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MAJOR POINT: Has the PBA Solved Its Draft Problem?

Late last week on October 12th, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) made an announcement that the PBA Board of Governors voted and agreed unanimously that starting 2019, the number 1 overall draft pick can no longer be traded and is exclusively for the worst team in the league to pick who they choose. At first glance, the PBA’s announcement looks like a solution to the draft problem that has gone on for over a decade. If you just read the headline or skimmed through the press release or an article written on the subject maybe you think the PBA has found its solution to the draft problem that caused division in the PBA Board and led to the hiring of a new commissioner after another draft debacle last year. Ever the skeptic, I read more than the headlines. Instead of skimming through the press release and articles, I read the fine print. After my readings and a few discussions with basketball people, do I feel the PBA has found a solution to its draft problem? I’m skeptical. I have questions. But before we get to my questions, lets take a look at how the PBA got itself in a situation where they had to make an actual rule that the worst team in the league CAN’T trade the number one overall pick: 2005: Anthony “Jay” Washington gets drafted number one overall by Air21 Express. Washington gets traded on draft day to the Talk ’N Text Phone Pals. Talk ’N Text was second in wins in the PBA in the three conferences leading up to the 2005 draft. 2008: The Talk ’N Text Phone Pals have picks 2 and 4 in the first round of the draft despite being tied for the most number of wins in the 2006-2007 season. They draft Jared Dillinger and Rob Reyes with those picks. TNT trades Jay Washington to the San Miguel Beermen and acquires the third overall pick, which turns out to be Jayson Castro. 2009: Japeth Aguilar is selected number one overall by the Burger King Whoppers. Aguilar plays one game for the Whoppers, before he is shipped to the Talk N Text Tropang Texters in a three-way trade also involving Barako Bull. Burger King was able to get Barako Bull’s 2010 (previously acquired by Talk ‘N Text) and 2012 first-round picks along with Talk ‘N Text’s 2013 and 2014 first-round picks. 2010: Noy Baclao and Rabeh Al-Hussaini are selected first and second overall by Air21 Express. Midway through their rookie season both Baclao and Al-Hussaini along with Rey Guevarra are traded to Petron Blaze in exchange for Danny Seigle, Dondon Hontiveros, Dorian Peña and Paul Artadi. Baclao and Al-Hussaini help the Petron Blaze win the 2011 PBA Governors’ Cup. Al-Hussaini wins Rookie of the Year. 2012: The Petron Blaze Boosters (from Barako Bull via Air21) select June Mar Fajardo number one overall. 2013: Barangay Ginebra (from Air21) selects Greg Slaughter number one overall. Barako Bull had the fourth, fifth and sixth picks in the first round. Barako Bull decides to trade away all three first round picks. The fifth pick turns out to be Terrence Romeo. 2014: Despite winning the Philippine Cup in a 4-0 sweep, Talk ’N Text lands the second and fourth picks overall and selects Kevin Alas and Matthew Ganuelas-Rosser before the 2014-2015 PBA season begins. Alas & Ganuelas-Rosser help Talk ’N Text win the 2015 Commisioner’s Cup. Kia Sorento with their first pick in franchise history selects Manny Pacquiao 11th overall. 2015: Despite winning the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup, Talk ’N Text has the number one overall pick (from Blackwater). Talk ’N Text selects Moala Tautuaa number one and then two days later trade for the number two overall pick, Troy Rosario (Mahindra). 2016: The “Special” Draft. Gilas players are selected behind closed doors. One Gilas cadet per team, not to be traded for two years. Draft order was never released to the PBA fans/public. 2017: The San Miguel Beerman, despite winning two championships, having the most wins and the best win percentage, select Christian Standhardinger number one overall after a trade from Kia. Losing out on the Standhardinger sweepstakes, TNT blasts Commissioner Narvasa for approving the trade. The PBA divides where seven teams declare they have a “loss of confidence” in Commissioner Narvasa. Five teams support Commissioner Narvasa. After a three-month stalemate, Commissioner Narvasa steps down and the PBA Board appoints a new commissioner, Willie Marcial. As you can see, it is a little more complicated than having the number one overall pick protected from a trade. While the number one overall pick has been traded seven times in the last 13 years, which has to be some kind of record, there have been other issues as well. And that is where my long list of questions begins: -    What’s to stop an already winning team from stacking up multiple first round picks other than the number one overall pick, like in 2008 and 2014? -    This "no trading of the top pick rule" becomes effective in 2019. Why the wait? Why can’t it apply this year? Columbian Dyip has the first pick this season. History says they could likely trade that pick to a championship team. Why do we have to go through this make-believe world another year? -    Hypothetically, how would the PBA handle this situation: Phoenix trades an active player to Rain or Shine for ROS’s 2021 1st round pick. Unfortunately, in 2020, ROS has a variety of injuries and acquires the number one overall pick. What happens then? Who gets the first pick? ROS or Phoenix? -    After the first pick is drafted, when does that player selected first become tradeable? Can it be traded after the draft? If not, for how long? Looking at the draft history of the last 13 years, you have to wonder, what were the objectives of teams like Air21, Barako Bull & Kia? Were those teams in the league to form competitive teams? Were they attempting to build championship teams? Why were those teams trading so many of their top picks? Columbian justified its trading of the number pick last year by saying they were going to play in an “unconventional” way. Their unconventional way has led them to five wins in 31 games so far this season. It has also earned them the number one overall pick for the second year in a row. The PBA Draft is supposed to be fun. It used to be fun. Before 2005, the PBA Draft was a legitimate event. It was something to look forward to. The idea of the draft is still special in theory. It’s a day where dreams come true. Drafted players lives change that day. Many times, the lives of a player's family change forever when their son or husband or father is drafted in the PBA. It's an opportunity for teams who have struggled to get better. It's supposed to give hope to teams drafting high and a challenge to teams drafting low. That is how the draft system is supposed to work. Unfortunately, in the PBA that system has been broke for a long time. I like the idea and the spirit of the draft. However, last year on my podcast, Staying MAJOR, I argued that the PBA should scrap its draft. That made me sad. It made me sad because I feel like the spirit of the PBA Draft has been lost. It's been lost by teams manipulating the system for the improvement of their individual team or their team's objective, but not for the betterment of the league. I’m tired of the PBA Draft getting hijacked every year. And now we have to likely go through it again this year. Even after what happened last year. Not being able to trade the number one pick sounds good. It’s a nice blanket statement. I even think it might be a step in the right direction. But, sometimes when you're bleeding, you need more than a band-aid. Fans aren’t naive. They can figure out what’s going on when year after year the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Maybe some of my questions will get answered here as the draft approaches? Maybe Columbian Dyip won’t trade their pick again? Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part? If there is a silver lining, it is at least the PBA and its Board have acknowledged that there is a problem. At least there was an attempt to fix it. I’d say vetting of new potential franchises, so the PBA doesn’t have members who want to trade their draft picks to already successful teams is the bigger issue, but hopefully this is a start of trying to level the playing field. Wouldn’t it be fun to have teams that haven’t won in a while, keep their picks and build contending teams? Or at least not give them to the already strong teams? Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate the draft spirit of hope on draft day without trying to figure out how the best teams ended up with the top picks again? The PBA is a professional, competitive, sports league. That’s what it’s supposed to be. The PBA is supposed to be fun too. However, it’s NOT fun or competitive when the top teams keep picking high every year. That’s not real competition to me. So will the PBA’s new rule regarding the number one overall pick change anything? This year, no. Starting next year, maybe. I’d like to be optimistic that there will be change or that this rule will initiate an on-going conversation of how to make the draft better. Unfortunately, we still have a full year of waiting before we find out. Eric Menk played in the PBA from 1999 to 2016. Menk is a four-time PBA champion, three-time PBA Finals MVP and one-time PBA MVP (2005). He will be writing for ABS-CBN Sports weekly. Menk also has his podcast Staying MAJOR as welll as his own YouTube channel ......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnOct 19th, 2018

How will the Spurs meld Aldridge, Leonard?

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 9th, 2017

Lamb scores 19, Hornets rout Cavaliers 126-94

By STEVE REED,  AP Sports Writer CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jeremy Lamb had a season-high 19 points and eight rebounds, and the Charlotte Hornets had no problem defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 126-94 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Two-time All-Star Kemba Walker had 18 points and Malik Monk added 16 for the Hornets, who improved to .500 on the season. Charlotte had balanced scoring throughout, with seven players finishing in double digits, including five off the bench. J.R. Smith scored 14 points for the struggling Cavaliers (1-8), who are playing without the injured Kevin Love and put up very little resistance on defense. The Hornets looked sluggish early on, but broke the game open late in the third behind a 26-11 run that made it a 20-point game. Parker, who has been a big addition for the Hornets as a player and as a leader, led the way during the key stretch, scoring on a pair of floaters and then delivering a perfect alley-oop pass to Monk, who soared above the rim after losing his man on a backdoor cut. Unlike Thursday night, when the Hornets surrendered a 19-point third quarter lead to Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, Charlotte had no intention of letting this one slip away. They quickly extended the lead to 29 points when Walker knocked down his fourth 3-pointer with 7:14 remaining in the game. He exited the game shortly after. TIP INS Cavaliers: Were outrebounded 49-28. ... Kyle Korver had 11 points, with three 3-pointers. Hornets: Owner Michael Jordan took in the game courtside, sitting at the end of the Hornets' bench. ... The owner of the other major sports franchise in the city, the NFL's Carolina Panthers, also attended the game. ... Nic Batum had nine points, eight assists and seven rebounds in a balanced effort. UP NEXT Cavaliers: At Orlando on Monday. Hornets: Host Atlanta on Tuesday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 4th, 2018

