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Coutinho is back but problems run deeper at Liverpool

em>By Steve Douglas, Associated Press /em> LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Philippe Coutinho's belated return to the Liverpool team adds an extra layer of ingenuity to a forward line that promises to be one of the most thrilling in European soccer this season. Entertainment is unlikely to be in short supply at Anfield now that the front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah will be prompted from midfield by Coutinho, who has been reintegrated after his unsettling offseason when he was wooed by Barcelona. However many goals they score, though, Liverpool seems destined to be debilitated by its frailty at the back. Whether it's a collective problem — as manager Juergen Klopp is suggesting — or individuals simply making bad decisions or mistakes, Liverpool doesn't have the defense to make a realistic challenge for major honors this season. This past week, Liverpool has lost 5-0 at Manchester City, albeit after being down to 10 men for more than half the game, and then ruined a dominant performance against Sevilla in the Champions League by giving away two sloppy goals in a 2-2 draw. There are legitimate concerns starting with the goalkeepers and going right across the defensive line, and they have been there from the moment Klopp took over in October 2015. It was odd, then, that he chose to sign only one defender during the transfer window, left back Andrew Robertson from relegated Premier League team Hull for 8 million pounds ($10.7 million). Robertson has played only one game so far this season. Would things have been different had Liverpool managed to sign Southampton center back Virgil van Dijk, its much-publicized top defensive target? Klopp doubts it. 'I know here you're always looking for this thing about the defense ... that these problems will have been sorted with one player — it was mentioned we put all our money together and do this,' Klopp said after the Sevilla game. 'It's not about this. It's about being dominant and losing a little bit of concentration, the grip of the game that you do not have in all defensive moments.' The issues are clear to see. Klopp has rotated his two goalkeepers, Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, in the last four matches, continuing the long-held uncertainty in that position. At center back, Joel Matip is good on the ball but not a commanding presence at set pieces or under the high ball, while Dejan Lovren can be clumsy and error-prone, as shown against Sevilla when he completely missed an attempted clearance to allow a tap-in goal in the fifth minute. At left back, Alberto Moreno can be an attacking threat but a defensive liability, and Robertson is inexperienced on this stage. At right back, youngsters Trent Alexander-Arnold (18) and Joe Gomez (20) have bright futures but can be caught out in behind them. Of the so-called 'Big 6' in the Premier League in Klopp's time in England, Liverpool had the leakiest defense in the 2015-16 season and only Arsenal conceded more goals last season. The neutral will want Klopp to keep things as they are, starting with the home match against Burnley in the league on Saturday. Liverpool is arguably the most exciting team to watch in the Premier League, with opportunities popping up regularly at both ends. The team's first-half performance in the Sevilla game was so exhilarating that Liverpool's fans gave the players a standing ovation as they went off for halftime. Throw the returning Coutinho into the mix, and Adam Lallana when he is back from a thigh injury maybe next month, and Liverpool's attacking options are seemingly limitless. It's what happens at the other end, however, that could decide the Reds' fate this season. Here's what else to watch out for this weekend in the Premier League: ___ strong>ROONEY'S RETURN /strong> On Sunday, Wayne Rooney makes his first return to Old Trafford since leaving Manchester United to rejoin boyhood club Everton. Rooney spent 13 trophy-filled years at United and is the club's record scorer with 253 goals, yet seemingly isn't held in the same regard as United's great names of the past like Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs. United midfielder Jesse Lingard predicted Rooney will receive a good reception, saying: 'He's a legend at the club and we will always welcome him back.' United leads on goal difference after collecting 10 points from a possible 12. Everton has scored only two goals in four games this season, Rooney grabbing both of them. ___ strong>HODGSON'S FIRST GAME /strong> Fifteen months after leaving the England job, Roy Hodgson is back in management after taking over at Crystal Palace. Palace fired Frank de Boer after only four league games, with the team in last place and yet to score a goal in four straight losses. Hodgson's first game in charge is at home to Southampton on Saturday.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnSep 15th, 2017

Rampant Manchester City looking more like a Guardiola team

em>By Sam Johnston, Associated Press /em> LONDON (AP) — Although it's taken a year longer than many expected, Manchester City is finally beginning to resemble a Pep Guardiola-coached team. City remained in rampant form as it ended Watford's unbeaten start to the English Premier League with a resounding 6-0 victory at Vicarage Road on Saturday. Guardiola's side has scored 15 goals in three matches since the international break, following 5-0 and 4-0 wins over Liverpool and Feyernood respectively. City stuttered to a third-place finish in Guardiola's debut season while failing to produce the stylish play of its manager's former sides, but a second straight offseason of significant personnel changes appears to be paying dividends. 'It was so good, especially after an away game in the Champions League,' Guardiola said. 'I was lucky to manage Barcelona with many outstanding performances but this week has been a lot of goals. We have found our game, we can make short passes, and we have a lot of energy from our full backs.' Sergio Aguero scored a predatory hat trick and laid on an assist for Gabriel Jesus, while Nicolas Otamendi headed in, and Raheem Sterling added a late penalty. The victory took City to the top of the table, but Manchester United can join it on Sunday with a win over Everton. Elsewhere, Liverpool failed to shake off the effects of last week's thrashing by City, letting Burnley leave Anfield with a 1-1 draw. Crystal Palace became the first club in league history to lose its opening five games without scoring. Swansea brought Tottenham back to earth in a scoreless draw at Wembley, three days after Spurs tore apart Borussia Dortmund. Newcastle made it three league wins a row by beating Stoke 3-1, Leicester and Huddersfield drew 1-1, and West Brom and West Ham played out a goalless draw. strong>AGUERO CLOSING IN /strong> Having struggled at times last season, Aguero appears to have been revitalized by his partnership with Jesus and was at his predatory best as he completed the sixth Premier League hat trick of his career. The Argentine forward is just three goals away from breaking Eric Brook's 177-goal record at Man City. 'I am very happy,' Aguero said. 'I am focused on scoring the next goal but what matters is that we won.' strong>NO MANE, MORE PROBLEMS /strong> Philippe Coutinho made his first start of the season for Liverpool after failing to force a summer move to Barcelona, but his return wasn't enough to fill the void left by the suspended Sadio Mane. Liverpool struggled at times last season without Mane and it appears little has changed. Summer recruit Mohamed Salah's tying goal secured a point for the Reds but even he can't match the brilliance of Mane, who is serving a three-match suspension after being sent off against Manchester City last weekend. Burnley has picked up away points at three of last season's top-six teams, beating Chelsea on opening day and drawing against Tottenham at Wembley. strong>ROY'S RETURN /strong> Roy Hodgson's first match in charge of Crystal Palace looked like the team's previous four matches. In a 1-0 loss to Southampton, Steven Davis' early goal proved decisive. Hodgson has been out of management since Euro 2016, where his England side was eliminated by minnows Iceland. Having become the first Premier League manager to be appointed in his 70s, Hodgson went for a return to a traditional four-man defense, but it took Southampton just six minutes to breach it. strong>WEMBLEY CURSE REMAINS /strong> Tottenham is still looking for a first domestic victory of the season at its temporary Wembley Stadium home. Harry Kane struck the crossbar in the second half but Swansea displayed great resilience to hold on for 0-0. Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs have failed to win all three league games at Wembley, where it's playing while White Hart Lane is redeveloped this season. strong>DEFENDER SCORES AGAIN /strong> Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles was an unlikely star for a second straight game as the defender headed home the winner against Stoke after Xherdan Shaqiri cancelled out Christian Atsu's opener. Newcastle beat Stoke 3-1 at St. James' Park. Also, West Brom midfielder Gareth Barry equaled Ryan Giggs' Premier League appearance record in his 632nd game.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 17th, 2017

Neymar makes spectacular return as Brazil beats Croatia 2-0

By Mauricio Savarese, Associated Press LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Only three months ago, Brazil striker Neymar was on an operating table and in danger of missing the World Cup in Russia. Those fears largely disappeared Sunday when Neymar returned to action with smart dribbling, fluent passing and an impressive individual goal, which he celebrated with his surgeon. Playing for the first time since February, Neymar scored the opener in Brazil's 2-0 friendly win against Croatia in Liverpool after coming on for the second half. He then ran to hug Brazilian soccer confederation doctor Rodrigo Lasmar on the sidelines at Anfield. "I am so happy to play football again. I have waited and worked a lot for this. I suffered, these were very tough three months," Neymar said. "When I saw the ball hit the net I only thought of those that helped me, Dr. Lasmar, my family, friends." Neymar, who also withstood a few challenges in the game, received the ball from midfielder Philippe Coutinho in the 68th and dribbled past Croatia defenders Sime Vrsaljko and Duje Caleta-Car. He smashed the ball into the net from around five meters (yards) with his right foot. The Brazilian injured the same foot playing for Paris Saint-Germain and underwent surgery in Brazil in early March. He did not warm up with the Brazilian team on Sunday, which had again raised concerns among supporters. Neymar said he was 80 percent at his best for the Croatia game. Brazil coach Tite said Neymar's return was "above the expected standard." "Neymar is only human, but he came back above my expectations too," Tite said. "I was expecting much less." Neymar had replaced midfielder Fernandinho at halftime with the score at 0-0. He quickly made his mark and raised the hopes of Brazilian fans for the World Cup, which starts June 14. Tite wasn't getting carried away, though. "Neymar is going to have ups and downs like he had in training until the third, fourth game (on his return). Then he will have his normal standard," Tite said. Croatia captain Luka Modric was among many impressed with Neymar. "It is beautiful to watch him play again, he is special, one of the best in the world," Modric said. Brazil "improved in the second half after Neymar made the difference." Liverpool's Roberto Firmino scored Brazil's second goal in the 90th. After Casemiro put the ball in the penalty box, Firmino controlled with his chest and sent the ball over Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to step up his challenge for a starting position in the team. Brazil captain and No. 9 Gabriel Jesus was replaced by Firmino after an hour. "I am here to help Brazil. I respect Tite's opinion (in starting with Jesus) 100 percent," Firmino said. The striker also thanked local fans for their support, saying "it is good to play at home." The same Liverpool supporters who cheered Firmino went out of their way to jeer Coutinho, who left the Reds for Barcelona earlier this year. Until Neymar stepped onto the pitch it was Croatia which had the best opportunities in a match that seemed headed for a dull draw. Defender Dejan Lovren had the best chance to open with a header that grazed Brazil goalkeeper Alisson's right post after a corner. When Fernandinho went off, Coutinho played a greater role and Brazil's game improved. The five-time World Cup champions play their last pre-World Cup friendly against Austria on June 10. Monday will be a rest day for the team and Brazilian media claimed midfielder Fred will be traveling to Manchester for medical tests before signing a deal with Manchester United. Tite did not confirm the move but said: "Our orientation is for them (players) to solve (transfers) as quickly as possible so they keep their head and effort focused on Brazil. If I were the manager there, I would try to sign him too." Brazil's World Cup opener is on June 17 against Switzerland......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 4th, 2018

