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European leagues: Most clubs oppose changes in competitions

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — A "vast majority" of European teams are against plans by elite clubs to radically change the shape of the Champions League, according to the organization representing national leagues. The European Leagues group hosted a meeting Tuesday of around 250 clubs in the Spanish capital and said most are against proposals submitted by the European Club Association that kicked off consultation to agree changes that will take effect in 2024. The ECA's strategy is mostly shaped by rich and storied clubs who want to play each other more often — possibly in groups doubled in size to eight teams — and secure year-on-year Champions League entry through a high placing in those groups. That proposal would represent the biggest change to the Champions League since some domestic league runners-up were allowed entry in 1997. The clubs' idea is fiercely opposed by the leagues, which fear fans and broadcasters could lose interest in their competitions if Champions League entries can be secured elsewhere. "A lot of clubs made their position very clear, including clubs and representatives from ECA," European Leagues President Lars-Christer Olsson said. "The domestic competitions have to be the basis for the international competitions." "We are sure that fans are supporting our ideas," said Olsson, who helped oversee the modern Champions League as former CEO of UEFA for several years until 2007. The leagues want to make sure more domestic winners can have direct access to the Champions League from 2024 instead of having to go through more qualifying rounds with fewer chances to reach the lucrative group stage. Until 2018, the Champions League preliminary rounds including teams from all 55 UEFA member countries offered 10 of the 32 Champions League group-stage places, which shared up to $2 billion in prize money. Changes that took effect this season favored wealthy countries. Teams from Spain, England, Germany, Italy now avoid the preliminaries and only six of the 32 places are on offer to qualifiers. One of those qualifiers, Ajax, is in the semifinals. Ajax advanced through the knockout rounds with victories over Real Madrid and Juventus — two clubs pushing hardest for a better deal for elite clubs. Juventus president Andrea Agnelli — who leads the ECA and sits with Olsson on the UEFA executive committee — attended Tuesday's meeting which he had asked his members to boycott. ECA members will meet June 6-7 in Malta to discuss the proposal made in their name. Agnelli wrote to ECA officials last month criticizing the European Leagues for trying to preserve the "status quo." He has also suggested more promotion and relegation between the Champions League and second-tier Europa League which has been dominated for the past decade by Spanish and English clubs. "We are not against change," Olsson said Tuesday, "but we have significant concerns if that change should be based on what is released by Agnelli in his letter to the clubs." ECA vice chairman Edwin van der Sar, representing Ajax, told reporters that rumors about promoting a closed league or playing weekend games in European competitions were not the clubs' goal. "To develop European football, it's important to play more interesting and meaningful games and sometimes that doesn't happen in the leagues," said Van der Sar, suggesting the Dutch Eredivisie did not help Ajax players develop fully. "All things evolve and European football needs to evolve also," the former Ajax, Juventus and Manchester United goalkeeper said, citing a third-tier UEFA competition that kicks off in 2021. That project is provisionally called Europa League 2. The ECA already met with UEFA leadership to discuss the changes, and Olsson will lead a leagues delegation to UEFA's offices in Switzerland on Wednesday. The meeting in Madrid was organized by Spanish league president Javier Tebas, a longtime critic of the proposed changes. "The entire football industry would be affected by these changes," said Tebas, saying the league would consider legal actions if the clubs' favored formats went into effect. "It would be a very complicated scenario.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2019

Juventus signs defender Caldara from Atalanta for 25 million

TURIN, Italy (AP) — Juventus has acquired Mattia Caldara's rights from Atalanta in a 25 million euro ($26 million) deal that keeps the center back on loan with the Bergamo club for another season and a half. Caldara signed a five-year deal with Juventus that expires in June 2021. Juventus announced it is paying a 15 million euro transfer fee with another 6 million euros in eventual bonuses plus 4 million euros in incentives during Caldara's remaining time with Atalanta. Juventus is hoping the 22-year-old Caldara becomes the next in a long line of standout Juventus defenders, and can replace the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci. It's the second major deal involving Atalanta in two days after Inter Milan signed midfielder Roberto Gagliardini on Wednesday in a deal that could end up costing as much as 28 million euros. Featuring a large group of homegrown players, Atalanta has been the revelation of Serie A this season. The provincial club located near Milan is in sixth place. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Paris Saint-Germain confirms signing of Germany's Draxler

PARIS (AP) — Germany midfielder Julian Draxler has officially joined Paris Saint-Germain. The French club confirmed Draxler's signing from Wolfsburg on Tuesday in a deal reportedly worth up to 47 million euros (about $49 million). The 23-year-old attacking midfielder signed a deal through June 2021 on Monday, the French club said. Wolfsburg already announced the transfer subject to a medical examination on Dec. 24. 'For the first time in my career, I'm going to discover a new country, a new league, and I'm very proud to take this new step at a club which has become a benchmark in Europe,' Draxler was quoted as saying on PSG's website. Both sides agreed not to disclose the transfer fee. However, German news agency dpa reported a fee of 42 million euros ($43.9 million) with bonuses of up to 5 million euros ($5.2 million). 'The transfer of this highly sought-after Germany international reconfirms just how attractive our club is to the world's most talented players. He has all the qualities to play a major role in the club's project,' PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi said. Draxler joined Wolfsburg from Bundesliga rival Schalke for about 36 million euros in August 2015, but he never really settled in at the club. His fortunes mirrored that of Wolfsburg. Bundesliga runner-up and German Cup winner in 2015, Wolfsburg is fighting relegation this season, with coach Dieter Hecking and general manager Klaus Allofs both losing their jobs. Draxler had previously looked for a move — resisted by Allofs — and below-par performances saw him whistled at times by the club's own fans. Draxler scored five goals in 34 league games for Wolfsburg. Altogether, he has 23 goals in 153 Bundesliga games, and three in 27 games for Germany. 'I think this step is the right one for all parties,' Wolfsburg coach Valerien Ismael said. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Trail Blazers cohesiveness helped them to conference finals

