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Europa League offers last chance for Wenger to sign off a winner

LONDON: Arsenal have little time to digest Arsene Wenger’s long-awaited decision to end his 22-year reign as a Europa League semifinal with Atletico Madrid offers the outgoing manager a chance to salvage some of his lost credit with the club’s fans. Wenger admitted he stepped aside to unite a fanbase fed up with years of [...] The post Europa League offers last chance for Wenger to sign off a winner appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource: manilatimes manilatimesApr 25th, 2018

Uncertainty shrouds Chelsea despite FA Cup win over United

By Rob Harris, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — Chelsea's players saved their season but maybe not their manager. Collecting the FA Cup, after beating Manchester United 1-0 on Saturday, is looking like Antonio Conte's final act with Chelsea. "After two years, the club knows me very well," Conte said. "And if they continue to want to work with me they know I can't change. My way is always the same." Having won three Serie A titles at Juventus before capturing the English Premier League trophy for Chelsea, Conte reminded the Chelsea hierarchy: "I'm a serial winner." It was a bullish sign-off to a lackluster season that saw the Italian's relationship with Chelsea's leadership become increasingly strained as the team went from champions to fifth in the Premier League. "Our job is not simple," Conte said. "I understand that the club can make a decision." Wembley match-winner Eden Hazard also has a decision to make: Whether to pursue a transfer. After raising doubts about his Chelsea future ahead of the final — demanding "good players" are signed in the offseason — Hazard produced the only goal from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute. On the pitch, amid the celebrations, Hazard said nothing to demonstrate his commitment to the club. "I'm just happy," Hazard said. "You see the fans celebrating with the trophy. We didn't play a great season but at least we finished well." Although not in the style craved by Hazard. "If we want to win a lot of games we have to play better," Hazard said, "because today we played defensively." Such was the focus on the gloomy Premier League campaign and looming offseason of uncertainty in the post-match interviews, it was easy to forget Chelsea had just picked up a trophy. "This was to save our season," Chelsea captain Gary Cahill said. "I'm not saying we've had a magnificent season by any stretch. But we are used to winning, not in an arrogant way, but we have to try to win things." Conte's first cup final victory in coaching meant former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho finished his second season at United empty-handed, paying the price for an insipid first-half display and coming to life only after the break. United took until the 56th minute to register a shot on target when Marcus Rashford struck at goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who later rushed off his line to block the forward. United's deficiencies were encapsulated by another patchy performance from midfielder Paul Pogba, who squandered a late chance to equalize by heading wide. Mourinho, though, couldn't find any faults. "I don't think (Chelsea) deserved to win," said Mourinho, who won the League Cup and Europa League last year. "I am quite curious because if my team played like Chelsea did I can imagine what everyone would be saying." KNOW THE LAW Conte seemed unfamiliar with the 2016 change to the "triple punishment" law, reducing the type of incidents that result in a penalty kick, a red card and suspension. Conte remonstrated to the officials after Phil Jones was only booked, not sent off for bringing down Hazard for the penalty. Referee Michael Oliver was right because a "genuine attempt has been made to play the ball," as football laws state. MAN UNITED: WHAT NEXT? This was only Mourinho's third loss in 15 career cup finals and the first defeat in regulation time. Despite Mourinho being able to spend around 300 million pounds ($404 million) on players, the only progress he can point to is finishing second in the league for the club's highest finish since Alex Ferguson retired as a champion in 2013. More investment is required in the offseason, particularly to acquire fullbacks. Wingers Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia have been deployed there. CHELSEA: WHAT NEXT? The rapid turnover of managers hasn't prevented Chelsea from collecting trophies. It's now 15 in 15 years under Roman Abramovich's ownership. The Russian billionaire could well be searching for his 11th permanent manager if he decides to fire Conte with a year remaining on his contract. Chelsea's priority is finding a new striker, particularly if Hazard leaves, despite lacking the appeal of appearing in the Champions League. Chelsea failed to adequately replace Diego Costa last year, scoring 62 goals in the league compared to 85 in the previous title-winning campaign. MISSING The president of the Football Association wasn't available to present the FA Cup. Prince William had a more pressing engagement, serving as best man for brother Prince Harry in the lunchtime wedding to Meghan Markle at Windsor. Instead, the trophy was presented by Jackie Wilkins, the widow of former Chelsea and United midfielder Ray Wilkins, who died last month at the age of 61......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2018

Kovac and Frankfurt stun Bayern 3-1 to win German Cup final

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Niko Kovac stunned his future employer by leading Eintracht Frankfurt to a 3-1 win over Bayern Munich in the German Cup final on Saturday. The Frankfurt coach, who has agreed to take over from the retiring Jupp Heynckes in Munich next season, oversaw a committed performance from his side crowned by two goals from the impressive Ante Rebic. The Croatian striker scored early and late to cancel out Robert Lewandowski's equalizer for Bayern. Bayern might have had a penalty in injury time, but referee Felix Zwayer decided otherwise after consulting video replays, and Mijat Gacinovic then sealed it on a counterattack for Frankfurt. "It's unbelievable," said Frankfurt's Kevin-Prince Boateng, back in his Berlin hometown. "Everyone said we'd be beaten out of the stadium and we beat Bayern Munich out of the stadium." It was Frankfurt's first title for 30 years, and its fifth German Cup also provided a ticket to the Europa League next season. "We fought and whoever fights and believes in themselves will be rewarded. I'm so proud," Boateng said. Kovac went one better after his side lost to Borussia Dortmund in last year's German season-ending showpiece. "This year we have the positive feelings, the nice feelings," said Kovac, who struggled to hold back his tears. "I'm sad to be leaving. I know where I'm going, but I've experienced two and a half wonderful years and what we delivered here was huge. I'm leaving a team with great character, great guys." Heynckes was hoping to sign off with another domestic double, but there was to be no repeat for the 73-year-old coach who revitalized Bayern after coming out of retirement to replace the fired Carlo Ancelotti. Lewandowski hit the crossbar early on but Rebic took Frankfurt's first chance minutes later when he forced James Rodriguez to lose the ball and received it back from Boateng before firing inside the post. Lewandowski equalized minutes into the second half when Joshua Kimmich pulled the ball back for the Poland striker to score with a deflected shot. Rebic grabbed his second in the 82nd minute after a long punt from Danny da Costa. The Croat headed the ball on despite a defender on either side and clipped it over the outrushing Sven Ulreich. Frankfurt fans were infuriated when the video referee told Felix Zwayer to check it again as the ball came off Boateng's hand, but the goal stood. Zwayer was again the center of attention in a furious finale when Boateng appeared to foul Javi Martinez, but the referee was not feeling generous on his 37th birthday and he declined to award Bayern what looked a clear penalty despite several replay viewings. "We were lucky," Kovac acknowledged. "I think it's a penalty." Instead Zwayer gave Bayern a corner, but Gacinovic ran the length of the pitch and scored at the other end. "For me it's a clear penalty," said Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, who clashed with his friend Kovac as emotions took hold......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2018

Atletico finishes strong after poor start to season

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — It all turned out just fine for Atletico Madrid. After enduring a poor start to the season, Atletico ended it on a very high note. Diego Simeone's team is celebrating the Europa League title and still has a chance to finish second in the Spanish league, a feat it hasn't achieved since 2014. "We're very happy. We've been doing well year after year," Simeone said. "We've always said the best way to start winning again was to always keep trying." It was the sixth title for Simeone since he arrived in 2012 to revamp Atletico and make it into perennial title contender. He is now tied with Luis Aragones for the most titles with the club. "It's about more than a trophy," Simeone said. "It represents the value of hard work, a steady hand and consistency, values to be successful in life." Life poured onto the streets of the Spanish capital late Wednesday to celebrate Atletico winning a third Europa League trophy after beating Marseille 3-0 in the final in Lyon. It was a good way to end a season which began with very high expectations for Atletico but mostly disappointed until the last few weeks. The main goal was to make it back to the Champions League final after coming very close to winning the title in recent seasons, But it couldn't even get past the group stage. Atletico easily made it to the knockout stages in the last four seasons, losing the final to Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016, and being a semifinalist last season and a quarterfinalist in 2015. "We came very close in two Champions League finals, and in the semifinals last season," Simeone said. "We lost one (final) with two minutes left, and another on penalties. But we got ourselves back up." Atletico lost to Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey to see another title opportunity slip by, and in the Spanish league it stayed near the top throughout the season but was never really able to mount a title challenge against Barcelona. Not helpful was a FIFA transfer ban which wasn't lifted until January, when Atletico could finally sign striker Diego Costa. Atletico needs a draw at home against Eibar on Sunday to hold on to second place ahead of Real Madrid and secure its best finish since it won the league in 2014. Atletico finished third behind either Barcelona or Madrid in all the other years since 2012-13, which was the team's first full season under Simeone. A draw or a loss by Real Madrid at Villarreal on Saturday will also be enough for Atletico, which is three points ahead of the city rival with one match to play. The teams are even in the head-to-head tiebreaker — they drew 0-0 and 1-1 — but Atletico trails on overall goal difference. Sunday's Liga game will also mark the end of Fernando Torres' career with Atletico. The former Spain striker earlier announced he will leave the club at the end of the season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2018

