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BLOGTABLE: Biggest storylines during first month?

NBA.com blogtable What (or who) will you be watching intently during the first 4-6 weeks of the season? David Aldridge: Like many, I'll be an amateur Kawhiologist all season, looking for any clues -- all non-verbal, as we know Leonard won't be contributing his thoughts on the matter at any point -- of his future intentions. Will he develop a sudden love of poutine? Start telling reporters, "take off, eh, you hoser?" Any other lazy Canadian narratives I can think of? Seriously, the potential fit between Leonard and the Raptors could really change everything, starting with the Lakers' fever dreams of a second superstar to pair with LeBron. If Toronto convinces Leonard it's a place in which he can put down long-term stakes, the Eastern Conference changes dramatically. All of a sudden, the Boston Celtics' assumed rise to the top for the next several years would not be guaranteed. A Leonard-led Toronto franchise, with the young ballers the Raptors have in support, would be formidable. But if it becomes clear he's going to bounce, won't the Raps have to seriously think about moving him before the deadline? His first days/weeks there will be crucial. Tas Melas: Kawhi Leonard in Toronto. He was unanimously a top-five player when his playoffs ended on the foot of Zaza Pachulia in 2017. What is he now? Will he smile ALL THE TIME just to troll us? I’m very intrigued. Darkhorse: Speaking of great players, also very intrigued to see what Giannis Antetokounmpo does in coach Mike Budenholzer’s offense. Giannis needs some help and better synergy around him so he can win a playoff series already. Is a new coach, growth within, and Brook Lopez enough? Dark-Darkhorse:There seems to be something happening very quietly in Indiana. Will Victor Oladipo take it to another level? Is Myles Turner gonna follow Oladipo’s lead by both getting cut like him and producing a career season? Will Pacers fans be chanting: “Doug-ie! Doug-ie!” (McDermott). Shaun Powell: A trick question, right? Well, of course it's the Lakers, not necessarily to see if LeBron James is still great, but to see if the team's transitional path is laced with banana peels. Remember, the first few months of the Big Three in Miami was rocky, and the Oklahoma City Thunder never really meshed last season. New faces often translate into awkward moments. There's no reason to suspect the young pups and LeBron and the wacky supporting cast of Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson won't eventually work out the kinks, but seeing them try to do so initially -- and checking out the social media (over)reaction to that -- will be fascinating. John Schuhmann: The Lakers and Markelle Fultz. The Lakers, because of their youth and because playing with LeBron James is a big adjustment for a lot of players, should be a better team in February and March than they are in October and November. That doesn't mean that they won't be fascinating to watch, especially on offense where it's not clear how the pieces fit together, from Day 1. On an individual basis, Fultz is the player to watch early in the season. If his shot is fixed, if his confidence is restored, and if he can play alongside Ben Simmons, the Sixers will have a better bench (to go along with what was the league's best high-volume lineup last season), a more potent offense and a higher ceiling. Sekou Smith: In addition to keeping an eagle eye on the Los Angeles Lakers from the first whistle of training camp until the final buzzer in their season finale (and that includes the first 4-6 weeks of the season), I am genuinely intrigued by the Boston Celtics. We all assume they'll insert Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back into the mix and elevate above the rest of the Eastern Conference now that LeBron James is with the Lakers. I know that's the way things are supposed to go. But I want to see it. I want to see if Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to thrive with those veterans back in the mix. I want to see how coach Brad Stevens handles the minutes for Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart now that they've had a taste of the spotlight, a real taste. I need to see if their chemistry can survive the gathering storm of all that talent that's been assembled. We didn't get a chance to see it in action last season with Hayward going down five minutes into the season opener. It's a potentially fascinating group that could prove to be a true rival for the Golden State Warriors on the other side of the conference divide......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnAug 11th, 2018

