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LOOK: Swag Champ Nick Young front and center in Warriors’ title celebration

MANILA, Philippines – It seems that everything the Cleveland Cavaliers can do, the Golden State Warriors can really do better. If the Cavs have the shirtless party animal that is JR Smith, who was most likely drunk during Game 1, the Warriors have an answer in the form of “Swaggy P” ........»»

Category: newsSource: rappler rapplerJun 10th, 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

LeBron s free agency decision could swing NBA s balance of power

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- These combo coronation-funerals can be tricky. Imagine the crowning of a new monarch where the royal subjects couldn’t stop chattering about the freshly deposed or deceased predecessor. Where the traditional cry of continuity and succession, “The king is dead! Long live the king!” got flipped, with what was overshadowing what is. That’s pretty much how it went Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena, with the Golden State Warriors’ latest NBA championship having to share the stage with speculation, instantly revved up, about LeBron James and the choice he’ll soon make about his next employer. The Warriors are the kings, claiming pro basketball’s throne yet again by completing a sweep of James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals. But of course, James is the King, and as so many of us learned in sophomore English – thanks, CliffsNotes! – “Uneasy lies the head (of those who fret and obsess about the future whereabouts of the NBA superstar) that wears a crown.” Long live the kings! The King is ... gone? There was so much energy before, during and after Game 4 Friday (Saturday, PHL time) poured into the last game/next game conjecture about James, the Cavaliers and seismic shifts in the league’s 2018-19 landscape that even the player’s surprise reveal near the end of the night – a bruised and bandaged right hand – couldn’t derail it. Turns out, as James ‘fessed up, the sore shooting paw was an injury he had been playing with ever since Game 1 in Oakland eight days earlier. He had “self-inflicted” it in a fit of pique when he smacked a whiteboard in the visitors’ dressing room at Oracle Arena after Cleveland’s overtime loss in the series-setter, an outcome driven at least in part by some teammates’ mistakes and an arcane wrinkle in the NBA’s replay rules regarding block/charge fouls. Despite the hordes of media people chronicling every waking detail of the Finals, James had kept the injury on the down-low (along with the possibility that J.R. Smith’s nickname amongst his Cavs teammates might be “whiteboard”). The cameras zoomed in and clicked in a paparazzi frenzy of motor drives every time James raised the hand, wrapped in black tape, above the table during his postgame podium remarks. Whether a legit Page-2-the-rest-of-the-story factor in the championship series or a too-late alibi, the contused hand wound up as a sidebar to where James plans to be using it when training camps open in a few months. As of Friday (Saturday, PHL time), it had been 95 months since “The Decision,” the 2010 announcement that James made in a tone-deaf vanity TV production that he was taking his talents from Cleveland to South Beach. Nearly 47 months had passed since he broke the news of his return in a Sports Illustrated ghost-written essay, envisioning much of what actually has unfolded in the four years since. Now savvy insiders and casual observers alike presume James will be on the move again, pushed to leave the franchise he has defined in an urgent search for more and better talent with which he can compete. As in, y’know, some horses, some horses, his kingdom for some horses. James’ free-agency process next month (he can opt out of a $35.6 million deal in the final season of his current contract) is expected to dictate the market of player movement this summer like an oversized domino. It easily could swing the balance of power, if not quite at Golden State’s lofty level then immediately below it. The monster he helped create Dr. Frankenstein eventually was done in by his macabre creation, and it can similarly be argued that James has no one but himself to blame for the predicament in which he again finds himself. He set in motion the machinery of the super team, after all, when he chose to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami eight years ago. Oh sure, the Boston Celtics in 2007-08 got there first by luring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce, but that was about knitting together three stars, all age 30 or older, for what would be their last best chance to win in an extremely limited run. That group won one title, went to two Finals in three seasons and was done, Allen leaving to join James & Co. with the Heat while Garnett and Pierce morphed into trade chips for Boston POBO Danny Ainge. When James, Wade and Bosh teamed up, they were in their basketball primes and their initial giddy boasts of “not four, not five, not six” championships turned off fans league-wide as much for its portent as its pretension. That crew went 4-for-4 in Finals, winning two rings before James, nudged by staleness and chafing as well as his grand plan for northeast Ohio, went home. From there, a line can be drawn through the ill-conceived 2012-13 L.A. Lakers of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol all the way to this season’s Houston Rockets of James Harden and Chris Paul and the talent-gorged Golden State roster. James was the centerpiece as Cleveland replicated the Big Three concept around him with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, two younger, playoff-stymied All-Stars. The new-look Cavaliers went to the Finals in their first season together and clambered atop the basketball world to win the franchise’s first NBA title by the end of the second, becoming the first team in league history to do so after digging a 1-3 hole in the best-of-seven series. In that moment, regardless of the two Finals trips that followed, James’ bill was stamped: Paid In Full. Misguided fans might burn his jersey if he leaves again, but James burned the mortgage after that Game 7 in Oakland in 2016 as far as any remaining obligation to fulfill. “I came back because I felt like I had some unfinished business,” he said after elimination Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “To be able to be a part of a championship team two years ago with the team that we had and in the fashion that we had is something I will always remember. Honestly, I think we'll all remember that. It ended a drought for Cleveland of 50-plus years, so I think we'll all remember that in sports history.” James added: “When you have a goal and you're able to accomplish that goal, it actually – for me personally – made me even more hungry to continue to try to win championships. And I still want to be in championship mode. I think I've shown this year why I will still continue to be in championship mode.” In other words, James intends to sustain his high level of performance. He expects to win. And he presumably will do whatever – and go wherever – is necessary to achieve that. There’s no perfect fit So what does that mean for the NBA’s best player (never mind what the annual MVP balloting says in any given season)? It means this: compromise. There is no ideal situation, certainly no easy answer to the guesswork surrounding James’ looming free agency. He could transform any of the 30 teams, but not without some trade-offs for him, for them or for both. Most of them won’t be in play. Teams in markets such as Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Portland, Sacramento, the Twin Cities and so on can’t scratch James’ itches for either championship-worthy depth chart or spotlight. New York and Chicago, among the biggies, are out of synch with his timeline. Toronto? No way James is resettling his brand north of the border, and given his stated desire for teammates who have not just sufficient basketball skills but also mental toughness, well, the Raptors teams he and the Cavs have dominated do not qualify. The Boston club that stretched Cleveland to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals is built for the long haul and would have to surrender much of that to adjust to James’ career calendar. There’s a little Kyrie problem lurking there and, truth be told, the Celtics look to be on their way and are doing just fine without the 33-year-old heading, one of these years, toward decline. At some point in each of the 2018 Finals’ final three days, James spoke admiringly of the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs title teams that blocked his path whether in Miami or Cleveland. He was at it again even as the Warriors were dousing the opponent’s locker room at The Q with Moet champagne. “I made the move in 2010 to be able to play with talented players, cerebral players that you could see things that happen before they happened on the floor,” James said. “When you feel like you're really good at your craft, I think it's always great to be able to be around other great minds as well and other great ballplayers. “That's never changed. Even when I came here in '14, I wanted to try to surround myself and surround this franchise with great minds and guys that actually think outside the box of the game and not just go out and play it.” Where might James find that now or recruit that swiftly? Hard to say. There are asterisks and “buts” everywhere: * If he were to sign with the Houston Rockets, James would be hitching his star to Chris Paul, a buddy with an injury history that’s about the mirror opposite of his own. He would be teaming up with an elite coach in Mike D’Antoni, something he’s never had (though Miami’s Erik Spoelstra was just young and unproven, on his way to big things). But it also would require another big ask of James Harden, who had to adapt last summer to Paul’s arrival and need for the ball. * If James chooses the Lakers, he has the chance to hit reset with the league’s glitziest franchise, in a market that can meet his every off-court wish and where he and his family already own one or more ultra-comfortable homes. The Lakers have young talent to help James transition into a lower-usage veteran’s role, favored status as a destination team for other top free agents and the salary-cap space to get it done this summer with the likes of Paul George or his pal Paul. But that roster might not be capable of insta-contending, which could burn a season or two when James’ clock most definitely is clicking. * If it’s San Antonio, James could link up with the elite coach in Gregg Popovich, where the winning culture is in the DNA rather than some acquired taste. The Spurs have talent, particularly if Kawhi Leonard finds happiness again there. But they might not have enough to rattle the Warriors’ cage. And for all their professed admiration, James and Popovich might both fare better by keeping their relationship long-distance vs. the 82-game grind. * If it’s Golden State? Perish the thought. The NBA might have to board up itself if competitive balance were capsized to that extent. And as Draymond Green shrewdly noted on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), if James climbed aboard, it likely would require him and several other Golden State teammates to be dispatched to parts unknown. * If James prefers to stay East, where the winning comes easier, he could pick Philadelphia. The Sixers have two foundational young stars at positions that matter most, center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons. But Simmons is a non-shooter at the moment, the antithesis of what makes a great complementary LeBron teammate. As for Embiid, James never has had to play off of and service a top center. And Philly might feel like a basketball-only move, with the hungriest and most demanding of any new fan base he would embrace. * If it’s Miami – wait, could it be Miami? Could he go second-home again? The Heat always strive to be competitive and offer a talent base deep enough for the East and lots of familiarity. But they also have players such as Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters whose mental approaches don’t seem to fit the model James was cooing about in Golden State and with the Tim Duncan-era Spurs. * That brings us to Cleveland, where it’s possible James might choose to remain. Staying with the Cavaliers, after leading them to four Finals and that heady 2016 title, would be the easiest choice as far as pressure to win. He owes these fans nothing anymore – in fact, had the bargain been offered to them in 2010 (“LeBron will leave and win elsewhere for four years, but will come back and deliver a championship and four Finals trips”), most would have grabbed it. Here, James and the fans who have watched him even through the interruption develop from ridiculously touted high schooler to one of the world’s most famous athletes could grow older together. Then he could partner up and buy the team from owner Dan Gilbert for a long-term future. Certainly, staying has a certain place in his and the rest of the James clan’s hearts. “The one thing that I've always done is considered, obviously, my family,” he said at series end Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “Understanding especially where my boys are at this point in their age. They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago. I've got a teenage boy, a pre-teen and a little girl that wasn't around as well. So sitting down and considering everything, my family is a huge part of whatever I'll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that.” It’s worth noting that as James contemplates his options as a modern pursuer of championship excellence, the prospect of him moving again qualifies at some level as a failure. Not just by the support system in Cleveland, where he and Gilbert have their friction and James gets snidely mentioned as the team’s unofficial GM and head coach, but by him too. He’s the one who went off to seek his “college education” in south Florida in what it takes to win, whether on the court, in the front office or in and around the seams 365 days a year, straight out of the Pat Riley handbook. The teams about which James talks so glowingly in Oakland now and in San Antonio then have cultures he covets, stability up and down the flowchart he craves. In Cleveland, for a variety of reasons, his team has been incapable of establishing and maintaining that to a lasting degree. He is part of that missed opportunity and he has to own it, no matter if he goes or stays. James is inseparable from the dynamic of the Cavaliers’ ever-changing and often melodramatic roster maneuvers. Spending big, swapping out draft picks to import current stars and supporting players, and overvaluing secondary guys like Smith and Tristan Thompson are risks the Warriors and the Spurs largely avoided thanks to shrew drafting and laudable continuity. The Cavs’ scrap heap, by contrast, is high with traded picks, scuttled plans, panic deals, short-term patches and folks such as former coach David Blatt and former GM David Griffin. And maybe James could have nurtured a little better relationship with All-Star point guard and 2016 title sidekick Kyrie Irving, enough to have kept Irving from bailing on them all with his trade demand last summer. Now he’s on the verge of casting about again, prioritizing what matters most for however long he continues to play. James is more at peace with it than he was before, particularly in 2010, and surely can enjoy the leverage he wields and the riches it delivers. But there is a burden there as well, one that could be seen as completing a circle. So many of the NBA’s greatest stars have been stuck playing and living in the Age of LeBron, right? Their paths to the Finals blocked, on one whole side of the league, by him and his? Well, LeBron James is stuck now in the Era of the Warriors, freshly swept and anxious to close the gap. What goes around comes around, though the key more pressing of the big W’s now is, where? Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 11th, 2018

