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Las Vegas shooter s girlfriend back in U.S.

Las Vegas shooter s girlfriend back in U.S......»»

Category: newsSource: cnnphilippines cnnphilippinesOct 4th, 2017

Las Vegas shooter’s girlfriend said she handled ammo

LAS VEGAS --- The girlfriend of the gunman behind the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history told authorities they would probably find her fingerprints on bullets because she sometimes helped him load ammunition magazines. An FBI agent tells a judge in warrant documents made public Friday that Marilou Danley wasn't arrested when she returned to the U.S. from the Philippines days after the Oct. 1 shooting, and that she was cooperating with investigators. Her boyfriend, Stephen Paddock, shot himself dead after firing from a Las Vegas Strip casino into a concert crowd, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds. The agent says in the Oct. 3 document that there was no evidence ...Keep on reading: Las Vegas shooter’s girlfriend said she handled ammo.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 13th, 2018

Girlfriend denies knowledge of Vegas plot

LAS VEGAS — The girlfriend of the Las Vegas shooter said Wednesday that she had no idea he was planning an attack on the Strip and is devastated for the vict.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsOct 5th, 2017

Girlfriend denies knowledge of Vegas plot

LAS VEGAS — The girlfriend of the Las Vegas shooter said Wednesday that she had no idea he was planning an attack on the Strip and is devastated for the vict.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsOct 5th, 2017

Vegas mass shooter’s Filipina girlfriend may still face charges

Vegas mass shooter’s Filipina girlfriend may still face charges.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 17th, 2018

Celine Dion to serenade PH fans on July 19

Pop diva Celine Dion is set---yet again---to hold her first Manila concert on July 19 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, according to local promoter Ovation Productions. The one-night show will be part of the Canadian singer's world tour, "Celine Dion Live 2018," which will take place after her ongoing residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas ends in June. The concert series will be her first in the Asia-Pacific region since her "Taking Chances" tour back in 2008. "We're playing some countries for the very first time ever---in my whole career. I will also be returning to some places that I have loved and been in before," Celine said in a video posted on her Facebook...Keep on reading: Celine Dion to serenade PH fans on July 19.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 15th, 2018

‘93 Brown’s Chicken Massacre back in the news, 2 Filipinos were youngest victims

  CHICAGO---Exactly 25 years after one of the most notorious crimes in Chicago area history happened on January 8, 1993, the "Brown's Chicken Massacre" is back in the news. One of the two convicted killers, James E. Degorski was recently denied a new trial based on his claim that his former girlfriend, Anne Lockett, who became a key prosecution witness in his 2009 trial, lied on the witness stand so that she could eventually receive a portion of the $98,000 reward offered for his and his partner's arrest. Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan on January 8 agreed with prosecutors that Degorski's lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean,failed to prove that his rights had been violated at tr...Keep on reading: ‘93 Brown’s Chicken Massacre back in the news, 2 Filipinos were youngest victims.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 15th, 2018

C.J. Williams hits 3 to lift Clippers over Hawks 108-107

By Tim Liotta, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — C.J. Williams hit a three-pointer from the left wing with nine seconds left to lift the Los Angeles Clippers over the Atlanta Hawks 108-107 on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 34 points but missed a late three that was rebounded by Wesley Johnson. He passed the ball out to C.J. Williams for a shot that snapped the Clippers’ two-game skid. Taurean Prince missed a 15-foot jumper with three seconds remaining on Atlanta’s last possession. DeAndre Jordan added 25 points and 18 rebounds as Los Angeles won despite blowing a 13-point lead in the third quarter. The Clippers played without leading scorer Blake Griffin, who suffered a concussion Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) against Golden State. Prince scored 20 points, Dennis Schroder added 18 and Kent Bazemore and Ersan Ilyasova had 13 apiece for Atlanta, which lost its fourth straight. With the score tied at 105, Lou Williams missed a short shot and Bazemore made two free throws after being fouled in the lane with 23 seconds to play, putting Atlanta up 107-105. After C.J. Williams hit a floater from the left baseline with 3:35 left, tying the score at 99, Bazemore followed up a layup with a three-pointer to give Atlanta a 104-100 lead with 2:11 to play. After Lou Williams committed a turnover, Bazemore was fouled by Jordan and hit one of two free throws for a 105-99 advantage. The Hawks then decided to foul Jordan on three consecutive possessions. He made 5-of-6 free throws to pull Los Angeles to 105-104 with 1:08 left. The Clippers forced an Atlanta turnover on the ensuing inbounds play, and Juwan Evans made the first of two free throws. Johnson was called for basket interference as the second shot hung on the rim, giving Atlanta the ball with the score tied at 105. GRIFFIN UPDATE Griffin was inactive against the Hawks, but did ride an exercise bike during the Clippers’ workout earlier in the day and continues to progress toward a return that coach Doc Rivers expects to be at least three or four days away. “He’s passed a couple of tests already,” Rivers said. “The whole (concussion) protocol thing now, you have to go through the entire protocol. I think he has another couple of tests to pass, and we’ll just have to wait.” TIP-INS Hawks: Prince was a game-time decision, as the Hawks wanted to see how he felt about his dislocated right ring finger after pregame warmups. Prince was injured in the first quarter against the Lakers the night before. ... Fifth-year center Dewayne Dedmon was under a minutes restriction in his first game after missing 19 with a left tibia stress reaction, coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s fit us well,” Budenholzer said. “His leadership and personality have been a welcomed addition this year. I think getting those things back on the court, we’re all looking forward to it.” Clippers: Los Angeles played without four of its five opening-night starters (Griffin, Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic), and the first man off the bench that night, Austin Rivers. Jordan was the only opening-night starter to play against the Hawks. ... Jordan, a career 43 percent free throw shooter, made 21 of his 25 free throws over the previous four games. UP NEXT Hawks: At the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Clippers: At the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2018

