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The ten most intriguing NBA free agents for 2019

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com We knew that the postseason would affect free agency. But the idea was that the success or failure of certain teams would affect what their free agents' thoughts about staying or leaving. Unfortunately, the last two games of The Finals brought devastating injuries to two of the three most coveted free agents on the market. Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the world, tore his Achilles in Game 5, just 12 minutes into his return from a calf injury. And Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. The two injuries will certainly have repercussions beyond the two players and the Golden State Warriors. Maybe they already have. With the Western Conference seemingly wide open next season, the Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly made a deal for Anthony Davis, sending a bevy of young players and future picks to New Orleans so they can team the 26-year-old star with 34-year-old LeBron James ... and maybe another star added in free agency. As always, the free agent market and the trade market are tied together. The pending Davis trade could affect the decisions of players and teams come July 1. And if teams miss out on the free agents they're seeking, they could always fill their cap space by making a trade. With all that in mind, the players listed below aren't necessarily the 10 best free agents (or potential free agents). They're the 10 (actually 12) most interesting in regard to where they're going and what kind of contract they get. For players to be on this list, there needs to be some intrigue regarding their (and/or their team's) decision this summer. That's why Thompson isn't included. 1. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto (Player option) Whether he leaves or not, trading for Leonard last summer was well worth it for the Raptors, who won their first championship, with Leonard averaging 30.5 points per game in the postseason. The Raptors' "load management" program (which limited Leonard to just 60 games in the regular season) clearly worked, and director of sports science Alex McKechnie should be seen as a major asset in the quest to keep Leonard in Toronto. There should be a "run-it-back" sentiment for the new champs, with Danny Green also a free agent and Marc Gasol holding a player option this summer. A short-term deal would make sense, unless Leonard is looking for long-term security, having missed almost all of the 2017-18 season with a leg injury. It's all up to Leonard, maybe the toughest player in the league to read. If he takes his two-way talent elsewhere, the Raptors may have to go in a new direction. Number to know: In the postseason, Leonard had a true shooting percentage of 69.1 percent, the highest mark for a player that averaged at least 30 points per game in the playoffs and won the championship. 2. Kevin Durant, Golden State (Player option) Durant's torn Achilles probably won't scare any team, including the Warriors, from paying him as much as possible. As deep and talented as this free agent class is, the top two guys on this list are in a class by themselves. Rumors have long had Durant ready to leave Golden State and even with his injury, he seems more likely than Thompson to find a new home. But an ESPN report had Thompson's father talking about "unfinished business" after overhearing a conversation between the two injured Warriors. Durant could always put free agency off for a year by exercising his player option and remaining on the Warriors' payroll through his rehab. Number to know: Durant was the first player in NBA history to average 30 points per game in at least 10 playoff games while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. 3. Kyrie Irving, Boston The disappointment of the Celtics' season, along with Irving's questionable leadership with a group that underachieved, has taken some of the shine off his star. Irving's injury history also must be taken into consideration. But talent is the most important thing in this league and Irving is one of its most talented players. He's still just 27-years-old and he can still get buckets when buckets are needed. A return to Boston appears far less likely than it did six months ago (especially with Davis being traded elsewhere) and there have been a lot of signals that Irving is bound for Brooklyn. Number to know: In the regular season, Irving had an effective field goal percentage of 56.1 percent with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, the second-best mark among player with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 4. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Philadelphia The Sixers lost to the eventual NBA champions on a Game 7 buzzer-beater that bounced on the rim four times before falling through. They're right there. But their starting lineup, which outscored its opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions in 334 total minutes (regular season and playoffs), includes three free agents. In regard to future assets, the Sixers didn't give up as much for Butler as they did for Harris. And of course, Butler has more baggage in regard to accepting his role. But, with his defense and his ability to get his own shot, he's is the most important of the three. Harris struggled a bit in the conference semifinals against Toronto and is the least important of the Sixers' three free-agent starters; J.J. Redick's shooting was clearly more critical in the postseason. But Harris isn't easily replaceable and he appears to be the most likely to leave, with a lot of teams looking for versatile forwards. Number to know: In the regular season, Harris shot 41.3 percent on pull-up three-pointers, the second-best mark among 69 players who attempted at least 100. 5. