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France favorite to reach Davis Cup final despite poor form

PARIS — With Novak Djokovic out of the Davis Cup semifinals, even a French lineup struggling for form is heavily favored to reach the team event final for th.....»»

Category: sportsSource: philstar philstarSep 13th, 2017

Chelsea looks for another good showing at Camp Nou

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Few teams have caused as much trouble for Barcelona as Chelsea since Lionel Messi started playing with the Spanish club almost 15 years ago. Barcelona has been dominant with Messi against nearly every opponent it has faced in Europe. But not against Chelsea. The English club is even used to doing well against Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium, where the teams will meet Wednesday in the second leg of their last-16 series in the Champions League. Chelsea is unbeaten against Barcelona in eight matches, with four straight draws at Camp Nou. Barcelona earned a 1-1 draw in the first match in England thanks to a late away goal by Messi, who had never scored against the Premier League club. "It will be a hard match just like in the away leg," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "They have a strong team that defends well in a block and has a great counterattack. We will struggle." Barcelona has been thriving again this season. Its only loss came against Real Madrid in its first match of the season in the Spanish Super Cup final. It has won 18 of its last 20 home matches since then, with two draws — 2-2 against Celta Vigo and 0-0 against Getafe in the Spanish league. "We have to show great resilience," Chelsea coach Antonio Conte said. "We are playing against one of the best teams in the world. We must pay great attention and have the same focus and concentration of the first leg." This is the first time Chelsea and Barcelona are facing each other in the Champions League since the semifinals in 2012, when the English club advanced 3-2 on aggregate after securing an astonishing 2-2 draw in the second leg at Camp Nou, after trailing 2-0 with 10 men for most of the match. Chelsea also drew at Camp Nou in the Champions League semifinals in 2009, as well as in the group stage of the 2006-07 season and the round of 16 a year earlier. Chelsea is trying to make the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014, when eliminated by Atletico Madrid in the semis. Barcelona is looking to reach the last eight for a record 11th straight time. The Spanish league leaders are coming off a 2-0 win at last-place Malaga on Saturday, when Messi didn't play because of the birth of his third son, Ciro. It remains unclear if Valverde will be able to count on midfielder Andres Iniesta on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury. Here's a look at the other matches this week: ___ MAN UNITED-SEVILLA Jose Mourinho may be faced with a dilemma when Manchester United hosts Sevilla on Tuesday. With Paul Pogba ruled out of United's Premier League victory over Liverpool on Saturday, Mourinho's side finally managed to find the balance it has been lacking in recent weeks. If the France midfielder is available, Mourinho would have to drop Juan Mata or 21-year-old Scott McTominay to make room for him. United, which drew the first leg 0-0 in Seville, is trying to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013-14. "The next game is very important for us, maybe the most important game of the season," United midfielder Nemanja Matic said. Sevilla is trying to make the quarterfinals for the first time. ___ ROMA-SHAKHTAR Roma will be hoping it has turned its poor home form around when it hosts Shakhtar Donetsk needing to overturn a 2-1 defeat. Roma beat Torino 3-0 on Friday for what was only its second win at Stadio Olimpico since mid-December. "Mentally, the lads felt a bit of pressure because we hadn't won at the Olimpico for a while — and I could see that," Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. "Today's win shows that we've cleared the hurdle now." ___ BESIKTAS-BAYERN Besiktas is dreaming of becoming the first team to overturn a five-goal deficit in the UEFA competition when it hosts Bayern Munich on Wednesday, although restoring its pride will likely be enough after a chastening 5-0 first-leg defeat in Munich. The Turkish champion, playing in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time, is hoping to extend its 12-game unbeaten run at home in European competitions. Bayern has made it to the Champions League quarterfinals six years in a row, but hasn't won the title since coach Jupp Heynckes' previous stint in 2013, when he led the side to a treble. It warmed up for its trip to Istanbul with a 6-0 rout of Hamburger SV on Saturday. "You can never hide in football, you can never take it easy," said Heynckes, who has 25 wins and just one defeat in 27 games across all competitions since returning to Bayern. ___ Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey, Daniella Matar and Sam Johnston contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 12th, 2018

