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Raptors running out of options as series shifts to Toronto

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE – The Toronto Raptors are two bounces on the rim into their Eastern Conference championship series against Milwaukee. Two more and – unless things change radically for the Raptors in every phase of the game from what we’ve seen – the basketball metaphor of their 2019 postseason is going to fall harmlessly to the side. No points, no buzzer-beater, no victory, no nothing. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Two games into this best-of-seven series, it’s already hard to see a way out for the Raptors that doesn’t include Hefty bags, cleaned-out lockers and a wide-open month of June. Toronto played well enough to win in Game 1, yet managed to lose it anyway thanks to an open elevator shaft of a fourth quarter that qualified instantly as something that would haunt them. Then they played miserably in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 2, save for a stretch in the third quarter when slippage in Milwaukee’s focus appeared as culpable as anything Raptors-related. Kyle Lowry, Toronto’s veteran point guard, is wandering around these days with a modified blue oven mitt on his left hand. It’s there to protect the thumb he sprained in Game 7 against Philadelphia. That’s the game that got the Raptors here, the one decided by Kawhi Leonard’s eternal-highlight shot at the end that bounced four times on the rim before dropping through the net. It’s been kind of downhill for their crew since then. Anyway, Lowry was asked a series of questions after Milwaukee's 125-103 triumph at Fiserv Forum about the defense, about the rebounding, about the shift from the Bucks’ floor to the Raptors’ for Games 3 and 4 beginning Sunday (Monday, PHL time). And Lowry earnestly answered by saying, yes, they have to defend better, they have to rebound better and they definitely have to assert themselves more to defend their Scotiabank Arena home court. Lowry said the right things. Problem is, that’s a lot of things. The Raptors don’t appear to have the wherewithal – or even the duct tape, if you prefer – to fix so many flaws at once. They have been outrebounded 113-86, a major factor in the Bucks’ 41-20 advantage in second-chance points. They have been outscored by 30 points in the two games and most of the difference has come from the bench (76-51), adding to the sense that Milwaukee isn’t just beating Toronto, it’s ganging up on them. Defensively, the Raptors haven’t been nearly good enough and their coach, Nick Nurse, put the blame squarely on them. He went into detail – both before and after Game 2 – to explain the difference between a good contest of a jump shot and a great, playoffs-worthy contest. After talking at length before tipoff about needing and hoping to see effort from his players as a sign they grasped the urgency involved, it had to be embarrassing for Nurse to acknowledge afterward that, no, that effort in fact was not there. “We were just a step too slow on just about everything,” he observed. To illustrate how casually his players closed on Bucks’ shooters, Nurse did a deep dive on a play in which center Marc Gasol needed to get out to Nikola Mirotic. “It was a good contest, but it wasn't a full-out contest,” the Toronto coach said. “We know the level of contest is going to affect these shots or not, and if you don't go with everything you've got and jump high and really try to let them know you're right pressed up against them, then the chances of [the shots] going in are pretty good.” Poor Gasol. This supremely skilled big man who was so valuable to the Memphis Grizzlies in numerous playoff wars is an early nominee for series scapegoat here. He at least had 12 rebounds and five assists in the opener, but his contributions and minutes fizzled in Game 2. By the time he got to 1-for-9 (3-for-20 in the series), the 34-year-old Gasol was looking creakier than his brother Pau, 38, who was wheeling himself through the halls on a scooter Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) after undergoing foot surgery this week. Then there’s Danny Green, a helpful 3-and-D guy with tons of postseason experience from his San Antonio days. Green’s challenge has been touching the ball enough to make a difference; he’s 3-for-11, getting about two thirds as many shots as he’d expect. But as he noted, Toronto’s ball movement has been spotty, the Bucks’ top-ranked defense stingy and little has been done to alter either from one game to the next. “Our offense was out of whack a little bit tonight, and we didn’t tighten it up,” Green said. A little more Norman Powell, a little less Gasol going forward? Doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough. Now take Pascal Siakam and Lowry from the margin for error that Toronto really doesn’t have. They were good for 45 points in the opener but scored a total of 23 Friday (Saturday, PHL time), each burdened with foul trouble from daring to mess with Milwaukee’s gears. Siakam, a favorite to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, wound up as the night’s most removed player, his minutes dropping from more than 42 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) to 26 on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). There’s no reason to let Leonard off the hook, either. The Raptors’ best player has scored 31 points in each game, but they’ve been about as quiet as 62 points can be, coming almost from a bubble that has nothing in common with the rest of Toronto’s attack. Sometimes Leonard is bailing them out, sure, but many times the ball and the possession stop with him. The Bucks are OK with that, defending him with Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and helpers. Leonard has taken 20 of his team’s 45 free throws, but dished only four assists in the two games. That’s one area in which Leonard is so different from – and so far in this series, lacking when compared to – Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks’ star, with his gravitational pull on defenders, creates a bounty of opportunities for others. Leonard isn’t making any of his teammates better at this stage. And let’s not forget the intangibles. Antetokounmpo is the catalyst for Milwaukee’s superior team chemistry, a top-five talent who is all in on the Bucks’ ambitions and the players corralled around him. Leonard? For all anyone knows, he still has one foot out the door to free agency. His laconic nature doesn’t lend itself to firing up others, and it’s difficult to see how he leads by anything other than example. The cloud of Leonard’s future has been squatting over Toronto’s whole season. Every game is a referendum on whether he feels he has enough help or not. Does Nurse or another Raptors coach dare to challenge him, for fear he’ll start packing his bags immediately? Did anyone object to his “load management” nights off this season? It has been a tough way to grind through a long year, held hostage by your star’s inscrutability. But it’s what they signed up for when GM Masai Ujiri traded for him with just one season to woo and recruit. Compare that to what Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was sharing about Antetokounmpo, as far as pushing him to greater heights. “We're coaching him and we're on him,” Budenholzer said. “We think he can be doing more, and he just soaks it up.” As the series shifts to Canada, the Raptors will look to Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) third quarter as quickly as the Bucks will dismiss it. Toronto outscored Milwaukee 39-31 over those 12 minutes, the only portion of the game in which they managed to send a ripple of nervousness through the building. OK, well, maybe not quite that, but a few fans surely noticed that what had been a 28-point lead soon after halftime got chiseled down to 13. Not once, but twice. But Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill went to work off the Bucks’ bench, Giannis came back mean-muggin’ to start the fourth and that most definitely was that. Playoff protocol says we must give the Raptors their home games to demonstrate a difference. But they need to know that 0-2 is a gaping hole, from which only 20 teams in NBA history have come back in a seven-game series. Two more bounces on the rim, and we’ll see which way the Raptors fall. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Beltré missing baseball less than he thought after 21 years

