when he was whistled for five fouls in the 2008 game. There have been only 14 instances of someone fouling out of an All-Star Game. Rick Barry and Bob Cousy each fouled out twice; 10 others, including Olajuwon, have done so once. MVPs AT HOME Kemba Walker, the lone Charlotte player in this year’s All-Star Game, has suggested that he’s hoping he can wow the home crowd with an MVP-worthy performance. There’s a history of that sort of thing happening. There have been 14 players who have won All-Star MVP honors in their home cities, spanning a total of 15 games. The list of hometown All-Star MVPs: Anthony Davis (New Orleans, 2017), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles, 2011), Shaquille O’Neal (Phoenix, 2009 and Los Angeles, 2004), Karl Malone and John Stockton (Utah, 1993), Michael Jordan (Chicago, 1988), Tom Chambers (Seattle, 1987), Jerry West (Los Angeles, 1972), Rick Barry (the San Francisco area, 1967), Adrian Smith (Cincinnati, 1966), Bob Pettit (St. Louis, 1958 and 1962), Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia, 1960), Bob Cousy (Boston, 1957) and Ed Macauley (Boston, 1951). AGE MARK Assuming he plays, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki — one of the special additions to the rosters by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who also added Miami’s Dwyane Wade to the list — will become the second 40-something to appear in the All-Star Game. Nowitzki is 40; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in the game when he was 40 and 41. Michael Jordan almost pulled off the feat; he was eight days shy of turning 40 when he last played in the All-Star Game in 2003. Jordan, now the owner of the Charlotte Hornets and the unofficial host of the weekend, will turn 56 on Sunday. Wade, also assuming he gets into the game, will become the 12th player to be an All-Star at 37 or older. Wade turned 37 last month. HEROES Jason Weinmann and James Shaw Jr. might not be “celebrities,” at least not in the classic sense. But the NBA rightly believes they should be celebrated. Weinmann and Shaw were invited to play in Friday’s All-Star Celebrity Game to commemorate heroic acts. Weinmann, a retired Marine, used a military transport vehicle — which he bought at a government auction years ago — during Hurricane Florence last September to help rescue flood victims in North Carolina and bring them to safety. Shaw disarmed a man who had opened fire at a Waffle House restaurant near Nashville last April and has been heralded as a life-saving hero since for wrestling the AR-15 out of the alleged shooter’s hands by the barrel. G LEAGUE FIRST Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks is the first member of a new club. He’s the first G League alum to become an NBA All-Star. Middleton spent a short time during the 2012-13 season in the G League, before blossoming into one of the league’s best players and a key to Milwaukee going into the break with an NBA-best 43-14 record. There will be plenty of G League graduates participating on All-Star Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) as well — Middleton, Seth Curry, Danny Green and Joe Harris are all slated to be in the 3-point contest. CASH MATTERS There is some money at stake during All-Star Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) events, and everybody gets something. Everyone in the dunk contest will receive at least $20,000, everyone in the skills challenge gets at least $15,000 and all participants in the 3-point shootout take home at least $10,000. From there, prize money varies by finish — the skills challenge winner gets $55,000, the 3-point shootout champion wins $60,000 and the dunk contest winner takes home $105,000. In all, the Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) participants will split $610,000. EASTBOUND This All-Star weekend is the first of four straight in Eastern Conference cities. Chicago gets it next year, Indianapolis in 2021 and Cleveland in 2022. The site for the 2023 game remains unknown; Salt Lake City and Sacramento are two sites often mentioned as candidates for that year, and Orlando is a likely suitor for the 2024 game. THE REFS Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) All-Star Game will be officiated by Scott Foster, Curtis Blair and David Guthrie. It’s a home game of sorts for Guthrie, who resides in Charlotte. Foster worked the 2010 All-Star Game in Dallas. It’s the first All-Star Game for Blair and Guthrie. The Friday and Saturday (Saturday and Sunday, PHL time) events will be worked by a crew of newer refs — third-year official Aaron Smith and fourth-year officials Mitchell Ervin and Gediminas Petraitis......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 15th, 2019