Thompson, Warriors force inevitable Game 7

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. -- The final game of the Western Conference season will tip on the last Monday in May (Tuesday, PHL time) at the Toyota Center in Houston, as it should. This is the route the GPS mapped out back in October and never had any reason to recalculate from since. Warriors at Rockets in a winner-take-all. Never in doubt, no? A pair of championship-quality teams will go 48 minutes and the previous six games in this series tells us to expect a tense jump ball-to-buzzer affair. With or without Chris Paul. Paul’s inflamed right hamstring is a significant flaw, no question, yet the Rockets do have home-court advantage and will hear a crazed crowd trying to fill the void with noise if as expected Paul misses a second straight game. The Rockets didn’t have their point guard and spiritual leader Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) and still sent an early chill through the defending champions on enemy soil, going up 17 after the first quarter and 10 at halftime. Oracle Arena and the Warriors were confused. Then Game 6 flipped suddenly and drastically in the second half, as the Warriors rolled to a 115-86 victory. and here we are. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: “We got what we want, a seventh game on our home court, now it’s up to us to go get it.” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said: “I feel like we’re the best team in the world.” The Rockets constructed this team specifically to challenge and beat the Warriors. Meanwhile, the Warriors paced themselves through the regular season partly to conserve their attention and energy for Houston, which has Golden State’s attention like no team before in the West playoffs. Both are causing each other irritating problems. The Rockets’ defense with its switching and hand-in-the-face pressure is forcing Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry to work hard for their shots. The Warriors’ ability to thrive even if not all four of their All-Stars are clicking is testing Houston’s limits; such was the case in Game 6 when Thompson, the No. 3 Guy, broke loose for 35 points with nine threes. That’s what makes the Warriors tough to erase: They don’t need to be perfect, and good for them, because they haven’t been in this series, with the exception of their 41-point victory in Game 3. About Thompson: He was locked in, emotionally and physically, popping off screens, catching and shooting, creating space to get good looks and punching the air after big three's. The energy and the shots saved the Warriors from a lackluster and potentially deadly start. Thompson stayed in rhythm most of the night while Curry (29 points) and Durant (23) went through off-and-on cold stretches and afterward joked how he was “born” for this. “Man, that felt good, to be honest,” Thompson said. “I just wanted to play with as much passion as I could. I probably sounded more vocal than I am.” There was a natural link to the last time Thompson was this splashy in a Game 6 elimination game, two summers ago when he dropped 41 on Oklahoma City to trigger a comeback from 3-1 down. Durant was on the wrong side of that performance. “Please don’t go there,” begged Durant, bowing his head. “Next question.” Mindful of what happened right after that series -- the Warriors would blow a 3-1 lead of their own to Cleveland -- Curry said: “I think we both blocked that whole year out of our memory.” Actually, that volcanic performance by Thompson helped convince Durant to leave Oklahoma City, which led to last year’s championship and helped build a solid case for the Warriors to repeat next month. Thompson’s latest piece of work helped awaken the Warriors from being trapped in an extended state of stun, courtesy of how fierce the Rockets came at them right from the start. The Houston lead grew to double digits within minutes and stayed that way through the break. This was further evidence that the Rockets, in this game and actually for the series so far, refuse to concede anything and believe this West title is realistic even with Paul’s status uncertain. “I saw a lot of things that I liked,” said D’Antoni, “and I think we’re in a good position.” Eric Gordon, a strong candidate to win the Kia NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, started in place of Paul and was a concern for the Warriors, drilling deep shots and scoring 19 points. Also, Harden rediscovered his own touch from that distance; he’d missed 22 straight threes in this series but made four and scored 32 points. Houston missed Paul’s composure and steady point guard hand, which could be expected. The Rockets had 22 turnovers, with the Harden-Gordon backcourt combining for 14. The other issue for the Rockets was depth. With Gordon in the starting lineup, D’Antoni was forced to give minutes to Luc Mbah a Moute, still struggling after hurting his shoulder just prior to the playoffs. He wasn’t a factor and neither was the bench. Assuming Paul sits another game, the Rockets will undoubtedly need major scoring and playmaking from Harden, solid shotgun work from Gordon and at least two members of the support group -- Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela -- to break loose in order to make Game 7 interesting. Remember, the Rockets have now gone four straight games without breaking 100 points, and Harden appeared beaten in the fourth quarter Saturday where he went scoreless. The Warriors are also dealing with a missing part, with Andre Iguodala’s inactive streak now at three. They’re crossing fingers whenever Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and/or Nick Young are pressed to play more than 15 minutes. None of them have distinguished themselves since Iguodala suffered a bone bruise on his left knee in Game 3. So that’s the tale of the tape. Between now and tipoff, the Rockets’ therapy staff will work on Paul’s hamstring, hoping for some intervention from the Medical Gods. In the perfect basketball world, Paul and Iguodala would be fit to play; why should the finish of this series be deprived of them, of less than what it should be? Last fall, before training camp, Paul, Harden and Tucker vacationed in the Bahamas for one last moment of chill before preparations for a season of big expectations. Obviously, they talked shop. They set goals and their sights on the Warriors. Tucker asked Paul and Harden: Imagine if we get them on our court for a Game 7. They all nodded and agreed it would be a logical scenario to launch themselves into the NBA Finals. “Obviously we hope to have our starting point guard back,” Tucker said. “If not, we need to be ready.” The Warriors held no such pre-camp huddle -- champions have what others want -- yet knew that once the Rockets added Paul, Houston would be their toughest test since Durant signed up. Warriors vs. Rockets in a single-game elimination is the proper stage, then, to determine who reps the West in the NBA Finals. D’Antoni said: “It should be a great game.” Curry: “It should be fun. This is what you play for, to be in a situation where you’re one win away from going to The Finals. You’ve got to want it.” Truthfully, neither team would rather be in a winner-take-all. Sweeping would be vastly preferred. But the other part about what Curry said is definitely true: Who wants it? 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 NewsMay 27th, 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

LOOK: Championship portraits of the 2018 Warriors

The NBA has put up the championship portraits of the 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (save for Nick Young and Shaun Livingston, where are they?) on their official Twitter account. Check out the pics here: 2x champ with the @warriors and back-to-back #NBAFinals MVP... @KDTrey5! 🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/ZpV1IFvFb9 — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 3x champ with the @warriors... @KlayThompson! 🏆🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/pRI1SDA6Db — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 3x champ with the @warriors... @Money23Green! 🏆🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/QiTks75gmM — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 3x champ with the @warriors... @StephenCurry30! 🏆🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/j30IQSu7Wg — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 3x champ with the @warriors... @andre! 🏆🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/xs66KMW6A8 — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 2x champ with the @warriors... @JaValeMcGee! 🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/9qtgbEoHx1 — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 2x champ with the @warriors... @D_West30! 🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/FLeL5ULblG — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 2x champ with the @warriors... @PMcCaw0! 🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/oHaegDZlMN — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 2x champ with the @warriors... @Loon_Rebel5! 🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/tVjuFO0A33 — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 2x champ with the @warriors... @zaza27! 🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/jeNOBYmvRN — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 2x champ with the @warriors... @dameology! 🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/krRBHRuBna — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 First-time champ with the @warriors... @1jordanbell! 🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/EitWJ7s5xS — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 First-time champ with the @warriors... @QCook323! 🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/tv6hsM5ezv — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 The NBA also posted the portrait of the team's coach, Steve Kerr: 3x champ as Coach of the @warriors... @SteveKerr! 🏆🏆🏆 #ThisIsWhyWePlay pic.twitter.com/LcvN3r7XNV — NBA (@NBA) June 9, 2018 Will the Dubs get another set of photos next season? We'll just have to find out come 2019......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 9th, 2018

Warriors await word on top defender Iguodala as LeBron looms

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Klay Thompson sat on the floor in the middle of his teammates and pointed to his “2018 NBA FINALS” hat during a locker-room photo. An important face was missing from the moment: Andre Iguodala. In a postseason defined by uncertainty for the defending champions, Golden State could be without one of its top defenders as the Warriors chase a repeat title — taking on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a fourth straight NBA Finals matchup. Iguodala’s status for Game 1 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) is a question as he recovers from a bone bruise in his left knee, which caused him to miss the final four games of the Western Conference finals against Houston. Cleveland’s Kevin Love is in concussion protocol, so he might not be ready, either. Coach Steve Kerr has said Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP, will return when he can run without pain. The Warriors sure could use his presence against King James, who is making an eighth straight Finals appearance. “We’re still without Andre, which is a big blow for us,” Kerr said before Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) Game 7 at Houston. “In a different way. He’s not a scorer for us as Chris [Paul] is for Houston, but a huge component. So you go through the playoffs and things happen, and you’ve got to be able to bounce back no matter what and keep going.” Last month, Kerr became concerned his team’s defense wouldn’t return to its top form after Golden State struggled late in the regular season and even endured a particularly poor stretch in which the Warriors dropped seven of 10 games. Yet here they are in a familiar spring spot as June approaches. Once the buzzer sounded and the 101-92 Game 7 win over Houston was official, the Warriors could exhale. It hasn’t been pretty for much of these playoffs, a far cry from that remarkable, record-breaking 16-1 romp through last year’s postseason. There is clearly some relief to be back where this All-Star group expected to be all along. Stephen Curry kept the game ball tucked under his left arm long after Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) game, toddler daughter Ryan held in his right arm. Kevin Durant hugged general manager Bob Myers, while always-animated Nick Young beamed wearing his Finals hat and “Champions of the West” T-shirt, then enjoyed hoisting the shiny trophy. Draymond Green smooched his 1-year-old son, Draymond Jr. Back home, fireworks went off in the East Bay as everyone anticipates another battle with King James. “There’s a lot of just built-up anxiety, I guess, about this moment. When you walk off the court with a win and get this fancy hat, it’s a good feeling,” Curry said. “We had to work for it, and you’ve got to appreciate the moment. Somebody asked, ‘It’s four years in a row getting to The Finals, do you appreciate it?’ Yes, because it’s really hard. So all the smiles and embraces you have with your teammates, your coaches, it’s well deserved.” Golden State struggled to hit shots for stretches. The stars went through funks and the Warriors had to play catch up time and again — including from double-digit deficits in the final two games to beat James Harden and the 65-win Rockets on their home court after settling for the second seed in the West. James has willed his Cavs this far, saying, “I don’t know how I can compare it to other seasons because I can only think about this one in the present.” “Definitely a different team but we know everything goes and stops with LeBron James with them,” Green said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 30th, 2018

