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Category: lifestyleSource: abscbn abscbnMay 15th, 2018

Now or never for the Minnesota Timberwolves

em>By Jon Krawczynski, Associated Press /em> MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves have gone through a makeover this summer, changing their logo, their uniforms and renovating Target Center to usher in a new look for a team that has been a doormat for well over a decade now. If logo designer Rodney Richardson wanted to add a Bulls head to the new look, it would have been appropriate. After a disappointing first season in Minnesota, coach and president Tom Thibodeau went looking for some familiar faces from his days with the Chicago Bulls to set a different tone with a team that has spent the last four seasons billing itself as a young and exciting group on the rise. Jimmy Butler came from Chicago in a trade. Former Bulls Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks were added in free agency. Thibs even added John Lucas III to the coaching staff to try and bring another voice familiar with his system and knowledgeable of his demands to the organization to make sure nothing gets lost in translation. Thibodeau will never admit that there was a concerted effort to target ex-Bulls. But there is no dispute he went looking for players from his Chicago era to add an edge to a team that features young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. “It was who fit us best and what we needed,” Thibodeau said. At the top of that list was toughness. A young team with few proven veterans lost 22 games last season in which it held a double-digit lead. Butler and Gibson bring that by the bucketful, and the Wolves also added 37-year-old Jamal Crawford to the bench for another veteran who has been in all kinds of big spots. “A lot of guys don’t understand when you get to the NBA, it’s not just about running up and down the court and smiling and having fun,” Gibson said. “It’s a business. Everyone has to align with each other like a puzzle piece.” The Wolves go into the season in a loaded Western Conference looking to end the longest active playoff drought in the league, which stretches back to 2004. After hoping that streak would end for several years, this year that is the expectation. The season opener is Oct. 18 at San Antonio. Here are some things to watch with the Timberwolves this season: strong>WIGGINS RE-UPS: /strong>Wiggins finally signed a five-year, $148 million contract extension on Wednesday, ending a head-scratching process that was made more complicated by his decision to part ways with agent Bill Duffy on the brink of a new deal in August. The deal is sure to be one of the more polarizing in the NBA for a gifted scorer who has yet to make an All-Star team. strong>KAT’S MEOW: /strong>Towns has put up some incredible numbers in his first two seasons, making him a fashionable choice to become the league’s next big star. Perhaps the only thing holding him back is a bigger commitment on the defensive end. Towns frequently lost focus on that end last season, but flashed strong potential as a rookie when playing alongside Kevin Garnett. Playing in a starting five with Gibson and Butler figures to help him make the necessary strides. strong>BJELICA’S RECOVERY: /strong>Nemanja Bjelica has never been a starter in his three seasons with the Wolves, but he may be one of the team’s most important players. At his best, he is a versatile, playmaking shooter who can play multiple positions and give the second unit some much-needed offensive punch. He was just starting to show everything he can do last season when he went down with a broken foot. He has been playing in the preseason, and the Wolves will need him to stay healthy and effective to compete in the West. strong>MUHAMMAD RETURNS: /strong>Shabazz Muhammad turned down a four-year, $40 million contract offer from the Timberwolves before last season, hopeful that another strong year could help him break the bank as a free agent in the summer. But the salary cap did not increase as many projected, and Muhammad was one of many restricted free agents to get squeezed. He wound up settling for a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, a bargain for the Wolves. Now Muhammad is motivated to have a strong season for a competitive team to try to recoup some of the money he lost. “We felt fortunate we were able to get him back,” Thibodeau said. strong>RUBIO’S REPLACEMENT: /strong>The Wolves traded longtime point guard Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz this summer and brought in Jeff Teague on a three-year, $57 million deal to give Thibodeau the scoring point guard he wanted. Rubio is an immensely popular figure locally, and it didn’t take Teague long to figure out what kind of shoes he has to fill. “He was a fan favorite,” Teague said. “I hear it every day. No, seriously. I really do.” .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Q& A: Hall of Fame Bob Lanier