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers faced a number of challenges on the journey to their first Western Conference finals in 19 years. But there was one they couldn’t overcome: The Golden State Warriors. Portland’s run in the playoffs, which captured fans’ imaginations after Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beating three-pointer to clinch the opening-round series over the Thunder, ended with a sweep by the defending champions. [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] “We put together a great season and we put ourselves in position to go to the Finals,” Lillard said. “I think every other team in the league would wish they could be in our shoes; not only making the playoffs but playing for an opportunity to get a chance to go to the Finals. We just ran up on a team who has been there the last four years.” Portland was coming off two straight seasons that ended with first-round playoff sweeps. The team, which had surprisingly little turnover over those years, came into the season unified and determined to take the next step. But before the first game was played, the Blazers were hit by the death of owner Paul Allen after a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The co-founder of Microsoft was a hands-on owner and a familiar face at the Moda Center, and Portland dedicated its season to him. Injuries would challenge the Blazers down the stretch. Lillard’s backcourt partner CJ McCollum missed 10 games with a knee injury. But it was center Jusuf Nurkic’s injury that caused the most concern going into the playoffs. Portland’s seven-foot big man broke his left leg after crashing awkwardly in an overtime victory at home over the Brooklyn Nets on March 25 (Mar. 26, PHL time). Nurkic was averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds a game and many considered Portland’s playoff prospects dim without him. Fortunately, the Blazers were able to turn to Enes Kanter, who was waived by the New York Knicks following the trade deadline and signed by Portland for the rest of the season. Kanter averaged 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 23 regular-season games with the Blazers, including eight starts. Portland finished 53-29 and clinched the third seed in the Western Conference, earning home court for the first round — and a series with the Thunder. The Blazers wrapped that series up in five games — capped by Lillard’s walkoff three-pointer. But even in the playoffs the Blazers couldn’t escape misfortune. Kanter separated his left shoulder in the final game against Oklahoma City. He was questionable for the conference semifinals against Denver but played, although he often winced in pain. Jonathan Yim, Portland’s video coordinator and player development coach, was in a serious car accident before the series with the Nuggets. The Blazers coaching staff wore bow ties in his honor in Game 2. That series went to seven games, with the Blazers sealing their date with Golden State on Denver’s home court. The Warriors were simply too much for the Blazers, climbing back from double-digit deficits in each of the final three games. Lillard played with separated ribs in the final two. The team’s on-court leader, Lillard averaged 25.8 points and 6.9 assists and earned his fourth All-Star nod during the regular season. He averaged 33 points in the opening round against the Thunder, but his production fell against Denver and Golden State when he was double-teamed. Lillard said the past few seasons of relative stability — after four of Portland’s five starters moved on to other teams in 2015 — have bonded the team. “Each year we’ve come back with the right attitude,” Lillard said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “We’ve been able to stick together through a lot of adversity and I think just what we’ve hung our hats on, what we’ve believed in, our culture, the togetherness, we’ve been able to truly build on that. And I think we should be encouraged.” Lillard could be in line for a hefty raise in the offseason. If he is named to one of the postseason’s All-NBA teams, he’ll qualify for a supermax contract extension worth $191 million. Lillard has two years remaining on his current contract. Asked about the prospects of a big extension, Lillard laughed and said: “I don’t understand why that’s even a question.” Coach Terry Stotts already benefited from the team’s run in the playoffs, signing a multi-year contract with the team that was announced at exit interviews. Terms of the deal were not released. “The guys in the locker room are special, it’s been a special season,” Stotts said. “Always tough to lose the last game of the year, but I couldn’t be more proud of the group that we’ve had.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News18 hr. 31 min. ago

Despite title chances, Bayern coach Kovac s future uncertain

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Despite leading Bayern Munich to the verge of two titles, Niko Kovac's future as coach remains up in the air. Bayern can clinch the Bundesliga title at home against Eintracht Frankfurt — Kovac's former team — on Saturday, one week before the team's German Cup final against Leipzig in Berlin. But with persistent doubts over his authority and experience dogging his first season in charge, even a domestic double might not be enough. Bayern's management has been less than convincing in its support for the 47-year-old Croat after a season in which the team hasn't displayed the authority of before. "We'll see," Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said earlier this month to repeated questions about Kovac's future, adding that the club had bigger priorities for now. "At this time when we can achieve a lot and win two titles, we'd be well advised not to waste our energy on questions of personnel." Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz-Rummenigge was also less than forthcoming in defending Kovac, saying he had "no problem with him" and warning, "at Bayern Munich, players, management and coaches have to deliver." Kovac has struggled for authority since Bayern went four games without a win in late September-early October. The club lashed out at the media on Oct. 19 for "derogatory, slanderous reporting" of its bad run, and felt compelled to address an Instagram post criticizing Kovac from Lisa Mueller, forward Thomas Mueller's wife, for only using her husband as a substitute. Kovac, who led Frankfurt to victory over his future club in last season's German Cup final, is going for his first league title as coach. But his team missed the chance to clinch it in a scoreless draw at Leipzig last weekend and dropped points at relegated Nuremberg two weeks before. That Bayern is still in contention has more to do with rival Borussia Dortmund's inability to defend a lead. Dortmund led Bayern by nine points earlier in the season and has developed an inopportune habit of conceding late goals. Dortmund could yet win the Bundesliga title with a victory at Borussia Moenchengladbach if Frankfurt beats Bayern in Munich at the same time. Kovac, who played as a defensive midfielder for Bayern from 2001-03, said Thursday he was uninterested in the speculation over his coaching future. "I'm totally independent. I don't need to earn millions. Money is not my primary concern. Whatever comes, comes," said Kovac, who has a contract at Bayern through 2021. "I like this job and would like to fulfill my contract," Kovac said. "And I've never given up on anything in my life - never.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Proud Parent Problems: For Currys, a fraught conference final

