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No surprise, the West title still runs through the Warriors

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Golden State coach Steve Kerr is a happy man these days. He’s got a new contract. He’s got his son Nick, who was helping out in San Antonio, working in the Warriors’ video room now. He’s leading a team that has won three of the last four NBA championships and is the overwhelming favorite to win it again this season. Staying happy will be the challenge for Kerr and the Warriors this season, when Western Conference rivals resume their attempts to take down the champs. “Our place in the history of the league is pretty secure,” Kerr said. “I don’t think our guys should feel a ton of pressure. I think they should feel the importance of trying to do it again, because this may be the last time we have this current iteration of the Warriors, just given all the free agents and the money crunch and everything else.” LeBron James took his talents to Los Angeles, signing with the Lakers and moving out of the East for the first time in his career. Houston had the NBA’s best regular-season record a year ago and has reigning MVP James Harden. Utah has a budding superstar in Donovan Mitchell, and certainly got the league’s attention with its playoff run last season. But in the West, until further notice, it’s still the Warriors and then everybody else. “It’s a marathon,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “There’s a lot of time between now and April and May and June, but if we go about it the right way to start the season, it can feed on itself in terms of the expectation we have night in, night out.” A look at the West, in predicted order of finish: PLAYOFF BOUND 1. GOLDEN STATE — Warriors aiming for their third consecutive NBA championship, something only the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls franchises have done. 2. UTAH — Donovan Mitchell is a legitimate star, coach Quin Snyder has been underrated for far too long, and the Jazz went 29-6 to finish last season. 3. HOUSTON — The Rockets have the MVP in James Harden, a leader in Chris Paul and added Carmelo Anthony, but expecting another 67-15 season is a lot. 4. L.A. LAKERS — LeBron James is still the best player in the game and shows no signs of slowing down, so doubting his chances seems less than brilliant. 5. OKLAHOMA CITY — This is a sign of how loaded the West remains: The Thunder are really good, and that won’t assure them home-court for Round 1. 6. DENVER — Losing Game 82 last season to Minnesota and missing the playoffs because of that outcome should serve as a massive motivator for Denver. 7. NEW ORLEANS — DeMarcus Cousins is gone, Rajon Rondo is gone, but Anthony Davis is still there and that should be enough for a Pelicans playoff run. 8. SAN ANTONIO — Dejounte Murray’s ACL tear is a disaster, but any team with LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Gregg Popovich still has a lot. IN THE MIX 9. PORTLAND — The West’s No. 3 seed last season, the Blazers were only three games ahead of No. 9 and will face a serious battle in a very loaded West. 10. DALLAS — Luka Doncic is NBA-ready, DeAndre Jordan will make the Mavs better and Dirk Nowitzki deserves to see his franchise trending up again. 11. L.A. CLIPPERS — A possible transitional year for the Clippers, who should be major players in free agency next summer and could add a lottery pick. FACING LONG ODDS 12. MINNESOTA — The Jimmy Butler debacle shows that some big changes in direction are probably going to happen in Minnesota, and sooner than later. 13. PHOENIX — Devin Booker got his max deal and the Suns got No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, but firing GM Ryan McDonough so close to the season was odd. 14. MEMPHIS — Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are savvy vets, but they are going to need a lot of help if Memphis is going to seriously improve this season. 15. SACRAMENTO — Kings had a league-high 44 games last season where they didn’t score 100 points, and a very young team might not change that much. WHAT TO KNOW L.A. BRON: If he has even an average-for-him season, new Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James will rise to No. 4 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list this season. He’s currently No. 7, with No. 6 Dirk Nowitzki, No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain and No. 4 Michael Jordan well within reach. Add 2,000 or so points to James’ total of 31,038, and only No. 3 Kobe Bryant, No. 2 Karl Malone and No. 1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — all former Lakers — would still be ahead of him. STEPH RISING: Speaking of rising up career charts, Golden State’s Stephen Curry could easily be No. 3 on the all-time list for 3-pointers made by the end of this season. Curry has 2,129 3s in 625 career games, a rate of 3.4 made per game. The six players ahead of him — Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Jason Terry, Kyle Korver, Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce — averaged 1.8 made 3s per game. BIG NUMBERS: The only players in the last 30 seasons to average 30 points and eight assists were Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 and Houston’s James Harden last season. Probably not coincidentally, Westbrook and Harden won MVP awards for those seasons. There are seven active players with at least one MVP award in the NBA right now, and all seven play in the West. GREAT COACHES: San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich enters the season with 1,197 wins, fifth-most in NBA history — 13 behind Pat Riley and 24 behind Jerry Sloan. Meanwhile, Golden State’s Steve Kerr comes into the year with the highest winning percentages during both the regular season (265-63, .808) and the postseason (63-20, .759) in NBA history. Here’s how far ahead Kerr is on the NBA’s all-time regular season winning percentage list: If the Warriors go 24-58 this season, which seems less than likely, he would still be above Phil Jackson for the No. 1 spot. VERSUS EAST: The West beat the East for the ninth consecutive season in head-to-head matchups, winning nearly 53 percent of the cross-conference matchups in the regular season (and 100 percent of them in the NBA Finals). Over the last nine seasons, West teams have beaten East teams nearly 57 percent of the time......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnOct 11th, 2018

No surprise, the West title still runs through the Warriors

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Golden State coach Steve Kerr is a happy man these days. He’s got a new contract. He’s got his son Nick, who was helping out in San Antonio, working in the Warriors’ video room now. He’s leading a team that has won three of the last four NBA championships and is the overwhelming favorite to win it again this season. Staying happy will be the challenge for Kerr and the Warriors this season, when Western Conference rivals resume their attempts to take down the champs. “Our place in the history of the league is pretty secure,” Kerr said. “I don’t think our guys should feel a ton of pressure. I think they should feel the importance of trying to do it again, because this may be the last time we have this current iteration of the Warriors, just given all the free agents and the money crunch and everything else.” LeBron James took his talents to Los Angeles, signing with the Lakers and moving out of the East for the first time in his career. Houston had the NBA’s best regular-season record a year ago and has reigning MVP James Harden. Utah has a budding superstar in Donovan Mitchell, and certainly got the league’s attention with its playoff run last season. But in the West, until further notice, it’s still the Warriors and then everybody else. “It’s a marathon,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “There’s a lot of time between now and April and May and June, but if we go about it the right way to start the season, it can feed on itself in terms of the expectation we have night in, night out.” A look at the West, in predicted order of finish: PLAYOFF BOUND 1. GOLDEN STATE — Warriors aiming for their third consecutive NBA championship, something only the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls franchises have done. 2. UTAH — Donovan Mitchell is a legitimate star, coach Quin Snyder has been underrated for far too long, and the Jazz went 29-6 to finish last season. 3. HOUSTON — The Rockets have the MVP in James Harden, a leader in Chris Paul and added Carmelo Anthony, but expecting another 67-15 season is a lot. 4. L.A. LAKERS — LeBron James is still the best player in the game and shows no signs of slowing down, so doubting his chances seems less than brilliant. 5. OKLAHOMA CITY — This is a sign of how loaded the West remains: The Thunder are really good, and that won’t assure them home-court for Round 1. 6. DENVER — Losing Game 82 last season to Minnesota and missing the playoffs because of that outcome should serve as a massive motivator for Denver. 7. NEW ORLEANS — DeMarcus Cousins is gone, Rajon Rondo is gone, but Anthony Davis is still there and that should be enough for a Pelicans playoff run. 8. SAN ANTONIO — Dejounte Murray’s ACL tear is a disaster, but any team with LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Gregg Popovich still has a lot. IN THE MIX 9. PORTLAND — The West’s No. 3 seed last season, the Blazers were only three games ahead of No. 9 and will face a serious battle in a very loaded West. 10. DALLAS — Luka Doncic is NBA-ready, DeAndre Jordan will make the Mavs better and Dirk Nowitzki deserves to see his franchise trending up again. 11. L.A. CLIPPERS — A possible transitional year for the Clippers, who should be major players in free agency next summer and could add a lottery pick. FACING LONG ODDS 12. MINNESOTA — The Jimmy Butler debacle shows that some big changes in direction are probably going to happen in Minnesota, and sooner than later. 13. PHOENIX — Devin Booker got his max deal and the Suns got No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, but firing GM Ryan McDonough so close to the season was odd. 14. MEMPHIS — Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are savvy vets, but they are going to need a lot of help if Memphis is going to seriously improve this season. 15. SACRAMENTO — Kings had a league-high 44 games last season where they didn’t score 100 points, and a very young team might not change that much. WHAT TO KNOW L.A. BRON: If he has even an average-for-him season, new Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James will rise to No. 4 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list this season. He’s currently No. 7, with No. 6 Dirk Nowitzki, No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain and No. 4 Michael Jordan well within reach. Add 2,000 or so points to James’ total of 31,038, and only No. 3 Kobe Bryant, No. 2 Karl Malone and No. 1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — all former Lakers — would still be ahead of him. STEPH RISING: Speaking of rising up career charts, Golden State’s Stephen Curry could easily be No. 3 on the all-time list for 3-pointers made by the end of this season. Curry has 2,129 3s in 625 career games, a rate of 3.4 made per game. The six players ahead of him — Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Jason Terry, Kyle Korver, Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce — averaged 1.8 made 3s per game. BIG NUMBERS: The only players in the last 30 seasons to average 30 points and eight assists were Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 and Houston’s James Harden last season. Probably not coincidentally, Westbrook and Harden won MVP awards for those seasons. There are seven active players with at least one MVP award in the NBA right now, and all seven play in the West. GREAT COACHES: San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich enters the season with 1,197 wins, fifth-most in NBA history — 13 behind Pat Riley and 24 behind Jerry Sloan. Meanwhile, Golden State’s Steve Kerr comes into the year with the highest winning percentages during both the regular season (265-63, .808) and the postseason (63-20, .759) in NBA history. Here’s how far ahead Kerr is on the NBA’s all-time regular season winning percentage list: If the Warriors go 24-58 this season, which seems less than likely, he would still be above Phil Jackson for the No. 1 spot. VERSUS EAST: The West beat the East for the ninth consecutive season in head-to-head matchups, winning nearly 53 percent of the cross-conference matchups in the regular season (and 100 percent of them in the NBA Finals). Over the last nine seasons, West teams have beaten East teams nearly 57 percent of the time......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2018