Eight NBA Playoffs storylines to watch

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Suddenly, we’re not quite as certain that Warriors-Cavs, Part IV, Sure to be Way Better than “Jaws: The Revenge” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, is going to make air, are we? The 2018 playoffs are just about here, and Stephen Curry isn’t, and Kyrie Irving won’t be, and Joel Embiid might be, and Jimmy Butler will be -- if his team is, that is. And both conference champions from a year ago are equally unsettled going into the postseason, for different reasons. The Golden State Warriors are banged up, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are brand new. Golden State hasn’t looked like an offensive leviathan, while Cleveland has been one of the league’s worst defenses. And, most importantly, each has legit challengers this year in Houston and Toronto in its respective conferences -- deep, tough, elite defensively, hard to stop offensively, and tempered/hardened/driven by recent playoff failures. Which should make late May and early June even more compelling than normal. At the least, we’ll have the Warriors going for three rings in four years, and LeBron James going for an eighth straight Finals appearance -- each representing something special. The postseason, then, should provide some theatre that Meryl Streep will drop what she’s doing to watch. Among the biggest storylines: 1. The Hinkie Referendum, Passed The Philadelphia 76ers’ scintillating run to end the regular season sets up them for a glorious postseason run, that will finalize a season in which the decisions by former GM Sam Hinkie -- the successful ones, anyway -- are rightly celebrated. (The failures of Jahlil Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams to fire as stars after Hinkie took each high in the first round are not only not ignored by Hinkie’s biggest supporters, they are cited as proof that he had to do what he did for as long as he did, because you’re going to have some misses at the top of the Draft. God, I love Hinkie Stans.) It says here that a healthy Joel Embiid and an exponentially improving Ben Simmons are the one team that can give LeBron’s Cavs true night sweats in the Kyrie-less east playoffs. Embiid is a problem for any team, but especially for the defensively indifferent and ineffective Cavaliers, who have no one remotely capable of keeping “The Process” from running wild. Since New Year’s Day, only Curry (120.4), Chris Paul (116.1) and Jamal Murray (114.7) have better Offensive Ratings among point guards than Simmons’s 113.9, per NBA.com/Stats. Who, from among George Hill (6'3"), Jose Calderon (6'1"), Jordan Clarkson (6'5") and J.R. Smith (6'5") is Cavs coach Tyronn Lue going to put on the 6'10" Simmons? Yes, Lue could try James on Simmons, who is no threat to shoot from deep or run through a maze of pindowns. But that doesn’t make him any easier to slow down. No matter who Philly plays in the postseason, the Sixers are going to be a problem. 2. Indiana George and the Tempo of Doom It’s taken the Oklahoma City Thunder much longer than any of us thought, but OKC is a win from the postseason (even if the Thunder can’t beat the Heat in Miami tonight, the Cancun-bound Memphis Grizzlies will be in Oklahoma City Wednesday). And that’s when Paul George will determine whether his future is in the 405 or elsewhere. The Thunder’s up-and-down regular season doesn’t provide much clue to how far they could go in the playoffs, thought OKC looked formidable in ending the Rockets’ 20-game home win streak Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). It was a game that featured Russell Westbrook successfully taking on the challenge of defending James Harden down the stretch. When Oklahoma City plays with pace and gets up and down the floor, it can beat anyone. The Thunder will likely have to take down an elite unit like Houston at some point in the playoffs to convince George to stay. 3. A Series of Fortunate Events With Irving’s injury, the Washington Wizards’ failure to launch and other maladies to Eastern Conference contenders, the Cavaliers have an increasingly clear path back to The Finals. Doing this is best way to keep LeBron: The Sequel in town for an extended run, but the proof will be in the doing, of course. Cleveland will need Larry Nance, Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson to perform under playoff pressure, which Nance and Clarkson have never had to do and Hood did briefly in the 2017 playoffs with the Utah Jazz. 4. She packed my bags last night, pre-flight/Zero Hour, 9 a.m The Rockets have been the best team in the league most of this season -- an offensive and defensive juggernaut, the logical extension at both ends of the floor of the standards the Warriors set the last few seasons. James Harden will likely walk away with Kia MVP honors after the season and Chris Paul has been everything Houston hoped he’d be. But Houston must finish the deal with a championship to make its own mark. 5. Jurassic Park Everything is set up for Toronto, as well -- the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record and are tied with Houston for the best home record (34-7) in the league. They have home court until The Finals. Their two lynchpins, All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, are healthy. They’ve diversified their offense and learned to love the 3-pointer. They’re back to guarding at an elite level. The East is laid out open for a Toronto run to The Finals. There’s no excuse for the Raps not to. 6. ‘Brow’, Beating We don’t know for sure that the New Orleans Pelicans will make the playoffs. As of this writing, they haven’t clinched yet, although beating the Warriors in Oakland on Saturday went a long way toward their getting to the postseason. But assuming New Orleans is playing next weekend, its success in the playoffs can only help the franchise as it recovers from the recent death of former owner Tom Benson. “The Brow” (aka Anthony Davis) may have got us on April Fool’s Day, but the next couple of weeks will be dead serious. What if the Pelicans manage a first-round upset? Don’t say it’s not possible with the way Davis is playing. That would go an awful long way to quieting the “How the Boston Celtics Will Get Anthony Davis in 2020, Vol. MCMLXXXVII” hot takes. 7.  The Boston Medical Group The Celtics as imagined played exactly five minutes together this season. Everything that’s transpired since has been wrapped in gauze and sutured shut. Kyrie Irving’s latest knee procedure has everyone hopping off the Celtics’ postseason bandwagon -- a mistake, unless coach Brad Stevens pulls a hammy before Game 1 in the first round. Stevens has coached up whatever 12 guys are active pretty damn well since he’s come to the NBA, and he’ll still have a lot to work with in the playoffs: Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier (the Celtics hope they can get Marcus Smart back after the first round). The bigger issue, of course, is Irving’s health going forward -- and into next season, after which he can opt out of the last year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The current belief in Boston is that Irving’s knee -- the cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones -- is sound and that he’ll have no long-term issues with it. But Irving and the team thought taking out the tension wire that had helped heal his broken patella after his 2015 surgery would do the trick. It didn’t.   There should be no doubt Boston will be all in on Irving. But after missing these playoffs after going out in Game 1 of the Finals in ’15, Irving will again have to show he’s able to handle a season-long campaign and still be able to bring his best to the postseason. 8. Bah Gawd, That’s Kawhi Leonard’s Music! We have all worked on the assumption that Leonard isn’t going to play for the Spurs any more this season as he rehabs his quad injury, even though they’ve never quite actually said he’s out for the year -- and he, as per usual, has said next to nothing. The Spurs have ridden LaMarcus Aldridge’s All-NBA-level season to the cusp of the playoffs, but no one has much expectation they’ll be there very long if they make it without their former Finals MVP. “Do I have any expectation I’ll see Kawhi?,” Danny Green said a week ago, repeating my question to him. “As of right now, my mindset is no. I’m just going to forward without him … if he does come back, great. Our mindset is this is the group we have today, this is the group we’ll have tomorrow. If somebody does come and join, we’ll have them and it’ll be great. But right now we’re moving forward with the expectation that this is who we have.” But, it’s not like we haven’t seen guys come back suddenly for the playoffs after missing large chunks of a season. A fellow named Michael Jordan played just 18 regular season games in his second season with the Bulls in 1986, recovering from a foot injury and not returning to the lineup until mid-March. True, he did get 15 games under his belt before the playoffs. But that did not prepare anyone for his showing up in Boston Garden in Game 2 of the first round against the Celtics and dropping 63 on the home team. There are, to be sure, issues between Leonard and the Spurs, and maybe they’re insurmountable. But if, somehow, “The Klaw” wakes up one morning this month and says he’s good to go, and reports for duty … who doesn’t think San Antonio can’t start assimilating opponents into its collective just like old times? 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 NewsApr 10th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: Who is the NBA s Person of the Year for 2017?