Liverpool into Champions League, Man City reaches 100 points

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Liverpool qualified for the Champions League at the expense of Chelsea, Swansea was relegated, and champion Manchester City made it to 100 points as the loose ends were tied up on a typically high-scoring final day of the Premier League season on Sunday. It was also the end of an era in England's top flight, with Arsene Wenger taking charge of his final game as Arsenal manager after 22 seasons. He went out with a 1-0 win at Huddersfield. Liverpool only needed to draw with Brighton to secure another season in the Champions League, but manager Juergen Klopp fielded an attacking team and was rewarded with a 4-0 victory at Anfield. Mohamed Salah scored one of the goals, taking the Egyptian to a league-high 32 goals for the campaign — the most in a 38-game Premier League season. That meant Chelsea will not be playing in Europe's elite competition for the second season in three years. The London club finished fifth after a 3-0 loss at Newcastle, in what could prove to be Antonio Conte's last league game as manager. The final-day "miracle" that Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal required didn't happen, with the Welsh club losing 2-1 to Stoke to end its seven-year stay in the league and ensure Southampton stayed up. Swansea had needed to win and Southampton to lose to Man City, with a 10-goal swing in goal difference. So it didn't matter that Southampton conceded late to lose 1-0 to City, although that did mean Pep Guardiola's side became the first team to post 100 points in a Premier League season. It is the latest milestone reached by City, which has also claimed the most total wins (32), goals (106), victories in a row (18) and away wins (16) in this record-breaking season. The 19-point margin to second place Manchester United is also a record, as is the goal difference of plus 79. Tottenham beat Leicester 5-4 in the highest-scoring game of the day to secure third place above Liverpool. United was already assured of second place before its 1-0 win over Watford, in Michael Carrick's final game for the club. ANOTHER TROPHY FOR SALAH Fittingly, it was Salah who guided Liverpool back into the Champions League and he ended a sun-kissed afternoon at Anfield lifting the Golden Boot for being the Premier League's top scorer this season. His 32-goal haul was two more than Harry Kane, the winner for the past two seasons. There were wonderful scenes soon after as Liverpool's fans cheered Salah's daughter, Makka, as she kicked about a ball on the field. Dejan Lovren added a second before Dominic Solanke and Andrew Robertson scored their first goals for Liverpool to complete a routine victory in its last match before playing the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 26. Liverpool ended up in fourth place for the second straight season. Chelsea ended the season without even a whimper, and in the Europa League. Four days after drawing 1-1 at home, the deposed champions looked bedraggled in losing to Newcastle thanks to goals by Dwight Gayle and Ayoze Perez, who scored twice in the second half. SWANSEA DOWN Swansea fans channeled their anger toward chairman Huw Jenkins and the club's American majority shareholders, Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien, after the team's relegation was confirmed with a loss to a team that started the day in last place. Jenkins was conspicuous by his absence from his customary seat in the directors' box but that did not prevent Swansea supporters urging Jenkins to "get out of our club" from the first minute. Andy King's goal gave Swansea hope of an unlikely final-day comeback, but Badou Ndiaye and Peter Crouch scored to ensure already relegated Stoke would not end the season bottom. That position went to West Bromwich Albion, which lost 2-0 at Crystal Palace. WENGER'S FAREWELL In the 22nd minute, Huddersfield fans joined Arsenal supporters in rising to their feet inside the John Smith's Stadium to applaud Wenger in his 1,235th game in charge of the Gunners. A plane flew over the stadium, carrying the message "Merci Arsene, we will miss you too" in response to Wenger's goodbye speech last week at the Emirates Stadium. "I should have announced every week my goodbye," Wenger said, "because people have been so nice with me." Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the final scorer of the Wenger era, sliding in to convert Aaron Ramsey's cross in the 38th minute for the only goal. Arsenal finished sixth in the Premier League — the lowest under Wenger, who will stay working. "Whether that is managing or not... I am addicted and I don't think that can be cured," Wenger said. CITY'S CENTURY City left it to virtually the last kick of its last match to reach the magical 100-point barrier. Gabriel Jesus, on as a substitute, found space to lift the ball over goalkeeper Alex McCarthy in the fourth minute of additional time, prompting wild celebrations among City's players. Pep Guardiola reacted to the team's 106th league goal of the season by leaping out of his seat in the dugout and punching the air. Jesus removed his shirt and twirled it in celebration in front of City's supporters. The players were still on the field 20 minutes after the final whistle. City will celebrate on the streets of Manchester on Monday with an open-top bus parade......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2018

Wenger to leave Arsenal after more than 21 years in charge

By Rob Harris, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — Arsene Wenger is leaving Arsenal after more than 21 years, ending a revolutionary reign that saw him introduce new methods to the Premier League and become the club's most successful manager. While the 68-year-old Frenchman was able to announce his own departure plans on Friday, the tenure of English soccer's longest-serving manager will finish at the end of the season against a backdrop of mounting dissent as the London club's competitiveness in the Premier League has waned. Arsenal has failed to win the Premier League since 2004, but that feat represented the highpoint of Wenger's career as he became only the second manager to go through an English league season unbeaten. The "Invincibles" season, his third Premier League title, helped shield Wenger against the critics. But Wenger's power appeared to drain over the last year as executives trying to shape the future direction of the team were brought in. The new two-year contract that Wenger signed after winning the FA Cup for a record seventh time last May will now not be completed. "After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season," Wenger said. "I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years. I managed the club with full commitment and integrity. "I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high. To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support for ever." Even though Arsenal is sixth in the Premier League, there can still be a successful conclusion to the season with the team in contention for the Europa League. Arsenal's appearance in the competition, though, is a sign of the recent demise under Wenger. Arsenal became accustomed to qualifying for the Champions League before missing out for the first time in two decades after finishing fifth last season. Winning the Europa League is now Arsenal's only realistic way of Wenger bequeathing his successor a place next season in the more illustrious Champions League. With Wenger's footprints all over the Emirates Stadium, finding a coach to step into the dugout after a dynastic reign is a challenge. Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke only has to look at the problems that have afflicted Manchester United since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 after more than 26 years in charge. United is on its third manger since Ferguson left after winning a record-extending 20th English title and has not finished higher than fourth. Among the early contenders to succeed Wenger are two Germans: Thomas Tuchel, who left Borussia Dortmund last year, and Germany coach Joachim Loew. A popular appointment among Arsenal fans could be Patrick Vieira, who has been gaining coaching experience in Major League Soccer at New York City FC. The midfielder was one of Wenger's first signings in 1996 and featured in all three Premier League title-winning sides. Wenger took over in October 1996 as Arsenal's first foreign manager on the back of successes at Monaco and a stint in charge of Japanese club Grampus Eight. He was a relative unknown but quickly gained respect for helping to modernize English soccer in the early years of the Premier League, eradicating Arsenal's drinking culture and introducing new sports science methods. Adding Vieira and French players Nicolas Anelka, Emmanuel Petit and Thierry Henry helped to establish Arsenal as an English soccer power until Wenger was shackled by the financial constraints of the move from Highbury into the new Emirates Stadium in 2006. It coincided with the rise of foreign investment in rival clubs, with Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich transforming Chelsea and Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour raising the stakes by lavishing even more cash on players at Manchester City. While Arsenal was taken over by Kroenke in 2011, the American sports tycoon operated in a parsimonious financial environment that irritated many supporters. Now Kroenke, who told The Associated Press in 2016 that he was "very high on Arsene," has the tough task of replacing Wenger. "This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport," Kroenke said. "One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsene has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched. "Arsene has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude." Arsenal said it will make an appointment "as soon as possible." "We have high ambitions to build on Arsene's remarkable tenure and to honor his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game," Kroenke said. "We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal's history and one of the greats of the game."  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 20th, 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

Giroud s overhead kick gives Arsenal 1-0 win at Red Star

The Associated Press - Olivier Giroud scored late in the second half for Arsenal to maintain its perfect Europa League campaign with a 1-0 win over 10-man Red Star Belgrade on Thursday. Five minutes after Milan Rodic was sent off for a second yellow card, Giroud struck with an overhead kick five minutes before the final whistle after Theo Walcott headed the ball to him. "It was a great combination before the goal as well and he finished well," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. Arsenal opened a five-point lead in Group H with nine points. Red Star and BATE Borisov, which beat visiting Cologne 1-0, are on four. Cologne is bottom without a point. Elsewhere, Lazio rallied to take three points at Nice with a 3-1 win in Group K, and Real Sociedad thrashed Macedonia's Vardar 6-0 in Group L with Willian Jose scoring four goals. Milan was held 0-0 at home by Greek team AEK in Group D, and Everton's campaign suffered another blow after a 2-1 loss at home to Lyon in Group E. Arsenal rested nine front-line players who were in the lineup for the English Premier League's match against Watford on Saturday, which Arsenal lost 2-1. But goalkeeper Petr Cech was in the goal as captain and made his presence felt, making several perfect saves. "It's important to have a good goalkeeper in this kind of game, too," Wenger said. "They were dangerous and Petr Cech kept us in the game." Mathieu Debuchy returned to the squad after a year due to injuries. With several young players, including Reiss Nelson, Joseph Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, the Gunners didn't look dangerous until Giroud's goal. "I believe you win when you can, you do not decide when," Wenger said. "What's remarkable is the spirit we have shown. They defended very well, but the goal is a consequence of us wanting to play through them." Richmond Boakye headed the ball onto the crossbar in the biggest chance for Red Star. LAZIO LEADS Boosted by a 2-1 victory over Juventus in Serie A, Lazio took the sole lead in Group K after rallying to a 3-1 away win at Nice in a matchup of two teams that won their previous two games. The fans didn't have to wait long for goals. Mario Balotelli headed home for the hosts four minutes into the game from Wesley Sneijder's cross, but Felipe Caicedo equalized for the hosts just a minute later. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored his first goal for Lazio in the 65th before adding his second a minute from time. Lazio stays perfect atop the group with nine points from three wins. Nice is second, three points back. Zulte Waregem and Vitesse drew 1-1 and have a point each in the group. REAL ON FIRE Willian Jose scored two goals in each half for Real Sociedad on the way to thrashing Macedonia's Vardar 6-0. Mikel Oyarzabal gave the Spaniards a first-half lead. The Brazilian striker then took charge before he was substituted on the hour. Alberto de la Bella added the final goal at the last minute. Despite the victory, Real is second in Group L with six points, trailing leader Zenit St. Petersburg by three after the Russians beat Rosenborg 3-1 to stay perfect. Rosenborg has three points and Vardar remains bottom after three defeats. EVERTON'S MISERY Everton is 16th in the 20-team English Premier League and is still without a win in three Europa League group matches this season. Nabil Fekir converted a penalty kick six minutes into the match for Lyon after Mason Holgate downed Marcal in the area. Players of both teams briefly clashed after a hard push from Everton captain Ashley Williams on Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes. Everton could face punishment from UEFA after a fan holding a child appeared to aim a punch at a Lyon player during the second-half melee at Goodison Park which continued off the pitch and in front of the Howard Kendall Gwladys Street End. Just minutes later, Williams seemed to come to Everton's rescue with a 69th-minute header. But Lyon needed just six minutes to answer with Bertrand Traore restoring the advantage to 2-1. Under-pressure Everton manager Ronald Koeman has something to think about before league games against Arsenal and Leicester sandwich a League Cup match with Chelsea. Italian side Atalanta leads Group E with seven points after a 3-1 win over Apollon Limassol. Lyon trails by two points in second. Apollon has two points and Everton remains last with one point. NO CHEERS IN BALKANS Partizan Belgrade played without its fans at Skenderbeu in Albania on Thursday with the reverse situation— no Skenderbeu supporters — scheduled to happen in Serbia. Both teams agreed on that measure at UEFA's request to not "create a hot situation." The Group B game ended in a 0-0 draw......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 20th, 2017