Warriors need just one game to establish superiority

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON — Months of building up the hard shell required to wade this deep into the NBA’s merciless playoff waters can evaporate in a snap. One bad rotation, followed by a missed layup on the back of yet another dagger from the other team and even a mighty, 65-win juggernaut can see it all unravel. The Houston Rockets know the feeling now, after living through it on what could turn out to be the biggest night of the best [regular] season in the history of the franchise. They invited the Golden State Warriors in, dared to beat the reigning NBA champions at their own game in these Western Conference finals with an emphatic win and came up woefully short of that goal in the opener. The home court advantage they worked for all throughout a brilliant season is gone. The comfort provided by a 2-1 record against the Warriors during the regular season series the Rockets held tight since January was blown away after just four quarters. Whatever aura they thought they owned heading into the Toyota Center Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) for Game 1, they shed long before the final seconds of their decisive 119-106 loss to the Warriors. It looked good early, when James Harden had the Rockets rolling to a nine-point lead in the frenzied opening minutes. But Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and the rest of a Warriors team making its fourth straight appearance in the conference finals, they don’t fold at the first sign of danger. “You’re not going to just come in and knock them out,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I mean, there’s just too many times we had mental lapses. We either didn’t switch properly or we didn’t switch hard enough. We turned the ball over  little too much. Every time we missed a layup, which we missed a lot of layups, they ran out. “They’re really devastating. We’ve got to make layups, don’t turn it over and do a little bit better job of mentally just staying up on people.” The fact that they were starting this series away from the friendly confines of Oracle Arena for the first time during their recent run did nothing to shake their belief in themselves. And if there is anything that is clear after just four wild quarters of this most anticipated series, it’s that the Warriors’ collective confidence is far superior to the artificial skin the Rockets wrapped themselves in leading up to the opening round of this heavyweight fight. Harden played inspired, for most of his 35 minutes, finishing with a game-high 41 points and seven assists. Chris Paul’s 23 points, 11 rebounds and three assists look good on paper. But it wasn’t enough. It was nowhere near enough to offset the Rockets’ self-inflicted mistakes or the fury the Warriors can rain down on their opponents this time of year. “They’re obviously champions for a reason,” D’Antoni said. “If we want to beat them, we have to be mentally sharper. KD, he’s tough. Obviously, he was on tonight. Hey, you can live with that. But you can’t live with that and then make mental mistakes, and that's what we do. The combination of the two was devastating.” Durant was hell bent on devastation, torching an assortment of Rockets defenders for his 37 points. Thompson drilled the Rockets for 28 points of his own, his 15 attempts from beyond the three-point line serving as a more demoralizing dagger for a Rockets defense designed to limit those attempts. With so much attention on them, the Rockets seemed to lose their defensive focus on basically everyone else. “Defensively, we’ve got to be better,” Paul said. “You know it’s funny, I got caught helping a couple times in the first half and I think Nick Young hit three [three-pointers] off those plays. Some games, some series, you may make those mistakes and guys don’t make the shots. But tonight, every time we did it, they made the shot. They make you pay when you make mistakes.” Just to be clear about what kind of armor the Warriors travel with these days, they’ve won a game on the road in 18 consecutive playoff series, well before the Durant era. So as much as this is about the back and forth between Durant and Harden, the former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates who once got this point in a season together and elbowed their way into The Finals in 2012, it’s about Curry, Thompson, Green and Andre Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP. Those are the other four members of the Warriors’ “Hamptons Five” lineup that started the game, the group that withstood everything the Rockets threw at them Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) and then beat them up over the final 15 minutes of a must-have game on their home floor. “They’re a good team,” Eric Gordon said, stating the obvious. "They’ve been playing together, they know who they are. They’ve been to four straight Western Conference finals. We just got to be a little better.” The Rockets’ must-win game is now Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The pressure shifts to a Game 2 effort that has to be much better offensively if they want to keep pace with the Warriors. They’ll also need a much cleaner effort that doesn’t include sloppiness (the Warriors converted 16 turnovers into 17 points) and deficient defense (the Warriors shot .525 from the floor and .394 from the three-point line) that was on display in Game 1. These are all things D’Antoni believes to be correctable. And they could be. Indeed, they better be if the Rockets plan on stretching this series to the limit. Because there is still no way to account for the experience factor, the muscle memory edge the Warriors have when it comes to recognizing the time and place to apply the ultimate pressure on an opponent that’s ready to break. They sniffed it late in the third quarter, when the Rockets were reeling under a relentless barrage of Durant buckets. The only thing that saved them then were crucial baskets of their own from Eric Gordon and Gerald Green, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr subbing Durant out for a breather the Warriors closer did not want. “Yeah, he wasn’t really thrilled and I probably should have left him in,” Kerr said. “Late third he was going pretty well. I knew I had to get him some rest at some point. As soon as I took him out, they went on a quick run, so he was not thrilled. But he came back in and got us back on track.” You can toy with a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round, dropping Game 3 on the road only to come back and close out the series with back-to-back wins, especially when you are clearly the superior team and own that coveted home-court advantage. You might be able to get away with it in next round against a team like the Utah Jazz, when you lose home-court advantage in Game 2, but are are once again clearly the superior team and win three straight games to squash that challenge. Slip up a third time, as the Rockets did Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), against a team that has won two of the last three Larry O’Brien trophies, a team with their sights set on a third, and … and there might not be another chance. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 15th, 2018

ABS-CBN, S+A to air the NBA Conference Finals

The NBA Conference Finals are here! The pool of 16 has been whittled down to four.  The squads who were involved in the opening day match-ups last October will meet once again, this time in a pair of best-of-seven series in the NBA's version of the Final Four. As a treat for all Filipino fans, all Conference Finals games will be available on ABS-CBN Channel 2, ABS-CBN HD, ABS-CBN S+A, and S+A HD! The Best of the West  In the Western Conference, the dream battle between the top two seeds will finally come to fruition. The defending champions Golden State Warriors will face a stiff challenge against the top-seeded Houston Rockets, a team designed in order to have a crack at toppling the most dominant team in the league. A key match-up will be of course between two-time MVP Stephen Curry and this season's MVP front-runner James Harden. Not too far in the background are veteran guard Chris Paul and 2017 NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant. The supporting cast of both teams include All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green for the Warriors, and key contributors Eric Gordon and Clint Capela for the Rockets. Every game of the Western Conference Finals will be aired LIVE on ABS-CBN S+A and S+A HD! The East goes through LeBron James Meanwhile, LeBron James will try to take his new-look Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals once again, but standing in their way are the young and gritty Boston Celtics. The Celtics, who lost stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward as well as rookie center Daniel Theis, will be anchored by rising guard Terry Rozier, All-Star Al Horford, and young guns Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Cleveland, on the other hand, led by the ever-reliable four-time MVP in James, will be supported by All-Star Kevin Love. Also at his disposal are guards JR Smith and Kyle Korver, Filipino-American Jordan Clarkson, center Tristan Thompson, and high-flying Larry Nance, Jr! All Eastern Conference Finals battles will be seen on ABS-CBN Channel 2 and ABS-CBN HD! Check out the schedule of the NBA Conference Finals below!.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 10th, 2018

Curry, Durant lead Warriors into Western Conference finals

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry had 28 points, Kevin Durant scored 24 and the Golden State Warriors advanced to the Western Conference finals by dismantling Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans 113-104 in Game 5 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Klay Thompson added 23 points for the Warriors, who with a 15th straight home playoff win tied Chicago for an NBA record. The Bulls did so from April 27, 1990, to May 21, 1991. Davis had 34 points and 19 rebounds for a Pelicans team that overcame the loss of DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon three months ago to make this strong run. The Pelicans shaved the lead to seven points with two minutes left on a basket by Davis before Draymond Green's turnaround fadeaway moments later. The Warriors advance to play the top-seeded Houston Rockets in what has long been an anticipated Western Conference finals matchup — with a Finals feel, perhaps — and one Golden State will start on the road Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). The teams didn't meet during the 2017 postseason, but the Warriors won a five-game series in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. Houston eliminated Utah in its Game 5 earlier Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Curry, who returned for Game 2 after nearly six weeks out with a knee injury, knocked down an open three-pointer midway through the third and raised his hands to get the crowd going, then made another less than two minutes later. He converted three free throws at the 6:25 mark following a hard foul by Jrue Holiday. In the second quarter, Holiday shoved Curry hard into the basket, enraging the two-time MVP who let the officials know how upset he was by the push and no call. Holiday contributed 27 points and 11 assists, but even with better shooting, New Orleans couldn't stay with deep, score-at-will Golden State. The defending champions are serious about a repeat title, and took one step closer to that goal. So far this postseason, with Durant and Green leading the way, the Warriors have admirably defended the slower San Antonio Spurs and now the imposing, push-the-pace Pelicans. Green had another superb all-around night on both ends with 19 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocked shots. The Warriors came out of halftime with a 10-0 run over the opening 1:54, forcing two Pelicans timeouts and taking control for the rest of the game. Thompson hit back-to-back three-pointers midway through the first to put Golden State up 17-10, the second right in front of his own bench as teammates erupted in celebration. He began 6-for-9 and had 14 points by the 4:10 mark of the first. Durant became irate when Nikola Mirotic made a late, hard bump on a three-point try with 5:23 left in the first — a play that was reviewed and Mirotic received just a common foul. As Durant took free throws, Green tried to listen in on the Pelicans' huddle before official Josh Tiven pulled him away. CURRY'S SERIES Curry went 10-for-16 in 37 minutes playing his fourth game back from a sprained left knee he hurt March 23 (Mar. 24, PHL time). His minutes have increased each game he plays, up to 31 in Game 4 and 37 on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). He added eight assists and seven rebounds in Game 5. He was 32-for-67 with 15 three's in the series. On a side note, he went 0-for-5 on his signature tunnel shots before the game. TIP-INS Pelicans: New Orleans made 6-of-9 three's in the first and finished 10-for-24 from long range. ... New Orleans got back in it with an 11-0 run in the second. Warriors: Golden State shot 4-of-14 from deep in the first half. ... Durant scored 20 or more points in a 17th straight postseason game. His first five points moved him past two players — Chris Mullin (685) and Harrison Barnes (687) — into 10th place all-time for the Warriors in postseason scoring. ... Curry (366) passed Paul Arizin (364) for second place on the franchise postseason list for made free throws. ... Curry (19) and Thompson (16) have made all of their free throws this postseason. ... The Warriors are 9-1 in Game 5's since 2015. They also clinched their first-round series with San Antonio at home in Game 5. ... Durant received the Al Attles Community Impact Award in a pregame ceremony. The Warriors Community Foundation will donate $15,000 to the charity Durant chose, Oakland Elizabeth House, which provides residences to women and children who have been homeless or faced violence or addiction. QUOTEABLE Steve Kerr on whether he needed to check in with his players on the urgency of closing out the series: "I dial people on my rotary phone. Nobody seems to answer, though. Nobody answers a home phone anymore. No texts necessary. Our guys know what's at stake.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 9th, 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

Davis, Pelicans thump Warriors in Game 3

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com NEW ORLEANS -- The fear factor remained until the very end for Alvin Gentry. His memory is as long as Anthony Davis from head to toe, so like everyone else in the Smoothie King Center Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), the notion that a 20-point lead late in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors was safe just didn’t compute. Gentry was caught up in the moment, trying to win a game in this Western Conference semifinal after dropping the first two in Oakland. And he was trying to block out the memory of the Pelicans’ last home game against these Warriors in the playoffs. He had the perfect seat then, next to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, his top assistant and offensive coordinator, the man in charge of engineering an epic comeback from a 20-point deficit that would lead to a Game 3 win in that first-round series and an eventual sweep of the Pelicans that helped propel the Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green-led Warriors to the NBA title in 2015. So yeah, it was on his mind, even if everyone else in the building tried to say it wasn’t, that it was ancient history and that it had no impact on this current Pelicans team. Gentry knew better than that and confessed as much as his team drew blood in this series with an emphatic 119-100 Game 3 win this time around. “Obviously, it’s going to stick with you,” Gentry said of that pivotal 2015 game that ultimately led to the Pelicans hiring him away from the Warriors. “I was on the Warrior bench then and I thought [the Pelicans] played great game. And because I was on the Warrior bench it made it so scary tonight … I was there when Steph started making threes and then Klay started making threes and before you know it a 20-point lead was nine points and then seven points, and then all of a sudden Steph made a shot out of the corner, which by the way I have a picture of that on my phone that I’ve kept all of these years and now I can eras it off. “But there just a scary team, you never feel comfortable. Even when he [Kerr] took his guys out, I was like ‘let’s play two more minutes before we take [our] guys out. Because you are just never comfortable with that team.” Gentry helped chase the ghost of that 2015 game away for the a franchise, a city and especially his stars on Friday night. Both Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday were on that team that collapsed three years ago. They needed this win more than they realized, more than they cared to acknowledge late Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) after the building had cleared out and everyone had a chance to process what had just transpired. The Pelicans beat the Warriors at their own game, employing the “appropriate fear” Gentry joked about with the media afterwards. It was all there, starting with relentless defense and sweet shooting; 14-for-31 from beyond the three-point line. It continued with the sudden bursts of energy from all directions; Solomon Hill knocking down three deep three-pointers early and reserve guard Ian Clark, crushing his former team for 18 points, including daggers down the stretch. It was punctuated by Davis and Holiday grinding away like the guys who fueled the Pelicans’ first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers, and veteran point guard Rajon Rondo breathing as much verbal fire as Green, while also driving the Pelicans with 21 assists, the first player with at least 20 in a playoff game since he did it in himself in 2011 when he was with the Boston Celtics. The Warriors simply couldn’t keep up. And Curry didn’t the have the same touch or adrenaline he had in his playoff debut in Game 2, when he torched the Pelicans for 28 points in 27 minutes off the bench during his first action after missing nearly six weeks with a knee injury. “Most of it is attributed to the Pelicans,” Kerr said. “Their defense was great. They were the aggressors. I thought they brought the force, the necessary force to the game on their home floor, and these are the ebbs and flows of a playoff series, especially when you get past the first round. Everybody is really good and that’s a team that just swept Portland in the first round and on their home floor down 2-0, this is kind of what you expect.” Gentry has unleashed all that. When the Pelicans lost All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending Achilles injury in late January, the framework for this team had to be altered completely. The Pelicans had to lean on Davis to dominate the way he did (33 points on 15-for-27 shooting, 18 rebounds, four steals and three assists). Holiday (21 points, seven rebounds, five assists) had to be set free to resume the All-Star ways he showed earlier in his career. And Rondo needed the keys to the car and the freedom to guide the Pelicans’ young stars to the edge the way he has throughout this postseason, complete with at least two more face-to-face skirmishes with Green Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). “That’s the way he plays, he talks a lot of …” Rondo said after being informed that Green suggested he was trying to bait him into a confrontation. Rondo, who joined Magic Johnson and John Stockton as the only players in NBA history with multiple 20-assist games in the postseason, understands the process a team must go through to reach that next level. He was a young point guard in Boston when he learned it from Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Doc Rivers during the Celtics’ 2008 title run and the years they spent as a contender after that. And he knows success at this stage is more about the Pelicans and what they do than it is about any beef, real or perceived, between he and Green. “It definitely is, but it starts with defense,”he said.“We were able to get some stops, defensively. It’s hard to run and keep pace when you’re taking it by the net every time which we did in game one so we cleaned up a little bit better in game two and three and look forward to making adjustments for game four.” Without Gentry understanding and trusting that same process, and facilitating the perfect environment for all of his players, especially his three biggest stars, this Pelicans team could have easily fallen out of the playoff mix in a wild Western Conference. That race that went down to the final night of the season for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets and affected the seeding for every team after the No. 1 Houston Rockets and No. 2 Warriors. Gentry had to empower Rondo to infuse the right kind of bite in both Holiday and Davis, whose voice grows louder with each game -- he didn’t hesitate to make a statement in a second half huddle Friday night, barking to his teammates that “we are not going to lose this game.” “That was the message,”he said.“We can’t lose this game. It’s always tough to come back from 0-3. Our mindset is to go out there, play, and do what we’re supposed to do from all the game planning. Whatever results happen, happen. We followed the game plan to a T tonight.” And now the real fun begins. The atmosphere will be electric for Sunday afternoon’s (Monday, PHL time) Game 4. The expectations will have changed dramatically for the Pelicans in just a few hours. Can they do it again? Will they exhibit the same appropriate fear against a championship Warriors team that will be smarting from a Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) dose of their own medicine? Gentry, the architect of this perfectly brewing storm, is counting on it. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Germany gets reality check before defense

