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Level up your weekend experience this June with SM Skating and Bowling – MB Life

A first in the Philippines, SM Skating opens its rink to the young at heart with the Neon Ice Party on June 9, from 9PM to 1AM at the SM Mall of Asia Skating Rink. The night lets skaters indulge in a place full of neon lights and experience partying with a twist. Level up… link: Level up your weekend experience this June with SM Skating and Bowling – MB Life.....»»

Category: newsSource: manilainformer manilainformerJun 4th, 2018

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst The season starts on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). You’ve been waiting patiently all summer with your questions. Fire away.     1. So … what’s the point of playing this season? The Golden State Warriors are still the prohibitive favorites to repeat this season, next season and into the foreseeable future. But it was good to see a good chunk of the Western Conference -- the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, to name three teams -- not fold before the first card is dealt. That fact alone is incredibly important. The Warriors are still the best team in the West, without question. But if teams don’t even try to get better, or spend money to compete, the whole rationale for playing fades away. The Thunder could have rode Russell Westbrook alone to another first-round playoff loss, watched him walk out the door in free agency next summer and thrown up its hands, plead ‘woe is us and all small-market teams,’ and enjoyed a luxury tax-free life for the next few years. The Rockets could have just kept selling tickets to fans to watch James Harden and his pals shoot 50 threes a game for the next two or three years. It’s an appealing brand of basketball. Denver could have just kept building through the Draft, climbing a few more wins here or there for a while, and snuck into the eighth seed, choosing to be comfortable rather than bold. But they didn’t. They’ve called and raised. In all likelihood, it won’t be enough to beat Golden State. But those teams can sleep well at night. They’re not cheating their players, or fans. 2. So, is OKC now a legit threat to the Warriors? The short answer: no. But it’s closer. Carmelo Anthony will be as good a third option as anyone in the league has, though; he will eat regularly on the weak side as defenses scramble to handle Westbrook-Paul George pick and rolls; a quick seal and ‘Melo will be off to the races. If coach Billy Donovan goes small ball with Patrick Patterson at the five, there will be many nights when OKC drops a 130 spot. Yes, the Thunder’s defense is going to be an issue; while Enes Kanter was a sieve off the bench, he was coming off the bench, playing behind Steven Adams. Anthony will be starting and playing big minutes, many at the four. But it won’t matter most nights when the Thunder is up 20 to start the fourth quarter, after 36 minutes of Westbrook sorties, George 3-pointers and transition dunks, and Carmelo post-ups and spot-ups (he shot 44.8 percent last season on catch and shoot shots. Among forwards who played 30 or more minutes last season, per NBA.com/Stats, only Kevin Durant, Otto Porter and Kawhi Leonard shot better). The Thunder can guard you with George, Andre Roberson and Adams and they can outscore you with Westbrook and George and ‘Melo. They have a solid bench (Patterson, Ray Felton, Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines) and Westbrook won’t be physically spent by the end of the 2018 playoffs. Wait; what am I saying? Of course he’ll be spent. But he’ll also be playing way deeper into May. 3. Did not getting Anthony hurt Houston or nah? The Rockets -- okay, Chris Paul -- wanted this done bad. It won’t hurt Houston in the regular season, when Paul and James Harden will dominate. And while Harden didn’t like Kevin McHale’s critique of his leadership, Mac was spot on. That doesn’t make “The Beard” a bad guy or teammate -- people gravitate to their comfortable roles in life, and CP3 is a natural-born leader. Harden will, one thinks, be more comfortable with slightly less light on him. They’ll do fine playing together and off one another. But the shadow of the Rockets’ implosion from deep -- 29 of 88 on three-pointers the last two games against the Spurs in their Western Conference semifinals series -- still hangs over them. Ryan Anderson was negated in the postseason. There’s a reason CP3 pushed for ‘Melo so hard. The Rockets will need unexpected consistent offense from a P.J. Tucker or Luc Mbah a Moute in May if they have any hopes of playing in June. 4. Can we just start the Cleveland-Boston East finals now? Maybe Toronto, with C.J. Miles shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers to complement Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, will break up what seems inevitable. Maybe Washington, with its super-solid starting five intact, now has the mental toughness to bust past the second round, where it’s been beached three of the last four postseasons. But it doesn’t feel like that. Boston, ultimately, should be a lot better this season than last. It will take a while for coach Brad Stevens to figure out the rotation and whether Jaylen Brown can really stick at the two, but ultimately, the Celtics have two dynamic playmakers/scorers in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and with Al Horford providing the glue at both ends, they’re going to be a load by the end of the season. And while Cleveland will have to wait a while for Isaiah Thomas, the Cavs have more than enough firepower until Thomas can make his debut. Whatever Dwyane Wade has left will be accentuated playing with James, and Kevin Love (holy moly, is he underrated) will feast drawing slower, bigger centers out to him on the perimeter. J.R. Smith doesn’t like losing his starting job to Wade, and he should be ticked. But he nonetheless will help Cleveland’s bench, which will be incredibly difficult in its own right with Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver complementing Smith. And that’s before Thomas returns, which will put Derrick Rose on that second unit. There won’t be any rest for defenses who’ll then have to contend with a rested James, et al, coming back. It says here that not only will the Cavs not miss Irving offensively, they could be even more diverse and difficult to guard this season. Not to mention that James is supremely motivated to make an eighth straight Finals. 5. Could Curry break his record of 402 3-pointers in a season? At first glance, with Durant and Klay and Draymond (and, now, Nick Young) all needing to get fed as well, it would seem impossible for Curry to best the mark he set two years ago, on the 73-9 regular season team. But consider: coach Steve Kerr thinks a new guy always blossoms in his second year with the Warriors, which means Durant should be even more lethal offensively this year, as the Warriors’ offense reaches an even higher level of efficiency. And the way they move the ball, it’s not a stretch to think that with defenses tripping over themselves to get to Durant, Curry could get into one of those ridiculous grooves that could leave him within striking distance of 402 by the end of the season. 6. Could the last one in the Eastern Conference turn out the lights? The New York Knicks were hardly a power in the East before trading Anthony, but his departure creates one more team that will struggle to win 35 games this season. With the paucity of talent there should be at least four 50-win teams in the East -- Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington -- with the Milwaukee Bucks knocking on the door. 7. Who’s going to regret their offseason? The Bucks were fine off the court -- their new arena is already more than halfway constructed and looks like it’s going to be a gem -- although the surrounding mall that is supposed to be part of the complex is not going up as quickly. But the Bucks didn’t address their bigs-heavy roster and move some of the surplus -- how can coach Jason Kidd keep all of Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker and John Henson happy with Thon Maker scarfing up more and more frontcourt minutes? -- for the shooting Milwaukee still needs. The East is so open, and Milwaukee is so close to breaking through into elite status with Giannis Antetokounmpo an elite performer. 8. Rudy Gay -- sneaky good pickup? Gay says he’s cool starting or coming off the bench for the Spurs, but he’d best as San Antonio’s sixth man, at least to start things. Bringing Pau Gasol off the bench didn’t work so well, so if he’s starting at center, coach Gregg Popovich can’t go small ball with “Cousin” LaMarcus Aldridge at the five and Gay at the four alongside Kawhi Leonard. (Current state of Spurs fans’ cuticles here and here as they consider a season with an extended Klaw absence if this quad injury doesn’t improve soon.) The Spurs could have some serious firepower in reserve if Gay and Patty Mills come off the bench, but Mills or Dejounte Murray will likely have to start at the point until Tony Parker comes back. 9. Speaking of Popovich … Should he and Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy stick to sports? No. 10. Who’s gonna be Kia Rookie of the Year? I say Markelle Fultz. What, you thought I was gonna pick against a DeMatha Catholic man? (Actual unretouched photo of me as a sophomore at the most successful high school in the history of the United States may or may not be here). Playing off of Joel Embiid, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington … it’s hard to see Fultz not looking really good when he should have all kinds of room to operate. Lonzo Ball will put up bigger numbers, and Tatum will be on a better team. But Boston was good last year, and Jayson Tatum will likely not play as much as the others. The Sixers are poised for a big jump up in the standings, and that’s always a narrative that voters like and get behind -- which is what will hurt Dennis Smith Jr.'s chances in Dallas. 11. What does Dwyane Wade really have left? Now that the inevitable buyout of Wade’s $24 million deal by the Bulls has led to the equally inevitable trek to Cleveland to play with James, can the 35-year-old Wade still be a significant contributor on a title contender? Given the general dysfunction in Chicago last season, you can dismiss most of the good and bad numbers Wade put up, with two exceptions: he still averaged almost five free throw attempts per game, and he shot 31 percent on 3-pointers -- not great, but more than double his anemic 15.9 percent behind the arc in 2015-16, his last with the Miami Heat. Wade obviously knows the cheat code for how to most effectively play off of James, so he’ll use the regular season to learn his teammates and be ready for the playoffs. But can Wade hold up over seven games defensively if he has to chase, say, Bradley Beal around, or try to deny DeRozan his preferred mid-range spots, and still be productive offensively? 12. Back to the Sixers -- how good will they be? My guess is they’ll pretty good in the 60 or so games I anticipate Embiid will play this season -- I’m assuming several designated off days for him during the season, not another injury. The mix of young talent (Fultz, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Covington) and crafty vets (Redick, Amir Johnson) should mesh to make the 76ers a very tough team to defend. But Philly has to resolve the Jahlil Okafor situation, and in fairness to him, give him a fresh start somewhere else with a trade as soon as possible. If I were a good team that would be hard-pressed to add a free agent any time soon and feels a player short of true contention -- I’m looking at you, Memphis Grizzlies and Wizards -- I’d work hard to get the new, slimmed-down Okafor on my squad while he’s still on his rookie contract and make him the focal point of a kick-ass second unit. 13. Should we feel some kind of way about the Trail Blazers? I’m picking up what you’re putting down. A full season of the “Bosnian Beast” in the middle, it says here, will vault Portland into the top four in the West. Note I said “full season.” That means Jusuf Nurkic has to give coach Terry Stotts between 65-70 starts for the above premonition to be, as they say in the legal world, actionable. If so, Nurkic’s underrated scoring and passing out of the post will only make Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum that much more deadly out front, along with improving Portland’s defense. Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Blazers were 11.6 points per game better than the opposition with those three on the floor together and a +5 when their regular five-man lineup with Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu joined the guards and Nurkic. And that’s pronounced, “Noor-kitch,” accent on Noor. 13. A little movie break ... Kevin Costner’s accent in “Robin Hood” -- worst ever, right? Yes, but Natalie Wood’s in “West Side Story” was painful, too. 14. Many have written the post-CP3 Clippers off. Should they? The Clippers are my darkhorse this season -- if they do the right thing and go small more often. They’re doing it more in practice so far than in games because Danilo Gallinari is working through a foot injury, but Blake Griffin at the five and Gallinari at the four could be spicy during the regular season. That would mean Sam Dekker and/or Wes Johnson would have to become credible and dependable at the three, allowing coach Doc Rivers to play a Pat Beverly-Milos Teodosic backcourt more often, which will just be fun. This would, of course, mean less DeAndre Jordan, and … that may not be the worst thing. Nothing against DJ, who is the best defensive big in the league, bar none. Unfortunately, the NBA isn’t about defense any more -- at least not in the traditional sense. Even someone like Jordan who doesn’t just block shots, but also helps snuff out opposing pick and rolls, becomes less valued by the league’s advanced stats crowd if he doesn’t contribute more offensively. The three has gone a long way to tyrannizing the defense-dominant big man out of the game. (Zach Lowe recommends the Wizards try to get Jordan via trade, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard that name mentioned in connection with Washington, the idea being the only chance the Wizards have of beating Cleveland or Boston is to slow them down enough defensively that Wall-Beal-Porter can try and keep up offensively. Washington is definitely a load when Wall gets locked in on D and creates turnovers, and the idea of Jordan inhaling lobs from Wall is enticing to think about. But the Wizards are not -- not -- going to take on a fourth big contract, and Jordan’s surely going to opt out after this season; he’s rightly expecting a massive payday in 2018, and the Clippers certainly now have motive and means to retain him.) Anyway, some Lou Williams, Austin Rivers and/or Teodosic and Willie Reed off the bench isn’t bad, either. 15. Could Kyle Kuzma be the best rookie on the Lakers this season? Don’t @me, LaVar. Kuzma has followed up a very strong Vegas Summer League with high notes in preseason, averaging better than 19 points per game for the Lakers. He’s been dazzling at times, displaying in-between skills that intrigue, and showing why so many teams were trying to trade back into the first round to get the Utah forward before L.A. snagged him with its second and much less heralded first-round pick last June. And there will be minutes available at the four this season. So far, Kuzma has displayed unusual strength for a rookie and confidence in his ability to score. Of course, he’s inexperienced, and like all rookies, has to differentiate between an open shot and a good shot. The other, more famous first-rounder, Lonzo Ball, will almost certainly be the better all-around player in time. For this year, though … hmmm. 16. What does a Hawks fan have to look forward to this season? Honestly, not much. But they’ll always be well-coached and get better. I’d pick one of the young players, like rookie John Collins or second-year small forward Taurean Prince, and concentrate on them during the season. See what they do with their minutes on the floor, and watch how they gradually expand their games at both ends. Seeing a young guy get better as he gains experience and accepts coaching is one of the great joys of watching the NBA every night. 17. Orlando? What gives there? The team’s new braintrust of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond will need some time to fix the roster -- a mélange of athletic wings that have trouble defending and guards that have trouble shooting. The former is addressed somewhat with the signing of Jonathon Simmons from San Antonio, but I don’t see a solution to the latter with any of the existing backcourt contributors. Unless coach Frank Vogel figures out some way to get more turnovers/runouts from his group, they just can’t get in transition enough for their length and legs to make a difference. 18. New Orleans? What gives there? The short answer is, I have no idea. All of NBA Earth has DeMarcus Cousins out of there one way or another (he’s an unrestricted free agent in ’18 and wants to be on a contender/the Pelicans will never pay him what he wants and will have to trade him by the deadline/no way he and Anthony Davis fit together/Wall agitates for a reunion with his former Kentucky big man in D.C./your departure theory here) by this time next year, but we’ll see what coach Alvin Gentry has come up with for “Boogie” and “the Brow” after a summer to think it over. Rajon Rondo being out hurts their depth, but I have to be honest -- I don’t see how he and Jrue Holiday can possibly work together in a backcourt, and Holiday’s the guy the Pelicans just gave $125 million to, so he should probably have the ball in his hands every night, shouldn’t he? I like Ian Clark and Frank Jackson down there, but that untethered three spot burns a hole in the New Orleans sun. Well, at any rate, should be more fun than watching reruns of My Life on the D-List. 19. Favorite D-List Muppet? Beaker. 20. LeBron is leaving Cleveland again after this season, isn’t he? Everything points to yes, and a relocation to Los Angeles to play with the Lakers or Clippers next year – except … what if the Cavs win it all again this year? That’s not an impossible scenario -- in fact, it’s a pretty simple one to lay out: Cavs run roughshod through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs again, get through a good but hardly great Boston team in the conference Finals and set up a fourth straight encounter with Golden State. It’s easy now to say the Warriors dominated the Cavs in last season’s Finals -- but only if you ignore the fact that Cleveland led by six with just more than three minutes remaining in Game 3, only to see the Warriors score the game’s last 11 points to take a 3-0 lead instead of 2-1. And given that Cleveland vaporized the Warriors in Game 4, a 2-2 series would have meant the Cavs just needed to win once in Oracle -- which they’d done twice in the 2016 Finals -- to have a real shot at repeating. The point is, the difference between the teams isn’t as big as Draymond Green would have you believe; the Cavs have no fear of the Warriors, and Jae Crowder gives coach Tyronn Lue a viable on-ball defender for Kevin Durant, leaving LeBron free to play off of Green. And: that unprotected Nets pick, whether one or three or five or seven, is Cleveland’s best recruiting tool. LeBron knows everyone in college basketball and he can literally pick whoever he’d like to finish his career with in Cleveland before handing over the reins. I’m not saying he’s definitely staying, either -- only that his departure isn’t the lead pipe cinch some would have you believe. The season to come will have a lot to do with his next decision. 21. So, how will the playoffs go this season? Eastern Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto, Milwaukee, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia Western Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Memphis, Utah, Minnesota Eastern Conference semifinalists: Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Milwaukee Western Conference semifinalists: Golden State, Houston, OKC, San Antonio Eastern Conference finals: Cleveland over Boston Western Conference finals: Golden State over OKC (you heard me) NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland (in seven games) 22. Tell me something crazy that’s going to happen this season that no one’s predicting! Giannis Antetokounmpo. NBA MVP, 2017-18. 23. Are you high? No, ma’am. 24. So, why 24 questions? As always, we start the season with 24 questions (or predictions, or issues, whatever) in honor of Danny Biasone, the late owner of the Syracuse Nationals, whose discovery in 1954 helped save the league. At that time, the NBA was in the midst of a literal slowdown, in large part by teams that were desperate to figure out some kind of way to stay competitive with George Mikan, the league’s first superstar big man, and his team, the Minneapolis Lakers. Teams would hold the ball for minutes at a time without shooting in an effort to shorten the game and give them a chance to beat Minneapolis late. But the end result was boring -- very boring -- basketball. At the owners’ meetings that year, Biasone came up with an idea. NBA games were 48 minutes long. Biasone figured out that in a normal game, one not waylaid by the slowdown tactics, about 120 shots -- 60 per team -- were taken. So, why not just divide the number of minutes in every game -- 2,880 -- by the number of shots in an average game -- 120 -- to come up with some kind of a time limit in which a team had to shoot. And thus, the 24-second shot clock (2,800/120) was born. With the implementation of the shot clock in the 1954-55 season, scoring went way up, as did the quality of play. Teams were now running up and down the floor in order to try and beat the shot clock, complementing the “fast break” game that many colleges had played for years. But the new style in the pros was immensely popular with fans. And it still is. Plus, there’s just something iconic about that clock counting down every 24 seconds. It’s unique to the NBA. Thus, we ask 24 questions, in honor of the guy who owned a bowling alley as well as the Nationals for much of his adult life, and probably enjoyed the bowling more. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

