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Durant s return looms large heading into potential clincher

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — Let us dismiss the tasty-yet-faulty comparison folks will try to make regarding Game 5 and Kevin Durant and the fate of the Warriors in these NBA Finals: In 1970, when Knicks center Willis Reed famously limped out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden for Game 7, he only hit two jumpers and was done, too gimpy to go any further. The Warriors, starved for points against a toothy Raptors defense, will require plenty more than that from Durant before he’s done. Back then, it was winner-take-all, New York vs. L.A. Durant and the Warriors are trailing 3-1 and face elimination at Scotiabank Arena. They’re staring down a far deeper and darker tunnel. This is the stark reality for a would-be savior and his recuperating calf and the desperate two-time defending champions. Durant was upgraded to questionable for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), which means it's likely he’ll at least be on the floor. Whether he stays long enough to break a sweat or plays well enough to make the Raptors perspire is the real issue. Perhaps never before has an injury to a superstar of this magnitude been this mysterious – and perhaps costly – in the history of The Finals. Remember, with Reed, the Knicks won at the end. Maybe there's more in common with Magic Johnson pulling a hamstring in 1989 during Game 1, but again, Magic was finished for the series, and so were the Lakers, swept by the Pistons. Durant is trying to return and in the process squelch the innuendo swirling about his recovery and also trigger a historic comeback. Can he pull this off after not playing since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), and practicing for the first time only Sunday? It was a practice, but only in the tamest sense. Durant joined his teammates and took part after the media was hustled off the court, leaving no outside witnesses or sneaky TMZ footage. The Warriors, this time of year, only conduct light drills. And it was over within an hour. To recap: Durant is supposed to step into an intense basketball game after missing a month, and battle a Toronto defense led by Kawhi Leonard, and thwart a championship bid by a team and city bracing for a maddening celebration around midnight, and … rescue the Warriors? OK, then. “I think it’s pretty easy to realize we obviously miss him out there and he’s propelled us to two championships in two years,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “So it would be pretty storybook if he could come back and help us do the same.” If it sounds like the Warriors are so stretched for answers and solutions that they’re banking on Durant being close to normal after a lengthy layoff, well … maybe they are. When you’re facing elimination, there’s really no other choice. And the Warriors haven’t been able to solve the Raptors without him. Yet Durant has set himself a high bar. Before his injury, which occurred in the conference semifinals against Houston, he was on another level, nearly galactic. He averaged 34 points, five rebounds and five assists in 11 games and was a finalist for everyone’s “best player in the playoffs" honors with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since then Leonard, the postseason leader in points, and rebounds, and minutes, has yanked that praise for himself. The Raptors, as a result, are heavy favorites to lift the trophy. Durant may not be 100 percent, leaving what he can possibly do an open question: Will he be more of a decoy than a legitimate offensive threat? And on defense, how can the Warriors cover for him, since the Raptors will surely try to exploit the situation by running Durant through screens? Without Durant, the scoring burden had to be carried by Thompson and Steph Curry, and while both have done fairly well, the Warriors have had little margin for error. Whenever Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala or DeMarcus Cousins failed to lend support for Thompson and Curry, the results have been disastrous for Golden State. Coach Steve Kerr feels Durant’s presence will be enough to cause a ripple effect that influences what both teams do when he’s on the floor. “The game plan changes if Kevin is out there, or if he’s not,” Kerr said. “So you adapt accordingly. It changes matchups, it changes rotations, all that stuff.” It’ll be a surprise if Durant’s return causes issues within the Warriors and the system that was tweaked in his absence. Although they’ve been without him for nine games, he did play three seasons with the club, so there shouldn’t be any adjustment problems. Quite the contrary, says Curry. “We’ll be able to adjust in transition pretty smoothly,” said Curry. “He’s been in plenty of Finals and has played well. No matter what the percentage he’s at, I’m sure he’ll be impactful and effective.” It’s always tricky to play doctor and determine how much time Durant should’ve missed, although that never deters anyone from doing so. Taking it a step further, while none of his teammates or coaches publicly questioned the depths of Durant’s injury, dealing with the daily dose of “is he or isn’t he?” became tiring to some. They all suspect that if Durant could’ve played, he would. What possible motive would encourage him to stay out longer than necessary? To show everyone how much the Warriors need him? That seems a stretch for someone who craves a championship. Possibly not his pending free agency either; if anything Durant would get bonus points for playing through pain and would have all summer to recover in the event of re-injuring the calf, which is not considered career-threatening. Injured players have no obligation to speak to the media, and Durant hasn’t, with his silence only feeding speculation. “I feel for Kevin,” Thompson said. “I know what type of competitor he is and we obviously miss him dearly. But whether it’s tomorrow or Game 6, we just have to do everything in our power to help him get back. He will be very welcome, I’ll say that much. Kevin’s (injury) is serious and I know how badly he wants to be out there. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve been around.” The stretchy shooting range, the high release of a shot that’s nearly impossible to block or discourage, the energy and determination and ability to make plays in tense moments, those are the elements Durant brings and the Warriors have missed in The Finals. They’ll take whatever he can give, whatever that might be.   “I would like to think he would make a difference,” Shaun Livingston said. “Again, it’s just any time a player of that caliber comes back or goes out of the lineup, it’s going to be felt certain ways. We’ll see what happens.” And if Durant is unable to play extended minutes or sputters around the floor, making mistakes and dogged by rust and fatigue and inefficiency? Then it’ll fall on his teammates, a group that couldn’t beat the Raptors in two games at Oracle Arena yet somehow must thrive in a Canadian madhouse that awaits Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “You’re going to see a resilient Warriors team,” Thompson said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall with this same group. Obviously, it’s a little more daunting being down 3-1 but usually when our backs are against the wall, we respond the best.” Question is, will Durant have their back? Or will he and that wall crumble under pressure from these hungry Raptors and the long odds? Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: lifestyleSource: abscbn abscbnJun 10th, 2019

The ten most intriguing NBA free agents for 2019

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2019

Even being injured, Durant leads free-agent pack

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — This was already going to be a summer filled with fireworks in the NBA. Nothing has changed. Kevin Durant’s Achilles injury, the severity of which isn’t yet confirmed, means he probably won’t be able to play much — if any — next season. But this is a testament to how much he overshadows much of the NBA landscape: Durant will still likely dictate how the free-agency dominoes fall this summer. Durant could exercise his $31.5 million player option and stay with the Warriors, and that’s likely going to be his worst-case financial scenario. He could opt out and sign a longer deal to stay in the Bay. Or he could opt out, sign elsewhere and start collecting massive checks from either the New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Clippers or someone else. Kyrie Irving’s decision could hinge on what Durant does. Kawhi Leonard’s decision could be affected by what Durant does. How the Knicks, Nets, Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks and all the other teams who have cap space will start spending their money on June 30 ... it all will be determined, at least on some level, by what Durant does. If he stays in Golden State, that’s more money for everyone else. If he hits the open market, it’ll be about what team wants to gamble. Here’s a tip to those teams that wanted Durant before he got hurt again in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. If the opportunity presents itself, sign him. Free agency usually isn’t about just one year. It’s about the long haul. Durant is only 30-years-old. He’s not a high-flyer who plays above the rim all the time. He’s not a plodding big man. He’s not someone with a lot of gray in the goatee. He’s a world-class scorer and jump-shooter in his prime. A year from now, if the recovery from the Achilles injury indeed takes that long, he’ll be far from over the hill. “This is a devastating injury for a basketball player, but Durant can return to be the same or very close,” Dr. David Chao, a longtime NFL team physician, practicing orthopedic surgeon and now a sports medical analyst with a large following wrote Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “This does not mark his downfall as an elite player.” In the short term, it just means Durant’s NBA Finals are over. Game 6 is Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), and the Warriors trail the Toronto Raptors 3-2 in the title series. In the long term, it might mean so much more — including the possibility that his time playing for Golden State is over. Achilles recoveries for basketball players have typically taken about a full year. Even if it turns out to be a partial tear, it’s still a tear. Some team was going to pay Durant a lot of money in 2019-20 and some team still will, probably without the immediate on-court services of perhaps the best player in the world in return. The first decision is the medical course of action. The financial course of action will be decided soon after. All will not be lost next season for the team that has Durant on its roster. That team will apply for, and get, a disabled player exception that will allow them to sign someone else for probably about $9 million and not have that count toward the team’s cap. That player won’t be of Durant’s caliber, because so few players are. But a year or so later, the team would have Durant. There’s risk with any signing. And signing any player that will command so much of a team’s salary cap while facing a grueling rehab would seem particularly risky. “He’s going to come back stronger though,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “That’s the kind of fighter he is.” The Nets swung a trade earlier this month to clear enough cap space for two max contracts this summer — and there’s no doubt that they would love Durant to take one of those spots, possibly alongside Irving. The Knicks have been mentioned as a hopeful in the Durant sweepstakes for months. The Clippers were expected to make a pitch for him as well. The Warriors surely want to keep him. The chatter about Durant’s injury indicates it’s all a mystery now, although it really shouldn’t be. Players have made comebacks off Achilles surgery, with relative levels of success. DeMarcus Cousins, Kobe Bryant, and Rudy Gay all came back; Cousins hasn’t regained past form yet. Dominique Wilkins had an Achilles tear happen to him at the peak of his career and he arguably was good as ever afterward. Elton Brand, now leading the Philadelphia 76ers’ front office, had it as a player and said he was never the same. Christian Laettner went from a star to a role player when his Achilles ripped. “I’ve been there,” 15-time golf major winner Tiger Woods said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at the U.S. Open. “I’ve had it to my own Achilles. I’ve had it to my own back. I know what it feels like. It’s an awful feeling. And no one can help you. That’s the hard part.” Woods fought his way back toward the top of his sport, and is the reigning Masters champion. Durant isn’t going to let an Achilles injury end his reign as one of the game’s best. Teams would be foolish to think otherwise. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 12th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 4 of the 2019 Finals