LeBron s free agency decision could swing NBA s balance of power

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- These combo coronation-funerals can be tricky. Imagine the crowning of a new monarch where the royal subjects couldn’t stop chattering about the freshly deposed or deceased predecessor. Where the traditional cry of continuity and succession, “The king is dead! Long live the king!” got flipped, with what was overshadowing what is. That’s pretty much how it went Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena, with the Golden State Warriors’ latest NBA championship having to share the stage with speculation, instantly revved up, about LeBron James and the choice he’ll soon make about his next employer. The Warriors are the kings, claiming pro basketball’s throne yet again by completing a sweep of James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals. But of course, James is the King, and as so many of us learned in sophomore English – thanks, CliffsNotes! – “Uneasy lies the head (of those who fret and obsess about the future whereabouts of the NBA superstar) that wears a crown.” Long live the kings! The King is ... gone? There was so much energy before, during and after Game 4 Friday (Saturday, PHL time) poured into the last game/next game conjecture about James, the Cavaliers and seismic shifts in the league’s 2018-19 landscape that even the player’s surprise reveal near the end of the night – a bruised and bandaged right hand – couldn’t derail it. Turns out, as James ‘fessed up, the sore shooting paw was an injury he had been playing with ever since Game 1 in Oakland eight days earlier. He had “self-inflicted” it in a fit of pique when he smacked a whiteboard in the visitors’ dressing room at Oracle Arena after Cleveland’s overtime loss in the series-setter, an outcome driven at least in part by some teammates’ mistakes and an arcane wrinkle in the NBA’s replay rules regarding block/charge fouls. Despite the hordes of media people chronicling every waking detail of the Finals, James had kept the injury on the down-low (along with the possibility that J.R. Smith’s nickname amongst his Cavs teammates might be “whiteboard”). The cameras zoomed in and clicked in a paparazzi frenzy of motor drives every time James raised the hand, wrapped in black tape, above the table during his postgame podium remarks. Whether a legit Page-2-the-rest-of-the-story factor in the championship series or a too-late alibi, the contused hand wound up as a sidebar to where James plans to be using it when training camps open in a few months. As of Friday (Saturday, PHL time), it had been 95 months since “The Decision,” the 2010 announcement that James made in a tone-deaf vanity TV production that he was taking his talents from Cleveland to South Beach. Nearly 47 months had passed since he broke the news of his return in a Sports Illustrated ghost-written essay, envisioning much of what actually has unfolded in the four years since. Now savvy insiders and casual observers alike presume James will be on the move again, pushed to leave the franchise he has defined in an urgent search for more and better talent with which he can compete. As in, y’know, some horses, some horses, his kingdom for some horses. James’ free-agency process next month (he can opt out of a $35.6 million deal in the final season of his current contract) is expected to dictate the market of player movement this summer like an oversized domino. It easily could swing the balance of power, if not quite at Golden State’s lofty level then immediately below it. The monster he helped create Dr. Frankenstein eventually was done in by his macabre creation, and it can similarly be argued that James has no one but himself to blame for the predicament in which he again finds himself. He set in motion the machinery of the super team, after all, when he chose to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami eight years ago. Oh sure, the Boston Celtics in 2007-08 got there first by luring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce, but that was about knitting together three stars, all age 30 or older, for what would be their last best chance to win in an extremely limited run. That group won one title, went to two Finals in three seasons and was done, Allen leaving to join James & Co. with the Heat while Garnett and Pierce morphed into trade chips for Boston POBO Danny Ainge. When James, Wade and Bosh teamed up, they were in their basketball primes and their initial giddy boasts of “not four, not five, not six” championships turned off fans league-wide as much for its portent as its pretension. That crew went 4-for-4 in Finals, winning two rings before James, nudged by staleness and chafing as well as his grand plan for northeast Ohio, went home. From there, a line can be drawn through the ill-conceived 2012-13 L.A. Lakers of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol all the way to this season’s Houston Rockets of James Harden and Chris Paul and the talent-gorged Golden State roster. James was the centerpiece as Cleveland replicated the Big Three concept around him with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, two younger, playoff-stymied All-Stars. The new-look Cavaliers went to the Finals in their first season together and clambered atop the basketball world to win the franchise’s first NBA title by the end of the second, becoming the first team in league history to do so after digging a 1-3 hole in the best-of-seven series. In that moment, regardless of the two Finals trips that followed, James’ bill was stamped: Paid In Full. Misguided fans might burn his jersey if he leaves again, but James burned the mortgage after that Game 7 in Oakland in 2016 as far as any remaining obligation to fulfill. “I came back because I felt like I had some unfinished business,” he said after elimination Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “To be able to be a part of a championship team two years ago with the team that we had and in the fashion that we had is something I will always remember. Honestly, I think we'll all remember that. It ended a drought for Cleveland of 50-plus years, so I think we'll all remember that in sports history.” James added: “When you have a goal and you're able to accomplish that goal, it actually – for me personally – made me even more hungry to continue to try to win championships. And I still want to be in championship mode. I think I've shown this year why I will still continue to be in championship mode.” In other words, James intends to sustain his high level of performance. He expects to win. And he presumably will do whatever – and go wherever – is necessary to achieve that. There’s no perfect fit So what does that mean for the NBA’s best player (never mind what the annual MVP balloting says in any given season)? It means this: compromise. There is no ideal situation, certainly no easy answer to the guesswork surrounding James’ looming free agency. He could transform any of the 30 teams, but not without some trade-offs for him, for them or for both. Most of them won’t be in play. Teams in markets such as Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Portland, Sacramento, the Twin Cities and so on can’t scratch James’ itches for either championship-worthy depth chart or spotlight. New York and Chicago, among the biggies, are out of synch with his timeline. Toronto? No way James is resettling his brand north of the border, and given his stated desire for teammates who have not just sufficient basketball skills but also mental toughness, well, the Raptors teams he and the Cavs have dominated do not qualify. The Boston club that stretched Cleveland to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals is built for the long haul and would have to surrender much of that to adjust to James’ career calendar. There’s a little Kyrie problem lurking there and, truth be told, the Celtics look to be on their way and are doing just fine without the 33-year-old heading, one of these years, toward decline. At some point in each of the 2018 Finals’ final three days, James spoke admiringly of the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs title teams that blocked his path whether in Miami or Cleveland. He was at it again even as the Warriors were dousing the opponent’s locker room at The Q with Moet champagne. “I made the move in 2010 to be able to play with talented players, cerebral players that you could see things that happen before they happened on the floor,” James said. “When you feel like you're really good at your craft, I think it's always great to be able to be around other great minds as well and other great ballplayers. “That's never changed. Even when I came here in '14, I wanted to try to surround myself and surround this franchise with great minds and guys that actually think outside the box of the game and not just go out and play it.” Where might James find that now or recruit that swiftly? Hard to say. There are asterisks and “buts” everywhere: * If he were to sign with the Houston Rockets, James would be hitching his star to Chris Paul, a buddy with an injury history that’s about the mirror opposite of his own. He would be teaming up with an elite coach in Mike D’Antoni, something he’s never had (though Miami’s Erik Spoelstra was just young and unproven, on his way to big things). But it also would require another big ask of James Harden, who had to adapt last summer to Paul’s arrival and need for the ball. * If James chooses the Lakers, he has the chance to hit reset with the league’s glitziest franchise, in a market that can meet his every off-court wish and where he and his family already own one or more ultra-comfortable homes. The Lakers have young talent to help James transition into a lower-usage veteran’s role, favored status as a destination team for other top free agents and the salary-cap space to get it done this summer with the likes of Paul George or his pal Paul. But that roster might not be capable of insta-contending, which could burn a season or two when James’ clock most definitely is clicking. * If it’s San Antonio, James could link up with the elite coach in Gregg Popovich, where the winning culture is in the DNA rather than some acquired taste. The Spurs have talent, particularly if Kawhi Leonard finds happiness again there. But they might not have enough to rattle the Warriors’ cage. And for all their professed admiration, James and Popovich might both fare better by keeping their relationship long-distance vs. the 82-game grind. * If it’s Golden State? Perish the thought. The NBA might have to board up itself if competitive balance were capsized to that extent. And as Draymond Green shrewdly noted on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), if James climbed aboard, it likely would require him and several other Golden State teammates to be dispatched to parts unknown. * If James prefers to stay East, where the winning comes easier, he could pick Philadelphia. The Sixers have two foundational young stars at positions that matter most, center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons. But Simmons is a non-shooter at the moment, the antithesis of what makes a great complementary LeBron teammate. As for Embiid, James never has had to play off of and service a top center. And Philly might feel like a basketball-only move, with the hungriest and most demanding of any new fan base he would embrace. * If it’s Miami – wait, could it be Miami? Could he go second-home again? The Heat always strive to be competitive and offer a talent base deep enough for the East and lots of familiarity. But they also have players such as Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters whose mental approaches don’t seem to fit the model James was cooing about in Golden State and with the Tim Duncan-era Spurs. * That brings us to Cleveland, where it’s possible James might choose to remain. Staying with the Cavaliers, after leading them to four Finals and that heady 2016 title, would be the easiest choice as far as pressure to win. He owes these fans nothing anymore – in fact, had the bargain been offered to them in 2010 (“LeBron will leave and win elsewhere for four years, but will come back and deliver a championship and four Finals trips”), most would have grabbed it. Here, James and the fans who have watched him even through the interruption develop from ridiculously touted high schooler to one of the world’s most famous athletes could grow older together. Then he could partner up and buy the team from owner Dan Gilbert for a long-term future. Certainly, staying has a certain place in his and the rest of the James clan’s hearts. “The one thing that I've always done is considered, obviously, my family,” he said at series end Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “Understanding especially where my boys are at this point in their age. They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago. I've got a teenage boy, a pre-teen and a little girl that wasn't around as well. So sitting down and considering everything, my family is a huge part of whatever I'll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that.” It’s worth noting that as James contemplates his options as a modern pursuer of championship excellence, the prospect of him moving again qualifies at some level as a failure. Not just by the support system in Cleveland, where he and Gilbert have their friction and James gets snidely mentioned as the team’s unofficial GM and head coach, but by him too. He’s the one who went off to seek his “college education” in south Florida in what it takes to win, whether on the court, in the front office or in and around the seams 365 days a year, straight out of the Pat Riley handbook. The teams about which James talks so glowingly in Oakland now and in San Antonio then have cultures he covets, stability up and down the flowchart he craves. In Cleveland, for a variety of reasons, his team has been incapable of establishing and maintaining that to a lasting degree. He is part of that missed opportunity and he has to own it, no matter if he goes or stays. James is inseparable from the dynamic of the Cavaliers’ ever-changing and often melodramatic roster maneuvers. Spending big, swapping out draft picks to import current stars and supporting players, and overvaluing secondary guys like Smith and Tristan Thompson are risks the Warriors and the Spurs largely avoided thanks to shrew drafting and laudable continuity. The Cavs’ scrap heap, by contrast, is high with traded picks, scuttled plans, panic deals, short-term patches and folks such as former coach David Blatt and former GM David Griffin. And maybe James could have nurtured a little better relationship with All-Star point guard and 2016 title sidekick Kyrie Irving, enough to have kept Irving from bailing on them all with his trade demand last summer. Now he’s on the verge of casting about again, prioritizing what matters most for however long he continues to play. James is more at peace with it than he was before, particularly in 2010, and surely can enjoy the leverage he wields and the riches it delivers. But there is a burden there as well, one that could be seen as completing a circle. So many of the NBA’s greatest stars have been stuck playing and living in the Age of LeBron, right? Their paths to the Finals blocked, on one whole side of the league, by him and his? Well, LeBron James is stuck now in the Era of the Warriors, freshly swept and anxious to close the gap. What goes around comes around, though the key more pressing of the big W’s now is, where? Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 11th, 2018