By Stephen Hawkins, Associated Press DALLAS (AP) — Adrián Beltré was afraid of how he was going to feel after announcing his retirement last November, a decision the former third baseman had pretty much reached privately a few months earlier during the season. While at peace after 21 MLB seasons and 3,166 hits, Beltré still wasn't sure what to expect when the Texas Rangers went to spring training, or when they opened this season without him. "I thought I was going to miss it more, but I'm good," Beltre said Wednesday. "So far it's been good, so hopefully stays that way." Beltre's appearance at the SMU Athletic Forum came about 3½ weeks before he will be back in Texas when the Rangers retire his No. 29 jersey on June 8. "I've seen the guys play, and talked to the guys and every game I see, I don't feel like I wish I could be there," said Beltré, who passed a big test during spring training when he visited the Rangers' complex when his 12-year-old son was playing a baseball tournament in Arizona. "I miss the guys, hanging around the guys. ... Beyond that, I don't think that I'm missing the game that much." The Dominican-born Beltré, the career hits leader for foreign-born players , turned 40 last month. Many of his former teammates were able to celebrate his birthday with him at his California home, since the Rangers' first road trip was against the Los Angeles Angels. While the Rangers are about one-fourth of the way through their 162-game season, Beltré spends his days with his family, transporting his three kids to school and their various activities. "Retirement is nice, but getting a little busy, too," he said. Beltré spent the last eight seasons of his Hall of Fame-caliber career with the Rangers. The four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner went to his only World Series in 2011, his first season in Texas, and joined the 3,000-hit club in a Rangers home game two years ago. He hit a Texas-high .273 with 15 homers and 65 RBIs in 119 games last season, but was on the disabled list twice because of a strained left hamstring. Calf and hamstring issues in 2017 limited him to 94 games, his fewest since 77 as a 19-year-old rookie with the Los Angeles Dodgers. When he was hurt last season, Beltré said he pretty much decided it was time to retire. But he never publicly revealed what he was thinking, not even to his immediate family, and allowed himself a chance to mentally prepare that his playing career was going to end. "It gave me time to force my mind to this is it," said Beltré, a .286 career hitter with 477 homers whose 2,759 career games at third base are second only to Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. Beltré, who was a key leader in the Rangers clubhouse, doesn't expect to be a coach any time soon — if at all. "I don't think I have the patience for it. I don't say I will never do it, I just don't see myself doing it," he said. "I was away my house pretty much for 20-something years, and coaching takes more time. ... I don't think I can do that to my family, at least not yet.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2019

The Trail Blazers patience has been rewarded

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Bravo, Portland. Bravo. Doing the right thing isn’t easy in the NBA, where patience is a rare virtue. The Trail Blazers were swept in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. They got swept again in the first round last season. Portland had lost 10 consecutive playoff games going into this year. Ordinarily, that’s a recipe for firings, trade demands and roster dismantling. Instead, the Blazers stayed the course. And their reward is a trip to the Western Conference final, starting Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) against two-time defending champion Golden State. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “It speaks to the character of our organization and what we’ve become,” All-Star guard Damian Lillard said. The Blazers have become a model of consistency. They could have gone the other way. A lot of teams have gone the other way. Neil Olshey, the Blazers’ general manager, took an uncommonly measured approach last season and kept Terry Stotts — currently the fourth-longest-tenured coach in the NBA. Lillard stayed committed and didn’t stomp his feet or force a trade like so many other players in his situation have done or tried to. CJ McCollum, Lillard’s backcourt partner who carried them Sunday (Monday, PHL time) with 37 points, doesn’t mind that he could get more shots elsewhere. “This is arguably the biggest win that we’ve had in the franchise for a long time,” Stotts said after Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) Game 7 win at Denver — the first Game 7 road win in team history. “To be a part of it, to do it the way we did, I’m thrilled.” In a lot of ways, Sunday (Monday, PHL time) epitomized what the Blazers have done in recent years. They got down 17 early on the road in a Game 7. They battled, chipped at the deficit, eventually found the right combination of things that worked and didn’t panic. “Just stay with it,” Stotts said. “Trust was the biggest thing.” He was speaking of Game 7. He could have meant the last two offseasons. Trust takes time to build, and the Blazers now have it from top to bottom. This is how close-knit they are: After the game, Lillard lauded teammates, coaches, the training staff, the front office, the team’s security and the members of the sports media relations staff. He forgot nobody. “Everybody we see every day, everybody’s invested in what we’ve created,” Lillard said. Some teams should be taking notes. So should some players. This is an era in which teams spend years tanking instead of competing, yet still charge plenty to fans willing to come see their inferior product. An era where a bad team like Phoenix somehow decides after one year that a well-regarded coach like Igor Kokoskov needs to be fired — a move that means Devin Booker will start his fifth NBA season playing for a fifth different coach. An era where an elite player like Anthony Davis can pursue a trade with a year and a half left on his contract in New Orleans, starting a circus that became a massive problem for both the Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Blazers didn’t demand that someone else fix their mistakes. They did it themselves. Olshey knew Portland’s roster was flawed after being swept by Davis and the Pelicans last season, that it wasn’t deep enough to handle injury issues. So he took a chance on Seth Curry, Warriors star Stephen Curry’s brother who wasn’t in the league last season, and signed him over the summer. He swung a trade in February and got Rodney Hood to fortify the bench. He fought off plenty of other clubs to sign Enes Kanter when he was freed by the New York Knicks — and that move proved enormous after center Jusuf Nurkic went down with a broken leg. But the moves Olshey didn’t make the last two summers are part of why the Blazers are here now. So are the moves he made three months ago. So, too, are the moves he made four years ago when the Blazers were rebuilders after LaMarcus Aldridge and three other starters left. “We had the roster turnover four years ago and everybody was quick to shoot us down, count us out,” Lillard said. “And at that point, we didn’t know for sure what direction we were going to go in.” Now they know. They’re heading to Oakland and the Western Conference final. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

No extra drama needed for Nuggets, Blazers in Game 7

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2019

Mentality of giants : Self-belief fueling Klopp s Liverpool

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

Djokovic sounds open to Gimelstob regaining role in tennis

MADRID (AP) — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic sounds open to the idea of Justin Gimelstob's eventual return to an influential role in tennis following his recent resignation from the ATP board of directors. Speaking Monday at the Madrid Open, Djokovic said Gimelstob did the right thing by stepping down after being sentenced in a U.S. court for attacking a former friend. Djokovic also said he would be OK with soon-to-leave ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode seeking a return to that job now that Gimelstob is no longer on the decision-making board that oversees the men's tennis circuit. Roger Federer said Sunday that Kermode "maybe should be put back into ... the mix." Gimelstob is an ex-player, coach and TV commentator who pleaded no contest last month and was sentenced to three years of probation, 60 days of community service and a year's worth of anger management classes. Prosecutors said the 42-year-old American attacked Randall Kaplan as they trick-or-treated with their kids in Los Angeles on Halloween in 2017. Kermode's departure at the end of 2019 was announced in March after a vote by the ATP board. Djokovic called Gimelstob's resignation, announced last week in a Facebook post, "a wise decision," adding, "the whole case was just posing so much pressure and obstacles for the tour, in general." "It's unfortunate, because I think he has been probably the biggest asset that players had in the last 10-plus years that he's been on the tour, representing players," Djokovic said. "But at the same time, these are kind of unfortunate circumstances, and he needs to go back and deal with that — deal with that case and try to find the right balance and the right state of mind — before he eventually tries to come back.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2019