Juan Gomez de Liano shines as Mighty Sports books semis seat in Dubai tiff

Juan Gomez de Liano finally played true to his potential as Mighty Sports-Philippines sustained its fine form against Al Nift Oil Sports Club-Iraq, 108-94, to clinch the last semifinal ticket in the 30th Dubai International Basketball Championships......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsFeb 8th, 2019

LeBron back in fold, but other issues still on Lakers minds

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Well, scratch one name off the Los Angeles Lakers’ wait list. LeBron James has finally reported for duty, and who would’ve thought he’d beat Anthony Davis to the team’s lineup? Five weeks felt like forever to the franchise as they sweated out LeBron’s 17-game absence from a groin injury. It was the first injury of any concern in his 16-year career, and given his workload over such time, maybe that will serve as one of the more amazing feats by LeBron. A sense of normalcy crept back into the Lakers’ season if only for a night when LeBron suited up Thursday (Friday, PHl time), played 40 minutes without a hiccup, and -- on the surface anyway -- all seemed well. That doesn’t mean all is well. All is very confusing. The Lakers are juggling a pair of sensitive uncertainties: Davis and whether they can swing a deal to acquire the New Orleans Pelicans’ All-NBA player … and the Western Conference playoff chase. The Davis dilemma has the more urgent expiration date. Thursday’s (Friday, PHl time) deadline means one way or another, the Lakers will have clarity on one of the more uncomfortable scenarios in recent memory. And when there’s finally a verdict, and no matter what it is, there will be a sense of relief (to an extent). That’s because the young core of the Lakers are essentially being held hostage while the club enthusiastically tries to pawn one of two or all of them off in order to get Davis. Imagine being Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and/or Josh Hart now and figuring out what they’re going through. This Davis trade request is in their heads. They don’t know if by next week they’ll be passing the ball to LeBron or … E’Twuan Moore. They don’t know if they’ll be playing in L.A. or … La. They don’t know if LeBron, whose agency also represents Davis and is helping to orchestrate his New Orleans exit, has their back or is sticking a fork in it behind the scenes. There’s so much at work here, so many moving parts, so much head scratching. By all indications, there are exploratory conversations between the Lakers and Pelicans about what it will take to land Davis. The Lakers are dangling young players and Draft picks, and that might not be enough. Meanwhile, the Pelicans are dealing with their own prickly situation. The trade request caused a measure of saltiness and the front office doesn’t appear to be warm to the idea of having Davis around. The Pelicans scrubbed him from their pre-game video intros, as though he doesn’t exist anymore. He’s still on the team bench during games but it’s a weird optic. Davis is with a team he doesn’t feel is good enough for him anymore. In a perfect world, the Pelicans would take their time and weigh considerable offers from other teams, but that may stretch until this summer. Davis’ contract only runs one more season. If he tells other teams he won’t sign an extension with them, he can sabotage deals. Why would those teams surrender assets for a one-year rental? The stare-down continues as the weekend approaches and LeBron returns to face the league-leading Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). “With LeBron back, we have to adjust again as to how we play,” said coach Luke Walton. “But he looked fine to me.” He was initially on a 25-minute restriction Thursday (Friday, PHL time), but played the entire overtime in the Lakers’ win. He was feeling and looking stronger as the game progressed, finishing with 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. “I’m about 80 (percent) right now,” James said. “It’s going to take me a while to get my rhythm back. We got a lot of games coming up. I want to see how my body feels tomorrow after playing tonight. Toughest stretch of my career. I worked my butt off to get back to this point. “I wasn’t positive every day throughout this process. There were times when I felt great and thought I could come back faster. It wasn’t reacting the right way so I had to be patient. I’d never been injured before like that. I didn’t come here to put on a suit everyday. I came here to put on a jersey, when you see your team struggle and you can’t help them in a suit and tie, that was frustrating.” The Lakers went 6-11 without LeBron and dropped games to the likes of the New York Knicks, Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers and two to the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was unsightly and discouraging at times, and the losing -- combined with LeBron’s sense of mortality -- perhaps kick-started the Davis chase. Perhaps team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka (with input from LeBron) decided it’s time to get into the express lane, at the expense of youth, and quicken the process. “I’m excited about being back out there with my guys,” James said. “We’re ready for the challenge. We want to get back into a groove and get a playoff spot. That’s what I’m here fore, that’s what we’re here for.” The playoff chase begins in earnest for any team in the West with those aspirations. To reach 48 wins, which should be enough for a playoff spot, the Lakers need to win 21 of their last 30. And given the stiff competition out West, that likely means LeBron will need to play meaningful games in April -- a time which normally would call for rest -- and perform at a high level, too. Keep in mind if the Lakers are gutted to get Davis, the supporting cast around the two stars will be depleted. In such a case, the real pursuit of the Warriors wouldn’t realistically begin until next season. Even that depends on what else the Lakers can do this summer with their salary-cap surplus. Remember, LeBron is 34 … and just sat for the longest stretch of his career. When you sign LeBron, the end game is a championship or at the very least, a reasonable chase. The Lakers are getting him on the back end, so in this situation, there’s a clock and the Lakers are on it. Time is ticking on their chances of getting Davis this season in what would be a major shakeup. And time is also ticking on their playoff pursuit, which if it fails, would be a major letdown. 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 NewsFeb 2nd, 2019