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Walker has expressed some level of loyalty to the Hornets. But immediately after the Davis trade was agreed to, there was a report that Walker would be a "top target" of the Lakers with their cap space. Walker would be an ideal offensive complement to James and Davis, in that he can play off the ball (though he shot less than 35 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season) and take some of the playmaking burden off of James' shoulders. The Hornets, meanwhile, would likely have a tough time upgrading their roster around Walker, with Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller all under contract next season for a total of $85 million. Number to know: Walker led the league with 126 field goal attempts with the score within five points in the last five minutes. That was 43 percent of the Hornets' total (295). His effective field goal percentage on those shots (49.6 percent) ranked 15th among 45 players with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 6. D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn (Restricted) A finalist for the Most Improved award, Russell took a big step forward this season, both in regard to his production and his maturity. He earned himself an All-Star appearance and helped the Nets reach the playoffs with a 14-win increase from last season. He's only 23-years-old and is one of the league's most flammable shooters. But because he doesn't get to the basket or the free throw line very often, Russell is neither all that efficient (his true shooting percentage of 53.3 percent ranked 66th among 94 guards with at least 500 field goal attempts) nor consistent, and he struggled (shooting 36 percent) in Brooklyn's first-round loss to Philadelphia. If the Nets are targeting another ball-handler in free agency (with Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie already under contract), they'll probably let Russell head elsewhere. Number to know: In the regular season, Russell ranked second with 11.4 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. He scored 0.89 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the 26th best mark among 44 players that averaged at least five ball-handler possessions. 7. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney, Golden State Cousins hadn't made it back to 100 percent from his Achilles tear before he suffered a torn quad in his second career playoff game. He made it back for The Finals from that injury and showed flashes of his old self with 14 important points in the Warriors' Game 5 win and a big bucket in the final minute of Game 6. But he also struggled on both ends of the floor at times, and the Warriors were outscored with him on the floor in seven of his eight playoff games. Now he goes back on the free agent market with teams still not sure of what they're getting. Looney is an unrestricted free agent at 23-years-old, and he was the Warriors' most important center this season. The Western Conference champs have Looney's Bird rights, but they could also be spending a lot of money to retain Durant and Thompson (and possibly extend Draymond Green). Another team might have a larger role and more money for an improving young big. Number to know: In the regular season, the Warriors' lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Looney scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions and outscored opponents by 18.7 per 100. Those were the best marks for points scored and point differential per 100 possessions among 40 league-wide lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. 8. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee (Restricted) The Milwaukee Bucks were the best team in the league through the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. But, with four of their top eight players being free agents (or potential free agents) this summer, they have a lot of work to do if they want to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounded by players who can get it done on both ends of the floor. Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are the three key pieces. They're all due a pay raise and they all belong on this list. Brogdon is the restricted free agent, but he's also the youngest of the three (he'll be 27 in December) and the one that could be projected into a larger role on another team. Number to know: Brogdon shot 47.5 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, the third-best mark among 223 players who attempted at least 100. 9. Julius Randle, New Orleans (Player option) After five years in the league, Randle is still just 24-years-old. So he's not necessarily a bad fit for David Griffin's plans for the future in New Orleans. But the Pelicans might not be ready to commit the money Randle is seeking (should he opt out of the final year of his contract) after averaging a career-high 21.4 points per game. Defense remains an issue, but Randle has expanded his offensive skill set; he was a respectable 34.4 percent from three-point range this season, taking 18 percent of his shots from beyond the arc (up from six percent over his three previous full seasons). Number to know: Randle averaged 13.2 points in the paint per game, seventh most in the league, and he made more three-pointers (67) than all but one of the six players in front of him. 10. Ricky Rubio, Utah According to Rubio himself, he's not Utah's top priority in free agency. He remains a good defender and one of the league's best passers, but the Jazz need to get more potent offensively if they're going to take the next step. At 31.1 percent, Rubio ranked 153rd in three-point percentage among 163 players with at least 200 attempts. There could be as many as 10 teams (not including the Jazz) in need of a starting point guard this summer, and Rubio could have more value on a team more in need of a distributor. Number to know: The Jazz were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better offensively with both Rubio and Donovan Mitchell on the floor (scoring 110.4 per 100) than they were with Mitchell on the floor without Rubio (104.6). John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 4 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 105-92 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Friday at Oracle Arena: 1. Dynasties eventually become ‘die-nastys’ Will we get one more game at Oracle Arena? The scene of so much Golden State wonderfulness the past five seasons? A building about to be abandoned when the Warriors move from Oakland to a state-of-the-art arena across the Bay? Hold up. Asking one more game out of the Warriors seems a lot at the moment. These guys just suffered their second consecutive home playoff loss by 10 points or more, something that hasn’t happened to this franchise in 50 years. After three straight games scoring precisely 109 points, the Warriors