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Heat halt Celtics 16-game winning streak

MIAMI — Goran Dragic scored 27 points, Dion Waiters had 26 with a pair of big 3-pointers in the final minutes and the Miami Heat held on to beat Boston, 104-.....»»

Category: sportsSource: philstar philstarNov 23rd, 2017

Persistent Popovich, Spurs negate coaching-change ways in NBA

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The first coach in the Gregg Popovich era to get axed was Brian Winters on Jan. 24, 1997. He lost 100 games faster than anyone in history, a byproduct of overseeing the Vancouver Grizzlies in their expansion season (1995-96) and into 43 games of ’96-97. The most recent to lose his job was Tyronn Lue on Oct. 28, 2018 after Cleveland’s 0-6 start. This was more of a head scratcher as he’s the only coach to win a title with the Cavs. Perhaps his biggest crime was failing to give LeBron James the wrong directions to Cleveland Hopkins Airport last summer. In that span, 245 NBA coaching changes were made in Popovich’s time in San Antonio. Some of them have been understandable, others questionable, in all a spinning wheel that managed to eject all from the first seat on the bench … except one. In the wake of yet another coaching switch, it’s fair to wonder: how and when will it end for Popovich in San Antonio? He’s closer to the finish line than the starting line, but the finish line keeps moving. Any notion of Popovich vanishing once Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili left the organization died when training camp began. Any thought of Popovich turning sour from the organization’s lethal relationship last year with Kawhi Leonard was dismissed when Popovich enthusiastically prepared himself for his 23rd NBA season. And all ideas of Popovich permanently drifting to one of San Antonio’s relaxing 18-hole courses as he approaches his seventh decade on the planet should be shattered with a Big Bertha driver. “I don’t golf,” he said. “What a waste of time. I’d rather read a book. You could be doing a lot of other things.” Like, keep coaching. “I still enjoy this,” he said, before deadpanning, “but I don’t know how to do anything else.” He has survived this long because he wins. With 1,201 victories and counting, he’s climbing toward Don Nelson’s career record of 1,335. With a straight face, Popovich says “my ass would’ve been gone a long time ago” if not for great success that he constantly credits to Duncan, among others. But there’s another factor in play that keeps Popovich in control of his destiny and fate. He has rarely, if ever, had to answer to anyone in the Spurs’ organization, now controlled by Julianna Holt, who keeps away from the basketball operation. Almost from the jump, Popovich ruled the empire, and that has separated him from others who’ve won just as many, or more, than his five championships. It’s a unique setup enjoyed by almost no one in professional sports, which are often controlled by owners who act on a whim. Phil Jackson (11 titles) left two organizations, including the Los Angeles Lakers twice, not totally on his own. Pat Riley had a prickly departure from the Lakers after winning four of his five career titles there. In both cases, the lines were clearly drawn: neither Jackson nor Riley, despite steering their teams to historical runs, carried the strongest voice in the building. Neither had tenure or were immune from the type of sports diseases that can fracture even dynasties and shove great coaches out the door. When he greased the “Showtime” era in Los Angeles, Riley had the biggest coaching profile since Red Auerbach and his signature victory cigars. Riley was charismatic, cool and changed the coaching culture. But inside was a gym rat and a clipboard scribbler. He released the leash on the fast break and made the Lakers intoxicating. He smooth-talked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into taking a reduced role as age began to weather the Hall of Famer. However, the core Lakers eventually grew weary of Riley’s techniques and motivational tricks. When the Lakers were upset by the Phoenix Suns in the 1990 Western Conference semifinals, Riley heard the increased volume and split. Jackson’s relationship with Bulls GM Jerry Krause showed decay early in the Bulls’ run for a sixth and final championship in 1997-98. Theirs was a clash of egos and ideas. That, and a demand by Jackson for more money, led to a Bulls breakup. In the early 2000s, Jackson restored the Lakers’ franchise as they became the biggest rival for Popovich’s Spurs in that decade. But the chore of coaxing two high-maintenance young stars, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, beat up Jackson and lead to his first LA exit. His second stint with the Lakers ended mainly over money, among other issues. That’s all foreign to Popovich, who had the benefit of taking over a team with David Robinson, the gentlemanly All-Star who gave no gruff. And then, blessed by the basketball gods, Popovich landed Duncan, the most no-frills superstar the game has ever seen. Duncan set the tone in the locker room for professionalism, conduct and work ethic. Everyone followed, something that’s lasted for almost two decades, all while making Popovich’s life easier (for which Popovich is forever grateful). Duncan also drastically changed the lives of two men. When Popovich stepped down from his GM role on Dec. 10, 1996 – taking the coaching job from Bob Hill after a 3-15 start -- he went 17-47. That is his only losing season to date, and the Spurs fell into the Draft lottery. There were whispers at the time -- blasphemy nowadays -- that he might not see another season in San Antonio. In 1997, the Boston Celtics had better odds of winning Draft lottery and its grand prize: a bank-shot-shooting center from Wake Forest (via the Virgin Islands) who could transform a franchise. Had the Celtics gotten the No. 1 pick, perhaps Rick Pitino would still be coaching in the NBA instead of lobbying for a return. As much as Popovich heaps praise on Duncan, there’s no denying Popovich’s role in 21 straight years of playoff trips and his own coaching immortality. The way he runs an organization envied by many, helps find talent with low Draft picks (Ginobili was taken 57th overall; Parker at No. 28), generates respect from players and rivals (LeBron James, among others) and is a San Antonio landmark (along with the Alamo) is no accident. If Popovich can’t control his fate, then no one in his profession ever will. Besides, under what circumstances would Popovich be forced out? Even if it’s his call, how will this end? He turns 70 in January, although the only time he ages is when a referee’s whistle doesn’t blow his way. He survived Leonard, the only documented sign of rebellion by a Spurs’ star. And the Spurs, despite losing Dejounte Murray for the season to a knee injury, might keep their playoff streak alive with DeMar DeRozan blending well with new teammates. “It’s San Antonio, OK? The faces have changed but the standards are the same and the way do things are the same,” Popovich said. “We’re going to expect the guys to do their jobs on and off the court. None of that’s going to change. The way we want to approach the game and have the respect for the game is all the same, just with different people.” Asked about the Murray injury and other non-Spurs-like issues, he adds: “Maybe we deserve a little bad luck. We got to draft Tim Duncan 20 years ago. So, a little misfortune. We deserve it.” Coaching changes since Dec. 1996 Gregg Popovich was named coach of the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 10, 1996. Since then, there have been 245 coaching changes league-wide. Here's a look at how many changes each team has gone through in the Popovich era. In two years, Popovich assumes control of the US Olympic basketball team. That could satisfy his urge to coach without the 82-game grind and free up time to pursue other stuff. But who knows? “Being a wine consultant going from vineyard to vineyard, or a restaurant critic going from restaurant to restaurant, that would be more fun, for sure,” Popovich said. The 1996-97 season was bloody for the profession. Seven teams, including the Spurs, changed coaches in season. The Washington Bullets (now Wizards) had three coaches that season. And, in fact, Bernie Bickerstaff held two jobs that season, resigning as Denver’s coach in November and was later hired by Washington in February. Cotton Fitzsimmons lasted eight games with the Phoenix Suns. Only one new coach that season lasted more than two decades. Since Popovich’s debut, the Utah Jazz have had the fewest coaching changes (two), while the Grizzlies and Wizards have been on the other extreme (13 each). The Dallas Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle and the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra own the longest tenure after Popovich (10 years each). We’ll never see another like him in our lifetime. He’s a coach who gets results on the court, respect in the locker room and no orders from above. Good luck finding another combination like that. The 245 coaching changes are not a number Popovich particularly likes (because he sticks up for the profession) and it’s not a number that he’ll add to anytime soon -- if he has any say. Which he does. “I’m a simple untalented man,” he said. “This is all I can do. I’d better stick with it.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 31st, 2018