30 Teams in 30 Days: Can Wizards realize their potential?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com What offseason? That's a question many fans ask as the flurry of trades, free agent news and player movement seems to never stop during the summer. Since the Golden State Warriors claimed their third title in four years back on June 8 (June 9, PHL time), NBA teams have undergone a massive number of changes as they prepare for the season ahead. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2017-18 to the team with the best regular-season record -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Washington Wizards 2017-18 Record: 43-39, lost in first round to Toronto Raptors Who's new: Dwight Howard (free agency), Jeff Green (free agency), Troy Brown, Jr. (Draft), Austin Rivers (trade) Who's gone: Marcin Gortat (trade), Mike Scott (free agency) The lowdown: With John Wall limited to half a season because of knee surgery, Bradley Beal became a leading man and, on some nights, pushed the boundaries of stardom. If anything, he gave the Wizards confidence in knowing that, when the pair is healthy, Washington boasts a top-three-or-four backcourt in the NBA. Forward Otto Porter Jr. was third in the NBA in 3-point shooting (a blistering 44.1 percent) and served as a secondary source of scoring. However, the Wizards weren’t so clear-cut elsewhere. The frontline continued to be a source of mixed results and frustration and, other than Kelly Oubre Jr., depth was an issue. The Wizards went chilly late in the season, lost nine of their last 12 games and dropped to the eighth seed. In some ways, the Wizards are on the clock. They must seize the opportunity to win big while Wall, 27, and Beal, 25, are still in their primes. Yet they’ve rarely stayed healthy together and besides, nothing is promised. Remember, the Toronto Raptors broke up the sterling DeMar DeRozan-Kyle Lowry backcourt this summer when their patience finally ran out. Also, keep in mind the cost. Wall’s super max deal doesn’t begin until 2019-20. Beal is due $80 million the next three years, roughly the same money Washington will pay Porter Jr., who’s a good (but perhaps overpriced) complimentary player. For the time being, the Wizards will put their frontcourt faith in Dwight Howard, who arrives about five years past his prime, but should be an upgrade over Gortat. Howard, 32, came cheap after his Brooklyn Nets buyout and remains a deluxe rebounder (12.5 per game last season). The decision to bring in Howard could be the banana peel in the path of progress, however. This is his fourth team in four years. His “act” -- being easy-going, goofy and fun-loving -- didn’t play well with some previous teammates, including, among others, Kobe Bryant and James Harden. Howard is headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and anyone who believes otherwise is foolish -- the man did carry the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. For a seven-year stretch, he was one of the game’s biggest impact players. Yet his twilight is bewildering, which is not surprising. Howard never developed his offensive game (namely a go-to move or mid-range shot) and as a result, he’s a dinosaur in a changing environment, someone who shrinks considerably when he strays six feet from the basket. Plus, he’s not the defensive demon of before, although he stays in tremendous physical shape and still runs the floor. There’s also the matter of his personality, which might be overstated to a degree, yet was an issue ever since he left the Magic. Howard appears to be on a mission to please everyone and in the process, tends to ruffle some feathers along the way. Finally, he often becomes irritated when he doesn’t see the ball in the low post. He won’t get many touches on a team with Wall and Beal taking upwards of 35 shots a night. (Ball movement and sharing was a complaint Gortat voiced at times in the past, too.) Over the summer, Wall said he will do whatever he can to make Howard comfortable ... because what’s the alternative? Since Beal joined Wall in 2012-13, they have won three playoff series together -- but have never reached the East finals. However, the East is wide open this year with LeBron James out West. The Wizards chose not to trade Oubre Jr. in the offseason, but this situation bears watching. He’s a developing player at a stacked position, and the swingman spot became even more crowded when the Wizards drafted Brown, who’s cut in the same mold. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Wizards move Oubre Jr. or Porter Jr. by the trade deadline if the right deal comes along, simply because Washington can’t pay both. Plus, Oubre Jr. is eligible for a contract extension next summer. Brown, 19, brings court vision and a reliable handle, but it's hard to see him playing much given the bodies in front of him on the depth chart. After all the quality big men and point guards were gone (and they passed on picking Michael Porter Jr.), Washington was in a weird position at No. 15 in the Draft. They could either trade the pick or Draft a wing-type. They traded Gortat for Rivers, who’s listed at point guard but lacks the court vision and ability to create for others to see much time at the position. Rivers is more of a 3-point shooter, and he did well enough (37.8 percent) last season to ably bring that element off the bench. For the most part, the Wizards made minor moves this summer, none of which are expected to dramatically change the complexion of the club. It should be enough to keep them in the playoff mix, especially with LeBron gone. From there, their hopes will be tied to their health. 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 NewsSep 15th, 2018