came up 15 short Friday (Saturday, PHL time). They are 0-9 overall this season when held to double digits, and 0-11 in the playoffs during the Steve Kerr era, when they score 94 or fewer. And now they’re on the wrong side of a 3-1 deficit, lacking everything from certain healthy bodies to an edge, a sharpness that was missing in the second half. Granted, Golden State once held a 3-1 edge in a Finals, all the way back in 2016 … when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers chased them down and became the only Finals team to claw out of such a chasm. The Warriors did the same to Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference finals. So they not only have a blueprint, they have the know-how and an opportunity to do it again. Like Kerr before him on Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) postgame podium, Warriors forward Draymond Green spoke of simply trying to win one basketball game, the next game, as the proper way to dig out of this series hole. But then he dropped his guard and mentioned winning three in a row, something the Warriors have done often. But they’re a whole year removed from doing that in a Finals (last year’s sweep of the Cavs) with a healthy Kevin Durant. This is a more worn-down, tired team. In fact, Game 4 was more than Golden State’s 102nd game of 2018-19, regular and postseason combined. It was the 102nd playoff game of their five consecutive Finals runs, which means they have crammed an extra season-plus into their schedules compared to the underachievers on lottery teams sitting at home. From the looks of it Friday (Saturday, PHL time), these guys are ready to be toppled, like the Lakers in 1989 and again in 2004, like the Heat in 2014 and the Cavaliers last June. The boisterous Raptors fans who staged their takeover of the Warriors’ building after Game 4 were merely mirroring what their favorite team did on the court from halftime on. Golden State could not stop it. Rudy Tomjanovich might still be inclined to scream into the darkness. (“Never underestimate the heart of a champion!”) But pride only takes you so far, and that’s mostly what the Warriors have left. 2. Third quarter? That’s Toronto’s now It took the Raptors more than 18 minutes to score 30 points Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), stymied by the pace of the game and particularly Golden State’s scrappy, hustling defense. Immediately after halftime, it took Toronto only 12 minutes to put up 37. The time of death for Golden State on Friday was immediately after Kawhi Leonard drained consecutive three-pointers – “F-you” shots, teammate Fred VanVleet memorably coined them – that boosted Toronto from a four-point deficit to a 12-point advantage. The Warriors already had played well enough to rightly feel they should have had a bigger cushion; falling behind so rudely seemed to buckle the defending champs. That they feel third quarters are their birthright made the switcheroo intolerable. “We had a big problem with the third quarter in Game 2,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We had to make some adjustment there to try to combat the way they come out of the half. We made the decision to put Fred in, [first] in Game 3 and then Game 4 again. Mostly it's to try to keep up pace of our offense going. It gives us two point guards out there that can push the ball, get it in and get it going, and it kind of paid off. “I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half really changed the whole feel of everybody. Everybody was like, ‘Okay, man, we know we are here, let's go,’ and we just kind of kept going from those two three's.” For the Warriors, who have done that to so many others, turnabout was a pain in the rump. “Oh, this sucks,” Draymond Green recalled thinking as Toronto took control of the quarter. “It sucks really bad. You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum.  Every time we did, they answered.” Green was asked about the difficulty of rattling the stone-faced Leonard with whatever defensive tactic Golden State could muster, and brushed the question aside. “I don't think you're ever going to rattle Kawhi. Not sure we used that word one time in our scouting report, ‘We're going to rattle him,’” Green said. But it’s not just Leonard now. It’s the Raptors. Time after time, whenever Golden State revved up with a couple of scoring possessions, signaling to their fans they ready to make a run, Toronto snuffed it with a three-pointer or a well-executed pick and roll. They’ve got a team of Kawhis-in-training, unflappable lately if not as inscrutable. “Most teams will take cues from their leaders or their star players, so I think that spreads around a little bit,” Nurse said. But he also praised vets such as Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and VanVleet for how steady they’ve been. Now, with the temptation to imagine hoisting a championship trophy, the Raptors might be expected to buy into the stat that, of the 34 teams in The Finals who have led 3-1, 33 of them got their rings. But this team is so focused, so resolute in taking care of business down to the smallest and most mundane task, that all Nurse might have to do is remind them how many aspiring champs won three games in a Finals and still headed into summer empty-handed. (It's 19.) No trophy, no rings. 3. A surge from Serge The chemistry between Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry was evident in their playful banter on the podium Friday night. Each slipped into his role, Lowry as the instigator, Ibaka as the target of his playful jibes. “You joining me?” Lowry asked, as Ibaka got to the podium a half minute after him. “Serge Ibaka, everybody. You all know him. Nice outfit. Worth a lot of money. Is that jacket real leather?” “Yes, it’s real leather,” Ibaka said. "Pants too tight, he can't even sit down,” Lowry said. On court, Ibaka’s defensive impact and 20 points in reserve dampened a lot of Warrior enthusiasm. There are nights when Ibaka comes across like Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a large, lumbering and rather stiff option near the rim with very little to say. Some nights, he even seems to be asleep. But still waters often run deep, too deep for the Warriors in Game 4, it turned out. Ibaka’s here-today, gone-tomorrow shooting touch had him playing in a way that none of Golden State’s three centers – DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney or Andrew Bogut – could match. “Once he gets into the series," Nurse said, "which he did in Game 3 with the blocked shots and the rebounding and stuff, he seems to stay in the series. He usually gives you all of it.” Said Lowry, about knowing when a Serge surge is coming: “He doesn't say anything. When Serge is effective defensively is when he's at his best. I think the scoring just comes. We're going to make sure he gets that pick-and-pop jump shot, he's rolling … When he brings that intensity and that fierceness, it's kind of tough to stop him on both ends of the floor.” 