Carroll still believes Seahawks can be title contender

By Tim Booth, Associated Press RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Pete Carroll insisted again that he's not going anywhere. He's intent on remaining the leader of the Seattle Seahawks even if it means many of the faces he spoke to this week while closing out the 2017 season are gone by the time Carroll finally gets to coach his team again. "I'm pumped up about it. I'm excited about that challenge," Carroll said Tuesday. "I'm upset that we have to face it this early. I'd like another six weeks here, that would be nice. But that's not what this one is. We got to go after it. Nothing's going to change other than maybe our resolve." For just the second time in his eight years in Seattle, Carroll spent Tuesday explaining why the Seahawks were not in the postseason. It's the first playoff miss for Seattle since the 2011 season and with the rapid rise of division foe Los Angeles indicated — at least for one year — a significant change in the hierarchy of the NFC West. Injuries played a major role in Seattle's slide to 9-7. So, too, did inconsistency on offense, continued problems with penalties and salary cap constraints that limited adjustments the Seahawks could make during the season. It's likely to be a busy offseason as Seattle attempts to manage its tight cap situation while making key decisions about how to move forward and if it still is a championship contender needing slight tweaks or a major overhaul. "I think there is a championship team sitting in this meeting room right here," Carroll said. Here are some of the issues to know about Seattle's 2017 season and going into next year: REDISCOVER THE RUN: Perhaps nothing irritated Carroll more, or had a great impact on the efficiency of the offense, than Seattle's inability to run. It's been a staple of Carroll's program from the day he arrived in Seattle. This year the Seahawks had one rushing touchdown by a running back. Quarterback Russell Wilson was the leading rusher with 586 yards, 346 more than any other player. Seattle had hopes for promising rookie Chris Carson, but he was sidelined by an ankle injury early in the season and never made it back. The lack of a running game affected Wilson as a passer as well, as defenses didn't have to commit an extra safety to stopping the run, leading to smaller throwing windows and some tentative decisions by Wilson. "There are tremendous examples of teams around the league that have turned their fortunes around with a formula that should sound familiar to you: teams running the football, playing good defense and doing the kicking game thing," Carroll said. INJURY CONCERNS: Carroll wouldn't get into specifics, but there is a chance Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor have played their final games. Avril and Chancellor suffered neck injuries during the season. Carroll said on the radio Tuesday that both would have a "hard time" playing football again. A couple of hours later, he softened his stance, saying each have quality-of-life decisions to address with their football future. "Both those guys are marvelous people and competitors and all that. We'd love to see them through the rest of their career. I don't know what's going to happen there," Carroll said. LEGION OF WHOM: If Chancellor does not return, it could be the start of a major makeover for Seattle's secondary. Richard Sherman is coming off a torn Achilles tendon and was openly shopped by Seattle last offseason. Earl Thomas is entering the last year of his contract and his actions toward the end of the season indicated a desire to be elsewhere for the 2018 season. A big key will be if Seattle can re-sign versatile safety Bradley McDougald after he played both free and strong safety this season. HOME-FIELD AVERAGE: Seattle went 4-4 at home, its first .500 record at CenturyLink Field since 2011. The Seahawks have always thrived at home, but some of their uglier performances this year came in front of their own fans. OFF THE FIELD: Seattle was among the most active teams in the league with a significant number of players participating in national anthem protests. The protests, on top of the incident Michael Bennett had with police in Las Vegas in August, created a number of unexpected issues. Carroll said he believed that only once this season — Seattle's loss at Tennessee — did discussions of off-field issues affect the team's performance. Seattle had long discussions following comments by President Donald Trump about NFL players and opted to remain in the locker room as a team during the anthem before that game. "That was an extraordinarily heated time," Carroll said. "I think that was a different amount of emotional output that occurred before the game and it looked like it the way we played.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2018

Kiefer Ravena s Christmas Day debut was made even more special with Alyssa Valdez watching

On Christmas Day, PBA rookie and emerging NLEX Road Warriors star Kiefer Ravena put on a show at the Philippine Arena, putting up 20 points to go along with five assists and four steals and a W over Globalport. It was Ravena’s second-straight impressive outing as he helped lead the Road Warriors to a 2-0 start to the 43rd PBA season, and it earned him Player of the Week honors. Being that it was his first Christmas Day game at the Philippine Arena, it was already set to be a special night for the second-overall pick, but it became even more special with a special someone in sitting in the crowd. In attendance was Ravena’s girlfriend, Philippine volleyball star Alyssa Valdez, who was home for the holidays from her stint in Taiwan with club team Attack Line. “It feels nice to have her around. It’s always like that whenever she’s here.” Ravena said. And by home for the holidays, we mean three days. Valdez landed on Christmas Eve and then flew back out to Taiwan on December 26th. While her time with Attack Line is coming to an end and Valdez heading back to Philippine soil to play for the Premier Volleyball League's Creamline club in 2018, Ravena knows that it still won’t be a given that Valdez will be at all his games. “Being a professional, it comes with a lot of responsibilities, and knowing that sometimes, she’s not gonna be around with games, but we both know how to handle it.” “Ito na yung buhay namin eh.” Ravena added. While it surely won’t be the last time that Valdez gets to see Ravena play in the PBA, it was still a special moment for the former Ateneo Blue Eagle to have his special someone around for his best performance in the pros so far. “For now, having her around, it’s always nice to play when she’s watching, when your family and your loved ones are around supporting you.”  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2018