MPBL: Better prepared QC Capitals coming with 'NSD attitude

Given that they only had a couple of weeks to prepare, the Quezon City Capitals’ quarterfinals run in the 2018 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Anta Rajah Cup was definitely an impressive feat. Being one of the last teams to confirm their participation, the Capitals only had two weeks to prepare for the season, and still managed to finish fifth out of ten teams and qualify for the post season. Now after a full conference of experience and a full training camp, the Capitals are looking to build on from their past success and go even further in the postseason. QC Capitals head coach Vis Valencia addressing the crowd. @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/yIINy7kOoc — Santino Honasan🎈 (@honasantino) June 5, 2018 “Ngayon mas maganda yung preparation ng Quezon City Capitals, if you remember last conference, we only had less than two weeks, we had a good start, we were able to make it to the quarterfinals pero nag-short kami ng preparation.” Capitals head coach Vis Valencia told ABS-CBN Sports. “Now, we have better preparation, we have a good combination of players, young and experienced players, combined. Kumbaga maganda yung naging jelling nila, ang aga nila mag-jell actually because they’re all professionals.” Joining the Capitals for the Datu Cup will be a couple of ex-pros in Jojo Duncil and Magi Sison. Duncil, a former UAAP Champion and UAAP Finals MVP, spent eight years in the PBA while Sison was a former Gilas call-up and played three years in the pros. (READ ALSO: Ex-pro Jojo Duncil continues basketball life with the QC Capitals) Coach Vis hopes that the addition of experienced pros such as Duncil and Sison can not only bolster the Capitals’ talent, but also provide much-needed guidance and leadership. “We’re glad to have Jojo Duncil, Magi Sison, marami silang maitutulong, lalo na with our young players. Sila yung parang kuya ng team, they share a lot of their experiences to the young players.” said Valencia. “It’s a good combination, we have young and athletic players and at the same time we have senior players like Jojo Duncil who can guide us for the whole season.” Coming from a four-month tournament that featured ten teams, the upcoming Datu Cup will now feature a much bigger 26-team tournament that’s expected to stretch out for ten months. For Valencia, physical and mental fitness will be key in surviving the long, gruelling season. “Of course, we have to really make sure that we are prepared physically, its a very long and rough season, 25 games, home and away. Sabi ko nga nung last conference, we only had nine teams [to face], pero we felt yung, we got exhausted pagdating nung six, seven, eight games, we already felt the pagod of the conference.” “That’s one thing, we prepare everybody physically, then also we prepared everybody mentally. I told the boys it’s a long and rough season pero let’s enjoy every moment, at practice, at games. That will help us the whole conference, yung physical and mental preparations.” After an impressive inaugural run, Valencia promises that the Capitals will at an even higher level in the upcoming Datu Cup. “You can expect the Quezon City Capitals to come with that never say die attitude, we will play our hearts out, expect that the team this conference will really give their hearts, especially for Quezon City.“ The 2018 MPBL Datu Cup opens on Tuesday, June 12th at the Araneta Coliseum......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 7th, 2018

Are the Sixers too young for playoff success?

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

Morata making the most of his time in the spotlight

em>By Steve Douglas, Associated Press /em> Alvaro Morata was only a few weeks into life at Chelsea when some of the vulnerability that has cropped up during his career appeared to strike again. 'They're already killing me,' Morata said of his perceived critics following his miss in Chelsea's penalty shootout loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield. They were worrying words from a player who was about to start the season as the undisputed No. 1 striker at a top club for the first time. Could he handle filling the boots of the larger-than-life Diego Costa, a title-winning striker who would become estranged from Chelsea? How would he adapt in a new country following his move from Real Madrid? Could he live with his club-record transfer fee, an initial 58 million pounds (now $77.5 million)? It turns out there was no need to worry. Morata has been one of the revelations in the early weeks of the Premier League, scoring six goals in six games and showing with his movement, aerial ability and turn of pace that he can be the heir — albeit a different, slicker version — to Costa and Didier Drogba before him. On Wednesday, Morata scored the equalizer to spark Chelsea's comeback in its 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid and next faces leader Manchester City in the biggest match of the Premier League season so far. 'I think he is showing,' Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has said, 'that he is a really complete player.' Conte suspected as much three years ago. Then the Juventus coach, it was Conte who set up the transfer of Morata to the Italian club from Madrid in July 2014, only to resign a few days before the move was completed to take over as Italy coach. Conte has finally got to work with the Spain striker, and likes what he sees. At 24, Morata is making the most of his belated time in the spotlight. In two spells at Madrid (2010-14 and 2016-17), he was popular and proved to be an opportunistic finisher but never established himself as the first-choice striker ahead of Karim Benzema. At Juventus from 2014-16, Morata had an impressive first season — the best of his career, during which he scored twice in the 2015 Champions League semifinals to help eliminate Madrid — before a dip in his second and an eventual move back to Madrid on a buy-back option. Still, Morata only started around half of the league matches during his time at Juve and the club's goalkeeping great, Gianluigi Buffon, said the striker had 'negative thoughts in his last period' with the team. Morata has spoken in other interviews of his mental fragility and frustration at not being given a real chance at club level to prove his worth. To many, Morata is regarded as a so-called 'super-sub,' clearly a natural finisher and a danger in the final minutes to swing results but someone who mostly excels as a back-up. He scored 20 goals in all competitions for Madrid last season, despite having just 14 starts in La Liga and one in the Champions League. 'Alvaro, don't forget, in his previous experience didn't play a lot at Juventus or at Real Madrid,' Conte said after Morata's hat trick against Stoke in the Premier League last weekend. 'Now he has a great chance to show that he is a really good striker.' Costa's drawn-out transfer to Atletico Madrid was sealed this week, only serving to confirm that Morata really is the main man up front at Chelsea. It's time to see how a player with just 54 top-flight league starts can cope in a grueling, intense season in the Premier League. Sitting atop the Premier League scorers' chart with Romelu Lukaku and Sergio Aguero, it hasn't been a bad start. Here's what else to watch out for this weekend: ___ strong>STUBBORN CITY /strong> Morata will need to break down a Man City defense that has conceded just one goal in six games this month, and three goals in nine games all season. City's attack has been getting plenty of plaudits with the team averaging four goals a game this month, but the defense is holding up even without injured captain Vincent Kompany and its full backs playing virtually as wingers. Left back Benjamin Mendy will be unavailable this weekend, however, while he awaits the results of tests on a right knee injury sustained last week. ___ strong>UNBEATEN STARTS /strong> The Manchester clubs are the only teams yet to lose in the league. While City's unbeaten start will be put under severe pressure at Stamford Bridge, United is expected to have an easy afternoon on Saturday against Crystal Palace — a team with the unwanted English top-flight record of having no point and no goals after six matches. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 29th, 2017

Mexico opens World Cup prep with scoreless draw vs Wales

By Dan Greenspan, Associated Press PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Mexico opened its World Cup preparations with a 0-0 draw against Wales at the Rose Bowl on Monday night, but El Tri showed it has plenty more to offer in Russia than the score might indicate. Playing the first of three tuneup matches before its Group F opener against defending champion Germany on June 17 in Moscow, a rampant Mexican attack could not find a way to beat Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. However, Mexico was just as adept in keeping the Dragons under wraps. Wales took two shots and Mexico goalkeeper Jesus Corona did not have to make a save, getting some help when Hugo Ayala made a last-ditch tackle to keep Tom Lawrence from getting his try on goal in the 8th minute. Aside from that attempt and some early jitters in the opening few minutes, Mexico's defense settled in well in its first game without Nestor Araujo, who left the team Wednesday following a setback in his recovery from a knee injury. Araujo had been practically an automatic selection for coach Juan Carlos Osorio, and his absence was exacerbated by not having Diego Reyes of Porto FC and Hector Moreno of Real Sociedad available. Osorio expects both Reyes and Moreno to be healthy enough to play against Scotland in Mexico City on Saturday. "And I'm sure if they are in the starting line, we will improve the quality in many ways and I think we will have a very strong back line," Osorio said. Mexico, which will try to advance past the round of 16 for the first time since reaching the quarterfinals when it hosted the 1986 tournament, looks to be even more confident in its attacking prowess. Hennessey made eight saves, including sticking out his right foot to deny Mexico captain Hector Herrera's shot in the 56th minute from the edge of the 6-yard box. Hennessey also tipped Herrera's shot from outside the penalty box over the crossbar in the 40th minute and parried away Javier Aquino's attempt in the 22nd minute. "Mexico made us work for a clean sheet, they made us work hard," said Wales manager Ryan Giggs, praising the organization and tenacity of El Tri as much as its individual skill. Mexico took 17 shots and attempted 12 corners as it kept the pressure on a Welsh side mostly lacking in experience at the international level. "They've got a lot of quality, and what we've seen in the buildups with the videos is a team that likes to press," Giggs said. "When they lose the ball, get it back quickly, which puts you under pressure. It's very hard to keep the ball, so a very good team." The attack looks to be strengthened with the Los Angeles-based MLS trio of brothers Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos representing the Galaxy, and Carlos Vela from expansion team Los Angeles FC. Jonathan dos Santos came on in the 61st minute, and Giovani dos Santos was a 69th-minute substitute. They finished out the game without any apparent limitations from hamstring injuries that have limited both brothers this season. Osorio set a Saturday deadline to prove their fitness and make the final roster. Vela, who did not play against Wales, should be called upon against Scotland. He has scored seven goals in 12 MLS games. All three could be especially valuable if South Korea or Sweden decide to emphasize defense and force Mexico to break them down. Though they were unable to score against Wales, Osorio believes Mexico showed it is ready for that challenge, provided it can improve its chemistry in the final third. "Any team that will drop off will present the same questions in how we are going to penetrate them, how we are going to get entries into the attacking third. It will be a major factor. It was a big challenge for us," Osorio said. "However, we penetrated them enough times to score and the goalkeeper rescued them.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 29th, 2018

Japanese Buddhist temples to become more accessible for ‘temple stay’ bookings

A new service will soon make Japanese Buddhist temples easier to access for bookings by tourists and travelers. Starting June 15, a Japanese company called Terahaku will start providing an online search and reservation service to secure lodgings at one of Japan's many Buddhist temples. This became possible through the new Residential Lodging Business Law in Japan which will take effect on the 15th, according to a statement via SoraNews24. The new law allowed Buddhist temples to offer accommodation to tourists through Terahaku in a similar fashion to Airbnb. This will also come with perks such as being able to experience traditional temple life. Such hospitality services are not...Keep on reading: Japanese Buddhist temples to become more accessible for ‘temple stay’ bookings.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 27th, 2018

Alyssa Valdez invites future champions to join Milo sports camps this summer

    Alyssa Valdez's volleyball journey all started with a risk, a leap of faith. As a scrawny kid from San Juan, Batangas, Valdez was initially prohibited by her father to try out sports, as an act of protecting his only daughter. But her mother, a teacher by profession, knew the kind of life lessons Alyssa can learn through sports.  It took some convincing, but Alyssa was eventually given the green light to pursue what she loved.  Now, she's one of the most iconic and beloved volleyball players in the country as a star from Ateneo de Manila and the Creamline Cool Smashers. With the help of her relentless drive, Alyssa Valdez became a testament to sports' power to transform lives. HUMBLE BEGINNINGS When she was younger, Alyssa says she was already active in different kinds of sports. But the young Phenom was held back by her shy nature.  "Isa sa mga nadevelop ko talaga, through playing volleyball is self-confidence," she bared. "I can imagine myself when I was a kid na, wala hindi talaga ako makakausap ng tao. I'm too shy to always interact with other people. So the challenge of pursuing her love for sports awakened something in Alyssa. "There was this turning point na, wala eh, it challenges me. If I don't push myself, paano pa 'yung ibang challenges?" Valdez reflected. Taking up volleyball gave her a sense of self-confidence and self-fulfillment that stemmed from the series of small victories she had garnered throughout her early playing days. By small victories, she meant gradually getting better, and slowly learning the value of hard work. But Alyssa wasn't always the superstar she is today. In her younger years, she says wasn't even part of her team's starting six.  "Noong bata ako, hindi ko talaga natutunan lahat in just a snap. You have to work hard, you have to sacrifice a lot of things," she said. "Per sa lahat ng sinasakripisyo natin, may babalik at babalik din diyan." True enough, with her dedication to help her team, and to continuously improve her play, she eventually got her break. ROUGH START It's hard to imagine Alyssa Valdez as anything short of a phenomenal volleyball player. But like anything great, it took some time for Alyssa to become an athlete of her stature.  As a bench player, she adapted a team-first identity, accepting a role that may not always call for her presence on the court, but was still important to the team's success. Alyssa had to learn to accept the small responsibilities she was entrusted with, like setting up the nets for practice, handing out water bottles for her teammates, as well as cheering from the bench to hype up her squad. Slowly, though, Alyssa was rewarded, not just with wins, but with different life lessons as well.   A LIFETIME'S WORTH OF LESSONS  Looking back now, Alyssa fondly remembers those memories as instrumental in helping her adjust to any situation, on and off the court. She gained confidence from accomplishing all those small tasks, and began trusting herself more.  Beyond accolades and fame, what keeps Alyssa's hunger in sports is its ability to teach lifelong wisdom. As she shares, "It's not about how you perform and be at your best, but, yung after na lessons na nabibigay sakin ng sport. The little things really matter." Alyssa has been carrying all those lessons, even after her success, like the friendships she has garnered through out her career. "In my experience, dahil sa sports, nakilala ko yung mga taong mag-s-stay kahit anong mangyari," Valdez shared. "Alam mo 'yung mga moments na patalo na kayo, 'yung mga moments na hindi mo na alam 'yung gagawin mo... Pero at the end of the day, iiyak at iiyak sila, tatawa at tatawa sila kasama mo."   INSPIRING THE CHAMPIONS OF TOMORROW Now a successful athlete, Alyssa hopes to inspire a new generation of youth to take up sports. Like the kid from San Juan, Batangas, Alyssa believes every child needs to take that risk, that leap of faith, for an opportunity to realize their potential to be someone great, as part of a nation of champions. That's why the Phenom has teamed up with Milo to invite kids of all ages to try any of the 18 different sports clinics the energy drink brand will offer summer, from April 2 to June 3, to get set for a lifetime's worth of lessons and values, on and off the court. "Parehas kami na really wanna pay it forward. Through camps, a lot of camps all over the Philippines," she said. "Ako, yun lang din yung gusto ko as an athlete, gusto ko ma-share 'yung knowledge ko." With Alyssa and her wealth of experience on board, indeed, this summer sounds like the perfect time for children to pursue sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2018