4. Stephen Curry had a bad game One of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever was entitled, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese, a profile written when Sinatra obviously was ill of body and temper, and didn’t even grant Talese an interview. So our headline kind of tells the story as his did: Curry, one of the top five players in the NBA and probably the greatest overall shooter of all time, was not his two-time MVP self. He wasn’t even the Game 3 version (47 points). The Warriors point guard scored 20 fewer points in this one, and was 2-of-9 from three-point range. He missed all five of his shots from the arc in the first half and he picked up some obvious frustration fouls. Curry played 43 of the 48 minutes, and Golden State was outscored by 11 points when he was on the court. “It wasn’t his best game,” Kerr said. Evaluating Curry, for the Warriors, was going to come down to breaking down video and keeping the faith. Evaluating him, for the rest of us, is getting complicated these days by a sense that Curry did not get his due in past Finals – at least in terms of winning the Bill Russell Award as Finals MVP. But that’s no excuse to don rose-colored glasses every time he hits the floor. As scintillating as his performance was in defeat Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) as the Warriors’ only healthy threat, his Game 4 work was raggedy and unproductive. “They have been aggressive all series and trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. “I missed some shots early that I usually make, especially from the three-point line. But overall, I thought I got good looks.” Every game doesn’t need to be a referendum on the level of Curry appreciation. He might have deserved more consideration as Finals MVP in 2015, when Andre Iguodala snagged it with a strong performance in the clinching game. And even though Kevin Durant was an easy choice in 2017, there were some who felt Curry was more essential (including this voter). In some cosmic and just way, Curry probably should have been recognized with hardware somewhere among the three. But all signs are pointing to Leonard now, so Curry might have to muddle along with "only" those two Maurice Podoloff trophies for regular-season MVP, along with his All-NBA berths and assorted accolades, his ginormous contract and bounty of commercial endorsements, three rings (unless this series turns around) and a better life than most people who’ve ever walked the planet. 5. Durant to play in Game … 8? It’s possible that Durant will come walking through Rick Pitino’s proverbial door and seize what’s left of the championship series by the throat, playing like the two-time Finals MVP he is. Failing that, if there’s a Game 6, maybe that’s the night Durant at least does a Willis Reed impersonation, limping through the Oracle tunnel to a thunderous roar and hitting a couple of early shots to inspire his teammates to something special. (There still, alas, would be a pesky Game 7 for which to account, back in Toronto, likely muddying the drama.) Then again, maybe Durant doesn’t come back at all. For The Finals or with the Warriors, period. Speculation at this point is all over the map. Some think the Warriors planned to hold him out until things got really dire, to buy extra healing time and maybe not use him at all. Others now believe Durant’s rehab process of his strained right calf back-slid to some degree on Thursday, when he participated in a checkpoint workout with the training staff. A few folks think he never was going to return, regardless. After all, the All-NBA forward hasn’t played since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), missing nine fairly important games. This is a league where injuries typically face an “If this were a playoff game, would he play?” threshold. Durant has been nearly as absent from this NBA postseason as LeBron James. Look, all injuries are different, and even the same type of injury can have different timelines with different sufferers. Klay Thompson rushing back from his hamstring issue after skipping only Game 3 is at the crazy-resilient end of the durability scale. Kevon Looney basically rose from the ashes, giving the Warriors a rim runner and 10 points with six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. He had been ruled out for the rest of the series after suffering a rib cartilage fracture in his crash to the floor in Game 2. After anticipation of Durant’s availability got out in front of his reality for a few days, the chatter is more tempered now. There’s a shrug and a whiff of uncertainty folded into every mention. If Durant had his Thursday workout, he would have played Friday (Saturday, PHL time). If he had a setback … Heck, at this point it might be more pragmatic for the medical peeps to declare him out and let the Warriors who’ve come this far see this through, yea or nay. “As far as KD, there's been hope that he will come back the whole series,” Draymond Green said. “So that's not going to change now. Obviously we hope to have him, but we'll see what happens. We don't make that final call, he don't really even make that final call.  His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. And if he can, great. And if not, you still got to try to find a way to win the next game.” The Warriors had been holding out hope for Durant’s return as if he was their ace in the hole, imagining him with zero rust or rhythm issues once back and no limitations on his gait. But he has passed the “In case of emergency, break glass” point of urgent help possibilities. Now Durant resembles more the keg hanging from a Saint Bernard dog’s collar. It’s a nice idea, but when was the last time one of those dogs saved somebody who literally drank from the little barrel? Toronto is in a foreign land, by NBA standards. But it ain’t the Alps. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2019

