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Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade

TORONTO — Fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, Kawhi Leonard received the key to the city at Monday’s (Tuesday, Philippine time) championship parade. For now, however, the two-way star and two-time NBA Finals MVP still isn’t saying whether he’ll use it to keep a door open, or close it behind […] The post Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource: inquirer inquirerJun 18th, 2019

Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade

TORONTO — Fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, Kawhi Leonard received the key to the city at Monday’s (Tuesday, Philippine time) championship parade. For now, however, the two-way star and two-time NBA Finals MVP still isn’t saying whether he’ll use it to keep a door open, or close it behind […] The post Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 18th, 2019

Leonard-George tandem turns Clippers into legit contender

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com At the moment of truth, Kawhi Leonard went against his persona and caused a shakeup that wasn’t so quiet after all. Quite stunning, actually, was the Friday (Saturday, PHL time) series of events that directly affected four teams, caused a major trade of unprecedented details, and influenced the NBA Finals MVP to sign a free agent contract with the Clippers and instantly turning a franchise without a banner into a hardcore contender. Get your first look at the NBA’s top Rookies during NBA Summer League LIVE on NBA League Pass! Leonard is now joined by Paul George, who finished third in the 2018-19 MVP balloting and who requested a trade from Oklahoma City at the 11th hour to essentially swap Russell Westbrook for Leonard. The Clippers are now bringing a pair of swingman who excel on both ends of the floor, giving them the sort of dynamic tandem that’s almost required to win a title these days. The price for George was steep — basically, the Clippers surrendered more for George than the Lakers did for Anthony Davis. They handed over a chunk of their future, with three unprotected first-round picks (2022, 2024 and 2026) belonging to the Clippers, a pair of coveted Heat first rounders (2021 unprotected and 2023 protected 1-14) that were owned by LA, and the option to swap first-rounders with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025. OKC also gets 20-year-old point guard Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and veteran shooter Danilo Gallinari. And so the Clippers drastically changed their personality in the span of a few years, replacing the “Lob City” era of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan with a feisty defensive club led by Kawhi, George, Pat Beverley and Montrezl Harrell. It’s also a team with three reputable scorers as well: Kawhi, George and Lou Williams. Imagine: The Clippers just upstaged the Lakers in an offseason where the Lakers added Davis to join LeBron James. Adding to the intrigue is the presence of Jerry West, the Laker Hall of Famer whose reign as general manager helped raise multiple banners, but whose touch as a consultant with the Clippers in this process is undeniable. Two summers ago when he joined the Clippers after serving the same role with the Warriors, it was West who persuaded the Clippers to trade Griffin, whom they just gave a maximum contract, to the Pistons. West believed Griffin’s best years were behind him and thought the Clippers would be better as a team with more salary cap flexibility going forward. Plus, West and GM Lawrence Frank traded Tobias Harris, the team’s leading scorer, to Philly at the February deadline rather than re-sign Harris this summer in free agency. All of this was done with the idea of signing an impact player in mind, and Leonard was that player and the Clippers’ top target over the last year. Leonard’s appeal to the Clippers was evident and easy to understand. He’s a player who can score 25 points and grab 7-8 rebounds and lock down his man on the other end of the floor. And of course, he just led the Raptors to a championship without being generously helped by a fellow superstar. Interestingly, Leonard had the option of having not just one, but two fellow superstars this summer had he chosen the Lakers. LeBron and Davis and Leonard would make for a championship favorite, especially when you add Kyle Kuzma to the mix. In the end, Leonard wanted to beat the Lakers, not join them. The Lakers still bring those three players, though, and will now garnish the team with minimum-waged players to fill out the roster. Already, Danny Green announced he’ll sign a two-year, $15 million deal with the Lakers, and Rajon Rondo is perhaps not far behind. Both the Lakers and Clippers could compete in the coming days for DeMarcus Cousins as well. The team harmed the most, at least in the immediate sense, is OKC. With the amount of top competitors in the West — Clippers, Lakers, Rockets, Nuggets, Jazz and Blazers among others — the Thunder likely will take a step back and could enter a semi-rebounding phase without George. Also: Could OKC be forced to part ways with Westbrook? The former MVP struggled at times last season and especially in the playoffs, and turns 31 in November, and is on a max contract. It’s not the type of atmosphere that fits Westbrook, who’ll soon enter his twilight. Thunder GM Sam Presti, if nothing else, has shown a willingness to do whatever it takes if it works for OKC. Lastly, there’s the Raptors, who must now go forward without their lone superstar. There are no other players on the level of Leonard that Toronto can chase this offseason. In addition, the core of their rotation is on expiring contracts — Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. The Raptors will surely groom Pascal Siakam to take a lead role with Leonard gone, yet will face major decisions next summer as they attempt to reshape the team. All of this is because Leonard caused a domino effect that ultimately moved mountains. Something of this nature and this magnitude doesn’t happen often in the NBA and is never done virtually overnight, given the amount of pieces involved and teams who put their existence on hold while Leonard stretched his decision nearly a week since free agency began. Evidently there was a reason for that. He wanted the Clippers but only if they could add another major piece. When other options dried up — Jimmy Butler unexpectedly signing with Miami and Kevin Durant with Brooklyn, for instance — the Clippers had to go the trade route. And George had to be convinced by Kawhi to force a trade. And OKC had to agree to that, rather than risk going through a season with an unhappy player. When the Clippers coughed up a bevy for draft picks, that put the entire process in motion. And in the end, basketball in LA became the big winner. It would not be unusual or unexpected if the road to the next conference championship goes through Staples Center and gets decided by one of its two home teams. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 NewsJul 6th, 2019

With the Raptors, a global game now has a truly global champion

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Canadian flag, soaked in beer and champagne, was waved in the Toronto locker room. Pascal Siakam wore the flag of Cameroon around his shoulders. Marc Gasol was yelling some happy phrase in Spanish. Every team that wins an NBA title calls itself “world champions.” These Toronto Raptors might actually be worthy of such a moniker. The new kings of NBA basketball are the first outside the U.S. to wear the crown. And they come from all corners of the globe. Team President Masai Ujiri was born in England and raised in Nigeria. Serge Ibaka is from the Congo. Gasol will play again for his native Spain this summer in the FIBA World Cup. Coach Nick Nurse won his first championship in Britain, where reserve OG Anunoby comes from. Even the team’s superfan, Nav Bhatia, comes from India. It’s a global game. It’s a global team. They’re the global champions. “It meant a lot, just having guys from different countries and speaking different languages,” Siakam said. “I think it kind of got us closer together. And you kind of have all those little kinds of friendship with guys that you can speak the same language with, and from Spanish to French to English, different cultures. I think kind of it represents Toronto in general, having that diversity.” He doesn’t even have the whole list. Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American, speaks Mandarin. The assistants on Nurse’s staff have backgrounds from stints as players or coaches in France, England, Germany, Italy, Australia, Israel and more. The director of sports science is Scottish. The head trainer is from Ontario. Jamaal Magloire, who has been on the staff since his playing days ended, is a Toronto native. “It means a lot,” Magloire said as he watched champagne spray all over the locker room. “Canada and Toronto especially are very diverse places. And this team, all the diversity that we have, it served us well.” There’s a parade — Ujiri said it was scheduled for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), though he also wasn’t exactly certain at the time — coming to Toronto. The red and white flag with the giant maple leaf will wave. There will be plenty of other flags there as well. And more than a few proud Americans will be on that route as well, like NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and the longest-tenured Raptors player, Kyle Lowry. “I’m very happy for them,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said, tipping his cap to the Raptors. “Winning a championship is the ultimate in this league, and they have got a lot of guys who have earned this. So congrats to Toronto, to their organization, to their fans. They are a worthy champion.” At NBA headquarters in New York, they truly didn’t care who won the series. That doesn’t mean they don’t realize the Raptors’ title is a good thing for the league’s future. Basketball Without Borders is the vehicle that basically helped Siakam start his journey to the league seven or so years ago. There are NBA academies popping up in Africa and Asia. The league is helping to establish a new pro league in Africa that’s set to begin play early next year. The sport takes every opportunity it gets to promote what it bills as the Jr. NBA Global Championship, a tournament for kids. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said before the series that the league is aware of 700 million cellphones being in use in Africa, more than half of those being smartphones. The NBA wants people watching on those phones, and the infrastructure is such now in many places that it is actually possible. “It’s been revolutionary in terms of the people of Africa’s ability to watch our games in real time on hand-held devices,” Silver said. “So we see enormous growth opportunities both in terms of players and for participation and ultimately an interest for the league.” Having champions from Cameroon and the Congo, having the executive who gets credited for putting it all together being from Nigeria ... it’s not going to hurt the game in Africa one bit. The NBA champions are, indeed, champions of the world. “As a kid, I didn’t have the opportunity to dream about this moment,” Siakam said. “I didn’t think I could make it. I didn’t think this was possible as a kid. And I think a lot of kids don’t think that it’s possible. Just me being able to be here today and telling them that, ’Hey, look at me, I was a little scrawny kid from Cameroon ... but here I am, as a champion.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2019