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Bob Lanier turned 70 Monday, a big number for a big man. In fact, that number can be linked to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer in several ways. It was in 1970 that Lanier was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, selected out of St. Bonaventure by the Detroit Pistons. And it was the 70s as the decade in which Lanier excelled, earning seven of his eight All-Star appearances while averaging 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds for the Pistons. Dinosaurs ruled the NBA landscape back then, with Lanier achieving his success against the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Dave Cowens, Willis Reed, Nate Thurmond, Elvin Hayes, Artis Gilmore and other legendary big men. Yet it was Lanier who was the MVP of the 1974 All-Star Game, who won the one-off, 32-contestant 1-on-1 championship tournament run by ABC in 1973 as part of its national broadcast schedule and who (with Walton) got name-dropped by Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980 Hollywood comedy “Airplane!” [“I'm out there busting my buns every night!” he tells a kid as “co-pilot Roger Murdock.” “Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!”] Lanier’s Detroit teams never got beyond the conference semifinals, though, so in 1979-80 he asked to be traded. In February 1980, the Pistons dealt him to Milwaukee for Kent Benson and a future draft pick. With the Bucks, who averaged 59 victories in Lanier’s four full seasons there, Lanier flirted with his greatest team success, yet never reached The Finals. He was 36 when bad knees and other injuries forced him to retire. Those knees still are trouble, preventing Lanier from attending this year’s Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony -- he was elected in 1992 -- and limiting his ability to travel from his home in Arizona to catch his daughter Khalia’s volleyball games at USC. But the man nicknamed “The Dobber” was as chatty and opinionated as ever in a phone conversation last week with NBA.com: NBA.com: The league still keeps you busy, doesn’t it? Bob Lanier: Well, it did. But about 15 months ago, I had knee replacement surgery on my right leg and that is not going very well. It still aches and it gets me unbalanced. That’s what I was trying to get away from. The surgeon said mine was the most difficult one he’d ever done. I was supposed to get the left one done but I couldn’t, because the right one was bothering me so much. I can’t even stand to hit a golf ball. NBA.com: You were part of the original Stay In School initiative, if I recall correctly. BL: I was involved with a little bit of everything from the time David [Stern, longtime NBA commissioner] first called me in 1988. It started off with wanting me to do something for kids who stayed in school. We did “P-R-I-D-E,” with P for positive mental attitude, R for respect, I for intelligent choice-making, D for dreaming and setting goals, and E for effort and education. It was really amazing. The first year, we were talking about giving out 25,000 Starter jackets for kids who came to the rally. Shoot, we needed double that amount, the numbers we got. Everything is kind of under the same umbrella now with NBA Cares. Kathy Behrens [president, social responsibility and player programs] has done a wonderful job of taking this to a whole ‘nother level, her and Adam [Silver, NBA commissioner]. NBA.com: Have you ever had one of those kids whose lives you touched reach out to you years later? BL: [Laughs]. You know what, I’m laughing because you don’t expect to hear from anybody. The only time that somebody really validated something we were doing was when I wrote those books. (The “Hey, Li’l D!” series of kids books, loosely based on Lanier’s childhood adventures. Co-authored with Heather Goodyear in 2003, the Scholastic Paperbacks books still are available.) I was on a plane and one of the passengers asked me to sign the book for her, for her child. I was so taken aback by that, I was shaking while I was signing the autograph. That was really good -- I thought, maybe I did something right. NBA.com: But none of the Stay In School kids? BL: Look, in our business, in community relations and social responsibility areas, you don’t really … when you’re building houses for people, the folks who work with you side by side give you a thumbs up and say thank you before it’s over. When we do the playgrounds, we use kids in the neighborhood who are going to enjoy playing in it and having dreams -- they’re thankful. But there’s so much need out here. When you’re traveling around to different cities and different countries, you see there are so many people in dire straits that the NBA can only do so much. We make a vast, vast difference, but there’s always so much more to do. NBA.com: I know you’re not in it for the thank yous. BL: No. The only thing that stands out to me is from when I was still playing in Milwaukee and I was getting gas at a station on, I think it was Center St. A guy came up to me and said, “My dad is sick. And you’re his favorite player. Could you come up to the house and say hello to him? The house is right next door.” So I went over, I went upstairs. The guy was laying there in his bed. His son said, “This is Bob,” and he was like, “I know.” And he just had a little smile, a twinkle in his eye. And he grabbed my hand and squeezed it. And we said a little prayer. About two weeks later, his dad had died. And he left a card at the Bucks office, just saying “Thank you for making one of my dad’s final days into a good day.” NBA.com: It probably wasn’t, and isn’t, uncommon for you to be spotted out in public like that. At your size (6-foot-11, 250 pounds as a player). BL: As time passes on, people know you at first because you’re a player. Then you stop playing. And 10 years after, when a player like Shaquille O’Neal comes along, they know him and figure you must be Shaq’s dad. “You’re wearing them big shoes.” I just go along with it. “Yeah, I’m Shaq’s dad!” NBA.com: That has to sting, seeing as how Shaq took your title for the NBA’s biggest sneakers. You were famous for your size-22s. BL: Yeah, he sent me a pair one time and I think they were 23s. For some reason, I recall he would wear 23s and three pairs of socks or something instead of the 22s. NBA.com: Isn’t it sobering how quickly sports fans forget even distinctive-looking players such as yourself? BL: Absolutely correct. But that’s why we in the NBA and at the players association have to do a better job of passing down the history of our game. In a way that they’ll absorb it. Not necessarily that they’ll have to read it – it could be in a video game form, because that seems to hold interest a lot. NBA.com: You have been as busy in your post-playing career for the NBA as you ever were while playing, right? BL: I’ve really been blessed. You know this story: I started serving people with my mother [Nattie Mae] at church. Getting food to people who were sick or needy, taking it to the hospital, taking it to people’s houses or feeding them right after church. My mother was a Seventh Day Adventist and she was in the church all the time. She had me and my sister and a bunch of kids, we would all be there every Saturday. You start off doing it not only because your mother tells you to, but the food was good. Then David asked me to come help with the Stay In School, which was the start of it all. If I hadn’t graduated from college, I probably would never have gotten an opportunity to do that with the NBA. Plus, the amazing number of young people I’ve met around the country, around the world, that I think I’ve touched … some lives. I can’t say I touched everybody, but some. I always had a knack of selecting -- when I’d call up kids to help me with the presentation -- a girl or a boy who needed it. It’s amazing how many times a teacher has said to me, “You picked Joe” or “You picked Dorothy, and that’s a really difficult kid. You made them feel good.” You never let a kid fail. NBA.com: You never were a shy and retiring type. What do you think of the NBA these days? BL: I’ll tell you what, I wish that I were playing now. It’s not as physical a sport. You can do stuff anywhere in the world. You can make tons of money off the court -- I can’t imagine how much I’d make with a speaker deal and those big-ass sneakers of mine. The only thing I would not like about this era is that you’ve got to be so conscious of social media. And people taking photos of you when you don’t know they’re taking them. And having those things that zoom over your home and take pictures of your house. That part I wouldn’t like at all. NBA.com: It’s hard enough to avoid the public eye at your size. By the way, are you as tall as you used to be? BL: No, no. I remember standing next to Magic [Johnson] last year at some function we had, and I was looking at him eye-to-eye. I said, “Damn, I thought I was 6-11 and you were 6-9. You look like you’re taller than me now.” NBA.com: You might have fared well today, with the range you had on your jump shot. A big man like you or Bob McAdoo would fit right in. BL: But Mac was a true forward and I was a true center. With the game the way it is now, I think guys like he or I -- Dave Cowens, too -- could shoot from outside, inside, open up the lanes, make good passes. I say that gingerly with Mac, because every time it touched his hands it was going up. He’s my boy but that’s the truth. NBA.com: Wayne Embry, the NBA lifer as a player and executive, recently said to me about the current style of play, “C’mon, the big man likes to play too.” The game has gotten so much smaller. BL: I kind of like this game a little bit. If you’re a big who has skills, it helps to stretch the floor. You can always post up, if you’ve got a big can post up. But now you’ve got these bigs who are elongated forwards. Boogie Cousins is probably our last post-up big that I’m aware of. I think I just saw him on TV somewhere making about 10 3-pointers in a row. NBA.com: Any team or individuals to whom you pay particular attention? BL: I like watching ‘Bron [LeBron James], obviously. I like this Golden State team, too, because they play so well together. I like the kid [Anthony] Davis. With Boogie, my concern is whether he’ll be healthy this season. NBA.com: What’s your take on the “super team” approach of the past few years? BL: I think both of ‘em have their sides. Back in the day, we would never do that. There wasn’t a lot of huggin’ and kissin’, all that stuff, when you were competing. You were out there to kick each other’s butt. But with AAU ball, it’s become guys playing together on these premier teams at all these tournaments around the country. So they get to know each before they ever go to college. NBA.com: Do you think today’s players appreciate the work you and other alumni did to build the league? BL: I think everything evolves. The best thing I could say as a player is, you want to leave the game in better shape than when you came into it. You want to leave a legacy, a better brand. You want players to be making more money. You want the league to be stronger. And since we’re partner in this, it’s important that those kinds of things happen. NBA.com: The 1970s seems to be pretty neglected, as far as NBA memories and highlights. At times it’s as if the league went from Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics dynasty to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird carrying the NBA into the 80s. The league had some popularity and PR issues back then, but eight different franchises won championships that decade. BL: Back in the 70s, a lot of people were feeling that the NBA was drug-infested. Too black. That’s one of the reasons the league came up with its substance abuse program, one of the first in sports to do that. The point was not to punish guys but to help guys who needed it to get clean. As that passed, then Larry and Magic came in. The media money started going up, and then Michael [Jordan] came in in ’84 and everything took off from there. So I can see how you could kind of forget about the 70s. NBA.com: And yet now folks complain that each season starts with only three or four teams seen as capable of winning the title. Why was it different then? BL: I think everybody competed a lot. And guys didn’t change teams as much, so when you were facing the Bulls or the Bucks or New York, you had all these rivalries. Lanier against Jabbar! Jabbar against Willis Reed! And then [Wilt] Chamberlain, and Artis Gilmore, and Bill Walton! You had all these great big men and the game was played from inside out. It was a rougher game, a much more physical game that we played in the 70s. You could steer people with elbows. They started cutting down on the number of fights by fining people more. Oh, it was a rough ‘n’ tumble game. NBA.com: There were, of course, fewer teams. Seventeen when you arrived, for instance. BL: There was so much talent on every team. Every night you were playing against somebody really damn good, and if you didn’t come to play, they’d whip your behind. NBA.com: You know, I’m surprised I never heard about you being the target of a bidding war with the old ABA? Did they ever come after you? BL: Got approached at the end of my junior year at St. Bonaventure. They offered me a nice contract. But I wanted to stay in school because I thought we had a real chance at winning the NCAA title. NBA.com: Gee, that almost sounds quaint by today’s get-the-money standards. BL: Yeah. Well, I trusted them as a league -- it was the New York Nets, a guy named Roy Boe -- but I knew we had a really good team. And we did. We got to the Final Four. Then I got hurt. NBA.com: You went down against Villanova, your tournament ended by a torn ligament. I’m surprised, looking back, you were considered healthy enough to get drafted No. 1 and have a pretty strong rookie season. BL: I wasn’t healthy when I got to the league. I shouldn’t have played my first year. But there was so much pressure from them to play, I would have been much better off -- and our team would have been much better served -- if I had just sat out that year and worked on my knee. NBA.com: From the Final Four to the start of the NBA season isn’t much time to rehab a knee injury. Then you played 82 games, averaging 15.6 points and 8.1 rebounds in 24.6 minutes. BL: That was stupid. My knee was so sore every single day that it was ludicrous to be doing what I was doing. I wanted to play, but I was smart and the team was smart, everybody would have benefited. NBA.com: Did you ever fully recover? I know your later years were hampered by knee pain. BL: Oh, I fully recovered. Going into my third year, I think I had my legs underneath me a lot. NBA.com: Your coach as a rookie was Butch van Breda Kolff, who had butted heads with Wilt Chamberlain in Los Angeles. Did you have any issues with him? BL: He was a pretty tough coach, but he was a good-hearted person. As a matter of fact, he had a place down on the Jersey shore where he invited me to come and run on the beach to help strengthen my leg. I went there for about 2 1/2 weeks. I liked Butch a lot. NBA.com: Your Detroit teams had you as an All-Star nearly every season and of course Hall of Fame guard Dave Bing. Did you think you’d achieve more? BL: I think ’73-74 was our best team [52-30]. We had Dave, Stu Lantz, John Mengelt, Chris Ford, Don Adams, Curtis Rowe, George Trapp. But then for some reason, they traded six guys off that team before the following year. I just didn’t feel we ever had the leadership. I think we had [seven] head coaches in my 10 years there. That was a rough time, because at the end of every year, you’d be so despondent. NBA.com: So by the time you were traded to Milwaukee, you were ready to go? BL: I wanted the trade. But until you start getting on that plane and leaving your family and start crying, you don’t realize it’s a part of your life you’re leaving. I got to Milwaukee and it was freezing outside. But the people gave me a standing ovation and really made me feel welcome. It was the start of a positive change. I just wish I had played with that kind of talent around me when I was young. The only time I thought I had it was that ’73-74 team they messed up. But if I had had Marques [Johnson] and Sidney [Moncrief] and all of them around me? Damn. NBA.com: I got my start around those Bucks teams, and feel I often have to remind people how good they were deep into the ‘80s. You just couldn’t get past the Celtics and the Sixers in the same year, in a loaded Eastern Conference. BL: They were always a man better than us. We had to play our best to beat them and they didn’t have to play their best to beat us. It haunts me to this day. NBA.com: How did you like playing for Bucks coach Don Nelson? BL: Loved him. It was just like playing for your big brother. He was a player’s coach, for sure. He’d been through it, won championships. Knew what it was like to be a role player, knew what it took to be a prime-time player. Didn’t get upset over pressure. He was just a stand-up guy. NBA.com: As we talk, I’m looking at my office wall and I have that famous All-Star poster from 1977, painted by Leroy Neiman. That game was notable, too, because it was the first one after the NBA/ABA merger. So you had Julius Erving, George Gervin, Dan Issel and those other ABA stars flooding their talent into the league. BL: You know what? I think you could put 10 players from the 70s into the league today and be as competitive as anybody. Think of the guys who could really play and were athletic. And with the rule changes, that would make us even more effective. “Ice’ [Gervin]. Julius. David Thompson, a huge athlete. I don’t know who could mess with Kareem at all. NBA.com: What about Nate Archibald? BL: You took the words right out of my mouth. Tiny! He could scoot up and down and do what he needed to do. These guys knew the game, they played the basics of it so well. NBA.com: No one disputes the advances in training, nutrition, travel and rest. But in raw ability, you think it was close to today? BL: One thing I will say about this group of young men, they seem to be more athletic than we were. They seem to be able to cover so much more ground. Whatever that new step is, the Eurostep? And another thing they do differently know is, they brush-pick. They brush and then they pop. You rarely see a guy do a solid pick and then roll with the guy on his back to cause a mismatch. Everybody’s looking to open the floor to shoot 3’s. This has become the weapon of choice now. NBA.com: No rings for that Milwaukee team from which you retired has meant, so far, no Hall of Fame for Marques Johnson or Sidney Moncrief, the two stars.   BL: That’s what rings hollow in your ears. You hear people saying, “Where’s the ring? The ring!” And we don’t have any rings. That’s what we play for. NBA.com: Didn’t stop your enshrinement though. BL: They must have been blind, crippled and crazy, huh? It’s a short crop of brotherhood that gets in there. I just wish there was more time on those weekends where we could spend time just talking with one another. You rarely see each other, and it would be nice to have a quiet room where you could just re-hash old times and plays, and maybe have your family so your grandkids could listen to Earl the Pearl tell about this or [Bill] Walton tell about that. Just rehashing stuff that brought people a lot of joy. 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 NewsSep 11th, 2018