LeBron James reigns supreme over Eastern Conference yet again

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON – For nearly a decade, the general managers of the NBA’s Eastern Conference have had, essentially, one job: Arm, equip and overhaul their teams specifically to get past LeBron James and whatever squad with which he happened to be rolling. They have failed. Miserably and spectacularly. And that’s even spotting them the first couple of summers to get their bearings after the whole “Super Team” genesis in Miami back in 2010-11. James’ domination of the conference continued Sunday (Monday, PHL time) when he and the Cleveland Cavaliers persevered in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Clawing back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in the series, and playing the final seven quarters without their second All-Star, forward Kevin Love (concussion protocol), the Cavaliers hung around in an ugly game. They took advantage of a Boston team on training wheels – 7-of-39 on three-pointers, oh my! – and snagged a ticket to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals. For James, it’s eight in a row and nine overall, these Cleveland four added to the four he reached with the Heat from 2011-14. It’s a run unprecedented since Bill Russell’s Celtics were winning 11 championships in 13 years, a stranglehold on half of all Finals opportunities this decade. He has a 6-2 record in Game 7 situations, with nothing but triumphs after dropping his first two. “I mean, the bigger the stage, the bigger the player, and he's been doing it for us since we've been here,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “The great quote from the great [Clippers coach] Doc Rivers is, ‘You always want to go into the Game 7 with the best player,’ and we have the best player on our team going into a Game 7. I like our chances. And he delivered again.” Next year at this point, maybe by league proxy, James will have one hand tied behind his back. That’s the next logical step in handicapping him against the field. He has made it to The Finals without his most talented sidekicks. He has taken or dragged along an ever-changing cast of teammates. This time, he did with arguably the Cavaliers’ barest cupboard since first dipping their collective toes in The Finals water back in 2007. Two All-Star point guards, Kyrie Irving (with whom James won a ring in 2016) and Isaiah Thomas (from whom James won his freedom after five awkward weeks), already were long gone when Love went down. And now he was facing elimination with a shaky crew and a huge, inflated question mark hovering over his and Cleveland’s offseason, whenever it comes. Then again, the Celtics were facing him. Like the Raptors, the Pacers, the Bulls, the Hawks and several others before them, Boston well understood the player through whom its playoff ambitions had to go. “I think we’ve played now until May 25th and May 27th the last two years and we started on September 25th. That’s every day,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said about his team’s 2017 and 2018 tangles with Cleveland in the East finals. “Every day you’re totally focused on this, and he’s gone past that eight straight times. “It’s ridiculous. And he does it at this level and with the pressure, with the scrutiny – doesn’t matter.” Plenty of the foes chasing James when his Finals streak began have headed into retirement ringless and unfulfilled. Others were in high school or grade school. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, for instance, was 13 years old when James began his streak against Dallas in 2011. There are so many others like Horford, with tire tracks on their backs, no mercy coming their way from James and very little hope on the horizon. At age 33, James played all 82 games in the regular season for the first time in his 15-year career. He made it an even 100 with Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) appearance and he did it with aplomb, staying on the floor for all 48 minutes. “Our goal going into the series was to make him exert as much energy as humanly possible, and try to be as good as we can on everybody else,” Stevens said. “For the most part, I thought we were pretty good at that. Multiple games now in TD Garden, held them under 100, three games in the 80s – but he still scored 35. It’s a joke.” James’ stats line – 35 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists – was enough this time because he got a reasonable amount of help. Three other Cavaliers scored in double figures, including Jeff Green, the journeyman forward who started in Love’s spot. Being one of James’ teammates requires a thick skin for when things don’t go well. It also carries a sense of obligation, to occasionally come through the way Green did in Game 7 (19 points, eight rebounds) given the debt they all owe their resident superstar. “You want to be there for him,” Green said. “You want to be in the trenches, in the battle, helping him achieve the ultimate goal. For me, it’s a no-brainer to go out there and give it all I have.” Green was a part of James’ most tumultuous campaign yet, with so many twists and turns – the shotgun Irving trade, Thomas’ bad fit, a rash of injuries, a desperate reset at the trade deadline and a bumpy learning curve once the new guys arrived – that James and Lue casually referred to it as “five seasons” crammed into one. “It's now six seasons in one,” James said after midnight. “I guess this is the last chapter for our team in this season. It's been a whirlwind. I mean, it's been [a rollercoaster]. It's been good, it's been bad, it's been roses. There have been thorns in the roses. There's been everything that you can ask for.” For eight years, a conference full of rivals has targeted one player, who happens to be the league’s best, the first among alleged equals with the Heat and clearly the leader when he headed back home to Ohio. In that time, the players have worked, the coaches have schemed and the GMs have plotted. No one has found the answer. None have stopped him. Fact is, nobody’s really laid a glove on him. It’s his conference, seemingly for as long as he wants it. “It's been a satisfaction in the fact that I like to be successful,” James said. “But more importantly, just the work that I put into it. I mean, it's an every-single-day work ethic that I have while I'm playing this game, while I have the ability to play this game at this level. I love the competition. “I think about the teams that I've played over this run and the players that I've played over this run, slightly. But more importantly, me just being healthy. I've been healthy throughout this run. I put a lot of work into my body, into my craft. Being available to my teammates and being available to my franchise, the two franchises I've been with, and throughout this run is what's been more important to me than anything. Always being available.” It was late. James was weary. Another Game 7 in less than 24 hours would determine his and the Cavaliers’ next playoff challenge. “I'll be available for at least four more games,” he said. “And we'll see what happens.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 28th, 2018

Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics mystique

By Tom Withers, Associated Press INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — There haven’t been any championship banners hoisted into Boston’s hallowed rafters since 2008. LeBron James won’t let go of the rope. Cleveland’s star has bounced the Celtics from the playoffs four times in the past seven years, and James carries a six-game postseason winning streak at Boston into this year’s Eastern Conference finals, which open Sunday (Monday, PHL time) at TD Garden. As a member of both the Miami Heat and Cavaliers, James — whose success against Boston did a 180-degree turn with a mesmerizing Game 6 performance in 2012 — has made the Celtics green(er) with envy. But while the 33-year-old has the utmost respect for the NBA’s most decorated franchise, James’ admiration hasn’t stopped him from standing in the way of Boston stuffing more Larry O’Brien trophies into its crowded case. And if he beats the Celtics again and advances to his eighth straight NBA Finals, James would join a club currently exclusive to Boston players with legendary status. Only Bill Russell (10), Sam Jones (9), Tommy Heinsohn (9) and Frank Ramsey (8) have played in more consecutive Finals than James, who said he hasn’t reflected on the possibility of admission to their group. “I do know that this is my eighth straight conference finals and I have an opportunity to play for a championship if I’m able to be successful in this conference finals, so I don’t take that for granted,” James said Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “You dream about being able to play in big games in the NBA. Even when I got to the NBA that was one of my only goals — to be as great as I can be, to play in big games in the NBA and be remembered — and I think I’ve done that in my career. “Just trying to add onto it while I can.” Early in his career, James saw the Celtics as a postseason exit ramp. The “Big 3” Boston team featuring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen ousted him and the Cavs in 2008 and 2010, the latter series ending with James famously storming off the floor and pulling off his jersey to foreshadow his free-agent departure later that summer for South Beach. He avenged that loss the following year in the conference semifinals, and then in 2012, James had one of his most magnificent postseason exhibitions of his career in Boston. With the Heat down 3-2 in the series, James scored 45 points on 19 of 26 shooting and added 15 rebounds as Miami forced a Game 7 and went on to win consecutive titles. Since then, he’s 8-1 against the Celtics with a four-game sweep in 2015 and a five-game dusting last year in the conference finals. James has scored 979 points in 34 playoff games against the Celtics, the most by one player against a single team. And in his past six games on Boston’s parquet, he’s averaging 34.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists. James has eight playoff wins in Boston, more than all but four current Celtics. One of them, Jaylen Brown, knows what’s coming. “Physically, he is more superior than any guy that is on the floor,” Brown said. “He’s 260-plus pounds. Can run like a gazelle. Athletic. He’s physical. He’s just unstoppable. We gotta be mentally locked in and have a mindset to try and do the best we can. LeBron is top 3, top 5 of all-time. He’s going to do what he does. We just gotta take away the other guys and have a great mindset of mentally being locked in every possession.” Boston’s notorious crowd is known for rattling opposing players. In the first round, Celtics fans taunted Milwaukee guard Eric Bledsoe with chants of “Who Is Bledsoe?” after he unwisely made a comment about Celtics playoff phenom Terry Rozier. James and his teammates know they’ll have their ears rung as well. “One of the rowdy environments,” Cavaliers forward Kyle Korver said. “Boston is fun. They have a great crowd. They’re ready to get behind their team. There’s been moments where I’ve been on a team where there’s a decent lead and then they make one shot and the place just erupts. You’re like, ‘Man, they’re going to come back.’ You just feel it. It’s a great place to play, especially in the playoffs.” Boston’s roar only seems to strengthen James, who appreciates the passion and pride in the Celtics. “Just the history, you look up in the rafters and you see all the greats that has either played there or the previous arena they played in,” he said. “It’s a sports town. You look at the Patriots. You look at the Bruins. You look at the Red Sox. You add them, look at all that history. It’s just a sports town. If you’re not green, they don’t mess with you.” ___ AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2018

Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics’ mystique

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio --- There haven't been any championship banners hoisted into Boston's hallowed rafters since 2008. LeBron James won't let go of the rope. Cleveland's star has bounced the Celtics from the playoffs four times in the past seven years, and James carries a six-game postseason winning streak at Boston into this year's Eastern Conference finals, which open Sunday at TD Garden. As a member of both the Miami Heat and Cavaliers, James --- whose success against Boston did a 180-degree turn with a mesmerizing Game 6 performance in 2012 --- has made the Celtics green(er) with envy. But while the 33-year-old has the utmost respect for the NBA's most decorated franchise, James...Keep on reading: Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics’ mystique.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 12th, 2018

All-Star break works wonders for Blazers, Jazz, Heat

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com The Portland Trail Blazers are doing it again. For the second straight season, the Blazers are the most improved team after the All-Star break. Last year, spurred by the acquisition of Jusuf Nurkic at the trade deadline, the Blazers were 7.8 points per 100 possessions better after the break (plus-5.3) than they were before it (minus-2.5). This year, without a rotation-altering trade, the Blazers have been 9.5 points per 100 possessions better since the break (plus-10.0) than they were before it (plus-0.4). Their 13-game winning streak (which started with their last game before All-Star weekend) came to an end at the hands of James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), but prior to that, they were the only undefeated team (12-0) since the break, climbing from seventh place in the West at the break to third place (with a relatively comfortable three-game lead in the loss column over the teams behind them) going into Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) games. Improvement has come on both ends of the floor. The Blazers have been 5.5 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 4.0 points per 100 possessions better defensively since the break. With the league average seeing an increase of 1.3 per 100, that's about even improvement on both ends of the floor. On offense, the Blazers have increased their three-point rate (3PA/FGA) from 31 percent before the All-Star break to 35 percent since, but have seen just a small jump in effective field goal percentage. Improvement has come more from taking better care of the ball and getting to the line more often. Over the last 16 games, Damian Lillard has averaged 9.2 points at the free throw line, 3.4 more than he averaged prior to that (5.8). Lillard has also seen a drop in turnover ratio, from 9.8 per 100 possessions before the break to 7.8 since. That 7.8 is the second lowest (higher than that of only LaMarcus Aldridge) among 14 players with a usage rate of greater than 30 percent since the break. On defense, rebounding has been key. After allowing 12.2 second chance points per game before the break, the Blazers have allowed just 9.5 (second fewest in the league) since. They continue to lead the league in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area and have been at their best defensively with Jusuf Nurkic on the floor. The defensive improvement may be more impressive, given that six of the Blazers' 13 post-break games have been against the league's top-10 offenses, though that includes games against Minnesota without Jimmy Butler and Golden State without Stephen Curry. It should also be noted that nine of the 13 games have been at home. Of course, the Blazers have been better defensively on the road (103.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) than they've been at home (104.6) this season. We'll see how those numbers (and their post-break improvement) hold up when they play seven of nine on the road after hosting the Boston Celtics on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Does it mean anything? Some teams might want to be playing their best going into the playoffs. But playing better late in the season doesn't necessarily mean anything. In fact, playoff team stats (offensive and defensive efficiency) more strongly correlate with pre-All-Star numbers than with post-All-Star numbers. Over the last 10 full seasons (going back to 2007-08 and skipping 2011-12), the 20 playoff teams that have seen the biggest increase in NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) from before the break to after the break have been more likely to underachieve in the playoffs (losing a series in which they had home-court advantage) than overachieve (winning a series they started on the road). The playoff team of the last 20 years that saw the biggest improvement was the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns, who were 8.2 points per 100 possessions better after the break (plus-11.2) than they were before it (plus-2.9). They reached the conference finals as the 3 seed in the West, but did so with home-court advantage in each of the first two rounds (because the seventh-seeded Spurs beat the second-seeded Mavs in the first round). Four of those 20 most improved teams have lost in the first round with home-court advantage, while the 2010-11 Chicago Bulls (4.5 points per 100 possessions better after the break) lost in the conference finals as the No. 1 seed. The overachievers? The 2008-09 Houston Rockets (5.6 points per 100 possessions better after the break) and 2013-14 Washington Wizards (4.8 better) won first-round series as No. 5 seeds without home-court advantage. And finally, the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers (who were 4.8 points per possessions better after the break) reached The Finals as a No. 2 seed. With that in mind, here are the teams that have been most improved on either end of the floor since the All-Star break this season. Most improved offenses 1. Miami Heat Like the Blazers, the Heat are doing this for the second year in a row. When they went from 11-30 in their first 41 games to 30-11 in their last 41 games last season, it was on offense where they really turned things around. Last year's turnaround came with increases in both three-point percentage and three-point volume (3PA/FGA). This year, the Heat have shot better from beyond the arc since the break, but they've actually taken a lower percentage of their shots from three-point range than they did prior, so their jump in effective field goal percentage isn't huge. They have gone from the bottom 10 to the top 10 in both offensive rebounding percentage and turnover rate. Hassan Whiteside has grabbed 28 offensive boards in just eight post-break games, though he hasn't seen a big increase in offensive rebounding percentage since the break. The team increase has been more about six different guys grabbing at least 13 offensive boards over the 14 games. On the turnover front, James Johnson has seen a big drop in his individual rate, from 13.7 turnovers per 100 possessions before the break to just 7.3 since the break. Goran Dragic has also seen seen a reduction. The drop in turnovers, along with more second chances and an increase in pace, as provided the Heat with almost six additional shots per 48 minutes. The Heat's post-break offense has been at its best (more than 123 points scored per 100 possessions) with Kelly Olynyk on the floor. Both Olynyk (60.7 percent) and James Johnson (60.6 percent) rank in the top 20 in post-break effective field goal percentage among 157 players who have taken at least 100 shots since the break. Tyler Johnson, meanwhile, has seen an effective field goal percentage jump from 50 percent before the break to 58 percent since the break. The Heat have played a fairly average post-break schedule in regard to opposing defenses. They've picked on some bad ones (scoring 128 points per 100 possessions in three games against the Suns, Nuggets and Knicks) and have played ugly against some good ones (like those of the Sixers and Blazers), but have been strong against the defenses in the middle of the pack. Going forward, they'll play just three of their 10 remaining games against top-10 defenses. Two of those are against the eighth-ranked Thunder, and one of those is Friday (Saturday, PHl time). Six of their other seven games are against bottom-10 defenses. 2. L.A. Lakers Rookies and second year players have accounted for 45 percent of the Lakers' minutes this season. That's the third highest rate in the league and the highest among teams that aren't at least 23 games under .500. So, in-season improvement both critical and somewhat expected. Of course, a vet has been a big part of the Lakers' offensive improvement. Brook Lopez has seen the second biggest increase in effective field goal percentage (behind that of Wilson Chandler) among players who took at least 300 shots before the break and have taken at least 100 since the break (see table below). For Lopez, as well as the team as a whole, it's been about the three ball, both in regard to percentage and volume. Before the break, the Lakers ranked 29th in three-point percentage and 22nd in the percentage of their shots that were threes. Since the break: fifth and fourth. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (46.3 percent) ranks seventh in post-break three-point percentage among 98 players with at least 50 attempts. But the biggest key to the Lakers' post-break offense may be a big jump in minutes for Julius Randle. He's actually seen a drop in usage rate and not much of an increase in efficiency, but Randle has gone from averaging less than 25 minutes before the break to 34 since the break. As a result, he's averaged 21.5 points (on 59 percent shooting) over the 13 games. And in that stretch, the Lakers have scored 14.2 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (114.1) than they have with him off the floor (99.9). Most improved defenses 1. Utah Jazz Utah's improvement started with the return of Rudy Gobert from a month-long absence in mid-January. Since his return on Jan. 19 (Jan. 20, PHL time), the Jazz have allowed just 96.2 points per 100 possessions, 6.5 fewer than any other team. Over those nine weeks, the difference between the Jazz and the second-ranked Spurs (102.7) is more than the difference between the Spurs and the 20th-ranked Hawks (109.1). More improvement came with the acquisition of Jae Crowder at the trade deadline. And the Jazz have allowed a paltry 85 points per 100 possessions in 308 minutes with Crowder and Gobert on the floor together, with their opponents shooting just 38 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range. And the Jazz haven't allowed their opponents to do much with all those misses, grabbing 85 percent of available defensive boards (a rate which would lead the league by a wide margin) in those 308 minutes. There is a schedule-related boost here. Since the break, the Jazz have played seven games against the league's bottom-10 offenses (including six against the bottom six) and just three games against the top 10. But in two of those three games (Feb. 27, PHL time vs. Houston and March 12, PHL time at New Orleans), they held their opponent under a point per possession. They've now done that in nine straight games and in 18 of their last 24. Given the state of league-wide offense (this is now the most efficient season in league history), that's pretty remarkable. The Jazz have four games remaining against top-10 offenses, including two against the Warriors. One of those is Sunday at Golden State (next Monday, PHL time). 2. Indiana Pacers The Pacers have improved defensively six of their 14 post-break games having been against teams that rank in the top 11 offensively (the 11th-ranked Wizards have bounced in and out of the top 10). They've gone 3-3, but held those top-11 offenses - Milwaukee (x 2), New Orleans, Washington (x 2) and Toronto - to just 103.4 points per 100 possessions (about four fewer than the league's post-break average) over the six games. The Pacers' post-break defense has been at its best, allowing just 96 points per 100 possessions, with Myles Turner on the floor. Turner has been improved offensively since the break (seeing a sizeable jump in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage), but his defense has been more important. While Turner has made an impact inside, forcing turnovers has been a big part of the Pacers' defensive improvement. They lead the league in opponent turnover rate since the All-Star break, having forced 17.4 per 100 possessions, up from 15.1 (10th) before the break. Victor has been the league leader in steals this season at 2.2 per game, and has seen an increase (from 2.1 to 2.8) since the break, with Thaddeus Young (2.3) joining him in the top four in post-break steals per contest. The Pacers have also rebounded a little better, grabbing 77 percent of available defensive boards (15th in the league) since the break, up from 76 percent (27th) before it. Things haven't gone so well on the other end of the floor. The Pacers have seen the league's biggest drop in offensive efficiency since the break. They ranked sixth offensively (108.5 points scored per 100 possessions) before the break and rank 26th (101.6) since the break. Oladipo (from 59 percent to 46 percent) and Young (from 54 percent to 45 percent) have seen two of the eight biggest drops in effective field goal percentage since the break among 142 players who took at least 300 shots before the break and have taken at least 100 shots since the break. The improved defense will continue to be tested in the next couple of weeks. The Pacers will play six of their next eight games against top-10 offenses. That includes two games against the second-ranked Warriors and two more against the seventh-ranked Clippers. L.A. is in Indiana on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Most improved shooters Here's a look at the players who have seen the biggest increases in effective field goal percentage since the All-Star break. John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 23rd, 2018