MAJOR POINT: Finding Family Away From Home

I’ve been in the Philippines now for over 21 years. I can’t believe it has been that long, but I just checked my passport stamp the other day and sure enough my arrival stamp says August 2, 1997. So many things have happened since then that it puts me in this weird nostalgic state of mind thinking back to how I was back then. I had no idea what was in store for me when I decided to try my luck in professional basketball in the Philippines. I thought I knew. I thought I knew everything, but I really had no clue. I was recruited by a Filipino agent living in the United States to come to the Philippines to play basketball. This made me feel pretty special. I had put together a solid playing resume in high school and college and had played a year professionally in Denmark. I thought I would come to the Philippines, play basketball for 11 years, retire, go back to Michigan and get into coaching. That was my plan. It was pretty simple to me. I never thought about the people I’d meet or the relationships I’d build during my stay in the Philippines. And even though I knew nobody in the Philippines, I didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to go to the Philippines to play basketball. There were a few things I underestimated when I came to the Philippines back in 1997. Being from Michigan, the heat was a often times painful adjustment to get used to. I had never lived in a big city before, so Manila and its traffic was also something to get used to. I don’t speak Tagalog, so getting around that can still be difficult at times. The style of play here in the Philippines is different than I was used to, so I had to get used to that. But, the biggest adjustment for me was that I knew absolutely no one when I came to the Philippines. I had no friends. My mom is from Lawaan, Eastern Samar. She had only been back once since she had left the Philippines in the late 1960s. Most of my relatives on her side of the family still live in the province. So while, I have family in the Philippines, I don’t have any relatives in Metro Manila. So, here I was, on the other side of the planet with no family and no friends. Like most people, I like having friends. I had always had a close group of friends in high school and college. Playing a year in Denmark, not having my friends around was probably my biggest adjustment and I went through a rough period of homesickness there. Now that I was in the Philippines, I was in a different, but also similar situation. In my early years here in the Philippines, I played for two great teams. My first team was Tanduay Rhum. My first coach was Alfrancis Chua and my first boss was Boss Bong Tan. Both of those guys took great care of me. After four years with them, I was then traded to Barangay Ginebra. My boss there was Boss Henry Cojuangco. He also took great care of me. I had many great teammates through the years, including my years on those two teams. My teammates were very welcoming of me and I enjoyed my time on the court with those guys. However, when practice ended. My teammates would go back to their friends, family and responsibilities and I would go back to an empty condo unit. Everyday I would have practice in the morning from 9-12. After practice, I’d eat and then go find a gym to workout in. By the time I was done with my workout at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I would then have to figure out what to do from 3 or 4 until the time I went to bed around 10 or 11. I thought a lot differently back then than I do now, so most of that time was wasted. I spent a lot of that time alone, bored, in front of the TV, just waiting for the day to end, so I could get up and do it again the next day. Although I was living my dream of playing professional basketball, it was strange for me to be living that life day after day after day. My first couple of years here, I didn’t have a car. I didn’t know my way around Manila. I didn’t know anybody outside of my team. I was living in Quezon City in a non-walkable area. It was a grind. I often wondered how long I could continue to stay on that type of grind. It wasn’t until after 18 months of living that way that I started to meet other Filipino-Americans that were going through similar experiences. In the late 1990s, the PBA landscape was much different than it is today. One thing that was a lot different, was there weren’t as many Fil-Ams as there are today. Having Fil-Am players playing in the PBA was still a new thing. There was a novelty about us. We were the new kids in school, in a way. Guys like Jeff Cariaso, Andy and Danny Seigle, Nic Belasco, Ali Peek, Noy Castillo, Rudy Hatfield and myself had played college basketball in the United States. The basketball fans here in the Philippines didn’t know who we were before we went high in the PBA Draft and then started playing in the PBA. Most of us were the only Fil-Americans on our teams. Upon meeting them, I found out that these guys were living the similar grind I had been going through. It’s hard to explain, but after meeting some of the other Fil-American basketball players, my life instantly got better. It was so refreshing to hear about their experiences. Although, we were all different and from different areas of the US, we were basically going through the same thing at near the same stage of our lives. We were all out here on our own trying to make it in professional basketball in country that was new to us. I found comfort in learning that other people were struggling with similar things that I was struggling with. There is always pressure to win in professional sports. My new friends helped me deal with that pressure. Learning about other peoples experiences in similar situations, having an outlet and having fun with new friends off of the court, helped bring balance to my life. I related to those guys. I smiled and laughed more when I was around those guys. Two guys in particular that helped me were Jeffrey Cariaso and Andy Seigle. Both of those guys are older than me and had been in the country and the PBA before I was. I looked to both of them for advice and valued their opinions. Jeff is from San Francisco was drafted in the PBA in 1995. By the time I had met Jeff in 1999, Jeff had won the PBA Rookie of the Year, had won multiple championships and was a multiple time PBA All-Star. Jeff was always a guy I respected for the way he handled himself on the court and off of it. Jeff was also a leader in the Fil-Am community here, organizing dinners and get togethers. Even today, it is nice to be able to message Jeff and he is still always willing to listen or give advice. Jeff will always shoot you straight. A friend like him is hard to find. Andy was the number one overall pick in the 1997 PBA Draft. At 6 for 10 Andy was the first Fil-Am from my generation to have big expectations put on his shoulders the very first day he stepped on a PBA court. Dealing with that pressure must have been tough, but Andy was one of the most accommodating, giving people I have ever met. Whenever he was doing something, he would invite me. Random days out of the blue, he would invite me to his house to have dinner with his family. Andy would host dinners at his house for holidays, where families from different teams would get together to celebrate. I was fortunate enough to eventually play with Andy at Ginebra, where we won three championships together. Having him in practice and as a friend made my life better in the Philippines. Just as Jeff and Andy helped me, I also tried to help new Fil-Americans that came to the Philippines after me. Rudy Hatfield came to Tanduay a couple of years after I had been there and I tried to show him the ropes. We became very close friends. When Jimmy Alapag and Harvey Carey were new to the country in 2002 and 2003, respectively, I tried help where I could. I can’t say I ever really mentored anybody, but I always tried to listen, and share. Even if I can only help you laugh or smile more, I know that can help. Those guys have also become close friends of mine. I know they have also helped others that have come after them. Since Alapag and Carey arrived, there have already been a couple generations of new Filipino American basketball players. I still see the younger Fil-Ams from different teams hanging out together. While I’ve heard that some people view that as Fil-Ams trying to separate themselves, I don’t believe that is true. Just like guys from the same province or same school are more likely to hang out together, young Fil-Ams are more likely to hang out together. It’s a natural thing to gravitate to things and people you relate to and have something in common with. It’s not the easiest thing to do, to go to a foreign country where you have no family and friends to start a new career. I know. I’ve been there. A lot of things have changed for me since 1997, when I first came to this country. I am now married and have two small children of my own. My wife, kids and her family provide my support system now, as I do for them. However, there was a time and a long time where I didn’t have that. My Fil-American friends were my family and support system. And while that wasn’t ideal, I was always taught to do the best with what you had. I’m thankful for what I had. Eric Menk played in the PBA from 1999 to 2016. Menk is a four-time PBA champion, three-time PBA Finals MVP and one-time PBA MVP (2005). He currently writes for ABS-CBN Sports weekly. Menk also has his podcast Staying MAJOR as welll as his own YouTube channel ......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 2nd, 2018

Q& A: Hornets Walker starts season in scoring groove

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com With the new season underway, and with his game as hot as almost anyone to start, Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker was asked what impressed or surprised him about the first 10 days or so of 2018-19. “Nothing besides my own play,” Walker said, laughing after a shootaround Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “Nothing besides seeing my name near the top of the NBA scoring, which is pretty weird.” Eh, maybe not so weird. Walker, a two-time All-Star, is the Hornets’ all-time leading scorer. At 28, the former ninth overall pick in the 2011 Draft is in his prime as a player. The 41 points he dropped on Milwaukee on opening night and the fact he’s gone for at least 23 every game since (with three more games of 30 or more) seems like the next logical step. It earned him the season’s first Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor and as Week 2 ended, his 31.7 ppg trailed only Golden State’s Stephen Curry (33.9) and Portland’s Damian Lillard (33.8). “It was [gratifying]. Who wouldn’t want it to keep going?” Walker told NBA.com. “I know teams will be gearing up on me and double-teaming me. But I just want to win, man. I want to get back to the playoffs any way possible. I don’t care what I average the rest of the year.” Walker, in the final year of a four-year, $48 million deal he signed in 2014, never has shot the ball so well -- 40.5 percent from the arc, 46.6 percent overall. Neither has he shot it so often and from such range. Walker is averaging 23 shots, including more than 11 3-point attempts. His usage rate of 33.5 trails only Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (35.1) and his 29.4 PER puts him ahead of Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Is it sustainable? That was one of multiple topics Walker talked about with NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner: *** Steve Aschburner: On Media Day, you made it sound as if you would hit this season hard from the start, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen. How do you explain it? Kemba Walker: I knew I had a good summer. I put in the work and the time and the effort to get better. And I’m healthy -- I haven’t felt healthy like this in a long time. Over the last three summers, I wasn’t healthy, having knee surgeries and ‘scopes. So I was rehabbing. This summer, I had a chance to work on my game. Being able to work on my shooting over a long period of time really helped as well. SA: You took as many 3FGAs last season as you shot your first two seasons combined. Now you’re launching them at a pace (11.3 per game) to break Steph Curry’s single season record (886). Is this a conscious change by you or a reaction to the league’s preferred style? KW: Both. The league definitely has changed from the time I first came in. Everybody’s shooting more threes, no matter their position. Me, I’ve just become more confident. I worked on my shot tremendously to get to this point. I’m comfortable now shooting it, whenever I can get to my spots. SA: What’s your preference -- pull-up threes, spot-up threes or those halfcourt threes like Steph takes? KW: Not at all [laughing]. Steph is a different type of shooter, maybe the best to ever shoot the basketball. But I’m comfortable shooting them however. It doesn’t matter. If I can get ‘em up, I try to make ‘em. But I do love for my teammates to create for me and get me some easy ones. It does take some stress, some pressure, off of me. SA: Your coach, James Borrego, has talked of using you more off the ball. Does that suit you? KW: It really helps. It gets me a little bit of rest, and it opens up a different dynamic in my game. As well as giving other guys a chance to have the ball in their hands and create for others. But the main thing is, it just keeps me fresher, which is huge for me. SA: What’s your take on the Charlotte rookies? KW: Oh, I’m a huge fan. Devonte’ [Graham] really hasn’t gotten a chance to play yet, but I’ve always been a huge fan, even when he was at Kansas. Just love his game, love his poise. And that’s skill -- I don’t think people understand how much of a skill it is to be poised, especially at a young age. It’s something that I didn’t have, something that took me a very long time to get. Miles [Bridges], he’s a hard-playing kid. Smart, always in the right spot on both ends of the floor. I can see him getting more minutes as the season progresses. SA: Malik Monk is a second-year guy who didn’t have the most satisfying rookie season. What do you see from him, and can he become a reliable backcourt mate? KW: Oh yeah, he’s growing. Every single day. His efficiency will come. He needs time to learn, needs time to develop, to figure out where his shots are going to come. He’s getting better already. He’s passing the ball really well, getting other guys involved. He needs to know we need him every night, with him coming off the bench for us. SA: Your rookie season was about as challenging as could be -- delayed by a lockout, rushed through training camp and a quickie preseason, and then a 7-59 experience. Did that set you back as a player? KW: Nah, it wasn’t a setback. It was humbling. I took it as a point in my career where I was going through adversity. It was tough -- nobody likes to lose -- and through my basketball career I felt I had been a winner. But I just stuck to it, just kept working hard. SA: You said you don’t want to talk anymore about your free agency next summer -- and your general manager, Mitch Kupchak, is on record saying, “Our intention is for him to end his career in a Hornet uniform.” Some people wonder what the market might be, though, given how many terrific point guards are out there. So let’s address that another way: what is it like competing with all those rivals? KW: It’s unbelievable, man. Every night. Every single night, somebody is there to … I can’t even explain it. Every team, there’s so many great point guards out there who are just ready to showcase their talents. There are young guys ready to show how good they are. Yeah, it’s a point guard league. SA: We’re seeing more and more teams switching everything defensively. How hard is that on a 6-foot-1 point guard? KW: It’s … tough sometimes. Some matchups, you don’t want to get. But I rely on my teammates to help out as much as possible. The most challenging part probably is boxing guys out. But I’m always up for the challenge. SA: Some players talk or at least play like defense is optional. Your thoughts? KW: Not at all. I’m paid to do it all. It’s not even about being paid -- I’m just competitive. I want to play defense. I want to score. I want to do it all. SA: I’ve often wondered what it’s like to play for the team that Michael Jordan owns. Other teams, the owners aren’t basketball experts. But that’s not the case for the Hornets. Is it intimidating? KW: I wouldn’t say intimidating. I love it. I want my owner to have played. He knows what’s going on, he knows how it feels after losses, after wins. Traveling. Being tired. He’s been through it. He knows what it takes to win games in this league. Even though basketball’s a bit different now from when he played, but still, he knows. I feel like I’m at an advantage because I can go to him, I can ask him things. Or he can just come to me, or text me or call me to let me know things. And let me know how to get past things. No, it’s an honor for us, it’s an honor for me to have him as an owner. SA: How is basketball different from when Jordan played? KW: For me, just the threes. A lot of bigs shooting threes. The bigs are different in general, you know? Back with MJ, I feel like the shooting guards and the forwards were dominant, and it was more of a post-up league. Now it’s a point guard’s league for the most part. And it’s not a post-up league much anymore. There are so many threes up in the air. SA: Do you little guys resent the stretch-fours and stretch-fives coming out onto your turf these days? KW: Yeah, man, it’s crazy. But it’s fun. Just seeing the development and the change. Even from when I first got in the league it wasn’t like that. But guys are so talented nowadays, it’s unbelievable. SA: Tell me about the Big Brothers Big Sisters work you do, mentoring four kids -- two boys and two girls -- in the Charlotte area. KW: Just to be in their lives. I take ‘em out to eat, take ‘em to Dave & Buster’s every now and then. It’s fun. I try to avoid the cameras. It’s not for social media. It’s not for anything but them. The kids are doing great in school. That’s the biggest progress, that’s what you want. They’ve really started to love basketball now -- they come to games sometimes. It’s been fun to see them grow, each and every time I see them. One of the kids, his mom passed away. I know it’s been a struggle for him. For me to be able to help get his mind off of that for a time, just be there for him, that’s definitely rewarding for me but I hope it’s more rewarding for him. SA: You’re in your eighth season, and you’ve played a total of 11 playoff games. What stands out for you about the postseason? KW: I remember every game. We played Miami twice. The first year [2014] was when they had LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. They swept us, but I thought we played really well. Obviously it wasn’t enough -- they had three Hall of Famers. I remember the level of intensity those guys played with. I remember telling myself, the next time I get to the playoffs, I’m going to try my best to play like that. The next time [2016], that’s what I did. People thought we might get swept again, but we went to seven games. It was really fun. The whole atmosphere was so intense. I loved it. You have to take your game to a whole ‘nother level. You have to play hard every possession, every second of those games. The competitiveness, the toughness, everything goes up. SA: A problem that team had, it still has -- you’re carrying such a big load offensively. Do you need a second reliable scorer, and is that guy on the roster now? KW: Of course. We need it. I’m not going to have huge games every night. It’s on one of these guys to step up. I think guys are still searching for their roles at this point, especially with a new coach, new system. We’re still learning. But as the season progresses, I think they will. We have guys who are capable of putting points up for us. SA: The All-Star Game this season is in Charlotte. You’ve been selected twice. What would you think of playing in that game in your market? KW: That’d be amazing. To be in Charlotte, the team that drafted me, the team I’ve played with for eight years now, it would be a really special moment. Hopefully I can get there. It’d be fun. A really important and fun moment in my career. 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 NewsOct 30th, 2018

