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HOF preview: Moss went deep to ignite Vikes, transform NFL

By Dave Campbell, Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The ball was flying down the field often for Minnesota during that drizzly night in Green Bay, and Randy Moss kept going over and past the defense to get it. Five games into his NFL career, Moss was a star. He was a revolutionary, too. There was no moment that better defined his arrival as the league's premier deep threat than that breakout prime-time performance against the two-time reigning NFC champion and bitter rival Packers. "Seeing Randall Cunningham smile, seeing him energetic," Moss said, reflecting on his five-catch, 190-yard, two-touchdown connection with Cunningham that carried the Vikings to a 37-24 victory. "It was just a great feeling." When the Vikings landed in Minnesota, his half-brother, Eric Moss, who was briefly his teammate, wondered about celebrating the big win. "I said, 'Going out? No, I want to go home,'" Moss said. Then defensive tackle John Randle tapped him on the shoulder. "Man, we're going to party tonight!" Moss said, recalling Randle's pronouncement to the rookie. "That's when I finally understood what it really meant to the guys for us to go into Lambeau and win." Twenty years later, with Moss set to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend after being elected in his first year of eligibility, the swift, sleek and sometimes-sassy wide receiver has finally understood the depth of his impact on the game and the privilege of opportunity to serve as a celebrant of the sport. "I came into the league with, I guess, my head not really screwed on my shoulders properly," Moss said recently on a conference call with reporters. Over time, the "homebody-type guy" from tiny Rand, West Virginia, who ranks second in NFL history in touchdown receptions (156) and fourth in receiving yards (15,292), learned how to soften some of the edges he's carried since he was a kid. "I've been able to open myself up and meet more people, be able to travel the world," said Moss, who's in his third season as an ESPN analyst. "Football here in America is a very powerful sport, and just being in that gold jacket, hopefully I can just be able to continue to reach people and continue to do great things." Moss will become the 14th inductee from the Vikings, joining former teammates Cris Carter, Chris Doleman, Randall McDaniel and Randle. He'll be the 27th wide receiver enshrined at the museum in Canton, Ohio. That's a three-hour drive from his hometown, but it's sure a long way from poverty-ridden Rand where Moss and his sports-loving friends played football as frequently as they could in the heart of coal country next to the Allegheny Mountains just south of the capital city, Charleston. "It was something that just felt good. I loved to compete. I just loved going out there just doing what kids do, just getting dirty," Moss said. He landed at Marshall University after some off-the-field trouble kept him out of Florida State and Notre Dame, and he took the Thundering Herd to what was then the NCAA Division I-AA national championship in 1996. Several NFL teams remained wary of his past, but Vikings head coach Dennis Green didn't flinch when Moss was still on the board in the 1998 draft with the 21st overall pick. Moss never forgot the teams that passed on him, with especially punishing performances against Dallas, Detroit and Green Bay. "I just carried a certain chip on my shoulder because the way I grew up playing was just basically having a tough mentality," Moss said. "Crying, hurting, in pain? So what? Get up, and let's go." The Vikings finished 15-1 in 1998, infamously missing the Super Bowl by a field goal. The next draft, the Packers took cornerbacks with their first three picks. Moss never escaped his reputation as a moody player whose behavior and effort were often questioned. That led to his first departure from Minnesota, via trade to Oakland in 2005. The Raiders dealt him to New England in 2007, when the Patriots became the first 16-0 team before losing in the Super Bowl, to the New York Giants. After a rocky 2010 for Moss, including being traded by the Patriots and released by the Vikings, he took a year off. He returned in 2012 to reach one more Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers. Moss was not a particularly physical player, but for his lanky frame he had plenty of strength. His combination of height and speed was exceptional, and his instincts for the game were too. Carter taught him how to watch the video board at the Metrodome to find the ball in the air, and he had a knack for keeping his hands close enough to his body that if the defensive back in coverage had his back to the quarterback he couldn't tell when the ball was about to arrive. In an NFL Films clip that captured a sideline conversation between him and Cunningham during one game, Moss yelled, "Throw it up above his head! They can't jump with me! Golly!" For Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, who has lived his entire life in Minnesota, was a sports-loving 8-year-old in 1998 when Moss helped lead the Vikings to what was then the NFL season scoring record with 556 points. The first team to break it was New England in 2007 with, again, Moss as the premier pass-catcher who set the all-time record that year with 23 touchdown catches. "It's fun to look back at his career and watch his old film. I love when that stuff pops up on Instagram, to be able to watch some of those old Randy plays that made me want to play this game," Thielen said. "I try to emulate him as much as I can.".....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJul 31st, 2018