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — They are lock-step and lock-arm and also lock-jersey as they enter Oracle Arena in what is their crowning achievement as a basketball mom and dad. Dell and Sonya Curry are in the running for First Couple of the NBA, and in the Western Conference finals, this honor comes with an equal amount of pride and anxiety. “There’s so much emotion involved because you want both to do well, and here they are, on opposite benches,” says the mom. The father agreed, adding: “It’s hard for both of us.” [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] Their sons are, of course, Stephen and Seth Curry, and their dilemma is being played out in front of millions on TV, who see Dell and Sonya sitting in the stands wearing custom-made split jerseys honoring both players. For Game 1, Dell had Steph’s No. 30 Warriors jersey on the front and Seth’s No. 31 Blazers on the back, and vice versa for Sonya. They’ll switch up as the series goes along because the parents never want to show favoritism for any of their children. “Somebody’s going to lose and we’re going to the Finals with one of them and it will be bittersweet,” Dell Curry said. “But whomever doesn’t go to the Finals for his team will be there for his brother.” Aside from this being a sweet story involving a close-knit and stable family, what’s amazing about this is that it's happening at all. Yes, the NBA has had a fair share of siblings before -- do you know how many Plumlees are cashing basketball checks? -- but never in the same conference finals. And what’s more, neither of the Curry boys dropped strong hints, even as far as high school, that they’d be on anybody’s NBA bench. But religion and faith run through all the Currys and the parents, who’ve been married 31 years, must’ve struck the proper chord because they’ve been blessed with a playoff series neither will soon forget, no matter how it turns out. By now, their made-for-reality TV story is a familiar one. Dell was a smooth-shooting guard at Virginia Tech where he met Sonya, who played for the women’s volleyball team. They soon became a couple and delivered Steph while Dell played for the Cavaliers, who drafted him. Seth came a few years later in Charlotte, where Dell by then was one of the game’s best sixth men, dropping shots from distance for the Hornets. Their basketball education started at home and specifically the driveway basketball court where the boys wore Hornets jerseys and pretended to be in the NBA. “They battled each other,” Dell Curry said. “You know, trying to get the game-winning point and arguing whether you got fouled or not. You’re standing there watching them settle it and it never got settled. My wife and I took turns being the referee deciding who won the game.” Understandably, it never got heated, as anger or jealousy doesn’t seem to be in the Curry family DNA. “Steph did a good job with that,” said Dell. “Being the oldest boy, he could’ve beaten up on [Seth] a lot.” The boys became familiar faces around the Hornets’ practice facility and games. They attended small private high schools instead of basketball academies because of academics; their parents didn’t specifically groom them for the NBA. Even if the father’s shooting genetics and mother’s competitive instincts were soon apparent with both boys, they were size challenged. They played like solid basketball players but looked like future accountants. That all changed for Steph not long after he went to Davidson College and for Seth after he transferred from Liberty University to Duke. Steph was an NCAA tournament sensation, and later, Seth became a solid starter who replaced an injured Kyrie Irving at one of the country’s most prestigious programs. And thus began the crazy travel schedule for their parents, each splitting the duties between their sons as best they could; it hasn’t calmed down since. Steph has had the gold-plated path, winning a pair of Kia MVPs and three championships, changing the game from a shooting standpoint and punching an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame someday. Seth’s career has been nomadic. He wasn’t drafted because teams wondered about his ball-handling skills. The Warriors initially tossed him a lifeline, but Seth didn’t survive training camp and was sent to their G-League team. He’s with his sixth team in five years and seemingly turned the corner last season with the Mavericks, where he started 42 games before injuries intervened. Steph is vested in his younger brother’s career and quietly simmers about how Seth, who’s now 28, lacks a long-term deal and security with one team. Although the younger Curry finished third in three-point shooting percentage this season -- one spot ahead of Stephen -- Seth becomes a free agent this summer. Yet the good news is he should have interest after a breakout season for the Blazers. “They want each other to do well,” said Dell. “They cheer for each other. They watch each other’s games all the time. Steph’s a quiet guy but he roots for his brother and vice-versa.” For the last several years, Seth has been in the stands watching his brother during the postseason, sitting with his parents, marveling at Steph’s talent and fortunes like anyone else. Until now. And here they are, trying to deny each other a championship. There are times when the Curry boys will guard each other and that always puts their parents in a tough spot. When it happened in Game 1, Dell and Sonya just watched, frozen in place. No clapping, no cheering, no nothing. “Coming in here, we didn’t know what to expect or how to react,” Dell said. “This hasn’t happened before. Usually we can go all-in on one team. We don’t know how to cheer or how to respond when one team goes on a run. We can’t totally go on one side.” Sonya said: “It’s hard on my nerves.” These are proud parent problems. There is a solution to the relentless travel, the back-and-forth between two teams and this emotional wringer and the constant wondering about games and victories and losses: Maybe one day, even next season, the boys will be … teammates? Dell Curry’s face suddenly brightens and the stress disappears. “Now that would be great,” he said “Being brothers and teammates, and in this situation where they both win? Let’s see what happens. Both have a lot of years left in the league. Seth’s a free agent. You never know.” Until then, if that ever happens, the parents will keep their travel agent on speed-dial and keep a tailor on stand-by in case they need another set of jerseys stitched together. “It’s been hectic,” Dell Curry said. “But don’t get me wrong, we’re not taking this for granted. We’re just taking it all in. We’re not complaining at all. We know how special this is.” 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 NewsMay 16th, 2019