Olynyk scores career-high 32 for Heat in return to Boston

By Ken Powtak, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 32 points in his rousing return to Boston, and the undermanned Miami Heat hung on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) for a 90-89 victory over the Celtics. On a night when the Celtics honored their former forward in his first game back, the popular Olynyk received a standing ovation from Boston fans and led the Heat (16-15) to another win against the top team in the Eastern Conference. Josh Richardson had 19 points and six assists for Miami, which took two of three in the season series. The Heat ended Boston’s 16-game winning streak earlier this season with a victory at home. Olynyk signed with Miami as a free agent during the offseason. His previous high was 30 points on Dec. 15, 2014. When this one was over, he took photos with fans. Kyrie Irving paced the Celtics (26-8) with 33 points, but missed a jumper from the right wing that bounced off the rim at the buzzer. Jaylen Brown scored 16 and Marcus Smart had 15. Boston big man Al Horford went 2-for-10 from the floor with eight rebounds and fouled out with 8:14 to play. Miami led 87-76 with 2.5 minutes left before Irving sparked a 13-3 run with nine points. Miami pulled out to a 71-60 lead when Olynyk drained consecutive three-pointers in front of Boston’s bench with just under 10 minutes to go. The Celtics sliced it to 79-75, but Richardson converted a three-point play and Olynyk nailed a 3 on consecutive possessions with less than five minutes left. The Heat went on a 15-2 run midway through the third quarter, taking their first lead and building a 58-51 advantage on Bam Adebayo’s one-handed flip in the lane. TIP-INS Heat: G Goran Dragic missed his second straight game with a sore left elbow and F Justise Winslow sat out his fourth in a row with strained left knee. It was the second consecutive game in which the Heat were missing six players due to injuries. ... The Heat were called for delay of game because they weren’t on the court quickly enough to start the second half. Celtics: Jayson Tatum dislocated his right pinkie when it was stepped on after he dove for a loose ball in the opening minutes. He went straight to the locker room, but returned late in the first quarter. ... F Daniel Theis played with a mask after surgery for a broken nose Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). . F Guerschon Yabusele pretends to shoot an arrow and does a “dab” after he hits a triple. THANK YOU The Celtics honored Olynyk as the “Hero Among Us” for doing more than 100 community appearances and helping raise thousands of dollars for their charity when he was with the team. “I think it’s a fun way to honor. It’s bigger than what you do on the court,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said before the game. “He embraced that, and I thought he lived that out well. It wasn’t just talk when the cameras were on. He was out all the time.” There was a brief video of Olynyk doing events and he was given a standing ovation early in the second quarter. THAT WAS UGLY The teams combined to miss 24 shots in the second quarter — with both under 39 percent — and went long stretches without a basket. UP NEXT Heat: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in the opener of a four-game homestand. Celtics: At the New York Knicks on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2017

Boston streak ends, Westbrook shines as Thunder roll

LOS ANGELES, United States – The Boston Celtics' 16-game winning streak came to an end with an upset defeat against the Miami Heat on Wednesday as Russell Westbrook won his duel with Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City's rout of Golden State. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters were the stars for Miami ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsNov 23rd, 2017

Mourning Jaylen Brown sparks Celtics win over Warriors

By Matt Petersen, NBA.com Less than five minutes into Thursday night's (Friday, PHL time) clash of best vs. best, the Warriors were already threatening to pull away. They led the Celtics 15-6 after a pair of Kevin Durant free throws, and appeared to have already solved the formula Boston had used to fuel a 13-game winning streak. As they often do when the offense grinds to a halt, the Celtics turned to a reliable half-court play to settle in. It worked, producing a wide-open Jaylen Brown cutting down the baseline. The second-year forward could have laid it in quickly and efficiently. He didn't. Instead he opted for a quick spin and vicious jam, with a little flourish for good measure. It was a small choice, made in the split-second it took for the play to transpire. It also set a tone, one that allowed the Celtics to survive its worst offensive night of the season against the best team in the NBA. Brown steals, Brown slams! #SunLifeDunk4Diabetes pic.twitter.com/wvzDggz4RZ — Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 17, 2017 Later in the first quarter, Brown did what few are good (or brave) enough to do: he pressured two-time MVP Stephen Curry into coughing up a loose ball. Just as rare, he pursued and won the possession in the kind of frenetic setting the Warriors usually feast. Brown got around Curry, controlled the ball before Zaza Pachulia could reach it, and sprinted down the other end for a tomahawk jam. Another scene from the first quarter: Brown briefly lost Durant through a maze of screens, and the reigning Finals MVP rose for the mid-range shot he normally converts without thought. He didn't count on 1) Brown not giving up on the play and 2) having the audacity to block his shot. And that's the way it went for the rest of the night. Whenever Kyrie Irving's 4-for-16 night seemed to doom them, whenever it felt Jayson Tatum's quiet showing (2-for-5 FG) would leave Boston wanting, Brown did something to spark them. It turns out the 21-year-old wasn't just fighting the odds of scoreboard or opponent. Brown was also waging a battle with his heart, which was sorely tempted to mourn alone the loss of his best friend, who passed away on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). "I knew coming into today that he would have wanted me to play," a quietly emotional Brown said after the game. "After talking to his mom and family, they inspired me to come out and play. I wasn't in any shape to come out. I wanted to be in my room." Emotional Jaylen Brown on playing after the loss of a friend. pic.twitter.com/wTooFBfKRE — Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) November 17, 2017 Instead, Brown leaned on the escape of the game and the support of his teammates, rewarding both with one of the best performances of his young career. He finished with a team-high 22 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 34 minutes of action. The effort was instrumental in extending Boston's win streak to a league-best 14 games while also halting the Warriors' own seven-game streak of dominance. All of that was, of course, a footnote to the individual more focused on personal loss than the results of a game. Brown remembered clearly when his friend, Trevin Steede, reached out to him when he was a new transfer in high school, too introverted to make new friends. "He walked up to me the third or fourth day and asked who I was sitting with [at lunch], even though I wasn't sitting with anybody," Brown recalled with a slight break in his voice. "He told me to come over and sit with him." After helping his team clinch its biggest victory yet, Brown let the knowledge that Steede was no longer there to sit with wash over him. Like that not-so-long ago day in high school, however, someone was there to reach out to him. It was Irving, embracing him after the final buzzer sounded, letting him know that others were there to fill the hole left in his life. "I've lost individuals in my life. It's never a good thing when someone else is going through it," Irving said afterward, via MassLife.com. "You do your best to console and to encourage them, but at the end of the day, it's about the strength within themselves and he showed a lot of that tonight, to be able to go out there and perform the way he did, I knew exactly where the game ball was going to." Facing a 17-point deficit, the defending champions, and the loss of a friend, there is no doubt that Brown earned it. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 17th, 2017