As preseason winds down, NBA stars are getting some rest

By The Associated Press Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward's preseasons ended early. And they weren't alone around the NBA on Saturday, either. The Boston Celtics left the biggest two stars on their roster — both of whom are coming off serious injuries, and now apparently dealing with far more minor ones — out of the lineup for their preseason finale at Cleveland. The official reasons where lower back pain for Hayward and a rib contusion for Irving. Hayward's last game at Cleveland was opening night of the regular season a year ago, when he suffered a gruesome ankle and leg injury that ended his season. Irving was sidelined for the final month of the regular season and the entirety of Boston's run to the Eastern Conference finals with a knee problem. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers kept Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, George Hill and Kyle Korver out of the matchup. At the Indiana-Memphis game, the Pacers rested their entire projected starting five — Victor Oladipo, Darren Collison, Thad Young, Myles Turner, and Bojan Bogdanovic. And the Grizzlies sat some regulars as well, including Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, with neither move there coming as a surprise given that Memphis was playing a preseason back-to-back and both of those veterans played Friday against Atlanta. And when the Lakers and Clippers met in the last of three preseason contests Saturday, LeBron James was sitting out to rest. The Lakers were also without Lonzo Ball again, though he may play before the preseason ends. All those rest moves Saturday came one day after San Antonio lost rookie guard Lonnie Walker IV for several weeks with a torn meniscus. Walker got hurt in the Spurs' preseason game Friday, and will have surgery on Monday. CAVALIERS 113, CELTICS 102 Ante Zizic scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting and Collin Sexton had 13 points for Cleveland. Sexton made 4 of 6 from the field, including 2 of 2 from 3-point range and Jordan Clarkson added 12 points, six rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes. Larry Nance Jr. had 10 points for Cleveland (2-0). Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier scored 17 points apiece for Boston and Al Horford finished with 10 points and seven assists in 21 minutes. Boston's Marcus Smart was ejected following a dustup that started when his teammate Aron Baynes was pushed by Cleveland's J.R. Smith. "He wants to be so tough in that situation," Smith said of Smart. "He leads the league in flops, easily. You can't flop as much as you do and then be tough. How does that even work?" CAVALIERS: Isaiah Taylor, who signed with the Cavs last month, had eight points, three assists, three steals and a block in 17 minutes. CELTICS: Kyrie Irving announced on Thursday that he intends to re-sign with the Celtics (1-3) after season's end. ... Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum each scored eight points while combining to shoot just 7 of 22 from the field, including 0 for 4 from behind the arc. UP NEXT: Boston returns home to play Philadelphia in the season opener on October 16. ... Cleveland continues preseason play at home against Indiana on Monday. GRIZZLIES 109, PACERS 104, OT Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 18 points and Wayne Selden had 16 points, nine assists and two steals for Memphis. Garrett Temple and Yuta Watanabe, who was 5-of-7 shooting, added 11 points apiece. Domantas Sabonis had 17 points, 14 rebounds and four assists for Indiana (1-1). Aaron Holiday, picked 23rd overall in June's draft, hit 4 of 8 from 3-point range and finished with 20 points but committed eight turnovers. GRIZZLIES: Ivan Rabb, a second-round pick in 2017, had seven points, 12 rebounds, three steals and three blocks. ... Kyle Anderson did not play. PACERS: Tyreke Evans, who scored 19.4 points per game while playing for Memphis last season, had 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting. ... Alize Johnson, the 50th overall selection in the draft out of Missouri State, had eight points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes. UP NEXT: The Grizzlies (2-1) play the Magic in Orlando on Wednesday. ... Indiana travels to Chicago to play the Bulls on Monday. CLIPPERS 103, LAKERS 87 Lou Williams hit 3 of 4 from 3-point range and finished with 19 points and Tobias Harris had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Clippers. Montrezl Harrell and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 12 points apiece. Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with 15 points while Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 10 apiece. CLIPPERS: Marcin Gortat, acquired via trade from Washington in June, had 10 points, on 5-of-7 shooting, and nine rebounds in 21 minutes. ... Avery Bradley scored two points and committed five turnovers in 26 minutes. He had made 3 of 16 from the field, including 1 of 10 from 3-point range, in two games this preseason. LAKERS: JaVale McGee had eight points and nine rebounds. ... Rajon Rondo had six rebounds and 10 assists. ... The Lakers made just 3 of 18 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range. UP NEXT: The Lakers (1-3) play Golden State at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday. ... The Clippers (3-0) play host to Denver on Tuesday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 7th, 2018