Falcons hold on to beat Lions 30-26 thanks to NFL rule

DETROIT (AP) — Matthew Stafford's pass to Golden Tate was ruled to be just short of the goal line in the final seconds, overturning the call on the field and allowing the Atlanta Falcons to hold on for a 30-26 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Stafford threw a slant to Tate and a video review determined he was down just inside the 1 with 8 seconds left. By rule, 10 seconds had to run off the clock, and that ended the game because the Lions didn't have any timeouts. Former NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino, now a Fox analyst, explained the call in a tweet: 'To recap in DET: ruling on the field was a TD which stops the clock. After review, Tate was short which would have kept the clock running ... This carries a 10-sec runoff. Had the call on the field been correct initially, the clock would have run out. That's the spirit of the rule.' The defending NFC champion Falcons (3-0) overcame Matt Ryan's three interceptions and many other mistakes, including on Detroit's last drive. Detroit (2-1) never led in the game and failed to pull off another comeback in the fourth quarter. strong>EAGLES 27, GIANTS 24 /strong> PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jake Elliott kicked a 61-yard field goal as the clock expired. Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, including a 77-yard score to Sterling Shepard, but Philadelphia (2-1) rallied twice. Carson Wentz tossed a 19-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery to set up Elliott's kick. The rookie was a fifth-round pick by the Bengals and joined the Eagles after Caleb Sturgis was injured in Week 1. He was carried off the field by two teammates. Elliott hit a 46-yard field goal to tie it with 51 seconds left after Aldrick Rosas kicked a 41-yarder to put the Giants ahead. The Giants (0-3) hadn't scored 20 points in eight straight games before Manning led them to 21 in a span of 5:21. He tossed TD passes of 10 yards and 4 yards to Odell Beckham Jr. to tie it at 14. Manning then connected over the middle to Shepard, who broke a couple tackles and sprinted all the way for a 21-14 lead. But Philadelphia (2-1) answered quickly. A 36-yard penalty for pass interference on Eli Apple put the ball at the 15 and rookie Corey Clement ran in on the next play for his first career TD to make it 21-21. strong>PATRIOTS 36, TEXANS 33 /strong> FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady connected with Brandin Cooks for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left, his fifth TD throw of the game. Brady finished 25 of 35 for 378 yards as New England (2-1) won its fifth straight regular-season meeting with Houston (1-2) and seventh of eight overall. Cooks caught five passes for 131 yards and pair of scores. It was the fifth multi-touchdown game and eighth 100-yard game of his career. Texans rookie Deshaun Watson was strong in his second career start. The Patriots were thin on the edge without linebacker Dont'a Hightower for the second straight week, and Watson took advantage, completing 22 of 33 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns. But he did have two interceptions, including one that set up a New England first-half touchdown. The Patriots extended their halftime lead to 28-20 in the third quarter before Houston used a 12-yard TD pass from Watson to Ryan Griffin, and a 31-yard Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal to edge back in front 30-28 early in the fourth quarter. The Texans forced New England to punt with just over seven minutes to play, but had to settle for a 36-yard Fairbairn field goal with 2:24 left. Houston failed on a third-and-1 at the Patriots 18. That left Brady room. strong>BEARS 23, STEELERS 17, OT /strong> CHICAGO (AP) — Jordan Howard scored on a 19-yard run in overtime to lead the Bears. Howard's winning score came two plays after rookie Tarik Cohen broke off an electric run for what appeared to be a 73-yard winning touchdown. But he was ruled out at the Pittsburgh 37. Howard took over from there, and the Bears (1-2) came away with a surprising victory. Howard had 138 of Chicago's 220 yards rushing, making up for a lackluster performance by quarterback Mike Glennon. The Steelers (2-1) stayed off the sideline for the national anthem in the wake of President Donald Trump's comments that players who kneel in protest should be fired. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, an Army veteran, stood near the tunnel with his hand over his heart. Once the game ended, they found themselves in a familiar spot — losing to a lesser team and losing in Chicago, where they are 1-13. Marcus Cooper committed an inexplicable fumble after the Bears blocked a field goal in the closing seconds of the half. With a clear path to the end zone, he slowed down and had the ball poked away at the 1. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 235 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Brown had 110 yards receiving and a touchdown. strong>BILLS 26, BRONCOS 16 /strong> ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Tyrod Taylor threw two touchdowns and the Bills intercepted Trevor Siemian twice in the final 19 minutes. Taylor went 20 of 26 for 213 yards with a 2-yard touchdown to Andre Holmes and a 6-yarder to Charles Clay. Taylor got lucky on the touchdown pass to Holmes , as the ball deflected off the hands of Zay Jones just inside the goal line and bounced directly to Holmes in the back of the end zone. The Bills (2-1) overcame their struggling running attack courtesy of Taylor's arm and a stout defense in a game LeSean McCoy was limited to 21 yards on 14 carries. Though he had seven catches for 48 yards, McCoy's latest poor outing came after he was limited to 9 yards rushing in a 9-3 loss at Carolina. The Bills allowed just one touchdown, while Brandon McManus rounded out Denver's scoring with three field goals. In falling to 2-1, the Broncos turned over the ball on each of their final four possessions, with Siemian being intercepted by E.J. Gaines and Tre'Davious White. The Broncos also turned the ball over twice on downs. strong>JETS 20, DOLPHINS 6 /strong> EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Josh McCown threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson, Bilal Powell ran for a score, and the Jets' defense dominated Jay Cutler and the Dolphins. While a lot of the focus heading into the season was on whether the revamped Jets roster would be good enough to win any games, New York made Miami look like the team in the middle of a rebuild. McCown finished 18 of 23 for 249 yards, Chandler Catanzaro kicked two field goals, and the Jets (1-2) forced Cutler and the Dolphins (1-1) into mistakes all game. The Jets also avoided their first 0-3 start since 2003. New York just missed having its first shutout since blanking Cincinnati 37-0 on Jan. 13, 2010 — in the Jets' last game at the old Giants Stadium. Cutler threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker on the final play. Cody Parkey missed the extra point, capping a miserable day for Miami in 88-degree heat at MetLife Stadium. strong>JAGUARS 44, RAVENS 7 /strong> LONDON (AP) — Marcedes Lewis caught three of Blake Bortles' four touchdown passes as the Jaguars won in their fifth game in Britain's capital. Allen Hurns and Leonard Fournette also scored touchdowns for the Jaguars (2-1), who have won each of their last three games played at the venue. This one, by far, was the easiest. The Ravens (2-1) managed just 186 yards of total offense, including minus-1 yard in the first quarter. They managed 15 yards in the first half, and picked up only 12 first downs. A 6-yard pass from Ryan Mallett, who entered in relief of Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter, to Benjamin Watson with 3:24 remaining prevented the shutout. It was their worst defeat since Nov. 9, 1997, when they lost 37-0 at Pittsburgh. Baltimore crossed midfield three times — and not until the third quarter, when Terrance West gained 7 yards to reach the Jaguars 45. On the next play, West failed to secure a handoff and fumbled, leading to linebacker Telvin Smith returning it 52 yards to set up Lewis' third touchdown. Jacksonville punctuated the victory with a fake punt minutes later, with Corey Grant taking a direct snap 58 yards before Fournette punched the ball in from the 3. strong>VIKINGS 34, BUCCANEERS 17 /strong> MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Case Keenum gave Minnesota a brilliant performance in relief of Sam Bradford, passing for three touchdowns and a career-high 369 yards without a turnover. Stefon Diggs had 173 yards receiving and caught two of Keenum's throws for scores, one short and one long . Dalvin Cook produced 169 total yards plus his first NFL touchdown , which capped a 75-yard drive by the Vikings (2-1) to start the game. They never slowed down, building a 28-3 lead by early in the third quarter on their way to compiling 494 yards. Trae Waynes and Harrison Smith each picked off Jameis Winston in the end zone , and Andrew Sendejo returned an interception 36 yards in the fourth quarter to set up one of two field goals by Kai Forbath. Winston completed 28 of 40 passes for 328 yards, but the Buccaneers (1-1) simply couldn't overcome having to play from behind all afternoon. They converted only one of six third downs. strong>COLTS 31, BROWNS 28 /strong> INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jacoby Brissett ran for two touchdowns, threw for another and the Colts held off Cleveland's late charge. Brissett, acquired in a trade with New England earlier this month, looked much more comfortable in his second start, going 17 of 24 with 259 yards and running five times for 14 yards. Indy (1-2) avoided its first 0-3 start in six years. Cleveland (0-3) lost its 15th consecutive road game despite being favored for the first time since 2015 and a road favorite for the first time since 2012. Brissett was the primary reason for the Browns' latest loss. He started the scoring with a 5-yard TD run, broke a 7-7 tie by spinning away from pressure and scooting 7 yards for his second score, then hooked up with T.Y. Hilton on a 61-yard TD pass to make it 21-7 — all in the first half. Frank Gore's 4-yard scoring run made it 28-7. Cleveland spent the rest of the game playing catch-up, but had two second-half scoring chances snuffed out by Rashaan Melvin's interceptions. strong>SAINTS 34, PANTHERS 13 /strong> CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Drew Brees shredded the league's top-ranked defense, throwing for three touchdowns and 220 yards. Brees led six scoring drives and threw TD passes to Michael Thomas, Brandon Coleman and ex-Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. as the Saints avoided an 0-3 start. Rookie Alvin Kamara put the game away with a 25-yard TD run with 4:42 left. Carolina (2-1) had allowed six points in its previous two games. The Saints' defense, which came in ranked 32nd in the league, intercepted Cam Newton three times and sacked him four times before he was replaced late in the fourth quarter. Many of Newton's throws were either too hard or high as the seventh-year quarterback continued to struggle with his rhythm following offseason shoulder surgery. The Panthers, who were already without injured Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, lost wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in the first quarter to a knee injury; his leg got bent back awkwardly after being dragged down from behind. Carolina's only real offense came from rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, who had 101 yards receiving on nine catches. strong>PACKERS 27, BENGALS 24 /strong> GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (AP) — Mason Crosby kicked a 27-yard field goal with 6:26 left in overtime set up by Aaron Rodgers' 72-yard pass to Geronimo Allison. Crosby's kick completed the Packers' comeback from a 21-7 halftime deficit. On third-and-10 from his 21, Rodgers took advantage of yet another free play after defensive end Michael Johnson was whistled for offside. Officials let the play continue and the two-time NFL MVP found Allison on about a 40-yard pass before the receiver beat a couple defenders for more yards. Crosby took care of the rest for the Packers (2-1). The winless Bengals (0-3) won the toss in overtime but went three-and-out on their opening drive. It was so loud at Lambeau Field that they had to call timeout before their first overtime snap. Rodgers thrived under the pressure. Rodgers finished 28 of 42 for 313 yards with three touchdowns and one score. Allison had six catches for 122 yards. strong>CHIEFS 24, CHARGERS 10 /strong> CARSON, California (AP) — Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes in the first 9 ½ minutes against what used to be his hometown team, Terrance Mitchell had two interceptions and rookie Kareem Hunt scored on a 69-yard run. The Chiefs (3-0) beat the Chargers for the seventh straight time and have won 12 straight AFC West games. Los Angeles' Philip Rivers threw three interceptions and the Chargers fell to 0-3 in their first season playing in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center after moving from San Diego. After a quick start, the Chiefs held on through a defensive struggle in the second half. They got two huge plays in the closing minutes: Justin Houston's sack of Rivers and then Hunt's sensational run when he cut back against the flow and raced 69 yards down the left sideline with 1:49 left. The rookie finished with 172 yards on 17 carries. The game couldn't have started more differently for Smith, who grew up in the San Diego area, and Rivers. Rivers was intercepted by Mitchell on the game's third play from scrimmage. Four plays later, Smith hit Tyreek Hill on a 30-yard touchdown pass. strong>TITANS 33, SEAHAWKS 27 /strong> NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — Marcus Mariota threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns as the Titans scored 21 straight points in rallying to beat the Seahawks. Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 115 yards, including a 75-yard TD run. Ryan Succop also kicked four field goals as Tennessee (2-1) scored at least 30 points for a second straight week. The Seahawks (1-2) finally scored a bunch of touchdowns with Russell Wilson throwing for 373 yards and four TDs. His second TD, a 10-yarder to Chris Carson , put Seattle up 14-9 in the third quarter. Then the Titans took control with Mariota answering with TDs on the next two drives for Tennessee. Wilson pulled Seattle within 33-27 with his fourth TD, an 8-yarder to Paul Richardson with 1:50 left. But Titans tight end Delanie Walker recovered Seattle's onside kick. The Seahawks had one last chance with the Titans lined up to punt on fourth-and-3 with 11 seconds left. Then officials flagged the Seahawks for 12 men in the formation, giving Tennessee the clinching first down. strong>REDSKINS 27, RAIDERS 10 /strong> LANDOVER, Maryland (AP) — Kirk Cousins threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns and Chris Thompson had 188 all-purpose yards and a score as Washington sacked Derek Carr four times and held Oakland to 128 yards in a dominating victory. Cousins was a spectacular 25 of 30, including TD passes to Thompson, Vernon Davis and a 52-yarder to Josh Doctson. Thompson had 150 yards receiving and 38 yards rushing, joining Jamaal Charles as the only running backs to put up 150 yards receiving against the Raiders (2-1) since they moved to Oakland in 1995. Thompson was again a difference maker and has four of Washington's seven offensive touchdowns this season. The Redskins (2-1), who piled up 472 yards, improved to 4-6 in prime-time games under coach Jay Gruden and tied the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East. Under pressure all night, Carr was 19 of 31 for 118 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Carr had thrown 112 consecutive passes before being picked off by Montae Nicholson on the second play of the game.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 25th, 2017

