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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

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:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 10th, 2018

PBA: DiGregorio stresses consistency moving forward after point dip

ANTIPOLO CITY -- Blackwater Elite guard Mike DiGregorio says he needs to find the middle ground in his shooting after a slump Friday evening. The Filipino-Italian sharpshooter was red-hot in the Elite's first victory Wednesday at the Cuneta Astrodome, swishing seven triples in ten attempts, a far cry from his five-point showing in the blowout loss against the now 4-0 Phoenix Fuel Masters.  Phoenix' stifling defense made him a marked man, the team's best defenders looking for him at every stop down the floor, only allowing him to make a single field goal in ten attempts. Despite all that, DiGregorio still let it fly, but unfortunately for him and his team, the shots did not fall through the nylon. "But I never lose confidence in myself. There were a lot of shots that I shot that rolled in and out and hung on the ring a little bit and then fell out. I think every shot I take is going to go in so it's not going to derail me from the confidence I have and the work I put it. If I miss 5, 6 or 7 in a row, I think the 8th and 9th are going in. It's not going to stop me," shared the sharpshooter.  Trailing by as much as 37, the now 1-3 Elite put up their last hurrah and cut the lead to as low as 17 in the fourth, which heaped praise from coach Bong Ramos. "Just that showing character. Playing the lead down. I don't even know what the lead was. From 30-something to just being 17 or 16 at one point. I mean obviously he was upset with the effort that we had. All you can do from these games is learn from it, watch film and see what you can do better," DiGregorio shared. Just like what his new shooting coach, three-time PBA MVP Bogs Adornado said, shooters need to find consistency with their shot, to which the 27-year old agreed. "The confidence, like I said, with the shooting, it doesn't waver. You can't get too high or too low. Wednesday's game was an extreme high, and this one's an extreme low," said DiGregorio. Even though they're sitting near at the bottom of the early standings, DiGregorio is optimistic that Blackwatwe can still bounce back and make a run at the playoffs if they could stay true to their goals. How? Well here's his answer. "Staying level-headed and just watching the film and see what we can correct before getting back to work."   __   Follow this writer on Twitter, @philipptionary.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 1st, 2019