Birthday letdown: Mitchell scores 29, Jazz top James, Cavs

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points, and the Utah Jazz handed LeBron  James and the Cleveland Cavaliers their third straight defeat, 104-101 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). James had 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists on his 33rd birthday as Cleveland lost at Utah for the sixth straight time. The Cavs' three-game losing streak is their second this season. Mitchell blew by J.R. Smith with the dribble and finished a layup in traffic over James with 35 seconds remaining to give the Jazz a 100-97 lead. James then missed a layup, and Utah finished off the game from the free-throw line. The Jazz snapped a three-game losing streak. Mitchell shot 10-for-17 from the field. Ricky Rubio had 16 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. James did not record a point or an assist during the game-changing third quarter, which Utah opened with a 23-3 run. Cleveland connected on just 4-of-19 shots in the quarter. James powered the Cavaliers' late rally, but the Jazz were able to hold on. The Cavs led by 10 in the first quarter. Utah chipped away in the second and trailed 53-48 at halftime. TIP-INS Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue said Isaiah Thomas (hip), who has not played this season, looked good during a Friday (Saturday, PHL time) scrimmage and felt good Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Doctors have not yet cleared Thomas to play, Lue said. Jazz: C Rudy Gobert was re-evaluated Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) and will miss at least two more weeks with a sprained PCL. BRUTAL STRETCH The Jazz had lost 10-of-12 while playing a brutal schedule that included 11 games against teams in position to make the playoffs. Coach Quin Snyder acknowledged there's been a psychological toll, but said the team is resilient. "We try to make it about more than winning and losing," Snyder said. "I think a focus on the process or improving and those things. "I don't sense us being incredibly despondent. But that doesn't mean there's not some psychological toll that's taken a little bit." BIRTHDAY MEMORIES James was in a storytelling mood at the pregame shoot-around when asked about his favorite birthdays. He enjoyed turning 18 but said there was "this false notion that you're a grown man." Even James couldn't do whatever he wanted. "There was always certain clubs and stuff I used to go to and they were like, `Come on LeBron, we know you're not 21," James said with a laugh. "`We cannot let you in here and mess up our liquor license.' So 21 was pretty cool, too. ... I turned 21 and went to Vegas and that summer. I was like, back then I was so happy to show my card! `I'm 21, let me up in here! I'm up in here!" Fake identification wasn't an option, considering he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated before he was 18. "I wish," James said. "Who was I going to be?" UP NEXT Cavaliers: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Jazz: Host the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

Teng s New Year s Day welcome won t be a cold one

Jeron Teng has yet to win a game in the PBA in his rookie year. It’s not an ideal end for the year that’s about to close especially with the former De La Salle University standout’s superb performance for the Alaska Aces. But hey, the guy will at least have a good New Year’s Day welcome. He’ll be spending it with girlfriend Jeanine Tsoi, who was missing in the usual WAGS (wives and girlfriends) row at the Cuneta Astrodome Friday night in the Aces’ 98-106 loss to the Talk ‘N Text KaTropa in the 43rd PBA Philippine Cup. Tsoi, an ABS-CBN Sports host and former DLSU courtside reporter, is currently enjoying a European trip.       “She’s coming back kasi 31. Teka showbiz ba ito?” said Teng in a light moment with reporters.   Even half the world away, Tsoi congratulated her beau for a job well done in a Twitter post. Teng had a career game with 28 points in an efficient 10-of-18 shooting percentage he spiced up with 10 boards, five assist, four steals and a block.    Congrats @jeronteng CAREER HIGH!! Solid stat line luv ❤️ 28 Points, 10R 5A 4S 1B !!!!! ✨✨✨✨ — jeanine beatrice (@jeaninebeatrice) December 29, 2017 “Siya naman super supportive siya sa akin kahit wala siya, she always makes sure that she watches my game and she gets updated with my games also,” said the fifth overall pick in the 2017 PBA rookie draft. “’Yun lagi niya akong tini-text na good luck to boost my confidence,” he added. “She’s always there for me.” Teng debuted with 16 points in a 95-108 loss to Magnolia a week ago.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 29th, 2017

Butler’s 39 points lift Wolves past Nuggets, 128-125 in OT

By Patrick Donnelly, Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jimmy Butler scored 12 of Minnesota’s 14 points in overtime and finished with a season-high 39 to lift the Timberwolves to a 128-125 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Andrew Wiggins made five three-pointers and scored 21 points for Minnesota, which won its fifth straight. Taj Gibson added 20 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Will Barton led Denver with 28 points, while Trey Lyles added 23 points and 10 rebounds. Nikola Jokic scored 22 for the Nuggets, whose three-game winning streak ended. Butler scored Minnesota’s first 11 points in overtime. Then with the game tied 125-all and 50 seconds to go, he found Jamal Crawford open for an 18-foot jump shot. After the Nuggets missed on the other end, Butler skied for the defensive rebound, brought the ball down the court and drew a foul. He hit 1-of-2 free throws, and Lyles missed a desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer to help Minnesota hang on after blowing a 19-point lead. The Wolves played the overtime period without Towns, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter, and point guard Jeff Teague, who limped off the court in the final 20 seconds with what appeared to be a left leg injury. Wiggins’ four-point play gave Minnesota a 109-100 lead with just under three minutes to play in regulation. But Denver stormed back, with Barton scoring six points in a 10-2 run that cut the Wolves’ lead to a point with 51 seconds to play. Barton eventually hit a pair of free throws to send the game to overtime tied at 114. Minnesota got off to a hot start from outside, making its first five three-pointers on consecutive shots by Towns, Teague, Wiggins (twice) and Butler to build an early 19-7 lead. The Timberwolves came into the game 29th in the NBA in three-pointers made per game at 8.1, but they already had nine (on 18 attempts) by halftime, including a 4-for-4 start by Wiggins, a 30 percent three-point shooter on the season. They finished the night 12-for-29 from beyond the arc. Minnesota pushed its lead to as many as 19 points before taking a 71-58 cushion into the locker room at halftime. The lead grew back to 19 before Barton scored eight points and Lyles added five in a 13-0 run late in the third that pulled Denver to 88-82. TIP-INS Nuggets: Lyles has scored in double digits in Denver’s last seven games. ... The Nuggets are now 2-4 on the back end of back-to-backs this year. After beating Utah on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), they are 5-1 on the front end. ... Denver had held its previous three opponents below 86 points, its longest such streak since 2012. Timberwolves: F Nemanja Bjelica played his second straight game after missing the previous 15 with a sprained foot. ... Minnesota’s 71-point first half was its highest-scoring half this season. ... Towns posted his league-leading 28th double-double. ... Minnesota improved to 19-6 against the Western Conference and 7-1 against the Northwest Division. UP NEXT Nuggets: Host Philadelphia on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Timberwolves: At Milwaukee on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2017