Here s why Chris Webber should be in the Hall of Fame

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst C-Webb needs to be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. My Turner colleague Chris Webber has always brought out polarizing opinions -- first as a player, and now as a broadcaster. And I’m not objective when it comes to him, either. I love the guy. He’s a true student of the game, not afraid to speak his mind on and off the court, and is someone whose love for the game knows no equal. It’s just a matter of time before he gets his chance to run a team, either in the front office or as a part-owner. But it will and should happen. And, after his impactful career as a player, he should be enshrined in Springfield. Everyone’s criteria for the Hall is different. To me, getting in the Hall as a player requires a yes answer to two questions: 1) were you among the very best at your position for a substantial period of time during your career, and 2) did your presence and/or play change the game in a meaningful way while you played? (This is why a guy like Sixers guard Andrew Toney, in my view, is HOF-worthy, even though “The Boston Strangler” played from 1980-88 and was limited significantly by injury in two of those seasons.) Webber is a “yes” to both of those questions. In the NBA, Webber was a five-time All-Star, four times with the Kings, and was Rookie of the Year in 1993. He was first- or second-team All NBA four times. His career PER of 20.9 is the highest of any non-retired and Hall of Fame eligible player that isn’t currently in the Hall. (Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett each have higher PERs than Webber, and each is an obvious HOF lock, but they aren’t Hall of Fame eligible until 2020.) Webber’s career PER is better than those of Hall of Famers including Allen Iverson, Bob McAdoo, Ed McCauley, George McGinnis, Billy Cunningham, Steve Nash, David Thompson, Connie Hawkins, Alex English, Walt Bellamy, Cliff Hagan and many others. Yet in his fifth year of eligibility, Webber was again passed over by the Hall of Fame voters this year. That needs to change. His impact on the game, from high school to being a member of the “Fab Five” at Michigan in college and during his 15 NBA seasons, is undeniable. The Hall encompasses all of a person’s basketball achievements, and Webber’s career is Hall-worthy. At Country Day High School in Michigan, he led his team to three state championships, averaging 29 points and 13 rebounds per game his senior season, when he was a consensus national player of the year. He then decided to cap an incredible recruiting class, which had three of the top 10 players in the country, among a group of freshmen that came to be known as “The Fab Five.” (Also on that Michigan team was a junior guard who averaged 2.9 points per game, who had no future as pro player, but who carved out a place for himself nonetheless in the NBA -- Rob Pelinka, who became a high-powered agent representing the likes of Kobe Bryant before becoming the Lakers’ General Manager in 2017.) “The Fab Five”, like it or not -- and, I liked it very much -- changed basketball forever. And Webber was the lynchpin of those Michigan teams that reached consecutive NCAA championship games in 1992 and ‘93. Across the board, the Fab Five had long-lasting impact. Aesthetically, they were vanguards, wearing long, loooong shorts that became all the rage throughout basketball.  And while trash talking has been at the heart of hoops for generations, Michigan raised it to a team-wide art form. It drove traditionalists crazy, while kids watching at home loved it. They were the accelerant to the “one-and-done” era, even though none of them left Michigan after their freshman season. But seeing five freshmen start games and play the lion’s share of minutes rippled throughout the college game. Going forward, teams didn’t just recruit blue-chippers, they put them on the floor immediately. What John Calipari does annually at Kentucky now is but the logical conclusion to what Michigan started, and every Power 5 team in college basketball has had to follow suit or get left behind. Of course, “The Fab Five” era wound up being star-crossed. I’m well aware of the penalties assessed to the Michigan program because of the money that Ed Martin gave to players, including Webber. The university vacated the ‘92-93 season, including all of its NCAA Tournament games that year, and took down the banners commemorating “The Fab Five” and their two Final Four runs. (Michigan also vacated all of its games from 1995-96 because of Martin’s associations with other players on teams during those seasons, and its ‘93, ‘96 and ‘98 NCAA Tournament appearances, as well as its ‘97 NIT title and ‘98 Big 10 Tournament championship.) It’s obvious to me that if not for his involvement with Martin, Webber would have been on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, which won the gold medal in Australia, as well -- another potential feather in his cap that would bolster his Hall of Fame credentials. I will say, as delicately as I can, that there are coaches and players in the Hall that have been accused of doing some of the very things that got Michigan and Webber in so much trouble. That, in and of itself, should not be disqualifying. Webber’s NBA career also did not include a championship. But he was just as impactful on the pro game. Beginning in Golden State and Washington, C-Webb was a category all his own -- a big man with catcher’s mitts for hands who could pulverize in transition, yet was also an incredibly deft passer, both from the post or out front. As a rookie, Webber elevated Golden State from a 34-48 record in 1992-93 to 50-32 the next season. Traded to Washington after that one season with the Warriors, having conflicted mightily with Coach Don Nelson, Webber helped get the then-Bullets to the postseason for the first time in nine years. Once there, the Bullets went toe-to-toe with the defending-champion Bulls in a tough, three-game first-round series in ’97. But it wasn’t until Webber was sent to what was then the equivalent of Siberia in the NBA -- Sacramento -- that his game reached full flower. Playing with another excellent passing big man in Vlade Divac, and a flashy savant of a point guard in Jason Williams, Webber and the Kings were the vanguard of the modern NBA game, coming to fruition years before the Suns’ Seven Seconds or Less attack led by one of last week’s Hall of Fame inductees, Steve Nash. The Kings moved the ball with flair and purpose. The Warriors have changed the game forever by stretching the floor to the breaking point for opposing defenses with their 3-point proficiency, but even they didn’t have what Sacramento possessed -- two bigs who could initiate and finish from anywhere inside the 3-point line. No one could do what the Kings could do, and with Webber, Sacramento changed almost overnight from perennial joke to perennial championship contender. The Kings made the playoffs six straight seasons, reaching the Western Conference finals in 2002 before losing in controversial fashion to the Lakers in seven games. Webber’s knee injury during the Kings’ semifinal playoff series with Dallas in 2003 marked the beginning of the end for him and the Kings. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, Sacramento probably would have beaten the Mavericks and played San Antonio in the West finals. And while San Antonio would have been favored in that series, the Kings would have had a chance, with the winner facing the Nets in The Finals that year. And a championship would also have made C-Webb’s pro career look much different. But, that didn’t happen. It doesn’t matter, though. Webb’s career stands on its own merits. At all levels, he has had impact and changed the game, and he deserves to have his moment in the sun in Springfield. Sometimes it takes players of merit a little longer, for various reasons -- think Spencer Haywood, or, this year, Mo Cheeks. Chris Webber is a Hall of Famer, and it isn’t a close call. 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 NewsSep 11th, 2018