NBA.com blogtable Using Time magazine’s “for better or worse” criterion, who is your choice for NBA Person of the Year for 2017? * * * David Aldridge: Good question. I'm going to take a different tack and say Kyrie Irving. Think about everything that went haywire because one guy -- Irving -- decided he didn't want to play with LeBron James any more. Everybody wants to play with LeBron James. But in part because of Irving's decision, the Cleveland Cavaliers weren't able to add Jimmy Butler or Paul George, and Cleveland had to ship its 25-year-old future to its biggest Eastern Conference rival to get anything approaching equal value for him. Does anyone doubt that LeBron would have already extended in Cleveland by now if Irving and either or Butler or George were there with him? As I said at the time, I thought Irving was nuts for demanding to be traded -- but I'm not 25, and I didn't hit the shot that brought Cleveland its first major sports championship in 50-plus years. From his perspective, I kind of understood why he wanted out, and his play so far in Boston proves his point -- he would have never had this kind of freedom, both on the court and to lead his team, in James' shadow in Cleveland. Steve Aschburner: An obvious choice would be LeBron James for how he stands astride NBA world in matters on the court and off. Isaiah Thomas embodied much of what players face, good and bad, from performances worthy of Kia MVP consideration to the tumult of getting traded to the disruption of careers and goals by injury. But I’ll go with Kevin Durant as 2017’s “Person of the Year” for having his hand in so many storylines. He won himself a ring, without earning respect or enhancing his reputation because of how he got it -- about as bloodlessly as buying a bunch of Apple stock. His departure from OKC ignited Russell Westbrook, which culminated in the calendar year with Westbrook’s historic triple-double season, a Kia MVP award and a long-term commitment to the fans Durant left. There’s Durant’s growing game and climb toward James’ status as the league’s best player. And there’s his increasingly prickly attitude, which makes him less nice as a guy but maybe interesting as a case study of success. Shaun Powell: Kevin Durant walks away with this prize. He combined brilliance and a championship with polarization. The best player on the floor in The 2017 Finals was also mocked in some public corners for hitching a ride on the Warriors train and being hypersensitive to any and all criticism. Inside the body of a true superstar is a nice guy who is desperate to be loved. In his entire charmed basketball life, Durant never heard the level of boos and hisses that followed his departure from OKC and it rattled him to the bone. John Schuhmann: Mike D'Antoni. The 2016-17 season was the most efficient offensive season we've ever had, and '17-18 is on track to top it. In The Finals, with the traditional bigs on the rosters seeing their playing time reduced as the series went on, the Cavs and Warriors combined for an effective field goal percentage of 57 percent (a mark higher than any team has ever recorded in a season in NBA history) over the final four games. Teams are spacing the floor better and shooting 3-pointers more than ever before. There are a lot of people who have pushed that trend along, but none more than D'Antoni, architect of the seven-seconds-or-less Suns and coach of the team that's now taking more than half of its shots from beyond the arc. Sekou Smith: As much as this year was about Kevin Durant finally cashing in his chips for a title and the Warriors winning it all again, I can't help but think about the year LeBron James has enjoyed/endured. Some 15 years deep into his unbelievable career and he's still sitting atop the heap. He doesn't need team (Durant and Stephen Curry took care of that) or individual hardware (Russell Westbrook snagged that) to validate his position, either. That is pretty remarkable in our what-have-you-done-lately era of sports (and life in general). The seventh straight trip to The Finals and the summertime break up with Kyrie Irving stick out as well. The fact is, LeBron's impact on and off the court, his influence on the game and his reach and position in the culture beyond the game transcendent. His fearlessness when it comes to speaking his mind on social and political issues is perhaps the most memorable thing he's done this year, the thing history will highlight most in retrospect......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2017