Hope Solo says don t vote for US World Cup bid

By Rob Harris, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — A World Cup winner and Olympic champion with the United States, Hope Solo now wants her country to lose one of its biggest soccer contests: FIFA's vote on the 2026 World Cup host. "I can't say it should be awarded to Morocco," Solo told The Associated Press. "But I don't think it should go to the United States, and that's hard to say." Concerns about the financial dealings of the United States Soccer Federation and the closed men's league system led Solo to that conclusion. By choosing to actively campaign against the U.S.-led North America bid, Solo risks alienating herself further from the soccer community in her homeland. The bid leadership was exasperated when informed Solo was undermining their efforts heading into Wednesday's vote, dismissing her criticism of the governance of soccer but declining to go on the record in detail. This is not an isolated eruption against U.S. Soccer. Solo has reason to be disgruntled. After 202 international appearances — a record for an American goalkeeper — Solo was fired over an outburst at the 2016 Olympics against the opposition and a series of off-the-field controversies. In an attempt to take control of the organization that ostracized her, Solo ran for the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) presidency in February. There was a resounding verdict: Solo garnered only 1.4 percent of the vote to finish last out of five candidates. Solo still wants to be heard to try to secure equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women's team, and force Major League Soccer to open up the closed competition. Her gripes provide a counterpoint to the loyal championing of the American World Cup bid by David Beckham in a video released by MLS, where the former England captain is launching a team in Miami. That is only possible because Beckham secured a cut-price deal for an expansion franchise as part of his contract to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy. "That is not helping the sport in America," Solo said. "I want to see promotion-relegation in the NASL and the MLS. Right now it's true, you have rich ownership groups owning MLS teams and they're only getting richer and they're alienating everybody else. "A new ownership group can't just come in and purchase a team even though they have the financial security, even though they have the commitment. It's controlled by those single individuals at Soccer United Marketing, MLS in particular, (Commissioner) Don Garber." FIFA's statutes enshrine the principle of a system of promotion and relegation in domestic competitions to ensure participation "shall depend principally on sporting merit." The regulations then say that qualification can be subject to other criteria including "financial considerations." MLS stridently defended itself against Solo's criticism, saying team owners have invested more than $3 billion in stadium and training facilities to grow the sport because it's a closed league. "The structure that we have has given owners certainty to make that type of investment," MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott told the AP. "Had we had a system of promotion and relegation it would not have been possible to generate that level of investment from owners, local communities or private banks that help to fund some of these facilities." Solo also questioned Garber's role overseeing MLS and Soccer United Marketing, which is the exclusive marketing partner of U.S. Soccer, while also sitting on the USSF board. "There are too many conflicts of interest that need to be addressed immediately," Solo said. Garber represents MLS on the U.S. Soccer board but recuses himself from discussions about the "sanctioning of other professional leagues in the U.S.," Abbott responded on behalf of the commissioner. Turning on the USSF, Solo said the organization lacks integrity and highlights the absence of an independent ethics committee, which FIFA has. She also filed a claim with the U.S. Olympic Committee, saying the USSF violates a law that offers protections for athletes, alleging improper conditions for soccer players. "If you're an Olympic sport, your national governing body, every NGB has an obligation to give resources and funds to all of its members, not just professional and amateur players or Paralympic team women's teams or youth teams," Solo said. "But what U.S. Soccer does is they give the money directly to the pro teams. So it's in violation of the Ted Stevens Act and I have a hearing in a couple weeks in front of the Olympic Committee. "I also met with Congress members recently. I went to Capitol Hill, met with Republicans and Democrats, and there's a lot of interest to make sure that U.S. Soccer is an organization that actually is run transparently, has integrity and is an open and honest national governing body." Up to 207 soccer federations will vote next Wednesday in Moscow on whether North America or Morocco should host the 2026 World Cup, or the bidding should be reopened by choosing "none of the above." In FIFA's inspections report, North America's bid, which includes Canada and Mexico as minority partners, scored 402 out of 500, while Morocco was marked 275 in part due to a lack of infrastructure. "Hopefully FIFA can stand up and step in and say, 'If we're going to reward you, let's look at everything and point out where you can fix certain things,'" Solo said. Her call for greater transparency from the USSF came after speaking at the London launch conference for the Foundation for Sports Integrity, which has one named official who would not disclose the source of funding for the group or who paid to hire lavish facilities at a Four Seasons hotel. "I want to put my faith and trust in people," Solo said. "Who's funding it? That's no different from the way a lot of organizations are run.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2018