Irving scores Boston s last 12 in 130-125 OT win at Wizards

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored Boston's last 12 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds of overtime to outduel John Wall in a point-guard showdown, and the Celtics extended their winning streak to seven games with a 130-125 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). With his team serenaded by "Let's go, Celtics!" chants on the road, Irving even got his own "M-V-P!" chorus late, finishing with 38 points and seven assists. Marcus Morris added 27 points and nine rebounds for Boston, which played without Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown — its No. 4-6 leading scorers. No matter how many players they were missing, and no matter how disjointed their offense looked for a half, the Celtics had too many interchangeable parts to get beaten by an opponent that has been inconsistent all season. Wall returned after missing a game with an aching left heel to pour in 34 points with 13 assists. But his seven points in OT weren't enough to keep pace with fellow All-Star Irving. The Wizards led 123-122 when Irving made a triple with just under 40 seconds to go, and after Wall tied it at 125, Irving hit another shot from beyond the arc — this one from 31 feet. That gave Boston the lead for good, because Bradley Beal (22 points; zero in OT) and Wall them missed three's. This sure was a close one: The clubs kept trading the lead and neither was ahead by more than three points over the final 10 minutes of regulation. Up 113-110, Boston opted to foul Beal on purpose with 13 seconds left, but that backfired, because after he made the first free throw, he missed the second — but grabbed the rebound and put it in for the tie. Irving blew by Beal at the other end but missed a layup right before the buzzer, sending the game to an extra period. And then he really took over. Down by nine at halftime, the Celtics turned things around in a hurry — although not before that deficit grew to 57-46 early in the third quarter. Soon enough, Boston put together a 10-0 spurt, capped by a pair of free throws by Marcus Smart, to take the lead at 65-62 midway through the period. When Morris made a triple and, after Washington turned over its inbounds pass, Terry Rozier sank another to cap a 27-9 run, suddenly the Celtics held their biggest lead at 73-66. The lopsided third quarter ended with Boston ahead 84-77. But the Wizards opened the fourth with an 8-0 run despite resting Beal and Wall, and when Markieff Morris — Marcus' twin — hit a three, it gave the hosts an 85-84 lead with about 9.5 minutes left. Horford sat for the third consecutive game — he's expected to miss at least a few more because of an injured left knee — and Brown and Hayward were out because of illness. The Celtics made only 19-of-50 shots in the first half, going 4-of-20 on three-pointers, and managed a grand total of six assists during that time. No wonder the Wizards led by as many 10 during the first two quarters and were up 55-46 at the break. Didn't last long, though. Boston outscored the Wizards 38-22 in the third quarter, when the Celtics had 10 assists and shot better than 60 percent. TIP-INS Celtics: Daniel Theis fouled out after just 14 minutes of game action. He had eight points and six rebounds. ... Boston went 25 for 25 at the free throw line. ... Semi Ojeleye was 1-for-7 on three-point attempts. Wizards: Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 20 of their 32 bench points. ... Rebounding has been a problem all season and this was no different. Washington was beaten 50-41 on the boards and outscored 24-8 in second-chance points. UP NEXT Celtics: Host Atlanta on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Wizards: At Brooklyn on Friday (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 13th, 2018

Barea, Mavs pull away in 4th for 113-104 win over Celtics

By SCHUYLER DIXON,  AP Sports Writer DALLAS (AP) — J.J. Barea held the shooter's pose for several seconds before big center DeAndre Jordan picked him up and carried him to the bench , the diminutive Dallas guard high-fiving everybody along the way. It just felt like a big 3-pointer in the Mavericks' sixth straight home victory. Barea scored 20 points and tag-teamed with Wesley Matthews on back-to-back 3s to take control in the fourth quarter of a 113-104 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). "I was mad that I missed the one before that one, went in and out on me," Barea said. "First time I think I've been lifted up from the other side of the court all the way to the bench. We're having fun." Harrison Barnes also had 20 points, teenage rookie Luka Doncic totaled 15 points and matched Barea with eight assists, while starting at point guard with Dennis Smith Jr. sidelined by a wrist injury, as the Mavericks (9-9) got back to .500 with their seventh win in nine games. It's the latest Dallas has been .500 or better since the end of the 2015-16 season, and it's the first six-game home winning streak for the Mavericks in almost two years. Jayson Tatum scored 21 points and Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart had 19 apiece for the Celtics, who followed a win with a loss in a back-to-back for the third straight time this season a night after winning in Atlanta. Boston was without Gordon Hayward, who sat with soreness in his surgically repaired left ankle, in part because of playing on consecutive nights. Just like a Dallas team coming off consecutive woeful seasons, the Celtics (10-10) are at .500 coming off two straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals. "We don't impose our fear and will on teams," said Smart, who had to be held back from fans by Irving in the final seconds against his hometown team. "Last year, teams when they came in and played the Celtics, they knew they were in for a fight. This year, teams can't wait to play us and that's a problem." The Mavericks led by five starting the fourth quarter but pushed the lead to 106-90 on those consecutive 3-pointers from Barea and Matthews, who had 15 points after missing three straight games and four of the past five with a left hamstring strain. Doncic looked like a natural at the point from the start with five assists in the first quarter while making all three of his 3-point attempts for nine points. In one sequence, he sent Marcus Morris lunging toward the basket with a fake away from the ball, then watched Irving fly past him by faking the shot before making a 3. Irving got rolling in the second quarter, scoring nine points on 4-of-5 shooting while helping cut an 11-point deficit to three at halftime (59-56). DECKING DONCIC Doncic was doing enough for the Celtics to feel the need to try to knock him off his game in the third quarter. Jaylen Brown put a forearm in Doncic's chest when he was looking another direction while running up the floor and sent the 19-year-old sprawling. Brown's move came after Doncic intercepted a pass in transition near midcourt, drove to the baseline and slipped a pass to Jordan for a dunk. Jordan was given his second technical for hanging on the rim, but officials ruled it a non-unsportsmanlike technical, allowing Jordan to avoid an ejection as he finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Brown received an offsetting technical on a video review for the blindside hit on Doncic. CHIPPY LATE, TOO Doncic had to be separated from Brown after getting knocked to the floor, and there was another dustup when Smart shoved Maxi Kleber not long after they were part of a jump ball in the final seconds, long after the outcome had been decided. Smart was assessed a technical. TIP-INS Celtics: Al Horford returned after missing his first game of the season to rest a sore left knee. He had eight points and eight rebounds. ... Brown scored 16 points, and Morris added 13. ... Irving was 9 of 24 from the field with six assists and five turnovers. Mavericks: F/C Dwight Powell missed his third straight game with a left knee injury. ... Coach Rick Carlisle said Smith sprained his right wrist in a loss to Memphis two games earlier. He played but was limited in a win over Brooklyn. UP NEXT Celtics: At New Orleans on Monday. Mavericks: At Houston on Wednesday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 25th, 2018