UAAP: Defending champ Ateneo doesn t care about all your expectations

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 13-1 after eliminations, 1-1 in Final Four, 2-1 in Finals, champion YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Anton Asistio, Isaac Go, Gian Mamuyac, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Thirdy Ravena WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: SJ Belangel, Matthew Daves, Angelo Kouame, William Navarro, Adrian Wong (returning) GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Chibueze Ikeh, Vince Tolentino WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM ATENEO? As it should be, defending champion Ateneo de Manila University is the favorite to repeat. “We recognize the quality of the opposition. Anytime you have a successful season, you not only have to fight your own complacency, but you also have to fight the elevated determination that kind of season creates on your opponents.” – head coach Tab Baldwin While the Blue Eagles’ championship team lost big man Chibueze Ikeh and glue guy Vince Tolentino, they are installing in their places 6-foot-10 Ivorian tower Angelo Kouame, Filipino-Canadian high-flyer Matthew Daves, and former San Beda University sweet-shooter William Navarro And oh, they now also have SJ Belangel of UAAP Juniors champion Ateneo high as well as returning swingman Adrian Wong. Safe to say, the defending champions only got better – and that much was evident in their strong showing in the 2018 William Jones Cup. “We try to make sure that we see each animal distinctly. The summer leagues, each of them was different, but there’s no doubt as to what we really exist for and that’s the UAAP. All of these things are in preparation for the UAAP.” – head coach Tab Baldwin Still, Ateneo is tuning out all the noise from all over and instead, as always, have decided to focus on themselves. “Expectations are irrelevant to us. We have our own expectations and we believe in ourselves. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove, but that doesn’t mean I would accept losing.” – head coach Tab Baldwin WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM ATENEO? Thirdy Ravena has been runner-up to MVP Ben Mbala for two seasons running. Now that Mbala is in Korea, it’s not that farfetched to see Ravena finally hoisting the trophy for top individual player. Matt Nieto and Isaac Go are also still here and even better than ever – especially after gaining valuable experience as Gilas cadets. All eyes are on Kouame who wowed in the Jones Cup as well as the Filoil Preseason. He is as raw as they come right now, but likewise has the potential to be the best foreign student-athlete the school has ever had. “Angelo has very little background in basketball and there are some complexities to our system, but he’s an intelligent kid. He’s very hungry and incredibly willing to do what’s asked of him. We believe in him and his future – both short-term and long-term. I think he has a big upside.” – head coach Tab Baldwin When it all comes down to it, however, Ateneo is still Ateneo and they don’t really have players to watch – just a team to watch. That means that what we can only expect is that there will be different top scorers, different top rebounders, and different top assist-men in each and every game. WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR ATENEO? Ateneo is the defending champion and the heavy favorite, but remains grounded on team play, selflessness, and brotherhood. That same balanced offense and disciplined defense is still here – and perhaps, even better than ever. “We just try to continue to grow. There’s so much to learn for these young players in the game of basketball and there’s so much development for them to achieve. We don’t get bored because tomorrow is another day to grow and improve.” – head coach Tab Baldwin And so the Blue Eagles are the team-to-beat for opponents, but also remain the team-to-love for fans. WHERE WOULD ATENEO BE AT THE END OF UAAP SEASON 81? Ateneo will be in the Finals once more – living up to its billing as favorite to repeat. A season sweep also isn’t out of the question, but even the Blue Eagles know that doing such thing is more difficult than winning the title or going back-to-back. WHEN IS ATENEO’S FIRST GAME IN UAAP SEASON 81? Ateneo’s first test in the tournament will be courtesy of another championship contender in Adamson University on September 9. Of course, It All Begins Here on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 7th, 2018

Houston s Watson healthy and ready for more work this week

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson was back in a game this week for the first time since surgery to repair a right knee injury in November, and although he didn't play long, he relished his return. "I just played five snaps, handed the ball off, threw one pass," Watson said. "So, it wasn't too bad. Good to just go out there for a couple plays and then watch everyone else perform." The Houston Texans quarterback is looking to build on his limited action as the team prepares for two practices with the San Francisco 49ers next week before hosting them in their second preseason game on Saturday. Watson's health and development in his second year will be critical as Houston tries to bounce back from a season filled with injuries during which the team went 4-12 for its first losing season since 2013. Though he played in just seven games before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in practice, Watson gave the Texans optimism that he'll be the answer to their longtime problems at the position. He threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns and ran for 269 yards and two more scores after Houston traded up to select him with the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Saturday was the team's first practice back in Houston after the Texans spent the first part of training camp in West Virginia. Although they had to adjust to the hotter temperatures at home, Watson and the Texans got a boost from working out in front of several hundred cheering fans. "The climate ... it's hot and muggy but at the end of the day we have to come out here and play football and perform and just focus on our task," he said. "So, it's always good to have the fans around and show love. They give us energy and high hopes for this season." The 22-year-old said he's grown a lot since arriving in Houston last season and is looking forward to building on what he did last year. "Just really (grown) as a person as a whole and then just the knowledge of the game," he said. "Just being able to understand the offense, understand what the defense is doing and just play faster, just go out there and play and not overthink things." Coach Bill O'Brien, who worked with Tom Brady when he was an assistant with the Patriots, has enjoyed watching Watson develop and is looking for ways to help him take another step. "I think there's areas where he and I need to grow together, like in the red area," he said. "We're a little bit behind there but we have to work together on that and see if we can execute better down there, but I think there's a lot of areas where he's gotten better and better, and he'll only get better and better because he works at it and the experience he gets will really help him." Watson is working behind a revamped offensive line this year after last year's group allowed the second-most sacks in the league. So far, he likes the way the unit is coming together. "Guys just building chemistry, working hard each and every day, never complaining," Watson said. "They make mistakes, but at the end of the day they correct those mistakes and don't make it twice, just like everyone else on the offense. Just guys that love to play football. They have a passion about going in ... and putting in the work, and (are) passionate about winning.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 12th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

Rockets return home for Game 5 against Warriors

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets have a chance to take their first lead in the Western Conference finals with a victory over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). To do that they’ll need their superstars to step up again, with the pressure on James Harden and Chris Paul to deliver after their big performances in Game 3 spurred Houston to the road victory that tied the best-of-seven series at 2-2. “We’re back to even,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We know what we have to do and see if we can do it against a great team.” After two blowout losses in this series, including an embarrassing 41-point rout in Game 3, the Rockets know they don’t have any time to celebrate Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) win. It was a victory that snapped Golden State’s NBA-record 16-game home playoff winning streak. “We have to get down to normal sea level real quick, because we’ve got a lot of work left,” D’Antoni said. “We know it’s not going to be easy, but also they know now it’s not going to be easy. We’re looking forward to it ... with the right type of fear and the right type of excitement.” It’s a huge opportunity for Harden and Paul, who’ve both had their fair share of playoff disappointments in the past, but combined to score 57 points Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) 95-92 win that put the top-seeded Rockets back in the driver’s seat in this series. The 33-year-old Paul is a conference finals rookie after failing to get out of the second round in his previous nine playoff trips. Though he’s never reached this level in the postseason before, his 13 years of NBA experience have proven invaluable as the Rockets try to knock off the defending champions and advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since winning consecutive titles in 1994-95. Though the Rockets are heading to Houston for Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) game, they know that playing at home doesn’t give them an excuse to let up. “Both teams have the ability to win on the road,” Paul said. “We had to prove that to ourselves. Weathering the storm, the runs that they made, and knowing that now we get a chance to go back home, we knew we had to get at least one win here. We got it, so now it’s a three-game series.” Though the pressure to perform is heightened for Harden and Paul, Rockets players and D’Antoni agree that they can’t get it done without plenty of help from Houston’s supporting cast. P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela combined for 29 rebounds on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), and in Houston’s Game 2 victory the Rockets had five players score 16 or more points. “It’s a close series so without any of them you don’t get there,” D’Antoni said. “So everybody has their role and some play a bigger role — bigger meaning they shoot the ball more so we as a society give them a bigger role — but everybody is just as important.” While the Rockets are thrilled to see the momentum of the series swing their way for perhaps the first time in the series, the Warriors are upset that they let what they feel like was a winnable Game 4 get away. Draymond Green is OK with his team having its back against the wall and believes the Warriors play well when faced with adversity. “I know what we’re capable of and I know the level of focus and intensity that this team brings when that is the case,” he said. “We blew a golden opportunity but it’s not one that we can’t get back. We can get it back. So there’s no panic.” Stephen Curry said he spent much of Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) going over each possession of Golden State’s 12-point fourth quarter in his mind and thinking of ways he and the team could have done things better to close the game out after leading by double digits early in the period. “It’s a frustrating feeling obviously ... but we’re great at turning the page and being resilient and finding a way to bounce back,” he said. This series has already had so many ups and downs that it could give a young person gray hair. For the already silver-locked D’Antoni, who at 67 would be the oldest coach to win an NBA title if Houston gets it done, the exhilaration of this journey has been well worth any stress it has caused. “It makes me feel alive, I know that much,” he said. “It feels good. You coach all year for this or even your whole career to get here or get as close as you can. It’s great competition, against one of the best teams ever.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2018

The right way to gain financial security

Considering the economic climate today, saving money is not enough to be financially secured. Saving alone can derail one’s financial goal. The right way to keep up with the changing times and future needs is to save and grow money through investments. Saving and investing money are often used interchangeably. Both ways are equally important […] The post The right way to gain financial security appeared first on BusinessWorld......»»

Category: newsSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsMay 21st, 2018

Budding Sixers take control of series in Miami

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 22nd, 2018

Are the Sixers too young for playoff success?