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2019

Raptors a win away from first-ever championship

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kawhi Leonard’s hot hand is sending the Raptors home to Toronto on the cusp of a startling upset for Canada. Leonard out-dueled the Splash Brothers for 36 points and 12 rebounds, and the Raptors moved within one victory of the franchise’s first championship by winning a second straight game on Golden State’s home floor, beating the Warriors 105-92 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) for a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Klay Thompson made a strong return after missing Game 3 with a strained left hamstring and scored 28 points with six three-pointers in what might have been the final game after 47 seasons at Oracle Arena before the team’s move to new Chase Center in San Francisco next season. Stephen Curry added 27 points but shot just 9-for-22 and 2-of-9 from three-point range on the heels of his postseason career-best 47-point outing in a 123-109 Game 3 defeat. Serge Ibaka scored 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench for the composed and confident Raptors, who for a second straight game found an answer to every Warriors threat at raucous Oracle — where home fans were stunned and silenced when the final buzzer sounded. A huge section of Toronto fans over, repeatedly singing “O Canada!” The two-time defending champions’ quest for a three-peat is suddenly in serious jeopardy. Toronto will take its first try at the title in Game 5 on Monday night (next Tuesday, PHL time) back at Scotiabank Arena. Golden State, still hopeful of injured star Kevin Durant’s return, must stave off elimination to guarantee one more game at Oracle. It would be next Thursday (next Friday, PHL time). Leonard’s 2017 postseason with San Antonio got cut short against the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals after he re-injured his troublesome left ankle when Zaza Pachulia’s foot slid under his. He’s picked up where he left off in that game. Leonard’s two jumpers in the final 42 seconds of the third put the Raptors up 79-64 heading into the final 12 minutes. Fred VanVleet then dealt another dagger on the first possession of the fourth with a 30-footer. A bloodied VanVleet then went to the locker room with 9:35 left after being hit in the face by Shaun Livingston’s left elbow when the Warriors guard went up for a shot and VanVleet was just behind him. Replays showed a tooth in the middle of the key even after play resumed. These poised Raptors kept level heads again after falling behind by 11 points in the first half. Pascal Siakam scored 19 for Toronto. Two days earlier, Kyle Lowry was praised for staying calm when shoved on the sideline by Warriors minority owner Mark Stevens, who received a one-year ban by the team and NBA along with a $500,000 fine for the incident. Now, the Raptors as first-time finalists and in their 24th year of existence can bring Canada its first NBA championship. Toronto outscored Golden State 37-21 in the decisive third, a complete reverse of the Warriors’ dominance after halftime with an 18-0 run in the Game 2 victory. Draymond Green delivered another impressive all-around performance with 10 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Warriors coach Steve Kerr challenged his team to do a better job defensively and Golden State did so early but couldn’t handle Toronto’s depth. Kevon Looney, a key backup big man, scored 10 points for the Warriors after it was initially believed he would be out the remainder of the series because of fractured cartilage near his right collarbone. He was hurt in the first half of Game 2. Looney drew huge applause as he checked into the game at the 6:45 mark of the first. Danny Green, who hit six three's in Game 3, began 0-for-6 with five missed three's before finally connecting from deep midway through the fourth. His 48th three-pointer in the finals tied him with Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher for seventh place on the NBA list. TIP-INS Raptors: Toronto overcame being outrebounded 29-18 in the first half and a 42-38 deficit overall. ... The Raptors were 10-of-32 from deep after making 17 three's in Game 3, but converted 23-of-24 free throws Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Warriors: The Warriors’ streak this year of 19 straight postseason games scoring 100 points ended. It was 25 dating to last season’s run. ... Golden State fell to 4-2 this postseason in games following a loss. ... Livingston played in his 100th career playoff game with the Warriors, the fifth in team history to reach the mark. ... The Warriors held a closed pregame shootaround 2.5 hours before game time. ATTLES’ PRESENCE Hall of Famer Al Attles, the Warriors’ former general manager, coach and player, attended Game 4. It was the first game in approximately eight months for the 82-year-old Attles, who has had health issues. DURANT’S STATUS Durant missed his ninth straight game since the injury May 8 (May 9, PHL time) in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Rockets. Kerr is done providing every detail and step of Durant’s rehab progress. “We’re hoping he can play Game 5 or 6. And everything in between I’ve decided I’m not sharing because it’s just gone haywire,” Kerr said. “There’s so much going on, and so it doesn’t make sense to continue to talk about it. He’s either going to play or he’s not. So tonight he’s not playing.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 3 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 123-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the 2019 Finals Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at Oracle Arena: 1. What Stephen Curry learned … Curry was remarkable in Game 3, consciously seizing more of Golden State’s offensive burden to make up for Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s absences and turning that desperation into something historic. With 47 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, the Warriors point guard became only the ninth man to score at least 45 points in a Finals game. The lesson in that? Curry learned for a night what it has felt like for LeBron James on many such occasions. James put himself on that specific list a year ago when he logged 51 points, eight board and eight assists against Curry’s team in Game 1, same court. Like Curry, James’ team lost that night as well. Struggling mightily in something of a one-against-five predicament is the sort of things James has done often, while Curry never had faced it during Golden State’s five-year run to The Finals. They both -- James in the past and Curry on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) -- had legit NBA players around them. But the responsibility to put up points fell in both cases mostly on their shoulders. This was even a chance to revisit the 2015 Finals MVP selection, which attracted some attention on social media Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) over bogus speculation about the voting process. Andre Iguodala won the award that June, getting seven votes from the panel of media reps to James’ four. Curry got no votes. The point was, Curry had as a single game Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) what James had as an entire series in ’15. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, scoring 38.5 percent of Cleveland’s points (215-of-561) while assisting on 52.7 percent of his teammates’ baskets while he was on the court. Now Curry is the guy in position, if Golden State loses the series, to get a few MVP votes in a losing effort. By the way, Jerry West is the only player to win the Finals MVP trophy in a losing effort. And West is one of the nine to score 45 or more – he did it three times, but his Lakers teams went 1-2 in those games. (The others: Michael Jordan three times, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson once each. Their teams all won on their big scoring nights.) 2. Is the scoreboard broken? It’s tempting to say that the Warriors’ attack is in broken-record mode, except the resurgence of vinyl might not be sufficient yet to bring that phrase back into the mainstream. So we’ll go with a cultural reference that’s more classic than archaic. Think of The Beatles’ “Revolution 9,” but substitute “109… 109… 109…” Yeah, it’s been about as monotonous and unsatisfying for Golden State as it was on the White Album. At least Warriors coach Steve Kerr was somewhat bemused by his team’s scoreboard consistency. In each game of these Finals, Golden State has scored 109 points. “I just knew we were going to score 109 points because that’s all we’re going to do the rest of this series,” Kerr said. “So if we’re going to keep scoring 109, we got to keep them to 108.” The Warriors kept Toronto to 104 points in Game 2. Some of that was to their credit, some to the Raptors’ misfires and mid-game chill. The simplest stat? Toronto launched 38 three-pointers in both games. The night the Raptors made 11, they lost. When they made 17, they won. Getting Thompson back for Game 4 could make a big difference there. He is one of Golden State’s best defenders. For that matter, Durant’s length could assert itself as a defensive weapon, too, if he comes back later in the series. As for 109 being a winning points total, here is some background: taken in isolation, averaged over a full Finals, that would have been plenty to win 19 of the past 20 championships. The lone exception? In 2017, when Cleveland averaged 114.8 ppg yet lost because Golden State was putting up 121.6 nightly. In 2018, the Warriors averaged 116 points to the Cavaliers’ 101. The only other times a Finals team in the past 20 years averaged within five points of 109 were the Spurs in 2015 (105.6) and in 2007 (104.4) and the Lakers in 2002 (106.0) and 2000 (104.8). Obviously, a few of those were in the game’s relative “dark ages” for use of the 3-ball, but all four won championships. The Warriors are scoring enough points to win. 3. ‘Boogie’ fever has broken   DeMarcus Cousins called his decision to sign with Golden State for a cut-rate contract, while rehabbing from an Achilles injury, his “chess move.” He wound up joining the defending champions and favorite to three-peat, and got his game back in time to contribute. Cousins subsequently suffered a quadriceps injury but returned in time to participate in The Finals. Only thing is, he looked like he was back playing checkers in Game 3. The Warriors center stood out Sunday (Monday, PHL time), scoring 11 points with 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. But those numbers drooped to four points, three boards, three turnovers and 1-for-7 shooting in Game 3. Cousins went from plus-12 impact in Game 2 to minus-12 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The big man looked a step slow and appeared to be bothered by Toronto’s length, in the forms of Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. With little lift these days, he’s playing a little smaller than his 6'11", 270-pound specs. And given how long he was off and the mere eight minutes he got in Game 1, what Cousins did in Game 2 was starting to look more adrenaline-fueled than a reliable return to form. Since Curry handled just about everything else for Golden State in Game 3, he was asked afterward about Cousins’ “regression.” The point guard handled the awkward moment well -- being asked a critical question about a teammate might have tempted Curry to blow it off or lie. Instead, he talked of the Warriors’ shared responsibility on defense and noted a few calls offensively that didn't go Cousins' way. Then Curry added: “Like any great player, if you have a rough game, that resiliency to bounce back and the confidence to know that you can still go out there and impact the game, that’s something that he’ll bring, and we all will follow suit for sure.” 4. Danny Green’s big moment Understandably, when an All-Star and potential Kia MVP candidate gets traded, the deal becomes all about him. Next, folks focus on the key player or players swapped out and how the move might work for the other team. Only then do we play much attention to the guy or guys accompanying the All-Star to his new destination. That’s how it’s been for Danny Green for much of the 2018-19 season. Green and Kawhi Leonard were teammates in San Antonio for seven seasons. They went to two Finals together with the Spurs, winning rings in 2014. But when Leonard wanted out after an injured and rancorous 2017-18, the deal the Spurs put together with Toronto shipped out Danny Green, too. The reality of NBA trades is that salaries must match up, so teammates often become collateral damage to even up the dollar sufficiently to satisfy league rules. Sometimes, a teammate is thrown into a deal because he and the star are chums. A familiar face gives the featured guy some comfort -- or someone to carry his bags. But Green was a helpful playoff performer in his own right with the Spurs -- in his 12 Finals games before this year, he had made 52 percent of his three-pointers. And in 2013 he made 27 of them against the Miami Heat, a Finals record that was his for all of three years until Curry drained 32 in 2016. Green struggled with his shot in the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, going 4-for-23 on three-pointers. But his marksmanship early in Game 3 and against near the end of the third quarter propelled the Raptors’ victory. 5. Those rebounds are offensive   Toronto dominated on the offensive glass 15-6 in Game 2 and lost. Golden State dominated on the offensive glass 13-5 in Game 3 and lost. Typically, that’s a positive category for the team that wins it, something coaches hate when the other guys are reclaiming their own misses time and again. But lately, the demerits associated with offensive rebounds have loomed larger than the benefits. You grab a shot you or your teammate missed, that ought to be a good thing. But the Raptors in Game 2 (37.2 percent) and the Warriors in Game 3 (39.6 percent) were beset by inaccuracy, so there were more offensive rebounds to be had, period. The other down side of a generally positive stat is how you go about getting them. If you get overeager and the defense controls the errant shot, you might denude your transition defense. Both the Raptors and the Warriors in Games 2 and 3 respectively built considerable edges in second-chance points off their offensive rebound totals. Toronto had a 23-0 scoring advantage Sunday (Monday, PHL time), yet lost by five. Golden State held it 23-12 Wednesday, yet lost by 14. The losing team in both cases slightly won the battle of fast-break points, but offensive-rebounding strategy still forces a choice on teams. “We have a general kind of rule of thumb that once a shot goes up, we tell our guys to make a really quick, good decision,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before Game 3. “Either they're going hard to the offensive rebound or they're going hard to defense transition. … There's certain moments of the game – I mean, some of those late are almost scrambles, right, you're behind five and you're throwing it up there and everybody's trying to rebound, just to keep the game alive as well.” It’s a stat worth watching, even if it’s inversely related lately to the games’ outcomes. Sing it loud, sing it proud ???????? #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/8HfjoM9Cht — Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) June 6, 2019 Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 7th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 1 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 118-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of The Finals Thursday (Friday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena ... 1. So much for ‘glad to be here’ If we thought we had learned one thing about the Toronto Raptors when it comes to the NBA playoffs, it was this: They back their way into most series. Losing the opener was a tradition for this franchise -- they were 3-15 in Game 1s prior to Thursday (Friday, PHL time), dating back to their inaugural playoff run in 2000. Nothing shoves a team closer to elimination in a best-of-seven showdown than a lousy start. That’s why grabbing the opener against Golden State was so essential. Had the Raptors squandered their home-court advantage on the first night, we all would be assuming the worst for these Finals in competitive, stylistic and entertainment terms. Only by rocking the Warriors in Game 1 -- and most impressively, by refusing to cough up all of their 12-point lead in the second half -- could the Raptors generate legitimate excitement for Game 2 and beyond. Had we all been honest (and able to pull this off), we would have begun this series by spotting Toronto to a 1-0 lead -- just to handicap the defending champions and force them to show us something they haven’t in their four previous Finals trips. But such a move would have been demeaning, of course, to the Raptors. Instead, coach Nick Nurse and his affable newbies seized early control themselves. How Portland looked in the Western Conference finals, as if the Trail Blazers had maxed out and were just happy to still be involved? Toronto wanted none of that. It found a way to win when Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry were ordinary at best. And now we have a series worthy of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 2. Triple-doubles continue to decline in value It’s fun as a game progresses to track stats, whether it’s Pascal Siakam’s absurd 11 consecutive field goals or Stephen Curry’s refusal to miss a free throw. We’re always aware of the leading scorer and his growing point total, particularly as it passes the big round numbers (30, 40, 50…). But Draymond Green’s latest triple-double was a reminder that the bar has been set too low for that stat from its inception. Green finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, which makes it a minimalist’s triple-double at best and more of a statistical fluke than an achievement. Ten assists? That’s strong any night. Ten rebounds? Solid, and necessary if no one else on your roster is claiming more than six. Ten points, though? Come on now. Green had a Jason Kidd triple-double, which isn’t mean to disparage the Hall of Fame point guard but speaks to Kidd’s limitations as a scorer for most of his career. Heck, the Warriors’ versatile forward had six turnovers, inspiring the bad “quadruple-double watch” that Kidd sparked on occasion. What Green didn’t do was put the ball through the net effectively, shooting 2-for-9 overall and 0-for-2 on three-pointers. Yes, his value to Golden State usually doesn’t rise or fall on his scoring, but he could have been more helpful in that area Thursday. When Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double in 1961-62 (and cumulatively did it over his first six NBA seasons), he was scoring 30 points per game. When Russell Westbrook matched what had been a rare feat two years ago, he too was up above 30 points nightly. But Westbrook has done it the past two seasons as well, with his scoring average dipping below 23 this season. That would seem to be near the minimum -- say, 20 points -- to gush over a player’s triple-double on a given night. We get it, double figures means 10 or more. But 10 points is no big deal at all in the NBA, so it seems silly to celebrate it when it’s the free rider on the triple-double quirk. 3. Don’t double-dawg dare an NBA player Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted after Game 1 that, by mistake more than by design, his team didn’t defensively do its job well in the early minutes against center Marc Gasol. “Gasol we left a couple times early in the game and didn't rotate, we just gave him a couple of dare shots and he knocked them down,” Kerr said. Daring is not defending, and the Warriors would be well-advised not to do that again to a player as proud and as accomplished as Gasol. He’s struggled at times as a shooter in these playoffs, shooting 34 percent in the Eastern Conference finals while going 2-for-9 on three-pointers in Games 1 and 2 of that series (both losses). It was embarrassing at times to see the affable 7'1" Spaniard miss shots badly, whether he felt that way or not. But Gasol was 10-for-20 on three-pointers entering The Finals, all during the Raptors’ four consecutive victories to eliminate the Bucks. He went 2-for-4 in Game 1 of The Finals, scoring a playoff-high 20 points to help compensate for Leonard’s and Lowry’s muted firepower. Asked about it afterward, on taking such a “dare” personally, the big man shrugged. “If you're open, you got to shoot them. Dare, no dare,” he said. “And then we go from there. If they go in, great. If not you keep taking them with confidence.” That’s speaking truth to a dare. 4. The ratings for Game 1 will soar… … if they can somehow count the number of times the Warriors and the Raptors watch and re-watch the video tape. A big theme heading into this series was the relative lack of familiarity the teams had with each other. Now, that’s a common aspect of The Finals, pitting the champs of opposite conferences and all. But given Golden State’s knowledge of the Cleveland Cavaliers after four consecutive Finals, Toronto is a relative stranger. Beyond that, key players from both sides were absent in the two regular-season meetings. But now they have a whole 48 minutes to dissect, digest and learn from. For the Warriors, who spoke about it the most, they saw things they might not have expected and things they definitely did not like. Such as? Try Siakam’s attacks on the basket (in transition and otherwise), their own inability to be the team that pushes pace and Fred VanVleet as the game’s essential reserve (15 points on a night when his three-point shot was MIA). Green, in particular, sounded as if he was going to binge-watch Siakam’s romp and figure a way to thwart the unorthodox flip shots the forward from Cameroon deployed. “He's become ‘a guy,’” Green said phrasing that as a nod of respect. “He put a lot of work into get there and I respect that. But like I said, I got to take him out of the series and that's on me.” Toronto can make use of the video for as long as the Warriors roster stays the way it is, which means sans Kevin Durant. Which leads into … 5. Who's here (and who isn't)? (And no, we don’t mean LeBron James.) Durant’s continued absence with a calf injury since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals became an official problem in Game 1 of The Finals (the team’s first loss without him). Questions that had been bottled up for a couple weeks -- What did you miss most without Durant? How might he have changed your offense or defense? -- came spilling out from the large media crew that covers the NBA’s glamour team. Neither Kerr nor his players took the bait, which was smart. Not only would it look like excuse-making (considering how they hadn’t needed those before), it might have opened a crack of vulnerability into something wider and more troublesome. Durant is out for Game 2, but per a Yahoo Sports report is expected back at the series’ midway point (read: Game 3 or Game 4).  “KD's an all-time great player on both ends of the floor,” Curry said, “so I could sit here and talk for days about what he adds to our roster.  We obviously have proven that when he's out we can have guys step up, and that's going to be the case until he gets back.” Rushing him back would seem desperate, something the Warriors aren’t and shouldn’t be. Plus, it is early in a long series. And it really is irrelevant: NBA players and teams’ medical staffs don’t “rush back” anyone these days. Then again, once they’re ready to play -- as Golden State showed in using DeMarcus Cousins in Game 1 -- there’s no sense in letting talent help languish in street clothes. No time too, either. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 1st, 2019