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Germany coasted through World Cup qualifying with 10 wins out of 10 and a European record 43 goals before getting a reality check. The World Cup holders haven't won any matches since qualifying for Russia. After drawing friendlies against England, France and Spain, Joachim Loew's team lost 1-0 to Brazil to end a 22-game unbeaten run. Becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to defend their World Cup title now looks even trickier for the Germans. "We're not as good as we're made out to be, or as some think we are," midfielder Toni Kroos said. "There's huge room for improvement." The recent slump in friendly matches could be a blessing in disguise if it eradicates any complacency going into the World Cup. "I'm not worried. In 2014 and 2010 we also lost in March," Loew said. "You can be sure that we'll improve." The first task for Loew's side will be to top Group F to avoid a likely second-round clash against Brazil. Here's a closer look at the Germany team: COACH Loew was assistant coach to Juergen Klinsmann during Germany's "summer fairytale" hosting of the 2006 World Cup and was promoted to the top job after its third-place finish. Loew favors a fast-paced possession-based game, pressing opponents to recover the ball and switching quickly from defense to attack. He has overseen steady progress since taking over, reaching the final of the 2008 European Championship, claiming third place at the 2010 World Cup and reaching the semifinals at Euro 2012 before finally winning a title in convincing fashion at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A disappointing semifinal exit to France at Euro 2016 followed, but Loew laid the groundwork for a successful World Cup title defense by winning the Confederations Cup with a young team of promising talent last year in Russia. Loew hasn't been afraid to test young talent, and Germany's strength in depth means one of his hardest tasks is leaving players out of the 23-man squad. Loew also has the unfortunate tendency to find himself in the headlines for other reasons. The 58-year-old has previously apologized after being caught on camera picking his nose or in other compromising positions during games. GOALKEEPERS The biggest concern is captain Manuel Neuer's fitness. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper sustained a repeat of the hairline metatarsal fracture in his left foot while training last September and hasn't played since. Marc-Andre ter Stegen could well establish himself as the No. 1 with doubts over Neuer's fitness. The Barcelona goalkeeper has overcome a shaky start to his international career and helped Germany win the Confederations Cup. Bernd Leno of Bayer Leverkusen and Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain are also options, while Sven Ulreich has been filling in impressively for Neuer at Bayern. DEFENDERS Bayern defender Jerome Boateng faces a race to be fit with a thigh injury sustained in the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid in April. Bayern teammate Niklas Suele would be an able replacement to partner Mats Hummels in the center. Another Bayern player, Joshua Kimmich, has emerged to soften the blow of Philipp Lahm's retirement at right back. The modest Jonas Hector will likely keep his place on the left despite Cologne's relegation. MIDFIELDERS Toni Kroos will be among the first names on Loew's team sheet. The Real Madrid midfielder is the driving force behind the side. He will likely be partnered by Juventus' Sami Khedira, who provides more of a defensive presence, with Mesut Ozil in front, flanked on either side by Thomas Mueller and Marco Reus — if the latter proves his fitness. Reus has been unlucky with injuries and has only recently returned to shine again for Dortmund. But Germany has a wealth of options in midfield, with Ilkay Gundogan, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler, Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt all providing ample backup options. FORWARDS Timo Werner seems sure of his place after another good season for Leipzig, albeit with most of his goals in the first half of the campaign. The 22-year-old Werner has seven goals in 12 international appearances, but it's his runs into space and the problems he causes defenders that benefit the team. Loew will likely bring one of Mario Gomez or Sandro Wagner as a more experienced option for Werner, while Mario Goetze is another option to play up front if he gets recalled following a disappointing season for Dortmund. Goetze scored the winning goal for Germany to beat Argentina in the 2014 final. GROUP GAMES Germany kicks off its title defense near its tournament base in Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium against Mexico on June 17. The side then faces a long trip south to Sochi for its second game against Sweden on June 23, before wrapping up Group F against South Korea in Kazan four days later......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2018

The curse of the Western Conference '4 seed

Here's a reminder for the Western Conference teams next season when they start jockeying for playoff seeding: Avoid the fourth seed at all costs. Sure you'll get home court advantage against the fifth seed, but that hasn't meant anything since the 2012 Playoffs. For the past seven years, all fourth seeds have lost to the fifth seeds, with the latest victims being the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were ousted in six games by the Utah Jazz. Is it sheer coincidence? A hardwood hex? A sign of parity? We'll run through the aforementioned seven series and let you decide for yourself. 2012 Playoffs - #5 LA Clippers (40-26) defeat #4 Memphis Grizzlies (41-25) in seven games The setup: It feels appropriate that this "curse" began during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. The Clippers were in year one of Lob City, having acquired Chris Paul during the offseason, while the Grizzlies were looking to build on their epic #8 vs #1 upset of the San Antonio Spurs from the previous postseason. What happened: The Grizzlies began this series in the worst possible way. In game one, they led by as much as 27 points, and were up 95-71 with 9:13 left to play. But then Nick Young happened. Swaggy P came off the Clippers bench and buried three straight triples, helping LA win game one, and build a 3-1 series lead. The Grizzlies won the next two though, sending things back to Bluff City for a game seven. Ultimately though, home court didn't help, as the Clippers broke the game wide open in the fourth, outscoring the Grizzlies 27-16, for an 82-72 victory. "That guy was on the team?": Reggie Evan led the Clippers in rebounding with 8.7 a night, while Gilbert Arenas played in six out of the seven games, totaling 23 minutes and four points for the Grizzlies. What next?: The Spurs swept the Clippers in the semis. 2013 Playoffs - #5 Memphis Grizzlies (56-26) defeat #4 LA Clippers (56-26) in six games The setup: The Clippers won their division for the VERY FIRST TIME in franchise history, while the Grizzlies were in full Grit 'N Grind mode, with Marc Gasol winning Defensive Player of the Year that season. What happened: Things started off well, with the Clippers winning the first two games in LA. However, the Grizzlies stood firm at home, knotting the series at 2-all. Things turned dire for LAC when star forward Blake Griffin suffered an ankle sprain during practice, limiting him to just 19:34 minutes in game five, which they lost. With their season on the line in the City of Angels for game six, Griffin could only play 13:56, and not even a career postseason-best 30 points by Matt Barnes could save the Clips. To add insult to injury, Chris Paul was ejected with 2:29 left, before the game ended with a 118-105 score. "That guy was on the team?": Tayshaun Prince was Memphis' starting small forward, while Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, both with the Clips, played their last NBA seasons. What next?: The Grizzlies dispatched the OKC Thunder in five games in the conference finals, before losing to the Spurs via a sweep in the West Finals. 2014 Playoffs - #5 Portland Trail Blazers (54-28) defeat #4 Houston Rockets (54-28) in six games The setup: The Houston Rockets added Dwight Howard to a roster that already had James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Chandler Parsons, making them one of the top teams in the West. The Portland Trail Blazers meanwhile built on Damian Lillard's 2013 Rookie of the Year campaign and snapped a two-year postseason drought. What happened: While things were tightly contested, three of the first four games went to overtime, the Blazers seemingly had the Rockets' number, winning two of those OT games, en route to a 3-1 series lead. The Rockets managed to stave off elimination at home in game five, but in game six, Lillard truly made a name for himself, by canning a series-winning shot, allowing Rip City to advance for the first time in 14 years. "That guy was on the team?": Mo Williams was Portland's sixth man (8.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.8 apg), while Omer Asik teamed up with Howard in the Houston frontcourt. What next?: The Blazers managed to take one game from the Spurs, before bowing out in the conference semifinals. 2015 Playoffs - #5 Memphis Grizzlies (55-27) defeat #4 Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) in five games The setup: The Blazers won the Northwest Division, but the next two teams in the standings, the Grizzlies and the Spurs, both had notched 55 wins, four more than them. Portland's main problem though was swingman Wesley Matthews tearing an achilles tendon early in March, a season-ending injury. What happened: Portland struggled to find someone who could take the starting SG spot on their roster with Matthews out, cycling through CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, and Arron Afflalo. That trio, as starters, combined to shoot 4-of-22 for 10 points over five games, allowing the Memphis D to concentrate on Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Grizzlies won the first three games, before picking up the clincher in game five, despite starting point guard Mike Conley suffering a facial fracture in game three and missing the rest of the series. "That guy was on the team?": Nick Calathes wound up assuming the point guard duties for the Grizzlies, in what turned out to be his final NBA stint (he went back to playing in Greece after the season). What next?: The Grizzlies lost in six games in the next round to the Golden State Warriors, after the Dubs made their famous adjustment to use Andrew Bogut to guard Tony Allen. 2016 Playoffs - #5 Portland Trail Blazers (44-38) defeat #4 LA Clippers (53-29) in six games The setup: The LA Clippers came really close to losing center DeAndre Jordan to the Dallas Mavericks in the offseason, but you all know what happened instead. As for the Portland Trail Blazers, the team rebuilt after losing LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Batum, among others, pairing Lillard with Most Improved Player winner CJ McCollum in the backcourt. What happened: The Paul-Griffin-Jordan trio looked splendid early on, going up 2-0 after games in LA. The Blazers struck back and won game three, but then disaster waylaid LA in game four, with BOTH Paul (broken hand) and Griffin (quad) exiting the game and the series. That paved the way for the Blazers to complete their run and advance. "That guy was on the team?": It was Chris Kaman's final NBA season, and he spent it as a locker room guy for the Blazers. It was also Clippers guard Pablo Prigioni's last stint in the NBA (not counting several preseason games with the Rockets the next season, before he got cut and returned to Europe). What next?: The Blazers advanced to the West semis, where they lost in five games to the Warriors, despite Stephen Curry missing the first three matches. 2017 Playoffs - #5 Utah Jazz (51-31) defeat #4 LA Clippers (51-31) in seven games The setup: It was a battle between two teams looking to go far in the postseason in the hopes of enticing their future free agents to re-up. For the Jazz, Gordon Hayward was the player in question, while for the Clippers, both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had the ability to depart in the offseason. What happened: Iso-Joe Johnson did Iso-Joe things, stealing game one for the Jazz on the Clippers' home court. Undeterred, the Clippers proceeded to win the next two, for a 2-1 advantage, but game three turned out to be costly. The team the next day announced that Blake Griffin was out for the rest of the season due to a toe injury. Still, things went to a game seven, in LA, but the Clippers did not have the firepower to win out, and the Jazz were able to get the victory and advance. What next?: The Jazz got swept by the Warriors in the West semis. And ironically, both Hayward and Paul wound up departing their respective teams. In addition, Griffin did sign an extension with the Clippers, but they wound up trading him mid-way through the 2017-18 campaign. 2018 Playoffs - #5 Utah Jazz (48-34) defeat #4 Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34) in six games The setup: The Jazz equaled their postseason rank from last season, thanks to the brilliance of rookie Donovan Mitchell, while the Thunder formed a "Big Three" comprising Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. What happened: Paul George sizzled for 36 points to help the Thunder win game one, but Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell teamed up to help the Jazz win the next three. On the brink of elimination, Russell Westbrook led a dominant third quarter effort in OKC to force a game six, but in Salt Lake City, the Jazz managed to hold on, and earn the series victory. What next?: The Jazz will now test themselves against the top-seeded Houston Rockets. Should be a good one. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 29th, 2018

