Advertisements


Frustrated Mickelson swats moving ball with putter at Open

By Barry Wilner, Associated Press SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) — Whether he ever wins a U.S. Open — and that prospect is increasingly bleak at age 48 — Phil Mickelson will be remembered for what happened on the 13th green at Shinnecock Hills on Saturday. Call it the Mickelson Meltdown. His bogey putt from above the hole ran by the cup and was headed down a slope when he ran over and swatted it back toward the hole as the ball was still moving. "Sometimes it gets a little goofy, sure," he said, "but it's all within the rules." Mickelson's shocking display in the third round earned him a 2-stroke penalty for breaking the rule against hitting a moving ball and led to a 10 on the hole, an 81 overall. He went from shooting a 69 to making the cut to falling apart so badly that playing partner Andrew Johnston called it "a moment of madness." "I've had multiple times where I've wanted to do that," Mickelson said, explaining he preferred the 2-stroke penalty to having to play the ball from off the green. "I just finally did." Saturday was Mickelson's 48th birthday, and there were good vibes everywhere early in his round. He was serenaded with "Happy Birthday" at nearly every green, and even after four consecutive bogeys the fans were supportive. "People here have been awesome, they made my birthday special," he said. Then came No. 13, where nothing was special — just outrageous. Mickelson jogged after the ball after it curled around the hole, realizing it was about to head down the other side of the green. His swat sent the ball off the hole. He then two-putted. With the 2-shot penalty, he was given a sextuple-bogey 10 that was the highest score on any hole at this U.S. Open, according to the USGA. "I've wanted to do that many times. I should have done it several times at Augusta on 15," he said. As he walked off the green, he could be seen smiling and talking to Johnston, who also was smiling. "I said, 'That is one of the strangest things I have ever seen' and started laughing, and said 'sorry' about laughing," said Johnston, a jovial Englishman with the nickname Beef. "He just laughed at me, he had no words to say. We just laughed. "It's something you might see at your club with your mates. It was strange, no one ever has those thoughts, it just happens." Mickelson's actions were reminiscent of John Daly hitting a moving ball at Pinehurst No. 2 in the 1999 U.S. Open. Daly was on No. 8 in the final round when he took an 11 on the hole and signed for an 81. He then said: "This is my last U.S. Open — ever. I've had it with the USGA and the way they run their tournaments." He was back the next year at Pebble Beach, where he pumped three shots into the Pacific Ocean on the famed 18th and hit another shot into someone's backyard. That made for a 14, a total of 83 in the first round, and a withdrawal. Another player who let things get to him was Kirk Triplett in 1998 at Olympic Club. On the 18th hole in the second round, Triplett stuck his putter in the ground as a backstop when his ball was headed back down from the hole. Mickelson, who has been a U.S. Open runner-up six times, most recently in 2013, was having a miserable time Saturday before reaching 13. He had those four consecutive bogeys before a par at the 12th. After three more pars following the meltdown, he bogeyed 17, then parred 18. Asked if people would find his actions on No. 13 disrespectful, Mickelson said: "It's meant to take advantage of the rules as best as you can. In that situation, I was just going back and forth. I would gladly take the two shots over continuing that display." As for walking off the green chuckling, he insisted: "How can you not laugh? It's funny." ___ AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson, AP Columnist Tim Dahlberg, and Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 17th, 2018

Americans keeping rolling, 1 point away from Presidents Cup

em>By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press /em> JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — The Americans came within one match of winning the Presidents Cup. On Saturday. Anirban Lahiri made two clutch birdies that only delayed the inevitable. This is a powerful U.S. team playing to its full potential, and the result is the biggest blowout since these matches began in 1994. Lahiri and Si Woo Kim had the only victory for the International team over two sessions. From the sun rising over the Manhattan until the chilly twilight at Liberty National, the American poured it on. They had a 14 1/2-3 1/2 lead and need only one point Sunday to win the cup for seventh straight time. Phil Mickelson set a Presidents Cup record with his 25th victory, breaking the record set by Tiger Woods. Mickelson hit two wedges into birdie range in the morning foursomes session with Kevin Kisner, when the Americans won three matches and halved the other. Jordan Spieth's best intentions cost him a hole in a ruling rarely seen in match play, though that didn't matter. All that did was inspire Spieth and Patrick Reed to win yet another match. They are 8-1-3 as a partnership in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. Justin Thomas made another big birdie on the 14th hole and cupped his hand to his ear, covered by a beanie in the chill, to fire up a crowd that didn't need much help. Even in the lone loss of the day, the Americans made it hard on them. Charley Hoffman chipped in from short of the 17th green and body-slammed partner Kevin Chappell, a celebration that lasted only long enough for Lahiri to match his birdie with a 20-foot putt. Lahiri and Kim were 1 up playing the par-3 18th, and when Lahiri chipped to 3 feet and both Americans were in the bunker, they chose not to concede Lahiri's putt until after Chappell had made par. It was meaningless in the big picture, yet it illustrated clearly — along with all the celebrations — that no victory is too big for this U.S. team. Hoffman was aware that his match could have ended it. 'We knew what was on our shoulders,' said Hoffman, the 40-year-old who had never been in a team competition as a pro. 'I didn't have my best stuff all day long, but I had a chance. Got to give it up to Lahiri. He made some great birdies coming down the stretch, and they knocked us off.' The 11-point margin is the largest going into the 12 singles matches, breaking the International record of nine points set in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, the only time it has ever won the Presidents Cup. The 2003 matches ended in a tie. While the outcome was inevitable, this day still had its moment, none more peculiar than the 12th hole. Jason Day was already down for a birdie. Spieth had 12 feet for his birdie, while Louis Oosthuizen hit his drive behind the green on the reachable par 4 and had a shot at eagle. The ball raced by the hole and was headed down the slope with water on the other side, and the partisan American crowd was urging it to keep going. Spieth had heard enough and reached over and scooped away the moving ball with his putter. Match referee Andy McFee, a top rules chief on the European Tour, stepped in and informed Spieth that it was a violation of the first rule in golf (Rule 1-2): 'A player must not take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play.' No player would ever do that in stroke play (though John Daly and Kirk Triplett did it to their golf balls on U.S. Open greens). Spieth figured the International team already had its birdie. Even so, the rule meant Spieth was disqualified from the hole, even as Oosthuizen and Day protested. 'I'm sorry for trying to do the right thing,' Spieth said to McFee, a mixture of sarcasm and frustration. That gave Day and Oosthuizen a 1-up lead that lasted only three holes. Spieth birdied the 15th to square the match, Reed hit a tee shot into the wind and along a ridge to 5 feet for birdie on the 16th, and Spieth birdied the 17th to close them out. Day went 0-4-1 in the Presidents Cup two years ago. He heads into singles with a 0-3-1 mark at Liberty National. Hideki Matsuyama has failed to win a match. Adam Scott is 0-3 and sat out the Saturday afternoon session. Dustin Johnson extended his record to 4-0 this week, teaming with Matt Kuchar for an easy victory in foursomes and riding U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and his hot putter for a 3-and-2 victory that put the Americans on the cusp of victory. The celebration will have to wait. Lahiri missed a 3 1/2-foot putt on the 18th hole that cost the International team a rare victory in South Korea two years ago. This time he saved his team, if only for a day. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 1st, 2017

Brian Harman takes 1-shot lead in Travelers

By Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Brian Harman shot a 4-under 66 on Friday to move to 10-under par and watched that hold up for the second-round lead in the Travelers Championship, thanks in part to a 10-second rule. Harman finished a stroke ahead of Matt Jones and first round co-leader Zach Johnson, who lost a stroke during his round of 68 when his birdie putt hung on the lip of the cup at the third hole for longer than the maximum allowed 10 seconds before falling in, giving him a par. "After 10 seconds, the ball was moving and at that point even if the ball is moving, It's deemed to be at rest, because it's on the lip," Johnson said. "Don't ask me why, but that's just the way it is." Harman had his short game working for the second consecutive day, taking 26 putts after needing only 23 during the first round. "The putter has been really good so far, but I've been in position a lot," he said. "I've had a lot of good looks at it. I'm just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice." Jones hit 16 of 18 greens for the second consecutive day, following up his first round 65 with a 66. Bryson DeChambeau (66), Paul Casey (67) and Russell Henley (65) were two strokes back going into the weekend. But Johnson, who started on the 10th tee, had the day's most interesting round, which included just two birdies, but one amazing par save. He hit the ball into the TPC River Highland's signature lake on No. 17, dropped across the water near the 16th tee box and then put his third shot within 8 feet of the hole from 234 yards away. "You can't hit that shot and then not make that putt," he said. "It felt good to get away with that four. That's as good an up and down as I've ever witnessed or performed." Lanto Griffin and two-time Travelers champion Bubba Watson were at even par coming into Friday. But both shot a 63 to move into contention heading into the weekend, three shots behind the leader. Watson jump started his round with an eagle on his third hole, the par-5 13th. "I had some mental mistakes yesterday, and then I didn't make some putts," said Watson. "Today I started out hotter. I made a good shot on 11, our second hole, made the putt, making a solid par putt on 12, and then that freed me up a little bit. Gave me some confidence going into the next hole where I made the eagle." Rory McIlroy also is at 7 under after a 69. McIlroy, Watson and Justin Thomas (5 under) were grouped together Thursday and Friday, drawing large galleries. "I definitely helps, Thomas said. "It's fun playing with good friends. You definitely get more momentum when guys are playing well. I obviously couldn't get a whole lot of momentum out there. I was kind of hovering around 1- or 2-under. It was pretty much just Bubba today. Rory didn't play great either and both of us definitely could have had a lot lower rounds" Defending champion Jordan Spieth, tied with Johnson after an opening 63, had a 73 to drop into a tie for 25th at 4 under. His round, which started on the back nine, included a triple bogey on the par-5 13th hole and an eagle on par-5 sixth, when he put his second shot within 2 feet of the hole from 276 yards away. "I don't go to the range after 63s very often, and I was there for an hour yesterday trying to figure out the golf swing," he said. "So it's not like things are on. Sometimes it can get disguised by rounds, but it's not far off. It really is close." Masters champion Patrick Reed, coming off a fourth-place finish in the U.S. Open, shot a 67 to miss the cut by a shot at minus-1......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 23rd, 2018