Durant s injury devastates victorious Warriors as they head home

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — When a superstar crumples to the floor like that, after everything he’d been through, after mustering the will to return to action, after giving his team the lift it so desperately needed in a win-or-go-home game, everything that happens next is muted: The flow of a tense game, the pulsating fourth quarter, even the Warriors’ inspired Game 5 victory in the final seconds. All that’s left is a siren blaring and asking … Why? Why did the Warriors clear Kevin Durant to return to the NBA Finals on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)? Why did he feel compelled to do so after missing nearly a month with a calf strain? Why did a segment of the basketball populace question the severity of his injury -- and, by extension, his heart -- during the lead-up? And why do the basketball Gods seem to have it in for a two-time Finals MVP and all-time great who put his team first, and possibly just put his career in jeopardy? The Raptors fans who lined up 24 hours early in the rain just to watch on TV outside Scotiabank Arena aren’t shook. The citizens who braced for a championship celebration into the wee hours and now must deal with deflation aren’t shook. Not even the Raptors, who coughed up a six-point lead with 3.5 minutes left and now must fly 3,000 miles for another tip. No, it’s the Warriors who were left dazed and confused despite extending the series to another game with the 106-105 victory, and it was all captured in the quivering voice of team president Bob Myers while revealing Durant suffered an Achilles injury early in the second quarter. “He’s a good teammate,” Myers finally managed to say. “He’s a good person … it’s not fair … he just wants to play basketball and right now he can’t.” No, he can’t, and Tuesday's (Wednesday, PHL time) MRI will determine when that can happen again. Slow-motion TV replays that showed Durant executing a dribble move past Serge Ibaka and then dropping quickly to the floor were not positive. When Durant grabbed his leg on May 8 (May 9, PHL time), he reached high on his calf. This time, he reached low. A segment of the fans initially cheered Durant’s misfortune, and when Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka put them in check, the reaction quickly flipped from insensitive to respectful. But it didn’t matter in the big picture that they applauded Durant. He was helped to the locker room by director of sports medicine and performance Rick Celebrini and Andre Iguodala. Stephen Curry left the bench and walked behind Durant, consoling him. Durant cursed loudly as he reached the tunnel. Then he disappeared from view and later left the arena by crutches right after halftime. In the history of the NBA Finals, there was no tougher scene to witness, no matter the rooting interest. This was a basketball betrayal, pure and simple, that happened to Kevin Durant. But should it have? Plenty of questions now surround the medical protocol used by the Warriors. Durant took part in what was loosely termed a practice for the first time just a day earlier. Was that enough? Did he pass all the stress tests by then? Did the exams and MRIs give a green light? Were the experts fully apprised? And, perhaps most crucially, how much of this Achilles injury could be directly related to the calf injury and should that have been perhaps a larger concern? “He went through four weeks with a medical team and it was thorough and we felt good about the process," Myers insisted. "He was cleared to play tonight, that was a collaborative decision. I don’t believe there is anyone to blame, but I understand in this world that if you have to, you can blame me.” Beyond that, was there any pressure -- either implied or indirectly placed or discreetly suggested -- within the organization for Durant to return and rescue the Warriors? They were down 3-1 without him. Durant is famously sensitive about how he’s perceived, especially regarding his toughness. Maybe he felt pressure himself to quiet the noise and whispers. Complicating matters is his pending free agency. Durant stood to make hundreds of millions on the market this summer, and a torn Achilles, if that’s what the MRI will show, can require a year to rehab. In the moment, Durant's injury had a temporary bonding effect between the two teams; a handful of Toronto players approached Durant before he checked out and both benches appeared equally stunned. “In this league,” explained Lowry, “we’re all brothers, and it’s a small brotherhood and you never want to see a competitor like him go down.” Before the injury, Durant showed flashes of the next-level skills that helped him lead the Warriors to the last two championships. He hit his first two shots, both from deep. He commanded coverage from Kawhi Leonard, Toronto’s best defender. He had a presence. This injected confidence within the Warriors, who broke out a nine-point lead with Durant on the floor and seized early command. He, Curry and Thompson were 12-for-19 shooting for 36 points through the early second quarter. With their missing star in the fold for the first time this series, Golden State looked whole again. Once Durant left the floor, the game tightened until the fourth. Leonard (26 points), who shot poorly to that point, made his move, with 10 quick points to send a quake through the arena. Curiously, Raptors coach Nick Nurse called a timeout with his team buzzing and up five with three minutes left. Did that kill the momentum? Curry and Thompson answered with consecutive three-pointers to tie and then take the lead with 56 seconds left. Then, on Toronto’s final possession, Thompson and Andre Iguodala trapped Leonard and forced him to surrender the ball. It found its way to Lowry, deep in the corner. But Draymond Green got his fingertips on the ball, Lowry’s shot was harmless and the buzzer sounded. No confetti fell from the ceiling, no bottles were popped in the home locker room, no trophy was ceremoniously awarded. Curry and Thompson combined for 57 points and took 27 three-pointers, making 12. They’ll need to duplicate that production Thursday (Friday, PHL time) in Oakland and beyond if the Warriors force a seventh game. DeMarcus Cousins was helpful post-Durant and had 14 points. “They’ve accomplished so much over the years and that doesn’t happen just with talent,” Kerr said. “There has to be more that goes into it and it’s that fight, that competitive desire and ability to stay poised under pressure. It was brilliant to watch.” And yet: There was little joy. “It’s hard to even celebrate this win,” said Klay Thompson. “I told the team I didn’t know what to say because, on one hand I’m so proud of them for the amazing heart and grit they showed, and on the other I’m just devastated for Kevin," Kerr said. "So it’s a bizarre feeling that we all have right now.” It’s a reflex to say the Warriors were inspired by Durant and perhaps they were. When he fell, they had their excuse, yet thought otherwise. For them to play the final 2.5 quarters while dealing with a fractured state of mind says plenty about their mental toughness. “It had made it difficult, especially with the start we got off to and Kevin was playing so well, so it was a real shock when he went down,” said Kerr. “So I give our guys credit.” Durant at times became a magnet for his personality quirks and especially his non-commitment regarding free agency; it was even raised by Green when the two infamously clashed on the bench earlier this season. If nothing else, the injury further endeared Durant to the locker room and, in particular, to his fellow MVP. “Everybody gets so wrapped up in chasing championships, but life is more important in terms of caring about an individual and what they’re going through,” Curry said. “And you see the commitment and the challenges and just what has been thrown at KD this whole year, really. He gave us what he had, he went out there and sacrificed his body and we know how that turned out. “When you get to know somebody and see how genuine they are and how committed they are to basketball, you root for those type of guys. All those emotions come into play when you see him go down like that. It’s not even about this series; it’s about long term, his mindset and being able to get back to being the player and the person he has shown consistently over the course of his career.” The Warriors return to Oracle Arena for the final game in the old barn before moving to San Francisco next season, so there is motivation to shut it down in style. Of course, there’s the goal of forcing a seventh game, and finally, to win a title so Durant’s injury won’t be in vain. “We do it for Kevin,” said Thompson. “He wants us to compete and the highest level, and we’ll think of him every time we step on the hardwood. You think of him every time you dive for a loose ball or go for a rebound, because I know him and I know how bad he wants to be out there. I’m going to miss him, man. It’s not the same being out there without him.” Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 11th, 2019

Championship in sight, Raptors control Oracle Arena endgame

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — What once began as a fantasy, then progressed as hope and then grew to a reasonable wish has now evolved and crystalized once again. And this time, everyone south of Saskatoon can begin to see it and maybe even buy in. The Toronto Raptors have the scent of a champion. This may come as a surprise to the nostrils of anyone who saw them crumble in past postseasons or figured their chances of getting out of the East this season were dicey … but Toronto just took a pair of NBA Finals games at Oracle Arena — and maybe closed it down in the process. The Raptors are headed home with one game to win and history on their side. Thirty-four times in The Finals have teams taken 3-1 leads, and they sipped champagne all but once. (Let’s not discuss that lone team to lose; the Warriors are suffering enough.) This latest Raptors victory was impressively convincing, especially considering the circumstances. They stared at a desperate home team, one that welcomed back Klay Thompson after a one-game injury absence … a two-time defending champion known for rising to the occasion … and the Raptors dusted them anyway. You understand exactly what the Raptors did Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and how it was done? They emerged from the halftime locker room with fire and outclassed a team known for championship pedigree and owning third quarters in the postseason. Kawhi Leonard, who’s uplifting a team and a country, began the onslaught with a pair of three-point jumpers. The Toronto defense, relentless most of the night and throughout the series as well, squeezed the Warriors and especially Steph Curry. Time after time, Serge Ibaka delivered a counter punch with a key jumper off the pick and roll or a defensive stop. Ibaka had 20 points in 21 minutes in what was his first strong outing from jump to buzzer. Fred VanVleet, felled by a stray Shaun Livingston elbow to the chops in the third quarter, was left bloodied and missing a tooth in a scene that embodied Toronto's grit. The Raptors simply wore down the more experienced Warriors and Golden State never came up with an answer. Toronto stole the atmosphere — a smattering of red-garbed Raptors fans suddenly cheered louder and stomped harder and stayed buzzed long after the buzzer — and sent the Warriors off the court with heads bowed and egos deflated. Oh, something else: Nick Nurse, the first-year Toronto coach, kept pressing the right buttons with his various defensive schemes and substitutions as Golden State failed to break 100 for the first time this postseason. And the Raptors seized control of the series, ensuring that Scotiabank Arena will be a mixture of tense and hysterical Monday for Game 5 (Tuesday, PHL time). And that’s just from Drake. The crowd will be hyped, too. This is the moment that the basketball population in Toronto has long awaited, to get a sense something special is about to happen, or at least could. And this was made possible by a former Finals MVP who, this time last summer, was in exile with his reputation, at least in San Antonio, in tatters. By November, in Toronto, none of that mattered. “Once we saw him early in the year, your team’s vision of who they can become changes,” said Nurse. Leonard is a victory away from another Finals MVP and trophy, and mostly a sense of redemption. His passion and championship drive was evident Friday in two stages, both influential to his team. He set an example early by showing pep from the opening tip, carrying the Raptors with 14 of their 17 points over the first 12 minutes. And then, coming out of halftime, Leonard went scorched Earth once again. He posted 17 points and five rebounds in the third, and this time the Raptors lent support. Toronto outscored the Warriors, 37-21, and spent the rest of the game keeping a sneaker pressed on the Warriors’ throat. Kawhi tore through the Warriors constantly, totaling 36 points and 12 rebounds. Yet it was his tone that influenced the game just as much, if not more. “He imposed his will on the game and his team followed him,” said Draymond Green. “He gets the job done.” This is why Kawhi’s value to the Raptors is priceless. Until now, Toronto lacked a player with his presence, someone who forced other teams to gameplan differently, someone who seems to thrive when the stakes are highest and is driven in these situations. They didn’t have that with DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry, the leaders and best players of those teams that flourished in the regular season and failed in the postseason. Leonard clearly has the Warriors rattled and their defense stressed whenever he’s in isolation or bracing to attack. “He hit every big shot, every big momentum shot,” said Curry. Just the same, the Kawhi-inspired defense weighed heavily not only in this game but for much of the series. With the exception of Curry’s monstrous 47-point outburst in Game 3, Toronto hasn’t yielded much from the Warriors — surely, Kevin Durant’s absence and Thompson’s missed game contributed. Yet the Raptors are floating Leonard around the floor, sneaking in doubles on Thompson and Curry, leaving Green open and encouraging him to shoot, and essentially making it tough for the Warriors to go on a big scoring spree. Toronto has outscored the Warriors in 13 of the 16 quarters of this series. Hounded by the Raptors’ perimeter defense, and maybe gassed from two nights earlier, Curry made only a pair of three-pointers Friday (Saturday, PHL time) and never developed a rhythm. And while Thompson returned from his injury with 28 points, he was harmless in the fourth quarter and his team quiet. “They’ve been aggressive all series in trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. As the Warriors and the crowd disappeared from the arena, there was a sense of finality in the air inside Oracle. If the Warriors don’t win Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), then the last memory of their home of nearly six decades will be a deflating one. Instead of dreamy visions of Curry and Thompson and Durant spraying jumpers, it will be Leonard punishing the Warriors and the home team powerless to stop him or from being pushed to the brink. And speaking of Durant: Coach Steve Kerr has now gone radio silent about his superstar’s availability for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) or beyond. The subject has become tiresome because there’s no resolution regarding someone who hasn’t played in a month. And so the Warriors have twin motivations for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): Win to stay alive and also to play once more at Oracle for a Game 6. Yet at this point, with the dynasty showing cracks, that might be a lost cause. “I know we’re capable,” said Kerr. “We’ve got a lot of talent and got a lot of pride and these guys have been to The Finals five straight years for a reason. They’re going to fight the whole way.” Green added: “I’ve been on the wrong side of 3-1 before, so why not make our own history?” Well, that now-or-never talk is fine. Yet it’s all about the Raptors making history now, and stopping the Warriors’ streak in the process. It’s all there for the taking for Toronto: One win, a chance to celebrate on the home floor, and a marvelous and striking professional rebound for Kawhi Leonard, who surely will be named Finals MVP should all of the above happen. Dare we say, it’s the Raptors title to lose now. A title anointed to the Warriors even before the season began. Well, plenty has happened in the last seven months. And especially the last seven days. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 8th, 2019