Seahawks clinch playoff berth outlasting Chiefs 38-31

By Tim Booth, Associated Press SEATTLE (AP) — Doubted before the season began, questioned even more after a 0-2 start, the Seattle Seahawks are back where they've spent most seasons since Pete Carroll arrived. The Seahawks are in the playoffs and perhaps as the type of opponent no one would like to see in the postseason. "You hear it. You hear the noise. You hear the 4-12 predictions, the 5-11 and that stuff motivates you," Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright said. "We kept believing." Seattle clinched its spot in the NFC playoffs after toppling Kansas City 38-31 on Sunday night, thanks to three touchdown passes from Russell Wilson and a pair of TD runs by Chris Carson. Wilson got the better of Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and helped lead Seattle back to the postseason after missing the playoffs a year ago. Seattle's now made the playoffs in seven of the nine seasons with Carroll in charge, and six of seven with Wilson at quarterback. It was an unexpected accomplishment after Seattle overhauled its roster in the offseason. But the discovery of the best run game in the NFL, coupled with vets like Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Doug Baldwin was enough for Seattle to navigate its way into the postseason. "There's an emotion to it that's deep and it's because there wasn't very many people that thought we could do this," Carroll said. "Most everybody thought we didn't have a chance and to hang together, hang through it, we got it done before the season is even over." The Seahawks (9-6) can wrap up the No. 5 seed and a matchup with Dallas by beating Arizona in Week 17. Wilson was 18 of 29 for 271 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with 7:31 left for his third TD. But it was Seattle's next drive that stood out as the best run team in the NFL put the game on the arm of its quarterback and receivers in the fourth quarter. Leading 31-28, Wilson hit David Moore for 7 yards to convert a key third-down and after Kansas City used its first timeout with 3:04 left. He followed with a 45-yard strike to Tyler Lockett, and Baldwin added a one-handed catch for 29 yards to the Chiefs 1. Carson capped the decisive drive with his second TD run with 2:29 left gave Seattle a 38-28 lead. Carson rushed for 116 yards, while Baldwin had seven catches for 126 yards and an acrobatic 27-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. "When it's our time to make plays and we're given opportunities to make plays, we are going to make them. We have shown that," Baldwin said. Mahomes had a few of his own magical moments that will enhance his MVP candidacy. But for the second straight week the Chiefs (11-4) were unable to come through with a victory that would have wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the AFC and will go into Week 17 with the chance of being division champs for find themselves on the road for the opening weekend of the postseason. "I know if you take care of business, you don't have to talk about anything," Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. "When we play the way we can play, and we are going to play, we are a tough team." Mahomes was 23 of 40 for 273 and three TDs. Mahomes had only 83 yards passing in the first half. He had 76 and was 6 of 6 on Kansas city's first possession of the second half, finishing the drive with a scrambling, sidearm fling to Charcandrick West for a 25-yard touchdown that pulled the Chiefs even at 17-all midway through the third quarter. That was the last time they would be even. Harrison Butker's 32-yard field goal with 1:20 left pulled the Chiefs within seven, but the onside kick went out of bounds and Seattle ran out the clock. "It's frustrating knowing that we've had it so close both times," Mahomes said. "Luckily we are still in the position where we will have the opportunity to go out there and win it next week." Damien Williams rushed for 103 yards and caught a 2-yard touchdown pass in the first half. But Seattle managed to keep Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce from taking over and the Seahawks pass rush did enough to disrupt the Chiefs passing attack. Mahomes was sacked only once but was hit 11 times. Kelce had five catches; Hill had four. Neither scored. "We knew (Hill) and (Kelce) were the go-to guys and if you eliminate those two guys you have a good chance of winning," Wright said. RECORD WATCH Carson became the first Seattle running back since Marshawn Lynch in 2014 to have 1,000 yards rushing. ... Kelce passed Tony Gonzalez for most yards receiving in a single season by a tight end in Chiefs history. ... Mahomes has 31 touchdown passes on the road, most in NFL history. Tom Brady had 29 in 2007. ... Wilson is first QB in NFL history with winning record in each of first seven seasons. INJURIES Kansas City running