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Eight NBA Playoffs storylines to watch

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Suddenly, we’re not quite as certain that Warriors-Cavs, Part IV, Sure to be Way Better than “Jaws: The Revenge” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, is going to make air, are we? The 2018 playoffs are just about here, and Stephen Curry isn’t, and Kyrie Irving won’t be, and Joel Embiid might be, and Jimmy Butler will be -- if his team is, that is. And both conference champions from a year ago are equally unsettled going into the postseason, for different reasons. The Golden State Warriors are banged up, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are brand new. Golden State hasn’t looked like an offensive leviathan, while Cleveland has been one of the league’s worst defenses. And, most importantly, each has legit challengers this year in Houston and Toronto in its respective conferences -- deep, tough, elite defensively, hard to stop offensively, and tempered/hardened/driven by recent playoff failures. Which should make late May and early June even more compelling than normal. At the least, we’ll have the Warriors going for three rings in four years, and LeBron James going for an eighth straight Finals appearance -- each representing something special. The postseason, then, should provide some theatre that Meryl Streep will drop what she’s doing to watch. Among the biggest storylines: 1. The Hinkie Referendum, Passed The Philadelphia 76ers’ scintillating run to end the regular season sets up them for a glorious postseason run, that will finalize a season in which the decisions by former GM Sam Hinkie -- the successful ones, anyway -- are rightly celebrated. (The failures of Jahlil Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams to fire as stars after Hinkie took each high in the first round are not only not ignored by Hinkie’s biggest supporters, they are cited as proof that he had to do what he did for as long as he did, because you’re going to have some misses at the top of the Draft. God, I love Hinkie Stans.) It says here that a healthy Joel Embiid and an exponentially improving Ben Simmons are the one team that can give LeBron’s Cavs true night sweats in the Kyrie-less east playoffs. Embiid is a problem for any team, but especially for the defensively indifferent and ineffective Cavaliers, who have no one remotely capable of keeping “The Process” from running wild. Since New Year’s Day, only Curry (120.4), Chris Paul (116.1) and Jamal Murray (114.7) have better Offensive Ratings among point guards than Simmons’s 113.9, per NBA.com/Stats. Who, from among George Hill (6'3"), Jose Calderon (6'1"), Jordan Clarkson (6'5") and J.R. Smith (6'5") is Cavs coach Tyronn Lue going to put on the 6'10" Simmons? Yes, Lue could try James on Simmons, who is no threat to shoot from deep or run through a maze of pindowns. But that doesn’t make him any easier to slow down. No matter who Philly plays in the postseason, the Sixers are going to be a problem. 2. Indiana George and the Tempo of Doom It’s taken the Oklahoma City Thunder much longer than any of us thought, but OKC is a win from the postseason (even if the Thunder can’t beat the Heat in Miami tonight, the Cancun-bound Memphis Grizzlies will be in Oklahoma City Wednesday). And that’s when Paul George will determine whether his future is in the 405 or elsewhere. The Thunder’s up-and-down regular season doesn’t provide much clue to how far they could go in the playoffs, thought OKC looked formidable in ending the Rockets’ 20-game home win streak Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). It was a game that featured Russell Westbrook successfully taking on the challenge of defending James Harden down the stretch. When Oklahoma City plays with pace and gets up and down the floor, it can beat anyone. The Thunder will likely have to take down an elite unit like Houston at some point in the playoffs to convince George to stay. 3. A Series of Fortunate Events With Irving’s injury, the Washington Wizards’ failure to launch and other maladies to Eastern Conference contenders, the Cavaliers have an increasingly clear path back to The Finals. Doing this is best way to keep LeBron: The Sequel in town for an extended run, but the proof will be in the doing, of course. Cleveland will need Larry Nance, Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson to perform under playoff pressure, which Nance and Clarkson have never had to do and Hood did briefly in the 2017 playoffs with the Utah Jazz. 4. She packed my bags last night, pre-flight/Zero Hour, 9 a.m The Rockets have been the best team in the league most of this season -- an offensive and defensive juggernaut, the logical extension at both ends of the floor of the standards the Warriors set the last few seasons. James Harden will likely walk away with Kia MVP honors after the season and Chris Paul has been everything Houston hoped he’d be. But Houston must finish the deal with a championship to make its own mark. 5. Jurassic Park Everything is set up for Toronto, as well -- the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record and are tied with Houston for the best home record (34-7) in the league. They have home court until The Finals. Their two lynchpins, All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, are healthy. They’ve diversified their offense and learned to love the 3-pointer. They’re back to guarding at an elite level. The East is laid out open for a Toronto run to The Finals. There’s no excuse for the Raps not to. 6. ‘Brow’, Beating We don’t know for sure that the New Orleans Pelicans will make the playoffs. As of this writing, they haven’t clinched yet, although beating the Warriors in Oakland on Saturday went a long way toward their getting to the postseason. But assuming New Orleans is playing next weekend, its success in the playoffs can only help the franchise as it recovers from the recent death of former owner Tom Benson. “The Brow” (aka Anthony Davis) may have got us on April Fool’s Day, but the next couple of weeks will be dead serious. What if the Pelicans manage a first-round upset? Don’t say it’s not possible with the way Davis is playing. That would go an awful long way to quieting the “How the Boston Celtics Will Get Anthony Davis in 2020, Vol. MCMLXXXVII” hot takes. 7.  The Boston Medical Group The Celtics as imagined played exactly five minutes together this season. Everything that’s transpired since has been wrapped in gauze and sutured shut. Kyrie Irving’s latest knee procedure has everyone hopping off the Celtics’ postseason bandwagon -- a mistake, unless coach Brad Stevens pulls a hammy before Game 1 in the first round. Stevens has coached up whatever 12 guys are active pretty damn well since he’s come to the NBA, and he’ll still have a lot to work with in the playoffs: Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier (the Celtics hope they can get Marcus Smart back after the first round). The bigger issue, of course, is Irving’s health going forward -- and into next season, after which he can opt out of the last year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The current belief in Boston is that Irving’s knee -- the cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones -- is sound and that he’ll have no long-term issues with it. But Irving and the team thought taking out the tension wire that had helped heal his broken patella after his 2015 surgery would do the trick. It didn’t.   There should be no doubt Boston will be all in on Irving. But after missing these playoffs after going out in Game 1 of the Finals in ’15, Irving will again have to show he’s able to handle a season-long campaign and still be able to bring his best to the postseason. 8. Bah Gawd, That’s Kawhi Leonard’s Music! We have all worked on the assumption that Leonard isn’t going to play for the Spurs any more this season as he rehabs his quad injury, even though they’ve never quite actually said he’s out for the year -- and he, as per usual, has said next to nothing. The Spurs have ridden LaMarcus Aldridge’s All-NBA-level season to the cusp of the playoffs, but no one has much expectation they’ll be there very long if they make it without their former Finals MVP. “Do I have any expectation I’ll see Kawhi?,” Danny Green said a week ago, repeating my question to him. “As of right now, my mindset is no. I’m just going to forward without him … if he does come back, great. Our mindset is this is the group we have today, this is the group we’ll have tomorrow. If somebody does come and join, we’ll have them and it’ll be great. But right now we’re moving forward with the expectation that this is who we have.” But, it’s not like we haven’t seen guys come back suddenly for the playoffs after missing large chunks of a season. A fellow named Michael Jordan played just 18 regular season games in his second season with the Bulls in 1986, recovering from a foot injury and not returning to the lineup until mid-March. True, he did get 15 games under his belt before the playoffs. But that did not prepare anyone for his showing up in Boston Garden in Game 2 of the first round against the Celtics and dropping 63 on the home team. There are, to be sure, issues between Leonard and the Spurs, and maybe they’re insurmountable. But if, somehow, “The Klaw” wakes up one morning this month and says he’s good to go, and reports for duty … who doesn’t think San Antonio can’t start assimilating opponents into its collective just like old times? Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnApr 10th, 2018

SUPER 8: Inside the Asia League s grand basketball plans for the region

MACAU --- The Summer Super 8 is just the beginning. The Asia League may only have eight teams, including two Pinoy teams, in its tournaments now with the Super 8, but the FIBA-recognized offseason competition platform for club basketball is targeting bigger and better things. All for the continued development of basketball, particularly in this part of Asia. Matt Beyer, CEO of the Asia League, noticed a couple of years back that there's pretty much no international club-to-club basketball competitions in Asia so he made some things happen. While football has tournaments like the UEFA Champions League, basketball has no such thing. There's the FIBA Champions Cup, but that includes all of Asia. What the Asia League tries to focus on is the East Asia and Southeast Asian territory, where top teams from China, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines can go after each other in high-level tournaments. "I just think there's a huge lack in international club-to-club basketball competition in Asia," Beyer said. "And if you look at China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Chinese Taipei, if you add the population of these geographies, it's over 2 billion people. So there's a lot of fans but no high level club-to-club competition. That's the reason this was created," he added. For Beyer, Macau seems to be the perfect setting to stage such tournaments and for the Summer Super 8, he's looking at it as something that could become Asia's version of the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League. Asia League has eight teams competing for the Super 8 this year with two teams each from China, Korea, and the Philippines plus one each from Japan and Taipei. Next year, the Super 8 may no longer be as the plan is to have 16 teams see action. "What we're aiming for is to become the East Asian version of the Las Vegas summer league," Beyer said. "Our July events, we will expand the scale of the teams. The eight teams this year, I wanna have 16 next year and that means more PBA teams if that's logistically possible," he added. Speaking of the PBA, the Asia League is aggressive is trying to work with getting Filipino teams to its events. Why? Pinoy teams attract crowds and they generally perform well with these kind of tournaments. For the ongoing Super 8, both NLEX and Blackwater ended up with identical 2-1 records. The Road Warriors are in the semifinals and the Elite missed the playoffs by one basket and ended up with an inferior quotient. And despite group play being played on weekdays, a decent Filipino crowd have showed up to watch the action at the East Asian Games Dome. "We started the dialogue with the PBA and Commissioner Willie (Marcial)," Beyer said. "We're trying to coordinate being able to make things work with the schedule and have teams released for the tournaments or just fit into the windows where they're available. I think we can work it out long term and I think this is good for the PBA and to the teams to play against different types of teams for a technical perspective and it should help to get the news out about PBA teams in other markets," he added. Aside from the Super 8 this year, the Asia League also has the Terrific 12 coming up in September. More than the number of teams involved, that tournament should be fiercer with club teams being allowed to have imports. Beyer ideally wants to have the PBA participate in that as well but with the Governors' Cup ongoing at that time, it might be difficult at least for this year. Still, the Asia League wants Pinoy teams, but not just any Pinoy teams. That's why Alab Pilipinas has been in consideration to compete in September though it's yet to be seen if Jimmy Alapag's crew can join. Ultimately, Beyer's goal is to have the Asia League be a hub for teams across Asia to compete with one another in such a way that their own mother leagues aren't being disrupted. The Asia League wants its July event to be the premier offseason joust. "The ideal situation that I look at is the July event be the summer league and expand it to 32 teams in three years. And that becomes the premier offseason forum just like the Las Vegas summer league is in the West," Beyers said. "September, we can't expand it above 12, that might be a little too big but let's see how it goes. That's gonna be the biggest preseason party for teams. We're gonna have the best rosters, tons of media, and broadcast on over 30 platforms all over the world," he added. That seems grand enough for the Asia League but there's more. Soon enough, full integration is going to be Beyer's target. "What we want starting the 2019-2020 season is to have integration into the seasons. What I look at is a pilot project where we take teams that are on the region and put them into two small groups that play home and way through the season, maybe one game per month to start," Beyer said. "And then we do a Final Four event, probably here in Macau to start. And then maybe that Final Four event can be like Euroleague Final Four before it moves around the region at an annual basis. That would be what I like to see. That would require a deep partnership with FIBA and the associations like the PBA," he added. Ultimately, the Asia League would like to stay true its mission to raise the standard of basketball in the region through greater collaboration with different leagues. It helps that for the current Super 8, teams are in it to win it and are taking things seriously. There should be more to come. "This isn't a one off tournament. We want to have a series of events. FIBA's mandate is a little different than ours but I think the goal is the same, we want to develop basketball and make the level of competition better in the region," Beyers said.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 21st, 2018