Raptors running out of options as series shifts to Toronto

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MILWAUKEE – The Toronto Raptors are two bounces on the rim into their Eastern Conference championship series against Milwaukee. Two more and – unless things change radically for the Raptors in every phase of the game from what we’ve seen – the basketball metaphor of their 2019 postseason is going to fall harmlessly to the side. No points, no buzzer-beater, no victory, no nothing. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Two games into this best-of-seven series, it’s already hard to see a way out for the Raptors that doesn’t include Hefty bags, cleaned-out lockers and a wide-open month of June. Toronto played well enough to win in Game 1, yet managed to lose it anyway thanks to an open elevator shaft of a fourth quarter that qualified instantly as something that would haunt them. Then they played miserably in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 2, save for a stretch in the third quarter when slippage in Milwaukee’s focus appeared as culpable as anything Raptors-related. Kyle Lowry, Toronto’s veteran point guard, is wandering around these days with a modified blue oven mitt on his left hand. It’s there to protect the thumb he sprained in Game 7 against Philadelphia. That’s the game that got the Raptors here, the one decided by Kawhi Leonard’s eternal-highlight shot at the end that bounced four times on the rim before dropping through the net. It’s been kind of downhill for their crew since then. Anyway, Lowry was asked a series of questions after Milwaukee's 125-103 triumph at Fiserv Forum about the defense, about the rebounding, about the shift from the Bucks’ floor to the Raptors’ for Games 3 and 4 beginning Sunday (Monday, PHL time). And Lowry earnestly answered by saying, yes, they have to defend better, they have to rebound better and they definitely have to assert themselves more to defend their Scotiabank Arena home court. Lowry said the right things. Problem is, that’s a lot of things. The Raptors don’t appear to have the wherewithal – or even the duct tape, if you prefer – to fix so many flaws at once. They have been outrebounded 113-86, a major factor in the Bucks’ 41-20 advantage in second-chance points. They have been outscored by 30 points in the two games and most of the difference has come from the bench (76-51), adding to the sense that Milwaukee isn’t just beating Toronto, it’s ganging up on them. Defensively, the Raptors haven’t been nearly good enough and their coach, Nick Nurse, put the blame squarely on them. He went into detail – both before and after Game 2 – to explain the difference between a good contest of a jump shot and a great, playoffs-worthy contest. After talking at length before tipoff about needing and hoping to see effort from his players as a sign they grasped the urgency involved, it had to be embarrassing for Nurse to acknowledge afterward that, no, that effort in fact was not there. “We were just a step too slow on just about everything,” he observed. To illustrate how casually his players closed on Bucks’ shooters, Nurse did a deep dive on a play in which center Marc Gasol needed to get out to Nikola Mirotic. “It was a good contest, but it wasn't a full-out contest,” the Toronto coach said. “We know the level of contest is going to affect these shots or not, and if you don't go with everything you've got and jump high and really try to let them know you're right pressed up against them, then the chances of [the shots] going in are pretty good.” Poor Gasol. This supremely skilled big man who was so valuable to the Memphis Grizzlies in numerous playoff wars is an early nominee for series scapegoat here. He at least had 12 rebounds and five assists in the opener, but his contributions and minutes fizzled in Game 2. By the time he got to 1-for-9 (3-for-20 in the series), the 34-year-old Gasol was looking creakier than his brother Pau, 38, who was wheeling himself through the halls on a scooter Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) after undergoing foot surgery this week. Then there’s Danny Green, a helpful 3-and-D guy with tons of postseason experience from his San Antonio days. Green’s challenge has been touching the ball enough to make a difference; he’s 3-for-11, getting about two thirds as many shots as he’d expect. But as he noted, Toronto’s ball movement has been spotty, the Bucks’ top-ranked defense stingy and little has been done to alter either from one game to the next. “Our offense was out of whack a little bit tonight, and we didn’t tighten it up,” Green said. A little more Norman Powell, a little less Gasol going forward? Doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough. Now take Pascal Siakam and Lowry from the margin for error that Toronto really doesn’t have. They were good for 45 points in the opener but scored a total of 23 Friday (Saturday, PHL time), each burdened with foul trouble from daring to mess with Milwaukee’s gears. Siakam, a favorite to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, wound up as the night’s most removed player, his minutes dropping from more than 42 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) to 26 on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). There’s no reason to let Leonard off the hook, either. The Raptors’ best player has scored 31 points in each game, but they’ve been about as quiet as 62 points can be, coming almost from a bubble that has nothing in common with the rest of Toronto’s attack. Sometimes Leonard is bailing them out, sure, but many times the ball and the possession stop with him. The Bucks are OK with that, defending him with Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and helpers. Leonard has taken 20 of his team’s 45 free throws, but dished only four assists in the two games. That’s one area in which Leonard is so different from – and so far in this series, lacking when compared to – Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks’ star, with his gravitational pull on defenders, creates a bounty of opportunities for others. Leonard isn’t making any of his teammates better at this stage. And let’s not forget the intangibles. Antetokounmpo is the catalyst for Milwaukee’s superior team chemistry, a top-five talent who is all in on the Bucks’ ambitions and the players corralled around him. Leonard? For all anyone knows, he still has one foot out the door to free agency. His laconic nature doesn’t lend itself to firing up others, and it’s difficult to see how he leads by anything other than example. The cloud of Leonard’s future has been squatting over Toronto’s whole season. Every game is a referendum on whether he feels he has enough help or not. Does Nurse or another Raptors coach dare to challenge him, for fear he’ll start packing his bags immediately? Did anyone object to his “load management” nights off this season? It has been a tough way to grind through a long year, held hostage by your star’s inscrutability. But it’s what they signed up for when GM Masai Ujiri traded for him with just one season to woo and recruit. Compare that to what Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was sharing about Antetokounmpo, as far as pushing him to greater heights. “We're coaching him and we're on him,” Budenholzer said. “We think he can be doing more, and he just soaks it up.” As the series shifts to Canada, the Raptors will look to Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) third quarter as quickly as the Bucks will dismiss it. Toronto outscored Milwaukee 39-31 over those 12 minutes, the only portion of the game in which they managed to send a ripple of nervousness through the building. OK, well, maybe not quite that, but a few fans surely noticed that what had been a 28-point lead soon after halftime got chiseled down to 13. Not once, but twice. But Malcolm Brogdon and George Hill went to work off the Bucks’ bench, Giannis came back mean-muggin’ to start the fourth and that most definitely was that. Playoff protocol says we must give the Raptors their home games to demonstrate a difference. But they need to know that 0-2 is a gaping hole, from which only 20 teams in NBA history have come back in a seven-game series. Two more bounces on the rim, and we’ll see which way the Raptors fall. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Raptors hungry for another title run, even without Leonard

By Ian Harrison, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard has moved on and Danny Green is gone, but the Toronto Raptors still have an NBA title to defend. This season, a group led by All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, breakout talent Pascal Siakam and defensive standout Marc Gasol is turning "We the North" into "We Want More." "If I had to express it in one word, I would say 'hungry,'" Gasol said Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) when asked what he expects of the new-look Raptors. "I think it's a very hungry team. We all understand what Kawhi meant to the team and how well he played in the playoffs. But we also understand how good we can be as a team, and we're all going to invest everything in it to be that team." Leonard signed a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Clippers after leading Toronto to six-game NBA Finals victory over Golden State in his lone season north of the border. Once Leonard passed on returning to the Raptors, Green did the same, signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. General manager Masai Ujiri, who traded franchise icon DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio to acquire Leonard and Green, insisted he had no reason to be upset with the way his big move worked out. "That's just the nature of the business," Ujiri said. "We understand it and we move on as an organization. I think there are many bright spots with our team, whether it's our veteran players, whether it's our players coming up, and the younger group we're developing." Still, even Ujiri couldn't fail to notice what had changed around him since the start of training camp last year, when he sat at the podium in front of a packed crowd, flanked by newcomers Leonard and Green. This year, Ujiri was on stage all by himself. "I'm lonely," he joked. One thing hasn't changed: the Raptors still have talent. Lowry, Toronto's longest-tenured player, has been an All-Star for five straight seasons. Siakam is poised to take another step after running away with the league's Most Improved Player award last season, while Gasol, veteran Serge Ibaka, and youngster OG Anunoby round out an imposing frontcourt. "I think guys are going to step up, I think guys are up for the challenge," Ujiri said. The ultra-competitive Lowry certainly is. His expectation this season? Another title. "It's always the same goal for me," Lowry said. "I'm more motivated than ever." MORE CHANGE COMING? Don't expect this Raptors group to stick together much longer. Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka and guard Fred VanVleet are all eligible for free agency at the end of the season. So is forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who signed with Toronto in free agency. The Raptors will have money to spend next summer and are likely to look at younger players rather than paying to retain veterans. PASCAL'S FUTURE Siakam has two years left on his rookie contract, but the Raptors have already approached the young star about a new deal. "We've had conversations with Pascal's representation and we're excited," Ujiri said. "He's somebody we're definitely going to keep." With Leonard and Green gone, coach Nick Nurse sees room for Siakam to become more of a weapon. "He's going to be given a great chance, a great opportunity here to really expand his role and his game," Nurse said. "There's going to be lots of opportunity for him to have the ball." VanVleet isn't putting a limit on his expectations for Siakam's growth. "There's nothing he can't do," VanVleet said. CONTENDERS TO THE THRONE After another busy summer of free agency, Ujiri sees new balance around the league and no clear-cut challenger to Toronto's title. "If you say who's going to come out of the East, I think it's a question," Ujiri said. "I think, for the first time, it's a question who's going to win the NBA championship. I don't think anybody knows. I don't think anybody knows who's going to come out of the West and there are very, very strong teams there." CHRISTMAS WISH The reigning champs got a Christmas Day game, Toronto's first holiday appearance since visiting the Knicks in 2001. This year, the Raptors are hosting Boston in a noon start. "It means everything," guard Norman Powell said. "I've grown up always looking forward to the Christmas Day games, watching the NBA after opening up gifts and presents. I know everybody's really tied and locked into those games." BANNER MOMENT Toronto opens the season at home to rookie sensation Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 22. The Raptors will raise their championship banner and hand out rings before tipoff. "I think that's when it's going to finally hit me," Lowry said. "I just feel I haven't let it sink in as much. When the banner rises and the rings come on, that's when you really feel it.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 29th, 2019

Into Africa: Raptors president brings the game home

TORONTO (AP) — Masai Ujiri could see it in the proud posture and wide smiles of the young female players. The Toronto Raptors president was in Somalia last week for the last stop on his annual Giants of Africa tour. "We have to preach equality on the continent and all over the world," Ujiri told The Canadian Press. "There's as much talent in girls as there is in boys. They have to be given the opportunity, too. At the end of the day, you see them walking taller, which was very important for us to continue on this journey." Ujiri has barely paused since the Raptors won the NBA championship in June. There was free agency and the departure of superstar Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers. Much of his time has been devoted to Giants of Africa, his passion project since 2003. The tour added Somalia and South Sudan to the schedule this summer, two countries still staggering from civil wars. Islamic extremism in Somalia had forbidden females to watch sports let alone participate in them. The sight of young girls shooting hoops and kicking balls is unusual. The resurgence of female athletes has been in itself a symbol of defiance. The 50 girls at the Giants of Africa camp in Mogadishu played in hijabs. It was held at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center, which is co-run by Ilwad Elman, a Somali-Canadian. Her father, Elman Ali Ahmen, was assassinated in 1996. He was a renowned peace activist responsible for a campaign to rehabilitate young soldiers through education. Elman has introduced sports to girls and women at the center as a way to empower them. "Basketball has been a breath of fresh air there," Ujiri said. "It's about what sports can bring you: happiness, peace, bringing people together, working together. For us, that was our message." Sitting in his office at an otherwise quiet OVO Athletic Centre this week, the 49-year-old executive reflected on his tour, which also included trips to Morocco, Mali, Cameroon and Tanzania. Arriving as the reigning NBA champions took the tour to a new level. "That was awesome, just to show that at least we can do it ... we can believe in ourselves to do this," Ujiri said. "I love it that Pascal (Siakam) and Serge (Ibaka, a Congolese native) played brilliant roles for us in this championship. Kids can see that." But he also wants the youngsters to know it's not only the players who can achieve "something big." He listed Patrick Engelbrecht, the Raptors' director of global scouting from South Africa; Raptors assistant coach Patrick Mutombo, who is Congolese; Jama Mahlalela, the Swazi-Canadian head coach of Raptors 905, an NBA G League team; and Raptors assistant Eric Khoury, who's Egyptian. Ujiri is an English-born Nigerian. When the Raptors won the Larry O'Brien Trophy, he became the first African to lead a franchise to a major North American title. He took the trophy home to Zaria, Nigeria. "We as Africans have to go back and do more," Ujiri said. "I have to continue to do more and more, to create more opportunity. It's very important that we tell the story and create the narrative there rather than somebody else create it for us." Ujiri said the tour was a chance to "recharge" before jumping back into his seventh season at the helm. Toronto opens at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 22 when a championship banner will be raised and rings presented. Ujiri says the NBA crown stands beside his work in Africa. "These people have an incredible passion for life," he said. "It's joy for me, and an obligation. I feel so good doing it every year.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 27th, 2019