back Darrel Williams suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and did not return. Seattle's banged up offensive line saw J.R. Sweezy go down with an ankle injury in the second quarter and he did not return. D.J. Fluker, who was only supposed to play a limited number of snaps filled in and played the entire second half. KICKING IT Seattle had kicking concerns arise after Sebastian Janikowski was roughed on a field goal attempt in the second half. He was able to hit a 28-yard field goal later in the drive, but it was punter Michael Dickson handling the next two kickoffs with drop kicks. Dickson has done it in special situations this season. UP NEXT Chiefs: Kansas City hosts Oakland in Week 17. Seahawks: Seattle hosts Arizona to close out the regular season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 24th, 2018

Short but sweet search lands Fisher as coach of LA Sparks

By Beth Harris, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — It was a “short but sweet” search to find the new coach of the Los Angeles Sparks. Turns out he has been sitting in the courtside seats for years. Derek Fisher was introduced Friday as coach of the team that he watched play at Staples Center while helping the Lakers win five NBA championships as their point guard. It’s Fisher’s second stint as a head coach in the pro ranks. He was fired from the New York Knicks in 2016. “This opportunity is not a step down, sideways, backwards, somehow different than the men’s game,” Fisher told a room full of media at a downtown hotel, insisting the WNBA isn’t a steppingstone. “There isn’t a future outside of what we’re here to talk about today.” Executive vice president and general manager Penny Toler didn’t look far in finding a replacement for Brian Agler, who resigned last week. “Our coach’s search was short but sweet,” she said. “The first person who came to mind was Derek Fisher. Derek has been a huge supporter of the Sparks, but even more importantly, he’s been a huge supporter of the WNBA from day one. He would leave his practice and fly and watch us play.” Toler said that during her 20 years as GM she would discuss the team with Fisher and seek his advice and suggestions. “He’s invested,” she said. Fisher becomes the 12th coach in franchise history. He takes over a team that went 19-15 in the regular season this year before losing in the second round of the playoffs. Agler resigned without explanation after four years that included winning the WNBA championship in 2016. He had an 85-51 career mark with the Sparks. “I don’t know why he wanted to. I didn’t ask,” Toler said. “When someone wants to resign, it’s not my job to talk them out of it.” Former league MVP Candace Parker was on hand to welcome Fisher. She waved her right hand in the air, showing off her WNBA championship ring that made a clunking noise when her hand hit the table. “I want more,” she said. Besides Parker, the Sparks have another former league MVP in Nneka Ogwumike and hope to re-sign guard Chelsea Gray. “We have chemistry,” Parker said. Parker noted she first met Fisher when she was 8 or 9 and her older brother’s agent was based in Arkansas, where Fisher is from. Fisher was fired in New York after going 40-96 in 1 ½ seasons while working under then-Knicks executive Phil Jackson, who coached him on the Lakers. Fisher said it took a while for him to come to terms with the fact that he was “overly fixated with what other people thought about my experience in New York as opposed to what I felt about my experience in New York.” Fisher peppered Toler with what she said were “about 2,000 questions” before agreeing to take the Sparks job. He indicated the homework was necessary after his time with the Knicks. “What I learned is, if there is not clarity in purpose, vision and mission from ownership to management to coaches to players to staff, it doesn’t work,” he said. “Some of the basketball things are irrelevant if ownership, management, staff, players, if we are not aligned in the way we see going about our jobs and achieving our purpose and our mission.” Since leaving New York, Fisher has worked as a TV analyst. He said he explored jobs with college and men’s pro teams but the timing wasn’t right. He also experienced upheaval in his personal life. In June 2015, he and former teammate Matt Barnes got into an altercation at the home of Gloria Govan, Barnes’ ex-wife who is now Fisher’s fiancée. In June 2017, Fisher was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after his vehicle flipped on a Los Angeles freeway. He and Govan weren’t injured. Govan and two of Fisher’s children from his first marriage were on hand Friday. “The book is not finished yet,” Fisher said. “I feel like this is an opportunity for me to continue writing my coaching book and I’m excited to do it here in LA with the Sparks.”  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 8th, 2018