Budding Sixers take control of series in Miami

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com MIAMI — Back in 2014, when the Miami Heat were wrapping up their championship-fueled era, the Philadelphia 76ers began plotting their own. And they did it unconventionally, laughably and by any measure, dreadfully. It was Year One of the most ambitious rebuilding plan before or since, when the Sixers willingly laid down and became a doormat and allowed other teams to wipe their sneakers on them. That season, while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh cruised to a fourth straight appearance, and their last together, in the NBA Finals, the Sixers lost 63 games. And then they got better at this tanking technique and lost 64 and 72 the next two years. But fast-forward to now, to Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) at American Airlines Arena, and the roles with the Heat and Sixers are threatening to flip. Maybe not so drastically, but it’s clear through four games of this first-round playoff series that the Sixers are going one way and the Heat another. The Sixers have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, a pair of young bedrocks slowly building something with the potential to be big. The Heat? They have banners in the rafters commemorating what they used to be, not so long ago. Philly also has something else on Miami, namely a 3-1 series lead after Simmons became the first rookie since Magic Johnson to drop a triple-double in a playoff game and Embiid fought through a poor shooting game and an irritating protective mask to spook any Heat player that challenged him at the rim. It was the Sixers who made all the right plays in the final crucial moments in the 106-102 win, getting key stops and buckets and pulling away, a team with a young core turning mature, and doing it rapidly, despite their lack of post-season experience. And having a front-row seat to this new Process was none other than Wade, a proud if aging member of the extinct Big Three who realizes something unique is happening with the Sixers. “This is a very good team,” said Wade. “They’ve got talent at almost every position. This is definitely one of the best first-round opponents I’ve played in my career.” Are the Sixers all that, already? “They’re good,” said Wade. “They’re special. They put the right team together.” Yes, they have. Maybe it wasn’t properly done in the spirit of competition, and perhaps they embarrassed themselves if not the league while doing so, but that’s all behind the Sixers right now. What’s ahead of them is a potential series-clinching Game 5 in Philly and from there, who knows? Yes, the core of the Sixers is Simmons, Embiid and Dario Saric, all under 25, and in the playing rotation only JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli earned any significant playoff money. But if a young team is ever going to reach the NBA Finals, this is the right time, and this is the right team. Just look at the wide-open landscape in the East: LeBron and the Cavaliers, winners of the last three East titles, are down 2-1 to the Pacers and haven’t appeared this fragile since LeBron returned to Cleveland. The Celtics are missing Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Toronto is the No. 1 seed in the East but inspires few outside Canada. Why not the Sixers? Why not now? Simmons is lacking a jump shot and little else, and still manages to score anyway. His direction of the club in the fourth quarter of Game 4 was near-masterful; Simmons stayed poised, found the open man and popped the Heat’s comeback hopes with an uncontested dunk when Miami pulled within a point. Embiid couldn’t hit a shot and yet didn’t fall into a funk; rather he terrorized Miami by being a defensive force, punctuated by his spike of a Goran Dragic late-fourth quarter breakaway layup attempt (followed by an Embiid stare down). “They make you pay every time you make a mistake,” said Wade. Speaking of which, the Sixers had 27 turnovers, certainly the recipe for disaster, and still found a way. In the words of coach Brett Brown: “I’m surprised we won this game. We really didn’t have any right to win this game.” But maybe it’s just additional proof that this is Philly’s time. It’s quite a contrast to the ex-bully on the block. Four years after LeBron made the second biggest decision of his life, the Heat are still searching for the identity they had when the champagne flowed, and the party rolled on South Beach. The only reminder is Wade, and at age 36 he’s only capable of having flashes now, like his 28 points in Game 2 and an impressive 25-point follow up Saturday that was marred only by a missed free throw in the final seconds. Besides that, there’s nothing special. Pat Riley’s latest attempt to recreate a winner is looking dubious right now. Riley decided two summers ago to build the Heat around a seven-foot center with low post-skills, which means Riley gave a $100 million to a dinosaur. And one with a decaying relationship with coach Erik Spoelstra. Hassan Whiteside can’t get on the floor in today’s NBA, where small-ball makes him a liability in certain situations. With no shooting range, and perhaps no incentive to develop one, Whiteside finds himself on the bench in fourth quarters and on the nerves of Spoelstra. “He’s a prisoner of the style of play,” said Brown. Plus: Riley also paid Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson and Kelly Olynyk. Which means the Heat are almost guaranteed to be a 43-win team fighting for the final playoff spot for the next few years. When the Heat searched for someone to bail them out Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), who did they turn to? An aging All-Star who’s on the downside, which says something about Wade … and the Heat’s roster. “He ended up being our best option,” said Spoelstra. There’s another path the Heat can take, of course. They could follow the current Hawks, Nets, Lakers and Magic, who all took their cues from the 2014 Sixers, and take a few steps back before moving forward. But that’s not a fool-proof plan — have you seen the Magic the last few years? — and besides, losing by any means isn’t in Riley’s DNA. So, mediocrity it is, then. Meanwhile, the Sixers have Embiid and Simmons and if you ask fans in Philly, they’d say it was well worth the steep price, in terms of the misery of tanking, paid for them. “They’re two players that have the chance to be great,” said Brown. “Joel has no right to be doing some of the things he does. Ben’s composure down the stretch is amazing. Those two are exceptional.” What the Sixers just did was win a pair in Miami, under the banners that hung over them, was fly in the face of basketball convention which says youth doesn’t get served in the post-season. They can close out at home and then get the survivor of Celtics-Bucks, and Philly can expect to be the favorite in that conference semifinal. “I can see how much we’ve grown and how much more room we have to grow,” said Brown. “To come here and get a win, in this building, against an organization of winning and culture and history, it’s special.” There’s another story here: If the Sixers eliminate the Heat, then it could be curtains for Wade, who doesn’t have a contract for next season, who hasn’t committed to playing beyond this season, and who paused suspiciously for about three seconds when asked if Saturday was his final game in Miami. “I don’t want to answer that right now,” he said. Whether he sticks around or takes the sunset cruise, Wade must realize that a transformation is taking place in the East. After years of deliberately bad basketball the Sixers are finally bearing fruit, and oh, speaking of food, Wade and the Heat can chew on this for a minute: The Sixers have room under the salary cap to give Embiid and Simmons some help next season. LeBron James, free agent-to-be, might reach the conclusion that the Sixers are his best championship option. for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.   The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 22nd, 2018