Warriors dominate Game 1, with more star power on the way

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, CALIF. — Basketball was suspenseful at Oracle Arena on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) for only about 10 minutes, when all eyes in the building were fixated on the floor, absorbed every shot and all the action before folks finally exhaled, thrilled with the outcome. But enough about Steph Curry’s closely-inspected pre-game warmup drills. The second-round playoff opener against the Pelicans held everyone's attention for roughly the same length of time. The once-bored Warriors, who are woke now, ran Anthony Davis and friends off the floor comfortably before halftime. As they await the return of Curry, and Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) for Game 2 looks likely for that, the Warriors straight-up clowned New Orleans almost from the start, dropping threes, making stops, zipping downcourt on fast breaks and essentially throwing themselves an Oaktown version of Mardi Gras. In a late second-quarter frolic that especially caused the sellout crowd to sway, Draymond Green tossed a lob to Kevin Durant for a dunk and Klay Thompson drilled a three-point bomb from the corner, where he was immediately groped by the frolicking Warriors’ bench. The Warriors broke for 41 points in that quarter; in the second and third quarters combined, New Orleans scored just 40. Party on. “It was probably the loudest I’ve heard Oracle all year,” said Kerr. “It was kind of a weird regular season but the playoffs are here and our guys feel that, our fans feel that and the second quarter reflected what’s at stake and what we’re trying to accomplish.” It was Warriors 123, shell-shocked Pelicans 101, and yes, there’s no guarantee the rest of the series will be a Big Easy for the defending champions. This is the playoffs; stuff happens, scripts flip. That said, they will get a two-time MVP, and a restless one at that, back in the lineup sooner rather than later. So this is looking rather promising for the Warriors and gloomy for the Pelicans, much less the rest of the remaining NBA playoff field. Even before Curry went through his customary dribble and shoot routine, where he looked sharp, Kerr had already decided to keep the point guard on ice for at least another 72 hours. Kerr explained that Curry has had limited scrimmaging time since healing from an MCL knee sprain on March 23 (Mar. 24, PHL time), and wanted to play it safe. In Kerr’s words, the coach was “protecting Steph from himself.” Kerr said Curry didn’t take the news well, but this was no negotiation. “When you have been out five weeks and you want to play in the playoffs, I don’t think one scrimmage is enough, even though he wanted to play and pleaded his case,” Kerr explained. “I just think going through the next few days and making sure he is feeling good and holding up well is the right approach.” The stakes, obviously, are steep, too much to roll the dice in the second round, no disrespect to the Pelicans. Curry’s body has proven fragile this season, with ankle and knee injuries over the last four months sending a jolt through the organization. None of his ailments were serious or needed surgery; still, the Warriors rightly were leaving nothing to chance, especially since nothing major was at stake. That changes now. Davis and the Pelicans, having swept through the first round, have Golden State’s attention. Also, assuming a Rockets-Warriors conference final in a few weeks, Curry will need to shake the rust for what would be an epic series on paper. “He looks great in practice, looks great in workouts,” said Durant. “It’s exciting for him to get back in a place he enjoys the most, which is playing ball. He loves the game just as much as anybody I’ve ever been around.” What’s most important, and impressive, is how the Warriors decided to ramp it up before Curry’s return. The energy, intensity and sense of urgency was evident against the Pelicans and it turned Game 1 into a rout, and that combination wasn’t always evident in a season where the Warriors pressed the snooze button following the All-Star break. Their defense against the Pelicans was worry-free from the second quarter onward. Green held Davis to just two points in the second quarter when the game changed; Green finished with a triple double: 16 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists which was perhaps his best game of the season, all things considered. “Once our defense took a stand that’s when the game turned in our favor,” said Green. “If we can push the tempo and get stuff in transition, that’s big for us and obviously that starts with stops.” The Warriors had only one turnover and held the Pelicans to 30 percent shooting in the second quarter, which fueled Golden State’s transition game. Durant and Thompson were straight fire with the jumper and they combined for 53 points in what amounted to three quarters worth of sweat. And that was a wrap. “That quarter was unacceptable,” Rajon Rondo said. In some ways this result was understandable; the Pelicans are new to this; Davis is playing in the second round for the first time in his great career, and only Rondo brings championship chops. About the Warriors, Gentry said: “They’ve done it before, and that’s why I say you’ve got to be very disciplined in what you do with these guys. If you make a mistake against them, they make you pay. They are very smart.” Kerr used a smallish starting lineup without a natural center, sticking Green in the post, keeping JaVale McGee on the bench and going with a combination of Nick Young and Shaun Livingston in the swing spots. This allowed the Warriors to pace with the Pelicans, who ran the Blazers out of the first round. Yet in the superstar competition, the Pelicans are at a disadvantage, a margin that will only swell the next game. Therefore, did New Orleans miss out on its best opportunity to grab a game, while the Warriors were short a star? Jrue Holiday realizes the problems and challenges that a Curry-fortified team will pose for the Pelicans. He did the math. “You have to key on him as well as KD and Klay,” said the Pelicans guard. “He’s obviously another element of their team.” At the same time, Thompson believes the Warriors need to chill on any urge to assume all will be well once the team is whole again. “We played well without Steph,” he said. “It hasn’t been as easy as it looks but we adjusted without him. Even if he does come back, it’s a natural human emotion to be relaxed because we have so much coming back. That will be a test to not depend on Steph to save the day. We have playmakers all around. Just do this together. He’s going to give us a huge boost but we can’t relax.” With the help of trusty Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser, who has the enviable duty of being the official and exclusive workout partner for one of the greatest shooters in league history, Curry hit jumper after jumper as the doors opened at Oracle. As usual, the routine drew a sizable group of onlookers from the stands, but this one seemed more important than others. Folks wanted and needed to know: Is Curry, after a month off, still splash-ready? Warm-ups can only tell so much. Yet the concentration, the rapid-fire dribble, the quick catch-and-shoot and the aim appeared pure. Seemingly everyone is awaiting the return of Curry except those who stand to suffer because of it. “I’m more excited as his brother that he’s out there,” said Durant. “He gets to play basketball, something that he loves to do. We’ll see what happens next game.” 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 29th, 2018

DE JESUS: Genius, disciplinarian, champion coach

This story was originally published on May 7, 2017 De La Salle University head coach Ramil De Jesus came inside the press room of the Big Dome for a post-game interview wearing the same smile he had in the past nine times the Lady Spikers closed the UAAP season as champions. The only difference in those championship interviews were the players that accompanied him to answer questions from reporters. From Iris Ortega-Patrona, Desiree Hernandez, Maureen Penetrante, the legendary Manilla Santos, the Big Three of Cha Cruz, Paneng Mercado and Jacq Alarca, to Michel Gumabao and beast-mode-don’t-care Aby Marano to Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Kim Dy and gem of a setter in Kim Fajaro – all of them stood beside a genius and architect of DLSU’s successful volleyball program. Victory after victory, De Jesus built his reputation as a one of the best women’s volleyball mentors in the country. Last Saturday, De Jesus added another feather to his cap when he steered the Taft-based squad to back-to-back titles in the 79th UAAP women’s volleyball tournament at the expense of archrival Ateneo de Manila. Two decades since his arrival to the school of a different shade of green after playing for Far Eastern University, delivered 10 titles and brought the Lady Spikers to the Finals 17 times.   De Jesus shared the secret of his success. “Siguro, sistema siguro then hard work. And then, well-disciplined ‘yung mga bata. Siguro, ‘yun ‘yung key,” he said. His success earned him the respect of his peers including three-time UAAP men’s volleyball champion Oliver Almadro of Ateneo, who was once one of his lieutenants, and players alike. DLSU embraced him as one of its own. “Natutuwa ako kasi kahit hindi ako alumnus doon niyakap nila ako bilang parang doon na din nag-graduate,” said De Jesus. “Hindi ko naman napapansin ang mga nanyayari sa akin sila lang ang nakakapansin, binigyan nga ako ng award. Happy, very happy (ako).” De Jesus is known to be a no nonsense coach. Strict, straightforward and a disciplinarian – traits he inherited from FEU men’s coach Kid Santos.                He doesn’t like fanfare and as much as possible keeps attention away from him. De Jesus carefully chooses his words but when he gives one, everybody listens. He means business all the time.   Brilliance of De Jesus 246-65. De Jesus knows how to win and his career win-loss record says it all. The main reason why DLSU trusted De Jesus to handle the team for that many years – a rare feat considering that a UAAP coach’s tenure is very volatile.   It was summer 20 years ago when former basketball Olympian and influential DLSU sport personality Ramoncito Campos brought in a young mentor in De Jesus to save the school’s volleyball program, which then had yet to win a title since joining the league in 1986.           He entered the UAAP volleyball scene during the time when powerhouse teams Far Eastern University and University of Sto. Tomas, then mentored by legendary coach August Sta. Maria, were the ones lording over here the competition. Of course the road to glory didn’t come easy but his first tour of duty gave DLSU a chance to feel what it was to be in the Final Four when the Lady Spikers finished fourth a year when after strings of forgettable seasons. Quenching the thirst to salvage some pride in the sport that will eventually be DLSU’s second most valued contest next to basketball, the Lady Spikers began to hunger for the crown – something the school never felt before since winning it all back in 1976 as a member of the NCAA.   De Jesus submitted his team to Spartan-like training and hammering discipline and slowly molded the Lady Spikers to a championship-caliber squad. In Season 61, DLSU challenged FEU for the crown but the Lady Tamaraws’ championship experience prevailed. The loss only fueled De Jesus’ desire to bring the Lady Spikers to the throne even more. With the core of ace hitter Ortega-Patrona, setter Valerie Bautista, Sally Macasaet, Sheryl Magallanes, Demelle Chua, Hollie Reyes and then sophomore Ivy Remulla, De Jesus steered DLSU on the right track for another shot at the crown. Midway in the season Bautista got pregnant. De Jesus, calm and composed, knew what to do. He converted open spiker Reyes into a setter and the gambit worked as DLSU once again punched a ticket to the Finals, this time against UST – a very hungry team looking to reclaim the title. A year removed from the throne, UST was ready for the kill. But the Espana-based squad went against a famished team – DLSU will not leave the sweltering University of the Philippines Human Kinetics Gym without the championship trophy. In front of a crowd - dwarf-sized compared to the multitude of fans that troop bigger venues of today – the Lady Spikers wrote history. DLSU slew a giant in a thrilling five-set game behind the stellar performance of Ortega-Patrona, who won that Season’s Most Valuable Player award – the first of many incredible volleybelles that will bag the highest individual honor under De Jesus’ tutelage.     It was an incredible feat but it won’t see a repeat in the next three years.              Grand Slam After their breakthrough title, the Lady Spikers had three straight bride’s maid finishes behind FEU. Heartbreaks brought by Ortega-Patrona’s falling out with De Jesus over a disciplinary issue in Season 63 and the unstoppable power of FEU's Monica Aleta, who won three straight MVP awards while towing the Lady Tams to a three-peat. Like a chess master, De Jesus learned from his mistakes before pulling off a feat that will cement his name as one of the greatest. With Hernandez, Penetrante and a young Santos as his main pieces, he steered the Lady Spikers to a rare three-peat. DLSU brought into heel FEU, UST and Adamson to complete a grand slam. A four-peat loomed for the celebrated Lady Spikers but fate played a cruel trick on them after UAAP suspended DLSU in Season 69 because the Green Archers' basketball squad fielded two ineligible players the previous year.       When the ban was lifted in Season 70, De Jesus and the Lady Spikers were again under the radar as title contenders together with the defending champion UST, FEU and Adamson. But team was forced to file a leave of absence from the school while the tournament was ongoing because Alarca saw action despite incomplete academic credentials to be eligible to play. All of the team’s won games where Alarca played where forfeited and the Lady Spikers ended up at seventh place. It was a painful setback but it also served as a rallying point for DLSU. With Santos playing her final year and the emergence of enigmatic but then rookie libero Mel Gohing in Season 71, the Lady Spikers denied the then graduating Rachel Anne Daquis and FEU back-to-back crowns. DLSU relinquished the throne to the Angeli Tabaquero and Aiza Maizo-led Tigresses the following year. The Lady Spikers avenged their loss the next season in a rematch with UST behind Alarca, Mercado, Cruz, Gumabao and Gohing in the start of De Jesus’ second three-peat.   DLSU-Ateneo rivalry Nobody really knows when UAAP volleyball picked up the tremendous following it has today. Maybe it needed something for people to get hooked into. A continuous rivalry, perhaps? For six straight years DLSU and Ateneo did just that. The storied rivalry between La Salle and Ateneo spilled from the basketball court to the taraflex mat of volleyball. De Jesus had in his bench the core of veterans Cruz, Gumabao and Marano back and freshmen Galang, Reyes and Demecillo when they met in the Season 74 Finals a young and promising Lady Eagles side – much like the Lady Spikers De Jesus inherited 14 seasons back. Led by Fille Cainglet, Dzi Gervacio and a fresh recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school Alyssa Valdez, Ateneo gave DLSU a tough challenge for two seasons but the Lady Spikers repelled them both times. Then came Lady Eagles Thai mentor Tai Bundit. For three years in a row, De Jesus’ system bested the rest of the field including that of then Ateneo coach Roger Gorayeb. However, a coach who barely spoke English or Filipino provided him a challenge in Season 76. DLSU with an intact core led by Marano, swept its way straight to the Finals with a thrice-to-beat advantage. Ateneo crawled its way to the championship round through a series of do-or-die games. De Jesus is an old-school type of coach. His system is hinged on well-planned strategies and tactics. He was pitted against Bundit’s Thai-style of play anchored on a heartstrong mantra and a ‘happy, happy’ approach of the game. Bundit dances on the sideline, an animated fellow during the matches. De Jesus is stoic as always. When the two collided for the title for the first time, Bundit shocked De Jesus and DLSU when Ateneo beat them thrice in a four-game series that went the full distance. Bundit and the Valdez-led Lady Eagles did it again the following year, completing a season sweep at the expense of the Lady Spikers, who struggled to pose any form resistance in the Finals after Galang went down with a season-ending ACL tear in the semis. It was a devastating loss to say the least. But De Jesus, a general who fought many battles for the green and white, stuck with the weapon that brought him success – his ability to adjust. Outdueled by Bundit in their last six matches, De Jesus found a way to stop the rampaging Lady Eagles in their first meeting in Season 78. Ateneo equalized in the second round and even took the top spot after the elimination. The Lady Spikers and the Lady Eagles would eventually meet in the Finals for the fifth year in a row. De Jesus was ready for Ateneo. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of the Lady Eagles and used it to his advantage to win the series opener. The then graduating Valdez brought Ateneo back in Game 2 to tie the series, but DLSU completed its long-awaited revenge in the decider and gave Reyes, Demecillo and Galang a fitting sendoff gift.                  Road to back-to-back Losing five veterans including three of their key players heading into Season 79 gave De Jesus one of the toughest challenges he ever faced as a DLSU mentor.  Setter Kim Fajardo returned for her swan song together with fourth year playes Kim Dy, Dawn Macandili and Majoy Baron. Desiree Cheng also came back after a year of absence due to a knee injury, but De Jesus was still left to navigate with a relatively young crew.  “Sa laht nang nai-form kong team, ito yung medyo (up and down) yung performance,” he said. “Sobrang babaw ng bench, wala ka halos (mahugot) pagtingin mo, wala ka makuha.” DLSU struggled early and was on the losing end of two elims matches against Ateneo. “Ateneo nu’ng buong elimination NU lang ang halos tumalo. Sabi ko ano bang meron ang team na ito?” he said. “Pinilit lang naming habulin.” “Kasi alam ko nag-start kami medyo hilaw ang team namin. Early part ng first round natalo kami sa UP sabi ko pukpok pa tayo, habol pa,” De Jesus added. “Ang nakakatuwa sa mga bata, ang determinasyon na humabol nandoon.” When the De Jesus found himself leading the Lady Spikers to a sixth straight title series against Bundit and the Lady Eagles, he knew his squad was ready to defend their crown. And protect it they did in a series sweep capped by a dramatic five-set victory.    “Siguro buong eliminations, nire-review namin ang mga games, nakikita mo yung difference, ‘yung advantage at disadvantage ng team, so siguro doon kami nag-focus, kung saan kami medyo dehado. Concentrate kami sa training,” he said. “Ine-explain ko rin sa players kung ano yung dapat naming gawin, although mahirap. So, tanggapin na lang nila.” In a rare moment, when Ateneo’s Jho Maraguinot sent her attack long that signaled DLSU’s back-to-back championships, De Jesus let his hair down a little. He was jumping, dancing, celebrating the victory and even held his hands up, both his palms wide open as confetti dropped and the deafening roar of the crowd and banging of the drums echoed inside the arena. De Jesus won his tenth title. When the celebration subsided, De Jesus fashioned the same smile he wore in his past nine championships as he was led inside the pressroom of the Big Dome. Only this time around, Fajardo, Cheng and Dy were the ones who followed him from behind.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 20th, 2018