US Open hopes ultimate test doesn t feature trick questions

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) — The U.S. Open wants to be the ultimate test in golf, and sometimes that leads to a series of trick questions. One of them was 14 years ago at Shinnecock Hills. A year after Jim Furyk tied the U.S. Open scoring record at Olympia Fields, the 2004 U.S. Open was so bone dry and lightning fast that only three players broke par on the weekend, none on Sunday. Fans having to move to the side because of a golf ball rolling toward them is not unusual, except when the player hit the shot with his putter from the green. Tee shots that landed on the seventh green rolled off the putting surface and into a bunker. One year after Rory McIlroy broke the U.S. Open scoring record at Congressional, no one broke par at Olympic Club in 2012 when Webb Simpson won. Moments like this lead to criticism that the USGA overreacts. Justin Rose sees it another way. "When everything is in balance, it's kind of boring," he said. "And I think in life, the closer you get to the edges, that's where the excitement is. So I would say the USGA is not reactionary. It's counterbalancing. So if you go too far one way, you've got to come back the other way. You don't want to fall off the edge." That's the question going into the 118th U.S. Open that starts Thursday. Might the USGA lean toward going easy on players because of what happened the last time at Shinnecock Hills? Or will it make it tougher on them because of the record scoring last year at Erin Hills? Brooks Koepka tied the record to par at 16 under, and six other players finished at 10 under or lower. "We're confident this should be a marvelous test," said Mike Davis, the chief executive of the USGA who has been in charge of setting up the courses for the U.S. Open since 2006 at Winged Foot, when the winning score was 5 over. Davis believes Shinnecock Hills is right where the USGA wants it, even with a light, steady rain on the final day of practice. Wednesday is never the measure of how a golf course presents itself. McIlroy is among those who likes what he sees. It's not a U.S. Open if players are not complaining, but it's been a quiet three days ahead of competition. The biggest question is whether the fairways are narrow enough. They are tighter than last year at Erin Hills, for sure, and an average of 15 yards wider than in 2004. "Honestly, I think they've got it right," McIlroy said. "It presents guys with options off the tee. You have to make a decision basically on every tee box what you're going to do. I'm obviously not that old, but when I watched U.S. Opens on TV and saw these long, narrow corridors of fairways and thick rough, that's what I was used to at a U.S. Open. ... If you look at the venues that are coming up, they're very traditional venues like Oakmont, Winged Foot, Pebble Beach. "Maybe you'll see more of what we perceive as a traditional U.S. Open setup." Rain was expected to yield to plenty of sun over the next four days, with the strongest wind on Thursday. Davis said he already has called several audibles on the original plan of where to put the pins on the greens, an example of the USGA not wanting the course to get on the wild side. Davis also said the winning score is not an issue at a major where par tends to be at a premium. "Never since I've been at the USGA — and it's been almost 30 years — I've never heard anybody at the USGA say we're shooting for even par," Davis said. "But we talk incessantly, 'How do we get the course to be really a great test of golf?' As we say, get all 14 clubs dirty to make sure that these players are tested to the nth degree." And what makes a good championship inside the ropes? The quality of the winner? Different players have won the last 15 U.S. Opens, the longest stretch of the four majors. The margin? The last playoff was 10 years ago when Tiger Woods won at Torrey Pines. Three of the last four U.S. Opens have been decided by three shots or more. "You need some great players in the mix," Rose said. "You need some great story lines." This U.S. Open is not lacking for either. Five players have a chance to replace Dustin Johnson at No. 1 in the world this week. Woods is hitting the ball well enough to win any week if he ever gets all parts of his game working together. To win a record-tying fourth U.S. Open would cap off an unlikely comeback following four back surgeries. Phil Mickelson, in the USGA record book with his six runner-up finishes, needs only this trophy to complete the career Grand Slam. "And then just a good test of golf where people think, 'Wow, they've really stepped up and played great golf under pressure,'" Rose added. "I think that's what people would like to see in this tournament is that guys are tested to the ends of the ability, to whether they can cope or not. And I think that's part of the charm ... not charm, but part of the allure of this tournament." The ultimate test starts Thursday. Results won't be available until the end of the week......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2018

Lewandowski avoids Bayern embarrassment against amateur team

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — A fourth-tier team of amateurs held Bayern Munich scoreless for more than 80 minutes before Robert Lewandowski ended chances of an unlikely upset in the first round of the German Cup on Saturday. SV Drochtersen/Assel, a team from a town of only 11,000 inhabitants in the north of Germany, frustrated the country's top team until Lewandowski's 81st-minute goal finally sent the Bundesliga powerhouse through 1-0. "I'm happy we're still in the cup," Bayern coach Niko Kovac said after his first serious game in charge. Another fourth-tier side, Ulm, defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 to send the defending champion out at the first hurdle. Bayer Leverkusen, Hoffenheim, Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg, Mainz and Nuremberg all progressed with wins over lower-league opposition. Hamburger SV, relegated from the Bundesliga last season, eventually prevailed 5-3 over fifth-tier side TuS Erndtebrueck. Drochtersen mayor Mike Eckhoff had called the town's match against Bayern the "game of the century," and the team's players rose to the occasion, closing down their opponents and making it difficult for them to impose their game. "I find it incredible that we were able to keep the game open for so long," Drochtersen coach Lars Uder said. "That's why I'm so proud of my team." The home side might even have gone ahead when captain Soeren Behrmann sent the ball through for Florian Nagel. The Drochtersen midfielder was only stopped by a fine reaction from Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Drochtersen was only playing in the German Cup for the second time in its 41-year existence after winning the Lower Saxony Cup, and the club more than doubled its stadium capacity from 3,000 to 7,500 with temporary seats just for the visit of the record 18-time cup winners. Thiago Alcantara came closest for Bayern early in the second half when he struck the crossbar, before the game was interrupted by inflatable beach balls and rolls of toilet paper coming from the Munich fans' block. Thomas Mueller had a goal ruled out for the visitors before Lewandowski finally made one count when he was set up by new signing Leon Goretzka. However, there were complaints from Drochtersen Meikel Klee that he had been struck in the face by Franck Ribery in the buildup. Klee, a bricklayer, had been looking forward to facing the French winger before the game, when he said he had been a Bayern fan for 23 years......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 19th, 2018