NBA estimates 40,000 more travel miles in a top 16 playoffs format

FILE - In this May 11, 2014, file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, center, talks with Magic Johnson, right, as Kiki Vandeweghe looks on as they watch the Los Angeles Clippers play the Oklahoma.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsJul 5th, 2018

Coaching change to Frankie Lim is much welcome for Perpetual

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 4-14, ninth YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: AJ Coronel, Prince Eze WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Frankie Lim (coach), Kim Aurin, Edgar Charcos, Jielo Razon GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Nosa Omorogbe (coach), Gab Dagangon, GJ Ylagan, Keith Pido (injured – out for season) WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM PERPETUAL? One thing’s for sure, this Perpetual team is not Frankie Lim’s team – not yet at least. The four-time NCAA champion coach had only officially taken the reins earlier last January and would need at least a year to gather and grow the team he has in mind. “I spoke to the (school’s) chairman and sinabi ko sa kanya na there’s nothing much we can do right now. Maybe in 2019, 2020 then we can build up a better team.” – head coach Frankie Lim That doesn’t mean, however, that the Altas will be pushovers in the upcoming season. Instead, the exact opposite is true as with a stern mentor like Lim on the sidelines and with talented pieces such as Nigerian powerhouse Prince Eze and versatile wing AJ Coronel as well as solid transferees Kim Aurin and Edgar Charcos on the floor, the Las Pinas-based ballers still have what it takes to compete. And who knows, Lim may very well do what he does – turning foreign reinforcement Eze into an MVP frontrunner. After all, that’s exactly what he did with the likes of Sam Ekwe and Sudan Daniel. WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM PERPETUAL? With Lim at the helm, everybody should expect a more consistent and more focused Eze. Last year, the 6-foot-11 center was the frontrunner for MVP after the first round, but was unable to lift his team onto the playoffs and thus lost out on the MVP to LPU’s CJ Perez. “Ang alam ko dati, he only goes to practice when he wants to, but since I came in, he comes to practice every single day. He works hard and that’s why he has a good chance (at MVP).” – head coach Frankie Lim Scoring forward Aurin and steady point guard Charcos are also ready and raring to prove themselves in their second chances after stints in JRU and UE, respectively. “We have a good core. Competitive siya.” – head coach Frankie Lim Most of all, though, this will be the season for Lim to show the world that he has still got it, bringing another team to legitimate and consistent contention. WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR PERPETUAL? Perpetual has always known its identity – one built on stout defense and disciplined offense. Even with Lim in charge, that’s not changing. Meaning, the Altas we loved when the likes of Jong Balorio, Harold Arboleda, and Scottie Thompson were playing are still here. “I didn’t come here to lose. I want to win and that’s why we’re doing everything possible to make good things happen here.” – head coach Frankie Lim WHERE WOULD PERPETUAL BE AT THE END OF NCAA SEASON 94? Just like a season ago, Perpetual could very well be the league’s giant-killers as, if all is well, they could match up with the best of them. Matching up is a different matter from pulling it off, however, and the Altas aren’t there just yet. “Hindi ko masabi exactly kung hanggang saan (mararating namin), pero for sure, we will compete. ‘Di man kami mag-champion, we will compete. Makikita niyo na it is fun to watch Perpetual.” – head coach Frankie Lim WHEN IS PERPETUAL’S FIRST GAME IN NCAA SEASON 94? As if the season opener on July 7 at the MOA Arena needed even more color, Lim’s first game for Perpetual comes against the San Beda side he once led to four championships in five seasons. Yes, it’s the league’s traditional matchup between defending champions and season hosts – only now, with a lot more spice. As always, all of the #GalingNCAA will be on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 5th, 2018

Oh, how big have the Letran Knights become

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 10-10 overall, fifth, lost to San Sebastian in battle for fourth-seed YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Jeo Ambohot, Jerrick Balanza, JP Calvo, Bong Quinto WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: EJ Agbong, Bonbon Batiller, Christian Fajarito, Larry Muyang, Fran Yu GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Rey Nambatac WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM LETRAN? Even before CSB opened eyes and became the trendy pick as the darkhorse in the oncoming NCAA Season 94, Letran was the league’s most underrated team since last year. With strong showings in several preseason leagues this year ranging from championships and playoff appearances, though, the Knights have already proven themselves to be more than a darkhorse. “’Di na kami pwede biruin ng teams na makakalaban namin.” – head coach Jeff Napa Letran will bank on the same core that got it one win short of the playoffs a season ago – only now, that same core is better than ever. Bong Quinto is the prototype point forward for modern basketball, JP Calvo is as steady and as reliable as they come, Jerrick Balanza looks like he has matured, and Jeo Ambohot has gone from two-way force to, well, Gilas cadet. “Yung mga leaders namin, nandyan pa rin like si Jerrick, si Bong, si JP, at si Ambohot.” – head coach Jeff Napa Yes, Letran lifer Rey Nambatac is no longer here, but replacing him will be a couple of capable wings in former University of the East stud Bonbon Batiller and ex-Adamson High School and Chiang Kai Shek do-it-all player EJ Agbong. However, the biggest – and we mean that literally – change for the Knights is their big, big frontline now composed of Ambohot, Larry Muyang, Christian Fajarito, and Christian Balagasay. None of those big men are shorter than 6-foot-4 and with the four of them taking turns manning the post, Letran’s size problem is now a thing of the past. “Last year talaga, masyaong nag-rely ako sa veterans e. Ngayon, ‘di na kailangang ganun masyado kasi yung mga bago namin, nagko-compliment sa kanila.” – head coach Jeff Napa WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM LETRAN? We can no longer call Letran a darkhorse, but what we can do is call Quinto a darkhorse for MVP. Mark my words, the graduating forward will be right there alongside CJ Perez and Prince Eze in putting up numbers for his team. Aside from Quinto, we will see that the Knights are now truly Jeff Napa’s team – meaning a team built on interior dominance and physical defense. Napa built up a UAAP Juniors dynasty in Nazareth School of National University by discovering and then developing bigs such as Mark Dyke and Justine Baltazar. In Quinto, Ambohot, and the rest of that big, big Letran frontline, he has the materials to do that in the NCAA Seniors. WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR LETRAN? It wasn’t that too long ago when Letran made a magical run all the way to a championship. In fact, that was just in 2015. That magical run can happen again for Intramuros, but only this time, the Knights will not be using size as their advantage instead of speed. WHERE WOULD LETRAN BE AT THE END OF NCAA SEASON 94? Book a playoff return for Letran. Book it. There’s even a possibility that they can creep into the Finals – if somehow, some way, they figure out either San Beda or LPU. “Very confident ako ngayon kasi last year, kulang talaga kami sa tao. Ngayon, naging maganda na yung composition ng team. That’s why magiging maganda ang performance namin ngayong taon.” – head coach Jeff Napa What’s certain is that the Knights complete the three surefire contenders for NCAA Season 94. WHEN IS LETRAN’S FIRST GAME IN NCAA SEASON 94? Letran unleashes its big bad lineup to the rest of the NCAA on July 10 at the Filoil Flying V Centre. First up for them will be rebuilding Emilio Aguinaldo College. As always, all of the #GalingNCAA will be on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 1st, 2018

JRU’s coach Vergel admits: ‘Now, we’re rebuilding’

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 11-8 overall, third-seed after eliminations, lost in stepladder playoffs to San Sebastian YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: MJ Dela Virgen, Darius Estrella, Jed Mendoza WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Ry Dela Rosa, Andrei Dulalia, Agem Miranda GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Abdul Wahab Abdul Razak, Ervin Grospe, Gio Lasquety, Abdel Poutouochi, Teytey Teodoro WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM JRU? Truth be told, nobody knows anything at all about JRU. “Now, we’re rebuilding. Parang ang naiwan sa aking players, aapat lang from past season. I’m not expecting too much kasi bago nga yung team namin.” – head coach Vergel Meneses Longtime veterans Ervin Grospe and Gio Lasquety have graduated and NCAA 94 was supposed to be the Teytey Teodoro show. Only, Teodoro departed from Shaw Boulevard due to circumstances yet to be disclosed. Now, Jed Mendoza is the only known commodity for head coach Vergel Meneses and it’s high time for him to take the next step into becoming a go-to-guy. “Ang sabi ko sa kanya, let your teammates get involved. I’m not asking you to shoot every time or score 30 points. You need your teammates para ma-open yung floor for you.” – head coach Vergel Meneses But fear not, Heavy Bombers faithful, a ray hope may very well be found in Darius Estrella, a former NCAA Juniors MVP who was having flashes of brilliance before tearing his ACL a year ago. WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM JRU? Clearly, JRU’s one and only answer to this question is Mendoza who won the Most Improved Player last year and only looks to improve even more. Much also rests on the shoulders of Estrella who has no time to waste in getting back to his old self. Coach Vergel also has promising pieces coming in in the form of former University of the East do-it-all player Agem Miranda and double-double machine Andrei Dulalia as well as ex-San Beda HS’ solid contributor Ry Dela Rosa. For the first time in years, the Heavy Bombers won’t have a foreign student-athlete so expect the locals to go all-out and all-heart. “Ang sinasabi ko sa mga players ko, just keep working hard, just keep fighting. I’m not asking you for a win, na every game, kailangan tayong manalo. Ang hinahanap ko lang sa kanila at magtatrabaho sila every game.” – head coach Vergel Meneses WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR JRU? Coach Vergel Meneses is the longest-tenured head coach in the NCAA and he has made the Final Four in all but three of his eight years on the coaching chair. “We’ll be there every game, fighting. Yun lang ang masasabi ko. Sa nakikita ko, yung puso ng mga bata compared to last time, maganda.” – head coach Vergel Meneses If, somehow, some way, he gets the Heavy Bombers to the playoffs once more, could anybody even question his coaching credentials? WHERE WOULD JRU BE AT THE END OF NCAA SEASON 94? Unfortunately, as much as everybody loves them some Vergel Meneses, he and his boys would be watching the Final Four at home or at school. As always, JRU could pull off upsets, but those would be few and far between. WHEN IS JRU’S FIRST GAME IN NCAA SEASON 94? JRU’s first game in the season is a home game in their Shaw Boulevard campus. Visiting them there on July 12 will be Mapua. As always, all of the #GalingNCAA will be on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 30th, 2018

Nothing can stop Baste from charging back to contention

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 11-10 overall, fourth-seed after eliminations, lost in stepladder playoffs to San Beda YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Allyn Bulanadi, Michael Calisaan, RK Ilagan WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Alex Desoyo, Neil Villapando GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Alvin Baetiong, Ryan Costelo, Jayson David, Renzo Navarro WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM SAN SEBASTIAN? San Sebastian will look different in NCAA Season 94 with almost half of its roster set to make its debut in the Seniors. Out are Alvin Baetiong, Ryan Costelo, Jayson David, Alfren Gayosa, Jerwyn Guinto, Justin Mercado, and Renzo Navarro and in are former Baste High School standouts guard Alex Desoyo, forward Neil Villapando, and big man Jesse Sumoda. At the same time, the Golden Stags will look the same with Michael Calisaan, RK Ilagan, and Allyn Bulanadi still spearheading the charge. The only question is, will those three be enough to keep Baste in the top four of the standings – with the rest of their competition having stepped up. “Sa totoo lang, I just don’t focus sa tatlo. I want everybody to feel the pressure also, na i-accept nila yung challenge and motivation.” – head coach Egay Macaraya We got some sort of answer to that in the 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup where San Sebastian-backed Che’lu made it all the way to the Finals. Moreover, head coach Egay Macaraya, from CaféFrance to Centro Escolar University and from Baste to Che’lu, has proven that he gets the most out of his players. Now, it’s up to the former Staglets and their three-headed monster at the lead to prove that what happened in Recto was not a player exodus, but just new opportunities opening up for those who have stayed. “Number one is we accept it as a challenge. Hindi talaga magiging madali sa amin dahil masyadong maraming nawala, but the boys are motivated because of that.” – head coach Egay Macaraya WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM SAN SEBASTIAN? This is Michael Calisaan’s last go-round in the NCAA and, of course, he wants to go out with a bang. However, this year looks like will be the breakout season for Allyn Bulanadi, the fourth-year forward who emerged as a big-time scorer for San Sebastian in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup. In the end, more than the players, it would be fun to watch coach Egay work his “Macaraya magic” on a fresh batch of players. “Ang advantage namin right now is nakikita ko na yung rookies, they want to prove themselves. Nakikita ko rin na yung nangyari na nawala, everybody wants to take their place.” – head coach Egay Macaraya WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR SAN SEBASTIAN? San Sebastian has proven to be a tough out, whether or not it’s in contention, and even with almost half of its team brand new, that’s not changing. These Golden Stags do not have a star, but when all is clicking, the entire team could shine bright. WHERE WOULD SAN SEBASTIAN BE AT THE END OF NCAA SEASON 94? Despite the major upheaval in its roster, San Sebastian is a contender and the Golden Stags will be fighting for a place in the playoffs. They are not a shoo-in there, but one of the two spots – because San Beda and LPU are locks – is also theirs to lose. WHEN IS SAN SEBASTIAN’S FIRST GAME IN NCAA SEASON 94? San Sebastian battles emerging rival LPU on July 7 at the MOA Arena. You already know the story – Pirates mentor Topex Robinson is an alumnus and was a former head coach of the Golden Stags. As always, all of the #GalingNCAA will be on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 29th, 2018