Warriors re-introduce themselves in rout of Spurs

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, CALIF. — It is generally accepted that the Warriors will perspire some, feel a degree of burn in their lungs, receive an urgency slap in the face and get pushed toward the edge of their defending championship throne once they play a team from Texas. Just not this team from Texas. No, not the Spurs, at least that’s what the hunch and the outset of this first-round playoff series says. Common sense, too, wants to chime in and declare the Spurs without Kawhi Leonard are just standing in the way, albeit proudly, of the Warriors’ path to greater things in the post-season. And so, the long and antsy wait for the anticipated and projected Warriors vs. Houston Rockets showdown in the West began in earnest Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) when the Warriors breezed from jump ball to buzzer against San Antonio, and also torpedoed the notion that they’re somehow vulnerable (at least for now). The playoff tipoff was all about the Warriors re-establishing their muscle flex and their defense and most importantly, their aura, even with Steph Curry still out and ailing, because the rest of the NBA was watching. That’s what a 113-92 wipeout Game 1 win at Oracle Arena accomplished, if nothing else. The combination of the Spurs being overmatched and the Warriors needing to put on a more menacing face than what they showed the last month of the regular season delivered the predictable result: A smackdown. Or, as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put it: “Got our ass kicked.” Too much Kevin Durant, the sneaky elevation of Andre Iguodala to the starting point guard spot, a JaVale McGee sighting and Klay Thompson getting swishy was exactly what the Warriors needed and received. Seriously, though: Anything less would’ve been a big surprise. The Warriors couldn’t afford to stay locked into the season-ending fog that turned coach Steve Kerr’s hair a lighter shade of gray and created the perception of a fat, too-satisfied winner of two championships in three years. Most likely, they were merely victims of human nature: While going 7-10 down the stretch, the Warriors simply grew bored with the meaningless late season, especially once Curry hurt his knee on March 23 (Mar. 24, PHL time). Seriously, what was left to accomplish, other than to stay healthy? This team was created and molded for the sole purpose of winning in June, not for placing importance on, say, drop-kicking the Sacramento Kings on April Fools. “We’re a championship ballclub and we know what it takes to win this time of year,” said Draymond Green, applying the perspective. “You heard, 'The Warriors lost it, they’re not together, they’re not the same team without Steph, blase, blase, blase, blah blah blah.' Well, we know what we’re capable of. There have been series where we’ve won without Kevin, without myself, without our head coach. A lot of people forgot.” In case you’re one of the people Draymond was referring to, here’s a refresher course, courtesy of Game 1: Durant is very long and tough to defend, Thompson usually doesn’t miss when he has three feet of separation from his defender, Iggy always earns his fat paycheck in springtime, and as for McGee? “He’s very tall,” said Kerr. Actually, Kerr wasn’t purposely trying to troll his starting center, just stating the obvious when it comes to defending Spurs leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge. McGee brings four more inches and therefore made it tough for Aldridge, who managed only 14 points and was mainly a ghost. With Aldridge on lockdown, the Warriors’ D had accomplished its main mission, because the Spurs lack a secondary source of punch. What, is Rudy Gay going to turn back the clock? Manu Ginobili? Tony Parker? Because that’s what needs to happen for San Antonio. Without it, well, unfortunately for the Spurs, Kawhi isn’t limping through that door. What irritated Kerr was how the Warriors dialed down their defensive intensity in the weeks leading into the playoffs. They spotted 126 points each to the Pelicans and Pacers, and in the season finale did a complete no-show, getting spanked by 40 courtesy of Utah. Remember, the Warriors constantly ranked among the better defensive teams during their multiple runs to the NBA Finals. As coaches tend to do in these matters, Kerr jeopardized his vocal chords a few times while trying to get the message across in the disinterested locker room. But deep down, did anyone buy the notion of the Warriors suddenly forgetting how to play defense? With the second-best record in the West secured, and first place conceded to Houston, weren’t they just tapping their toes until the first round? Is that such a crime? Wouldn’t that be understandable, and wise on some levels, given the risk of something bad happening to a hamstring? Anyway, Kerr barely uncrossed his legs on the bench Saturday (Sunday, PHL time); no need to scold a team that held the Spurs to 40 percent shooting and claimed the rebounding edge by 21 and never felt threatened. “We finally got back to defending,” said Kerr. He made sure of that, by inserting Iguodala, his best all-around defender, into the starting lineup and also using McGee extensively instead of Zaza Pachulia. Iggy spread his limbs all over the floor, guarding bigs and smalls, switching on the screen and generally being a pest to the other team, as he generally is this time of year. “I just wanted to put our best defensive lineup on the floor from the beginning,” he explained. “The last month or so our defense had been subpar. You can’t win in this league unless you defend. You could feel the intensity right from the start. We set a good tone.” To be fair, the awakening of the Warriors’ defense will receive a more accurate measure if and when they advance beyond the Spurs and face, for example, the Blazers with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and of course the turbocharged Rockets with James Harden and Chris Paul and all those three-point slingers. But until then, wrapping up the Spurs will serve as necessary preparation. Less worry was the Warriors on the other end of the floor, where Durant assumed the lead and took 17 shots, scoring 24 points. More efficient was Thompson, who missed only twice in 13 shots and finished with 27 points. All of this was necessary with Curry not expected back for the first round; he just received the green light to press the accelerator during rehab and begin lateral movements. If the Warriors, a top-10 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency, continue to get this kind of killer balance, there’ll be some long nights upcoming for the Spurs and a quick series as well. “We were not as ready to face a team like them,” said Ginobili. “They were much better than us. Klay got away from us many times. Overall, they were so much better in every aspect that we had no shot. We’ve got to regroup, feel hurt and desperate, got to be smarter … We understand we’re not favorites. We’re underdogs. To get a win here we’ve got to overachieve. We got to do better than we can.” It’s too bad that the Kawhi Situation continues to follow the Spurs like a dark cloud. He remains stymied by a quad injury that apparently hasn’t healed enough for his liking. The Spurs with Kawhi and the Warriors without Curry would tip the scales in this series toward being somewhat level, or at least invite some suspense. Without Kawhi, the Spurs are shooting spitballs at a tank. Guts and hard work and good coaching can only go so far against the suddenly-refocused and playoff-locked Warriors. So, yes, the Warriors set out to re-introduce themselves and did so Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). “We want to make a statement in Game 2 as well,” said Thompson. “We hobbled to the playoffs but we know how good we are and what it takes in the post season to win. When our intensity and focus are high, we’re tough to beat.” Well, tough for one team in Texas. We’ll see about the other soon enough. 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 15th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: 2018 pre-playoffs predictions