Woodland sets PGA record but leads by only a stroke at PGA

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press ST. LOUIS (AP) — Sirens blared across Bellerive, putting the second round of the PGA Championship on hold and ending a day of scoring rarely seen in a major. Gary Woodland set the 36-hole record — for now, anyway — after a round where his driver wasn't as reliable, he didn't see many putts drop and he didn't hit the ball quite as well as the day before. "I can live with that," he said Friday after a 4-under 66. That put him at 10-under 130, breaking by one the PGA Championship record and tying the 36-hole score for all majors. And it was only good for a one-shot lead over Kevin Kisner. There were two rounds of 63, one 64 and six 65s. And that was only half of the 156-man field. Still to be determined was whether Woodland's score even holds up as the lead. Storms arrived forcing a two-hour suspension, and the PGA of America declared the rest of the day a wash when rain pounded the course. Rickie Fowler had just birdied the 10th hole and was at 7 under. Tiger Woods had three birdies through seven holes as he tried to get in range. "I felt I was headed in the right direction," said Woods, who was at 3 under. "Tomorrow is going to be a long day for a lot of us." The second round was to resume at 7 a.m. local time. The greens would be slightly smoother, the course slightly longer, the approach unchanged — see flag, aim at flag. Perhaps it was easy for Woodland not to be overly impressed. He was playing with Kisner, who shot 29 on the back nine and was in the middle of the ninth fairway — his final hole — needing a birdie to become the first player to shoot 62 in the PGA Championship. He came up short of the green, chipped too strong and made bogey for a 64, leaving him one shot out of the lead Friday. Right in front of them was U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, who had a 20-foot birdie putt he wanted to make for no other reason than he likes to make birdies. This one missed, and only later did Koepka realize it was for 62. Instead, he was the 15th player to shoot 63 in the PGA Championship. "My caddie said something walking off," Koepka said. "I didn't even think of it. I've been so in the zone, you don't know where you are." And then Charl Schwartzel made it 16 players with his eight-birdie round of 63. No one from the afternoon draw completed more than 12 holes. The plan was to finish the second round, make the cut and then immediately start the third round in threesomes off both tees. "I feel like we're in a good spot," Fowler said. "But the nice thing about the delay and going back out tomorrow morning, we'll get fresh greens." Bellerive really had no defense. Woodland and Kisner played in the same group, and they offered a great example that Bellerive is accommodating to just about any game. Woodland is among the most powerful players in golf. Kisner is not. He relies more on a clean hit with his irons and a great short game. The course is so soft — not so much from Tuesday's rain, but the extreme heat that requires more water on the turf — that every flag is accessible provided players find the ample fairways. "Greens are receptive, so my 4-iron stops as quick as his 7-iron," Kisner said. "If they were firm, I don't think I would have a chance with the way the greens are situated and the places they're putting the flags. But being receptive, that's my only hope." Woodland's 36-hole score broke the PGA record by one shot, most recently set by Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb at Baltusrol. It also tied the 36-hole record for all majors, matching Jordan Spieth at the 2015 Masters, Martin Kaymer at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 and Brandt Snedeker (Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2012) and Nick Faldo (Muirfield in 1992) at the British Open. Koepka was at 8-under 132, two shots behind. Dustin Johnson, the world's No. 1 player, had a 66 and joined Schwartzel and Thomas Pieters (66) at 133. Spieth still has hope in his second try at a career Grand Slam. Spieth didn't get under par for the tournament until his seventh hole Friday — the par-3 16th hole — and he managed to do enough right for a 66 to get within seven shots of the lead. Spieth has battled with his game all year, and his confidence isn't at its peak. It's the nature of the course that makes him feel he has a farther climb than the seven shots that separate him from Woodland. "A little frustrated at this place in general," Spieth said. "This course would be phenomenal — and probably is phenomenal — if it's not playing soft. You get away with more. You don't have to be as precise. ... Personally, I would prefer more difficult and firmer, faster conditions on the greens. Having said that, I would have shot a much higher score yesterday." Defending champion Justin Thomas was at 2 under through seven holes, while Rory McIlroy was frustrated with all pars in his seven holes. On a day like this, that meant losing ground. "It's been 16 pars in a row from yesterday to today, so hopefully I can break that run in the morning," McIlroy said. Midway through the afternoon round, the cut was projected to be even par. Woodland, even with the lowest 36-hole score in 60 years of stroke play at the PGA Championship, still had a long way to go. In conditions like Bellerive, no lead was safe. "I feel safe because I feel safe where my game is," Woodland said. "I'm not too worried with what anyone else is doing out there.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 11th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Middle 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 Middle 10 * * * 11. TORONTO RAPTORS 2017-18 RECORD: 59-23; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: Coach Nick Nurse; G Danny Green (acquired from Spurs); F Kawhi Leonard (acquired from Spurs) LOST: Former coach Dwane Casey; G DeMar DeRozan (traded to Spurs); F Alfonzo McKinnie (waived); C Jakob Poeltl (traded to Spurs) RETAINED: G Fred VanVleet (two years, $18.1 million) THE KEY MAN: Nurse. The former Raps assistant has extensive G League head coaching experience. But the NBA isn’t just about a coach’s Xs and Os acumen. We know Nurse can do that. But an NBA coach has to have command presence in a locker room not only full of millionaires, but full of Alpha males who have their own very strong opinions on how they should be used and how their teammates should help them. Nurse will have to show he can put his own stamp on a team that will have some new faces while still having extremely high expectations. THE SKINNY: You may well think Toronto should be higher, based on Leonard’s standing as a top-five player in the league when fully healthy. No matter what you think of DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, no one can realistically say he’s better than “The Klaw” when both are 100 percent. But, of course, we don’t know if Leonard’s 100 percent. And, trading DeRozan, who’d been the franchise’s biggest advocate during his nine seasons there -- and who had led the team to its greatest extended run of success ever -- is not a transaction without consequence for the Raptors. He helped get the best out of Kyle Lowry. He could help recruit free agents. And, the circumstances of his departure have not helped the franchise’s reputation. Still, this is a talent-based league, and Leonard has it. His and Green’s presence on the perimeter gives Toronto the chance to be a switching defensive monster -- and will help the Raptors be able to match up better with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in a late-May playoff matchup, as long as the Raptors’ young core in which it believes so strongly continues to play as well in reserve as it did last season. 12. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: Coach Mike Budenholzer; G Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trevon Duval; F Ersan Ilyasova (three years, $21 million); C Brook Lopez (one year, $3.32 million); F Pat Connaughton (two years, $3.2 million); LOST: Former interim coach Joe Prunty; G Brandon Jennings (waived); F Jabari Parker (signed with Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: G Eric Bledsoe. His departure from Phoenix early last season was messy. But once he got to Brewtown, Bledsoe solidified the Bucks at the point, averaging 17.8 points and 5.1 assists per game in 71 starts. At 28, Bledsoe faces the last year of his contract and will have to show a new coach he’s capable of running things long-term and playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo through the meat of his prime. THE SKINNY: Budenholzer’s arrival should coincide with an improvement in the Bucks’ defense, something that former coach Jason Kidd could never quite accomplish. Ilaysova’s return for a second tour in Milwaukee should help, with his celebrated charge-taking skill and Lopez’s still-substantial size a double-boon to Milwaukee’s interior D as the Bucks were bottom 10 last season in points allowed in the paint (47.4 per game). If the paint becomes a little tougher to traverse, the Bucks should finally able to use their substantial length on the wing to get back to create deflections and turnovers, and get out in transition, where Antetokounmpo and Friends do their best work and their most damage to the opposition. They’ll do so 41 nights a year for the next couple of decades in the 17,500-seat Fiserv Forum, the Bucks’ new arena that will open in early September with a concert and should pump new revenues into the Bucks’ bloodstream, giving them more financial wherewithal to keep “The Greek Freak” surrounded with high-quality talent. 13. UTAH JAZZ 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Grayson Allen (No. 21 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jarius Lyles; G Naz Mitrou-Long LOST: F Jonas Jerebko (waived) RETAINED: G Dante Exum (three years, $33 million); F/C Derrick Favors (two years, $37.6 million), G Raul Neto (two years, $4.4 million); F Georges Niang (three years, $4.9 million) THE KEY MAN: C Rudy Gobert. He’s a monster presence, the hub of the Jazz’s defensive wheel and the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year. And he has to take a step back in Utah next season for the Jazz to take the next step forward. He has to understand what Utah has in Donovan Mitchell and let that kid eat. Nobody in the league can do what Gobert does defensively. So embrace that and concentrate on that -- take the Draymond Green attitude about being the “defensive guy” on a great team (not that Jazz fans want you to do anything that Green does). Gobert’s handsomely paid and the DPOY award found him in Salt Lake City; there’s no small-market bias at work here. So let Mitchell and Joe Ingles carry the shooting/scoring load, let Ricky Rubio orchestrate, and snuff out opponent dreams at the other end, night after night. It’s what you were born to do. THE SKINNY: My God, Mitchell had a great rookie season. And Utah brought most of the band back from last season to provide advice and consent for him again, re-signing Favors, Exum and Neto each on very reasonable contracts. Doing so leaves Utah over the cap, still comfortably under the tax, and with nothing on the books that should raise an eyebrow financially. (Utah’s front office should handle my checking account for a while.) Anyway, no reason to expect any backsliding next season with the crew returning, though coach Quin Snyder will surely miss the counsel of his longtime friend Igor Kokoskov, off to run the Suns. 14. ATLANTA HAWKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Lloyd Pierce; F Justin Anderson (acquired from 76ers); G Kevin Huerter (No. 19 pick, 2018 Draft); C Alex Len (two years, $8.5 million); G Jeremy Lin (acquired from Nets); F Omari Spellman (No. 30 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trae Young (No. 5 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Mike Budenholzer; G Antonius Cleveland (waived); G Damion Lee (signed with Warriors); F/C Mike Muscala (traded to 76ers); G Dennis Schröder (traded to Thunder); G Isaiah Taylor (waived) RETAINED: C Dewayne Dedmon (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: GM Travis Schlenk. The second-year executive will be judged on how well Atlanta uses its trove of Draft picks -- three firsts this year, three firsts next year, two firsts in 2022 -- the next few years. And, ultimately, the Hawks will live or die by whether Young or Luka Doncic becomes the bigger NBA producer. Schlenk’s chances of completing the rebuild may well ride on that. THE SKINNY: The Hawks’ roster teardown is nearing completion, but the renovated Philips Arena will come online faster than the team, which now needs Young to live up to all the hype after his one season at Oklahoma. He has incredible range and great potential, but he’ll be challenged every night to stay in front of the legion of great points in this league. Pierce, the former Sixers’ assistant, is going to have a very tough time melding all the newcomers with the small core of players who survived, including John Collins, Kent Bazemore, DeAndre' Bembry and Taurean Prince. 15. LA CLIPPERS 2017-18 RECORD: 42-40; missed playoffs ADDED: C Marcin Gortat (acquired from Wizards); G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 11 pick, 2018 Draft); F Johnathan Motley (acquired from Mavericks); F Mike Scott (one year, $4.3 million); F Luc Mbah a Moute (one year, $4.3 million), G Jerome Robinson (No. 13 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Austin Rivers (traded to Wizards); C DeAndre Jordan (signed with Mavs); G C.J. Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Avery Bradley (two years, $24.9  million); C Montrezl Harrell (two years, $12 million); G Wesley Johnson (picked up player option); G Milos Teodosic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Tobias Harris. He was the key tangible piece of the Blake Griffin trade last season (the intangible being the unprotected first from Detroit in the deal that eventually became Gilgeous-Alexander after a Draft night trade with Charlotte). And Harris played quite well in his 32 games with the Clips, averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds per game. Those numbers could each well go up in a contract year and with few others outside of Lou Williams on the roster that can go get their own buckets. THE SKINNY: Amazing, but true: the Clipper player with the longest current tenure is … Wesley Johnson, who came aboard in 2015. “Lob City” is in the history books and change will be the norm here for a while, including next summer, when the Clippers expect to be a free-agent destination. The Clips did what they could with that not-insignificant restriction, but the best stuff was in the Draft, winding up with a potential long-term point in Gilgeous-Alexander and a two in Robinson that rocketed up the pre-Draft charts. Bradley’s on a very team-friendly and controllable contract, as is Patrick Beverley, whose modest 2018-19 salary isn’t guaranteed until January. Those two and Mbah a Moute can give coach Doc Rivers hope that he can get some stops on the perimeter, because while Gortat is still willing defensively and still takes a bunch of charges, he is not Jordan when it comes to rim protection. 16. BROOKLYN NETS 2017-18 RECORD: 28-54; missed playoffs ADDED: F/C Ed Davis (one year, $4.4 million); F Jared Dudley (acquired from Suns); F Kenneth Faried (acquired from Nuggets); G/F Treveon Graham (two years); F Rodions Kurucs (No. 40, 2018 Draft); F Dzanan Musa (No. 29 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shabazz Napier (two years, $3.7 million) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Suns); F Dante Cunningham (signed with Spurs); C Dwight Howard (waived); G Jeremy Lin (traded to Hawks); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Hornets); G Nik Stauskas (signed with Blazers); G Isaiah Whitehead (traded to Nuggets) RETAINED: G Joe Harris (two years, $16 million) THE KEY MAN: Co-owner Joseph Tsai. The Alibaba executive and billionaire has 49 percent of the team, and can buy majority control from Mikhail Prokhorov by 2021. Until then, they’ll run the team jointly, so no matter Prokhorov’s ups and downs, Brooklyn’s financial spigot should never run dry. Tsai reportedly has designs on expanding the Nets’ brand further in China, just as Prokhorov believed the Nets had global reach. They didn’t, at least not the post-KG and Pierce squads. THE SKINNY: If you love Ed Davis like smart people who know basketball do, Brooklyn makes the top half by bringing the ex-Blazer in on a short deal. If he plays great, he’ll cost the Nets a pretty penny in 2019, but Brooklyn has to take chances on guys who can outperform their contracts. The only thing the Nets couldn’t do was take on more ’19 salary when they’ll be in line to potentially add two max players. Won’t be easy to lure the elites, but Brooklyn also has accumulated enough assets to be able to make uneven trades for salaries if need be. In the interim comes next season, with coach Kenny Atkinson needing to continue to develop diamonds in the rough like Graham, who Cleveland wanted and who will help the Nets at multiple positions. 17. CHICAGO BULLS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: G Antonius Cleveland; C Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 7 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chandler Hutchison (No. 22 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jabari Parker (two years, $40 million) LOST: F Jerian Grant (traded to Magic); G Sean Kilpatrick (waived); G Julyan Stone (waived); F Noah Vonleh (signed with Knicks); G Paul Zipser (waived) RETAINED: G Antonio Blakeney; G Zach LaVine (matched four year, $78 million offers sheet from Kings) THE KEY MAN: G Kris Dunn. As the 24-year-old will be every season he’s in Chicago. The Jimmy Butler trade in 2017 yielded the pick that became Lauri Markannen, and he’s also a key piece to the Bulls’ future. But Chicago won’t ever get elevation again if Dunn doesn’t become an elite point guard in a league full of them. He showed signs last season that he could be just that, most notably a December in which Dunn averaged 14.9 points and eight assists, and the Bulls went 10-6. But a concussion in January derailed Dunn’s progress and his production fell sharply the rest of the season. THE SKINNY: Can Parker play the three, as the Bulls insist he can? There isn’t a ton of evidence suggesting so, and Parker’s hypothesis that he isn’t getting paid to play defense does not provide much comfort. But the Bulls will try him there alongside Markannen and rookie Carter Jr. in what would be a huge frontcourt. Almost $20 million annually for LaVine going forward is also a stretch, but less of one if LaVine comes all the way back from his 2017 ACL tear with a full training camp and season. Carter may be more important to the Bulls’ hoped-for resurgence than Parker and LaVine; the Duke big man has that much potential. 18. WASHINGTON WIZARDS 2017-18 RECORD: 43-39; lost in first round ADDED: C Thomas Bryant; G Troy Brown (No. 15 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jeff Green (one year, $2.5 million); C Dwight Howard (two years, $11 million); G Austin Rivers (acquired from Clippers); G Issuf Sanon (No. 44 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Marcin Gortat (traded to Clippers); F Mike Scott (signed with Clippers) RETAINED: G Jodie Meeks (picked up player option); C Jason Smith (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Coach Scott Brooks. Entering his third season in Washington, Brooks keeps saying he wants the Wizards to defend and play fast. But he has to follow that up with action, especially when and if John Wall doesn’t provide the on-ball defense Washington needs to have any chance to unleash a still-potent fast break. Wall is 27 and, if healthy, in his prime. The team takes almost all of its cues from him; when he’s locked in, the Wizards can compete with anyone. But when he’s indifferent, so are they -- as evidenced by their horrible record against bad teams. Brooks has to demand Wall’s best, or be ready to limit his minutes. THE SKINNY: NBA protocol almost demands you hate the pickup of Howard, such is his current perceived valued among many after multiple stops the last few seasons. The guess here is that Howard won’t hijack the Wizards’ locker room, as he had been accused of while in with the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets, especially. Howard’s skill set can help Washington, which fell off defensively last season. But there’s also not much sense he’ll be a significant pick-me-up in D.C., either. He can’t stretch the floor and he’s not especially potent finishing in pick and roll, either. But the Wizards should at least be deeper off the bench with Green, who played well for the Cavs last season, and Rivers, who gives Washington legit guard depth along with Tomas Satoransky. 19. SACRAMENTO KINGS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: F Nemanja Bjelica (three years, $20.4 million); C Marvin Bagley III (No. 2 pick, 2018 Draft); G Yogi Ferrell (two years, $4.1 million); G Ben McLemore (acquired from Kings); F Deyonta Davis (acquired from Grizzlies) LOST: G Garrett Temple (traded to Grizzlies) RETAINED: G Iman Shumpert (picked up player option); C Kosta Koufos (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Harry Giles. The Kings traded for the one-and-done forward on Draft night 2017 and redshirted him, feeling he needed a year to fully recover from the multiple knee surgeries he’d undergone the last three years. Those surgeries stopped his top-five Draft potential in its tracks, before and after a year at Duke. But Giles is back on the floor, having flashed his skills during NBA Summer League, as Sacramento gushed about his progress. If the 20-year-old is ready to roll come October, he could be an enormous boost. He’ll have to at least become a contributor, lest folks remind the Kings they passed on the likes of Kyle Kuzma and O.G Anunoby to trade for his rights. THE SKINNY: Bagley III has superstar potential, and he better become one, or the Doncic Stans among the Kings’ fan base will have aneurysms. The Kings were all over everyone, seemingly, this summer, dropping sheets on Zach LaVine, almost doing the same with Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker, and going after unrestricted free agent Mario Hezonja. All well and good, and getting Bjelica out from under Philly and prying Ferrell from Dallas were decent late July pickups. But it will be Bagley III who’ll be under the microscope. His skill sets are prodigious and he’s been working out feverishly all summer. And he wants to make a mark in restoring the Kings to where they were on the floor during the Webber Years. He worked out for them. He’s enthusiastic about them. That counts for something. 20. HOUSTON ROCKETS 2017-18 RECORD: 65-17; lost in Western Conference finals ADDED: G Michael Carter-Williams (one year, $1.5 million); G De'Anthony Melton (No. 46 pick, 2018 Draft); F Vincent Edwards (No. 52 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Trevor Ariza (signed with Suns); Luc Mbah a Moute (signed with LA Clippers); C Chinanu Onuaku (traded to Mavs) RETAINED: C Clint Capela (five years, $90 million); G/F Gerald Green (one year, $2.3 million); G Aaron Jackson (picked up team option); G Chris Paul (four years, $159 million) THE KEY MAN: Jason Biles, Joe Rogowski, Keith Jones and Javair Gillett -- the Rockets’ athletic trainers, sports performance and rehab staff. Their only mission next season, should they decide to accept it, is to get Paul through an 82-game regular season and a two-month playoff slog without breaking or pulling anything of importance that keeps him out of key games. Of course, should any of the staff be unsuccessful, the Morey will disavow any knowledge of their employment. Good luck, men. THE SKINNY: We have not yet included Carmelo Anthony, who will be signing in Houston any minute now. When he’s officially on the roster, he’ll certainly help, and we all saw that even Houston can go through extended scoring droughts in the playoffs. Having Anthony around should alleviate that. The Rockets may have had the best signing of the summer, keeping the 24-year-old Capela locked up long-term for $18 million per -- incredible value these days, given the way salaries are skyrocketing. But that was mitigated by the losses of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, who were crucial to the switching defense Houston employed and perfected by the playoffs, which threw sand in the gears of the Warriors’ impenetrable offense and would likely have propelled the Rockets to The Finals if Paul hadn’t gotten hurt in Game 5. Ennis and Carter-Williams will help some in that regard, but they don’t have the resume of Mbah a Moute and Ariza -- which means they sometimes won’t get the benefit of the doubt from refs that the old heads do. Houston’s still the clear number two to Golden State in the West, but the gap between the Rockets and the best of the rest has closed. 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