Harden, Rockets pass first postseason test

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com HOUSTON — If the long road to June basketball is to come to fruition for the best regular-season team in basketball, it had to start like this for the Houston Rockets. That first step, that first foray into the great postseason abyss, required this sort of confirmation from the No. 1 overall seed in the entire tournament, so to speak. There’s no room for Cinderellas around here, no slaying of Goliath, not on Clint Capela’s watch. Not with James Harden on the case when the Rockets needed it most, and especially at crunch time. And not with Chris Paul, chip planted firmly on his shoulder as always, eyeballing bigger and better things than being the best from late October to mid-April. So it won’t be easy. Nobody said it would be. And let’s be clear, the Minnesota Timberwolves are not a normal eight seed. Not really. A healthy Jimmy Butler and the infusion of veteran talent that helped end the second longest playoff drought in NBA history this season makes that big a difference. They certainly did Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) at Toyota Center, when the Rockets were forced to battle until the very end for a 104-101 win despite a 44-point masterpiece from Harden. But like everyone else who dealt with these juggernaut Rockets all season long, Harden and his crew proved to be too much with the game on the line. With Harden on the bench and the game tied at 85 with 6:49 to play, the script was already written. He came in for Paul with 6:07 to play and the Rockets up a point, and promptly scored on a driving layup. He stole the ball and then scored on a driving floater. After a Capela block, he scored on a driving layup. By the time he knocked down a three-pointer with 4:27 left, the Rockets’ lead was back up to eight points, 94-86, and it was clear that Harden was going to do whatever it took — scoring, playmaking and even defending — to keep Game 1 from going awry. It was vintage work from the maestro who has owned the floor most every night since the season opener, when Harden and the Rockets went into Oracle Arena as the reigning champion Golden State Warriors hung another banner and collected those diamond-laced title rings and walked off the floor winners. “Another day for James,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said after Harden finished one point shy of his playoff career-high. “He’s done it all year and he really stepped up. We were struggling to make shots, struggling to really have any kind of rhythm of play and James put us on his back and he’s been doing it for a while now.” D’Antoni will have to forgive the rest of us, including the frontrunner for the Kia MVP this season, for not digesting his theory about the playoffs being something other than a referendum on his team’s magical regular season. Harden operated like someone keenly aware of what was at stake with the Timberwolves, each and every one of them, trying in vain to slow him down. “Honestly, I just try to be aggressive and make the right play,” Harden said. “Things got slowed up a little bit, just try to be aggressive with my shot and fortunately it went in.” Jimmy Butler is an All-Star and one of the league’s best two-way players. Derrick Rose is a former Kia MVP himself, and still has enough juice left to make things difficult for someone when he locks in the way he did on this night. And neither one of them had any luck slowing Harden down during his second-half blitz. He scored 25 of his points in the final 18 minutes, making play after play when the Timberwolves appeared to be on the verge of potentially pulling off a shocker. “There were several plays in which I thought we defended well and he made shots,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “James is that type of player and we’ve seen it all year, [he’s] very difficult to guard. Basically, you have to guard him with your whole team. And it’s not just his scoring, but his playmaking and all the things that he does.” The Rockets won on a night when they shot a brutal 27 percent (10-for-37) from beyond the three-point line, where they’ve feasted on the opposition all season. They roasted the Timberwolves from distance during their regular season match ups to the tune of 43.4 percent and more than doubled them up in three-point makes during those games, but made just two more Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Harden was 7-for-12 from deep, a playoff career-high for makes, while the rest of the Rockets shot a combined 3-for-25. And he was draining his shots with hands in his face routinely. “He’s an MVP candidate and you know why,” said Timberwolves big man Taj Gibson. “Every time the game was ‘mono e mono’ and they were in a tight spot, he just took over the game. He made some tough shots, he played phenomenal tonight. We were trying to throw everything at him, he’s a talented player.” He’s clearly much more than that. “I mean yeah, he’s a hell of a player,” Butler said. “Everyone knows that. But you don’t just guard him with one guy. It’s everybody out there, everybody has to be in the correct position. Challenge shots; contest them at the rim, but more than anything, if there is a miss we’ve got to get the rebound and take off the other way. But we didn’t do any of that tonight, we’ve got to be better [in Game 2] on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time).” Thibodeau had to turn to his bench to stay in the game before halftime and they delivered, scoring 19 points and playing with an energy level that matched what the Rockets did regardless of who was on the floor. Rose (nine points), Jamal Crawford (seven) and Gorgui Dieng (three) did all that bench scoring, which was the only way to offset the furious 49 points Capela and Harden combined for before the break. Jeff Teague’s three fouls and Butler’s defensive task, trying to keep Harden under wraps, required so much of his attention that the scoring load had to be picked up by someone else. He went scoreless in the first quarter and just never seemed to get untracked early on, finishing with just 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting. It’s an issue the Timberwolves won’t be able to scheme their way out of in this series, not as long as Capela is the most energetic and effective young big man on either team. He outscored the All-Star Towns 20-3 before the break and out rebounded him 10-5, adding two blocks and a steal to drive home the point that he’s up for this challenge all series long. “Man, Clint was all over the place, both ends of the court offensively and defensively,” Paul said. “You see him defending KAT, who’s a tough cover in the post. You know I’m low, and I weak side and I’m watching him go up for the hook, and then I’m watching Clint block it, and then he’s running. he was unbelievable tonight and we’re going to need that all season.” Capela finished his night with 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks while Towns didn’t crack double digits in the scoring column (eight points on 3-for-9 shooting, 12 rebounds in a team-high 40 minutes of action). Chalk it up as a lesson learned for the playoff rookie. That must-win game the Timberwolves won at home over Denver Wednesday night had all the hype and intensity of a playoff game, only it wasn’t. Thibodeau credited the Rockets’ defense, the swarming and double-teaming of Towns, for slowing the big man down. “He has to be more active,” Thibodeau said, before praising the Rockets for perhaps their most underrated trait this season: The ability to lock down defensively. “They’re good, they’re very good. They’re tied together, they do a lot of switching and after the switch they read the ball extremely well. They react, they swarm, and so you have ti make good decisions, you have to make good plays. You have to have the ability to read and react.” Funny, that’s what the Rockets’ best player does perhaps as well as any other player in the league right now. Harden reads and reacts accordingly, always seemingly coming up with the right play at the right time. That’s how you know he’s in the moment right now, as are the rest of the Rockets. No matter how many times and how many different ways anyone tries to deflect attention from the obvious, they comprehend every bit of what lies ahead for a team riding into the postseason on the strength of a 65-win regular season that saw them run away from the competition. They wouldn’t have souls if they didn’t. They wouldn’t be human if they hadn’t already calculated the weight of the best regular season in franchise history times a wide-open postseason equaling something that’s never been done here, which says a lot for a franchise that has two Larry O’Brien trophies to show off. They know how important each and every step on this current journey is, starting with Sunday night’s very first choppy ones. Any suggestion to the contrary is, shall we say, a distant cousin of the truth. But we’ll play along for now, at the beginning. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 16th, 2018