Koepka shaken after bloodying fan s head with tee shot

By DOUG FERGUSON,  AP Golf Writer SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AP) — Brooks Koepka found no reason to be intimidated by playing in the Ryder Cup because golf isn't a contact sport. But it became one under the worst circumstances. And it shook him up. Koepka's wild tee shot on the par-4 sixth hole struck a woman in the gallery and bloodied her head. He said he checked on her condition after his round and had not heard any update from Ryder Cup officials. "It's not a fun feeling. I probably do it way more than I should," he said. "You feel terrible for them. You know exactly how they are feeling, especially when you've got to go over there and apologize because they are in pain, usually bleeding, and then to hit her in the face is not ... you don't want to hit anybody in the face, especially not a woman, and it's not a good feeling. "I just wanted to get out of there," he said. "We'll get an update on her, but hopefully she's doing good." Koepka says he yelled, "Fore!" and not sure it would have mattered. The wind was slightly into the players on the sixth hole, and Koepka tends to hit his driver upward of 300 yards when in mild temperatures. "The problem is, you shout, 'Fore,' but from 300 yards, how are you supposed to hear it? How are you supposed to know?" Koepka said. "From 300 yards, even if none of us said, 'Fore,' she's going to get hit. And that's the unfortunate thing." The hole ended with Finau chipping in for eagle. SERGIO'S SPARK A spark has been missing in Sergio Garcia's game since he captured his first major at the Masters last year. He rediscovered it at his beloved Ryder Cup. After sitting out the morning fourballs, Garcia teamed with Alex Noren in a 5-and-4 rout of Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau that was fueled by a run of five birdies in seven holes on the front nine. Not only will it boost Garcia's confidence in a year when he missed the cut at all four majors, it went some way to justifying Thomas Bjorn's decision to hand the Spaniard a captain's pick despite other players being in better form. "He had a tough year. When you play this game for a long time, sometimes when things are not going your way, you kind of write things off and then your goals change and what you want to do," Bjorn said. "And I've felt all along with him that if I made that phone call to him, that he was going to be in this team, well then he would regroup his whole world." Garcia has won 23½ points at the Ryder Cup, the same as Colin Montgomerie. Two more points will take him past Nick Faldo (25) as the leading scorer from either team in the competition and he'll get a shot at breaking the record at Le Golf National. He is playing with Rory McIlroy against Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau in the morning fourballs on Saturday. LEFTY'S LAMENT Phil Mickelson made it official when he played a foursomes match by competing in 12 consecutive Ryder Cups, the most by any player. He also tied Nick Faldo by playing in his 46th match. But it's not all good news for Lefty. He and Bryson DeChambeau lost, 5 and 4, to Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren. It was his 21st career loss, which broke the American record for most losses. One more loss and Mickelson would have the overall record for most losses. He is tied with Christy O'Connor and Neil Coles. On this day, even Mickelson's best golf might not have been enough. Garcia and Noren played a superb match of alternate shot, making five birdies against no bogeys on the front nine in the wind on a strong golf course with a premium on driving. "Even if we had played really well, it would have been tough to hang with them," Mickelson said. "They played incredibly well on the front?" What was Mickelson doing in foursomes instead of fourballs? U.S. captain Jim Furyk said Le Golf National sets up for a lot of irons off the tee, and Mickelson is one of the better iron players. "The golf course is tight," Furyk said. "I realize you have to hit a lot of fairways. It's also a place where you're probably not hitting a lot of drivers if you're Phil Mickelson and you're hitting a lot of 3-woods and a lot of irons. Looking at his game, he's a very good iron player, so I felt comfortable." RYDER CUP RECORDS Sergio Garcia won another foursomes match, improving to 10-3-3. He also moved closer to the Ryder Cup record in foursomes. Garcia tied Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros with his 10th victory, and is one short of Bernhard Langer, who won 11 such matches. Throw in the three halves, and Garcia matched Langer's record of contributing 11½ points. TURNING POINT Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed were all square with Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari on the 15th hole, and Woods had a decision to make. He missed the fairway to the left, and with water all around the green, he wasn't sure the lie was good enough to carry the water. So he decided to lay up and try to make par with his wedge. "I didn't want to leave him in the hole alone," Woods said. "By dumping it in the water, he's got to play the hole alone. I told him, 'Hey, the worst score I'm going to make over here with my wedge game right now is probably par. I'll hit up there inside 10 feet. I'll make par and that should free you up to be a little more aggressive and make birdie.'" It sounded like a good plan, except that Reed hit into the water. Woods hit his wedge to about 8 feet and never had a chance to make the par putt. Molinari also went in the water, but Fleetwood hit it 15 feet left on the fringe and made the putt. Europe birdied the next two holes and won the match......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 29th, 2018

Yanks clinch wild card with 3-2, 11-inning win over Orioles

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — The Yankees are back in the postseason, though not the way they wanted. Aaron Hicks doubled home the winning run in the 11th inning, and New York clinched an AL wild card with a 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday. Rookie manager Aaron Boone will lead the Yankees into the winner-take-all Oct. 3 wild-card game, most likely against Oakland. The Yankees began the day 1½ games ahead of the Athletics for home-field advantage and are 53-27 at home this season. Hicks and Luke Voit homered in the second inning, but the Orioles tied the score with runs in the third and the fifth off Lance Lynn. Tampa Bay, third in the wild-card chase, lost at Toronto as the ninth inning was about to start in the Bronx. The Yankees finally broke through after Didi Gregorius singled off Paul Fry (0-1) starting the 11th. Giancarlo Stanton struck out. Hicks fouled a pitch off his left foot, then took a ball. He lined a low, inside slider down the left-field line, and Gregorius sped home, sliding in headfirst ahead of shortstop Jonathan Villar's relay throw. Gregorius spread his arms wide, and the Yankees poured out of the dugout to celebrate. New York sprinted to a 54-27 record at this season's halfway point and was ahead of Boston by percentage points in the quest for its first AL East title since 2012, but the Yankees slowed in the second half as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gregorius and Aroldis Chapman got hurt. The Red Sox clinched their third straight division crown by beating New York on Thursday. Still, at 95-59 the Yankees matched their most wins since 2012 and equaled their season high of 36 games over .500. They will make their 54th postseason appearance — 21 more than any other team. Boone replaced Joe Girardi after the Yankees, led by a rebuilt roster filled with youth, reached last year's AL Championship Series but lost to Houston in seven games. New York's bullpen, which has struggled at times, showed its strength. Chapman, in his second outing since returning from the disabled list, struck out two in a perfect seventh inning — his earliest appearance in a game since Aug. 24 last year. Dellin Betances fanned three straight batters in the eighth, and Zach Britton struck out two more in a one-hit ninth. Jonathan Holder allowed DJ Stewart's double on his first pitch in the 10th but escaped. Baltimore had second and third with no outs when Adam Jones grounded to third with the infield in. After an intentional walk, Chris Davis lined out to a diving Voit at first and Breyvic Valera popped out. Tommy Kahnle (2-0) pitched a one-hit 11th. Baltimore dropped to 44-110, one shy of the franchise record for losses set by the 1939 St. Louis Browns. The Orioles entered 60½ games out of first place. Hicks and Voit connected in the second off David Hess, raising the Yankees' team-record home run total to 251. Voit's drive hit the Toyota sign above New York's bullpen in right-center and gave him 11 homers and 25 RBIs in 32 games since he was acquired from St. Louis. Cedric Mullins' tapper in front of the plate drove in a run in the third, and DJ Stevens singled in the tying run in the fifth. Baltimore's Steve Wilkerson was thrown out at the plate twice, by Gleyber Torres after the second baseman retrieved Sanchez's errant throw and by Judge on Caleb Joseph's single to right in the fifth. Wilkerson threw out Torres trying to score from third on Andrew McCutchen's seventh-inning grounder to third. Lynn struggled and failed to pitch a 1-2-3 inning. He allowed two runs — one earned — in five innings but got a key out in the fifth when Adam Jones bounced into an inning-ending forceout with the bases loaded. Jones is 2 for 15 against Lynn. Hess gave up two runs in five innings and is 1-9 in his last 15 starts. STRUGGLING A day after the Yankees said the struggling Sanchez would be their postseason starter, he allowed his major league-leading 15th passed ball — he tied for the high last year with 16. He also made his sixth error. MISSING Davis struck out three times, raising his total to seven in two games and 192 this season. He is hitting .168. DOUBLING DOWN Miguel Andujar hit his 42nd double, two shy of Joe DiMaggio's Yankees rookie record in 1936. LOOKING AHEAD Baltimore assured itself the top pick in next year's amateur draft with Friday's loss, which meant the Orioles will at best be tied with Kansas City for most defeats in the major leagues. The Orioles had a poorer record in 2017, which would be the tiebreaker. Baltimore's only previous No. 1 overall selection was used for right-hander Ben McDonald in 1989. TRAINER'S ROOM Orioles: RHP Andrew Cashner remains bothered by pain in his left knee. ... RHP Hunter Harvey is to have his sore elbow examined Monday, according to manager Buck Showalter. UP NEXT LHP J.A. Happ (6-0, 2.39 ERA with the Yankees; 16-6, 3.62 overall) starts Sunday's home regular-season finale and is lined up to start the wild-card game. He allowed one run and two hits over six innings to win at Oakland on Sept. 4. RHP Alex Cobb (5-15) starts for the Orioles......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

Carmelo moves closer to Rockets after reported three-team trade

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Half a Banana Boat Crew is better than nothing. Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) reported trade of Carmelo Anthony from Oklahoma City to Atlanta as part of a three-team deal also involving Philadelphia -- and which will be followed by the Hawks waiving Anthony -- obviously clears the way for Anthony to join Chris Paul in Houston, as has been rumored for weeks once it became clear OKC had to get rid of Anthony to lower what would have been a lethal luxury tax bill next year. The deal sends guard Dennis Schroder from the Hawks, which drafted him 17th overall in 2013 and who has been Atlanta’s incumbent starter the last two seasons, to the Thunder for Anthony and a Lottery protected (1-14) 2022 first-round pick. In addition, forward Mike Muscala was re-routed from Atlanta to Philadelphia through Oklahoma City, which will receive former first-rounder Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot from Philly. The 76ers will send third-year wing Justin Anderson to Atlanta to complete the deal. Anthony has told people for more than a week that he expects to wind up with the Rockets, according to a league source. The Rockets have been in flux this offseason, losing defensive stalwart and team leader Trevor Ariza in free agency to Phoenix, along with Luc Mbah a Moute, who returned to the Clippers after one season in Houston. The Rockets helped stanch some of their defensive losses by signing 3 and D wing James Ennis (career 36 percent on three's) from Detroit last week. Anthony would not help the Rockets much at the defensive end. But the 34-year-old Anthony can still score, even though his average fell to 16.2 points last season as the Thunder’s third option behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Houston’s offense doesn’t need upgrading -- the Rockets were just behind top-ranked Golden State in Offensive Rating last season (112.2), and of course, obliterated the rest of the league in three-point attempts and makes. But after Paul missed the last two games of the Western Conference finals against the Warriors, Houston’s offense bogged down at the worst possible times -- most notably the second half of Game 7, when the Rockets missed a seemingly impossible 27 consecutive three-point attempts. Anthony isn’t a great three-point shooter by any means, but he’s still a load in the post and is still able to get to the foul line -- his last season in New York, when he was more of a primary option, he still averaged almost five free throws a game. The Thunder’s main motivation to trade Anthony rather than use its stretch provision to get his $27.8 million off its books for next season was not just economic, though that was a key factor. OKC will save less money by trading Anthony rather than stretching him, but in doing so the Thunder will also address a major need that was clear to any who’ve watched the team the last couple of years -- an offense that falls apart whenever Westbrook is on the bench. If OKC had just stretched Anthony, it would have had $9.6 million in dead money on its books that it couldn’t have done anything with this year. The Thunder chose instead to take on Schroder’s $15.5 million for next year. Acquiring Schroder, who was obsolete in Atlanta once the Hawks decided to acquire the rights to rookie point guard Trae Young on Draft night, gives OKC a young veteran who can create offense for himself and others when Westbrook needs a blow. Schroder averaged 19.4 points and 6.2 assists last season. But Schroder has to deal with pending legal action against him stemming from an incident last September in DeKalb County, Georgia, in which he and three other men were involved in a fight with another man, who reported suffered a torn ACL and meniscus. The charges against Schroder were recommended to be upgraded from misdemeanor to felony. Assuming the charges are resolved before the start of the season -- a good assumption, or the Thunder would have never signed off on the deal -- OKC will upgrade its roster with a player who will provide incredible versatility as either a top-notch reserve, a player who could start alongside Westbrook or, at the worst, could be moved down the road. Schroder has three years and $46.5 million left on his deal. Atlanta made its intentions for Schroder clear when it picked Young rather than Luka Doncic, whose rights the Hawks sent to Dallas in a Draft night deal, and traded for veteran point guard Jeremy Lin from Brooklyn earlier this month. The Hawks just wanted a first for Schroder, and got one from OKC, which wouldn’t have been able to move Anthony’s whole contract without it. Muscala’s $5 million had to be included to make the deal work financially. He became coveted by Philadelphia after free agent Nemanja Bjelica backed out of a verbal agreement with the 76ers this week. Philly needed a stretch four who could shoot, and Muscala is a career 38 percent three-point shooter. Anderson was a former first-rounder (21st overall in 2015) with the Mavericks whose athletic ability and work ethic have made him a team favorite both in Dallas and Philly. The rebuilding Hawks will give him a look on the wings along with Taurean Prince, DeAndre’ Bembry and first-round pick Kevin Huerter. The Hawks have been shopping veteran forward Kent Bazemore since before this year’s Draft. SiriusXM radio host and longtime NBA reporter Mitch Lawrence was first to report the potential deal between the Thunder and Hawks. 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 NewsJul 20th, 2018