May 13th declared Day of Courage

MANILA, Philippines,  – Allianz has declared May 13 as a Day of Courage, with three events that are designed as a test of mettle and to encourage more Filipinos to live a healthy lifestyle. These three events, the PHA Heart Run Powered By Allianz together with the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) at SM By the Bay; the Allianz Conquer Challenge in Vermosa, Laguna; and the Bayanihan Walk in Singapore, will help bring out the best in the participants as they challenge not only physical limits but also to promote the value of courage.  The PHA Heart Run powered by Allianz, which will be held at the SM By The Bay area gives participants the opportunity to become Heart Warriors and bring awareness to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) that are affecting many Filipinos today. Doctors and healthy heart advocates from the PHA will be joined by running coaches Toni and Jim Saret, in a race that will be led by heart condition survivors who will run in the 1k advocacy division in a bid to shine a light on the prevention and primary care of CVDs. Allianz PNB Life President Olaf Kliesow reiterates the need for Filipino families’ to monitor their health conditions and be wary of increasing medical expenses, especially for a great majority whose savings and insurance protection levels are very much wanting. To make the fun run more exciting, Allianz will be giving out P100,000 worth of personal accident life insurance to all participants, and two lucky 21k and 10K participants will win all-expense paid trips to Thailand, to join the Allianz Ayudhaya World Run! Those who want to level up their game may register at the Allianz Conquer Challenge, an obstacle course race that tests speed, endurance and strategy. The race is made even more special with the participation of Jamil Faisal Saro Adiong, a recipient of the Sultan Kudarat Award for Peace and Community Development. Marawi City, his home province of Lanao del Sur, was besieged with a very big challenge last year, as it was still reeling from the effects of a tropical storm, it was also battered by a war. Jamil is one of the local heroes who was involved in Marawi’s rehabilitation efforts. “I am offering my participation in the race to all my fellow Maranaos, in the hope that we may all triumph in our aspirations with mutual respect through harmonious relationships and inclusive economic development as we rise stringer and more resilient than before,” he shares. Joining the obstacle course race is a testament to his own journey and a call to all Filipinos to embrace peace and tolerance amidst diversity. As with the PHA Heart Run, Allianz will be giving out P100,000 worth of personal accident life insurance to all participants of the challenging course race that has divisions for kids, beginners, and pros. To further amplify their message to dare to take on life’s challenges because Allianz is there to support your family and your life’s dreams, Filipinos in Singapore are invited to join the Allianz PNB Life and Philippine Embassy–supported Bayanihan Walk, which will take place at the Labrador Park. The 3.88km fun walk aims to raise funds to support the Philippine Bayanihan Society Singapore’s charity works and for the maintenance of the Bayanihan Centre. Rei Abrazaldo, Allianz PNB Life Brand Communications and Digital Director, shares that the company’s mission is to empower Filipinos to face new experiences and daily challenges with courage. “We enable every Filipino the courage to live a healthy lifestyle as embodied in our collaboration with the Philippine Heart Association in the upcoming PHA Heart Run Powered by Allianz.  We inspire Filipinos the courage to overcome obstacles as exemplified in our partnership with Conquer Challenge Philippines in the approaching Allianz Conquer Challenge Race, and we empower Filipinos overseas to have the courage to be there for each other in our alliance with the Philippine Bayanihan Society,” Abrazaldo explains. He further emphasizes that at Allianz they believe that life would be better if people had more courage than fear. “There is no better time to agree that we need more courage, to experience that there is more to life than what we were thought of to just be content and not aspire for something better,” he adds. Allianz is the Filipinos’ partner in finding that courage, he says. “Our customers and prospects want to have an insurance which supports them, backs them up, which helps them to live their life to the fullest – and does not scare them or stop them from doing what they want to do. Each one of us has the capacity and the capability to explore life. With the coverage that we provide our clients, they do not need to be alone in exploring life.”  - RELEASE.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2018

Brighter days seem to be in store for Knicks, new coach Fizdale

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst There was only one job that made sense for David Fizdale. Despite all the openings for which he interviewed, his pedigree and background -- and, let’s be honest, ambition -- made one gig stand out above the others. And it’s the one he got, with the New York Knicks. New York agreed to a four-year deal with Fizdale last week, a correct pairing of young coach and franchise that is trying to build back up the right way, with an emphasis on defense and conditioning that is right up Fizdale’s alley. No matter the occasional oddity created by working for Jim Dolan, he is an owner who has been willing to spend money when asked, and his team is in the top media market on earth. When you win there, they have parades for you in the Canyon of Heroes, and you almost always wind up in your particular sport’s Hall of Fame. You can’t not take the shot. The Knicks believe they’re in a place where the things Fizdale did in Miami and what he took to Memphis -- his philosophy of culture-building, team-building, discipline and how he connects to players -- were a good fit for where they are as a franchise. Among the 11 candidates the Knicks interviewed for the job, several had more head coaching experience than Fizdale -- whose tenure in Memphis lasted exactly 101 regular season games and six playoff games. But Fizdale checked the most boxes, and at 43, the Knicks are betting he has a lot of growing and improving to do, just as the team does. The Knicks, of course, looked into just why the Grizzlies fired Fizdale so abruptly last season, after just 19 games. Team president Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry didn’t just get started in the league last week; they know a lot of people. The chatter around the league was that Memphis chose star center Marc Gasol over Fizdale after the two clashed during the coach’s season-plus there. As I wrote just after Fizdale was fired, the deterioration in their relationship reached the point of no return when Fizdale went after Gasol hard in a film session, basically dismissing the importance of Gasol’s accomplishments overseas, including as a member of the Spanish national team. That that rankled Gasol to no end should have been no surprise to anyone paying attention. The Spanish team’s international triumphs are a point of considerable and understandable pride for both Marc Gasol and his brother, Pau. They helped lead Spain to the greatest era of basketball accomplishment in that country’s history, including a 2006 gold medal at what was then called the FIBA World Championships. Fizdale tried to fix things with Gasol, even flying to Europe after the season to try and make it right. But Gasol was close with majority owner Robert Pera; Fizdale wasn’t. That closed off a potential area of outreach between the two. Gasol had no interest in rapprochement, a stance that Grizzlies players made clear to Fizdale throughout the season. (Caught most in the middle, per league sources, was Grizzlies veteran point guard Mike Conley, Jr., who did and does have strong relationships with both men.) But, importantly, in his discussions with the Knicks, Fizdale took responsibility for his failures with Gasol. He didn’t blame Gasol or anyone else. As one of his chief calling cards is connecting with players, and not finding common ground with Gasol was an L he has to take. “He knew where he messed up and what he’d try to let it never happen again,” said a source who’s spoken with Fizdale since his firing. But, equally importantly, just because Fizdale couldn’t make it work with Gasol doesn’t mean he’s doomed to a similar outcome with All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis. The 22-year-old’s relationship with the Knicks has been scrutinized within an inch of its life the last couple of years. The toxicity level reached under former president Phil Jackson has abated some, but Porzingis and the team still have some navigation to do -- a trip that is blurred as Porzingis continues rehabbing and recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in February. (Porzingis’s brother, Janis, who serves as his agent, politely declined comment on the Fizdale hire via text Saturday, though the Knicks were in contact with Janis Porzingis during the coaching search.) Porzingis’s injury keeps the Knicks in flux, a position it seems they’ve been in most years since the Nixon administration. He is a potential superstar -- “potential” is used quite deliberately here, as “The Unicorn’s” stans on social media have made a very talented offensive player into something that he is not, at least not yet -- a transcendent player. But, assuming Porzingis ultimately makes a full and healthy return, New York has a terrific building block around which to build. And, they have a chance to really get in the game in the summer of 2019. First, they’ll have to resolve Joakim Noah’s status -- he has two years and roughly $38 million left on his current deal. It’s likely the Knicks will stretch him and the only question is whether that happens before or after next season. If it’s the former, the Knicks can spread the remainder of his salary across five seasons; if the latter, three seasons. Nothing is certain, but it would be surprising to see Noah still in New York by the start of camp. Why saddle a new coach with an old problem? That would leave the Knicks with more flexibility going into ’19, which is when Perry has said he’d like New York to be ready to pounce in free agency -- and when the likes of Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard (player option) and Jimmy Butler (player option) can be free agents. But until that bridge year, Fizdale will have to max out the existing roster. Charitably, there’s not a lot there at present that’s proven and has led to much winning anywhere. The Knicks will need to be lucky in next week’s Lottery -- preferably, getting a high enough pick to land one of the elite big men that should be among the top four or five picks in the Draft. If that doesn’t happen, the hope in New York is that until the roster improves, Fizdale can develop the talents of the Knicks’ trio of guards -- Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay and Tim Hardaway, Jr. -- in which New York has invested Draft and literal treasure the last couple of seasons. (It will help that Fizdale’s relationship with Hardaway, Jr., goes back to when the latter was a kid and his father, the master of the killer crossover, worked in the Heat organization after Tim Hardaway Sr.’s playing days ended.) The additional hope is that Fizdale will get Ntilikina in elite shape while honing his competitive edge, and that a full season under Fizdale will let the Knicks know once and for all if Mudiay can be a significant contributor. Fizdale will also have to adjust his nomenclature. Last week’s story in the New York Daily News correctly identified Fizdale’s consistent referencing “the Miami Way” as shorthand for how he wanted to do things in Memphis alienated Grizzlies people who were -- again, justifiably -- proud of the “Grit-n’Grind” era that produced seven straight playoff appearances before this season’s 22-60 crater. And, he’ll have to be prepared to be, perhaps, the biggest face of the franchise, in a city whose media is dogged and nonplussed and will often go off cockeyed in a crazy, incorrect direction. But its influence should never be underestimated. Fizdale is from Los Angeles, and he has a great way with most. And it didn’t hurt him to work some for ESPN while he was between jobs. But he’ll have to learn the media landscape in New York quickly -- who to befriend, who to be wary of, who he can trust and who he cannot. (Also: I’m sure the Knicks pointed out to him that while he had several causes which were near and dear to him in Memphis, from advocating the removal of Confederate statues in the city to lending his name to other civic causes, he needs to win games in Gotham first.) At base, the Knicks will want to see players throughout the roster held accountable, and charged to compete on a nightly basis. There was not enough of either last season under coach Jeff Hornacek -- who, in fairness, didn’t have all that much time to put his stamp on what was a poor roster. Fizdale will get more time. The Knicks’ roster will look a lot different in two years than it does now. Fizdale will have to be a lot different coach than he was in Memphis, as well. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2018