Pelicans going at own pace after hitting NBA lottery jackpot

By Brett Martel, Associated Press NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In the NBA city most familiar with “gris-gris,” folks see no small measure of poetic justice in the fact that their team will dictate the fate of a coveted prospect named Zion. Mystical explanations aside, the Pelicans are in the driver’s seat now — but say they’re in no hurry to disclose their plans for likely pick Zion Williamson or disgruntled All-Star Anthony Davis. [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] A franchise that looked downtrodden for months since Davis requested a mid-season trade has been suddenly buoyed by the leverage that comes with winning the NBA’s draft lottery— and the option to pick the Duke star, widely seen as the best pro prospect since Davis entered the league in 2012. “What it’s doing to the franchise and to the city of New Orleans is probably not even measurable at this point,” said David Griffin, hired just weeks ago as New Orleans’ top basketball executive. “There’s a groundswell of excitement that frankly is palpable. “What has to come next is that we have to make it mean something. This is a lot of fun, but we’ve got to build a winner now.” It was welcome news for beleaguered sports fans in Louisiana, who had endured a rough start to 2019. It started with the “NOLA no-call,” a pair of missed penalties in the waning minutes of the NFC championship that likely cost the NFL’s Saints a Super Bowl berth. Fans were so angry that many joined lawsuits against the league or attended parties on Super Bowl Sunday which featured re-runs of the Saints’ 2010 title triumph instead of the most recent championship game between New England and the Los Angeles Rams. Less than two weeks later, Davis, the city’s six-time NBA All-Star and face of the Pelicans, publicly requested a trade, and the firing of ninth-year general manager Dell Demps followed not long after. Even at the major college level there was disappointment when one of LSU’s best campaigns in program history was tainted by the suspension of coach Will Wade amid questions surrounding his recruiting tactics. Wade wasn’t reinstated until after LSU was eliminated in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, and his future remains far from certain. Political commentator James Carville — a Louisiana native, New Orleans resident and avid sports fan — said Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) that the recent series of setbacks had led him to adopt a pessimistic theory that, “We are a cursed people, and so all we’re going to get is curses.” Then came Tuesday night’s (Wednesdahy, PHL time) NBA draft lottery, which the Pelicans had a 6% chance of winning. In New Orleans, interest had focused more on seeing which other team would get the top overall pick and become more of a player in a potential Davis trade. Instead, the Pelicans got that pick, placing them in a stronger position to try to change Davis mind — or dictate more favorable trade terms. “This is big,” said Carville, a Pelicans season ticket holder along with his wife, and fellow political commentator, Mary Matalin. “It’s good for the psyche of everybody.” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry stood up and joyously shouted an expletive when New Orleans was announced as the lottery winner, after which he apologized with a grin, sat back down and put both hands on his head. Pelicans ticket office staff celebrated wildly with shouts, leaps and hugs. Owner Gayle Benson’s decision to hire Griffin, who announced at his introduction last month that he would not make a coaching change, combined with the New Orleans’ top draft position, represent a sharp turn in fortune for Gentry after a trying year that began with last summer’s defections during free agency of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. But it could take a while to see how the Pelicans’ lottery luck plays out. Griffin, the club’s executive vice president of basketball operations, foreshadowed a deliberate approach to dealing with Davis, who is under contract through next season. “I want Anthony Davis to be part of this,” Griffin said. “If Anthony wants to buy into that, then that’s fantastic. And if he doesn’t, then we’ll deal with it when it becomes appropriate. But this isn’t something for me where that answer happens because of a conversation. That answer is going to reveal itself over a period of time.” Griffin also stopped short of confirming that the Pelicans would draft Williamson — albeit for reasons relating more to his insistence on adhering to his own managerial process than because of any doubts about the 6'7", 285-pound Duke star. “We just have to know what the fit is like among those people in the pool for us in terms of who we thought were the most elite players,” Griffin said, emphasizing that “there was more than one” such player. “Everybody wants to look at this as this is a fait accompli. If that were true, we would have gotten up there with somebody’s jersey in our hands,” Griffin said. “I’m not saying there’s anything at all derogatory about Zion in any way. What I’m saying is ... you can hope that people are like-minded, but until you talk about what matters to you and you sit in a room together, it’s hard to know.” One thing is for sure, it’s nice to have options......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2019

ROS sends Almazan to Meralco

The PBA’s trade committee approved the deal which will send the Bolts’ first round selections this year and in 2021 while giving the 6-foot-8 Almazan a fresh start after his Elasto Painters stint ended on a sour note......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsMay 14th, 2019