All-Decade Team: Some names to watch in 2020s

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Picking the best players of the past decade can be a delightful process, a walk down memory lane that highlights the best of the NBA’s best from the most recently completed era. We took care of that for you earlier this week with NBA.com's All-Decade Team for the 2010s. Data and established success provide the context needed to make a strong case when you're looking back. But you can't rely on those conventions when trying to decide what, and perhaps more appropriately, who, comes next. Questions linger for the big stars of the 2010s who would normally transition into the next decade with similar status. How will Kevin Durant look when he comes back from a season lost to an Achilles injury? What will Klay Thompson’s game look like post-ACL injury? There’s no saying how the summer’s superstar free agent and trade shuffle will impact career trajectories for older stars like Durant (going from Golden State to Brooklyn) and Russell Westbrook (going from Oklahoma City to Houston). Young stars just entering the league (or still finding their way) are bound to emerge in the coming years. On the other hand, established veterans will see the inevitable fading of their star status. That uncertain future for so many is part of what makes today’s exercise so much fun. We are peering into our crystal ball and projecting the future, identifying the stars who, a decade from now, might find their names on the best-of-the best list for the 2020s. * * * * = players who made a 2010s All-Decade Team Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks * "The Greek Freak" finished off the 2010s with his first Kia MVP and should be poised to compete for more this decade. He’s only scratched the surface of his immense potential and should be in the thick of the race for best player of the decade. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors * One half of the sweetest shooting backcourts in NBA history, Curry and his fellow Splash Brother, Thompson, could make the next All-Decade Team, too. That would require them to prove they’re still playing championship-level basketball in the Bay Area post-Durant. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers * Davis is finally positioned to chase championships and will do so as he enters the physical prime of his career. With Davis and LeBron James leading the way, the Lakers begin the next decade poised for a return to legitimate contender status. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks The reigning Kia Rookie of the Year gave us all a preview of what’s to come. Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are the foundational players expected to fuel the Mavericks the way Dirk Nowitzki did the past two decades. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers If Embiid stays healthy, he’s good enough to challenge for the unofficial title of best player of the 2020s. His availability is the most critical component for a Sixers organization that believes it is on the cusp of championship contention. Paul George, LA Clippers * George has fully bounced back from his devastating leg injury in 2014, earning a place among the NBA’s elite by finishing third in the Kia MVP voting to close out the 2010s. The only thing left on his to-do-list is to make the championship dreams of Clippers fans a reality. James Harden, Houston Rockets * Finding a new groove alongside Westbrook will determine the Rockets’ championship fate and perhaps Harden’s legacy. Harden’s Hall of Fame status is secured. He just needs a title to complete his trophy case.   LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers * Could he win a Kia MVP in three different decades? LeBron has broken the mold in just about every way imaginable to this point of his career, so it would be foolish to doubt him. He’s also got a chance to add to his title haul in the next decade as well. As for Father Time … what does that matter? Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets After winning a title as the supporting star in LeBron’s homecoming story in Cleveland, Irving hopes to revisit that magic in Brooklyn once Durant is healthy again. While Irving has some repair to do to his reputation after his final season in Boston, his talent remains undeniable. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets Some would argue that Jokic (and not Embiid) finished the decade as the NBA’s best big man. The Nuggets are banking on it, as they’ve built their operation around the triple-double versatility of the 24-year-old All-Star known as “The Joker.” Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers * Leonard load managed his way to a title in Toronto but has already declared himself ready to play without limitations as he attempts to bring a championship parade to his hometown. He’s at the height of his powers right now and, with good health, will be for the foreseeable future. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Lillard was noticeably absent from the 2010s All-Decade Team, but he shouldn’t have to worry about that happening in the 2020s. The face and soul of the franchise in Portland, Lillard knows that the next step for he and CJ McCollum is a Finals berth. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz If the addition of veteran Mike Conley has the impact Utah’s braintrust expects, Mitchell is primed to rise any ranking of the West’s (and NBA’s) top players. Don’t be surprised if he snags a scoring title (or two) in the next decade. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics With Kyrie Irving gone, Tatum and the Celtics can get back to the performances he provided during the 2018 playoffs as a rookie. The Celtics have refused to trade Tatum for a reason. He’s got the array of skills that a team values in a wing scorer. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks Any pre-Draft trepidation about Young was overturned after his strong finish to his rookie season. A splendid passer with Splash Bros.-type range, Young will grow and mature physically into the leader of a franchise revival in Atlanta. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. 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, 2019