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

Celtics still eyeing long playoff run after rash of injuries

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward exchanged the kind of toothy giggles normally only found between kids on a playground when they were introduced as the new faces of the Celtics. “It’s about to be crazy, G,” Irving said in the ear of Hayward to a soundtrack of clicking camera lenses as they sat on a dais back in September two days after Boston’s blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seven months later, Irving has proven to be prophetic — albeit not how he had in mind. It has been crazy unlucky for the Celtics. Stunning too. Al Horford said even shocking. And though things haven’t gone as scripted in Boston, the Celtics will open the playoffs at the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference believing they can win it all without their injured offseason acquisitions. “Finals. I’m very confident,” guard Terry Rozier when asked how far Boston can go. “Everybody has to be on the same page. And we just gotta play. And play hard.” That’s been Boston’s calling card throughout the season. They have no choice but to play hard because from Hayward’s gruesome, season-ending left ankle injury on opening night, to the recent pair of left knee surgeries that has sidelined Irving, luck has been in short supply beyond the Celtics’ Leprechaun mascot named Lucky. Horford acknowledged being shocked when he heard that Irving was done for the season. But he said the time has passed for sulking about misfortunes. “We can’t dwell on the past,” Horford said. Obviously it makes it more difficult. Kyrie, he’s the leader of this team. We won with him and now we have to find ways to do it without him.” In addition to Irving and Hayward, Boston will also be without productive rookie Daniel Theis (left knee surgery) for the season and Marcus Smart (right thumb surgery) until at minimum the second round. That’s not to mention a plethora of nagging injuries that have dogged the rest of the roster. Yet, in an Eastern Conference that features a less-than-dominating LeBron James-led Cavaliers team, Boston veterans Horford and Marcus Morris and its corps of talented young players led by Jaylen Brown, Rozier and rookie Jayson Tatum give it as legitimate a chance as anyone to make it to the NBA Finals. The Celtics will finish with their second straight 50-win season and their highest number of victories under coach Brad Stevens. Last season as the East’s top seed, Boston made it to the conference finals in spite of being smacked with adversity on the eve of the postseason following the death of Isaiah Thomas’ sister. Thomas returned to the team, but was then lost midway through the conference finals to a hip injury he’d been quietly playing through. “With Isaiah, we had him all year. Even though he was banged up, he was with us,” Horford said. “Now with our group this year it’s different. We’ve been having so many injuries throughout the year that I feel like our guys — we’re much more prepared handling everything that we’re going through.” The good news is this Celtics team has already done an admirable job of figuring things out without Hayward and Irving. They’ve played all but five minutes this season without Hayward. In 20 games without Irving they are 13-7. Irving played his last game on March 11 (Mar. 12, PHL time). That’s given Boston time to see what its remaining rotation will look like. One thing it will certainly mean is a lot more minutes for reserves like Shane Larkin and Greg Monroe, as well as rookies Semi Ojeleye and Guerschon Yabusele. Stevens acknowledged that there was hope after Irving’s first surgery on his knee last month that removed a tension wire that he would be able to return early in the playoffs. Having him ruled out has “just solidified that this is where our focus needs to be” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for the other guys and it’s our job to coach them,” Stevens said. “I believe in the guys in our locker room. They believe in themselves.” Without Irving, the most glaring deficiency for Boston is its lack of a go-to scorer. Brown is just a few games removed from scoring a career-high 32 points, and Rozier only recently had a 25-game double-digit scoring streak stopped. He’s also proven to be a dependable defender. Still, there is a sense in the East that Boston may be susceptible to a first-round upset. Miami and Milwaukee, currently have the same record (43-37) as the No. 6 and 7 seeds respectively. The Heat won 2-of-3 meetings this season with Boston, while the Celtics split their four games with the Bucks. Washington, at No. 8 leads the season series with Boston 2-1 with the series finale set on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Vulnerable or not, Horford has a message for whoever their first-round opponent is. “We’re the [No.] 2 seed. We have home-court advantage,” he said. “And this point, the only thing I can say to that is I can’t wait for the playoffs to start.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 10th, 2018

Popovich s odd alliance with red state fans

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SAN ANTONIO -- About 400 people gathered at the Oak Hills Country Club in June 2016 and paid $500 to $250,000 to sip iced tea and nibble hors d’oeuvres next to a golf course designed by noted architect AW Tillinghast, who built many. One is owned by the man who was feted at this political fundraiser, Donald J. Trump. The presidential campaign was in full blast and saltier than the crackers on the cheese plate being passed around. Fresh off the plane, Trump thanked the Republicans for the big ‘ole Texas welcome, witnesses say, before launching a blistering attack on the usual targets: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, illegal immigration. Then, near the end of his 30-minute lunchtime appearance, in an effort to connect with the locals, he pivoted and mentioned perhaps the most famous man in town: Gregg Popovich. Witnesses say Trump called Popovich “a great coach” and said “he does a good job” and then there was some fidgeting in the room when the soon-to-be polarizing leader of the free world said this: “I don’t know if the coach is on my side.” Confirmation came emphatically, right after Trump won a divisive election that November. The coach of the Spurs lit into the President over the next several months with a handful of rants that had the stealth of Kawhi Leonard ambushing a timid ball-handler. In no particular order, here were Pop’s Greatest Hits, all issued through the media and without prompting or provocation: “The disgusting tenure and tone and all the comments … have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. I live in a country where half the people ignored that to elect someone.” And: “He is in charge of our country. That’s disgusting.” And: “The man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks he can only become large by belittling others.” And: “We have a pathological liar in the White House ... You can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.” Popovich didn’t stop there with a President whose sensitivity and intelligence he questioned and accused of being guilty of “gratuitous fear-mongering.” When he took Trump to task for criticizing NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem and defended their rights to do so, Popovich also suspected a measure of the public outrage was racially motivated. “Our country is an embarrassment to the world,” he said. A 68-year-old wealthy white man, therefore, became a sports voice with weight in the political and social justice arena, where the NBA league office has greenlighted players and coaches to speak up. Popovich has done so with clarity and insight to gain national applause in certain corners. He wasn’t the first or the last in sports to verbally spank the president or tackle right-leaning sensitivities, yet he’s certainly the most unique in one respect. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy who works in a military town, and a five-time NBA champion coach who might symbolize the city more than The Alamo, Popovich has long been elevated to icon status, perhaps permanently so, in San Antonio, where folks are mad about the Spurs. Still, this is mostly conservative Texas, one of the most Republican of states based on the state legislature and the congressional delegation, a state that voted Republican in 10 straight presidential elections and saw 52.6 percent of voters punch for Trump. While voters in San Antonio-proper lean liberal, the surrounding areas swing solidly the opposite. Julianna Holt, the Spurs CEO and Popovich’s boss since March after assuming the position held for 20 years by her husband Peter, supported various Republican presidential candidates before eventually donating $5,400 to Trump’s campaign and $250,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, according to Federal Election Commission records. Popovich is therefore a blue blood in a red state and the contrast makes for strange if not uncomfortable alliance between a beloved coach and a group of conflicted Spurs worshippers. His views have in fact shattered the sacrilege by generating hostility from a segment of the basketball flock, something no coach with his credentials would ever feel. The constant winning and acts of charity do not insulate him from those who would prefer Popovich stuff a sweat sock in his bullhorn. Party lines not Popovich's focus “While we all believe Gregg Popovich has the right to his opinions, where was Popovich when Hillary called half of us a 'basket of deplorables?’Many were Spurs fans who are now tired of being insulted ... many of us will never pay to see a Spurs game again.” -- Donna Howington  “The money I will save this year not attending Spurs games should buy me a nice set of golf clubs. Thanks Pop!” -- Jake Ingorgia  “I will never watch them again until Popovich is gone. He is just like all the other leftist celebrities.” -- Lee Harbach, Bulverde They arrive on cue, most from the dusty towns that orbit around San Antonio, some from the city itself. Popovich has unloaded three times this year on Trump, once after the election, once at the start of training camp and most recently by cold-calling Dave Zirin, a friend and liberal writer from The Nation, a progressive magazine. And each time, the letters land in the office of Ricardo Pimentel, the editor who coordinates the comments section of the Express-News, San Antonio’s newspaper of record. “It’s a cycle,” says Pimental, with a sigh. “He speaks out. People who disagree with him send us letters to the editor, then people who object to their disagreement write us letters to the editor defending Pop. Then they respond to one another.” The initial reaction, he said, is always stacked against Popovich and many identify themselves as Spurs fans ripping up their tickets or promising to never attend or watch games again. Even if those who made threats actually carried them out, the change in the Spurs’ home attendance is a blip, from 99.2 percent capacity last season to 98.6 so far this season. Popovich, of course, has been big for business since his first full season as coach in 1997-98. Besides the titles, the Spurs have reached the playoffs every season and won 50 games every season (except for the lockout-shortened 50-game 1998-99 campaign, when they won 37). In short, Popovich's Spurs have a track record beyond reproach in the NBA. If the 2017-18 Spurs stay on pace, it’ll be 20 straight winning seasons for Popovich, one more than Phil Jackson for the all-time NBA record. He hasn’t been this politically vocal until lately, due to Trump, yet was always politically aware, say those who know him. Well-versed through his readings and observations, Popovich welcomes discussion with acquaintences about classism, leadership, government and preferably over a bottle of wine. His two-decades exposure to young black men from humble beginnings raised his awareness and sensitivities about race and bias. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr once played for the Spurs and lately has echoed many of the same thoughts as Popovich. But Kerr coaches in the Bay Area, where folks nod their heads in agreement. Kerr said he can only imagine the flak Popovich catches in Texas. “Here’s this iconic coach who stands for everything that’s right and for honor and integrity, he served in the military, you see him stand at attention for the American flag — man, Pop loves his country,” Kerr said. “And in the middle of Texas for him to be questioning the Republican President, some of the people down there are probably confused. Like, 'I don’t get it, we love this guy but he’s on the other side from us.' “What I love about Pop is that it’s not about party, not about politics. It’s about integrity and character and that’s what people need to pay attention to. It’s not about some policy, not about how much we pay in taxes. If we can just get back to the point where character matters, then we’ll be in better shape. The problem is, it’s clear character has gone down the tubes in many leadership positions in our country. That’s what Pop is calling out.” True enough, Popovich never publicly attached himself to a political party; to suggest he is against Republicans might be as misleading as believing Colin Kaepernick is against the military. When he played for Popovich, Kerr couldn’t recall a time when the coach was this annoyed by the country’s leadership. “The country was in a better place in terms of a relatively peaceful time back then,” Kerr said. “Yes, 9-11 happened and the whole world changed. But we didn’t have quite the same partisan nature, not only in politics but the national conversation. And so people could just admire Pop for who he was and people might not have been aware of his political leanings because they didn’t ask. When we won and went to the White House, Pop and the team went when Bush was in office. We went in ’99 when President Clinton was there. Republican, Democrat, didn’t matter. The times are so different now.” Kerr laughed quickly when asked about the semi-serious groundswell of social media support for a Kerr-Popovich ticket in 2020. Kerr said he hopes to be on his fifth NBA title as a coach then, but turned semi-serious about Popovich. “Our country needs somebody like Pop who can actually lead and unite from a position of authority and credibility,” Kerr said. “This guy served in the military, grew up in a melting pot, understands leadership. More than anything, he’ll cut through all the [expletive].” Since going nuclear on Trump, Popovich declined invites from the national political shows (and wouldn’t comment for this story). That proves what friends have maintained all along: Popovich doesn’t want to be anyone’s political hero or pundit. He’d rather speak when the moment calls for it, then be left alone. That last part is tricky, though. Empathy often marks Popovich's way “Can you imagine being Republican on the Spurs? Would you feel welcome? He’s like Berkeley -- for free speech unless you disagree with him. Shut up and coach, Gregg.” -- Shannon Deason  “When it comes to coaching basketball or drinking wine, Popovich has experience. When it comes to our country, his opinion is no better than anyone else’s." -- Harold Siemens, Seguin  “Open letter to the NBA referee who ejected Pop from the Warriors-Spurs game: Don’t feel bad about what Gregg Popovich called you. He called the POTUS worse and got away with it.” -- Larry Peabody Once the wheels touched down, the pilot jokingly announced over the loudspeaker: “Welcome to Gregg Popovich International Airport,” and one particular passenger noticed that nobody on the plane thought it was strange. Sean Elliott always knew how deeply rooted Popovich is with San Antonio. Aside from the famous Spanish missions and the River Walk, the city is known for the only professional sports team in town. And while George Gervin, David Robinson and Tim Duncan have come and gone, the one lingering reminder is a sometimes gruff and scruffy coach, maybe the NBA’s best ever. “He’s one of the pillars of the community,” said Elliott, twice an All-Star with the Spurs. “He’s looked at with great admiration. He is as respected as anyone who has ever lived in or been part of the city. It’s not just because he’s a basketball coach. Pop has been a big part of the community, huge contributor to charitable functions, good leader.” Elliott was a Spurs rookie in 1989 when their relationship began and he saw the start of Popovich’s reach in the region. Popovich then was an assistant coach under Larry Brown and just planting his feet in the NBA. That summer, Elliott and Popovich piled into a van with the team's "Coyote" mascot and conducted basketball clinics in San Marcos, Corpus Christi, Laredo and similar places. They were signing autographs in malls and running kids through drills in 100 degree heat, never hearing a complaint from the coach. Elliott said folks in those small conservative towns loved him. “If you sit and hear him talk about something, you tend to agree with him,” Elliott said. “He’ll put it in a logical way and he’s very thoughtful, well read and super intelligent, maybe the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.” The owner of the Spurs then was Red McCombs, a homespun Texan who made his fortune in car dealerships and media companies. McCombs didn’t give Popovich the coaching job after firing Brown, telling Popovich “you’ve got a chance to be a great coach” if he got more experience, which he did, going to the Warriors to work for Don Nelson. Popovich returned to San Antonio two years later as general manager, then became coach and the rest is history. Now 90, McCombs said: “Popovich has become the distinguished part of the franchise. He wears it well. Can’t say enough about what kind of man he is and what he’s meant to San Antonio. God has blessed us with Gregg Popovich.” McCombs loves to tell how Popovich, by chance, learned that a local family needed a car. The coach wrote a check, gave it to the father and walked away. McCombs said it was “typical Popovich” who has empathy for those with less. McCombs, curiously, has traditionally been one of the biggest Republican bankrollers in the state, who gave to the Trump campaign and is fully aware of what Popovich thinks of his choice for President. And so one of the most powerful men in Central Texas, who leans politically to the color of his nickname, had a strong reaction to that. “He’s earned the right to give his comments about citizenship or Trump or anything else,” said McCombs, voice rising. “Yes, he made some statements that others might disagree with. But I’ll tell you this: Popovich would be elected to anything he wants to in San Antonio.” Remaining silent never an option “Our country is not an embarrassment to the world. I will tell you what an embarrassment is. It is an American citizen who got a free education from the great Air Force Academy ... and then has the audacity to say that the greatest nation in the world is an embarrassment because the President rightly demands that Americans stand for the anthem. Popovich should be ashamed of himself.” -- Nick DeLouis, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Nowhere on God’s green Earth do they have the right to disrespect our flag and the men and women who died to keep us free. I’m appalled that you stooped so low to join in that disrespect. Shame on you!” -- Fred Martin, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Coach Pop has squashed my love and enthusiasm for the team. A national treasure, he is not. Coach Pop has a voice, but not my voice." -- Jo Ivan A few years ago Popovich was in New York with his daughter to catch a Broadway play when the coach had a last minute change in strategy. He learned that John Carlos was giving a lecture at New York University that night. So Popovich told his daughter to take one of her friends instead; said he was going to see “Dr. Carlos” speak. “When he came in I was surprised and delighted,” Carlos said recently. “Quite naturally, everyone knew who he was but he just wanted to sit and listen.” A year later, in 2015, Popovich flew Carlos to San Antonio to address the team and Carlos admitted to being star struck around Tim Duncan and others. Yet Carlos was most curious about Popovich and why the coach took a strong interest in an Olympic sprinter who raised a fist on the victory stand in 1968, which is frozen as an iconic civil rights moment. “Being with the Spurs gave me an opportunity to check his character out,” Carlos said. “I knew he was a whiz at putting players together to bring out their best ability. But through my conversations with him it became apparent that he was a social activist himself at one point in his life. He was teaching his players about activism and to be concerned about their fellow man and what was going on around their lives, not just basketball. “I was impressed. He just wanted them to know they had a larger role than just playing basketball in the society in which they live.” Carlos, therefore, was not surprised to see Popovich defend the rights of kneeling black football players who came under attack from Trump. On the first day of training camp in September, Popovich said: “Obviously race is the elephant in the room and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly it is not going to get better.” What followed was another swirl of exchanges between Popovich critics and supporters in San Antonio, and Popovich acknowledged receiving mail from both sides. The anti-Pop mail, though, was jarring to Carlos, given the coach’s work in town. “When people write and lambast him for taking leaders to task for what they’re doing to society, that’s like water rolling off a duck’s back, man,” Carlos said. “When they write negative things about him, it encourages him to keep doing what he’s doing. Those people are the problem. Go ahead and throw stones and it just motivates him to do his job. “Look, I’m a black man who spoke out. Imagine what they think of him as a white man who speaks just as strong, to try and get people to see things in a better light? They throw stones at him even more, like, 'Hey you’re white, you have a great life. Keep your mouth shut.’ Well, God points people in certain directions. We know who we are. We do what we do.” And what Popovich does is enlist the help of giants in the social justice world and bring them into his world. He did that with Cornel West, the Harvard professor and civil rights activist, last fall. Popovich invited West to San Antonio to speak at an East Side community center with a few hundred mostly black and Latino students and their parents. Done without TV cameras or media invitation, the discussion was about the importance of education, the imperfect world, self respect and how to help communities. This was an audience that, presumably and unanimously, connected with a white man who didn’t live among them, but was with them. They were the people Popovich had in mind when he attacked present leadership. This was not the audience that writes to the Spurs and the Express-News asking him to take a vow of silence, though he is aware of them, too. “Some responses make you wonder what country you live in,” Popovich said, “and other responses make you very hopeful … overall, it renews my feeling that something must be done because there is enough people willing to listen.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2018