Cousins returns from injury, returns to form and delivers win

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — It was the moment the Warriors waited so long to see, and finally it arrived in the nick of time: The still-recovering former All-Star, out of the starting lineup for more than a minute, returning and dismissing the noise about how the team is better without him by impacting the game in multiple ways and pulling the Warriors to victory. And get this: If the Warriors are truly fortunate, Kevin Durant will recover soon and duplicate what DeMarcus Cousins just did. In the NBA Finals. If he does, it could serve a critical blow to Toronto’s chances of pulling off a late-series surprise. “We know what we’re dealing with here,” said Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. Cousins provided the help that the two-time defending champions needed Sunday (Monday, PHL time) to draw even in the series and snatch momentum with a 109-104 victory at Scotiabank Arena. He played more than anyone thought, rebounded more than anyone imagined, defended and scored more than Toronto bargained for, and gave the Warriors what they missed the last 6 1/2 weeks with him on the shelf. The 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots from Cousins didn’t fully encapsulate how much relief he brought to the Warriors. He had a galvanizing effect on a team that used an 18-0 run to start the second half to seize control of Game 3 and then used Andre Iguodala’s three-point shot to ice it. They haven’t been in one piece since April 15 (April 16, PHL time), in the first round against the Clippers, when Cousins chased a loose ball, stumbled and grabbed his left leg. The torn quad required no surgery but a lengthy rehab period, and this after Cousins went through a 10-month rehab for a torn Achilles' tendon in the spring of 2018. He was feeling beat up. Cousins attacked the process anyway, determined to return from an injury that normally would mean the end to his postseason, for the simple reason that he hadn’t been to the playoffs in his career to this point. There’s also a matter of free agency awaiting in July; a strong return could improve his bottom line. “Once they told me I have a chance, a slight chance, of being able to return, it basically was up to me and the work I put in,” he said. “So I put the work and the time in and with God’s grace I’m able to be out here and play the game I love.” Cousins was clearly out of rhythm from the layoff in Game 1, his timing rusty, his execution unsure. He played just eight minutes without scoring a basket or drawing much attention from Toronto. But Warriors coach Steve Kerr made the surprise decision to start Cousins three nights later, and that faith was repaid handsomely. Cousins was active, his confidence growing stronger by the minute -- 27 of them, actually, and he only asked to be subbed out once. “We came in thinking he can maybe play 20 minutes,” said Kerr. “He was fantastic and we needed everything he gave out there: his rebounding, his toughness, his physical presence, getting the ball in the paint, and just playing big, like he does. We needed all of that.” What the Warriors hoped was for Cousins to be the best big man on the floor. In Game 1, that honor went to Raptors center Marc Gasol, who uncharacteristically became a prime scoring option for the Raptors with 20 points, most on open jumpers. Cousins didn’t give him that amount of breathing space in Game 2, and Gasol (six points) was never a factor. Cousins' teammates offered rave reviews. Steph Curry: “Obviously you get more comfortable with more minutes and playing aggressive. He puts a lot of pressure on their defense. It’s a big lift for us. More to come.” Draymond Green: “The more he plays, the better feel he gets. He was great on both ends. It allowed us to play through him in the post. Toronto knows. They’ve got to honor that, and we know what he’s capable of doing if they don’t.” Cousins had an amusing reaction to learning he was in the starting lineup — “I was like, ‘Cool’” — and feels as though he has more to give. “When I step on the floor, I’m going to leave it out there,” he said. “I want to be on this stage. This is what I’ve worked for my entire career, to have this opportunity to play for something.” Cousins spent seven years in purgatory in Sacramento, where he racked up losses and technicals. It was a frustrating time for him; he had no faith in the franchise's leadership and it soured his attitude. His trade to the Pelicans two years ago was met with enthusiasm; he teamed with Anthony Davis to form an intimidating front line, but the Achilles’ injury cut short his time on the floor and, ultimately, in New Orleans. The team refused to offer him a contract last summer, leading him to join the Warriors at a discount. So his purpose is to salvage what’s left of the season, capture a ring for his troubles and see what it brings this summer. And then there’s the matter of Durant. The two-time Finals MVP hasn’t been cleared for full-contact practice, and the Warriors will hold only one prior to Game 3. Kerr said it’s “feasible” that Durant could play with only one practice under his belt, yet that’s not the ideal scenario. What Cousins does is buy them more time with Durant. With the series tied 1-1, and the next two games in Oakland, and Cousins apparently rounding into form, there’s a bit less urgency to see Durant on the floor. Yet it appears to be a matter of when, not if, Durant will see action in this series. And it might be at the perfect moment, with Klay Thompson suffering a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter that forced him off the court. The All-Star guard later told Kerr he’s fine and that the hamstring tightness is minor, but his status will be determined by MRI. Given what’s happened so far, the Warriors can never be too careful or take the rosy view when it comes to muscle issues. They’ve established a theme that tells the story of their 2019 postseason, and it’s not one they designed or even wanted, but it fits their existence nonetheless: “recovery” and their ability to do so on all front. It's not just injuries. Even in sweeping Portland, Golden State had to recover from deficits of 17, 18 and 17 points in the Western Conference Finals. Trailing 1-0 in these NBA Finals, they recovered from 12 down to win on the road for a 23rd straight series, an NBA record. What the Warriors reminded everyone at Scotiabank Arena, in case folks forgot, is that they’re champions and bring plenty of know-how to this series, and are fully capable of winning games by any means necessary. “It’s big respect for them,” said Kawhi Leonard. “They have been here each of the last four years, won the last two, and you’ve got to take the challenge. They’re a great team.” But the Warriors would rather put a fully-loaded and healthy squad -- one that is clearly the class of the NBA -- on the court and win with that. This NBA Finals might finally get the Warriors at full strength. If not, they still might be more than the Raptors can handle. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2019