Player Movement: What teams have gained, lost this offseason

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com There's still a lot of work to be done before rosters are set for the 2019-20 season. Some teams (Charlotte, Utah) still have roster spots to fill. Other teams (Memphis, Washington) still have some roster trimming to do. There are about 25 two-way-contract slots that can be filled around the league. And it's certainly possible that players like Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala will be traded a second time before the end of the summer. But it's already been a season of change. At the start of training camp last September, 15 of the league's 30 teams rostered players who played at least 75 percent of the team's minutes in the previous season (2017-18). Right now -- midway through July -- only four teams are set to bring back players who played at least 75 percent of last season's minutes. Continuity Not every team has made big changes. The Denver Nuggets are set to return at least 12 of the 18 guys that played for them last season (the status of two-way, restricted free agent Brandon Goodwin is still in the air), along with Michael Porter Jr., who was with the team all season. The only players that have left the Nuggets -- Tyler Lydon, Trey Lyles and Isaiah Thomas -- played a total of eight minutes in the playoffs. Over the last three years, there has been a correlation between summer continuity and win increase the following season. But the correlation has been small. During that span, 33 teams have brought at least 75 percent of the previous season's minutes back, and only 15 of those 33 increased their win total. The highest individual return percentage of the stretch belonged to last season's Miami Heat, who brought back 97 percent of their minutes from 2017-18 ... and proceeded to win five fewer games. This summer, the two biggest winners in free agency -- the Brooklyn Nets and LA Clippers -- rank 24th and 26th, respectively, by this measure (as of Wednesday morning). And while the Nuggets have a young core that can improve on its second-place finish in the West, the Orlando Magic are bringing back an ensemble that won just 42 games in the Eastern Conference, and the San Antonio Spurs have an older group that was ousted by Denver in the first round, albeit in seven games. Gained and lost math Going forward, we'll be talking about totals gained or lost this summer. These were accumulated by non-rookies for any team last season. For example, in calculating the minutes that Indiana lost (and Milwaukee gained) with Wesley Matthews' departure, we're using all 2,091 minutes that Matthews played for Dallas and Indiana last season. That way, it's a more realistic measure of total production coming in and going out. In that regard, most teams have lost more '18-19 minutes than they've gained. In total, there are more than 230 players who were on rosters (with two-way contracts included) at the end of the season and are either on a new team (via free agency or trades) or remain unsigned. More than half of those players (about 120) have been replaced by other non-rookies. About 70 more have been replaced by rookies (including those on two-way contracts). As an example, here's the roster math for the Golden State Warriors: - LOST 11 non-rookies off their end-of-season roster - GAINED six non-rookies - ADDED three rookies - STILL HAVE one main roster spot and one two-way spot they can fill Minutes gained and lost The Warriors are one of 22 teams that have lost a group of players who played more minutes last season than the group of players that they've added. There are a few teams that have added a lot more '18-19 minutes to their roster. That group is led by the New York Knicks, who have added almost 12,000 '18-19 minutes while seeing almost 9,000 minutes exit. The Knicks have lost four guys - Mario Hezonja, DeAndre Jordan, Emmanuel Mudiay and Noah Vonleh - who played at least 1,000 minutes. They added seven, and all seven started at least 28 games last season. Of course, how many of those seven are difference makers is up for debate, as is the idea of whether the Knicks should have used at least some of their cap space to take on bad contracts -- often spiced up with future picks -- from other teams. The Nets lost as many players (6) who played at least 1,000 minutes last season as they gained. But they added four of the 31 2,000-minute players to have changed teams this summer, most notably in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Utah (3) is the only other team with more than two additions that played at least 2,000 minutes last season. The eight guys that Brooklyn brought in started a total of 363 games in '18-19, while the nine guys they lost started just 179. That's the biggest increase, with New York (+100) and Utah (+84) also seeing differentials of more than 82 games. The Sacramento Kings lost two guys that played at least 1,000 minutes last season, and one of those guys -- Alec Burks -- played only 127 minutes for the Kings. They added four 1,000-minute players, including two - Trevor Ariza and Cory Joseph -- that played more than 2,000 minutes last season. As noted above, the Nuggets lead the league in continuity, bringing back all 10 guys that played more than 1,120 minutes for them last season. But they've also added Jerami Grant, who played 2,612 minutes for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Though they've added more players (11, including four rookies) than they've lost (nine) and need to trim their roster between now and opening night, the Washington Wizards are set to see the biggest discrepancy in regard to '18-19 minutes. They've lost more than 11,000 (with Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Tomas Satoransky accounting for more than half of that total) and added less than 5,000. The group of players that the Wizards lost also started 208 more '18-19 games than the players added -- the biggest discrepancy in that regard. The Charlotte Hornets not only lost more than 1,000 '18-19 minutes in their Kemba Walker-Terry Rozier swap, they also lost three other guys - Jeremy Lamb, Shelvin Mack and Tony Parker - who played more than 1,000 minutes last season. There's a general consensus that the Indiana Pacers are in the "winners" category this summer, adding Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren. But they also lost five guys (four of their five playoff starters plus Cory Joseph) to have played at least 2,000 minutes last season. The only other teams who lost more than two 2,000-minute players were the the Clippers (3), Oklahoma City Thunder (3) and Wizards (3). Still available Most '18-19 minutes among still-available free agents... - Justin Holiday - 2,607 - Iman Shumpert - 1,481 - Wayne Selden - 1,439 - Jeremy Lin - 1,436 - Shaquille Harrison - 1,430 In regard to minutes played last season, the top 18 available free agents are all perimeter players (unless you want to count Jonas Jerebko as an interior guy). Among available non-perimeter players, Dante Cunningham (928), Cheick Diallo (896) and Zaza Pachulia (878) are the guys who played the most minutes last season. It's all about shooting Putting the ball in the basket is the most important thing in the NBA, and every team is always on the hunt for more shooting. But in regard to '18-19 3-pointers, half of the league (15 teams) has lost more than it's gained. There are a few teams to have seen big increases, however. The Knicks added Reggie Bullock (148-for-393, 37.7 percent), Marcus Morris (146-for-389, 37.5 percent) and Wayne Ellington (138-for-372, 37.1 percent), though creating open shots for those guys might be an issue. None of the six players that the Kings have lost made more than 61 3-pointers last season. Ariza (145) is the big gain in that regard, but they also added Dewayne Dedmon, a big man who shot 38 percent on 217 attempts from beyond the arc. On the other end of the spectrum, it's the Hornets that lost the most 3s, with Walker having ranked fifth in the league in total makes. The Atlanta Hawks ranked fourth in the percentage of their shots that were 3-pointers, but traded Taurean Prince (39 percent on 315 attempts), lost Dedmon, haven't re-signed Vince Carter (39 percent on 316 attempts) and swapped Kent Bazemore (32 percent; 300 attempts) for Evan Turner (21 percent; 52 attempts). The Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, haven't really replaced two of the four guys who made more than 100 threes for them last season. Still available Most '18-19 3-pointers among still-available free agents... - Justin Holiday - 162-for-465 (34.8 percent) - Kyle Korver - 138-for-348 (39.7 percent) - Vince Carter - 123-for-316 (38.9 percent) - Iman Shumpert - 95-for-273 (34.8 percent) - Lance Stephenson - 73-for-197 (37.1 percent) J.R. Smith, waived by the Cavs on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), made 143 threes (shooting 37.5 percent) in 2017-18, but played just 11 games last season. More notes - Eastern Conference - The Boston Celtics are one of three teams (Atlanta and Washington are the others) with a discrepancy of at least 300 between the steals + blocks registered by the non-rookies they've lost (503) and those registered by the non-rookies they've added (194). Swapping Al Horford (145 steals + blocks in 1,973 minutes) for Enes Kanter (58 in 1,639 minutes) obviously hurts. - The Chicago Bulls have seen the second biggest increase in 3-point percentage between the non-rookies they've added (36.9 percent) and the non-rookies they've lost (30.3 percent). Tomas Satoransky (39.5 percent on 162 attempts) was the big add in that regard. - The Cleveland Cavaliers are the only team that hasn't added a single player (via free agency or trade) that played last season, though they still have to add at least one player to their main roster. The only players they've added are the three guys they selected in the first round of the Draft and another rookie (Dean Wade) on a two-way contract. - The Detroit Pistons have had eight non-rookies leave (five have found new NBA teams, three haven't been re-signed) and have added only four. But the four they've added -- Tim Frazier, Markieff Morris, Derrick Rose and Tony Snell -- started the same number of games (60) and played just 11 more minutes in '18-19 as the eight that have left. They did add more scoring, with the four new guys having registered 436 more points than the eight guys on their way out. - As noted above, the Miami Heat led the league in continuity last summer, bringing back 97 percent of their minutes from '17-18. This year, with the retirement of Dwyane Wade and trades that sent Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside out, they're in the middle of the pack. In regard to out vs. in (Jimmy Butler and Meyers Leonard), they've lost total production, but have improved in regard to shooting and free throw rate. Only Denver, Brooklyn and Dallas have seen bigger increases in true shooting percentage from the non-rookies they've lost to the non-rookies they've added. - With the departure of Malcolm Brogdon, the Milwaukee Bucks lost some playmaking. Only the Magic (who didn't lose anybody from their playoff rotation) saw a bigger drop in in assist-turnover ratio from the non-rookies they lost (2.47) to the non-rookies they've gained (1.33). Tony Snell (traded to Detroit) had the fifth lowest turnover ratio (4.9 per 100 possessions) among 299 players that averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more last season. - The Orlando Magic rank second in continuity, one of two teams (Dallas is the other) with nobody on their end-of-season roster having signed with (or been traded to) another team. But they've added one rotation piece by signing Al-Farouq Aminu, who represents the biggest jump in '18-19 rebounds between the non-rookies a team has added (610) and those they've lost or remain unsigned (195). The Magic were already a good rebounding team, ranking 11th in total rebounding percentage and third in defensive rebounding percentage last season. - The Philadelphia 76ers have seen the biggest discrepancy in '18-19 games played between the players they've lost (478) and the players they've added (223), though most of those lost games came from guys who weren't in their playoff rotation. More notes - Western Conference - The Dallas Mavericks have seen the second-biggest jump in effective field goal percentage (lower than only that of Denver) between the players they added (54.4 percent) and the players they've lost (47.3 percent) this summer. Swapping Trey Burke (48.2 percent) for Seth Curry (57.7 percent) goes a long way in that regard. The Mavs are also one of two teams (Orlando is the other) with nobody on their end-of-season roster having signed with (or been traded to) another team. - It remains to be seen how well James Harden and Russell Westbrook fit together and how much the Westbrook-for-Chris Paul swap hurts the Houston Rockets' defense. But we can say for certain that the Rockets got better in the rebounding department. - After ranking 28th in rebounding percentage (and 29th in defensive rebounding percentage) last season, they swapped Paul (who grabbed 7.0 percent of available boards while he was on the floor) for Westbrook (14.1 percent - highest among guards) and also added Tyson Chandler, who had a higher rebounding percentage (15.4 percent) than Nene (10.5 percent). - Good news for the team that ranked 29th in 3-point percentage last season: The non-rookies the Los Angeles Lakers have lost attempted 75 more 3-pointers than those they've gained. But the non-rookies they've gained made 34 more 3s than those they've lost. Among players that attempted at least 200 3-pointers last season and changed teams this season, Danny Green (45.5 percent) ranked first in 3-point percentage, while Quinn Cook (40.5 percent) ranked seventh. - The Memphis Grizzlies had a pretty motley rotation after making multiple trades at the deadline in February. And now they've seen the biggest roster more than any other team this summer, with 11 non-rookies leaving and nine coming in. They currently have guys that played for the Hawks, Warriors, Wolves, Pelicans, Suns, Raptors, Jazz and Wizards last season. - The six non-rookies that the Minnesota Timberwolves have added -- Jordan Bell, Treveon Graham, Jake Layman, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh and Tyrone Wallance -- averaged just 6.3 points per game last season. That's the lowest mark for players added among the 29 teams that have added at least one non-rookie this summer. - In regard to vets, the New Orleans Pelicans have swapped interior players for perimeter players. The (five) non-rookies that they've added had 360 fewer '18-19 field goals, but 127 more 3-pointers than the (10) non-rookies that they've lost. Chicago is the other team with a loss in '18-19 field goals (-38) and a gain in '18-19 3-pointers (+47). - The Oklahoma City Thunder have seen the most '18-19 points walk out the door, with the six guys they've lost having scored 5,619 points last season. One thing they definitely gained in the Westbrook-Paul trade (if they keep Paul) was mid-range shooting. Paul has shot 48.9 percent from mid-range the last five seasons, the second best mark (behind only that of Kevin Durant) among 55 players with at least 1,000 mid-range attempts over that time. Westbrook (37.5 percent) ranks 52nd among the 55. - The 10 non-rookies that have left the Phoenix Suns (five that have found new NBA teams and five that haven't) racked up a cumulative plus-minus of minus-1,709 last season. None of the 10 had a positive plus-minus. The five non-rookies that they've added -- Aron Baynes, Jevon Carter, Frank Kaminsky, Ricky Rubio and Dario Saric -- had a cumulative plus-minus of plus-257. That's the league's biggest differential between players in vs. players out. - The Portland Trail Blazers improved their shooting by swapping Turner for Bazemore and Aminu (34.3 percent on 280 3-point attempts) for Anthony Tolliver (37.7 percent on 215), but are one of four teams - Brooklyn, Indiana and the Lakers are the others - that have lost six players who played at least 1,000 minutes in '18-19. They've added four. - As noted above, the San Antonio Spurs are near the top of the league in regard to continuity. But they've seen the biggest increase in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) between the non-rookies that they've gained (0.335) and the players they've lost (0.181). The pair of vets that they've added (having ranked 24th in free throw rate last season) includes DeMarre Carroll (0.421), who ranked eighth in free throw rate among non-bigs with at least 500 field goal attempts last season. - The Utah Jazz rank 13th in the percentage of '18-19 minutes they're set to bring back, but are one of five teams that have added at least 9,000 '18-19 minutes and lost at least 9,000 '18-19 minutes (when we include unsigned free agents). They parted ways with four of the eight guys that played at least 1,000 minutes for them last season, but all five of their additions - Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley Jr., Ed Davis, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay - played at least 1,400 minutes. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 18th, 2019