Durant s status looms large as Warriors face Raptors

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Every so often the best team doesn’t win the NBA championship; sometimes it’s the healthiest. A few examples come to mind, such as the 1988-89 Lakers who lost Byron Scott to a hamstring injury caused by Pat Riley’s pre-Finals boot camp and then Magic Johnson similarly one game into the series with the Pistons, who swept. Then the 2015 Cavaliers, already without Kevin Love, saw Kyrie Irving lost with a fractured kneecap suffered in Game 1. Maybe those two teams would’ve won, maybe not. It’s one of those basketball mysteries that’ll go unsolved. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Well, what the Warriors are trying to do is become the best team to win in spite of their health, specifically with Kevin Durant, who’s expected to play against the Raptors although precisely when, and to what extent, and how effectively, all remain unclear right now. The Warriors romped quite impressively if not mildly surprisingly the last five full games without Durant in the final two rounds of the West playoffs, and while that bodes well for their confidence, at some point, conventional thinking says they will need Durant. Will he be around to bail them out when the ball doesn’t fall for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson? Should Durant be the Durant who sizzled in the first round and through much of round two, this series might be short on suspense. And if DeMarcus Cousins returns? Well. The Warriors for the first time in five years don’t have to go through LeBron James to win a title, and while Kawhi Leonard is a former Finals MVP and rolling for the Raptors right now, he (or most any other human) isn’t on the King’s post-season level. This has been a satisfying season for the Raptors’ franchise, which finally experienced a post-season breakthrough (thanks partly by LeBron’s defection). Yet: Kawhi would need to be a close imitation of LeBron to keep a national audience fixated and the Raptors close enough to prevent the Warriors from taking another summer champagne bath before summer officially begins. Three things to watch 1. Will Kawhi Leonard survive Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala? It’s one thing to see a solid defender in your path, as Kawhi did with Giannis Antetekounmpo. But what happens when the Warriors can throw Green and then Iguodala and perhaps Klay Thompson and maybe Kevin Durant, all of whom bring different looks? This could prove problematic for Toronto and frustrating for Kawhi, especially if Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and company don’t rise up. 2. Can Kyle Lowry keep up with Stephen Curry defensively? This will be quite the challenge for Lowry, to place handcuffs on a guard who averaged 35 points in five games (four vs. Blazers, one Rockets) without Kevin Durant and bring the same energy on the other end to ease the load from Kawhi Leonard. Lowry didn’t check a big-time scorer in any of the three rounds: DJ Augustin, JJ Redick, Eric Bledsoe. 3. Will any readjusting be necessary if and when Kevin Durant returns? This is one of the more confounding debates raging outside the Warriors’ organization. There shouldn’t be any discomfort with Durant back in the fold unless you weigh the last four weeks over the previous two seasons. Besides, he’s surrounded by the most unselfish teammates he’ll likely ever have, starting with Curry. The number to know 6.2 -- Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Warriors have outscored their opponents by 6.2 points per 100 possessions. That's their worst mark through the first three rounds over this stretch of five straight trips to The Finals. Over the previous four years, the Warriors lowest point differential through three rounds was plus-6.4 in 2016, the year they lost in The Finals. Time will tell if the lower point differential is an indication that the Warriors are beatable (again). What we do know now is that, statistically, they just haven't been as good as they were the last two years. All six of their conference semifinal games against the Houston Rockets were within five points in the last five minutes. And though they swept Portland in the conference finals, they trailed for 51 percent of the minutes in that series and by at least 17 points in each of the last three games. It's on defense where the Warriors haven't been as strong this year. In each of the previous four years, they allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than the postseason average through the first three rounds (5.3 fewer than the average in 2015, 1.6 fewer in '16, 8.7 fewer in '17, and 6.5 fewer in '18). In these playoffs, they've allowed 110.2 points per 100 possessions, a mark which ranks ninth among the 16 teams and is 1.8 points per 100 possessions more than the average (108.4). Of course, the Warriors' offense, despite the absence of Kevin Durant for the last five games, has never been better. Over 16 games, the Warriors have scored 116.4 points per 100 possessions, 8.0 more than the league average. And ridiculously efficient offense just might be enough for a third straight championship. -- John Schuhmann The pick The Raptors rolled the dice last summer to get Kawhi Leonard and even if they lose this series and he leaves through free agency, it was a gamble well worth taking if only because they’re in the NBA Finals. Canada will be forever grateful. Still, in spite of that, and also Kawhi’s sizzling playoff run, Toronto is at a disadvantage everywhere except fan support. A fully-loaded Warriors team wins easily. A team with Kevin Durant missing a pair of games wins a little less easily. Warriors in 5......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 27th, 2019

Durant s status looms large as Warriors face Raptors

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Every so often the best team doesn’t win the NBA championship; sometimes it’s the healthiest. A few examples come to mind, such as the 1988-89 Lakers who lost Byron Scott to a hamstring injury caused by Pat Riley’s pre-Finals boot camp and then Magic Johnson similarly one game into the series with the Pistons, who swept. Then the 2015 Cavaliers, already without Kevin Love, saw Kyrie Irving lost with a fractured kneecap suffered in Game 1. Maybe those two teams would’ve won, maybe not. It’s one of those basketball mysteries that’ll go unsolved. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Well, what the Warriors are trying to do is become the best team to win in spite of their health, specifically with Kevin Durant, who’s expected to play against the Raptors although precisely when, and to what extent, and how effectively, all remain unclear right now. The Warriors romped quite impressively if not mildly surprisingly the last five full games without Durant in the final two rounds of the West playoffs, and while that bodes well for their confidence, at some point, conventional thinking says they will need Durant. Will he be around to bail them out when the ball doesn’t fall for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson? Should Durant be the Durant who sizzled in the first round and through much of round two, this series might be short on suspense. And if DeMarcus Cousins returns? Well. The Warriors for the first time in five years don’t have to go through LeBron James to win a title, and while Kawhi Leonard is a former Finals MVP and rolling for the Raptors right now, he (or most any other human) isn’t on the King’s post-season level. This has been a satisfying season for the Raptors’ franchise, which finally experienced a post-season breakthrough (thanks partly by LeBron’s defection). Yet: Kawhi would need to be a close imitation of LeBron to keep a national audience fixated and the Raptors close enough to prevent the Warriors from taking another summer champagne bath before summer officially begins. Three things to watch 1. Will Kawhi Leonard survive Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala? It’s one thing to see a solid defender in your path, as Kawhi did with Giannis Antetekounmpo. But what happens when the Warriors can throw Green and then Iguodala and perhaps Klay Thompson and maybe Kevin Durant, all of whom bring different looks? This could prove problematic for Toronto and frustrating for Kawhi, especially if Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and company don’t rise up. 2. Can Kyle Lowry keep up with Stephen Curry defensively? This will be quite the challenge for Lowry, to place handcuffs on a guard who averaged 35 points in five games (four vs. Blazers, one Rockets) without Kevin Durant and bring the same energy on the other end to ease the load from Kawhi Leonard. Lowry didn’t check a big-time scorer in any of the three rounds: DJ Augustin, JJ Redick, Eric Bledsoe. 3. Will any readjusting be necessary if and when Kevin Durant returns? This is one of the more confounding debates raging outside the Warriors’ organization. There shouldn’t be any discomfort with Durant back in the fold unless you weigh the last four weeks over the previous two seasons. Besides, he’s surrounded by the most unselfish teammates he’ll likely ever have, starting with Curry. The pick The Raptors rolled the dice last summer to get Kawhi Leonard and even if they lose this series and he leaves through free agency, it was a gamble well worth taking if only because they’re in the NBA Finals. Canada will be forever grateful. Still, in spite of that, and also Kawhi’s sizzling playoff run, Toronto is at a disadvantage everywhere except fan support. A fully-loaded Warriors team wins easily. A team with Kevin Durant missing a pair of games wins a little less easily. Warriors in 5......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 26th, 2019