Ayton arrives as symbol that Suns are on the rise

By Bob Baum, Associated Press PHOENIX (AP) — Since the heady days of Steve Nash came to an end, there have been few signs of joy from a dwindling fan base that watched the Phoenix Suns tumble to the bottom of the NBA standings and miss the playoffs for the eighth year in a row. Then came the announcement that Deandre Ayton would go to the Suns with the first overall pick. A huge cheer went up from the several thousand fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) for the draft party. General manager Ryan McDonough, owner Robert Sarver and coach Igor Kokoskov came out of their meeting room to watch and bask in that rare moment of sheer joy from the fans. “It was a pretty special moment for our franchise,” McDonough said. Not only that, but McDonough engineered a last-minute trade for swingman Mikal Bridges of Villanova, the 10th pick. It was a spendy move because Philadelphia demanded and got Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick. But the Suns are weary of stockpiling assets. It’s time to cash in, they figured, and did it with that trade. “We weighed the pros and cons of trading it heavily and carefully,” McDonough said. “We were only going to put it in play if we had a chance to get a special player and that’s how we feel about McKell.” All four of the Suns’ picks showed up on a crowded dais in Phoenix on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) — Ayton, Bridges, French point guard Elie Okobo (chosen 31st) and forward George King of Colorado (the 59th selection). The 7'1" Ayton towered over the others, in a white unbuttoned collared shirt and a sharp blue suit, but he looked and sounded a bit weary from the whirlwind of being the No. 1 draft pick. His only sleep lately, he said, was a couple of hours on the plane ride from New York on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “I’m just excited to finally get a jersey on and be able to play five-on-five again,” Ayton said. Ayton had been the frontrunner for the No. 1 pick ever since the draft lottery and any doubts were erased when he went through an individual workout with the Suns, the only team which he did so. McDonough said that Ayton’s workout “in and of itself was as impressive as I’ve ever seen in my 16 drafts in the NBA.” Ayton is seen as strictly a center, so how does he fit in the modern style of the NBA, when center plays is diminished and players are essentially interchangeable, is a question. Ayton replied that he’s no ordinary center. “I don’t like it when people think I’m just a guy down low,” he said. “They haven’t watched me shoot the basketball.” Ayton and Bridges say they got to know each other well at the college awards ceremony in Los Angeles but never figured they’d be on the same team. “It’s like I’ve known him my whole life,” Bridges said. Now comes the hard work, molding a team with Ayton, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson. A billboard of those three already has been erected downtown. The Suns, so bad for so long, seem on the brink of being relevant. “We’re very hungry,” Ayton said. “I think the great team chemistry and the work ethic that we have, especially us guys coming in, we’re going to bring it to the next level. We’ve got young lets. We can run all day. ... We can really start a winning legacy.” And Ayton is the reason for the sudden leap in optimism, even though he won’t turn 20 until next month. “I embrace it a lot,” he said of the expectations placed upon him. “Through my career I’ve always had that on my shoulder, the expectations. I represent a whole nation [Bahamas] I just do that the best that I can and just help this community start over and be the best player I can possibly be. I just want to be the best great player.” Kokoskov says Ayton possesses “a unique talent for the decades.” Ayton said he wants “to be the best person on and off the court.” Now the Suns move on to the next phase. Free agency starts July 1 (July 2, PHL time) and McDonough wants some veteran players to add to this very young core. He said the team should have $15 million to $20 million to spend. “We were aggressive last night with the picks and the trade up to get Mikal,” McDonough said. “We’re going to continue to be aggressive for the next couple of weeks in free agency. We’ve got some money to spend and we’re looking to spend it on the best players we can get.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 23rd, 2018

LeBron, back in Boston, for another Cavs farewell

By Jimmy Golen, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — LeBron James and the depleted Cleveland Cavaliers won’t get any sympathy from the Celtics when they return to Boston for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Already laboring to reach his eighth straight NBA Finals with a supporting crew made mostly of cast-offs and throw-ins, James lost the only other All-Star on the roster on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) when Kevin Love was declared out for the series finale with a concussion. Now, in what could be his final game in a Cleveland uniform — again — James will have to do it largely on his own. In Boston, where the Celtics are perfect so far this postseason. And in a series where the road team hasn’t really even come close. “There’s something different about LeBron, period,” Cleveland forward Larry Nance Jr. said after James scored 46 with 11 rebounds and nine assists on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) to send the series to a decisive seventh game. “I think [coach Tyronn Lue] said it best: ‘We’re going into a Game 7 with the baddest dude on the planet on our team.’ I like our chances.” James is having what could be the best postseason of his career, averaging 33.9 points and just under nine assists and rebounds, with seven 40-point games, two buzzer beaters, and a sweep of top-seeded Toronto. But he’s played in every game this season — Sunday (Monday, PHL time) will be his 100th — and it showed in the Game 5 loss to the Celtics. He admitted to fatigue afterward, and then played all but two minutes in Game 6 despite a sore knee from a collision with Nance. Still, the four-time MVP carried his team even after Love banged heads with Boston’s Jayson Tatum in the first half and left the game. “I can’t say enough good things about him,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Every time we watch. Every time you’re standing out there. Every time you watch him on film. Best player in the game.” James will probably have to do it again in Game 7 to reach the NBA Finals for the eighth straight year, something accomplished only by Bill Russell and some of his Celtics teammates in the 1960s. Lue said he wasn’t concerned about James’ leg. Or about the team’s history in the TD Garden, where the Cavaliers lost the first three games by an average of 17 points. “We throw it all out,” Lue said on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). “It’s one game left to go to the NBA Finals.” The Celtics have had their own injury problems, starting in the first quarter of the season opener — at Cleveland — when top free agent Gordon Hayward went out for the year with a broken leg. Five-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, acquired from the Cavaliers in an offseason roster overhaul, needed knee surgery and was lost in March. But they caught a break when Tatum was cleared to play on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Stevens said the team doctors checked on him “and he’s great.” “So nothing there as far as to be concerned about,” Stevens said. Well, there’s one thing to be concerned about. “We know LeBron is different than a lot of other guys, but we’ve got to get the job done,” Celtics guard Terry Rozier said. “That’s no excuse, so we’re looking forward to it.” For James, it’s an opportunity to extend the season for his hometown team and put off another summer of questions about his future. Eight years ago, he came to Boston for the conference semifinals and had a triple-double — 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists — but shot 8-for-21 with nine turnovers and the Celtics eliminated the Cavs from the playoffs. As he left the court, James stripped off his Cleveland jersey; then came “The Decision” and the move to Miami. James is again able to become a free agent this season, with the Lakers, 76ers and Rockets among the most-mentioned destinations. Having led Cleveland to the city’s first major sports title in half a century in 2016, there is less pulling at him to stay home this time. But another title would ease the pain even more. And with the injury bug hitting the Western Conference finalists — Chris Paul was the latest ruled out for a game — the East champion might not be as big an underdog as expected. James will be ready. “You’ve got to be poised. You’ve got to be able to handle a punch or two,” he said. “We know it’s challenging. They’re 10-0 on their home floor, and they’ve been very successful against us, obviously, at home. But if you love challenges, then this is a great opportunity.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 27th, 2018

Aging like fine wine, James shines when it matters most

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND – The first 57 seconds came near the end of the third quarter, LeBron James finally heading over to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench after logging 35 minutes – 35:03, as long as we’re counting – of intense, frantic, backs-against-the-wall elimination basketball against the Boston Celtics in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. James took his seat with the idea of resting as much as he could, as quickly as he could. That’s about all he gets this time of year, when subbing James out of the game too often is like the Cavaliers loosening their grip on a balloon they’re blowing up but have yet to tie off. If the air went out of Cleveland’s balloon at Quicken Loans Arena, it was going to be out for months. Heck, given James’ possible departure in free agency this summer, the air might have been gone for good. “Obviously [if] I get a minute, couple minutes here per quarter, would be great. But it's not what our team is built on right now,” James said after yet another remarkable performance to keep the Cavs’ postseason alive. With what was left of the third on the game clock and how it played out, followed by the break between quarters, the Cavaliers’ star got about five minutes in real time to catch his breath. Then promptly subbed back in for the fourth. “Our team is built on me being out on the floor to be able to make plays, not only for myself but make plays for others,” James said. “It's just the way we've been playing, and we've been succeeding with it. “I was able to play 46 minutes today. I got my couple minutes, I guess.” He got another 57 seconds to be exact. They were less hurried, less nervous and absolutely earned, coming as they did at the very end. When James exited for good, his work was done. The Cavs had pushed this home-dominant series to its max, with Game 7 at Boston’s TD Garden Sunday (Monday, PHL time). James’ stats line was one of those gaudy/ordinary types he has spoiled his team and NBA fans with for so many years: 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He also had three steals and one blocked shot, racing back in the third quarter to deny Boston’s greyhound guard Terry Rozier after finishing a Cavs fast break an instant before. James went down as if shot early in the fourth, his team up 89-82; teammate Larry Nance fell into the future Hall of Famer’s right leg. But after a few tentative, anxious moments both for him and the folks in the arena, James was back to moving, pivoting and launching as if nothing had happened. “I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg,” said James, who seems to go through more histrionics and drama than the average player when he gets clobbered, without enduring the same level of injury. “I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I've seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one's leg standing straight up.” Not long after that, though, James was draining two bak-breaking three-pointers on consecutive trips, burning young Celtics forward Jayson Tatum both times from deep on the left wing. The second sent Boston scurrying into a timeout with 1:40 to go, and had James going a little primal along that far sideline, pounding his chest and hollering out. “The love of the game causes reactions like that,” James said. “Understanding the situation and understanding the moment that you're in. It was just a feeling that you can't explain unless you've been a part of it.” James has been a part of it plenty. This was the 22nd elimination game of his career, his eighth since returning to Cleveland in 2014. He is 13-9 overall and 6-2 in this Cavs 2.0 version. His production in these win-or-go-home games is unsurpassed in NBA history. James is averaging 34.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists, performing best when it matters most. That wasn’t always the case – James had some rough-shooting, high-turnover nights in elimination games early in his career. More recently, though, he’s everything you want but cannot get in a mutual fund: His past performances definitely are a guarantee of future results. “I’ve watched him play a lot of really great games, but that one’s right up there towards the top,” said Kyle Korver, Cleveland’s 37-year-old sniper. “It’s just so much heart. He wanted this game so bad. “I think he just craves those moments. He loves those moments. When the game is on the line, when the season is on the line, he’s just been rising up, and that’s what the great players do.” Iconic players like James and, before him, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are the ones who block whole NBA generations from achieving their dreams, hoarding Finals appearances and championship rings for them and theirs only. Celtics Brad Stevens, young as he is, has had to gameplan against James’ greatness and ability to dominate three times in playoff series now. “Does that ever come into our minds? Yeah, every time we watch,” Stevens said. “Every time you're standing out there. Every time you watch him on film. Best player in the game. Special night tonight and special night in Game 4 [44 points]. I can't say enough good things about him.” At least one of James’ own teammates didn’t always feel that way. “I've been in the league for some years and ran across him on the other side and really hated his guts,” said George Hill, the former Indiana Pacers guard who never beat James in postseason basketball before joining him via trade in February. “But to have him on our side, it kind of lets me take a deep breath of fresh air. It's just something that you really can't explain what he's doing night in, night out.” The view from the Cavaliers’ side isn’t just safer, it’s illuminating for George. “Yeah, I thought the best was when he always put us out,” the veteran said. “But to actually see it when he's on your team, I can't even put it into words. Sometimes I just think, ‘How did he make that shot?’ Or ‘How did he make that move?’ Or ‘When did he see that pass?’ Just making big plays and big shots. People always list him as not a shooter, but he's making big shots down the stretch. If it's three-pointers, layups, dunks, passes, he can do it all.” James wasn’t always so complete as a player. In some of his early forays into the playoffs, critics would pounce. Passing off a potential winning shot, for example, to less-decorated teammate Donyell Marshall. Getting ousted by a savvier, saltier Celtics crew in seven games in 2008 and in six two years later. A couple years after that, though, James would return the favor with his new crew in Miami. He dropped 45 points with 15 rebounds on Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the rest right on the hallowed parquet in Game 6, then backed it up with 31 in Game 7. Now he’s tormenting a whole new set of Celtics. “Like I said, I haven't always done it in my whole career, but I've never shied away from it,” James said. “That's either making a shot or making a play. I was taught the game the right way ever since I started playing.” So it’s talent to start, fundamentals ladled onto that and then time and experience to percolate, to ferment, to ripen James into what he is now: No one to be trifled with when there’s something to be won or to be staved off. Getting a little more introspective than usual, James talked about the maturation journey he has taken since arriving on the NBA scene still a teenager in 2003. “I've embraced a lot of situations as you grow up,” he said. “I mean, I love being a husband now. Did I embrace that at 18, 19? I don't think so. “As you get older, you just grow into more things. I didn't love wine until I was 30 years old, and now every other [social media] post is about wine, National Wine Day. So you learn and you grow and you know what's best for you as you get older. That's just all of us. I think that's what being a human being is. “At 18, I don't think I'm the same player that I am today at 33, and I shouldn't be. I'm just much more seasoned.” Fifteen seasons worth and counting, aging like all that wine. That’s the guy Boston will try to put out Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Arguably the GOAT, undeniably the BLOAT, as in Best LeBron of All Time.  Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 26th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: What s to blame for struggling Steph Curry?

