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Brighter days seem to be in store for Knicks, new coach Fizdale

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst There was only one job that made sense for David Fizdale. Despite all the openings for which he interviewed, his pedigree and background -- and, let’s be honest, ambition -- made one gig stand out above the others. And it’s the one he got, with the New York Knicks. New York agreed to a four-year deal with Fizdale last week, a correct pairing of young coach and franchise that is trying to build back up the right way, with an emphasis on defense and conditioning that is right up Fizdale’s alley. No matter the occasional oddity created by working for Jim Dolan, he is an owner who has been willing to spend money when asked, and his team is in the top media market on earth. When you win there, they have parades for you in the Canyon of Heroes, and you almost always wind up in your particular sport’s Hall of Fame. You can’t not take the shot. The Knicks believe they’re in a place where the things Fizdale did in Miami and what he took to Memphis -- his philosophy of culture-building, team-building, discipline and how he connects to players -- were a good fit for where they are as a franchise. Among the 11 candidates the Knicks interviewed for the job, several had more head coaching experience than Fizdale -- whose tenure in Memphis lasted exactly 101 regular season games and six playoff games. But Fizdale checked the most boxes, and at 43, the Knicks are betting he has a lot of growing and improving to do, just as the team does. The Knicks, of course, looked into just why the Grizzlies fired Fizdale so abruptly last season, after just 19 games. Team president Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry didn’t just get started in the league last week; they know a lot of people. The chatter around the league was that Memphis chose star center Marc Gasol over Fizdale after the two clashed during the coach’s season-plus there. As I wrote just after Fizdale was fired, the deterioration in their relationship reached the point of no return when Fizdale went after Gasol hard in a film session, basically dismissing the importance of Gasol’s accomplishments overseas, including as a member of the Spanish national team. That that rankled Gasol to no end should have been no surprise to anyone paying attention. The Spanish team’s international triumphs are a point of considerable and understandable pride for both Marc Gasol and his brother, Pau. They helped lead Spain to the greatest era of basketball accomplishment in that country’s history, including a 2006 gold medal at what was then called the FIBA World Championships. Fizdale tried to fix things with Gasol, even flying to Europe after the season to try and make it right. But Gasol was close with majority owner Robert Pera; Fizdale wasn’t. That closed off a potential area of outreach between the two. Gasol had no interest in rapprochement, a stance that Grizzlies players made clear to Fizdale throughout the season. (Caught most in the middle, per league sources, was Grizzlies veteran point guard Mike Conley, Jr., who did and does have strong relationships with both men.) But, importantly, in his discussions with the Knicks, Fizdale took responsibility for his failures with Gasol. He didn’t blame Gasol or anyone else. As one of his chief calling cards is connecting with players, and not finding common ground with Gasol was an L he has to take. “He knew where he messed up and what he’d try to let it never happen again,” said a source who’s spoken with Fizdale since his firing. But, equally importantly, just because Fizdale couldn’t make it work with Gasol doesn’t mean he’s doomed to a similar outcome with All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis. The 22-year-old’s relationship with the Knicks has been scrutinized within an inch of its life the last couple of years. The toxicity level reached under former president Phil Jackson has abated some, but Porzingis and the team still have some navigation to do -- a trip that is blurred as Porzingis continues rehabbing and recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in February. (Porzingis’s brother, Janis, who serves as his agent, politely declined comment on the Fizdale hire via text Saturday, though the Knicks were in contact with Janis Porzingis during the coaching search.) Porzingis’s injury keeps the Knicks in flux, a position it seems they’ve been in most years since the Nixon administration. He is a potential superstar -- “potential” is used quite deliberately here, as “The Unicorn’s” stans on social media have made a very talented offensive player into something that he is not, at least not yet -- a transcendent player. But, assuming Porzingis ultimately makes a full and healthy return, New York has a terrific building block around which to build. And, they have a chance to really get in the game in the summer of 2019. First, they’ll have to resolve Joakim Noah’s status -- he has two years and roughly $38 million left on his current deal. It’s likely the Knicks will stretch him and the only question is whether that happens before or after next season. If it’s the former, the Knicks can spread the remainder of his salary across five seasons; if the latter, three seasons. Nothing is certain, but it would be surprising to see Noah still in New York by the start of camp. Why saddle a new coach with an old problem? That would leave the Knicks with more flexibility going into ’19, which is when Perry has said he’d like New York to be ready to pounce in free agency -- and when the likes of Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard (player option) and Jimmy Butler (player option) can be free agents. But until that bridge year, Fizdale will have to max out the existing roster. Charitably, there’s not a lot there at present that’s proven and has led to much winning anywhere. The Knicks will need to be lucky in next week’s Lottery -- preferably, getting a high enough pick to land one of the elite big men that should be among the top four or five picks in the Draft. If that doesn’t happen, the hope in New York is that until the roster improves, Fizdale can develop the talents of the Knicks’ trio of guards -- Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay and Tim Hardaway, Jr. -- in which New York has invested Draft and literal treasure the last couple of seasons. (It will help that Fizdale’s relationship with Hardaway, Jr., goes back to when the latter was a kid and his father, the master of the killer crossover, worked in the Heat organization after Tim Hardaway Sr.’s playing days ended.) The additional hope is that Fizdale will get Ntilikina in elite shape while honing his competitive edge, and that a full season under Fizdale will let the Knicks know once and for all if Mudiay can be a significant contributor. Fizdale will also have to adjust his nomenclature. Last week’s story in the New York Daily News correctly identified Fizdale’s consistent referencing “the Miami Way” as shorthand for how he wanted to do things in Memphis alienated Grizzlies people who were -- again, justifiably -- proud of the “Grit-n’Grind” era that produced seven straight playoff appearances before this season’s 22-60 crater. And, he’ll have to be prepared to be, perhaps, the biggest face of the franchise, in a city whose media is dogged and nonplussed and will often go off cockeyed in a crazy, incorrect direction. But its influence should never be underestimated. Fizdale is from Los Angeles, and he has a great way with most. And it didn’t hurt him to work some for ESPN while he was between jobs. But he’ll have to learn the media landscape in New York quickly -- who to befriend, who to be wary of, who he can trust and who he cannot. (Also: I’m sure the Knicks pointed out to him that while he had several causes which were near and dear to him in Memphis, from advocating the removal of Confederate statues in the city to lending his name to other civic causes, he needs to win games in Gotham first.) At base, the Knicks will want to see players throughout the roster held accountable, and charged to compete on a nightly basis. There was not enough of either last season under coach Jeff Hornacek -- who, in fairness, didn’t have all that much time to put his stamp on what was a poor roster. Fizdale will get more time. The Knicks’ roster will look a lot different in two years than it does now. Fizdale will have to be a lot different coach than he was in Memphis, as well. 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: abscbn abscbnMay 8th, 2018

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

Antetokounmpo paces Bucks past Knicks to home-and-home sweep

By Jim Hoehn, Associated Press MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 14 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 25 points and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the New York Knicks 112-96 on Thursday night (Friday, PHl time) for their sixth win in seven games. The Bucks swept the home-and-home series, having won at New York 109-95 on Christmas (Dec. 26, PHL time). Luke Kornet, making his first start of the season in place of Enes Kantner, tied a career-high with 23 points, and Noah Vonleh added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks. New York, playing without leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. because of an illness, lost its sixth straight. Kanter was ejected with 9:56 left in the fourth quarter after being assessed two technical fouls. Antetokounmpo drove to the basket and was knocked down by Kanter, although no foul was called. The two got into a brief altercation as Antetokounmpo ran back up the court. Each player was called for a technical, then Kanter was called for a second. Milwaukee erased an early 10-point deficit and led 53-48 at half. The Bucks extended the lead to 87-77 entering the final period. Milwaukee used an 18-2 run midway through the second quarter to open a 44-37 lead. New York scored the final four points of the half to pull within 53-48. The Bucks, who entered second in the league in both three-pointers made and attempted, missed their first eight three-point attempts. New York went up 23-13 on Kevin Knox's three-pointer with 4:40 left in the first quarter, but Milwaukee responded with an 11-2 run. TIP-INS Knicks: New York opened a six-game road trip, which now heads west for five games that include teams with four of the six best records in the Western Conference. "I think it's good for us," Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "Fifteen days out and just us, together going through the gauntlet of good teams. I think that's a great experience for this team." Bucks: Milwaukee opened a six-game homestand against the Knicks, who entered 9-26. Of the next five opponents, only Toronto (26-10) is above .500. UP NEXT Knicks: Visit Utah on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Bucks: Host Brooklyn on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2018