Celtics need best version of Irving back

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are looking forward to getting guard Marcus Smart back, possibly as soon as Game 4 against Milwaukee Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) at TD Garden. They would be better served, however, getting guard Kyrie Irving back. The Irving who led Boston to its victory on the Bucks’ court in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals series was the latest, greatest iteration of the six-time All-Star point guard. Irving scored 26 points, passed for 11 assists and showed such maturity in orchestrating Boston’s attack that, even for a guy who has been on the national stage as long as he has, it seemed like some sort of breakthrough performance. That guy, though, exited this series some time in the 48 hours before Game 2. Kryie 3.0 became Kyrie uh-oh. Irving’s play looked rushed, detached and not at all mature. After hitting 12-of-21 shots in the series opener, he shot a combined 12-of-40 in Games 2 and 3 as the Celtics dropped both. They gave back the homecourt edge they had snatched with the opening victory and now need to win Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) just to force a best-of-three mini-series with two in Milwaukee. Irving had a plus/minus rating of minus-26 in the two Celtics defeats. And most disconcerting, the player who arguably is the NBA’s best at making difficult shots seemed bent on making his shots difficult. Too often he went solo, didn’t probe for something better, didn’t spot or even look for another option. Irving and Boston coach Brad Stevens had a conversation off to the side after the Celtics’ practice Sunday afternoon (Monday, PHL time) of moderate length. Afterward, each spoke with reporters. The point guard wouldn’t share what they discussed, while the coach deftly sidestepped the question. “We just wanted to spend 15 minutes talking about the objection of the Kentucky Derby,” Stevens said. “How that could possibly have happened. And so we just created a conversation as long as the objection, and that’s what we discussed in great detail.” Not likely. Stevens probably talked with Irving about some of the things the coach had said to reporters Saturday and Sunday (Sunday and Monday, PHL time): the need for the Celtics not to settle and not to succumb to whatever chaos Milwaukee’s defense was instigating by getting chaotic themselves. For two days, answering various questions, Stevens has steered the discussion to Boston moving the ball as the surest way to high-quality shots. “One of the things that we have to do as a team is just make those right reads off the first drive,” Stevens said, “and then go from there. We do have to do a better job of getting the ball to the second side of the floor, to the third side of the floor, and hopefully that includes as many paint attacks as possible.” The Bucks’ unveiled a switching style of defense in Game 2, something they hadn’t done much all season. Too often, Irving’s eyes lit up seeing center Robin Lopez or forward Nikola Mirotic isolated in front of him, and the tunnel vision that triggered didn’t even generate the best shots for Irving. Too seldom, the Celtics failed to get Milwaukee’s defense shifting left-to-right, and back again. “We have to make sure we’re patient in getting the best looks,” Stevens said Sunday (Monday, PHL time). “That patience doesn’t mean you ease into it. You have to work really hard and be patient against these guys. Because they do a great job of covering up the paint.” Celtics players made only 9-of-19 attempts inside five feet, a feeble rate by NBA standards. Lopez has been one of the league’s best defending the rim this season, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has the mobility to guard his man away from the hoop and still help inside. Admirably, Irving has been willing to shoulder responsibility, flatly stating after the Game 2 loss: “This is what I signed up for. This is what Boston traded for me for.” After each game, he has given detailed breakdowns of what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong and, most important, what he planned to do in the next game. It’s just that his most recent results haven’t matched his pledges. The Celtics have more talent than the Bucks, and more players capable of carrying them offensively through a game or just a pivotal stretch. But those scorers, from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, are dependent on Irving finding them and delivering the ball in a rhythm. Admittedly, Boston has to cinch things up defensively. Averaging 110 points ought to be enough, if you’re not getting blistered at a 39-percent rate from three-point range while sending your opponents to the free throw line an average of 30 times nightly. Irving blamed all those stoppages for stealing transition opportunities and generally messing with the Celtics’ offense. Even so, he must do what Stevens calls “controlling the controllables” and be his best self. He has gotten the better of his individual matchup with Milwaukee point guard Eric Bledsoe, but that’s not enough. And yes, this is what he signed up for. The great unknowns of this offseason, as in Irving’s future whereabouts, could swing wildly on what happens in the coming days. And what he makes happen. “I’ve got to be me. That’s the easy part,” Irving said Sunday (Monday, PHL time). “The same mindset that I’ve always had. Being aggressive. Being patient. Being able to be aware of the time of the game and where I need to make my impact. Being able to be in the right defensive positions and being able to communicate with my teammates as well. “That’s the easy part though. That’s the fun part, if you go out there and just allow the flow of the game to dictate your instincts.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Harden, Durant both covet championship, mantle of best player

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Houston -- Steve Kerr’s mind is made up. He’s seen enough. The debate is closed and conquered, the election over and the firm conclusion has been reached, at least from where he stands. Kevin Durant “is the best player in the world, the most skilled player in the world” according to Kerr, who may be biased, but he didn’t sound like it. Kerr said this not once, but four times in the last two weeks, just in case someone didn’t get the message. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s hard to see where the Warriors’ coach is going wrong. Durant is evidently on a mission to (a) win his third and perhaps final championship with the Warriors, and (1-a) become universally recognized as the singularly greatest force in the league, a distinction that means so much to him. To paraphrase Durant, y’all know who he is by now. Durant is sitting at the mythical 50-40-90 threshold in the playoffs, the benchmark for shooting accuracy and efficiency from the floor, three-point range and free-throw line. He’s averaging 35 points in the postseason, 39 in the last seven games. He has two near-masterpieces, the 50-point closeout of the Clippers in the first round and 46 on the Rockets in Game 3 of this series. He’s making contested jumpers from all over the floor and from all angles. There’s really no defense for him. But when this series is over, James Harden hopes to change the conversation. If he does, that means (a) the Rockets will pull off a stunning comeback from being down two games, and (b) Harden out-dueled Durant in the process. Is either possible? Well, Harden might be the only player qualified to do so, even with a left eye that still looks like the Japanese flag. He managed to minimize if not eliminate that poked eye by chopping down the Warriors and pulling the Rockets within 2-1 of the series. “I was just being aggressive,” he said. “I was in attack mode.” He’s attacking something else. Harden, too, wants exactly the same as his friend and former Oklahoma City teammate. A championship would be his first, so obviously that’s paramount. The mantle of “game’s greatest player” is also desired because Harden believes the last four years bear that out. In that span, he won the MVP award and finished runner-up twice, better than anyone. Of course, the missing prize is the championship, which is the final and most authentic validation, and this season at least he must go through Durant to achieve that. Harden’s postseason hasn’t been as stellar as Durant’s, although perhaps Game 3 marked a shift. Harden scored 41 points and sent the Warriors home on a step-back three-pointer in the final seconds of overtime. He and the Rockets are bringing a fresh sense of confidence and also have Game 4 in their house. Sending this series all square back to Oakland wouldn’t be beyond his or their abilities. “In `Harden World,’ that was good, but he can play better,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “That’s James. That’s what he does.” There’s a growing sense among the Warriors, and with some justification, that Harden’s bloody eye is no longer an issue. Harden’s vision was pure when it counted two nights ago and every day brings him a step closer to normalcy, if he isn’t already there. “I think he’s good to go,” said D’Antoni. The other concern for Golden State: Harden’s beginning to figure out the rotations and the Warriors’ defensive scheme. They know Harden adapts quickly to defenders and their tendencies because, at this point, he’s seen it all. Harden is a tough cover because of his shooting range and unwillingness to lose confidence after a string of misses, and his craftiness off the dribble while attacking the rim. “He had 41 points and it was a good chess game,” said Andre Iguodala. “He made some really tough shots. Some shots, where you pat him on the butt, and you say ‘helluva shot’. I felt like it was a little bit of cat and mouse. A guy like that -- you can’t stop him one on one. The defense did a good job of helping off and stopping him. We just have to try to make it hard as possible for him.” The nightmare game for the Warriors is Harden hitting enough early baskets and forcing them to double, then finding teammates for open looks that they make, such as Eric Gordon. In that scenario, points would come in an avalanche and place stress on the defense and possibly get key players into foul trouble, most notably Draymond Green and a suddenly-foul-prone Steph Curry. There’s also an intriguing subplot in the works: The Harden-Durant can-you-top-this drama. With Curry and Chris Paul both performing below their standards in this series, the series seems fixated on Harden and Durant and  what they’re capable of doing to the other team and, by extension, against each other. There’s a genuine and hefty amount of respect between the two, who are friends away from the floor as well. Both left OKC and have since generated millions in endorsement money and find themselves near or at the top of the superstar pecking order. Durant has what Harden doesn’t, a championship. But perhaps Harden has what Durant craves, a team to call his own. That would be the only reason Durant leaves the Warriors in free agency this summer, because it’s difficult to imagine him signing with a team that offers a better chance to win championships or make more in salary than the one he’s already on. Durant earned more points with Harden a few days ago when he defended the Rockets guard, saying Harden doesn’t “cheat the rules” when he tries to draw fouls and manipulate the referees. Durant added: “He can do everything. If you’re not focused, he can drive past you, hit you with the shoulder because he’s strong, and finish with either hand. He can shoot floaters now. Obviously the step-back 3-pointer is one of his staples, but I never believed he was just a free throw guy. He can score in a variety of ways.” Harden must prove that in this series. Last season in the Western Conference finals, he turned to vapor as that series stretched seven games. He made just 24 percent from deep and, after Paul suffered a hamstring pull in Game Five, couldn’t handle the load. In the elimination game, he missed 11-of-13 from deep. Durant, meanwhile, was the star and weeks later would clinch another title and Finals MVP award, outplaying LeBron James in the process. So Kerr’s contention about Durant has much weight and credibility. Through three games of this second-round series, there’s been no reason to question the coach’s claim. Only one person can flip that perception and create doubt. James Harden, therefore, has a tough job ahead. 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 NewsMay 6th, 2019