Vince Carter enjoying his decision to go to Atlanta

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Vince Carter could have gone anywhere. To a contender, to chase a ring. To retirement, because he has nothing left to prove. To television, which seems like it will be his next vocation whenever his playing days end. Instead, he chose Atlanta — a young team, a rebuilding team, a team that probably has minimal chance of making the playoffs. And he’s happy. “I’m with a great bunch of guys,” Carter said. “I enjoy helping young guys who want to learn, who are willing to be coached and let you coach them and ask questions. It’s a small thing, but it’s a major thing — because if you’re asking questions, that means you’re trying to learn and grow. And these guys are all great.” He’s the NBA’s oldest active player, someone who turns 42 next month. When he was drafted in June 1998, neither Trae Young nor Kevin Huerter had been born yet. And they’re the starting backcourt for the Hawks this season, Carter’s 21st in the league, with Atlanta being the eighth team he’s played with. Carter talked with Dwyane Wade during the offseason about their options; Wade was considering retirement, and Carter was deciding where to play next. Wade said Carter doesn’t need a ring to complete any sort of legacy, and applauded the decision to go to Atlanta. “It’s very cool,” Wade said. “I think everybody on the outside has what they think someone should do. I was like, ‘Man, it’d be cool if he went back to Toronto.’ I had my story for him. But he decided to continue to do things the way that he’s done it, and I think it’s him understanding the importance of what he has to offer to the game and young players, and an organization that wanted him to come in and give that.” There are no regrets. Barring a change of address or another season — which is possible — Carter’s career will end with him getting to the conference finals only once, and never appearing in the NBA Finals. The closest he got was with Orlando in 2010, when the Magic lost the Eastern Conference finals to Boston in six games. “It’s easy to go sit on the bench and watch your team win and not really contribute,” Carter said. “Yeah, with my voice, I could contribute. But I want to do both.” So Carter is hanging with the kids. “It’s good for me,” Carter said. “Keeps me young.” RAPTORS RISING Toronto is off to the best start in the NBA at 20-4, four games clear of Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference already (and four games in the loss column ahead of Philadelphia as well). The scary thing is, it could have been better. It’s been forgotten, but the Raptors’ season also includes a three-game losing streak — all in a five-day span last month. They lost by 16 against New Orleans to fall to 12-2, then wasted a 19-point lead and lost to Detroit, then watched Kawhi Leonard miss late in regulation in what became an overtime loss to Boston. They’re 8-0 since, and first-year coach Nick Nurse has his team rolling. “Nick has done a really good job with this team and the way they play,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. THE WEEK AHEAD A game per day to check out this week: Oklahoma City at Detroit, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): Former teammates Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson seem to like going head-to-head. San Antonio at Utah, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time): The Spurs struggled with the Jazz last season, and this opens a tough road back-to-back. Philadelphia at Toronto, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): The Raptors have opened up a sizable lead in the East, and face a good test here. New York at Boston, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): After a sluggish start, the Celtics are starting to look like the team many envisioned. Golden State at Milwaukee, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the same floor is must-watch. Miami at L.A. Clippers, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): Wade is eager for this — his wife and their newborn daughter are currently staying in Los Angeles. Milwaukee at Toronto, Sunday (next Monday, PHL time): A matchup of two of the East’s best teams, and it’s never too early to think about positioning. HISTORIC WARRIORS Not even two months into the season, and the Golden State Warriors have already done something that no team in more than 50 years has accomplished. The Warriors are the second team in NBA history, joining the 1961-62 Los Angeles Lakers, to have three different players with a 50-point game in the same regular season. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have reached 50 already this season. The 1961-62 Lakers’ trio to do so: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Rudy LaRusso. Could Golden State get a fourth into the 50-point column? Who knows, but remember, DeMarcus Cousins — who hasn’t played yet this season — has a pair of 50-point games in on his career resume......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2018