NBA.com blogtable Are Stephen Curry’s shooting woes so far against the Houston Rockets just an anomaly, or a sign that something’s not right? * * * Steve Aschburner: I think Curry’s shooting woes are a sign that the Rockets know they’d better try to take away something from Golden State’s attack and Curry is the best available option. It’s not like Houston has anyone who can guard Kevin Durant, so Curry – in size, in style, in significance – is a wise No. 2 target. Curry and Steve Kerr say the two-time MVP’s once-ailing knee no longer is an issue, so we’ll take them at their word and credit the Rockets’ defensive attention, while making him guard too. So I don’t consider it an anomaly – but I don’t consider it something that will be sustained for whatever’s left of this series, either. Shaun Powell: I'm going with anomaly because I just don't see any physical red flags (limp, wince, hands pulling on shorts, etc) that would lead us to believe that he's playing in pain. The guy is going to the rim rather strong. Maybe he's not fully 100 percent but who is this time of year? Understand that Curry's had some below-average performance in the playoffs before so this hiccup is probably along those lines. He'll likely recapture his three-point mojo at some point. And if he doesn't, well, Steve Kerr said the Warriors were good enough to win without Steph anyway. We'll keep Steve at his word. John Schuhmann: Nothing looks off when you watch all 13 of his 3-point attempts in this round, and he has looked good in getting to the basket when the Rockets have overplayed him on the perimeter. So "anomaly" seems like the more appropriate answer, but we can't really know because we're not in his body and have no idea how good his legs feel. Games 3 and 4 will offer more evidence either way. Sekou Smith: He's not shooting it on the galactic level he and his observers are used to. But in his defense, he's only had six games to regain his groove. It would be foolish to ignore that when considering his current shooting struggles. Steph's biggest problem right now is he's rusty. All of the time he missed after the All-Star break hasn't allowed him to sharpen his game into playoff form. He's off his mark because he has seen so little game action the past two months. The Houston Rockets know it and are doing their best to take advantage by putting Curry in compromising positions whenever they can. I don't like the idea of blaming his struggles on anything physical when he and coach Steve Kerr keep refuting those kinds of suggestions. In fact, I appreciate both of them for admitting that Curry is just struggling right now and must fight his way out of his funk......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2018

Harden, Rockets pass first postseason test

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON — If the long road to June basketball is to come to fruition for the best regular-season team in basketball, it had to start like this for the Houston Rockets. That first step, that first foray into the great postseason abyss, required this sort of confirmation from the No. 1 overall seed in the entire tournament, so to speak. There’s no room for Cinderellas around here, no slaying of Goliath, not on Clint Capela’s watch. Not with James Harden on the case when the Rockets needed it most, and especially at crunch time. And not with Chris Paul, chip planted firmly on his shoulder as always, eyeballing bigger and better things than being the best from late October to mid-April. So it won’t be easy. Nobody said it would be. And let’s be clear, the Minnesota Timberwolves are not a normal eight seed. Not really. A healthy Jimmy Butler and the infusion of veteran talent that helped end the second longest playoff drought in NBA history this season makes that big a difference. They certainly did Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) at Toyota Center, when the Rockets were forced to battle until the very end for a 104-101 win despite a 44-point masterpiece from Harden. But like everyone else who dealt with these juggernaut Rockets all season long, Harden and his crew proved to be too much with the game on the line. With Harden on the bench and the game tied at 85 with 6:49 to play, the script was already written. He came in for Paul with 6:07 to play and the Rockets up a point, and promptly scored on a driving layup. He stole the ball and then scored on a driving floater. After a Capela block, he scored on a driving layup. By the time he knocked down a three-pointer with 4:27 left, the Rockets’ lead was back up to eight points, 94-86, and it was clear that Harden was going to do whatever it took — scoring, playmaking and even defending — to keep Game 1 from going awry. It was vintage work from the maestro who has owned the floor most every night since the season opener, when Harden and the Rockets went into Oracle Arena as the reigning champion Golden State Warriors hung another banner and collected those diamond-laced title rings and walked off the floor winners. “Another day for James,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said after Harden finished one point shy of his playoff career-high. “He’s done it all year and he really stepped up. We were struggling to make shots, struggling to really have any kind of rhythm of play and James put us on his back and he’s been doing it for a while now.” D’Antoni will have to forgive the rest of us, including the frontrunner for the Kia MVP this season, for not digesting his theory about the playoffs being something other than a referendum on his team’s magical regular season. Harden operated like someone keenly aware of what was at stake with the Timberwolves, each and every one of them, trying in vain to slow him down. “Honestly, I just try to be aggressive and make the right play,” Harden said. “Things got slowed up a little bit, just try to be aggressive with my shot and fortunately it went in.” Jimmy Butler is an All-Star and one of the league’s best two-way players. Derrick Rose is a former Kia MVP himself, and still has enough juice left to make things difficult for someone when he locks in the way he did on this night. And neither one of them had any luck slowing Harden down during his second-half blitz. He scored 25 of his points in the final 18 minutes, making play after play when the Timberwolves appeared to be on the verge of potentially pulling off a shocker. “There were several plays in which I thought we defended well and he made shots,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “James is that type of player and we’ve seen it all year, [he’s] very difficult to guard. Basically, you have to guard him with your whole team. And it’s not just his scoring, but his playmaking and all the things that he does.” The Rockets won on a night when they shot a brutal 27 percent (10-for-37) from beyond the three-point line, where they’ve feasted on the opposition all season. They roasted the Timberwolves from distance during their regular season match ups to the tune of 43.4 percent and more than doubled them up in three-point makes during those games, but made just two more Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Harden was 7-for-12 from deep, a playoff career-high for makes, while the rest of the Rockets shot a combined 3-for-25. And he was draining his shots with hands in his face routinely. “He’s an MVP candidate and you know why,” said Timberwolves big man Taj Gibson. “Every time the game was ‘mono e mono’ and they were in a tight spot, he just took over the game. He made some tough shots, he played phenomenal tonight. We were trying to throw everything at him, he’s a talented player.” He’s clearly much more than that. “I mean yeah, he’s a hell of a player,” Butler said. “Everyone knows that. But you don’t just guard him with one guy. It’s everybody out there, everybody has to be in the correct position. Challenge shots; contest them at the rim, but more than anything, if there is a miss we’ve got to get the rebound and take off the other way. But we didn’t do any of that tonight, we’ve got to be better [in Game 2] on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time).” Thibodeau had to turn to his bench to stay in the game before halftime and they delivered, scoring 19 points and playing with an energy level that matched what the Rockets did regardless of who was on the floor. Rose (nine points), Jamal Crawford (seven) and Gorgui Dieng (three) did all that bench scoring, which was the only way to offset the furious 49 points Capela and Harden combined for before the break. Jeff Teague’s three fouls and Butler’s defensive task, trying to keep Harden under wraps, required so much of his attention that the scoring load had to be picked up by someone else. He went scoreless in the first quarter and just never seemed to get untracked early on, finishing with just 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting. It’s an issue the Timberwolves won’t be able to scheme their way out of in this series, not as long as Capela is the most energetic and effective young big man on either team. He outscored the All-Star Towns 20-3 before the break and out rebounded him 10-5, adding two blocks and a steal to drive home the point that he’s up for this challenge all series long. “Man, Clint was all over the place, both ends of the court offensively and defensively,” Paul said. “You see him defending KAT, who’s a tough cover in the post. You know I’m low, and I weak side and I’m watching him go up for the hook, and then I’m watching Clint block it, and then he’s running. he was unbelievable tonight and we’re going to need that all season.” Capela finished his night with 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks while Towns didn’t crack double digits in the scoring column (eight points on 3-for-9 shooting, 12 rebounds in a team-high 40 minutes of action). Chalk it up as a lesson learned for the playoff rookie. That must-win game the Timberwolves won at home over Denver Wednesday night had all the hype and intensity of a playoff game, only it wasn’t. Thibodeau credited the Rockets’ defense, the swarming and double-teaming of Towns, for slowing the big man down. “He has to be more active,” Thibodeau said, before praising the Rockets for perhaps their most underrated trait this season: The ability to lock down defensively. “They’re good, they’re very good. They’re tied together, they do a lot of switching and after the switch they read the ball extremely well. They react, they swarm, and so you have ti make good decisions, you have to make good plays. You have to have the ability to read and react.” Funny, that’s what the Rockets’ best player does perhaps as well as any other player in the league right now. Harden reads and reacts accordingly, always seemingly coming up with the right play at the right time. That’s how you know he’s in the moment right now, as are the rest of the Rockets. No matter how many times and how many different ways anyone tries to deflect attention from the obvious, they comprehend every bit of what lies ahead for a team riding into the postseason on the strength of a 65-win regular season that saw them run away from the competition. They wouldn’t have souls if they didn’t. They wouldn’t be human if they hadn’t already calculated the weight of the best regular season in franchise history times a wide-open postseason equaling something that’s never been done here, which says a lot for a franchise that has two Larry O’Brien trophies to show off. They know how important each and every step on this current journey is, starting with Sunday night’s very first choppy ones. Any suggestion to the contrary is, shall we say, a distant cousin of the truth. But we’ll play along for now, at the beginning. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 16th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: Playoffs first-timer you re most eager to see?