UAAP Season 81 Final Four: De Jesus wishes UST, Reyes good luck in title quest

University of Sto. Tomas head coach Kungfu Reyes has high respect and admiration for legendary De La Salle University mentor Ramil De Jesus. The fourth year Tigresses tactician considered De Jesus as one of the best coaches in the country with an impressive resume in his 21-year career with the Lady Spikers. As a volleyball player himself during his days as member of the Tigers, Reyes saw how De Jesus turned DLSU into one of the most successful volleyball programs in the UAAP for the past two decades, producing 11 titles. “Kasi syempre living legend na natin sa Philippine volleyball ‘yan, sa generation nila na ito,” said Reyes. So it’s not surprising for Reyes to feel overwhelmed when one of his coaching inspirations wished him good luck in the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball Finals. “Ganoon pala ang pakiramdam kapag ginu-good luck ka ni Coach Ramil,” said Reyes following the Tigresses’ 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 23-25, 15-10 victory over the dethroned Lady Spikers in the Final Four on Sunday that ended the Espana-based squad’s eight-year wait for a championship berth. Gracious in defeat, De Jesus shook the hands of Reyes, accepting the ill-fated third try of the Lady Spikers for a historic four-peat.     “Ngayon lang nagsi-sink in sa akin ‘yung ano [usapan] namin kanina, marami man siyang gustong sabihin talagang medyo maingay na,” Reyes said, who then dropped another of his usual postgame jokes, “Gusto ko man yakapin siya baka sabihin nagro-romance na kaming dalawa kanina.” The Tigresses ended DLSU’s three-year reign as they made their first Finals appearance since finishing second to the Lady Spikers in Season 73.   “So ‘yun lang, ‘yung mga natutunan ko kay Coach Ramil during magkalaban kami malaking bagay tapos malaking pagkakataon sa akin na ‘yung champion coach, ako ang ginu-good luck para sa taon na to, para sa Finals,” said Reyes, who will try to steer UST back to the throne since winning it all back in Season 72.     “Pero ‘yun nga, ‘yung sabihan ka ni Coach Ramil ng good luck na dati sila ang nandoon [sa finals], iba rin ang pakiramdam,” added Reyes. The Tigresses will face the winner between Ateneo de Manila University and Far Eastern University in the best-of-three championship series. Game 1 of the Finals is on Saturday.         --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2019

No rest for the weary: Nuggets, Blazers back at it

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets could use the kind of break everybody else is getting in the second round of the NBA playoffs. If anybody deserved some time off, it’s the All-Star center who just played 65 minutes in a game. But there’s no rest for the weary now. The Nuggets and Trail Blazers will be back on the court Sunday (Monday, PHL time) for Game 4, surely a little low on fuel after they tied an NBA record by playing four overtimes Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) in Portland’s 140-137 victory. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “Both teams are exhausted, so it’s the same for them as it is for us,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We will not use that as an excuse. We haven’t used it all year long and we won’t start using it now.” The conference semifinal round is a series of starts and stops, where it’s difficult for any team to build much momentum because there have been so many gaps between games. Philadelphia and Toronto, who have Game 4 of their series Sunday (Monday, PHL time), play just twice in a seven-day span. In the other Eastern Conference semifinal, Milwaukee and Boston had two days off in between both Games 2 and 3, and Games 3 and 4. When Golden State and Houston played Game 3 of their series Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time), it was their first time back on the court since Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Then there’s Denver and Portland, who barely had time to catch their breath after the Trail Blazers’ victory in Friday’s marathon gave them a 2-1 lead. They are playing every other day to start their series, and would only have an extra day between games if it’s extended to a seventh game. So while Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has ample opportunity for treatment on his sore left knee that was such a problem when the postseason began, Portland’s Enes Kanter’s left shoulder has little time to heal before he’d have to get back on the court to resume tussling with Jokic. “As far as the minutes, everybody’s tired. Were built for what’s happening right now. That’s what we had to do to win the game,” Portland’s Damian Lillard said. “Now we’ve got to go do our jobs away from the floor to make sure that at 4 o’clock Sunday we’re ready.” At least Portland wrapped up its first-round series against Oklahoma City quickly, earning some down time after Lillard’s long three-pointer ended the series in five games. But the Nuggets had to go the distance against San Antonio, meaning they had only one day off between ending one series and starting the next. Recover quickly and win Sunday (Monday, PHL time), and they’ve evened the series and regained home-court advantage. But if not, the No. 2 seeds are facing a 3-1 hole, which is a tough spot no matter their energy level. The seven-foot, 250-pound Jokic insists he’ll be ready. “They always talking about I’m not in shape. I’m in really good shape. I don’t know what they’re talking about,” Jokic said. “When I came here I was maybe a little bit chubby, but there’s really no difference in me now. I’m feeling good.” A look at Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) games: RAPTORS AT 76ERS Philadelphia leads 2-1. Game 4, 3:30 p.m. EDT (3:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: The 76ers have won the last two games after Toronto’s Game 1 victory. The Raptors have not lost three straight since Nov. 12-16. Kawhi Leonard’s 31.5 points per game rank second to Kevin Durant so far, but Toronto has averaged just 91 per game in the last two games. INJURY WATCH: Toronto is listing forward Pascal Siakam, one of the leading candidates for the Most Improved Player award, as doubtful because of a bruised right calf. Siakam, averaging 22.9 points, was called for a flagrant foul when he stuck his right leg in the path of Embiid during the fourth quarter of Game 3. Embiid’s knee appeared to strike Siakam’s calf. Siakam left the game moments later and did not return. KEEP AN EYE ON: The score at halftime. The 76ers had 64 at the break in Game 3, the fourth time they’ve reached 60 in the first half this postseason, and Leonard noted that was an area the Raptors had to improve. PRESSURE IS ON: Kyle Lowry. All Toronto’s players need to step up more in support of Leonard but the point guard in particular acknowledged he needed to be better after a dismal 2-for-10, seven-point performance in Game 3. NUGGETS AT TRAIL BLAZERS Portland leads, 2-1. Game 4, 7 p.m. EDT (7am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: CJ McCollum, who scored 41 points in 60 minutes, along with Lillard (58 minutes) and Kanter (56) are the Blazers who went the longest in Game 3. So there might be an opportunity for Rodney Hood, who scored seven points in the fourth OT, or one of Portland’s big men to get a little more time Sunday (Monday, PHL time). INJURY WATCH: Kanter posted a photo of himself on the training table getting treatment soon after Game 3. He finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds and said afterward he didn’t know if he’d be able to play in Game 4. Whatever it freaking takes #RipCity pic.twitter.com/ok9l0Mf5I8 — Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 4, 2019 KEEP AN EYE ON: The energy levels. Game 4 might be one of those that isn’t determined by who plays better, but rather by who has the most left in the tank. PRESSURE IS ON: Jokic’s supporting cast. The Serbian has three triple-doubles and ranks second among all players in both rebounds (12.6) and assists (9.1) per game in his first postseason. But the Nuggets probably can’t count on him staying at that level Sunday after he played the fourth-most minutes in NBA playoff history in Game 3, falling just two short of the record, so other players have to take on some of his usual load. ___ AP Sports Writer Anne Peterson in Portland, Oregon contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2019