Borrego: Hiring female coaches shows NBA trending right way

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants more women throughout the league. He’s getting his wish. In recent days, two significant moves were made, with Kristi Toliver being added to Washington’s staff of assistant coaches, and Chasity Melvin getting hired as an assistant coach with Charlotte’s G League affiliate in Greensboro, North Carolina. Those hires are signs of progress. Few seemed to notice, which also is not all bad. Women are a becoming a bigger part of the league now than ever before. The hires of Toliver and Melvin were not overlooked; it just no longer seems like such an unusual thing to bring a woman into the fray of an NBA club, probably because the likes of San Antonio assistant Becky Hammon, former Sacramento assistant Nancy Lieberman, Dallas assistant Jenny Boucek, Clippers G League assistant Natalie Nakase and Memphis analyst Nicki Gross took care of the first wave of trailblazing. “I think it’s great and I think it’s great for the NBA,” said Charlotte’s James Borrego, the league’s first Hispanic full-time coach. “It speaks to our league, the diversity, the openness, the inclusion and I’m proud to be part of that, part of a league that’s open to that. I’ve been around Becky Hammon for a number of years now. These are bright women that belong in our league.” Certainly, there’s much more progress to be made, including in business offices around the league — as well as on the sidelines. There’s never been a female NBA head coach, though Hammon — a longtime part of the staff in San Antonio, where Borrego was before taking the Charlotte job — seems on the cusp of breaking that glass ceiling. Only three women have been hired as full-time NBA referees, though Natalie Sago and Ashley Moyer-Gleich will get games this season and are already highly respected by many peers. Borrego expects the numbers of women in the league to increase. “They’re here to stay,” Borrego said. “That’s not going anywhere. It’s only going to trend in that direction.” SCORING UP If you think there’s been a lot more scoring than usual in the NBA this season, you’re right. Granted, six days of basketball is a small —and statistically insignificant— sample size in a six-month season. But teams averaged 106.3 points per game last season, and they’re off to an average of 113.3 points so far this season. Should that average somehow hold up over the course of a full season, it would be the league’s highest since teams averaged 116.7 points in 1969-70. “This is a new age of basketball and this is where we are,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “The days of games in the 80s are probably done. Everything’s spread out. It’s freedom of movement. There’s four attackers and often times five three-point shooters and there are missiles flying everywhere.” For perspective: There were eight instances in October 2017 of teams scoring 130 or more points. So far in October 2018, there’s been nine — with 10 days of play left this month. But big numbers hasn’t meant every game is a rout. There’s already been 12 games this season decided by three points or less. G LEAGUE CHANGES Over the next few weeks, more details will likely come out about the G League’s plan to offer $125,000 contracts to elite prospects who aren’t yet eligible for the NBA draft. Much of the details remain unclear: who will get them, how they’ll get them, how many deals will be offered. Another murky part of all this is how the players will be assigned to teams. What would make the most sense is for the G League to go back into the NBA’s past for an answer there. The last territorial pick in the NBA was in 1965, but that’s the road the G League needs to go down now. For a league that’s still looking to grow, imagine the possibilities of putting a potential star with plenty of potential near his hometown. It’ll generate interest, which the G League surely could use. GAMES OF THE DAY If you’re going to watch only one game per day this week, we recommend: — Wizards at Trail Blazers, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): John Wall and Bradley Beal in one backcourt, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the other. — Clippers at Pelicans, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time): Anthony Davis averaged 29.8 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks against the Clippers last season. — Knicks at Heat, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): New York’s David Fizdale coached on the Miami side of the rivalry for years as a Heat assistant. — Celtics at Thunder, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): Oklahoma City took leads into the fourth quarter against Boston twice last season, and went 0-2. — Bucks at Timberwolves, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): Milwaukee was one of the teams rumored to be in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes in recent weeks. — Lakers at Spurs, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): LeBron James’ teams are 5-1 when he scores at least 30 at San Antonio, and 1-14 when he doesn’t. — Warriors at Nets, Sunday (next Monday, PHL time): Stephen Curry put on a dynamic show in Brooklyn last season — 39 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists. MILESTONE WATCH Spurs coach Gregg Popovich enters this week two wins shy of 1,200 for his regular-season career. He’ll be the fifth NBA coach to reach that milestone. ___ AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 22nd, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

Temperature check at 20-game mark of 17-18 NBA season

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Twenty games is not a small sample size. At 20 games, much of what an NBA team is -- and much of what it will become -- is mostly well-established. Fourteen, 16, even 18 games into an 82-game schedule, it might be easy to understate and/or overstate a season. That round number of 20, though -- the closest a team can get in whole games to 25 percent of the regular season (24.39, actually) -- resonates. As our man John Schuhmann notes annually in his Power Rankings, what qualifies as one-fourth of the season carries a certain heft, in terms of who’s good, who’s not and who’s headed where over the remaining 60-62 games. The teams that are likely to be in the playoffs largely are known by now -- 14 of the 16 qualifiers in 2016-17 were above the lottery cutoff by Dec. 5, last season’s quarter mark -- as are those that are racing toward the bottom or merely churning about. Twenty games is no joke, in other words, which is why numerous NBA teams do some serious evaluating at this point each season. Those at or near the top (and those committed to the cellar) may not make course-altering decisions. The teams in the yawning middle might be particularly engaged right about now -- all 30 teams will have played at least 20 games by Friday morning -- in either fishing or cutting bait. The Miami Heat, at 10-9, will hit 20 at Cleveland tonight. They’re especially known for the so-called Rule of 20 owing to team president Pat Riley’s ways dating back to his New York and Los Angeles days. The thinking is, 82 games is too vast and ill-defined, splayed across six months or so, to allow for clear, concise judgments along the way. By the time you get a feel for where your team is headed, you’ve either already gotten there or been sidetracked. At 20 games -- and then again at 40 and 60 -- there’s an opportunity to correct one’s course or adjust one’s objectives. Lock into a starting lineup, pursue a trade, fire a coach, opt for Plan B or hitch up the shorts for a stretch drive, it’s only doable if the right markers are heeded. Some coaches will talk about “continuous improvement” as their overriding mission, but there are so many tiny variables from one game to the next: travel, schedule quirks, minor ailments. Better to go with a block of games. And to know when you can’t. “You have a pretty good idea of your general feel and context of your team,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But that’s not always in cement. Just look at us last year. We didn’t really understand where we were. But you have an idea of what direction, usually, that your team is going in.” The Heat in 2016-17 had one of the most unusual seasons in league annals, going 11-30 after a Jan. 13 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and then 30-11 in to finish the season. They were 7-13 after 20 games, then wound up barely missing a playoff berth on the season’s final night. This time around, the Heat seem to be a blend of last season’s good and bad, and their mediocre mark shows it. Spoelstra has rolled back a lot of the work between games to fundamentals and essentials, with the focus on building good habits. “We’ve got a ways to go,” he said. ‘We’re building habits. We’re building better behavior, all the little things that lead to winning, so hopefully we’ll be a much different team every 20-game block from here on out.” (Some even think 20 games is too many, too diffused and vague for the short attention spans players almost necessarily have to have when uploading mass quantities of opponent research for a homestand’s worth of foes. Hall of Fame coach Hubie Brown preferred to mentally break the season into eight-game chunks. Go 5-3 in enough of those, you’re almost assured of being a playoff team.) Twenty games in is a fragile time for coaches, as far as job security, as the Memphis Grizzlies’ David Fizdale found out Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). At 7-12, he and the Grizzlies had been given enough rope that management obviously felt a determination could be made. Memphis’ quick start, winning five of its first six, didn’t resonate nearly as much as its eight consecutive losses did. Not every franchise hits 20, 40 or 60 games on the nose before doing something dramatic. Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough felt he needed to see only three games to fire coach Earl Watson. In 2015-16, the Houston Rockets pulled the plug on Kevin McHale after 11 games. But the last time Miami made a coaching change in season, Riley sent home Stan Van Gundy at 11-10 in 2005-06 and took over for the final 61 games. The Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt 41 games into the 2015-16 season. And the last time each of these organizations -- Washington, Toronto, San Antonio, Minnesota, Golden State, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Chicago -- made coaching changes during the season, they did so after 17, 17, 18, 19, 23, 23, 24 and 25 games respectively. What have we learned about the league this season, with 20 games coming sooner than usual? * Boston’s acquisition of Kyrie Irving, its young starting forwards and a more tenacious defense than expected have more than made up for Gordon Hayward’s loss. * The day Philadelphia coach Brett Brown longed for finally has arrived. * Detroit, Indiana and New York might manage to overachieve their way into lower-seed possibilities. Washington’s window is closing before its eyes, and Milwaukee has flaws at both ends that won’t be solved if and when Jabari Parker returns. * Houston’s James Harden might snag the Kia MVP trophy many thought he deserved last spring. * Minnesota, Denver and Portland are for real in the West, while it’s getting late early in Oklahoma City. Carmelo Anthony was supposed to have left his sub-.500 records back with the Knicks. * The next man Memphis owner Robert Pera offers a full-time coaching position is going to speed-dial Lionel Hollins, Dave Joerger and Fizdale in some order. * A strong field of Kia Rookie of the Year candidates at least six deep from the Draft class of 2017 all might wind up slotting in behind the Sixers’ Ben Simmons. * The drama of the draft lottery might be greater than that of the playoffs decided several weeks later. * LeBron James still moves the Earth and the league when he firmly puts his foot down. Then there’s the best thing about the NBA season at 20 games: That means 62 more to go. 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 NewsNov 29th, 2017