DeRozan scores 45 points, Raptors rally to beat 76ers

PHILADELPHIA (AP) --- With DeMar DeRozan knocking down 3-pointers early, Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey thought he was back in Seattle. Down the stretch, Casey watched DeRozan do what's made him a three-time All-Star: get to the foul line. DeRozan combined the two to score a career-high 45 points and the Raptors overcame a 22-point deficit to beat the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers 114-109 on Thursday (Friday Manila time). DeRozan, a career 28 percent shooter from 3-point range, set a career high with six 3s in nine attempts in Toronto's fifth straight win. "I thought he was a young Ray Allen," Casey said about DeRozan's 4-of-4 first-quarter shooting from 3, reminiscing of ...Keep on reading: DeRozan scores 45 points, Raptors rally to beat 76ers.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2017

DeRozan scores 45 points, Raptors rally to beat 76ers

By Mike Cranston, Associated Press PHILADELPHIA (AP) — DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 45 points and the Toronto Raptors overcame a 22-point deficit to beat the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers 114-109 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). DeRozan also set a career-high with six three-pointers. His jumper with 4:13 left put the Raptors ahead to stay after they trailed 76-54 early in the third quarter. He hit two free throws with 53 seconds left after Philadelphia's Robert Covington missed a go-ahead three-point attempt, and then two more with 6.4 seconds left put it away. Kyle Lowry added 23 points to help the Raptors win their fifth straight and 11th in 12 games. Ben Simmons scored 20 points and had seven of the Sixers' 23 turnovers in their fourth straight loss. Covington added 19 points and Dario Saric had 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Philadelphia, which blew a 16-point lead Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) in a loss to Sacramento, fell to 1-7 without Embiid. It was another day of uncertainty and false hope for the Sixers regarding their oft-injured franchise center, who went from questionable to probable to out in eight hours. Embiid missed two games with back tightness after logging a career-high 49 minutes in a triple-overtime loss to Oklahoma City last Friday (last Saturday, PHL time). But the big man participated in shootaround and coach Brett Brown said less than two hours before tipoff that Embiid was "probable" and would play barring a setback in warmups. Embiid didn't show any discomfort during pregame drills, but was ruled out about 30 minutes before tipoff. The Sixers were also without starting shooting guard JJ Redick (right hamstring), but used Covington's 5-of-7 shooting from three-point range to race ahead by 22. Things quickly fell apart, as Lowry and Delon Wright (12 points) got hot in a 22-2 run that included bad passes and poor shots by the Sixers. The Raptors, who looked sleepy for much of the first half a night after winning in Charlotte, recovered to improve to 17-1 agains teams with losing records. TIP-INS Raptors: DeRozan, a career 28 percent three-point shooter, hit all four of his first-quarter three's and finished 6-of-9 from behind the arc. ... F C.J. Miles (dental procedure) missed his second straight game. 76ers: Former Raptors C Amir Johnson started in Embiid's place. ... Redick is doubtful for Saturday's (Sunday, PHL time) rematch in Toronto. ... F Trevor Booker had four points after missing the morning shootaround with an illness. FRAGILE EMBIID Embiid has played in 54 of a possible 277 games since being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft. That includes two lost years to foot injuries and last season being cut short by knee surgery. He's yet to be cleared to play on consecutive days because of his knee, and his back has been an on-and-off problem. UP NEXT The teams meet again Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) in Toronto......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 22nd, 2017