Thomas takes over at Firestone as Woods fades away

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy have become friends more by location than youth. They live near each other in South Florida and said they spent last weekend practicing together at The Bear's Club. Sunday at Firestone will be the eighth time this year they play together in a tournament, and the number grows next week when they play the opening two rounds with Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship. But this is the first time a trophy is at stake. Thomas pulled away from the pack with five birdies in the middle of his round Saturday for a 3-under 67, giving him a three-shot lead over McIlroy and Ian Poulter going into the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational. "We've played together a lot in tournaments, but never in this kind of situation," Thomas said. McIlroy played bogey-free on a Firestone course that finally started to get firm, atoning for a few missed birdie chances with key par putts. He already has won at Bay Hill this year, though he felt he should have won more. He has been runner-up three times, most recently at the British Open two weeks ago. "I played well enough to win a few times this year and I only got over the line once," McIlroy said. "Tomorrow is a great opportunity to try and win again. I'll need a good round. I'm still a few behind. But yeah, I'm getting a little sick of the second places." McIlroy made up three shots in the final round in 2014 when he rallied to beat Sergio Garcia at Firestone. It might be a taller order to take on Thomas, who already has won twice this season and appears to have found his touch with the putter. Starting with a pitching wedge from 129 yards into the breeze to 6 feet at No. 6, Thomas made birdie on every other hole through the 14th to pull away. No one could keep pace with Thomas, least of all Tiger Woods. Starting the third round Saturday five shots behind, Woods didn't make a birdie until a 12-foot putt on the 12th hole, and he didn't make another. He wound up with a 73, leaving him 11 shots back and ending his streak of 10 straight rounds at par or better dating to the U.S. Open. "It was very similar to the first day," Woods said. "Wasn't very sharp that first day, but I made everything. So today was about the same, and I didn't make anything." That wasn't a problem for Thomas, whose six birdies included a chip-in from 30 feet behind the green on the par-3 12th. He was at 14-under 196. Thomas fell behind early with two bogeys in three holes, and a 10-foot par save in between from behind the fourth green kept him from falling farther behind. Poulter set the pace early and had a three-shot lead at one point until he dropped his shot from the bunker on the par-3 seventh, and then had a mixed bag of birdies and bogeys that kept him from getting closer to the lead. Jason Day, who threw away a chance to win the Bridgestone Invitational two years ago, had a 69 and was four shots behind. Marc Leishman, who played alongside Woods, shot 67 and joined Kyle Stanley (70) five shots behind. The course started to get a little firmer. Poulter had a 62 on Thursday. Tommy Fleetwood shot 63 on Friday. The best anyone could do in the third round was a 65 by Rickie Fowler, which only got him within six shots. Thomas figured that out quickly. He made an unusual birdie on the par-5 second by hitting his tee shot in the first cut of the third fairway. Blocked by threes, he opted for a 5-wood that started out toward the third tee and sliced over the trees to the rough, pin-high about 15 feet away from an up-and-down. After a bogey from the trees at No. 3, Thomas went at a back pin on the tough fourth hole and the ball bounded over the green in thick rough. He chopped at his chip and did well to run it 10 feet by the hole, making it for par. He bogeyed the next from a bunker, and fell three shots behind, but that par save on No. 4 helped by not dropping a shot, and by understanding how the course was playing. Thomas said he told caddie Jimmy Johnson, "We can't see pin, hit pin." Fleetwood went so far long on the fourth hole that it went 30 yards over the green. He chipped 50 feet by the hole and three-putted for a double bogey, the start of what turned out to be a sloppy day and a 74 that dropped him seven shots behind. Poulter already has won at the Houston Open in what has been a big turnaround for the Englishman, who is on the cusp of qualifying for the Ryder Cup. He made a pair of medium-length birdie putts to offset bogeys from the bunkers, but fell out of a chance to be in the last group when he missed a 6-foot par putt on the 17th. "I'm going to have a chance," Poulter said. "So starting this week, tied 13th I think was my best ever result. I'm tied second right now, so huge improvement and a little bit of work left to do. And hopefully, we can do it.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 5th, 2018