Old School Power Rankings 2018-19: Weeks 3 and 4

By Scott Wraight, NBA.com It was bound to happen, right? The King was never, ever going to give up his throne to anyone else. Period. Because of that, we had to separate him from the rest of the field and give out a new ranking: ATHO (All To His Own). So unless something crazy happens during the season -- or an injury -- No. 1 will have an asterisk of sorts. Now that the chase has opened up for everyone else, it should make for an interesting and intriguing run to the finish line, asterisk be damned. Notes: - Statistics are through games of Nov. 15 (Nov. 16, PHL time) - Any player who turns 32 during regular season can be added to rankings. - Check out previous rankings - Send comments to my email. If it's good -- and clean -- it may appear in a future column. Be sure to include your first name and city. ATHO. LeBron James (33), Los Angeles Lakers Previous rank: 1 Latest stats: 6 games, 27.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6.2 apg Season stats: 27.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.2 apg Wednesday's (Thursday, PHL time) 44-point performance against the Trail Blazers was the one. That was the one that pushed the King into his own tier, his own neighborhood, his own ranking. He just refuses to make it fair for everyone else. That's how good he is. In addition to Wednesday's (Thursday, PHL time) superior effort, James has gone for 25 or more in eight of the last 10. _______________________________________________________________ 1. Marc Gasol (33), Memphis Grizzlies Previous rank: 4 Latest stats: 7 games, 16.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 4.6 apg Season stats: 15.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.1 apg After eclipsing 15 points in just three of the first six, Gasol has surpassed the mark in four straight, which included Wednesday's (Thursday, PHL time) effort in which he tied a career high with six three's. Of course the splits over the last seven left us puzzled. In four wins, Gasol went for 21.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 52.2 3PT%. In three losses: 10.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 0-for-8 from deep. 2. Chris Paul (33), Houston Rockets Previous rank: 3 Latest stats: 8 games, 16.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 7.1 apg Season stats: 17.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 7.5 apg We were ready to move Paul to the top of the list until Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) effort: 10 points (4-for-10 shooting) and seven assists against the Warriors. In two previous games, Paul managed 21 and 26 on 15-for-25 shooting. Of course four previous contests saw him combine for just 39 points on 15-for-47 (31.9) shooting. It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride in November. 3. LaMarcus Aldridge (33), San Antonio Spurs Previous rank: 2 Latest stats: 7 games, 14.1 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 1.6 apg Season stats: 17.4 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.4 apg He's scoring at home while rebounding on the road. In three home games, Aldridge went for 21.0 ppg and 9.3 rpg. In four road games, he averaged 9.0 ppg and 15.5 rpg. Aldridge has been hot and cold this month, failing to score in double figures in two of seven and scoring 20 or more just twice. One consistent has been the board work, grabbing 10 or more in five straight. 4. JJ Redick (34), Philadelphia 76ers Previous rank: 7 Latest stats: 7 games, 17.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 3.7 apg Season stats: 18.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.5 apg Redick is feeling it of late, pouring in 20 or more points and hitting at least three three-pointers in three consecutive games. Coincidentally, he's started the last three games after beginning the season on the bench. We've also taken notice of Redick's volume of long-range shots, making 3.0 treys a game and attempting 8.3 -- both career highs. 5. Lou Williams (32), LA Clippers Previous rank: Just missed Latest stats: 6 games, 21.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.7 apg Season stats: 19.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.1 apg Hello there, newbie. Williams, who just turned 32 on Oct. 27, sprints up the list on the strength of five games with 20 or more points -- all while averaging less than 30 minutes (29.4) per game. In fact, the only game he didn't go for 20, he added 10 assists. Digging deeper, the last time Williams failed to break double-figure scoring was Nov. 20, 2017. 6. Kyle Lowry (32), Toronto Raptors Previous rank: 5 Latest stats: 6 games, 13.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 10.0 apg Season stats: 16.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 10.7 apg Lowry, who finally saw his streak of games with 10-plus assists end at nine, has been a bit of a road warrior over the last handful of games. In his last three home games, he averaged 9.3 points, 8.7 assists and 40.0 FG%. In three road games, Lowry managed 18.0 points, 11.3 assists and 46.3 FG%. 7.  Wesley Matthews (32), Dallas Mavericks Previous rank: 6 Latest stats: 5 games, 12.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.4 apg Season stats: 16.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.4 apg After starting the season with six straight double-figure scoring games, Matthews has gone for 10 or more in just three of the last seven. He missed one game with a hamstring injury and had to leave Wednesday's (Thursday, PHL time) game after just 21 minutes with the same injury, so that'll skew the numbers a bit, which is why he only fell one spot. 8.  Taj Gibson (33), Minnesota Timberwolves Previous rank: NA Latest stats: 7 games, 12.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.9 apg Season stats: 11.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.4 apg Gibson started the season sluggishly, failing to score more than 13 points in any of the first 10 games. Since then, the gritty veteran has gone for 15 or more in three of the last five. Also in those first 10 games, Gibson managed to snag nine or more boards just once. He's done that three times in the last five contests. 9.  Dwight Howard (32), Washington Wizards Previous rank: NA Latest stats: 7 games, 12.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.4 apg Season stats: 12.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.4 apg After missing the first seven games of the season with a back injury, Howard is starting to get into a groove. In addition to scoring in double figures in four straight, he has snatched eight or more rebounds in five of the last six. His return to the lineup might also be a reason the Wizards have started to turn things around, winning four of their last six. 10. Goran Dragic (32), Miami Heat Previous rank: 9 Latest stats: 4 games, 16.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.5 apg Season stats: 17.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.8 apg The theme song from Facts of Life keeps running through my head: "You take the good, you take the bad ..." That rings very true with Dragic, who in his four games had three with 20 or more points and one with a goose egg on 0-for-7 shooting. Now, we won't pile on since we realize he missed a pair of games with a knee injury. Just missed the cut: Paul Millsap, JJ Barea, Dwyane Wade, Al Horford, Jeff Green The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 18th, 2018

Kevin Belingon defeats Bibiano Fernandes to become Undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Champion

For the first time in five years, ONE Championship will have a new bantamweight king.  Team Lakay star Kevin "The Silencer" Belingon did what no man has done in 14 fights, defeating Bibiano Fernandes via split decision to become the new, undisputed ONE Bantamweight World Champion in the main event of ONE: Heart of The Lion, Friday evening at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.  It was a highly-anticipated rematch of their 2016 encounter that saw Fernandes submit Belingon in the first round. Being one of the most dangerous grapplers in the world, it was no surprise that Fernandes wanted to take the fight to the ground and work towards a submission, and the Brazilian champion wasted no time in taking Belingon down. Belingon managed to survive and got back up to get the better of Fernandes in the stand-up department.  A solid overhand right from Fernandes rocked Belingon early in round two, but the Pinoy again wills himself back up and lands a hard kick to the body.  Later in the round, Fernandes again brought the fight to the ground and swiftly took Belingon's back, threatening to finish the fight with a rear naked choke.  Belingon survived but found himself back in trouble after Fernandes locked in an armbar.  Showcasing his ever-improving ground game, Belingon fought off the armbar and wound up on top of Fernandes.  From there, Belingon unloaded a cascade of ground and pound, but was unable to get the finish, leaving Fernandes woozy.  After a slow third round, action picked back up in the fourth, with Fernandes again getting Belingon down, but not mounting any significant offense from the dominant position.  Belingon rolls out, but gets caught in an armbar once again, and manages to spin out once more.  The Filipino striker ended the fourth round on a strong note, dropping Fernandes with a well-timed counter right that sent "The Flash" stumbling backwards.  The final round saw both fighters go back and forth, each trying to sway the judges' decision in their favor. At the end of five rounds, it was the Filipino star who earned the split decision nod to become ONE Championship's undisputed bantamweight king.  Belingon puts a halt to Fernandes' remarkable 14-fight winning streak that spanned nearly seven years.  More importantly, it snaps Fernandes' five-year reign as ONE Bantamweight World Champion. He joins teammates ONE Flyweight World Champion Geje Eustaquio and ONE Strawweight World Champion Joshua Pacio as Team Lakay's current reigning ONE World Champions.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 9th, 2018

Roethlisberger throws for 5 TDs, Steelers rip Panthers 52-21

By Will Graves, Associated Press PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't playing like a team missing Le'Veon Bell. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 328 yards and five touchdowns, James Conner ran for 65 yards and a score before leaving late with a possible concussion and the Steelers pounded the Carolina Panthers 52-21 on Thursday night for their fifth straight victory. Antonio Brown added eight receptions for 96 yards — including a 53-yard touchdown in the second quarter — to cap an eventful day that began with the star wide receiver being cited for reckless driving after police clocked Brown's Porsche driving over 100 mph down a busy highway in the northern city suburbs. While Bell — a three-time Pro Bowl running back who still hasn't signed his one-year franchise tender — tweeted his thoughts as he watched on television, the Steelers (6-2-1) rolled on without him. Bell has until next Tuesday to sign a contract if he wants to play this season. His teammates have long since tired of talking about Bell's status and at this point, the AFC North leaders appear to be doing just fine on their own. Carolina not so much. The Panthers (6-3) saw their three-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt in a city where they've never won. Carolina fell to 0-4 all-time in Pittsburgh and was never really in it after the Steelers scored 21 points in the game's first 11 minutes. Cam Newton completed 23 of 29 for 193 yards and a pair of flips to Christian McCaffrey that the second-year running back turned into scores but Newton's showdown with Roethlisberger never materialized. The Steelers sacked Newton five times and rarely let him get comfortable. Newton didn't help matters when he threw off his back foot out of the Carolina end zone while trying to avoid getting sacked in the first quarter. Pittsburgh linebacker Vince Williams raced under the floater and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 14-7 lead they never came close to relinquishing. McCaffrey finished with 138 yards total offense (77 yards rushing, 61 yards receiving) and accounted for all three Panther scores but it wasn't nearly enough. Pittsburgh's 52 points matched the most ever surrendered by the Panthers in franchise history. Carolina allowed the same total in a 52-9 loss to Oakland on Dec. 24, 2000. The Steelers held the 36-year-old Roethlisberger out of practice during the short week in an effort to keep him fresh. Roethlisberger responded with one of the finest performances of his career, completing 22 of 25 passes while spreading the ball to nine different players on his way to a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. Roethlisberger's first pass turned into a 75-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster on Pittsburgh's first offensive snap and his last came on a 6-yard toss to rookie Jaylen Samuels on the first play of the fourth quarter. In between he did a little bit of everything. Roethlisberger even showed off his legs, scrambling for 18 yards in the third quarter on a play that ended with Carolina safety Eric Reid getting ejected for targeting after Reid appeared to dive at Roethlisberger's head as the quarterback attempted to slide. Reed, signed by Carolina in September six months after filing a grievance alleging collusion by the NFL to prevent teams from signing him because of his participation in racial injustice protests during the national anthem alongside former San Francisco 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick, went out to shake Roethlisberger's hand as a peace offering before making his way to the Carolina locker room. UP NEXT Panthers: Travel to Detroit on Nov. 18 to take on the Lions. Carolina is 6-2 all-time against Detroit. Steelers: Visit Jacksonville on Nov. 18. The Jaguars beat Pittsburgh twice on the road last season, including a 45-42 upset in the divisional round of the playoffs.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 9th, 2018