Recovering Neymar confirmed in Brazil s World Cup squad

By Mauricio Saverese, Associated Press SAO PAULO (AP) — A recovering Neymar was confirmed and injured leader Dani Alves was replaced by Danilo and Fagner in a Brazil World Cup squad of few surprises on Monday. The only surprises were among the likely reserves for the tournament in Russia, with the inclusion of Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred and winger Taison. Neymar has been recovering from right foot surgery in March, and Brazil Football Confederation doctors believe he will be fit to train next week in Teresopolis, where preparations will begin, and play on June 3 in a friendly against Croatia in Liverpool. Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said at a news conference in Rio de Janeiro he examined Neymar on the weekend and the results were positive. "This is the final stage of his recovery, he will be able to go to training sessions soon, and will play the friendlies," Lasmar said. Coach Tite said Neymar was one of the top three players in the world, but insisted his team didn't depend on him alone. "We will be much stronger with Neymar doing well, but for him to do well the rest of the team has to be well, too," he said. All but one of Tite's starting lineup in World Cup qualifiers was confirmed in the squad: Alisson; Miranda, Marquinhos and Marcelo; Casemiro, Paulinho, Renato Augusto and Philippe Coutinho; Neymar and Gabriel Jesus. Defender Alves, a veteran of two World Cups, sprained his right ACL last week in the French Cup final and was replaced in the 23-man Brazil squad by Manchester City's Danilo and Corinthians' Fagner. Tite decided not to inform who are the players that could replace one of those until June 4 in case of injury. Tite also summoned goalkeepers Ederson (Manchester City) and Cassio (Corinthians); defenders Thiago Silva, (Paris Saint-Germain) Pedro Geromel (Gremio) and Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid); midfielders Fernandinho (Man City) and Willian (Chelsea); and strikers Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) and Douglas Costa (Juventus). The coach said several positions in his starting lineup were open, including up front. "At first, Gabriel Jesus is our starter. But Roberto Firmino will fight for that position in top form," Tite said. "The challenge is open on the right back, but Danilo has some advantage now because he has performed well recently." Tite also hinted in his hour-long news conference he could change one of his central defenders for Thiago Silva. The inclusion of Taison, the coach admitted, suggested Coutinho could be taking a role in central midfield and leaving his spot for Willian. Tite said he needs "a pacemaker" in the team, which he has not received from Beijing Guoan's Renato Augusto. "Coutinho can play in the middle and in the flanks, he is versatile," Tite said. "Sometimes preparation gives you elements that you didn't have, and force you to change your mind." Tite said Brazil was one of the favorites for the title, but refused to name other candidates. The coach's final list includes 15 out of the 23 players he called for his first game with Brazil, against Ecuador in World Cup qualifiers in September 2016. There are only four survivors from the 7-1 hammering by Gerrmany four years ago at the home World Cup: Marcelo, Fernandinho, Paulinho and Willian. Thiago Silva and Neymar did not play that semifinal, one due to suspension and the other because of injury. Marcelo, Casemiro and Firmino will join Brazil for preparations in London only after Real Madrid and Liverpool play the Champions League final on May 26. Brazil starts its World Cup campaign against Switzerland on June 17, followed by Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2018

Barcelona unable to find its stride in Champions League

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Suddenly, the Champions League has become a tough challenge for Barcelona. The Spanish club thrived in nearly every competition it played over the last few years but has failed to succeed recently in the top European club competition. Lionel Messi and his teammates lost to Roma 3-0 on Tuesday in Italy, relinquishing a 4-1 first-leg win and getting eliminated in the quarterfinals for the third straight season. "All we can do is apologize to our fans for the way we lost," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. "This is the toughest loss since I've been with Barcelona, because of the way it happened. I'd be lying if I said that this could help us in some way in the future, because last year we lost in a similar manner." Barcelona was eliminated by eventual runner-up Juventus last season, losing 3-0 in Turin and being held to a scoreless draw at home in the second leg. In 2016, Barcelona fell to Spanish rival Atletico Madrid 3-1 on aggregate, winning 2-1 at home and losing 2-0 in Madrid. "We want to be contending for the Champions League title year after year," Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said. "We were hopeful of advancing to the semifinals after having played a great first leg. Now we have to carefully analyze what happened and try to move on." Since 2015, when it won its last Champions League title, Barcelona was dominant in other competitions, winning two Spanish leagues, three Copa del Reys, one Club World Cup, one UEFA Super Cup and one Spanish Super Cup. Messi was a crucial component in nearly all of those triumphs for Barcelona, but the playmaker performed below expectations in the team's recent Champions League failures. He didn't score in the six quarterfinal games that led to Barcelona's recent eliminations. The team's other players couldn't do enough help Barcelona advance then, and this time Messi had even less support. Neymar left in the offseason, and the players who joined the club after his departure were not able to play up to the same level. Ousmane Dembele, touted as the main replacement for the Brazil forward, was marred by injuries and wasn't able to establish himself as a reliable attacking partner for Messi and Luis Suarez. Dembele was on the bench Tuesday, entering the match in the final minutes as a substitute. Philippe Coutinho also arrived to help fill Neymar's absence, but he was ineligible to play in the Champions League because he had already played for Liverpool earlier in the tournament. Right back Nelson Semedo, another offseason signing for Barcelona, was the player unsuccessfully trying to stop Roma defender Kostas Manolas when he scored the 82nd-minute decisive goal for the hosts on Tuesday. This was Barcelona's first Champions League loss under coach Ernesto Valverde, who replaced Luis Enrique at the end of last season. "We have a very competitive team and it will recover from this," Bartomeu said. "We still have other tournaments to play and we have to focus on them." Although the loss in Rome ended Barcelona's chances of winning the treble, the team remains in good position to win the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey. Barcelona has an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid with seven matches left, and it will face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final on April 21 trying to win its fourth straight Copa title. "It will be very difficult to recover," said veteran Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, who most likely played in his last Champions League match. "But we don't have any other option. On Saturday we have another match to play and we have to give our best to try to win the titles that are still achievable." Barcelona hosts third-place Valencia on Saturday looking to achieve a Spanish league record of 39 consecutive games unbeaten. It shares the record that Real Sociedad set in 1979-80......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 12th, 2018

Coutinho must live up to cost, legacy of Barca s Brazilians

JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Philippe Coutinho arrives at Barcelona bearing both his huge price tag and the legacy of the long line of Brazilian stars who have dazzled at Camp Nou. The comparisons will be constant with Neymar, whose world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain in August provided Barcelona with the 160 million euros ($192 million) it needed to acquire Coutinho at a cost that would have seemed ludicrous just six months before. Only Neymar and PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe surpass it. But while Neymar, as before him Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Romario, all became fan favorites by staring in Barcelona's attack, Coutinho will have to measure up to the Spanish club's long line of top-notch_and largely homegrown— midfielders. The 25-year-old Coutinho will come to Spain charged with the daunting task of one day taking over as its midfield leader with Andres Iniesta entering the twilight of his career at age 33. Coutinho can count on the big advantage of setting up Lionel Messi for goals as he strives to justify the club-record fee Barcelona agreed to pay on Saturday, when it finally pried him away from Liverpool after the English club had refused to let him go in the summer. Even though coach Ernesto Valverde has successfully kept Barcelona winning after predictions of decline abounded following the unwanted departure of Neymar, Coutinho will greatly increase his options in a midfield that is still heavily reliant on Iniesta for its playmaking spark. His signing signals Barcelona's intention to refocus on the patch of the pitch that has defined its passing style for decades, an emphasis that had slipped somewhat in recent years with Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez forming a powerful attack, albeit sometimes at the expense of its ability to dominate possession. Since the exit of Xavi Hernandez two and a half years ago, and those of Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, Barcelona was in danger of seeing its lineage of great midfielders broken. Coutinho showed at Liverpool that he can play anywhere in the midfield: in a more attacking role, as a wide player in a four-man line, or deeper to help start the attack. That versatility will help ensure him a place in a Barcelona midfield that has a set group of first-choice players in Iniesta on the left, Ivan Rakitic on the right, and Sergio Busquets in a defensive role, but little else. Coutinho, who has the vision and quick passing skills that Barcelona needs, can also provide goals with his accurate strike from distance. He scored 41 times in 152 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, including seven in 14 matches in the first half of this campaign. With Coutinho set to feature, Barcelona will likely part ways with one or more of midfielders Andre Gomes, Arda Turan, Rafinha and Denis Suarez. Barcelona has also recently seen the return of summer signing Ousmane Dembele, which cost it a then-club record fee of 105 million euros plus add-ons that could take the total to 147 million euros, from a tendon injury that had sidelined him since September. Dembele would likely need to play in a 4-3-3 alongside Messi and Suarez, while Coutinho could play on the right side of a midfield line with Iniesta and Busquets. But Valverde has also gotten good results this year— including a 3-0 victory at Real Madrid last month— with just Messi and Suarez in attack and a four-man midfield including Paulinho, who has given the team goals and added muscle since his arrival in the offseason. Valverde will have to use different lineups regardless, because Coutinho will be limited to playing in the Spanish league, which Barcelona leads, and the Copa del Rey for the remainder of this season since he cannot play for another team in the Champions League after participating in the group phase with Liverpool. He will then have five more seasons under the contract he has agreed to sign to help Barcelona win a sixth European Cup......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2018