January sees third straight month of BoP surplus, biggest in seven years

THE PHILIPPINES’ external position remained in surplus in January, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported on Tuesday, marking the biggest surfeit in six years amid sustained dollar inflows......»»

Category: financeSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsFeb 19th, 2019

Kobe Bryant to attend Fiba World Cup 2019 draw next month - Inquirer Sports

Kobe Bryant, still one of the biggest stars in basketball even years after his retirement, will headline the star-studded Fiba Basketball World Cup 2019 draw on March 16 in Shenzhen, China. The NBA gr.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsFeb 19th, 2019

Mercedes Wolff fears no-deal Brexit s effect on Formula One

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Politics, not engines or aerodynamics, is what really worries Mercedes boss Toto Wolff as his team heads into the new Formula One season seeking a sixth consecutive title. It's the looming possibility of a chaotic rupture of the United Kingdom from the European Union that would be most problematic. "That is a nightmare scenario that I don't want to even envisage," Wolff said on Monday, the opening day of preseason testing near Barcelona. "If a no-deal Brexit would happen like has been discussed, I think we would have a major impact in terms of our operations going to the races and getting our cars developed and ready." Last month, the British Parliament voted down the deal Prime Minister Theresa May had initially reached with the other 27 members of the EU. The clock is ticking toward March 29, when the U.K. is due to leave the bloc with or without a deal. That will come with F1 teams preparing for the second grand prix of the season in Bahrain on March 31. What a divorce would mean without negotiated terms to handle the legal and commercial implication is hard to predict, but most agree there would be a risk for considerable disruption to trade and the legal status of foreigners. Besides Mercedes, which has its factory 70 miles northwest of London, the Red Bull, Renault, Williams, McLaren and Racing Point teams also have facilities in the U.K. Wolff fears that an ugly Brexit will give an advantage to those teams based on the European continent. That would mean Ferrari, Mercedes' biggest challenger in recent years, but it also includes the other Italian team, Toro Rosso; Haas, based in the United States; and Switzerland-based Alfa Romeo. "Brexit is a major concern for us, and it should be a major concern for all of us who live in the U.K. and operate out of the U.K.," Wolff said. He fears the disruption affecting not just the movement of teams, but also the shipping and delivering of car parts and Mercedes' staff, which has 26 different nationalities represented. "The way we are getting parts and services is just in time, at the last minute, into the U.K., and any major disruption in borders and taxes would massively damage the Formula 1 industry in the U.K.," Wolff said. "We have a fantastic access to talent today in the U.K. Formula One has grown. What Silicon Valley is to the U.S., Formula One is to the U.K., and at the moment, there is a risk whether the U.K. can stay as a competitive location as it is today." Red Bull team principal Chris Horner is also concerned, but believes that the industry will adjust. "You can paint a doomsday scenario of Brexit or you can actually maybe see how much it will affect our daily life," Horner said. "Whether there is no deal, any deal, we will have to deal with it.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 18th, 2019