Less time, fewer timeouts among adjustments for NBA coaches

em>By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press /em> NEW YORK (AP) — Mike D’Antoni ran an offensive system known as seven seconds or less, so he likes things fast. Good thing, because NBA coaches find things come at them more quickly this season. They are losing time and timeouts, with fewer days to prepare before the regular season and fewer chances to talk things over during games. Throw in new rules legislating how they can rest players, and there are plenty of adjustments even for veteran coaches. “I think it’s good,” said D’Antoni, the NBA coach of the year with Houston last year. “Take stuff out of coaches’ hands, because we just screw it up anyway. So it’s better for the players.” Among the changes: — Next Tuesday's (Wednesday, PHL time) start is the NBA’s earliest since 1980. It’s a week earlier than normal, with the maximum number of preseason games cut from eight to six. — Timeouts are reduced from 18 to 14, with each team having seven. They will be limited to two during the last three minutes of games, instead of the previous rule that permitted three timeouts in the final two minutes. — Teams can be fined $100,000 or more for resting healthy players during national TV games, and are discouraged from resting multiple healthy players in the same game or sitting them in road games. — Halftime will be 15 minutes for all games — and the league plans to be diligent about starting the clock as soon as the first half ends. There previously was a minute or two longer for national TV games, and sometimes the clock wouldn’t start until all players had cleared the floor. That change caught the attention of D’Antoni, who noted that in some arenas there is a longer walk from the benches to the locker rooms. “So instead of showing 10 clips at halftime, you might only be able to show two or three,” D’Antoni said. Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, said the goal wasn’t to shorten the length of games, which run about 2 hours, 15 minutes. He said the league wanted the games to have a better flow, and worked with the coaches and Competition Committee, which includes some coaches, during the summer on the changes. Spruell said coaches were fine with the removal of the under-9 minute timeouts in the second and fourth quarters, feeling they came too soon after the quarters started. There will now be two mandatory timeouts in each quarter, at the under-7 and under-3 minute marks. Even at the end of games, coaches acknowledged there were too many stoppages. “As a head coach you always want more timeouts. You want to have that flexibility at the end of the game to be able to help your team,” Miami’s Erik Spoelstra said. “But when I’m watching games, I want there to be less. I do. I want there to be less timeouts and for the games to go a little bit quicker, particularly at the end. You want to just see the action.” All timeouts will now be 75 seconds. Full timeouts were formerly 90 seconds. “Before you have the little pow-wow for a long timeout, the coaches try to get reacquainted and figure out where you’re going to eat dinner,” D’Antoni joked. “But now you’ve got to go in and actually coach.” Spruell said the league didn’t get a lot of pushback from coaches on the suggested changes, even coming around on the resting rules. “I’m just happy Adam Silver gave us some good guidelines to follow when it comes to that so we don’t feel like we’re cheating our fans,” Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “That was one good thing that came out of the coaches’ meetings, Adam Silver’s leadership on that.” Player health was one reason for the shorter preseason. By adding the extra week to the regular season, the league reduced back-to-back games and has no teams playing four in five nights for the first time. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said the shorter preseason wouldn’t matter to most teams, since they usually run a similar system from year to year unless there was a coaching change, and there were none. His team is different. The Knicks are largely scrapping the triangle offense they ran when Phil Jackson was president and redefining roles with leading scorer Carmelo Anthony traded. They’ve had a number of nagging injuries and may not see some combinations play together until the games count. “It’s one of those years that maybe you wish there was eight exhibition games, but it is what it is and we just have to work,” Hornacek said. There’s also a change for general managers in the form of an earlier trade deadline. Previously the Thursday (Friday, PHL time) after the All-Star Game, now it’s the Thursday (Friday, PHL time) 10 days before it. Spruell said in discussions with GMs, they felt that would benefit the traded players, who would have the break to acclimate themselves to their new cities. So there’s plenty that’s new, but Spoelstra said they will all catch on. “Whenever there’s rules changes, regardless, players or coaches, you eventually adapt and we’ll do that as well,” he said. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Jordan s weight reaches farther than court in NC

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News18 min. ago

Antetokounmpo, Bucks win 6th straight, 122-107 over Mavs

By SCHUYLER DIXON,  AP Sports Writer DALLAS (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 29 points and 17 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks rolled to their sixth straight victory, beating the retooling Dallas Mavericks 122-107 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Antetokounmpo was 13 of 19 from the field and got the upper hand again in his second meeting with fellow Euro star Luka Doncic, the Dallas rookie sensation who scored 20 points. He's the only original starter remaining because of two trades that were more about the future than the present. Brook Lopez scored 20 points for the Bucks, who have surged to the best record in the NBA (41-13) with a pair of six-win runs on either side of a loss. One of those victories was over the Mavericks at home, when Antetokounmpo scored 31 points to Doncic's 18 in a 10-point win. Milwaukee didn't have Nikola Mirotic a day after acquiring him from New Orleans before the trading deadline. It didn't matter as the Bucks shot 54 percent despite going 10 of 36 (28 percent) from 3-point range. Antetokounmpo repeatedly powered his way to the basket for dunks and layups, starting with the first two baskets of the game. Lopez found some favorable matchups as well, make six of eight from inside the arc while going 2 of 6 from long range. Even guard Malcolm Brogdon backed down the Mavericks for easy buckets, finishing with 18 points along with backcourt mate Eric Bledsoe. Trey Burke, one of four players to join Dallas from New York in a deal that also brought Kristaps Porzingis and sent three Dallas starters to the Knicks, scored 18 points. Tim Hardaway Jr., another guard from that trade, had 12. TIP-INS Bucks: Guards Eric Bledsoe and Brogdon scored 18 points apiece. ... F Khris Middleton was given a night of rest on the front end of a back-to-back. ... Coach Mike Budenholzer said it wasn't clear whether Mirotic would be available on the second night of a back-to-back at home against Orlando. The fifth-year forward has been listed with a right calf strain and missed his last seven games with the Pelicans. Mavericks: Antetokounmpo's brother, F Kostas Antetokounmpo, was expected to be active before he was a late scratch because of an illness. The younger Antetokounmpo is a rookie who hasn't played for the Mavericks and has spent most of the season with their G-League team. He was active but didn't play when the teams met in Milwaukee last month. ... Dallas had a season-high 22 3-pointers, going 9 of 16 from long range in the third quarter. NO RANDOLPH FOR MAVS Dallas waived Zach Randolph two days after acquiring the forward while sending Harrison Barnes to Sacramento in a trade designed for salary-cap relief. The 37-year-old Randolph never played for the Kings in his second season with them. Justin Jackson, the other player in the deal, made his Dallas debut late in the fourth quarter. By trading Barnes, the Mavericks put themselves in position to acquire another front-line player to go with rookie sensation Luka Doncic and Porzingis, a 2018 All-Star. Porzingis isn't playing this season as he recovers from a knee injury sustained last February. UP NEXT Bucks: Go for three-game season sweep of Orlando at home Saturday. Mavericks: Portland on Sunday in finale of three-game homestand......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 9th, 2019