Branislav quits Foton, weighs options

Serbian mentor Moro Branislav will formally part ways with the Foton Tornadoes but is expected to accept another offer from a Philippine Superliga team. Foton team manager Diane Santiago confirmed the departure of Branislav, who coached the Tornadoes in four conferences and steered squad to the 2016 Grand Prix throne. His contract will expire at the end of the year. Branislav thanked the Tornadoes for the opportunity to handle a young and talented team anchored on 6-foot-5 Jaja Santiago, who he helped turn into a versatile player by switching from her natural position as middle to opposite hitter and even at open spot. Foton tapped his services before the start of the 2016 Grand Prix. “As you see, I am a professional coach and I am ready to work with any team,” said Branislav. “Just like local volleyball players, I also want to experience other work environment and grow both as a coach and as a person as well.” Branislav said that that three teams have expressed interest in his services but the mentor has yet to decide which offer to take.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 27th, 2017

How will the Spurs meld Aldridge, Leonard?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com A top-three team in the Western Conference is ready to get its best player back from injury. He's someone who, last season, made first-team All-NBA, had a seat at the MVP roundtable and nearly chopped down the champion Golden State Warriors in a playoff game (before being chopped down himself). And this will be good for the San Antonio Spurs, most would agree. What’s less certain is what Kawhi Leonard’s return from an achy quadricep means for LaMarcus Aldridge, who looks comfortable playing the lead right now without his co-star, yet squirmed to find peace when he had to ride shotgun. The Spurs star could make his season debut on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) against the Mavericks. The Spurs’ season rides on a happy balance between the two and a way to once again lurk as the team that gives the Warriors a severe case of the creeps, more than any other in the West. Despite all the fuss made over Chris Paul joining James Harden in Houston, and the star-infused Thunder in Oklahoma City, it’s the same-old Spurs who spooked Golden State in Game 1 before losing the Western Conference finals. They were also the last non-Warriors team to reach the NBA Finals. And look who’s sitting a bounce pass from the top of the West, despite missing Kawhi all season? That opening playoff game last May against Golden State was a flash point for San Antonio. The series of events that followed managed to put Leonard in a bad place physically, saw Aldridge melt epically the rest of that series and generate trade talk in the off-season, forced a major sit-down/showdown between coach Gregg Popovich and Aldridge and then, out of seemingly nowhere and somewhat surprisingly, a peaceful resolution was reached and wins followed. “As you can see, based on the evidence,” said Aldridge the other day, “everything’s good.” Yes, it appears so. With Kawhi out of the lineup, the Spurs are doing what they usually do, using disciplined basketball to stamp themselves as a contender. Some nights, Aldridge has been a force, ripping double-doubles and looming large in close games. The ball is finding him in a greedy groove; Aldridge is taking almost 17 1/2 shots a game and the Spurs’ No. 2 shooter, Rudy Gay, is getting nine. As a result, his scoring average is up from a year ago, from 17.3 points per game to 22.6 ppg, matching his best production during his peak with the Portland Trail Blazers. Now in his third season with the Spurs, Aldridge has never felt this frisky and once again is leaning on his money maker: the floating 18-foot jumper. Most important, the Spurs are winning because of him, and Popovich is gloating over him. “Are you kidding?” Popovich said. “We’d be in the toilet if it wasn’t for L.A. He’s been a complete basketball player at both ends of the floor, great rebounding, defensively, running the floor, scoring. What’s really been great is his leadership. And him bringing it every night.” It’s a short sample size after 25 games, but Popovich and the Spurs are cautiously encouraged by this. The Spurs veered from their usual draft-and-develop ways when they signed Aldridge to a big free-agent contract three summers ago. Because of that, Aldridge was considered an outsider, someone who wasn’t a true Spur, but who was needed by a team that craved proven talent to remain a contender in the post-Tim Duncan era. But it’s been a learning process for Aldridge, Popovich and the Spurs. He came from the Blazers anxious to break free of a team that began to orbit around Damian Lillard, but wouldn’t you know it, Leonard turned into a superstar almost overnight after Aldridge arrived. The timing was good for the Spurs ... and awkward for Aldridge, who was forced to adjust his game with prodding from Popovich. Aldridge bit his tongue last season when he averaged his lowest point total since his rookie season. When Leonard suffered his ankle sprain against the Warriors, Aldridge suddenly had the burden of carrying the load, and he failed spectacularly for the rest of that series. He averaged just 11.3 points in the final three games and became low hanging fruit for critics. Popovich was asked the other day if Aldridge had to atone for that this season and the coach came to his player’s defense. “I don’t know if the word ‘atone’ is accurate,” Popovich said. “If your leading scorer and also your point guard (Tony Parker, who was also out against the Warriors) isn’t there, then it falls on someone else. If you take away the two top players from any playoff team, it’s probably going to be tough to move on. I don’t think he has anything to atone for.” Still, something wasn’t right; anyone could see that. Aldridge requested a summertime meeting with Popovich and came with demands. On the surface, that might seem a risky strategy, given the coach’s credentials vs. someone without a single title, and Aldridge knew he was walking on eggshells. “I didn’t know how it would go because he’s Gregg Popovich. I didn’t know how he’d take me saying things. I didn’t know what to expect, with me coming at a person a different way but I was very honest and I think he could tell this was maybe different from what he was used to. But I was not disrespectful. I was trying to express how I was feeling and he was very receptive to it. We kept talking and things got better. I was pleasantly surprised.” For anyone who thought one of the game’s greatest coaches didn’t have a humble side, guess again. Popovich said: “We broke bread a few times, talked about it, laughed about it, discussed what we thought needed to happen, and frankly 95 percent of it fell on me because I made an error in trying to change him too much. That might sound odd, but he’d been in the league nine years and there’s one way he plays on the offensive end and feels comfortable with. I tried to turn him into Jack Sikma, told him I was going to teach you how to play on the elbow, go on the wing, face up. It was confusing for him. It really didn’t fit his style of play. I was guilty of over coaching in a sense. “We came to an agreement on what had to happen. Well, on defense, I told him ‘I’m going to get on you like I do everyone else. But on offense, I don’t even want to talk to you. When they double you, kick it. Other than that, you be LaMarcus Aldridge.’ You see the result right now. He’s happy, confident and kicking everybody’s butt.” Every star player’s ego needs a degree of pampering, and Popovich did admit that dealing with Aldridge was different than any player he’s ever had, yet says there’s a reason for that. “When guys like Kawhi and Tony Parker and others came to me, they were young kids. When a guy’s been in a league nine years and is used to doing something and I try to take it away, that’s not right. That wasn’t very wise on my part.” Popovich didn’t pull rank in the meeting with Aldridge and if anything, he put his ego in check, something you see from coaches who haven’t accomplished one-fourth of what he’s done. But Pop has never strayed from the first rule in coaching players, especially the good ones: Keep them happy by any means necessary. “You gotta look at things and make it better as a coach,” he said. “It’s your responsibility. This was mostly me.” Here’s Aldridge this season so far: Back-to-back 33- and-41-point games a few weeks ago, sharper court awareness, better rebounding and passing than a year ago. Aldridge: “I was frustrated. I just wanted to help more and I think he understood that. Now I feel as confident as I was in Portland. I’m definitely being myself and playing my game and not overthinking and not worried about what’s going to happen if I don’t play well. I’m not a face-up guy. I like to have my back to the basket more. Pop’s given me the freedom to be myself again and that has shown itself on the court.” The issue, both say, wasn’t necessary the number of shots, though that was certainly one of the issues. It also was about the spot on the floor, when those shots needed to be taken. Aldridge said he has no problem with Leonard as the core -- he called Kawhi “our main guy” -- but wanted the same amount of comforts within the system. “He’s a go-to guy also,” said Aldridge. “The plan is to have him be the guy he is, and I be who I am now.” And there’s the key word: now. Leonard was bothered by the quad all last season and it didn’t respond quickly to offseason treatment. But now he’s nearly 100 percent and hopes a quick return to the level of last season when he jacked his scoring and finished third in the MVP voting, one spot ahead of LeBron James. Count Parker among the teammates who’ve said the obvious about Aldridge and how the power forward, in Leonard’s absence, has looked All-Star quality. “Everything’s going through him right now and he’s doing a better job knowing when to score and when to pass,” Parker said, “along with reading double teams and playing good defense.” But then Parker, the most senior Spur after Manu Ginobili, stressed that everyone, including Aldridge, must sacrifice for Leonard and not vice-versa, for the sake of the system and ultimately, wins. “When you play for the Spurs you don’t get a lot of big stats,” Parker said. “Now that Kawhi is out, he obviously has the ball more and he’s going to shoot more shots.” Then he added the kicker: “When Kawhi comes back we will share” -- Parker said while smiling -- “like we always do here.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 9th, 2017

Temperature check at 20-game mark of 17-18 NBA season

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Twenty games is not a small sample size. At 20 games, much of what an NBA team is -- and much of what it will become -- is mostly well-established. Fourteen, 16, even 18 games into an 82-game schedule, it might be easy to understate and/or overstate a season. That round number of 20, though -- the closest a team can get in whole games to 25 percent of the regular season (24.39, actually) -- resonates. As our man John Schuhmann notes annually in his Power Rankings, what qualifies as one-fourth of the season carries a certain heft, in terms of who’s good, who’s not and who’s headed where over the remaining 60-62 games. The teams that are likely to be in the playoffs largely are known by now -- 14 of the 16 qualifiers in 2016-17 were above the lottery cutoff by Dec. 5, last season’s quarter mark -- as are those that are racing toward the bottom or merely churning about. Twenty games is no joke, in other words, which is why numerous NBA teams do some serious evaluating at this point each season. Those at or near the top (and those committed to the cellar) may not make course-altering decisions. The teams in the yawning middle might be particularly engaged right about now -- all 30 teams will have played at least 20 games by Friday morning -- in either fishing or cutting bait. The Miami Heat, at 10-9, will hit 20 at Cleveland tonight. They’re especially known for the so-called Rule of 20 owing to team president Pat Riley’s ways dating back to his New York and Los Angeles days. The thinking is, 82 games is too vast and ill-defined, splayed across six months or so, to allow for clear, concise judgments along the way. By the time you get a feel for where your team is headed, you’ve either already gotten there or been sidetracked. At 20 games -- and then again at 40 and 60 -- there’s an opportunity to correct one’s course or adjust one’s objectives. Lock into a starting lineup, pursue a trade, fire a coach, opt for Plan B or hitch up the shorts for a stretch drive, it’s only doable if the right markers are heeded. Some coaches will talk about “continuous improvement” as their overriding mission, but there are so many tiny variables from one game to the next: travel, schedule quirks, minor ailments. Better to go with a block of games. And to know when you can’t. “You have a pretty good idea of your general feel and context of your team,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But that’s not always in cement. Just look at us last year. We didn’t really understand where we were. But you have an idea of what direction, usually, that your team is going in.” The Heat in 2016-17 had one of the most unusual seasons in league annals, going 11-30 after a Jan. 13 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and then 30-11 in to finish the season. They were 7-13 after 20 games, then wound up barely missing a playoff berth on the season’s final night. This time around, the Heat seem to be a blend of last season’s good and bad, and their mediocre mark shows it. Spoelstra has rolled back a lot of the work between games to fundamentals and essentials, with the focus on building good habits. “We’ve got a ways to go,” he said. ‘We’re building habits. We’re building better behavior, all the little things that lead to winning, so hopefully we’ll be a much different team every 20-game block from here on out.” (Some even think 20 games is too many, too diffused and vague for the short attention spans players almost necessarily have to have when uploading mass quantities of opponent research for a homestand’s worth of foes. Hall of Fame coach Hubie Brown preferred to mentally break the season into eight-game chunks. Go 5-3 in enough of those, you’re almost assured of being a playoff team.) Twenty games in is a fragile time for coaches, as far as job security, as the Memphis Grizzlies’ David Fizdale found out Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). At 7-12, he and the Grizzlies had been given enough rope that management obviously felt a determination could be made. Memphis’ quick start, winning five of its first six, didn’t resonate nearly as much as its eight consecutive losses did. Not every franchise hits 20, 40 or 60 games on the nose before doing something dramatic. Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough felt he needed to see only three games to fire coach Earl Watson. In 2015-16, the Houston Rockets pulled the plug on Kevin McHale after 11 games. But the last time Miami made a coaching change in season, Riley sent home Stan Van Gundy at 11-10 in 2005-06 and took over for the final 61 games. The Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt 41 games into the 2015-16 season. And the last time each of these organizations -- Washington, Toronto, San Antonio, Minnesota, Golden State, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Chicago -- made coaching changes during the season, they did so after 17, 17, 18, 19, 23, 23, 24 and 25 games respectively. What have we learned about the league this season, with 20 games coming sooner than usual? * Boston’s acquisition of Kyrie Irving, its young starting forwards and a more tenacious defense than expected have more than made up for Gordon Hayward’s loss. * The day Philadelphia coach Brett Brown longed for finally has arrived. * Detroit, Indiana and New York might manage to overachieve their way into lower-seed possibilities. Washington’s window is closing before its eyes, and Milwaukee has flaws at both ends that won’t be solved if and when Jabari Parker returns. * Houston’s James Harden might snag the Kia MVP trophy many thought he deserved last spring. * Minnesota, Denver and Portland are for real in the West, while it’s getting late early in Oklahoma City. Carmelo Anthony was supposed to have left his sub-.500 records back with the Knicks. * The next man Memphis owner Robert Pera offers a full-time coaching position is going to speed-dial Lionel Hollins, Dave Joerger and Fizdale in some order. * A strong field of Kia Rookie of the Year candidates at least six deep from the Draft class of 2017 all might wind up slotting in behind the Sixers’ Ben Simmons. * The drama of the draft lottery might be greater than that of the playoffs decided several weeks later. * LeBron James still moves the Earth and the league when he firmly puts his foot down. Then there’s the best thing about the NBA season at 20 games: That means 62 more to go. 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 NewsNov 29th, 2017