Comm. Silver, NBPA say competitive imbalance not a problem

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com LAS VEGAS -- First came the backlash. Next, backlash to the backlash. By Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), much of the whipsawing over competitive balance -- or more accurately, imbalance -- as an NBA problem rising to the level of crisis had calmed down. Yet powerful voices from the league’s summer nerve center could not dismiss it entirely as an issue meriting closer inspection. “I'm not here to say we have a problem,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday after the Board of Governors meeting. “And I love where the league is right now. [But] I think we can create a better system.” Neither Silver nor Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sounded an alarm in their separate news conferences about what many see as a widening gap between the league’s haves and have-nots. Roberts, in fact, seemed to feel that all is well and that talent inequality is in the eye of the beholder. “Competitive balance, it almost depends on what your favorite team is,” said Roberts, who was rehired as head of the players union in another four-year contract announced Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “I don’t hear anybody in the Bay Area worrying about competitive balance. I also don’t hear the people in Philadelphia worrying about competitive balance, or Houston. “We’ve got great teams. And it’s never been the case, as far as I’m concerned, where I was not able most of the time to predict what teams were going to be in the Finals.” The topic came up in precisely that context before the Finals last month when Silver was asked about Golden State and Cleveland meeting in the championship series for the fourth consecutive year, a first in any of the major professional sports leagues. It reared its head again this month soon after free agency opened on July 1, with events conspiring to make insiders wonder about a growing disparity among teams. LeBron James’ signing with the Los Angeles Lakers was the biggest move in what appeared to be a continuing shift of strength into the league’s Western Conference. That was followed by the news that DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans’ All-Star center, had joined the champion Warriors. That signing sparked the initial backlash, a rich-getting-richer cry that pointed not to Cousins’ one-year deal for $5.3 million in 2018-19 salary but the fact that the Warriors will spend in excess of $20 million for it when luxury taxes are counted. Golden State had the NBA’s fattest payroll in 2017-18 of $137.5 million, despite a $99 million salary cap, thanks to various exceptions in the prevailing “soft cap” system. “I don't necessarily think it's per se bad that the Warriors are so dominant,” Silver told reporters, not long after discussing the “competitive landscape” with the owners. “As I've said before, we're not trying to create some sort of forced parity. What we really focus on is parity of opportunity. And a fair point could be made in the tax system, when certain teams are spending significantly more than others, that that's not parity of opportunity.” The counter-backlash came from folks who rushed to the Warriors’ and Cousins’ defense, correctly noting that neither did anything wrong, conducting their business within the rules as specified by the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players. That CBA is the object of endless study and imagined revision, with amendments possible if negotiated prior to the end of the current deal after the 2023-24 season. Shooting for a “hard cap” likely would be a tough sell to players accustomed to the freedom of movement they currently enjoy. “It's not necessarily [Roberts’] issue,” Silver said in response to the union director’s characterization. “I think it's on me and our Labor Relations Committee, ultimately, to sit with the players and their committee and convince them that there may be a better way of doing things.” Silver mentioned Charlotte owner and legendary NBA superstar Michael Jordan, chairman of that Labor Relations Committee, as a valuable resource in addressing owners’ and players’ competition concerns. Both sides have valid arguments. Interest in the NBA never has been higher by almost any metric chosen, from selected TV ratings and licensing revenues to the game’s growth globally. Attendance at the MGM Resorts Las Vegas Summer League keeps pushing higher, with fans eager to see top rookies, second-year players and relative free-agent unknowns chasing their pro hoops’ dreams. The valuations of the 30 NBA franchises, of course, all have soared beyond $1 billion, according to Forbes.com, with the Knicks, the Lakers and the Warriors all estimated to be worth more than $3 billion. Longtime NBA observers such as TNT’s David Aldridge wrote a column this week that argued on behalf of dominant teams, anyway, saying that they actually drive rather than depress fan interest. As for any inability to win games or titles, he laid the blame for that on poor franchise management. The Knicks and the Clippers have all sorts of big-market advantages but haven’t won any championships lately (or at all in the Clippers' case). For Roberts, whose players reap 51 percent of NBA basketball-related income that tops $7 billion annually, business is good, period. “I’m excited about this new season,” she said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “This free agency, there’s been a lot to write about so we’re all, I think, looking forward to what’s going to happen come October. “To the extent that people are predicting the end of the game, I just don’t think so. I would be surprised if Adam called me to say, ‘What the hell are we going to do?’ I think he’s as happy as I am. ... I think we’re in good shape.” Critics note Golden State’s on-court dominance in winning the last two championships. It only took nine NBA Finals games --one over the minimum -- while facing arguably the league’s best player in LeBron James. But those same critics seem to foget that the Warriors were pushed to the full seven games in the conference finals, and actually faced elimination twice before beating the Rockets. “I recognize what Michele's saying,” Silver said. “But at the same time, if you talk to players in the league, and I've talked to plenty of individual players as well, they want to be in the most competitive league possible too.” For every player on the Warriors' roster -- or the Rockets, the Thunder, the Celtics or the Sixers -- there are five or six on teams that realistically have no chance of chasing a ring or the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Cleveland went to four straight Finals thanks to James; no one envisions the Cavaliers getting back any time soon. “Maybe there are some players who think they’re on a second-class team,” said Sacramento wing Garrett Temple, one of the NBPA vice presidents. “But most players I’ve played with or been around, their thought process is, ‘We’re gonna get our team to become one of those first-class teams.’ It’s more of a challenge. More so than, ‘We need them to disband so we can make everybody equal.’ Because we’re competitors.” That really is the crux of the issue. Silver and some franchises want most of the competition to come on the floor, in games, in full view of fans who believe their teams can sufficiently compete. The league’s current title contenders are fine with a system that allows them to compete all the way to the top, with an owner stroking gargantuan checks to crowd out rivals. “Let me make clear that under the current system we want teams to compete like crazy,” Silver said. “So I think the Warriors within the framework of this deal should be doing everything they can to increase their dominance. That's what you want to see in a league. “You want teams to compete in every way they can within the rules.” Silver addressed a variety of topics that were came from the BOG agenda, including: -- Change is coming on multiple fronts, most notably in the league’s age limit. That seems likely to be re-set back to 18 years old from 19, permitting players to enter the league from high school. It’s a move that the NBA should be better equipped to handle with a near 30-for-30 farm-system affiliation with its G League. It also fits with the findings of an NCAA task force that cites dissatisfaction with “one-and-done” college players. Said Silver: “My personal view is that we’re ready to make that change.” -- The start of free agency, annually triggered at midnight ET on July 1 (12:00pm, July 1, PHL time), will be moved to a daytime or prime time opening bell. It’s one of those traditions that no one thought to change, Silver said. -- The league’s investigation into the Dallas Mavericks’ sexual harassment issues should be completed by the end of the month. 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 NewsJul 12th, 2018