NBA.com blogtable Which first-time playoff performer are you most eager to see? * * * David Aldridge: Why, Mr. Process, of course! How can you not be geeked to find out what Joel Embiid will do on the big stage? There's so much that he (and Ben Simmons) have to learn about playoff basketball, and there will no doubt be stumbles and fumbles along the way. But Embiid has Finals MVP talent; he's capable of dominating games at both ends of the floor and handling the media crush that comes in the postseason with charm and aplomb. He is, as Erik Spoelstra likes to say, built for this. Steve Aschburner: Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio, if only because there’s some justice for the feisty point guard in reaching the postseason a few days ahead of the team that discarded him (assuming Minnesota gets there Wednesday night). Rubio has improved as a shooter for the third consecutive year and has had a solid season overall for Utah, a team that potential Western Conference foes are smart to dread. The difference in Rubio’s production from Jeff Teague, the point guard who replaced him in Minnesota (at a considerable bump in pay), was slight, with Teague more stylistically suited to Tom Thibodeau’s Wolves but Rubio the better defender. Based on seeding, Rubio’s season is likely to last longer, too. Shaun Powell: Joel Embiid is the choice, if only because of everything he has gone through, injury-wise -- and continues to go through, given his eye socket injury. He's made for the spectacle because of his massive talent and robust personality, which should play favorably on the big stage. The NBA playoffs are better off with the league's young stars still around to get some shine, and the spotlight will love Embiid. And vice versa. John Schuhmann: Ben Simmons. I not only want to see how he performs, but also how opponents defend him. Will he be able to play with the pace that he wants to when defenses are more focused on getting back in transition? How will his inability to shoot from distance affect the defense when he doesn't have the ball? The Sixers have improved offensively as the season has gone on and they keep the ball and bodies moving, so it will be interesting to see what opposing defenses try to take away from them. Sekou Smith: The more I see from Ben Simmons, the more intrigued I am by his game. What will his limitations as a perimeter shooter mean for the walking triple-double? How will he adjust in a playoff atmosphere to defenses designed (and daring him) to beat them with outside shots? Is he capable of adjusting and remaining just as effective with the added pressure of the postseason? I apologize for answering a question with a couple questions of my own, but it's strange for there to be this must intrigue about a player we've studied so intently all season. That said, Simmons and Joel Embiid together make the Sixers a must-watch for as long as their maiden playoff voyage lasts......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 12th, 2018

Suns pledge upgrade in talent, experience after awful season

By Bob Baum, Associated Press PHOENIX (AP) — Maybe, just maybe, the worst is behind the Phoenix Suns. Their 50th anniversary season was awful, even worse than the two that came before. For the eighth season in a row, the Suns won’t make the playoffs. The win totals the past three seasons: 23, 24 and — this year 21. That 21-61 mark is the worst since Phoenix went 16-66 in its inaugural 1968-69 season. The season devolved in the final months, with injuries depleting the already exceedingly young roster, leaving a contingent of G League transfers to fill out the lineup in the final days. The Suns lost a franchise-record 15 straight in one stretch. Now, everyone involved is insisting, enough is enough. “I’m done with not making the playoffs,” rising star Devin Booker said as the players cleaned out their lockers and conducted exit interviews Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). “I’m serious. This is probably my last year ever not making the playoffs. If that’s putting pressure on myself, I’m going to take this summer and work that hard so that it doesn’t happen again.” His goal is “turning the franchise around and getting it back how it used to be.” "You watch the highlights of Barkley, Nash and them and how alive the arena was,” Booker said. “So one of my goals is to get it back that way.” Booker, T.J. Warren and rookie Josh Jackson form the core of the young talent the Suns have accumulated. Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss could be part of it, too, although their development has been uneven. But Phoenix needs experienced players, and not just old guys to cheer on from the sidelines. “The voice in the locker room or the voice when they’re teaching carries a lot more weight when the person is contributing,” interim coach Jay Triano said, “not just there as a teacher. ... They need those guys on the court to follow.” General manager Ryan McDonough agrees the time is come to ratchet up investment. To begin with, Phoenix has the most ping pong balls in the May 15 lottery and a chance at the No. 1 overall pick. At worst, the Suns will draft No. 4. They will have one, and maybe two, more first-round picks. “We’ll be one of five or six teams with more than $10 million in cap space,” McDonough said, “and I think we have the ability to create significantly more if we want it.” So the assets are there if they can be translated into needed players, and not teenagers, except that early first-round pick. Three years of concentrating on acquiring this young talent is long enough, McDonough said. “If you go beyond that I think the losing starts to set in and the guys start to become accustomed to that and the bar is lower,” he said. “Next year we’re going to try to raise the bar. We’re going to try to raise our standards. We won’t be as young. We won’t have nearly as many young players as we had last year.” A couple of things to consider after the Suns’ miserable season. COACH SEARCH: McDonough said the search will begin immediately for a head coach with a list of five to 10 candidates in mind. Triano would like the job. He took over after Earl Watson was fired just three games into the season. McDonough said he would like to have a coach in place before the draft combine and lottery in mid-May. BOOKER’S CONTRACT: The Suns would like to have Booker sign a maximum contract extension in the offseason and he’s open to the idea. Triano knows that Booker is tired of losing and believes things will get better for his budding star with more experienced talent around him. “He looks around the locker room and sees what it is and he knows that it’s time,” Triano said. “I think the growth that he’s gone through individually as a leader and the capability he’s been able to show as a scorer has set the tone to make this an attractive place and to have him be the focal part of that. People around the league want to play with Devin Booker.” KNIGHT IN WAITING: One of the biggest needs for Arizona is at point guard, and they’ve had one watching from the sidelines all season. Brandon Knight, left over from the old days of three point guards with Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, missed the entire season with a torn ACL. Once stuck at the end of the bench with no playing time when he was able to go, he’s being talked about as the starter alongside Booker next year. “As a competitor, as a winner, I just love to play the game,” Knight said. “I had the game taken away from me by the injuries and due to other things. ... I’m just trying to help the Suns in any way I can.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 12th, 2018

Are the Sixers too young for playoff success?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The learning curve of the Philadelphia 76ers has taken on a new, more direct and simpler geometric shape. It’s now a straight line, pulled and yanked that way by an impatient team determined to take the expressway from now on. And so this is where The Process has led them, to the NBA playoffs, a place exclusively reserved for Big Boy Basketball, where we get to see if the Sixers will skip another floor in their rapid developmental rise or if youth is about to get served a lesson. Hey, if nothing else, it beats wiping away the stench of losing, which is what coach Brett Brown was doing this time the last few years before this club finally grew up and as we now see, blew up. "This year we exceeded 50 wins and when you do that, you get into NBA elite territory which is something different for us,” he said. “But what’s interesting is we want more. We have more room to grow and we want to do that now.” Yes, the Sixers, finally sprung free of the dark ages, have crashed the annual spring show and are doing so rather emphatically in addition to surprisingly. Surely you saw this coming this quickly, no? On Christmas Eve they were 14-18. Their sensational big man, Joel Embiid, was getting the kid glove treatment, rarely playing extended minutes or consecutive games because of his brittle injury history. Their top draft pick, Markelle Fultz, was out with a bad shoulder and a broken jumper. Obviously, they’d just emerged from their four years of Tankapalooza with the trepidation of a chick stumbling from the nest. And quite simply, four months ago they just weren’t good enough to be lumped with the lead pack. Yet. But since then, what the hell just happened? “This group has come together from a toughness standpoint, a spirit standpoint,” Brown said. To say the least. The Sixers are 50-game winners, with a strong Kia Rookie of the Year candidate in Ben Simmons and a top-10 talent in Embiid, whose orbital injury that cost him the final eight regular season games should be healed for the playoffs at some point. Everything has fallen into place to make Philly a basketball destination once again, and these Sixers find themselves in a unique situation heading into the weekend. That’s because the playoff landscape in the East is favorable for someone like Philly to pull a surprise or two. Can they last a round? Of course; they’ll be a favorite initially. How about reaching the Eastern Conference finals? That’s trickier, and it’ll come down to matchups, but stranger things have happened. And, the NBA Finals? Well. Consider that there’s no true beast taking up space in the East and sending shivers everywhere. All of the contenders are showing a scratch or two: Toronto brings a blah playoff history; some of LeBron James’ supporting cast in Cleveland is untested; the Celtics are without Kyrie Irving, not to mention Gordon Hayward. The Sixers are the wild card in the playoff picture. Their wart is their inexperience in these matters. And so: Are they too young to be taken seriously? “I understand why people might think that, but I think we’ll be fine,” said JJ Redick, the resident senior citizen at age 33. “I don’t expect any of us to play differently than we have lately. These young guys are all gamers.” The Sixers are uniquely built; their twin core of Simmons and Embiid has played a combined three NBA seasons. Redick is the only starter with playoff experience and is also the only player in the rotation who ever played a major role in the playoffs. The Sixers are cubs compared to most of the East, even those teams below them. Essentially, the veterans on the Sixers orbit around the youngsters, instead of vice versa. Brown regularly takes the temperature of his players and has yet to pause at the results he’s seeing. For the most part, this has worked out better than he and they expected. “At this stage you figure how you deliver a team to the playoffs, how do you arrive at the playoffs,” Brown said. “Well, you can check three boxes: Their health, their spirit and their form. And finally: Are they playing good basketball? They’re all very interconnected, they’re all closely intertwined. Those things rule my day when I watch film and see how hard and long we’re going to go in practice. These guys have embraced and improved in those areas. Our defense has been excellent and we’re regularly getting 30 assists as a team, another example of a team enjoying each other’s company.” This makes for an interesting postseason baptism. There’s hope in Philly that Simmons and Embiid and Robert Covington and Dario Saric won’t know the difference between March basketball and May basketball. “We’ll just come and play the same way we’ve been doing,” Simmons said. The other advantage for Philly is Simmons appears well beyond his years. His expression is stoic, no matter the game circumstances, and his poise has yet to shatter memorably and cost the Sixers when it counts. He’s giving 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists a night and had at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in 58 games, second only to Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He is the first rookie in NBA history to average eight assists on a 50-win team. It remains to be seen how a 56-percent free throw shooter will respond if he’s put in that situation with the game on the line. Otherwise, his court direction and ability to reach the rim should not suffer from springtime stage fright. “Ben sits behind a glass wall and watches everyone else on the other side,” Redick said. “There’s nothing that affects him. He plays with the same demeanor and purpose no matter what’s going on around him. He brings a calm presence, and the maturity he plays with is beyond his years. Impressive.” Brown said: “He’s the stone cold Rookie of the Year and to me it’s not even close.” Philly’s best player is Embiid, though, and he’ll play with a mask once he does return, perhaps sometime in the first round. If he doesn’t suffer any lasting effects from the facial injury (vision, lack of balance), he’ll be the premier big man on the floor in the East. This allows the Sixers to exploit their low-post advantage over the Celtics, Raptors and Cavs should Philly meet any of those contenders along the way. The Sixers are also working with a pair of bonuses in Fultz and Ersan Ilyasova, two players they didn’t anticipate being in the playoff mix just a few months ago. Fultz is finally free of his shoulder woes and his shooting is starting to come around, to the point where Brown says he’ll find a role for Fultz in the rotation. Basically, the Sixers feel safe enough to put him on the floor, something that would’ve been a reach before he was activated, when he showed a nasty mechanical hitch in a jumper that somehow went south on him. “We don’t feel we’re going to be caught off guard with him,” Brown said. Ilyasova was gift-wrapped to Philly by the Hawks at midseason and has since been a solid source of scoring (17 points in a two-point win over Cleveland last week) and deepened the Sixers’ bench, allowing Brown to use a variety of different lineups and strategies. In all, the manner in which the season has come together is paying off at the right time for Philly. “We didn’t have this level of maturity in November and December,” Redick said. “If you look at some of our losses early in the season I felt they were immature losses. We’re more focused, more together, developed a mental toughness. Sometimes in life and in this league you have to go through things and experience things to grasp how to do them. There’s no better learning tool than the actual experience. So blowing a lead or coming back from a large halftime deficit, you have to do those things to understand that you can do it. Having those lessons early in the season has prepared us to have a great run since Christmas; we have the second best record in the league since then. This is better than what I expected or even hoped for. It’s been a long sustained growth period.” What does it all mean? Well, even though they’re entering the playoffs with the force of a hurricane, this isn’t the NCAA tournament. This is best-of-seven basketball, which means a team must prove itself worthy of moving on, instead of hoping to get lucky or hot. In the case of Philly and others in the East, that means beating LeBron four times in a series, and that hasn’t happened since 2010. You could also make the case the Sixers are playing with house money at this point, no matter what happens; after enduring The Process and painful progress, this is a blessing, a reward. The Sixers aren’t seeing it that way, though, not after growing up in a hurry. They want to seize the opportunity now, and any playoff success will largely depend on how they handle this as first-timers. Your guess is as good as Brown’s. “You really don’t know what to expect,” Brown said. “There’s no body of work. I will give our guys the benefit of the doubt. The poise they have shown in the regular season, the poise they’ve shown in big games and key moments, gives me tremendous confidence that we will handle this stage with a greater level of poise than what I might have guessed in October, or what I might have guessed not so long ago if you asked me questions about how will rookies and young guys handle this very different part of the season.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