2018 MLB preview: AL Central

By The Associated Press Capsules of American League Central teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Cleveland Indians 2017: 102-60, first place, lost to Yankees in ALDS. Manager: Terry Francona (sixth season). He's Here: 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, LF Rajai Davis, RHP Alexi Ogando. He's Outta Here: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Joe Smith, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Boone Logan. Projected Lineup: SS Francisco Lindor (.273, 33 HRs, 89 RBIs, 44 2Bs, 15 SBs, 10 errors), 2B Jason Kipnis (.232, 12 HRs, 35 RBIs in 90 games), 3B Jose Ramirez (.318, 29, 83, AL-leading 56 2Bs), DH Edwin Encarnacion (.258, 38, 107), 1B Yonder Alonso (.266, career-high 28 HRs, 67 RBIs with Athletics and Mariners), RF Lonnie Chisenhall (.288, 12, 53 in 82 games), C Roberto Perez (.207, 8, 38, club went 44-22 in his starts) or Yan Gomes (.232, 14, 56), CF Bradley Zimmer (.241, 8, 39, 18 SBs, 0 errors), LF Michael Brantley (.299, 9, 52 in 90 games) or Rajai Davis (.235, 5, 20, 29 SBs with Oakland and Boston). Rotation: RH Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA, 265 Ks, 2nd Cy Young Award), RH Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 3.29, 226 Ks), RH Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19, 10-1 in final 13 starts), RH Mike Clevinger (12-6, 3.11, 137 Ks in 121 2/3 innings), RH Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.28, 12.67 Ks per 9 innings). Key Relievers: RH Cody Allen (3-7, 2.94, 30/34 saves, 96 saves past 3 seasons), LH Andrew Miller (4-3, 1.44, 2 saves), RH Dan Otero (3-0, 2.85, walked just 19 of 511 batters since 2016), LH Tyler Olson (1-0, 0.00 in 20 innings over 30 games), RH Zack McAllister (2-2, 2.61 in 50 games). Hot Spots: Kipnis and Brantley. The former All-Stars have been hindered by injuries in recent years, but both appear on track to bounce back in 2018. The Indians need them to produce. Cleveland is better defensively with Ramirez at second base, but he'll stay at third as long as the 31-year-old Kipnis hits. Kipnis has been mentioned in trade talk for two years. Brantley, once considered one of baseball's best all-around talents, has played in only 101 games since 2015. Outlook: No team has felt postseason pain lately quite like the Indians. They blew a 3-1 lead and lost the 2016 World Series to the Cubs, and squandered a 2-0 advantage in last year's best-of-five Division Series against the Yankees. With arguably baseball's strongest rotation led by Kluber, the Indians are poised to possibly end a championship drought approaching its 70th anniversary. Alonso must help the offense offset the losses of Santana and Bruce. Francona won't have Shaw in the bullpen anymore after the durable reliever pitched in at least 74 games each of the past four seasons. Winning the AL Central won't suffice for the Indians, who are determined to finish the job this year. ___ Minnesota Twins 2017: 85-77, second place, lost to Yankees in wild-card game. Manager: Paul Molitor (fourth season). He's Here: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Jake Odorizzi, DH-1B Logan Morrison, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Zach Duke, SS-3B Erick Aybar, RHP Michael Pineda. He's Outta Here: RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Bartolo Colon, C Chris Gimenez, DH-1B Kennys Vargas, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Glen Perkins, LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Michael Tonkin. Projected Lineup: 2B Brian Dozier (.271, 34 HRs, 93 RBIs, 106 runs), 1B Joe Mauer (.305, 7, 71, .384 OBP), 3B Miguel Sano (.264, 28, 77, 173 Ks in 114 games), DH Logan Morrison (.246, 38, 85, .868 OPS with Rays), LF Eddie Rosario (.290, 27, 78), SS Eduardo Escobar (.254, 21, 73), CF Byron Buxton (.253, 16, 51, 29/30 SBs), RF Max Kepler (.243, 19, 69), C Jason Castro (.242, 10, 47). Rotation: RH Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA, 5 CGs, 211 1/3 IP, expected to begin season on DL), RH Jose Berrios (14-8, 3.89), RH Lance Lynn (11-8, 3.43 with Cardinals), RH Jake Odorizzi (10-8, 4.14 with Rays), RH Kyle Gibson (12-10, 5.07). Key Relievers: RH Fernando Rodney (5-4, 4.23, 39/45 saves with Diamondbacks), RH Addison Reed (2-3, 2.84, 19 saves with Mets and Red Sox), LH Taylor Rogers (7-3, 3.07), LH Zach Duke (1-1, 3.93 in 18 1/3 IP with Cardinals), RH Ryan Pressly (2-3, 4.70), RH Trevor Hildenberger (3-3, 3.21, 1 save), RH Phil Hughes (4-3, 5.87 in 53 2/3 IP). Hot Spot: Left Side Of The Infield. Sano had surgery in November to have a rod inserted in his left shin after a stress reaction kept him out for the last six weeks of the 2017 regular season, and the burly slugger has struggled to keep his weight down. He's also been under investigation by Major League Baseball, facing potential discipline, for alleged harassment of a woman during an encounter in 2015. Jorge Polanco, who got so hot at the plate down the stretch of his first full season as a regular in the lineup that he wound up third in the batting order, was suspended for the first 80 games this season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Escobar can fill in capably at shortstop, but he's also the top backup for Sano if the All-Star has to sit for any reason. Outlook: After their massive 26-win turnaround last season, earning Molitor the AL Manager of the Year award and a new contract through the 2020 season, the Twins were already on the upswing with their 25-and-under core of Berrios, Buxton, Sano, Rosario and Kepler. Then, after spring training began, they traded for Odorizzi and signed Morrison and Lynn, all at market-bargain prices. They've already had some setbacks, with finger surgery for Santana expected to keep him out for most or all of April, and the gut-punch news of Polanco's suspension, plus the uncertainty that surrounds Sano. But this is a team, even with the bold offseason moves made by AL heavyweights Boston and New York, and the strength of reigning AL Central champion Cleveland, that has the talent and spunk to be right in the playoff mix. With Hughes and Tyler Duffey on track for long-relief roles and a spate of well-regarded prospects set to fill out the rotation at Triple-A Rochester, this is as much starting pitching depth as the Twins have had in years. After using 16 different starters in 2017, they needed that. Rodney, Reed and Duke were important additions to bolster the bullpen, too, after Minnesota relievers ranked 22nd in the majors with a collective 4.40 ERA. ___ Kansas City Royals 2017: 80-82, third place. Manager: Ned Yost (ninth season). He's Here: RHP Jesse Hahn, CF Jon Jay, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Justin Grimm. He's Outta Here: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, LHP Jason Vargas, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Mike Minor, OF Melky Cabrera, LHP Scott Alexander, DH Brandon Moss, RHP Mike Morin, LHP Ryan Buchter, RHP Trevor Cahill. Projected Lineup: CF Jon Jay (.296, 2 HRs, 34 RBIs with Cubs), 2B Whit Merrifield (.288, 19, 78, AL-leading 34 SBs), 3B Mike Moustakas (.272, 38, 85), C Salvador Perez (.268, 27, 80), 1B Lucas Duda (.217, 30, 64 with Mets and Rays), DH Jorge Soler (.144, 2, 6), LF Alex Gordon (.208, 9, 45), RF Paulo Orlando (.198, 2, 6), SS Alcides Escobar (.250, 6, 54). Rotation: LH Danny Duffy (9-10, 3.81 ERA), RH Ian Kennedy (5-13, 5.38), RH Jason Hammel (8-13, 5.29), RH Jakob Junis (9-3, 4.30), RH Nate Karns (2-2, 4.17). Key Relievers: RH Kelvin Herrera (3-3, 4.25, 26/31 saves), RH Wily Peralta (5-4, 7.85 in 19 games, 8 starts with Brewers), RH Brandon Maurer (2-2, 8.10 in 26 games with Royals; 1-4, 5.72 in 42 games with Padres), RH Justin Grimm (1-2, 5.53 with Cubs), LH Brian Flynn (5-3, 5.40 at Triple-A Omaha), RH Kevin McCarthy (1-0, 3.20), RH Brad Keller (10-9, 4.68 ERA at Double-A Jackson). Hot Spots: Just About Everywhere. The Royals struggled to score last year, and losing Hosmer and Cain in free agency won't help. They'll turn to Moustakas, who set a club record for home runs in a season, and newcomers Jay and Duda to ignite the offense. The only starting pitcher with a track record of success is Duffy, while the bullpen features plenty of unproven talent that must show it can close down games if the Royals are to approach .500 this season. Outlook: This was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Kansas City, when most of the Royals' top players hit free agency en masse. With Moustakas and Escobar finding little market, both returned to Kansas City with prove-it contracts. That gives the Royals a fighting chance to stay competitive into July, and then all bets are off. But the reality is there are still far too many holes, both in the lineup and on the pitching staff, for the Royals to be considered contenders. They would do well to match the 80 wins they had last season, and could be a big seller at the July 31 trade deadline, which would allow them to replenish a shallow farm system and begin their rebuilding job in earnest. ___ Chicago White Sox 2017: 67-95, fourth place. Manager: Rick Renteria (second season). He's Here: RHP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo. He's Outta Here: LHP Derek Holland, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Al Alburquerque, RHP Jake Petricka, C Geovany Soto, OF-2B Alen Hanson, RHP Zach Putnam. Projected Lineup: 2B Yoan Moncada (.231, 8 HRs, 22 RBIs), RF Avisail Garcia (.330, 18, 80), 1B Jose Abreu (.304, 33, 102), DH Matt Davidson (.220, 26, 68), C Welington Castillo (.282, 20, 53 with Orioles), SS Tim Anderson (.257, 17, 56), 3B Yolmer Sanchez (.267, 12, 59), LF Nicky Delmonico (.262, 9, 23), CF Adam Engel (.166, 6, 21). Rotation: RH James Shields (5-7, 5.23 ERA), RH Lucas Giolito (3-3, 2.38), RH Reynaldo Lopez (3-3, 4.72), RH Miguel Gonzalez (8-13, 4.62 with White Sox and Rangers), RH Carson Fulmer (3-1, 3.86) or LH Hector Santiago (4-8, 5.63 with Twins). Key Relievers: RH Nate Jones (1-0, 2.31, 11 appearances), LH Luis Avilan (2-3, 2.93 with Dodgers), RH Joakim Soria (4-3, 3.70, 1 save with Royals), RH Juan Minaya (3-2, 4.53, 9 saves), RH Gregory Infante (2-1, 3.13), RH Danny Farquhar (4-2, 4.20 with White Sox and Rays). Hot Spot: Bullpen. A particular strength for the first half of 2017 is now a major question mark after Chicago traded away Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and closer David Robertson last season. Soria has 204 career saves but his best days might be behind him, and there aren't many other proven late-inning options. Renteria and respected pitching coach Don Cooper might have their hands full mixing and matching while trying to figure out how to hold leads. Outlook: For a team with five straight losing seasons and a record that ranked among baseball's worst last year, the White Sox are generating plenty of buzz. That's because they're loaded with promising young players after going all-in on a rebuild prior to last season. The moves have sparked a belief that better days are ahead. Moncada and hard-throwing pitchers Giolito and Lopez showed promise in the majors last season. Right-hander Michael Kopech, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and outfielder Luis Robert are elite prospects on their way in the minors. Garcia, coming off a breakout season, is looking to prove he's not a one-hit wonder. Anderson hopes to bounce back from a trying season in which a close friend was shot to death. Abreu is back after the slugger was viewed as a potential trade candidate this winter. Left-hander Carlos Rodon is expected to be out until at least June following shoulder surgery last September. It's not clear when he'll be ready. Rodon also was sidelined at the start a year ago because of shoulder and biceps problems. The big question is whether he'll ever develop into the pitcher the White Sox envisioned when they drafted him with the No. 3 overall pick in 2014. ___ Detroit Tigers 2017: 64-98, fifth place. Manager: Ron Gardenhire (first season). He's Here: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Mike Fiers, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Victor Reyes. He's Outta Here: Manager Brad Ausmus, 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Anibal Sanchez, INF Andrew Romine, RHP Bruce Rondon. Projected Lineup: CF Leonys Martin (.172, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs with Mariners and Cubs), 3B Jeimer Candelario (.283, 3, 16 with Cubs and Tigers), 1B Miguel Cabrera (.249, 16, 60), RF Nicholas Castellanos (.272, 26, 101), DH Victor Martinez (.255, 10, 47), C James McCann (.253, 13, 49), LF Mikie Mahtook (.276, 12, 38), SS Jose Iglesias (.255, 6, 54), 2B Dixon Machado (.259, 1, 11). Rotation: RH Michael Fulmer (10-12, 3.83 ERA), RH Jordan Zimmermann (8-13, 6.08), LH Francisco Liriano (6-7, 5.66 with Blue Jays and Astros), RH Mike Fiers (8-10, 5.22 with Astros), LH Daniel Norris (5-8, 5.31) or LH Matthew Boyd (6-11, 5.27). Key Relievers: RH Shane Greene (4-3, 2.66, 9/13 saves), RH Joe Jimenez (0-2, 12.32), RH Alex Wilson (2-5, 4.50, 2 saves), LH Daniel Stumpf (0-1, 3.82). Hot Spot: The Farm System. After finishing tied for the worst record in baseball last year, the Tigers enter 2018 with no real expectations of success at the big league level, so the question is how quickly the franchise can make it through this rebuilding stage. Franklin Perez, a right-hander acquired last season when Detroit traded Justin Verlander, is expected to be out at least until June with a lat strain, and right-hander Matt Manning is also dealing with an injury. Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows are other pitching prospects to watch as they try to work their way toward the majors. Wins may be few and far between in Detroit, but Tigers fans will hope Cabrera — one star who avoided the roster purge of the last year — can rebound from a rough season. Outlook: The Tigers traded Verlander, Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez last season, then dealt away Kinsler during the offseason. There could be more big moves on the horizon — Fulmer, Iglesias and Castellanos should all have some trade value, but each of them is young enough that he could be useful to the Tigers when they become competitive again. That's especially true of Fulmer, the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. Barring a huge surprise in terms of on-field results, the biggest suspense this season might revolve around how general manager Al Avila approaches the next few steps in the rebuild......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

Randle, Miller lead Pelicans past Wolves, 123-114

By Brett Martel, Associated Press NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Julius Randle had 33 points and 11 rebounds, Darius Miller scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame Anthony Davis’ absence in a 123-114 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Miller hits five triples, his last from the left wing to put the Pelicans up 115-109 with 1:12 to go. After Robert Covington responded with a three for the Wolves to make it a one-possession game in the final minute, Miller hit two free throws on New Orleans’ next possession. Jrue Holiday, who had 26 points, added three late free throws — one of them after Karl-Anthony Towns was assessed a technical foul — and the Wolves were unable to recover. E’Twaun Moore scored 17 points for the Pelicans, who found out shortly before tip-off that Davis was too ill to play. Towns finished with 28 points and 17 rebounds scoring 10 of his points during a tight fourth quarter before fouling out with 12.5 seconds left. Andrew Wiggins scored 20 points for Minnesota, while Taj Gibson scored 17 and Covington 16. The Pelicans received a measure of good news before the game when guard Elfrid Payton was deemed ready to return from a fractured finger on his left, non-shooting hand that had sidelined him for 22 games. Playing about six minutes per quarter, Payton contributed nine points, six assists, a rebound and a steal while wearing tape over his previous injured finger. Without Davis available to help attack the rim, the Pelicans shot decisively from three and it paid off as they hit 56 percent (14-of-25) from deep. New Orleans went 9-of-13 from three in the first half, when they led by as many as 14. That opened up the paint for Randle, who scored 18 in the first half, although even one of his field goals came from deep. The Wolves also let fly from three early and often, but with far different results, hitting only three of their first 16 from long range while shooting just worse than 40 percent (21-of-53) overall in the first half. When Randle hit his second triple of the game early in the second half, New Orleans was shooting 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from deep, and New Orleans led by 15 points. But that’s when Minnesota suddenly rediscovered its offense, outscoring the Pelicans by 16 the rest of the third quarter. Covington helped ignite the comeback with consecutive three's. Wiggins added another from long-range and Towns hit from 27 feet out to tie it late in the period. TIP-INS Timberwolves: Guard Derrick Rose missed his second straight game with a right ankle sprain. ... Forward Keita Bates-Diop missed his second straight game with an illness. ... Tyus Jones scored 15 points and Gorgui Dieng added 10 points. ... The Wolves fell to 5-14 on the road. Pelicans: After starting in place of Davis, Jahlil Okafor was called for three fouls within the first five minutes of the game and was subbed out in favor of Cheick Diallo. Okafor wound up playing just 14 minutes and had seven points and seven rebounds. ... The Pelicans won two games during a three-game home stand to improve to 13-6 at home. UP NEXT Timberwolves: Visit Boston on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Pelicans: Visit Brooklyn on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2019