The ten most intriguing NBA free agents for 2019

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com We knew that the postseason would affect free agency. But the idea was that the success or failure of certain teams would affect what their free agents' thoughts about staying or leaving. Unfortunately, the last two games of The Finals brought devastating injuries to two of the three most coveted free agents on the market. Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the world, tore his Achilles in Game 5, just 12 minutes into his return from a calf injury. And Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. The two injuries will certainly have repercussions beyond the two players and the Golden State Warriors. Maybe they already have. With the Western Conference seemingly wide open next season, the Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly made a deal for Anthony Davis, sending a bevy of young players and future picks to New Orleans so they can team the 26-year-old star with 34-year-old LeBron James ... and maybe another star added in free agency. As always, the free agent market and the trade market are tied together. The pending Davis trade could affect the decisions of players and teams come July 1. And if teams miss out on the free agents they're seeking, they could always fill their cap space by making a trade. With all that in mind, the players listed below aren't necessarily the 10 best free agents (or potential free agents). They're the 10 (actually 12) most interesting in regard to where they're going and what kind of contract they get. For players to be on this list, there needs to be some intrigue regarding their (and/or their team's) decision this summer. That's why Thompson isn't included. 1. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto (Player option) Whether he leaves or not, trading for Leonard last summer was well worth it for the Raptors, who won their first championship, with Leonard averaging 30.5 points per game in the postseason. The Raptors' "load management" program (which limited Leonard to just 60 games in the regular season) clearly worked, and director of sports science Alex McKechnie should be seen as a major asset in the quest to keep Leonard in Toronto. There should be a "run-it-back" sentiment for the new champs, with Danny Green also a free agent and Marc Gasol holding a player option this summer. A short-term deal would make sense, unless Leonard is looking for long-term security, having missed almost all of the 2017-18 season with a leg injury. It's all up to Leonard, maybe the toughest player in the league to read. If he takes his two-way talent elsewhere, the Raptors may have to go in a new direction. Number to know: In the postseason, Leonard had a true shooting percentage of 69.1 percent, the highest mark for a player that averaged at least 30 points per game in the playoffs and won the championship. 2. Kevin Durant, Golden State (Player option) Durant's torn Achilles probably won't scare any team, including the Warriors, from paying him as much as possible. As deep and talented as this free agent class is, the top two guys on this list are in a class by themselves. Rumors have long had Durant ready to leave Golden State and even with his injury, he seems more likely than Thompson to find a new home. But an ESPN report had Thompson's father talking about "unfinished business" after overhearing a conversation between the two injured Warriors. Durant could always put free agency off for a year by exercising his player option and remaining on the Warriors' payroll through his rehab. Number to know: Durant was the first player in NBA history to average 30 points per game in at least 10 playoff games while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. 3. Kyrie Irving, Boston The disappointment of the Celtics' season, along with Irving's questionable leadership with a group that underachieved, has taken some of the shine off his star. Irving's injury history also must be taken into consideration. But talent is the most important thing in this league and Irving is one of its most talented players. He's still just 27-years-old and he can still get buckets when buckets are needed. A return to Boston appears far less likely than it did six months ago (especially with Davis being traded elsewhere) and there have been a lot of signals that Irving is bound for Brooklyn. Number to know: In the regular season, Irving had an effective field goal percentage of 56.1 percent with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, the second-best mark among player with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 4. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Philadelphia The Sixers lost to the eventual NBA champions on a Game 7 buzzer-beater that bounced on the rim four times before falling through. They're right there. But their starting lineup, which outscored its opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions in 334 total minutes (regular season and playoffs), includes three free agents. In regard to future assets, the Sixers didn't give up as much for Butler as they did for Harris. And of course, Butler has more baggage in regard to accepting his role. But, with his defense and his ability to get his own shot, he's is the most important of the three. Harris struggled a bit in the conference semifinals against Toronto and is the least important of the Sixers' three free-agent starters; J.J. Redick's shooting was clearly more critical in the postseason. But Harris isn't easily replaceable and he appears to be the most likely to leave, with a lot of teams looking for versatile forwards. Number to know: In the regular season, Harris shot 41.3 percent on pull-up three-pointers, the second-best mark among 69 players who attempted at least 100. 5. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Walker has expressed some level of loyalty to the Hornets. But immediately after the Davis trade was agreed to, there was a report that Walker would be a "top target" of the Lakers with their cap space. Walker would be an ideal offensive complement to James and Davis, in that he can play off the ball (though he shot less than 35 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season) and take some of the playmaking burden off of James' shoulders. The Hornets, meanwhile, would likely have a tough time upgrading their roster around Walker, with Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller all under contract next season for a total of $85 million. Number to know: Walker led the league with 126 field goal attempts with the score within five points in the last five minutes. That was 43 percent of the Hornets' total (295). His effective field goal percentage on those shots (49.6 percent) ranked 15th among 45 players with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 6. D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn (Restricted) A finalist for the Most Improved award, Russell took a big step forward this season, both in regard to his production and his maturity. He earned himself an All-Star appearance and helped the Nets reach the playoffs with a 14-win increase from last season. He's only 23-years-old and is one of the league's most flammable shooters. But because he doesn't get to the basket or the free throw line very often, Russell is neither all that efficient (his true shooting percentage of 53.3 percent ranked 66th among 94 guards with at least 500 field goal attempts) nor consistent, and he struggled (shooting 36 percent) in Brooklyn's first-round loss to Philadelphia. If the Nets are targeting another ball-handler in free agency (with Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie already under contract), they'll probably let Russell head elsewhere. Number to know: In the regular season, Russell ranked second with 11.4 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. He scored 0.89 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the 26th best mark among 44 players that averaged at least five ball-handler possessions. 7. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney, Golden State Cousins hadn't made it back to 100 percent from his Achilles tear before he suffered a torn quad in his second career playoff game. He made it back for The Finals from that injury and showed flashes of his old self with 14 important points in the Warriors' Game 5 win and a big bucket in the final minute of Game 6. But he also struggled on both ends of the floor at times, and the Warriors were outscored with him on the floor in seven of his eight playoff games. Now he goes back on the free agent market with teams still not sure of what they're getting. Looney is an unrestricted free agent at 23-years-old, and he was the Warriors' most important center this season. The Western Conference champs have Looney's Bird rights, but they could also be spending a lot of money to retain Durant and Thompson (and possibly extend Draymond Green). Another team might have a larger role and more money for an improving young big. Number to know: In the regular season, the Warriors' lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Looney scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions and outscored opponents by 18.7 per 100. Those were the best marks for points scored and point differential per 100 possessions among 40 league-wide lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. 8. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee (Restricted) The Milwaukee Bucks were the best team in the league through the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. But, with four of their top eight players being free agents (or potential free agents) this summer, they have a lot of work to do if they want to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounded by players who can get it done on both ends of the floor. Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are the three key pieces. They're all due a pay raise and they all belong on this list. Brogdon is the restricted free agent, but he's also the youngest of the three (he'll be 27 in December) and the one that could be projected into a larger role on another team. Number to know: Brogdon shot 47.5 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, the third-best mark among 223 players who attempted at least 100. 9. Julius Randle, New Orleans (Player option) After five years in the league, Randle is still just 24-years-old. So he's not necessarily a bad fit for David Griffin's plans for the future in New Orleans. But the Pelicans might not be ready to commit the money Randle is seeking (should he opt out of the final year of his contract) after averaging a career-high 21.4 points per game. Defense remains an issue, but Randle has expanded his offensive skill set; he was a respectable 34.4 percent from three-point range this season, taking 18 percent of his shots from beyond the arc (up from six percent over his three previous full seasons). Number to know: Randle averaged 13.2 points in the paint per game, seventh most in the league, and he made more three-pointers (67) than all but one of the six players in front of him. 10. Ricky Rubio, Utah According to Rubio himself, he's not Utah's top priority in free agency. He remains a good defender and one of the league's best passers, but the Jazz need to get more potent offensively if they're going to take the next step. At 31.1 percent, Rubio ranked 153rd in three-point percentage among 163 players with at least 200 attempts. There could be as many as 10 teams (not including the Jazz) in need of a starting point guard this summer, and Rubio could have more value on a team more in need of a distributor. Number to know: The Jazz were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better offensively with both Rubio and Donovan Mitchell on the floor (scoring 110.4 per 100) than they were with Mitchell on the floor without Rubio (104.6). John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2019

NBA Finals: Raptors title win would be “special” for Toronto says Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright

Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t answer it directly so ABS-CBN Sports got someone who would delightfully answer the question of what would an NBA title win mean for Toronto and Canada. While Phoenix guard Matthew Wright is not exactly just “somebody on the street,” he’s a huge Raptors fan and can certainly offer a better response to the question given to Leonard. Wright is not in Toronto now, the Fil-Canadian guard is trying to have a professional basketball career across the world in the PBA, but he’s been watching his Raptors try to make history in the NBA Finals against two-time defending champion Golden State. If the Raptors, currently up 3-1 on the Warriors, can pull this championship win off, it would be pretty special not only for the city of Toronto but for the whole of Canada. The way fans celebrate every win in this incredible postseason run should be proof of that. “You guys see it, the frenzy that happens outside the game, you see the fan support in Canada. I’m just proud. When I was growing up watching them, from then until now, they’ve made a huge jump,” Wright told ABS-CBN Sports. “I don’t wanna jinx it, there’s still one game left. Just making it to the Finals and having the world see how big of a basketball country Canada really is or what it’s becoming, especially the city of Toronto, it’s really special. You can see it for yourself, the fanbase is crazy there,” he added. As soon as LeBron James left the Eastern Conference, the Raptors find themselves in the NBA Finals and on the verge of taking down one of the greate modern-day NBA dynasties in the Warriors. After years of torture at the hands of the King, this Finals run has to be a delight to witness for fans like Wright. However, while those losses were painful, no one really remembers them in the grand scheme of things, especially if Toronto could pull it off this year. Winning will get you remembered. “I know from my career and my perspective, you don’t really remember the losses. You remember the wins,” Wright said. “You remember the good things. When it’s all said and then, that’s history. I guess all the Raptos can do now is enjoy the present. All those losses to LeBron, that’s what brought them to this point, like how Jordan used to lose to the Bad Boys. You do have to go through tough losses in order to achieve something,” he added. Up 3-1, Toronto has three chances to close out the Warriors and end Golden State’s reign on top of the NBA. Two of those chances will be at home in Canada and the Raptors can win the title as early as Game 5 Monday [Tuesday in Manila]. Wright won’t make a prediction but if the Raptors can win the whole thing, he might have to go home to Toronto real quick. “I’m not saying anything, I haven’t said anything the whole year. I’ve spoken too soon in the past so I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut and enjoy every game,” he said. “[But] if the Raptors pull it off, I might have to book a private jet home for a couple of days just to celebrate,” Wright added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 10th, 2019

NBA Finals: Raptors title win would be “special” for Toronto says Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright

Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t answer it directly so ABS-CBN Sports got someone who would delightfully answer the question of what would an NBA title win mean for Toronto and Canada. While Phoenix guard Matthew Wright is not exactly just “somebody on the street,” he’s a huge Raptors fan and can certainly offer a better response to the question given to Leonard. Wright is not in Toronto now, the Fil-Canadian guard is trying to have a professional basketball career across the world in the PBA, but he’s been watching his Raptors try to make history in the NBA Finals against two-time defending champion Golden State. If the Raptors, currently up 3-1 on the Warriors, can pull this championship win off, it would be pretty special not only for the city of Toronto but for the whole of Canada. The way fans celebrate every win in this incredible postseason run should be proof of that. “You guys see it, the frenzy that happens outside the game, you see the fan support in Canada. I’m just proud. When I was growing up watching them, from then until now, they’ve made a huge jump,” Wright told ABS-CBN Sports. “I don’t wanna jinx it, there’s still one game left. Just making it to the Finals and having the world see how big of a basketball country Canada really is or what it’s becoming, especially the city of Toronto, it’s really special. You can see it for yourself, the fanbase is crazy there,” he added. As soon as LeBron James left the Eastern Conference, the Raptors find themselves in the NBA Finals and on the verge of taking down one of the greate modern-day NBA dynasties in the Warriors. After years of torture at the hands of the King, this Finals run has to be a delight to witness for fans like Wright. However, while those losses were painful, no one really remembers them in the grand scheme of things, especially if Toronto could pull it off this year. Winning will get you remembered. “I know from my career and my perspective, you don’t really remember the losses. You remember the wins,” Wright said. “You remember the good things. When it’s all said and then, that’s history. I guess all the Raptos can do now is enjoy the present. All those losses to LeBron, that’s what brought them to this point, like how Jordan used to lose to the Bad Boys. You do have to go through tough losses in order to achieve something,” he added. Up 3-1, Toronto has three chances to close out the Warriors and end Golden State’s reign on top of the NBA. Two of those chances will be at home in Canada and the Raptors can win the title as early as Game 5 Monday [Tuesday in Manila]. Wright won’t make a prediction but if the Raptors can win the whole thing, he might have to go home to Toronto real quick. “I’m not saying anything, I haven’t said anything the whole year. I’ve spoken too soon in the past so I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut and enjoy every game,” he said. “[But] if the Raptors pull it off, I might have to book a private jet home for a couple of days just to celebrate,” Wright added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 10th, 2019