Oladipo s 3-pointer sends Pacers to 102-101 win over Celtics

By CHRIS GOFF,  Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Victor Oladipo connected on a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds remaining, lifting the Indiana Pacers to a 102-101 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Oladipo finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Tyreke Evans added 17 points for the Pacers, who shot 41 percent (36 for 87). Marcus Morris had a team-high 23 points and six rebounds for the Celtics, who shot 43 percent (38 for 88) and had their four-game winning streak snapped. The Pacers trailed 101-97 after Kyrie Irving hit a 3-pointer with 37.2 seconds to go, but Jaylen Brown fouled Oladipo with 29.2 seconds left, and the second-year All-Star made both free throws as the Pacers closed to 101-99. Oladipo then came up with a rebound of a miss by Irving. He dribbled across midcourt before pulling up on the right wing over the outstretched arms of Boston center Al Horford, hitting a 3-pointer. As the ball dropped through the net, Oladipo skipped toward the bench. Gordon Hayward inbounded with 3.4 seconds remaining and had his pass deflected and stolen by Oladipo. The Pacers overcame a slow start in which Boston led 28-18 after the first quarter. The game was tied at 45 at halftime and at 72 entering the fourth quarter. TIP-INS Celtics: Irving finished with 18 points and six boards, and the only starter not to score in double figures was Hayward, who had four points and seven rebounds. . The loss also snapped Boston's three-game win streak in Indianapolis. . Boston coach Brad Stevens said Hayward, coming back from leg surgery, would remain restricted to fewer than 30 minutes per game for the foreseeable future. Pacers: TJ Leaf, a second-year forward out of UCLA, entered with only two points this season, but scored five Saturday in his customary second-quarter stint. Leaf played the first five minutes of the fourth quarter and added a dunk to finish with seven points. . The team waived forward Ben Moore and recalled center Ike Anigbogu from the G League. UP NEXT: Celtics: Play the second-game of a five-game road trip against Denver on Monday. Pacers: Host Houston on Monday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 4th, 2018

LeBron shines in debut, but Lakers still have lots to do

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. -- His first basket of this new era was much like many others, in terms of impact and its ferocity and jaw-dropping nature. LeBron James stole the Trail Blazers’ cross-court pass and before him was the open court … and thousands of open mouths, all bracing in anticipation of a moment. His fast-break dunk was just as you expected it would be, jammed through the basket with a cocked arm and followed by a brief pose at landing, for emphasis and style. The greatest player in the game was back in full soar Thursday but, as it were, his new team remained stuck to the floor. Overall, this process is gonna take some time, you think? Before the Los Angeles Lakers whip the basketball world into a frenzy, they must whip Portland. And also the Houston Rockets, who visit Staples Center on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) for the Lakers’ home opener. And the Golden State Warriors. And Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans. And any team in the Western Conference that considers itself a contender. But you knew this, right? “We’ll have to go through some moments,” LeBron said after the Lakers lost at Moda Center, 128-119. “We’ll have some adversity.” True, this isn’t an overnight sensation in the making. “Not as fast as you (media) guys think it’s going to happen,” LeBron said. The Lakers will get more chances to make a first impression, and that’s a good thing for them as they navigate through a potentially tricky transition period with their shiny new showpiece. There is only one thing that’s a lock through this bumpy path: LeBron is still the force he was in Cleveland and Miami, his only other NBA stops. Months before turning 34, his flow and his basketball instincts remain steak-knife sharp and his pride is intact. He tipped off his season by playing 37 minutes -- so much for reduced minutes here after 15 years of deep tread wear on his wheels -- and delivered 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. “I mean, that’s crazy, a guy to be in his 16th year playing at that pace and above the rim the way he was,” said Blazers guard Damian Lillard. “He looked like himself.” That said, he and his teammates are still working on their wavelength. This was evident for much of the night, when connections were missed and confusion reigned at times. On Thursday (Friday, PHL time), LeBron threw a behind-the-back pass that in Cleveland or Miami would usually hits is mark to teammates aware of his tendencies and timing. Last night, LeBron tried it and the ball dribbled out of bounds, all of which flummoxed LeBron and Kyle Kuzma (the nearest Laker). After the whistle blew and possession went to Portland, LeBron and Kuzma had a brief chat. “I expected Kuz to pop,” explained LeBron, “and he rolled. Then another time (Rajon) Rondo went to the hole, JaVale (McGee) thought it was going to him and it was meant for me. We’ll get better at that.” These first few weeks, if the Lakers are fortunate, will be conducted in a vacuum and a laboratory. Transitions are usually like that. LeBron had a similar one in Miami eight years ago, when a 9-8 start playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had folks thinking the sky was falling. With these Lakers, the reaction will -- or should, anyway -- be more muted if only because the expectations aren’t through the ceiling this season. The Lakers are trying to nourish the limited basketball experience of Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram with LeBron (and Rajon Rondo) taking on more of a mentor role. That means class will be in session most, if not all, season. LeBron is preaching patience not only for those in and outside of the organization, but for himself as well. Sometimes, it’s easier said than done. LeBron realizes that he’s on the clock personally, even though his stamina and level of play remain high. “A lot of these guys don’t have as much experience, so I have to understand that,” James said. “And I do.” LeBron seems cursed by celebrated season openers, falling to 0-4 all-time in his debut games. He scored 25 points in his rookie opener, but Cleveland lost to the Sacramento Kings. He had 31 in his Miami opener in a loss to the Boston Celtics. And he had 17 points in his Cleveland return in 2014, a home loss to the New York Knicks. The Lakers’ crime Thursday (Friday, PHL time) was a failure to tighten up defensively and of course the mistakes that could be blamed on a getting-to-know-you game. And then there’s another issue that LeBron will soon discover, if he hasn’t already: He’s not in the easy East anymore. “There’s a tough game every night,” Lillard said. The West had 10 teams with winning records last season fighting for eight playoff spots. Coaches and players in the West were fond of tweaking their neighbors across the Mississippi in 2017-18, saying the non-playoff teams in the West should take some East spots. Of last season’s playoff teams, none return seriously weaker -- unless you’re ready to bury the San Antonio Spurs (who have a 21-year playoff streak going) or Minnesota Timberwolves (who are coping with the Jimmy Butler crisis). The Blazers were the No. 3 seed and were swept in the first round by the Pelicans, which puts the depth and overall strength of the West in perspective. Only three games separated the Blazers and the ninth-seeded Nuggets during the regular season. Meanwhile, the Rockets and Warriors were beyond the reach of mortals. LeBron chumped the East eight straight times to reach the NBA Finals. Yet by most indications, he’s an A-list teammate away from spooking the Warriors -- and that teammate isn’t in a Lakers uniform this season. This journey through the West could either humble LeBron or, at the least, make him realize the work needed for the Lakers to regain contender status. Heck, the Lakers couldn’t even prevent Nik Stauskas from having the biggest night of his NBA life. He scored 24 points and made more three-pointers (five) than the Lakers’ starting lineup (two). It was telling that Lakers coach Luke Walton started Rondo over Ball at point guard -- an understandable move after Ball missed several months recovering from knee issues. Rondo was mainly stellar (11 assists, three steals) while the Lakers’ fourth-quarter lineups excluded Ball. Meanwhile, Hart (20 points off the bench) earned crunch time minutes. “Everyone had different roles last year,” Walton said, “and some of those roles could change.” Well, someone’s role will remain the same. Regarding that guy, Walton said: “Glad he’s on our team. He’s pretty good at the game of basketball.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 19th, 2018