Futility in Phoenix wears on Devin Booker

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com He is already a star at age 22 but on this particular play, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker had role player instincts Sunday (Monday, PHL time) at Staples Center. The basketball bounced toward the baseline, beyond his reach, and he hustled anyway. And so the predictable happened: The ball beat him off the court and into the first row. Then the unthinkable happened: He grabbed his left leg and bent over in pain. The first player who rushed over to him yelled: “Book! Book! Hamstring?” ]It was thoughtful of LeBron James to check on Booker, even better if LeBron did this last summer as a free agent when Booker really could’ve use a hand. Instead, Booker is not only limping right now -- hopefully just temporarily for the team’s sake -- but also losing, something he has done more prolifically in Phoenix than get buckets. One of the shames of the NBA is how one of its breakout stars and franchise players is stuck on a habitually bad team, with no playoff shine in sight, and mostly invisible. Yes, only LeBron and Kevin Durant have reached 4,000 career points faster than Booker, but neither ever took Ls like this. Booker is now up to 136 in slightly over three seasons and once again the Suns, now 4-19, are on pace to be forgotten by Christmas. You could hardly blame their fans for getting their basketball fix these days by watching Duke games. All roads lead to the lottery, as it has since 2015 when Booker became one of the few draft decisions that actually worked out. But for Booker and the Suns, that’s some tough medicine, playing another 55 games, swallow many depressing nights along the way, and then pray the odds work in their favor come June. It’s fair to wonder how much of a toll this culture takes on Booker, who’s once again a player who demands a double team, averaging nearly 25 points a game and doing decently as a stand-in at point guard. Some perspective is needed, though. Booker signed a five-year, $158 million contract extension in July, giving plenty of living and den space for all the losing he takes home at night. Still, he said, "It sucks." Booker lost 58 games as a rookie, then 58 again, then 61 last year and may reach 65 or more this season. He’s lost 13 straight games twice, and the Suns once lost 28 of 30 with Booker on the floor. In an 82-game season, it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to put together, say, a four-game win streak. Booker is still waiting on that. For years the situation just wasn’t pretty in Phoenix and it’s only slightly less ugly now. Too many poor Draft picks have delayed progress and ruined the team. Former lottery picks Dragan Bender, Marquese Criss and Alex Len couldn’t earn rookie extensions and there was Phoenix's infamous point guard fetish of recent years when they went through Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight for little or nothing in return when they left. Sprinkle in some weird free-agent decisions -- like signing Tyson Chandler only to buy him out three years later -- and hilariously chasing LaMarcus Aldridge and it smacked of a team lacking both direction and a plan. Most of these moves were made by former GM Ryan McDonough and while James Jones represents a refreshing front-office change, he comes with little experience in that role. When you examine the fast-track of Booker, you get the best young scorer the league has seen since Durant and LeBron. You also get these numbers: Two, four and 47. That’s how many general managers, coaches and teammates Booker has had in less than four NBA seasons, heavy turnover storming all around him. “My whole career except for the NBA, I’ve been a winner,” Booker said. “I want to get back to that. I’m done with not making the playoffs.” Well, the circumstances say otherwise. The Suns are essentially holding tryouts for the future now, though. Chandler was the first one thrown overboard and if Phoenix could get anything for Ryan Anderson and his contract, he’d be next. For some reason Phoenix gave a head-scratching $15 million this season last summer to aging swingman Trevor Ariza. He's shooting 37.2 percent and scoring 9.9 ppg, taking minutes from young players. Among rotation players, the lone holdovers from 2017-18 are Booker, TJ Warren and Josh Jackson. Taking some advice he received from Chandler, who became a mentor, Booker believes it’s necessary for him to adopt a more forceful role on the court and in the locker room even if, from an age perspective, he needs more seasoning for that. But what are the alternatives, given the ever-changing lineup? “I’m doing more leading by example and being more vocal about it, holding people accountable and hold myself accountable too,” he said. It’s a chore trying to pick up others when, after taking yearly poundings, you need a hand yourself. This is the mountain Booker is up against. Again. “I know losing is tough on him because last year as a rookie I struggled with it,” said Jackson. “I’m just keeping my head on straight now. We show flashes but we need consistency.” Or you could say they need LeBron. And if Booker misses any extended time with a hamstring that has given him trouble before Sunday, well, as Jackson said: “Everybody knows we need him desperately. The sooner we get him back, the better.” With the possible exception of the Knicks, no franchise has splattered the concrete with the speed and consistency as the Suns. Before Booker was born, the Suns were a destination franchise, a place most players wanted to sign with, get drafted by and be traded to. The balmy winter weather was an obvious attraction but in the mid-1990s with Charles Barkley, and then 10 years later with Steve Nash, the Suns were also entertaining and won everything except a championship. Sellouts were common, the arena was a tough place for visitors and fans frolicked along with the Gorilla mascot. All this happened on Jerry Colangelo’s watch and prosperity under owner Robert Sarver is on hourglass time. At least Booker is locked up for four more years and there’s no danger of losing him, at least to another team, in the immediate future. They could lose him to frustration, though, fairly soon, especially when he sees other teams playing meaningful games and listens to other players during USA Basketball gatherings talk about what he’s missing. “I’ll do whatever I have to do,” Booker said, when asked about recruiting help in the near future. “I think Phoenix is a place where people can see the potential, see our young nucleus.” Unless there’s a reversal of fortune in the near future, Phoenix could remain a basketball wasteland and no player, not even Booker, wants to wallow in that. Problem is, until there’s a positive roster shakeup, the Suns lack enough to convince another superstar to sign up next summer or maybe even by 2020. At least when their lone star falls to the floor, as he did Sunday against the Lakers, Booker carries enough clout and respect to get a hand of a different sort from LeBron James. For now, that must do. 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 NewsDec 3rd, 2018