Are the Sixers too young for playoff success?

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

Still alive: Teams chasing World Cup spots through playoffs

A look at the lineup of teams in the intercontinental and European playoffs for the 2018 World Cup in Russia: ___ em> strong>EUROPEAN PLAYOFFS (matches to be confirmed) /strong> /em> strong>ITALY /strong> Four-time world champion Italy will be favored to qualify no matter which opponent it faces, yet the Azzurri aren't in top form after four discouraging results — a 3-0 loss to Spain, slim 1-0 wins over Israel and Albania, and a 1-1 draw with Macedonia. However, the expected returns from injury of center forward Andrea Belotti and veteran midfielder Daniele De Rossi could provide a boost. The playoff outcome will likely determine the future of Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura. Milan's San Siro or Palermo's Renzo Barbera stadium are being considered to host the home leg of the playoff. strong>CROATIA /strong> Croatia finds itself in familiar territory. Led by playmaker Luka Modric and other high-profile players in Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic, the Croatians faced the same hurdle before the 2014 tournament in Brazil, eliminating Iceland 2-0 on aggregate. In this campaign, Croatia was on course to qualify automatically from the first place before two poor results — a 1-0 loss in Turkey and a 1-1 draw at home to Finland. Those results cost coach Ante Cacic his job. Under new coach Zlatko Dalic, Croatia won a needed 2-0 victory at Ukraine to seal a playoff spot behind Iceland. strong>SWITZERLAND /strong> Switzerland was perfect in World Cup qualifying for more than one year: Nine games, nine wins. Now coach Vladimir Petkovic must lift his players after a 2-0 loss in Portugal on Tuesday sent them to the playoffs, where the best runner-up record counts for little except being seeded. The Swiss have a reputation for being an efficient team in group-stage games that falls just short against good opponents in elimination games. They lost to Argentina at the 2014 World Cup, and Poland at Euro 2016. Their opponents next month are likely to be below that class, and Petkovic can expect that forward Breel Embolo — a substitute in Lisbon — will be fully fit after a one-year injury absence. strong>DENMARK /strong> There's a chance Denmark could face neighbor Sweden, which denied the Danes a spot in the 2016 European Championship by winning their playoff. Christian Eriksen is the undoubted star of the Denmark team, the playmaker having been one of the best players in the English Premier League over the last two years and scoring eight times from midfield in qualifying. Denmark was second to Poland in its group, only missing out on automatic qualification in the final round. strong>GREECE /strong> Reaching the playoffs came as a relief for Greece's players and coach Michael Skibbe following an embarrassing qualification campaign for Euro 2016, when the team was twice beaten by the Faeroe Islands and finished last in the group. An obdurate defense was again the key to earning a runner-up spot, nine points behind Belgium, with Skibbe struggling to find stability in midfield and a strike partner for Kostas Mitroglou. The German coach may look forward to the development of 21-year-old Tassos Donis, who provided some badly needed pace in midfield, as well as the talents of the Portuguese-born Carlos Zeca. strong>SWEDEN /strong> Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist says he'd prefer to not play Italy or Scandinavian archrival Denmark and would rather face Croatia or Switzerland. Sweden, for example, has never beaten Italy in the last 17 years. Sweden finished behind France in its group, but ahead of the Netherlands, in its first qualifying campaign without retired striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Marcus Berg has replaced Ibrahimovic as Sweden's leading striker and scored eight times in the qualifying. strong>IRELAND /strong> This will be Ireland's ninth time in the playoffs for a major tournament. The Irish have progressed on three occasions, with their most high-profile failure coming against France in the playoffs for the 2010 World Cup when Thierry Henry clearly handled the ball in the build-up to the crucial goal. In the final round of group play, Ireland beat Wales in Cardiff in a virtual playoff for the playoffs. Coach Martin O'Neill's counterattacking tactics worked perfectly in that 1-0 win and it would be no surprise if he does the same in the playoffs. strong>NORTHERN IRELAND /strong> After reaching the knockout stage at Euro 2016, the Northern Irish continued their rise in international soccer by finishing runner-up behind Germany in their group. They have never been to back-to-back major tournaments. There's no chance of a potentially spicy match against neighbor Ireland, as both are set to be among the non-seeded teams after the seedings are confirmed on Monday. ___ em> strong>INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFFS /strong> /em> strong>HONDURAS vs. AUSTRALIA /strong> Both countries have been regulars in recent World Cups, with Honduras looking to make it for a third straight tournament and Australia seeking a fourth in a row. Los Catrachos — as the Honduras national team is nicknamed — were squeezed out of an automatic place in Russia by Panama, which scored a late winner in a dramatic denouement to qualifying in the CONCACAF region. Asian Cup champion Australia had its chances to qualify directly, but failed to capitalize on a glut of scoring chances in the last group game against Thailand and ended up finishing in third spot behind Japan and Saudi Arabia. The Socceroos then beat Syria 2-1 after extra time to clinch the two-legged Asian playoff, but only after Syria hit the post with a free kick in the last moments of the second leg. The Australians were most recently in an inter-confederation playoff in 2006, when they ousted Uruguay over two legs. strong>PERU vs. NEW ZEALAND /strong> On New Zealand's side is a more recent appearance at the World Cup — going through the group stage in 2010 unbeaten but still being eliminated — and a first taste of Russia by qualifying for the Confederations Cup in June. But more than a 100 places separate New Zealand and Peru in the FIFA rankings. While New Zealand is at No. 113, Peru has surged to 12th as it chases a first visit to the World Cup since 1982. Peru claimed fifth place in the tough South American qualifying group to set up the intercontinental play-off that will be played over two legs on Nov. 6 and 14. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Senate opens ‘Obamacare’ debate at last but outcome in doubt – ABC News