BEST OF 5 Part 2: O captain, my captain, Topex Robinson

Read Part 1 of ABS-CBN Sports’ Best of 5 series on the LPU Pirates here. --- Long before Lyceum of the Philippines University was dominating the NCAA, it was already a force to reckon with in other collegiate leagues. The Pirates were the class of both the National Capital Region Athletic Association (NCRAA) and the Inter-Scholastic Athletic Association (ISAA). Also, they had four Sweet 16 finishes to their name in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL). Perennial favorites in the collegiate leagues they competed in, they were, without a doubt, a battleship staking claim to a river. Clearly, the Intramuros-based squad needed a whole damn sea to set sail in. MAKE WAY And so, LPU entered the first and oldest collegiate league in the country as a guest team in 2011. However, they soon realized that they may have had good endings in their prior collegiate leagues, but the NCAA is a whole different story. The Pirates fell far from the .500 mark in their first four years in the NCAA and compiled an overall record of 25-47. “Na-experience ko lahat simula guest team pa lang ang Lyceum. Noon, yung pag-compete namin, kapos na kapos pa,” now graduating Wilson Baltazar recalled of that time. He then continued, “Naalala ko nung mga panahong yun, gustong-gusto naming manalo, pero laging kulang effort namin.” Their battleship was now in the sea, but was also now alongside other battleships – other battleships which were bigger, badder, better. Clearly, change had to come. PARTING WAYS Long before he was the leader of a crew that is now in the championship round, Topex Robinson was already leading a generational group in the Finals. In just his first year as head coach of San Sebastian College-Recoletos in 2011, Robinson made it all the way to the Finals, guiding the famed “Pinatubo Trio” of Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual, and Ian Sangalang into yet again challenging dynastic San Beda College. Unfortunately, his first championship wasn’t meant to be as he and his alma mater ultimately bowed down to the Red Lions. The former PBA player would not reach the same heights again in Recto. With a 5-13 record in 2014, both Baste and its alumnus had fallen off the map. Clearly, change had to come. SEE YOU AT THE CROSSROADS And so, LPU saw the resignation of 11-year head coach Bonnie Tan while San Sebastian witnessed Robinson’s second departure from the bench. Not long after, LPU and Robinson then found one another. “It was something I didn’t expect to happen so early because, basically, I had just resigned from San Sebastian. I guess I was just blessed to be given an opportunity,” the always amiable mentor now narrates. Just as the Pirates were more than willing to give the young coaching mind a fresh start, the young coaching mind was also more than willing to give the Pirates a fresh start. “It was just an opportunity for me to grow. I always loved coaching and that’s how I always envisioned myself,” he said. He then continued, “So whatever opportunity there is for me to take my calling, I’m always open to that.” THIS IS DIFFERENT Still, Robinson made it clear that it never crossed his mind that he would end up inside the walls of Intramuros – a place he did not really have any ties to. “I never thought of being LPU coach,” he expressed. In fact, he went on to say that in during those first few practices, he had a tough time getting their team name right. As he put it, “Actually, the first year, I still always said, ‘San Sebastian.’ Yung adjustment from San Sebastian then all of a sudden, I was in LPU, it took me a while bago mag-sink in.” Fortunately for the mentor, he had the all-out support of both the school of the students. “What I appreciate about LPU is the support of the students and the management. Yun yung isang bagay na I was really excited about – knowing na I had the full support of the community,” he said. Of course, that all-out support entailed being given the tallest of tasks. “Sa start pa lang, they told me to change the culture. I pretty much explained to them that it’s not an overnight thing, that it’s gonna take a while,” he said. ROUGH START Robinson’s entry didn’t necessarily turn the tides in LPU’s favor. He won four of 18 games in his debut season and then followed that up with a 6-12 record in his sophomore effort. However, he also wasted no time in effecting change in the habits of players. “Yung iniba ni coach Topex, yung disiplina sa team. Ngayon, willing kaming lahat gawin lahat para manalo,” Baltazar shared, noting the difference between the Pirates of old and the Pirates under Robinson. He then continued, “Sa training talaga, dun mo makikita yung pagkakaiba. Ngayon kasi, lahat nag-sacrifice sa training, lahat nagbibigay ng effort mula sa dulo ng bench hanggang first five.” Baltazar went on to say how their new head coach gave his all to make them understand that they are a team and not just a collection of individuals. “Lahat kami, walang entitled, pantay-pantay lang. Kung anong ginagawa ng isa, ginagawa ng lahat,” he said. And while that understanding didn’t translate onto the standings just yet, Robinson already proved that he was up to the tallest of tasks. That did not get lost on the LPU community which entrusted him with its fledgling program. “What I appreciate from them is LPU is really determined to change what was there and make this program one to be respected,” he then continued. Now, the LPU Pirates had their captain. Now, it was just all about assembling the right crew. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 6th, 2017

Kerr pushes Warriors to keep joy, chase repeat championship

em>By Janie McCauley, Associated Press /em> OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Steve Kerr recently threw out a perplexing question to his star-studded Golden State roster: What should he tell a team that has won championships in two of the last three years and still reached the Finals in the other? How might he spark improvement from a group that has won 67, 73 and 67 games the past three seasons? “It’s got to be about what’s important to us,” Kerr said. “The joy of coming to practice every day is important for our guys to remember, the process.” Kerr is already challenging his Warriors to find ways to get better. He is strategizing ways to make sure they don’t become complacent, maintaining the edge that has turned this franchise into a perennial contender with names such as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green leading the charge after decades of futility. “It’s been really smooth. There’s a chemistry and a certain expectation of how we’re going to play versus last year,” Curry said. “There were a couple unanswered questions going into camp and a feeling out process but Coach has challenged us to focus on the details in how we can get better from last year. He joked around: ’What do you tell a team that’s won 67 games or 65-plus the last three years, two championships, how do you tell a team like that to get better? Or what do you tell a team like that to get better? It’s basically about the details and the fine points of our offense, and cutting hard, setting screens for each other, the counters that we’re going to add to our offensive sets. All those little things are built on the foundation that we set last year and obviously Kevin’s a part of that. We all are. So it’s kind of good to put that in the right perspective.” What the franchise has accomplished the past three seasons isn’t lost on Green. “It’s a special thing,” he said. “And I think a lot of times in life we forget to live in the moment, especially in our day and age, social media — let me record this — miss everything I’m watching because I am looking at it through a phone. You forget to enjoy the moment. ... As much as I try to enjoy the moment, you’ll never fully understand it until it’s over.” Here are some things to watch for with the Warriors: strong>INVITE WITHDRAWN: /strong>Curry made headlines on media day last month when he reiterated he didn’t want to visit the White House under President Donald Trump, who then withdrew his invite to the champs a day later via Twitter. The Warriors have become a face for social advocacy in sports— specifically speaking up against racial injustice. “That’s the genesis of our stance and if you watched us all last year we stood for the national anthem,” Curry said. “Certain teams locked arms or had different demonstrations and the NFL’s taken a different approach. But it’s about the message, it’s not about the act. For the life of me if that doesn’t just get across to everybody, it’s not a disrespect at anything about the flag or the anthem and we can hopefully move in the right direction.” strong>KERR’S HEALTH: /strong> Kerr missed 11 games during the postseason dealing with neck pain, nausea and other symptoms stemming from a 2015 back surgery. He has made improvements but still feels discomfort at times. The 2016 NBA Coach of the Year is staying optimistic he will be on the bench all season. “It’s been a long odyssey ... and not easy, but I’m lucky to have the support of not only the players but Bob [Myers] and Joe [Lacob],” Kerr said. “Everybody is constantly so supportive, and I’m looking forward to the season. I’m excited. I think it’s going to go smoothly. I think I’ll be fine. But who knows. As Vin Scully once said, we’re all day-to-day.” strong>ROSTER INTACT: /strong>With so many familiar faces back — 12 to be exact — there are only a handful of players being integrated for the first time. “It’s a lot easier to pick up the system when you’re only one of two or three new guys instead of six or seven,” Kerr said. “Because all the other guys who have been here, they can help and everything flows more smoothly. So I think it’s a little easier job this year for the new guys to blend in because there are fewer of them.” strong>THREE CENTERS: /strong>Kerr can again use his three diverse centers in a deep rotation — beginning with Zaza Pachulia then going to alley-oop dunk man JaVale McGee or precision-passer David West. Pachulia said it’s much different this season with everybody understanding what to expect from each other and having already developed a trust level. “When something is working, let it work,” Pachulia said. strong>NEWBIES: /strong> Nick Young and Omri Casspi are two newcomers on an experienced roster, both capable shooters who will be counted upon to take pressure off the starting five when called upon for key minutes. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