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Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsJul 19th, 2016

Common threads: Warriors and Raptors

The Golden State Warriors are back in the Finals for a fifth straight year, but standing across from them is a new face: the Toronto Raptors, who are playing for the Larry O'Brien trophy for just the first time in franchise history. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Warriors versus Raptors isn't exactly a matchup that screams "historic rivalry." Golden State is 28-17 in the overall series against Toronto, with Canada's club winning both their encounters this season. Still, the two clubs do have some overlap - players having suited up for both teams, plus some on- and off-court history. Here are eight common threads between the two teams in the 2019 NBA Finals. 1. Patrick McCaw Patrick McCaw has made the NBA Finals in all three season of his NBA career, something not many players can say. The first two years, he was with the Warriors, but now, he's facing his old club as a Raptor. McCaw was a second round pick by the Warriors in 2016. The team's long-term hope was that he could possibly succeed Andre Iguodala as a versatile, defense-first swingman, but he opted not to re-sign with GSW this past offseason. Sitting out most of the latter part of 2018, he eventually inked a loaded offer sheet (he was a restricted free agent) with Finals rivals the Cleveland Cavaliers, which the Warriors did not match. The Cavaliers waived him after three appearances, but he eventually found his way to Toronto. McCaw has averaged 2.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists up north, but has only logged seven appearances, norming 5.1 minutes, in the postseason. With his ex-teammates decidedly miffed about his decision not to come back to the Bay, things could get interesting if he sees playing time in the Finals. SAY WHAT YOU WANT 3 STRAIGHT NBA FINALS APPEARANCES?! I CAN'T MAKE THIS UP ... MY FAITH GOT ME HERE, NOTHING BUT GOD!!! ???????? ZERO WORRIES ZERO DOUBTS ???? — Patrick McCaw (@PMcCaw0) May 26, 2019 2. Jeremy Lin We're a long way from the highs of Linsanity with the New York Knicks, but let's not forget that it was the Golden State Warriors that first had a roster spot for the Harvard product. After going undrafted in 2010, the Warriors snapped up Lin, fielding him as a backup behind Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. In his rookie season, Lin managed 9.8 minutes, 2.6 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 steals in 29 games. Golden State opted not to keep Lin following the 2011 lockout, which paved the way for him to sign, first with the Houston Rockets, and then with the New York Knicks. We know what happened there, right? Recently though, Lin has struggled due to injuries. He started this season getting traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks then bought him out in February, which allowed the Raptors to sign him after he cleared waivers. He put up 7.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 23 regular season games for Toronto, but has played even less than McCaw in the Playoffs (7 games, 3.7 minutes, 1.3 points). 3. Alfonzo McKinnie 4. Chris Boucher Same story, different teams. Warriors swingman McKinnie and Raptors big Boucher began last season with the opposite ball club, though they actually spent more time with their respective G League affiliates. McKinnie, who went undrafted in 2015, bounced around playing as an import in Luxembourg and Mexico, before landing in the G League in 2016 with the Windy City Bulls. He signed a multi-year deal with the Raptors the next season, but got waived last July. McKinnie bounced back as a training camp invitee for Golden State, but with McCaw not signing, that opened up a roster spot for the journeyman. He's made the most of the opportunity since, averaging 4.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 72 regular season games, 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 16 postseason games. Boucher got a two-way contract from the Warriors last season, but was waived this past offseason. He got another two-way contract from the Raptors shortly after, before having his deal converted to a standard contract back in February. Appearing in 28 regular season games, Boucher normed 3.3 points and 2.0 rebounds. He really made his presence felt on Raptors 905, the G League affiliate of Toronto, getting named G League MVP and DPoY. He's been fielded in a pair of postseason games, amassing a total of 5 points and 1 rebound. 5. Stephen Curry The first time Stephen Curry shot hoops in Toronto was not as a Warrior, but as a kid. Curry's father Dell closed out his NBA career with three seasons in Toronto, and Steph and his brother Seth were a familiar presence in the arena, shooting hoops with their dad. The team's star back then, Vince Carter, even played 1-on-1 against him back in the day. In addition, Steph's wife Ayesha was born in Toronto and lived there until the age of 14. 6. Phil Handy He's far from a household name, but Phil Handy might be an x-factor in this series. The long-time player development guru was an assistant coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2013 to 2018, which includes those four straight Finals matchups against the Warriors. Handy's worked with names like Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and LeBron James, before bringing his talents to aid Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam, among others. Ironically though, Handy's a California native, and lived in Oakland until the age of 11. 