Oladipo, Sabonis helping Pacers move forward

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com INDIANAPOLIS – Victor Oladipo has a fever and the only prescription is ... no, not more cowbell. Cowbell might make sense, if you factor in Oladipo’s love of and commitment to music (his debut R&B album has been available since Oct. 6). But the fever currently afflicting Oladipo, shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers, has nothing to do with extracurriculars and everything to do with the odes and anthems he’s been performing within the confines of 94 feet by 50 feet. If the fifth-year guard out of Indiana University, by way of the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder, looks comfortable in his new star turn for the Pacers, well, just remember that’s your word. Not his. “You could say I’m comfortable with the people here,” says Oladipo, who spent three seasons with the Hoosiers before becoming the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. “I played in front of these fans, they mean a lot to me and I gave a lot to them just like they gave a lot to me while I was in college. “But I’m never comfortable in any situation I’m in. I will never be comfortable. That’s what kind of makes me get up and work every day. It’s like, never be satisfied. Because for some reason, ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted more.” Oladipo’s eyes just about glow after a weekend practice as he delves into his unflagging intensity. He doesn’t undercut it with a smile or a token laugh. This is real heat. “Maximize my talent and exhaust my potential,” he says. “In order to do that, I’ve got to come to work every day. That’s my thought process. Wake up each day and be great that day.” Each day would include tonight, when Oladipo will share center stage at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the more decorated and once-beloved star who preceded him in the Pacers lineup. Paul George, a four-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist during his seven seasons in Indiana, was due to face his old team for the first time since being traded to Oklahoma City in July. It was a parting necessitated by George, who had made clear his desire to sign a maximum-salary contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2018. But the trade was orchestrated by Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers’ president of basketball operations, and Chad Buchanan, their general manager, who surprised the NBA by swapping George to OKC for Oladipo and big man Domantas Sabonis. You want intense? The initial reaction to that deal was intensely negative, quickly reaching hysterical proportions. The Pacers immediately were mocked for having traded George for nickels on the dollar. Reports out of Boston characterized Indiana’s POBO as more of a bobo for allegedly spurning a Celtics’ offer of multiple players and draft picks. *Takes a well deserved nap for 3 hours ** Opens Twitter: pic.twitter.com/xWNYaVfKTy — Myl3s Turn3r (@Original_Turner) July 1, 2017 The west is sick!!!! Best conference in the world!!!! — Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) July 1, 2017 Vic to the Pacers?! He might as well run for governor while he's at it! — Cody Zeller (@CodyZeller) July 1, 2017 Former Thunder star Kevin Durant called the move “shocking” and of George said “Indiana just gave him away.” Among much of the media that covers the league, there was a general feeling of “rubes” afoot -- that the Pacers had been snookered in taking back an overpaid ($21 million annually through 2020-21) second-tier talent and an overbilled guy who had disappeared in OKC’s postseason. And now? Not so much on any of those fronts. ‘He knows how good he is’ George’s stats are down in the “OK3” core he’s formed with reigning Kia MVP Russell Westbrook and aging Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder (12-13) are the NBA’s consensus disappointment, team category, with nearly a third of their season in the books. Sabonis has boosted the Pacers off the bench in a half dozen ways. And Oladipo has all but earned himself a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team while speeding his new team’s fans past their heartbreak over George’s jilting. Generally, the best trades in sports are win-win, but for Indiana right now, a bit of win-lose has made the start of 2017-18 downright sublime. “We happened to really like Sabonis in the draft,” former Pacers president and ongoing consultant Donnie Walsh said last week. “We wanted more of everything in the trade too. But when it came down to it, we had this offer with Oladipo, who we also liked. They’ve come in here and the more they’ve been here, the more we like ‘em. We’re happy.” The Pacers also are 16-11, two weeks ahead in the victory column over their 42-40 finish last season that was good for a playoff berth. Oladipo is the biggest reason why, averaging more points per game (24.5) than George ever has. The 6'4" guard who attended famous DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., spent much of last season being beaten up for his contract and negligible impact in Oklahoma City. He had taken grief earlier for his status as the second pick in 2013, a lofty status not of his doing. And here he was again in the summer, hearing it all over again for a transaction he didn’t design. “He came in with a chip [on his shoulder],” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought he should come in with a chip.” Some would have flinched from the pressure. A few might have curled up, full blown fetal. Oladipo has gone entirely the other way. “His confidence is at an all-time high,” backup point guard Cory Joseph said. “He knows how good he is.” As Joseph spoke after the Pacers’ upset of Cleveland Friday, a game in which Oladipo scored 20 of his game-high 33 points in the third quarter, a lilting voice drifted from behind the scenes in the home dressing room. “Look at it right now, he’s singing in the shower,” Joseph said, tilting his head and laughing. “He’s confident. You guys are all in here, he’s just singing. He’s a confident guy. Everybody in this locker room, everybody in this organization definitely welcomes that.” Trade not driving Oladipo’s breakout season Don’t misunderstand. The critics still are out for Oladipo. “My mom told me yesterday I need to work on my free throws,” he said with an eye roll after practice Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). She had noticed, during her son’s run of big games in December -- 36 points at Toronto, 27 vs. Chicago, 33 against the Cavs the night before her chiding text -- that he had missed 18-of-31 foul shots. This, by a career 80 percent shooter from the line. “I’m over that,” Oladipo said. “I’m not going to miss no more. I’ll make ‘em next time. And if I miss ‘em, I’ll make ‘em the next. If that’s my problem right now, I think I can fix it.” Twenty-four hours later, Oladipo took 13 free throws against Denver and made 11. He scored 47 points in all, hitting 15-of-28 shots and half of his 12 three-pointers. The comeback victory in OT got the Pacers to 4-for-4 on their six-game homestand and continued to shrink whatever chip it was that the 25-year-old was shouldering. “In the beginning of the year, I said, ‘I don’t have a chip. I have a brick house on my back,’” Oladipo said. But not anymore, right, now that some folks are referring to it as “the Victor Oladipo trade” rather than “the Paul George trade?” “That’s what I feel like every morning, no matter what’s going on,” he said. “I don’t even think about the trade, honestly. It’s in the past for me. People’s opinions are going to be there whether you like it or not. From the outside looking in, I guess you could say [then] that was a great trade for OKC. That’s what they believed. But it wasn’t going to change the way I worked. It wasn’t going to change my approach.” This step up in status is considered perhaps the most difficult an NBA player can make. Suddenly, opposing coaches are X&O-ing him to death. The player dogging him up and down the court is the other guys’ best defender. Often, they’ll send double-teams to get the ball into one of his teammates’ hands. “He hadn’t had that,” McMillan said. “When he was in OKC, the game plan was focused on Westbrook. When he was in Orlando, he was just a young player. Now he is seeing the defenders like a LeBron [James], like a [DeMar] DeRozan, what these