Bucks learn playoff lesson in closing out late Celtics charge

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON — In snatching a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinals series, the Milwaukee Bucks demonstrated so much of what’s gone right about their season. They also sputtered through a stretch late in the game during which things most definitely went wrong. The list of happy things stretched long: Giannis Antetokounmpo was the best player on the floor and in Kia NBA MVP contention mode as he scored 32 points with 13 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks in Milwaukee’s 123-116 victory over the Boston Celtics Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at TD Garden. Fans and viewers got a glimpse of the Bucks’ scoring potency when, coming out of halftime, they posted the first 40-point quarter of this series. The defense that coach Mike Budenholzer demands was especially evident in limiting Boston to 14-of-36 shooting in the second half. Then there was Milwaukee’s deep rotation and trust in reserves – guards George Hill (21 points) and Pat Connaughton (14) led their bench’s 42-16 scoring advantage. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The down side came near the end, when Milwaukee’s late-game execution was so poor Budenholzer didn’t even want to talk about it in front of the cameras and microphones afterward. He preferred to wait until Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), when he could directly address his players while they review video of Game 3. “I’ll save it for film tomorrow,” Budenholzer said. “It’s not very smart. It’s not very good. That’s the great thing for coaches … we’ll find more things where we can get better. We just touched on one of them for sure.” What happened was, the Bucks opened a fat lead – 17 points in the fourth quarter – and squandered much of it. They did it in the most damaging way possible, too, by sending a parade of Celtics to the foul line to score with the game clock stopped. With 4:51 left Milwaukee was up 114-97, more than doubling the eight-point edge they held when the final period began. With 1:20 left, that lead was down to 118-111, whittled down by Jaylen Brown’s fast-break layup and the Celtics’ perfect 12-for-12 from the line in that stretch. Many of the fans at TD Garden were heading to the exits, even as the Bucks appeared to be heading for trouble. You wondered if some might wind up knocking to get back in, à la the Miami fans who bailed on the Heat before Ray Allen’s famous three-pointer saved Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. Those late minutes of the fourth quarter seemed to last an eternity, and that was just for spectators and viewers. It felt twice that to the Bucks’ players and coaches. “It was [long],” said Pau Gasol, the veteran All-Star watching these days as an inactive player on Milwaukee’s roster. “But I think it’s part of the growth of this team, learning how to deal with those type of scenarios and situations.” It wasn’t just that the Bucks were burning through their lead. It’s that Boston was energized watching their late scramble pay off. Al Horford sank six free throws in the run; Jayson Tatum, four; and Gordon Hayward, two. “On the road, that gets a little dicey,” Connaughton said. “Whenever a team gets a little life at the end of a game, especially when they cut a [17-point lead to seven], that’s never a fun thing. But I think the way we were able to withstand it and make a bucket here or there to nullify what they were doing at the free throw line was good.” Said Gasol: “The Celtics are trying to rush possessions, trying to rush you into bad decisions. So you have to be patient, hold the ball, understand the possessions and get a good shot. Don’t turn it over. We didn’t do a very good job of that at the end.” Step by step, point by point, the Celtics were gaining hope. So … much … time … left. Gasol’s analysis from the side? “We were very aggressive tonight defensively. And at the end, we weren’t able to turn it down and play smarter. We kept that pressure on, and that led us to commit silly fouls or unnecessary fouls, and put them at the line when we didn’t want them there. The experience in your brain has to tell you to be smarter.” Milwaukee did manage a few high notes during the low period: Hill pounced on an offensive rebound to steal a basket. At 118-105, Antetokounmpo blocked Kyrie Irving’s fast-break layup to save two points and stifle a sure crowd explosion. “I don’t think we were really concerned,” said center Brook Lopez. “We just tried to keep our foot on the gas. Keep that intensity. They drew some fouls and made some free throws. And then they had the little funky 1-3-1 defense, whatever that was. They were trying to trap a little. We’ll look at that [on film].” This is not about nitpicking. This is about focusing on the growth still available to a Milwaukee team with lofty ambitions. Antetokounmpo was special. The Bucks were stingy enough on defense. But when they talked about playing their game for 48 minutes, they should have ‘fessed up on the three-and-a-half of those that nearly bit them. The Celtics ran out of time – only 10.6 seconds remained when they got within five, 121-116. And Antetokounmpo, who missed six of his first 20 free throws, didn’t miss his final pair. The Bucks, in essence, earned the ability to swoon by padding their lead early. But their close out was less than optimal, which is probably not how Budenholzer will put it in closed quarters. “We know they’re not going to quit,” Lopez said. “So we’ve just got to stick with it the entirety of the game. I know it’s a boring answer, but Game 4, we’ve got to do the same thing.” Maybe not exactly the same. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2019