Prodded by President Donald Trump, a bitterly divided Senate voted, at last, Tuesday to move forward with the Republicans' long-promised legislation to repeal and replace &'8220;Obamacare.&'8221; There was high drama as Sen. John McCain returned to the Capitol for the first time after being diagnosed with brain cancer to cast a decisive &'8220;yes&'8221; vote. The final tally was 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence, exercising his constitutional prerogative, breaking the tie after two Republicans joined all 48 Democrats in voting &'8220;no.&'8221; When the Senate voted Tuesday evening on the bill's initial amendment, it underscored how hard it will be for the chamber's divided Republicans to pass a sweeping replacement of Obama's law. By 57-43 — including nine GOP defectors — it blocked a wide-ranging proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to erase and replace much of the statute. It included language by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, letting insurers sell cut-rate policies with skimpy coverage, plus an additional $100 billion to help states ease out-of-pocket costs for people losing Medicaid — a provision sought by Midwestern moderates including Rob Portman, R-Ohio. On the day's opening vote to begin debate, and with all senators in their seats and protesters agitating outside and briefly inside the chamber, the vote was held open at length before McCain, 80, entered the chamber. Greeted by cheers, he smiled and dispensed hugs — but with the scars from recent surgery starkly visible on the left side of his face. Despite voting &'8220;yes,&'8221; he took a lecturing tone afterward and hardly saw success assured for the legislation after weeks of misfires, even after Tuesday's victory for Trump and Republican leader Mitch McConnell. &'8220;If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then let's return to regular order,&'8221; McCain said as he chided Republican leaders for devising the legislation in secret along with the administration and &'8220;springing it on skeptical members.&'8221; &'8220;Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio, TV and internet. To hell with them!&'8221; McCain said, raising his voice as he urged senators to reach for the comity of earlier times. At the White House earlier, after senators voted to consider the bill, Trump wasted no time in declaring a win and slamming the Democrats anew. &'8220;I'm very happy to announce that, with zero of the Democrats' votes, the motion to proceed on health care has just passed. And now we move forward toward truly great health care for the American people,&'8221; Trump said. &'8220;This was a big step. I want to thank Senator John McCain — very brave man.&'8221; Trump continued to celebrate the vote at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio that doubled as a victory lap. &'8220;We're now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this &'8220;Obamacare&'8221; nightmare and delivering great health care for the American people&'8221; he said. At its most basic, the Republican legislation is aimed at undoing &'8220;Obamacare&'8221;'s unpopular mandates for most people to carry insurance and businesses to offer it. The GOP would repeal &'8220;Obamacare&'8221; taxes and unwind an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor, the disabled and nursing home residents The result would be 20 million to 30 million people losing insurance over a decade, depending on the version of the bill. The GOP legislation has polled abysmally, while &'8220;Obamacare&'8221; itself has grown steadily more popular. Yet most Republicans argue that failing to deliver on their promises to pass repeal-and-replace legislation would be worse than passing an unpopular bill, because it would expose the GOP as unable to govern despite controlling majorities in the House, Senate and White House. Tuesday's vote amounted to a procedural hurdle for legislation whose final form is impossible to predict under the Senate's byzantine amendment process, which will unfold over the next several days. Indeed senators had no clear idea of what they would ultimately be voting on, and in an indication of the uncertainty ahead, McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate will &'8220;let the voting take us where it will.&'8221; The expectation is that he will bring up a series of amendments. Yet after seven years of empty promises, and weeks of hand-wringing and false starts on Capitol Hill, it was the Senate's first concrete step toward delivering on innumerable pledges to undo former President Barack Obama's law. It came after several near-death experiences for earlier versions of the legislation, and only after Trump summoned senators to the White House last week to order them to try again after McConnell had essentially conceded defeat. &'8220;The people who sent us here expect us to begin this debate, to have the courage to tackle the tough issues,&'8221; McConnell said ahead of the vote. Democrats stood implacably opposed, and in an unusual maneuver they sat in their seats refusing to vote until it was clear Republicans would be able to reach the 50-vote margin needed to get them over the top with Pence's help. &'8220;Turn back,&'8221; Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York implored his GOP colleagues before the vote. &'8220;Turn back now, before it's too late and millions and millions and millions of Americans are hurt so badly.&'8221; Schumer's pleas fell on deaf ears, as several GOP senators who'd announced they would oppose moving forward with the legislation reversed themselves to vote &'8220;yes.&'8221; Among them were Dean Heller of Nevada, the most vulnerable Republican senator in next year's midterm elections, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Johnson has recently accused McConnell of [&'].....»»

Category: newsSource:  mindanaoexaminerRelated NewsJul 26th, 2017

Federer wins, Serena loses in Cincy tourney

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 15th, 2018

Halep topples Garcia in straight sets to reach Montreal semis

MONTREAL: World number one Simona Halep punched her ticket to the semi-finals of the WTA Canada tournament for the fourth straight year, cruising past France’s Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-1 on Friday. The 26-year-old Halep battled through a difficult first set, then easily won the second in a rematch of last year’s quarter-final contest with Garcia [...] The post Halep topples Garcia in straight sets to reach Montreal semis appeared first on The Manila Times Online......»»

Category: newsSource:  manilatimes_netRelated NewsAug 11th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

Years after nasty injury, Galang regains MVP form in PSL

Ara Galang experienced both the highest of achievements and the lowest of defeats in her volleyball career. She's a three-time UAAP champion with De La Salle, a Rookie of the Year, and an MVP with the Lady Spikers. Galang's achievements, however, didn't protect from what was waiting to happen in 2015 when she suffered multiple injuries in her left leg during the Final Four of UAAP Season 77. It took years for Galang to reach the pinnacle of personal success, but through sheer will and perseverance she finally managed to step into the apex when she was named the MVP of the Philippine Superliga Invitational Conference. Galang led F2 Logistics to the title in a sweep of Petr...Keep on reading: Years after nasty injury, Galang regains MVP form in PSL.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJul 29th, 2018