Draw of another title lights postseason path of Warriors

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst One of the Golden State Warriors’ people, walking out of Smoothie King Center Sunday (Monday, PHL time), summarized the team’s season so far in detailing Kevin Durant’s 38-point performance against the Pelicans in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals. “Sometimes, people forget,” he said, a wry smile on his face -- and, yes, they do. With all that has gone on around the league this season, the Warriors’ storyline hasn’t been quite as eyeballed nationally this season compared with previous years. (Not that they should care. It’s just an observation.) The Cleveland Cavaliers blew things up last summer and reformed in the fall, blew it up again in the winter and reformed again in the spring. The Boston Celtics are displaying amazing resilience through seemingly devastating injuries to put themselves on the brink of another conference finals. The Philadelphia 76ers have their Fun Bunch. There was Paul George’s trade to Oklahoma City (and all that entailed, now and later) and the Toronto Raptors’ dramatic and successful changes throughout the year. And, at the forefront, there was the Houston Rockets’ rise as a legit and serious challenger to the Warriors in the Western Conference. During the regular season, the Warriors’ energy and productivity dropped off ever so slightly, like the planet killer in “The Doomsday Machine,” one of the all-time best original “Star Trek” episodes, after the doomed Commodore Decker drove a Shuttlecraft right down its throat. (Of course, Captain Kirk figured out to destroy it. Dude, come on. This is James Tiberius Kirk we’re talking about.) And at the end of the regular season, they were hit with a series of body shot injuries: Stephen Curry’s MCL strain, Durant’s ribs, Klay Thompson’s thumb injury, Draymond Green’s hip, and on and on. Those all sapped their continuity and made them look mortal down the stretch of the 2017-18 season, and the Warriors went 7-10 as the season waned. But, after dispatching the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs in five games in the first round, and taking a 3-1 lead on the Pelicans now, they’re again on the precipice of the Western Conference finals. A date with Houston is looming and a chance at a third title in four seasons is still on their racket. “I think as the playoffs go on, every series requires a different intensity level,” Green said last week. “I think we met that standard that it takes to win playoff games at the level we’re at right now, which is the second round. It’s not our first rodeo. We’ve been here a lot of times and we know what it takes.” Steve Kerr rolled the “Hamptons Five” lineup out Sunday (Monday, PHL time), the Lineup Formally Known as Death -- Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Green and Durant. It’s been their trump card for almost two years, the lineup that can’t be solved by the opposition, even as it’s chipped away at most of Golden State’s other conventional units. Durant went for 38, and the Warriors rolled to a 118-92 win and a 3-1 series lead. They didn’t use it much this season -- that quintet only played 127 minutes together this season, after logging 224 minutes last season -- because of all the injuries, because they tried to limit their biggest players’ minutes and because using Iguodala as a starter thins out Golden State’s bench. The Warriors’ most frequently used five-man unit this season featured Zaza Pachulia at center; among five-man units leaguewide that played 200 minutes or more together this season, per NBA.com/Stats, that quintet was third in the league in Offensive Rating, at 118.6. But Pachulia hasn’t played a minute in the playoffs, and if the Rockets are the Warriors’ next opponent, he may not play much then, either, against Clint Capela. Kerr often points out that the Warriors have six centers on the current roster, and most of them have gotten at least a little run at various points. But after JaVale McGee was ineffective in Game 3 against New Orleans Friday (Saturday, PHL time), Kerr pulled his trump card. It’s still a game-changer, and when a season comes down to a best-of-seven series, one game can be the difference. “We all bring the best of each other,” Curry said of the Hamptons unit. “We increase the pace of the game, but the versatility [is] at the defensive end -- Andre, Draymond, KD shoring up the paint, switching a lot of the screens and the action from the offense and Klay doing what he does on the perimeter. I think the biggest thing offensively is that we’re all playmakers, try to look for the best shot, stay within ourselves and just make the right play.” Going back to the old playlist may give the Warriors comfort in what has been another drama-filled season, with the contretemps about being disinvited from the White House by President Trump in September getting things off to a rollicking start. But the end of the season was what raised eyebrows around the league. Curry’s absence down the stretch combined with a teamwide ennui -- “I really don’t like talking about it,” Thompson said -- that gave potential playoff opponents hope they might be able to catch Golden State napping. The Warriors’ boredom showed up most at the defensive end. After being in the top seven in both unadjusted and adjusted Defensive Rating in each of the last four seasons -- including first in the league in both categories in the first championship season of 2014-15 -- Golden State fell to 11th and 12th, respectively, in the regular season. They came out of the All-Star break focused -- they were fifth in the league in Defensive Rating on March 1. But all the injuries blunted their momentum, and the scariest of all -- a serious injury to second-year guard Patrick McCaw in Sacramento March 31 (April 1, PHL time) -- shook the team more than people on the outside realized. “Throughout that time, we had spurts,” Durant said. “We played a great OKC team. We went in there and won. Then we lost to Indiana by 20, and then it’s like, when you’re riding just on emotion a lot, you tend to go up and down. It’s like a roller coaster. I think that’s what it was. We had those spurts where we played well and played a focused game, but then Patty goes out, boom, and there was just so much that went on with that. Then Steph goes out with a freak injury. So much went on with that. I think we were just so up and down emotionally it kind of blinded us from our goal, which was to be good every single night as basketball players.” McCaw’s injury -- a bone bruise suffered when he fell after a dunk attempt against the Kings, which required him to be carried off the court in Sacramento on a stretcher -- hit everyone hard. “When Pat got injured, I think that took a little bit out of us,” Durant said. “It took a little bit out of Steve as well. You could just feel it, when Steph went out, then I went out, then Draymond, then Klay. Our emotions were so up and down. When your emotions are, you have too many emotions in the game of basketball, it can kind of blind you from what you really have to do. This is a technical game. So when you put too many emotions into it, it kind of took us away from what we wanted to do.” McCaw, who played in 57 games this season, was not only a part of Kerr’s rotation. He is also a well-liked person who was getting better on the floor. He was re-evaluated last week and will be checked out again in a month. Though he’s been traveling with the team during the playoffs, his season is almost certainly over. And as his injury came during the Warriors’ many injuries down the stretch, its chilling effect was multiplied. “It definitely got to everybody,” Green said. “Kind of the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on with him. The rotations. Everybody’s like, ahh, kind of tiptoeing around, trying to make sure you get to the playoffs healthy. A lot of that makes a difference. I mean, that’s our brother. To see him down like that, not be able to walk off the court under his own power, him not being around us for two or three weeks, it was kind of like the unknown. It sucked. And I think it definitely had an effect on everything.” But Durant doesn’t like the metaphor of the proverbial switch being turned on at playoff time explaining the team’s improvement the last couple of weeks. “I don’t like when you call it a switch,” he said. “Because guys come in and get extra work in every single day. They work on their bodies every day, they get treatment. You come in here any time, you see guys in here working on their games. I think when you say ‘a switch turned on,’ if guys went cold turkey on everything as professionals during the season, and just tried to pick it up in the playoffs, I think that’s turning on a switch. Mentally, focus-wise, game plan-wise, I think you can turn on a switch, because you can lock in on an opponent, you know their tendencies, you can just focus in on one group of players instead of one day it’s San Antonio, the next day it’s Phoenix, next day it’s Sacramento. You’re going so up and down. If that makes sense. “So I think everybody’s putting in that work individually all year, and as a team, you know, stuff has to come together. We have to focus in on what we need to do, game plan wise, tendency wise, just try to take away things. I think that’s where you kind of turn it up just a bit.” Golden State has performed in fits and starts in the first two rounds. The Spurs didn’t have enough firepower to be a serious threat, but they played hard and were increasingly effectively on defense as the series went on. The Warriors didn’t really have an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge after Game 1. New Orleans had, until Sunday (Monday, PHL time), been more and more successful at making the Warriors shoot contested shots. That certainly gibes with Curry’s return after five weeks. He’s healthy, but rusty. After his adrenaline-filled return last Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in Game 2 against the Pelicans, he made just 14-of-33 from the floor in the two games in New Orleans. There was talk afterward about breakthroughs for Curry cardiovascularly. The next few games will tell whether Curry is truly recovered and ready to be two-time Kia MVP Steph … or will he just be on the floor (as he was for long and important stretches in the 2016 playoffs after returning from a Grade 1 knee sprain). The Warriors still made The Finals, but Curry wasn’t Curry against Cleveland, and everyone, starting and ending with LeBron James, knew it. No one in NBA history has changed the geometry of basketball more than Curry, and when he’s on the floor, the ball starts flying around. “Our formula is simple: if we out-pass people, we win,” Warriors forward David West said. “Ball movement. With guys going in and out of the lineup, it causes moments where guys try to carry the load, maybe try to shoulder the load individually. But the strength of the group is the group.” But the Warriors can still throw so many different things and people at you. Iguodala shot a career-worst 28.2 percent on three-pointers in the regular season. He’s at 39.3 percent in the 2018 playoffs. Does anyone doubt he was biding his time until the postseason? No one wearing an NBA uniform is in better shape than the 34-year-old Iguodala, no one is smarter about the game or matchups, and no one is a prouder, fiercer competitor. The 2015 Finals MVP brings his bag of intangibles with him on the road even more than at home, as he did Sunday. In that game, he was making life miserable for the Pelicans’ Nikola Mirotic, creating deflections, making the right reads and impacting the game despite scoring just six points. Kerr likened him to Scottie Pippen after Game 4, but Iggy wasn’t buying it -- “Steve just does that to make sure I don’t get mad ‘cause I don’t shots,” Iguodala quipped. He may be right. But Iguodala and Green have a mind meld defensively that’s at the heart of the Hamptons’ effectiveness. “Andre and I, we’re usually on the same page,” Green said. “Two guys who really think the game, especially on that side of the ball. Sometimes we can talk things out and it works perfect and not say a word, and know what each other’s going to do. It definitely helps our team out defensively kind of having two coaches out there on the floor on that side of the ball.” Whether it’s switching to guard each other’s man, running at an open shooter to close before the ball gets there with the other man rotating, they know what the other guy is going to do. And that second or so the Warriors save defensively keeps them from being broken down. “How fast can you make that decision?,” Green says. “How demonstrative are you going to be about that decision? Are you going to second guess that decision? That’s usually when it doesn’t work; if you’re going to go, just go. That’s kind of the motto that Andre and I go by. If you’re going to go, just go; everybody else fall in line and rotate, and we’ll work it out from there.” And while Green and Rajon Rondo have been exchanging pleasantries throughout this series, Green didn’t pick up his first postseason technical foul until Sunday (Monday, PHL time). He’s been under control, coming up to the edge without going over. Someone without access to the internet asked Kerr if he’d ever played with anyone who instigated or tried to get under the skin of opponents. It’s a testament to Kerr’s comic timing that he actually did wait a beat before answering. “I did play with Dennis Rodman,” he said. Never be fooled by Kerr’s overall pleasant disposition and quick-with-a-quip acuity, though. He is a fierce competitor that wants to win big, the same as his current point guard, who is similarly underrated on the competition scale. Kerr has seven rings as a player and coach, and it’s not a coincidence he’s frequently been around teams that got it done in June. But the Warriors are playing for even bigger stakes than just winning the 2018 title. Legacies are created this time of year. A third title in four seasons, with four straight Finals appearances, would put Golden State in very rarified air in the modern game. San Antonio won three titles from 2002-07. But the Spurs, famously, never have won back-to-back titles. The Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers, which won three straight from 2000-02, are the closest modern-day team to pulling off what the Warriors are trying to accomplish. Before then, you’re talking about the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, with six titles in eight seasons -- the two non-title seasons coinciding with Jordan’s sojourn to the minor leagues of baseball. Moreover, the Warriors are the hub around which the modern NBA now spins. And that is an even bigger legacy. Almost everyone (hi, Thibs!) tries to play the way Golden State does now -- the quick hitters, ball movement, pace. Teams do it in different ways. The 76ers look very different than the Warriors, with Joel Embiid their centerpiece of operations, and with 6'10" Ben Simmons taking up so much space with the ball in the halfcourt. The Rockets look different still as there’s not a ton of ball movement. There’s just an unending series of screen and rolls with Chris Paul and James Harden with the rock, looking for the inevitable open man in the corner or way, way behind the three-point line. A lot of things have happened the last 15 years to lead us where we are now. The league changed almost all the rules regarding zone defense, and got rid of almost all defensive contact on the perimeter. Rockets GM Daryl Morey and others led the burgeoning analytics movement, which championed shooting more and more three-pointers as a primary means of scoring, not as a novelty. Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns went with Amar’e Stoudemire at center, surrounding him with four smalls that could all shoot it from deep, and scoring came out of its coma leaguewide. Kerr and Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry have always been quick to credit D’Antoni’s influence on the modern game, starting in Phoenix and working through his current team in Houston. “He’s the guy that just eliminated the center position -- let’s just go small and fast and shoot more threes,” Kerr said of D’Antoni. “I was inspired by Mike, but I was also inspired by Pop (the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich) and Phil Jackson in terms of basic ball movement, screening. But pace is the name of the game these days, and people go about it in different ways. Ironically, Mike’s team (in Houston) is the slowest team in the league now. I didn’t see that coming.” But no one has put all of it together -- pace, small ball, shooting and defense -- like the Warriors have the last four seasons. The Rockets are the closest thing we’ve seen to Golden State, and they’re hungry, and they’re coming. And the Warriors and Rockets are just a win apiece away from seeing the clash of the Western Conference titans. They are in the middle of it, so they can’t stop and think about what it all means. We get that. But everyone wants to put a marker out there that’s hard to catch. LeBron is chasing a ghost. The Warriors have already made their mark on the game. They’re almost in position to do more. History is forever. “It’s important, because it’s what’s right in front of us,” Curry said Sunday. “We don’t think about the historical context of anything. For us, we have an amazing group of guys, amazing coaches sitting behind us. We’re appreciating the moment. That’s really all it is. You have tunnel vision for Game 5 at home, then a new series, hopefully (after that). The historic context doesn’t really seep into the locker room when it comes to what that means. It’s just about this year.” Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: England looks to beak cycle of pain

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press MANCHESTER, England (AP) — England is attempting to break a cycle of heartache and humiliation at major tournaments that plunged the birthplace of football to its lowest ebb. A loss to Iceland in the last 16 of the 2016 European Championship was perhaps the ultimate embarrassment. Or maybe that came when the English endured their shortest World Cup campaign two years earlier whey they were only in contention for eight days. Before that, there were penalty shootout losses in 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012. And before that, who could forget Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal that denied England in the World Cup semifinals in 1986? It's no surprise that the nation's expectations are low heading to Russia. England coach Gareth Southgate has long been tempering his team's prospects. Defender Kyle Walker even acknowledged it would be a "miracle" if England won football's biggest prize this year. England won the 1966 World Cup, but has only reached the semifinals of a tournament twice since then. What next for one of the underachievers of international football? Encouraging draws in recent friendlies against Brazil, Germany and Italy show the English are heading in the right direction but they have been here before in the run-up to tournaments. Here's a closer look at the England team: COACH Southgate was promoted from England's under-21 team to become coach of the senior side in September 2016, with the appointment widely viewed with skepticism because of his lack of managerial experience in top-level soccer. However, opinions are changing on the former England defender who missed the decisive penalty in a shootout against Germany in the European Championship semifinals in 1996. He has made brave selection decisions — dropping Wayne Rooney, for starters — and has implemented a bold approach that has seen the team adopt a three-man defense and play the ball out from the back as much as possible. GOALKEEPERS Long-time starter Joe Hart has lost his place after a tough two years on loan at Torino and West Ham from Manchester City, with Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland moving ahead in the pecking order. Pickford, whose distribution is superior to Butland's, is expected to begin the World Cup as first choice. Hart should still be in the squad as third-choice goalkeeper, with Southgate valuing his experience gained playing for City and at international level since 2010. DEFENDERS Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young — attacking full backs with good delivery and energy — look to be England's starting wing backs, so it is the center-back combination that will be occupying Southgate's thoughts. John Stones and Harry Maguire are favorites to start even though the former is fourth choice at Manchester City and has barely played in 2018, while the latter is inexperienced. Kyle Walker, a pacey right back, has impressed in recent friendlies as a right-sided center back and other options include Joe Gomez, James Tarkowski and Alfie Mawson. MIDFIELDERS England will play with either two or three central midfielders, depending if the team is deployed in a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formation, and they are likely to be functional, hard-working players. It's a far cry from the days when the country could call upon stars of the Premier League like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes. Instead, Southgate will rely on selfless players such as Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Jake Livermore and the unheralded Lewis Cook, who will keep their shape and allow the wing backs and forward players to offer a goal threat. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain definitely out injured and Adam Lallana unlikely to prove his fitness, the injury-prone Jack Wilshere could again make the plane as a wildcard midfielder. FORWARDS The most straightforward department for Southgate: Harry Kane will start as the central striker, with Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford as backups. Kane has been hit and miss for Tottenham this season, especially in recent weeks after returning quicker than expected from an ankle injury, but is England's most lethal striker and arguably its most important player. Raheem Sterling will be the main support for Kane, maybe along with either Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli or even 22-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek if Southgate opts for a 3-4-3 formation. GROUP GAMES England, which is based just outside St. Petersburg, opens Group G against Tunisia in Volgograd on June 18. The team then plays Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on June 24 and finishes against Belgium in Kaliningrad on June 28......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2018