Jerry Yan: Aging like wine

Jerry Yan: Aging like wine.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 30th, 2019

James entering decisive days at Bayern with future unclear

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press MUNICH (AP) — Leon Goretzka's emergence at Bayern Munich is bad news for James Rodriguez. James, as he is known, watched from the bench Friday as Goretzka - playing in the Colombian's favored No. 10 position - scored two goals in Bayern's 3-1 victory at Hoffenheim. "We did everything right with this decision," Bayern coach Niko Kovac told Eurosport. "We've stumbled onto something." James only had a brief opportunity to shine when he came on for Thiago Alcantara in the 78th minute, but he showed his class with a fine lobbed ball over the Hoffenheim defense for Thomas Mueller to set up Robert Lewandowski's win-clinching goal in the 87th. Kovac now has a dilemma in deciding who should start for the suspended Mueller against Liverpool in the Champions League next month. Mueller is suspended for both legs, though Bayern have appealed and hope he will be available for the second leg in Munich. "We have many more No. 10s, just you don't know it yet," Mueller joked after the Hoffenheim game. James suddenly finds himself further down the pecking order with Goretzka's coming of age. "Leon has a really good shot, and he was also dangerous in front of goal last season at Schalke," Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said. "He normally needs a bit of space. But he did really well as a No. 10." The 23-year-old Goretzka is quickly settling in following his transfer from Schalke. "I never had a problem with my confidence. I was playing professionally very early on and slipped into a role at Bochum that did not necessary correspond with my age and experience," the Germany midfielder told Kicker magazine on Thursday. "But it goes without question. To play at Bayern you need a broad chest." Goretzka joined Schalke in 2013 after impressing as a teenager for second-division Bochum. He made his Germany debut in 2014 but missed out on the final World Cup squad. He now has 19 appearances for the national team. If not Goretzka, then Alcantara is another who could fill Bayern's No. 10 position behind Lewandowski. It was already shaping up to be a frustrating second season in Munich for James following his loan switch from Real Madrid in 2017. The 27-year-old Colombian has made only five league starts for Bayern this season. After ankle problems, James' progress took another setback in November with a partial ligament tear in his left knee from training, days after a 3-2 loss in Dortmund. He wasn't even selected for that game - Bayern's biggest of the season to date. "He's playing for his future," Kovac said as the league's winter break was drawing to a close. "He has to deliver top performances." James remains a Madrid player, but Bayern has the option to make his two-year loan move permanent once it ends at the end of this season. Kovac doesn't seem to be letting the contract situation affect his lineup decisions. "We're a great club with great footballers. James is a great footballer who deserves to play," Kovac said. "Those who aren't called James also want to play." The Bayern coach said it was up to the Colombian to convince the club he deserved to stay, not the other way around. Meanwhile, reports in Spain say Madrid would be willing to use James, if Bayern didn't sign him, as a makeweight in a bid to sign Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen. Arsenal, Juventus and Napoli are also reported suitors. "It's up to him now to show that he belongs in the team," Kovac said. For now though, Goretzka has his nose in front......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 24th, 2019

Like a fine wine : Philippines cheers Pacquiao victory - Channel NewsAsia

'Like a fine wine': Philippines cheers Pacquiao victory Channel NewsAsia Hordes of Manny Pacquiao fans gathered in covered courts and even military camps to watch the fight which took place S.....»»