UP, UE share 2019 s king of recruiting crown

Who was our King of Recruiting in 2018? Find out here. --- Last season, the University of the Philippines, at long last, broke through in the UAAP. Behind the leadership of Paul Desiderio and key contributions from Season MVP Bright Akhuetie and Mythical selection Juan Gomez de Liano, the Fighting Maroons made their first Final Four since 1997 and first Finals in 32 years. Now, even without the iconic Desiderio, State U is nothing but confident it could build on its breakthrough. The reason? Well, because two of the brightest young stars in Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero are now orbiting Diliman. Paras has all the physical tools to take any league by storm and now in maroon and green, he is out to continue the legacy of his father Benjie who delivered the school’s first and only championship. Meanwhile, the Euro-stepping Rivero already knows a thing or two about taking the UAAP by storm, having been chosen for the Mythical Team when he was still playing for De La Salle University in 2017. Add big man J-Boy Gob, another transferee, to that and, indeed, UP is only equipped to keep contending. On the strength of the transfers of Paras and Rivero alone, the Fighting Maroons would have been worthy of the title of 2019 King of Recruiting. Right up there with them, though, in terms of getting a big boost in the offseason is University of the East. Absent from the Final Four in the last decade, the Red Warriors will be heading into the upcoming season with a fully stocked arsenal. Now up front for them – alongside stalwart Philip Manalang, of course – will be 6-foot-9 Senegalese Adama Diakhite, three-time champion and two-time MVP in the CESAFI Rey Suerte, and college-ready Harvey Pagsanjan, the no. 7 high school player in the 2019 NBTC 24. Diakhite is a hulking presence who will prove to be a tough matchup even for the likes of reigning MVP Akhuetie and last year’s Rookie of the year Ange Kouame. Suerte, a gifted scorer from anywhere on the court, fills right into the hole left behind by scoring dynamo Alvin Pasaol while Pagsanjan can continue making all the right plays he had been doing as the longtime beacon of hope for Hope Christian High School. Also flanking them are former Ateneo de Manila University forward John Apacible, defensive stopper Neil Tolentino, Filipino-Kiwi swingman Richie Rodger, and Filipino-Australian point guard Jasper Rentoy. And with that, UP and UE will have joint custody of the crown of the 2019 King of Recruiting. They dethrone National University which claimed the crown a year ago behind a big-time recruiting class that included Ildefonso brothers Dave and Shaun, John Lloyd Clemente, and John Galinato. Just like last year, there remains no doubt that the new Fighting Maroons and Red Warriors will make their respective sides forces to reckon with come UAAP 82. Still, several squads also made it a point to be better in the offseason. In fact, the graduating players in the 2019 NBTC 24 have been spread out among eight different teams. From the 2019 NBTC 24, the annual ranking of the best high school players in the country, 14 are moving on up to the Seniors. Adamson University is the biggest winner in terms of recruits from that ranking, with three of the top 15 players now in San Marcelino. Ninth-ranked Aaron Fermin is a double-double machine in the NCAA Jrs. and is nothing but determined to realize his potential as a two-way force under multi-titled mentor Franz Pumaren. In CESAFI standout Joshua Yerro and UAAP Jrs. Mythical selection Joem Sabandal, coach Franz also has young blood to bolster the backcourt that will no longer have Koko Pingoy. The Soaring Falcons also scored four other former Baby Falcons in big man Lorenz Capulong and wings Adam and Andrey Doria and AP Manlapaz. When it comes to reaping the rewards of its high school program, though, nobody could still touch Mapua University which again got two keep its Jrs. studs in Clint Escamis and Dan Arches, both of whom made it into the top two-thirds of the 2019 NBTC 24. Escamis and Arches are offensive guards who will give much-needed firepower to a promising core comprised of fellow Mapua HS products Warren Bonifacio, Eric Jabel, Noah Lugo, and Laurenz Victoria. Also, the Cardinals are the favorites to land NCAA 94 Jrs. Finals MVP Paolo Hernandez, another Red Robin. Also bagging two prized prospects from the 2019 NBTC 24 is La Salle which is now the place where the talented tandem of Joel Cagulangan and Joshua David get to work. Cagulangan has long been a star in the making and the NCAA 94 Jrs. MVP is, without question, Taft Avenue’s point guard of the future. The even better news is that he will still have wingman David, a tried and tested glue guy, to grow with. Also set to debut for the Green Archers are Filipino-Americans Jordan Bartlett, a speedster guard; Tyrus Hill, a high-flying forward; and Kurt Lojera, a big-bodied swingman. In all, there are six graduates from the top 10 of the 2019 NBTC 24. All of them would be on different teams in the Srs. Two players from 2019 NBTC 24 are yet to commit to any school, but there is no doubt that Red Robin Hernandez and Greenie Inand Fornilos will be able additions to any collegiate team. For the second straight year, Aldin Ayo will be adding a top three recruit out of high school as incoming sophomore CJ Cansino will now join forces with another triple-doubling talent in Mark Nonoy, a rookie who plays way beyond his years. But wait, there’s more as UST also welcomes with open arms its newest foreign student-athlete in Beninese Soulemane Chabi Yo whose speed and skill will make him a problem for the other foreign student-athletes more used to being powerhouses. Sprinkle in stretch four Sherwin Concepcion as well as versatile forwards Rhenz Abando and Brent Paraiso and there’s a reason why the Growling Tigers are now very much a darkhorse contender. L-Jay Gonzales and RJ Abarrientos remain FEU’s backcourt for tomorrow, but in the meantime, the former is poised for a breakout just as the latter is poised to wrap up his K-12 schooling. Yes, Abarrientos is not yet good to go come UAAP 82, but his steady hand is still the perfect pairing for the burst of energy that is Gonzales. Make no mistake, however, the Tamaraws have gotten help in the form of 6-foot-10 Cameroonian Patrick Tchuente as well as former Baby Tams Daniel Celzo and Jack Gloria. Letran is already the biggest it has ever been up front with NCAA 94 Rookie of the Year Larry Muyang alongside Jeo Ambohot, Christian Balagasay, and Christian Fajarito. Now, the Knights have also beefed up at the wings with Allen Mina and Mark Sangalang as well as former Red Warrior and Growling Tiger Jordan Sta. Ana. LPU will have to prove it could continue contending even without NCAA 93 MVP CJ Perez, but the good news is that now backtopping Marcelino twins Jaycee and Jayvee are former San Sebastian College-Recoletos key cogs Alvin Baetiong, Jayson David, and Renzo Navarro. That’s still a pretty solid lineup in our books. Just like last year, the now two-time UAAP champions are mostly intact, only losing team captain Anton Asistio as well as reserve guard Aaron Black. That doesn’t mean, however, that there are no new faces in Ateneo. Geo Chiu, Kai Sotto’s twin tower, decided to stay in Katipunan just as fellow ex-Blue Eaglets RV Berjay and Jason Credo are now seeing minutes in head coach Tab Baldwin’s rotation. And oh, there is a possibility that double-double machine Fornilos, who placed no. 13 in the 2019 NBTC 24, is bound to be a Blue Eaglet. Perps is nothing but determined to build on the triumphant return to the NCAA of head coach Frankie Lim and to do that, they will be leaning on former San Beda University pillar Ben Adamos as well as ex-Adamson HS workhorse Jefner Egan. Count out the Altas at your own risk. JRU is just on the first phase of a grand rebuild, but there is no doubt that things are looking up for Kalentong. In John Amores, they now have an end-to-end force who is all set to make an immediate impact as a rookie. These are the new names to watch for the teams: Baste CSB National U San Beda --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2019

Mavericks edge Bulls, win third straight

em>By Jay Cohen, Associated Press /em> CHICAGO (AP) -- Wesley Matthews made a go-ahead 3-pointer from the wing with 12 seconds left, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Chicago Bulls 99-98 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) for their first three-game winning streak of the season. Six players scored in double figures for the Mavericks, including all five starters. Harrison Barnes had 20 points, Seth Curry added 18 and Dirk Nowitzki finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Dallas trailed 98-96 after Jimmy Butler made a long jumper over Matthews with 23 seconds left, but Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle decided against a timeout and Deron Williams drove into the lane before kicking out to Matthews for the triple. Chicago had one last chance, but Dwyane Wade missed a potential game-winning jumper from the corner on his 35th birthday as time expired. Butler finished with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who had won two in a row. Robin Lopez scored 21, and Wade had 17 on 8-for-21 shooting. Wade's fadeaway jumper gave the Bulls a 94-90 lead with about 3.5 minutes left, but they were unable to close out Dallas. Chicago has dropped four in a row against the Mavericks, including a 107-82 loss in their first meeting of the season. Chicago played without forward Taj Gibson, sidelined by left ankle soreness. Paul Zipser, a second-round pick in last year's draft, started in Gibson's spot and finished with five points and three rebounds in his 13th game of the season. Gibson, averaging 12 points and 7.3 rebounds, could return Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at Atlanta. He had played in every game this season. Dallas put together a 15-4 run spanning halftime to open a 64-51 lead on Barnes' turnaround jumper with 8:38 left in the third. But Chicago kept chipping away at the deficit, and Lopez's three-point play off a pass from Butler trimmed the Mavericks' lead to 76-74 heading into the fourth. Williams had 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds for Dallas, and reserve J.J. Barea scored 12 points. Matthews went 3-for-5 from three-point range and finished with 11 points. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em>C Andrew Bogut missed his third straight game with a right hamstring strain. em> strong>Bulls: /strong> /em>Butler received his Olympic championship ring during a pregame ceremony. He helped the U.S. win gold in Rio de Janeiro last summer. F Doug McDermott, who scored a career-high 31 points in Chicago's 108-104 victory at Memphis on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time), finished with seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em>Visit Miami on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). The Mavericks have lost nine of their last 10 regular-season games against the Heat. em> strong>Bulls: /strong> /em>Visit Atlanta on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). The Bulls have dropped five in a row against the Hawks, including a 115-107 defeat at Atlanta on Nov. 9 (Nov. 10, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Player Movement: What teams have gained, lost this offseason