Matter of when Man City wins title and how many records fall

By Steve Douglas and Rob Harris, Associated Press English soccer has never seen a team so utterly dominant as Manchester City entering the packed Christmas program. There seems little doubt Pep Guardiola will be raising the Premier League trophy for the first time in May. It is just a question of when City will wrap up its third title since 2014, and how many records will tumble on the way. City has already reeled off the most consecutive English top-flight wins — a record extended at the weekend to 17 games. Manchester United's record Premier League title-winning margin of 18 points from 2000 could also be under threat. And England could be looking at its third unbeaten "Invincibles" team after Preston in 1888-89 and Arsenal in 2003-04. So it doesn't bode well for a compelling second half of the Premier League season? Think again. The chase for the other three Champions League spots should be fierce with eight points separating second-place Manchester United and Arsenal in sixth. Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham are in the mix among them. Two leading sides will fall by the wayside and be denied a place among the European elite. The battle to stay in the world's richest soccer league is also intense. No team is stranded at the bottom, with Swansea in 20th place only six points behind Southampton in 13th. A closer look at the first half of the season: ___ TITLE RACE City leads by 13 points at the halfway stage after winning 18 of its 19 games and drawing one in the best ever start to a Premier League season. The only dropped points came at home to Everton in the second game on Aug. 21, when City played more than a half with 10 men following Kyle Walker's sending-off. Guardiola won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in late March in 2014 — aided by a winning streak of 19 games never before seen in a major European league. It will be tough for Guardiola to win the title that early in England as he chases a quadruple after finishing his first season at the club without a trophy. City is already through to the League Cup semifinals, into the Champions League last 16 and begins its FA Cup campaign in two weeks. Man United is in second place, with defending champion Chelsea three points further back in third. United manager Jose Mourinho says the title race is still on, but the rest of his peers among the chasing pack don't see City faltering now. It will be intriguing how Mourinho reacts to be seeing his title ambitions further fade in his second season at United, having already opted to publicly call out his "childish" players after a draw at Leicester on Saturday. ___ PICK OF THE PLAYERS Kevin De Bruyne is playing in a deeper role for City this season, virtually as a center midfielder, and it is bringing the best of out the Belgium midfielder. He has provided many of this season's wow moments, from scoring the winning goal at former club Chelsea in September with a fierce left-footed strike from outside the area to the assists for goals by Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling in the 7-2 win over Stoke in October Dovetailing perfectly with fellow playmaker David Silva, De Bruyne has six goals and eight assists but it's more than just his statistics. His prodigious work rate, range of passing and crossing ability — arguably the best in the Premier League since the days of David Beckham — that make him a strong contender for the player of the season awards. No wonder City is determined to nail down the 26-year-old De Bruyne to an improved, longer contract. ___ EMERGING TALENT Amid an offseason of record spending in English soccer, little was made of Watford signing Richarlison from Brazilian team Fluminense for 13 million pounds ($17 million). Yet the 20-year-old forward is proving a bargain, settling in quickly to the pace and intensity of the Premier League and being one of the key factors in Watford's impressive start to the season that, at one stage, saw them challenging around the top four. Direct, skilful and quick, Richarlison already has five goals and keeps getting himself in great positions to score more, with his finishing sometimes letting him down. Opponents have cottoned on to his impact, with Richarlison telling ESPN Brazil this month: "Teams are already marking me individually, they are putting two players there on my side." Chelsea and Tottenham have been linked with the Brazil under-20s player, who has yet to earn a call-up to the senior squad. That appears only a matter of time. Other players to break through this season are Chelsea's Andreas Christensen, the Danish center back who has ousted David Luiz, and Liverpool's Joe Gomez, the right back who has ensured long-term injury absentee Nathaniel Clyne hasn't been missed. ___ SURPRISE TEAM An unfashionable club is mixing it with the heavyweights of the Premier League against all the odds. We've heard this before, right? Two years ago, it was Leicester delivering a soccer fairy tale by somehow winning the league. Now it's Burnley's turn to provide the feel-good story of the season. Widely regarded as a relegation candidate at the start of the season, Burnley is currently seventh. Don't rule Burnley out of staying in the tussle for the Champions League qualification places, with Liverpool only three points better off in fourth. The northwest team hasn't finished a season higher than sixth place in the top flight since 1974. Burnley, which has conceded just 15 goals in 19 games, has already beaten Chelsea away and drawn at Tottenham and Liverpool. Not bad for a team that returned a profit of about $20 million in summer player sales when most of the rest of the Premier League was spending freely. ___ POINTS TO PROVE Alexis Sanchez is a superstar performing well below expectations this season, perhaps as a result of failing to secure a move to Man City from Arsenal during the summer. That transfer could be revived in January — Guardiola cut an awkward figure recently when asked about making a new bid for the Chile forward — to potentially leave City with an even greater wealth of attacking riches. Sanchez has five league goals. By this stage last season, he had already scored 12 on his way to career-high haul of 24 for a single league campaign. In the dugout, these are testing times for two British managers: Alan Pardew and Mark Hughes. Pardew succeeded Tony Pulis a month ago with a mission to keep West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League. Then the Baggies were two points above the bottom three. Now they are next-from-bottom after collecting only two points from Pardew's first five games. Hughes' future appears on a knife-edge at Stoke despite a pressure-relieving victory over West Brom on Saturday that hauled the team three points from the danger zone......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2017

Four sperm whales die in Indonesia beach rescue

Four sperm whales stranded on a beach in Indonesia have died, a local official said Tuesday, despite frantic efforts to save the massive mammals. The whales were among a pod of 10 spotted by locals stranded along Ujong Krueng beach in Aceh province Monday, with one seen farther out in the water. Rescuers tried to push the nine beached whales back out to sea as hundreds of curious locals looked on, some snapping pictures. Five were pushed back and survived but four died, some with their mouth agape as small waves crashed over their giant bodies. Rescuers tied ropes to the tails of some of the mammals to pull them to deeper water. "We had problems evacuating th...Keep on reading: Four sperm whales die in Indonesia beach rescue.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 14th, 2017

Morata hat trick keeps Chelsea near top of EPL

SAM JOHNSTON, Associated Press br /> LONDON (AP) — Despite having been Chelsea's second choice in the transfer window, Alvaro Morata is quickly proving his doubters wrong in the English Premier League. The former Real Madrid forward showcased his skills with a hat trick as Chelsea defeated Stoke 4-0 on Saturday, drawing him level with Romelu Lukaku and Sergio Aguero with six league goals. 'Alvaro took his goals very well, which for a striker is very important,' Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. 'I am pleased with the team also because it means we are creating chances for our strikers.' Aguero and Lukaku were on the scoresheet, too, as Manchester City and Manchester United won but stayed unbeaten by different paths. City's latest victim was winless Crystal Palace by 5-0, while United ground down Southampton 1-0 thanks to Lukaku's first-half strike. Liverpool overcame its leaky defense to secure a first win in September as Philippe Coutinho starred in a 3-2 win at Leicester. Tottenham and Watford also maintained perfect away records. Spurs withstood a late West Ham comeback to win at the London Stadium 3-2, Watford won at Swansea 2-1, Everton came from behind to defeat Bournemouth 2-1, and Burnley and Huddersfield played out a goalless draw. MORATA, MORATA, MORATA Morata's first three Premier League goals came via his head, but a cool side-footed finish after just two minutes gave Chelsea the lead at Britannia Stadium. His second was even better as he picked up the ball on the left, drove past two Stoke defenders and curled his shot past Jack Butland. His third was simple, but the Spain striker's movement was on display as he slipped his marker to find space to tap in Cesar Azpilicueta's knockdown. If there was any remaining sadness over Diego Costa's exit from Chelsea, which was finally resolved this week, Morata ensured his compatriot was forgotten on Saturday. Pedro scored Chelsea's other goal as Antonio Conte's side maintained its perfect away record in the league, keeping it within three points of United and City at the top of the table. CITY CAN'T STOP SCORING City scored five or more goals for a third consecutive league game as the impressive Leroy Sane opened the scoring before Raheem Sterling added a double against Palace. Aguero maintained his goal-a-game record and substitute Fabian Delph rounded off the scoring, to leave Roy Hodgson's Palace pointless and goalless after six games. LUKAKU: GOALS, CHANTS CONTINUE Lukaku scored the only goal but United's win in Southampton was overshadowed by the continued use of a racist chant in support of Lukaku by United fans. The club said it will review CCTV footage to identify supporters who sang the lyrics despite Lukaku's pre-match request for it to stop. SWEET REVENGE Days after being knocked out of the League Cup by Leicester, Liverpool went to King Power Stadium and beat Leicester in an action-packed encounter. Coutinho laid on an assist for Mohamed Salah before curling a stunning free kick into the top corner to put Juergen Klopp's side in control. However, Liverpool's fragile defense was once more exposed as Shinji Okazaki pulled a goal back. Jordan Henderson restored the Reds' two-goal advantage but Jamie Vardy got Leicester back into contention just a minute later. Vardy then squandered a chance to secure the Foxes a draw when his penalty was saved by Simon Mignolet. PERFECT ON THE ROAD Harry Kane's double and Christian Eriksen's goal appeared to give Spurs an unassailable lead, but a Javier Hernandez header quickly followed by Serge Aurier's sending off made for a tense finale. Cheikhou Kouyate headed West Ham within touching distance but Tottenham held on to make it three wins from three away from home. Watford matched that record with an equally dramatic 2-1 victory over Swansea as Richarlison struck a 90th-minute winner. Andre Gray earlier scored his first goal for Watford before Tammy Abraham came off the bench to level the game. IN FROM THE COLD Oumar Niasse came off the bench to score twice as Everton came from behind to defeat Bournemouth and end a run of three successive defeats. Niasse was deemed surplus to requirements by Ronald Koeman last summer, but with Everton struggling for goals, the Senegal forward was given a chance. He grabbed it with both hands, ending the Toffees' run of 6 1/2 hours without a league goal, before notching the winner five minutes later. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2017