Political chaos envelops tennis as French Open approaches

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press Tennis is in turmoil as the French Open approaches. As three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka put it: "Politics have overshadowed the action on the courts." In a letter published Friday in The Times of London, Wawrinka decried his sport's "worrying decline in moral standards" and outlined several aspects of the ongoing drama enveloping the men's tour — and causing more of a racket than the rackets themselves. "I feel compelled to express my views on this regrettable period in our sport," said Wawrinka, who once was ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently 33rd after a series of injuries. "This episode has left many players, myself included, concerned about the direction tennis is heading in." There certainly has been a lot going on behind the scenes with regard to who runs the men's professional tour, and lately it's been spilling into public view. The conversation is sure to continue until a key vote for the ATP board of directors takes place May 14 in Rome — and through the next Grand Slam tournament, which begins at Roland Garros on May 26. Wawrinka slammed the representatives on the board and the player council, saying the problem is not with the governing structure but the caliber of the people in positions of importance. Wawrinka's letter mentions "political chaos" and the "numerous conflicts of interest" that plague tennis. It also prominently discusses a topic about which he already had been outspoken: Justin Gimelstob, the ex-player, coach and TV commentator who resigned from the tour board this week after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault for attacking a former friend. While Gimelstob's case still was pending, he was allowed to remain in his powerful ATP post. The 42-year-old American was sentenced April 22 to three years of probation, 60 days of community service and a year's worth of anger management classes for what prosecutors said was Gimelstob's attack of Randall Kaplan as they trick-or-treated with their kids in Los Angeles on Halloween in 2017. In a statement to the court, Kaplan said Gimelstob struck him multiple times and threatened to kill him. "There is no place in our sport for those who behave like Justin. The lack of responses from people involved in the game, particularly at the beginning of this saga, when he was charged last December, was alarming," Wawrinka wrote. "This is a situation where silence amounts to complicity." Wawrinka also referred to what he called a "concerted plot" to oust Chris Kermode as executive chairman and president of the ATP. Kermode's departure was announced in March after a vote by the board of directors. Rafael Nadal, who has won 11 of his 17 Grand Slam titles at the French Open, was among those who said they were not consulted before the decision was made to push out Kermode when his current term closes at the end of 2019. "Many players feel that they were not represented properly throughout the last few months, during which so much has happened politically. I agree with them," Wawrinka wrote. "I do not want to be associated with anyone who played a part in this, let alone be represented by them. I want to be represented by people with clear, strong ethical values." Novak Djokovic, who was involved in the Kermode situation through his position as president of the ATP player council, conceded that the business matters might have taken a toll on his performance. After earlier-than-expected losses at Indian Wells and Miami, the top-ranked Djokovic said: "Way too many things off the court. I guess that affected me a little bit on the court.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2019

James Harden played with blurred vision and stinging eyes

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — James Harden’s eyes were still red and stinging well after the final buzzer. He could barely see on the court let alone read the box score after the game. The reigning MVP hopes he will feel better with a few days off before the Rockets’ Western Conference semifinal series against Golden State resumes Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in Houston with his team trailing 2-0 following a 115-109 loss Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) in Game 2. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Harden scored 29 points on 9-for-19 shooting to go with seven rebounds, four assists and six turnovers. Eye drops he received only helped so much to relieve the discomfort. He injured his eyes with 6:39 left in the first quarter, grabbing at his face after he and Green fought for a loose rebound and Green’s left hand got Harden in the face. “I can barely see. Just tried to go out there and do what I can to help my teammates,” Harden said. “It’s pretty blurry right now. Hopefully it gets better day by day.” When Harden went to the locker room with 6:27 remaining and a towel over his left eye for a cut, Green patted him on the back and checked to make sure he was OK. Harden returned at the 7:09 mark of the second. “We were fighting for a rebound. I made a mistake and hit him in his eye,” Green said. “It’s not about hurting anybody out here. So many times people forget, when a guy has an injury, you live with that every day, every second of every day. It’s not just about this game. If his eye is messed up, he’s got to live that every day. Just want to check on the guy. At the end of the day it’s bigger than basketball when it comes to injuries.” Harden scored seven straight Houston points during one stretch midway through the fourth, including a three at 7:25 that got the Rockets within 92-89. Stephen Curry then connected for a key triple at the 6:31 mark. As good as he still was, Harden didn’t seem completely comfortable. “He fought through some stuff. The guy looked like he was not in great shape the first half, I think it might have cleared up a little bit,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “But he got raked pretty good in the eyes. But that’s him. I didn’t have a doubt he was coming back unless it was something catastrophic. I’m sure he would have loved to have played better. Under the circumstances, I thought he played great.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2019

AP source: Cavs interview J.B. Bickerstaff for coaching job

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers are interviewing a coaching candidate with a very familiar name. Former Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff is meeting Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) with the Cavaliers about their job, a person familiar with the team’s coaching search told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team is not revealing its plans. Bickerstaff’s father, Bernie, was a longtime NBA coach and currently is a senior adviser with the Cavaliers. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] The 40-year-old Bickerstaff was fired earlier this month by the Memphis Grizzlies, who made a coaching change and demoted general manager Chris Wallace to their scouting department in the wake of a disappointing 33-49 season. The Grizzlies had numerous injuries and crumbled after a 12-5 start. Bickerstaff was named the Grizzlies’ interim coach in November 2017 to replace David Fizdale. Bickerstaff has previous experience as an assistant with Charlotte, Minnesota and Houston, and he has been praised for his ability to help develop young players. Bickerstaff is the third known candidate to meet with the Cavaliers, along with Dallas assistant Jamahl Mosley and Miami assistant Juwan Howard. The team also is expected to interview Utah assistant Alex Jensen and has received permission to speak with Portland assistants David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts, who are still involved in the playoffs. The Cavaliers are looking for their sixth coach since 2013 after parting ways with Larry Drew following a 19-63 season. Drew took over in October when Cleveland fired Tyronn Lue following a 0-6 start. Earlier this month, GM Koby Altman said there was no timetable to find a coach. He promised to be respectful in talking to coaches on teams in the postseason......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2019

Vince Carter says he will play next season in NBA

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2019

UAAP: RDJ on super rookie Dela Cruz: Di pwedeng nasa kanya ang burden”

Jolina Dela Cruz continued her sensational season to the very end of the elimination round of the UAAP 81 Women's Volleyball Tournament. De La Salle University's super rookie dropped 22 points in her team's five-set loss to Far Eastern University, Sunday at Filoil Flying V Centre. Unfortunately, her big-time outing, another of many in the tournament, ended up with her and her teammates at the wrong end of a sorry loss. The decision sent La Salle to a virtual best-of-three up against University of Sto. Tomas which begins in just three days. Still, Dela Cruz was a bright spot in a sorry loss. "Sa akin po, gusto ko lang talaga manalo," she told reporters post-game, modest as always. At the same time, though, coach Ramil De Jesus would have wanted more help for their super rookie. "Ang nangyayari nga kasi, parang si Jolina yung nagbubuhat ng team. Sabi ko sa kanila, 'di naman pwedeng lahat ng burden, ibigay sa kanya," he shared. He then continued, "Team effort ang kailangan. Kailangan, kung may nag-spark na ganyan, sunod na lang yung iba." The multi-titled mentor then went on to say that more contributions from his veterans would have been much welcome. As he put it, "Yun na nga, yung isa sa kinalulungkot ko kasi kung sino pa yung mga seniors, yun pa yung mga bumitaw nung huli. Sabi ko sa kanila, may problema tayo pagka ganyan." After Dela Cruz, fellow youngsters Tin Tiamzon and May Luna were the only Lady Spikers in double-digits with 17 and 15 points, respectively. And in the eyes of Coach RDJ, those more contributions don’t even necessarily have to be in terms of points. "Marami namang namang malaking bagay na pwedeng itulong sa team para 'di na pumuntos. Mag-dig ka, mag-serve ka, mag-receive ka, mag-block ka, dumepensa ka, marami naman," he said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 2019