Leonard, Raptors to face Bucks, Antetokounmpo in East final

By Ian Harrison, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — For the second time in four seasons, the Toronto Raptors are headed to the Eastern Conference final. While the Raptors won’t have to deal with playoff nemesis LeBron James this time, they will face a tough task in controlling Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the NBA’s highest-scoring offense. Of course, Toronto will counter with Kawhi Leonard. [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] He hit the game-winning buzzer-beater Sunday (Monday, PHL time) to help Toronto edge Philadelphia 92-90 in Game 7 of its Eastern Conference semifinal series, setting up a showdown between the East’s top teams during the regular season. Leonard’s shot bounced around the rim four times before dropping through the basket. “It was great,” Leonard said. “That’s something I never experienced before, Game 7, a game-winning shot. It was a blessing to be able to get to that point and make that shot and feel that moment.” Leonard and the Raptors will have a few hours to enjoy it; the conference final begin Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) in Milwaukee. In its only other conference final appearance, Toronto lost to LeBron James and Cleveland in six games in 2016. The Raptors are well aware of the challenge ahead. Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said the Bucks have been “pretty dominant” in winning eight of nine postseason games — including the past four straight. “They’ve got a lot of weapons and they’re pretty deep,” Lowry said. “They shoot the ball as well as anybody in the NBA and then they’ve got the one-man fast break in Giannis.” The Bucks beat the Raptors three times in four regular-season meetings. Lowry was injured when Toronto won 123-116 at Milwaukee on Jan. 5 (Jan. 6, PHL time). “We know we’ve got a tough task at hand,” Lowry said. “We have to prepare for it and get ready to go.” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said the Bucks present challenges his team hasn’t faced in eliminating Orlando and Philadelphia in the first two rounds. “It’s a little different style that we’re going to see,” Nurse said. “We’re going to have to adjust to that really quickly, obviously, and forget about how happy we are pretty quickly because it’s a hungry team. It’s a very deep team, a very good team. We’re going to have to continue to grow and we’re going to have to play better.” Leonard scored 41 points on 16-of-39 shooting in Game 7 against Philadelphia. He topped 30 points five times in the series and averaged 34.7 points overall. Nurse said Leonard has been playing at an “elite level” in the postseason. Toronto center Marc Gasol agrees with his coach. Leonard “can create a shot out of pretty much nothing,” Gasol said. “He’s a mismatch all around.” In Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have a similar matchup nightmare for Toronto. The Raptors will need contributions for everyone, including Lowry — who briefly left Game 7 because of a sprained left thumb but returned and played the entire second half. “I couldn’t really pass the ball and grip the ball, but that doesn’t matter,” Lowry said. “I’m fine.” Milwaukee has been resting since eliminating Boston in Game 5 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Toronto, which used only seven players on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), will not practice Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), giving players some extra rest. They may need it to derail the surging Bucks......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

No extra drama needed for Nuggets, Blazers in Game 7

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2019

UEFA puts future Champions League ideas to league officials

By Graham Dunbar, Associated Press NYON, Switzerland (AP) — UEFA has included promotion and relegation, plus places for more teams, in its future vision for the Champions League and other club competitions. European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson told reporters that UEFA leaders proposed the ideas in a meeting Wednesday. It was part of year-long talks about changing competition formats and prize money distribution models that would take effect in 2024. The leagues are competing for influence with the European Club Association, whose own plans are reflected in UEFA's opening proposal. "There are ideas about promotion and relegation. It's a different system to the one we have today," Olsson said at UEFA headquarters. "The total picture is that there would be more clubs involved." Olsson said there was "not a big difference" between UEFA's presentation Wednesday and the ECA's confidential proposal at UEFA in March that has since been reported. He declined to give more details before UEFA updates its 55 member federations on May 17 in Budapest, Hungary. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, who hosted the 2 ½-hour meeting, said talks currently involve "only ideas and opinions" and are more transparent than the previous round in 2016 before he was elected. Decisions then favored clubs from Europe's wealthiest leagues. "Our aim is to find a solution that reflects the changes in the game, preserves the position of UEFA's competitions as the most attractive and exciting in the world, while providing significant solidarity funding across European football," Ceferin said in a statement. UEFA expects to announce any changes next year after further rounds of meetings with clubs, leagues and other stakeholders including broadcasters worldwide. "This is the first meeting of several," said Olsson, suggesting the 29-nation European Leagues group could agree a counter proposal at an October assembly in London. The leagues want Champions League entries to be decided only on the merit of domestic league placings and winning a UEFA competition. That has been a basic principle since the European Cup kicked off in 1955 with only national league champions playing. Club leaders want placings in Champions League groups, possibly doubled in size to eight teams, to secure some entries for the next season's edition. Bigger groups also would satisfy elite clubs who want more games against each other and prize money increases funded by new broadcasting rights deals. The ECA's move toward a closed league system is seen as protecting the elite group from new challengers. It follows Juventus and Real Madrid — whose officials hold the top two positions in the ECA — being eliminated in the Champions League by Ajax. Though Ajax is a four-time European champion, it had to advance through three preliminary rounds last August as runner-up in the mid-ranked Netherlands league last season. Olsson welcomed Ajax's return to the top 24 years after last winning the Champions League. "Competitions (themselves) are more important than individual clubs. There will always be clubs to play (in them)," he said. It is unclear if possible extra places in UEFA competitions from 2024 would be added in larger group stages or only in expanded preliminary rounds. Starting in September 2021, and for three seasons until 2024, there will be 32 teams in the group stages of each of the Champions League, Europa League and a new third-tier competition. The round-robin groups have four teams each playing six games. The leagues have pushed for a fairer distribution of more than $2 billion in annual Champions League prize money to help close a widening wealth gap between clubs. UEFA said it would share around €240 million ($268 million) in solidarity payments this season to clubs across Europe......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