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com There's still a lot of work to be done before rosters are set for the 2019-20 season. Some teams (Charlotte, Utah) still have roster spots to fill. Other teams (Memphis, Washington) still have some roster trimming to do. There are about 25 two-way-contract slots that can be filled around the league. And it's certainly possible that players like Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala will be traded a second time before the end of the summer. But it's already been a season of change. At the start of training camp last September, 15 of the league's 30 teams rostered players who played at least 75 percent of the team's minutes in the previous season (2017-18). Right now -- midway through July -- only four teams are set to bring back players who played at least 75 percent of last season's minutes. Continuity Not every team has made big changes. The Denver Nuggets are set to return at least 12 of the 18 guys that played for them last season (the status of two-way, restricted free agent Brandon Goodwin is still in the air), along with Michael Porter Jr., who was with the team all season. The only players that have left the Nuggets -- Tyler Lydon, Trey Lyles and Isaiah Thomas -- played a total of eight minutes in the playoffs. Over the last three years, there has been a correlation between summer continuity and win increase the following season. But the correlation has been small. During that span, 33 teams have brought at least 75 percent of the previous season's minutes back, and only 15 of those 33 increased their win total. The highest individual return percentage of the stretch belonged to last season's Miami Heat, who brought back 97 percent of their minutes from 2017-18 ... and proceeded to win five fewer games. This summer, the two biggest winners in free agency -- the Brooklyn Nets and LA Clippers -- rank 24th and 26th, respectively, by this measure (as of Wednesday morning). And while the Nuggets have a young core that can improve on its second-place finish in the West, the Orlando Magic are bringing back an ensemble that won just 42 games in the Eastern Conference, and the San Antonio Spurs have an older group that was ousted by Denver in the first round, albeit in seven games. Gained and lost math Going forward, we'll be talking about totals gained or lost this summer. These were accumulated by non-rookies for any team last season. For example, in calculating the minutes that Indiana lost (and Milwaukee gained) with Wesley Matthews' departure, we're using all 2,091 minutes that Matthews played for Dallas and Indiana last season. That way, it's a more realistic measure of total production coming in and going out. In that regard, most teams have lost more '18-19 minutes than they've gained. In total, there are more than 230 players who were on rosters (with two-way contracts included) at the end of the season and are either on a new team (via free agency or trades) or remain unsigned. More than half of those players (about 120) have been replaced by other non-rookies. About 70 more have been replaced by rookies (including those on two-way contracts). As an example, here's the roster math for the Golden State Warriors: - LOST 11 non-rookies off their end-of-season roster - GAINED six non-rookies - ADDED three rookies - STILL HAVE one main roster spot and one two-way spot they can fill Minutes gained and lost The Warriors are one of 22 teams that have lost a group of players who played more minutes last season than the group of players that they've added. There are a few teams that have added a lot more '18-19 minutes to their roster. That group is led by the New York Knicks, who have added almost 12,000 '18-19 minutes while seeing almost 9,000 minutes exit. The Knicks have lost four guys - Mario Hezonja, DeAndre Jordan, Emmanuel Mudiay and Noah Vonleh - who played at least 1,000 minutes. They added seven, and all seven started at least 28 games last season. Of course, how many of those seven are difference makers is up for debate, as is the idea of whether the Knicks should have used at least some of their cap space to take on bad contracts -- often spiced up with future picks -- from other teams. The Nets lost as many players (6) who played at least 1,000 minutes last season as they gained. But they added four of the 31 2,000-minute players to have changed teams this summer, most notably in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Utah (3) is the only other team with more than two additions that played at least 2,000 minutes last season. The eight guys that Brooklyn brought in started a total of 363 games in '18-19, while the nine guys they lost started just 179. That's the biggest increase, with New York (+100) and Utah (+84) also seeing differentials of more than 82 games. The Sacramento Kings lost two guys that played at least 1,000 minutes last season, and one of those guys -- Alec Burks -- played only 127 minutes for the Kings. They added four 1,000-minute players, including two - Trevor Ariza and Cory Joseph -- that played more than 2,000 minutes last season. As noted above, the Nuggets lead the league in continuity, bringing back all 10 guys that played more than 1,120 minutes for them last season. But they've also added Jerami Grant, who played 2,612 minutes for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Though they've added more players (11, including four rookies) than they've lost (nine) and need to trim their roster between now and opening night, the Washington Wizards are set to see the biggest discrepancy in regard to '18-19 minutes. They've lost more than 11,000 (with Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Tomas Satoransky accounting for more than half of that total) and added less than 5,000. The group of players that the Wizards lost also started 208 more '18-19 games than the players added -- the biggest discrepancy in that regard. The Charlotte Hornets not only lost more than 1,000 '18-19 minutes in their Kemba Walker-Terry Rozier swap, they also lost three other guys - Jeremy Lamb, Shelvin Mack and Tony Parker - who played more than 1,000 minutes last season. There's a general consensus that the Indiana Pacers are in the "winners" category this summer, adding Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren. But they also lost five guys (four of their five playoff starters plus Cory Joseph) to have played at least 2,000 minutes last season. The only other teams who lost more than two 2,000-minute players were the the Clippers (3), Oklahoma City Thunder (3) and Wizards (3). Still available Most '18-19 minutes among still-available free agents... - Justin Holiday - 2,607 - Iman Shumpert - 1,481 - Wayne Selden - 1,439 - Jeremy Lin - 1,436 - Shaquille Harrison - 1,430 In regard to minutes played last season, the top 18 available free agents are all perimeter players (unless you want to count Jonas Jerebko as an interior guy). Among available non-perimeter players, Dante Cunningham (928), Cheick Diallo (896) and Zaza Pachulia (878) are the guys who played the most minutes last season. It's all about shooting Putting the ball in the basket is the most important thing in the NBA, and every team is always on the hunt for more shooting. But in regard to '18-19 3-pointers, half of the league (15 teams) has lost more than it's gained. There are a few teams to have seen big increases, however. The Knicks added Reggie Bullock (148-for-393, 37.7 percent), Marcus Morris (146-for-389, 37.5 percent) and Wayne Ellington (138-for-372, 37.1 percent), though creating open shots for those guys might be an issue. None of the six players that the Kings have lost made more than 61 3-pointers last season. Ariza (145) is the big gain in that regard, but they also added Dewayne Dedmon, a big man who shot 38 percent on 217 attempts from beyond the arc. On the other end of the spectrum, it's the Hornets that lost the most 3s, with Walker having ranked fifth in the league in total makes. The Atlanta Hawks ranked fourth in the percentage of their shots that were 3-pointers, but traded Taurean Prince (39 percent on 315 attempts), lost Dedmon, haven't re-signed Vince Carter (39 percent on 316 attempts) and swapped Kent Bazemore (32 percent; 300 attempts) for Evan Turner (21 percent; 52 attempts). The Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, haven't really replaced two of the four guys who made more than 100 threes for them last season. Still available Most '18-19 3-pointers among still-available free agents... - Justin Holiday - 162-for-465 (34.8 percent) - Kyle Korver - 138-for-348 (39.7 percent) - Vince Carter - 123-for-316 (38.9 percent) - Iman Shumpert - 95-for-273 (34.8 percent) - Lance Stephenson - 73-for-197 (37.1 percent) J.R. Smith, waived by the Cavs on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), made 143 threes (shooting 37.5 percent) in 2017-18, but played just 11 games last season. More notes - Eastern Conference - The Boston Celtics are one of three teams (Atlanta and Washington are the others) with a discrepancy of at least 300 between the steals + blocks registered by the non-rookies they've lost (503) and those registered by the non-rookies they've added (194). Swapping Al Horford (145 steals + blocks in 1,973 minutes) for Enes Kanter (58 in 1,639 minutes) obviously hurts. - The Chicago Bulls have seen the second biggest increase in 3-point percentage between the non-rookies they've added (36.9 percent) and the non-rookies they've lost (30.3 percent). Tomas Satoransky (39.5 percent on 162 attempts) was the big add in that regard. - The Cleveland Cavaliers are the only team that hasn't added a single player (via free agency or trade) that played last season, though they still have to add at least one player to their main roster. The only players they've added are the three guys they selected in the first round of the Draft and another rookie (Dean Wade) on a two-way contract. - The Detroit Pistons have had eight non-rookies leave (five have found new NBA teams, three haven't been re-signed) and have added only four. But the four they've added -- Tim Frazier, Markieff Morris, Derrick Rose and Tony Snell -- started the same number of games (60) and played just 11 more minutes in '18-19 as the eight that have left. They did add more scoring, with the four new guys having registered 436 more points than the eight guys on their way out. - As noted above, the Miami Heat led the league in continuity last summer, bringing back 97 percent of their minutes from '17-18. This year, with the retirement of Dwyane Wade and trades that sent Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside out, they're in the middle of the pack. In regard to out vs. in (Jimmy Butler and Meyers Leonard), they've lost total production, but have improved in regard to shooting and free throw rate. Only Denver, Brooklyn and Dallas have seen bigger increases in true shooting percentage from the non-rookies they've lost to the non-rookies they've added. - With the departure of Malcolm Brogdon, the Milwaukee Bucks lost some playmaking. Only the Magic (who didn't lose anybody from their playoff rotation) saw a bigger drop in in assist-turnover ratio from the non-rookies they lost (2.47) to the non-rookies they've gained (1.33). Tony Snell (traded to Detroit) had the fifth lowest turnover ratio (4.9 per 100 possessions) among 299 players that averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more last season. - The Orlando Magic rank second in continuity, one of two teams (Dallas is the other) with nobody on their end-of-season roster having signed with (or been traded to) another team. But they've added one rotation piece by signing Al-Farouq Aminu, who represents the biggest jump in '18-19 rebounds between the non-rookies a team has added (610) and those they've lost or remain unsigned (195). The Magic were already a good rebounding team, ranking 11th in total rebounding percentage and third in defensive rebounding percentage last season. - The Philadelphia 76ers have seen the biggest discrepancy in '18-19 games played between the players they've lost (478) and the players they've added (223), though most of those lost games came from guys who weren't in their playoff rotation. More notes - Western Conference - The Dallas Mavericks have seen the second-biggest jump in effective field goal percentage (lower than only that of Denver) between the players they added (54.4 percent) and the players they've lost (47.3 percent) this summer. Swapping Trey Burke (48.2 percent) for Seth Curry (57.7 percent) goes a long way in that regard. The Mavs are also one of two teams (Orlando is the other) with nobody on their end-of-season roster having signed with (or been traded to) another team. - It remains to be seen how well James Harden and Russell Westbrook fit together and how much the Westbrook-for-Chris Paul swap hurts the Houston Rockets' defense. But we can say for certain that the Rockets got better in the rebounding department. - After ranking 28th in rebounding percentage (and 29th in defensive rebounding percentage) last season, they swapped Paul (who grabbed 7.0 percent of available boards while he was on the floor) for Westbrook (14.1 percent - highest among guards) and also added Tyson Chandler, who had a higher rebounding percentage (15.4 percent) than Nene (10.5 percent). - Good news for the team that ranked 29th in 3-point percentage last season: The non-rookies the Los Angeles Lakers have lost attempted 75 more 3-pointers than those they've gained. But the non-rookies they've gained made 34 more 3s than those they've lost. Among players that attempted at least 200 3-pointers last season and changed teams this season, Danny Green (45.5 percent) ranked first in 3-point percentage, while Quinn Cook (40.5 percent) ranked seventh. - The Memphis Grizzlies had a pretty motley rotation after making multiple trades at the deadline in February. And now they've seen the biggest roster more than any other team this summer, with 11 non-rookies leaving and nine coming in. They currently have guys that played for the Hawks, Warriors, Wolves, Pelicans, Suns, Raptors, Jazz and Wizards last season. - The six non-rookies that the Minnesota Timberwolves have added -- Jordan Bell, Treveon Graham, Jake Layman, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh and Tyrone Wallance -- averaged just 6.3 points per game last season. That's the lowest mark for players added among the 29 teams that have added at least one non-rookie this summer. - In regard to vets, the New Orleans Pelicans have swapped interior players for perimeter players. The (five) non-rookies that they've added had 360 fewer '18-19 field goals, but 127 more 3-pointers than the (10) non-rookies that they've lost. Chicago is the other team with a loss in '18-19 field goals (-38) and a gain in '18-19 3-pointers (+47). - The Oklahoma City Thunder have seen the most '18-19 points walk out the door, with the six guys they've lost having scored 5,619 points last season. One thing they definitely gained in the Westbrook-Paul trade (if they keep Paul) was mid-range shooting. Paul has shot 48.9 percent from mid-range the last five seasons, the second best mark (behind only that of Kevin Durant) among 55 players with at least 1,000 mid-range attempts over that time. Westbrook (37.5 percent) ranks 52nd among the 55. - The 10 non-rookies that have left the Phoenix Suns (five that have found new NBA teams and five that haven't) racked up a cumulative plus-minus of minus-1,709 last season. None of the 10 had a positive plus-minus. The five non-rookies that they've added -- Aron Baynes, Jevon Carter, Frank Kaminsky, Ricky Rubio and Dario Saric -- had a cumulative plus-minus of plus-257. That's the league's biggest differential between players in vs. players out. - The Portland Trail Blazers improved their shooting by swapping Turner for Bazemore and Aminu (34.3 percent on 280 3-point attempts) for Anthony Tolliver (37.7 percent on 215), but are one of four teams - Brooklyn, Indiana and the Lakers are the others - that have lost six players who played at least 1,000 minutes in '18-19. They've added four. - As noted above, the San Antonio Spurs are near the top of the league in regard to continuity. But they've seen the biggest increase in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) between the non-rookies that they've gained (0.335) and the players they've lost (0.181). The pair of vets that they've added (having ranked 24th in free throw rate last season) includes DeMarre Carroll (0.421), who ranked eighth in free throw rate among non-bigs with at least 500 field goal attempts last season. - The Utah Jazz rank 13th in the percentage of '18-19 minutes they're set to bring back, but are one of five teams that have added at least 9,000 '18-19 minutes and lost at least 9,000 '18-19 minutes (when we include unsigned free agents). They parted ways with four of the eight guys that played at least 1,000 minutes for them last season, but all five of their additions - Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley Jr., Ed Davis, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay - played at least 1,400 minutes. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News19 hr. 46 min. ago