Ateneo s Fab 5: The Fearless Underdogs of UAAP Volleyball

Newly-appointed head coach Roger Gorayeb looked at his line-up heading into UAAP Season 71. A champion mentor of NCAA powerhouse San Sebastian College - Recoletos, Gorayeb had in his hands a gargantuan task of rebuilding Ateneo de Manila University women’s volleyball program. Just a few months before, Ronald Dulay, the mentor before him landed a trio of blue chip recruits who were fresh from a successful stint in the Palarong Pambansa. Angeline "Dzi" Gervacio, Fille Saint Cainglet and Jamenea "Jem" Ferrer just joined the Katipunan-based squad. Gervacio and Cainglet were products of St. Scholastica's College in Manila while Ferrer was a gem from Hope Christian School under girl’s volleyball guru Jerry Yee. Looking at his 15-woman line-up with the season just a few months ahead, Gorayeb knew he needed to do something drastic. The roster just won’t do. Talking to then athletic director Ricky Palou and team manager Tony Boy Liao, the mentor told the team officials that he intended to cut five players from the list. One could just imagine the shock in their faces. “Nakita ko may line-up pero player-playeran lang yung ganoon bang tipo, 15 ata yun. Sabi ko ‘Magtatanggal ako ng lima then magre-recruit ako,’” he said. The three rookies were in. Middle Bea Pascual, Kara Acevedo and libero Steph Gabriel retained their spots. He needed more. “Sa mga tinira kong players, si Kara Acevedo sabi niya, ‘Coach mayroong player ang ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) na gumraduate naka-exam na rito pasado.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sige papuntahin mo,’” said Gorayeb. It was Gretchen Ho. “Sa akin kasi ang talagang nagyaya sa akin si coach Ron Dulay. Si Kara Acevedo teammate ko and she’s been recruited by Ateneo. So one summer wala akong magawa naki-train lang ako noon tapos nagustuhan nila ang laro ko and then fourth year noong graduate na ako I passed the ACET then niyayaya na nila ako,” she said. “Then nagbago ng coach na si Coach Roger and dun niya ako nakita.”   “Pagdating ko ng March (sa Ateneo) wala na akong way para maka-recruit pa. Ang nangyari yung tatlo accepted na kaagad. Si Gretchen tinanong ko sabi ko, ‘ano ba ang laro mo?’ Sabi niya the usual panggitna, tres,” Gorayeb recalled. “So sinubukan ko pero ang laro niya tres hindi quick. Siya panggitna pero hindi quicker na gusto ko saka yung height niya (maliit). Kaya lang si Gretchen takbo ng takbo, mahilig magtatakbo so sabi ko sige pwede na yan. Wala namang player na during that time. So kinuha ko si Gretchen.” Gorayeb just needed just one more. “Ngayon nagkaroon ng STCAA (Southern Tagalog Calabarzon athletic association) eh kulang pa ako ng isa, wala akong panggitna. Ang gitna ko during that time si Bea lang tapos si Gretchen so wala akong pamalit. So naisipan ko may nakita ako sa STCAA,” he said. He spotted a lanky player from Canossa Academy-Lipa, Aillysse Nacachi. “Sabi ko kay Sir Tony pagtyagaan ko na lang ito kahit hindi naman kalakasan at wala naman na rin akong choice na makapili kasi rush ang pagdating ko dyan. Nakiusap lang sila sa akin na magbuo ako ng team kasi si Ronald nag-resign,” said Gorayeb. Another freshman could’ve had ended up with Ateneo, Hope’s libero Melissa Gohing. But a few obstacles prevented her from fulfilling her promise to join Ferrer in Ateneo. She instead chose to join the ladies in green and white in Taft.    SOMETHING PROMISING December 7, 2008. Far Eastern University Gym. Excitement filled the air. Fans, mostly volleyball purists and some who just came to support their classmates or were just curious to see a new spectacle after the basketball season ended, slowly settled in their seats for the women’s division’s second game. It was Adamson University, the previous year’s runner-up, which just visited the turf of their arch nemesis and defending champion FEU, which was led by that era’s finest and most popular volleybelle Rachel Anne Daquis. Fans wanted to see if the Lady Falcons still had the same firepower they had the previous season with the loss of top setter Janet Serafica and power hitter Sang Laguilles. A rookie-laden Ateneo squad should be easy pickings with Angela Benting, rookie Pau Soriano and libero Lizlee Anne Gata in the roster. Besides the Lady Falcons got the Lady Eagles’ number. Or so they thought. “Naalala ko nu’ng time namin sinasabi sa amin ng seniors namin na, ‘Hay naku ang lakas ng Adamson, never kami nanalo dyan,’” Cainglet, now happily married to film director Lino Cayetano and with three beautiful children, recalled.  But the Lady Eagles stunned Adamson in the opening set. The Lady Falcons took the next two frames. Ateneo stole the fourth.  “Ako naalala ko ano eh, parang alam namin na lahat kasi kami palaban. Nasa amin yun. Tapos binigyan kaming lahat ng chance to be in the first six so parang dream come true,” said Ho, now an ABS-CBN host. “Naalala ko rin na palaban kaming lahat kumbaga nothing to lose eh so ang ano namin, sumasabay kami sa laro and nu’ng nakita na namin na ‘Ay kaya pala natin ‘to guys. Kaya pala naming lumaban.’” Still, Adamson had the upper hand in experience. The Lady Falcons, used to pressure and were steady at crunch time, outlasted Ateneo.           The young Katipunan-based squad fell short, 25-22, 22-25, 15-25, 25-15, 8-15. But for the Fab 5, it was a loss that felt like a resounding victory. “Parang sobrang natutuwa kami and everybody in the crowd, kaya siguro kami natawag na Fab 5 kasi rookies kami pero kahit ganoon palaban kami,” said Ho. “Saka close game. Five sets yun.” However, it was the first of five five-set matches that Ateneo will drop that season including one in the second round against the Manilla Santos-bannered De La Salle University. “Pero ang problema di kami nananalo ng five sets. Parang ilan lang ang naipanalo namin na ganoon. Feeling ko na-overwhelm kami na ‘Uy nananalo tayo.’ May ganoong disbelief ng konti pero alam namin na may ibubuga kami,” said Ho. “Definitely, our rookie season was full of five-set matches. It was tough, we felt like we were so close, but still so far away. At some point, it gave us frustration also. We just couldn't figure out that time what is it that's still lacking because we couldn't win the five-set matches,” according to Nacachi. “People said, it was because the team was still so inexperienced. We still didn't have the tenacity unlike of those more matured teams. But we didn't take it as bad, it was a learning experience for us all at the end. We had to learn how to develop that finishing will to be able to win games like that in the future.” The Fab 5 finished their rookie season with a 6-8 slate at fifth spot.   ‘MAY MEDAL NA TAYO’ Gorayeb remembered on their second year the look on Pascual’s face in their last elimination game match against Adamson. Already wrapping up their first win over the Lady Falcons, Pascual was giddy. “Natatawa nga ako dyan kay Bea kasi papanalo na kami nu’n tapos sumesenyas na siya ng tres. Sabi ko, ‘Hoy anong ginagawa mo?’ Yun pala sobrang saya na niya kasi for the first time in 30 years magkaka-medal na sila,” he said. It was the most important match of the season for the Lady Eagles. With the Fab 5 already in their sophomore year, Ateneo was already making great strides. The Lady Eagles closed that season’s elims with five straight wins capped with a victory over Adamson. Ateneo posted a 10-4 win-loss mark to enter the Final Four legitimately. “Ang nangyari kasi nu’ng time nila Charo (Soriano) kaya sila nakapasok sa semis kasi may nag-squeal na si (Jacq) Alarca di pala naka-enroll nu’n kaya na-forfeit mga laro ng La Salle,” said Gorayeb. The Fab 5 proved that they were not just a bunch of much-hyped up pretty faces. They backed it up with their skills on court. It didn’t matter that Ateneo were swept by eventual champion University of Sto. Tomas in the Final Four.      But the podium finish of Season 72 was short-lived. Adamson got its revenge in the last game of Season 73 elims, bumping off the Lady Eagles in the podium finish. The loss put Ateneo in a collision course with the twice-to-beat DLSU, who could’ve completed an elims sweep if not only for a forfeited match against University of the East after UAAP found out that Carmela Garbin and Clarisse Yeung participated in a ‘ligang labas’ while the season was onoing, in the Final Four. Ateneo gave the Lady Spikers a scare before succumbing in another heartbreaking five-set match. The Lady Eagles finished fourth but that lone semis game gave Ateneo and its maturing Fab 5 enough experience to dream for something big – A ticket into the Finals.      ‘HINOG NA KAYO’ The first three years saw the gradual improvement for Ateneo. But Season 74 proved to be the turning point for the Fab 5. A fresh new recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school, who just completed a year of residency, came into picture and with the Fab 5 armed with years of experience, the Lady Eagles’ fate will forever be changed. Alyssa Valdez, a highly recruited open spiker just like Gervacio, Cainglet-Cayetano and Ferrer years back, gave renewed excitement for the Ateneo faithful. “Alyssa's joining with Ateneo was a great turning point for us. We needed as much support we can get, and Alyssa's entrance to the team was a great boost to the team's morale,” said Nacachi. “The girl is a powerhouse and we felt like with her presence, the team finally became solid.” “We were able to play around with the positions and the rotations, since we had different versatile open players who can also greatly play other roles,” she added. “We were also able to formulate a lot of plays and attacks because Alyssa can generally do all kinds; open, running, quick, name it all. She gave the team the power and the versatility that we previously lacked from the past seasons.” Social media was just gaining traction then but the Lady Eagles were already on the radar of volleyball purists through online forums. For the first time, Ateneo was considered a legitimate contender.   The Fab 5 proved it by winning 11 games in the elimination round, losing only to UST once and dropping two against the Lady Spikers. Valdez’s arrival gave Ferrer an even broader option on offense. It eased the scoring load off the shoulders of Cainglet and Gervacio, who was then moved to an opposite position. “I guess sakto lang din yung dating niya because by that time Kara Acevedo graduated so someone had to fill in her spot so coach Roger decided for me to move to utility or opposite,” said Gervacio. “And then sakto Alyssa naman could fill in the spot na other open spiker.” “So timing din na we had all the pieces put together at the right time,” she added. With a good performance in the elims despite missing a legit middle in Bea Pascual and the entry of Aerieal Patnongon barred by academic problems, Ateneo finished second and for the first-time was armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals. The Lady Eagles faced an experienced Tigresses side in the last stepladder semis stage. UST just came from a hard-fought four-set do-or-die match against FEU and were banking on their four-set win over Ateneo in the second round to force another sudden death. Ateneo’s date with destiny was sealed with a four-set win over the Tigresses, who then bid goodbye to Maika Ortiz and Judy Anne Caballejo. “Pinu-push na rin kami ni Coach Roger noon eh, ‘Hinog na kayo ngayon. Kasi dalawang taon na lang, kailangan makapasok na kayo sa Finals,’” said Ho. “Somehow senior na rin kami,” added Cainglet.  “Season 74 was really the target season for us to be in the finals and target even to win the championship,” according to Nacachi. “During this time, we were already thinking we could not afford to not go in the finals.” “So it was with our mindset and our level of commitment that we were able to finally reach our goal of reaching the finals,” she added. “We had enough experience that time already, and it was really time for us to show the level of game maturity the team had obtained from the past seasons.” But then they had to face an unbeaten team. Unscathed in 14 games, De La Salle University was poised to complete a perfect season. The Lady Eagles spoiled it. Ferrer outplayed DLSU setter Mika Esperanza, 57-42, in excellent sets as Ateneo handed the Lady Spikers its first loss after 25 straight victories in a come-from-behind 23-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-17, Finals opener win. Witnessed by 3,002 spectators inside the then The Arena in San Juan, all of the Fab 5 produced points. Cainglet had 19 behind Valdez’s 24, Gervacio scored 12, Ho had 10, Nacachi finished with five while Ferrer had one. Gorayeb made a big gambit and it worked. “Dahil sa wala kong panggitna, yung laro namin ng La Salle, ginawa kong quicker si Alyssa. Kasi si Alyssa nakakapalo. Nagulat si Ramil (de Jesus) dun.” It was a big win. A huge upset. Unfortunately, Ateneo needed to win two more.  DLSU held a thrice-to-beat advantage.   THAT SWAG After Ateneo made a miracle in Game One, fans began to feel a new rivalry born. The attendance spiked. From just 3,000 spectators, the gate attendance more than doubled its size. The interest was there. Fans of traditional powers began to notice the Lady Eagles as a rising team. For the first time, a squad with no previous championship experience except for a title during the Marcos era in a different collegiate league, made a giant jolt. Everybody wanted to see what these girls would do next.    The Lady Eagles, still high on adrenaline after their Game 1 upset, took the opening set in Game 2. But just like in their opener, a well-experienced DLSU squad adjusted to take the next three frames to move a step closer to a repeat crown. With then Rookie of the Year Ara Galang, Season Most Valuable Player Aby Marano, an intimidating Michele Gumabao and a very efficient Finals MVP Cha Cruz teaming up for the kill, the Lady Spikers ripped Ateneo apart in Game 3 in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, 25-13. “Sabi nga ni Dzi na nadyan na lahat eh. So I guess noong Season 74 nandoon na pero may kulang pa rin,” said Ho. “I guess we we’re able to make it to the Finals pero wala pa kaming championship experience.” Ferrer agreed. "Siguro ang kulang yung championship experience kasi nasa La Salle na ‘yun eh. Ilang years na silang nagpa-finals, nag-champion and for Ateneo doon pa lang namin sinimulan," said the three-time Best Setter. Lacking championship experience is one thing, but Ateneo during that time wasn’t ready for DLSU’s most feared weapon: the Lady Spikers’ swag.  “They have that swag,” said Gervacio. “Everyone knows about it naman. It’s really coach Ramil’s style talaga kasi as I remember when we were first year, four out of six of the players inside the court were rookies and even if we go against the powerhouses UST, FEU, Adamson, hindi sila yung nakikita nyo na kapag championship na rivalry, na swag, angas, stare down. Pero La Salle talaga kahit sino ang kalaban nila they’ll bring that attitude inside the court.” That Finals series cemented a new rivalry that will become one of the most celebrated in the sport. “I think it also helped that Ateneo-La Salle basketball didn’t face also,” said Gervacio. “Siyempre nandoon ang hunger for the rivalry eh and timely din na its been Ateneo-La Salle na rin sa volleyball.”   CLOSING A CHAPTER The Fab 5 were now in their fifth and last year. They wanted to leave a winning legacy. The pieces were already there. Gorayeb had at his disposal five seniors, a rising star in Valdez, a sophomore middle in Amy Ahomiro, a versatile Ella De Jesus, a steady libero in Denden Lazaro and a new kind of weapon – a massive crowd that can turn any venue into a sea of blue.              As expected, the second installment of the Ateneo-DLSU rivalry was set into place. Both sweeping their semis opponents. The Lady Spikers crushed National University while the Lady Eagles shot down Adamson. Game One was a shocker. DLSU heading into the Finals are on a 14-game roll but were stunned in the first two sets with Ateneo stepping on the gas. But a string of miscues, mostly from the service line, did the Lady Eagles in as they allowed the Lady Spikers to force a decider. DLSU, smelling blood, punished Ateneo to eke out a 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6, victory inside the Big Dome witnesses by 17,342-strong gate attendance. Then the series transferred to a newly-built, state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena that drew a crowd of 18,799. The first two frames were frustrating for the Lady Eagles.   Ateneo came back to life in the third set to gain a 9-5 lead. But DLSU easily erased it with Ateneo crumbling under pressure. The Lady Spikers were on an onslaught. Sophomore Galang pushed DLSU at matchpoint with a cold-blooded ace that went in a few inches from the baseline. The score, 24-16. It was a tense moment for the Fab 5. A long rally ensued in the next play. Gervacio, with all her might pounded a kill. Her hand making a great contact on the ball off Ferrer’s backset.     Smack! The ball ricocheted off the hands of DLSU’s Wensh Tiu before falling on the same landing area of Gervacio, who tried to dive for a dig together with Lazaro. DLSU swept Ateneo, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16. Game over.          “Kahit hindi kami nanalo alam naming ibinigay namin ang lahat namin, all-out talaga kaya wala kaming pagsisisi,” said Ho. It was the end of the Fab 5 era, but they left more than what any of them could have imagined. "I remember so many people or fans telling me that they started really watching UAAP Volleyball because of our batch. And that is really touching and fulfilling to know. Knowing that you were able to leave an impact like that to people. We were not able to bring even a single championship to our school, Ateneo, but we were able to touch a lot of people's hearts despite that," Nacachi shared. The Fab 5 closed a colorful chapter of Ateneo volleyball in tears. They were there during the Lady Eagles’ birth pains. They labored. They shed tears, blood and sweat. They laid the foundation for something big. The Fab 5 planted the seeds that would eventually bear fruit and would change the course of Ateneo women’s volleyball program forever. Glory didn’t happen during their time. It started in theirs.    Amidst the roar of the crowd, the falling confetti, banging of drums and the echoing chant of ‘Animo La Salle’ from the sea of green, the Fab 5 hugged each other tight. They found comfort in each other. It was their time to say goodbye. For those who remained – Valdez, Lazaro, Ahomiro, De Jesus – the defeat added fuel to their already blazing desire to bring glory for the blue and white. They were the next in line, heirs to unfinished business. WATCH: FAB 5 Reunion Part 1 and Part 2 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 20th, 2018