No need for Malone to sell Nuggets: Their time is now

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. — Give Michael Malone credit, the Denver Nuggets coach is as relentless a salesman as there is in basketball. Whether it’s moving speeches delivered to his own team or pleading with television audiences to stand up and take notice of the splendid compilation of talent the franchise has stockpiled in recent years, he refuses to let up. From building the legend of Jamal Murray or waxing poetic about the virtues of Nikola Jokic, the nimble giant prone to triple-doubles on the regular, Malone is prepared to use the bully pulpit to make sure no one overlooks the Nuggets. [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] A seven-game series win over San Antonio in the first round produced some of Malone’s best stuff to date, including him trumpeting Jokic as not only a legitimate Kia MVP candidate (true, this season) but also a surefire future Hall of Famer (could be, the way he’s playing). So you had to know Malone was going to be on his Nuggets informercial grind after they refused to lose Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Portland, bouncing back after losing a grueling four-overtime thriller to the Trail Blazers here Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) with a gritty 116-112 triumph to tie this series at 2-2 headed back to Denver for Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) critical Game 5. “I’m so proud of our group,” Malone said, after his talented crew showed off the chops needed to regain the homecourt advantage they surrendered in their Game 2 loss at Pepsi Center. “And in the closing moments, I really was confident because in close games this year we were 13-3 [in games] decided by three points or less, best record in the NBA. We’re 12-1 in the second nights of back-to-backs, best record in the NBA. Our guys are tough; to come in here and win this game some 36 hours after losing a four-overtime game speaks to just how tough we are. So I wasn’t worried, we had our starting group out there. “Jamal, who I thought was phenomenal tonight, goes 11-for-11 from the foul line in a hostile environment and really kind of with the series hanging in the balance. You go down 1-3, and we all know how that story ends. I think the confidence of doing the same thing in the first round against San Antonio helped us, but our guys stepped up. We never frayed. We stayed together. And I can’t speak enough about the resiliency and toughness of our team.” And he shouldn’t. The Blazers had won 12 straight games at home dating back to the regular season and were 22-2 on their home floor since January 5. When the Nuggets saw their 10-point lead shrink to just a point with 3:02 to play as Portland closers Damian Lillard (28 points) and C.J. McCollum (29) led the charge, Denver could have easily folded up under the emotional weight of Game 3 and their current predicament. But they proved to be as resilient and tough as Malone said they were. Jokic was brilliant again, collecting his fourth triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) in his first postseason, second only to the five Magic Johnson piled up during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. And Murray was even better, finishing with a game-high 34 points and draining six straight free throws in the frantic closing seconds to seal the win for a Nuggets team that didn’t allow fatigue, a raucous and sellout Moda Center crowd or the pressure to avoid that 3-1 hole rattle them. “It wasn’t the first time,” Murray said of his embrace of the pressure with the game on the line at the line. “I think free throws are my thing. My dad and I do a lot of training [on] free throws. Blindfolded, he’ll talk to me just like how the crowd is, put pressure on me. I take 1,000 free throws in practice to make or or two … and tonight, it ended up being six.” The number Malone focused on afterwards was 11, as in the number of playoff games Murray and Jokic have played in as they continue to establish themselves as postseason stars. “You think about how young we are and and what we are doing, going on the road and winning a tough game in a hostile environment,” Malone said, “and for Jamal to be the centerpiece of that has been phenomenal. If you’re a Denver Nuggets fan, how excited are you about this team now. More importantly, how excited are you for our future? We have a chance to be a really good team for many, many years and Jamal is going to be a big part of that.” The same goes for Jokic, obviously. He’s already an All-Star and is going to end up on the All-NBA first or second team as well as the top five of the voting for Kia MVP after the regular season he put together. That might explains why the entire Nuggets bench froze as they watched him limp to the sideline in the final moments after being kneed in the leg in the final seconds. “Your heart skips a beat,” Malone said. “Nikola is the face of our franchise, but he just got kneed, it was nothing serious and and we were able to hold on for the win.” For all of Malone’s bluster about his group, it’s not even necessary at this stage of the season. The Nuggets earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoff chase on the strength of a talented and deep roster that might not resonate with casual NBA fans, but is celebrated by those in the know. Touting their accomplishments in real time makes sense for a coach trying to empower his team to believe in themselves in what could and perhaps should be a nice stretch of playoff runs in the future. But anyone paying attention can tell that the future could be now for these Nuggets. A trip to the conference finals one year after they failed to make the postseason field on the final night of the season in what amounted to a play-in game in Minneapolis last April, is a hell of a start. Malone knows it. His team knows it. And so do the Trail Blazers, who are well aware of the opportunity they squandered in a series where wavering confidence by the Nuggets might have been the only advantage they could exploit. “The good thing for us is that we won a game on their court,” Lillard said. “So it’s not like we lose both games there. We’re in a good space, 2-2, we know we’re capable of winning on their floor and that’t what we’ve got to get done. Obviously, it’s disappointing … we didn’t want to let an opportunity like this slip, but it happens. It’s playoff basketball and we’ve got to move forward.” So do the Nuggets, which is where Malone the master motivator comes into play. And just so we’re clear about something, his sell job is genuine. He knows of what he speaks in assessing a young team on the rise, having spent time coaching in Cleveland and Golden State during the formative stages with what would turn out to be teams that made it to The Finals (2007 in Cleveland). He was on Mark Jackson’s Warriors staff when they turned the corner from a lottery team to  playoff outfit (2012-13 season), helping nurture the core group of a team that has won three of the past four NBA titles and become a potential dynasty that no one saw coming at the time. So if Malone sees special things in his current team, it’s his responsibility to shout about it every now and then, both to the basketball public and especially internally. Youngsters like Jokic and Murray, Gary Harris and Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and Monte Morris and even veterans like Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee and Game 4 hero Will Barton, who knocked down huge shots to help seal the deal, need to hear the positive reinforcement from their coach. And that’s not even taking into account what absorbing these moments means for Michael Porter Jr., who is spending his rookie season recovering from back surgery, and is certainly going to be a part of that bright future Malone is so passionate about. If anything, this Nuggets team is ahead of schedule, two wins shy of a trip to the Western Conference finals with three games to play. Two of those are coming on their home floor, where Denver compiled the best record (34-7) in the league during the regular season. Maybe Malone is right to speak the Nuggets’ success into existence rather than wishing and hoping for it to come to fruition without a word otherwise. But he won’t have to go all car salesmen on the final day of month much longer. A couple more performances like the one the Nuggets put on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) and this whole thing, the refurbished franchise with all the boxes checked on the roster -- now and for the foreseeable future -- sells itself. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 6th, 2019

Bucks learn playoff lesson in closing out late Celtics charge

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 4th, 2019

Gregg Popovich negotiating new deal with San Antonio Spurs - Inquirer Sports

SAN ANTONIO Coach Gregg Popovich is negotiating a new deal with the San Antonio Spurs. The 70-year-old Popovich just finished his 23rd season with the Spurs. The Spurs have made the playoffs in each.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsApr 30th, 2019