With trade talks heating up, young Lakers want answers

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com If it was LeBron James’ intention to change the mood in the Lakers’ locker room here in his first season in L.A., consider it a resounding success. The morale for a team that went 35-47 last season and missed the playoffs is indeed different. It’s more somber. After speaking with a number of players, their agents and other sources, the general consensus paint a picture of little joy, plenty of confusion and uncertainty, along with some anger and sense of betrayal. It’s all caused by the Lakers’ obvious and public pursuit of Anthony Davis and the players who unquestionably will be shipped out to New Orleans in exchange for the All-NBA forward if a trade happens before Thursday’s (early Friday, PHL time) deadline. None will speak on the record but it’s obvious the Davis issue is sensitive and weighing on most of the roster, especially the young core of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball. They wonder if their days in L.A. are numbered and also wonder what, if any, role LeBron has in determining who goes and who stays. Various reports have the Lakers offering up virtually everyone on the roster for Davis, along with multiple No. 1 picks. Clearly, the pace has changed for the Lakers. After saying last summer the Lakers are intent on building a team that will be a contender for years and not just in the short term, team president Magic Johnson’s timeline has accelerated if the proposed packages for Davis are true. And how can they not be? New Orleans wants a combination of young players and picks for a game-changing player such as Davis. The Lakers own no other assets. In the meantime, the Lakers, currently on a road trip, are dealing with turbulence and not necessarily while thousands of feet in the air. Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee had a verbal post-game exchange with coach Luke Walton two nights ago in Oakland after a loss to the Warriors, and although it wasn’t sparked by the Davis issue directly, the trade rumors are causing stress and perhaps pushing tempers as well. In the center of it all is LeBron. Davis has been represented since last fall by Klutch Sports, the agency created by LeBron and run by his business partner and close friend, Rich Paul. The LeBron link to a player agency has caused a degree of concern among other NBA general managers, who wonder if there’s a conflict of interest and if it’s a good look for the league. It also has rival agents suspecting that LeBron is involved in talks for Davis and at the very least serving as a sounding board for Magic and Laker executive Rob Pelinka. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for the Lakers to get LeBron’s hot take on this or any major decision involving personnel; that’s a perk enjoyed by a number of star players throughout the NBA, and has been for years. But: Following the Lakers’ victory over the Clippers last week when LeBron made his return after missing 17 games with a groin injury, he repeatedly expressed how thrilled he was to be back on the floor with "my guys” and that didn’t sit well with some of his teammates, according to their agents. Essentially, they’re not sure where they stand with LeBron in the Davis situation. And the young players appear too intimidated to confront LeBron and get clarity. There’s another issue at play here: Are the Lakers planning to surrender too much for Davis by gutting the team? If the Lakers are willing to part with their young core and at least two veterans to make the salaries match, who’s left to make them competitive with Davis and LeBron? The Pelicans, according to league sources, are insisting that any team wanting Davis must also take guard E’Twaun Moore and his contract in return. This will allow the Pelicans to get young players, multiple picks and salary cap flexibility in a single transaction. In a sense, Davis is indeed a franchise player — trading him might allow the Pelicans to remake their entire franchise. Davis reportedly gave the Pelicans other teams on a wish-list, yet those teams’ options appear limited. One is the Bucks, who lack promising young players, and given that Milwaukee is leading the East, their first-round pick won’t be attractive. Another is the Knicks, who won’t have defined assets until after the draft lottery in May when their place in the June draft will be revealed. If the Pelicans decide to wait until summer, that means they believe there’s a better deal waiting after the draft and free agency. That places urgency on the Lakers to get something done before Thursday. One way or another, whether he comes to the Lakers or stays in New Orleans at least for the next five months, Davis will bring some relief and help clear the air to a Lakers team that desperately needs it. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 5th, 2019

Fear The Beard: James Harden on a roll, revives Houston

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden has been scoring at a pace not seen since Wilt Chamberlain in the 1960s. He doesn’t want to talk about it, of course. He never does, whether things are going well or not. But it is clear he is enjoying this because his scoring outburst has coincided with Houston climbing the standings, back among the top teams in the Western Conference after an early-season slump. “I love to hoop,” he said. “I love to just be out there and the grind.” He scored 40 points in Houston’s win over Orlando on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) to extend his stretch of consecutive 30-point games to 23, the fourth-longest streak in NBA history behind three such streaks by Chamberlain. In 13 games this month, last season’s MVP is averaging 44.1 points. He has scored at least 40 points in eight games in January, including two 50-point games and a franchise-record 61 in a win over the Knicks. “It’s remarkable,” teammate Eric Gordon said. “I’ve been around a lot of big-time players and he’s for sure the best scorer I’ve ever been around and he does it so easily. It’s a credit to him. He’s one of the best scorers ever.” It isn’t only Harden’s teammates who have been wowed by his work. Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who worked for the Rockets from 2011-16, gushed about him. “When we left here we thought he was really good and then somehow, some way he’s gotten even better,” he said. “Last year he was the MVP and now he’s even better and it’s a credit to him, his work ethic and the passion that he plays the game with.” Harden led the league in scoring last season for the first time by averaging 30.43 points a game, but injuries to Chris Paul and Clint Capela have forced him to carry an even bigger load this year and he’s averaging in NBA-best 36.33. If he keeps this pace up for the rest of the season he would be the first player to average more than 36 points a game since Michael Jordan averaged 37.09 in in 1986-87. If the season ended today, Harden would have the seventh-highest scoring average in NBA history behind that season by Jordan, which ranks fifth, and five seasons by Chamberlain. His average is seven points higher than Steph Curry and Anthony Davis, who are tied for second with 29.3 points a game. But as much as Harden is scoring, he’s also finding ways to get his teammates involved, and his 8.2 assists a game are tied for fourth in the league. “I know the attention I draw on the court and the defense is locked on me so I try to help the guys get their opportunities to make it easier for them to score,” Harden said. As Harden has been piling up points, opponents are searching for ways to slow him down. He’s often asked about the different things teams have thrown at him and seems amused at the varying tactics. “I’ve been seeing double teams, triple teams, zones,” he said. “I’ve been seeing it all these past few weeks.” During this streak more than one opposing coach has considered it an accomplishment to limit Harden to less than 40 points. Kenneth Faried, who signed with Houston last week, has had to defend Harden in the past and noted the mindset he had when faced with that task. “He’s going to get 30,” Faried said. “It’s going to happen. So you might as well just mark that down in the book. You’ve just got to make sure he doesn’t get the 60 points.” In the days following his 61-point show at Madison Square Garden, the Beard was asked if he feels like he’s un-guardable right now. “I mean, I’ve always felt like that,” he said with a sly smile and laugh. “So I don’t know about now, but I’ve had that feeling. It’s just confidence. That’s all it is.” Houston went 12-5 in 17 games without Paul, who returned over the weekend. The Rockets have won three straight to improve to 29-20 and are in fifth place in the Western Conference. While they’ve made strides since a terrible start had them near the bottom of the conference, Harden and Houston know they need to get much better if they hope to bring the team its first title since 1995. That, Harden says, is why he doesn’t like all the talk about his high scoring and why those close to him know they shouldn’t discuss it either. “Nobody can praise me,” he said. “None of my friends and close family, I don’t want them to be talking about it. We’ve got a long way to go.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 28th, 2019