Rookie Ladder: Mavericks Doncic starts on top

By Drew Packham, NBA.com Welcome back to another season of the Rookie Ladder. If you’re like me, there’s nothing you love more than watching the first-year players find their way in the NBA. This will be my 11th season covering the rookies (first for SI.com, now here) and it has yet to grow old. The beauty of covering rookies is that every season provides something that will surprise you. There are so many storylines, so many angles to keep an eye on. Players break out. Players flop. Players live up to expectations. Players fail to live up to expectations. Players have incredible performances. Players have awful performances. But yet, night in and night out, across virtually every arena, there’s something intriguing and exciting to watch. Each week, in this space, I’ll do my best to highlight the Top 5 rookies (and another five just missing the cut) and rank them on the Ladder according to their standing on the season. Last year, the Ladder was primarily a video released each week with my Top 5 rookies, but this season I’ll be able to write a little more and dig deeper into the ups and downs of the rookie class. So, with all that said, here’s the inaugural Rookie Ladder for the 2018-19 season. (All stats through Thursday, Nov. 1, PHL time) * * * 1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks Through the first week, Doncic has been the most consistently entertaining rookie and it’s difficult to pick one aspect of his game to feature. Do you like step-back 3-pointers? Check. Do you dig floaters in the lane? You’ll see several a game. How about court vision and slick passes? He’s got it. The thing with Doncic is he looks so comfortable being the Mavs’ leader, and the season is just two weeks old. He’s already the team’s leading scorer (19.6 ppg, first among rookies) and put up 31 points and eight rebounds in a tough 113-108 OT loss in San Antonio on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). The only knock on Doncic so far are the turnovers (4.0 against 4.4 apg), but that should improve as he acclimates to his teammates and the style of play in the NBA. If you haven’t tuned in to a Mavs game, now’s the time. Doncic is must-see TV and earns the top rung to start the season. 2. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns The No. 1 overall pick has lived up to the hype early in the season, averaging a double-double (16.9 ppg, 10 rpg) while giving Phoenix the dominating inside presence it has long desired. Devin Booker is dealing with a sore hamstring, but when the pair has been on the floor together, they’ve been a tough duo to defend. Drop down on the massive Ayton? He’ll kick it to Booker or his other shooters. Defend Booker on the perimeter? He’ll drop it in to get Ayton going inside. “He’s going to be a force down there the whole season,” Booker said. “I feel like teams are going to have to figure out what they want to do.” Ayton is shooting at a 61.6-percent clip (85.7 pct. on free throws) and he’s fourth among rookies in assists (3.3 apg), so it’s clear he’s comfortable passing out of the post. He’s going to be in the Kia Rookie of the Year chatter all season and while he may not be as exciting as Doncic and Young, his efficiency and dominance should give him a great shot at claiming the award. 3. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks The No. 5 pick has been hit-or-miss in the early going, but his big games have been impressive. In the Hawks’ third game of the season, Young erupted for 35 points and 11 assists, while going 6-for-14 from 3-point land in a 131-117 loss to the Grizzlies. He’s only the third rookie since 2000 to top 35 and 10. The other two? LeBron James and Stephen Curry. But Young followed that outburst with a stretch of three games in which he was 11-for-37, going 2-for-15 from beyond the arc. This is likely what we’re going to see from Young throughout this season -- briliant performances followed by typical rookie struggles. Still, it’s clear Young can play. He leads all rookies in assists (6.6 per game) and he’s not turning the ball over at a terrible rate (3.0 per game). The Hawks are Young’s team, so he’ll have every opportunity to shine, which should keep him high on the Ladder all season. 4. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings At 5-3, the Kings are one of the early surprises of the season, and Bagley has been a big reason for their success. Working with the second unit, Bagley has been key as Sacramento has looked to push the tempo. While Bagley was more of a typical post-up player at Duke, he’s best when running the floor and finishing in transition. The Kings are winning, and Bagley is putting up decent numbers in just 23.3 minutes per game. Among rookies, he’s currently fourth in scoring (12.4 ppg) and second in rebounding (7.1 rpg), while shooting 53.4 percent overall and 5-for-9 from 3-point land. His most notable performance came Oct. 23 (Oct. 24, PHL time) in a 126-112 loss to the Nuggets in which he finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in 32 minutes. Bagley could see his minutes increase as he improves, but he’s making the most of his minutes so far, which should keep him high on the Ladder. 5. Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves Okogie is one of the season’s early surprises as he’s made the most of his opportunity in Minnesota. After not seeing the floor in the Wolves’ first two games, Okogie got his chance when Jimmy Butler rested a game, then saw heavy action with Andrew Wiggins out with a quad contusion. In six games, the No. 20 pick out of Georgia Tech is averaging 9.8 points (8th among rookies) and 5.3 rebounds (sixth). More notably, he leads rookies in steals per game (1.7), which will certainly endear him to coach Tom Thibodeau. “You just like him,” Thibodeau said after Okogie scored 17 to help the Wolves beat the Lakers 124-120 on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “You just like his energy, and he makes things happen.” He’s struggling from the floor (38.3 percent), but his energy and defense could make him hard to bench once Wiggins returns. For now, though, he’s earned his rung on the Ladder. Just missed the cut: Jaren Jackson, Memphis Grizzlies Through six games, Jackson is averaging 11.5 points (6th among rookies), 5.2 rebounds (7th) and 1.0 blocks (4th) in 22.7 minutes. Scored in double-digits in the first four games, but has just 10 points in last two games while seeing playing time dip due to foul trouble. Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic Fifth in rebounding (5.4 rpg) and leads rookies in blocks at 2.0 per game (ninth among all players). Also managing to put up almost two 3s a night (at a 38.5 percent clip) while seeing around 20 minutes of action. Wendell Carter, Jr., Chicago Bulls Fourth in rebounding (6.3 rpg) in just over 25 minutes per game. Field goal percentage down for a big man (43.6 percent) but he’s scored in double-digits in last three games. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers Has been solid as Clippers’ backup. His ability to get to the rim and defend has earned him a spot in the rotation and even crunch-time minutes. Averaging 8.4 points and 3.6 assists (4th), while picking up a steal per game. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers Has scored in double-digits in his last four games, averaging 14.3 points in that span. His ability to get to the line (nine times in each of last two games) may be his best feature. His career-best 17 points helped Cleveland get its first win Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), and it will be interesting to see how his role changes under interim coach Larry Drew. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 2nd, 2018

Willie Marcial keeps close watch on referees

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial is making sure the league’s pool of 19 referees will be up to the task when the Governors Cup playoffs reel off next week......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsNov 1st, 2018

5 NBA players to watch this season

    LOS ANGELES, USA – It may have been all about LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for most of the preseason, but there's certainly more players – and storylines – to watch when the 2018-2019 NBA season gets going on Tuesday, October 16. Here are just 5 ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsOct 13th, 2018