Zidane s successor faces high bar, doubts about stars

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Zinedine Zidane had barely finished announcing that he was leaving Real Madrid when speculation began about who would succeed him. Twenty-four hours later, both Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and Germany coach Joachim Loew — two of the top names rumored to be on Madrid's list of candidates — have said they are staying put. Pochettino said Friday that his "commitment is total" to Tottenham. He signed a five-year contract extension last week. Loew, who is preparing Germany to defend its World Cup title in Russia, said "it's not an issue for me. I'm at the World Cup now. I can completely rule it out now." Other coaches that Madrid president Florentino Perez supposedly is considering include Chelsea's Antonio Conte, exiting Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and former Madrid player Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez. While the Madrid job is one of soccer's most coveted posts, its next coach will have some hurdles to tackle. STARS IN DOUBT The biggest worry for any coach coming to the Spanish capital will be the uncertain future of the team's top stars. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale appear to be mulling an exit, at least according to statements they made just moments after Madrid beat Liverpool in last weekend's Champions League final. Ronaldo put a huge damper on Madrid's celebrations by appearing to speak of his time at Madrid as having reached its end. "In the next few days I'll give the fans an answer because they are the ones who have always been by my side," Ronaldo said. "It was very beautiful to be with Madrid." Ronaldo said he would clear up his future once he joins the Portuguese national team next week as it prepares for the World Cup. Bale, who scored twice as a substitute to beat Liverpool 3-1, was more explicit in stating his desire to get more playing time after a season during which he lost his spot in the starting 11. Midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon has also complained about not enjoying the same untoucbable status as Ronaldo, defender Sergio Ramos or midfielder Luka Modric. COMMITMENT Zidane could hardly have set the bar any higher with three straight European Cups. Still, the Frenchman leaves a Madrid team that woefully underperformed in both the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey this season. It is likely that only his status as fan favorite from his playing days at Madrid and his titles from the previous two seasons kept Zidane in his job through the first six months of last season, until the team finally found its form in the Champions League. Madrid finished in third place in the league, a whopping 17 points adrift champion Barcelona. In the Copa del Rey, the team was eliminated at home by a modest Leganes in the quarterfinals, a moment which Zidane said was the worst of his coaching stint with the club. Whoever inherits the team will have to improve its work ethic to face the weekly grind of games in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey if it hopes to dethrone Barcelona from both domestic competitions. BENZEMA Zidane has been the biggest public defender of Karim Benzema, fending off calls from fans and the local sports media to bench the struggling striker. Benzema scored only five times in 32 league appearances this season, his lowest mark since arriving at Madrid in 2009. If the club doesn't sign a replacement for Benzema this offseason, then its next coach will have to help him recover his best form. YOUNG PLAYERS Madrid tried to rejuvenate its squad last year by bringing in a group of young Spanish players, including defenders Theo Hernandez and Jesus Vallejo, midfielders Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente, and forward Borja Mayoral. But none earned a spot in Zidane's starting lineup or his group of preferred backups. Madrid's in-coming coach will have to bring those players into the fold so their careers don't stagnate any further......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 2nd, 2018

The 10 most intriguing free agents of summer 2018

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com The summer of 2018 promises to change the landscape of the NBA. It starts with the best player in the world having the ability to choose his next team, but it continues with good teams in Minnesota, Portland and Washington that might feel the need to shake things up, as well as a situation to monitor in San Antonio. The trade market can be unpredictable. It wasn't until late July last year that we learned that Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland, and it wasn't until late August when he was dealt to the Boston Celtics, who finished the summer with only four players remaining from the team that reached the conference finals. The free agent market is a little more predictable, in that there are only so many teams with the available cap space to sign a premium free agent outright. Most of the big contracts signed in 2016 (when almost every team had cap space) are still on the books and a lot of teams just don't have much flexibility. LOOK: NBA.com Free Agent Tracker But the trade market and the free agent market are tied together. In 2014, the Cavs created the space to sign LeBron James by trading Jarrett Jack and Tyler Zeller. And after signing James, they traded for Kevin Love. With that in mind, the players listed below aren't the 10 best free agents (or potential free agents). They're the 10 most interesting in regard to where they're going and what kind of contract they get. For players to be on this list, there needs to be some intrigue regarding their (and/or their team's) decision this summer. Kevin Durant is the second best player in the NBA and has a player option on his contract, but there appears to be little chance that he's leaving the Golden State Warriors. Re-signing with Houston is probably Chris Paul's best path to another year of contention. It's hard to see Clint Capela or Jusuf Nurkic (both restricted as well) going anywhere. The same goes (to a lesser degree) for Aaron Gordon and Fred VanVleet. There's intrigue in the terms under which Nikola Jokic is in Denver next season - either with the Nuggets exercising a $1.6 million team option or declining it, making him a restricted free agent, and signing him to a new deal - but we can be sure that he will be in Denver next season. The market for centers seems particularly small, taking away some of the intrigue with DeAndre Jordan and Brook Lopez. 1. LeBron James, F, Cleveland (Player option) At 33-years-old and in his 15th season, James remains the best player in the world. Would he leave Cleveland a second time? This is clearly the worst team he's been on since the first time he left the Cavs, and there are teams out there who can give him a better secondary playmaker to take some of the offensive load off his shoulders. Whatever team he's on next season is a contender and if if it's a different team than the one he's on now, it would be fascinating to see what happens with Love. Number to know: James' true shooting percentage of 62.1 percent this season was the third highest mark of his career. 2. Paul George, F, Oklahoma City (Player option) In trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana last summer, the Thunder knew that they might have George for just one season. There's been speculation about his next destination since he arrived in Oklahoma City, and the Thunder season (which ended in the first round of the playoffs) has to be seen as a disappointment. George's free agency is tied to what happens in San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard, who is eligible for a max contract extension this summer. If that extension doesn't happen (either because the Spurs don't offer it or because Leonard doesn't accept it), Leonard will become a trade target for teams that are also in the market for George. And there are a couple of teams that have the ability to bring two of the George/James/Leonard trio together. Number to know: George ranked second in the league in steals (2.0 per game) and tied for the league in deflections (3.9 per game). 3. DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Just when the Pelicans were hitting their stride with Cousins and Anthony Davis together, Cousins tore his Achilles. And then the Pelicans hit their stride without Cousins, winning 20 of their last 28 games in the regular season and sweeping the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs. If the Pelicans were to lose Cousins, they don't have the cap space to replace him. But there's obviously risk in giving him a big contract coming off an Achilles tear, and the the Pels' two bigs aren't a perfect fit together. As part of their February trade with Chicago, the Pelicans exercised the team option on Nikola Mirotic's contract for next season. So Mirotic is there as Davis' power forward complement for at least another year. Number to know: Cousins accounted for 47 percent of the fouls that the Pelicans drew while he was on the floor. That was the highest rate among 275 players who played at least 1,000 minutes this season. 4. Julius Randle, F, L.A. Lakers (Restricted) Randle is still just 23-years-old and developed into a pretty efficient scorer in the final year of his rookie deal. Among 126 players with at least 500 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons, he saw the fifth biggest increase in true shooting percentage (from 54 percent to 61 percent). But the Lakers' have their eyes on bigger names and might have to renounce their rights to the restricted free agent to clear as much cap space as possible. Number to know: Randle ranked fifth with 802 total points scored in the restricted area this season. 5. Marcus Smart, G, Boston (Restricted) Marcus Smart is intriguing more for what his departure would mean for the team he's leaving than for any other team he might join. And it's quite possible that he doesn't have the same value outside of Boston. Putting value on a bad shooter who makes "winning plays" is difficult in the first place. What happens with Smart affects how the Celtics deal with Terry Rozier, who will be a restricted free agent next year and would draw more interest from other teams as a starting point guard (if the Celtics don't give him an extension this summer). It's hard to imagine the Celtics keeping both behind Kyrie Irving long term, but the decision could be delayed a year if Smart were to accept the one-year qualifying offer. Number to know: Smart is one of six players who averaged at least 20 minutes in 40 or more games and with their teams allowing less than a point per possession with them on the floor. 6. J.J. Redick, G, Philadelphia The Sixers are another team that will be big-name shopping in July, which affects the status of Redick, who was signed to a one-year $23 million deal last summer. The Sixers don't have his bird rights, but wouldn't have to pay nearly that much (per year) on a long-term deal. Redick is a terrific complementary player on offense (an aggressive shooter who draws the defense's attention with relentless movement), but can be targeted on the other end of the floor, as was the case in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston. Number to know: Redick shot 45.9 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, the fourth best mark among 101 players who attempted at least 200. 7. Derrick Favors, F, Utah There were times this season when the frontline duo of Favors and Rudy Gobert wasn't working out, and Utah had some success with smaller, more versatile players at the four. But overall, the Jazz outscored their opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions with the two bigs on the floor together, and having both gives them a rim-protecting center on the floor at all times. Utah could create cap space and go free agent shopping, but that would require them to renounce their rights to Favors and Dante Exum. Number to know: Among 160 players with at least 400 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons, Favors saw the third biggest increase in effective shooting percentage (from 49 percent to 57 percent). 8. Isaiah Thomas, G, L.A. Lakers Thomas' stock fell precipitously from being a top-five MVP vote-getter last season to being a liability in Cleveland upon returning from his hip injury, and then requiring surgery in March. Still, the Lakers' offense was pretty efficient (scoring 110 points per 100 possessions) with him on the floor and the last time he was healthy, he had a historically good season. There are teams (Orlando and Phoenix, especially) in need of a starting point guard, but Thomas may have to settle for a short-term deal and a bench role in order to restore his value around the league. Number to know: Among 160 players with at least 400 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons, Thomas saw the biggest drop in both in effective shooting percentage (from 55 percent to 44 percent) and true shooting percentage (from 63 percent to 51 percent). 9. Dwyane Wade, G, Miami No, Wade is not one of the 10 best free agents out there. But he's a future Hall of Famer who has said that Miami is the only team he'll play for going forward. We saw in Game 2 of the first round against Philadelphia that he can win a game for you on any given night. But over a full season, he'd be a much better fit with the Heat (who have a handful of versatile non-shooters) if he had, at some point, developed a three-point shot. That he hasn't increases the chances that his career is over. Number to know: Wade had an effective field goal percentage of 36.8 percent from outside the paint, the second worst mark among 207 players who attempted at least 200 total shots from the outside. 10. Jabari Parker, F, Milwaukee (Restricted) Parker should look much better in the fall than he did in playing just 38 games (including playoffs) after returning from a second ACL tear in his left knee. He has issues to fix on both ends of the floor and isn't an ideal complement to Giannis Antetokounmpo in that neither shoots very well from the perimeter. Parker still has top-two-pick talent, but injury issues and defense issues make him a fascinating case in restricted free agency for a team that's looking to take a step forward with an MVP candidate and a new coach. Number to know: In the playoffs, the Bucks' offense was more than 14 points per 100 possessions better with Parker off the floor (scoring 114.9 per 100) than it was with him on the floor (100.6). John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 30th, 2018