Modern bigs to dominate 2018 Draft

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com NEW YORK – There was a ballroom full of NBA centers in midtown Manhattan Wednesday – not one of them eager to follow in the sizeable footsteps of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Shaquille O’Neal or Dwight Howard. In fact, on the very day that the top prospects for the 2018 Draft were made available to the media – a talent pool particularly long on length this year – Howard was on the move again, in a reported deal from Charlotte to Brooklyn that will land the eight-time All-Star with his fourth team in four seasons and sixth overall. That bit of news – of an old-school NBA big man being shuffled off again,  primarily for salary-cap purposes, into what looks to be basketball irrelevancy – served as a counterpoint to the young giants just starting out. There will be plenty of guards and forwards selected in the first round Thursday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, including Michael Porter Jr., Trae Young, Collin Sexton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Mikal Bridges, Kevin Knox and Lonnie Walker. But the lottery will be top-heavy with big men, with Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., and Robert Williams all hearing their names called. All six are listed at 6'10" or taller, though they’ll bear little resemblance in style or production to the Hall of Famers cited above or even to Howard. The last time last time six players that size were drafted in the top 10 was 2007, when Greg Oden, Al Horford, Yi Jianlian, Brandan Wright, Joakim Noah and Spencer Hawes all went early. Much has changed in 11 years. These young guys represent basketball’s new-age pivot men, er, which means we’d better drop the “pivot men” nomenclature. Rather, the word that got tossed around most often Wednesday during conversations about these guys’ fit – with specific teams and in the league generally – was modern. Modern centers for a modern NBA. “Modern-day 5,” is how Mamba put it. “Defend multiple positions, can shoot it, handle it a little. Can do a little bit of everything,” the 20-year-old from Harlem, by way of Pennsylvania and Texas. Said Jaren Jackson, Jr., fresh from one season at Michigan State: “At times, I’ve heard that I’m right on time for the way the game is going. A lot of bigs can handle the ball and be versatile and they’re able to make plays.” If you want to feel old, consider the NBA’s prevailing definition of “modern.” With major league baseball, for example, what’s known as the “modern era” historically is thought to have begun in the year 1900. By contrast, the NBA’s modern era dates back to about a week ago last Tuesday. That’s how quickly the contributions from the center position have changed. After ruling the NBA landscape for most of the league’s first 50 years, traditional big men looked at now as dinosaurs, both in form and function. Plodding isn’t allowed. Posting up, back to the basket, and backing into the paint seems as dated in this league as helmetless players in the NHL. There have been noticeable markers along the way. In the ‘90s, players who naturally would have been trained and used as centers – Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Amare Stoudemire, Antonio McDyess – demanded to face the basket and be referred to as power forwards. Then in 2012, the league joined them, eradicating “center” from its All-Star ballot and opting for “frontcourt” as a catch-all category for everyone from 6'5" wings to seven-foot shot swatters. This latest era dates back just a few years, if you go by a few key analytics. A recent ESPN.com story tracked the minutes played by seven-footers in the playoffs, compared to the regular season, and identified the tipping point as the 2016 postseason. Even if you back it up by a year to include Golden State’s heavy use of small ball in winning its championship in 2015, that’s still barely more than a heartbeat. But the full embrace of the three-point shot and the type of pace favored by a majority of current NBA coaches has put a premium on centers – we’re taking liberties in even calling them that anymore – who are mobile, who can switch defensively, challenge perimeter shooters, do some of that shooting of their own and still crash the boards and protect the rim. The next Shaq or Kareem? Now the model is Houston’s efficient Clint Capela, Boston’s savvy Al Horford or Minnesota’s ridiculously skilled Karl-Anthony Towns. Big guys such as DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have added range to their shots. Some – Andre Drummond, Jonas Valanciunas, a few more – have status or contracts assure them minutes. Yet other old-style bigs are out of the league (Roy Hibbert, Andrew Bogut) or logging long stretches on the bench (Greg Monroe, Al Jefferson, Hassan Whiteside). Just two years ago, Jahlil Okafor was the No. 3 pick in the 2016 Draft. These days, he’s an afterthought with little market value. Teams don’t want to play the way Okafor and others like him need to play. So the challenge for a fellow such as Ayton, projected to be the near-consensus No. 1 pick this year, is to make sure no one confuses him or his game with DeAndre Jordan. Asked about the trend Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), Ayton at one point sounded a little defiant. “I’m not changing my way of play in the NBA,” he told reporters. “I’m still an inside-out type of player. I’m going to start inside and establish myself down low until I have to stretch the floor.” It helps, of course, to have that option. Ayton already is built like an NBA veteran, but he has sufficient quickness to cover ground defensively and to keep up with a faster offensive pace. And for those who haven’t been paying attention to him since the NCAA tournament ended – or in Arizona’s case, barely got started with that opening loss to Buffalo – Ayton has a surprise: a more reliable three-point shot he’s willing to unleash. “The NBA three-ball is way farther than the college three-ball,” he said. “I’ve really put on some range and put on some muscle. When I’m fatigued in games, I really can [still] get my shot off in a perfect arc.” Bagley, depending where he lands, might end up playing more out on the floor than the other bigs in this draft. That’s his experience, having had Carter next to him at Duke to handle the basics. Williams will likely benefit from shifting in the opposite direction. He played a lot at power forward for Texas A&M but is rated highly for how his game translates to, you guessed it, modern center play. Bamba has drawn comparisons to Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, as much for his charisma as for any play similarities. He allegedly has overhauled his shot this spring, and also was eager to tout his three-point range Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Then there is Jackson, who has been rated as the best two-way player of the bunch. That includes not just his defense against fellow bigs but his ability to keep up with and guard nearly any position. Jackson seemed to speak for all the big men among the future pros in New York Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Unlike a previous generation of centers, many of whom got caught in the NBA’s transition to a smaller, faster, position-less style, the young centers of 2018 grew up watching it. And preparing for it. Nothing frustrating about it, Jackson said, though it’s a far cry from the league in which his father, Jaren Sr., (1989-2002) played. “No. Whatever helps each team do their best is what lineup they’re going to put out,” Jackson said. “They’re going to put the best players on the floor every time. You look at a team like the Warriors, they switch everything. They can play all different positions. That’s what they’re good at.” That’s what these guys, given their size, are remarkably good at too. 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 21st, 2018

Q& A: Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com A year ago, on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls switched gears. Jimmy Butler was traded to Minnesota, taking with him any pretense that the Bulls were a legitimate playoff team. In that moment, Chicago committed to a rebuild, which is to say, a dive into the draft lottery where coach Fred Hoiberg and his team presumably would be rewarded not for how many games they won but how many they lost. By whatever means necessary. Soon after Butler was moved to the Timberwolves, veteran point guard Rajon Rondo was waived. A few months later, Dwyane Wade was cut loose (via a handsome buyout) to bounce through Cleveland to Miami. The Bulls moved forward with three young pieces courtesy of the Wolves -- wing Zach LaVine, guard Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick in 2017, rookie forward Lauri Markkanen -- and a general acceptance that getting from there to here was going to bring a lot of pain. Some of that was literal: Bobby Portis slugged teammate Nikola Mirotic in a preseason practice, breaking two facial bones and putting Mirotic on the shelf for 23 games. Some of it was figurative: the frustration of a season that began as a 3-20 mess and ended in a 10-28 slog. In between, though, the Bulls somehow put together a 14-7 stretch that offered a glimpse of what 2018-19 might be. It also cost them precious lottery balls, eventually leaving them with the No. 7 pick (and No. 22, after dealing Mirotic in February to New Orleans) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Draft. Hoiberg, who went from an alleged coaching “hot seat” during two .500 seasons, wound up with more job security as a coach headed toward 50 defeats and beyond. He spoke with NBA.com about his and the Bulls’, er, challenging season. This is edited from a pair of longer conversations, one at the end of the regular season, the other within the past week. NBA.com: So you go through everything that was 2017-18, dutifully lose 55 games and wind up at No. 7 instead of in the top three for the Draft. The inevitable question is, was it worth it? Fred Hoiberg: Obviously you’re disappointed. You were hoping to move up. But we’re confident we’re going to get a good player with the No. 7 pick and we’re confident we’ll get a good player with the 22nd pick. NBA.com: C’mon, this isn’t our first rodeo. I get that people don’t like to use the word “tanking,” but the Bulls’ marching orders last season were pretty clear. FH: I don’t think you can look at it that way in the midst of your season. The players are competitive, your staff is competitive. You want to play as well as you can and put yourself in a position to win. When you look at the successful stretch that we had in December and January, you think about carrying those things forward and then adding, based on who we get, to the roster. There was some real frustration that we didn’t get a lot of wins at the end. But we developed some younger players and saw what we had with some of our guys. NBA.com: When you guys had that run before the season’s midpoint, winning seven in a row (first team in NBA history with such a long winning streak immediately after a losing streak of 10 in a row) and 10 of 12, did you and the front office ever consider a Plan B? As in, maybe, show potential free agents how good your supporting cast could be, in hopes of luring big-name help this summer? FH: I think we did. What we showed was a really good foundation and a young core that we can build around. When I look back at it, I just wish we could have had more opportunity to work with it and see what it would have looked like. When Zach LaVine came back [Jan. 13 from ACL knee surgery], the plan was for him to play about 20 minutes a night. Then his third game, Kris Dunn fell against Golden State and had that concussion [that cost him 11 games, before missing the final 14 with a toe injury]. It’s too bad we didn’t get the full look. But players like Cam Payne, Denzel [Valentine], Bobby, Robin [Lopez], Justin Holiday all had career years.   NBA.com: You had a lot of injuries down the stretch. Not to suggest that they weren’t all legit, but were you instructed at any point by VP John Paxson or GM Gar Forman to dial it back after that 14-7 success? FH: No, we weren’t. And the big thing from the very beginning of last season, the two things we wanted to see, was competing at a high level every night and the development of our players. I think we accomplished that. NBA.com: What -- in your background as a player, coach, competitor, you name it -- prepared you for this past season? FH: Part of what prepared me for this was, I had been through this as a player. I went from four really competitive teams in Indiana, playing with someone as driven and helpful as Reggie Miller, taking me under his wing. There were other great veteran players who helped me just to survive and taught me a lot. Larry Brown was the coach, then Larry Bird my last two years.   Then when I came to Chicago, I knew it would be an opportunity to play. But it was a rebuild. Eventually I got thrust into the role of captain, as the oldest player on team at 28. It really helped me with what we’re going through now. I learned how important it is to keep guys’ morale up and be positive through the ups and downs. I give our guys all the credit in the world for remaining so positive, keeping up a great work ethic and still being sponges in wanting to learn. NBA.com: What were the takeaways from the best and healthiest part of last season? FH: We got a pretty good feel for what Kris Dunn can be. He really evolved into being a closer for our team. Lauri was closing games for us, taking big shots as a 20-year-old kid. Zach had the game against Minnesota. What people fail to remember about Zach, he averaged over 22 points a game in February and really got into a pretty good rhythm. Then he had some knee soreness and wound up sitting for the rest of the year. But we had some flashes of what this can turn into. NBA.com: Niko paid for his role in sparking that hot streak. FH: Niko was great. He missed those first 23, and I thought our team handled that adverse situation about as well as anybody could, not letting it affect us in a negative way. We were able to move past it. You even saw the chemistry that Niko and Bobby played with when they were out there together. NBA.com: How hard was it personally downshifting from a team that had gone to the playoffs to one that didn’t put a priority on winning? FH: When the move was made on draft night, when those three kids came in, right away there was an excitement. Everyone had seen what Zach had done. He was a highlight reel and had those slam dunk championships. He plays the game with ease on the offensive end. His athletic tools and ability to get up and down the floor. Kris, everybody absolutely loved coming out of the draft [in 2016]. Then he had an up-and-down rookie season. Helping him to get that swagger back that he had coming out of Providence took some work, but he was aching to put that work in. Markkanen, I know the guys upstairs knew how good he was but I had no idea. I didn’t study him because we had the 15th pick. He comes over after a grueling summer -- summer league, Eurobasket with all that pressure in front of his home fans -- and he was exhausted. But then you saw every day, “Man, this kid is really good.” You’re thinking, we could probably put the ball in this kid’s hands. Then he goes up and dunks over a whole team and you say, “My God, this kid’s more athletic than we thought. He uses his feet, he’s got anticipation, he’s got toughness.” He showed a little more every day. NBA.com: Was it difficult asking a proud veteran like Robin Lopez to put it in idle over the final 25 games? FH: I think he understood. He’s been a part of a lot of different situations. He was great. He continued to lead. He continued to practice hard. He talked to the bigs as they came off the floor. NBA.com: Was your own health challenged at all by the stress of this season? Your past issues related to your heart are widely known, and coaching an NBA team even in the best of times is a demanding job. FH: After two open-heart surgeries, I do have to sometimes check myself. There are so many things you can over-concern yourself with in this business. Then you look back a week or two later and say, “My God, why did I put so much effort into that one stupid thing that happened?” You have to let go sometimes. My family is so important for me with that. You get some normalcy in your life. [At night, lying in bed, Hoiberg can hear a valve in his heart every time it beats. He let a visitor listen, too, and sure enough... ] If this ever affected me to the point where I had to throttle back, I would move on to something else. When I had my first surgery and they removed the diseased tissue from the aorta that had an aneurysm in it, they got rid of the problem. The valve deteriorated after they put a new valve in and they had to go in again, but the diseased tissue no longer was there. If it was a risk, I’d be doing something else. But it’s a constant reminder. You think you’re going to get used to it, but you never really do. My wife will be lying next to me and she hears it. NBA.com: When you look back on 2017-18, is it like “Casablanca” for you guys? As in, you’ll always have December? FH: It was fun to see how much the work paid off. Everyone was putting so much into it to get out of that slump. You can say, we had something to build on there. But whenever I talked to our team, before or after, it was all about competing on a nightly basis. Being consistent with their effort. I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled it. They were on time. They kept trying to get better. They worried about what they could control. I didn’t have to have even one of those conversations where I sat a guy down and said, “You’re not playing hard enough.” I did have a few conversations where I said, “You need to move the ball more.” [laughs] NBA.com: Big difference, coaching relative kids after the so-called “three alphas” of Butler, Wade and Rondo? Jimmy seemed eager to stay here to win. FH: Jimmy did so many things for this team. He was great to coach. You knew every night you were going to get an unbelievable effort. A guy who never backed down. Who never shied away from the big shot. And was going to defend at a high level every time he stepped on the floor. So Jimmy was missed in a lot of ways. But when you look at the young guys’ abilities, it’s exciting. NBA.com: What do you make of having better job security now that the losses are mounting, compared to those .500 seasons? FH: I don’t think any one of the 30 guys in our position pay attention to that. You can’t do your job if you do. You go in and try to improve as an individual, as a staff, as a team. Our first year, Derrick Rose suffered an orbital fracture in the first workout. We had 10 rotation players who missed double-digit games. Two starters missed 50 or more [Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah]. Niko had that botched appendix surgery. The next year was a completely different team. Nobody predicted we’d be a playoff team but we were and had a good chance to beat Boston before Rondo got hurt. NBA.com: When you’re not coaching veterans, is it a purer form, as far as installing “your” system vs. tailoring things to them? FH: You always look for the best system, the best approach. The basics don’t change, but [in 2016-17] we had a lot more isolation players, so we ran more of those types of actions. This [past] year, more ball movement, player movement fit this group better. We had longer, harder practices as opposed to a veteran group as the year went on. NBA.com: Since the end of the season, how much time have you put in on developmental activities and draft preparation? FH: We’ve had a lot of guys in and gotten a lot of work in, in the early part of the offseason. We’re looking forward to working again after the draft with some new young players as part of the roster. It’s all about moving forward. NBA.com: As you look back over the past year, with the script flipping to the point where the Bulls wanted to win by losing and maybe lost -- some draft position, anyway -- by winning, what goes through your mind? FH: What was Donovan Mitchell [the Rookie of the Year finalist chosen by Utah]? The 13th pick? You just never know with the draft. You play hard, you get the culture established the way you want it and things take care of themselves. What really would have been devastating would have been ending the season with negativity, with your team not playing hard, with your team disinterested. That’s something that would be a real cause for concern going into an offseason. But our guys felt good about themselves. Some were sacrificing in a big way and pulling for younger guys. They were playing hard, they were cheering for each other. 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 19th, 2018