7. Kawhi Leonard The journey that saw Kawhi Leonard go from San Antonio Spur to Toronto Raptor began in a series against the Golden State Warriors. Back in the 2017 Western Conference Finals, Leonard's 26 points had the San Antonio Spurs up big against the Warriors, before he landed on then-Golden State center Zaza Pachulia's foot. That re-aggravated an ankle injury he suffered in the previous series against the Houston Rockets, and Kawhi subsequently missed the rest of the series. Leonard would play just nine more games for the Spurs, due to a right quadriceps injury. The extent though of said injury is something we'll probably never know. Some Spurs players believe Kawhi could have played had he wanted to, while Leonard himself opted to rehab on his own, away from the Spurs medical staff. Regardless of the origin of the animosity between the franchise and the player, the Spurs moved to trade Leonard to the Raptors this past offseason. Safe to say, it's a deal that's worked out swimmingly for Toronto. 8. Will they stay or will they go? Speaking of Kawhi, he's in a similar boat with the currently-injured Warriors star Kevin Durant. Both Leonard and Durant could become free agents this offseason, with both possessing player options. It's largely believed that should they opt out and test the market, they would be the two top options for teams seeking a superstar. Who knows? No matter what the outcome of the Finals is, there's a possibility that a team like the Clippers or the Knicks could put the two of them on the same squad come 2019-20. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 27th, 2019

Raptors on brink of first Finals berth in franchise history

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO -- Twenty-one would be a very cool number for the Toronto Raptors. Before they get it, though, they’ll need to get one. And one would be beyond cool. Off the charts, historic, potentially transformative and largely indescribable. Twenty-one: That’s how many teams in NBA playoff history will have overcome an 0-2 start to win a best-of-seven series, if the Raptors manage to close out the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. Whether it happens in Game 6 Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena or in Game 7 back in Milwaukee Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), Toronto would buck outlandish odds -- this is the 289th series to begin with the same team winning the first two games, so we’re talking a seven percent likelihood (20-of-288). [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] One: That’s all that stands between the Raptors and the first NBA Final appearance in Toronto franchise history. One more victory in the next three days would validate the risks and twists of this 2018-19 season for the Raptors, while exorcising nearly a quarter century’s worth of demons. One little win and Toronto finally will break through, capping a stellar six-year run of promising regular seasons and heartbreaking postseasons. They will have earned, in the face of so much uncertainty, their best shot yet at a championship, even if it means going through the mighty Golden State Warriors. When Raptors president Masai Ujiri traded for star forward Kawhi Leonard, he was gambling not just that Leonard could recover from the right quadriceps injury that scuttled his 2017-18. He was guessing that swapping in Leonard for former All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan could push Toronto to, well, right where they’re at. And he was hoping Leonard, a rent-a-player able to leave this summer in free agency, would enjoy the whole experience enough to let Ujiri pay him $220 million over the next five seasons. It’s impossible to know where things stand on that last front, owing to Leonard’s inscrutability and a decision that’s still six weeks away. But the Raptors never have gotten this far, so there is an opportunity here to be savored, with more potentially to come. “It would be a very, very long summer thinking about what could have been or what you could have done,” guard Fred VanVleet said, framing things a bit negatively after raining 7-of-9 three-pointers on Milwaukee in the 105-99 Game 5 victory. “So we've just got to go out there and have no regrets. … One win away from the Finals sounds pretty good to me.” Sounds a little easier, maybe, than it actually will be. The Raptors are at home for Game 6 and the crowd at Scotiabank crowd, already dialed high, will be able to let it rip without any fear -- immediate fear, anyway -- of failure. But Milwaukee will be desperate. Giannis Antetokounmpo has pledged that his team will not “fold.” And the Bucks have zero interest in a knock-knock year, believing all season that they were good enough to reach and win the championship. They wouldn’t be human if they weren’t shaken by the three consecutive defeats Toronto has dealt them. The Raptors have managed to surround and partially stifle Antetokounmpo, while still firing out enough to bother Milwaukee’s three-point shooters into repeated misfires. The Bucks’ defense has been probed and poked like a cut-rate steak. They resorted again to some uncharacteristic switching in Game 5 but had most of their success inside the arc. Late in the pivotal loss, they got beat for five offensive rebounds, when grabbing two or three might have swung the outcome. “It's win or lose,” coach Mike Budenholzer said Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in a conference call with reporters. “When you win, there are things that [still] are concerning and unsettling that you need to work on and improve. I think there's just enough possessions where there's a couple of rebounds that stand out. “Can we do a little bit better job in some of our activity in certain situations. Offensively, I think at times can our spacing be better and our ball movement be better? But I would say it's like a lot of games. We didn't get it done.” One area in which Budenholzer refuses to budge, dire circumstances be darned, is in his use vs. overuse of Antetokounmpo. The load the Greek Freak carries when he’s on the floor, the activity he generates, leads to fatigue and wear-and-tear that requires regular breathers. Extending his star’s minutes, Budenholzer believes, would lead to less “peak Giannis” rather than more, an inevitable tradeoff of quality over quantity. And the Bucks need every bit of Antetokounmpo’s best, or what’s left of it in their 97th game of the season. “Giannis, it's so impressive what he does and how important he is,” Budenholzer said. “I maintain that him getting appropriate rest, appropriate kind of just a chance to catch his breath, refuel… At the end of the day, you need to be able to produce and perform, including in the fourth quarter.” At the possible end of your season, though, you’ll have plenty of time to refuel if the opponent pounces while your star sits. Said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, in his own teleconference: “It's a ‘whatever it takes’ game. It's an unlimited-minutes night. This is just like any other critical must-win game.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 25th, 2019