MVP Ladder: Giannis bolsters case with key win in Houston

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t think he’s quite “there yet” when it comes to the Kia MVP chase. With all due respect, Mr. “Greek Freak,” the basketball world begs to differ. You are definitely there, sir, based on your performance through the midpoint of this NBA season. In fact, if there were hardware to hand out from Kia Race to the MVP Ladder HQ at this point, Antetokounmpo would be the recipient (edging out a crowded field that includes the reigning MVP, James Harden). By the grace of the scheduling gods, the two leading candidates just happened to hook up on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), the official halfway point of 2018-19. And they put on a show worthy of MVP mention, with Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks knocking off Harden’s Houson Rockets at Toyota Center. Harden continued his torrid scoring streak, collecting his league-leading 14th 40-point game of the season. In doing so, he tied Tracy McGrady for the second-longest 30-point streak since the ABA/NBA merger at 14. (Kobe Bryant has the record at 16 straight.) But Harden didn’t have his most efficient outing (shooting 13-for-30 overall with nine turnovers) as the Bucks took control late. All Antentokounmpo did was shred the Rockets for 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting to go along with a career-high 21 rebounds, five assists and yet another showcase performance for his MVP resume. (The Bucks pounded the Rockets to the tune of a 70-24 advantage in points in the paint and outscored them 19-2 in fast break points.) The Bucks have won seven of their past eight games heading into today’s game against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. They’ve stormed the top of the Eastern Conference standings and own a 10-5 record over Western Conference opponents with Antetokounmpo as their undisputed leader and, yes, MVP. Not there yet, huh? Yeah, right. * * * The top five this week in the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 26.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.3 steals Antetokounmpo seems to be the only person on the planet who isn’t moved by his consistent brilliance this season. If he doesn’t think he’s "there yet," then the rest of the league should brace themselves for whatever comes next. He’s been an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor, but particularly as an offensive catalyst on one of the most improved teams in the league. Doing it without the aid of a reliable long-distance shot is what has made watching Antetokounmpo crush the competition so intriguing. If there was any skepticism about the Bucks being both a legitimate threat in the East and a title contender, that should be vanishing as the second half of the season begins. As long as Antetokounmpo stays focused and healthy (he’s probable Saturday, PHL time, with right quadriceps soreness and a left hip bruise), the possibilities are endless. 2. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 33.9 points, 8.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals Harden has moved into hallowed ground with his current scoring barrage, as his 14 straight games of 30-plus points ties Hall of Famer (and fellow Rockets legend) Tracy McGrady for the second-longest streak since the ABA/NBA merger. Those debates about whether or not Harden is the best offensive player ever aren’t out of line, not when you consider the way he generates offense for himself and his teammates. Harden has a chance to obliterate the record with the Rockets’ friendly upcoming schedule (they play seven of their next 10 games at Toyota Center). The only glitch for Harden as he's hit this nuclear level is the one key flaw in his game is rising, too. He’s averaging 5.7 turnovers this season, which ties his career-high from 2016-17. He's up to 7.3 tpg in his last five games, which he, of course, would point out is world-class nit-picking of a guy playing as well as he is. 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 28.9 points, 5.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals Curry shot a rather un-Splash Brother-ish 5-for-19 in Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) home win against the New York Knicks, which includes an ugly 3-for-12 showing from three-point range. That was a huge come down from his 42-point outburst (including 10 made three-pointers) Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a road win against the Sacramento Kings. But as often happens with a rare rough shooting night for the two-time former MVP, Curry displayed a brilliant floor game against the Knicks. He finished with 14 assists (and just one turnover) while grabbing seven rebounds as Klay Thompson went off for 43 points and Kevin Durant dropped 24. Curry’s had just three hiccups since returning from his 11-game, groin-injury induced absence on Dec. 1 (Dec. 2, PHL time). Over his last 18 games, Curry has failed to score at least 20 points only once. What should worry the Chicago Bulls, who visit Oracle today, is what Curry has done in those other two games after he struggled (averaged 32.0 points). 4. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals MVP voters must decide if the work Leonard did while he was playing outweighs how good the Raptors were all season whether he was in or out of the lineup. As convenient as it might be to try to diminish what Leonard has done by knocking him for the games he missed, you’d be wise to pay attention to just how good he's been when he plays. The Milwaukee Bucks can certainly attest to his impact after what Leonard did to them Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). He logged 30 points and a season-high five steals, playing his trademark lockdown defense, as the Raptors won the battle between the NBA’s top two teams (in the standings). Leonard has such tight control over his own game that he continues to play as efficiently as anyone on this list. He has notched eight games this season where he’s scored 30 or more points while shooting better than 50 percent, including his last two games (30 on 50 percent shooting in the win against the Bucks and 31 points on 61.1 percent shooting in their recent win against the Hawks). 5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets Last week: No. 7 Season stats: 19.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.5 steals Jokic continues to deliver for the Nuggets in every category, doing his crafty best to help keep coach Michael Malone’s team at the top of the Western Conference. He notched his 21st career triple-double (18 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) win over the LA Clippers. It was his second straight triple-double, coming two days after lighting up the Heat in Miami for 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. In doing so, he tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second-most career triple-doubles by a center and can now chase Wilt Chamberlain’s big man record of 78. Jokic will probably dig into that deficit considerably the season if he keeps playing the way he has to kick off 2019 (27.2 points on .523 shooting, 12.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals in his last five games). Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets are focused on team goals first, of course. After missing out on the playoffs on the season's final night in 2017-18, they’re making sure to avoid any such drama this time. * * * The next five 6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers 8. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers 9. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 10. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans And five more: DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers;Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers 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 NewsJan 12th, 2019

Knicks snap 8-game skid with 119-112 win over Lakers

By GREG BEACHAM,  AP Sports Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22 points, Trey Burke added 16 and the New York Knicks snapped their eight-game losing streak with a 119-112 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Emmanuel Mudiay had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Knicks, who blew an early 17-point lead before rallying from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Enes Kanter scored eight of his 16 points down the stretch as the Knicks pulled away, ending their first win since Dec. 14 on an 11-3 run. The Lakers dropped to 1-4 without LeBron James, who is sidelined with a left groin strain. Los Angeles also played without second-leading scorer Kyle Kuzma, who has a bruised back. New York capitalized on the Lakers' injuries to earn just its second win in 15 games. The Knicks took the lead for good on Kevin Knox's free throws with 3:45 left, and Kanter came up with two big baskets in the final minute. Seven players scored in double figures for New York, including 10 points in the fourth quarter from Mario Hezonja, who hadn't played significant minutes in 2 ½ weeks. Brandon Ingram scored 21 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 19 for the Lakers, who forced only two turnovers in the second half and struggled for consistent offense. The Knicks rolled early, scoring 39 points in the first quarter and jumping to a 17-point lead early in the second with Hardaway's offense and strong defense. The Lakers are struggling for offensive cohesiveness without James, as might be expected, but Caldwell-Pope and Lonzo Ball hit three 3-pointers apiece in the first half to keep it close. TIP-INS Knicks: Frank Ntilikina played only briefly in the first half before injuring his ankle and sitting out the rest of the game. ... Rookie Mitchell Robinson missed his ninth straight game with a sprained left ankle. Coach David Fizdale says they're being cautious with his recovery. Lakers: Kuzma was hurt in LA's loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Kuzma stayed home from Staples Center for this game, but coach Luke Walton is hopeful the forward will feel good enough to participate on their upcoming two-game road trip. ... Michael Beasley returned from a 13-game absence and scored six points in his first appearance since Dec. 7. The former Knicks forward has been away frequently during his first season with the Lakers to be with his mother, who died of cancer last month. UP NEXT Knicks: At Trail Blazers on Monday. Lakers: At Timberwolves on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2019