Legacies at stake for Rockets, Warriors in Game 7

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com HOUSTON — So much riding on one game, which goes beyond which team reaches The Finals and which one reaches for the golf clubs. Reputations and images and legacies also can and will be determined in this winner-take-all battle between the Warriors and Rockets. Such is the way of professional sports and instant analysis and fortunes, both teams and players and coaches. That said, here’s what’s on the line for the main figures in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals: * James Harden. He can make a solid case for being the second-best player in the NBA over the past three seasons, having finished top three in Kia MVP voting twice and will perhaps take home the award this season. But LeBron James went to The Finals three times in that span and won once. Harden, on the other hand, doesn’t know what June basketball feels like since he joined the Rockets. He’ll have his best chance Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). He’ll be on his court, playing before his crowd, 48 minutes away from facing LeBron and the Cavaliers for a championship. If he loses against the Warriors, then Harden will keep the crown as Best Active Player Without A Championship, which isn’t an honor he embraces. With the possibility of playing this game without Chris Paul, Harden might need to explode for 40 points or more. And that still might not be enough. He’s still in his prime, but reaching The Finals, much less winning, isn’t guaranteed to happen. Remember how Oklahoma City was “destined” to return to The Finals when Harden played there? * Kevin Durant. His championship demons were destroyed last summer when he joined a loaded team and did exactly what everyone expected. Yet Durant didn’t sign up for a one-and-done. The only way to justify leaving OKC is by winning multiple titles. His performance in this series has gone hot and cold. This isn’t the same Durant who tore through everyone last spring and summer; he seems bewildered at times by the Houston defense. If he comes up flat and the Warriors lose, the sensitive Durant might want to stay off social media. * Chris Paul. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said what everyone feels about Paul and his hamstring injury: It stinks. Paul deserves so much more, especially after such a solid run through the playoffs in every round, including outplaying Steph Curry until the injury. Paul never reached the conference finals until now and at 33 is running out of chances to play for the championship. He’ll become an instant hero in Houston if he pulls a Willis Reed and inspires the Rockets in Game 7, then again if he beats his pal LeBron in The Finals. If not? Then he’ll wonder why the Basketball Gods are against him. * Steph Curry. A fourth straight trip to The Finals would make Curry the LeBron of the West. He shook himself free from a shooting slump to recover nicely in this series and save the Warriors from elimination in six games. * Mike D’Antoni. Validation would come finally for D’Antoni should he mastermind a victory over the four All-Star Warriors, especially so should he do it without Paul in Game 7. D’Antoni heard too often about how his offenses weren’t built to last in the postseason but nobody’s saying that now. Anyway, the Rockets employ a far different system than the one he used in Phoenix. Translated: Give him credit for adjusting and cooking up an offense to suit the talents of his players and not vice versa. Also, with the help of lead assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik, the Rockets’ defense is causing plenty of issues for the Warriors this series. Overall, D’Antoni has pushed all the right buttons. * Steve Kerr. Has he already done enough for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach just off two championships alone? If not, then a fourth straight trip to The Finals might be the trick. But Kerr hasn’t always convinced his players to remain calm in fourth quarters. Why did the Warriors’ offense suffer costly breakdowns in Games 4 and 5? Yes, Houston’s defense rose up, but adjustments by Golden State were slow to come, if at all. * Andre Iguodala. He isn’t expected to play Game 7 and if the Warriors advance, you wonder if he’ll be ready for another shot at LeBron. The Warriors gave him a nice contract extension here in his twilight because of what he means to them in spring and summer. They could use his on-court leadership. * Draymond Green. The Warriors are still looking for a breakout game in this series from their emotional leader. It’s not that Green has been a ghost; rather, he just hasn’t stood out in the small lineup or made his presence known in a big way, other than with the referees (as usual). It would help if Green began hitting those open three-pointers the Rockets are generously giving him. * Daryl Morey. Often celebrated as one of the top general managers in the game, Morey built this Rockets team with beating the Warriors in mind. He traded for Paul and signed P.J. Tucker last summer, and those two have repaid that faith with solid playoff performances. How many more times must Morey tweak the Rockets here in the Harden era before Houston finally strikes gold. For his sake, hopefully, this was the final time. But again, much depends on Paul’s hamstring. Sometimes, the fate of your team is beyond your control. Sometimes, you need luck. * Houston. This city endured a deadly flood, then lifted itself with the help of ordinary citizens and a handful of local athletes and celebrities, then celebrated its first World Series triumph courtesy of the Astros. For the last several months, therefore, Houston has been in the headlines, and would like to add another late Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). 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 NewsMay 28th, 2018

Ovechkin, Holtby shine in Game 7, Caps beat Lightning 4-0

By Fred Goodall, Associated Press TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Alex Ovechkin lifted the Prince of Wales Trophy, spun around and set it back down on a table. The rest of the Capitals joined him for a team photo after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 on Wednesday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, a victory that sent Washington to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. A decade of playoff frustration is fading fast. "I think Ovie has been on a mission," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "They wanted this game, no question." Ovechkin scored early and Andre Burakovsky added two second-period goals as the Caps continued to shed a label as postseason underachievers. Braden Holtby stopped 29 shots for his second straight shutout and the Lightning, who led the NHL in goals during the regular season, failed to score in the last 159 minutes, 27 seconds of the series — a stretch of nearly eight periods. Ovechkin, who had never advanced beyond the second round, scored 1:02 into the winner-take-all showdown he had described as probably the "biggest game in my life." "The first goal was very important," Ovechkin said. "After that you could see we have all the momentum on our side. Holts was unstoppable today. He was special. Everybody was all in. Everybody was sacrificing their bodies. I think we all deserve the win." To earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Final, where they'll play the Vegas Golden Knights, the Capitals beat the top-seeded Lightning three times on the road, improving to 8-2 away from home this postseason. It's Washington's first Cup Final appearance since 1998, and the first during Ovechkin's 13-year career. "We played a great game," defenseman John Carlson said. "We deserved to win this." Two games after being a healthy scratch for Game 5, Burakovsky became the 17th player to score a goal for Washington in the playoffs this year — four shy of the NHL record — when he beat Andrei Vasilevskiy on a breakaway at 8:59 of the second period. The winger, who played two games in the first round against Columbus before sitting out 10 straight with an upper-body injury, added a breakaway goal to make it 3-0 heading into the last period. Nicklas Backstrom had an empty-netter to complete the rout. "What a game. What an experience. We had a lot of guys pitching in," winger T.J. Oshie said. "The biggest guy of all had to be Holts. He played fantastic, back to back shutouts." Tampa Bay, which rebounded from losing the first two games at home to win three straight for a 3-2 series lead, had plenty of chances. A couple of shots clanged off the post, Yanni Gourde was unable to get his stick on a loose puck in front on an empty net and the game gradually slipped away. Washington was the more physical team in evening the series with a bruising 3-0 victory in Game 6. They played with urgency from the start again Wednesday night and never let up. Tampa Bay's last goal in the series came 33 seconds into the second period of Game 5, which the Lightning went on to win 3-2. "We're here to win as team, no matter who gets the credit," said Holtby, the fifth goalie to deliver a Game 7 shutout to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. "I felt we could have won every game," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We ran into a tough Washington team that was probably feeling the same thing, and once you get this far you've probably done some magical things on the way." It was the 33rd time in league history that a Game 7 was required to determine a Stanley Cup finalist. Home teams are 21-12 in those games. Tampa Bay also played Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final in 2015, when they blanked the New York Rangers, and again two years ago, when they lost 2-1 to Pittsburgh. Both of those deciding games were on the road. The Lightning had never lost a Game 7 at home before Wednesday night. "It's going to take a few days to digest this. It's tough to sit here right now and think of positive things and how it was a pretty great season," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "It doesn't seem that way when you have this group — and we've been to this position before — and you can't find a way to give yourself a chance a win. We thought we had that group. It's just an empty feeling right now." Notes: Ovechkin and Backstrom made their 11th career Game 7 appearance, one shy of Boston's Zdeno Chara for the most among active NHL players. In addition to Chara, only five other players in NHL history have appeared in more Game 7s: Patrick Roy (13), Scott Stevens (13), Glenn Anderson (12), Ken Daneyko (12) and Stephane Yelle (12). ... Evgeny Kuznetsov's assist on Ovechkin's early goal extended his points streak to 10 games. ... Vasilevskiy made 19 saves. The Lightning outshot the Capitals (29-23) for the first time in the series......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2018

PBA: Manuel hits the winner as Aces spoil Balkman s return

Five years later, Renaldo Balkman still can't beat Alaska. The Aces spoiled Balkman's return to the league as Vic Manuel scored a runner to beat San Miguel at the buzzer, 105-103, Saturday in the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup. 🎥 Manuel 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻 game winner! Aces keep SMB winless, 105-103. #WeArePBA pic.twitter.com/QBHEW8zz3c — PBA (@pbaconnect) May 19, 2018 Down by as many as 22 in Dumaguete City, the defending champion Beermen slowly clawed back, eventually forcing a 103-all tie. However, import Antonio Campbell forced a turnover on Balkman with less than 20 seconds to go, giving Alaska a chance to win. Manuel, who is having a breakout conference for the Aces so far, came through. The Muscle Man finished with a team-high 23 points, guiding Alaska (4-1) to a fourth straight win and a share of first place in thd standings. Four others scored in double figures for the Aces with Jvee Casio finishing with 18 while Chris Banchero got 15. Campbell and Calvin Abueva added 13 points each. Alaska was on a roll heading into this game and dominated right from the start. But San Miguel would storm back with Balkman at the lead. The Beermen though, would ultimately come up short and the champs are now buried in a 0-3 hole in their title defense. Balkman scored 32 points and had 13 rebounds in his first PBA game after five years. Top rookie Christian Standhardinger also continued to up his production, this time scoring 22 points. Marcio Lassiter added another 20 for San Miguel in the loss.   The scores: Alaska (105) - Manuel 23, Casio 18, Banchero 15, Campbell 13, Abueva 13, Racal 7, Magat 5, Thoss 4, Exciminiano 3, Enciso 2, Teng 2, Baclao 0, Pascual 0. San Miguel (103) - Balkman 32, Standhardinger 22, Lassiter 20, Santos 12, Fajardo 7, Lanete 6, Cabagnot 4, Ross Quarters: 28-20, 57-43, 81-72, 105-103.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 19th, 2018