Nicklaus cautions from experience against a Masters letdown

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press Tiger Woods built his comeback around the Masters, as was the case even in healthier years. He took a step back at Augusta National, not breaking par until the final round and finishing 16 shots behind Patrick Reed, the most he has trailed the Masters winner. Woods wasn't alone in his disappointment. Jordan Spieth geared his early part of the year toward being ready for the Masters, the major he says he most wants to win. He had a two-shot lead after the first round, and rounds of 74-71 meant even that closing 64 wasn't enough. Phil Mickelson took himself out of the hunt with a 79 in the second round. Jack Nicklaus can understand how they feel, and his message for anyone who puts so much emphasis on a green jacket is that the show goes on. "I had to learn that there were other tournaments in the country after Augusta," Nicklaus said at the Masters after hitting the ceremonial first tee shot. "I played Augusta a lot of times and lost. I won in '63, '65 and '66, and I just expected to win every year. I thought I would just continue to do that." Nicklaus missed the cut in 1967. He says that started a three-year trend in which it took him longer than it should have to get over not winning the Masters. "That was a humbling experience to miss the cut after you've won it twice in a row," he said. "But then the next couple of years, I think that it probably destroyed the rest of my year. Because I was so disappointed at not winning at Augusta that I had a downer most of the year." There's some truth to that. He didn't go more than two tournaments before winning again after the 1963, 1964 and 1965 Masters. After he repeated at Augusta in 1966, he ran off five consecutive top fives before winning the British Open at Muirfield to complete the career Grand Slam. But after missing the cut in 1967, he went five tournaments without winning and had one stretch of 10 straight rounds in which he failed to break 70. The following year when he tied for fifth at the Masters, Nicklaus didn't win again until the Western Open the first weekend in August. And after a tie for 23rd in the 1969 Masters, he didn't win again until the Sahara Invitational in October. "I put such a buildup to this tournament and the importance of winning that first major that it was to my detriment more times than a positive," he said. Nicklaus figured it out. Over the next four years, he never went more than three events after the Masters before winning again. Twice, in 1971 and 1973, he won in his next start after failing to win the Masters. CURTIS CUP Four years after Lucy Li qualified for the U.S. Women's Open at age 11, the Californian is headed to her first Curtis Cup. Li was among eight women selected for the June 8-10 matches against amateurs from Britain and Ireland at Quaker Ridge in New York. Li is the first 15-year-old to make the American team since Lexi Thompson in 2010. The other Americans selected for the team are UCLA star Lilia Vu, Andrea Lee, Jennifer Kupcho, Kristen Gillman, U.S. Women's Amateur champion Sophia Schubert, Lauren Stephenson and Mariel Galdiano. Lee and Galdiano played in the most recent Curtis Cup, which Britain & Ireland won in Ireland. AS THE WORLD TURNS For the second time since the World Golf Championships began in 1999, the PGA Tour is converting one of its regular tournaments into one of the four WGCs with a big purse ($10 million this year) and a limited field with no cut. Doral had been longest-running PGA Tour event on the Florida Swing until it morphed into the WGC-CA Championship in 2007. Now it's happening in Memphis, Tennessee. Bridgestone chose not to renew its increasingly expensive title sponsorship of the WGC at Firestone, which had hosted an elite event since 1976. Starting next year, the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational will move to the TPC Southwind in Memphis. That will assure the strongest field for Memphis, which dates to 1958. But much like Doral in 2007, it becomes off-limits to PGA Tour regulars. Based on this week's world ranking, only 16 players in the field for the St. Jude Classic last year would be eligible at a World Golf Championship. BALANCE AT THE TOP Each generation believes it had stronger and deeper competition, though there at least appears to be more balance. Perhaps one way to measure that is through Tiger Woods. When he won the 2008 U.S. Open for his 14th major, only seven other players in the top 20 in the world ranking had combined for 13 majors. Phil Mickelson (No. 2), Ernie Els (No. 5) and Vijay Singh (No. 9), each had three majors. Geoff Ogilvy (No. 4), Jim Furyk (No. 10), Padraig Harrington (No. 13) and Trevor Immelman (No. 15) each had one. Just like then, four of the top five in the world have won majors (all but 23-year-old Jon Rahm). However, 12 of the top 20 in the world from this week's rankings have won majors. The top 20 includes Mickelson (now with five majors), Rory McIlroy (four majors), Jordan Spieth (three majors) and Bubba Watson (two majors). Eight other players have won at least one major. It's certainly younger at the top. Woods was 32 when he won his last major, and only three players from the top 10 were in their 20s — Scott, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. This week, seven of the top 10 in the world are in their 20s. MANAGEMENT MOVES Jordan Spieth's manager has come full circle and is returning to IMG, and Jay Danzi is bringing his top client with him. Danzi has become a partner with California-based William Morris Endeavor, which owns IMG. Included in the move is Jordan Lewites, who was handling much of Spieth's day-to-day operations, and Laura Moses, who heads up Spieth's foundation. Spieth will be represented by WME and IMG. "Jordan is a world-class talent, and we're excited to welcome him to the family," said Patrick Whitesell, executive chairman of Endeavor. "When you look at what he and Jay have already accomplished and consider WME and IMG's ability to amplify Jordan's reach across entertainment and sports, the possibilities are endless." Danzi previously worked for IMG as global head of recruiting for its golf business. He left the Cleveland-based agency for Wasserman, and then started his own company (Forefront Sports Group) when he signed Spieth. The centerpiece of getting Spieth was a bold endorsement with Under Armour. Lagardere bought Forefront in 2013. Along with managing the three-time major champion, Danzi was in charge of Lagardere's brand consulting, sales and golf consulting groups. He left Lagardere last month. DIVOTS Ted Potter Jr. tied for 16th in the RBC Heritage, notable because he had missed his last five cuts dating to his victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. ... Satoshi Kodaira was the first player without PGA Tour status to win a regular PGA Tour event since Arjun Atwal at the Wyndham Championship in 2010. ... Cameron Smith, a 24-year-old from Australia, tied for 32nd at Hilton Head last week and moved past Jack Nicklaus on the PGA Tour career money list. ... Bryson DeChambeau moved into the top 50 in the world ranking for the first time, at No. 48. ... With his tie for fifth in the Masters, Bubba Watson became the 16th player to surpass $40 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour. STAT OF THE WEEK Rickie Fowler has been in the top 10 on the leaderboard in 20 out of the 32 rounds he has played this season. FINAL WORD "I will probably not wear it every day. But it is special." — Satoshi Kodaira on the tartan jacket he received for winning at Harbour Town......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 18th, 2018

Eight NBA Playoffs storylines to watch

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Suddenly, we’re not quite as certain that Warriors-Cavs, Part IV, Sure to be Way Better than “Jaws: The Revenge” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, is going to make air, are we? The 2018 playoffs are just about here, and Stephen Curry isn’t, and Kyrie Irving won’t be, and Joel Embiid might be, and Jimmy Butler will be -- if his team is, that is. And both conference champions from a year ago are equally unsettled going into the postseason, for different reasons. The Golden State Warriors are banged up, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are brand new. Golden State hasn’t looked like an offensive leviathan, while Cleveland has been one of the league’s worst defenses. And, most importantly, each has legit challengers this year in Houston and Toronto in its respective conferences -- deep, tough, elite defensively, hard to stop offensively, and tempered/hardened/driven by recent playoff failures. Which should make late May and early June even more compelling than normal. At the least, we’ll have the Warriors going for three rings in four years, and LeBron James going for an eighth straight Finals appearance -- each representing something special. The postseason, then, should provide some theatre that Meryl Streep will drop what she’s doing to watch. Among the biggest storylines: 1. The Hinkie Referendum, Passed The Philadelphia 76ers’ scintillating run to end the regular season sets up them for a glorious postseason run, that will finalize a season in which the decisions by former GM Sam Hinkie -- the successful ones, anyway -- are rightly celebrated. (The failures of Jahlil Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams to fire as stars after Hinkie took each high in the first round are not only not ignored by Hinkie’s biggest supporters, they are cited as proof that he had to do what he did for as long as he did, because you’re going to have some misses at the top of the Draft. God, I love Hinkie Stans.) It says here that a healthy Joel Embiid and an exponentially improving Ben Simmons are the one team that can give LeBron’s Cavs true night sweats in the Kyrie-less east playoffs. Embiid is a problem for any team, but especially for the defensively indifferent and ineffective Cavaliers, who have no one remotely capable of keeping “The Process” from running wild. Since New Year’s Day, only Curry (120.4), Chris Paul (116.1) and Jamal Murray (114.7) have better Offensive Ratings among point guards than Simmons’s 113.9, per NBA.com/Stats. Who, from among George Hill (6'3"), Jose Calderon (6'1"), Jordan Clarkson (6'5") and J.R. Smith (6'5") is Cavs coach Tyronn Lue going to put on the 6'10" Simmons? Yes, Lue could try James on Simmons, who is no threat to shoot from deep or run through a maze of pindowns. But that doesn’t make him any easier to slow down. No matter who Philly plays in the postseason, the Sixers are going to be a problem. 2. Indiana George and the Tempo of Doom It’s taken the Oklahoma City Thunder much longer than any of us thought, but OKC is a win from the postseason (even if the Thunder can’t beat the Heat in Miami tonight, the Cancun-bound Memphis Grizzlies will be in Oklahoma City Wednesday). And that’s when Paul George will determine whether his future is in the 405 or elsewhere. The Thunder’s up-and-down regular season doesn’t provide much clue to how far they could go in the playoffs, thought OKC looked formidable in ending the Rockets’ 20-game home win streak Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). It was a game that featured Russell Westbrook successfully taking on the challenge of defending James Harden down the stretch. When Oklahoma City plays with pace and gets up and down the floor, it can beat anyone. The Thunder will likely have to take down an elite unit like Houston at some point in the playoffs to convince George to stay. 3. A Series of Fortunate Events With Irving’s injury, the Washington Wizards’ failure to launch and other maladies to Eastern Conference contenders, the Cavaliers have an increasingly clear path back to The Finals. Doing this is best way to keep LeBron: The Sequel in town for an extended run, but the proof will be in the doing, of course. Cleveland will need Larry Nance, Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson to perform under playoff pressure, which Nance and Clarkson have never had to do and Hood did briefly in the 2017 playoffs with the Utah Jazz. 4. She packed my bags last night, pre-flight/Zero Hour, 9 a.m The Rockets have been the best team in the league most of this season -- an offensive and defensive juggernaut, the logical extension at both ends of the floor of the standards the Warriors set the last few seasons. James Harden will likely walk away with Kia MVP honors after the season and Chris Paul has been everything Houston hoped he’d be. But Houston must finish the deal with a championship to make its own mark. 5. Jurassic Park Everything is set up for Toronto, as well -- the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record and are tied with Houston for the best home record (34-7) in the league. They have home court until The Finals. Their two lynchpins, All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, are healthy. They’ve diversified their offense and learned to love the 3-pointer. They’re back to guarding at an elite level. The East is laid out open for a Toronto run to The Finals. There’s no excuse for the Raps not to. 6. ‘Brow’, Beating We don’t know for sure that the New Orleans Pelicans will make the playoffs. As of this writing, they haven’t clinched yet, although beating the Warriors in Oakland on Saturday went a long way toward their getting to the postseason. But assuming New Orleans is playing next weekend, its success in the playoffs can only help the franchise as it recovers from the recent death of former owner Tom Benson. “The Brow” (aka Anthony Davis) may have got us on April Fool’s Day, but the next couple of weeks will be dead serious. What if the Pelicans manage a first-round upset? Don’t say it’s not possible with the way Davis is playing. That would go an awful long way to quieting the “How the Boston Celtics Will Get Anthony Davis in 2020, Vol. MCMLXXXVII” hot takes. 7.  The Boston Medical Group The Celtics as imagined played exactly five minutes together this season. Everything that’s transpired since has been wrapped in gauze and sutured shut. Kyrie Irving’s latest knee procedure has everyone hopping off the Celtics’ postseason bandwagon -- a mistake, unless coach Brad Stevens pulls a hammy before Game 1 in the first round. Stevens has coached up whatever 12 guys are active pretty damn well since he’s come to the NBA, and he’ll still have a lot to work with in the playoffs: Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier (the Celtics hope they can get Marcus Smart back after the first round). The bigger issue, of course, is Irving’s health going forward -- and into next season, after which he can opt out of the last year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The current belief in Boston is that Irving’s knee -- the cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones -- is sound and that he’ll have no long-term issues with it. But Irving and the team thought taking out the tension wire that had helped heal his broken patella after his 2015 surgery would do the trick. It didn’t.   There should be no doubt Boston will be all in on Irving. But after missing these playoffs after going out in Game 1 of the Finals in ’15, Irving will again have to show he’s able to handle a season-long campaign and still be able to bring his best to the postseason. 8. Bah Gawd, That’s Kawhi Leonard’s Music! We have all worked on the assumption that Leonard isn’t going to play for the Spurs any more this season as he rehabs his quad injury, even though they’ve never quite actually said he’s out for the year -- and he, as per usual, has said next to nothing. The Spurs have ridden LaMarcus Aldridge’s All-NBA-level season to the cusp of the playoffs, but no one has much expectation they’ll be there very long if they make it without their former Finals MVP. “Do I have any expectation I’ll see Kawhi?,” Danny Green said a week ago, repeating my question to him. “As of right now, my mindset is no. I’m just going to forward without him … if he does come back, great. Our mindset is this is the group we have today, this is the group we’ll have tomorrow. If somebody does come and join, we’ll have them and it’ll be great. But right now we’re moving forward with the expectation that this is who we have.” But, it’s not like we haven’t seen guys come back suddenly for the playoffs after missing large chunks of a season. A fellow named Michael Jordan played just 18 regular season games in his second season with the Bulls in 1986, recovering from a foot injury and not returning to the lineup until mid-March. True, he did get 15 games under his belt before the playoffs. But that did not prepare anyone for his showing up in Boston Garden in Game 2 of the first round against the Celtics and dropping 63 on the home team. There are, to be sure, issues between Leonard and the Spurs, and maybe they’re insurmountable. But if, somehow, “The Klaw” wakes up one morning this month and says he’s good to go, and reports for duty … who doesn’t think San Antonio can’t start assimilating opponents into its collective just like old times? Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 10th, 2018