NBA.ph blogtable 1) Which first-round series in the West is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: For sure it’s Portland-New Orleans. I love Damian Lillard’s game, but the Pels are a really tough bunch with a lot of weapons, even sans Boogie Cousins. Jusuf Nurkic will have a really tough time containing AD; that’s one reason this has a high potential for an upset! Migs Bustos: The Jazz and Thunder matchup. It's a tale of upward momentum versus inconsistency. The Jazz have won seven out of their last 10 games, and OKC are 5-5 in their last 10. With how the Jazz are playing great team basketball, led by super rookie, Donovan Mitchell, they have a great chance of upsetting the erratic OKC Thunder. If maganda ang gising ng Utah for four games, may tulog ang OKC sa kanila. Marco Benitez: I think the Thunder-Jazz series is the one where most likely we will see an upset. The Thunder experiment of Westbrook-George-Anthony has been up and down all season, while the Jazz are a well-coached team anchored on a great defensive presence in Gobert. The Thunder win if Westbrook dominates the game and Adams is able to neutralize Gobert. But if OKC becomes stagnant on offense and their usual selves defensively, then the Jazz can wreck havoc on this matchup. Favian Pua: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans: In order for the Pelicans to stun the Blazers, Anthony Davis must cement his status as the best player on both ends of the floor throughout the series. A Playoff Rondo sighting paired with the feisty defense of Jrue Holiday should stymie the backcourt attack of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Adrian Dy: If it turns out Kawhi Leonard was just saving himself for a postseason run, then the Spurs would absolutely wreck the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors. Barring such a comeback though, I'm riding high on the Pelicans. The Blazers don't have the bigs to even slow down Davis, and the Jrue Holiday + Playoffs Rajon Rondo combo could make things really tough for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum 2) Which first-round series in the East is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: Don’t look past the veteran-laden Miami Heat. Philadelphia is by far the deeper team, sure, but if Embiid is hampered by his injury and both D-Wade and Goran Dragic have their way, Miami can push the Sixers to the distance and an upset may not be that surprising. Also, coach Spo shines in 7-game series! Migs Bustos: In the East, it's a bit more challenging. We all know about the success of the Sixers this season; no matter what seed Lebron's team is, it will be hard to upset them; the Raptors have been long consistent at the number 1 spot all season. So, the best bet would be the Bucks overthrowing home court advantage. And this is because Kyrie is out of the season. It's just up to Giannis and Co. to take advantage of that disadvantage by the Celtics to pull through. Marco Benitez: The plague of injuries to the Boston Celtics really hurt their chances of contending in the East, much less win a championship this season. Without Kyrie, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are vulnerable against the Greek Freak-led Bucks, who are long and talented. With that being said, Boston is still an extremely well-coached, albeit young team, and Giannis will have to be the best player on the floor for most of the series for the inconsistent Bucks to pull off the upset. Favian Pua: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat: Though the Sixers are rolling into the playoffs, only J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli can boast of a legitimate postseason resume. Led by All-Star Goran Dragic, the Heat are an unrelenting unit of two-way veterans who can both muck it up inside and bait opponents into a long-range shootout. Joel Embiid’s uncertain status will force Sixers head coach Brett Brown to find a counter for Hassan Whiteside. Adrian Dy: Though I have the 76ers advancing, it wouldn't surprise me if the Heat shut down Ben Simmons and shut up Joel Embiid. Erik Spoelstra has a knack for getting the best out of his squads, Dwyane Wade could have some clutch moments, and if the aforementioned Embiid doesn't return as soon as expected, South Beach could be singing after round one. 3) Which team that missed the playoffs has the best shot at making it next season? Enzo Flojo: I’d love to say Denver, but their being in the West really makes their window tight. That’s why I’m picking the Detroit Pistons, who have enough talent to make quite a big impact in the East, especially if their big names (e.g. Drummond, Griffin, Jackson) all stay put and stay healthy! Migs Bustos: To be honest, there are not much compelling story lines on teams that barely missed the playoffs this year. There's nothing like one of the most recent examples -- the Heat's 2016-2017 season where they made a late season run but just missed it at .500 (41-41), or how about Phoenix having a winning record at 48-34 in the 2013-2014 season missing out? The 16 teams were more or less 'predicted' to make the postseason this year so there wasn't a big surprise. Marco Benitez: I think a healthy Memphis Grizzlies team, with Conley, Gasol, Parsons and Tyreke Evans (assuming all are still with the Grizzlies next season) will be a lock to make the playoffs after a disappointing 22-60 win-loss record this season that saw a season-ending surgery for Conley happen in late January. Favian Pua: The Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic and his ragtag bunch of scorers were an overtime loss away against the Minnesota Timberwolves from getting their first taste of the postseason. To do so, the Nuggets will need to handle their business and take care of bottom-feeders, as it was backbreaking losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks in March that prevented them from securing an outright playoff berth. Adrian Dy: The Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki will likely want to go out with a bang, Rick Carlisle is still a really good coach, Dennis Smith Jr. is a fantastic attacking guard, and if the lotto balls bounce the right way, they could return to the upper echelon of the West. 4) Which team that made these playoffs has the biggest chance of missing it next season? Enzo Flojo: It may sound crazy, but the Spurs are at great risk for next season. Kawhi continues to be a huge question mark and their veterans will get even older in 2018-2019. They nearly didn’t make it this year, and next year could be the tipping point! Migs Bustos: I'd have to go with the San Antonio Spurs. No doubt all of the other teams are on the up-swing, and they all boast of youth. If Kahwi does not play for the Spurs next season, expect younger teams with great potential like the Nuggets and Lakers to overtake SAS. Marco Benitez: Depending on what happens in terms of offseason trades, and assuming that the rest of the Western Conference regains full strength next season, the two teams I feel have the biggest chance of missing the playoffs next season are Miami and New Orleans. For Miami, DWade is not getting any younger, and Hassan Whiteside has not been at a consistent All-Star level all season. With Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond getting a full year under their belt in Detroit and Kristaps Porzingis back at full strength in New York, I see Miami as the most likely team to get bumped off in the East next season. For New Orleans, the Davis-Cousins experiment did not necessarily turn them into a legitimate playoff contender in the West, and when Cousins fell to injury, they've had to rely on AD to carry them almost entirely on his shoulders. With the ultra competitive West getting healthier next season, unless the Pels are able to get better on the wings -- assuming of course Cousins doesn't bolt in the offseason -- they may find themselves out of the playoffs. Favian Pua: Cleveland Cavaliers. Hinging on the premise that LeBron James bolts for the Sixers or Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this offseason, the Cavaliers are headed for a massive nosedive towards the number one pick in the 2019 draft. No other team has more to lose than the Cavaliers this postseason, and it is highly probable that winning the title is the only way The King stays in The Land. Adrian Dy: If we get another round of LeBron James free agency sweepstakes, and he winds up getting the Banana Boat Gang together in Houston, it's hard to see the Cleveland Cavaliers being competitive, let alone back in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Should that happen, I'd expect them to trade guys like Kevin Love, and hope that lotto luck favors them anew. 5) Which team is your early favorite to win it all? Enzo Flojo: Despite all the injuries and all their inconsistencies, the Warriors are still my odds-on fave to win it all. They have four big time playoff performers, and they know this is where their real season begins. Migs Bustos: Don't count out the Warriors. Even though they have been plagued with injuries towards the end of the season, the Dubs will hope that they will be healthy in time and turn 'on' the button with their championship experience Marco Benitez: Still the Warriors. Although they'll be without Steph in the first round, I foresee the same dominant Dubs starting the second round all the way to the Finals. The regular season has been a bit of a drag for them this season, and I believe that's why we haven't seen the same Warriors squad as that of past years. But come playoffs, there's no reason why the defending champs don't get locked in; and when they do, frankly, there's still no better team in the league than Golden State. Favian Pua: The Houston Rockets. The playoffs is all about trimming the fat in the roster and letting star power take over in the biggest moments. In James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets will always have at least one elite shot creator and facilitator on the court for all 48 minutes. Flanked by capable three-point shooters and wing defenders acquired specifically to neutralize the Golden State Warriors’ juggernaut, Clutch City is on track for its first Larry O’Brien trophy since 1995. Adrian Dy: Yes the defending champions are banged-up and looked uninterested as the regular season wound down, but now that it's winning time, I expect the Warriors to do their thing, although there's no way it'll be as smooth as their 16-1 romp last season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