Klopp angry as Liverpool eliminated from League Cup

em>By Steve Douglas, Associated Press /em> Liverpool failed to finish off a slew of chances and conceded a sloppy goal in a 2-0 loss at Leicester in the English League Cup, arousing the ire of its frustrated manager Juergen Klopp on Tuesday. It is becoming a familiar narrative for the Reds in a disappointing month when they haven't won any of their four matches. Questions are now being asked the team's efficiency at both ends of the field. Liverpool over-ran Leicester in a dominant first-half display, with Philippe Coutinho orchestrating the attacks from midfield. But the visitors struggled after the Brazil playmaker was substituted at halftime of the third-round match in a pre-planned move from Klopp. In another game-changing substitution, Shinji Okazaki came on in the 53rd minute for Leicester, scored 12 minutes later with a deflected shot after Liverpool's defense was beaten to two headers, and then laid the ball on for Islam Slimani to drive home a stunning second goal at King Power stadium. 'Second ball from a corner and a goal from a throw-in — I'm sick of goals like this, to be honest. Unbelievable,' Klopp said. Referring to the first goal, Klopp added: 'We didn't push up together — I say it one time, I say it a thousand times. It's not nice to concede these goals.' Since beating Arsenal 4-0 in the Premier League before the international break, Liverpool has been thrashed 5-0 by Manchester City and drawn 1-1 at home to Burnley in the league, conceded late to draw 2-2 with Sevilla in the Champions League, and has now been eliminated from the League Cup. Klopp is easing Coutinho back to full match sharpness after the midfielder missed Liverpool's first six games of the season — officially because of injury and illness — while he was the subject of three transfer bids from Barcelona. Leicester couldn't handle Coutinho's passing and movement in the first half, and only came into the game when he was off the field. 'They've got a world-class player in Coutinho,' Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare said. 'I was very relieved when he went off.' Liverpool finished the game having had 21 shots, but only three on target. Against Burnley on Saturday, the Reds only scored once from 35 shots. Tottenham was among the other Premier League teams to win on a night when top-flight sides mostly fielded fringe players for what is regarded as the inferior cup competition on the English calendar, compared to the FA Cup. ___ strong>SPURS EDGE THROUGH /strong> In another unconvincing domestic display at its temporary home of Wembley Stadium, Tottenham beat second-tier Barnsley 1-0 thanks to Dele Alli's close-range goal in the 65th minute. Tottenham hasn't won any of its three Premier League games at Wembley this season, but has beaten Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. ___ strong>HODGSON'S FIRST WIN /strong> Crystal Palace scored its first goal since Aug. 22 to earn a 1-0 win over Huddersfield and a first victory under new manager Roy Hodgson. Bakary Sako was the scorer from a corner. Palace has started the Premier League season with five straight losses and no goals, the first time that has happened in the history of England's top flight. Hodgson replaced the fired Frank de Boer last week. Defender Pape Souare came on as a substitute for Palace for his first appearance since breaking his jaw and thigh, and picking up other injuries, in a car crash a year ago. ___ strong>STOKE, BURNLEY ELIMINATED /strong> Stoke lost 2-0 at Bristol City and Burnley was eliminated on penalties by Leeds after a 2-2 draw, as two second-tier League Championship teams got the better of Premier League sides. Bristol City also knocked out a Premier League team in Watford in the second round. Bournemouth, West Ham and Swansea were Premier League teams to advance to Round 4.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 20th, 2017

Federer wins, Serena loses in Cincy tourney

MASON, Ohio (AP) — Roger Federer made a successful return to the Western & Southern Open on Tuesday. The day wasn't so great for Serena Williams. Federer advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Peter Gojowczyk, and Williams was eliminated by eighth-seeded Petra Kvitova in a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 second-round loss. Federer and Williams were making their first appearance at the tournament since they each won the title in 2015. Williams opened with a straight-set victory against Daria Gavrilova. After a first-round bye, Federer extended his Cincinnati winning streak to 11 matches since losing to Rafael Nadal in the 2013 quarterfinals. "It doesn't feel like I have been away for so long here from Cincinnati," Federer said. "I guess the wheel keeps turning. It's not like I missed two years of tennis. It was a great pleasure to be back." The second-seeded Federer, refreshed from a month off after losing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, became the tournament favorite when Nadal withdrew on Sunday night. Williams also was knocked out in her last tournament at San Jose two weeks ago after reaching the Wimbledon final. Cincinnati was her fifth tournament since she had a baby last September. She has dealt with blood clots and recently said she has been struggling with postpartum emotions. "You know, this is a long comeback," she said. "I just began. I just started — definitely at the very, very beginning. I'm getting there, and I'm going to just continue to work hard, and hopefully, I'll start winning more matches." Karolina Pliskova and Nick Kyrgios also advanced Tuesday in early tournament action. Pliskova moved into the second round by snapping a seven-match losing streak against Agnieszka Radwanska with a 6-3, 6-3 win. "It means a lot because it was against her, and, like, you know, I never beat her," Pliskova said. "We played so many times. I think I always played her at her best level the matches before, so it was always tough." Kyrgios, a finalist last year in Cincinnati, overcame physical problems to fight off qualifier Denis Kudla for a 6-7 (2), 7-5, 7-6 (9) victory. "This year has been tough," Kyrgios said. "I started the year very well. Then, obviously, I hurt my elbow. Then I had an ongoing hip injury. We have been definitely thinking about the options with my hip. You know, there is only so much you can do before you have to, you know, I guess, get surgery or something like that. You know, right now I'm just managing it." No. 11 seed David Goffin advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Leonardo Mayer became the first player to reach the third round on the men's side with a 7-6 (7), 6-4 victory over 16th-seeded Lucas Pouille. Denis Shapovalov also reached the third round with an upset, knocking off 14th-seeded Kyle Edmund, 6-4, 7-5. Australian Open semifinalist Hyeon Chung won the last five games to beat Jack Sock 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Sock has lost eight straight matches since winning in Rome on May 13. Two-time Cincinnati semifinalist Milos Raonic advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 win over qualifier Dusan Lajovic. Robin Haase also made it to the second round, defeating Filip Krajinovic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina was tested by wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova before reaching the third round with a gritty 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 win. Sixth-seeded Caroline Garcia also reached the third round with a 6-4, 6-5 win over wild card Victoria Azarenka, but 12th-seeded Daria Kasatkina suffered a first-round upset at the hands of qualifier Petra Martic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Elise Mertens scored a 6-4, 6-2 first-round win over Magdalena Rybarikova. Ashleigh Barty stopped wild card Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 7-5. Maria Sakkari upset Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka 6-3, 7-6 (8). Ekaterina Makarova cruised past qualifier Ana Bogdan 6-3, 6-2......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News6 hr. 39 min. ago

Houston s Watson healthy and ready for more work this week

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson was back in a game this week for the first time since surgery to repair a right knee injury in November, and although he didn't play long, he relished his return. "I just played five snaps, handed the ball off, threw one pass," Watson said. "So, it wasn't too bad. Good to just go out there for a couple plays and then watch everyone else perform." The Houston Texans quarterback is looking to build on his limited action as the team prepares for two practices with the San Francisco 49ers next week before hosting them in their second preseason game on Saturday. Watson's health and development in his second year will be critical as Houston tries to bounce back from a season filled with injuries during which the team went 4-12 for its first losing season since 2013. Though he played in just seven games before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in practice, Watson gave the Texans optimism that he'll be the answer to their longtime problems at the position. He threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns and ran for 269 yards and two more scores after Houston traded up to select him with the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Saturday was the team's first practice back in Houston after the Texans spent the first part of training camp in West Virginia. Although they had to adjust to the hotter temperatures at home, Watson and the Texans got a boost from working out in front of several hundred cheering fans. "The climate ... it's hot and muggy but at the end of the day we have to come out here and play football and perform and just focus on our task," he said. "So, it's always good to have the fans around and show love. They give us energy and high hopes for this season." The 22-year-old said he's grown a lot since arriving in Houston last season and is looking forward to building on what he did last year. "Just really (grown) as a person as a whole and then just the knowledge of the game," he said. "Just being able to understand the offense, understand what the defense is doing and just play faster, just go out there and play and not overthink things." Coach Bill O'Brien, who worked with Tom Brady when he was an assistant with the Patriots, has enjoyed watching Watson develop and is looking for ways to help him take another step. "I think there's areas where he and I need to grow together, like in the red area," he said. "We're a little bit behind there but we have to work together on that and see if we can execute better down there, but I think there's a lot of areas where he's gotten better and better, and he'll only get better and better because he works at it and the experience he gets will really help him." Watson is working behind a revamped offensive line this year after last year's group allowed the second-most sacks in the league. So far, he likes the way the unit is coming together. "Guys just building chemistry, working hard each and every day, never complaining," Watson said. "They make mistakes, but at the end of the day they correct those mistakes and don't make it twice, just like everyone else on the offense. Just guys that love to play football. They have a passion about going in ... and putting in the work, and (are) passionate about winning.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 12th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: How many games will Rockets win in 2018-19?