UAAP Finals: UP got farther because the seniors went the extra mile

Doing extra work beyond regular team practices is a common thing all athletes do - extra skills training over here, extra shooting drills over there. It is always part of the trade. But for a team with a deep-rooted losing culture like the University of the Philippines had six years ago, extra work was not normal. At one point, it was even made fun of. The losing tradition was so deep that going beyond what was required was so foreign to the players. The mindset then was, "You're going to lose anyway, why even try?" It was something that the rookies then - Diego Dario, Gelo Vito, Jarrell Lim, and Paul Desiderio - had trouble understanding. "Before, nung rookies kami, since fresh from high school, masipag kami. Kunwari after training, extra work, shooting-shooting. Pero ang problema namin, tinatago na yung bola [after practice]. Ayaw na kami pag shootingin. Hihiritan pa kami ng seniors namin, 'Oh, baka mag-PBA ka na nyan, itigil mo na yan.' Hindi namin yun ma-gets," Lim shared. "Noon, after ng final huddle, may sisigaw na diyan ng 'Mga bola!!!' So kaming mga bata, wala naman kaming choice, parang ito na, sige na nga," Vito said. But just like any rookie with big dreams, they pressed on and brushed off the jokes of their seniors.  "Nung 'dark days,' after training, wala ng tao sa court, kami na lang! Mga rookies - ako, Jarrell, Gelo. Nagsho-shooting kami, extra work kami," chipped in Dario. In addition to staying after team practices, Dario, Lim, Vito, together with a few older Fighting Maroons created a 6 a.m. workout habit. From the self-initiated morning sessions to the team practices scheduled from the afternoon to the evening, they made sure that they put some extra work in to better their games and to ultimately transform the losing mentality of their team. It all started with a bunch of rookies who were fed up with the nightmare of losing seasons and were hungry for the dream of contention. "Pinromise namin sa isa't isa na ito yung culture na papalitan namin sa UP kasi walang nag-eextra work. Bawal mag-extra work," said Vito. "Even when Coach Bo [Perasol] wasn't here [yet], our batch ni Gelo, Jarrell, all our batchmates made a decision na I think we should change the culture off the court. We should be humble, we haven't reached anything yet, we have to do the work. We made sure even with the younger ones who were coming in, we lead by example," added Dario. During the time they were rookies, UP was a bottom-feeder in the standings and the butt of jokes of other teams. They barely had any financial support and they trained in faulty facilities, but that did not stop them from trusting the process.  After one late night extra work session back in 2014, Dario's father, Edwin, said something that was a vision of the future. It was something that Dario and Vito held on to. "Andun kami sa Old Gym sa labas, may tulo tulo pa yung court," Vito said as he described the lowly state of their only basketball facility then. "Late night, Team A na kami nun, finally. This was few weeks before my dad passed away. Nung nag-eextra work kami, papa told me, 'Yung batch niyo yung magfa-Finals, yung batch niyo ang magdadala sa team sa championship,'" Dario narrated. At that point, it was a vision that sounded so preposterous. From 0-14 to the Finals? What a joke. But for some reason that could only be described by faith, these rookies believed. As Dario put it, "Sa old UP, hindi mo maririnig yung mga ganung pangarap. Pero kaming batch yung nagsimula nung, 'Oh ano, Final Four?' Pinagtatawanan na kami ng mga tao." Despite the faith, the laughs never really went away. From Season 76's 0-14, UP's record in the next years improved, but it was still far from Final Four material, let alone the Finals. UP was still one of the league's whipping boys. They still didn't make it to the Final Four and they were still inconsistent. So much so that it casted doubts on whether Dario, Vito, Lim, and Desiderio should still play their fifth and final years. Dario was mulling over sitting out Season 81 just so he can improve his game on his own. Vito, given all the bigger names entering the team, was considering retiring from playing basketball altogether. Lim was so heartbroken from Season 80's finish that he avoided touching a ball for months. Desiderio was thinking of leaving college basketball early to try getting into the PBA. But they just couldn't let go of the vision they had when they were still rookies - that their batch will reach the Finals, that their batch will change the culture of UP. Fast forward to Season 81, with the help of new recruits, support from management, and a rabid fanbase, their vision turned into reality. "After our Game 2 [versus Adamson in the semifinals], na-realize namin before 'UP Naming Mahal,' ito na yun! Ito na yung sinasabi ni papa! Magfa-Finals na tayo! It's true!" Dario narrated. "May nagtanong sa akin after the semifinals, 'Fifth year ka na, hindi ba parang masakit sayo na you're not playing in those kinds of moments na crucial?' Sabi ko sa kanya, I would never exchange this moment na pumasok kami sa Finals after 32 years for playing time. It's not about yung moment lang na yun eh. Yung process na pinagdaanan namin, para marating yun, naghirap kami nun, it was part of it," Vito added. 'Trust the process' may be one of the most overused phrases of athletes nowadays, but graduating seniors Desiderio, Vito, Lim, and Dario proved that they are the ones who truly know what it means. From being shamed for doing extra work, now, they are proudly wearing a silver medal around their necks. Coming from 0-14, who would have thought and believed? They did. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @the9cruz.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 8th, 2018

2018-19 NBA Preview: It s the Warriors, and then everyone else

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will be at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night, handing the Golden State Warriors what will be their third set of championship rings from the last four seasons. A banner will be displayed. Highlights will be shown. And then the Warriors will have to start all over again. The NBA’s 73rd season starts Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), beginning a year where LeBron James will play for the Los Angeles Lakers, where Carmelo Anthony will aim to push the Houston Rockets over the top, where Dwyane Wade will take his 16th and final lap around the league. A new arena is opening in Milwaukee, eight teams will have new coaches, and everyone will be looking to see if the Warriors can win a third straight title. “None of us are ready for this run to come to an end,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green, part of all three Warriors’ titles in this four-year run of dominance. “So we’ve got to continue to approach it like we’ve got zero. And that’s cliche and impossible to do, but you want to try to get as close to that as you possibly can. And that’s my mindset always entering the season.” They will be the overwhelming favorites, with good reason. The Warriors still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Green, plus added All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins — coming off an injury — on a bargain $5.3 million deal. And calling all the shots is coach Steve Kerr, who won five rings as a player and now three more as a coach. “If they don’t win, it’s a failure,” Memphis guard Mike Conley Jr. said. “I know that’s how they feel as well. For us, for the other 29 teams, we’re the underdog. We’re trying to take what they have. It’s a lot easier playing from the underdog perspective than coming in with a lot of expectation.” In this NBA, everybody else is an underdog. That even applies to Houston — which won 65 games last season, has the reigning MVP in James Harden, an elite point guard in Chris Paul who re-signed for $160 million this summer, a deep-pocketed owner in Tilman Fertitta and an always-tinkering GM in Daryl Morey. The Rockets had the Warriors against the ropes in last season’s Western Conference finals, leading that series 3-2 yet falling after Paul was lost to a hamstring injury. “We’ve all got one goal, man,” Harden said. “You’ll keep hearing the same story over and over until I’m not here no more. We’ve got to win a ’chip. We’ve all got the same goal. We kind of, a little bit, we kind of know what it takes to almost get there. But we haven’t gotten there yet.” The Warriors are the best team and the Rockets had the best record, but the best player is now in L.A. After 15 seasons in the Eastern Conference, James — who has played in each of the last eight NBA Finals — has moved West. He signed a four-year deal in July with the Lakers, one that makes him the biggest star on the league’s glitziest franchise. He’s teamed up with talented young players like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, and former rivals like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson. “I’m a basketball player,” James said. “I play ball. That’s what I do and that’s what I live by. And when I do it at the level I do it at, everything else takes care of itself.” The only certainty in the NBA this season is that James won’t win the East — ending an eight-year run of that, four in Miami and four in Cleveland. Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto (with the newly acquired Kawhi Leonard) are the top candidates to take over as East champions. The Celtics had a Game 7, at home, to get to the NBA Finals last season and lost to James and Cleveland, but now get Gordon Hayward back and a healthy Kyrie Irving again. Miami has been trying to get Jimmy Butler from Minnesota, and if they do — someone will get Butler before the trade deadline — the Heat may be able to get back into East contention. It might be Dirk Nowitzki’s last season in Dallas. Gregg Popovich no longer has Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili with him in San Antonio, and the Spurs (who have been battered by injuries, including one to point guard Dejounte Murray) are no lock to extend their 21-year run of playoff appearances. Sneakerheads will have a big season, because the NBA now says players may wear whatever colors of kicks that they want. There’s plenty of stories. But in the end, it’ll be all about someone finding a way to beat Golden State — or not. “I’ll get back to you when somebody cracks that code,” Wade said. “In this game, the most important thing is health. If they stay healthy, it’s tough to beat them. There’s teams that can, but you’ve got to do it, and you’re going to have to do it four times.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 16th, 2018

With LeBron gone, Eastern Conference set for a new champion

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press The roadblock has been removed. With LeBron James gone, the path to the NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference is open again. Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto and more are hoping to win the race to it. James ruled over the East for eight years, making four straight trips to the finals from Miami and then moving back to Cleveland in 2014 and getting there every year since. From Boston to Indiana, up north in Toronto all the way down to Atlanta, teams would emerge with what they thought was a title contender only to see James send them home for the summer. Now King James has abdicated his throne and moved to Los Angeles, and there should be rejoicing in the land he left behind. “It’s a new lease on life in the Eastern Conference,” said Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Reggie Miller, who faced a similar situation when he played in the East during the era of Michael Jordan’s Bulls. “It’s great that LeBron has taken his talents out West because it opens up the doors for not only a lot of these young players, but these organizations now. Fresh blood, something new to kind of see who can compete for that Eastern crown.” The Celtics nearly won it last year, falling to the Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. They were without the injured Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and now that the two stars are healthy and have rejoined Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and the rest of a deep team that made a valiant run without them, Boston is probably the favorite in the East. But there’s intrigue beyond that, which rarely existed during James’ reign. Philadelphia finished strong in its first season with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons playing together, and now might get a full one with 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz joining them after his shoulder problems last season. Toronto shook up a 59-win team by firing coach Dwane Casey and shipping DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in the trade for Kawhi Leonard, and Indiana bolstered a team that took Cleveland to seven games in the first round. Any of them have a chance to get to the place that James wouldn’t let them. “An appearance in the finals is going to be sweet,” Embiid said. A look at the East, in predicted order of finish: PLAYOFF BOUND 1. Boston — Depth of talent is not only tops in the East, but comes closest in the NBA to rivaling Golden State’s. 2. Philadelphia — If either Simmons or Fultz develops a jump shot to open things up more for Embiid, look out. 3. Indiana — Victor Oladipo has emerged as an All-Star and the Pacers are balanced behind him. 4. Toronto — If Leonard is fully healthy and motivated, Raptors added a top-five player to a 59-win team. 5. Milwaukee — Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to make the Bucks fun to watch in their new arena. 6. Washington — John Wall and Bradley Beal will give the Wizards plenty on the perimeter, but they need Dwight Howard provide a boost on the interior. 7. Miami — Heat won’t want to send Dwyane Wade into retirement without one final playoff appearance. 8. Detroit — A full season with Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin together should be enough to get the Pistons back into the postseason. ___ IN THE MIX 9. Cleveland — Kevin Love and the remainder of the Cavaliers that James left behind should still be good enough to fight for a spot in the top eight. 10. Charlotte — The Hornets will host an All-Star Game in February. They’ll try to host playoff games in April. ___ FACING LONG ODDS 11. Orlando — Steve Clifford is the latest coach to try to mix a collection of young players into one that can defend enough to be a decent team. 12. Brooklyn — Nets made a seven-win improvement last season even while being dismal at defending and rebounding. Do either better and they can take another leap. 13. New York — Kristaps Porzingis remains out indefinitely while rehabbing a torn ACL, so new coach David Fizdale will give rookie Kevin Knox an early green light. 14. Atlanta — Trae Young may be exciting to watch, but he won’t be able to stop another long season of losing in Atlanta. 15. Chicago — The Bulls of Tom Thibodeau were veterans who always defended hard. The Bulls of Fred Hoiberg have been none of the above. ___ WHAT TO KNOW CANADA’S CHANCE: The Raptors gambled on acquiring Leonard from San Antonio, and now Toronto has a year to show him it’s worth sticking around when he becomes a free agent next summer. BEST MAN: A popular question after James left was who is the best player now in the East? Irving, Embiid, Antetokounmpo and Leonard are among those who can make compelling cases. HOWARD’S HEALTH: Dwight Howard has sat out his first preseason with the Wizards because of a balky back, the kind of injury that can sometimes linger, and Washington needs a presence in the middle no matter how good its backcourt is. OPENING NIGHT PREVIEW? Cleveland and Boston met in the opening game in the East last season and ended up squaring off in the conference finals. This time, it’s Boston and Philadelphia to open things in the East and they’ll be good candidates to close them......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