Celtics ready to take best charge by Giannis, Bucks

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks teammates are eager to get going in the Eastern Conference semifinals, as bottled up as they’ve felt in waiting six days between playoff games. A perfect offensive start to Game 1 of their best-of-seven series against Boston would look something like Giannis grabbing the basketball, racing downcourt with one of his breathtaking, three-dribble, end-to-end run-outs and attacking the rim with the ferocity and scowl with which he’s played all season. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Perfect, that is, until Jaylen Brown slides over to plant himself between Antetokounmpo and the restricted area. Whoops! Pancaked Jaylen gets the whistle, while chastened Giannis picks up his first foul and turnover of the Sunday matinee (early Monday, PHL time). It's a strategy out of judo or jiu-jitsu, using your opponent’s power and aggression to your advantage, and it’s one the Celtics likely will deploy against the Bucks’ star and Kia MVP candidate. Getting between Antetokounmpo and the rim isn’t the most comfortable way to defend the against the Greek Freak’s drives into the lane, his maddening Euro Step and his ability to reach up, over and beyond with arms fit for a crane. He’s all elbows and knees, muscles and bones, and at 6'11" and 242 pounds, he’s been giving as much physical punishment as he takes this season. A defender has to absorb that and then sell the move, too, falling backward to the floor. No fun. But it might be one of the few effective ways to slow – if not stop – Antetokounmpo on a Bucks possession, with the added benefits of killing momentum, planting some doubt and ticking up his personal fouls count closer toward an all-critical sixth. Brown and Celtics teammate Terry Rozier both suggested Antetokounmpo could be slowed by such a maneuver. Celtics coach Brad Stevens, in a conference call with reporters Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), wasn’t so sure. “The bottom line is, if you go downhill with the force and speed that he does, there are going to be moments where he charges,” Stevens said. “There also are moments where he draws blocking fouls and scores 'and-ones.' He does that a lot more than he charges. “So you’d better not let him get that head of steam very often.” Easier said than done. Antetokounmpo has become one of the most ferocious rim attackers in the league. He was seemingly unstoppable inside this season, shooting 72.6 percent from five feet or less per NBA.com stats. With 583 field goals from that range, Antetokounmpo had nearly 100 more than the league’s No. 2, Detroit center Andre Drummond (486). Oh, and counting the games against the Pistons in the first round, Antetokounmpo has successfully dunked the ball 289 times – 119 of which have come without assists, meaning either put-backs or throwdowns in which he brought the ball in there with him. Here’s where the 24-year-old’s attack mode can be used against him: He also committed 68 offensive fouls this season – tied for most in the NBA with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. Certainly he got fouled with the ball way more than he fouled – Antetokounmpo shot 686 free throws, second only to James Harden’s 858. Nearly seven of his 27.7 points per game came from the line. But foul trouble can slow Antetokounmpo’s roll, as with anybody. If it’s early enough or severe enough, it can take him off the floor completely, and for long stretches. At the least, it might make him a bit less assertive, a wee more passive the next time he might otherwise barrel downcourt. “I definitely keep it in my mind,” Antetokounmpo said Friday (Saturday, PHL time), asked about the charge/block challenge he might face against the Celtics. “It’s not just them. A lot of teams try to stop me by taking charges. “But that’s the fun part about it. They’re not thinking about how they’re going to defend me; they’re thinking about how they’re going to try to take charges. If I can be under control and be at my own pace and try to be smart with not taking charges, if I get to my spot it’s going to be tough.” Here’s a breakdown of Antetokounmpo’s impact with and without nagging foul concerns: In the 31 games in which he was called for four fouls or more (including two disqualifications with six), the Bucks star averaged 25.7 points and eight times logged fewer than 30 minutes. Milwaukee’s record: 23-8 (.742). In the 41 games Antetokounmpo finished with three fouls or fewer, he averaged 29.2 points. He played at least 30 minutes in 34 of the 41, and the Bucks went 33-8 (.805). Boston has defenders willing to give up their bodies, including three of the NBA’s top 20 in charges drawn: Aron Baynes (18), Marcus Smart (15) and Kyrie Irving (13). Smart, still out with a left oblique tear, won’t play in at least the first two games of the series. But Semi Ojeleye is a physical forward who drew Antetokounmpo as an assignment at times in the three regular season meetings – he started twice – and took three charges this season. In the three games, Antetokounmpo was called for a total of seven fouls, including three charges. (For the record, Milwaukee’s Ersan Ilyasova led the NBA in that defensive category with 50, despite playing only 1,231 minutes in 67 games.) Several Celtics will try standing in or stepping in, depending how the referees call it, against Antetokounmpo. It will take timing, footwork, physical sacrifice … and some good fortune. “It’s one of those things that’s easier said than done,” said Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer. “Luckily for us, it’s nothing that he hasn’t seen or nothing new.” Said Stevens: “The No. 1 thing [Giannis] has always been is exceptional downhill, exceptional in transition. And when I say ‘exceptional’ I mean one of very few to ever have played the game. “I just think, ultimately, you have to be able to move your feet. You have to be able to guard with pride. You have to be able to do all that, but nobody can do that by themselves against him.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 2019