Lopez sticks to the Bucks plan, and it s more fun for everyone

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE — Come for the three-point melodrama, stay for the rim protection, the put-backs, the block-outs and the blocked shots. Come for the anguish and frustration that plays out across Brook Lopez’s face over the course of a typical NBA game, stay for the maniacal, jubilant, fourth-quarter clapping that gets turned into a GIF and goes viral within minutes. Brook Lopez clapping violently dot gif pic.twitter.com/a22arVkUSc — CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 16, 2019 Come for the unbuttoned Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball jersey, stay for the Disney fashion T-shirt showing beneath it and the Pizza Planet cap up top. “I’ve always tried to have fun when I go out and play basketball,” said Lopez. The Milwaukee Bucks’ center embodied his team’s performance as they clawed back Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, beating the Toronto Raptors, 108-100, Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “I obviously love playing the game,” said Lopez, dressed like a 7-foot 10-year-old for his podium appearance. “But no question I’ve been having a great time here.” Lopez, 31, scored 29 points, a personal playoff best, and grabbed 11 rebounds. It was his first 20-point night of the Bucks’ 10 playoff games so far, only the fourth of his career (he has appeared in just 23 postseason games in 11 seasons). And it came on the heels of a Game 5 effort against Boston a week ago in which Lopez was held scoreless. Milwaukee clinched anyway. This one was an ordeal for Lopez and for the Bucks, an opener in the best-of-seven series in which they slogged through three quarters without much touch or rhythm. The style of play they’ve embraced over 82 games and the past month of postseason was betraying them; Milwaukee kept hoisting and missing three-pointers, as single-mindedly in spite of horrid results as if they all wore beards and played for Houston. The resulting nastiness: A 6-for-34 (17.6 percent) showing from the arc, while digging an 83-76 hole that maxed out at 13 points. Lopez was a notable offender. He missed his first three from deep and only broke through midway through the second quarter. His shot from out front that got the Bucks within 42-37 was followed by a reaction of one part frustration, one part exasperation and a couple parts relief. That’s the wide open space of Lopez’s game, out there on the wing or in the corner launching for all the world to see. Home fans seem to live and die on each attempt, riding an emotional rollercoaster while – on nights such as this one – they wait for his results to regress to the mean. That finally happened in the fourth quarter. Lopez – who shot a total of 31 three-pointers in his first eight seasons, 300-plus in each of the next two and ultimately 512 in 2018-19 with the Bucks – hit two to get his team going in the quarter. His third in the period, one possession after Lopez finished a slo-mo fast-break for a 101-100 lead, sent Toronto into a timeout, down four with 1:55 left. That was when Lopez came with the clapping. And when play resumed, there was Lopez again, getting a hand on Kawhi Leonard’s attempt to attack the rim, stripping and corralling the ball for a block and rebound. As good as Kyle Lowry was over the final 12 minutes, as potent as the Raptors’ offense was at certain points earlier, they were done scoring for the night. Lopez did the small stuff all night, even finishing off the dribble a couple times. It’s just that, by virtue of how he and the Bucks have played this season, those things get overshadowed by the broad strokes that didn’t go his way until late. “This is the Brook we all know and we all love,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo. Said Khris Middleton: “He’s a beast. Inside the paint, made some big plays for us. On the defensive end, he covers up so much for our mistakes.” The Bucks’ adherence to what works has been tested for quarters, for halves, but so far only for one whole game in these playoffs – they dropped the opener against Boston. Milwaukee won the next four in a row to oust the Celtics. In the dressing room afterward, there was chatter that they’d snatched one away, that they couldn't have played worse – at least on offense. In that fourth quarter, outscoring Toronto 32-17, Milwaukee made up for a multitude of sins. The Bucks hit 50 percent of their shots, missed only 1-of-10 free throws and dominated the boards (14-4) to finish with a 60-45 edge. The Raptors were held to 5-of-22 shooting in the quarter. And Lopez, dragging a minus-5 plus/minus rating through three quarters, was sitting on a plus-7 by the horn. The key? Absolutely faith in the style they’ve honed since late September, and a commitment to letting it fly. Whether we’re talking about a conscienceless approach to three-pointers or Lopez’s irrepressible good nature. He has made as many as eight three-pointers in a game this season (at Denver, Nov. 12, PHL time) and attempted as many as 15 (vs. Brooklyn, Dec. 30, PHL time). There is no such thing as too many. “That’s what my teammates have been telling me,” Lopez said. “George Hill specifically and then [Giannis], too. They just stick in my mind: ‘Keep shooting the ball, you just need one to go down. Keep letting it fly.” 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......»»

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