Summer League winds down, and now, maybe, some NBA rest

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press They'll hand out T-shirts to the Summer League winners following the championship game between Memphis and Minnesota in Las Vegas on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), and then things will finally slow down a bit in the NBA. Maybe. And probably not for long. It's been a hectic month since Toronto won the NBA championship and the so-called offseason commenced. Already this summer, 18 current and former All-Stars have changed franchises, and that number will rise to 19 if Vince Carter finds a new home for his final season. Recent NBA Finals MVPs Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala all were among those on the move. And another three past finals MVPs — Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker — all retired. So when next season begins, very little will look the same. "I think there's going to be a lot of parity," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "That's my gut." NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expected this summer to be loaded with player movement, and wasn't complaining about so many big names — Durant, Leonard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jimmy Butler and many more — needing to file change-of-address cards. "At the end of the day, it's positive for the league," Silver said. "I will say, though, I'm mindful of this notion of balance of power, and I think it applies in many different ways. An appropriate balance of power between the teams and the players ... at the end of the day, you want to make sure you have a league where every team is in a position to compete." There were some clear winners in free agency: Brooklyn (who got Durant and Irving), the Los Angeles Clippers (who got George and Leonard) and the Los Angeles Lakers (who got Davis) were among them. It could be argued that the Oklahoma City Thunder won as well — no, they won't be as good this season as they were this past season after trading George and Westbrook, but general manager Sam Presti has enough draft picks now to enjoy flexibility for years. The losers are clear as well: Toronto lost Leonard and Danny Green and Golden State lost Durant, so last season's finalists certainly aren't favorites to be this season's finalists. It's also easy to say that New York lost after coming up empty on the big-name free agents, but the Knicks got plenty of good players on deals that ensure the team will have money again next summer. A lookahead at what's coming, and some notes on what's gone down: SO NOW WHAT? Any NBA withdrawal will really only last about three weeks, until roughly three dozen players return to Las Vegas for USA Basketball's training camp leading up to the FIBA World Cup in China that starts on Aug. 31. San Antonio's Gregg Popovich is coaching the Americans, assisted by Golden State's Steve Kerr, Atlanta's Lloyd Pearce and Villanova's Jay Wright. Zion Williamson, knee permitting, may take part in camp as one of the young players brought in to help the more-established pros get ready. If Williamson impresses, he may get a shot at joining the varsity club. Also, this season's NBA schedule is likely to come around the second week of August, if recent years are any indicator. WHO'S LEFT? Plenty of free agents remain unsigned, and that'll still be the case even in September as training camps get ready to open. It's still hard to see the Thunder keeping Paul, acquired in the Westbrook trade to Houston, so expect at least one more blockbuster trade before too long. Or can a player who is owed $121 million over the next three seasons be bought out? Stay tuned. Carter wants to come back for a 22nd NBA season, which would be a league record. If he gets into a game after Jan. 1, he'll also become the first NBA player to appear in four different decades. Jamal Crawford remains out there as well, and contenders should be calling him. LOADED WEST Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn, Indiana and Miami all likely got better in the East. Milwaukee kept most of its team that won an NBA-best 60 games. The East will be good. The West might be bloody. The Clippers, the Lakers, Houston, Golden State, Denver, Utah, Portland and San Antonio could end up as the eight playoff teams in the Western Conference. It's plausible; they're probably the most realistic eight picks right now. But at least four of those teams — most of them with superstar duos that are all the rage now — won't be in the second round of next season's playoffs. LONGEVITY AWARD For now, Golden State's Stephen Curry is the longest-tenured player under contract to one team. He's entering his 11th season with the Warriors. With Nowitzki (21 seasons with Dallas) retired, Mike Conley (12 seasons with Memphis) traded to Utah and Westbrook (11 seasons with Oklahoma City) traded to Houston, no current player has had a longer uninterrupted run with one team than Curry. But if Udonis Haslem re-signs with Miami, it'll be his 17th season with the Heat. THE NUMBERS Including the $196 million extension for Portland's Damian Lillard, a $170 million extension for Denver's Jamal Murray and another in-the-works $170 million extension for Philadelphia's Ben Simmons, NBA teams have committed to spend roughly $4 billion in new deals that were struck in the last three weeks alone. And that's with 100 more signings to come, at least. That $4 billion figure is twice what the total payroll was a decade ago for every team in the league, combined......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 15th, 2019

End of an era: Westbrook exits Oklahoma City

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com LAS VEGAS – Just when you thought it was safe to step out from under a doorway, another seismic tremble rumbled through the NBA Las Vegas Summer League Thursday evening (Friday, PHL time). Earthquake again? Nope, just more Thunder. Get your first look at the NBA’s top Rookies during NBA Summer League LIVE on NBA League Pass! Oklahoma City and general manager Sam Presti were back at it, this time reportedly sending former Kia MVP Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for guard Chris Paul, first-round draft picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025. Six days earlier, OKC had stunned the pro hoops world by trading All-Star wing Paul George to the LA Clippers, serving up the co-star that coveted free agent Kawhi Leonard wanted as a condition of signing with Staples Center’s other NBA team. That deal yielded for the Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, along with five first-round picks and swap rights on two more. The biggest difference in moving Westbrook was that this one was anticipated. George had gone to Presti quietly after conspiring with Leonard, requesting the trade in a way that enabled the OKC GM to work behind the scenes. Presti had leverage on the Clippers, since he in essence was delivering both two-way stars – George and Leonard, who otherwise might have re-signed with Toronto – simultaneously. The deal Thursday (Friday, PHL time) paired Presti with Rockets counterpart Daryl Morey. Given their trade-happy track records, it wasn’t surprising that, if an NBA fan listened closely, he or she might have heard the sound of gods bowling. George’s departure and OKC’s subsequent trade of forward Jerami Grant to Denver made it clear which direction the Thunder were heading. Getting ousted from the playoffs’ first round for three consecutive years made the team’s $146 million payroll (and the luxury taxes it triggered) untenable. “People [within the league] knew they were going to do something pretty profound,” one GM told NBA.com earlier this week. “What they got for George was more than a king’s ransom. And if they end up trading Russell for all the tea in China, it will be the same deal again, right?” There were other suitors, most notably Miami, fueling speculation that Presti might not be done. How about Chris Paul to the Heat for expiring contracts, a prospect or two and more draft assets? As it is, the Thunder already have lassoed or retained an outrageous 15 first-round picks over the next six years. That sets up Oklahoma City ridiculously well, on paper, for the medium- and long-term. Short-term? Meh. A crew of Paul (if he stays), Gallinari, Gilgeous-Alexander, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams and Terrance Ferguson seems undermanned in the wild, wild West. But Presti has amassed enough picks that Thunder fans won’t have to worry about their favorite team tanking -- they can just root against the Clippers, the Heat and the Rockets in hopes of desirable draft positions. Westbrook deserves credit for spending the first 11 years of his career in an unglamorous, small-revenue market (though $168 million in NBA earnings had something to do with it too). He had two MVPs (Kevin Durant and James Harden) and one MVP candidate (George last season) leave via trade or free agency before he did. Now he has a chance, re-teamed with Harden in Houston, to step into the void opened by Golden State’s anticipated decline in 2019-20 (Durant’s departure from the Bay has something to do with that). The Rockets and Morey have to be on the clock, their extended window as championship contenders not likely to stay propped open for long. Westbrook and Harden, a tandem of past MVPs, should have most of their statistical and usage itches scratched by now. Each badly needs a ring on his resume. Paul, meanwhile, might find himself hooking up with Jimmy Butler with the Heat, a pairing that makes more sense than Butler-Westbrook at least in terms of basketball compatibility. Presti’s performance over the past 10 days or so has been “breathtaking,” according to the rival GM. But with so many folks in and outside OKC so eager to spin the Thunder’s picks and prospects forward, a nagging question remains: What should we make of their past? In Presti’s 12 seasons, beginning with the franchise still in Seattle in 2007-08, his team has won 50 games or more six times (counting the 47-19 equivalent in lockout-shortened 2011-2012). Over the Thunder’s first 10 seasons in Oklahoma, only the San Antonio Spurs won more often. The Thunder have reached the postseason nine times, winning 14 series. They lost the Finals in five games to Miami in 2012, and got bounced three times from the conference finals, once from the West semifinals and four times from the first round. There were injuries and close calls, sure, but those are a part of it for everyone. Drafting, Presti strung together Durant (No. 2 overall in 2007), Westbrook (No. 4, ’08) and Harden (No. 3, '09). His record deeper into the first round has been predictably mixed: Reggie Jackson (No. 24, ’11) and Adams (No. 12, ’13) on one side of the ledger, fellows such as Perry Jones (No. 28, ’12), Mitch McGary (No. 21, ’14) and Cameron Payne (No. 14, ’15) on the other. The Thunder’s two most notable trades prior to this summer involved Harden going out and George coming in. When they sent out Harden -- the league’s reigning Kia Sixth Man of the Year award winner in 2012 -- it was an anticipatory financial move that for a time kept them out of luxury tax trouble ... as well as the Finals. When Presti traded for George in 2017, the players he gave up, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, had a better first season in Indiana than George in OKC. But as with Westbrook, Presti got George to sign a *cough* long-term extension, and the former Pacer finished third in MVP balloting this spring. So bottom line, which is it: Should the Thunder’s extended run as a contender in the West be applauded? Or should they be considered underachievers, considering the three MVPs they had – Durant in 2014, Westbrook in 2017 and Harden (with Houston) in 2018 – as well as George? OKC got a total of 25 seasons from those four players, 23 of them in tandem or as a trio. Only Durant as a rookie and Westbrook in 2016-17 worked as a solo act, star-wise. Those two plus George made a total of 17 All-Star appearances while playing for the Thunder, and in seven of the past nine seasons, OKC sent two to the February gala. That’s a lot of firepower for a fairly limited payoff (the lone Finals trip). So as excited as the Thunder and their fans might be for what’s headed their way, they’re right to feel melancholy over what’s done and now gone. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 12th, 2019