Montreal making a (big) move as MLS season winds down

By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer   The North is making noise in the East. And no, it's not Toronto FC. The Montreal Impact are unexpectedly in the MLS playoff picture after a steady climb up the standings. The Impact plummeted to second-to-last place in the Eastern Conference in the 12th week of the season. But they currently sit in sixth — and just above the line for postseason contention. They're five points in front of seventh-place D.C. United, their opponent on Saturday at Audi Field. "I think the confidence in the guys is only growing, and we're really coming together over what we know we're capable of," said forward Quincy Amarikwa, who was acquired in August. After failing to make the playoffs last season — a year after reaching the Eastern Conference finals — the Impact dismissed coach Mauro Biello. Additionally, four players retired, including fan favorite Patrice Bernier and Andres Romero. Laurent Ciman was traded to LAFC. Former Aston Villa manager Remi Garde was hired as head coach and first team director of player personnel to restart the club. The Impact also added central midfielder Saphir Taider, who played for three seasons with Bologna. The results came slowly and the Impact lost 11 of their first 15 games. The team was overly dependent on veteran midfielder Ignacio Piatti. The turnaround has included eight wins and four draws in the last 15 matches, including last week's 1-1 draw against NYCFC that denied New York City a chance to clinch a spot in the playoffs. The team started September with a decisive 3-0 victory at home over the Red Bulls followed by a 4-1 road victory over the Philadelphia Union. Garde, however, spent last week warning that Montreal should not be complacent. "Right now we're getting a lot of praise. Probably too much. Yes, the team has improved a lot this year," Garde said. "But in this league, praise is useless when a couple of bad results can change everything." The Impact have four matches left — two home and two away — to secure their postseason spot. For comparison's sake, Toronto FC won the MLS Cup last season and currently sit in ninth place in the East, out of the current playoff picture. The Vancouver Whitecaps are in the eighth spot in the West, and on Tuesday dismissed coach Carl Robinson.   GAME OF THE WEEK: Kind of a no-brainer, but the top two teams in the East, Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls, meet Sunday at Red Bull Arena. An Atlanta victory would cement the Union's spot in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League. And it's always fun to watch Josef Martinez, who already broken the league's single-season goal record and now has 30 and counting. Atlanta is also closing in on the single-season points record. With 63 points and four games to go, the United are within reach of Toronto FC's record of 69 set last season. The Red Bulls won't have top goal-scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips because of yellow card accumulation.   PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Philadelphia Union forward Jay Simpson earned Player of the Week honors after scoring both goals in Philadelphia's 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City last Sunday. It was Simpson's first start of the season.   ROBINSON OUT: The Whitecaps surprised many with the dismissal of coach Robinson before the season had wrapped up. Vancouver is outside playoff contention with five games left. The move came Tuesday following Sunday's 2-1 loss at home to FC Dallas. The Whitecaps players were told before practice. Kendall Waston told reporters afterward he was unhappy with the decision. "I was thinking five games to go, if it was the right moment. Personally, I don't think it was the right moment, but I'm not in charge of the club. I'm just a player, I'm just an employee," the team captain said. "I don't agree, but it's my personal opinion." Forward Kei Kamara called the decision shocking, adding that players should have won games. "We should feel responsible as players because they gave us the chance to prove them right, day in and day out, and in games," Kamara said. Craig Dalrymple, the technical director of the Whitecaps FC Academy, will serve as interim coach......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 27th, 2018

Phoenix nears playoffs

Louie Alas has a good memory, and he made sure that his Phoenix Fuel Masters remembered as well. Using their previous loss to Magnolia as their motivating tool, the Fuel Masters got back hard on the Hotshots to win for the third straight time in the PBA Governors' Cup eliminations at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday night, moving them closer to a first playoff appearance under Alas' watch. "The last time we played them, we were up by 10 in the fourth quarter," Alas said after a 95-82 win that had Phoenix rising to 5-1 overall, good for second spot behind the unbeaten Blackwater Elite. "And my players responded and played their best fourth quarter [of the tournament]." Phoeni...Keep on reading: Phoenix nears playoffs.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2018