2019 NBA All-Star Diary: Day 1

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 16th, 2019

Customs collections up in Jan - Inquirer Business

Import duties and other taxes collected by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in January not only grew year-on-year but also exceeded the goal for the month, the countrys second biggest revenue agency said M.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsFeb 5th, 2019

May’s Brexit Deal Finally Wins Majority Support in Parliament

Just days after suffering the biggest humiliation in British political history, Prime Minister Theresa May was closer than ever Tuesday to finally reach an elusive Brexit deal. By 317 votes to 301, MPs in the House of Commons gave their backing to May’s deal, which they rejected earlier this month, providing changes are made to […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  metrocebuRelated NewsFeb 4th, 2019

May’s Brexit Deal Finally Wins Majority Support in Parliament

Just days after suffering the biggest humiliation in British political history, Prime Minister Theresa May was closer than ever Tuesday to finally reach an elusive Brexit deal. By 317 votes to 301, MPs in the House of Commons gave their backing to May’s deal, which they rejected earlier this month, providing changes are made to […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  metrocebuRelated NewsFeb 3rd, 2019

For US-China Trade Talks, Hopes Are High, Expectations Low

WASHINGTON (AP) --- U.S. and Chinese negotiators start two days of high-level talks Wednesday aimed at settling a six-month trade war that has weakened both sides, shaken financial markets and clouded the outlook for the global economy. Yet the odds seem stacked against any substantive resolution this week to the standoff between the world's two biggest economies. Perhaps the best that might be hoped for, analysts say, is for the two sides to agree to keep talking. The differences between Beijing and Washington are vast. The United States is essentially demanding that China downsize its economic aspiration to become a supreme world leader in such fields as robotics and electric car...Keep on reading: For US-China Trade Talks, Hopes Are High, Expectations Low.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsFeb 1st, 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

Spain not immune to problems in VAR s debut season

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid complained about it. Barcelona defended it. Fans are struggling to understand it. Video review is not escaping controversy in its first season in Spain. As in other countries, the implementation of VAR hasn't been smooth in the Spanish league, with confusion and criticism coming along with the process. The system's debut had not prompted major discussions early on, but two controversial decisions involving powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona were enough to make it a hot topic. First it was a non-call of a penalty on Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior in the team's 2-0 home loss to Real Sociedad in the beginning of the month. Then came the confirmation of a goal by striker Luis Suarez in Barcelona's 3-1 win over Leganes on Sunday. Madrid felt the images clearly showed a foul on Vinicius Junior, while Leganes was sure the review would mean a foul by Suarez on its goalkeeper before the goal. But both decisions stood, prompting complaints by the clubs and confusion among fans and analysts. "It's a tool we welcomed with excitement," Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari said Wednesday. "We want it to be used correctly. The less people talk about it, the better it is. This is the first year, it will be improved. What is important is that we all get used to it." The Spanish federation analyzed the use of the VAR in the first half of the season and concluded it was a positive debut although more than 120 mistakes were not corrected by the system, including seven penalty calls. It said the VAR intervened in 30 goal situations, confirming half of them. The number of overall mistakes was significantly reduced, officials said. The biggest complaint by fans and clubs has been the lack of criteria by the officiating crews when using — or not using — the video review. Audio from the conversation between the officials during the Madrid game was made public, with the VAR official telling the referee that "everything was OK" on the play involving Vinicius Junior, when it looked like he had his leg touched by the goalkeeper inside the area. Fans didn't seem satisfied with what they heard, and they have been booing loudly every time the announcer at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium mentions information about the VAR before games. "When a top team is affected, the impact is greater," Spanish league president Javier Tebas told Spanish media. "We are happy with how things are going so far." There had been plenty of controversy with video review before the decisions involving Real Madrid and Barcelona. Valladolid owner Ronaldo, the former Brazil great, took to Twitter to talk about VAR after his team's Copa del Rey elimination against Getafe, when a late offside call hurt his team. "The VAR is here to correct mistakes, but it won't eliminate all of them," he posted. Levante had already issued a statement asking for an explanation about the VAR criteria after a penalty was awarded against the team in a loss against Atletico Madrid. Last year, Atletico also released a statement criticizing how the video review was being used. Atletico felt a hand ball by a Real Madrid player was not called in its match against the city rival, despite images clearly showing it. Spain was one of the late adopters of VAR, although the Premier League will only start using it next season. Italy was one of the countries which struggled the most with video review after it started using it last season, although things have improved significantly since then. "Referees make mistakes and the VAR is not perfect," said Carlos Velasco Carballo, head of the referee's technical committee in Spain. "But the numbers so far have shown that we are improving. We have to be proud of it.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 24th, 2019