LPU, Letran outfitter opens first-ever store and showroom

A year after returning to the local market, Team Rebel Sports Pilipinas looks to strengthen its hold with the opening of its first-ever store. Back in 1998, company founder Joel Cu, who was just 21 years old back then, opened a start-up company in Santolan that focused on making sports uniforms. Twenty years later, they are back to where it all began. "We are back in Santolan. We opened our first store here a few blocks from here," recalled Cu. "This showroom is made for our kababayan nating Pilipino. We want to produce good uniforms to our fellow Filipinos. Gumagawa nga tayo ng uniform sa ibang bansa pero ngayon, we are opening ourselves back here," he added. During the 2000s, Rebel decided to shift its model to outsourcing to foreign clients. It proved to be a success as the US and Australian markets embraced the brand. But it felt empty as Cu's main goal was to give Filipinos a local brand they can be proud of. Enter Lyceum Pirates assistant coach Jeff Perlas. "We had this informal chat last year. Sabi ni Joel, 'Jeff, how can we be active in the local sports market?' I was busy in LPU nun," shared Perlas. "For me, one way of promoting a brand is through the athletes. That's the key for this. What I did was we used the players from LPU and other players na kilala natin. From there, we were able to experiment with the power of social media.  "Surprising na last year, umakyat yung sales three-fold. Yung market reacted," added Team Rebel's consultant. PBA club team Northport Batang Pier came knocking a few months later. It was the breakthrough moment they needed. "It's our entry point last year when we rigged the jersey of Globalport," Cu shared. With the local demand growing, Cu and his staff expanded the operations of its factory in Antipolo. Twenty-four hours, seven days a week with a staff of almost 200 people were needed to accomodate the orders. At present, Rebel is the outfitter, not only of Northport, but also of collegiate powerhouses Lyceum and Letran. To cap of Rebel's year, the company opened its first store, a showroom by all accounts, at 290 Santolan Road Corner 5th Street West Crame, San Juan City. And they are hoping that this would help cater to more Filipinos. "The vision for Rebel is to focus on all sports on all levels. Marami pa e. For the public schools, we want to help them out by sponsoring their varsity teams. We are also researching more on how we can give our women's athletes the right uniforms," Cu disclosed. “Hopefully, in 2019, we can offer more to our kababayan.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 13th, 2018

Walker, Lamb lead Hornets to 119-107 win over Knicks

By Jeffrey Bernstein, Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Kemba Walker scored 25 points and Jeremy Lamb added 19 as the Charlotte Hornets beat the New York Knicks 119-107 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Tony Parker scored 16 points, Marvin Williams had 13 and Cody Zeller finished with 12 as Charlotte led by as many as 28 points in a game it never trailed. Knicks rookie Kevin Knox tied a season-high with 26 points and set a career-high with 15 rebounds, while Tim Hardaway Jr. added 21 points. Lamb's layup with 8:50 left in the third quarter gave the Hornets their biggest lead at 77-49. New York pulled within 18 on Knox's three-pointer before Walker's long triple pushed the lead to 99-78 heading to the fourth. The Knicks opened the fourth with a 7-0 run to pull within 14 on Frank Ntilikina's jumper with 10:47 remaining. However, the Hornets scored the next 12 points to put the game out of reach. During that run, Ntilikina, who finished with 18 points — all in the second half — fouled out with nine minutes left and Knicks coach David Fizdale was accessed two technical fouls and ejected with 8:33 remaining. Zeller scored 10 points in the first quarter as the Hornets opened up a pair of seven-point leads. Parker came off the bench to score eight and Charlotte led 27-24 after the first 12 minutes. The Hornets opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run, but the Knicks responded by scoring the next six points to pull to 34-30. The Hornets followed with an 18-4 stretch to take an 18-point lead. New York closed within 10 by scoring the next eight points, but the Hornets went on to lead 61-47 at halftime. Damyean Dotson added 12 points for the Knicks, who have lost four straight. TIP-INS Hornets: Three Charlotte players (Walker, Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb) have started all of their 26 games this season, while two others (Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller) have started 25. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Willy Hernangomez have each started once. Knicks: New York had defeated Charlotte four consecutive times at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks hadn't been beaten by the Hornets at home since April 6, 2016. ... Allonzo Trier, who strained his left hamstring in Saturday's (Sunday, PHL time) loss to Brooklyn, did not play. BALANCING ACT The Hornets have not been more than one game above .500 or more than two games below .500 all season long. Their longest winning streak is two games (five occasions) and they have one three-game losing streak (Dec. 1-6, PHL time) KNICKS' ACHING BACK The Knicks have now played six back-to-back sets this season. They are 1-11 in those games, with their only victory coming at Boston, 117-109 on Nov. 21 (Nov. 22, PHL time). BRIEF LAYOVER The Hornets begin a five-game homestand on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) when they host the Pistons, and end it when they play Detroit again on Dec. 21 (Dec. 22, PHL time). It is part of a stretch in which Charlotte plays 10-of-12 games on its home floor, with the only away games having taken place in Minnesota (Thursday, PHL time)) and New York. UP NEXT Hornets: Host Detroit on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Knicks: At Cleveland on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 10th, 2018

LeBron feels love in return to Cleveland, beats Cavaliers

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James felt only love at home. Making his first trip back to Cleveland since leaving for the second time as a free agent, James was welcomed like a hero on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) and rallied the Los Angeles Lakers to a 109-105 win over the Cavaliers, who played an inspired game against their former teammate but couldn't stop him when it mattered most. James finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. He also scored or assisted on 11 straight points as the Lakers overcame a 99-91 deficit in the fourth quarter. The Cavs had a chance to tie late, but Kyle Korver missed a wide-open three-pointer with 17 seconds left and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made four free throws in the final 15 to seal it for Los Angeles. From the moment he stepped back onto Quicken Loans Arena floor, his home court for 11 seasons, James was treated like a returning champion. On the night before Thanksgiving, Cleveland said thanks to the Northeast Ohio son, the one who ended the city's 52-year championship drought. "We recognize the fact that certainly this is a big night for the city of Cleveland," Cavs coach Larry Drew said before tipoff, "because a hero has come back." The Cavs, who came in an NBA-worst 2-13, didn't roll over against James and played one of their best games this season. They seemed in control up 99-91 before James, as he did some many times for Cleveland, took over and scored or assisted on 11 straight points to give the Lakers the lead. Jordan Clarkson had 20 points and Tristan Thompson 14 and 15 rebounds for Cleveland. James was the last Lakers player introduced before the game, presented with a line familiar to all Cavs fans: "A 6'8" forward from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School," said arena announcer Sean Peebles. "Welcome home! LeBron James." The crowd roared and stood as James walked out and huddled with his new teammates, who must have wondered what was in store for them. But unlike that ugly night of Dec. 2, 2010, when James returned with the Miami Heat and was subjected to non-stop booing, profane chants and a toxic, charged atmosphere of hatred unlike anything seen before or since, this was a night for celebration — and maybe more closure. James has moved on. Cleveland, too. With 8:09 left in the first quarter, James was saluted by the Cavs with a moving video tribute during a timeout. Images of James' playing days with Cleveland — highlighted by the Cavs' historic comeback to win the 2016 title — were shown along with video clips of his impact on the community, including his opening of the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron. As the crowd stood and showed its affection toward James, "Thank You LeBron" was displayed in large letters on the arena's giant scoreboard. James appeared to be touched by the presentation. He bit his lower lip while walking back onto court and pointed to all corners of the building in appreciation, his chance to reconnect with a fan base he'll always share a special, if not complicated, relationship. Wearing a flat cap, long jacket and boots, James arrived at 5:46 p.m., entering the Q through a security entrance he's passed through many times. He greeted two guards near the door with fist bumps before quickly walking past a large group of photographers to the visitors' locker room. Earlier in the day, James visited his I Promise School, a refurbished elementary for at-risk kids he founded and plans to expand. James came back to Cleveland to face a team in disarray without him. The Cavs have endured a season's worth of issues in just over a month with the firing of coach Tyronn Lue, All-Star forward Kevin Love undergoing foot surgery and the latest drama — disillusioned forward J.R. Smith being excused so Cleveland can try to trade him. TIP-INS Lakers: Coach Luke Walton is impressed with James' knack for blocking out external distractions. "The great ones have that ability," he said. "When they're on the basketball court nothing else matters, other than what they're trying to do. Their focus level seems to somehow get higher with the louder the noise gets. I don't know how. I don't know why." Cavaliers: Did not commit a turnover in the first half. ... Starting G George Hill missed his sixth straight game with a sprained right shoulder sustained on Nov. 4 (Nov. 5, PHL time). Hill has ramped up his on-court workouts in recent days and could be back soon. ... Drew said he was unaware of Smith's comments accusing the Cavs of "tanking." Drew believes his team is playing hard, and promised to nothing but coach his team to win. "To coach to lose, I don't understand that, I don't know how to do that," he said. "I don't know how anybody can do that. That's something I would never, ever do." UP NEXT Lakers: Host Utah on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Cavaliers: At Philadelphia on Friday (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 22nd, 2018