Warriors head into Game 3 vulnerable, yet pressure is on Raptors

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. -- The two-time defending champion Warriors will be of divided attention here in the next few days. They’ll be occupied by Game 3 of The Finals … and Game 1 of Kevin Durant’s rehabilitation. The two go hand-in-hand, actually, and hold equal importance. With untimely injuries threatening to delay the Warriors’ third straight title or downright prevent it from happening, the club teeters on edge, unsure whether its next step will be on the gas pedal or a banana peel. Klay Thompson is iffy for Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) because of a gimpy hamstring that cut short his floor time in Game 2, which the Warriors managed to win anyway. He did some light shooting on the eve of Game 3 against the Raptors and, Klay being Klay, counted himself in after three days’ rest. But it’s not really up to him, is it? It’s up to the team medical staff and mostly a tendon that’s moody and doesn’t always cooperate with the human attached to it. And so: This all depends on what side of the bed the hamstring lands on Wednesday morning. Kevon Looney, the fast-developing big man who has been a pleasant surprise throughout the postseason, is done for the summer with a cartilage fracture in his collarbone area. At least in this case, his loss is minimized by the re-emergence of DeMarcus Cousins, back from two months off with a bum quad muscle and feeling frisky about it and his encouraging effort in Game 2. OK, now here’s the elephant in the emergency room: What does the future of The Finals hold for Durant, MIA for roughly a month now, who has been ruled out for Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)? Durant didn’t practice with the team Tuesday morning (Wednesday evening, PHL time), but he did go through an individual workout that afternoon. There is no scheduled team practice on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), the only off-day between Games 3 and 4 at Oracle Arena. Yet all signs point to Durant putting his body through a workout/practice/scrimmage at some point between now and Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) Game 4 because coach Steve Kerr said the former MVP is “ramping up” his workouts. It’s safe to say the Warriors will be interested spectators for that one, biting their fingernails to the knuckle, although Kerr indicated Durant’s availability for The Finals is more “when” than “if.” That means Durant has given them some reason to feel optimistic about Friday (Saturday, PHL time) if not Game 5 in Toronto. “Klay and Kevin, we’re very hopeful we’re going to get them back out there,” Kerr said. In a worst-case scenario, the Warriors in Game 3 would be without two players averaging more than 50 points combined in the postseason, and their scoring and defensive presence is impossible to replace. That would put them in a tough spot, needing to rely on replacements who aren’t familiar with, or quite capable of, carrying that amount of minutes with impact. Yes, it’s true the Warriors finished Game 2 without either player and managed to win. Yet, no disrespect to the champs, that’s a big chore to do for four full quarters and against a solid defensive team such as the Raptors. Even if Thompson plays, will he be healthy enough to supply the energy and flexibility needed to perform his usual top-notch defense and running through screens for his jumper? “If I can just be out there even at 80 percent, I still think I can be very effective,” he said. “From the progress I've made these last two days, I'm very encouraged that I'll be able to go out there. As long as nothing is torn or really injured, I'm not too fearful of it because, knock on wood, I've been very blessed with not very many traumatic injuries in my career. I don't think this one is of greatest concern. It's just the day and age we live in where little things can just grow to be big problems, but I don't think this will be one of them.” How would a diminished or missing Klay affect the Warriors? Well, Stephen Curry could not afford to be anything less than MVP-ish. He’d see doubles and triples thrown his way by the Raptors and that would cause him to take tougher shots than normal. In that situation, as the Warriors’ only volume scorer and shooter on the floor, Curry could feel overwhelmed and force the issue. Cousins would be required to ratchet up his shooting and intensity on offense, but will he stay clear of foul trouble, which would put a crimp in his playing time? Finally, the Warriors would lean more on Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Quinn Cook than normal. Cook made a pair of important shots in Game 2 after Thompson limped off and could be an X-factor, or at least he’d need to be for Golden State’s sake. “Our team is very adaptable,” Kerr said. “We have a lot of versatility. What it requires is bench players being ready to step up, like they always are, and guys just playing hard and playing together. I think you have to be fearless, too, which our team is. You can't worry about anything. You just go out there and play and compete and let it fly and whatever happens, happens.” And then there’s Toronto. A weakened or missing Thompson would be an opportunity they simply couldn’t afford to blow. How many times does a gift present itself in the biggest series of the season? Not often. It must be seized. In such a situation, the Raptors would be wise to occupy Curry and dare others to produce for four quarters. If Thompson plays, they’d be best to take advantage by running him ragged through screens on defense, putting that hamstring to the test. That would be one less player with high defensive credentials for Kawhi Leonard to deal with. Assuming that scoring will be an issue for the Warriors, the Raptors must get a bounce-back game from Pascal Siakam (who regressed from 32 points to 12) and more punch from Kyle Lowry (six baskets total for the series) to make it tough if not impossible for the Warriors to keep up. If the Raptors have any shot at winning this title, they must win at least one game at Oracle anyway, and from a practical standpoint, Game 3 is the most inviting. They may never see the Warriors this vulnerable, this ripe for the taking again. “I think we come into a sense of urgency, period,” said Lowry, “no matter the situation. We want to be the first to four, and every game is an urgent game. You're in the NBA Finals, so it doesn't matter. They still have professional basketball players down there, and they're really talented basketball players. So you still got to be ready to go out there and play your butt off and play hard.” The Warriors do not feel the same level of urgency because they’re not down 0-2, and the next two games are at home, and the core group is championship tested. As they demonstrated in Game 2, they don’t get rattled by tense championship games, even with Thompson and Durant off the floor. They also know, or at least feel strongly, that Thompson and Durant will suit up soon. “If there’s pain, it will be a no-go (for Game 3) because of the position we’re in,” Thompson said. “This could be a longer series, so there's no point in trying to go out there and re-aggravate it and potentially keep myself out of the whole entire Finals instead of just one game.” The Warriors might not get much sympathy from a basketball world that perhaps feel the champs are finally getting their just due. Everyone saw them play the 2015 championship series against Cleveland without Kevin Love and all but one game without Kyrie Irving. In the 2017 Western Conference finals, Leonard, then with San Antonio, went down after lighting it up for most of Game 1. And how can anyone forget Chris Paul missing Houston's final two games of a seven-game playoff series last season? Not saying those were the reasons for three championships in four years; still, all of those misfortunes suffered by others favored the Warriors. But who’s keeping score? “There's a certain amount of luck involved with this, and we know that,” Kerr said. “We have been on both sides of that. Some of our opponents have suffered injuries. We have suffered injuries. It's just part of the deal. You just keep pushing forward.” Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 5th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 1 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 118-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of The Finals Thursday (Friday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena ... 1. So much for ‘glad to be here’ If we thought we had learned one thing about the Toronto Raptors when it comes to the NBA playoffs, it was this: They back their way into most series. Losing the opener was a tradition for this franchise -- they were 3-15 in Game 1s prior to Thursday (Friday, PHL time), dating back to their inaugural playoff run in 2000. Nothing shoves a team closer to elimination in a best-of-seven showdown than a lousy start. That’s why grabbing the opener against Golden State was so essential. Had the Raptors squandered their home-court advantage on the first night, we all would be assuming the worst for these Finals in competitive, stylistic and entertainment terms. Only by rocking the Warriors in Game 1 -- and most impressively, by refusing to cough up all of their 12-point lead in the second half -- could the Raptors generate legitimate excitement for Game 2 and beyond. Had we all been honest (and able to pull this off), we would have begun this series by spotting Toronto to a 1-0 lead -- just to handicap the defending champions and force them to show us something they haven’t in their four previous Finals trips. But such a move would have been demeaning, of course, to the Raptors. Instead, coach Nick Nurse and his affable newbies seized early control themselves. How Portland looked in the Western Conference finals, as if the Trail Blazers had maxed out and were just happy to still be involved? Toronto wanted none of that. It found a way to win when Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry were ordinary at best. And now we have a series worthy of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 2. Triple-doubles continue to decline in value It’s fun as a game progresses to track stats, whether it’s Pascal Siakam’s absurd 11 consecutive field goals or Stephen Curry’s refusal to miss a free throw. We’re always aware of the leading scorer and his growing point total, particularly as it passes the big round numbers (30, 40, 50…). But Draymond Green’s latest triple-double was a reminder that the bar has been set too low for that stat from its inception. Green finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, which makes it a minimalist’s triple-double at best and more of a statistical fluke than an achievement. Ten assists? That’s strong any night. Ten rebounds? Solid, and necessary if no one else on your roster is claiming more than six. Ten points, though? Come on now. Green had a Jason Kidd triple-double, which isn’t mean to disparage the Hall of Fame point guard but speaks to Kidd’s limitations as a scorer for most of his career. Heck, the Warriors’ versatile forward had six turnovers, inspiring the bad “quadruple-double watch” that Kidd sparked on occasion. What Green didn’t do was put the ball through the net effectively, shooting 2-for-9 overall and 0-for-2 on three-pointers. Yes, his value to Golden State usually doesn’t rise or fall on his scoring, but he could have been more helpful in that area Thursday. When Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double in 1961-62 (and cumulatively did it over his first six NBA seasons), he was scoring 30 points per game. When Russell Westbrook matched what had been a rare feat two years ago, he too was up above 30 points nightly. But Westbrook has done it the past two seasons as well, with his scoring average dipping below 23 this season. That would seem to be near the minimum -- say, 20 points -- to gush over a player’s triple-double on a given night. We get it, double figures means 10 or more. But 10 points is no big deal at all in the NBA, so it seems silly to celebrate it when it’s the free rider on the triple-double quirk. 3. Don’t double-dawg dare an NBA player Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted after Game 1 that, by mistake more than by design, his team didn’t defensively do its job well in the early minutes against center Marc Gasol. “Gasol we left a couple times early in the game and didn't rotate, we just gave him a couple of dare shots and he knocked them down,” Kerr said. Daring is not defending, and the Warriors would be well-advised not to do that again to a player as proud and as accomplished as Gasol. He’s struggled at times as a shooter in these playoffs, shooting 34 percent in the Eastern Conference finals while going 2-for-9 on three-pointers in Games 1 and 2 of that series (both losses). It was embarrassing at times to see the affable 7'1" Spaniard miss shots badly, whether he felt that way or not. But Gasol was 10-for-20 on three-pointers entering The Finals, all during the Raptors’ four consecutive victories to eliminate the Bucks. He went 2-for-4 in Game 1 of The Finals, scoring a playoff-high 20 points to help compensate for Leonard’s and Lowry’s muted firepower. Asked about it afterward, on taking such a “dare” personally, the big man shrugged. “If you're open, you got to shoot them. Dare, no dare,” he said. “And then we go from there. If they go in, great. If not you keep taking them with confidence.” That’s speaking truth to a dare. 4. The ratings for Game 1 will soar… … if they can somehow count the number of times the Warriors and the Raptors watch and re-watch the video tape. A big theme heading into this series was the relative lack of familiarity the teams had with each other. Now, that’s a common aspect of The Finals, pitting the champs of opposite conferences and all. But given Golden State’s knowledge of the Cleveland Cavaliers after four consecutive Finals, Toronto is a relative stranger. Beyond that, key players from both sides were absent in the two regular-season meetings. But now they have a whole 48 minutes to dissect, digest and learn from. For the Warriors, who spoke about it the most, they saw things they might not have expected and things they definitely did not like. Such as? Try Siakam’s attacks on the basket (in transition and otherwise), their own inability to be the team that pushes pace and Fred VanVleet as the game’s essential reserve (15 points on a night when his three-point shot was MIA). Green, in particular, sounded as if he was going to binge-watch Siakam’s romp and figure a way to thwart the unorthodox flip shots the forward from Cameroon deployed. “He's become ‘a guy,’” Green said phrasing that as a nod of respect. “He put a lot of work into get there and I respect that. But like I said, I got to take him out of the series and that's on me.” Toronto can make use of the video for as long as the Warriors roster stays the way it is, which means sans Kevin Durant. Which leads into … 5. Who's here (and who isn't)? (And no, we don’t mean LeBron James.) Durant’s continued absence with a calf injury since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals became an official problem in Game 1 of The Finals (the team’s first loss without him). Questions that had been bottled up for a couple weeks -- What did you miss most without Durant? How might he have changed your offense or defense? -- came spilling out from the large media crew that covers the NBA’s glamour team. Neither Kerr nor his players took the bait, which was smart. Not only would it look like excuse-making (considering how they hadn’t needed those before), it might have opened a crack of vulnerability into something wider and more troublesome. Durant is out for Game 2, but per a Yahoo Sports report is expected back at the series’ midway point (read: Game 3 or Game 4).  “KD's an all-time great player on both ends of the floor,” Curry said, “so I could sit here and talk for days about what he adds to our roster.  We obviously have proven that when he's out we can have guys step up, and that's going to be the case until he gets back.” Rushing him back would seem desperate, something the Warriors aren’t and shouldn’t be. Plus, it is early in a long series. And it really is irrelevant: NBA players and teams’ medical staffs don’t “rush back” anyone these days. Then again, once they’re ready to play -- as Golden State showed in using DeMarcus Cousins in Game 1 -- there’s no sense in letting talent help languish in street clothes. No time too, either. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 1st, 2019