It s a new day in the NBA, and a welcomed change

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press LAS VEGAS (AP) — There is no favorite. This is what the NBA wanted. And needed. The biggest piece of valid criticism about the league in recent years has been its predictable. Golden State got to the last five NBA Finals. LeBron James had made it there eight years in a row, four with Miami and then four more with Cleveland. Brooklyn used to be the 'other' team in New York, and the Clippers used to be the 'other' team in Los Angeles. No more. Welcome to a new NBA. If you think the Clippers can win it all next season, or the Lakers, or Utah, or Philadelphia, or Milwaukee, or Houston, or Denver, or even Golden State and maybe a few others, you're right. Get your first look at the NBA’s top Rookies during NBA Summer League LIVE on NBA League Pass! Technically, there is a favorite: The sports books in Las Vegas, after hearing the news that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are heading to the Clippers, listed them as the best bet Saturday to win the 2020 NBA championship. Yes, the Clippers. A team that has won exactly four playoff series since moving to Los Angeles in 1984. A team that had 12 consecutive losing seasons a generation ago. There wasn't much NBA intrigue at this time last year. The Warriors were adding DeMarcus Cousins to a team that won the last two championships and were seemingly locks to win a third consecutive title. Everyone knows it didn't work out that way. Toronto took care of that. It was just more proof that what seems obvious at this time of year doesn't always come to fruition. This year, though, the newfound balance of power — dare we say "parity" — seems like a done deal. The East still has a 60-win team in Milwaukee returning the reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo and shooting guard Khris Middleton, so the Bucks may be the favorite right now on that side of the league. Philadelphia lost JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler, adding Josh Richardson and Al Horford to a team that looks be dominant defensively. No one will count out Boston, because of Brad Stevens and now Kemba Walker. Miami got better even after losing Dwyane Wade with the addition of Butler — and the Heat might throw their hat in the ring if Russell Westbrook is indeed available following the George trade to the Clippers. Brooklyn gets Kyrie Irving this season and now knows it'll be adding Kevin Durant next season, once he returns from his Achilles rehab. Atlanta's young core may be the most promising in the NBA. And let's not forget the East also has the reigning NBA champion Raptors, albeit without Leonard and Danny Green.) But the West ... wow. The Clippers kept Patrick Beverley, have an amazingly talented bench led by Lou Williams, a coach everybody wants to play for in Doc Rivers and now gets two of the very best players in the game with Leonard and George. The Lakers still have James, added Anthony Davis, kept JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo, signed DeMarcus Cousins and Green — and might be in the market for another shooter. Portland went to the West final last season and have an elite backcourt in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Utah had a brilliant summer, giving Donovan Mitchell more good players like Mike Conley to surround himself with. Houston still has James Harden and Chris Paul. Dallas figures to be better if Kristaps Porzingis is healthy to run alongside Luka Doncic. The Lakers are almost certainly coming for someone's playoff spot out West. Same goes for the Heat in the East. And before long, New Orleans with Zion Williamson and David Griffin at the controls, Atlanta with that core led by Trae Young and Kevin Huerter, potentially Memphis with the Ja Morant era set to begin, it'll be their turn at the playoff table. It's been a top-heavy league for a long time. Only five different franchises have represented the West in the NBA Finals over the last 20 years. In the East, it's five over the last 15 years. Right now, the odds-makers in Vegas are predicting next June it'll be Clippers vs. Bucks. A couple days ago the Lakers were the betting favorites. A new day is here in the NBA. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 7th, 2019

10 NCAA players to watch in Season 95

It’s important to note that half of the players who were picked in the first round of the 2018 PBA Draft were products of the country’s first collegiate sports league. CJay Perez and Robert Bolick have immediately become the cornerstones of Columbian Dyip and NorthPort Batang Pier, respectively. Javee Mocon, Jesper Ayaay, Michael Calisaan and JP Calvo have all received high praise from the coaches of their new teams. While last season’s heroes are now living their lifelong dreams in the PBA, new stars are looking to shine as NCAA Season 95 opens on July 7 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. James Kwekuteye (SBU)   If there is one player worthy enough to succeed Bolick as the King Lion of Mendiola, it’s the 6’3” Fil-Canadian shooting guard, James Kwekuteye. As a rookie, Kwekuteye came off the bench for majority of the season and had limited time to really put his talent on display. But, when he did start, particularly in San Beda’s second round game against LPU, Kwekuteye proved that he could be a major threat as he scored a career-high 18 points for the Red Lions, matching the scoring output of Bolick. In that game, Bolick motivated Kwekuteye by saying, “they can’t stop you.” James Kwekuteye introduces himself to Lyceum with 18 big points! #NCAASeason94 #GalingNCAA pic.twitter.com/OQS5eZBTJL — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) October 18, 2018 As the new starting shooting guard of Coach Boyet Fernandez, Kwekuteye led San Beda in scoring in the 2019 Fil-Oil Flying V Pre-season Cup averaging 14.1 points per game.    Evan Nelle (SBU)   Another talented player who didn’t see the floor much last year due to the loaded roster of guards on the San Beda lineup was former NCAA Jrs. Finals MVP Evan Nelle. Evan Nelle repays coach Boyet Fernandez' trust by drilling the early three! #NCAASeason94 #GalingNCAA pic.twitter.com/kpfdsnro2i — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) September 11, 2018 Nelle was the fourth string point guard behind Bolick, Jo Presbitero and Radge Tongco in Season 94. But, with the graduation of all three aforementioned players, the keys to the Red Lions’ offense has fallen straight into Nelle’s hands. While sharing the backcourt with Kwekuteye, Nelle led San Beda to the 2019 FilOil Championship and averaged a league-best 4.7 assists per contest.    Donald Tankoua (SBU)   Aside from capturing the title in the country’s most prestigious pre-season tournament, Kwekuteye and Nelle were also named to the Mythical Five along with their starting center, Donald Tankoua.  Donald Tankoua drops 23 points to help San Beda end the eliminations on a high note. #NCAASeason94 #GalingNCAA pic.twitter.com/EUFpXnAt8T — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) October 23, 2018 The 6’6” Cameroonian big man has always been one of the most consistent players, year in and year out in the NCAA and will continue to be as he plays out his final year of eligibility in Season 95. Because he’s a walking double-double, expect Tankoua to be the early favorite to win MVP.   Mike Harry Nzeusseu (LPU)   Now, if there is anybody who possesses the physical attributes and the numbers to challenge Tankoua’s MVP campaign, it’s LPU’s Mike Harry Nzeusseu. Mike Harry Nzeusseu gets NASTY ???? #NCAASeason94 #NCAAFinals pic.twitter.com/yEAr0ywBPd — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) November 12, 2018 Nzeusseu ended last season without confirming that he would return to play one more year with the Pirates but his participation in the Fil-Oil tournament tells us that he will be back to anchor the defense of Coach Topex Robinson. And without Perez, the 6’6” center from the Republic of Cameroon will also have to do major damage on the offensive end as well.  Jayson David (LPU)   Jayson David picks Robert Bolick's pocket for the transition finish! #NCAASeason93 #NCAAStrong pic.twitter.com/Inl17UZbKq — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) November 7, 2017 Back in Season 91, the NCAA added a Most Improved Player trophy to their list of awardees for every basketball tournament. Based on the pre-season, former San Sebastian guard Jayson David has emerged as the frontrunner for that award as he has assumed the starting spot of Perez with LPU. David is no “Baby Beast”, but it seems that Robinson trusts him enough to be a critical piece in the Pirates’ quest to capture that elusive NCAA championship. He averaged 7.3 PPG, 6 RPG and 2.1 APG in the Fil-Oil tourney.   Jeo Ambohot (CSJL)   Another player who seems to have earned the trust of his coach is Jeo Ambohot. Under Coach Jeff Napa, the ‘23 for 23’ Gilas World Cup pool member came off the bench and underachieved, only averaging 7.2 PPG and 7.2 RPG for the Knights in Season 94. Jeo Ambohot can hit this all game long! ???? #NCAASeason94 #GalingNCAA pic.twitter.com/5NCj7tV7Gt — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) October 9, 2018 However, under new Letran Head Coach Bonnie Tan, Ambohot was being utilized as the starting center with last year’s Rookie of the Year, Larry Muyang coming off the bench in their pre-season games. Nevertheless, a player like Ambohot should not be happy with his dismal outing last year and should come out stronger in Season 95.    Renato Ular (CSJL)   Here’s a guy you probably haven’t heard about before. His name is Renato Ular. Ring a bell? Probably not. The last time he saw action was during his rookie year in Season 92. Actually, he didn’t even do much back then. He only played in four games in did not score a single point in any of those games. After two years as a spectator, Ular has finally rejoined the Letran lineup and was their best player in the Fil-Oil tournament averaging 9.8 PPG and 8.1 RPG. The last left-handed legend from Letran was Rey Nambatac. This lefty’s got a long way to go to get on the Sting Rey’s level, but expect him to be one of the Knights' primary attackers this year.   RK Ilagan (SSC-R)   RK Ilagan was FEELING IT from downtown, dropping a new career-high 2??6?? PTS vs Mapua! #NCAASeason94 #GalingNCAA pic.twitter.com/SDIaVmtzCF — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) October 12, 2018 Speaking of attacking, one player who will be more relentless than he’s ever been this Season 95 is RK Ilagan. The pride of Barrio Fugoso, Tondo, Manila ranked seventh in scoring last year, averaging 15.2 PPG and was the Golden Stags’ leading scorer despite the presence of Calisaan. Coach Egay Macaraya loves a shooter and will continue to give the green light to Ilagan who made more triples (40) than any player in the NCAA in Season 94.    Kent Salado (AU)   Prior to injuring his right knee on October 10, 2017 in an 85-79 Arellano win over SSC-R in Season 93, Kent Salado was one of the most exciting players in the NCAA. The spitfire point guard from Cagayan de Oro was averaging 19.1 PPG (2nd behind Perez) and 5.0 APG (2nd behind Bolick) for the Chiefs, taking over the driver’s seat that Jiovani Jalalon occupied during their run to the Finals in Season 92. Lervin Flores with a nice block, Kent Salado with an even better finish! #NCAASeason93 #NCAAStrong pic.twitter.com/ohK28fFFhS — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) September 15, 2017 Now that he’s finally had surgery to repair what was eventually revealed to be a torn ACL, Salado is looking to excite fans anew especially since Arellano University will serve as the host of the NCAA for the first time in league history. Justin Gutang (CSB)   Recently, I asked former Arellano Head Coach Jerry Codi?era who he thought had the makings of a star in the NCAA now that the likes of Perez and Bolick are in the pros. The “Defense Minister” immediately mentioned one name: Justin Gutang. The 6’3” Fil-American forward from San Francisco, California had an impressive rookie season, averaging 13.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 4.3 APG for the Blazers and winning the Slam Dunk contest along the way. Although we haven’t heard much from Gutang in the off-season, the fact that a PBA Legend still has him on his radar means that the kid’s potential cannot be ignored. ?Editor's Note: The list is based on pre-season performances of teams. There are some NCAA teams who have not partcipated in pre-season tournaments nor released line-ups.  ?Catch NCAA Season 95 starting July 7, Sunday, 11:30 am LIVE on S+A, S+A HD, Liga, Liga HD, iWant and via livestream.    .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 27th, 2019

Eight-man CEU proud to have given their all against PBA D-League champ Ateneo

CEU's uprising against heavily favored Cignal-Ateneo was quelled, once and for all, in Game 4 of the 2019 PBA D-League Finals. There, the Scorpions got waylaid, 66-98. Still, the runners-up are nothing but proud of what they had done. "First of all, I would like to congratulate Ateneo. They were supposed taao win talaga and even at the start, they were the favored team," head coach Derrick Pumaren said. He then continued, "We've accomplished a big accomplishment. In spite of an 8-man lineup and 7-man rotation, we still made it here." Indeed, the fact that CEU, with eight players in the line-up and seven players in the regular rotation, even got to Game 4 was already a pleasant surprise. "We wanted to extend the series and keep giving a good fight, but the fatigue factor really got to us," the veteran coach said. He then continued, "I just tried to push them, but hanggang doon na lang e. Wala nang maibibigay." The Scorpions were down to half of their initial roster after they dismissed eight players due to alleged game-fixing at the end of the elimination round. Still, they marched forward to the playoffs where they downed higher-seeded Go for Gold-CSB and St. Clare-Virtual Reality before facing off with the Blue Eagles in the five-game Finals. And in the championship round, CEU pulled off the biggest upset of the season - stealing a 77-74 win from right under the nose of Cignal-Ateneo in Game 2. Just for that alone, Coach Derrick said they will return to Mendiola with their heads held high. As he put it, "I didn't want them to be complacent dahil nakapasok kami sa Finals, but I told them na in my book, you're already a champion because you’ve done something incredible. We have nothing to be ashamed of because we overachieved." He then continued, "Sa akin, champion na sila. I know Ateneo is a very good team, very well-coached, very well-disciplined. Take nothing away from them, pero we're CEU and we were able to steal a game." With that, the Scorpions will be heading into the next conference of the PBA D-League with their confidence as high as it has ever been. "We were able to steal a game from Ateneo and we can use that as a springboard for the next conference. Hopefully, we'll have enough time to fill (out the rest of the roster)," their mentor said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 27th, 2019