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

Curry comes alive to score 35, Warriors rout Rockets by 41

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry got his groove back to score 35 points with five 3-pointers, shooting over James Harden and driving past the Houston star as the Golden State Warriors made a second-half statement to beat the Rockets 126-85 on Sunday night (Wednesday, PHL time) for a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals. Kevin Durant added 25 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Draymond Green grabbed 17 rebounds to go with 10 points and six assists. The Warriors won an NBA-record 16th consecutive home postseason game, surpassing the Chicago Bulls' mark of 15 in a row from April 27, 1990-May 21, 1991. The defending champions got defensive — and maybe a little mad — after a 127-105 Game 2 defeat Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) at Houston, determined to make stops to ignite the transition game and open up three-point shooters. And they eventually got Curry going with 18 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the third quarter. Harden had 20 points and nine assists, while Chris Paul added 13 points and 10 rebounds as they combined to shoot just 12 for 32. Game 4 is Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) at Oracle Arena. Curry and Durant each scored five quick points as Golden State opened the third quarter with a 10-0 burst to go ahead 64-43. Under pressure from Paul, Curry swished a three from way back with 5:06 left in the third. He struggled with his long-range shot again early but drove through the paint at every chance. Curry hit a baseline three-pointer at the 9:02 mark of the first but missed his next five three's before going 4-for-5 in the second half. He is now 7-of-25 from long range — he made one in each of the first two games. The Warriors' five starters all scored in double figures, the first time they've done so this postseason. Trevor Ariza and Green received a double-technical with 6:49 to play when Ariza shoved Green as they traded words. Both potent offenses were slow getting rolling as the teams played strong defense. Harden and Paul began 3-for-14 with Paul missing six shots before getting his first basket on goaltending against Andre Iguodala 2:39 before halftime. Golden State began getting the looks it liked after halftime. The Warriors faced more stingy, in-the-face pressure from Houston, making it hard to get any early flow shooting. Durant hit his first 3 6:27 before halftime then missed from the deep the next time down. A moment of silence was held before the national anthem for victims of the Houston school shooting. TIP-INS Rockets: The Rockets surrendered 10 fast-break points in the first period while getting none of their own. ... They were out-rebounded 49-41 and shot 32-for-80 from the floor. Warriors: Kevon Looney had two key blocks off the bench in the first. ... Durant notched his 20th straight postseason game with 20 or more points. ... Golden State is 36-5 at home in the playoffs since the 2015 postseason. ... Thompson (1,786) moved past Rick Barry (1,776) for second place on the Warriors' career postseason scoring list. ... Curry (712) moved past Barry (699) into sole possession for most postseason baskets in franchise history. ... The "Run TMC" trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin were honored with a standing ovation during a first-quarter timeout. On Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), Richmond will introduce Hardaway as he goes into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame of which Richmond and Mullin are already members. PAUL'S HEALTH Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni made the point once again about Paul being healthy: "There's nothing wrong at all." "We're not going to win without him," D'Antoni said. "So if he's got to limp and drag his leg to the finish line, so be it. And he's ready to do that." ORACLE AURA That deafening, bright yellow sellout crowd was imposing once again. "Somebody asked me, 'Is Oracle tough to play?' Yeah, because the Warriors play here," D'Antoni said. "There's a certain energy that their fans will give them and moments they hit two or three 3s you can get a buzz going that helps the home team. You just have to try to keep that crowd out as much as you can.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 21st, 2018

UAAP Finals Flashback: The last time an Ateneo-La Salle championship series went the distance

The UAAP season 80 men’s basketball tournament will boil down to one final game. The Ateneo Blue Eagles, then armed with a 1-0 Finals lead, looked poised to win the title in Game 2 when they took a commanding 21-point lead over the De La Salle Green Archers early in the first half. But the defending champion Green Archers, sparked by a feisty Kib Montalbo, an inspired Ricci Rivero, a dominant Ben Mbala, and a resurgent Andrei Caracut, rallied past the Blue Eagles to tie the series and force a winner-take-all game slated this Sunday, December 3.  And now, we’re faced with the two sweetest words in UAAP basketball: Game Three. The last two times an Ateneo-La Salle Finals clash was pushed to a deciding game was back in 2001, and 2002, more than 15 years ago, with both schools splitting the spoils.  Let’s look back at the epic clash between the Blue Eagles and the Green Archers in the 64th and 65th season of the UAAP men’s basketball Finals that went the distance, as a preview of the upcoming chapter of this historic rivalry. -- 2001: A DLSU Odyssey Since Ateneo and La Salle’s last Finals clash back in 1988, the two squads went on separate paths before rekindling their storied rivalry. The Blue Eagles took home the title back in ’88, but the Green Archers scored back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 before UST and FEU burst into the UAAP basketball scene for much of the decade. Behind sweet-shooting guard Ren-Ren Ritualo, and the crafty Don Allado powering the Franz Pumaren-led Green Archers, La Salle was fast becoming a dynasty, scoring a three-peat from 1998-2000. Meanwhile, Ateneo was deep into its so-called “dark ages”, with their title drought stretching into 13 years, but the best was yet to come heading into season 64. UAAP 2001 FINALS, GAME 1: La Salle 74, Ateneo 68 With DLSU focused on extending its dominance by claiming its fourth straight championship, the rebirth of the rivalry was on. Ateneo, with its best collection of players in a long time, had the best possible chance to put an end to the dark ages. The Green Archers proved why they were three-time defending champs, showing their championship poise by going on a huge fourth quarter run to down the Blue Eagles and to move one win away from their four-peat. UAAP 2001 FINALS, GAME 2: Ateneo 76, La Salle 72 With their backs against the wall, Ateneo forced a deciding match behind a masterful 22-point performance. by blossoming big man Enrico Villanueva.  It was also Villanueva who found Magnum Membrere for a three-pointer to put the game away and to keep the Blue Eagles alive. The victory also marked Ateneo’s first win over DLSU that season, after three attempts. UAAP 2001 FINALS, GAME 3: La Salle 93, Ateneo 88 The deciding game was a shootout between DLSU’s Carlo Sharma and Ateneo’s LA Tenorio, who dropped 22 points, and 30 points respectively. Sharma’s production was a career-high for him, and it came at the best possible time. He made 11 of his 22 markers in the fourth quarter, helping the DLSU Green Archers claim their fourth straight UAAP championship. It was a fitting end to Ritualo’s collegiate career, who got his number 4 jersey retired after leading La Salle to a rare four-peat.   -- 2002: Ateneo's Great Revenge Revenge was the main storyline in the UAAP season 65 Finals. For Ateneo, it was redemption for the previous season’s devastating loss at the hands of De La Salle.  Meanwhile, the Green Archers wanted to exact revenge to the Blue Eagles, who stained their undefeated record at the final game of the elimination round, to deny a sweep, and an outright Finals berth for DLSU in a  shocking 83-71 win. UAAP 2002 FINALS, GAME 1: Ateneo 72, La Salle 70 With unfinished business from last year, Enrico Villanueva took over late in the game, scoring Ateneo’s final ten points to seal Game 1 for the blue side. This game served as a huge statement not just for the Blue Eagles, but also for Larry Fonacier whose iconic block on Mark Cardona proved to be the difference maker to help move Ateneo one win away from redemption. UAAP 2002 FINALS, GAME 2: La Salle 85, Ateneo 77 Again, championship poise proved to be La Salle’s edge against an Ateneo squad that was deemed as “tense” in Game 2. After struggling in the first game, Mike Cortez was sat down by Coach Franz to have a talk, reminding his ward that as a veteran, he should lead his teammates by example. Facing elimination, the Green Archers, and Cortez were on fire to start the second game, taking a commanding 18-point lead over Ateneo by the end of the first half, 50-32. Cortez finished with 21 points as De La Salle evened up the series to force a deciding Game 3. UAAP 2002 FINALS, Game 3: Ateneo 77, La Salle 70 With DLSU gaining momentum from a convincing Game 2 win, a five-peat looked imminent heading into the third and final game of the season. Timely baskets from Wesley Gonzales and then-rookie LA Tenorio early on helped the Blue Eagles take the lead, however slim, over La Salle heading into the payoff period, 56-52 for the first time in the Finals series. Enrico Villanueva, the season MVP, put on a career-defining performance in final game as a Blue Eagle, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds, capped off by four assists, and two steals as they hold off a fierce rally by DLSU to bring home the title back to Katipunan for the first time since 1988. The win was an apt send-off for Villanueva, who helped Ateneo halt fierce rival La Salle’s consecutive championship run to four titles......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2017