Croatia coach Dalic traveled hard path to World Cup final

By Rob Harris, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — In a coaching journey across Croatia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Zlatko Dalic's belief in his own abilities never dimmed. "I used to say, 'Give me a Barcelona or a Real Madrid and I will win titles,'" Dalic recalled Thursday. Such jobs no longer seem so far out of reach, especially if Dalic collects the biggest prize in soccer on Sunday. Croatia will win the World Cup for the first time if Dalic's team can get the better of France and coach Didier Deschamps. Receiving trophies is nothing new for Deschamps. As a player, the midfielder won titles at clubs in France, Italy and England, as well as the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship with France. As a coach, he led France to the Euro 2016 final, losing to Portugal. But the 51-year-old Dalic had a largely unremarkable playing career before switching to coaching in his native Croatia. "In my life I have always taken the harder path, had to fight for everything myself," Dalic said through a translator at Luzhniki Stadium. "I started at the bottom of the ladder." The climb required a leap into the unknown with a move to the Middle East in 2010. "I did not want to stay in Croatia and be a middling coach and to live off handouts," Dalic said. "I went abroad whenever it was possible to find a job." Dalic eventually landed at Al-Hilal, where he won the Saudi Crown Prince Cup, and then reached the Asian Champions League final with Al-Ain. "We cannot sneeze at that. These are major competitions," Dalic said. "This brought me huge experience ... and I built a name for myself. This was a hard path but I believed in myself. When Croatia called, I never had any doubts." The call that ended Dalic's nomadic seven-year journey came last year, when Croatia had a game remaining to salvage qualification. "He is very dedicated to football," Croatian federation president Davor Suker said, "and we gave him the chance." Dalic led Croatia into the World Cup playoffs, where it beat Ukraine over two matches. Now he has taken his country further than ever before in a major soccer competition, eclipsing Suker's semifinalists in 1998. Brand Dalic is growing after Croatia came from behind to beat England 2-1 in the semifinal in Moscow on Wednesday. "The coach has created a special atmosphere," said Croatia defender Dejan Lovren, who plays for Liverpool. "He knows exactly how to interact with players and does it in a unique way." Dalic also relished interacting with the media on Thursday in the stadium where Croatia plays its biggest-ever game on Sunday. The highly ambitious coach used his moment in the spotlight to advertise his credentials. "Nothing was given to me on a plate, unlike some managers in Europe who can be given jobs to manage a big club because of their names as players," Dalic said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 13th, 2018

France reaches World Cup semifinals, beats Uruguay 2-0

By STEPHEN WADE,  AP Sports Writer NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (AP) — Antoine Griezmann's fluke goal helped France earn a place in the World Cup semifinals. Griezmann scored with a shot that bounced off the hands of the opposing goalkeeper and into the net, giving France a 2-0 victory over Uruguay on Friday. The 1998 champions will next face either Brazil or Belgium on Tuesday in St. Petersburg. Griezmann's shot in the 61st minute went right into the hands of goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. But the ball popped off his palms and looped over his head and into the net. Raphael Varane scored for France with a header in the 40th minute. Griezmann sent in a free kick from the right side and Varane raced across the area. He got his head to the ball and sent it into the far corner behind Muslera. France went on to reach the World Cup final the last two times it advanced to the semifinals. It won its only World Cup in 1998 on home soil, and in 2006 lost to Italy on penalties......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 6th, 2018

A look back at Roger Federer s record 8 Wimbledon titles

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — Roger Federer's paths to his record eight Wimbledon championships were each different, of course. Different opponents. Different degrees of difficulty. Same old Federer. A year ago, for example, he did not drop a set the entire way, becoming the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to claim the title at the All England Club in that unblemished manner. In 2009, in contrast, Federer was pushed to the very limit, edging Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth set of a final that remains the longest, by games, of any Grand Slam title match in tennis history. Here is a year-by-year look at Federer's trophy runs at Wimbledon: ___ No. 1: 2003 Final: Beat Mark Philippoussis 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (3). Grand Slam Title: 1 Age: 21 At Stake: Pegged for great success, Federer had yet to get past the quarterfinals of a major tournament. Close Call: Federer dropped only one set, to Mardy Fish in the third round, but the toughest moment came in the round of 16, when Federer needed treatment on his aching back while beating Feliciano Lopez. Key Quote: "There was pressure from all sides — also from myself. I wanted to do better in Slams." — Federer. ___ No. 2: 2004 Final: Beat Andy Roddick 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 3 Age: 22 At Stake: His first attempt to defend a major championship. Close Call: After dropping the first set, then trailing by a break at 4-2 in the third, Federer used a rain delay to change strategy, opting to charge the net more. He made that switch on his own, because he'd been without a coach since firing his a little more than six months earlier. It worked: Federer won 24 of the next 28 points on his serve. Key Quote: "This is a very important phase in his career as well, that he could step back, not rely on somebody, get to know himself, get to know his own tennis and technique." — Federer's mother, Lynette. ___ No. 3: 2005 Final: Beat Roddick 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 5 Age: 23 At Stake: Trying to become the first man in 50 years to win his first five major finals. Close Call: None, really. Federer dropped merely one of 22 sets he played over the two weeks, a tiebreaker against 25th-seeded Nicolas Kiefer in the third round, but quickly recovered to win that match 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 7-5. Key Quote: "It's hard for him, because I really played a fantastic match — one of the best of my life. Today it seemed liked I was playing flawless." — Federer. ___ No. 4: 2006 Final: Beat Rafael Nadal 6-0, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-3. Grand Slam Title: 8 Age: 24 At Stake: Entering the championship match, Federer was 0-4 that season against Nadal — including a loss in the French Open final weeks earlier — and 55-0 against everyone else. Close Call: Once again, nothing to speak of, because Federer dropped just one set all tournament, this time in the final. Nadal did serve for the second set at 5-4, but missed three forehands and double-faulted to get broken there, before ceding the ensuing tiebreaker. Key Quote: "I'm very well aware of how important this match was for me. If I lose, obviously, it's a hard blow for me — he wins French, Wimbledon back-to-back. It's important for me to win a final against him, for a change, and beat him, for a change." — Federer. ___ No. 5: 2007 Final: Beat Nadal 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2. Grand Slam Title: 11 Age: 25 At Stake: Joining Borg as the only men in the last 100 years to win Wimbledon five years in a row. Close Call: After dropping just one set (in a quarterfinal against 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero) along an unusually short road to the final (fourth-round foe Tommy Haas withdrew with an injury), Federer got all he could handle against Nadal. Key Quote: "He's an artist on this surface. He can stay back. He can come in. No weaknesses. I believe if he continues the way he's doing and stays away from injuries and has the motivation, he'll be the greatest player ever to play the game." — Borg. ___ No. 6: 2009 Final: Beat Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14. Grand Slam Title: 15 Age: 27 At Stake: Breaking Sampras' record for most major singles trophies won by a man and reasserting his supremacy at Wimbledon after losing a 9-7 fifth set to Nadal in the 2008 final. Close Call: What could be a closer call than that fifth set? Federer's only break of the day came in the match's 77th and last game. Also worth remembering is that 2017 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Roddick led the second-set tiebreaker 6-2 but did not convert any of the four points that would have given him a two-set lead. Key Quote: "He's a legend. Now he's an icon." — Sampras. ___ No. 7: 2012 Final: Beat Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 17 Age: 30 At Stake: Tying the record held by Sampras and William Renshaw (who played in the 1800s) for most Wimbledon men's championships, plus ending a personal 2½-year Grand Slam drought. Close Call: Federer dropped the first two sets in the third round against 29th-seeded Julien Benneteau of France, then was two points away from losing a half-dozen times, but pulled out a 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-1 comeback. Key Quote: "Oh, my God, it was brutal. The thing, when you're down two sets to love, is to stay calm, even though it's hard, because people are freaking out, people are worried for you." — Federer. ___ No. 8: 2017 Final: Beat Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 19 (he added No. 20 at this year's Australian Open) Age: 35 At Stake: Breaking the mark for most men's singles titles at the All England Club after coming up just short with losses to Novak Djokovic in the 2014 and 2015 finals. Close Call: Nothing whatsoever. The closest thing to a close call came in the semifinals, when 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych pushed Federer to tiebreakers in each of the first two sets. Cilic was hampered by foot blister in a final that was lopsided throughout. Key Quote: "Wimbledon was always my favorite tournament. Will always be my favorite tournament. My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here." — Federer......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 2nd, 2018