December BoP surplus biggest in more than six years

THE PHILIPPINES’ balance of payments (BoP) posted the biggest surplus in more than six years in December, which also marked the second straight month of surfeit, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported on Friday, but it still ended 2018 with a wider deficit than in 2017......»»

Category: financeSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsJan 18th, 2019

R& B star Alicia Keys to host 2019 Grammy Awards

LOS ANGELES, USA – American singer and songwriter Alicia Keys will host the Grammy Awards next month, she announced Tuesday, January 16 one year after the gala came under fire over diversity concerns. Keys – herself a 15-time Grammy winner – will be the emcee for music's biggest night, ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 16th, 2019

Uneasy twosome: Golf and politics at Saudi Arabia tournament

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press Golf usually isn't all that complicated for Dustin Johnson. He decides where he's going to play and tries to post the lowest score. The newest addition to his schedule involved a little more than that. Johnson is among several of golf's biggest stars who are scheduled to play the Saudi International at the end of the month. Johnson and Masters champion Patrick Reed were among the first to sign up last April for the European Tour event, long before Saudi Arabia came under even greater scrutiny over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Johnson said he talked to his corporate sponsors to make sure they didn't have a problem with him playing. He will be joining a field that features Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau — that makes four of the top five players in the world ranking — at Royal Green Golf and Country Club on Jan. 31. "Obviously, that was a concern with our team," Johnson said. "I'm going over there to play a sport I'm paid to play. It's my job to play golf. Unfortunately, it's in a part of the world where most people don't agree with what happened, and I definitely don't support anything like that. I'm going to play golf, not support them. "I'm not a politician. I play golf." He also said it might have been a tougher decision if not for so many others going. Along with four of the top five in the world, the Saudi International includes the last two Masters champions — Reed and Sergio Garcia — and former British Open champion Henrik Stenson. "I think any time we're trying to grow the game and expose the game in a positive way, that's what we're trying to do," said DeChambeau, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour last year. "I don't think it's a bad decision as long as they want us there. That's what I've heard — they want us there. And they want to have a little bit more exposure in the game of golf. And that's what I'm trying to do." It's not all goodwill, of course. The purse is $3.5 million, though the primary income for these players is appearance money, likely to be in the $1 million range for the biggest names. That's common for some European Tour events, especially early in the year in the Middle East, which hosted its first golf tournament in Dubai in 1989 and now has six on the Arabian Peninsula. Johnson and Koepka start their journey this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, an event that in years past has featured top players like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. Saudi Arabia's human rights record has come under intense scrutiny since the killing in October of Khashoggi, who wrote critically of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in columns for The Washington Post. He had been living in self-imposed exile before he was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, according to Turkish media and officials. European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley deflected concerns when he introduced the Saudi International to the schedule in November. "As like many global companies, we monitor the situation in the areas countries, areas we play and the viability of the golf tournament, and I can simply say that the Saudi International is on our schedule in 2019," Pelley said. "And I really don't have anything more to add than that." Among those not going is Paul Casey, who last April was listed as "confirmed" for the tournament with Johnson and Reed. He says that was never the case, only that he had entertained the idea of going. "But there were a lot of questions," Casey said. "Do I want to go to Saudi? That was the main question." There also was the matter of Casey being an ambassador for UNICEF, with the logo on his golf bag. "There are a lot of places in the world that I have played and continue to go, which you could question ... some human rights violations that governments have committed," he said. "I thought I'd sit this one out." PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has granted releases for his members to play the tournament, held the same week as the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He said the U.S. tour's only involvement was making sure the trip was safe for its players. "Those are all terrible things that have happened, and that's what gives us concern about our players' safety," Monahan said about recent developments in Saudi Arabia. "Our players are independent contractors. Ultimately, they're going to make their own choice. Our job is to make them as informed as they can be." Koepka, who won two majors last year and was the PGA Tour player of the year, also said he received no pushback from his sponsors. Like Johnson, it was another offer to play golf in a new spot. The PGA Tour runs a developmental tour and sponsors a World Golf Championship event in China. The European Tour has had Turkey on the schedule since 2013. "People are always going to have different views on politics wherever you go," Koepka said. "All these places, there's a bit of conflict if you want to get into it. I'm not going to get into it. It's going to be an unbelievable field of golf there. Hopefully, you can spread some goodwill through golf when you're there.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2019