Popovich negotiating new deal with San Antonio Spurs

By Raul Dominguez, Associated Press SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs suffered through an odd, erratic season filled with injuries, strife and drama before a second straight ouster from the playoffs in the first round. Gregg Popovich enjoyed it so much he is coming back for a 24th season as coach in San Antonio. Normally extremely private, Popovich said Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) he is negotiating a new deal with the Spurs after his current contract expired this season. There was some uncertainty surrounding his return, but the 70-year-old Popovich put an end to that with a quip or two. [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’m currently in negotiations and could very well end up with either the Portofino Flyers or the Positano Pirates (or the Spurs),” Popovich said dryly. “I think it’s like one-third Positano, one-third Portofino and one-third San Antonio. So, we’ll see where I end up.” There is little chance Popovich ends up anywhere but San Antonio, where he has enjoyed unprecedented success. His desire to return was apparent during an 18-minute news conference to wrap up a season that ended with a loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of their first-round series. Popovich has 1,245 wins, third-most in NBA history behind Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens, and is one of five coaches to win five NBA championships. He will coach USA Basketball in the FIBA World Cup in China this summer, and will coach the Americans in the Tokyo Olympics next summer should the team qualify. The Spurs have reached the playoffs the last 22 seasons, a streak that ties for the longest in NBA history. Many doubted the Spurs would continue that streak this season with all the turmoil and turnover. A year ago, Kawhi Leonard played in only nine games while nursing a right thigh injury. Reportedly upset with how his rehabilitation was handled, Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio in the offseason and was sent to Toronto along with Danny Green in a trade for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. The Spurs also lost Manu Ginobili to retirement and Tony Parker left the team in free agency along with veteran Kyle Anderson. “I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest,” Popovich said. “I didn’t know how this group would respond to that kind of adversity, but they showed us a lot in continuing with the program and trying to do what we wanted them to do. So, that was very impressive to me.” San Antonio had eight new players on its roster this season, the most in Popovich’s tenure. That turned out to be one of the highlights for the veteran coach. “It was kind of one of the more enjoyable seasons because you got to see people develop,” Popovich said. If that wasn’t enough to overcome, the Spurs also lost starting point guard Dejounte Murray to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason and his replacement, Derrick White, missed the first month with a knee injury. In one four-game stretch, the Spurs lost three games by 30-plus points; in Popovich’s first 1,758 regular-season games as coach, the Spurs had only lost by 30-plus five total times. Of course, they also won five straight games by 25-plus points for the first time under Popovich and ended up seventh in the Western Conference as DeRozan and veteran LaMarcus Aldridge helped carry the team’s young roster. “I think that when we all reflect on the season, they achieved a lot more than a lot of people gave them credit for having the opportunity to achieve,” Popovich said. San Antonio was able to reach the postseason while also developing young players like White, Poeltl and Bryn Forbes on the court and prepping rookies Lonnie Walker IV, Chimezie Metu and Drew Eubanks in the G League. “It’s the beginning of a new culture for a new group,” Popovich said. “So, we’ll have a little bit of corporate knowledge going into next season and they’ll show that, I think.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2019

Ronaldo nets 600th club goal as goalscoring race heats up

By Daniella Matar and Andrew Dampf, Associated Press MILAN (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo's unrelenting hunger for goals is plain to see. The Juventus forward netted his 600th club goal on Saturday and celebrated with typical joy. But his desire to score was far more evident in the first half against Inter Milan when he fired over the bar and showed anguish and frustration. That appeared to spur Ronaldo to the equalizer after the break as Juventus came back to draw with bitter rival Inter 1-1 in Serie A. "Ronaldo is lethal, I have him, and I'm happy," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "It's important to have a player like him. After he missed a chance he got very angry, then he played a different game." Ronaldo already plays a different game to most. And after alreading clinching a record-extending eighth successive Serie A title, Ronaldo could become the first player to win the top goalscorer award and the Serie A title in his first season in Italy. The 34-year-old Ronaldo has 20 league goals for Juventus, three less than league leader and Sampdoria forward Fabio Quagliarella. He could also become the first player to win the top goalscorer award in three of Europe's top five leagues, having claimed the prize in Spain (three times) and England. There are four rounds remaining. Ronaldo has been playing and scoring regularly, even while being accused of raping a woman in 2009 in the United States — something the Portugal star denies. The strike against Inter Milan was his 27th for Juventus in all competitions. Ronaldo scored 450 for Real Madrid, 118 for Manchester United and five for Sporting Lisbon. "With him you always start in front, we are lucky to have him with us," Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini said. "He will help Juventus win more." Earlier in the season, Ronaldo became the first player to net 400 goals across Europe's top five leagues. CONTE CRAZINESS Roma fans are starting to believe the reports that Antonio Conte could become the club's next coach. With Claudio Ranieri in a caretaker role following Eusebio Di Francesco's firing, speculation is rampant that Roma is in talks with Conte about taking over the team for next season. When Conte, the former Juventus, Italy, and Chelsea coach, was spotted at Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci Airport on Sunday, Roma fans stopped him for selfies and spread the word on social media — even though it appeared Conte was merely traveling to his home in Turin. While the Roman-born Ranieri has said he would like to remain with Roma, even he acknowledged the club would do well to hire Conte. "I would love to see him on the Roma bench, but I don't know anything: I would be the last to know," Ranieri said with a smile following Roma's 3-0 win over Cagliari on Saturday. "I would be super happy if Conte came in. I would go and collect him from the airport." Retired Roma captain Francesco Totti, who has a position in Roma's management, called Conte "one of the best coaches in Europe." "Wherever he's gone he's won. Any squad would do something crazy to get him," Totti said, adding that there are also reports that Inter Milan and Bayern Munich are interested in Conte. "There are a lot of squads chasing him." ATALANTA STADIUM Fresh off qualifying for the Italian Cup final, Atalanta has announced plans for a complete overhaul of its Atleti Azzurri d'Italia stadium. Work on the 40 million euro ($45 million) project will begin following Atalanta's game against Udinese on Monday, meaning the team will play its final two home matches of the season in Reggio Emilia at Mapei Stadium, Sassuolo's ground. The three-phase project should be completed in time for the 2021-22 season, at which time the stadium will be renamed Gewiss Arena. Atalanta beat Fiorentina on Thursday to advance to the May 15 Cup final against Lazio. ___ Dampf reported from Rome......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2019