Brady, Patriots dominate Raiders 33-8 in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Tom Brady felt right at home in his first appearance in Mexico by throwing for 339 yards and three touchdowns, to the delight of an adoring crowd, in the New England Patriots' 33-8 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Brady completed his first 12 passes and picked apart Oakland's suspect defense to chants of "Brady! Brady!" from an amped-up crowd at Azteca Stadium. The large contingent of Patriots fans in the well-divided crowd for a Raiders "home" game had plenty to cheer about as New England (8-2) dominated from start to finish. After winning their debut trip to Mexico City last year against Houston, the Raiders (4-6) were completely overmatched in their return. The offense failed to score until Derek Carr threw a TD pass to Amari Cooper in the fourth quarter with Oakland trailing by 30 points. The defense got victimized by short passes by Brady and then beaten on a 64-yard TD to Brandin Cooks on the third play of the second half that gave New England a 24-0 lead. EAGLES 37, COWBOYS 9 ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Carson Wentz threw for two touchdowns and three 2-point conversions after Philadelphia lost kicker Luke Elliott to a head injury, and the Eagles all but wrapped up the NFC East with the victory over Dallas. The Eagles (9-1) outscored the Cowboys 30-0 in the second half while extending their winning streak to eight games, their longest since 2003-04 and tied with New Orleans for the best current run in the NFL. Philadelphia leads the second-place and defending division champion Cowboys (5-5) by four games with six to play after handing Dallas its worst home loss at 8-year-old AT&T Stadium. Dallas' Dak Prescott threw a career-high three interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in his second straight loss without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, serving a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence. Luke Elliott left the game after missing a 34-yard field goal late in the first quarter. SAINTS 34, REDSKINS 31, OT NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans extended its winning streak to eight games with an unlikely comeback, erasing a 15-point deficit inside the final six minutes or regulation and kicking a short field goal in overtime to defeat Washington. Mark Ingram capped a 131-yard rushing performance with gains of 20 and 31 yards on back-to-back carries in overtime to set up Wil Lutz's winning 28-yard kick. Drew Brees passed for 385 yards and two touchdowns, going 11 of 11 for 164 yards and his only two touchdowns on New Orleans' final two possessions of regulation. His first TD went to tight end Josh Hill with 2:53 to go, and the last to Alvin Kamara with 1:05 left. The Saints (8-2) set up their final drive by stopping Samaje Perine on third-and-1 at the two-minute warning when a first down would have allowed Washington (4-6) to run out the clock. After Kamara corralled a bobble while running between two converging defenders to score from 18 yards, he took a pitch on a misdirection play to the left side and easily reached the end zone for a 2-point conversion as the Superdome crowd — at least those who hadn't left early — went wild. Washington managed to get into winning field-goal range in the final minute of regulation, only to be pushed back by a fluky grounding penalty that appeared to result from Kirk Cousins' miscommunication with a receiver, followed by a sack as time expired. The Redskins also received the ball first in overtime, but the Saints' hobbled defense, which gave up more yards than in any game during its winning streak, rallied to force a quick punt and Ingram did the rest. Cousins passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns. GIANTS 12, CHIEFS 9, OT EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Roger Lewis Jr. made a spectacular catch to set up the winning 23-yard yard goal by Aldrick Rosas in overtime and the Giants responded from weeks of adversity to beat the AFC West-leading Chiefs on a blustery, cold day. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Giants (2-8) and sent the Chiefs (6-4) to their fourth loss in five games. The winning kick came two plays after Lewis was yanked to the ground on a deep pass from Eli Manning, but still caught the ball while flat on his back for a 34-yard completion on a fourth-down heave. Had he not caught it, flags flew for pass interference. It was an unexpected was for a team that came into the game in turmoil, with questions about the future of coach Ben McAdoo and many wondering whether the Giants had quit in one-sided losses to the Rams and then the winless 49ers in the past two weeks. Few expected them to beat the Chiefs, especially with Andy Reid's record coming off a bye week. He was 16-2. The Giants not only won, they intercepted Alex Smith twice, setting up their first nine points. With one time out, Smith drove the Chiefs 69 yards in nine plays, the big shot a 32-yard pass to tight end Travis Kelce. Harrison Butker tied the game with a 23-yard field goal — his third short one — with :01 left in regulation. VIKINGS 24, RAMS 7 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Latavius Murray rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns, Adam Thielen turned a short catch into a 65-yard score and the Vikings smothered the NFL's highest-scoring offense. Case Keenum completed 27 of 38 passes for 280 yards and no turnovers against the team that benched him last season for No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff. He also guided the Vikings (8-2) to their sixth straight victory in a matchup of division leaders. Minnesota's defense started the second half by forcing four punts in a row by the Rams (7-3), whose four-game winning streak in which they scored 144 points was finished in convincing fashion. The Rams led the league entering the weekend with a third-down conversion rate of 46.7 percent, but were just 3 for 11 against the Vikings. The Los Angeles defense was trampled in the second half for 288 yards, and Keenum went without a sack for the sixth game this season. Thielen handed him the longest touchdown pass of his career by turning a simple curl route early in the fourth quarter into a game-breaking score after spinning past Rams cornerback Dominique Hatfield. Injuries took two of their top three cornerbacks out of the game for the second half. Thielen finished with 123 yards on six receptions, giving him 916 yards this season. The only player in Vikings history to reach 900 yards receiving by the 10-game mark was Randy Moss, who did it in 2000 and 2003. RAVENS 23, PACKERS 0 GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Ravens forced five turnovers in their third shutout of the season. Baltimore last accomplished the feat when the Ray Lewis-led defense had four shutouts for the Super Bowl-winning team in 2000. Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle and Marlon Humphrey each picked off passes for Baltimore (5-5), which led the NFL in interceptions entering the weekend. But a problematic offense couldn't generate a touchdown drive until Joe Flacco's perfect deep ball to Mike Wallace over two defenders for a 13-point lead nearly two minutes into the third quarter. Flacco threw for 183 yards, going 22 of 28 with an interception. His lone touchdown pass was still enough of a cushion against a Packers team struggling without two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, out with a broken collarbone. The Packers (5-5) were last shut out on Nov. 19, 2006, when then-starter Brett Favre left with an elbow injury in the first half of a 35-0 loss to New England. Rodgers, then in his second year in the league, finished off that loss in relief. Rodgers' replacement this year, Brett Hundley, didn't fare any better. He was 21 of 36 for 239 yards. But he threw interceptions on the Packers' first two series. On the third drive, backup running back Devante Mays fumbled on his first carry of the season. CHARGERS 54, BILLS 24 CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Casey Hayward made two of the Chargers' five interceptions during a horrific first half by Buffalo rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, and Los Angeles cruised over the slumping Bills. Korey Toomer returned Peterman's first interception 59 yards for a touchdown on Buffalo's opening drive, the rookie threw two more interceptions in the first quarter and two additional picks in the second. Peterman was pulled from his first NFL start with a 37-7 halftime deficit after just 14 pass attempts for the Bills (5-5), who lost their third straight. Buffalo benched Tyrod Taylor and promoted the fifth-round pick from Pitt earlier this week despite being in playoff position. Coach Sean McDermott replaced Peterman with Taylor in the second half, and the veteran went 15 of 25 for 158 yards, throwing one TD pass and rushing for another score. The Chargers (4-6) thoroughly capitalized on Peterman's mistakes, putting up a 27-point second quarter and their highest-scoring performance in Philip Rivers' 195 consecutive starts since 2006. Los Angeles set a franchise record for points in a first half during the Bills' worst defensive half since 1977, and the Chargers posted a resounding win for coach Anthony Lynn, who finished last season as Bills interim coach. BENGALS 20, BRONCOS 17 DENVER (AP) — Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes in Cincinnati's win over the Broncos, their first win in Denver since 1975 when franchise founder Paul Brown was their head coach. That snapped the Bengals' 10-game losing streak in Denver and sent the Broncos (3-7) to their sixth straight loss, their longest skid in 27 years. Trailing by a field goal with 1:52 left, the Broncos went three-and-out with Brock Osweiler taking a sack and then firing incomplete to Emmanuel Sanders on fourth-and-4 from his 26. The Bengals (4-6) took a 13-7 lead into the locker room with Dalton's TD throws of 1 yard to Tyler Kroft and 29 yards to Alex Erickson. The first was set up by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick's 101-yard interception return and fumble recovery just shy of the opposite end zone after fumbling at the Broncos 15-yard line. LIONS 27, BEARS 24 CHICAGO (AP) — Matthew Stafford threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, Matt Prater kicked a 52-yard field goal with 1:35 remaining. Detroit (6-4) took the lead after Tarik Cohen had tied it for Chicago (3-7) with a 15-yard touchdown run. The Lions escaped with their third straight win when the Bears' Connor Barth was wide right on a 46-yarder in the closing seconds. Stafford completed 21 of 31 passes. Marvin Jones Jr. had four receptions for 85 yards and a TD. DJ Hayden ran back a fumbled snap for a touchdown to give Detroit seven return TDs this season, tying a team record. And the Lions beat the Bears for the eighth time in nine games. Chicago dropped its third straight even though Jordan Howard ran for 125 yards and a touchdown. Mitchell Trubisky faded after a strong start, throwing for 179 yards and a TD. JAGUARS 19, BROWNS 7 CLEVELAND (AP) — Blake Bortles threw a touchdown pass and Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith recovered a fumble for a TD with 1:14 remaining as the Jaguars won their fourth straight and moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC South. Jacksonville's top-ranked defense forced five turnovers, two in the final two minutes. The Jaguars (7-3) built a 10-0 lead and turned things over to their "Sacksonville" defense. The Jaguars intercepted rookie DeShone Kizer twice, had five sacks and blanked the Browns (0-10) in the second half. Cleveland's last hopes ended when Yannick Ngakoue sacked Kizer and knocked the ball into the end zone, where Smith recovered. Earlier, Ngakoue and Calais Campbell combined to sack Kizer, who fumbled as he fell and it was recovered near midfield by Dante Fowler with 1:48 left. With the win, Jacksonville is leading its division after 10 games for the first time since 1999, when the Jags were atop the AFC Central at 9-1. BUCCANEERS 30, DOLPHINS 20 MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns, Patrick Murray kicked a 35-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining and Tampa Bay snapped a six-game road slide by topping the penalty-prone Dolphins. O.J. Howard and DeSean Jackson caught those scoring throws for the Buccaneers, who outscored Miami 17-0 in the second quarter. They also stuffed three straight 1-yard-to-go runs by the Dolphins at the Tampa Bay 34 in the fourth quarter, forcing a turnover on downs on a day when Miami had more mistakes than points. Miami (4-6) tied the game at 20 on a 61-yard pass from Matt Moore to Kenny Stills with 3 minutes left. Fitzpatrick coolly moved the Buccaneers 58 yards on the ensuing drive, and Murray delivered what essentially was the winner. Adarius Glanton got a bonus touchdown for Tampa Bay (4-6) on the final play, when the Dolphins' lateral-filled last-ditch attempt at a kickoff return turned into a Bucs score. Jay Cutler threw three first-half interceptions and didn't play in the second half because of what the Dolphins said was diagnosed as a concussion. TEXANS 31, CARDINALS 21 HOUSTON (AP) — Rookie D'Onta Foreman ran for 65 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns before being carted off the field with an ankle injury to help the Houston Texans snap a three-game skid. The Texans (4-6) went on top when Foreman scored his first career touchdown on a 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals were stopped for a loss on a fourth-and-1 later in the fourth. Foreman dashed 34 yards on the next play to push the lead to 31-21 with about six minutes left. Foreman was injured on the play, falling to the ground in the end zone. He was looked at on the field for a few minutes before he was helped to the cart and taken off the field as the crowd chanted: "Foreman, Foreman." Blaine Gabbert threw for 257 yards and a career-high three touchdowns in his first start of the season with Drew Stanton dealing with a sprained knee and Carson Palmer out for the season with a broken arm. But Gabbert threw interceptions on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter to seal Arizona's fate. The Texans won despite two turnovers by Tom Savage, who has lost six fumbles and thrown three interceptions in four starts this season. He finished 22 of 32 for 230 yards and two touchdowns in his third start since Deshaun Watson was injured. Rookie Ricky Seals-Jones, who didn't have a catch entering Sunday, finished with 54 yards receiving and two touchdowns for the Cardinals (4-6)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 20th, 2017