Knock, knock: Browns there; team set for HBO s Hard Knocks

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — Ready or not, the Cleveland Browns are getting their close-up. Coming off a historic, dismal 0-16 season, the Browns have been chosen to appear on HBO's popular "Hard Knocks" series that gives NFL fans a behind-the-scenes look at training camp. The Browns have turned down previous opportunities to be on the award-winning series. But with renewed optimism around Cleveland following the recent draft, and the selection of quarterback Baker Mayfield, the team is granting HBO unlimited access to its upcoming camp. Cleveland is the 13th franchise to participate in "Hard Knocks," which began in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were featured last summer. Although they've won only one game the past two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, the Browns see the show as a possibility to highlight some of their younger players and put a positive spin on their rebuild. And for HBO, Mayfield's quest to win the starting job is just one of several juicy story lines. "NFL Films has always been exceptional at bringing fans closer to the game and they do an outstanding job with every show they produce, including HBO's Hard Knocks," Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said. "We have been asked multiple times about being featured on Hard Knocks, and we really felt like it was our turn this year and the timing was right. We want to be great partners in this league, and we also recognize Hard Knocks gives fans a special opportunity to learn more about our team and players." HBO's cameras are certain to focus on Mayfield, the brash Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma the Browns chose over other quarterbacks. Mayfield is expected to back up Tyrod Taylor this season, but their competition could make for the kind compelling TV that has made the series a must-watch for football junkies. A 30-person film crew will be at the team's training facility in Berea to record more than 2,000 hours of footage for the five-segment series that will debut Aug. 7. The Browns have some good young players who are not well known outside Cleveland. But "Hard Knocks" will give national exposure to budding stars like defensive end Myles Garrett, Mayfield and safety Jabrill Peppers and give the network a chance to tell the well-documented story of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon, who has missed most of the past three seasons because of drug suspensions. Mayfield has experience in front of the cameras. He was recently featured in a recent documentary series as he prepared for the draft, and feels the Browns can make "Hard Knocks" a positive experience. "For me looking at it, and us as a team, I'd say it can be good if you handle it right. I'll just say that," he said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "If you think about it as a way to get on camera and try to show off and do certain things and handle it the wrong way then that can be very negative, it can be a distraction. But if you use it as a sense of, 'OK, I got to block out everything else and just focus on playing ball,' then that can be a great thing for us." Jackson and Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have both been on "Hard Knocks" — Jackson with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 and Williams with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016. "Being able to bring our fans in so they can get to know our players and our organization in a different way will be a huge positive for us," Jackson said. "I want people to see how much our players and coaches care, how hard they work and how badly they want to win for Cleveland. This will be a great opportunity for our team." Browns general manager John Dorsey had reservations about the series, but feels the team is equipped to handle the added scrutiny. "Once we sat down and talked about it as an organization, I feel a lot better and understand why the time is right," said Dorsey, who has been overhauling the team since being hired in December. "Hue and I both feel like this team is in a good place and that we are in the process of building something that will lead to success.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2018

Fabregas says Chelsea must banish regret in our head

By Tony Jimenez, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — Chelsea produced a lackluster Premier League title defense this season and the last thing the players want is to sign off the campaign, and in all probability Antonio Conte's reign as manager, with a second consecutive FA Cup final defeat. Motivation will be sky high, for more reasons than one, when Chelsea takes on the most successful coach in its history, Jose Mourinho, and his Manchester United side at Wembley on Saturday. "You don't want to be on the back of losing two FA Cup finals in a row," midfield playmaker Cesc Fabregas said. "Last year we didn't play well. Arsenal were on top of us and I think they deserved to win. "It would've been a fantastic season winning the double. We have this regret in our head and we want to make it right this time for sure." Media speculation has been rife for several months that Conte will leave Chelsea at the end of the campaign. The former Italy coach has appeared to be at odds with the club's board all season and a disappointing fifth-place finish in the league has done little to appease him or his employers. Conte was also involved in a much-publicized spat with Mourinho, who won the league three times in two spells with Chelsea, earlier this season although the pair now seem to have resolved their differences. The Chelsea hierarchy will be desperate to avoid the embarrassment of being on the receiving end of a defeat by Mourinho in Saturday's showpiece occasion after having fired the charismatic Portuguese coach for the second time in December 2015. Mourinho guided United to a second-place finish in the league this season, his second term in charge, and will be intent on putting one over his old club by adding the FA Cup to last year's League Cup and Europa League title triumphs. Young midfielder Scott McTominay said United's players are also driven by the desire to win the FA Cup for their former manager Alex Ferguson, who is recovering from a brain haemorrhage. 'We really want to do it for Sir Alex Ferguson as he's obviously not so well," McTominay said. "It's so important to bring home the silverware for him. "It's so important after a long season. It hasn't quite gone to plan in the league and other cup competitions." McTominay, who only broke into the team a year ago, was not involved when United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in the 2016 final. "To see Jesse Lingard score that (winning) goal was incredible and it was obviously a moment that him and all of the fans will never forget," McTominay said. "As a player you have to take as much in as possible and see how the players prepare for the game, particularly the players in your position, just to see how the team chemistry gets going because it's such a big day. "Wembley is such an amazing stadium, it's the home of English football. It's a place where you want to showcase your skills and go out to do your best for the team.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2018

Garcia determined to help Marseille win 2nd European trophy

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press LYON, France (AP) — Marseille coach Rudi Garcia is determined to help Marseille continue what he calls its "fantastic love affair" with European football. Marseille remains the only French side to win the Champions League, back in 1993, and will be playing in its fifth European final when they take on Atletico Madrid for the Europa League trophy on Wednesday. "This year we're celebrating the 25th anniversary of being the first French side to win the Champions League. Now we have a fantastic chance to become the first to win the Europa League," Garcia said Tuesday at a news conference. "We're lucky to be at Marseille, a club which has a fantastic love affair with Europe dating back to the 1990s." Marseille reached its first European final in 1991 when it lost the then-European Cup title game on penalties to Red Star Belgrade, at a time when it was owned by the exuberant Bernard Tapie and had the clout to attract some of the best players in the world. "Today we can go down in history and leave an even bigger mark on this club," Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet said. "I think the expectation level in Marseille and across the country is extraordinary and our motivation comes from that." Marseille also lost UEFA Cup finals — as the Europa League was formerly known — in 1999 and 2004. But the balance is considerably in Atletico's favor now. Atletico boasts far more seasoned players than Marseille, having won the Europa League in 2010 and 2012 and losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016. "We know experience is on their side. They came into the competition from the Champions League and we came through the Europa League playoffs," Garcia said. "We have more young players who aren't used to these big occasions. It's better to stay calm and not to play the match in our heads ahead of time." Garcia is urging his players to forget Atletico's tag as favorites, and seize the moment. "Maybe our salvation tomorrow will be that everything comes down to one match," he said. "It's been shown before that anything's possible.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 16th, 2018