stars are seeing. He’s seeing the best defenders and he’s seeing teams game-plan to take him out. “Learning how to play and be consistent every night with that challenge is something he’s going through.” Oladipo’s quick success with the Pacers has kept any crowd critics at bay. They were pre-disposed to like him just as their rebound date after George, but had he underperformed, Oladipo’s service time in Bloomington wouldn’t have protected him for long from criticism. But now, it’s George who likely will get the harsh reception. Oladipo, overtly after each of the recent victories, has made it clear to the home fans via some emphatic pointing and body language that the Fieldhouse happens to be his house. “I don’t say it, they say it,” he said. “I just do the gesture and they do the rest of the work for me. I let them do all the talking. We feed off them -- when they’re into it, we play better. I don’t know why, that’s just how basketball’s always been. They’re our sixth man and we need ‘em every night.” Oladipo’s breakout season has been bolstered, too, by the Pacers’ second-through-15th men. Those who already were in Indy knew how valuable George was at both ends. Those who, like Oladipo and Sabonis, were new this season were within their rights to be as skeptical as the national headlines of the guys coming in trade. Go-to guy emerges for Pacers OKC was a specific challenge, Oladipo having to learn on the fly how to fit his own darting, ball-heavy style to only the second man in NBA history to average a triple-double. Westbrook’s usage was off the charts, rendering the other Thunder players to supporting cast whether suited to that role or not. Just like that, Oladipo had to catch and shoot as someone to get Westbrook into double digits in assists. It wasn’t his nature and it made for an individually forgettable season. “I had a role. I tried to play that role to the best of my ability. And I improved certain areas of my game in that role,” was all he’d say Saturday, stiffly, about the OKC experience. Said Walsh: “I felt like he was going to get a different opportunity here. ... When he got to Oklahoma City, he was playing wih a guy who was averaging a triple-double. And he liked Russell Westbrook. But he comes here, he’s got an opportunity to be ‘our guy.’ “I think he might have been looking for that. I never asked him. He’s a really cool guy. He knows what he wants to be, I think.” Oladipo needed this and the Pacers needed him to need it. With George gone, they were like a smile missing a front tooth. The other teeth weren’t just going to move up in the pecking order -- no matter how good young big man Myles Turner is -- and replace the one they’d lost. If they were going to have any success this season, if McMillan was going to be able to coach and adjust in his second year taking over for Frank Vogel, the players needed to fill their roles and welcome this new addition. That’s why this tale of Oladipo’s growing success is about what the Pacers have done for him, as much as it is what he’s done for them. “We didn’t really present it like that,” McMillan said, “because we were still trying to develop who our ‘go-to guy’ was. He has been slowly taking on that role through the things he’s done. I haven’t had to say anything. He’s making good decisions with the ball. And the guys are getting a feel for what we’re doing down the stretch because we’ve had some success, and we’ve had it with Victor having the ball.” Chemistry change for Pacers There might be NBA teams with chemistry as solid as the Pacers’ right now, but it’s hard to imagine there are any with better. It’s more than mere relief that someone has stepped up, easing their own loads a bit. It is a genuine eagerness for Oladipo to max out, for each of the rest of them to do the same in whatever lane they’re riding. “Vic’s been everything at this point,” Turner said. “He’s done a great job of stepping up and being that guy, being that dude. It’s amazing to have that when you’re going through a situation where it’s a brand-new team. We’re still learning each other and he’s showing that he’s ready.” Did Turner know this would happen and, if so, when? “First couple days he started texting me in the summertime,” the big man said. “I saw what his mindset was, and I loved it from the jump. He carried that right in when we started playing pickup this summer. “Vic’s been traded, what, [two] times? He finally comes back home and he has a team that’s telling him to go, telling him to be him. I don’t think he had that with his former teams. Now that he’s here and he’s doing that, I’m pretty sure he’s [enjoying it].” Said Joseph: “He’s been a beast for us and he’s going to continue to be a beast for us. ... He’s been running with that opportunity and opening eyes around the world.” Even strong-willed, uber-confident Lance Stephenson, has backed up for Oladipo. “There’s no hate, know what I mean?” he said over the weekend. “Some guys get mad about somebody doing good. This team wants its teammates to do good. That’s what’s going to make us even better.” Oladipo keeps referring to the other Pacers in a legit lubricating of the “no I in Indy” process. “Honestly I think it’s the personalities and the men that we have in this locker room,” he said. “My teammates are phenomenal people -- not just basketball players, phenomenal people. When you surround yourself with great people, people who sincerely care about you and your team, the chemistry just comes naturally.” Sabonis shows glimpses of success, too The other guy in the trade, Sabonis, has developed more organically, his maturation seemingly inevitable regardless of locale when you tote up his youth, his work ethic and his bloodlines (son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis). He has gone from that rookie who logged just six minutes in the Thunder’s five 2017 playoff games against Houston to an essential piece in McMillan’s rotation. “Once I got traded, I knew this was a great opportunity for me to show people what I can really do,” said Sabonis, the No. 11 pick in 2016. “I was a rookie last year. Everything was new. Here, I’m being used more at the 5. That’s more the position I’ve been used to playing my whole life.” Sabonis’ minutes are up from 20.1 in OKC to 24.6 off Indiana’s bench. His scoring has doubled from 5.9 ppg to 12.1. And his PIE rating has soared from 4.9 last season to 12.6, a sign of the versatility the skilled big man possesses. “I love Sabonis,” Walsh said. “His father was one of the greatest players in the world, so I don’t like that comparison -- it kills him. He [Domantas] is just more of everything you think he is. He’s stronger than you think. He can shoot the ball better. He’s got good hands, he can catch the ball. I’ve seen him make moves in game that I’ve never seen him make in practice.” Said Turner: “I played against Domas in college -- I knew what kind of player he was. I was excited when we got him. He’s gotten bigger and stronger since then, obviously, and he just didn’t have a chance to show himself last year. But he’s been big for us now, especially when I was out with the concussion. He stepped up huge in that role and we’ve played well since then.” The Pacers are playing faster this season, up from 18th in pace last season to 10th now, part of their improvement from 15th in offensive rating (106.2) to 6th (108.3). They’re doing better, too, in contesting shots and throttling opponents’ field-goal accuracy. The biggest reason why has been Oladipo’s blossoming. Whether due to the sunshine of new, happier surroundings or from that darker, more intense place, to prove cynics wrong. No one can now talk of the Pacers’ bungling of what, after all, was a deal to rent George, not to have him long-term. Fans at Bankers Life figure to boo George on his first visit back, with an inventory they haven’t needed or used on Oladipo. Some might see that as ingratitude, others as respect. It’s a little bit of love lost, too. “Look, they loved Paul when he was here,” Walsh said. “They guy is a great player. One thing I’ve always felt: These guys that play here, they always know more about what they want for their lives than we do. How you gonna argue with that? He treated us good, we treated him good. No bad blood here. I don’t know about fans.” Folks in Indy have a new crush now, one they hope lasts for a while. 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 NewsDec 14th, 2017