2017-18 NBA season preview roundup

We're just hours away from tipping off the start of the 2017-18 NBA season. That means it's time to get caught up on your favorite team, their player movement, and their storylines entering this new campaign. Check out what you missed below: Opening day rosters Viewing guide for Oct. 18-23, 2017 Top opening day storylines 5 reasons why the Golden State Warriors will repeat 5 reasons why the Golden State Warriors won't repeat +++ Eastern Conference capsule previews “In a watered down East, Celtics-Cavs is the best thing going”   Atlantic Division Offseason moves Boston Celtics 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Offseason overhaul complete, new era begins for Celtics” Toronto Raptors 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Raptors hope offensive evolution pays off in playoffs” New York Knicks 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Anthony, Jackson gone, but Knicks’ losing likely to continue” Philadelphia 76ers 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “76ers put trust in oft-injured Embiid as franchise player” Brooklyn Nets 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Nets see potential for improvement behind bolstered roster” Central Division Offseason moves Cleveland Cavaliers 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “James returns, Cavaliers debut new 3-MVP starting lineup” Milwaukee Bucks 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Kidd looks to get young Bucks back up to speed quickly” Indiana Pacers 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Pacers change directions, making Turner, Oladipo new leaders” Chicago Bulls 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Bulls go all in on rebuild, gear up for run at high pick” Detroit Pistons 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Drummond under pressure as Pistons try to rebound” Southeast Division Offseason moves Washington Wizards 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Not since ’79: Wall, Beal eye 50 wins, East finals for Wiz” Atlanta Hawks 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Atlanta Hawks begin a long, painful rebuilding process” Miami Heat 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Heat are deep, and hoping that means they’ll contend in East” Charlotte Hornets 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Howard-Clifford reunion may determine Hornets’ success” Orlando Magic 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Magic seek better results, more wins with mostly same roster” Western Conference capsule previews “Surprise! Golden State is the team to beat out West, again” Northwest Division Offseason moves Utah Jazz 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Jazz hope Hood can pick up scoring slack after Hayward exit" Oklahoma City Thunder 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Thunder add reinforcements for MVP Westbrook" Portland Trail Blazers 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Jusuf Nurkic wants Blazers to channel Pistons of days past" Denver Nuggets 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Leaner Nikola Jokic eager to lead Nuggets back to playoffs" Minnesota Timberwolves 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Now or never for the Minnesota Timberwolves" Pacific Division Offseason moves Golden State Warriors 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Kerr pushes Warriors to keep joy, chase repeat championship" LA Clippers 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “With Paul gone, Clippers very much Blake Griffin’s team" Sacramento Kings 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “New-look, youthful Kings try to gain ground in tough West" LA Lakers 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Ball prepared to shine in spotlight with rebuilding Lakers" Phoenix Suns 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “In their 50th season, Suns patient in developing young team" Southwest Division Offseason moves San Antonio Spurs 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Aldridge still trying to find his place with Spurs" Houston Rockets 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Rockets add All-Star Paul as they look to take next step" Memphis Grizzlies 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “New-look Grizzlies leaning heavily on Parsons in new era" New Orleans Pelicans 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Pelicans’ Davis, Cousins embracing throw-back lineup" Dallas Mavericks 1 Team, 1 Stat preview “Mavs take tempered expectations into Nowitzki’s 20th season".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

Royals beat Indians 4-3 to halt Cleveland's record streak

The Associated Press br /> CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians can return to clinching their division and playoff preparations. Their historic winning streak is, well, history. Cleveland's AL-record run was stopped at 22 straight games by Friday night's 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals, who became the first team to conquer the defending league champions since Aug. 23. Jason Vargas (16-10) pitched into the sixth and Brandon Moss homered off Trevor Bauer (16-9) as the Royals ended baseball's longest win streak in 101 years. With one last chance in the ninth, the Indians put the tying run on base before Mike Minor struck out the side for his first pro save, fanning Francisco Lindor on a pitch in the dirt for the final out. DODGERS 7, NATIONALS 0 WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Wood struck out eight in six innings, Corey Seager hit a three-run homer during a five-run second and the Dodgers won on the road. Wood (15-3) allowed three hits and walked one. Los Angeles has won three in a row after losing 11 consecutive games and 16 of 17. The teams entered the highly anticipated three-game series having clinched playoff berths and owning the top two records in the National League. The Dodgers lowered their magic number to clinch the NL West to six. Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig homered in the Dodgers' first Washington appearance since winning Game 5 of the NL Division Series last October. Edwin Jackson (5-6) lasted just 2 1/3 innings. The NL East champion Nationals fell six games back of Los Angeles in the chase for home-field advantage in the playoffs. BREWERS 10, MARLINS 2 MILWAUKEE (AP) — Neil Walker hit a grand slam during an eight-run eighth inning, and the Brewers beat the Marlins in the opening game of a series relocated from Miami to Milwaukee because of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. The Marlins were technically the home team and batted in the bottom of the innings. Milwaukee even used palm trees, fake flamingos and giant blue and pink sea shells to give Miller Park a South Florida feel. Miami's Dee Gordon went hitless in four at-bats to end his 17-game hitting streak. Brian Ellington (0-1) got the loss. Jared Hughes (4-3) picked up the win after tossing a scoreless seventh inning. RED SOX 13, RAYS 6, 15 INNINGS ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Xander Bogaerts had two hits in Boston's seven-run 15th inning and the Red Sox beat Tampa Bay in a game that lasted 6 hours, 5 minutes. Austin Pruitt (7-5) walked Jackie Bradley Jr. to lead off the top of the 15th. Bogaerts followed with a single. Dustin Pedroia hit a ground ball that was misplayed by second baseman Brad Miller, allowing Bradley to score the lead run. Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Moreland, Deven Marraro and Bogaerts drove in extra runs for the Red Sox, who maintained their three-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East. Brandon Workman (1-1) got the win. Blaine Boyer, the 21st pitcher to appear in the game, pitched the 15th for Boston. Nine Red Sox pitchers set a club record with 24 strikeouts. CUBS 8, CARDINALS 2 CHICAGO (AP) — Kris Bryant had three hits, including his 27th homer, and the Cubs opened a big weekend series with their fourth consecutive win. Bryant went deep in the fourth and singled twice in Chicago's seven-run sixth. The NL Central-leading Cubs stayed three games ahead of Milwaukee and increased their advantage over St. Louis to four games. Chicago pitcher John Lackey and catcher Willson Contreras were thrown out for yelling at plate umpire Jordan Baker in the fifth. Carl Edwards Jr. (4-4) pitched a perfect sixth for the win. Tommy Pham homered for St. Louis. Carlos Martinez (11-11) was charged with seven runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. YANKEES 8, ORIOLES 2 NEW YORK (AP) — Didi Gregorius hit a tiebreaking two-run homer and drove in four runs, leading the Yankees to their fifth win in six games. Luis Severino (13-6) allowed three hits in eight innings. He made one big mistake, Welington Castillo's opposite-field, two-run homer to right that put the Orioles ahead 2-1 in the second. Severino is 8-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 12 starts since the All-Star break. Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly in the first, homered against Miguel Castro for a 4-2 lead in the fifth and added another sacrifice fly in a three-run seventh. Baltimore lost for the eighth time in nine games. Gabriel Ynoa (1-2) allowed three runs — two earned — and five hits in 4 1/3 innings. ASTROS 5, MARINERS 2 HOUSTON (AP) — Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis had two hits apiece and each drove in a run, and the Astros moved closer to clinching the AL West title. Houston's magic number dropped to two, meaning the Astros could secure their first division championship since 2001 with a win on Saturday if the Angels lose Friday or Saturday. The Astros led 3-0 after one inning as James Paxton (12-4) struggled in his return from the disabled list after sitting out since Aug. 10 with a strained pectoral muscle. He allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings to snap a seven-game winning streak. Charlie Morton (12-7) pitched six strong innings for Houston. Ken Giles tossed a scoreless ninth for his 31st save. DIAMONDBACKS 3, GIANTS 2 SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Robbie Ray won his fifth straight start and A.J. Pollock hit a two-run double as Arizona beat San Francisco. Ray (14-5) struck out 10 and gave up two runs (one earned), six hits and no walks as the Diamondbacks won for the 19th time in 24 games and for the eighth straight time on the road. The Diamondbacks trailed 2-1 when Pollock doubled in two runs off Jeff Samardzija (9-14) in the seventh inning. Arizona reduced its magic number for clinching its first postseason berth since 2011 to seven. BLUE JAYS 4, TWINS 3 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Josh Donaldson homered and drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning with an infield single that ricocheted off the mound, sending Toronto to the win. J.A. Happ (9-10) pitched into the seventh inning in his third straight win, and Roberto Osuna got three outs for his 36th save in 46 opportunities. The Twins had a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for the second AL wild card going into the night, with the Seattle Mariners 3 1/2 games back. The New York Yankees hold the first wild card with a four-game edge on the Twins. Twins starter Bartolo Colon (6-13) was charged with four runs in six-plus innings on 'Big Sexy Night.' The Twins had souvenir T-shirts for fans who bought a special ticket package in honor of the burly right-hander, who joined the Twins two months ago and has more than held his own despite his decreased velocity. ANGELS 7, RANGERS 6 ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — C.J. Cron hit a two-run homer to cap the a five-run rally in the sixth inning, and Los Angeles trimmed its deficit in the AL wild-card race to two games. Andrelton Simmons had two run-scoring singles for the Angels (75-72), who gained a game on the Minnesota Twins (77-70) with just their third win in eight games. Los Angeles used seven pitchers in a bullpen start, with former closer Bud Norris getting the first six outs. Yusmeiro Petit (5-0) pitched two perfect innings, and Blake Parker earned a six-out save. Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-run homer in the sixth for Texas (72-75). The Rangers have lost four straight and six of seven, their playoff hopes down to a flicker. Yohander Mendez (0-1) took the loss. ROCKIES 6, PADRES 1 DENVER (AP) — Tyler Chatwood pitched into the sixth inning and drove in his first runs of the season, helping the Rockies to the victory. Nolan Arenado homered as Colorado remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee and moved 3 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis for the second NL wild card. Chatwood (8-12) tossed 5 2/3 innings and left after Wil Myers' 28th homer. It was Chatwood's third start after six relief appearances. San Diego's Clayton Richard (7-14) allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings. REDS 4, PIRATES 2 CINCINNATI (AP) — Zack Cozart hit two of Cincinnati's four solo home runs, powering the last-place Reds to the victory. Joey Votto and Scott Schebler also connected, sending the Pirates to their third straight loss and eighth in the last nine games. Homer Bailey (5-8) allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings for his first win in six starts since Aug. 11. Raisel Iglesias got five outs for his 27th save. Chad Kuhl (7-11) gave up all four home runs, a single-game career high for the second-year right-hander. ATHLETICS 4, PHILLIES 0 PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Daniel Mengden pitched a two-hitter for Oakland, and Matt Olson and Matt Joyce each hit a two-run homer. Mengden (1-1) struck out seven and walked none in his first career shutout in his 18th start. J.P Crawford had both hits off Mengden. Phillies starter Mark Leiter Jr. (3-6) allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings. Mengden also got his first career hit, a single off Crawford's glove in the shortstop hole before Joyce connected in the second. TIGERS 3, WHITE SOX 2 DETROIT (AP) — Mikie Mahtook hit a game-ending RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning, helping Detroit stop a six-game skid. Former Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque (0-2) walked Jeimer Candelario with one out in the ninth, and Aaron Bummer walked Tyler Collins with two outs. White Sox manager Rick Renteria brought in Juan Minaya, who uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners to second and third. Mahtook then hit a 3-2 pitch up the middle for his first career game-ending hit. Shane Greene (4-3) got four outs for the win. BRAVES 3, METS 2 ATLANTA (AP) — Sean Newcomb struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings, and the Braves handed the Mets their fifth straight loss. Newcomb (3-8) gave up two runs and six hits. Arodys Vizcaino pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 13 opportunities. Rafael Montero (5-10) became the fourth straight Mets starter pitcher to fail to complete five innings. He was lifted with two outs in the fifth after throwing 108 pitches and allowing three runs and seven hits. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 16th, 2017

WATCH: Behind the doors of the 2019 Big Bad Wolf Book Sale

MANILA, Philippines – They say it's the "world's biggest book sale," and anyone who goes might be inclined to agree. The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale kicked off with a special preview for select guests on Thursday, February 21, with stacks upon stacks of books calling out to attendees. This year, the ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated News19 hr. 14 min. ago