Shaq to LeBron: No need to chase titles anymore

Shaquille O'Neal has some advice for LeBron James: There's no need to chase championships anymore. Take it from someone who's been there. That's the advice the Hall of Fame center has for his one-time teammate, as shared by ESPN's Ian Begley. "My problem toward the end of my career was I was trying to shut everybody up and I was greedy [for more championships]," O'Neal said in an interview with ESPN at a pre-draft event on Friday evening for teens from the Y in Brooklyn. "After I got to three [titles], everybody was saying I couldn't get another. So I got four. After I got the fourth, they were saying I couldn't get another one. So I was trying to make quick stops to get it. Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston." O'Neal won three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat, but he didn't win any in the final three seasons of his 19-year career. He doesn't think James should try to chase championships at this point in his 15-year career. James can test free agency this summer if he declines the player option on his contract. "Somebody told me a long time ago -- they said your book is already set [before the later stages of your career]. You can add index pages toward the end, but your book is already set. So LeBron's book is already set," O'Neal said. "He done already passed up legends; he done already made his mark -- he has three rings. His mentality now is probably: I want to get four before [Golden State Warriors guard] Steph [Curry] does. That's probably his mentality now. But if I was him, I wouldn't be trying to get four, five and six because it ain't going to matter. It's just something else to talk about, something else to add to the pages. He's a legend, talked about as who is the best between he and Michael Jordan, so he's set." After getting traded to the Miami Heat in February 2008, O'Neal was subsequently dealt again in June of 2009 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then in the offseason of 2010, he signed with the Boston Celtics, which turned out to be his final season in the NBA. James has two championships with the Heat, and one with the Cavaliers, the franchise's sole title. He's also a three-time Finals MVP, a four-time regular season MVP, a 12-time All-NBA First Team member, a five-time All-Defensive Team member, and a former Rookie of the Year. As of the 2017-18 season, James is #7 on the NBA career scoring leaders list (31,038 points), #11 on the career assists leaders list (8,208), and #16 on the career steals leaders list (1,865). James has until 11:59pm on June 29 (11:59 am, June 30, PHL time), to decide whether or not he opts out of his current Cavaliers contract......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 18th, 2018

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

Celtics stumble offensively in most costly road loss yet

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com CLEVELAND – The Boston Celtics solved their first-quarter problem in Cleveland, and it didn't matter. In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics trailed 32-17 after the first quarter. Game 4: 34-18. And in neither game did they cut the deficit to less than seven points thereafter. So, heading into Game 6, with an extra level of desperation in the Cleveland Cavaliers facing elimination, there was an obvious "survive the first quarter" thought from pundits as priority No. 1 for the Celtics. And they did it. The Celtics scored 11 points on the last five possessions of the period to close it with a 25-20 lead. They survived the first quarter, but they did not survive the second. And after a 109-99 Cavs victory on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), the series is heading back to Boston for a deciding Game 7 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). A 25-point quarter isn't huge, but in what was a very slow-paced game (89 possessions for each team), it was efficient. The Celtics went to Al Horford in the post eight times in the opening 12 minutes and the Cavs mostly sent an extra defender at Horford, which seemed to play into the Celtics' hands. Horford surveyed the floor, his teammates moved without the ball, and the results were generally good. The first Horford post-up was on the Celtics' second possession. LeBron James joined Tristan Thompson for the double-team and the ball swung to Terry Rozier, who got into the paint and found Jaylen Brown for a corner three. A few minutes later, there was no double-team, but Horford found Brown cutting to the basket for an and-one. Midway through the first, a double-team on Horford resulted in a short jumper for Marcus Morris. Later, Horford found Marcus Smart on a cut, and Smart made a brilliant pass out for another corner three from Brown. On the next possession, Brown snuck behind Kyle Korver on the baseline for a layup. The Celtics didn't score on all those Horford post-ups, but the eight in the first quarter produced 12 points on good shots. Horford didn't score a single point in the first, but having the offense run through him generated a strong quarter on the road against a desperate opponent. "I thought our spacing was excellent," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of the early execution. "The way we moved it out of the double." The Celtics had a lead after the first quarter and Kevin Love was done for the night after a collision with Jayson Tatum. The door was open for the Celtics to put their postseason road woes behind them and close the series out. Horford was off the floor to start the second quarter, and the Celtics took their foot off the gas. They scored five points on their first three possessions of the period, but the shots weren't good and the ball didn't get into the paint until possession No. 7. Smart took an ill-advised three-pointer and then looked confused when Morris did the same on the very next possession. "We missed some opportunities," Stevens said about the second quarter. "But I thought we also just got lax a little bit offensively. When we get lax offensively, we open up transition opportunities for them, and that's a problem." The Celtics couldn't recapture their first-quarter rhythm, they didn't get Horford in the post once in the second quarter, and a 20-4 Cleveland run was ultimately the difference in the game. "We stopped getting the ball inside," Rozier said. "The second quarter definitely killed us today." James had himself one of those nights, shooting 10-for-17 from outside the paint (where Boston wants him shooting from) on his way to 46 points. He finished the Celtics off with two ridiculous, step-back threes from the left wing. "Hats off," Stevens said of the daggers. "The first one, that was ridiculous." The Cavs scored 89 points on just 67 possessions (1.33 points per possession) after the first quarter and the Celtics couldn't keep up. They didn't try to get Horford in the post nearly as much in the second half as they did in the first quarter. "We weren't looking for them as much as we were earlier," Horford said of the post-up opportunities. A few post-ups did result in free throws, but the Celtics left some points at the line, shooting 11-for-20. "The question about did we go to him enough, probably a good question," Stevens said. "And one that when we review it, we'll look at it and figure out if we need to do more." If you asked the Celtics at the beginning of the postseason if they'd like to have one game on the floor for a trip to The Finals, they'd surely have accepted it. "It's an absolute blast to prepare for as a coach," Stevens said of Game 7, "and to play in as a player." But the Celtics may have let one get away on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), and though they're 10-0 at home in these playoffs, anything can happen in a Game 7, especially with the best player in the world on the other side. James has won the last five Game 7s that he's played in and scored 45 points in Game 7 against Indiana in the first round. Maybe he doesn't shoot so well from the outside on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), but maybe he does. Maybe the Celtics shouldn't even be here, given that they're missing two of their three best players. But they've made it this far, and they'd best keep their foot on the gas on Sunday (Monday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 26th, 2018