2018 MLB preview: NL East

By The Associated Press Capsules of National League East teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Washington Nationals 2017: 97-65, first place, lost to Cubs in NLDS. Manager: Dave Martinez (first season). He's Here: 1B-OF Matt Adams, C Miguel Montero, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Joaquin Benoit, INF Matt Reynolds. He's Outta Here: Manager Dusty Baker, LF Jayson Werth, 1B-LF Adam Lind, C Jose Lobaton, RHP Matt Albers. Projected Lineup: SS Trea Turner (.284, 11 HRs, 45 RBIs, 46 SBs in 98 games), LF Adam Eaton (.297, 2, 13 in 23 games), RF Bryce Harper (.319, 29, 87), 3B Anthony Rendon (.301, 25, 100, 41 2Bs), 2B Daniel Murphy (.322, 23, 93, 43 2Bs, expected to begin season on DL recovering from knee surgery), 1B Ryan Zimmerman (.303, 36, 108, 33 2Bs), CF Michael A. Taylor (.271, 19, 53), C Matt Wieters (.225, 10, 52). Rotation: RH Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.51 ERA, NL-high 268 Ks, 200 2/3 IP, 3rd Cy Young Award), RH Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 2.52, 204 Ks), LH Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 2.96, 79 walks), RH Tanner Roark (13-11, 4.67), RH A.J. Cole (3-5, 3.81 in 11 appearances) or RH Jeremy Hellickson (8-11, 5.43 with Phillies and Orioles). Key Relievers: LH Sean Doolittle (2-0, 2.81, 24/26 saves with Athletics and Nationals), RH Ryan Madson (5-4, 1.83, 2 saves with Athletics and Nationals), RH Brandon Kintzler (4-3, 3.03, 29/35 saves with Twins and Nationals), LH Sammy Solis (1-0, 5.88, 1 save), RH Shawn Kelley (3-2, 7.27, 4 saves), RH Joaquin Benoit (1-6, 4.65, 2 saves with Phillies and Pirates). Hot Spots: Fifth Starter and Catcher. The Nationals have as good a 1-2 combination at the front of their rotation as anyone in the big leagues, with Scherzer and Strasburg. Their 3-4 slots aren't too shabby, either, with Gonzalez and Roark. But the big question is, who will be the fifth starter — the inexperienced Cole or late free-agent pickup Hellickson? The only other spot with some real doubts is catcher, where Wieters is coming off a terrible year at the plate. Outlook: This might very well be the end of an era at Nationals Park, with Harper eligible to leave as a free agent after the season and GM Mike Rizzo's contract set to expire, too. The team has won four NL East titles in the past six years but has zero playoff series wins to show for it. That's why yet another manager (Baker) lost his job, and yet another rookie skipper has been brought in (will Martinez have more success than Matt Williams?). Rizzo has made no secret of the need to start making postseason inroads — a World Series is the stated goal, and that's certainly not an outrageous aim, given all the talent he's assembled. The lineup remains almost exactly the same, although Werth is gone after playing out his seven-year contract, and the rotation and bullpen are also nearly identical to the way they looked at the end of 2017. ___ Miami Marlins 2017: 77-85, second place. Manager: Don Mattingly (third season). He's Here: INF Starlin Castro, CF Lewis Brinson, OF Cameron Maybin, 1B Garrett Cooper, RHP Jacob Turner, OF-1B Scott Van Slyke, RHP Jumbo Diaz, RHP Sandy Alcantara. He's Outta Here: RF Giancarlo Stanton, LF Marcell Ozuna, CF Christian Yelich, 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Tom Koehler, OF Ichiro Suzuki, RHP Dustin McGowan, C A.J. Ellis. Projected Lineup: RF Cameron Maybin (.228, 10 HRs, 35 RBIs, 33 SBs with Angels and Astros), CF Lewis Brinson (.106, 2, 3 in 21 games with Brewers), 2B Starlin Castro (.300, 16, 63 in 112 games with Yankees), 1B Justin Bour (.289, 25, 83, .902 OPS in 108 games), C J.T. Realmuto (.278, 17, 65), LF Derek Dietrich (.249, 13, 53), 3B Brian Anderson (.262, 0, 8 in 25 games), SS Miguel Rojas (.290, 1, 26 in 90 games). Rotation: RH Jose Urena (14-7, 3.82 ERA), RH Dan Straily (10-9, 4.26, 170 Ks), RH Odrisamer Despaigne (2-3, 4.01), RH Jacob Turner (2-3, 5.08 with Nationals), LH Justin Nicolino (2-3, 5.06). Key Relievers: RH Brad Ziegler (1-4, 4.79, 10/15 saves), RH Kyle Barraclough (6-2, 3.00, 1 save), RH Drew Steckenrider (1-1, 2.34, 54 Ks in 34 2/3 IP), RH Junichi Tazawa (3-5, 5.69), RH Nick Wittgren (3-1, 4.68). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. Urena had a breakout season in 2017, and Straily tied for the NL lead with 33 starts, but they're the only established starters. The other three spots will likely be a revolving door occupied by a mix of prospects and journeymen, and the results could be ugly. One potential bright spot is the 22-year-old Alcantara, who had a 4.32 ERA in eight games for the Cardinals last year. He'll begin the season in the minors but might join the Marlins before summer. Outlook: New CEO Derek Jeter is accustomed to winning, and that is about to change. He traded away half of last year's starting lineup, including the NL MVP in Stanton, which means the Marlins are rebuilding yet again. Even with an entirely new outfield, the offense could be decent. But Castro and Realmuto are potential trade bait and might be gone before August, and the season will almost surely end Sept. 30, leaving the Marlins out of the playoffs for the 15th year in a row. This season is really all about developing prospects acquired in those offseason trades, and if youngsters such as Brinson and Alcantara perform well, 2018 will be considered a successful start for the Jeter regime. ___ Atlanta Braves 2017: 72-90, third place. Manager: Brian Snitker (third season). He's Here: RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Anibal Sanchez, LHP Scott Kazmir, INF Charlie Culberson, OF Preston Tucker, OF Ronald Acuna, 3B Austin Riley, OF Jeff Decker, 2B Christian Colon, RHP Shane Carle. He's Outta Here: OF Matt Kemp, RHP R.A. Dickey, 3B Adonis Garcia, 1B Matt Adams, INF Jace Peterson, RHP Jason Motte. Projected Lineup: CF Ender Inciarte (.304, 11 HRs, 57 RBIs, 22 SBs, Gold Glove), 2B Ozzie Albies (.286, 6, 28, 8 SBs in 57 games), 1B Freddie Freeman (.307, 28, 71 in 117 games), C Tyler Flowers (.281, 12, 49) or Kurt Suzuki (.283, 19, 50), RF Nick Markakis (.275, 8, 76), LF Ronald Acuna (.325, 21, 82, 44 SBs with 3 minor league teams) or Lane Adams (.275, 5, 20, 10 SBs), 3B Johan Camargo (.273, 14, 65) or Charlie Culberson (.154, 0, 1 in 15 games with Dodgers), SS Dansby Swanson (.232, 6, 51). Rotation: RH Julio Teheran (11-13, 4.49 ERA), RH Mike Foltynewicz (10-13, 4.79), RH Brandon McCarthy (6-4, 3.98 in 19 games with Dodgers), LH Sean Newcomb (4-9, 4.32 in 19 games), RH Anibal Sanchez (3-7, 6.41 with Tigers), LH Scott Kazmir (10-6, 4.56 with Dodgers in 2016) or LH Luiz Gohara (1-3, 4.91 in 5 games). Key Relievers: RH Arodys Vizcaino (5-3, 2.83, 14/17 saves, 64 Ks in 57 1/3 IP), RH Jose Ramirez (2-3, 3.19), LH A.J. Minter (0-1, 3.00, 26 Ks, 15 IP in 16 games), RH Dan Winkler (1-1, 2.51 in 16 games), LH Sam Freeman (2-0, 2.55 in 58 games). Hot Spot: Third Base. Camargo was the probable starter before an oblique injury left his status uncertain for the beginning of the season. Culberson, expected to play a utility role, or Rio Ruiz would be next in line. Austin Riley, a 2015 first-round pick who has not yet reached Triple-A, might be a year or two away. Camargo, who shared time with Swanson at shortstop last year, could be more than a stopgap if he can provide some of the power the Braves need at a corner infield spot. Outlook: Teheran, Foltynewicz and Newcomb have provided reasons this spring to believe they can improve their 2017 numbers. The progress of Newcomb, one of the team's many touted pitching prospects, became especially important when Gohara sustained a groin injury that will keep him from being ready for the start of the season. For a change, the spring spotlight was on a position player; Acuna was hitting .432 with four homers, 11 RBIs and four steals when he was sent to minor league camp. The move involving the 20-year-old top prospect was expected. It was made to maintain an extra full season of contractual control down the road, but Acuna likely will be recalled in April and immediately start in left field. He could provide a needed power bat to help Freeman in the middle of the lineup. The Braves likely are still at least a year away from contending in the NL East, but improved starting pitching could push them closer to .500 this year. ___ New York Mets 2017: 70-92, fourth place. Manager: Mickey Callaway (first season). He's Here: 3B Todd Frazier, RF Jay Bruce, LHP Jason Vargas, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RHP Anthony Swarzak, LHP Matt Purke, C Jose Lobaton. He's Outta Here: Manager Terry Collins, LHP Josh Smoker, LHP Josh Edgin, RHP Chasen Bradford, OF Norichika Aoki, RHP Erik Goeddel, RHP Tyler Pill, LHP Tommy Milone, OF Travis Taijeron. Projected Lineup: 2B Asdrubal Cabrera (.280, 14 HRs, 59 RBIs, .351 OBP), LF Yoenis Cespedes (.292, 17, 42, .892 OPS in 81 games), RF Jay Bruce (.252, 36, 101 with Mets and Indians), 3B Todd Frazier (.213, 27, 76, .344 OBP with White Sox and Yankees), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.242, 3, 30, .642 OPS in 71 games with Dodgers) or Dominic Smith (.198, 9, 26, .658 OPS, 49 Ks in 49 games), C Travis d'Arnaud (.244, 16, 57, .293 OBP in 112 games) or Kevin Plawecki (.260, 3, 13, .364 OBP in 37 games), CF Brandon Nimmo (.260, 5, 21, .379 OBP, .797 OPS in 69 games) or Juan Lagares (.250, 3, 15, .296 OBP, .661 OPS in 94 games), SS Amed Rosario (.248, 4, 10, 49 Ks, 3 BBs, .271 OBP, .665 OPS in 46 games). Rotation: RH Noah Syndergaard (1-2, 2.97 ERA, limited to 30 1/3 innings by lat injury), RH Jacob deGrom (15-10, 3.53, 239 Ks, 201 1/3 IP), LH Jason Vargas (18-11, 4.16, 179 2/3 IP in 32 starts with Royals), RH Matt Harvey (5-7, 6.70, 110 hits, 21 HRs, 67 Ks, 47 BBs in 92 2/3 IP), LH Steven Matz (2-7, 6.08 in 13 starts), RH Zack Wheeler (3-7, 5.21, 97 hits, 81 Ks, 40 BBs, 86 1/3 IP in 17 starts). Key Relievers: RH Jeurys Familia (2-2, 4.38, 6 saves in 26 games), RH AJ Ramos (2-4, 3.99, 27 saves with Marlins and Mets), RH Anthony Swarzak (6-4, 2.33, 91 Ks, 22 BBs, 58 hits, 77 1/3 IP in 70 games with White Sox and Brewers), LH Jerry Blevins (6-0, 2.94, 1 save, 69 Ks, 24 BBs, 49 IP in 75 games), RH Paul Sewald (0-6, 4.55, 69 Ks, 21 BBs, 65 1/3 IP in 57 games), RH Seth Lugo (7-5, 4.71, 101 1/3 IP in 19 games, 18 starts) or RH Robert Gsellman (8-7, 5.19, 119 2/3 IP in 25 games, 22 starts). Hot Spot: First Base. The 35-year-old Gonzalez, a five-time All-Star weakened by a bad back last season, was signed at a bargain price to provide competition and short-term insurance for Smith, a top prospect who struggled in his initial taste of the majors last year. Smith, 22, slimmed down in the offseason but was disciplined early in camp for arriving late one day. Then he strained a quad, keeping him out of the lineup for most of spring training, so it seems unlikely he'll make the opening day roster. Gonzalez, meanwhile, batted .182 with one extra-base hit and 11 strikeouts in his first 44 Grapefruit League at-bats before connecting for a home run. Wilmer Flores can play first against left-handers, but vs. righties the Mets either need Gonzalez to find the Fountain of Youth or Smith to live up to his first-round hype. Outlook: Callaway had great success with Cleveland's arms and the injury-plagued Mets are counting on his methods, along with new pitching coach Dave Eiland, to keep their talented but fragile rotation intact. New York also overhauled its medical department, hoping to keep star players on the field. Syndergaard and deGrom make for an imposing 1-2 punch. So if Harvey, Matz and Wheeler — even one or two of them — can finally stay healthy and approach their initial big league form, the pitching staff could be terrific again after unraveling last year with a 5.01 ERA that ranked 28th in the majors. Vargas was signed to eat innings but will miss some time at the beginning of the season following surgery for a broken right (non-pitching) hand. All-Star outfielder Michael Conforto (27 HRs, .384 OBP, .939 OPS) is targeting a May 1 return from surgery for a dislocated left shoulder. His status is critical to a lineup that lacks speed and a natural leadoff hitter. Nimmo made strides last season and is a potential candidate for that role while platooning early with Lagares to fill Conforto's spot in center field. After the Mets spent nearly $90 million to plug holes in free agency, it still might be a stretch to envision them seriously challenging star-studded Washington for NL East supremacy. But with better health in a soft division, they could certainly rejoin the wild-card hunt. ___ Philadelphia Phillies 2017: 66-96, fifth place. Manager: Gabe Kapler (first season). He's Here: RHP Jake Arrieta, 1B Carlos Santana, RHP Pat Neshek, RHP Tommy Hunter. He's Outta Here: Manager Pete Mackanin, SS Freddy Galvis, INF Andres Blanco, OF Daniel Nava, OF Hyun Soo Kim, RHP Clay Buchholz, 1B Tommy Joseph. Projected Lineup: 2B Cesar Hernandez (.294, 9 HRs, 34 RBIs, 15 SBs), 1B Carlos Santana (.259, 23, 79 with Indians), RF Nick Williams (.288, 12, 55) or Aaron Altherr (.272, 19, 65), LF Rhys Hoskins (.259, 18, 48), CF Odubel Herrera (.281, 14, 56), C Jorge Alfaro (.318, 5, 14), 3B Maikel Franco (.230, 24, 76), SS J.P. Crawford (.214, 0, 6 in 23 games). Rotation: RH Aaron Nola (12-11, 3.54 ERA, 184 Ks), RH Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53, 163 Ks with Cubs), RH Vince Velasquez (2-7, 5.13 in 15 starts), RH Nick Pivetta (8-10, 6.02), RH Zach Eflin (1-5, 6.16) or RH Ben Lively (4-7, 4.26). Key Relievers: RH Hector Neris (4-5, 3.01, 26/29 saves), RH Pat Neshek (5-3, 1.59, 1 save with Phillies and Rockies), RH Tommy Hunter (3-5, 2.61, 1 save with Rays), LH Adam Morgan (3-3, 4.12), RH Luis Garcia (2-5, 2.65). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. There are a lot of question marks beyond Nola, who emerged as a reliable starter in 2017. Arrieta, the former Cubs ace, had a rough first half in 2017 but finished strong. Yet he was a free agent until mid-March. He's getting paid big bucks to be a No. 1 guy again. Jerad Eickhoff will begin the season on the DL and Velasquez is coming off a disappointing year after showing promise in 2016. Pivetta has upside but needs more maturity. The team has plenty of depth at Triple-A, including several pitchers who have big league experience, in case any of the starters falter or get hurt. Outlook: The decision to sign Arrieta signals the rebuild is over. The Phillies added Santana, Neshek and Hunter to a talented young roster in hopes of being competitive. A month into spring training, they added Arrieta because management thinks it's time to contend now. The lineup has the potential to be dynamic if the young hitters continue to emerge and Santana does what he did in Cleveland. The bullpen should be formidable with Hunter-Neshek-Neris at the back end. If Arrieta regains his old form, Nola lives up to his promise and a couple other starters take steps forward, the Phillies can not only end their five-year run of losing seasons but maybe even make a surprise push for a postseason berth......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