The British Open returns to the nasty links of Carnoustie

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press Carnoustie is known as much for the calamity it causes as the British Open champions it crowns. Any mention of Carnoustie immediately brings back that image of Jean Van de Velde, equal parts tragedy and comedy, standing in Barry Burn on the 18th hole with water up his shins and rising. He made triple bogey to lose a three-shot lead, and then completed as great a collapse as can be found in a major championship by losing in a three-man playoff in 1999. Just don't get the idea Van de Velde owns all the rights to bad endings at Carnoustie. Jose Jurado was the first victim. He had a three-shot lead going into the final round in 1931 and was still two shots clear late in the round until coming undone in the brutal closing stretch, topping one shot on the 17th hole into the burn. He lost out to Tommy Armour. More recently was Padraig Harrington , only it worked out well for him in 2007. Playing the 18th with a one-shot lead, the Irishman hit his tee shot into the Barry Burn. He took a penalty drop and then hit his next shot into the winding stream. Harrington managed the best double bogey of his life. It got him into a playoff when Sergio Garcia made bogey from the bunker, and Harrington went on to win his first major. Of the six previous Opens on these menacing links, Ben Hogan is the only winner to hold a 54-hole lead. For most everyone else, Carnoustie always seem to dish out its share of carnage. Rod Pampling once opened with a 71 and had the lead. He followed with an 86 and missed the cut. Phil Mickelson still hasn't seen a weekend at Carnoustie. Garcia made his major debut as a professional at Carnoustie. He shot 89. "That's a brutal course," Bernhard Langer said. He speaks from experience in 1999, when Langer had his third-highest score of the 23 Opens he completed. He shot 297, and he tied for 18th that week. The first time Tiger Woods went an entire round without a birdie in a major was in 1999 at Carnoustie. "I think I made one birdie on the weekend and I finished three or four back of the playoff," Woods said. "That was ridiculous how hard it was." One month after Shinnecock Hills was punishing as ever in the U.S. Open, golf's oldest championship doesn't figure to be much of a reprieve. Scotland has been going through a warm, dry patch of weather, which figures to make it firm and bouncy. Mickelson, who played Carnoustie a week before the Open, said it was unlikely he would even carry a driver. "I'm either going to carry a driver or that hot 3-wood, but there's only two or three holes — there's actually only two holes I plan on using it, both par 5s. I have a low 1-iron that I've been putting in the bag and ... it's very low. Gets on the ground quick. I'll hit that on probably the last ten holes, almost every hole." Carnoustie in any conditions is regarded as a beast, with a reputation as the toughest links in the world. Sir Michael Bonallack, the former R&A secretary, might have sized it up the best when he said, "When the wind is blowing, it is the toughest course in Britain. And when it's not blowing, it's probably still the toughest." In recent Opens, it has picked up a nickname: Car-nasty. For so much of the field, it will be a new experience. Only two players from the top 10 in the world have played a British Open at Carnoustie — Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy , who was an 18-year-old amateur in 2007 and immediately showed his potential when he opened with a 68. He tied for 42nd that week. Only 33 players in the 156-man field have played an Open at Carnoustie, and only 12 have played it twice. Defending champion Jordan Spieth only knows it from television. He was 13, just starting to blossom as a junior, and he watched the Open from home as Garcia and Harrington tried to survive the finish. "I remember ... how good of a score par was on that hole and will continue to be for Opens going forward," Spieth said. "It's one of probably the toughest closing holes in the Open Championship anywhere, and that creates some drama when it comes down to Sunday, as we've seen. And I don't think it will be any different this year." Carnoustie gets its mean streak from the way the course was set up in 1999, with narrow fairways and high grass. But its strength comes from the wind, like most links courses, and this course near the North Sea is particularly exposed. It measures 7,402 yards, which is 19 yards shorter — yes, shorter — than it was in 2007, the last time the Open was at Carnoustie. Spieth will try to become the first player in 10 years to repeat as British Open champion, and right now he'd simply settle for a chance. Since his closing 64 at the Masters to finish third, Spieth has finished at least 12 shots out of the lead in four of his seven tournaments. He missed the cut in the other three. Like most majors these days, the Open figures to be wide-open. Dustin Johnson, who lost a four-shot lead over the final two rounds at Shinnecock, is back to No. 1 in the world and eager to pick up another major. He has not played since the U.S. Open. The next three players behind him in the world ranking — PGA champion Justin Thomas, Rose and U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka — all have a chance to replace him at No. 1. Recent history would suggest a young American — the last five majors have been won by Americans in their 20s. "It's definitely been pretty one-sided, and the Americans are dominating," Rose said. "So it would be lovely to turn that around next week." Woods is happy to get another crack at it. Carnoustie was his first experience with links golf in 1995, when he was still at Stanford and came over for the Scottish Open at Carnoustie ahead of the British Open at St. Andrews. He opened with a 69, closed with a 78 finished 48th. "Carnoustie is an unbelievable driving golf course," Woods said. "You have to drive the ball well there, but also it's not your traditional in (and) out golf course. It's a lot of different angles, so a lot of different crosswinds. I have to be able to maneuver the golf ball both ways there efficiently. You just have to hit the golf ball well." There is no faking. Nothing comes easily. No one really conquers Carnoustie. It's more about survival. The highest compliment might have come from Tom Watson, who won his first major at Carnoustie in 1975 in a playoff over Jack Newton. "Carnoustie is like an ugly, old hag who speaks the truth no matter how painful," Watson once said. "But it's only when you add up your score, you hear exactly what she thinks of you.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 13th, 2018