Giants manager Bruce Bochy to retire after this season

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Bruce Bochy has always managed with his gut. Those same instincts told him it's nearly time to retire. Bochy announced Monday this will be his last season managing the San Francisco Giants, his 25th in all as a big league manager. He told the team before Monday's spring training workout at Scottsdale Stadium. "In my mind it's time," he said. Bochy, who turns 64 on April 16, had offseason hip replacement surgery that has him moving more swiftly and he insists "the health's great" and didn't factor into the choice. He begins his 13th season with the Giants. He led the club to World Series championships in 2010, '12 and '14. "I've managed with my gut. I came up here in 2007 on my gut. So it's a gut feeling it's time," Bochy said. "It's been an unbelievable ride. There's so much in there to be grateful for, with the players, the city, the fans, my ride here. It's time. I'll stay in baseball and do something. ... I'm not going too far, trust me. I love this game. It's been in my blood, so sure I'll be doing something in another capacity and I look forward to it." Bochy came to San Francisco from the San Diego Padres before the 2007 season, in time to watch Barry Bonds break Hank Aaron's career home run record that August. He managed Matt Cain's perfect game in 2012 and a pair of no-hitters by Tim Lincecum against the Padres in July 2013 and June '14. "This will give me time to go back and reflect and even watch some games and think about some of these great achievements and milestones these players have reached," Bochy said. "I've always had a deep appreciation for the gifts and talents of these players. I consider myself fortunate to have managed players like a Bonds and Lincecum." Every other manager with three or more titles has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. "I haven't even thought about that," Bochy said. Giants CEO Larry Baer already envisions a place in Cooperstown for Bochy, "Words cannot adequately express the amount of admiration, gratitude and respect the Giants family has for Bruce Bochy," Baer said in a statement. "His honesty, integrity, passion and brilliance led to the most successful period of Giants baseball in the history of our franchise. He will always be a Giant and we look forward to honoring him and all of his achievements throughout his final season in San Francisco and inevitably in Cooperstown." Giants Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford considers himself fortunate to have played for the same manager his entire career. "That's definitely special. I don't think many guys have one manager throughout their entire career," Crawford said. "Obviously we have this year to take care of first. Hopefully we make it a memorable one for him. A part of what's made him such a good manager over the years is just being able to work with the players he has, whether that's the bullpen or the bench, he always seemed to plug the right pieces at the right times." Bochy has faced daily questions about his future, and he wanted to address his plans now and avoid distractions later in the season when he hopes to have a contender again following two years out of the playoffs. He intends to stay in baseball. "It's something I put a lot of thought in it," Bochy said. "There's a lot of things that I look forward to doing, but right now my head's at this moment, hey, I'm going to focus on getting this team ready. I look forward to one more shot, trust me, and us having a big year. I'm all in." He spent his first 12 seasons as a manager with the Padres from 1995-2006, guiding San Diego to the NL pennant in 1998. Bochy came to the decision over the winter, but had all but realized this would be his last year at the end of the 2018 season. He discussed it with family and the front office. Executive Brian Sabean was hardly surprised by his dear friend's decision, saying "that's a pretty elite and, as we all know, fast treadmill to now do this for 25 years." "Two different organizations, four trips to the World Series, you win three, that's pretty elite company," Sabean said. Once he's through, Bochy will stick to his simple life of fishing excursions and family. "I'm not going anywhere. I don't have any cruises planned, trust me, I don't plan on going up Mount Everest. Baseball, that's my life. I'll be around," Bochy said. "I don't have a bucket list. There's no hidden agenda in all this, trust me.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 18th, 2019

UAAP Juniors Finals Preview: NU favored over Ateneo

Can NU finish off Ateneo in two, and does Ateneo have what it takes to overcome NU?.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsFeb 18th, 2019