HEADS UP: 10 sporting events to watch out for in 2018

2017 has come and gone, and it delivered some exciting sporting moments that has every sports fan clamoring for more. Worry not, though, as 2018 looks primed to satisfy even the most die-hard Pinoy sports aficionado with its bevy of local and international sporting events. Let's welcome the upcoming year with 10 of the most exciting sporting events to watch out for this 2018.   NCAA 93 & UAAP 80 VOLLEYBALL The cagers are out, and the spikers are in. Volleyball season begins this January 4 with NCAA season 93, followed by the 81st season of the UAAP this February. NCAA volleybelles are once again ready to take center court, and the defending women's champion Arellano University Lady Chiefs, led by heavy hitters Jovie Prado and Regine Arocha are banking on their undisputed team play to propel them to another title. Playing inspired volleyball throughout the season, the Lady Chiefs stunned the thrice-to-beat San Sebastian Lady Stags in the Finals last year, ultimately ending Grethcel Soltones' collegiate career with a dud. Rising stars like San Beda's Ces Racraquin, JRU's Karen Montojo also make the upcoming NCAA volleyball season worth waiting for. UAAP volleyball begins a month later the NCAA tournament, but expect the field to be even more tumultuous. With no clear-cut number 2 team to challenge the two-time defending champions DLSU Lady Spikers, it will be a toss-up against basically the other seven schools to step up. Dangerous squads include the much-improved Adamson Lady Falcons, last year's pleasant surprise UST, the dynastic Ateneo Lady Eagles, and the intact NU Lady Bulldogs and FEU Lady Tamaraws. NBA ALL-STAR GAME & 2018 NBA FINALS The annual showcase of the NBA's brightest stars just got a major revamp. That's right, the league has done away with the traditional East-West teams, and will now have a playground-type pool selection of players between its two captains when the exhibition tips off in Los Angeles. This raises a lot of interesting questions: Will the captains pick their teammates or will they go with a more controversial pick and select a rival? Will we able to know the order of the draft? Will this actually work in making the game better? While answers to those questions might not be answered until a few months, one thing's for sure, the NBA Finals, the spectacle that actually counts, will be epic. Will we be treated to Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Pt. 4? Or will another squad swoop in to spoil the party? The league has indeed improved, with surprising teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons out in the East already staking claim to playoff spots, and the Wild, Wild, West staying true to its monicker. The Houston Rockets and the perennial powerhouse San Antonio Spurs are still the favorites to pull the rug under the Warriors, while the Oklahoma City Thunder is right behind. Either way, with months of hoops already invested in it, the NBA Finals will surely be another explosive one, as it always is.   HOMECOMING QUEEN Alyssa Valdez spent the majority of 2017 overseas, spreading her wings in Taiwan with volleyball club Attack Line. This 2018 though, The Phenom plans on staying in the Philippines, armed with two year’s worth of international experience to focus on her home club team in the Creamline Cool Smashers.  "Next year, I'm planning to focus sa Creamline. Just this year, I travelled a lot talaga. They supported me throughout, esepcially doon sa National Team stint ko. They sacrificed a lot for me talaga. I think I have to focus sa team ko talaga,” she said last week.Alyssa Valdez just got scarier.   PINOY HOOP DREAMS: REMY MARTIN, KOBE PARAS  Two proudly Pinoy ballers based in the U.S. set out this 2018 to continue shooting for our island nation’s humble hoop dreams. Kobe Paras is still serving residency this 2017-2018 season with the California State University-Northridge Matadors, but his development is sure to be a joy to watch. The 6’6” Pinoy swingman accomplished a tour of duty with Gilas Pilipinas earlier in the year, and many Pinoys saw why we should all be excited about high-flying forward. Remy Martin, a 5’11” point guard dazzled in his first few games with the Arizona State Sun Devils, with his athleticism, explosiveness and feisty defense. The Filipino-American cager is proud of his roots and hopes to represent flag and country with Gilas Pilipinas in the future.   WHO (OR WHAT) IS NEXT FOR MANNY PACQUIAO? The never-ending saga of what’s next for Manny Pacquiao looks like it'll seep into 2018.  Following a rather controversial loss to Australian boxer Jeff Horn, Pacquiao has been “courting” the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. for a rematch, even taking to Instagram to ”greet” MMA superstar Conor McGregor before finally admitting that he’s been in talks with the Irish fighter’s camp. Whether he actually retires from boxing for good, or takes on another foe in the squared circle, one thing’s for sure: we’ll all have our eyes on Manny Pacquiao’s next move.   2018 WORLD CUP RUSSIA™ After four years, the best of world football will once again converge, this time in Russia to crown the Kings of the beautiful sport. The stage is set, the groups are finalized, and the 32 squads are promising the best 30-day football extravaganza in the hopes of dethroning defending champions Germany this June. Some group stage clashes to look out for are Germany vs Mexico, England vs Belgium, Portugal vs Spain, to name a few. June couldn’t come soon enough.   CHRISTIAN STANDHARDINGER'S PBA DEBUT No PBA rookie has probably come into the league as pro-ready as the Filipino-German standout Christian Standhardinger. The 6’9” big man was the consensus top overall pick of the 2017 PBA draft, and was also at the center of the controversial trade that sent Kia Picanto’s rights to the number 1 selection to the already-dominant San Miguel. While the trade did go down, so did former commissioner Chito Narvasa. Standhardinger’s entry to the PBA has come at a cost, but San Miguel is more than ready to wait one more conference to bulk up their already stacked squad. Seeing Standharinger play alongside 6’11” center and reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo, versatile forward Arwind Santos, and the Beermen’s bevy of guards in Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross, is definitely a sight to see, just look at how he's tearing it up in the ASEAN Basketball League.    2018 ASIAN GAMES INDONESIA The Philippines’ less than stellar performance at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games was met with widespread flak. Not directed at our athletes however, but aimed at our sports development and governing body for its subpar work in getting our sports representatives ready. While the 2018 Asian Games isn’t so far away, a handful of Pinoy medalists from the SEA Games are going into the continental meet with high hopes. After dominating the SEA Games’ triathlon event, our Filipino endurance athletes, led by gold medalists Kim Mangrobang, and Nikko Huelgas, are once again primed to take home hardware. Marathoner Mary Joy Tabal, and boxers John Marvin, and Eumir Marcial, all gold medalists at Malaysia, are all bright spots that could soon unravel into full-fledged stars come 2018.   GILAS PILIPINAS IN THE FIBA WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS It’s official, basketball is coming home to the Philippines this 2023 by way of the FIBA World Cup, but Gilas Pilipinas will first have to try its luck in the 2019 meet. After dealing with Chinese Taipei and Japan this 2017 for a perfect 2-0 slate in the qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas still has to face the Japanese anew, and the powerhouse Australian team early in 2018. A good showing against these squads will help Gilas strengthen its bid to international basketball’s biggest stage before we actually host the event in six years’ time.   UAAP 81 BASKETBALL UAAP season 80 just came to an end, but the next season just got way more interesting. Aside from the title defense of the intact Ateneo Blue Eagles and their ongoing rivalry with La Salle, a certain move by a coach has shaken up the league. With Aldin Ayo reportedly accepting the job as the new head coach of the struggling University of Sto. Tomas, we might just be witnesses to the rebirth of the once proud basketball program under the fiery mentor. That, and the way the DLSU Green Archers can adjust from the departure of Ayo and former two-time MVP Ben Mbala, key cogs to their season 79 championship run. The tight race for the MVP award will also be one to watch, with Mbala gone, it’s up to the local stars to step up to the challenge......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