Q& A: Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com A year ago, on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls switched gears. Jimmy Butler was traded to Minnesota, taking with him any pretense that the Bulls were a legitimate playoff team. In that moment, Chicago committed to a rebuild, which is to say, a dive into the draft lottery where coach Fred Hoiberg and his team presumably would be rewarded not for how many games they won but how many they lost. By whatever means necessary. Soon after Butler was moved to the Timberwolves, veteran point guard Rajon Rondo was waived. A few months later, Dwyane Wade was cut loose (via a handsome buyout) to bounce through Cleveland to Miami. The Bulls moved forward with three young pieces courtesy of the Wolves -- wing Zach LaVine, guard Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick in 2017, rookie forward Lauri Markkanen -- and a general acceptance that getting from there to here was going to bring a lot of pain. Some of that was literal: Bobby Portis slugged teammate Nikola Mirotic in a preseason practice, breaking two facial bones and putting Mirotic on the shelf for 23 games. Some of it was figurative: the frustration of a season that began as a 3-20 mess and ended in a 10-28 slog. In between, though, the Bulls somehow put together a 14-7 stretch that offered a glimpse of what 2018-19 might be. It also cost them precious lottery balls, eventually leaving them with the No. 7 pick (and No. 22, after dealing Mirotic in February to New Orleans) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Draft. Hoiberg, who went from an alleged coaching “hot seat” during two .500 seasons, wound up with more job security as a coach headed toward 50 defeats and beyond. He spoke with NBA.com about his and the Bulls’, er, challenging season. This is edited from a pair of longer conversations, one at the end of the regular season, the other within the past week. NBA.com: So you go through everything that was 2017-18, dutifully lose 55 games and wind up at No. 7 instead of in the top three for the Draft. The inevitable question is, was it worth it? Fred Hoiberg: Obviously you’re disappointed. You were hoping to move up. But we’re confident we’re going to get a good player with the No. 7 pick and we’re confident we’ll get a good player with the 22nd pick. NBA.com: C’mon, this isn’t our first rodeo. I get that people don’t like to use the word “tanking,” but the Bulls’ marching orders last season were pretty clear. FH: I don’t think you can look at it that way in the midst of your season. The players are competitive, your staff is competitive. You want to play as well as you can and put yourself in a position to win. When you look at the successful stretch that we had in December and January, you think about carrying those things forward and then adding, based on who we get, to the roster. There was some real frustration that we didn’t get a lot of wins at the end. But we developed some younger players and saw what we had with some of our guys. NBA.com: When you guys had that run before the season’s midpoint, winning seven in a row (first team in NBA history with such a long winning streak immediately after a losing streak of 10 in a row) and 10 of 12, did you and the front office ever consider a Plan B? As in, maybe, show potential free agents how good your supporting cast could be, in hopes of luring big-name help this summer? FH: I think we did. What we showed was a really good foundation and a young core that we can build around. When I look back at it, I just wish we could have had more opportunity to work with it and see what it would have looked like. When Zach LaVine came back [Jan. 13 from ACL knee surgery], the plan was for him to play about 20 minutes a night. Then his third game, Kris Dunn fell against Golden State and had that concussion [that cost him 11 games, before missing the final 14 with a toe injury]. It’s too bad we didn’t get the full look. But players like Cam Payne, Denzel [Valentine], Bobby, Robin [Lopez], Justin Holiday all had career years.   NBA.com: You had a lot of injuries down the stretch. Not to suggest that they weren’t all legit, but were you instructed at any point by VP John Paxson or GM Gar Forman to dial it back after that 14-7 success? FH: No, we weren’t. And the big thing from the very beginning of last season, the two things we wanted to see, was competing at a high level every night and the development of our players. I think we accomplished that. NBA.com: What -- in your background as a player, coach, competitor, you name it -- prepared you for this past season? FH: Part of what prepared me for this was, I had been through this as a player. I went from four really competitive teams in Indiana, playing with someone as driven and helpful as Reggie Miller, taking me under his wing. There were other great veteran players who helped me just to survive and taught me a lot. Larry Brown was the coach, then Larry Bird my last two years.   Then when I came to Chicago, I knew it would be an opportunity to play. But it was a rebuild. Eventually I got thrust into the role of captain, as the oldest player on team at 28. It really helped me with what we’re going through now. I learned how important it is to keep guys’ morale up and be positive through the ups and downs. I give our guys all the credit in the world for remaining so positive, keeping up a great work ethic and still being sponges in wanting to learn. NBA.com: What were the takeaways from the best and healthiest part of last season? FH: We got a pretty good feel for what Kris Dunn can be. He really evolved into being a closer for our team. Lauri was closing games for us, taking big shots as a 20-year-old kid. Zach had the game against Minnesota. What people fail to remember about Zach, he averaged over 22 points a game in February and really got into a pretty good rhythm. Then he had some knee soreness and wound up sitting for the rest of the year. But we had some flashes of what this can turn into. NBA.com: Niko paid for his role in sparking that hot streak. FH: Niko was great. He missed those first 23, and I thought our team handled that adverse situation about as well as anybody could, not letting it affect us in a negative way. We were able to move past it. You even saw the chemistry that Niko and Bobby played with when they were out there together. NBA.com: How hard was it personally downshifting from a team that had gone to the playoffs to one that didn’t put a priority on winning? FH: When the move was made on draft night, when those three kids came in, right away there was an excitement. Everyone had seen what Zach had done. He was a highlight reel and had those slam dunk championships. He plays the game with ease on the offensive end. His athletic tools and ability to get up and down the floor. Kris, everybody absolutely loved coming out of the draft [in 2016]. Then he had an up-and-down rookie season. Helping him to get that swagger back that he had coming out of Providence took some work, but he was aching to put that work in. Markkanen, I know the guys upstairs knew how good he was but I had no idea. I didn’t study him because we had the 15th pick. He comes over after a grueling summer -- summer league, Eurobasket with all that pressure in front of his home fans -- and he was exhausted. But then you saw every day, “Man, this kid is really good.” You’re thinking, we could probably put the ball in this kid’s hands. Then he goes up and dunks over a whole team and you say, “My God, this kid’s more athletic than we thought. He uses his feet, he’s got anticipation, he’s got toughness.” He showed a little more every day. NBA.com: Was it difficult asking a proud veteran like Robin Lopez to put it in idle over the final 25 games? FH: I think he understood. He’s been a part of a lot of different situations. He was great. He continued to lead. He continued to practice hard. He talked to the bigs as they came off the floor. NBA.com: Was your own health challenged at all by the stress of this season? Your past issues related to your heart are widely known, and coaching an NBA team even in the best of times is a demanding job. FH: After two open-heart surgeries, I do have to sometimes check myself. There are so many things you can over-concern yourself with in this business. Then you look back a week or two later and say, “My God, why did I put so much effort into that one stupid thing that happened?” You have to let go sometimes. My family is so important for me with that. You get some normalcy in your life. [At night, lying in bed, Hoiberg can hear a valve in his heart every time it beats. He let a visitor listen, too, and sure enough... ] If this ever affected me to the point where I had to throttle back, I would move on to something else. When I had my first surgery and they removed the diseased tissue from the aorta that had an aneurysm in it, they got rid of the problem. The valve deteriorated after they put a new valve in and they had to go in again, but the diseased tissue no longer was there. If it was a risk, I’d be doing something else. But it’s a constant reminder. You think you’re going to get used to it, but you never really do. My wife will be lying next to me and she hears it. NBA.com: When you look back on 2017-18, is it like “Casablanca” for you guys? As in, you’ll always have December? FH: It was fun to see how much the work paid off. Everyone was putting so much into it to get out of that slump. You can say, we had something to build on there. But whenever I talked to our team, before or after, it was all about competing on a nightly basis. Being consistent with their effort. I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled it. They were on time. They kept trying to get better. They worried about what they could control. I didn’t have to have even one of those conversations where I sat a guy down and said, “You’re not playing hard enough.” I did have a few conversations where I said, “You need to move the ball more.” [laughs] NBA.com: Big difference, coaching relative kids after the so-called “three alphas” of Butler, Wade and Rondo? Jimmy seemed eager to stay here to win. FH: Jimmy did so many things for this team. He was great to coach. You knew every night you were going to get an unbelievable effort. A guy who never backed down. Who never shied away from the big shot. And was going to defend at a high level every time he stepped on the floor. So Jimmy was missed in a lot of ways. But when you look at the young guys’ abilities, it’s exciting. NBA.com: What do you make of having better job security now that the losses are mounting, compared to those .500 seasons? FH: I don’t think any one of the 30 guys in our position pay attention to that. You can’t do your job if you do. You go in and try to improve as an individual, as a staff, as a team. Our first year, Derrick Rose suffered an orbital fracture in the first workout. We had 10 rotation players who missed double-digit games. Two starters missed 50 or more [Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah]. Niko had that botched appendix surgery. The next year was a completely different team. Nobody predicted we’d be a playoff team but we were and had a good chance to beat Boston before Rondo got hurt. NBA.com: When you’re not coaching veterans, is it a purer form, as far as installing “your” system vs. tailoring things to them? FH: You always look for the best system, the best approach. The basics don’t change, but [in 2016-17] we had a lot more isolation players, so we ran more of those types of actions. This [past] year, more ball movement, player movement fit this group better. We had longer, harder practices as opposed to a veteran group as the year went on. NBA.com: Since the end of the season, how much time have you put in on developmental activities and draft preparation? FH: We’ve had a lot of guys in and gotten a lot of work in, in the early part of the offseason. We’re looking forward to working again after the draft with some new young players as part of the roster. It’s all about moving forward. NBA.com: As you look back over the past year, with the script flipping to the point where the Bulls wanted to win by losing and maybe lost -- some draft position, anyway -- by winning, what goes through your mind? FH: What was Donovan Mitchell [the Rookie of the Year finalist chosen by Utah]? The 13th pick? You just never know with the draft. You play hard, you get the culture established the way you want it and things take care of themselves. What really would have been devastating would have been ending the season with negativity, with your team not playing hard, with your team disinterested. That’s something that would be a real cause for concern going into an offseason. But our guys felt good about themselves. Some were sacrificing in a big way and pulling for younger guys. They were playing hard, they were cheering for each other. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 19th, 2018

PBA: Smith not too worried about latest loss to San Miguel

By virtue of their classic Finals in the Commissioner's Cup last year, San Miguel and TNT will always have some history in the mid-season conference. However, KaTropa import Joshua Smith has moved on from the loss one year ago. After TNT got frustrated by the Beermen once again on Saturday, taking a 94-99 loss, Smith says he's not worried about any playoff implications or whatever. For one, it's not the playoffs. Not yet anyway. "My thing is... everyone wants to talk about the Finals last year. We're not playing them in the Finals, it's the regular season," Smith said. "The playoffs is a whole new ball game. It's regular season, I'm not worried. They won, credit to them," he added. Against the imposing San Miguel frontline, Smith played  just a shade under 45 minutes, his most since returning to TNT a couple of weeks ago. He scored 26 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. The hulking import doesn't mind the workload, saying he'll play heavy minutes if that's what it takes for the KaTropa to pile up wins. "If I have to play 45 minutes for us to win, I will. I'm all about the team. Whatever they need I'll do it," he said. "It's one of those times that I didn't realize it until I got to the locker room and read the stats. I'm just trying whatever I can to help the team out," Smith added. With a two-game slide, TNT has lost control of the no. 1 spot, going down to solo fourth as the elimination round nears its end. Regardless, Smith says the KaTropa's approach remains the same. Right now TNT is moving on to a crucial showdown with sister team Meralco. "We play hard every game and we're trying to win. We'll focus on what we can control," Smith said. "We're on a two-game slide right now we just gotta lock in and bounce back," he added.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 16th, 2018