2017-18 NBA season review

NBA.com staff report The 2017-18 NBA season was full of loops and sharp turns, taking fans and teams on a twisting journey that teased everyone about what might happen next. Only there was no surprise party waiting at the end of the day, just the Golden State Warriors and their brooms. The season gave us a few shakeups in the standings, some players who unexpectedly found themselves on the big stage, no nights off for LeBron James … and the best team rather predictably earned the honor of being crowned, for the third time in four seasons. The Warriors made quick work of James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, winning 4-0 in the fourth straight meeting between the teams on that stage. The sweep further certified the legacy of Kevin Durant -- who became a back-to-back winner of the Finals MVP award -- and Stephen Curry, the central figure of the Warriors’ dynasty. Other than forcing overtime in Game 1, the only silver lining for the Cavs was James scoring 51 points in that game and nearly averaging a triple-double for the series. If the end game between the Warriors and Cavs was widely projected when the season tipped off, the events that preceded it weren’t locked into place. This run from October to June took the NBA on an unexpected trip with pit stops in unexpected places. The Philadelphia 76ers won 52 games and closed with a 16-game winning streak -- two seasons after they went 10-72. The turnaround was a direct result of patience with young players who rapidly became franchise cornerstones after returning from injuries. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, both of whom missed entire seasons, made themselves household names with big performances. Embiid was an All-Star who emerged as one of the game’s best big men, while sharp playmaking skills allowed Simmons to earn Kia Rookie of the Year honors. The Boston Celtics lost newcomer Gordon Hayward for the season after he suffered a leg injury in the season opener ... and then Kyrie Irving missed the final 14 games and the playoffs with a bum knee ... and still Boston flirted with the East's best record and one win from reaching The Finals. After trading their star swingman Paul George to Oklahoma City in the offseason, the Indiana Pacers improved by six wins and pushed the Cavs to a Game 7 in the first round. Victor Oladipo, acquired in the George trade, was the catalyst of a new Pacers era and was named Kia Most Improved Player. Twice a runner-up, James Harden finally won Kia MVP honors after leading the NBA in scoring (30.4) and finishing third in assists (8.8). He teamed with Chris Paul to turn the Houston Rockets into a beast. The Rockets won a franchise-record 65 games and held off the Warriors for the top seed in the West. Paul advanced beyond the semifinals for the first time in his playoff career. Behind steady 3-point shooting and an emerging low-post center in Clint Capela, the Rockets claimed a 3-2 lead on the Warriors in the West finals. But Paul suffered a hamstring injury that benched him the rest of the series as Houston faltered in Games 6 and 7. On the injury front, New Orleans Pelicans All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins tore his Achilles tendon. The Pelicans were forced to scramble in the second half of the season to defy the odds. Anthony Davis responded by playing at MVP level and had help from Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday and the arrival of Nikola Mirotic who infused the Pelicans with outside shooting. New Orleans changed its style in midseason, shocked the Portland Trail Blazers with a first-round sweep and then took a game from the eventual-champion Warriors. The Utah Jazz had an excuse to trigger a rebuilding process once Hayward left via free agency and center Rudy Gobert, the eventual Kia Defensive Player of the Year, was held to 56 games due to knee issues. Instead, the Jazz (48 wins) flourished under coach Quin Snyder mainly because first-round pick Donovan Mitchell played well beyond his years and became Utah's go-to guy. At season's end, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets staged essentially a play-in game on the final night for the right to reach the playoffs (which Minnesota won). Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the second straight season ... but couldn’t help the re-tooled Oklahoma City Thunder (with George and Carmelo Anthony) reach the West semifinals. And the Toronto Raptors took the top seed in the East with 59 wins, only to get swept by the Cavs. In the end, though, it was all about the Warriors. As a champion in their prime, the Warriors therefore gave the NBA plenty, except some suspense in the end. PLAYOFFS Eastern Conference first round Toronto defeated Washington (4-2) Boston defeated Milwaukee (4-3) Philadelphia defeated Miami (4-1) Cleveland defeated Indiana (4-3) Western Conference first round Houston defeated Minnesota (4-1) Golden State defeated San Antonio (4-1) New Orleans defeated Portland (4-0) Utah defeated Oklahoma City (4-2) Eastern Conference semifinals Cleveland defeated Toronto (4-0) Boston defeated Philadelphia (4-1) Western Conference semifinals Houston defeated Utah (4-1) Golden State defeated New Orleans (4-1) Eastern Conference finals Cleveland defeated Boston (4-3) Western Conference finals Golden State defeated Houston (4-3) NBA Finals Golden State defeated Cleveland (4-0) SEASON LEADERS Points -- James Harden, Houston Rockets (30.4) Assists -- Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (10.3) Rebounds -- Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons (16.0) Steals -- Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers (2.4) Blocks -- Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (2.6) FG% -- Cling Capela, Houston Rockets (65.2) FT% -- Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors (92.1) 3PT% -- Darren Collison, Indiana Pacers (46.8) AWARD WINNERS Kia Most Valuable Player --  James Harden, Houston Rockets Kia Rookie of the Year -- Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers Kia Defensive Player of the Year -- Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz Kia Most Improved Player --  Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers Kia Sixth Man of the Year --  Lou Williams, LA Clippers Coach of the Year --  Dwane Casey, Toronto Raptors All-Star Game MVP -- LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Finals MVP -- Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 29th, 2018

Argentina has big weaknesses to address before facing France

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press ST. PETERSBURG, France (AP) — After the euphoria of scraping through to the last 16 of the World Cup, Argentina now must address its glaring weaknesses. Argentina has little time to prepare for Saturday's match against France, which is considered among the tournament favorites, yet has much to work on. Particularly on defense. Argentina's feeble defense was exposed in 3-0 defeat to Croatia last week and once again in Tuesday's 2-1 must-win game against Nigeria. Argentina won with an 86th-minute goal from defender Marcos Rojo, but during the second half the team looked on the verge of another capitulation at the back. Here is a look at some of the key issues facing Jorge Sampaoli's team before taking on France in Kazan: MASCHERANO MISERY If Javier Mascherano is supposed to be protecting the defense, he's not doing a very good job. With 146 international appearances, the 34-year-old Mascherano should be a rock for Sampaoli's team. But instead of offering the protective screen in front of the back four, Mascherano is often proving to be a weak link. As his bloodied face on Tuesday showed, there is no doubting his commitment. But his judgment, especially for someone with so much experience, is lacking. Two horribly misplaced passes gave Nigeria dangerous positions to attack from, while it was Mascherano's clumsy challenge that led to Nigeria's equalizing goal from the penalty spot. In his defense, there may be mitigating circumstances. Although a holding midfielder by trade, Mascherano dropped deeper when deployed as a center half for Barcelona over the past few years. Now back in his traditional position, he often appears caught in two minds as to whether to push up as a midfielder does, or stay back more sensibly like a defender. While it does not excuse his poor passing, it may explain some of his confused judgment. FALLEN STARS Angel Di Maria's failure to control a simple pass during a promising counterattack against Nigeria was a sad sight for such a fine talent. As the ball flew off his foot and went out of play, a helpless look formed on Di Maria's face. Long considered one of the world's best wingers, the 30-year-old Paris Saint-Germain player is not living up to his reputation in Russia. He looked despondent when he was taken off against Nigeria with 20 minutes left, his self-confidence glaringly absent. But it is feasible he is still affected by what happened during the season with PSG. Di Maria was PSG's most in-form player heading into the first leg of its Champions League last-16 game against Real Madrid on Feb. 14, but was surprisingly left out entirely by PSG coach Unai Emery. "I was boiling (inside) because I felt I should have played, or at least have come on," Di Maria said. Perhaps his fragile confidence has not been repaired. But Mascherano and Di Maria are not the only big-name players performing well below their best. So is Gonzalo Higuain. The burly striker looked nervous and heavy-legged against Nigeria, blazing a great chance high and wide with the score 1-1 with 10 minutes left. In the end, he was reprieved by Rojo's late winner, but it was not the finish expected of a forward with a combined 267 goals for Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus. He has 31 for Argentina, too, but tellingly he has not scored in his past eight games for his country. WHERE IS DYBALA? Fans hoping to see Paulo Dybala, one of the brightest attacking talents in soccer, playing in Russia may not get their wish. The 24-year-old forward regularly impresses Juventus fans with his trickery and spectacular goals — scoring 26 times in 46 appearances last season — but for whatever reason, Sampaoli does not seem to need him. With time running out against Nigeria, the coach still did not bring him on, even though Dybala has the skill and imagination to unlock defenses. He has only played once for Argentina all year, and with Sampaoli in charge this does not look like it will change. FRENCH THREAT Although France has yet to find its top form , Argentina's creaking defense will be under threat from its highly rated forwards. Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele are two of the fastest players in the world, while Antoine Griezmann was top scorer at the European Championship two years ago. Imposing striker Olivier Giroud is one of the best headers of the ball around, which gives Sampaoli's back four even more to worry about from crosses, corners and free kicks......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 28th, 2018