As calendar flips to October, the MLB postseason from A to Z

em>By Ben Walker, Associated Press /em> All those home runs by Aaron Judge, all those wins by the Los Angeles Dodgers, nicely done. Except none of that matters now — a sinker that bounces to the backstop, a liner that hooks barely foul, the whole script flips. October has a way of doing that. The Major League Baseball playoffs start Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium when New York hosts the Minnesota Twins in the AL wild-card game. A look at the 2017 postseason, from A to Z: strong>A: ALTUVE'S ASTROS — /strong>Generously listed at 5-foot-6, Jose Altuve is baseball's little big man. The do-everything second baseman won his third AL batting title and aims to lead the Astros to their first World Series crown. With the Houston area recovering from Hurricane Harvey, they're the sentimental favorites. strong>B: BULLPENS — /strong> Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman going long, Andrew Miller entering early, Clayton Kershaw as a closer. The old rules were out last October when it came to relief roles. We'll see what pops up in the 'pens this year. strong>C: CUBS VS. CLEVELAND — /strong>Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Corey Kluber & Crew, once more? It's been a while since a World Series rematch, when Reggie Jackson led the Yanks over the Dodgers in 1977-78. But, it's already been a ripe year for repeats — Warriors vs. Cavaliers, Alabama vs. Clemson. strong>D: DEBUTS — /strong>Strikeout king Chris Sale makes his first playoff appearance when Boston starts at Houston on Thursday in the best-of-five AL Division Series. Rockies bopper Nolan Arenado and Twins slugger Brian Dozier are postseason newbies, too. So is Nationals backup Adam Lind, after 12 years and more than 1,300 games. strong>E: EXTRA — /strong>Hmmm, anyone remember the last time a postseason game went to extra innings? Hard to top the Cubs' 10-inning, rain-delayed, 8-7 thriller over Cleveland in Game 7. The Red Sox are the experts of extras this year — they're 15-3, including seven straight wins. strong>F: FREE AGENTS — /strong>Sure, 20 teams are done. But their fans can always dream. Cubs righty Jake Arrieta, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Rays thumper Logan Morrison are on the list of who'll soon be available. The most intriguing possibility might be Shohei Otani, a star pitcher and hitter in Japan. strong>G: GOOD TO SEE YA — /strong> Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, when he was 10 for 17. Twins star Joe Mauer has been absent since 2010. And Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg has pitched just once in Washington's three trips, heading into this matchup with the Cubs. strong>H: HOME FIELD — /strong>World Series home-field advantages go to the team with the best record. Thankfully, it's no longer based on who wins the All-Star Game. That means the Dodgers (104 wins) get first dibs, followed by Cleveland (102), Houston (101), Washington (97), Boston (93) and the Cubs (92). strong>I: INJURIES — /strong>Nationals ace Max Scherzer tweaked his hamstring, teammate Bryce Harper is getting over a bad knee. Banged-up All-Stars Miguel Sano of the Twins and Michael Brantley of the Indians might be able contribute this week. Might not. strong>J: JOE MADDON — /strong>A cool cat, he keeps his Cubs loose. He reveled in last year's rallying cry: 'Try Not to Suck.' The skipper became the toast of Chicago, ending that century-old drought. Funny, all those warm-and-fuzzy Wrigley Field feelings are gone now, at least beyond the Friendly Confines. strong>K: KERSHAW — /strong>He tied for the major league lead in wins and won his fifth ERA title. He's a three-time Cy Young Award winner and seven-time All-Star. But will anyone get more scrutiny in the postseason than Clayton Kershaw? Probably not, because the LA lefty is 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in the postseason. strong>L: LOUSY WEATHER — /strong>Too bad, the temperature is often better suited for snowballs than baseballs. It was in the low 40s at Wrigley last year, and just imagine how it might feel in Denver or Minneapolis. If you want clear conditions, root for Arizona vs. Houston and their retractable roofs. strong>M: MANAGERS — /strong> Twin Cities native Paul Molitor, Torey Lovullo of the Diamondbacks and Bud Black of the Rockies are first-time skippers in the playoffs. Washington's Dusty Baker is back for his ninth try, still seeking that elusive first World Series championship. strong>N: NETTING — /strong>Fan safety has drawn special focus ever since a 1-year-old girl was recently hit by Todd Frazier's 105 mph foul ball at Yankee Stadium. Of the teams in these playoffs, three already had extended the netting to screen spectators: Houston, Washington and Minnesota. The Yankees say they'll have it next year. strong>O: OCTOBER — /strong>Of course. But if the World Series goes to Game 7, they'll go beyond Halloween and play on Nov. 1. strong>P: PUERTO RICO — /strong> Carlos Beltran, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are among the many players from Puerto Rico trying to raise money and awareness for the damage done to their island by Hurricane Maria. Look for messages on caps and shoes over the next few weeks. strong>Q: QUICK? — /strong>Extra mound conferences, longer TV commercials, more pitching changes, they all contribute to slowing down the pace in the playoffs. MLB wants to speed up the action and avoid a repeat from last year, when postseason games averaged almost 3 1/2 hours. Not a good sign that regular-season games this year took more than 3 hours, 5 minutes on average, the longest ever. strong>R: ROOKIES — /strong>Yankees behemoth Aaron Judge broke the major league record with 52 home runs by a rookie, Dodgers surprise Cody Bellinger set the NL mark with 39. Other newcomers who could make an impact: Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, Cubs outfielder/infielder Ian Happ and 33-year-old Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel. strong>S: STREAKS — /strong> Jose Ramirez and the Indians set an AL record by winning 22 straight, the Dodgers dropped 11 in a row for their worst skid since moving from Brooklyn. A year after winning its first six postseason games, and in this season of streaks, Cleveland hopes to do it again. strong>T: TRADES — /strong>Justin Verlander (5-0, 1.06 ERA for Houston), J.D. Martinez (29 homers in 62 games for Arizona) and Jose Quintana (7-3, 3.74 for the Cubs) are some of the stars who were acquired in midseason trades. Yu Darvish, David Robertson and Eduardo Nunez also gave their new teams a boost. strong>U: UMPIRES — /strong>It won't be long before some team is hollering about an ump's strike zone. Those calls can't be contested, but others can. Some teams are very good at getting them overturned (Joe Girardi and the Yankees won 72 percent of their challenges). Others, not so much (the Nationals were right only 36 percent). strong>V: VOTING — /strong>All ballots for MVP, Cy Young and other major awards must be sent before the playoffs begin. These honors will generate plenty of debate before the winners are announced in November. Altuve or Judge, Kluber or Sale? strong>W: WILD CARDS — /strong> Madison Bumgarner and the 2014 Giants are the only wild-card team to win the World Series since MLB went to a one-and-done format in 2012. Before that, five wild cards took the title: Cardinals (2011), Red Sox (2004), Marlins (2003, 1997) and Angels (2002). strong>X: XANDER BOGAERTS — /strong> Perhaps the Boston shortstop might be the next infielder to really break out in postseason. Think Javier Baez, Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist and Alcides Escobar in recent years. strong>Y: YANKEE STADIUM — /strong> The playoffs begin the Bronx, with Yankees youngster Luis Severino starting the AL wild-card game, taking on Ervin Santana and the Twins. strong>Z: ZACK GREINKE — /strong>The Arizona ace is set to throw the first pitch in Wednesday's NL wild-card game at home against a familiar opponent. He's 2-1 in five starts vs. Colorado this year. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 2nd, 2017

Facebook hiring human rights chief partly because of PH

Facebook is looking to hire a director of human rights policy, and the Philippines appears to be one reason why. Among the responsibilities of the new Facebook human rights chief, the company said, will be to drive "investigations into and disruptions of human rights abusers on our platforms" and draft "policies to counteract bad actors." Facebook did not elaborate on who these bad actors and human rights abusers are, and the move doesn't change Facebook's main goal, which is to attract as many users as it can and come up with new ways to make money from its gargantuan user base. But as TechCrunch noted in reporting on Facebook's new role: "The costs of that growth have been...Keep on reading: Facebook hiring human rights chief partly because of PH.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsSep 19th, 2018

30 Teams in 30 Days: Can Wizards realize their potential?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com What offseason? That's a question many fans ask as the flurry of trades, free agent news and player movement seems to never stop during the summer. Since the Golden State Warriors claimed their third title in four years back on June 8 (June 9, PHL time), NBA teams have undergone a massive number of changes as they prepare for the season ahead. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2017-18 to the team with the best regular-season record -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Washington Wizards 2017-18 Record: 43-39, lost in first round to Toronto Raptors Who's new: Dwight Howard (free agency), Jeff Green (free agency), Troy Brown, Jr. (Draft), Austin Rivers (trade) Who's gone: Marcin Gortat (trade), Mike Scott (free agency) The lowdown: With John Wall limited to half a season because of knee surgery, Bradley Beal became a leading man and, on some nights, pushed the boundaries of stardom. If anything, he gave the Wizards confidence in knowing that, when the pair is healthy, Washington boasts a top-three-or-four backcourt in the NBA. Forward Otto Porter Jr. was third in the NBA in 3-point shooting (a blistering 44.1 percent) and served as a secondary source of scoring. However, the Wizards weren’t so clear-cut elsewhere. The frontline continued to be a source of mixed results and frustration and, other than Kelly Oubre Jr., depth was an issue. The Wizards went chilly late in the season, lost nine of their last 12 games and dropped to the eighth seed. In some ways, the Wizards are on the clock. They must seize the opportunity to win big while Wall, 27, and Beal, 25, are still in their primes. Yet they’ve rarely stayed healthy together and besides, nothing is promised. Remember, the Toronto Raptors broke up the sterling DeMar DeRozan-Kyle Lowry backcourt this summer when their patience finally ran out. Also, keep in mind the cost. Wall’s super max deal doesn’t begin until 2019-20. Beal is due $80 million the next three years, roughly the same money Washington will pay Porter Jr., who’s a good (but perhaps overpriced) complimentary player. For the time being, the Wizards will put their frontcourt faith in Dwight Howard, who arrives about five years past his prime, but should be an upgrade over Gortat. Howard, 32, came cheap after his Brooklyn Nets buyout and remains a deluxe rebounder (12.5 per game last season). The decision to bring in Howard could be the banana peel in the path of progress, however. This is his fourth team in four years. His “act” -- being easy-going, goofy and fun-loving -- didn’t play well with some previous teammates, including, among others, Kobe Bryant and James Harden. Howard is headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and anyone who believes otherwise is foolish -- the man did carry the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. For a seven-year stretch, he was one of the game’s biggest impact players. Yet his twilight is bewildering, which is not surprising. Howard never developed his offensive game (namely a go-to move or mid-range shot) and as a result, he’s a dinosaur in a changing environment, someone who shrinks considerably when he strays six feet from the basket. Plus, he’s not the defensive demon of before, although he stays in tremendous physical shape and still runs the floor. There’s also the matter of his personality, which might be overstated to a degree, yet was an issue ever since he left the Magic. Howard appears to be on a mission to please everyone and in the process, tends to ruffle some feathers along the way. Finally, he often becomes irritated when he doesn’t see the ball in the low post. He won’t get many touches on a team with Wall and Beal taking upwards of 35 shots a night. (Ball movement and sharing was a complaint Gortat voiced at times in the past, too.) Over the summer, Wall said he will do whatever he can to make Howard comfortable ... because what’s the alternative? Since Beal joined Wall in 2012-13, they have won three playoff series together -- but have never reached the East finals. However, the East is wide open this year with LeBron James out West. The Wizards chose not to trade Oubre Jr. in the offseason, but this situation bears watching. He’s a developing player at a stacked position, and the swingman spot became even more crowded when the Wizards drafted Brown, who’s cut in the same mold. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Wizards move Oubre Jr. or Porter Jr. by the trade deadline if the right deal comes along, simply because Washington can’t pay both. Plus, Oubre Jr. is eligible for a contract extension next summer. Brown, 19, brings court vision and a reliable handle, but it's hard to see him playing much given the bodies in front of him on the depth chart. After all the quality big men and point guards were gone (and they passed on picking Michael Porter Jr.), Washington was in a weird position at No. 15 in the Draft. They could either trade the pick or Draft a wing-type. They traded Gortat for Rivers, who’s listed at point guard but lacks the court vision and ability to create for others to see much time at the position. Rivers is more of a 3-point shooter, and he did well enough (37.8 percent) last season to ably bring that element off the bench. For the most part, the Wizards made minor moves this summer, none of which are expected to dramatically change the complexion of the club. It should be enough to keep them in the playoff mix, especially with LeBron gone. From there, their hopes will be tied to their health. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 15th, 2018

Sudan police save 85 minors from trafficking network

Police in Sudan have rescued nearly 100 people, 85 of them minors, after breaking up a human trafficking network in the northeast African country last month, Interpol said Monday. Two men and twelve women were arrested and around $20,000 of the suspected ransom money was seized in the operation at several locations in Khartoum as well as at gold mines east of the city, the international policing agency said. The victims, some of whom were as young as 10, were from several African countries including Chad, DR Congo, Eritrea, and Niger. "The diversity of nationalities amongst those rescued shows how human trafficking and people smuggling is a truly transnational problem which requ...Keep on reading: Sudan police save 85 minors from trafficking network.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsSep 10th, 2018