McCollum, Lillard help Blazers edge Knicks 118-114

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — CJ McCollum scored 31 points, Damian Lillard had 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the New York Knicks 118-114 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Portland's star guards provided most of the offense in a game that was close most of the way, and Evan Turner helped the Trail Blazers finally pull it out when he put back a missed shot with Portland clinging to a two-point lead and 9.5 seconds remaining. Jusuf Nurkic finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers, who have won two straight after dropping the first two games on their trip that now heads to its difficult conclusion. Portland plays Milwaukee on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) and closes it at Golden State. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 32 points for the Knicks, who dropped their sixth straight. They were a bit better than the previous games of the skid, when they yielded 126.2 points per game, but not good enough to stop the early Western Conference leaders. Hardaway has scored 30 or more points in three straight games. The Knicks changed lineups again, going back to veteran Enes Kanter over rookie Mitchell Robinson at center, and got off to a good start. The Knicks' lead was 35-33 after Nik Stauskas threw in a 40-footer to beat the first-quarter buzzer. New York opened a 10-point lead early in the third, and that seemed to wake up the Blazers, who outscored the Knicks 24-10 to end the period and take an 89-85 lead to the fourth. The Blazers then opened the fourth with a quick 7-2 spurt, and McCollum had eight straight Portland points as the Blazers took their first double-digit lead at 104-93 with 7:45 to play. TIP-INS Trail Blazers: Nurkic had his career-best fifth straight double-double. ... Portland, which came in shooting an NBA-best 85.4 percent on free throws, was just 12-of-17 (70.6 percent). Knicks: Mario Hezonja made his first start of the season, scoring two points. Only Ron Baker and Luke Kornet haven't made at least one start. ... Trey Burke scored 19 points and Emmanual Mudiay, who has supplanted him as the starting point guard, had 16. CHANGING IT UP Knicks coach David Fizdale said he changed back to Kanter because the 20-year-old Robinson was getting in early foul trouble and having to come out of the games too quickly, affecting the rotations. He said that wouldn't be as much of a problem with Robinson in a reserve role. UP NEXT Trail Blazers: Visit Milwaukee on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Knicks: Visit Boston on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 21st, 2018

Knicks coach Fizdale pleasantly surprised by Porzingis progress

      NEW YORK, USA – Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis appeared to take issue with New York Knicks coach David Fizdale's assessment this week of his rehab status in the wake of knee surgery. After Fizdale told reporters that Porzingis was up to "light running" but added "Sprinting – he's not at ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsNov 10th, 2018

Wall, Beal help Wizards snap 5-game skid, top Knicks 108-95

By Rich Dubroff, Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — John Wall scored 26 points and Bradley Beal added 22 as the Washington Wizards broke a five-game losing streak with a 108-95 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Markieff Morris had 16 points and Jeff Green added 14 for Washington, which won for the second time in nine games. The Wizards entered the game having allowed the most points in the NBA. "We're leading a lot of the categories in the wrong way," Washington coach Scott Brooks said. In this game, the Wizards, who had allowed 107 or more points in the first eight games, used stout defense down the stretch. The Knicks, who fell to 3-7, were led by Enes Kanter's 18 points and 12 rebounds. Trey Burke had 13 points. Washington took a 13-point lead with 4:01 left in the third quarter. But the Knicks rallied and tied the game for the first time at 82-82 with 10:56 to play on a layup by Burke. New York tied it twice more, but Smith's layup with 8:54 to play gave Washington an 88-86 lead, and the Wizards went on a 16-2 run for a 102-88 advantage with 3:41 left. TIP-INS Knicks: F Kevin Knox missed his seventh game with a sprained left ankle. Knox thinks he's ready to play. Coach David Fizdale isn't so sure. "He's not making the diagnosis — my 19-year-old rookie. I told him I want him to play 5-on-5 first. I know he feels great, but at the same time we have to be sure." . G Courtney Lee has yet to play this year with neck spasms. "I couldn't (give an estimate)," Fizdale said. "I have no idea. I'm hoping soon, just for his sake. He's been such a pro, and he's been really engaged, but I know it's killing him. I just couldn't tell you when it's going to happen." Wizards: F Otto Porter was out with a bruised left big toe. . Wall hit three three-pointers. He has 500 in his career. ... C Dwight Howard was assessed a Flagrant-1 foul, when he attempted to block New York's Enes Kanter's shot midway through the second quarter. UP NEXT Knicks: Host the Bulls on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) Wizards: At the Mavericks on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time).....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 5th, 2018

Harden scores 25 in return, Rockets defeat Bulls 96-88

By MATT CARLSON,  Associated Press CHICAGO (AP) — James Harden scored 25 points, including 11 in a decisive run in the third quarter, in his return to the Houston lineup, and the Rockets defeated the Chicago Bulls 96-88 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Harden, who had missed three games with a strained left hamstring, scored 11 straight points in a 1:59 span of the third as the Rockets went on a 15-0 run. Carmelo Anthony had 17 points and James Ennis added 15 as the Rockets won their second game in two nights after starting the season 1-5. Chicago led 59-58 midway through the third quarter before the Rockets and Harden went ahead for good, outscoring the Bulls 21-7 in the period. Zach LaVine led Chicago with 21 points, and Wendell Carter Jr. had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Jabari Parker added 15 points as the Bulls lost their fourth straight game — going 0-4 in the homestand — and dropped their fifth straight to the Rockets. Houston opened a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. Chicago narrowed it to five points with 4:01 left using a 12-2 run and capitalizing on stretch of cold shooting by Houston. Harden, the NBA's reigning MVP, started slowly in his return to the starting lineup. He didn't score until completing a driving layup with 3:55 left in the second quarter. Then he hit back-to-back 3s and had 10 points at the half. Harden had seven assists in the second quarter. He also had eight turnovers. Harden suffered the hamstring injury near the end of the loss to Utah on Oct. 24, and Houston was routed in the next two games. The Rockets beat the Nets in Brooklyn 119-111 on Friday as Harden got an extra day of rest. Guard Eric Gordon was held out of Saturday's game with abductor strain, suffered at Brooklyn. The Bulls held their own with the Rockets in a see-saw, open first half and led 56-54. Neither team had more than a five-point lead in the first half. Ennis, in his second game back after missing three with a strained right hamstring, led all scorers with 13 points at the half. Jabari Parker had 11 for Chicago. TIP-INS Rockets: Before the game, coach Mike D'Antoni didn't have details of Gordon's injury, but thought the guard, who has averaged 15 points through seven games, would be out day-to-day. "Now we get James back, but we lose Eric," D'Antoni said, while noting injuries to top players have taxed other Rockets who aren't used to as much playing time. . D'Antoni's voice was rapsy and barely audible before Saturday's game. He attributed it to his team pulling out its second win of the season at Brooklyn on Friday. "I celebrated last night and lost my voice," D'Antoni said "We won a game." Bulls: Coach Fred Hoiberg expects his injury-depleted team will soon get a boost from the return of F Lauri Markkanen (right elbow sprain) and G Denzel Washington (left ankle sprain), but still doesn't have an exact timetable. "Denzel will continue to ramp up his activity in the next couple days, and Lauri is doing a little bit more still," Hoiberg said, adding that Markkanen might be ready to "get on floor" in about a week. . Hoiberg said Bobby Portis (right knee sprain) and Kris Dunn (left knee sprain) "are still a ways away." UP NEXT Rockets: At Indiana on Monday in third game of a five-game trip. Bulls: At the New York Knicks on Monday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 4th, 2018