Thiem routs weary Zverev to reach 3rd straight French Open semi-final

PARIS, France – Dominic Thiem reached his 3rd successive French Open semi-final on Tuesday, June 5, with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 demolition of a hobbled and exhausted Alexander Zverev. Thiem, the Austrian 7th seed, goes on to face either 2016 champion and 12-time major winner Novak Djokovic or Italy's world ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJun 5th, 2018

Get ready for Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova in Paris

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — If the upcoming French Open showdown between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova provides any of the sort of animus and back-and-forth they manage to stir up away from the court, look out. During a news conference after both won Saturday to set up the longtime rivals' fourth-round matchup at Roland Garros, Williams criticized Sharapova's autobiography as "hearsay" and twice brought up the Russian's 15-month doping ban. Producing by far the best performance in her return to Grand Slam tennis — 16 months after her last major tournament and nine months after having a baby — Williams played cleanly and powerfully in a 6-3, 6-4 tour de force against 11th-seeded Julia Goerges that lasted a mere 75 minutes and lacked much in the way of theatrics. "There is still a ways to go, but it's moving in the right direction," said Williams, who made only three unforced errors in the first set, 12 in all. "And I think that as long as it's moving in the right direction, I know I will get there." Sharapova advanced with a similarly lopsided win, 6-2, 6-1 against 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova. Now comes the drama: Williams vs. Sharapova on Monday with a quarterfinal spot at stake. They have verbally clashed in the past, such as a 2013 public spat about their private lives. Williams, 36, owns 23 major singles titles. Sharapova, 31, has won five. Williams has won the French Open three times, Sharapova twice. They are the only active women with a career Grand Slam; they are two of six in history to accomplish that. Both have been ranked No. 1. But the head-to-head history is overwhelmingly in Williams' favor: She has won 19 of 21 meetings, including 18 in a row. "Quite frankly, she's probably a favorite in this match, for sure," Williams said with a chuckle. "She's been playing ... for over a year now. I just started. So I'm just really trying to get my bearings and trying to feel out where I am and see where I can go." The last time Sharapova beat Williams was in 2004. The last time they played was in the 2016 Australian Open quarterfinals, Sharapova's final appearance before her 15-month drug suspension. "Well, it's been a while," Sharapova said, "and I think a lot has happened in our lives for the both of us, in very different ways." Williams was asked about Sharapova's book, which was published last year. It contains quite a bit of material about the American, including a reference to Williams crying in the locker room after losing to Sharapova in the Wimbledon final 14 years ago. "As a fan, I wanted to read the book and I was really excited for it to come out and I was really happy for her. And then the book was a lot about me. I was surprised about that, to be honest," Williams said. "I was, like, 'Oh, OK, I didn't expect to be reading a book about me — that wasn't necessarily true.'" Insisting she doesn't "have any negative feelings" toward Sharapova, Williams said "the success of one female should be the inspiration to another." Seconds later, Williams made reference to Sharapova's "incident of drugs." There were plenty of other results involving top names at the French Open on Saturday. Other women moving into the fourth round included 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza, two-time runner-up Simona Halep, two-time major title winner Angelique Kerber and reigning U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens. Men's winners included 10-time champion Rafael Nadal, No. 3 Marin Cilic, No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, No. 6 Kevin Anderson and No. 9 John Isner. The story of Day 7, though, was what everyone can look forward to on Day 9: Williams vs. Sharapova. This is Williams' first Grand Slam tournament since January 2017, when she won the Australian Open while pregnant. The American made a brief foray on the tour earlier this season, but she played only four matches. She had some problems in her initial two outings in Paris, including in the second round, when she dropped the first set against 17th-seeded Ashleigh Barty before — as Williams herself put it — "Serena came out." Against Goerges, the careless errors were largely absent. The missing energy was back. In front of a crowd that included former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, it took 15 minutes for Williams to gain the upper hand, sprinting to reach a drop shot and whip a cross-court forehand passing winner for a 3-1 lead. Williams yelled loudly and raised her fist. It was almost as if she'd never left the scene. "Any time you play against Serena, you know what you're up against. You know the challenge that is upon you," Sharapova said. "Despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to coming out on the court and competing against the best players.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2018

Tim Cahill set to play in 4th World Cup for Australia

SYDNEY (AP) — Tim Cahill will have a chance to score a goal in his fourth consecutive World Cup for Australia. The 38-year-old forward was chosen on Sunday by coach Bert van Marwijk among 23 players set to play in Russia for the Socceroos. Cahill has 105 caps for Australia and is the country's leading goal scorer, but has struggled for form and match time in recent months. He is currently playing for Millwall in England. Only three players have scored goals in four World Cups— Pele and German strikers Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose. Australia's squad is evenly spread, featuring three goalkeepers, seven defenders, six midfielders, and seven attackers. Daniel Arzani, 19, is joined by Dimitri Petratos and Josh Risdon as the only three A-League players in the squad, while Mark Milligan also made the World Cup squad for the fourth consecutive time. The final squad was the result of a two-week training camp in Antalya, Turkey and a 4-0 international friendly win over Czech Republic. "I have been very pleased with the effort and application of all of the players during our time in Turkey," van Marwijk said. "Every step of the selection process has been difficult because the players have all given everything to make the final selection." Australia is in Group C at the World Cup with France, Denmark and Peru. The Socceroos will continue to train in Turkey for another week before travelling to Budapest for a friendly against Hungary on June 9. Australia's World Cup opener is in Kazan against France on June 16. ___ Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic, Brad Jones. Defenders: Trent Sainsbury, Milos Degenek, Matt Jurman, Mark Milligan, Josh Risdon, Aziz Behich, James Meredith. Midfielders: Mile Jedinak (captain), Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo, Jackson Irvine, Tomi Rogic, Dimitri Petratos, Mathew Leckie, Daniel Arzani. Forwards: Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Andrew Nabbout, Jamie Maclaren, Robbie Kruse......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 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