End of an era for The Players Championship in May

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Webb Simpson popped the cork on a champagne bottle to celebrate his victory in The Players Championship. Though not by design, the moment also could have signaled the close of an era. The Players Championship, which has all the trappings of a major except public recognition as one, ended its 12-year run being played in May. Simpson set or tied four records, one of which drained the former swamp of drama the TPC Sawgrass can deliver in any month. He had a seven-shot lead going into the last day, the largest in the tournament's 45-year history. No one got closer than four shots Sunday. The only other time that happened at The Players was in 1994 when Greg Norman didn't make a bogey until the 13th hole of the final round and set the scoring record at 24-under 264. The idea behind moving to May was to give golf a big event every month starting with the Masters in April, to have better weather and more daylight, and to present a great chance at firm, fast conditions. This year's edition was a mystery. Even without any rain, the course was never on the edge. With minimal wind, at least by Florida's standards, the scores were unusually low. At one point in the final round, Jason Dufner made a birdie to break out of a 10-way tie for third by reaching 12-under par. There were 1,754 birdies for the tournament, breaking by 136 birdies the record from 1996. Simpson tied the course record of 63 on Friday with a double bogey on the 17th hole when his sand wedge hit the wooden frame on the front of the green, landed on the back of the green and tumbled over the back onto the water. Brooks Koepka matched the record on Sunday, though that required an albatross when he one-hopped a 6-iron into the hole for his second shot on the par-5 16th. Everyone was expecting far tougher. "This golf course over the weekend will turn into a beast," Charl Schwartzel predicted on Friday. Charles Howell III had a bogey-free round of 67 on Friday and expected to see "a lot more brown than green tomorrow afternoon." It never materialized. It was almost as if the PGA Tour wanted players to have their way with the Stadium Course in case there was any debate about moving back to March. The turf was as pure as it has ever been, lush with grass. Henrik Stenson suspected when he arrived on Tuesday that it was too good, too green, to be able to make it the ultimate test by the weekend. "It's the easiest I've seen it play," Stenson said. "Hopefully, in March it gets back to feeling major-like. Because this was more like any other tour event, I think." Adam Scott won The Players in March and never has been a fan of the May date. "I don't think they ever got the setup right in this date," Scott said after he tied for 11th at 11-under 277. That was one higher than his winning score in 2004. "It's in phenomenal shape. I just don't think they took the risk they should have in preparing the course differently. To see those scores today, it's too easy. There's not enough risk and a lot of reward." There have been eight rounds of 63 at The Players since it moved to the TPC Sawgrass in 1982 — six of those record-tying scores since 2013. Mark Russell, vice president of rules and competition for the PGA Tour, said the primary explanation was lack of wind. He also correctly noted that to take Simpson out of the equation, the winning score would have been in the ballpark of recent years. "That golf course, there's a disaster at every turn," Russell said. "But if you navigate it properly, you can score." He also said it would be different in March. The fairways were sand-capped ahead of the move to May, so it should drain better. The problem was having to rely on the weather ahead of the tournament, and a cooler-than-normal spring meant the rough was down. "I think we'll have a lot more control over it in March," Russell said. What the tour can't control is the perception of its premier event. When it last was held in March, it was the anchor of the Florida swing and just two weeks before the Masters. There was much anticipation about Augusta National even as The Players was going on. Next year, there is a bit of a buffer. They Players will be the third of four stops in Florida, and there will be three more weeks (two in Texas) before the Masters. It still might feel like the undercard to the Masters. But it probably has a better chance of feeling like a major......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 16th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 8th, 2018

Nighty-night Dark Knight: Mets to cut ties with Harvey

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Mets said nighty-night to the Dark Knight. Matt Harvey, once regarded as a premier pitcher who could have joined Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden among the Mets’ greats, refused a minor league assignment and will be designated for assignment Saturday. The 29-year-old right-hander lost his spot in the rotation last month after four starts, and he had a 10.50 ERA in four relief appearances. “It’s the end of an era,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said before Friday night’s game against Colorado. “And I used that term in broad senses. Matt has been a cornerstone certainly of my tenure here, a tremendous prospect at the time I arrived, tremendous accomplishments during the course of my tenure here. And it’s a very unfortunate, difficult conclusion.” New York had hoped Harvey would be willing to work at the team’s minor league complex in Florida in an effort to regain form. Harvey refused. “We feel Matt is a starter (and) needs to work on 4 pitches,” his agent, Scott Boras said in a text message. “In the bullpen a pitcher tends to focus on 2 pitches to get back to the rotation.” After Harvey is designated, the Mets have seven days to trade him or release him. Because of Harvey’s $5,625,000 salary, a trade may be difficult to work out unless the Mets agree to send cash as part of a deal. If Harvey is released, a team signing him would owe just a prorated share of the $545,000 minimum. “Very pleased he is healthy and with more than needed MLB (velocity),” Boras wrote. “We have a lot of clay to work with to build the starter sculpture.” Harvey is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in four starts and four relief appearances, leaving him with a 34-37 record and 3.66 ERA in six major league seasons. “We’ve tried to find some other solution over a fairly long period of time,” said Alderson, who was hired by the Mets in October 2010. “This was a long time coming. This is not someone who hasn’t pitched well recently. So I mean this is something we’ve tried to address, we’ve struggled with, we’ve wrestled with over two managerial regimes.” Harvey’s Mets finale was in an 11-0 loss to Atlanta on Thursday. He relieved Jason Vargas with New York trailing 6-0 in the fifth inning and gave up Ozzie Albies’ three-run homer in a five-run seventh. Booed as he walked off the mound, Harvey took a seat in the dugout and stared at Citi Field. “The move to the bullpen was dramatic in itself,” Alderson said. “So I think that at this point, pragmatism, realism far outweighed other considerations.” Harvey would have been eligible for free agency after this season. As a player with five years of major league service, he cannot be assigned to the minor leagues without his consent. “We feel like we failed Matt Harvey,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “Our job is to help every player in there, and it’s not a good feeling when you can’t.” Selected by the Mets with the seventh overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft, Harvey made his big league debut in July 2012 and became a major sports figure in New York — both at the ballpark and at Manhattan night spots. He was nicknamed the Dark Knight of Gotham after Sports Illustrated called him that in a cover story in May 2013. He started the All-Star Game at Citi Field that July and was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA when he tore an elbow ligament during a game against Detroit on Aug. 24. That led to Tommy John surgery on Oct. 22. Harvey returned in 2015 and went 13-8 with a 2.27 ERA as the Mets reached the World Series for the first time since 2000. But he slumped to a 4-10 record with a 4.86 ERA the following year and had season-ending surgery on July 18, 2016, to correct thoracic outlet syndrome. He was 6-13 with a 6.70 ERA last season, when he was sidelined from mid-June until September because of a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder. He was suspended for three days without pay in May for skipping a game following a late night on the town. The New York Post reported this week that Harvey was out partying in Los Angeles the night before pitching in San Diego last weekend. “Usually I get upset if a report is unexpected,” Alderson said this week. “So I guess the short answer is no.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2018

Panel hopes to end US NCAA one-and-dones

By Ralph D. Russo, Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The most difficult part of the NCAA’s attempt to clean up college basketball begins now. Hours after former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented the Commission on College Basketball’s sweeping recommendations for reforming a sport weighed down by corruption, NCAA leaders set in motion the process for turning those ideas into reality. The NCAA Board of Governors, a group of 16 university presidents and the association’s highest ranking body, unanimously endorsed all the commission’s recommendations Wednesday. Now it’s up to various subcommittees, working groups and college administrators to dig into a mountain of work over the next three months as the NCAA attempts to change NBA draft rules, create a new enforcement body, toughen penalties for rules violations, revamp summer recruiting and certify agents. All while trying to get buy-in from organizations that might not be motivated to help. “It’s going to be a challenge to say the least,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “This is a pace of decision making that the association’s really never done on this kind of scale before.” The Division I Council, comprised mostly of athletic directors and headed by Miami AD Blake James, has the job of turning the recommendations into rules. That requires feedback from schools, then council votes with some conference votes counting more heavily than others. Each proposal then goes to the Board of Directors, where a majority vote is needed to send it to the Board of Governors for final approval. It’s a winding path — crossing 351 Division I schools with varied priorities and concerns — and requiring consensus building and compromise for measures to pass. NCAA rule changes can sometimes take a full calendar year to sort out. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t let the good fall victim to the perfect here,” Emmert said. “Nobody believes we’re going to get everything perfect the first time through.” The independent commission Rice led released a much-anticipated and detailed 60-page report , seven months after the group was formed in response to a federal corruption investigation that rocked college basketball. Ten people, including some assistant coaches, have been charged in a bribery and kickback scheme , and high-profile programs such as Arizona, Louisville and Kansas have been tied to possible NCAA violations. “They believe the college basketball enterprise is worth saving,” Rice told the AP of commission members in an interview before addressing NCAA leaders. “We believe there’s a lot of work to do in that regard. That the state of the game is not very strong. We had to be bold in our recommendations.” The proposals were wide-ranging, falling mostly into five categories: NBA draft rules, specifically the league’s 19-year-old age limit that has led to so-called one-and-done college players; non-scholastic basketball such as AAU leagues and summer recruiting events; the relationship between players and agents; relationships with apparel companies; and NCAA enforcement. “Some people like some of (the recommendations) more than others, which is human nature, but as a board we’re unanimous in the endorsement and the acceptance of these recommendations for the NCAA,” said Minnesota President Eric Kaler, chairman of the Division I Board of Directors. It’s not yet clear how the governing body would pay for some of the proposals, though the NCAA reported revenues of more than $1 billion dollars for fiscal year 2017 in its most recent financial disclosures. The commission offered harsh assessments of toothless NCAA enforcement, as well as the shady summer basketball circuit that brings together agents, apparel companies and coaches looking to profit on teenage prodigies. It called the environment surrounding hoops “a toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat,” and said responsibility for the current mess goes all the way up to university presidents. It also defended the NCAA’s amateurism model, saying paying players a salary isn’t the answer. “The goal should not be to turn college basketball into another professional league,” the commission wrote in its report. The commission did leave open the possibility that college athletes could earn money off their names, images and likenesses, but decided not to commit on the subject while the courts are still weighing in. Rice called the crisis in college basketball “first and foremost a problem of failed accountability and lax responsibility.” ONE-AND-DONE The commission emphasized the need for elite players to have more options when choosing between college and professional basketball, and to separate the two tracks. The commission called for the NBA and its players association to change rules requiring players to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from graduating high school to be draft eligible. The one-and-done rule was implemented in 2006, despite the success of straight-from-high-school stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. “I’m confident they are going to be very supportive,” Emmert said of the NBA and NBAPA. The NBA and players union praised the recommendations on enforcement and expressed concerns about youth basketball. On draft eligibility rules, however, there was no commitment. “The NBA and NBPA will continue to assess them in order to promote the best interests of players and the game,” they said. The commission did, however, say if the NBA and NBPA refuse to change their rules in time for the next basketball season, it would reconvene and consider other options for the NCAA, such as making freshmen ineligible or locking a scholarship for three or four years if the recipient leaves a program after a single year. “One-and-done has to go one way or another,” Rice told the AP. ENFORCEMENT The commission recommended harsher penalties for rule-breakers and that the NCAA outsource the investigation and adjudication of the most serious infractions cases. Level I violations would be punishable with up to a five-year postseason ban and the forfeiture of all postseason revenue for the time of the ban. That could be worth tens of millions to major conference schools. By comparison, recent Level I infractions cases involving Louisville and Syracuse basketball resulted in postseason bans of one year. Instead of show cause orders, which are meant to limit a coach’s ability to work in college sports after breaking NCAA rules, the report called for lifetime bans. “The rewards of success, athletic success, have become very great. The deterrents sometimes aren’t as effective as they need to be. What we want are deterrents that really impact an institution,” said Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, who was a member of the Rice commission. AGENTS The commission proposed the NCAA create a program for certifying agents , and make them accessible to players from high school through their college careers. AAU AND SUMMER LEAGUES The NCAA, with support from the NBA and USA Basketball, should run its own recruiting events for prospects during the summer , the commission said, and take a more serious approach to certifying events it does not control. APPAREL COMPANIES The commission also called for greater financial transparency from shoe and apparel companies such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. These companies have extensive financial relationships with colleges and coaches worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Adidas had two former executives charged by federal prosecutors in New York in the corruption case......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 25th, 2018

Are the Sixers too young for playoff success?

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018