Cuban s tanking talk raises key issue for NBA

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst The NBA fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 for being honest. Cuban told Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer Julius Erving on Erving’s podcast a couple of weeks ago that he told his players during a recent dinner that “losing is our best option. Adam (Silver) would hate hearing that…(but) we want the players to understand. As a player, you know that even though you may not agree, but at least if you respect the fact that someone took the time to talk to you, and you understood their perspective, you’re going to give me your feedback, but you’re part of the process.” But the league fined Cuban for what it called “public statements detrimental to the NBA” three days later. And Silver sent a memo to all 30 teams last week detailing the league’s position. “Throughout this period,” Silver wrote, “we have been careful to distinguish between efforts teams may make to rebuild their rosters, including through personnel changes over the course of several seasons, and circumstances in which players or coaches on the floor take steps to lose games. “The former can be a legitimate strategy to construct a successful team within the confines of league rules; the latter -- which we have not found and hope never to see in the NBA -- has no place in our game.” Yet Cuban did not in any way, nor has any evidence to the contrary emerged, state the Mavericks were losing games on purpose; that is, players were intentionally missing shots, or not putting forth effort on defense to let the other team score, or anything like that. (Even Silver acknowledged in the memo that the league has “no basis at this time to conclude that the Mavericks team is giving anything less than its best effort on the court, and Mark has assured us that this is not the case.”) So, why the fine? Was what Cuban said so incendiary? ‘’Mark knew his comments were public, so it surprised me that he was so candid, but that's who Mark is,” said one very high-ranking official from another team over the weekend. “To me his comment wasn't indicating tanking as their strategy but more about setting the expectation that playoffs were not a possibility. The only consolation of not making the playoffs is being in the lottery. You can't blame a team from trying to turn the lemon (losing) into lemonade (top 4 pick). The league needs to find a way not to reward losing.” Exactly. What Cuban said was spot on -- losing to improve the Mavericks’ Draft position was, and is, the best and quickest way for Dallas to get better and start winning games again. That doesn’t mean everyone agreed with Cuban being so blunt. “I think it was a totally inappropriate to say that to players,” said another extremely high-ranking team official for another team. “Whatever the team’s strategy may be, I firmly believe that the players should always play to win. The fine is meaningless to Mark; in fact, sometimes I think he enjoys the publicity he gets from the fines.” But. We ask people to be truthful and not lie about their intentions. We tell our kids that no lie is worth telling, and that telling the truth, no matter how painful, is always the best choice. So Cuban is honest and tells the truth, that short-term losing makes more sense for his franchise’s long-term interests, and he’s relieved of 600 large by the league. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers are lauded -- and revel in their slogan, “Trust the Process,” celebrated by the team’s most ardent supporters -- whose central tenet was to lose, and keep losing, until you could draft a player good enough to build around and win down the road. Which is, exactly, what Dallas is doing now. Indeed, increased tanking is the logical extension of an analytics-dominant league. If three is greater than two -- the reasoning behind the primacy of the 3-pointer in today’s NBA -- then doing anything you can to get more ping-pong balls in the hopper is the correct thing to do. You can’t just embrace the parts of doing it by the numbers that are pleasant. This is the flip side. Burying one’s head in the sand and pretending teams don’t do this doesn’t make sense. Everyone does it in every sport, or don’t you recall “Suck for Luck,” the chant of Indianapolis Colts’ fans before the 2012 NFL Draft? What of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros losing 324 games from 2011-13? Were they trying to win games, or did we all imagine them going from $102 million in payroll in 2009 to $26 million by 2013? “I resist the word ‘tanking,’ but I’m very pro ‘rebuilding,’ when it’s necessary,” said Los Angeles Dodgers President Stan Kasten, who in a former life ran the Hawks as general manager in the ‘80s and ‘90s, by telephone Sunday. “And, it’s painful,” Kasten said. “You’ve got to explain it to your team, your fans, to your front office, to your coaches, to your wife, to your kids, to the country club. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s nobody’s first choice. But if it’s necessary, it’s often the quickest way to get the team back to winning. And don’t lose sight of that.” Kasten’s Dodgers lost the World Series to the Astros, who methodically built their team the last four years around young drafted players like Series MVP George Springer, last fall in seven games. But not only is he not angry with Houston for the way management took the franchise’s foundation to the studs -- compared with his high-spending Dodgers -- he admires the speed with which they went from worst to first. “I have real feelings about what they did,” Kasten said. “Because Mark Walter (the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, the global firm that bought the Dodgers in 2012) and I, before we bought the Dodgers, we were looking at Houston. Because they were available. And truthfully, when we looked at where they were, we were going to do the same thing. It had to be done. Because they were not on a track to win. And frankly, I don’t think I could have done it as fast, or as well, as (Astros owner) Jim Crane, or (GM) Jeff Luhnow. Because doing that, to the extreme, takes real intestinal fortitude.” Kasten makes a strong distinction between a team cutting payroll and going young and that winds up losing, and one that’s actively seeking ways to lose more games. “All of these owners are hyper-competitive, and they want to win,” Kasten said. “And truthfully, the quickest way to win, at least if you look at the last three world champions, is to rebuild and get young and get prospects and do it that way. And if you don’t think that’s the better way to go, ask the fans in Houston and Chicago and Kansas City how they feel. You won’t get one fan who disagrees with what is done. It is the quickest way to win.” Please do not misunderstand. I hate tanking. I hate the idea of introducing losing into your shop, even indirectly. It’s like a virus, extremely difficult to get rid of once it gets in a franchise’s bloodstream. A ticket is, in essence, a contract between parties: I pay top dollar, you give me top-dollar product in exchange. When a team tanks, it violates that compact; I don’t recall any team that’s given fans a tanking discount. It is also very difficult to tank effectively in the NBA. The last three teams with the best odds of getting the No. 1 in the Draft going into the Lottery -- Boston (2017), Philadelphia (2016) and Minnesota (2015) -- have indeed won. But prior to that, the team with the best odds didn’t get the first pick for 10 consecutive years, and 22 times out of the last 25 years. And even the teams that did buck the odds and get the first pick often picked wrong, or did I miss Anthony Bennett Night in Cleveland, or the Andrea Bargnani statue outside of Air Canada Centre? “The Draft is often a crap shoot anyway,” the official from the second team said. “So why not give your fans the best product that you can and then draft Donovan Mitchell,” as Utah did this season. The Jazz traded for the rights to the Kia Rookie of the Year candidate, who was taken near the bottom of the Lottery (13th overall by the Denver Nuggets). This came a season after the Jazz went 51-31 and won its first-round playoff series. I agree. Tanking does not reward excellence in team building -- good drafting, good free-agent signings, good player development -- it rewards the exact opposite of that. It’s a Golden Ticket that doesn’t even require you to buy an Everlasting Gobstopper. But, tanking is reality. You can’t pretend it isn’t. And the only way to completely get tanking out of pro sports is to eliminate the Draft in all sports, including the NBA. We don’t want to have that conversation, do we? Personally, I’d love it. Can you imagine the fight that would set up between interested teams -- and who wouldn’t be interested? -- in a certain 7-foot-1 freshman center almost certain to leave school early who currently plays for a school that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately? Would he help the Lakers? The Knicks? The Bulls? The NBA team in the state in which the college player currently plays, which rather desperately needs another star to pair with its one really great player (whose name, if you must know, rhymes with “Nevin Cooker”)? Would he help any team in the league that doesn’t currently employ Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid or Karl-Anthony Towns in the middle? Most assuredly. And if he could control where he wanted to go, and for how much, the process would be must-see TV. Yet, while the real-world implications would be fascinating, I’m not sure how you could eliminate the Draft without loosening the underpinnings of the entire pro basketball enterprise (and, yes, one could make a moral case for doing just that, as it does go against the whole Manifest Destiny thing to artificially bind someone to a company rather than letting them market their services to the highest bidder). If there was no Draft, why would any player with Lottery-level talent go to college? Yes, there would be the occasional Grant Hill/unicorn who wants to go to college to better themselves intellectually and/or embrace the person growth that often comes from being on your own for four years. But, while sad to say, most kids with NBA dreams go to college because that’s the path through which they can ultimately get to the pros the fastest. With no Draft, and few of the top college-age players thus needing/wanting to go to college, you’d have a very different March Madness than you have now. And as that is a multi-billion enterprise, both for the broadcast networks that air it (including Turner Sports, which runs NBA.com) and the colleges that reap the financial deluge it produces, the likelihood of across the board support for a new player acquisition model is slight. Not to mention, you’d have a much different salary structure in the NBA, as there would be no rookie slotting for drafted players. And if you think the game’s superstars would stand idly by and watch more of that cheddar that they helped produce go out the door to guys who haven’t yet done anything … you’d be wrong. So, the Draft isn’t going anywhere. Which means the NBA must decide whether it wants to continue to be shocked, shocked that tanking is going on in its league, or accept the reality that there is not much patience for being in the middle ground in a league where every team is now worth more than $1 billion. There is only, as Pat Riley said a long time ago, winning and misery. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 6th, 2018

52-year-old Filipina Ironman finisher aims to replicate feat in home soil

At 52 years old, Filipina triathlete Chang Hitalia powered through the grueling test of endurance that is the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The Ironman entails for triathletes to accomplish the following: Swim 3.86 km, ride a bike for 180.25 km, and run 42.2 km. It’s so tough that only 1 out of 10,000 people actually finish it.  For Hitalia, who only started doing triathlons at the age of 46, it was by no means an easy feat.  Hitalia may have a tiny physique but she’s powered by a strong desire to achieve her fitness goals—a must for anyone who wishes to be an Ironman.  Hitalia was like most people wanting to be a better version of themselves. Her journey began eight years ago when she joined a running group with the goal of shedding a few pounds.  Regular running gave her a high and soon, she joined races. In 2010, she started yearning for a tougher challenge. She added swimming and biking to her routine and soon, Hitalia was a full-fledged triathlete.  Unlike her running pursuits, Triathlon is much more demanding in terms of training time, cost, and motivation. Hitalia needed to make major adjustments to her daily routine to ensure she gets to train for all three sports and still have ample time for other things.  Soon, Hitalia aimed at loftier goals in the sport and in 2014, she finished strong in the Langkawi Ironman, bagging second place for her age group despite it being her first crack at an Ironman race.  Hitalia continued her swim, bike, run lifestyle, competing in two Ironman 70.3 races in Hefei and Xiamen, China in 2016. The latter earned her a coveted slot to compete in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.  “It was always a goal to qualify since I embraced triathlon as part of my life,” Hitalia shares. After qualifying, she knew the sacrifices she needed to make in order to finish strong in Kona.  Hitalia spent seven months reinforcing her stamina to endure the Ironman grueling leg. In between, she joined a number of races to check her progress. She also underwent training in different conditions—hot weather, strong winds, and uphill routes—essentially what the Kona race was infamous for.   Despite being prepared, Hitalia says that “you have to come in and fight” as far as Ironman races go. During the swim leg of her race in Kona, water conditions were not ideal to swim in. “Starting off with more than 600 female age groupers was really a struggle. I kept my calm and stuck with my rhythm,” she recalls. The bike part was equally brutal, too. “The hills were punishing, the heat and humidity were harsh, and it was crazy windy,” she describes.  Hitalia made up for lost time during the 42.2 km run. However, as with the tough nature of Ironman races, fatigue soon set in.  Thoughts of giving-up creeped up in her mind. With her dream almost within reach, Hitalia decided to soldier on.  As she crossed the finish line, she describes the experience as nothing but amazing. “The cheers from the crowd, the festive mood, and the red carpet made it an overwhelming experience. Suddenly all the pain subsided and all my hard work became reality. The happiness when you finally hear your name being called out is surreal,” Hitalia shares.  Having accomplished her goal of crossing the finish line in Kona, Hitalia’s next target is to finish strong on home soil. She’s focused to achieve this in June at the Philippine leg of Ironman.  Knowing what it takes to finish the grueling race and the elation that takes over, Hitalia wishes for her fellow Pinoy triathletes to experience this.  Her advice for those looking to join: Respect the distance.  “Train right, work with a certified coach, and come in adequately prepared. When race day comes, enjoy the experience,” Hitalia says.  With the Ironman Philippines posing a challenge for Filipino triathletes in June, Hitalia’s story of perseverance and success rings even truer now as she hopes to inspire more Pinoys to pursue fitness and be part of making the Philippines a healthier and fitter nation. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 15th, 2018

Raptors center Poeltl gets his bounce from volleyball roots

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Jakob Poeltl went for the volleyball but stayed for the basketball. The place: the gymnasium in Vienna, Austria, where Rainer and Martina Poeltl practiced and honed the skills that earned them roster spots on Austria’s national volleyball men’s and women’s teams. Martina Poeltl (red uniform, second from left) was a standout on Austria's national volleyball team. The child: Jakob Poeltl, dragged along, running loose, playing around and messing with sports equipment from whomever, wherever. Legend has it the energized six-year-old one day picked up a bigger, heavier, pebble-grained orange ball he’d found and, in that instant, began straying from his parents’ sport. The result: Poeltl is a promising, second-year big man for the Toronto Raptors, the first Austrian to reach the NBA and a fellow for whom dunks have replaced spikes entirely. “I was more in basketball,” Poeltl said before a recent game in Chicago. The 22-year-old, now seven feet and 248 pounds, pronounces his name “YA-kub PURR-tuhl.” “I did play volleyball with my parents when we went on holidays. But it was never anything serious, it was always just fun. They taught me a lot -- I think I’m half-decent at volleyball. Obviously I couldn’t play it at a very high level like they did, but I still know some stuff from back in the day that they showed me.” Ranier Poeltl (back row, second from left) was a standout on Austria's national volleyball. Still knows some stuff? That’s intriguing as Poeltl continues to develop as an active, mobile center who backs up Jonas Valanciunas. Is it possible that any aspects of the family business transfer to NBA play, offensively or defensively? Besides the high fives, that is. “A big chunk,” Poeltl said. “I got my height from them. I got my athletic ability probably, to a certain extent, from them too. Always, growing up, I was around sports. It was a very active family, I guess. I was always moving. They say I couldn’t stop running around.” That’s a good start for a big man in today’s NBA. There’s more. Future Raptors center Jakob Poeltl (left, sunglasses) plays some beach volleyball in this 2010 family photo. “His footwork is unbelievable,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “The athletic genes are there. Quick feet, great hands, good hand-eye coordination. And he picks up stuff so fast. I think it comes from being around that athletic background.” Said teammate C.J. Miles, new to Toronto this season with an inside glimpse at Poeltl’s development: “He’s extremely mobile for his size. Great hands. His athleticism shows up on both ends, defensively and offensively. He’s got a tremendous feel for the NBA. “His agility. His feet. He’s got good bounce off the floor.” Volleyball and the NBA have a pretty long history. Wilt Chamberlain, after wrapping his legendary hoops career, picked up the sport and played it well into his 40s. He played both beach and indoor versions and was quoted in his 1991 book, “A View From Above,” saying, “For a long time, volleyball became as big a part of my life as basketball once was.” He even got involved in the mid-1970s with, and lent legitimacy to, the short-lived pro International Volleyball Association. Bill Walton, not surprising given his southern California roots and nature-loving way, played beach volleyball. So does his son, current Lakers coach Luke Walton. On a recent trip to Chicago, the younger Walton talked about how forgiving the sand is for an NBA player whose legs and bodies don’t need any extra pounding. The Waltons honed their games with the help of Greg Lee, a UCLA teammate of Bill who became a renowned beach volleyball star. Vince Carter played both sports at Dayton Beach's Mainland High School, earning Conference Player of the Year status in 1994. Former NBA forward Chase Budinger was more of a standout at volleyball than basketball while at La Costa Canyon High in Carlsbad, Calif. During the 2011 lockout, Budinger joined his brother Duncan briefly on the pro beach tour. The offspring of numerous NBA figures, from Jermaine O’Neal’s daughter (Asjia, committed to Texas) to Houston coach Mike D’Antoni’s niece (Bailey D'Antoni, freshman at Marshall), have snagged college volleyball scholarships. Another former NBA player, Jud Buechler, a member of Walton’s staff, played volleyball in high school, then coached up his daughter, Reily, to a spot at UCLA. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid was a seven-foot Cameroonian volleyball player before he got introduced to hoops shortly before an NBA Basketball Without Borders camp. And Portland coach Terry Stotts played high school volleyball in Guam when he attended high school there, his parents taking the family overseas in their jobs as teachers. “Volleyball was a varsity sport, so I played volleyball for a couple years,” Stotts said. “The things I would say transfer to basketball are the explosive jumping. Hand-eye coordination. Quick reflexes. Timing. Going to spike the ball is like going to get a rebound -- you’ve got to time your jump. Lateral quickness to the ball. So yeah, I would say there’s some valid skills.” So Stotts is OK if his rebounders occasionally tap out the ball rather than grabbing it. “Robin Lopez used to do that for us on the offensive glass,” the Blazers coach said, “and we’d get a lot of three-pointers because of it.” Said Poeltl: “I actually do that a lot. I also find myself doing a lot of tip-ins. Maybe that has something to do with it.” The 22-year-old’s overall game has stepped up thanks largely to opportunity. Already, he has logged more minutes in 2017-18 than he did all of last season, his nightly shifts increasing by about 50 percent from 11.6 minutes to 17.8. His production has jumped accordingly -- Poeltl is averaging 13.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 63.7 percent. “The most important improvement I’ve made was getting more comfortable on the court,” said Poeltl, who is not afraid to challenge dunkers at the rim, regardless of the poster potential. “Just gaining experience. I don’t think it’s anything I specifically worked on in my game. “The chemistry with my teammates, finishing around the rim, all of that, small things have helped me. Knowing opponents, for sure. Knowing my own game more and more. How my teammates play and how I have to play around them.” Said Toronto forward Pascal Siakam, Poeltl’s best friend on the team after arriving as rookies together last season: “I know he looks awkward, but he’s doing a great job of moving his feet.” Poeltl is still carrying that flag as the first Austrian drafted into the NBA, realizing a dream few others in his country had when the Raptors used the No. 9 pick on him in 2016. Austria had a spirited basketball faction through the 1950s, with qualifying for EuroBasket competition six times. But it dropped off after that, with little or nothing to show in international competition over the past five decades. Poeltl’s journey, however, has begun to revive basketball interest in his homeland, and he’s just getting started. “That’s what I’m trying to do -- be something of a role model for young basketball players in Austria,” Poeltl said. “I’m really trying to make basketball more popular and get more kids to play. If I can have that kind of effect, that would be great.” He is on the Austrian roster for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualification (Europe), and participated in August in pre-qualifying games. Poeltl will remain strictly a one-sport participant, though, not crossing over to the one his parents played. “They know better,” he said. “I think [the national team organizers] have some better volleyball players than me.” Volleyball’s loss, the Raptors’ and the NBA’s gain. 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 NewsFeb 3rd, 2018