From G League to GM, 76ers turn franchise over to Brand

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Only two years out of the NBA, Elton Brand is set to return to the league as a 39-year-old general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. For a franchise that underwent the painful “Process” for a few seasons and had its last GM caught up in a Twitter scandal, a youth movement in the front office could be what the Sixers need to take the next step into Eastern Conference contention. Brand is ready to help lead the way. “I’m going to rely on my team,” Brand said. “Not just on the court, but the off-the-court team. I can’t keep saying it enough. In my opinion, we are one of the top groups in the NBA.” Brand was introduced Thursday at the Sixers complex as the new GM, and it was made clear the two-time All-Star will not yield the power to make the final decisions, but rather work in concert with coach Brett Brown and the rest of the front office. “The 76ers are on the cusp of something very special and the next 12 months are really important,” Brand said. “I think that’s why I was the leading candidate, to bring stability to the organization and this group that I know really well.” Brand had worked for the Sixers as vice president of operations and was the general manager of the Delaware Blue Coats, the 76ers’ G League affiliate. Sixers owner Josh Harris said Brand emerged from a list of at least 10 candidates as the right choice to steady a franchise rocked by Bryan Colangelo’s sudden departure. Colangelo resigned in June as the 76ers’ president of basketball operations after what an investigation concluded was “careless and in some instances reckless” sharing of sensitive team information on Twitter. “I’ll lead with honesty, integrity,” Brand said. Brown had assumed interim GM duties but wanted no part of holding the job full time. But he will work as Brand’s partner in key decisions the franchise faces coming off a 52-win season. “Coach and I are aligned,” Brand said. “Teams that have won in the NBA, the GM, the coach have to get along. He’s going to have the players. But when it comes to trades, draft process, I’m running that. That’s what I’ve been hired for. Final say? Coach is going to have a voice in it.” Brand played in 1,058 career games over 18 seasons with the Bulls, the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, Atlanta and two stints with the Sixers. He posted career averages of 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks per game. A two-time All-Star and the 2000 co-rookie of the year, Brand was also the recipient of the 2005-06 Joe Dumars Trophy, presented each season to the player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court. “I think we’re at a new point in our team’s development into hopefully an NBA championship,” Harris said. “We need to be attracting talent here. Certainly, Elton’s image and who he is as a person were real positives. But leadership and managerial skills and the things you’ve got to do in the front office that aren’t just about image, he’s got those, too. But certainly, that was a huge positive.” Brand said it’s fair to question his inexperience as he skyrocketed through the organization from the G League to GM. But it’s a job he’s ready to handle. “I’ll take the hits,” he said. “When there’s decisions made on the basketball side, I’m taking the hits.” Alex Rucker was promoted to executive vice president of basketball operations. Ned Cohen will remain assistant general manager and Marc Eversley will stay as senior vice president of player personnel. The Sixers beat Miami in the first round of the playoffs before they were eliminated in the conference semifinals by Boston. Under Brown’s watch, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have blossomed into two of the top young players in the league. Embiid and Markelle Fultz were among the players who attended Brand’s press conference. The Sixers were stunned when an independent review found that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, operated four Twitter accounts. She admitted using private information to criticize the Sixers and rival colleagues. Brand, the fourth black GM in the NBA, is ready for the Sixers to put the offseason mess behind them and make a jump in the East. “This is a special team, an incredible opportunity, and we will lead a disciplined and determined path to building a championship organization,” he said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 20th, 2018

Tim Hardaway Sr. s basketball narrative hits close to home

Standing at only six-feet, Tim Hardaway Sr. had a stellar career in the National Basketball Association. With five NBA All-Star Game appearances, a retired #10 jersey by the Miami Heat, and multiple ankles broken courtesy of his killer crossover moves, Hardaway made a name for himself in spite of his physical limitations. It's a story that might ring a bit familiar for aspiring Filipino ballers. "I'm not that tall. I've been short all my life. I have to create shots all my life. I had to show people that even though I'm small I can still play in the high level," Hardaway shared with ABS-CBN Sports, Saturday, during the NBA 3x Philippines Playoffs held at the Mall of Asia Music Hall. Having played his best years in the NBA in the 90s, Hardaway expressed his views on how different he thinks the style of play is now, in the 21st century. With his observation that the referee's whistle is blown more often compared to his time, he concludes that his generation of ballers was way tougher. "We [were] stronger. No question, we [were] tougher," he said. Aside from his height -- or the lack thereof, Hardaway's basketball genesis playing on concrete courts is another similarity to the Filipino experience. "We know how to fall because we play on concrete. These guys today when they fall, they fall hard." Hardaway has been doing rounds in the Manila basketball scene this week, promoting the 2018 edition of NBA 3X Philippines presented by AXA event. Earlier this week, he watched a PBA game and covered an NCAA match. "It was great just to watch basketball, these kids play, and watching the coaches coach the teams. It's just fascinating to understand and see people with their basketball IQs," Hardaway said when asked to describe his experience commentating during the match between University of Perpetual Help and College of Saint Benilde. Tim Hardaway Sr. was joined by NBA champion Brian Scalabrine in the 3x3 event in Manila, where they bonded with up-and-coming young bloods, as well as celebrity ballers......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 25th, 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