As calendar flips to October, the MLB postseason from A to Z

em>By Ben Walker, Associated Press /em> All those home runs by Aaron Judge, all those wins by the Los Angeles Dodgers, nicely done. Except none of that matters now — a sinker that bounces to the backstop, a liner that hooks barely foul, the whole script flips. October has a way of doing that. The Major League Baseball playoffs start Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium when New York hosts the Minnesota Twins in the AL wild-card game. A look at the 2017 postseason, from A to Z: strong>A: ALTUVE'S ASTROS — /strong>Generously listed at 5-foot-6, Jose Altuve is baseball's little big man. The do-everything second baseman won his third AL batting title and aims to lead the Astros to their first World Series crown. With the Houston area recovering from Hurricane Harvey, they're the sentimental favorites. strong>B: BULLPENS — /strong> Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman going long, Andrew Miller entering early, Clayton Kershaw as a closer. The old rules were out last October when it came to relief roles. We'll see what pops up in the 'pens this year. strong>C: CUBS VS. CLEVELAND — /strong>Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Corey Kluber & Crew, once more? It's been a while since a World Series rematch, when Reggie Jackson led the Yanks over the Dodgers in 1977-78. But, it's already been a ripe year for repeats — Warriors vs. Cavaliers, Alabama vs. Clemson. strong>D: DEBUTS — /strong>Strikeout king Chris Sale makes his first playoff appearance when Boston starts at Houston on Thursday in the best-of-five AL Division Series. Rockies bopper Nolan Arenado and Twins slugger Brian Dozier are postseason newbies, too. So is Nationals backup Adam Lind, after 12 years and more than 1,300 games. strong>E: EXTRA — /strong>Hmmm, anyone remember the last time a postseason game went to extra innings? Hard to top the Cubs' 10-inning, rain-delayed, 8-7 thriller over Cleveland in Game 7. The Red Sox are the experts of extras this year — they're 15-3, including seven straight wins. strong>F: FREE AGENTS — /strong>Sure, 20 teams are done. But their fans can always dream. Cubs righty Jake Arrieta, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Rays thumper Logan Morrison are on the list of who'll soon be available. The most intriguing possibility might be Shohei Otani, a star pitcher and hitter in Japan. strong>G: GOOD TO SEE YA — /strong> Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, when he was 10 for 17. Twins star Joe Mauer has been absent since 2010. And Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg has pitched just once in Washington's three trips, heading into this matchup with the Cubs. strong>H: HOME FIELD — /strong>World Series home-field advantages go to the team with the best record. Thankfully, it's no longer based on who wins the All-Star Game. That means the Dodgers (104 wins) get first dibs, followed by Cleveland (102), Houston (101), Washington (97), Boston (93) and the Cubs (92). strong>I: INJURIES — /strong>Nationals ace Max Scherzer tweaked his hamstring, teammate Bryce Harper is getting over a bad knee. Banged-up All-Stars Miguel Sano of the Twins and Michael Brantley of the Indians might be able contribute this week. Might not. strong>J: JOE MADDON — /strong>A cool cat, he keeps his Cubs loose. He reveled in last year's rallying cry: 'Try Not to Suck.' The skipper became the toast of Chicago, ending that century-old drought. Funny, all those warm-and-fuzzy Wrigley Field feelings are gone now, at least beyond the Friendly Confines. strong>K: KERSHAW — /strong>He tied for the major league lead in wins and won his fifth ERA title. He's a three-time Cy Young Award winner and seven-time All-Star. But will anyone get more scrutiny in the postseason than Clayton Kershaw? Probably not, because the LA lefty is 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in the postseason. strong>L: LOUSY WEATHER — /strong>Too bad, the temperature is often better suited for snowballs than baseballs. It was in the low 40s at Wrigley last year, and just imagine how it might feel in Denver or Minneapolis. If you want clear conditions, root for Arizona vs. Houston and their retractable roofs. strong>M: MANAGERS — /strong> Twin Cities native Paul Molitor, Torey Lovullo of the Diamondbacks and Bud Black of the Rockies are first-time skippers in the playoffs. Washington's Dusty Baker is back for his ninth try, still seeking that elusive first World Series championship. strong>N: NETTING — /strong>Fan safety has drawn special focus ever since a 1-year-old girl was recently hit by Todd Frazier's 105 mph foul ball at Yankee Stadium. Of the teams in these playoffs, three already had extended the netting to screen spectators: Houston, Washington and Minnesota. The Yankees say they'll have it next year. strong>O: OCTOBER — /strong>Of course. But if the World Series goes to Game 7, they'll go beyond Halloween and play on Nov. 1. strong>P: PUERTO RICO — /strong> Carlos Beltran, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are among the many players from Puerto Rico trying to raise money and awareness for the damage done to their island by Hurricane Maria. Look for messages on caps and shoes over the next few weeks. strong>Q: QUICK? — /strong>Extra mound conferences, longer TV commercials, more pitching changes, they all contribute to slowing down the pace in the playoffs. MLB wants to speed up the action and avoid a repeat from last year, when postseason games averaged almost 3 1/2 hours. Not a good sign that regular-season games this year took more than 3 hours, 5 minutes on average, the longest ever. strong>R: ROOKIES — /strong>Yankees behemoth Aaron Judge broke the major league record with 52 home runs by a rookie, Dodgers surprise Cody Bellinger set the NL mark with 39. Other newcomers who could make an impact: Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, Cubs outfielder/infielder Ian Happ and 33-year-old Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel. strong>S: STREAKS — /strong> Jose Ramirez and the Indians set an AL record by winning 22 straight, the Dodgers dropped 11 in a row for their worst skid since moving from Brooklyn. A year after winning its first six postseason games, and in this season of streaks, Cleveland hopes to do it again. strong>T: TRADES — /strong>Justin Verlander (5-0, 1.06 ERA for Houston), J.D. Martinez (29 homers in 62 games for Arizona) and Jose Quintana (7-3, 3.74 for the Cubs) are some of the stars who were acquired in midseason trades. Yu Darvish, David Robertson and Eduardo Nunez also gave their new teams a boost. strong>U: UMPIRES — /strong>It won't be long before some team is hollering about an ump's strike zone. Those calls can't be contested, but others can. Some teams are very good at getting them overturned (Joe Girardi and the Yankees won 72 percent of their challenges). Others, not so much (the Nationals were right only 36 percent). strong>V: VOTING — /strong>All ballots for MVP, Cy Young and other major awards must be sent before the playoffs begin. These honors will generate plenty of debate before the winners are announced in November. Altuve or Judge, Kluber or Sale? strong>W: WILD CARDS — /strong> Madison Bumgarner and the 2014 Giants are the only wild-card team to win the World Series since MLB went to a one-and-done format in 2012. Before that, five wild cards took the title: Cardinals (2011), Red Sox (2004), Marlins (2003, 1997) and Angels (2002). strong>X: XANDER BOGAERTS — /strong> Perhaps the Boston shortstop might be the next infielder to really break out in postseason. Think Javier Baez, Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist and Alcides Escobar in recent years. strong>Y: YANKEE STADIUM — /strong> The playoffs begin the Bronx, with Yankees youngster Luis Severino starting the AL wild-card game, taking on Ervin Santana and the Twins. strong>Z: ZACK GREINKE — /strong>The Arizona ace is set to throw the first pitch in Wednesday's NL wild-card game at home against a familiar opponent. He's 2-1 in five starts vs. Colorado this year. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 2nd, 2017

LeBron back in fold, but other issues still on Lakers minds

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Well, scratch one name off the Los Angeles Lakers’ wait list. LeBron James has finally reported for duty, and who would’ve thought he’d beat Anthony Davis to the team’s lineup? Five weeks felt like forever to the franchise as they sweated out LeBron’s 17-game absence from a groin injury. It was the first injury of any concern in his 16-year career, and given his workload over such time, maybe that will serve as one of the more amazing feats by LeBron. A sense of normalcy crept back into the Lakers’ season if only for a night when LeBron suited up Thursday (Friday, PHl time), played 40 minutes without a hiccup, and -- on the surface anyway -- all seemed well. That doesn’t mean all is well. All is very confusing. The Lakers are juggling a pair of sensitive uncertainties: Davis and whether they can swing a deal to acquire the New Orleans Pelicans’ All-NBA player … and the Western Conference playoff chase. The Davis dilemma has the more urgent expiration date. Thursday’s (Friday, PHl time) deadline means one way or another, the Lakers will have clarity on one of the more uncomfortable scenarios in recent memory. And when there’s finally a verdict, and no matter what it is, there will be a sense of relief (to an extent). That’s because the young core of the Lakers are essentially being held hostage while the club enthusiastically tries to pawn one of two or all of them off in order to get Davis. Imagine being Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and/or Josh Hart now and figuring out what they’re going through. This Davis trade request is in their heads. They don’t know if by next week they’ll be passing the ball to LeBron or … E’Twuan Moore. They don’t know if they’ll be playing in L.A. or … La. They don’t know if LeBron, whose agency also represents Davis and is helping to orchestrate his New Orleans exit, has their back or is sticking a fork in it behind the scenes. There’s so much at work here, so many moving parts, so much head scratching. By all indications, there are exploratory conversations between the Lakers and Pelicans about what it will take to land Davis. The Lakers are dangling young players and Draft picks, and that might not be enough. Meanwhile, the Pelicans are dealing with their own prickly situation. The trade request caused a measure of saltiness and the front office doesn’t appear to be warm to the idea of having Davis around. The Pelicans scrubbed him from their pre-game video intros, as though he doesn’t exist anymore. He’s still on the team bench during games but it’s a weird optic. Davis is with a team he doesn’t feel is good enough for him anymore. In a perfect world, the Pelicans would take their time and weigh considerable offers from other teams, but that may stretch until this summer. Davis’ contract only runs one more season. If he tells other teams he won’t sign an extension with them, he can sabotage deals. Why would those teams surrender assets for a one-year rental? The stare-down continues as the weekend approaches and LeBron returns to face the league-leading Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). “With LeBron back, we have to adjust again as to how we play,” said coach Luke Walton. “But he looked fine to me.” He was initially on a 25-minute restriction Thursday (Friday, PHL time), but played the entire overtime in the Lakers’ win. He was feeling and looking stronger as the game progressed, finishing with 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. “I’m about 80 (percent) right now,” James said. “It’s going to take me a while to get my rhythm back. We got a lot of games coming up. I want to see how my body feels tomorrow after playing tonight. Toughest stretch of my career. I worked my butt off to get back to this point. “I wasn’t positive every day throughout this process. There were times when I felt great and thought I could come back faster. It wasn’t reacting the right way so I had to be patient. I’d never been injured before like that. I didn’t come here to put on a suit everyday. I came here to put on a jersey, when you see your team struggle and you can’t help them in a suit and tie, that was frustrating.” The Lakers went 6-11 without LeBron and dropped games to the likes of the New York Knicks, Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers and two to the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was unsightly and discouraging at times, and the losing -- combined with LeBron’s sense of mortality -- perhaps kick-started the Davis chase. Perhaps team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka (with input from LeBron) decided it’s time to get into the express lane, at the expense of youth, and quicken the process. “I’m excited about being back out there with my guys,” James said. “We’re ready for the challenge. We want to get back into a groove and get a playoff spot. That’s what I’m here fore, that’s what we’re here for.” The playoff chase begins in earnest for any team in the West with those aspirations. To reach 48 wins, which should be enough for a playoff spot, the Lakers need to win 21 of their last 30. And given the stiff competition out West, that likely means LeBron will need to play meaningful games in April -- a time which normally would call for rest -- and perform at a high level, too. Keep in mind if the Lakers are gutted to get Davis, the supporting cast around the two stars will be depleted. In such a case, the real pursuit of the Warriors wouldn’t realistically begin until next season. Even that depends on what else the Lakers can do this summer with their salary-cap surplus. Remember, LeBron is 34 … and just sat for the longest stretch of his career. When you sign LeBron, the end game is a championship or at the very least, a reasonable chase. The Lakers are getting him on the back end, so in this situation, there’s a clock and the Lakers are on it. Time is ticking on their chances of getting Davis this season in what would be a major shakeup. And time is also ticking on their playoff pursuit, which if it fails, would be a major letdown. 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 NewsFeb 2nd, 2019