Heat, Knicks clash in first NBA 2K League Finals

NBA 2K League press release NEW YORK – Heat Check Gaming and Knicks Gaming will make history when they meet in the first NBA 2K League Finals, a best-of-three series that will take place Saturday, Aug. 25 beginning at 4 p.m. ET (4am, Sunday, Aug. 26, PHL time) on Twitch. Below please find numbers related to the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League: NBA 2K League At-A-Glance: 102 – The NBA 2K League, a professional esports league co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., launched in 2018 and features the best 102 NBA 2K players in the world selected from 72,000 hopefuls. 132M – NBA 2K League content has generated more than 132 million video views on social media channels. 1.6M – The NBA 2K League and its teams feature more than 1.6 million likes and followers across all league and team social media platforms. 1M – The NBA 2K League awarded $1 million in prize money over the course of its inaugural season, with the largest prize pool reserved for the end of season champions.  The best-of-three NBA 2K League Finals will see the winning team receive $300,000, and the remainder of the $600,000 total prize pool will be awarded to the remaining seven playoff teams. 186 – The NBA 2K League regular season consisted of 186 games. 17 – The 2018 season ran for 17 weeks, beginning in May and ending in August, and featured 12 weeks of weekly matchups, three weeks of in-season tournaments and two weeks of postseason. 10M – NBA 2K18 has sold approximately 10 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling edition in franchise history. NBA 2K League Teams:      90 – NBA 2K League teams have formed more than 90 corporate and marketing partnerships. 21 – Affiliates of four NBA teams – the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves – will join the NBA 2K League for its second season, bringing the total number of teams from 17 to 21. 8 – Eight teams qualified for the inaugural NBA 2K League playoffs: No. 1 seed Blazer5 Gaming (12-2), No. 2 seed 76ers GC (10-4), No. 3 seed Pistons GT (9-5), No. 4. seed Raptors Uprising GC (8-6), No. 5 seed Cavs Legion GC (8-6), No. 6 seed Heat Check Gaming (8-6), No. 7 seed Wizards District Gaming (8-6), and No. 8 seed and THE TICKET tournament winner Knicks Gaming (5-9). NBA 2K League Players: 677 – Wizards District Gaming’s Austin “Boo Painter” Painter, the league-leader in points scored, tallied 677 points during the regular season. 84 – Grizz Gaming’s Mehyar “AuthenticAfrican” Ahmed-Hassan set the NBA 2K League single-game scoring record with 84 points. 57 – Blazer5 Gaming’s Dayne “OneWildWalnut” Downey, the Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, recorded 57 blocks during the regular season. 25 – NBA 2K League players compete as unique characters in 5-on-5 gameplay.  Each position can choose between five different archetypes, creating 25 total archetypes* 15 – New York has produced 15 NBA 2K League players, more than any other state. 9 – There were nine international players on 2018 opening-night NBA 2K League rosters: Yusuf “Yusuf_Scarbz” Abdulla (Raptors Uprising GC; Canada), Mehyar “AuthenticAfrican” Ahmed-Hassan (Grizz Gaming; Canada), Jamie “vGooner-” Bull (Pacers Gaming; U.K.), Ryan “Devillon” de Villon (Mavs Gaming; Canada), Thomas “Speedbrook” Genaj (Celtics Crossover Gaming; Canada), Harry “HazzaUK2K” Hurst (Mavs Gaming; U.K.), Jannis “JLB” Neumann (Mavs Gaming; Germany), Basil “24k Dropoff” Rose (Heat Check Gaming; Canada), and Jomar “Jomar12 PR” Varela-Escapa (Blazer5 Gaming; Puerto Rico). 5 – Five players have recorded triple doubles in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League: Heat Check Gaming’s Juan “Hotshot” Gonzalez, Raptors Uprising GC’s Kenneth “Kenny” Hailey, Celtics Crossover Gaming’s Ahmed “Mel East” Kasana, Wizards District Gaming’s Austin “Boo Painter” Painter, and Knicks Gaming’s Idris “Idrisdagoat6” Richardson. *An archetype is a preset combination of attributes and skills. For more information about the NBA 2K League, visit NBA2KLeague.com and follow @NBA2KLeague on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 21st, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

2017-18 NBA season review

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 29th, 2018

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

Dub Dynasty: Warriors sweep Cavs for second straight title

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — Golden State. Golden still. Stephen Curry scored 37 points, NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant added 20 and a triple-double and the Warriors stamped themselves a dynasty after winning their second straight title and third in four years Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), 108-85 over the Cleveland Cavaliers to complete a sweep and perhaps drive LeBron James from his home again to chase championships. Overcoming obstacles all season long, the Warriors were not going to be denied and won the fourth straight finals matchup against Cleveland with ease. "This is so hard to do and doing it three out of four years is incredible," guard Klay Thompson said. It was the first sweep in the NBA Finals since 2007, when James was dismissed by a powerful San Antonio team in his first one. His eighth straight appearance didn't go well either, and now there's uncertainty where the superstar will play next. James finished with 23 points and spent the final minutes on the bench, contemplating what went wrong and maybe his next move. Act IV between the Warriors and Cavs featured a drama-filled and controversial Game 1. But from there on, Durant, Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest of this California crew showed why they're the game's gold standard. And they may stay that way. "Can't get enough of this feeling so we're going to celebrate it together," Curry said. Not wanting to give the Cavs or their fans any hope despite the fact that no team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in the NBA playoffs, the Warriors built a nine-point halftime lead when Curry ignored a closeout by James and dropped a three-pointer. Then the league's best team tightened the screws on Cleveland in the third quarter, outscoring the Cavs 25-13 and prompting Golden State fans to begin those drawn-out "War-eee-orrss" chants that provide a perfect musical accompaniment to their three-point barrages. By the start of the fourth quarter, the only question was whether Curry would win his first NBA Finals MVP or if it would go to Durant for the second year in a row. And again, it was Durant, who added 12 rebounds and 10 assists — more satisfaction and validation for a player who couldn't beat the Warriors so he joined them. After surviving a rougher-than-usual regular season and beating top-seeded Houston in Game 7 on the road in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors withstood an overtime scare in Game 1 and joined an elite group of teams to win multiple championships in a four-year span. Only Bill Russell's Boston Celtics, the "Showtime" Lakers and the Los Angeles squad led by Kobe and Shaq, and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls have been as dominant in such a short period of time. The Dub Dynasty. The path to this title was more precarious than the first two for coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors, who overcame injuries, expectations, a built-to-dethrone-them Rockets team and the brilliance of James, who scored 51 points in the series opener and carried a Cavs team from the beginning of their rollercoaster season until the end. It may have been the final game in Cleveland for the 33-year-old, who is expected to opt out of his $35.6 million contract for 2019 next month and become a free agent. James was pulled from the game with 4:03 left, and he slapped hands with the Warriors before heading to the bench. He plopped down in a chair and draped a towel over his broad shoulders, looking like a boxer on a corner stool. James averaged 34 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10 assists in the series, but as has been the case in the past, he didn't have enough help. Another Summer of LeBron is officially underway and there are already teams stretching from Philadelphia to Los Angeles hoping to land the three-time champion, who may have to go elsewhere to put together a cast strong enough — and as James made clear this week, smart enough — to bring down the Warriors. Right now, the Warriors are on another tier and with Durant expected to re-sign with them in weeks and Curry, Thompson, Green and the rest still young and hungry, their reign could last much longer. Heading into the playoffs, the Warriors appeared vulnerable. There were lingering questions about Curry's sprained left knee that sidelined him for almost six weeks and kept him out of Golden State's first-round series against San Antonio. Kerr was forced to mix and match lineups, and it became obvious the Warriors weren't going to go 16-1 and storm their way to a title like they did in 2017, when their only postseason loss came in Game 4 after the Cavs made 24 three-pointers. Kerr used 27 different starting lineups during the regular season, which ended with a head-scratching 40-point loss to Utah. The Warriors began defense of their title as a No. 2 seed and their season was in serious jeopardy when they fell behind 3-2 to presumptive MVP James Harden and the Rockets. But Golden State, catching a break when Houston star guard Chris Paul was forced to sit with a hamstring injury, showed a champion's poise by winning two straight. That set up another reunion with James and the Cavs. Maybe the last. TIP-INS Warriors: Curry made a three-pointer in his record 90th consecutive postseason game and extended his mark for three's in road playoff games to 44. ... Green is the only visiting player to post a triple-double in the playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena, doing so in Game 6 of the 2015 finals. ... Became the ninth team to sweep a finals and first to win consecutive titles since James did it with Miami in 2012 and 2013. ... Golden State has won a road game in 19 straight playoff series, tying the Heat's NBA record. ... With his 43-point performance in Game 3, Durant joined Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal as the only players to score at least 25 points in their first 13 finals games. Cavaliers: Appeared in its 26th NBA Finals game, moving past Atlanta/St. Louis into 10th place all-time. ... James averaged 34 points in his 13th postseason, his second-highest total. BROWN OUT Longtime network broadcaster Hubie Brown injured his knee while sitting courtside preparing before the game. He was treated by a medical staff on site and taken to the hospital. The 84-year-old Brown was replaced on the radio broadcast by Jon Barry. Brown was working his 17th NBA Finals......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2018