NBA.com blogtable The Rockets led the league with 65 victories last season. How many games do you think they can win in 2018-19? * * * David Aldridge: Fewer, but that's not a big deal. The assumption here is they'll rest Chris Paul more and more going forward to give him the best chance at getting to the postseason, so that may cost them 4-6 meaningless regular season wins. And if you take away another handful because of the dual loss of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, let's pencil Houston in for 55-57 regular season wins. Don't think that will be a big deal as long as they don't finish fourth in the west and have to face Golden State in the second round. Tas Melas: The general sentiment among basketball fans is that the Rockets will be far worse (the over-under line in Vegas is 55.5 wins!). What actually happened with the roster to forecast such a drop-off? It’s basically Carmelo Anthony and James Ennis replacing the departed Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute (leaving out the additions of RJ Hunter, Michael Carter-Williams, Markel Brown and draft picks at this point). Everyone will point to the defensive issues with Melo starting over Ariza. Defense is an attitude. Yes, a coach needs the personnel, but as much as it is about the guys on the floor, it’s also about the locker room, and I still think there’s enough with Clint Capela, Chris Paul and PJ Tucker (Ariza was part of mediocre Rockets defenses the two years before last season, which were also before James Harden improved defensively). And Melo replacing Ariza is why Ennis was signed – to be the defensive yang to Melo’s offensive ying. Melo can play primarily in the 1st and 3rd with Ennis playing the most important defensive minutes in the 4th. Exposing Melo might happen more in the playoffs, but for the regular season, I see this as a 62-win team. They do still realize that they need the 1-seed to beat Golden State. Shaun Powell: I'd go with the under here and say 60 wins for the Rockets, not because they're in for a steep decline. I'm just not sure they're willing to press for wins in April, given the unpredictability of Chris Paul's vulnerable body, which potentially cost them the Western Conference title (and maybe an NBA title) last season. The Rockets needed to get best record and home-court advantage in the West last season for their mental health. That's not necessarily the case now. John Schuhmann: Even if the Rockets kept the same team together and were relatively healthy, another 65-win season would have been difficult in a deeper Western Conference. And the departure of Trevor Ariza and the loss of depth at the forward positions should hurt them, especially on defense, where they ranked sixth last season. They still have a terrific core of five guys -- Harden, Paul, Capela, Eric Gordon and Tucker -- and should be plenty motivated to get back to where they were a few months ago, so I'll guess that they finish with 59-61 wins, which would still be good for the second best season in franchise history. Sekou Smith: I think the Rockets are capable of another 60-win season. But it'll take a monstrous effort to duplicate the season they had a year ago. And I'm not sure it's worth the energy. The Rockets need only maintain an advantage over the Golden State Warriors to ensure that a potential Game 7 in the Western Conference finals is played at the Toyota Center (only this time with a healthy Chris Paul). If the Warriors decide to attack the 2018-19 regular season the same way they did the 2017-18 regular season, the Rockets would be wise to push only hard enough to maintain a reasonable cushion ahead of the two-time defending champs. There's nothing else to prove. We know the Rockets are capable of winning it all. We witnessed it last season, right up until the moment that Paul suffered his injury......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 11th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Bottom 10 * * * 21. DETROIT PISTONS 2017-18 RECORD: 39-43; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Dwane Casey; New executive Ed Stefanski; G Bruce Brown (No. 42 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jose Calderon (one year, $2.3 million); C Zaza Pachulia (one year, $2.3 million); G/F Glenn Robinson III (two years, $8.3 million); G Khyri Thomas (No. 38 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Stan Van Gundy; G Dwight Buycks (waived); F/C Eric Moreland (waived); F Anthony Tolliver (signed with Wolves) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: F Blake Griffin. And he will be for some time. The Pistons need him to be his former All-Star self again, able to take slower defender to the basket, able to stretch the floor if he plays the five in small-ball lineups. They need him to be a playmaker, to get Reggie Jackson more looks off the ball and Andre Drummond some high-low lobs at the rim. They need him to sell tickets at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit’s revitalized downtown -- a building that seems to be more for the NHL’s Red Wings than the NBA’s Pistons. And they need Griffin to be an anchor that draws players to the Motor City during the life of his extension. THE SKINNY: Owner Tom Gores agonized over firing Van Gundy, but he finally did so, and was fortunate that Casey was available and willing to step right back into the fray after being cashiered in Toronto. Casey will be quite in his element building a defense around Drummond, but, like Van Gundy, Casey will need Jackson to stay healthy; he’s missed a combined 67 games the last two seasons. Detroit did well for not having a first-round pick to come out of the Draft with two solid guard prospects deep in the second in Thomas and Brown. However, the new coaching staff will have to get more out of the team’s last three first-rounders: Stanley Johnson (2015), Henry Ellenson (2016) and Luke Kennard (2017). 22. BOSTON CELTICS 2017-18 RECORD: 55-27; lost in Eastern Conference finals ADDED: G Brad Wanamaker (one year, $838,000); C Robert Williams (No. 27 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Shane Larkin (signed to play in Turkey); F Abdel Nader (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C Aron Baynes (two years, $10.6 million); F Jabari Bird (two years, $3 million), G Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) THE KEY MAN: F Gordon Hayward. All indications are he’s well on his way back from that horrific injury he suffered on opening night last season. He can do so many great things in coach Brad Stevens’ system, and if he’s 100 percent by the playoffs, Boston may well be the one team that can match up, player for player, with Golden State in a Finals meeting. (Remember this when people inevitably say I ranked the Celtics 23rd in offseason moves.) THE SKINNY: Boston got its biggest work done after Smart couldn’t loosen up an offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings or Dallas Mavericks, and eventually worked out a deal for less than he sought to return. Smart’s deal puts Boston in the tax for the foreseeable future, but the Celtics knew that was the next step in keeping a Finals-capable core group together. With Kyrie Irving and Hayward expected back on line Stevens can throw so many different lineups out there, all committed to stifling opponent movement with long, switching defenders led by Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Williams was worth an end of the first flier, though he didn’t get off to a great start. If he gets a good wake-up alarm on his phone, he has a chance to be the Celtics’ center of the future. 23. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 2017-18 RECORD: 52-30; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: F Wilson Chandler (acquired from Nuggets); F/C Mike Muscala (acquired from Hawks); G Zhaire Smith (No. 16 pick, 2018 Draft); G Landry Shamet (No. 26 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shake Milton (No. 54 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former GM Bryan Colangelo (resigned); F Justin Anderson (traded to Hawks); G Marco Belinelli (signed with Spurs); F/C Richaun Holmes (traded to Suns); F Ersan Ilyasova (signed with Bucks); G/F Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C/F Amir Johnson (one year, $1.5 million); G T.J. McConnell (picked up team option); G J.J. Redick (one year, $12.2 million) THE KEY MAN: G Markelle Fultz. His rookie year laid waste by a combination of injury and the yips -- which the Sixers have finally copted to -- Fultz is reportedly rebuilding his shot successfully under the learned eye of development coach Drew Hansen. If that carries over to the fall, Fultz will get a true opportunity (he had some cameos late in his rookie season) to show a skeptical Philly fan base he was worth the top pick in 2017, and worth Philly trading up to get him. He definitely could fill a need with the 76ers for a second playmaker to go with and occasionally in place of reigning Kia Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. But if Fultz has another setback, physically or otherwise, it will be hard for him to stick much longer in Philly -- not a town known for patient reflection with regard to its sports teams. THE SKINNY: Coach Brett Brown was quite clear when he said the Sixers were hunting for a superstar this summer with the cap space they’d assiduously cleared the last couple of years. But the summer has come and gone and there’s no LeBron, no Kawhi, no trade, at least not yet, for Jimmy Butler or anyone else at that level. Belinelli and Ilyasova both played huge roles for Philly in the playoffs; maybe Fultz (see above) takes on some of that role, and Chandler will help. But this doesn’t feel like a successful offseason for one of the real risers in the East. 24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 2017-18 RECORD: 49-33; lost in first round ADDED: G Seth Curry (one year, $2.7 million); G Nik Stauskas (one year, $1.6 million); G Anfernee Simons (No. 24 pick, 2018 Draft); G Gary Trent Jr. (No. 37 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G/F Pat Connaughton (signed with Bucks); F/C Ed Davis (signed with Nets); G Shabazz Napier (signed with Nets); C Georgios Papagiannis (waived) RETAINED: C Jusuf Nurkic (four years, $48 million) THE KEY MAN: Assistant coaches David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbets, Dale Osbourne, Jim Moran, John McCullough and Jonathan Yim. With the Blazers mostly landlocked the next two seasons -- they’re currently above the projected luxury tax line both for next season and 2019-20 -- there aren’t likely going to be many significant roster changes for a while. And in the West, especially, standing pat is often falling behind. It will thus fall to Portland’s excellent staff behind coach Terry Stotts to maximize the production of the current group. They can point with some pride to success stories like Will Barton and Allen Crabbe, now in Denver and Brooklyn, respectively, along with Maurice Harkless and Al-Faroqu Aminu. For Portland to take another step up, they’ll have to coach up someone like 2017 first-rounder Zach Collins or this year’s first-rounder, Simons. They must have them exceed expectations to become a third legit star behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. THE SKINNY: Lillard insists the rumblings heard in some quarters that he’s unhappy in Portland aren’t true, and the franchise better hope he’s being honest. The decisions the Blazers made in 2016 continue to lock them in place; if they catch a favorable first-round matchup (a grumbling Rockets team in 2014; an injury-strafed Clippers squad in 2016), they can advance a round. But last year’s 4-0 sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans had to give everyone pause. How does Portland respond mentally? Re-upping Big Nurk in the middle on a very reasonable deal -- $12 million for a starting center was the going rate five years ago, when the Wolves gave Nikola Pekovic a five-year, $60 million contract -- was necessary. But losing Davis, a locker room and fan favorite for superior work ethic, will hurt, even though Collins should sop up a lot of those minutes. 25. ORLANDO MAGIC 2017-18 RECORD: 25-57; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Steve Clifford; C Mohamed Bamba (No. 6 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Briscoe (three years, $3.9 million); F Melvin Frazier (No. 35 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jerian Grant (acquired from Bulls); F Justin Jackson (No. 43 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jarrell Martin (acquired from Grizzlies); C Timofey Mozgov (acquired from Hornets) LOST: C Bismack Biyombo (traded to Hornets); G Mario Hezonja (signed with Knicks); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Grizzlies); G Shelvin Mack (waived); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: F Aaron Gordon (four years, $82 million) THE KEY MAN: G D.J. Augustin. A vet’s vet, he’s played 10 years in the league and started 226 games for eight teams, including 56 over the last two for the Magic. He’ll enter this season as the unquestioned starter at the point with Elfrid Payton in New Orleans and Orlando still looking to solve its long-term search for a point guard. It’s Augustin’s turn. THE SKINNY: At some point, Orlando’s yearly gambles on size and potential will pay off. Bamba could be the goods; he’s got a demeanor and toughness that should keep him together while he learns the craft at the pro level. But -- again -- it will take some time for Bamba, like 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Isaac, and Gordon, in whom Orlando invested a sizeable sum in July, to flourish. And Magic fans rightly can ask exactly how long they’re to remain patient. Clifford is supposed to improve the defense, but so was Frank Vogel … and so was Scott Skiles … and so was Jacque Vaughn. 26. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Tony Carr (No. 51 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elfrid Payton (one year, $3 million); F Julius Randle (two years, $17 million) LOST: C DeMarcus Cousins (signed with Warriors); G Rajon Rondo (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Ian Clark (one year, $1.7 million); F Nikola Mirotic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Owner Gayle Benson. Mrs. Benson took control of the team after the death of her husband, Tom, last March. She displayed great grace in the days and weeks after Tom Benson’s death, making it clear at the time she had no interest in selling the team and would continue to make outlays to keep the team competitive. The Pels didn’t blink last summer giving Jrue Holiday $126 million, and that will have to remain the case going forward if New Orleans is to repeat its surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals last spring. THE SKINNY: Can’t lose your starting point guard and your starting All-Star center in one offseason -- no matter what the circumstances -- and come out of it with high offseason marks. And especially when Rondo seemed like the perfect fit for the team. Mirotic mentioned during the Warriors series how good Rondo was at picking him up and connecting him quickly with the team after he was traded to New Orleans from Chicago. And, yes, coach Alvin Gentry mentioned he may have exchanged cusses with Rondo every now and again, too. Life in RondoWorld. The path forward is narrower, but not impassible; Randle can be tantalizing at times, maddening at others, but he could plug-and-play at the four, and he can take some of the playmaking burden off of Holiday. But big minutes on the ball for Holiday again is not what New Orleans had in mind. Payton is going to have to perform immediately. And losing “Boogie” Cousins is a big minus. It’s not what the Pelicans gave up to get him. It’s the fit and flow he had with Anthony Davis before the injury, and what the promise of a return this season could have meant toward carrying the momentum of last year forward. 27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: F Anthony Tolliver (one year, $5.7 million); G Josh Okogie (No. 20 pick, 2018 Draft); F Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Cole Aldrich (waived); F Nemanja Bjelica (signed with Kings) RETAINED: G Derrick Rose (one year, $1.5 million) THE KEY MAN: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. He signed for big, big money by NFL standards (three years, $84 million), and the Vikings have Super Bowl aspirations. So all the light will be on the Vikes most of the fall and winter in Minneapolis, keeping it off of the still-young Wolves, who won’t be able to sneak up on anyone after breaking their long postseason drought. THE SKINNY: The Wolves should be positioned to build on their playoff run, especially if Butler can get through a full season healthy and Karl-Anthony Towns adds consistency to his prodigious talents. But they didn’t do much in the offseason, and the team that they beat out on the last day of the regular season, Denver, looks to be much improved. Tolliver should help the Wolves’ depth; they essentially traded him for Bjelica, and he shot slightly better on 3-poiners last season than Belly. Plus, they don’t come better as a guy than Tolliver and he can help Minnesota in the locker room. The issue of Butler’s contract isn’t going away; there will be a reckoning at some point, and he’ll have a lot more options next summer than free agents had this summer. Until then, coach Tom Thibodeau has pretty much the same team that he has to cajole better defense out of next season (22nd in Defensive Rating; 17th in points allowed). 28. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 2017-18 RECORD: 36-46; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach James Borrego; GM Mitch Kupchack; C Bismack Biyombo (acquired from Magic); F Miles Bridges (No. 12 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devonte' Graham (No. 34 pick, 2018 Draft); F Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55 pick, 2018 Draft); ; G Tony Parker (two years, $10.2 milliion) LOST: G Michael Carter-Williams (signed with Rockets); C Dwight Howard (traded to Nets); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Magic); G Julyan Stone (traded to Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: C Cody Zeller. It’s a guess -- Borrego could opt for Frank Kaminsky III -- but Zeller would seem to be the replacement at center for Dwight Howard, who wound up in Washington after the Hornets traded him to the Nets. Zeller started 58 games two years ago and was very good in screen and rolls with Kemba Walker. Zeller only played in 33 games last season because of a left knee injury; if he returns to form, the Hornets could pick up offensively and actually have a little more diversity at that end than last season. THE SKINNY: Team owner Michael Jordan cleaned house after a disappointing 2017-18, bringing another Tar Heel back home in the veteran Kupchak. Kupchak dispatched Howard and then got Mozgov’s guaranteed 2019-20 season off his books to take back Biyombo, who’d left Toronto two years ago for $72 million from the Magic and who’s got a player option for 2019-20. Well before then, the Hornets are going to have to decide what to do with Walker, who’ll be one of the top free agents available next summer if Charlotte can’t get him re-signed or extended. The Hornets were 8.8 points worse when the two-time All-Star was off the court rather than on. Nicolas Batum has to make a return to the all-around talent that enticed Charlotte to trade for him and give him a $120 million extension; he averaged just 11.6 points per game last year, his lowest in three years. Howard’s presence in the paint may have clogged things up some, but that’s no longer the case. 29. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 2017-18 RECORD: 50-32; lost in The Finals ADDED: F Channing Frye (one year, $2.3 million); G Collin Sexton (No. 8 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Jose Calderon (signed with Pistons); F Jeff Green (signed with Wizards); F LeBron James (signed with Lakers); C Kendrick Perkins (waived); F Okaro White (waived) RETAINED: F Kevin Love (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: GM Koby Altman. Altman has a blank slate now after trying to steer a championship-contending ship that had been stripped of a few propeller blades in the last 13 months. With James gone, as well as former GM David Griffin, the 35-year-old Altman has team owner Dan Gilbert’s charge to rebuild the Cavs without taking them down to the studs (as the Cavs did after James first departure in 2010). Altman’s next task after working out Kevin Love’s $130 million extension is clearing the roster of all the veterans brought in the last three years mainly because of their ability to play off of James. THE SKINNY: There weren’t any widespread jersey burnings this time in the Land. James left for L.A. with relative good will from his hometown, having delivered the championship it had waited 52 years for in 2016. Truly, the Cavs’ rebuild started the minute Kyrie Irving demanded a trade; last season seemed more rearguard action than an attack at another title. Extending Love through 2023 with no outs -- keeping him locked with rookie Sexton through the latter’s last controllable season before hitting unrestricted free agency -- gives Cleveland a base upon which to build. Cap room will follow in 2019, but next season will be difficult; Sexton has a lot of toughness and potential, but rookie point guards tend to get their lunch handed to them. 30. MIAMI HEAT 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: None LOST: None RETAINED: G Wayne Ellington (one year, $6.2 million); F/G Derrick Jones Jr. THE KEY MAN: G Josh Richardson. Like many of his teammates, Richardson got an extension a couple of years ago -- four years and $42 million. Last season, he was (again) a solid two-way player for Miami -- almost 13 points per game, 84.5 percent from the line, 37.8 percent on 3-pointers. But if the Heat is going to shake out of the middle lane in which it currently seems stuck, Richardson will have to expand. Miami’s current roster makes it complicated; Pat Riley thinks Richardson’s probably more of a two, but he plays mostly three for coach Erik Spoelstra because Miami’s best lineups were small ball ones. Another offseason at P3 in California will help Richardson continue his development. THE SKINNY: No, Heat people: I don’t hate your team. But when you have no Draft picks, and you have no cap space, and thus you literally could do nothing in the offseason, and basically did nothing in the offseason, and your biggest, most newsy event was whether your 36-year-old future Hall of Fame guard will come back for one more season or play over in China … well, what am I supposed to do with that information? Rank you first? The question is, how much better is your team now than it was at the end of last season? It’s essentially the same team; other than the likes of Richardson (see above) or Justise Winslow, it’s not like there’s a great step up expected from Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, is there? The Heat is not any better than last season. It isn’t any worse. It just … is. So, 30. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Middle 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Middle 10 * * * 11. TORONTO RAPTORS 2017-18 RECORD: 59-23; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: Coach Nick Nurse; G Danny Green (acquired from Spurs); F Kawhi Leonard (acquired from Spurs) LOST: Former coach Dwane Casey; G DeMar DeRozan (traded to Spurs); F Alfonzo McKinnie (waived); C Jakob Poeltl (traded to Spurs) RETAINED: G Fred VanVleet (two years, $18.1 million) THE KEY MAN: Nurse. The former Raps assistant has extensive G League head coaching experience. But the NBA isn’t just about a coach’s Xs and Os acumen. We know Nurse can do that. But an NBA coach has to have command presence in a locker room not only full of millionaires, but full of Alpha males who have their own very strong opinions on how they should be used and how their teammates should help them. Nurse will have to show he can put his own stamp on a team that will have some new faces while still having extremely high expectations. THE SKINNY: You may well think Toronto should be higher, based on Leonard’s standing as a top-five player in the league when fully healthy. No matter what you think of DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, no one can realistically say he’s better than “The Klaw” when both are 100 percent. But, of course, we don’t know if Leonard’s 100 percent. And, trading DeRozan, who’d been the franchise’s biggest advocate during his nine seasons there -- and who had led the team to its greatest extended run of success ever -- is not a transaction without consequence for the Raptors. He helped get the best out of Kyle Lowry. He could help recruit free agents. And, the circumstances of his departure have not helped the franchise’s reputation. Still, this is a talent-based league, and Leonard has it. His and Green’s presence on the perimeter gives Toronto the chance to be a switching defensive monster -- and will help the Raptors be able to match up better with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in a late-May playoff matchup, as long as the Raptors’ young core in which it believes so strongly continues to play as well in reserve as it did last season. 12. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: Coach Mike Budenholzer; G Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trevon Duval; F Ersan Ilyasova (three years, $21 million); C Brook Lopez (one year, $3.32 million); F Pat Connaughton (two years, $3.2 million); LOST: Former interim coach Joe Prunty; G Brandon Jennings (waived); F Jabari Parker (signed with Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: G Eric Bledsoe. His departure from Phoenix early last season was messy. But once he got to Brewtown, Bledsoe solidified the Bucks at the point, averaging 17.8 points and 5.1 assists per game in 71 starts. At 28, Bledsoe faces the last year of his contract and will have to show a new coach he’s capable of running things long-term and playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo through the meat of his prime. THE SKINNY: Budenholzer’s arrival should coincide with an improvement in the Bucks’ defense, something that former coach Jason Kidd could never quite accomplish. Ilaysova’s return for a second tour in Milwaukee should help, with his celebrated charge-taking skill and Lopez’s still-substantial size a double-boon to Milwaukee’s interior D as the Bucks were bottom 10 last season in points allowed in the paint (47.4 per game). If the paint becomes a little tougher to traverse, the Bucks should finally able to use their substantial length on the wing to get back to create deflections and turnovers, and get out in transition, where Antetokounmpo and Friends do their best work and their most damage to the opposition. They’ll do so 41 nights a year for the next couple of decades in the 17,500-seat Fiserv Forum, the Bucks’ new arena that will open in early September with a concert and should pump new revenues into the Bucks’ bloodstream, giving them more financial wherewithal to keep “The Greek Freak” surrounded with high-quality talent. 