'The Living Legend' and 'El Presidente cross paths anew as SMB-Ginebra game

In a great coincidence, two of the most iconic players the PBA has ever seen were courtside for Game 4 of the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals featuring San Miguel and Brgy. Ginebra. Attending his first live game of these playoffs, the Living Legend Robert Jaworski obviously rooted for his Gin Kings. On the other side of the court, Ramon "El Presidente" Fernandez was also watching. Fernandez of course, was the mentor of San Miguel star June Mar Fajardo in his earlier days in Cebu. Fernandez also finished his PBA career with the Beermen, winning a Grand Slam in 1989. The two legends had a bit of a falling out after their days with Toyota ended but has since made up. Thursday marked one of the rare times the two were seen in public. They shared a handshake, and embrace, and a quick chat in the first half. "We just said hi to each other, kamusta. It's been a long time since we've seen each other," Fernandez said. "I'm happy to see him. It's fine and wonderful. It's good that he was able to watch. A friend invited me today and I'm happy," Jaworski added. Following the mini reunion, the two legends also had the chance to talk about Game 4, which ended with a 102-81 score in favor of the Beermen for a 3-1 series lead. El Presidente was not impressed. "It was a boring game," he said with a laugh. "San Miguel wasn't really playing well, it's just that Ginebra just played really bad. They could play better than that. I like what I saw because San Miguel won, but I didn’t really enjoy the game that much. I would have enjoyed if it was a close game, two point, three point game or a one point game." Fernandez added. Jawo meanwhile, says Ginebra can't just simply count on NSD as a battle cry. "Hindi sinasabi yun eh, ginagawa," he said. "I want to say that they are tired but they got to do more than what they did tonight [to get back on the series]," Jaworski added.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 15th, 2018

Cuban s tanking talk raises key issue for NBA

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst The NBA fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 for being honest. Cuban told Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer Julius Erving on Erving’s podcast a couple of weeks ago that he told his players during a recent dinner that “losing is our best option. Adam (Silver) would hate hearing that…(but) we want the players to understand. As a player, you know that even though you may not agree, but at least if you respect the fact that someone took the time to talk to you, and you understood their perspective, you’re going to give me your feedback, but you’re part of the process.” But the league fined Cuban for what it called “public statements detrimental to the NBA” three days later. And Silver sent a memo to all 30 teams last week detailing the league’s position. “Throughout this period,” Silver wrote, “we have been careful to distinguish between efforts teams may make to rebuild their rosters, including through personnel changes over the course of several seasons, and circumstances in which players or coaches on the floor take steps to lose games. “The former can be a legitimate strategy to construct a successful team within the confines of league rules; the latter -- which we have not found and hope never to see in the NBA -- has no place in our game.” Yet Cuban did not in any way, nor has any evidence to the contrary emerged, state the Mavericks were losing games on purpose; that is, players were intentionally missing shots, or not putting forth effort on defense to let the other team score, or anything like that. (Even Silver acknowledged in the memo that the league has “no basis at this time to conclude that the Mavericks team is giving anything less than its best effort on the court, and Mark has assured us that this is not the case.”) So, why the fine? Was what Cuban said so incendiary? ‘’Mark knew his comments were public, so it surprised me that he was so candid, but that's who Mark is,” said one very high-ranking official from another team over the weekend. “To me his comment wasn't indicating tanking as their strategy but more about setting the expectation that playoffs were not a possibility. The only consolation of not making the playoffs is being in the lottery. You can't blame a team from trying to turn the lemon (losing) into lemonade (top 4 pick). The league needs to find a way not to reward losing.” Exactly. What Cuban said was spot on -- losing to improve the Mavericks’ Draft position was, and is, the best and quickest way for Dallas to get better and start winning games again. That doesn’t mean everyone agreed with Cuban being so blunt. “I think it was a totally inappropriate to say that to players,” said another extremely high-ranking team official for another team. “Whatever the team’s strategy may be, I firmly believe that the players should always play to win. The fine is meaningless to Mark; in fact, sometimes I think he enjoys the publicity he gets from the fines.” But. We ask people to be truthful and not lie about their intentions. We tell our kids that no lie is worth telling, and that telling the truth, no matter how painful, is always the best choice. So Cuban is honest and tells the truth, that short-term losing makes more sense for his franchise’s long-term interests, and he’s relieved of 600 large by the league. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers are lauded -- and revel in their slogan, “Trust the Process,” celebrated by the team’s most ardent supporters -- whose central tenet was to lose, and keep losing, until you could draft a player good enough to build around and win down the road. Which is, exactly, what Dallas is doing now. Indeed, increased tanking is the logical extension of an analytics-dominant league. If three is greater than two -- the reasoning behind the primacy of the 3-pointer in today’s NBA -- then doing anything you can to get more ping-pong balls in the hopper is the correct thing to do. You can’t just embrace the parts of doing it by the numbers that are pleasant. This is the flip side. Burying one’s head in the sand and pretending teams don’t do this doesn’t make sense. Everyone does it in every sport, or don’t you recall “Suck for Luck,” the chant of Indianapolis Colts’ fans before the 2012 NFL Draft? What of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros losing 324 games from 2011-13? Were they trying to win games, or did we all imagine them going from $102 million in payroll in 2009 to $26 million by 2013? “I resist the word ‘tanking,’ but I’m very pro ‘rebuilding,’ when it’s necessary,” said Los Angeles Dodgers President Stan Kasten, who in a former life ran the Hawks as general manager in the ‘80s and ‘90s, by telephone Sunday. “And, it’s painful,” Kasten said. “You’ve got to explain it to your team, your fans, to your front office, to your coaches, to your wife, to your kids, to the country club. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s nobody’s first choice. But if it’s necessary, it’s often the quickest way to get the team back to winning. And don’t lose sight of that.” Kasten’s Dodgers lost the World Series to the Astros, who methodically built their team the last four years around young drafted players like Series MVP George Springer, last fall in seven games. But not only is he not angry with Houston for the way management took the franchise’s foundation to the studs -- compared with his high-spending Dodgers -- he admires the speed with which they went from worst to first. “I have real feelings about what they did,” Kasten said. “Because Mark Walter (the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, the global firm that bought the Dodgers in 2012) and I, before we bought the Dodgers, we were looking at Houston. Because they were available. And truthfully, when we looked at where they were, we were going to do the same thing. It had to be done. Because they were not on a track to win. And frankly, I don’t think I could have done it as fast, or as well, as (Astros owner) Jim Crane, or (GM) Jeff Luhnow. Because doing that, to the extreme, takes real intestinal fortitude.” Kasten makes a strong distinction between a team cutting payroll and going young and that winds up losing, and one that’s actively seeking ways to lose more games. “All of these owners are hyper-competitive, and they want to win,” Kasten said. “And truthfully, the quickest way to win, at least if you look at the last three world champions, is to rebuild and get young and get prospects and do it that way. And if you don’t think that’s the better way to go, ask the fans in Houston and Chicago and Kansas City how they feel. You won’t get one fan who disagrees with what is done. It is the quickest way to win.” Please do not misunderstand. I hate tanking. I hate the idea of introducing losing into your shop, even indirectly. It’s like a virus, extremely difficult to get rid of once it gets in a franchise’s bloodstream. A ticket is, in essence, a contract between parties: I pay top dollar, you give me top-dollar product in exchange. When a team tanks, it violates that compact; I don’t recall any team that’s given fans a tanking discount. It is also very difficult to tank effectively in the NBA. The last three teams with the best odds of getting the No. 1 in the Draft going into the Lottery -- Boston (2017), Philadelphia (2016) and Minnesota (2015) -- have indeed won. But prior to that, the team with the best odds didn’t get the first pick for 10 consecutive years, and 22 times out of the last 25 years. And even the teams that did buck the odds and get the first pick often picked wrong, or did I miss Anthony Bennett Night in Cleveland, or the Andrea Bargnani statue outside of Air Canada Centre? “The Draft is often a crap shoot anyway,” the official from the second team said. “So why not give your fans the best product that you can and then draft Donovan Mitchell,” as Utah did this season. The Jazz traded for the rights to the Kia Rookie of the Year candidate, who was taken near the bottom of the Lottery (13th overall by the Denver Nuggets). This came a season after the Jazz went 51-31 and won its first-round playoff series. I agree. Tanking does not reward excellence in team building -- good drafting, good free-agent signings, good player development -- it rewards the exact opposite of that. It’s a Golden Ticket that doesn’t even require you to buy an Everlasting Gobstopper. But, tanking is reality. You can’t pretend it isn’t. And the only way to completely get tanking out of pro sports is to eliminate the Draft in all sports, including the NBA. We don’t want to have that conversation, do we? Personally, I’d love it. Can you imagine the fight that would set up between interested teams -- and who wouldn’t be interested? -- in a certain 7-foot-1 freshman center almost certain to leave school early who currently plays for a school that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately? Would he help the Lakers? The Knicks? The Bulls? The NBA team in the state in which the college player currently plays, which rather desperately needs another star to pair with its one really great player (whose name, if you must know, rhymes with “Nevin Cooker”)? Would he help any team in the league that doesn’t currently employ Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid or Karl-Anthony Towns in the middle? Most assuredly. And if he could control where he wanted to go, and for how much, the process would be must-see TV. Yet, while the real-world implications would be fascinating, I’m not sure how you could eliminate the Draft without loosening the underpinnings of the entire pro basketball enterprise (and, yes, one could make a moral case for doing just that, as it does go against the whole Manifest Destiny thing to artificially bind someone to a company rather than letting them market their services to the highest bidder). If there was no Draft, why would any player with Lottery-level talent go to college? Yes, there would be the occasional Grant Hill/unicorn who wants to go to college to better themselves intellectually and/or embrace the person growth that often comes from being on your own for four years. But, while sad to say, most kids with NBA dreams go to college because that’s the path through which they can ultimately get to the pros the fastest. With no Draft, and few of the top college-age players thus needing/wanting to go to college, you’d have a very different March Madness than you have now. And as that is a multi-billion enterprise, both for the broadcast networks that air it (including Turner Sports, which runs NBA.com) and the colleges that reap the financial deluge it produces, the likelihood of across the board support for a new player acquisition model is slight. Not to mention, you’d have a much different salary structure in the NBA, as there would be no rookie slotting for drafted players. And if you think the game’s superstars would stand idly by and watch more of that cheddar that they helped produce go out the door to guys who haven’t yet done anything … you’d be wrong. So, the Draft isn’t going anywhere. Which means the NBA must decide whether it wants to continue to be shocked, shocked that tanking is going on in its league, or accept the reality that there is not much patience for being in the middle ground in a league where every team is now worth more than $1 billion. There is only, as Pat Riley said a long time ago, winning and misery. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 6th, 2018