Dow Jones Recovered Over 1,000 Points After Worst Post-X’mas Trading; Biggest Gain In 10 Years

On December 26, 2018, the U.S. stock market had its largest point-gain of all time as equities soared upwards. The Dow Jones recovered over 1,000 points during post-Christmas trading: its biggest gain in 10 years. This miraculous recovery was a welcome relief for many after having to deal with massive losses earlier in the month. The Dow Jones, the Nasdaq, the Russell 2,000, and the S&P 500 index all experienced substantial gains of at least five percent. What Caused the Rally? Many financial analysts speculated that the news of Fed chairman Jerome Powell no longer having to worry about losing his position helped to bolster the massive rally. Others have speculated that it was a sh...Keep on reading: Dow Jones Recovered Over 1,000 Points After Worst Post-X’mas Trading; Biggest Gain In 10 Years.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 13th, 2019

Heat hang on late, top Grizzlies 112-108

Associated Press MIAMI (AP) — Justise Winslow scored 26 points, Dwyane Wade had a huge blocked shot in the final seconds and the Miami Heat beat the Memphis Grizzlies 112-108 on Saturday night. Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson each scored 14 for Miami, which reached the midpoint of the season at 21-20. Bam Adebayo and Derrick Jones Jr. scored 11 apiece for the Heat and Wade had 10, but arguably the two biggest plays of his night came in the final 4 seconds. Wade blocked a potentially game-tying layup by Shelvin Mack, then won a jump ball to help the Heat escape. JaMychal Green scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who went 0-2 this season against Miami — losing the two games by a total of seven points. Mike Conley scored 22 and Marc Gasol had 15. Conley made a 65-footer as time expired, though it was waved off and would have been irrelevant anyway. No lead was safe: Memphis blew a pair of double-digit leads in the first half, and Miami was up by 13 midway through the third. Conley's 3-pointer with 6:31 left knotted the game at 99, ending a 12-minute stretch where the Grizzlies outscored the Heat 32-19. It was tied twice more after that as well, but the Grizzles never reclaimed the lead. Conley tried a runner for the lead with 56 seconds left, and Gasol had a wide-open 3-point try as the shot clock was running down with 32 seconds remaining. Both missed — Conley's bounced off and Gasol's missed everything, going wide left. With Miami up one, Wade missed a jumper with 14 seconds left and Richardson grabbed the rebound for Miami before getting fouled. He made one of two free throws, and Memphis called time with 9 seconds left. Mack tried to drive on Wade, only to get his shot blocked and a jump ball was called. Wade won the tap to Richardson, who made a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left. TIP-INS Grizzlies: Memphis opened on a 19-7 run, then had a 17-4 run later in the half — yet still went into the break down 63-61. ... It was the first game at Miami for Joakim Noah since Dec. 6, 2016. ... As the Grizzlies were playing in Miami, Justin Timberlake tweeted out a video showing him making half-court shots on their practice court in Memphis. He had a concert in their building Saturday night. ... Mack and Jaren Jackson each had 13 points for Memphis. Heat: It was kids' day at the Heat game, and coach Erik Spoelstra got into the act by holding his 9-month-old son Santiago as he stood for the national anthem. ... Hassan Whiteside missed the game with an illness. ... The game was a rare 5 p.m. home tip, just the second in a regular-season contest for Miami since Christmas 2014. ... The Heat made 15 3-pointers, giving them 33 in their last two games — the best two-game run from deep this season. Their previous best was 28 3s in a two-game span, done on six occasions. DAUNTING SCHEDULE Miami plays only four home games in the next six weeks — and three of those are in a four-day span between Jan. 30 and Feb. 2. After that, the next Heat home game is Feb. 23. In all, 12 of Miami's next 16 are on the road and 11 of those games are against likely playoff teams. TURKEY TURNAROUND At Thanksgiving, Memphis was 12-5 and leading the Western Conference. The Grizzlies are 7-18 since, and have fallen to 14th in the West. UP NEXT Grizzlies: Visit Houston on Monday. Both of Memphis' games against Miami this season were followed by one with the Rockets. Heat: Visit Milwaukee on Tuesday. It's the start of a four-game trip for the Heat, who are 10-8 on the road this season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2019