13. UTAH JAZZ 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Grayson Allen (No. 21 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jarius Lyles; G Naz Mitrou-Long LOST: F Jonas Jerebko (waived) RETAINED: G Dante Exum (three years, $33 million); F/C Derrick Favors (two years, $37.6 million), G Raul Neto (two years, $4.4 million); F Georges Niang (three years, $4.9 million) THE KEY MAN: C Rudy Gobert. He’s a monster presence, the hub of the Jazz’s defensive wheel and the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year. And he has to take a step back in Utah next season for the Jazz to take the next step forward. He has to understand what Utah has in Donovan Mitchell and let that kid eat. Nobody in the league can do what Gobert does defensively. So embrace that and concentrate on that -- take the Draymond Green attitude about being the “defensive guy” on a great team (not that Jazz fans want you to do anything that Green does). Gobert’s handsomely paid and the DPOY award found him in Salt Lake City; there’s no small-market bias at work here. So let Mitchell and Joe Ingles carry the shooting/scoring load, let Ricky Rubio orchestrate, and snuff out opponent dreams at the other end, night after night. It’s what you were born to do. THE SKINNY: My God, Mitchell had a great rookie season. And Utah brought most of the band back from last season to provide advice and consent for him again, re-signing Favors, Exum and Neto each on very reasonable contracts. Doing so leaves Utah over the cap, still comfortably under the tax, and with nothing on the books that should raise an eyebrow financially. (Utah’s front office should handle my checking account for a while.) Anyway, no reason to expect any backsliding next season with the crew returning, though coach Quin Snyder will surely miss the counsel of his longtime friend Igor Kokoskov, off to run the Suns. 14. ATLANTA HAWKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Lloyd Pierce; F Justin Anderson (acquired from 76ers); G Kevin Huerter (No. 19 pick, 2018 Draft); C Alex Len (two years, $8.5 million); G Jeremy Lin (acquired from Nets); F Omari Spellman (No. 30 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trae Young (No. 5 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Mike Budenholzer; G Antonius Cleveland (waived); G Damion Lee (signed with Warriors); F/C Mike Muscala (traded to 76ers); G Dennis Schröder (traded to Thunder); G Isaiah Taylor (waived) RETAINED: C Dewayne Dedmon (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: GM Travis Schlenk. The second-year executive will be judged on how well Atlanta uses its trove of Draft picks -- three firsts this year, three firsts next year, two firsts in 2022 -- the next few years. And, ultimately, the Hawks will live or die by whether Young or Luka Doncic becomes the bigger NBA producer. Schlenk’s chances of completing the rebuild may well ride on that. THE SKINNY: The Hawks’ roster teardown is nearing completion, but the renovated Philips Arena will come online faster than the team, which now needs Young to live up to all the hype after his one season at Oklahoma. He has incredible range and great potential, but he’ll be challenged every night to stay in front of the legion of great points in this league. Pierce, the former Sixers’ assistant, is going to have a very tough time melding all the newcomers with the small core of players who survived, including John Collins, Kent Bazemore, DeAndre' Bembry and Taurean Prince. 15. LA CLIPPERS 2017-18 RECORD: 42-40; missed playoffs ADDED: C Marcin Gortat (acquired from Wizards); G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 11 pick, 2018 Draft); F Johnathan Motley (acquired from Mavericks); F Mike Scott (one year, $4.3 million); F Luc Mbah a Moute (one year, $4.3 million), G Jerome Robinson (No. 13 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Austin Rivers (traded to Wizards); C DeAndre Jordan (signed with Mavs); G C.J. Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Avery Bradley (two years, $24.9  million); C Montrezl Harrell (two years, $12 million); G Wesley Johnson (picked up player option); G Milos Teodosic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Tobias Harris. He was the key tangible piece of the Blake Griffin trade last season (the intangible being the unprotected first from Detroit in the deal that eventually became Gilgeous-Alexander after a Draft night trade with Charlotte). And Harris played quite well in his 32 games with the Clips, averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds per game. Those numbers could each well go up in a contract year and with few others outside of Lou Williams on the roster that can go get their own buckets. THE SKINNY: Amazing, but true: the Clipper player with the longest current tenure is … Wesley Johnson, who came aboard in 2015. “Lob City” is in the history books and change will be the norm here for a while, including next summer, when the Clippers expect to be a free-agent destination. The Clips did what they could with that not-insignificant restriction, but the best stuff was in the Draft, winding up with a potential long-term point in Gilgeous-Alexander and a two in Robinson that rocketed up the pre-Draft charts. Bradley’s on a very team-friendly and controllable contract, as is Patrick Beverley, whose modest 2018-19 salary isn’t guaranteed until January. Those two and Mbah a Moute can give coach Doc Rivers hope that he can get some stops on the perimeter, because while Gortat is still willing defensively and still takes a bunch of charges, he is not Jordan when it comes to rim protection. 16. BROOKLYN NETS 2017-18 RECORD: 28-54; missed playoffs ADDED: F/C Ed Davis (one year, $4.4 million); F Jared Dudley (acquired from Suns); F Kenneth Faried (acquired from Nuggets); G/F Treveon Graham (two years); F Rodions Kurucs (No. 40, 2018 Draft); F Dzanan Musa (No. 29 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shabazz Napier (two years, $3.7 million) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Suns); F Dante Cunningham (signed with Spurs); C Dwight Howard (waived); G Jeremy Lin (traded to Hawks); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Hornets); G Nik Stauskas (signed with Blazers); G Isaiah Whitehead (traded to Nuggets) RETAINED: G Joe Harris (two years, $16 million) THE KEY MAN: Co-owner Joseph Tsai. The Alibaba executive and billionaire has 49 percent of the team, and can buy majority control from Mikhail Prokhorov by 2021. Until then, they’ll run the team jointly, so no matter Prokhorov’s ups and downs, Brooklyn’s financial spigot should never run dry. Tsai reportedly has designs on expanding the Nets’ brand further in China, just as Prokhorov believed the Nets had global reach. They didn’t, at least not the post-KG and Pierce squads. THE SKINNY: If you love Ed Davis like smart people who know basketball do, Brooklyn makes the top half by bringing the ex-Blazer in on a short deal. If he plays great, he’ll cost the Nets a pretty penny in 2019, but Brooklyn has to take chances on guys who can outperform their contracts. The only thing the Nets couldn’t do was take on more ’19 salary when they’ll be in line to potentially add two max players. Won’t be easy to lure the elites, but Brooklyn also has accumulated enough assets to be able to make uneven trades for salaries if need be. In the interim comes next season, with coach Kenny Atkinson needing to continue to develop diamonds in the rough like Graham, who Cleveland wanted and who will help the Nets at multiple positions. 17. CHICAGO BULLS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: G Antonius Cleveland; C Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 7 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chandler Hutchison (No. 22 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jabari Parker (two years, $40 million) LOST: F Jerian Grant (traded to Magic); G Sean Kilpatrick (waived); G Julyan Stone (waived); F Noah Vonleh (signed with Knicks); G Paul Zipser (waived) RETAINED: G Antonio Blakeney; G Zach LaVine (matched four year, $78 million offers sheet from Kings) THE KEY MAN: G Kris Dunn. As the 24-year-old will be every season he’s in Chicago. The Jimmy Butler trade in 2017 yielded the pick that became Lauri Markannen, and he’s also a key piece to the Bulls’ future. But Chicago won’t ever get elevation again if Dunn doesn’t become an elite point guard in a league full of them. He showed signs last season that he could be just that, most notably a December in which Dunn averaged 14.9 points and eight assists, and the Bulls went 10-6. But a concussion in January derailed Dunn’s progress and his production fell sharply the rest of the season. THE SKINNY: Can Parker play the three, as the Bulls insist he can? There isn’t a ton of evidence suggesting so, and Parker’s hypothesis that he isn’t getting paid to play defense does not provide much comfort. But the Bulls will try him there alongside Markannen and rookie Carter Jr. in what would be a huge frontcourt. Almost $20 million annually for LaVine going forward is also a stretch, but less of one if LaVine comes all the way back from his 2017 ACL tear with a full training camp and season. Carter may be more important to the Bulls’ hoped-for resurgence than Parker and LaVine; the Duke big man has that much potential. 18. WASHINGTON WIZARDS 2017-18 RECORD: 43-39; lost in first round ADDED: C Thomas Bryant; G Troy Brown (No. 15 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jeff Green (one year, $2.5 million); C Dwight Howard (two years, $11 million); G Austin Rivers (acquired from Clippers); G Issuf Sanon (No. 44 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Marcin Gortat (traded to Clippers); F Mike Scott (signed with Clippers) RETAINED: G Jodie Meeks (picked up player option); C Jason Smith (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Coach Scott Brooks. Entering his third season in Washington, Brooks keeps saying he wants the Wizards to defend and play fast. But he has to follow that up with action, especially when and if John Wall doesn’t provide the on-ball defense Washington needs to have any chance to unleash a still-potent fast break. Wall is 27 and, if healthy, in his prime. The team takes almost all of its cues from him; when he’s locked in, the Wizards can compete with anyone. But when he’s indifferent, so are they -- as evidenced by their horrible record against bad teams. Brooks has to demand Wall’s best, or be ready to limit his minutes. THE SKINNY: NBA protocol almost demands you hate the pickup of Howard, such is his current perceived valued among many after multiple stops the last few seasons. The guess here is that Howard won’t hijack the Wizards’ locker room, as he had been accused of while in with the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets, especially. Howard’s skill set can help Washington, which fell off defensively last season. But there’s also not much sense he’ll be a significant pick-me-up in D.C., either. He can’t stretch the floor and he’s not especially potent finishing in pick and roll, either. But the Wizards should at least be deeper off the bench with Green, who played well for the Cavs last season, and Rivers, who gives Washington legit guard depth along with Tomas Satoransky. 19. SACRAMENTO KINGS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: F Nemanja Bjelica (three years, $20.4 million); C Marvin Bagley III (No. 2 pick, 2018 Draft); G Yogi Ferrell (two years, $4.1 million); G Ben McLemore (acquired from Kings); F Deyonta Davis (acquired from Grizzlies) LOST: G Garrett Temple (traded to Grizzlies) RETAINED: G Iman Shumpert (picked up player option); C Kosta Koufos (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Harry Giles. The Kings traded for the one-and-done forward on Draft night 2017 and redshirted him, feeling he needed a year to fully recover from the multiple knee surgeries he’d undergone the last three years. Those surgeries stopped his top-five Draft potential in its tracks, before and after a year at Duke. But Giles is back on the floor, having flashed his skills during NBA Summer League, as Sacramento gushed about his progress. If the 20-year-old is ready to roll come October, he could be an enormous boost. He’ll have to at least become a contributor, lest folks remind the Kings they passed on the likes of Kyle Kuzma and O.G Anunoby to trade for his rights. THE SKINNY: Bagley III has superstar potential, and he better become one, or the Doncic Stans among the Kings’ fan base will have aneurysms. The Kings were all over everyone, seemingly, this summer, dropping sheets on Zach LaVine, almost doing the same with Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker, and going after unrestricted free agent Mario Hezonja. All well and good, and getting Bjelica out from under Philly and prying Ferrell from Dallas were decent late July pickups. But it will be Bagley III who’ll be under the microscope. His skill sets are prodigious and he’s been working out feverishly all summer. And he wants to make a mark in restoring the Kings to where they were on the floor during the Webber Years. He worked out for them. He’s enthusiastic about them. That counts for something. 20. HOUSTON ROCKETS 2017-18 RECORD: 65-17; lost in Western Conference finals ADDED: G Michael Carter-Williams (one year, $1.5 million); G De'Anthony Melton (No. 46 pick, 2018 Draft); F Vincent Edwards (No. 52 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Trevor Ariza (signed with Suns); Luc Mbah a Moute (signed with LA Clippers); C Chinanu Onuaku (traded to Mavs) RETAINED: C Clint Capela (five years, $90 million); G/F Gerald Green (one year, $2.3 million); G Aaron Jackson (picked up team option); G Chris Paul (four years, $159 million) THE KEY MAN: Jason Biles, Joe Rogowski, Keith Jones and Javair Gillett -- the Rockets’ athletic trainers, sports performance and rehab staff. Their only mission next season, should they decide to accept it, is to get Paul through an 82-game regular season and a two-month playoff slog without breaking or pulling anything of importance that keeps him out of key games. Of course, should any of the staff be unsuccessful, the Morey will disavow any knowledge of their employment. Good luck, men. THE SKINNY: We have not yet included Carmelo Anthony, who will be signing in Houston any minute now. When he’s officially on the roster, he’ll certainly help, and we all saw that even Houston can go through extended scoring droughts in the playoffs. Having Anthony around should alleviate that. The Rockets may have had the best signing of the summer, keeping the 24-year-old Capela locked up long-term for $18 million per -- incredible value these days, given the way salaries are skyrocketing. But that was mitigated by the losses of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, who were crucial to the switching defense Houston employed and perfected by the playoffs, which threw sand in the gears of the Warriors’ impenetrable offense and would likely have propelled the Rockets to The Finals if Paul hadn’t gotten hurt in Game 5. Ennis and Carter-Williams will help some in that regard, but they don’t have the resume of Mbah a Moute and Ariza -- which means they sometimes won’t get the benefit of the doubt from refs that the old heads do. Houston’s still the clear number two to Golden State in the West, but the gap between the Rockets and the best of the rest has closed. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