With no World Cup for US this year, Altidore shifts focus

By Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press For Jozy Altidore, this was supposed to be the time when the United States was preparing for this summer's World Cup. That changed early in October when the Americans got bounced from the tournament. The stunning failure shifted Altidore's focus. He spent the beginning of 2018 in Grand Cayman, where his foundation is bringing soccer to kids in a region hit by hurricanes last fall. Soon, he'll start the new season with defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC. As for this summer? Altidore will watch a few of the matches in Russia on television. The 28-year-old forward isn't stewing in the loss, he's looking with hope to the future. "Of course I'll obviously be disappointed not to be there, but at the end of the day, man, we're blessed to do what we do," he said. Apart from the national team loss, Altidore is coming off one of the better years of his career. He scored 18 goals with the Reds and another four with the U.S. national team. Toronto FC won the Supporters' Shield for the best regular-season record before sweeping through the playoffs and defeating Seattle 2-0 for the league title. Altidore scored in the final and earned MLS Cup MVP honors. The victory was a bit of revenge for a loss to the Sounders for the MLS Cup the previous season, but Altidore said Toronto's motivation was part of a season-long journey he took with his teammates and coach Greg Vanney. "I think more than anything we understood how close we were and how it hurt that we had come up short that season," he said. "The focus for us was to do what we did that last year and if we got to the last game, obviously make sure we got the W and make the most of our chances." Toronto teammate and fellow national team player, Michael Bradley, echoed the sentiment after the title match. "When push comes to shove, you want to step into the biggest moments with people that you would do anything for, that you love, that you believe in, that you trust, that you know have your back," Bradley said. But it wasn't all smooth. Altidore got into a confrontation with New York Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan in a tunnel at BMO Field during the conference semifinals. Altidore and Kljestan were handed red cards in the aftermath. Altidore sat out Toronto's next game, while Kljestan was suspended an additional game and won't be able to play the first two games of the upcoming season. Kljestan, who was also fined, was traded in the offseason from the Red Bulls to Orlando. Altidore and Bradley were also jeered — sometimes with profane and personal attacks — by opposing fans over the U.S. team's qualifying performance. "Look, all that stuff I think would have been magnified had we not achieved our objective," Altidore said. "But we did, and we did it in such a convincing manner." Following the 2-1 U.S. loss in Couva, Trinidad, that cost the national team a spot in the World Cup, coach Bruce Arena stepped down and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said he would not run for another term. Interim U.S. coach Dave Sarachan called 30 players into January training camp in advance of an exhibition game against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Jan. 28 in Carson, California. Altidore and many of the team's veterans were not invited. The camp roster includes 15 players who have never played in a match for the senior national team. The most experienced was LA Galaxy midfielder Gyasi Zardes, who is 26. Twenty-one of the players are 24 and younger. Altidore, who has 41 goals in 110 appearances with the national team, understands that developing young talent is important heading into the next World Cup quadrennial. "We have to do a better job of identifying new talent, for sure," he said, suggesting that missing out on the past two Olympics — where under-23 teams compete — has hurt development efforts. For now, Altidore is pouring his energy into charitable endeavors. Altidore, whose parents are from Haiti, launched his foundation in 2011 following the devastating earthquake that hit the country the year before. The foundation built a well to provide water to a town of more than 400 in Haiti, along with other rebuilding efforts. In 2016, he paid to bring the Copa America matches to television in the country. The latest effort in the Cayman Islands focuses on getting youth involved in soccer. "I think the whole region, the Caribbean has a lot of talent and has a lot of kids who want to become players. And I think it helps to see and identify with players who have played in different leagues from around the world," he said. "If I'm able to be one of those guys that can start that whole thing, it's a great opportunity and honor for me."      .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2018

Patriots chase 7th straight AFC title berth against Titans

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Two things, among many, have been consistent for the Patriots the past decade: Tom Brady at quarterback and New England in the AFC championship game. Brady will try to lead his team to its seventh straight conference title game Saturday when it hosts the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round. It has been a challenging week off the field for the Patriots following reports of turmoil involving Brady, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft. But Brady says he's never doubted his team's ability to compartmentalize potential distractions. "I think we have a job to do and we know what our job is and that's to go out and play football at a high level and play well," he said. "Nothing really should get in the way of that." Tennessee hasn't been to a conference championship game since the 2002 season, but has been invigorated coming off its first playoff win in 14 years. The Titans enter as 13-point underdog, but linebacker Derrick Morgan said it's a role they happily embrace. "Nobody respects us. Nobody really expects a lot from us. That's fine," he said. "We haven't been a very successful team in the last 10 years. So it's easy for people to overlook us. So we've got to take care of business and start winning games like this to get the respect that we desire." To get it, they'll have to stop a quarterback that has been nearly unbeatable in this round of the postseason. Brady is 11-2 in 13 divisional-round games since 2002 , passing for 3,700 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also has a 6-1 career record against the Titans with 13 touchdowns and just one interception. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was mostly unflappable in leading his team back from an 18-point halftime deficit to beat Kansas City — the largest comeback on road in Super Bowl era. But since 2001, quarterbacks making their first or second career playoff start are 0-7 against New England. "When it comes down to it, it's all about us," Mariota said. "I think that's kind of been the mindset through this entire season. Ups and downs come and go, you just want to try and make the most of this opportunity." Some things to watch on Saturday: MOVING ON UP: It will be Bill Belichick's 37th career playoff game as a head coach, breaking a tie with Tom Landry and Don Shula for the most in NFL history. HEISMAN BROTHERS: Mariota, the 2014 Heisman winner, and Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman winner, combined to turn in the best rushing performance in franchise history in the wild-card round. Henry ran for a career-high 156 yards, and Mariota added 46 yards. Henry will be starting his third straight game with DeMarco Murray already out (right knee). PRESSURE: The Titans ranked fifth in the league with 43 sacks during the season and added four more against the Chiefs last week. Three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey had six from his interior spot, while Morgan led the Titans with 7 ½ sacks. Linebackers Brian Orakpo (seven) and Wesley Woodyard (five) give the Titans a variety of options to attack Brady, not counting backup linebacker Erik Walden (four). EXPERIENCE GAP: New England has 41 players with postseason experience, most of 2017 playoff teams. Fourteen Patriots players have played at least 10 playoff games. That's more such players than 11 other playoff teams combined (13). Before the start of this postseason, the Titans had 18 players who had appeared in a playoff game. BELICHICK AND LEBEAU: There aren't too many current NFL coaches that have been around the game longer than Belichick and Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau . LeBeau has an NFL-record 45 consecutive seasons as a coach, with Belichick at 43. Yet, with Belichick as head coach, he and LeBeau have faced off in the playoffs only once: the 2004 AFC championship game that New England won in Pittsburgh 41-27. The respect between the two is mutual. "Not very many coaches have the record coach Belichick's gotten. In fact he's probably closing in on the best ever," LeBeau said. Said Belichick: "Coach LeBeau is as good as there is, as good a defensive coach as there is." ___ AP Football Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2018

Atlanta s Matt Ryan aims for happy homecoming in Philly

By Rob Maaddi, Associated Press PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Quarterback Matt Ryan has another shot at a happy homecoming. A berth in the NFC championship game is at stake when Ryan leads the Atlanta Falcons (11-6) against the Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) in a divisional playoff Saturday. Ryan, who grew up rooting for the Eagles and went to Philadelphia's William Penn Charter School, is 1-3 at the Linc. "I'm used to it now," Ryan said about returning home. "Playing as long as I have, I understand regardless of where we play you have to be at your best every week. The one nice part is there will be a lot of familiar faces, friendly faces after the game, which is always nice." Ryan had his worst game of his MVP season last year in Atlanta's 24-15 loss in Philly on Nov. 13, 2016. He was 18 of 33 for 267 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "Obviously, there will be some scheme from that game that we'll take, what went well and what didn't go well and try to improve on that," Ryan said. "We're a different team than we were last year when we played them and they're a different team. It will be some carry over, but it will be a little bit different." Here's some things to watch for when the teams meet in the playoffs for the first time since Philadelphia's win over Michael Vick's Falcons in the 2005 NFC championship game: NICK'S UP: Nick Foles makes his fourth start since replacing Carson Wentz after the MVP candidate tore his ACL in Week 14. Foles played well in his first five quarters and struggled in the next five. He's certainly a dropoff from Wentz, but he's also capable of spectacular performances. Wentz once tossed seven TDs in a game in 2013. He had four TDs in his first start in Week 15. "There's enough substance behind his career that merits having confidence," Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. 'NORTHEAST' NOISE: There's crowd noise, and then there's the noise generated by Philadelphia fans known for their intensity. Falcons coach Dan Quinn seemed to search for a polite term to compare Eagles fans with the fans the team heard in last week's wild-card win at the Los Angeles Rams. "I'm not going to say more passionate, but I would say more Northeast," Quinn said with a smile. The Falcons have pumped in artificial noise in practice this week but will lean heavily on Ryan and center Alex Mack to use their experience with silent counts and hand signals. "That's huge," said tight end Levine Toilolo. "That's where it all starts, coming off the ball, the cadence and stuff like that. We definitely work on that every week. Their fans, we're expecting a loud crowd in a big playoff game." Mack said he expects Philadelphia's fans "to be really dedicated, really loud, really involved. So it's going to be a challenge just in terms of crowd noise." COMFORT ZONE: After leading the league in scoring in 2016, the Falcons finished the regular season 15th with first-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Atlanta averaged 22.1 points per game, down from 33.8 last season. Ryan says he has become more comfortable with Sarkisian, especially the last two weeks in wins over Carolina and the Rams. "I think Sark has done a great job of finding who we are week to week, specifically the last two weeks I think he's done a great job," Ryan said. STOPPING JULIO: The Eagles had some success against Julio Jones in their win last year, keeping him out of the end zone but allowing 10 catches for 135 yards. Jalen Mills held him to four catches for 48 yards when he was matched up against Jones. The second-year pro is confident he can contain Jones again. Ronald Darby will have to cover Jones when he's on his side. "You have to think the ball is coming to him each and every play," Mills said. "Whether they're having a run or a pass play, you've just got to think the ball is coming to him." MULTIPLE BACKS: Both teams have options in the backfield. The Falcons are led by Devonta Freeman, who had 865 yards rushing and seven TDs. Tevin Coleman had 628 yards rushing and five TDs. LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles with 766 yards rushing and scored two TDs. Jay Ajayi had 873 yards rushing and one TD combined with the Dolphins and Eagles. He ran for 130 yards against Atlanta in Miami's win on Oct. 15. ___ AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2018