Category: newsSource:  manilanewsRelated NewsJan 20th, 2019

Like a fine wine : Philippines cheers Pacquiao victory

'Like a fine wine': Philippines cheers Pacquiao victory Yahoo Sports Raucous cheers erupted from Philippine boxing fans in Manila who jumped in joy to celebrate the victory of Manny Pacquiao.....»»

Category: newsSource:  manilanewsRelated NewsJan 20th, 2019

Like fine wine: Philippines cheers Pacquiao victory

    MANILA, Philippines – Raucous cheers erupted from Philippine boxing fans in Manila who jumped in joy to celebrate the victory of Manny Pacquiao against Adrien Broner on Sunday, January 20, comparing their 40-year-old idol to a "fine wine."   Filipinos had been confident their champion Pacquiao would easily defend his welterweight title ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 20th, 2019

Bangkok and Tasmania in list of top 10 wine getaways 2019

Experts at "Wine Enthusiast" magazine have released their picks for the top 10 wine destinations of 2019, and the list includes a few unexpected places. Alongside a few predictable, usual suspects --- Beaujolais, France; Seattle, Washington and Maipo Valley, Chile --- are destinations like Bangkok, Thailand and Tasmania, Australia. Chosen by the magazine's global editors, the destinations represent "the most exciting and comprehensive wine travel experience for savvy travelers." While best known for its exciting street food scene, in recent years Bangkok has also become one of the world's most dynamic cities for inventive fine dining. One of the city's best ambassadors of av...Keep on reading: Bangkok and Tasmania in list of top 10 wine getaways 2019.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 9th, 2019

Kemba Walker’s big finish gives Hornets win over Suns

PHOENIX --- Kemba Walker didn't have much of an impact in Charlotte's game Sunday night against the Phoenix Suns --- until the final 4 minutes. Then he was the Hornets' everything. Walker scored 18 of his 29 points in that late surge ---punctuated by a halfcourt heave at the buzzer--- and Charlotte pulled away to hand the Suns their sixth straight loss, 119-113. "This isn't anything new," Hornets coach James Borrego said. "He's done this most of his career. He's a fourth-quarter player. He shines brightest in those moments." Walker scored his team's final 14 points. "In these kind of situations my teammates look to me to make big plays and that is what I try to do," h...Keep on reading: Kemba Walker’s big finish gives Hornets win over Suns.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 7th, 2019

UAAP Season 81: Lady Eagles open Japan training camp

Ateneo de Manila University’s preparation shifts into full gear with just a month to go before the opening of the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament. The Lady Eagles flew to Japan Saturday for their training camp in Osaka that will run until January 16. Head coach Oliver Almadro is expected to fine tune the Lady Eagles with his system heading into his first stint as Ateneo women’s mentor in the most prestigious collegiate league in the country. The squad, led by graduating players Bea De Leon, Ponggay Gaston, Maddie Madayag and Kat Tolentino, will also have tune-up games against local teams to further hone their skills and develop team chemistry. Kobe Shinwa Women's University will host the Lady Eagles' training camp thru coach Kiyokazu Yamamoto.  Aside from training sessions and tune-up games, Ateneo will also participate in mini tournaments and will be mentored by seasoned Japanese coaches. Rookie Samantha Fanger skipped the trip to attend to personal matters. Ateneo for the first time in seven years failed to advance in the Finals after receiving the boot from Far Eastern University in the Final Four of Season 80. The Lady Eagles bid goodbye to Thai head coach Tai Bundit, who was replaced by Almadro, who led the Blue Eagles to three-straight men’s titles from Season 77 to 79. As part of their pre-season build up, Ateneo participated in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference under the Motolite banner. The Lady Eagles finished runner-up to powerhouse team Creamline led by former Ateneo stars Alyssa Valdez and setter Jia Morado.   ---    Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2019