Michael Carter-Williams remains optimistic after uneven start to career

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The 2013-14 home opener of the Philadelphia 76ers drew a large and hyper crowd for a game against LeBron James and the Miami Heat, not necessarily because of who was playing; actually, the object of the affection was someone who wasn’t. There he stood in baggy jeans, a jacket one size too big, a do-rag defiantly wrapped around his head and showing puppy eyes that lied about his image and age. Allen Iverson was approaching his 40s and uncomfortably retired. Based on his outfit, he couldn’t let go of yesterday. Nor could nostalgic Philly fans who applauded and shouted during a ceremony to honor the iconic former Sixer, who playfully cupped his ear with his hand to encourage the love. Then, something unexpected happened: Philly honored a second Sixers point guard that same night. Much like Iverson well before him, Michael Carter-Williams buzzed around the floor, getting buckets, attacking the rim, finding the open man and cutting off Miami passing lanes. If he couldn’t upstage Iverson, he certainly outdid LeBron by scoring 22 points with 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals in a Sixers’ upset win. It was his first game as a pro, with his misty-eyed family in the stands, with Iverson pumping a fist, with LeBron feeling flat, and the night felt surreal, dreamy, galactic. How could he or anyone not see that this was the beginning of something special? “A great night,” Carter-Williams recalled the other day. “I always wanted to play that way, against guys like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. After I had, like, seven points, my mom told someone that she’d be happy if the game ended right now.” That smash opening act led to the Kia Rookie of the Year award, which of course then led to a series of injuries, trades, bad fits, false starts, airballs, benchings and a failure to secure the kind of blockbuster contract that allows you to live XXL. Four years and four teams later, Carter-Williams is the backup point guard for the Charlotte Hornets with a career creeping down the path of the unknown, already sitting at the crossroads at age 26. This wasn’t a totally self-created spiral. His body betrayed him as much as his jump shot. He found himself trapped in situations that ranged from weird to woeful. He had the timing of a fake Rolex. An award-winning rookie was put through the NBA wringer and fell through the cracks and has now landed a few seats down the bench from Michael Jordan, although symbolically, he’s worlds away from the Hornets owner. Bitter? Angry? Confused? Yeah, just a bit. “It was tough, given the situations I’ve been in,” he said, “and the backlash I received wasn’t worthy or fair to what I’d been going through. I was in tough situations with injuries and being traded and it affected my performance on the floor. I got real low, with everybody asking, `What happened to him?’ It wasn’t right.” He’s on a one-year deal with the Hornets, which he hopes to leverage into security next summer in free agency, though the big-paycheck prospects are hardly encouraging so far. Still searching for durability with his body and respectability for his game, Carter-Williams is averaging 17.3 minutes in role-playing duty. And he’s once again haunted by his faulty shooting, now dragging at 27 percent, deadly for a guard. It’s a cautionary tale about fate and the curvy nature of pro sports, and about the 2013 NBA Draft, headlined by the one and only Anthony Bennett. From almost every conceivable measuring tool and metric, that class lurks as perhaps the quietest in NBA history. The only All-Star is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who went 15th, and he, Rudy Gobert and CJ McCollum are the only franchise cornerstones. Half of the top 10 are already on different teams. Another way to apply context is with money. Only Giannis, McCollum, Gobert, Otto Porter Jr. and Steven Adams received max contracts, and half of the top 10 didn’t see multi-year extensions. Several players sat on the free-agent market last summer for weeks and even months, collecting cobwebs as they nervously stared at a market that turned chilly a year after doling out millions. They begrudgingly settled for qualifying offers that amounted to pocket change: one year and $4 million for Nerlens Noel (the No. 6 pick), one year and $4.2 million for Alex Len (No. 5). The No. 9 pick and consensus college player of the year, Trey Burke, is playing for the Knicks. The Westchester Knicks of the G League. As a whole, that class was astonishingly light at the top, lacked any second-round surprises (besides Allen Crabbe) and quickly became a wash. And of course, the No. 1 pick is already out of the league. Bennett wasn’t even the consensus top choice prior to the Draft among NBA talent scouts, some of whom had Noel rated higher, even though Noel was coming off knee surgery. That said plenty about the class and also Bennett, who leveraged a decent stretch at UNLV to hear his name called first by Cleveland. That joy didn’t last long; Bennett was a hopeless ‘tweener at forward in his pitstop NBA career and instantly exposed for his lack of shooting and low-post grit. He quickly became a throw-in for the Kevin Love trade but couldn’t salvage his career in Minnesota, Toronto or Brooklyn. He currently plays for the Northern Arizona Suns in the G League. It’s a fate that the most celebrated rookie of that class hopes to avoid, and praying he isn’t running out of chances. Carter-Williams, the 11th pick, was consistent and steady that first season. A 6'6" guard who caused matchup problems and brought good vision and defensive instincts, he averaged 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals. He led all rookies in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Only Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson did that, although for the sake of context, Magic’s competition in his first year was fellow Hall of Famer Larry Bird, and Oscar came in with Hall of Famers Jerry West and Lenny Wilkens. Carter-Williams became the lowest-drafted player to win Rookie of the Year since Mark Jackson in 1987. But coming from that 2013 Draft, it was like winning a sack race without using a sack. After that, he was no longer blessed by the basketball gods; he still hasn’t matched the numbers or impact he had as a rookie. The Sixers were in the early stages of a crash-and-burn rebuilding philosophy managed by former GM Sam Hinkie. Rather than having the chance one day to throw lobs to Joel Embiid, who was drafted a year later but sat with a foot injury, Carter-Williams was dealt midway through his second season by Hinkie. Carter-Williams was exchanged right before the 2015 trade deadline for a package that included three picks (a first-rounder belonging to the Lakers is now property of the Celtics and unprotected for 2018). “Being traded was hard for me,” he said. “I didn’t see that coming. To this day, I still don’t understand it. I never got any answers and never went to ask for any. Of course I felt pretty bad but I was fine with it once I realized the situation I was going into — or thought I was going into.” He was in Milwaukee to be coached and tutored by Jason Kidd, one of the all-time great point guards. Carter-Williams gave Milwaukee a big backcourt with Khris Middleton and the Bucks had a long and lean starting five. He scored 30 against the Cavs and another 30 in his first game back in Philly, and in the playoffs went for 22 points and nine assists in a game against the Bulls. The next season he looked forward once again to feeding passes to Giannis, until Kidd had another idea: Giannis would take Carter-Williams’ position and do the feeding to others. Suddenly and once again, an ideal situation turned sour quickly for Carter-Williams, who couldn’t believe the sharp turn his career took. “I don’t know how to describe it,” he said about his relationship with Kidd. “We didn’t see eye to eye on different things. He was a great player but he hadn’t been coaching for that long and he was still learning. I learned from him but my expectations going there were high and it wasn’t the situation I thought I was going to be in.” On one hand, Kidd and Milwaukee put Carter-Williams out of his misery by trading him; on the other, Carter-Williams went to the struggling, chaotic Chicago Bulls, who were in the process of being stripped to the bone, at the start of the 2016-17 season. Once again, Carter-Williams was swept up by the winds of change and spit out. Not only did his teams change, so did the league, which gravitated to players and especially guards who brought shooting range and consistency. Then and now, that’s his biggest flaw. He’s a career 25-percent shooter from deep (just 40 percent overall), and in a three-point league, that’s a deal breaker. Also, injuries didn’t help. The last three years he has played only 165 out of 246 games due to shoulder, ankle and hip conditions. He needed platelet-rich injections in both knees last summer to quicken the healing process of his patella tendons. “He’s had some difficult injuries and it has clearly hampered his development,” said Jim Boeheim, his college coach at Syracuse. “Let me tell you, he knows how to play. He’s always been a good passer and defender. But the injuries, especially with the shoulder, have held him back in his shooting development. I told him to keep playing and hope the ball goes in.” Those circumstances both within and beyond his control have prevented Carter-Williams from cashing in. He was the first Rookie of the Year in NBA history to fail to have his rookie contract extended and is on a one-year deal with the Hornets for $2.7 million. “You know what? I’m in a good place now,” he said. “It took me a while to regroup and restart and resurface and get healthy, which I’m still trying to do. I’m still young and my game is still growing. I haven’t reached my potential. I still believe I’m a starter in this league. I’ll play a role right now, because that’s what my team needs to win, but I want to lead a team. “Each game I go out and play with a chip on my shoulder. I probably lost some respect from some guys in the league. But ultimately my goal is to make all the teams that gave up on me say, `We had him once.’ I’m going forward.” He’ll always have that opening night with Iverson leading the cheers, that near triple-double against LeBron, and that Rookie of the Year hardware. But that’s the thing, you see. After that launch, Michael Carter-Williams expected more. For one year, he was the king of that 2013 draft. Four years later, he’d rather not become a symbol of what that draft became. 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 14th, 2017