MAJOR POINT: Finding Family Away From Home

I’ve been in the Philippines now for over 21 years. I can’t believe it has been that long, but I just checked my passport stamp the other day and sure enough my arrival stamp says August 2, 1997. So many things have happened since then that it puts me in this weird nostalgic state of mind thinking back to how I was back then. I had no idea what was in store for me when I decided to try my luck in professional basketball in the Philippines. I thought I knew. I thought I knew everything, but I really had no clue. I was recruited by a Filipino agent living in the United States to come to the Philippines to play basketball. This made me feel pretty special. I had put together a solid playing resume in high school and college and had played a year professionally in Denmark. I thought I would come to the Philippines, play basketball for 11 years, retire, go back to Michigan and get into coaching. That was my plan. It was pretty simple to me. I never thought about the people I’d meet or the relationships I’d build during my stay in the Philippines. And even though I knew nobody in the Philippines, I didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to go to the Philippines to play basketball. There were a few things I underestimated when I came to the Philippines back in 1997. Being from Michigan, the heat was a often times painful adjustment to get used to. I had never lived in a big city before, so Manila and its traffic was also something to get used to. I don’t speak Tagalog, so getting around that can still be difficult at times. The style of play here in the Philippines is different than I was used to, so I had to get used to that. But, the biggest adjustment for me was that I knew absolutely no one when I came to the Philippines. I had no friends. My mom is from Lawaan, Eastern Samar. She had only been back once since she had left the Philippines in the late 1960s. Most of my relatives on her side of the family still live in the province. So while, I have family in the Philippines, I don’t have any relatives in Metro Manila. So, here I was, on the other side of the planet with no family and no friends. Like most people, I like having friends. I had always had a close group of friends in high school and college. Playing a year in Denmark, not having my friends around was probably my biggest adjustment and I went through a rough period of homesickness there. Now that I was in the Philippines, I was in a different, but also similar situation. In my early years here in the Philippines, I played for two great teams. My first team was Tanduay Rhum. My first coach was Alfrancis Chua and my first boss was Boss Bong Tan. Both of those guys took great care of me. After four years with them, I was then traded to Barangay Ginebra. My boss there was Boss Henry Cojuangco. He also took great care of me. I had many great teammates through the years, including my years on those two teams. My teammates were very welcoming of me and I enjoyed my time on the court with those guys. However, when practice ended. My teammates would go back to their friends, family and responsibilities and I would go back to an empty condo unit. Everyday I would have practice in the morning from 9-12. After practice, I’d eat and then go find a gym to workout in. By the time I was done with my workout at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I would then have to figure out what to do from 3 or 4 until the time I went to bed around 10 or 11. I thought a lot differently back then than I do now, so most of that time was wasted. I spent a lot of that time alone, bored, in front of the TV, just waiting for the day to end, so I could get up and do it again the next day. Although I was living my dream of playing professional basketball, it was strange for me to be living that life day after day after day. My first couple of years here, I didn’t have a car. I didn’t know my way around Manila. I didn’t know anybody outside of my team. I was living in Quezon City in a non-walkable area. It was a grind. I often wondered how long I could continue to stay on that type of grind. It wasn’t until after 18 months of living that way that I started to meet other Filipino-Americans that were going through similar experiences. In the late 1990s, the PBA landscape was much different than it is today. One thing that was a lot different, was there weren’t as many Fil-Ams as there are today. Having Fil-Am players playing in the PBA was still a new thing. There was a novelty about us. We were the new kids in school, in a way. Guys like Jeff Cariaso, Andy and Danny Seigle, Nic Belasco, Ali Peek, Noy Castillo, Rudy Hatfield and myself had played college basketball in the United States. The basketball fans here in the Philippines didn’t know who we were before we went high in the PBA Draft and then started playing in the PBA. Most of us were the only Fil-Americans on our teams. Upon meeting them, I found out that these guys were living the similar grind I had been going through. It’s hard to explain, but after meeting some of the other Fil-American basketball players, my life instantly got better. It was so refreshing to hear about their experiences. Although, we were all different and from different areas of the US, we were basically going through the same thing at near the same stage of our lives. We were all out here on our own trying to make it in professional basketball in country that was new to us. I found comfort in learning that other people were struggling with similar things that I was struggling with. There is always pressure to win in professional sports. My new friends helped me deal with that pressure. Learning about other peoples experiences in similar situations, having an outlet and having fun with new friends off of the court, helped bring balance to my life. I related to those guys. I smiled and laughed more when I was around those guys. Two guys in particular that helped me were Jeffrey Cariaso and Andy Seigle. Both of those guys are older than me and had been in the country and the PBA before I was. I looked to both of them for advice and valued their opinions. Jeff is from San Francisco was drafted in the PBA in 1995. By the time I had met Jeff in 1999, Jeff had won the PBA Rookie of the Year, had won multiple championships and was a multiple time PBA All-Star. Jeff was always a guy I respected for the way he handled himself on the court and off of it. Jeff was also a leader in the Fil-Am community here, organizing dinners and get togethers. Even today, it is nice to be able to message Jeff and he is still always willing to listen or give advice. Jeff will always shoot you straight. A friend like him is hard to find. Andy was the number one overall pick in the 1997 PBA Draft. At 6 for 10 Andy was the first Fil-Am from my generation to have big expectations put on his shoulders the very first day he stepped on a PBA court. Dealing with that pressure must have been tough, but Andy was one of the most accommodating, giving people I have ever met. Whenever he was doing something, he would invite me. Random days out of the blue, he would invite me to his house to have dinner with his family. Andy would host dinners at his house for holidays, where families from different teams would get together to celebrate. I was fortunate enough to eventually play with Andy at Ginebra, where we won three championships together. Having him in practice and as a friend made my life better in the Philippines. Just as Jeff and Andy helped me, I also tried to help new Fil-Americans that came to the Philippines after me. Rudy Hatfield came to Tanduay a couple of years after I had been there and I tried to show him the ropes. We became very close friends. When Jimmy Alapag and Harvey Carey were new to the country in 2002 and 2003, respectively, I tried help where I could. I can’t say I ever really mentored anybody, but I always tried to listen, and share. Even if I can only help you laugh or smile more, I know that can help. Those guys have also become close friends of mine. I know they have also helped others that have come after them. Since Alapag and Carey arrived, there have already been a couple generations of new Filipino American basketball players. I still see the younger Fil-Ams from different teams hanging out together. While I’ve heard that some people view that as Fil-Ams trying to separate themselves, I don’t believe that is true. Just like guys from the same province or same school are more likely to hang out together, young Fil-Ams are more likely to hang out together. It’s a natural thing to gravitate to things and people you relate to and have something in common with. It’s not the easiest thing to do, to go to a foreign country where you have no family and friends to start a new career. I know. I’ve been there. A lot of things have changed for me since 1997, when I first came to this country. I am now married and have two small children of my own. My wife, kids and her family provide my support system now, as I do for them. However, there was a time and a long time where I didn’t have that. My Fil-American friends were my family and support system. And while that wasn’t ideal, I was always taught to do the best with what you had. I’m thankful for what I had. Eric Menk played in the PBA from 1999 to 2016. Menk is a four-time PBA champion, three-time PBA Finals MVP and one-time PBA MVP (2005). He currently writes for ABS-CBN Sports weekly. Menk also has his podcast Staying MAJOR as welll as his own YouTube channel ......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 2nd, 2018