Up close with The Art of Eight Limbs : My first experience of watching Muay Thai live

I’ve been a combat sports fan for nearly a decade now. I began watching MMA back in 2009, around the time that stars like Georges St-Pierre and BJ Penn were at their peak, and immediately got hooked, and it’s actually that fandom that got me to where I am now today…a sportswriter. It’s also that appreciation for the sport that got me to try and get into combat sports, and I’ve been practicing on a regular basis since then. The first time I ever set foot inside a boxing gym and put on a pair of 16-ounce gloves was for my first ever Muay Thai class. I saw these fighters on TV throwing these beautiful kicks, knocking the bejeezus out of their opponents. I wanted to be able to do that too, I decided to try it out. That first session was really fun, but real tiring…and painful. I was sore for days after that, but I enjoyed it and decided to make it a regular part of my life. It wasn’t necessarily to be a pro-level practicioner, rather a way to keep fit and stay healthy. My first session was around eight years ago, and I’ve been going as regularly as I can ever since. Of course, my appreciation for the widely popular martial art grew, I started doing some research and watched some Muay Thai fights online, and eventually being able to try and train Muay Thai in Thailand and getting to watch a legit fight became parts of my ‘Bucket List’ so to say. Fortunately, I got to tick one of those things off my list late last year.   The Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. Home of some of the world's best Muay Thai fighters. pic.twitter.com/yKCRvLqtDf — Santino Honasan🎈 (@honasantino) December 8, 2017 When I was sent to Bangkok (to cover ONE Championship MMA, fittingly enough), I was able to catch a big Muay Thai card at the most popular Muay Thai arena in Thailand, the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. A quick look at the Lumpinee Stadium schedule on their website shows that there’s usually a fight card thrice a week, every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, which gives you an idea of how popular it is to patrons, and how many competitors there are. It’s a 5,000 seater arena, no bigger than the San Juan Arena, but boy, the place was buzzing on that Friday night.   A look inside the Lumpinee Stadium. It's fight night Friday here in BKK. pic.twitter.com/Tagws4qZCC — Santino Honasan🎈 (@honasantino) December 8, 2017 Unlike here in the Philippines, where boxing or MMA shows don’t get filled up until about midway through the card, the Lumpinee Stadium had a decent number of people after the first fight of the night, and amazingly, the fans were already into it, a testament of just how big Muay Thai is in the country. It is, after all, their national sport.   But before I go on any further, here’s a quick backgrounder on what Muay Thai is. A striking-based form of self-defense and combat sport that rose to prominence in Thailand during the 1900s, Muay Thai makes use of one’s hands and elbows, knees, and feet to inflict damage. It’s commonly known as “The Art of Eight Limbs” because practicioners can punch, kick, knee, and elbow their opponents. Names like Samart Payakaroon, Buakaw Banchamek, and Saenchai have made names for themselves in Muay Thai. In MMA, former champions such as Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, and Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke are known for their high-level Muay Thai.   So, going back… The card I went to that night was apparently a big one, with three championships up for grabs. The ticket cost me 1000 Baht, which is around 1500 PHP. A small price to pay, I believe, to get to see some honest-to-goodness Muay Thai action in the country’s most popular stadium. (I did, however, get into an argument with the ticket lady because I tried haggling for a lower price, to the point that she let out an exasperated 'OH MY GOD!' in the thickest Thai accent I've ever heard.) There was no reserved seating, at least for the ticket I paid for, so I had to find a spot that gave me a good view. Being that the stadium itself was small, my spot wasn’t too far away from the ring. Think lower box seats. It was close enough for me to see the action.   Also known as 'The Art of Eight Limbs" Muay Thai utilizes punching and kicking techniques, as well as knee strikes, elbow strikes and clinching. pic.twitter.com/lN8z8LbPO5 — Santino Honasan🎈 (@honasantino) December 8, 2017 When I said that Thai fans were immediately in to the action, I meant it. When I got in, it was towards the end of the first fight of the night, but it felt like it was already the main event, as the fans were as rowdy as they could get.   While the 5000-seater stadium isn't particularly packed, the active crowd makes it feel as though it is. pic.twitter.com/kQ1NC5QpOU — Santino Honasan🎈 (@honasantino) December 8, 2017 With every kick and with every punch, the people would go “EYYYYYY!!!” whether or not it connected or it missed, and with every knee, they’d yell out “KNEEEEEE!!!” Every fight had that ‘big fight feel.” The fights lasted for up to five three-minute rounds, and while much shorter than boxing bouts, there was definitely no shortage of action. Again, with the small stadium, you could hear every time that flesh hit flesh, which was both entertaining and at the same time unnerving.   All the fights have this "big fight feel" because the crowd roars with every hit. pic.twitter.com/XYl72AUL4Z — Santino Honasan🎈 (@honasantino) December 8, 2017 One thing that you’ll notice in Muay Thai fights is that the competitors do a little dance before the fight commences.   Before each fight, the fighters perform a ceremonial dance known as the Wai Khru. This is to give honor and pay respects to their teachers. pic.twitter.com/ZJLCCUHRFZ — Santino Honasan🎈 (@honasantino) December 8, 2017 This ritual is called the “Wai Khru” and it’s done to pay their teachers respect and show their gratitude. Interesting note: the Wai Khru isn’t just limited to Muay Thai. Students in schools in Thailand participate in this ritual as well. I asked my trainer about this years ago, and he said that usually, the actions and gestures in the Wai Khru are thought of on the spot. The thing that struck me the most about this experience was that bets were being placed inside the arena as the fights were going on. After every round, a few people in the crowd, would yell out and call for bets, much like the ‘Cristo’ that you see in cockfighting arenas. I really hate the comparison, but it looked a lot like human cockfighting. Be that as it may, when you look past the gambling aspect of it, (which in reality, is prevalent anywhere anyway, just not as blatant), you’ll see that the martial art is very much a part of Thai culture. If you can fill up a 5,000 seater arena three times a week, I’d say that you’re doing something right. The experience was really something worth going through, especially if you enjoy combat sports in it’s purest form. I’ve gotten to watch boxing and mixed martial arts in bigger, sold out stadiums, but getting to watch Muay Thai in a tiny arena such as the Lumpinee Stadium was very different experience. The action and the atmosphere was unlike any I’ve ever seen before, and it’s something that I highly recommend to anyone who gets to visit Bangkok, whether or not you’re a fight fan. If you are a fight fan, it’s definitely something to experience. I’m really happy that I did. Now to check that other thing on the bucket list off........»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2018

Warriors keep evolving in rivalry with Cavs

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- You might expect, given the familiarity from what’s gone on for four years now, that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have worked up some serious mutual contempt. They both covet what the other wants -- in fact, the Warriors or the Cavs could make a persuasive case that, if not for the other guys, one already would have notched a three-peat and be chasing Bill Russell’s Celtics in pursuit of a fourth consecutive championship. They both have poured buckets of blood, sweat, tears, money, Gatorade and offseason counter moves into their nouveau NBA rivalry. And they both, well, as Golden State coach Steve Kerr phrased it to the San Jose Mercury News Sunday (Monday, PHL time), “We just want to kick each other’s ass.” And yet the Warriors and the Cavaliers -- who play again Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena in the NBA’s prime-time MLK showdown -- have more in common with each other than they do with any of the league’s other 28 teams. Playing 100 games or so every year. Locking in mentally and surviving physically longer than anyone else. Showing up each night targeted as a measuring stick, even a season maker, by the opponents. While trying like heck to keep things fresh. Renew. Find and tap into a new source of energy, because old ones wane over time. “It’s the biggest challenge of this whole season,” Kerr told NBA.com late last week, with the Warriors starting a back-to-back in Milwaukee and Toronto on their way back to The Land. Even if it were possible -- and it realistically is not, given free agency, injuries, trades, the salary cap, luxury taxes, hirings and firings each NBA offseason -- playing a pat hand from one championship-level season to the next isn’t desirable. Voices, locker rooms, relationships get stale. Rivals adjust and escalate in the arms race. Some players ebb in the pecking order, others flow. It’s important to inject new faces, add skills and even find fresh themes to fend off monotony, even boredom, through the 82-game slogs. The Warriors, in winning 20 of 23 games over the past seven weeks, largely have managed to do that. The Cavaliers, at 26-15 after 2-7 stretch that started at Golden State on Christmas (Dec. 26, PHL time)? Not so much. Golden State shifts gears after each season It’s easy to think of Golden State’s success since Kerr’s hiring before the 2014-15 season as one uninterrupted run of excellence. Three-pointers, “death lineups,” and the rest. But the differences from one year to the next have been fairly pronounced. “In Year 1, we were trying to prove ourselves to the world,” Kerr said. “Then we win the championship -- it was all so fresh. There were no letdowns at all that year. It was the most exciting, it was the most energized, it was the most refreshing. It was brand new to all of us. It felt like we were riding this wave all year -- we were all giddy, like, ‘Oh my God, we’re really good!’ We didn’t know we could be like that. And for me, it was my first year coaching.” Steph Curry won his first MVP award. He and Klay Thompson generated considerable conversation about the best shooting backcourts in league history. Draymond Green forever changed the old NBA notion of “’tweeners.” The Warriors finished 67-15, ranked second in the league in offense (111.6) and first in defense (101.4) and beat Cleveland in the Finals in six games. “It was maybe like the first stages when you fall in love,” Kerr said. “You’re just on Cloud 9 and she can’t do anything wrong. There’s infatuation and then you truly fall in love, and it’s amazing. “The second year, we sort of rode that wave of euphoria of being the best team in the league and having won the title. The next thing you know, we’re 24-0 and we’ve got a chance to set an all-time record. That 73-win mark carried us all year. We were going to prove that, not only were we the champs but we were one of the best teams ever.” The Warriors were -- by regular season standards. Curry won his second MVP award. Kerr missed the first 43 games due to health issues but assistant coach Luke Walton steered them to a 39-4 mark. They bought into the chase for 73 victories fairly late, but instead of a 16-5 playoff run like the previous spring’s, the Warriors went 15-9 -- coming up one victory short when the Cavaliers became the first team to claw back from a 3-1 deficit. That led directly to Golden State’s next new wrinkle, a reconfiguration that came close to buckling the league’s knees. “We got KD,” Kerr said. “Now we’re changing our team, right? Last year was about incorporating KD, welcoming this incredible player into our organization and our roster. Figuring how to do it, how we were going to adjust. I felt like there were times last year that were tiring, where our guys were done a little bit. But it was ‘new’ again.” Even the challenges were fresh, like counting Curry’s or Klay Thompson’s touches relative to Durant’s or closing ranks around Golden State’s thin man as his reputation took blows for the first time in his NBA career. Not interested in shooting for 74 victories, the Warriors simply took care of business and stayed coiled for the postseason. Then it was a 16-1 dash to title No. 2, Durant snagging the Finals MVP trophy after the five-game dispatching of the Cavs. All of which just set the Warriors’ bar higher, requiring them to search for something new, somebody borrowed, presumably nothing blue. “This year it’s just survive and advance,” Kerr said. “It’s ‘let’s get to April, May, June in one piece.’ There’s a reason we’ve lost six home games already. We don’t have the driving force that we had the last few years. We’re dealing with what any team in NBA history that’s tried to do this has dealt with. The Lakers (1982-85), the Celtics (1984-87, 1957-66)... It’s just really hard and you need that driving force.” Said Warriors vet Andre Iguodala: “Your body is mindful of it, because it hurts.” A couple of young guys -- Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney -- have taken on bigger roles. Nick Young brings some sort of buzz into any locker room that will have him. Still, as veteran guard Shaun Livingston said: “We’re not chasing any records. We’re not adding another All Star. We’re just trying to make it through the marathon.” Cavs' challenges mount during 2017-18 The Cavaliers are just trying to make it through the marathon, too. But if they could, they might do it like Rosie Ruiz, the 1980 women’s “winner” of the Boston Marathon who perpetrated a hoax by hopping the subway and running only the final mile of Beantown’s famous race. The 2017-18 has been anything but fun for Cleveland so far. It began with the departure of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, a not-so-funhouse mirror image of Durant’s arrival a year earlier in the Bay Area. Irving, for reasons still not quite explained, made it known in the offseason that he wanted out. He wanted to be the man on his own team. Or he didn’t want to be left in the lurch if (when?) LeBron James took his talents elsewhere again. Or both. Or neither. Regardless, once the Cavaliers made his request come true by dealing him to Boston for All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas and Brooklyn’s coveted first-round pick this June, their task got tougher and their season longer. Losing one of the league’s best ball handlers and shot makers doesn’t qualify as “renewal” any more than what went on in Oklahoma City when Durant packed up. There’s been more. Shooting guard J.R. Smith seemingly got old overnight. Jae Crowder, who came from the Celtics in the Irving deal, hasn’t meshed with the Cavs’ style. Kevin Love has been moved to center but hasn’t done anything to satisfy the Cavs’ need for rim protection. Thomas only returned to action from a hip injury as the calendar turned to 2018 and has played only four games in these two weeks. Even with so many new faces -- seven of the top 12 in coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation weren’t here 12 months ago -- it’s a group heavy on veterans, players a little too established or mature to naturally instill raw energy. James said recently that none of this is new, it’s another case of the Cavs biding their time for the “second” season that means everything. But Lue also introduced the topic of “agendas,” suggesting that some of his guys were looking out for their own responsibilities and performances -- particularly on defense -- rather than the group’s. At best, this is another dose of the midseason blahs, the Cavs in their doldrums in need of an All-Star break. At worst, though, they might be honing some bad habits that won’t be so easy to break in May or June. Especially if East rivals such as Toronto, Boston or Washington are emboldened after witnessing or administering some of the Cavs’ more embarrassing beat downs this season. Will any of this matter come spring? It will if the switch each team is minding stubbornly decides not to flip. “That’s the key. You’ve got to find that balance,” Kerr said. “Are you flipping the switch or are you navigating? The idea is, don’t let bad habits slip in. Right now, this moment, we’re into some bad habits. Our defensive efforts  the last five, six games [before the weekend] were awful. We got away with it because Steph was going nuts.” The Cavaliers repeatedly have not gotten away with bad defensive habits, even on nights when James has been dominant. “It’s tough,” Livingston said. “They’re a team that’s built for the playoffs. But our core guys still are in there prime. Their core guys are still good. But we’re talking about ‘prime.’” Most still would pick both Golden State and Cleveland to advance all the way to a “Finals Four” (after last year’s “Rubber Match” series). But one of these years, most will be wrong -- about one or both. That alone might be motivation enough. 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 NewsJan 15th, 2018

Popovich s odd alliance with red state fans

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2018