Horn wants to show Pacquiao win was no fluke

By John Pye, Associated Press BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Jeff Horn's reward for a successful first title defense since a contentious win over Manny Pacquiao could be a bout with Terence Crawford. A failure could send him back into boxing obscurity. Horn wants to use his WBO welterweight title defense against Gary Corcoran on Wednesday to dispel any notion that he got a hometown decision against Pacquiao in Brisbane last July. If he gets his way, it could set him up for a big 2018. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum attended Tuesday's weigh-in and said a win here "will lead to massive fights coming next year." "I think Pacquiao is going to return to the ring. Terence Crawford will be the mandatory for this fight. The biggest building in Las Vegas is on hold for this fight," Arum said. "Going to have a tremendous year in the welterweight division and these two participants ... will be giving it their all to see who will go ahead as part of these major programs that will take place next year." Horn, now unbeaten in 18 bouts, knows what it's like to be given no chance of beating the champion, so he is trying to think only about Corcoran at the Brisbane Convention Centre. That's not far from where he beat Pacquiao in front of more than 51,000 fans in an outdoor bout at a regular rugby venue. "I've got until after this fight to start having discussions," he said. "He's definitely a possibility if I can manage to get through Gary first." The Australian former schoolteacher was written off before taking on Pacquiao (59-7-2), but pressured the eight-division champion for 12 rounds in an upset that changed the trajectory of his career. Pacquiao's camp disputed the unanimous decision, which was widely panned by critics but later confirmed after further scrutiny by the World Boxing Organization. Pacquiao had a rematch clause for the Horn fight, but so far hasn't committed to a date or venue. Corcoran is 17-1 since turning pro in 2011 and is ranked 10th by the WBO. He is the underdog and is fighting outside of Britain and Ireland for the first time for his first world title. Trainer Peter Stanley said his boxer would not be intimidated by the situation. "We've fought away from home before in front of bigger, more hostile crowds against bigger boys," Stanley said. "There's nothing new here." The buildup to the fight has been overshadowed by accusations from the Corcoran camp that Horn resorted to head-butting Pacquiao, and claims from the British-based boxer that he would resort to biting if confronted with the same circumstances. At the official news conference, one of Corcoran's trainers held up a laptop computer to show images of Horn clashing heads with opponents and later wore a cap with a glove attached at the top in a swipe at the head-butting claims. Horn and his trainer Glenn Rushton responded by wearing caps with a pair of boxing gloves on top of earmuffs to protect from biting. Both boxers were expecting an aggressive, walk-up style of fight. Rushton said Horn would be furious but fair. "It is boxing. It's not table tennis — it's tough," Rushton said. "Stop (complaining) — Jeff's one of the fairest fighters in the world." Corcoran doesn't have a high profile, and even ring announcer Michael Buffer mistakenly called him by the wrong name at the weigh-in. "Does it matter?" Stanley said. "He'll know his name afterward, I promise you that — he won't forget it. "Gary's a consummate pro. He's come here to fight and win. They both made weight, they're both fit. The only difference is Jeff's got the world title and Gary wants it.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 12th, 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. .....»»

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