Underdogs have big day at African Cup

By Gerald Imray, Associated Press Underdogs had a big day at the African Cup of Nations in Egypt as Uganda won on its return to the tournament after 41 years and Madagascar held Guinea to a draw on its debut on Saturday. Burundi, another African Cup first-timer, pushed mighty Nigeria all the way. Uganda beat two-time champion Congo 2-0 in Cairo to start the second day of action. Both goals came through headers from set-pieces, with Patrick Kaddu scoring from a corner in the 14th minute and Emmanuel Okwi heading in a free kick early in the second half. That put Uganda top of Group A on goals scored ahead of Mohamed Salah and Egypt, who won the opening game against Zimbabwe on Friday. Uganda last played at the African Cup in the late 1970s. After winning on Saturday the players probably didn't mind that their long-awaited return came at a near empty Cairo International Stadium, an illustration of the African Cup's perennial problem with fan attendance when the home team isn't playing. In Alexandria, Nigeria needed Odion Ighalo's late winner four minutes after he came on as a substitute to deny Burundi on its debut. Ighalo pounced on his first chance. The forward slipped in behind the Burundi defense after a backheeled pass by Ola Aina and stroked a right foot shot across the goalkeeper and into the far corner. Three-time champion Nigeria deserved the win on the second half evidence, but not on the first 45 minutes. Then, Burundi was the more adventurous team on the biggest day in its soccer history. Cedric Amissi controlled a long pass superbly but had his shot blocked by Nigeria keeper Daniel Akpeyi. Akpeyi struggled to keep out a powerful long-range free kick by Gael Bigirimana and Frederic Nsabiyumva hit the crossbar with a header. Nigeria, one of the favorites for the title alongside Egypt and Senegal, ultimately prevailed over the tenacious newcomers after some second-half substitutions injected life into the team. "It was a very difficult game," Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel said. "It was tough. We knew that they are a tough team. They can run and run and run." Nigeria tops Group B ahead of Guinea, Madagascar and Burundi. Madagascar also made its African Cup debut straight after in a double-header at Alexandria Stadium on the Mediterranean coast. Sory Kaba gave Guinea the lead after running onto a long pass, pushing the ball past goalkeeper Melvin Adrien, and swerving past him to score in an empty net. Madagascar responded twice in six minutes in the second half. Anicet Andrianantenaina headed in unmarked from a corner. Guinea's defense stood waiting for the offside flag when Carolus Andriamahitsinoro scored from nothing for 2-1. Guinea won a penalty, converted by Francois Kamano, to get a draw. Midfielder Naby Keita came on in the second half to make his return from injury and couldn't connect with a cross in injury time that would have won it for Guinea. Guinea coach Paul Put said his team gave away two "stupid goals." "I hope it's a lesson for the players," he said. Nigeria clicked in the second half against Burundi after Ahmed Musa and later Oghalo came off the bench to lift a team that had struggled in the buildup with a number of players struck down with illness. Coach Gernot Rohr said "half the team" had a fever this week and couldn't train properly. Nigeria also said winger Samuel Kalu was recovering and had been released from the hospital after he collapsed at training on Friday with dehydration. This African Cup has been switched from its regular January-February slot to June and July so it doesn't clash with any European leagues. But that's landed it in the middle of Egypt's sweltering summer. Organizers warned teams that temperatures will rise to 34-38 degrees Celsius (93-100 F) and games will allow for two water breaks during play, in the 30th and 75th minutes......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 23rd, 2019

Kiefer Ravena tougher, wiser heading to basketball return

MANILA, Philippines – Kiefer Ravena said he has come out from his FIBA-imposed suspension a better person and athlete as he nears his basketball comeback.  Ravena, who has not played in the PBA and for Gilas Pilipinas since May 2018, will return to practice on Monday, June 24 – ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJun 22nd, 2019

A s pitcher Montas suspended 80 games for drug violation

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A season full of All-Star potential for Oakland Athletics pitcher Frankie Montas was drastically cut short Friday when Major League Baseball suspended him 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Montas pitched well Thursday night and is 9-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 15 starts, a big reason the A's are 40-36. The 26-year-old righty could return for the final week of the season. But the penalty makes him ineligible for the All-Star Game and postseason play this year, and he'll lose about half of his $560,000 salary. The commissioner's office said Montas tested positive for Ostarine, a PED. He is the sixth player suspended this year under the major league drug program. "While I never intended to take any prohibited substance, I unfortunately and unknowingly ingested a contaminated supplement that I had purchased over-the-counter at a nutrition store here in the United States," Montas said in a statement released by the players' union. Montas said he accepted "full responsibility" for the penalty. "I sincerely apologize to the A's organization, the fans, my teammates and my family for this mistake. My hope is to be able to return to the A's later this season and contribute as best I can," he said. Montas pitched eight innings of one-run ball Thursday night. He got a no-decision in a game Oakland won 5-4 over Tampa Bay. Montas allowed four hits, struck out nine and walked none. He struck out at least nine for the third straight start. In a statement, the A's said they will "welcome Frankie back after the discipline has been served." The A's recalled right-hander J.B. Wendelken from Triple-A Las Vegas. The 26-year-old was on Oakland's opening day roster and is 0-1 with a 5.57 ERA in 18 games during his first season in the majors......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 22nd, 2019

Zion Williamson brings rare potential to New Orleans

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Eventually, as with every NBA Draft, there will be a “re-draft” of the Class of 2019. That’s the irresistible exercise in hindsight from media outlets that rank a particular year’s prospects not on their projected value but on actual demonstrated value five, 10 or more seasons into their professional careers. Some players will rise. Others will fall. “Bust” and “sleeper” tags will be dispersed accordingly. This team or GM will be lauded for an especially savvy selection, that one will be razzed for the quality player or players on whom it whiffed. But the through line of the dreams-come-true event Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Barclays Center, the lone selection that will not or at least should not change, is Zion Williamson. Williamson is the sure thing, the “can’t miss,” consensus No. 1 pick bound for the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s a 6'7", 285-pound freshman from Duke whose comps aren’t merely established players currently in the NBA but some of the game’s legends. So think Blake Griffin, sure. But also think LeBron James. And Charles Barkley. And, for that matter, every other wide-body who’s ever played with muscles on muscles, above-the-rim explosiveness, balletic body control and an instantly recognizable game that’s as charismatic as it is freakish. Yeah, awfully small subset. “I’m looking forward to playing against everybody,” Williamson said soon after his selection. “I want to be the best. I feel I have to earn everybody’s respect.” It’s not just a matter of Williamson’s game tickling NBA fans’ fancy, either. He managed, in almost his first official pro moment, to capture a lot of their hearts too. No sooner had Williamson – the first No. 1 pick to be born in this millennium (July 6, 2000) – strode to the stage in his cream-white suit, tugged on a Pelicans draft cap and embraced NBA commissioner Adam Silver, he dropped his guard to let the world share his emotions in the moment. His status as college basketball’s best and his draft position had been established months ago. There was no new mystery as to when his name would be called by Silver at the podium. And yet, when the first ESPN microphone was poked in front of him, with his mother Sharonda Sampson at his side, the big guy lost it. He choked up and blinked back tears, not quite winning that battle. “My mom sacrificed a lot for me,” Williamson said. “I wouldn’t be here without my mom. She did everything for me. I just want to thank her.” Several interviews and maybe 20 minutes later, Williamson explained how the horribly kept secret of his No. 1 selection could trigger his response. “Because I love the game of basketball,” he said. “You can hear people say things like, ‘Oh, it was likely I was going to go No. 1.’ But I guess you don’t know until you actually go through it.” What mattered most to Williamson about his mother’s role in his life? “Tough love,” he said. “She was always be the first one to keep it real with me. … She put aside her dreams just so me and my brothers could have a chance at ours.” The love already heading Williamson’s way in New Orleans was less tough and more unconditional at this stage, for the teenager represents a re-birth for a Pelicans franchise rocked by the loss of All-Star forward Anthony Davis. Davis, coincidentally, was the No. 1 pick in 2012 and generally considered the top prospect to hit the Draft before Williamson. But after six-and-a-half seasons and only two trips to the playoffs, Davis asked in December to be traded, despite having more than two-plus seasons left on his contract. David Griffin, the Pelicans' new vice president of basketball operations, had hoped that Williamson’s arrival might convince Davis to stay. When that didn’t happen, Griffin swiftly shifted to Plan B, arranging to trade the discontented big man to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that won’t be official until July. Now New Orleans, which has won just two playoff series in its 17 seasons and failed to qualify 10 times, has a new cornerstone. Williamson figures to be under team control contractually for as long or longer than Davis stuck around, with teammates relocated from L.A. such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart to run with him and Pelicans holdovers. “What excites me the most is the fact that they’re young and they’re close to my age,” said Duke’s third No. 1 overall pick (Elton Brand in 1999, Kyrie Irving in 2011). “So they can help me a lot more, like how to deal with this transition. I think we can build something over there.” The essential block is Williamson, who swept college basketball’s major awards with a game that strains credulity. At 285 pounds, his listed weight is greater than almost every big man in the NBA, but he has quick-twitch speed and thrives in the open court. He can stare down into the rim before slamming home dunks with unnerving ferocity, and he is a deft and willing passer. Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 30 minutes for the Blue Devils, while making 68 percent of his shots. He and fellow Top 10 picks R.J. Barrett (New York, No. 3) and Cam Reddish (Atlanta, No. 10) helped Duke reach the Elite Eight, with Williamson earning ACC Tournament MVP along the way. He’s not a perfect player – his jump shot and range need work – but he already is working to complement his transition and low-post repertoire. Defensively, Williamson has the motor and mobility to switch assignments and quick hands to dislodge the ball without fouling. As a rebounder, his verticality is matched by, well, his horizontality in controlling the air space above and around him. “His size, his athleticism, his power is visible,” former St. John’s coach and Naismith Hall of Famer Chris Mullin said. “But to me his speed is really incredible from end to end. “I would morph Charles Barkley and Shawn Kemp and put them together [as a comparison]. When he gets to the NBA and he plays with that extra space they have in the wide key, he’s going to be a monster.” Williamson arrives with hype – no, make that expectations, because of all he’s shown already on courts around America – that rival what James shouldered when he arrived from high school in 2003. His plan for lugging that responsibility: “Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do it, because I feel people remember winners.” The selections immediately after Williamson were nearly as predictable, based on intelligence and mock drafts that solidified in the days before the Draft. Murry State guard Ja Morant was chosen by Memphis at No. 2, and Barrett’s ensuing selection by the Knicks delighted their always boisterous fans in the stands at Barclay. The order of the next four choices was jumbled from some predictions. Yet by the time the smoke cleared, sure enough, the seven players projected to come off the board soonest had slotted into the night’s top seven spots. That included Virginia forward De’andre Hunter to Atlanta at No. 4 (via the Lakers, in the aforementioned Davis trade that has yet to be completed), Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland to Cleveland at No. 5, Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver to Minnesota at No. 6 and North Carolina guard Coby White to Chicago at No. 7. Just because there wasn’t a lot of suspense at Barclays didn’t mean there was no intrigue. Much of that came from unusually heavy trade action – all technically unofficial – that had teams moving up, down and all around to snag picks, dump picks or clean up their salary-cap positions in anticipation of free agency that starts June 30. The timing of the Draft, relative to when the NBA’s new business year begins, had players donning caps of teams they’ll never play for, while speaking guardedly about those for whom they really were picked. A reported nine trades impacted draft decisions made in the first round alone. There even was a moment when Morant, in his post-Draft media session, gave a shout-out to veteran Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, whose spot he’ll presumably be taking once Conley’s trade to Utah officially goes through. But there’s no such uncertainty about Williamson, the through line of this year’s class, the true line in his heartfelt reactions Thursday (Friday, PHL time) and broad-shouldered hope of a Big Easy franchise in need. Williamson showed his grasp of the NBA’s and sports’ need for fresh icons, in effect accepting his status as a legend in waiting. “You know, times change,” he said. “That’s why there are so many debates about who people think the greatest players of all time are. If you were in the time of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, you’d probably say one of those two. If you were in the time of Jordan, you’d say Jordan. In our generation, a lot of them say LeBron. “So times changes and I think younger fans like younger players.” You don’t have to be young, though, to have your eye on Zion. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 21st, 2019