Kevin Durant leads undermanned Warriors past Lakers 117-106

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 26 points and the injury-plagued Golden State Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 117-106 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL tiem) while missing Stephen Curry on his 30th birthday and their two other All-Stars. Zaza Pachulia returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the All-Star break and had 10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists for the banged-up defending champions, who already had clinched a sixth straight playoff berth this week without playing. Coach Steve Kerr's non-traditional, late-season starting lineup of Durant, Quinn Cook, Nick Young, Kevon Looney and Pachulia worked as the Warriors won their eighth straight home game. Durant, who had averaged 38.7 points over his previous three games, shot 10-for-19 but missed six of his seven three-point tries. He added six assists and five rebounds. Looney matched his career-high with 11 points for Golden State, which had lost a rare two in a row. Julius Randle had 22 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late as the Lakers were without starting forward Kyle Kuzma because of a sprained right ankle. Los Angeles had won two straight and 3-of-4. Isaiah Thomas added 20 points with five three-pointers and seven assists, while Lonzo Ball dished out 11 assists. Curry sat for a third straight game after re-injuring his troublesome right ankle early in a March 8 (Mar. 9, PHL time) win over the Spurs. He and Splash Brother Klay Thompson are both out for at least a four-game stretch and scheduled to be re-evaluated next week. Thompson has a fractured right thumb that will sideline him until March 22 (Mar. 23, PHL time). Ball's follow shot at the halftime buzzer off an off-balance missed three by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sent the game into intermission tied at 55. Golden State then opened the third on a 21-7 run and made seven of its first eight shots without any points from Durant. The Warriors earned a seventh straight victory against the Lakers — Golden State's longest unbeaten run in the series — and 11th in a row in the series at Oracle Arena. TIP-INS Lakers: Kuzma tried to get ready for the game. "He came over earlier and tried to push through it a little bit, and he couldn't," coach Luke Walton said. "It isn't really worth it. He'll be out tonight and get treatment tomorrow. We'll take it day-by-day." ... Walton's Hall of Fame father, Bill, was on hand and son said: "Big Bill's here. He's always been a great support." ... Los Angeles hasn't won in Oakland since an OT victory Dec. 22, 2012. ... The Lakers shot 12-for-37 from deep. Warriors: On the bench, Curry was shown on the big screen late in the second quarter and wished a Happy Birthday. ... Thompson had played in 530 of a possible 543 regular-season games. ... Pachulia made his first start since the All-Star break after JaVale McGee had been playing in his place. ... The Warriors also reached the playoffs in six straight years from 1946-47 through 1951-52 while in Philadelphia. W'S INJURIES MOUNT Draymond Green was also out Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) with soreness in his right shoulder. Backup center David West was sidelined for a fifth consecutive game with a cyst in his right arm but could return as soon as Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Rookie Chris Boucher was up from the G League Warriors and made his NBA debut with 1:19 left. With so many down, Kerr wanted his healthy players to be loose and let it fly. "With Klay and Steph out, what's that, about 75 shots that are not going to be available on most nights that are suddenly there?" he said. UP NEXT Lakers: Host Miami on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Warriors: Host Kings on Friday (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 15th, 2018

Towns, Wiggins step up for Timberwolves in win vs Warriors

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MINNEAPOLIS – Certain games count more than others over the course of an NBA team’s 82-game schedule, and the one the Timberwolves played – and won 109-103 – against the Golden State Warriors Sunday afternoon (early Monday, PHL time) at Target Center was one of those. Did it count double what some ordinary contest might have? Triple? Keep going. More like exponential. It’s too early to claim that Minnesota’s resiliency in the comeback from 12 points down, against the defending champ, saved their season. But the dueling scenarios, win vs. lose, were rather stark for a team facing a rigorous and largely uncharted final month. Fail Sunday (Monday, PHL time), and the Wolves would be lugging a four-game skid on the road to face Washington Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and San Antonio Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). By the time they got home to face Houston Sunday night (next Monday, PHL time), the losing streak could be six, going on seven. The Timberwolves at the All-Star break was a surprising third seed in the West. However, since Jimmy Butler’s absence from the lineup after a right meniscus tear on Feb. 23 (Feb. 24, PHL time), the Wolves have gone 2-4. Now the Wolves, whether they admit it publicly or not, are driven simply to qualify. Period. Ending up seventh or eighth is no prize, given a likely first-round ordeal against either the Rockets or the Warriors. But for a franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2004, either would be far better than landing ninth. By beating the Warriors, though, the Wolves bought themselves time and opened a smidgen of breathing room over the next few days. More than that, they responded to a serious challenge the way a playoff wannabe is supposed to. They didn’t unravel, they stuck to what was working and they had players slide into Butler’s roles as primary defender, go-to scorer and late-game closer. That is essential until the All-Star wing and obvious team leader returns, ideally, for playoffs that his teammates can deliver. Center Karl-Anthony Towns scored 14 of his team-high 31 points in the fourth quarter. Wing Andrew Wiggins scored 22 of his 23 in the first three quarters to help Minnesota claw back to an 84-84 tie. Those two stepping into the void of Butler’s injury suggested the sort of growth that, frankly, coach Tom Thibodeau and the team’s followers might look back on after this season (and postseason?) as a turning point. “This is a great opportunity for everybody, and certainly those two, in that whenever you have someone like Jimmy go out, it’s an opportunity to grow and get experience in different situations,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve talked about it a lot. We have good veterans on the team. But this is an opportunity for them to step up and lead.” Sure, Golden State was playing without team MVP Steph Curry (ankle) and ace reserve Andre Iguodala (wrist). But the visitors still had three All-Stars and the motivation of Friday’s (Saturday, PHL time) loss in Portland to propel them through the matinee. So, the Wolves did well to start with what Towns admitted was both “urgency” and “desperation.” They did even better to close with aplomb. Towns and Wiggins, both still 22-years-old, stayed cool in reacting and thwarting Golden State double-teams. Wiggins, who still needs to attack and earn his way to the foul line more often, wound up with a team-high plus-21. Towns shot 6-of-10 in the final quarter, while Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were combining to go 3-for-13 and 11 points. Butler’s presence this season often has taken the ball out of the two younger stars’ hands late in games. But Towns is so skilled, inside and out, he should get more opportunities when games are on the line – and will in Butler’s absence. He came in averaging just 3.2 field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter this season, with 1.8 buckets and 5.1 points. Compare that to his 5.7 makes, 10.6 shots and 15.4 scoring averages through the first three quarters of games so far this season. His usage rate drops from 22.4 to 20.9 when it ought to go up. You’d believe that too if you saw his work in the final three minutes, from bulling through Draymond Green for a layup that made it 101-96 to stepping in for a left baseline jumper two possessions later. At 104-103, Towns posted up Green near the end line again, banged a bit, then spun for a fadeaway jumper. Next time down, he followed up a shot against Durant to all but clinch it. The play of Towns, Wiggins and the other three Minnesota starters took any onus off Derrick Rose. Newly signed by his old Chicago coach, Rose had a rusty, regrettable debut with the Wolves, missing five of his six shots with two turnovers and a minus-17 in just 6:36. But his presence, if nothing else, ought to remind Towns and Wiggins that 22 is plenty old enough to grab a pack of Wolves by the scruff of their necks and take responsibility. Rose was 22 when he became the youngest MVP in NBA history, leading the Bulls all the way to the Eastern Conference finals that season. Minnesota basically is in the playoffs now – every outcome matters, bolstering or damaging its run to the postseason. There’s no running away now, no hiding either. “I think we’re more prepared because we’ve had most of the season to go through experiences,” Towns said. “Now that we’re at this point, we have the chance to do something great. It’s for us as a group to take all the experiences we’ve had – of losing close games, winning big, winning games offensively, winning games defensively – and putting them to [use].” It is vital that the Wolves’ young stars stay focused on the opportunities before them, rather than succumbing to the pressure. Said Towns: “The thing is, you don’t ever want to have pressure turn to stress. We have to make sure we keep our composure. Obviously, the situation we’re in, it’s a lot of pressure on us. But we can’t turn that into stress, because that’s when we start becoming undisciplined and start making errors that are more mental.” The proof now is in the playing, said Thibodeau. “The best leadership you can have is your actions,” the coach said. “What are you doing? It’s not what you say. Oftentimes people say things and never do what they say. It’s what you do.” 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 NewsMar 12th, 2018