Popovich s odd alliance with red state fans

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SAN ANTONIO -- About 400 people gathered at the Oak Hills Country Club in June 2016 and paid $500 to $250,000 to sip iced tea and nibble hors d’oeuvres next to a golf course designed by noted architect AW Tillinghast, who built many. One is owned by the man who was feted at this political fundraiser, Donald J. Trump. The presidential campaign was in full blast and saltier than the crackers on the cheese plate being passed around. Fresh off the plane, Trump thanked the Republicans for the big ‘ole Texas welcome, witnesses say, before launching a blistering attack on the usual targets: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, illegal immigration. Then, near the end of his 30-minute lunchtime appearance, in an effort to connect with the locals, he pivoted and mentioned perhaps the most famous man in town: Gregg Popovich. Witnesses say Trump called Popovich “a great coach” and said “he does a good job” and then there was some fidgeting in the room when the soon-to-be polarizing leader of the free world said this: “I don’t know if the coach is on my side.” Confirmation came emphatically, right after Trump won a divisive election that November. The coach of the Spurs lit into the President over the next several months with a handful of rants that had the stealth of Kawhi Leonard ambushing a timid ball-handler. In no particular order, here were Pop’s Greatest Hits, all issued through the media and without prompting or provocation: “The disgusting tenure and tone and all the comments … have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. I live in a country where half the people ignored that to elect someone.” And: “He is in charge of our country. That’s disgusting.” And: “The man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks he can only become large by belittling others.” And: “We have a pathological liar in the White House ... You can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.” Popovich didn’t stop there with a President whose sensitivity and intelligence he questioned and accused of being guilty of “gratuitous fear-mongering.” When he took Trump to task for criticizing NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem and defended their rights to do so, Popovich also suspected a measure of the public outrage was racially motivated. “Our country is an embarrassment to the world,” he said. A 68-year-old wealthy white man, therefore, became a sports voice with weight in the political and social justice arena, where the NBA league office has greenlighted players and coaches to speak up. Popovich has done so with clarity and insight to gain national applause in certain corners. He wasn’t the first or the last in sports to verbally spank the president or tackle right-leaning sensitivities, yet he’s certainly the most unique in one respect. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy who works in a military town, and a five-time NBA champion coach who might symbolize the city more than The Alamo, Popovich has long been elevated to icon status, perhaps permanently so, in San Antonio, where folks are mad about the Spurs. Still, this is mostly conservative Texas, one of the most Republican of states based on the state legislature and the congressional delegation, a state that voted Republican in 10 straight presidential elections and saw 52.6 percent of voters punch for Trump. While voters in San Antonio-proper lean liberal, the surrounding areas swing solidly the opposite. Julianna Holt, the Spurs CEO and Popovich’s boss since March after assuming the position held for 20 years by her husband Peter, supported various Republican presidential candidates before eventually donating $5,400 to Trump’s campaign and $250,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, according to Federal Election Commission records. Popovich is therefore a blue blood in a red state and the contrast makes for strange if not uncomfortable alliance between a beloved coach and a group of conflicted Spurs worshippers. His views have in fact shattered the sacrilege by generating hostility from a segment of the basketball flock, something no coach with his credentials would ever feel. The constant winning and acts of charity do not insulate him from those who would prefer Popovich stuff a sweat sock in his bullhorn. Party lines not Popovich's focus “While we all believe Gregg Popovich has the right to his opinions, where was Popovich when Hillary called half of us a 'basket of deplorables?’Many were Spurs fans who are now tired of being insulted ... many of us will never pay to see a Spurs game again.” -- Donna Howington  “The money I will save this year not attending Spurs games should buy me a nice set of golf clubs. Thanks Pop!” -- Jake Ingorgia  “I will never watch them again until Popovich is gone. He is just like all the other leftist celebrities.” -- Lee Harbach, Bulverde They arrive on cue, most from the dusty towns that orbit around San Antonio, some from the city itself. Popovich has unloaded three times this year on Trump, once after the election, once at the start of training camp and most recently by cold-calling Dave Zirin, a friend and liberal writer from The Nation, a progressive magazine. And each time, the letters land in the office of Ricardo Pimentel, the editor who coordinates the comments section of the Express-News, San Antonio’s newspaper of record. “It’s a cycle,” says Pimental, with a sigh. “He speaks out. People who disagree with him send us letters to the editor, then people who object to their disagreement write us letters to the editor defending Pop. Then they respond to one another.” The initial reaction, he said, is always stacked against Popovich and many identify themselves as Spurs fans ripping up their tickets or promising to never attend or watch games again. Even if those who made threats actually carried them out, the change in the Spurs’ home attendance is a blip, from 99.2 percent capacity last season to 98.6 so far this season. Popovich, of course, has been big for business since his first full season as coach in 1997-98. Besides the titles, the Spurs have reached the playoffs every season and won 50 games every season (except for the lockout-shortened 50-game 1998-99 campaign, when they won 37). In short, Popovich's Spurs have a track record beyond reproach in the NBA. If the 2017-18 Spurs stay on pace, it’ll be 20 straight winning seasons for Popovich, one more than Phil Jackson for the all-time NBA record. He hasn’t been this politically vocal until lately, due to Trump, yet was always politically aware, say those who know him. Well-versed through his readings and observations, Popovich welcomes discussion with acquaintences about classism, leadership, government and preferably over a bottle of wine. His two-decades exposure to young black men from humble beginnings raised his awareness and sensitivities about race and bias. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr once played for the Spurs and lately has echoed many of the same thoughts as Popovich. But Kerr coaches in the Bay Area, where folks nod their heads in agreement. Kerr said he can only imagine the flak Popovich catches in Texas. “Here’s this iconic coach who stands for everything that’s right and for honor and integrity, he served in the military, you see him stand at attention for the American flag — man, Pop loves his country,” Kerr said. “And in the middle of Texas for him to be questioning the Republican President, some of the people down there are probably confused. Like, 'I don’t get it, we love this guy but he’s on the other side from us.' “What I love about Pop is that it’s not about party, not about politics. It’s about integrity and character and that’s what people need to pay attention to. It’s not about some policy, not about how much we pay in taxes. If we can just get back to the point where character matters, then we’ll be in better shape. The problem is, it’s clear character has gone down the tubes in many leadership positions in our country. That’s what Pop is calling out.” True enough, Popovich never publicly attached himself to a political party; to suggest he is against Republicans might be as misleading as believing Colin Kaepernick is against the military. When he played for Popovich, Kerr couldn’t recall a time when the coach was this annoyed by the country’s leadership. “The country was in a better place in terms of a relatively peaceful time back then,” Kerr said. “Yes, 9-11 happened and the whole world changed. But we didn’t have quite the same partisan nature, not only in politics but the national conversation. And so people could just admire Pop for who he was and people might not have been aware of his political leanings because they didn’t ask. When we won and went to the White House, Pop and the team went when Bush was in office. We went in ’99 when President Clinton was there. Republican, Democrat, didn’t matter. The times are so different now.” Kerr laughed quickly when asked about the semi-serious groundswell of social media support for a Kerr-Popovich ticket in 2020. Kerr said he hopes to be on his fifth NBA title as a coach then, but turned semi-serious about Popovich. “Our country needs somebody like Pop who can actually lead and unite from a position of authority and credibility,” Kerr said. “This guy served in the military, grew up in a melting pot, understands leadership. More than anything, he’ll cut through all the [expletive].” Since going nuclear on Trump, Popovich declined invites from the national political shows (and wouldn’t comment for this story). That proves what friends have maintained all along: Popovich doesn’t want to be anyone’s political hero or pundit. He’d rather speak when the moment calls for it, then be left alone. That last part is tricky, though. Empathy often marks Popovich's way “Can you imagine being Republican on the Spurs? Would you feel welcome? He’s like Berkeley -- for free speech unless you disagree with him. Shut up and coach, Gregg.” -- Shannon Deason  “When it comes to coaching basketball or drinking wine, Popovich has experience. When it comes to our country, his opinion is no better than anyone else’s." -- Harold Siemens, Seguin  “Open letter to the NBA referee who ejected Pop from the Warriors-Spurs game: Don’t feel bad about what Gregg Popovich called you. He called the POTUS worse and got away with it.” -- Larry Peabody Once the wheels touched down, the pilot jokingly announced over the loudspeaker: “Welcome to Gregg Popovich International Airport,” and one particular passenger noticed that nobody on the plane thought it was strange. Sean Elliott always knew how deeply rooted Popovich is with San Antonio. Aside from the famous Spanish missions and the River Walk, the city is known for the only professional sports team in town. And while George Gervin, David Robinson and Tim Duncan have come and gone, the one lingering reminder is a sometimes gruff and scruffy coach, maybe the NBA’s best ever. “He’s one of the pillars of the community,” said Elliott, twice an All-Star with the Spurs. “He’s looked at with great admiration. He is as respected as anyone who has ever lived in or been part of the city. It’s not just because he’s a basketball coach. Pop has been a big part of the community, huge contributor to charitable functions, good leader.” Elliott was a Spurs rookie in 1989 when their relationship began and he saw the start of Popovich’s reach in the region. Popovich then was an assistant coach under Larry Brown and just planting his feet in the NBA. That summer, Elliott and Popovich piled into a van with the team's "Coyote" mascot and conducted basketball clinics in San Marcos, Corpus Christi, Laredo and similar places. They were signing autographs in malls and running kids through drills in 100 degree heat, never hearing a complaint from the coach. Elliott said folks in those small conservative towns loved him. “If you sit and hear him talk about something, you tend to agree with him,” Elliott said. “He’ll put it in a logical way and he’s very thoughtful, well read and super intelligent, maybe the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.” The owner of the Spurs then was Red McCombs, a homespun Texan who made his fortune in car dealerships and media companies. McCombs didn’t give Popovich the coaching job after firing Brown, telling Popovich “you’ve got a chance to be a great coach” if he got more experience, which he did, going to the Warriors to work for Don Nelson. Popovich returned to San Antonio two years later as general manager, then became coach and the rest is history. Now 90, McCombs said: “Popovich has become the distinguished part of the franchise. He wears it well. Can’t say enough about what kind of man he is and what he’s meant to San Antonio. God has blessed us with Gregg Popovich.” McCombs loves to tell how Popovich, by chance, learned that a local family needed a car. The coach wrote a check, gave it to the father and walked away. McCombs said it was “typical Popovich” who has empathy for those with less. McCombs, curiously, has traditionally been one of the biggest Republican bankrollers in the state, who gave to the Trump campaign and is fully aware of what Popovich thinks of his choice for President. And so one of the most powerful men in Central Texas, who leans politically to the color of his nickname, had a strong reaction to that. “He’s earned the right to give his comments about citizenship or Trump or anything else,” said McCombs, voice rising. “Yes, he made some statements that others might disagree with. But I’ll tell you this: Popovich would be elected to anything he wants to in San Antonio.” Remaining silent never an option “Our country is not an embarrassment to the world. I will tell you what an embarrassment is. It is an American citizen who got a free education from the great Air Force Academy ... and then has the audacity to say that the greatest nation in the world is an embarrassment because the President rightly demands that Americans stand for the anthem. Popovich should be ashamed of himself.” -- Nick DeLouis, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Nowhere on God’s green Earth do they have the right to disrespect our flag and the men and women who died to keep us free. I’m appalled that you stooped so low to join in that disrespect. Shame on you!” -- Fred Martin, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Coach Pop has squashed my love and enthusiasm for the team. A national treasure, he is not. Coach Pop has a voice, but not my voice." -- Jo Ivan A few years ago Popovich was in New York with his daughter to catch a Broadway play when the coach had a last minute change in strategy. He learned that John Carlos was giving a lecture at New York University that night. So Popovich told his daughter to take one of her friends instead; said he was going to see “Dr. Carlos” speak. “When he came in I was surprised and delighted,” Carlos said recently. “Quite naturally, everyone knew who he was but he just wanted to sit and listen.” A year later, in 2015, Popovich flew Carlos to San Antonio to address the team and Carlos admitted to being star struck around Tim Duncan and others. Yet Carlos was most curious about Popovich and why the coach took a strong interest in an Olympic sprinter who raised a fist on the victory stand in 1968, which is frozen as an iconic civil rights moment. “Being with the Spurs gave me an opportunity to check his character out,” Carlos said. “I knew he was a whiz at putting players together to bring out their best ability. But through my conversations with him it became apparent that he was a social activist himself at one point in his life. He was teaching his players about activism and to be concerned about their fellow man and what was going on around their lives, not just basketball. “I was impressed. He just wanted them to know they had a larger role than just playing basketball in the society in which they live.” Carlos, therefore, was not surprised to see Popovich defend the rights of kneeling black football players who came under attack from Trump. On the first day of training camp in September, Popovich said: “Obviously race is the elephant in the room and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly it is not going to get better.” What followed was another swirl of exchanges between Popovich critics and supporters in San Antonio, and Popovich acknowledged receiving mail from both sides. The anti-Pop mail, though, was jarring to Carlos, given the coach’s work in town. “When people write and lambast him for taking leaders to task for what they’re doing to society, that’s like water rolling off a duck’s back, man,” Carlos said. “When they write negative things about him, it encourages him to keep doing what he’s doing. Those people are the problem. Go ahead and throw stones and it just motivates him to do his job. “Look, I’m a black man who spoke out. Imagine what they think of him as a white man who speaks just as strong, to try and get people to see things in a better light? They throw stones at him even more, like, 'Hey you’re white, you have a great life. Keep your mouth shut.’ Well, God points people in certain directions. We know who we are. We do what we do.” And what Popovich does is enlist the help of giants in the social justice world and bring them into his world. He did that with Cornel West, the Harvard professor and civil rights activist, last fall. Popovich invited West to San Antonio to speak at an East Side community center with a few hundred mostly black and Latino students and their parents. Done without TV cameras or media invitation, the discussion was about the importance of education, the imperfect world, self respect and how to help communities. This was an audience that, presumably and unanimously, connected with a white man who didn’t live among them, but was with them. They were the people Popovich had in mind when he attacked present leadership. This was not the audience that writes to the Spurs and the Express-News asking him to take a vow of silence, though he is aware of them, too. “Some responses make you wonder what country you live in,” Popovich said, “and other responses make you very hopeful … overall, it renews my feeling that something must be done because there is enough people willing to listen.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2018