Jordan s weight reaches farther than court in NC

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CHARLOTTE -- Unlike Mark Cuban and James Dolan, the host of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game was voted in 14 times to participate and played in 13. Quite different from Micky Arison and Glen Taylor, the team owner whose arena and city will be the center of All-Star 2019 averaged 20.2 points in those 13 All-Star appearances, was named MVP three times and posted the first triple-double in the game’s history (1997). And not at all like Steve Ballmer and Joe Lacob, the guy most often credited with making Charlotte All-Star worthy this weekend ignited the annual Slam Dunk Contest with his takeoff from the foul line in 1988. He also regularly irritated former NBA commissioner David Stern into a series of fines for golfing when he should have been sitting through mandatory Friday media sessions. With a level of celebrity as arguably the game’s greatest player ever, morphed now into an off-radar role as owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan remains as famous, as popular and as successful as any or all the active All-Star participants who’ll cavort at the Spectrum Center in the city’s Uptown business district. Ain’t no other NBA owner who can say that. “You think about all these wealthy, successful owners in our league,” said Hornets president Fred Whitfield, “no one knew who any of them were, really, until they bought their team. Everybody in the world knew who Michael Jordan was before he bought his team.” Jordan’s place in the All-Star galaxy in the coming days is reflective of his unique position among those who oversee the NBA’s 29 other franchises. His impact on the team, on its fans, on their city and on the state in returning to his native North Carolina -- he grew up in coastal Wilmington before attending college in Chapel Hill -- to anchor and lend stability to the Hornets will be on full display, even if he’s hard to spot this weekend. It’s all a reminder, too, of the old movie line from a remarkably blessed character, wondering “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” Most don’t dare to imagine playing in an All-Star Game, never mind hosting one as the owner of the local team. “No,” Jordan told some Charlotte reporters Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), coming forward for one of his few appearances of the week. “As a kid growing up here in North Carolina, the first thing [was] playing basketball. And then things evolved from there -- from the University of North Carolina to Chicago. Obviously you know the history from that. “[The] opportunity to represent North Carolina in an All-Star Game from a different seat is truly amazing. It tells the path that I have taken. It gives me great pleasure to give that back to the community. It’s been a long-traveled road.” The celebration of the league’s brightest stars, and the ubiquitous banners and signage devoted to it will make it even harder than usual to visibly spot signs of Jordan’s ownership of the Hornets. For a typical regular season game, you might spy a flag emblazoned with his well-known “Jumpman” logo. Occasionally he’ll watch part of the game, rarely all, from seats at the end of his team’s bench, though he’s as likely to retreat to his suite atop the arena’s lower bowl. An in-game, timeout scoreboard video meant to stoke the crowd includes shots of GM Mitch Kupchak (“Architect of Champions”) and coach James Borrego (“Elite Pedigree”) but ends right about the time you expect some dramatic silhouette of His Airness to appear. It’s as if Jordan is as protective of his brand in running the Hornets as he is in maintaining its exclusivity in the marketplace. Doesn’t matter, though. His fingerprints are all over the franchise, as a basketball team, as a business enterprise and as a member of the community. On court, Jordan trusts his team Jordan’s greatest notoriety as an owner in a basketball setting may have come in December, when he was courtside for a tense game against Detroit. Guard Jeremy Lamb drained a 22-foot jumper with 0.3 seconds left, sending reserves Malik Monk and Bismack Biyombo onto the floor in celebration of what would be a 108-107 home victory. Trouble was, that sliver of time on the clock. Too many men. The Hornets were whistled for a one-shot technical foul and Jordan impulsively smacked Monk lightly, twice, on the back of the head. Any other owner does that, the player’s agent might file a grievance with the players union. Jordan does it and, thanks to his in-the-trenches, in-the-fraternity credibility, it comes across as a goof. “A tap of endearment,” Jordan called it later in a statement. “It was like a big brother and little brother tap. No negative intent. Only love!" Said Monk: “Big, big, big brother. But it was nothing. He was just playing.” The arc of Jordan’s career and his reputation as a stone-cold competitor make it OK if he wants to vent -- or swipe -- when things don’t go the Hornets’ way. Doesn’t matter that Jordan, who will turn 56 on All-Star Sunday, is old enough to be any of his players' dad. He still carries himself like an athlete, and their frame of reference remains, “That’s Mike.” “I’ve seen kids come up through camps,” said Buzz Peterson, Charlotte’s assistant general manager under Kupchak. “You could say Julius Erving, you could say Larry Johnson, Karl Malone, whatever, and the kids’ eyes are like, ‘Who?’ But you say Michael Jordan, they’re gonna know. That’s the separation there.” Peterson is among Jordan’s closest friends -- he beat him out as North Carolina’s prep player of the year in 1981, won an NCAA title with him as a Tar Heels teammate and is described by those who know both as someone who can disagree with the boss while staying comfortably in the inner circle. For Borrego, Charlotte’s first-year coach, interviewing to run Jordan’s team could have been intimidating. “We’re all human beings -- there’s a presence that comes with ‘Michael Jordan’ when he’s around,” Borrego told NBA.com in January. “But it’s healthy. He comes with a competitive spirit that you feel. “Michael was straight with me from Day 1. When I interviewed, he said, ‘I’m going to give you space to do your job. Whatever you need, you come to me. I’ll give you the resources you need.’ He has not tried to interfere one time. I feel his full support. … We’re starting to speak each other’s language, which is pretty healthy for us now.” Jordan keeps the coach apprised of his interactions with players, Borrego said. Other coaches should have such a resource at the ready. Hornets guard and 2019 All-Star starter Kemba Walker probably has benefited most from Jordan’s counsel. They text frequently, a pinch-me arrangement to this day for Walker. “I grew up wearing Jordans, grew up wanting to be like Jordan,” Walker said recently. “So for me to get this opportunity to be on his team means the world to me. He’s the one who believed in me -- I had no idea where I was going to go on draft night and he traded up for me. I’ve always heard the story, he was the one who actually drafted me. So it’s unbelievable. “He’s such a good dude. He understands what it is to be good. His delivery is always good. Only in a positive way, honestly.” Said rookie wing Miles Bridges: “You think there’ll be a lot of pressure having MJ as an owner. I’d seen how he got on his teammates when he played. So I was nervous, thinking if I had a bad game, he’d go at me like, ‘What’re you doing?’ But after meeting him and bonding with him, I feel like he’s the coolest owner out there. I don’t feel any pressure, I feel like he wants the best for us.” Big man Frank Kaminsky typically sits at the end of the bench, which puts him cheek to cheek with Jordan when he’s courtside. “He’s talking about what he’s seeing out on the court. Talking to the refs,” Kaminsky said. “Things other players don’t necessarily see. He still thinks the game. “You see things on the court that he sees. One game, the roll, pocket-pass, skip to the corner was open. He was saying that. We made an adjustment in a timeout, but he saw it a couple plays before that. At the end of that game, we had a big play that was a roll, pocket-pass, into the corner that put the game away. It worked the way he’d seen it.” The Hornets’ struggles during Jordan’s tenure as owner wouldn’t suggest it -- the last time this organization won a playoff series (2002), Jordan still was a player -- but there is a prestige to playing for his team. It’s not unlike being welcomed onto the list of elite athletes who endorse Jordan Brand. “I’m one of the lucky ones who’s in both,” Kaminsky said. “You’re talking about the most iconic player in sports history -- I might be biased because I grew up in Chicago -- but when you have his approval, it means a lot. You have it in the back of your mind that he wants you here.” Head smack or no head smack. Jordan grows as owner, businessman Basketball is a zero-sum game and the NBA is full of stars, even if none shines quite as brightly as Jordan. But business has room for negotiation and compromise, and deals get struck daily that leave both sides happy. There, Jordan has been beyond clutch. Funnel down everything he’s accomplished -- six NBA championships, the league’s highest career scoring average (30.1), five MVP awards, six Finals MVP, 10 scoring titles, nine All-Defensive team nods -- and it invariably ends with clammy hands. The “wow” factor is real and the Hornets are extremely careful about leveraging it. “It gives our organization a certain cachet,” said Whitfield, another longtime friend who goes back more than 35 years with Jordan. “For him to be majority owner, for him to do it in his home state as a local hometown hero, and to be able to come back and not just lead the team and the rebranding from the Bobcats to the Hornets, but his commitment to the community in giving back, it’s something that’s so special.” That’s a lot to unpack. When Jordan initially signed on with the Hornets, he did so as head of its basketball operations in 2006, purchasing a small minority stake in the team. The team was bad, the business was worse and trending down. “Back in ’08-09, the economy was in the tank and I was mandated to ‘displace’ 42 of our executives here on the business side,” Whitfield said. “When Michael bought the team, we were losing $30 million a year.’ Brought back into the league in 2004 two years after the original Hornets (1988-2002) were moved to New Orleans by reviled owner George Shinn, the Charlotte expansion team was owned -- and nicknamed -- by Bob Johnson, a co-founder of the BET television network. The Bobcats excelled only at losing and were 122 games under .500 in their first five seasons. The front office was understaffed, Spectrum Center (then known as Time Warner Cable Arena) needed renovations almost from its inception and there was a real sense that, if a buyer with deep pockets and a commitment to the area weren’t found, the franchise could be moved. In March 2010, Jordan ponied up the cash to become majority owner. But it says something that the deal stands as one of the few, if ever, instances of an NBA franchise being sold at a discount. Johnson paid $300 million for the team; Jordan purchased it for $275 million. Forbes.com recently had Charlotte worth $1.25 billion -- which ranks 28th. And Jordan reportedly has one of the biggest stakes of all NBA owners, with his share estimated at upwards of 90 percent, possibly as high as 98 percent. That’s a lot of success in nine years, despite the basketball team’s mostly middling performance. “With MJ being with the team, you got instant credibility in the marketplace,” said Pete Guelli, the chief operating officer who started on the job about 10 months before Jordan took ownership. “There had been a lot of uncertainty previously, but with his brand and his resources and his commitment, that just dissipated immediately. It was much, much easier to walk in the door and tell people about our vision for this franchise.” Rebranding the team as “Hornets” gave the franchise an existential boost -- it suddenly had a history again, complete with records, archives and true alumni. The arena got a makeover and, per Guelli, is credited for events there that generate an alleged $1 billion in revenues for local businesses. “Fortunately, we’ve been profitable pretty much since [Jordan took over],” Whitfield said. “That’s huge, especially since we haven’t gotten where we want to be on the basketball side.” Closing a new kind of game now It’s hard to overstate Jordan’s added value, not so much as some corporate or financial whiz but as a presence who brought instant motivation and energy to the staff. He imported executives with whom he had developed relationships at Nike or in other ventures and, after taking early criticism for an uncertain level of involvement, has been more diligent in recent years. “I love seeing him sitting at the end of the bench encouraging his players when he attends a game” said Charles F. Bowman, Bank of America’s market president for Charlotte and North Carolina. “And as a business person what impresses me is that he has empowered his management team to focus not only on the court but also on building bridges with the community. “He had a vision for where he was taking the team and a clear plan to get there. He has hired good people, gives them latitude to make decisions and he expects them to perform. Michael is unique -- the best player ever who is determined to keep getting better year over year as an owner.” The NBA has gotten a taste of Jordan’s growth and transition at some pivotal times. This is the legendary voice of the players who, during rancorous negotiations in the 1998 lockout, countered Washington owner Abe Pollin’s gripes about losing money by telling Pollin to sell his team. By the lockout of 2011, Jordan had moved to the other side of the table. But several members of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee saw him not as an opponent or turncoat but as a role model: someone who had transformed himself from employee to employer at the game’s highest level. “The players understood, he had been in their shoes,” Whitfield said. “He’s not forgetting what it meant to be a player. He was in the process of learning what it meant to be an owner.” When the current collective bargaining agreement was negotiated with commissioner Adam Silver and union director Michele Roberts leading the talks, Jordan was an active, powerful voice. He is an influential member of the NBA’s labor relations and competition committees. One Charlotte insider spoke to Jordan’s clout with his fellow owners in getting this weekend’s showcase -- jeopardized by a political squabble in 2017 -- back onto the league’s short list. “There’s no All-Star Game here in Charlotte if it’s not for MJ,” the person said. Last summer in Las Vegas, Silver lauded Jordan for his ability to straddle the basketball and business worlds. “He brings unique credibility to the table when we're having discussions [with the players],” he said, “and even just among the owners, he's able to represent a player point of view… Michael can say, 'Well, look, this is how I looked at it when I was a player, and these are the kind of issues we need to address if we're going to convince players that something is in everyone's interest.’ ” Jordan’s powers of persuasion apparently have been even more impressive in Charlotte and North Carolina. The executives are careful about relying on him too often -- Jordan’s most precious commodity, now that his net worth is estimated to be upwards of $1.7 billion -- is his time. But when they need Mariano Rivera to walk in from the bullpen, he is lights out. “We’ve had corporate sponsors at a golf outing, and he’s been there, maybe stayed at one hole to tell off with everybody,” Whitfield said. Or they’ll invite certain corporate sponsors to one of a few games each season in which “Club 23” is up and running at the Spectrum Center, a private club built for such purposes. They get a chance to visit, talk with and pick Jordan’s brain on the Hornets and much more. “We’ve closed all those deals,” Whitfield said. Then there was the time a local CEO wanted to finalize a sizeable sponsorship deal with the team, and had his No. 2 invite Jordan over to their headquarters for the meetings. Whitfield told the tale: “This guy says, 'You have to come to our office. Our CEO is the man in our business.' But we’re like, 'Nah, typically, CEOs come and meet in Michael’s office or in ‘Club 23’ over here.' He said no, that wasn’t going to work for them. “So Pete Guelli said, 'Let’s make a deal: We’ll take your CEO and drop him off in Beijing. And we’ll drop off Michael in Beijing. Then we’ll see who more people gravitate to. Whoever gets the least people, he has to come to the other guy’s office.'” Point made. Point taken. Said Whitfield: “The guy says, ‘You know what, I got it. We’ll be over 10 o’clock Friday morning.’” A community he calls home The Michael Jordan who once seemed determined to float above cultural and political frays as the most prudent way to serve commerce has not held back in recent years from making his presence felt. He has been more philanthropist than activist and, let’s face it, in times of the most dire need, cash beats talk every time. Charity and investing in the community can be good for business, sure. Making that a priority after Guelli’s arrival and Jordan’s purchase helped the Hornets build bridges with fans and merchants that Shinn and the original franchise’s departure had torched. More than that, though, giving back for Jordan and his team at this point in his life was the right thing to do. And do, and do, and do. The list of charitable and civic efforts Jordan and the Hornets have undertaken is long, with few outside the region or state aware of most of it. Among the highlights: - Donating $2 million to relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Florence, particularly meaningful because of the damage it did in Jordan’s hometown of Wilmington. - Dedicated $7 million in partnership with Novant Health to fund two Michael Jordan Family Clinics, set to open in Charlotte in 2020. - Serving as Make-A-Wish’s Chief Wish Ambassador since 2008, while donating more than $5 million to the organization. His relationship with Make-A-Wish began more than 30 years ago. - Contributing $5 million as a founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. - Addressing the issue of police shootings and community policing in 2016 by donating $1 million each to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. After the hurricane in September devastated so many homes and businesses in and near Jordan’s roots, he wanted to do more than to stroke a fat check. In a meeting covered by The Associated Press, he met with Stephanie Parker and her family, including four young children, after they lost their apartment in two feet of flooding. A call from the director of the Cape Fear chapter of the Red Cross brought them together. The meeting took place at a Lowe’s home improvement store. “I look around the corner, and it’s Michael Jordan. ‘Oh my God!’" Parker said. “I look at my kids, ‘It’s Michael Jordan!’ I’m not going to lie, some tears came in my eyes, because the first thing that went through my mind was when I was younger, his last game when he was on the Chicago Bulls team, and that flashback just came right in my mind.” Afterward, Jordan was coaxed by the Charlotte Observer to talk about why that disaster resonated so deeply for him. “You gotta take care of home,” he said. “Wilmington truly is my home. Kept thinking about all those places I grew up going to … You don’t want to see any of that anywhere, but when it’s home, that’s tough to swallow.” There’s basketball, there’s business and then there’s real life, which sometimes intrudes in the most desperate ways. “We didn’t know how many people in our community were hungry,” Whitfield said. “There are people in dire need, and it’s special to have that hometown hero have in his heart that ‘This is where I can help.’ “It gives not only him as a person but our organization a platform to really speak out. That commitment is what has made him a special owner, and why he’s even more beloved in our community.” Winning title No. 7 drives Jordan now To date, Jordan’s greatest achievements have come elsewhere, at least since his baseline shot as a freshman propelled North Carolina to the 1982 NCAA championship. Those Bulls championships, the “Dream Team” magnificence, his partnership with that sneaker company in Beaverton, Ore., his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction, shooting “Space Jam,” all of it -- his legacy has been crafted with others, for others, mostly far from home. (For the record, Jordan, his wife Yvette and their two daughters own a mansion outside Charlotte and an estate in south Florida). “Look, this has always been home for him,” Whitfield said. “Even though he was drafted by Chicago, WGN became a very popular station. And he just continued to elevate, so people in this state were proud to say, even though he’s a Bull, we love him. When the Bulls would come here and play at the old Coliseum, these fans who were avid Hornets fans were all pulling for Michael Jordan. “He’d score, they’d cheer loudly. The Hornets would score, they’d cheer loudly. North Carolina always felt like he was their native son who went off and achieved greatness.” Coming back first to head the franchise’s basketball operations and then as owner, Jordan’s role -- in light of the modest results on the court -- has been custodial. Yes, the club’s improved financial stability is important. But for this driven winner and NBA owner unlike all others, custodial isn’t going to cut it for long. “He did an interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine a while back,” Peterson said, “and the question was asked, ‘What would you like to do?’ And he said, ‘Win a seventh championship. Win as an owner.’ So for me, every day, I’m thinking, here’s a close friend and you want to make your friends happy, right? So each day I think, do the best you can to reach this goal for him.” Said Hornets wing Nicolas Batum: “I understand. He wants to win. He wants to compete since he was born.” It hasn’t been for lack of trying, although Jordan has made sure to keep fiscal responsibility high on every agenda. The team’s payroll for 2018-19 is approximately $122.3 million, which ranks near the middle of the NBA pack. “That Michael Jordan is one cheap dude,” said an impassioned cab driver on a recent airport run. “He’s only going to spend so much and the players they get shows it.” The Hornets never have spent into the league’s luxury-tax, and if Walker is retained when he hits free agency this summer, he’ll likely become the first Charlotte player to sign a full maximum-salary contract (though the five-year, $120 million deal Batum landed in 2016 came awfully close). Injuries and dubious moves have taken a toll, a situation that Kupchak, Borrego and their staffs have been tasked with fixing. Jordan, by all accounts, is engaged yet patient, with a playoff berth and potentially a record above .500 within reach. “I’m sure he feels like,” Whitfield said, “if he were still 30 years old and could lace ‘em up and get out there, he’d help us get over the hump. I think he would cherish it as much or more than the first six. Because I think he realizes how hard it is to get it done. “But it doesn’t bother us if the fans see his frustration sitting next to our bench. It’s important to us that they see he’s not only invested, he’s vested in what our team is trying to do. They can relate to him because they’re feeling that same frustration.” Jordan is theirs again and that’s what matters. For basketball, for business, for community and in time, just maybe, in championship. 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......»»

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