Rose practicing patience, perspective in the majors

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) — Justin Rose was coming up on 15 years as a pro and still didn't have a major. What he found was perspective. "Between 30 and 40, that's going to be my opportunity to go really out and get things done," Rose said. "That's 40 major championships. I'm going to create chances with those 40. I'm going to be on leaderboards." More than getting into weekend conditions, however, was realizing that it wasn't always going to work out. It was OK to fail. That was the secret to playing so well under pressure at Merion, where he broke through in the 2013 U.S. Open. "I think what happened to me at Merion, I also realized I'm going to win majors, and I'm also going to lose majors," he said. "You can't skip through your career without one or two slipping through the net. It's a byproduct of being on the leaderboard that those things happen. So I wasn't scared of losing, and that helped me win my first major championship. I wasn't shying away from the pressure of trying to win my first major." Rose had top 10s in the majors, but he didn't have a lot of chances in his 20s. The lone exception was 2007 at the Masters, where he started the final round one shot out of the lead, closed with a 73 and finished three shots back. Since his victory at Merion, he played in the final group at the 2015 Masters and couldn't make up any ground on Jordan Spieth's four-shot lead, and he lost a two-shot lead on the back nine in the 2017 Masters before losing in a playoff to Sergio Garcia. He also started three back on the final day at St. Andrews in 2015. "Ideally in your career, you grasp more than slip away, right?" he said. "But it's a byproduct of being a good player and being on the leaderboard that both things are going to happen." The message applies to Rickie Fowler, who finished one shot behind Patrick Reed at the Masters. Fowler also had a share of the lead on the back nine at Valhalla in the 2014 PGA Championship, and he played in the final group at two majors that same year. A year ago at the U.S. Open, Fowler started the final round two shots behind. "He's creating those opportunities," Rose said. "He played plenty well enough at the Masters that it could have been his year. He will let one or two go in the future. He's going to be on the leaderboard for a long, long time, and I'm sure things are going to line up for him more than once." ___ WEDDING BELLS Rickie Fowler was lugging around something and it was high time he got rid of it. So he asked girlfriend Allison Stokke to marry him while they were on a Long Island beach. "There was nothing planned out," Fowler said Wednesday, four days after he and Stokke, a former track and field athlete at Cal, got engaged. "I just really didn't want to carry the ring around any longer." That comment drew hearty laughter at a news conference for the U.S. Open. "So it worked out perfectly," he added. "We kept things very, very casual. And like I said, I didn't have anything planned out. ... I didn't want to have to keep toting that thing around for that long." Fowler got traditional, getting down on his knees to ask for her hand in marriage. Waves broke against the shore just behind the couple as Fowler's friend and PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas snapped photos. ___ PEBBLES IN THE SAND The USGA has a local rule for Shinnecock Hills in this U.S. Open that allows players to remove stones and pebbles from bunkers without penalty. Phil Mickelson could have used that 14 years ago. Tied for the lead with two holes to play, Mickelson made double bogey from the bunker on the 17th hole and finished two behind Retief Goosen. Mickelson never talked about the bunker shot after his round, but Fred Funk revealed what happened in a 2014 interview. There was a small rock under his ball. "We didn't know the rock was there, but you could hear it," said Funk, who played with Mickelson in the final round. "Phil showed me his pitching wedge. But he never said anything about it (to the media)." Mickelson's shot ran out about 5 or 6 feet above the hole. The bigger problem was running the putt by 4 feet and missing the comebacker. Funk thought small rocks could be removed as long as the player could see it, though the USGA confirmed the local rule was not in effect in 2004. ___ ALL-AMERICAN This year's U.S. Open will be a chance to celebrate the state of golf in the country. Americans hold all four of golf's major trophies for the first time since 2004. Patrick Reed won the Masters this year, joining PGA champion Justin Thomas, British Open champion Jordan Spieth and last year's U.S. Open winner, Brooks Koepka. The last time that happened was 2004, when Phil Mickelson won his first major. At the time, Jim Furyk (U.S. Open), Ben Curtis (British) and Shaun Micheel were the reigning champions. But it's not just the majors. The United States also won the most recent Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Solheim Cup and Walker Cup. Rory McIlroy, who hopes to end the streak, attributed it to golf going in cycles. And he said some of the credit goes to Tiger Woods. "European golf was very healthy a few years ago for a long time," he said. "It seemed every major, someone from the island of Ireland turned up to, we were winning it. It doesn't seem that long ago. But the great young players from this country, they're playing well. They have probably a couple of guys, but one in particular that they try to emulate who's back out here playing, and he's become a friend of theirs. "I think that's been a huge part of all this," he said. "A lot of these guys have gotten to know Tiger. And being able to say, 'OK, this is what he does, and we might not be able to achieve everything that he has, but you can at least try to do that.' I think that's been a huge thing for Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, and them as individuals." ___ AP Sports Writers Barry Wilner and Jimmy Golen contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2018

Tiger Woods digs for the week is more than a dinghy

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) — Tiger Woods brought his yacht, Privacy, to a U.S. Open in New York and missed the cut for the first time in a major. That was 12 years ago when the Open was at Winged Foot. He can only hope for a different outcome at Shinnecock Hills. "Staying on the dinghy helps," Woods said with a grin. The 155-foot yacht is said to include a Jacuzzi, gym and movie theater. It doesn't sound as though Woods has spent much time ashore except for being at Shinnecock Hills for his first U.S. Open in three years. "Sag Harbor is a cute little town," he said. "I've only been there for a few days now. I haven't really got a chance to walk about a little bit, but certainly will this week. So far, it's been nice to kind of get away from the tournament scene and go there to my dinghy, and just really enjoy it." Woods at least has been able to avoid the traffic that has led to commutes of close to two hours from the official hotel depending on the time of morning. Most players have rented homes in the Southampton area. Woods said he stayed with Shinnecock Hills members when he played as an amateur in the 1995 U.S. Open, and near the course in 2004. The Hamptons has no shortage of yachts, and someone suggested to Woods that it must feel odd not to have the biggest ship in New York. "I'm not opposed to that," Woods said. ___ PLAYOFF FEVER Jordan Spieth now knows that when he's tied for the lead after 72 holes on Sunday, his work is not done. The USGA has changed its playoff format for all its open championships. If the U.S. Open goes to a playoff, it will be a two-hole aggregate playoff (followed by sudden death if still tied), instead of an 18-hole playoff. Spieth was asked about the two-hole playoff. "It's the first I've heard of that being an option," he said. "It's still 18 holes, right?" Wrong. "I guess the strategy changes a little from an entire round, but I honestly had no idea that it even changed," he said. "I was even looking at a weather forecast for Monday, thinking, 'What's it look like if you happen to work your way into a playoff?' So shows you what I know." He wasn't alone. Justin Thomas was asked about the new format and conceded that he wasn't aware it changed to a two-hole aggregate until he was at lunch. It wasn't clear if he read a memo from the USGA or the transcript of Spieth's news conference about four hours earlier. ___ BACK TO NO. 2 If you blinked, you might have missed Justin Thomas' reign atop golf's world ranking. The PGA champion took the top spot in May. It's gone, with Dustin Johnson's win at Memphis last weekend catapulting him to No. 1, with Thomas just behind. Of course, a win at Shinnecock Hills in the U.S. Open this week would push Thomas back to the top. "It didn't affect me, or it wasn't that hard on me because I couldn't do anything about it," Thomas said. "I wasn't playing. I played one tournament and had a good tournament, finished eighth. And D.J. won, so it's not like he didn't play well and didn't earn it or anything. He won a golf tournament and a great tournament. So there's nothing I can be upset about for that." Thomas could even laugh a bit about the ranking. "I saw something that was just hysterical on social media," he explained, "how a lot of the times, you know, when teams or players or whatever it is go on long runs, like the last time this happened. I mean, a little biased but often a scenario is last time Tennessee beat Alabama in football, you know, like iPhones weren't alive yet and stuff like that." So what was Thomas' "last time" moment? "I saw something so funny yesterday," he said. "It was like the last time that I wasn't ranked No. 1 in the world, and it was like (Alex) Ovechkin didn't have a Stanley Cup and Rickie (Fowler) wasn't engaged. That was it. I thought it was pretty funny, whoever came up with that." ___ SPIETH AND HIS PUTTER For all the attention on the short putts Jordan Spieth has missed this year, he still is regarded as one of the best putters in golf. That's the club that effectively won the British Open for him last summer. Spieth faced a tough question Tuesday, however, when asked if there was someone he regarded as better. He paused. "A lot of great putters out here," he said, buying time. "That's why they're out here," he said, buying even more time. He finally took the safe way out by saying that no single players come to mind, though he made it clear his confidence isn't shaken on the greens. "I'd still like to bet on myself, if I can," he said. Spieth said he prefers to think about who makes putts in big moments, and whether the ball is holed with the right speed and right break. He has made plenty of those, not only at Royal Birkdale last summer but at Chambers Bay on the par-3 16th and even at the Tour Championship in 2015 when he won the FedEx Cup. And he hasn't forgotten Tiger Woods. "Nobody's done that better in the last 20 years than Tiger as far as clutch putting goes," he said. ___ TRAILER LIVING Jason Day has learned that life in a motor home can be rewarding on the PGA Tour. He also has learned it can be messy when Bubba Watson is around. Day is staying in what he calls "the bus" in a parking area close to Shinnecock Hills for the U.S. Open. The Australian uses the RV for about 15 tournaments a season, and several other tour golfers have joined him. One is Watson. "Bubba just got one this year, and I'm very kind of more private, and he's, yeah, he's a little bit more outgoing," Day recalled, a wide smile on his face. "And I think we're at Augusta, and he walks under my bus, and he's like, 'Hey, man, what are you doing?' "I'm just sitting in the bus watching TV. He's like OK. And he's standing there. And I'm like, do you want to come inside? And he's eating a burrito, and he decides to come in and talk to me for about 30 minutes. He gets his burrito all over the ground and then just leaves. "Actually, it's nice to have people like that around, you know, to mess your bus up when you need them to." ___ AP Sports Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 13th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 11th, 2018

Woods happy with his game despite another Sunday fade

By Mitch Stacy, Associated Press DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Tiger Woods made it interesting again, but slipped from contention on the last day of a tournament. Despite being done in by some poor putting at the Memorial, he believes there still was valuable progress. "I keep getting a little better," the 42-year-old Woods said after shooting an even-par 72 on Sunday at Muirfield Village. "Week in, week out, I keep getting just a little bit more fine-tuned. For instance this week, just to be able to make the slight adaptations after the first nine holes and be able to flip it around and shoot a respectable number." Woods started the final round five shots off the lead, the third time this year he has been within five to start the last day and couldn't turn it into a win. Bryson DeChambeau won the event in a playoff. Playing in the Memorial for the first time in three years, Woods birdied two of the first five holes Sunday before hitting from a fairway bunker on No. 6 to the rough in the back of the green. Still, he managed par. He hit his approach over the green on No. 7 and settled for par again. He couldn't make up any ground on the par-3 No. 8, either, leaving his second shot just short of the hole. Missing a 3-foot par putt on No. 10 was a killer. He made a slick birdie on the par-5 No. 11, but missed a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 12, then hit his tee shot out of bounds on the 13th and finished with a bogey. He bogeyed the par-3 No. 16 when he missed another short putt, an unfortunate trend for Woods in a week when he was hitting the ball well off the tee. He now turns his attention to the U.S. Open in two weeks. "I just need to hit better putts," he said. "This week I didn't really have, didn't feel comfortable with my lines, and my feel was a little bit off. Consequently I missed a bunch of putts. But I hit it really good this week, so that's a positive going into Shinnecock, where ball striking is going to be a must." Moving up and then falling back has become a trend for Woods in his comeback bid. He was one shot behind going into the final round at the Valspar Championship in March and finished tied for second, a shot behind winner Paul Casey. He was five back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the next week, but couldn't do better than a tie for fifth, eight shots behind winner Rory McIlroy. He knows he has to improve but is happy with his game overall, especially because before back surgery in April he didn't know if he would ever walk again, let alone play competitive golf. "Overall, if I just keep building on this, with how I'm hitting it right now, I'm in good shape for two weeks from now," he said. His participation dialed up the energy level here all week, with thousands following him on the course and roaring their approval with every good shot. The crowds were supportive and respectful all week, he said, and he tried to just appreciate being here again. "It's incredible to be able to play golf again at this level," he said. "Not to have any worries about being able to walk again, like I was. I was struggling there for a while, and now I'm on the other end of the spectrum." DeChambeau chuckled when asked whether he was hoping Woods would make a run Sunday so they could duel it out. He answered with a firm "no." "To be able to have this type of caliber (of players) all chasing is kind of special," he said. "I knew I had to go out there and play well. I couldn't make many mistakes.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 4th, 2018