Darvish wants to prove himself in final year of Texas deal

STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer br /> DALLAS (AP) — Yu Darvish marked his five-year anniversary as a Texas Ranger this week. Now healthy again, he wants to prove how good a pitcher he is. 'It's not much about my contract, but coming back from Tommy John surgery,' Darvish said through his interpreter at the Rangers' winter banquet Friday night. 'This will be my second year to see how my body reacts and how much I can do to prove how good of a pitcher I am. That's what I'm looking forward to.' Darvish is entering the sixth and final year of the contract he signed with the Rangers in January 2012 after seven seasons in Japan. While the 30-year-old Darvish is 46-32 with a 3.29 ERA in 100 career starts for Texas, he missed all of the 2015 season because of the surgery and didn't pitch for the Rangers last season until May 28. Darvish was 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings during the regular season. But in his first AL Division Series start last October, he gave up a career-worst four homers. Three of them were in the same inning of a 5-3 loss to Toronto in Game 2 of the best-of-five series that the Blue Jays swept. 'I would love to pitch in that kind of situation again this year,' Darvish said. 'And I would like to pitch very well.' Darvish said he just started throwing again and feels 'really good.' Texas spent more than two years scouting Darvish and getting to know him personally before committing more than $107 million to get him. On top of his guaranteed $56 million contract, the Rangers had to pay in the old system a massive $51,703,411 posting bid to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, his team in Japan. The 2017 season could have become a player option without a buyout had Darvish won the Cy Young and finished second-through-fourth another time, or finished second in the voting once and second-through-fourth two other times. Darvish finished second behind Max Scherzer in the 2013 AL Cy Young voting, when the Rangers right-hander was 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and a league-high 277 strikeouts. He was an All-Star each of his first three seasons (2012-14), a span in which he had 680 strikeouts before getting shut down late in the 2014 season because of elbow inflammation. 'I am really grateful to the Texas Rangers organization by just giving me this big of a contract. They've been taking care of me really well,' he said. 'So I just want to show the Rangers how much I can do and then show them that they were right giving me that contract.' Darvish said he considered it too much of a risk just two years after surgery to compete in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Then, he smiled and said, 'At the end, let me tell you that I didn't get offered' a spot. NOTES: The Rangers announced they will retire uniform No. 7 during an August ceremony to honor former catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week and will be inducted with the class of 2017 on July 30 in Cooperstown, New York. The only other Rangers to have their numbers retired by the club are Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan (No. 34) and former manager Johnny Oates (No. 26). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Kerr keeps Warriors winning with yoga, creative approach

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Blue Jays ownership involved in bringing Bautista back

ROB GILLIES, Associated Press   TORONTO (AP) — Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said ownership got involved in the re-signing of veteran Jose Bautista. Atkins said Thursday the desire of Edward Rogers, the controlling shareholder of Rogers Communication, to help was 'abundantly clear.' He said thanks to Rogers, they don't have to rebuild. The free agent slugger looked like he might sign elsewhere but agreed to an $18.5 million, one-year contract this week that includes mutual options for more years. A longtime fan favorite, Bautista hit 22 homers with 69 RBIs last year while batting .234 in an injury-slowed season. The Blue Jays' failure this offseason to re-sign fan favorite Edwin Encarnacion didn't go over well in Toronto, which led the AL in attendance last year. Atkins expects Bautista to perform more like the 2015 season than the 2016 season.  He hit 40 homers and had 114 RBI in 2015. He blamed injuries for Bautista's subpar 2016. He said they've seen the 36-year-old work out this offseason and expect him to play right field for the bulk of the 2017 season. 'I would expect him to be a defender that we can rely on,' he said. Bautista gets an $18 million salary this year, and the deal includes a $17 million mutual option for 2018 with a $500,000 buyout, payable if either side declines. There is a $20 million option for 2019 that becomes guaranteed if Bautista has 300 games played during the next two seasons and doesn't have a physical impairment that would prevent him from playing in 2019. Bautista also could earn $1.5 million annually in bonuses based on home attendance: $150,000 each for 3.5 million and 3.6 million, $250,000 apiece for 3.7 million and 3.8 million, and $350,000 each for 3.9 million and 4 million. Toronto drew 3.39 million at home last season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Wenger concerned Chinese wages become benchmark for players

LONDON (AP) — Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is hoping the high quality of competition in Europe will keep players from leaving for the financial gain in China. Wenger is facing regular questions about the future of both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and the big money on offer in the Chinese league can complicate negotiations. Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua last month in a deal worth $40 million over two years. 'The danger (is) that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe,' Wenger said Thursday. 'You cannot compete with that, but I still think that, when you're a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.' Wenger said players that want the best compensation for playing in the best quality league need not look to Asia. 'I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don't see why the players should leave the English Premier League,' Wenger said. Wenger, whose team is fourth in the standings, has made only one signing in the January transfer window, picking up defender Cohen Bramall from non-league club Hednesford. Arsenal has also decided to keep captain Per Mertesacker for another season. Wenger announced Thursday that the club has taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of the 32-year-old German, who has not played this season because of a knee injury sustained during a friendly in July. Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team because Shkodran Mustafi, an offseason signing from Valencia, has built a strong partrnership with vice captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger's defense .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017