Young Celtics look to stop James, Cavaliers

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com For a few days at least, much of the talk about this rematch of the 2017 Eastern Conference finals will focus on what might have been. In what could have offered some poetic closure to the Eastern Conference portion of this season, former Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving would be taking on his old team and, specifically, LeBron James, the superstar “big brother” whom he’d dissed by demanding a trade. Meanwhile, in a more perfect pulp-fiction world, Cleveland would be setting loose point guard Isaiah Thomas on the Boston Celtics, giving him a chance for payback to the team that dealt him away the instant it sniffed the chance to land Irving. Those plotlines are kaput; Irving’s season ended in March with left knee surgery, Thomas got dealt from Cleveland at the February trade deadline. The best we’ll get now are sideline shots of Irving in street clothes on Boston’s bench, reacting to the series’ ebbs and flows. Thomas might be limited to tweeting from afar. That leaves one clear, distinct narrative: The King of the East vs. perhaps the best collection of aspirants to his throne. James is trying to cap one of his most remarkable seasons by advancing to his eighth consecutive Finals, having led the Cavaliers to the past three after four with the Miami Heat. He has coaxed and carried these Cavs along a steep learning curve, finally getting them spiffed up by the end of their sweep of Toronto. “He’s been doing this for a long time,” Boston’s Marcus Smart said after the clincher over Philadelphia. “He’s, if not the greatest, one of the greatest to do it. What better way than to go up and compete against a guy that’s [going to have] statues and things like that.” The Celtics, by contrast, are a team trying to write fresh history. They’re ahead of schedule, too, given Irving’s absence and the loss of prize free agent Gordon Hayward way back on opening night to a gruesome leg injury, coincidentally, in Cleveland. Boston put out a talented Milwaukee Bucks club in the opening round, then dumped the Philadelphia 76ers -- another rising franchise in the East – in five games. And for those who think the West has the sexier conference clash, this one offers a pretty slick matchup: James against Boston coach Brad Stevens. Widely regarded as a master tactician, Stevens -- whose Celtics lost in five games to the Cavaliers in last year’s East finals -- gets another multi-game shot. In last year’s series, James averaged these numbers to beat: 29.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 2.2 spg and 1.2 bpg. 3 quick questions and answers 1. Who guards LeBron? This is the first question (or should be) of every preview of every playoff series every year of James’ career since he first started qualifying in 2006. Toronto used the length of OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam on James but neither of the Celtics’ young, long forwards -- Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum -- would be ideal for the duty, because Boston needs their scoring. Brown will take his turn but look for Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart in the crosshairs, counting on their physical force to bother Cleveland’s star. With undoubtedly lots of help and different looks, all the while sticking close to shooters like Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Kevin Love. Said center Aron Baynes late Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): “We know where the head of the snake is and we know what we have to focus on but he’s got a lot of great role players around him and some other guys that can really create as well. 2. Will Point Guard Showdown 1A be a letdown? So instead of Irving vs. Thomas, we’ll get Terry Rozier vs. George Hill. That’s not a bad backup plan, because Rozier has had a star-is-born postseason so far and Hill has been a huge help to the Cavs after missing 3.5 games in the first round. Hill has more experience and is a scrappy defender, but Rozier -- who averaged 16.7 points and shot 47.1 percent from three in the regular season vs. Cleveland -- has speed and energy that might swing this matchup in Boston’s favor. 3. Will Love love this matchup with Horford? Kevin Love doesn’t like playing center, but Cavs coach Tyronn Lue likes the effect that has on opposing defenses. Love has an inside-outside game that makes him a tough cover for both the big fives and for more agile power-forward types. The challenge in this round is how Love copes with Al Horford, who has comparable forward’s skills. It won’t be a traditional battle of bigs, for which Love will be grateful after tangling with Toronto’s jumbo Jonas Valanciunas. The number to know 18.5 -- The Cavs scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions in the conference semifinals against Toronto, 18.5 more than they scored in the first round against Indiana (103.0). The Indy series was too close for comfort; The Pacers actually outscored Cleveland by 40 points in the series and Cavs not named James registered an effective field goal percentage of just 47 percent (the league average is 52 percent). But things were much different against the No. 1 seed, with Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith combining to shoot 24-for-38 (63 percent) from 3-point range and Kevin Love recovering from a funk to average 25 points on 54 percent shooting over the final three games. The Cavs' defense remains a question, but they always have the ability to score points in bunches. The Celtics had the No. 1 defense in the regular season and the regular season series was on the ugly side (the teams combined to score just 100 points per 100 possessions), but Boston will have to pick its poison with James surrounded by shooters that have started to shoot well. -- John Schuhmann Making the pick The Cavaliers won two of the three meetings between these teams in the regular season, with their more impressive victory coming mere days after the Cleveland roster makeover at the trade deadline. The Cavs were plus-11 in the season series, James averaged 24.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 8.3 apg, Boston shot 30-of-106 from three and ... aw, who are we kidding? Regular season results matter little now. James is determined to win his 24th consecutive Eastern Conference series to reach his eighth straight Finals. He was a maestro vs. the Raptors in drawing out his teammates’ games. The Celtics, allowing for their injuries, already have overachieved. That ends here. Cavaliers in 6......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2018

Deja vu: Conference Finals matchups mirror opening day games

Did the computer formula the NBA uses to plot out its schedule turn out to be a time machine? In a remarkable coincidence, the league's two opening day games back on October 18, 2017 (PHL time), also happen to be the matchups of this year's Conference Finals. Back on that date, the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Boston Celtics, followed by the Houston Rockets visiting the champion Golden State Warriors. The Cavaliers won, 102-99, while the Rockets came from behind, 122-121. Flash-forward a little under seven months later, and the Celtics have homecourt advantage against the Cavaliers, while the Warriors will battle it out in H-Town in four of the seven games. Can we glean anything from those two season-openers? Let's take a deeper look: Cavaliers 102 - Celtics 99 WHAT HAPPENED: So, let's get the depressing part out of the way early. The season got out to an ominous start when Gordon Hayward suffered a catastrophic, season-ending leg injury, just a little over five minutes into the game. The incident understandably shook the Green and White, and Cleveland was able to go up by as much as 18 points, 60-42, early in the third. However, as would become a theme for the Celtics this season, the team refused to back down. Boston even led by four late, 92-88, 4:12 to play. The Cavs then fought back behind LeBron James and Kevin Love, 102-98, 46.3 seconds to go. A free throw by former Cavalier Kyrie Irving made it a single-possession game, and after James missed a three-pointer, Jaylen Brown and Irving both missed looks to force overtime, allowing the home team to get the victory. WHAT'S DIFFERENT: The Cavaliers, are definitely different. On opening night, the team started James, Love, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, and Derrick Rose, and the latter three are no longer on the squad, along with Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, and Isaiah Thomas. In their place, the Cavaliers landed Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. at the trade deadline, but Cleveland dominated the Toronto Raptors in round two of these playoffs by relying on their old guard - JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, and Kyle Korver. As for the Celtics, Irving won't be able to earn some revenge against his old team, because he was ruled out for the remainder of the season due to knee issues. He and Hayward aren't the only ones sitting this out. Reserve center Daniel Theis will also be riding the bench for this one, because of a knee injury too. If there's a silver lining though, all of those injuries have forced Boston's young guns to grow up quickly. Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum have all shined given more responsibilities. We'll have to see if it's enough to dethrone the King though. Rockets 122 - Warriors 121 WHAT HAPPENED: After a tight first quarter, the Warriors zoomed away to a big lead in the middle two periods, leading by as much as 17 points, and boasting of a 13-point cushion, 101-88, entering the fourth. The good vibes of the champions didn't last though, as Chris Paul led a 13-3 run to pull his team within three, 104-101, still 8:56 remaining in the game. Paul unfortunately couldn't close things out, as a knee injury sidelined him with 4:47 left. He actually joined the Warriors' Draymond Green on the injury list, as Green didn't check back into the game in the fourth because of similar concerns. With the players on the court, the Rockets closed the gap, and took over, 122-121, 44.1 seconds remaining, after PJ Tucker charities. Houston had a chance to grow their lead, following a Stephen Curry turnover, but James Harden missed a three-pointer. The Warriors sued for time, and went to Curry anew for a game-winner, but his shot was off, allowing the Rockets to start the season on a high. WHAT'S DIFFERENT: Both the Warriors and the Rockets failed to make any moves during the trade deadline. The Warriors did waive Omri Casspi to make room for G League call-up Quinn Cook, while the Rockets signed Joe Johnson off the waiver wire (another such addition, Brandan Wright, needed knee surgery and won't play). Perhaps the biggest change regarding the Warriors will be their rotation. On opening night, head coach Steve Kerr played almost his entire roster, with 12 players logging at least seven minutes, though some of that was due to Draymond's injury. Through these playoffs, especially in the Pelicans series, the Warriors went to the 'Hamptons 5' group early and often, with just a few bench guys spelling the main guns. That will likely be the case anew against the Rockets. As for Houston, the biggest improvement from then and now might be the play of center Clint Capela. The (restricted) free-agent-to-be dominated Rudy Gobert of the Jazz, and could outmuscle his Golden State counterparts, regardless of whether they go small, or opt for Zaza Pachulia or JaVale McGee. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 10th, 2018

PBA: Mama na Paul Zamar ready to do battle for Blackwater

Four years after getting drafted but left unsigned, Paul Zamar is all set and all ready to make his PBA debut on Friday at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna. Suiting up for Blackwater, the now 30-year-old is nothing but confident he is ready to go to war in Asia’s first pay-for-play league. For that readiness, Zamar credits his stint with Mono Vampire. “I think, (the biggest change for me) is being a boy to becoming a man. Hindi lang sa ABL (Asean Basketball League), pati na rin sa TBSL (Thailand Basketball Super League), marami akong natutunan,” he said. He then continued, “Sa Thailand, naging mama na talaga ako.” After a stellar career with University of the East, the gunslinger threw his hat in the 2012 PBA Draft. There, he was drafted in the fourth round by Ginebra, but was not able to sign a contract. Since then, he returned to the PBA D-League and then ventured to Bangkok where he has only found success – national titles in the TBSL, international contention in the ABL, and personal fame with the growing basketball nation. More than that, Zamar said he has also made huge strides off the court. “Ang laki ng naturo sa akin (nung time ko dun), especially sa pagiging independent. Kahit masakit na iwan ko family ko, full support pa rin sila sa akin,” he said. He then continued, “And ngayong may chance na akong makauwi, ‘di ko na pakakawalan.” Giving him the chance to come home and prove himself here are the Elite who are in need of a boost for their backcourt. Mono head coach Douglas Marty said that Blackwater will only get better with the arrival of the 5-foot-11 guard. “Any team in the PBA will be wise to give Paul a contract because he can play and he’s such a team guy. He’s a glue on and off the court,” he said. The always amiable mentor continued, “Paul is such a great individual – the character he brings to the team, the leadership, the dedication to the game, and the unselfishness are amazing. Not to mention, he’s a great basketball player too.” Proving Marty right and staying true to his identity, Zamar flew back to Thailand with Mono after they lost the ABL championship to Alab Pilipinas a week ago. There, he settled all things and made it clear how grateful he is for the opportunity given to him by the Vampire. Now he’s back home, the son of coach Boycie Zamar only wants to keep taking full advantage of his chances. “Ang goal ko lang is magbigay ako ng positive energy sa kanila. Alam kong nasa losing streak ang Blackwater so I’m just gonna give my best to them like what I gave to Mono Vampire,” he said ahead of their matchup with Ginebra. Whatever happens now, Paul Zamar will be able to say he has fulfilled his dream of playing in the PBA. And whatever happens now, Paul Zamar will always have a bridge he can cross once more – a bridge he made sure not to burn. “Kung ayaw nila sa akin sa PBA after my contract, babalik ako (sa Thailand). Gusto ko rin namang mag-champion sa ABL balang araw,” he expressed. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 10th, 2018