PBA: Semerad at the 4 experiment working so far

TNT has been experimenting with putting Anthony Semerad at the 4 spot. Sunday against NLEX in the PBA Commissioner's Cup, the experiment worked. Semerad fired six three-pointers on his way to 22 points for the KaTropa, emerging as the leading scorer in the latest win for TNT. Playing power forward takes a lot of getting used to but Semerad says he's getting there. He adds that it helps with creating open gaps on the defense, which makes it easier to knock down shots from the outside. "For us we have to get used to it. But in practice, in scrimmages, I've been playing a lot so I guess I'm getting used to it, in the positioning and the different movements than the three. So it's okay, I like it," Semerad said. "I guess it's just my teammates were moving the ball and I was at the right spot, and I'm playing four now -- three and four, so... There's open gaps," he added on his hot shooting. With TNT stacked with talented guards, it also helps for guys like Semerad to already get used to playing the power forward spot. "You know, you never know, someone gets injured or something like that. We're filled with a lot of guards right now, so it's just good to spread it out and have some extra weapons," he said.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 2018

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

Reed topples Spieth as top seeds fall in Match Play

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — In a showdown that turned sloppy, Patrick Reed nearly holed a wedge to seize control and finished off Jordan Spieth with a 40-foot birdie putt from behind the 17th green to advance to the weekend of the Dell Technologies Match Play. The 2-and-1 victory sent Spieth home in search of his game with the Masters just two weeks away. Spieth hit his opening tee shot onto the range and out-of-bounds. He hit into a hazard on each of the next two holes. And when he finally caught Reed with consecutive shots to tap-in range, he missed two key putts inside 6 feet. "I don't think it would have been that tough to beat me today," Spieth said. Reed was tough enough, twirling a wedge in his hands as it cut into the wind and grazed the front edge of the cup on the 13th hole for a 2-up lead to take command of the match. Spieth, who three-putted for the third time on No. 15 to fall 3 down, stayed alive with an 8-foot birdie putt on the 16th and looked as though he might have a chance to go the distance when Reed's putt was racing toward the cup at the 17th. The cup got in the way, and all Spieth could do was smile. "Just happened to be the perfect line," Reed said. "Thank God, because that thing was moving." And now Reed is moving along into the single-elimination phase of the weekend, four matches away from another World Golf Championship. Spieth is headed to the Houston Open without a top 10 in his last seven tournaments. "I'm human and I'm realistic that based on the way the year's gone ... it's been kind of a trying time for me, especially on and round the greens," Spieth said. "Stuff I took for granted in setup and pace control and all that kind of stuff ... has been a little bit more difficult. And I've been trying to figure out how to get back to that level, and I've been trying different things." Spieth, the No. 4 seed, wasn't the only player leaving early. Justin Thomas (No. 2) and Sergio Garcia (No. 7) were the only top-10 seeds to advance to the fourth round. Thomas had the easiest time, a 7-and-5 victory over Francesco Molinari. And with defending champion Dustin Johnson already eliminated, Thomas can go to No. 1 in the world if he wins this week. But there's a long way to go. Asked how he felt going into the weekend, Thomas replied, "The same as the other 16 guys. We all start at the same place." Paul Casey might have had the toughest day: He lost twice. Casey only had to halve his match to advance for the third time in four years. He lost to Matt Fitzpatrick, and even then had a chance to win his group if the other match was halved. Instead, Kyle Stanley made an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win, and then he beat Casey on the second hole of a playoff. Tyrrell Hatton also was forced into a playoff, and he beat Brendan Steele on the first extra hole. Rory McIlroy still had a chance until he lost to Brian Harman. Phil Mickelson was eliminated when Charles Howell III, who beat Lefty on Wednesday, completed a 3-0 mark in group play by beating Satoshi Kodaira. Howell and Ian Poulter, who swept his matches when Kevin Chappell conceded at the turn with a back injury, still have a chance to earn a spot in the Masters by getting into the top 50 at the end of the week. They both need to win at least one more match. The tightest match was Alex Noren and Tony Finau, one of four matches between players who had not lost all week. Finau won three straight holes on the back nine to take a 1-up lead, only to lose the 14th with a bogey. With the match all square, Noren made a 10-foot birdie at the 17th to go 1 up, and then holed a 15-foot par putt on the final hole to avoid going to a playoff with Finau. Noren now has won seven of his last eight matches in his event, his only loss coming to Johnson in the quarterfinals last year. In other groups: — Garcia won on the 17th hole against Xander Schauffele and won his group for the first time since it switched to pool play in 2014. He also becomes the home favorite from living part-time in Austin, where his wife gave birth to their first child last week. — Si Woo Kim outlasted Webb Simpson on the 18th hole to advance. — Matt Kuchar made a hole-in-one in a 6-and-4 victory over Ross Fisher to advance to the weekend for the second time in three years. — Bubba Watson birdied his last two holes to earn a halve against Julian Suri and avoid a playoff. Watson next faces Harman, a match of Georgia lefties. — Louis Oosthuizen beat Jason Day with two clutch putts, and then won the group with a 12-foot par putt in a playoff to beat Jason Dufner. This is the third time in four years that Oosthuizen has reached the weekend......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 24th, 2018

Serena Williams loses in 1st round at Miami Open to Osaka

By Steve Wine, Associated Press KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) — The match ended with Serena Williams grinning at the net. She saved the worst shot for last in a rare first-round defeat and had to laugh. Still rusty in her return from pregnancy, Williams was unable to overcome a tough opening draw at the Miami Open and lost Wednesday to Naomi Osaka, 6-3, 6-2. On the final point, Williams thundered forward to attack an easy shot at eye level, whacked the ball six feet past the baseline and responded with a sheepish smile. Not that motherhood has mellowed Williams. She left without talking to the media. The 20-year-old Osaka, who earned her first career title Sunday at Indian Wells, showed no signs of letup and overpowered the erratic Williams. Osaka had the stronger serve and worn Williams down in rallies working her from side to side. The matchup worthy of a final came about because both players were unseeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best 22nd, while Williams' ranking is 491st after a layoff of more than a year. Another new mother and former No. 1, three-time champion Victoria Azarenka, defeated Catherine Bellis 6-3, 6-0. Seeded players are in action beginning Thursday. Williams has been eliminated in the first round only four other times, most recently at the 2012 French Open. The latest defeat came at a tournament she has won a record eight times and considers her hometown event. The match was the last for Williams at Key Biscayne, 90 miles south of her home in Palm Beach Gardens. The tournament is moving next year to the Miami Dolphins' stadium, where Williams helped with the ceremonial groundbreaking Monday. Because of Williams' ranking, she entered the draw as a wild card, and looked the part. She needed only eight shots to win the match's first five points, but things became much more difficult after that. Playing her fourth match since returning to the tour, Williams was a step slow to balls in the corners and often late with her swing, while she put barely half her first serves in play. Early in the second set she resorted to her patented scream of "Come on!", but the outburst failed to turn things around and she lost the next three games. Typical of her struggle was an exchange midway through the last set. Williams scrambled forward to scoop a ball back, then retreated to hit an awkward, lunging overhead, and then stood and watched helplessly as a crosscourt forehand from Osaka whizzed past for a winner. Osaka, who has both American and Japanese citizenship and lives in Fort Lauderdale, was playing her idol for the first time but didn't seem a bit fazed. She improved to 14-4 this year. Things may get tougher for her in the second round, when she'll face No. 4-seeded Elina Svitolina......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 21st, 2018

Ebondo-less CEU rallies by Wangs-Letran

Judel Fuentes emerged as the hero for Centro Escolar University as it knocked off Wangs Basketball-Colegio de San Juan de Letran, 79-75, in the 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup on Tuesday at the JCSGO Gym in Quezon City. Keanu Caballero found an open Fuentes on the left corner as the forward drained the go-ahead three with 2.9 seconds remaining to give the Scorpions a 78-75 lead to douse the fightback from the Couriers. Bong Quinto then turned the ball over on his inbound pass on the other end before Caballero put the icing on the cake with a split from the charity stripe. “Ang sabi ko lang kay Keanu, create. When you drive, look for the open man and exactly in the right timing, na-open si Judel,” said coach Yong Garcia. Orlan Wamar topscored for CEU 26 points as he shot 8-of-18 from downtown, including the game-tying triple in the last 1:27 to tie the game at 75. Mishaal Veron contributed 13 markers and eight rebounds while Oliver Arim had 13 points, six boards, and two assists as the Scorpions weathered the absence of Congolese big man Rod Ebondo who is still nursing a back injury. “I challenged my players. Sabi ko sa kanila, this is your time to step up and time to shine. Masaya naman ako na nagrespond sila,” said Garcia. CEU kept itself composed in the end game despite losing an early 17-point lead, 36-19, early in the second period. The Scorpions once again seized solo top spot at 8-2, moving a win away from clinching an outright semifinals berth. Jerrick Balanza poured 25 points on a 10-of-14 shooting from the field for Wangs Basketball-Letran, and Quinto got 16 markers and 14 boards in the defeat. The Couriers dropped to a three-way tie for fifth place at 5-4 with Gamboa-St. Clare and Zark’s-Lyceum. BOX SCORES CEU 79 — Wamar 26, Arim 13, Veron 13, Manlangit 7, Guinitaran 6, Caballero 5, Fuentes 5, Cruz 4, Aquino 0, Chan 0, Opiso 0, Saber 0, Uri 0. WANGS BASKETBALL-LETRAN 75 — Balanza 25, Quinto 16, Muyang 13, Calvo 9, Ambohot 4, Fajarito 4, Publico 4, Balagasay 0, Batiller 0, Mandreza 0, Taladua 0, Yu 0. QUARTER SCORES: 26-12, 45-32, 59-59, 79-75......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 20th, 2018