The job’s not done : Raptors reset, as NBA Finals loom

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — The parade that the Toronto Raptors enjoyed last week was an impromptu and quick one. A chance at the real parade awaits. There is a clear back-to-work vibe coming from the Raptors as they get ready for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) in Toronto. There was some reveling late last week for an hour or two after winning the Eastern Conference title, but that feeling is nowhere to be found anymore. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] “We know that we accomplished some great things,” Raptors guard Danny Green said. “But the job’s not done.” When the Raptors won the East, after the on-court celebrations and a few moments back in the locker room, someone got the brilliant notion to take the silver conference-championship trophy to what’s known as “Jurassic Park” — the outdoor area usually called Maple Leaf Square, unless the Raptors are playing. So, with players flanked by security and Drake — of course — Kyle Lowry carried the trophy out through an arena concourse long after the game was over on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time), past hundreds of lingering fans who tried to get hugs and photos, and the group eventually made their way toward the outdoor stage. Most fans were gone by then, and the party didn’t last long. By Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Lowry had shifted his focus to the finals anyway. “Pretty much,” Lowry said. “It’s a big task at hand. We know we’ve got a good team, and we’ve got to be focused every single possession. They’re all going to be massive in this series.” Handling this moment is sure to be a challenge for the Raptors, since most of the players on Toronto’s roster haven’t been to the finals before. If there is a silver lining there, it’s that Toronto has already dealt with the mood-swing pendulum in these playoffs. The most worried Raptors coach Nick Nurse has been about a game so far this postseason was Game 1 of the East finals at Milwaukee — a game that came a couple days after Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer-beating jumper hit the rim four times before dropping in and giving Toronto a win in Game 7 of the East semifinals against Philadelphia. “If there was ever a time I thought maybe a disastrous moment could happen, it was then,” Nurse said. “But man, we played great. Totally outplayed them. We played tough. We didn’t win the game but I thought we outplayed them almost all the way through. We just didn’t get the ball to bounce our way. We might have used a couple bounces a couple days earlier. But again, that just showed me our team was capable of kind of keeping their emotions in check.” They’ll need to be that way again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Fred VanVleet doesn’t think it’ll be a problem. “None of us in October and July and June of last year were working out thinking about the conference finals,” the Raptors’ backup guard said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “Obviously, it’s a great accomplishment, and we’re happy to be taking that next step. But you want to win a championship. You want to win the whole thing. It’s not about just making it to the finals.” The arena will be electric for Game 1. Jurassic Park will be rocking yet again. But the quick little trophy parade through the halls and stairwells of Scotiabank Arena — one where Green revealed on his podcast earlier this week that reserve OG Anunoby was inadvertently decked in the eye by a celebrating fan, and where Leonard needed two security staffers to clear his path — will be long forgotten by the Raptors when Game 1 rolls around. “I think everybody understands that,” Raptors center Marc Gasol said. “You get to kind of soak it in and enjoy that moment and after that night, the next morning, it’s on to the next challenge.” Everyone knows what that challenge is, too. The Warriors are coming. “I think along this little playoff run there’s been some critical, critical games,” Nurse said. “There’s been some ups and downs, and again, I know I keep (sounding like a) broken record, but we’re just trying to take what’s in front of us. And right now, it’s Game 1.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 28th, 2019

Bucks making case as favorites to win title

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com MILWAUKEE -- In the wake of a wire-to-wire, 125-103 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, a question for the group: Shouldn't the Milwaukee Bucks be the favorites to win this thing? No, not the conference finals. At this point, they're obviously the heavy favorite to win the East. Prior to this year, 72 teams had a 2-0 lead in the conference finals, and 67 of them went on to win. But why aren't the Bucks the favorites to win the NBA championship? Is there a case to be made against 1) what was the best team in the regular season and 2) what has been an even better team in the playoffs? [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Maybe this is a we'll-believe-it-when-we-see-it league. How can you pick a team to win a championship when its best player had never won a playoff series prior to this year? Until they lost in five, it was easier to imagine the Celtics, with their talent and with their recent history of playoff success (back-to-back trips to the conference finals), being the team to represent the East in The Finals in the first year A.L. (after LeBron). And then the Bucks outscored the Celtics by a total of 65 points over the last four games of the conference semis. It's similarly difficult to pick against the Golden State Warriors until they actually lose. The two-time defending champs have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Presumably, they'll have Kevin Durant back for The Finals should they finish off the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals. And even without Durant, the Warriors boast the same 2-0 conference finals lead the Bucks currently possess. But the Warriors haven't been as sharp as they were in each of the previous two postseasons. Five of their 10 playoff wins have been within five points in the last five minutes. Last year, only four of their 16 wins were within five in the last five. In 2017, it was four of 16 as well. With the postseason's 10th-ranked defense, Golden State has outscored its opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions over its 14 games. The Bucks have outscored their opponents by more than double that: 15.1 per 100. That feels like the mark of an eventual champion. Through 10 playoff wins last year, the Warriors had outscored their opponents by 9.6 points per 100 possessions. Through 10 playoff wins in 2015, they had outscored their opponents by just 7.7 points per 100. It was only in 2017, when they won their first 15 playoff games in Durant's first season in Golden State, that the Warriors were as dominant as the Bucks have been thus far. At 10-0 two years ago, Golden State had outscored its playoff opponents by 16.5 points per 100 possessions. At that point, the Warriors had the No. 2 offense and the No. 1 defense in the postseason. That's exactly where the Bucks stand after Game 2 on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Milwaukee is a complete team in more ways than one. The defense has been there almost every night. The Bucks have held their opponents under a point per possession (the measure of elite defense) in six of their 11 games and only once (their Game 1 loss to Boston) have they allowed them to score more than what was the league average (109.7 points scored per 100 possessions) in the regular season. Even with the rise in three-point shooting over the last few years, the most important shots on the floor remain those at the basket, and no team has been better at both preventing and defending those shots than the Bucks. After allowing a league-low 29.6 points per game in the restricted area in the regular season, the Bucks have allowed just 22.0 per game in the playoffs. In this series, Raptors drives have been met with a swarm of Milwaukee defenders, making it difficult to either score in the paint or get off a clean pass to an open shooter. After shooting 57 percent in the paint through the first two rounds (in which they faced two very good defenses), the Raptors have shot just 49 percent (36-for-73) in the paint through the first two games of the conference finals. On Toronto's first possession of Game 2, Marc Gasol posted up Khris Middleton after a switch and spun around Middleton for a layup, only to be rejected by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Raptors went scoreless on their first five possessions, had just 39 points on 49 possessions at halftime, and were too far behind for a 39-point third quarter to matter much. "I think the way we played on both ends of the court in the first half," Budenholzer said afterward, "is what we're trying to get to." After a bit of an offensive struggle in Game 1, the Bucks broke out on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The elite defense led to 28 fast-break points, a size advantage inside led to 17 second-chance points, and six of their nine rotation players scored in double-figures. Three of those six came off the bench. While Toronto coach Nick Nurse has had to both shorten and alter his rotation in these playoffs, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has seemingly found contributors wherever he has turned. George Hill and Pat Connaughton were huge in the Boston series, Malcolm Brogdon didn't need long to find his rhythm after missing the first eight postseason games, and on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), Ersan Ilyasova had what Budenholzer called "clearly his best game of the year," scoring 17 points, drawing three charges, and registering a plus-22 in just over 21 minutes off the bench. The Bucks have the presumed Kia MVP, but their biggest strength in these playoffs has been their depth. Through 11 games, they've outscored their opponents by 12.0 points per 100 possessions with Antetokounmpo off the floor. Unlike his fellow Eastern Conference coaches, Budenholzer has never had to rush his best player back onto the floor. And this team is now 10-1 with Antetokounmpo ranking 40th in postseason minutes per game at 32.3. While the Raptors' offense has struggled to take advantage of the attention paid to Kawhi Leonard, every Bucks rotation player has played with confidence and freedom. "They're not going to let me play one-on-one," Antetokounmpo said after registering 30 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in Game 2. "So this series is not going to be about me; it's going to be about my teammates being ready to shoot, being ready to make the right play." "We try and empower them," Budenholzer said of his team's role players. "We try to play a way where they all feel like they can contribute and do things. Hopefully that's paying off for us." There's no argument to the contrary. But is there an argument against this team being the favorite to win the championship? While it remains difficult to pick against the team that won last year and remains intact, new champions come along all the time, and it's easier to see them in hindsight than in the moment. Of course, as good as they've been playing and as special as this run has felt, Bucks players refuse to get ahead of themselves. "You can't," Eric Bledsoe said. "That's how you lose focus. The biggest thing with this group is just taking a game at a time, and not looking forward to The Finals. Anything can happen. So we're focused on Game 3." "It's a great opportunity that we have," George Hill added, "but it means nothing until we get there." The players have to keep their minds on Toronto. But the rest of us can feel free to envision the future, one that includes an NBA championship. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2019

Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for Celtics?

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press It begins. When the buzzer sounded in Milwaukee on Wednesday night, the question immediately became this: Has Kyrie Irving played his last game for the Boston Celtics? It’s very possible. Welcome to free agency, Kyrie. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] He’s now in the place that other big names like Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson all will be whenever their respective seasons end, whether that happens with a playoff defeat, or with an injury — Durant left Game 5 of Golden State’s Western Conference semifinal series against Houston on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) with a right calf strain — or with their fingerprints smudging the golden surface of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. They will all hear some version of the question that Irving got. Free agency doesn’t technically start until July 1, but in actuality it began for the superstar point guard with 8:40 left in the fourth quarter of Game 5 — when he checked out for the last time in what capped Boston’s ousting from the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Milwaukee Bucks. He has a player option for next season, one that would pay him about $21 million. No one expects him to pick up that option. Irving got the question a number of different ways Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), and his defense was stellar. No hints, whatsoever. “I’m just trying to make it back to Boston first, safely,” Irving said. “Get to see my family. Decompress. Do what human beings do.” This will be a seismic free-agent summer in the NBA and everyone has known this was coming for some time. Durant, Butler, Leonard, Thompson, Irving and Kemba Walker all may sign deals worth well over $100 million apiece. Combined, the total value of those six looming contracts could flirt with $1 billion if everyone involved decides to max-out and not take shorter-term deals. The New York Knicks might have close to $75 million in salary-cap space, more than enough to potentially land Irving and Durant. The Los Angeles Clippers could have close to $60 million. Brooklyn, Dallas, Atlanta and Indiana might have about $50 million apiece. The Los Angeles Lakers — even with LeBron James’ big contract and a coaching search that has gone from slow to stuck — have more than enough to add some major names. It will be wild, starting with lots of eyes on Golden State. Questions about Durant leaving have percolated all season and will only pick up between now and July 1. Thompson’s future has been the source of much debate. Imagine: The Warriors could win their third straight title and fourth in five years, and they might break up anyway. Butler will take a long look at signing elsewhere, and he might start hearing ‘the question’ as soon as Thursday (Friday, PHL time) when Philadelphia now on the ropes against Toronto. Leonard’s future with the Raptors may be tied to how deep they go in the playoffs. Walker’s situation in Charlotte hinges on the size of the offer the Hornets make to keep him. Irving tried to make all the chatter about his future go away in early October, when he stole the show at a preseason event for Celtics fans at the team’s arena in Boston. He grabbed the microphone, walked toward midcourt and delivered a sentence that is going to get replayed a lot over the next eight weeks. “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here,” Irving said. Sounded great then. Doesn’t seem so iron-clad now. And truth be told, the Celtics might be thinking they’re better off without Irving anyway given how they went deeper in the playoffs with him sidelined last season and his struggles over the last four games of the Milwaukee series. They were 35-19 at one point. They went 19-18 the rest of the way. They went 14-17 in Irving’s last 31 appearances. They were 12-3 when he didn’t play this season. Irving won’t be taking a whole lot of questions — if any — over the next few weeks about his future. He knows what would be asked. All that matters now is his answer. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 2019

Lowry signs extension

TORONTO, Canada (AFP) — Kyle Lowry committed his future to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday after agreeing terms on a contract extension, the NBA champions announced in a statement. No terms of the contract were revealed, but reports have said Lowry has been awarded a $31 million one-year extension that keeps him with the Raptors […] The post Lowry signs extension appeared first on Daily Tribune......»»

Category: newsSource:  tribuneRelated NewsOct 16th, 2019

1st Olympic gold mula kay Caloy

SA nagdaang 2018-2019 NBA season, nag-forecast ako sa simula pa lang ng naturang liga na magkakampeon ang Toronto Raptors sa pangunguna ni Kawhi Leonard......»»

Category: newsSource:  abanteRelated NewsOct 14th, 2019