Rodgers gets Packers up to speed in practice vs. new defense

By Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers' no-look touchdown pass is still the talk of Green Bay Packers training camp. The defense was called for offsides to give Rodgers a free play during a two-minute drill in practice Thursday. The play was going left. Rodgers was looking left. But he threw the ball to his right. Touchdown, Geronimo Allison. The play looks even better on film to coach Mike McCarthy. "I think you appreciate it more when you watch the video. I know I did, because he spoils you," McCarthy said Friday. "You don't have too many practices around here where he doesn't make that throw where you're just like, 'OK, file that onto the library. That's the way you want to teach it.'" Packers fans who dared to worry about Rodgers' seven interceptions during the first five days of camp can breathe easy. The two-time NFL MVP likes how the offense has worked in the first week. "Well, I'm working on things in training camp. I'm working on throws, whether it's looking or no-looking. Trying different plays that we we're working in," Rodgers said. A 7-9 finish last season ended a streak of eight straight playoff appearances for the Packers. The offense struggled while Rodgers was out with broken collarbone, and the defense had familiar problems against the pass. McCarthy overhauled the coaching staff after the season, which included bringing back Joe Philbin as offensive coordinator. Philbin was the coordinator when the Packers won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season. "We've done a medium overhaul of some offensive concepts, so working on some new stuff and trying to get on the same page with receivers," Rodgers added. An added wrinkle for Rodgers is the new looks in practice from coordinator Mike Pettine's defense. His units have finished in the top 10 in the league when he's been in charge. "Well, they're just so multiple. They have a lot of different pressures and types of pressures," Rodgers said. "They're giving you pressures where they can actually get home. We haven't had that issue in a while, where they scheme pressures to have a free guy on the play." It gives the linemen good practice for the regular season, too, since the NFC North-rival Minnesota Vikings are among teams that run pressures similar to what the Packers' defense is doing now. "So the protection elements for offense are really challenged by his defense, which is great for us," Rodgers said. Getting Bryan Bulaga back will help too. The veteran right tackle was activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list on Friday and returned to practice on a limited basis for the first time since tearing his right ACL in Week 9 last year. "I am very optimistic about Week 1, I really am," Bulaga said. "I still have some work to do to get to it but it's definitely looking better than it did, say, four months ago, even though I thought I'd still get to that point." His return would solidify a right side of the line that will already have a new starter at guard. Bulaga is a steady, reliable presence up front who has played in big spots with Rodgers. "He's a pro's pro. He knows how to play the game," Rodgers said. "Unfortunately, he's sustained a couple of tough injuries. But when he's out there, he's a rock." At its best, a starting five with Bulaga gives Rodgers just enough time to get out of trouble and outside the pocket, where the quarterback might be most dangerous. As he showed with his no-look TD throw to Allison. NOTES: WR Jake Kumerow, an undrafted free agent in his second year out of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, continues to impress with his hands and route-running ability. He could be a long shot to make the roster, especially after the Packers drafted three receivers this year. But the 6-foot-4 Kumerow has earned some reps with the first-string offense and caught Rodgers' attention. "So there's going to be some tough decisions when the cutdown happens," Rodgers said. "We drafted three guys, so. If you're playing today, you'd like him on the field.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 4th, 2018

First Diskubre batch completes PH heritage tour

  NEW YORK -- The first batch of Diskubre Tour delegates wrapped up its July 7 to 17 immersion trip in the Philippines covering Manila, Baguio, Sagada, Banaue, and Ifugao.   The Diskubre Tour was organized by the Philippine Consulate General in New York (PCGNY) in cooperation with the Philippine Department of Tourism New York (PDOTNY) to promote a deeper appreciation of the Filipino heritage to second-generation Filipino-Americans and put them in the forefront of the community by instilling a spirit of giving back to the Philippines and the FIlipinos. The travelers are expected to be champions of Philippine tourism in their own networks.   For the pilot ...Keep on reading: First Diskubre batch completes PH heritage tour.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJul 31st, 2018

‘Time to reset the thinking of Philippine military’

      Amid growing concerns over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it's a fine time for the top brass of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to go back to the drawing board and rethink their mindset in dealing with the country's security problems.   "It's about time to reset the thinking of the leadership in the military and look at the Navy and give it more importance," said Marites Vitug, author of Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case Against China.   The author said she was able to interview Navy officers and former Navy chiefs for her upcoming book, which details the developments that led to the lan...Keep on reading: ‘Time to reset the thinking of Philippine military’.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJul 13th, 2018

Young and united, England looks good as a title contender

By Graham Dunbar, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — A famous song lyric neatly describes the upbeat feeling around England's rejuvenated national soccer team. It's not "football's coming home." Instead, try the old punk rock line: "If the kids are united, they will never be defeated." The positive emotions of England's young players are evident toward coach Gareth Southgate despite the 2-1 loss to Croatia in extra time in the World Cup semifinals. "You've brought belief and the love of football back. Thank you boss from the whole nation," 20-year-old forward Marcus Rashford wrote on his Twitter account Thursday. You’ve brought belief and the love of football back. Thank you boss from the whole nation ❤️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/2meUAFlIN5 — Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) July 12, 2018 Over-achieving in a first major international test for Southgate and many of the squad has banished the anxiety that harmed too many England teams in recent years. Rashford, a sharp and fast second-half substitute in Moscow on Wednesday, is not even the youngest of Southgate's players in Russia. At 19, Trent Alexander-Arnold impressed in the Champions League final for Liverpool in May, and weeks later started his first World Cup game, against Belgium. "It has been an honor to be a part of this special team. We will be back stronger," Alexander-Arnold wrote on Twitter early Thursday. Absolutely devastated that our journey is over! We enjoyed every moment as a nation, I’d like to thank all the staff and fans for being behind us. It has been an honour to be a part of this special team. We will be back stronger 💔🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 pic.twitter.com/LErwj4QqZm — Trent Arnold (@trentaa98) July 11, 2018 Alexander-Arnold, a quick, right-sided defender, will need to force his way into the team past Kieran Trippier, perhaps the standout success of England's tournament. Trippier delivered world-class corners, crosses and free kicks, including the fifth-minute goal against Croatia that raised hope of a first World Cup final berth since 1966. The Tottenham player gave an emotional endorsement of Southgate, who seems likely to guide England's team to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. "It all comes from the manager, unbelievable manager for me personally, the way he handles the team," Trippier said at the Luzhniki Stadium. "He sets the tone, he brought this team together." A relatively late bloomer at 27, Trippier is a rare England player who will turn 30 before kickoff in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. The four attackers who started Wednesday, including 24-year-old captain Harry Kane, are between 22 and 25. The heart of the defense — John Stones, Harry Maguire, plus goalkeeper Jordan Pickford — are in the same age bracket. It's a talent pool setting up England as a serious title contender in the coming years. There is still room for envy if England can bear watching the World Cup final on Sunday. In the midfield duels, France fields the elegance and power of Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante against Croatia's precise pair of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. There isn't likely to be a Modric-type player in England's team ahead of the 2020 European Championship to help retain the ball, pace the play, and manage the toughest games. Those are the kinds of qualities England needed after halftime against Croatia. "If we're in the position again, we'll be better off because of the experience of what we've just had," said 28-year-old Jordan Henderson, who was Liverpool's captain in that Champions League final loss to Modric and Real Madrid. The incentives are huge. Euro 2020 is being hosted across 12 countries, but England could qualify and be placed in a group based at Wembley Stadium, travel for two knockout rounds, then come home for the semifinals and final at Wembley. "The aim if we're at the Euros in two years' time is to go again," said Kane, who should be Southgate's chosen captain for years to come. Before qualifying starts next March, England is in a fascinating group for the inaugural UEFA Nations League, which starts in September. Spain, under new coach Luis Enrique, visits Wembley on Sept. 8. England then travels to face Croatia on Oct. 12. The return games will be completed by November......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 13th, 2018

What does staying competitive mean?

When we did our market research several months back, we found that most business owners would cite staying competitive as one of their major problems. Staying competitive was up there with common business problems like financing and manpower. What does it mean though? When someone says they have a problem staying competitive, what does that [...] The post What does staying competitive mean? appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsJul 7th, 2018