Rookie Ladder: Big performances abound at season s midway point

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2019

Ibaka roars loudest

IN RAPTORS VICTORY TORONTO — Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry shared the court for the first time in almost a month for Toronto, yet it was Serge Ibaka who scored the biggest basket of the game for the Raptors. Ibaka scored the winning points on a dunk with 17 seconds remaining and the Raptors won […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tribuneRelated NewsJan 9th, 2019

Harden has Rockets rolling with visit to Warriors looming

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press James Harden and the Houston Rockets were one half away from the NBA Finals last time they played at Oracle Arena. The way the Rockets are rolling now, they might just get another shot at the champs this postseason. The Rockets try to wrap up a perfect month at home Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) against Memphis, then visit Golden State for the first time since the Western Conference finals, having recovered from a rough start thanks to Harden’s torrid stretch. He has scored 40 points in three straight games and 35 or more in seven straight, the longest streak since LeBron James did it in nine in a row in 2006. The NBA scoring leader’s quest to repeat as MVP is clearly on track. And after a poor start, so are the Rockets (20-15). They have won four straight and nine of their last 10 games overall, and are 8-0 at home in December after dropping their first four games at the Toyota Center. Just like Game 6 of the West finals, when they blew a double-digit lead, they will play at Golden State for Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) nationally televised game without Chris Paul because of a hamstring injury. But instead of what had been a shaky season getting worse, the Rockets have surged in his absence because of Harden. “Somebody said the other day that we can only win if he scores 40. OK, that’s kind of a bad thing, but the good thing is he can score 40 every night, so we’re OK with that,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Tell him to keep going.” NEW YEAR, OLD HOME Kawhi Leonard’s first trip of the new year is to his old home. The Toronto Raptors visit San Antonio on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) for what became one of the most anticipated games of this NBA season this summer when the Spurs gave Leonard the exit he had been seeking, trading him to the Raptors. Leonard was the NBA Finals MVP when the Spurs won their last championship in 2014 and had become one of the league’s most complete players by last season. But he was limited to nine games because of a quadriceps injury and his relationship with the organization became strained. The Spurs dealt him along with mainstay Danny Green to Toronto, getting All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan back. Leonard led Toronto to the best record in the league for most of the season and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year’s absence has shown on the Spurs’ defense, long one of the league’s best but well back in the rankings now. While the game Thursday (Friday, PHL time) is the most newsworthy, it’s not the most important of the week for Toronto. The Raptors follow it Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) by visiting the Milwaukee Bucks, who have inched ahead of them for the NBA’s best record and have won both meetings this season. OTHER GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK: Orlando at Charlotte, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Magic coach Steve Clifford returns to face the team he coached for five seasons. Oklahoma City at Lakers, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Chance for Californians Russell Westbrook and Paul George to put on a show for the fans back home. Atlanta at Milwaukee, Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Mike Budenholzer’s move from Atlanta to Milwaukee couldn’t look much better. Dallas at Philadelphia, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). The reigning Rookie of the Year (Ben Simmons) against the player (Luka Doncic) who could succeed him. AYTON IN ACTION Deandre Ayton will finish his strong December by testing himself against the NBA champions. Then he opens January against a different kind of test — perhaps the toughest in the league at his position. The rookie center squares off for the second time against Joel Embiid on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) when the Phoenix Suns host the Philadelphia 76ers. Luka Doncic might already have too much hype and highlights to be caught in the Rookie of the Year race, but Ayton’s strong play certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. The No. 1 pick scored a season-high 33 points on 16-of-20 shooting and added 14 rebounds Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a 122-118 loss to Denver, after he came into the game averaging 16 points and nearly 12 boards for the month. “You can feel game-to-game he is getting better,” coach Igor Kokoskov said last week. “He is working on his game. He is a very dedicated player. It was just a matter of time.” That improvement has helped the Suns go 5-4 in their last nine games — one more victory than they had during a brutal 4-24 start. After facing Golden State on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), it’s on to his second matchup with Embiid, one of the league’s biggest talkers who was already chirping about Ayton even before he’d played his first game. After the former Arizona star was compared to him in June, Embiid wrote on Twitter: “Don’t compare Ayton to me either. I play DEFENSE.” He then told ESPN in a preseason interview that Ayton was “about to get his (butt) kicked.” Embiid had 33 points to Ayton’s 17 in the 76ers’ victory in Philadelphia in November......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2018