Kerr keeps Warriors winning with yoga, creative approach

em>By Janie McCauley, Associated Press /em> OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Anderson Varejao lowered his 6-foot-11 frame into a runner's lunge and raised one arm high into the air to add a twist, demonstrating after a recent shootaround the new yoga pose he just learned. Then, he took it up a notch and attempted an airplane balancing pose on one leg with his arms spread wide. The Golden State Warriors have become yogis. Coach Steve Kerr is committed to changing things up, and he gave Golden State a day off from the practice floor one day last week so the players could practice yoga instead. In the middle of a prolonged stretch at home with a more regular routine, the schedule allowed for some improvising. 'I really liked it,' Varejao said. 'I'm going to do more.' Doubt you'll see Draymond Green or Klay Thompson doing downward-facing dog again soon — though Green might be talked into another try eventually. 'I'm bad,' Green said. 'Yoga isn't for everybody. I think it's a great thing, I just don't think my body is made for all of those different positions. I did well at a few of them. It's hard, it's tough. My body really isn't cut out for yoga.' The very next night after the group class, during warmups for a home game with the Pistons, player development coach Bruce Fraser pulled his foot to his opposite inner thigh for an impromptu tree pose. He laughed as an amused Shaun Livingston watched from the baseline. Andre Iguodala is an experienced yogi who can really cat-cow and is considered top on the team, often taking classes. Center Zaza Pachulia also can forward fold with the best of them. They took prominent positions in the class led by Lisa Goodwin, Golden State's director of corporate communications and also a yoga teacher, at a Berkeley studio — a first for Kerr taking the team away from team headquarters for a yoga session. No surprise, two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry can bring it on the mat, too. 'We've had some optional yoga sessions at our facility. This is the first time we took everybody and made it mandatory,' Kerr said. 'It was good.' The temperature was about 92 degrees for the hour-long power vinyasa class, so it was steamy. Everybody was drenched in sweat by the end for final resting pose, or savasana. 'My muscles felt good,' forward James Michael McAdoo said, rubbing his stomach where his core got a workout. 'It was fun. It was hot in there, like working in a sauna. I told our strength and conditioning coach, 'You got to step up your game. Lisa embarrassed us.'' 'It's awful, it's pitiful,' Thompson said of his own yoga ability. 'It's something I worked on and it's something I actually enjoy. More than just being physically challenging, it's an incredible mental workout. It tests your pain tolerance and your ability to push yourself mentally. That's why I like it. It was really good. I think it helped a lot of us — everybody, even the coaches.' Along with the experienced yoga veterans, there were some first-timers. A few found it extremely tough. 'I'm not the most flexible,' acknowledged player development coach Chris DeMarco. Assistant coach Mike Brown described his debut as 'terrible.' 'For me, it was really hard, but it was fun,' he said, later adding, 'I nearly passed out.' Ron Adams, another assistant who focuses on preparing Golden State's defense, happened to work out in the hottest corner of the room for his first time practicing in that high temperature. 'It's such a cleansing exercise,' he said. The Warriors aren't the only ones doing it. Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy has scheduled yoga time for the Pistons, saying: 'It's got its value, no question about it. Would I consider doing it with them? Probably not.' Kerr goes whenever he can fit it in, typically taking an hour-long class during the lunch hour on game days when the schedule — and his body — allows. It's a time he can focus on taking some deep breaths, literally, away from the pressure-packed NBA workload and just be just another yoga student for 60 minutes out of his day. This weekend marks one year since Kerr formally returned to the bench last Jan. 22 against Indiana after a lengthy leave of absence to deal with complications from a pair of back surgeries. Current Lakers coach Luke Walton led the way during a record 24-0 start and went 39-4 before Kerr's comeback on the way to winning Coach of the Year after an NBA record 73-9 finish. While the 51-year-old Kerr still has some discouraging, physically challenging moments dealing with pain and headaches, he considers himself fortunate to be on the sideline doing what he loves. 'I guess normal is a good way to say it. He seems like his old self,' Curry said. 'You know he's been through a lot just physically trying to recover from the surgeries he's had. I can't imagine the frustration, how long it took and things he had to do and all the doctors he's met with. His whole story is crazy. We're obviously happy to have him back but not only that, you see him with energy and his presence like he wants. It's been good to see.' Whether Kerr will take his team back to yoga any time soon, time will tell. The Warriors are at the season's midway point and the 'dog days' of January as Kerr has put it. Golden State was home for all but a night from Dec. 26 until leaving for Houston on Thursday for Friday's game against the Rockets, with just a quick bus ride to Sacramento as the lone road trip in a 10-game stretch during that span. Because there was so much time to practice, the yoga day was a nice change of scenery. 'Just to get away and go do something else,' Green said. 'We're still together doing something productive. But, it's not for me.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Zidane says Ronaldo is still a difference-maker for Madrid

div>  /div> div>MADRID (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't scored a goal from open play in three games, a run that has Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive. /div> div>  /div> div>The glitch isn't exactly a goal drought because Ronaldo did score one from the penalty spot against Sevilla. But the dry period has coincided with Real Madrid's two-game losing streak after a 40-match unbeaten run. /div> div>  /div> div>'Cristiano is fine,' Zidane said Friday. 'He might have a bad day here and there. So what? He will always be a difference-maker in my mind. /div> div>  /div> div>'We have lost a couple of games, but there is no need to go overboard. Nothing is broken. Actually, it might have been a good time to lose two straight, in order to get going again and build up some confidence.' /div> div>  /div> div>Madrid leads the Spanish league with 40 points from 17 matches, holding a one-point lead over surging Sevilla. It was Sevilla that beat Madrid 2-1 on Sunday, after Ronaldo had converted a penalty to give his team the lead. /div> div>  /div> div>Defending champion Barcelona is third in the league and two points behind Madrid, which has a game in hand because of its trip to Japan to win the Club World Cup in December. /div> div>  /div> div>The loss in Sevilla was followed by another setback on Wednesday, when Madrid lost 2-1 at Celta Vigo in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals — again raising questions about the after-effects of playing in the Club World Cup. /div> div>  /div> div>'I'm not thinking about that at all,' Zidane said. 'As in life, you can't always win in football. You are going to have some bad days, and you need to overcome them to push ahead. It happened last year. We are going to reverse this. /div> div>  /div> div>'We aren't playing worse football than before. We just had a few bad plays that our opponents took full advantage of. The locker room is fine. The good news is we have another game tomorrow (in the league against 13th-place Malaga), and we are looking forward to it.' /div> div>  /div> div>Zidane said Ronaldo has lately been playing out of position at striker, a move that somewhat surprisingly has not translated into more goals for the Portugal forward. Ronaldo has 12 league goals this season, two behind Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. /div> div>  /div> div>'He played up top against Celta, but his favorite position is on the left wing, and that will not change,' Zidane said. 'The problem is more when he doesn't score, since we have grown used to him taking over. Cristiano will always be subject to criticism. He is used to it.' /div> div>  /div>.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi stepping out of brother's shadow

DANIELLA MATAR, Associated Press   MILAN (AP) — As a coach, Simone Inzaghi is finally stepping out of his older brother's shadow. The younger Inzaghi had some success as a player with Lazio, winning one Serie A title and three Italian Cups. But Filippo Inzaghi was one of the most famous forwards in the world, winning three Italian league and two Champions League titles with Juventus and AC Milan. Filippo, a former Milan coach now at the helm at third-division club Venezia, also helped Italy win the World Cup in 2006, and finished his international career with 57 appearances. Simone played only three times for Italy. But Simone, now 40, is coming into his own as coach of Lazio after taking over from Stefano Pioli in April. Under Simone this season, Lazio — which finished eighth last year — is proving to be somewhat of a surprise package, challenging for a Champions League spot behind Serie A leader Juventus, Roma and Napoli. 'Our aim is to try to always do well,' Simone said. 'Forty points in 20 matches is a lot. We've got to applaud these lads, because in July probably nobody believed Lazio would put together 40 points and deserve them and should even have a few more. 'Now the difficult part comes because we're not a surprise anymore. We have the duty now to try to remain there right until the end, knowing that it will be difficult, knowing that there are teams which are much better-equipped, but we have proved we belong there and we want to remain at the top.' Next up for Lazio on Sunday is a trip to Juventus, which last weekend lost at Fiorentina 2-1. Juventus has been tough to beat at home, and improved on its own Serie A record with a 26th consecutive home victory on Jan. 8. 'We've won five of the last six games, losing only to Inter despite an excellent first half,' Simone said Wednesday after Lazio beat Genoa 4-2 to reach the Italian Cup quarterfinals. 'We have to continue like this. 'We know we're playing against Juve, which has won the last 28 matches at home, so we know it will be very difficult for us but we have three or four days to recover, get our energy back and we'll go there to try and impose our game, try to do our best against a team which has been dominating our league for five to six years.' Simone has already faced Juventus twice as a coach, losing 3-0 in Turin in April, shortly after taking charge, and 1-0 in Rome in August. Lazio hasn't beaten Juventus in the league in 13 years, while the Bianconeri have won the past eight encounters. 'We have to try to give our all,' Simone said. 'In the first match this season we had a good match but there was a mistake and (Juventus midfielder Sami) Khedira punished us. 'We have to try and impose our match, knowing that we're facing a really strong team ... I beat Juventus as a player, I'd like to beat it as coach, too.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017