City loses at Newcastle, Solskjaer s winning run ends

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press Rafa Benitez never won the Premier League in his six years with Liverpool but he has done his old team a huge favor in its bid to end a 29-year wait for English soccer's biggest prize. Newcastle, the injury-hit and relegation-threatened team now managed by Benitez, pulled off one of the surprise results of the season by coming from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1 on Tuesday. City squandered a lead for the third time this season — this one at St. James' Park arrived after just 24 seconds through Sergio Aguero — and the champions have lost their sheen of impregnability as they bid to retain the league title for the first time. They stayed four points behind Liverpool, which can extend its lead to seven by beating Leicester at Anfield on Wednesday. There are just 14 matches for both teams after that. "When you are behind you have to win games, and we couldn't do that," said Guardiola, who remarked before the game that one slip-up would leave City's title hopes "almost over." It was a disappointing night for Manchester all around. Manchester United's interim manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was looking to become the first coach to win his first seven matches in charge of a Premier League team and continue his perfect start to managerial life at his former club. That's one record he won't be holding after Burnley — a team fighting relegation like Newcastle — surprisingly drew 2-2 at Old Trafford, with United scoring goals in the 87th minute through Paul Pogba's penalty and the second minute of injury time through Victor Lindelof to salvage a draw. Still, the way United kept fighting and scored late goals will be viewed as a positive by United's hierarchy as it weighs up whether to give Solskjaer the job on a full-time basis. "The comeback was brilliant," said Solskjaer, who was seeking a record-extending ninth straight win in all competitions to open his interim tenure. "The players have been asked about how they would react if they went 1-0 or 2-0 down, so I felt the comeback was fantastic." United fell two points behind fifth-place Arsenal, which beat Cardiff 2-1, and fourth-place Chelsea, which plays away to Bournemouth on Wednesday, in the race for the four Champions League qualification spots. SALA TRIBUTES It was Cardiff's first game since the disappearance of its new striker, Emilano Sala, and it was an emotional occasion for the Welsh club at Emirates Stadium as tributes were paid to the Argentine player. Cardiff manager Neil Warnock and his staff wore daffodils — a national emblem for Wales — and the yellow flowers were handed out to both Cardiff and Arsenal fans before the game. The away fans held up a large banner reading: "We never saw you play and never saw you score, but Emiliano our beautiful Bluebird we will love you forever more." There was a minute of silent reflection for Sala and David Ibbotson, the pilot of the small passenger plane that was carrying the Argentine striker to Cardiff from his former French team, Nantes, when it disappeared over the English Channel last week. Arsenal strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both scored in the second half, with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing pulling a goal back in injury time for Cardiff. ARNAUTOVIC INJURED Marko Arnautovic left the stadium on crutches and wearing a protective boot after an unhappy return to the West Ham team. The Austria forward missed West Ham's last two games after he was tempted to accept a lucrative offer from a Chinese club. On Friday, he said he was staying at West Ham and signed a new contract the following day, saying he couldn't wait to get back playing for the London club. He was recalled three days later but played only 77 minutes in West Ham's 3-0 loss at Wolverhampton Wanderers before going off with a right leg injury. Mexico striker Raul Jimenez scored two of Wolves' goals as they climbed to seventh place. FULHAM HOPES BOOSTED Fulham boosted hopes of avoiding relegation by coming from two goals down after 17 minutes to beat Brighton 4-2. Aleksandar Mitrovic scored two of the goals for next-to-last Fulham, which is five points from safety. Huddersfield looks doomed, though, after a 1-0 home to loss to Everton that marked a disappointing start to his tenure for new coach Jan Siewert......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 30th, 2019

Off the court tussle

The Warriors and Cavaliers are going at it again, but this time off the court. The subject of their conflict: Patrick McCaw, who, in two full seasons with the defending champions, averaged a whopping four, one, and one in 16 minutes of exposure. Including even more anemic numbers in the playoffs, he proved as crucial to their title runs as just about any other player riding the pine for them. Still, they wanted him back, and offered him a two-year contract worth $5.2 million that he subsequently declined because the second year wasn’t guaranteed. Enter the 2018 runners-up, with whom he signed a deal that his previous employers couldn’t match, and for whom he then wound up playing only three games......»»

Category: financeSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsJan 9th, 2019

2018 s most memorable bits of boxing

The sweet science is always a source of headlines in the sporting world, especially in a country that's full of fight fans like the Philippines. Over the last twelve months, we've seen comebacks, championships, and even a little controversy.  Here are some of the best bits of boxing from 2018!    PAC BACK ON TOP 2018 saw Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao once again claim world championship gold following a bitter and controversial loss to Jeff Horn in 2017.  Fighting in Asia for the first time since 2014, Pacquiao challenged reigning WBA (Regular) Welterweight World Champion Lucas "La Maquina" Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia back in July.  Billed as a durable, heavy-hitting brawler, Matthysse was supposed to be the one to threaten Pacquiao with a KO finish.  Instead, looking like the Pacquiao of old, it was the Filipino star who came out aggressive, landing bombs until finally scoring a seventh-round TKO finish, his first since 2009.  Just months shy of his 40th birthday, Pacquiao was a world champion for the eleventh time in his storied career.    THE BREAKUP Prior to Pacquiao's win over Matthysse, the Filipino boxer made headlines the world over after a split from long-time trainer and head coach Freddie Roach.  In April, months before Pacquiao's return to the ring against Matthysse, reports surfaced that Pacquiao, for the first time in over 15 years and 34 bouts, would not be working with the Hall of Fame trainer. According to various sources, the split stemmed from a disagreement between Pacquiao and Roach following the loss to Jeff Horn back in 2017.  Taking Roach's place as head trainer was Pacquiao's best friend, Buboy Fernandez, and judging from the result of the Matthysse bout, it paid dividends.  Still, the split didn't last too long.  Soon after Pacquiao's first WBA title defense against Adrien Broner was announced, both Pacquiao and Roach have confirmed that they will be working together once again.  This time however, Roach will be serving more of a consultant role, guiding Fernandez who remains as Pacquiao's head trainer.    CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS CANELO-GGG 2 In 2017, middleweight stars Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez went to an exciting 12-round draw that warranted a rematch in 2018.  In January, it was announced that the two warriors would square off once again in a Cinco de Mayo rematch. The rematch was put in jeopardy however, when Canelo tested positive for a banned substance in March. By April, the fight was off after the Mexican star decided to withdraw from the highly-anticipated rematch.  The fight eventually pushed through in September, with Alvarez picking up the majority decision win to hand Golovkin his first career loss, and more importantly claim the WBA (Super) and WBC Middleweight World Championships.  Three months later, Canelo would stop British boxer Rocky Fielding in the third round to capture the WBA (Regular) Middleweight World Championship as well.    ALL-FILIPINO For the first time in 92 years, two Filipino boxers faced off for a world championship when reigning IBF Super Flyweight World Champion Jerwin "Pretty Boy" Ancajas defended his title against Jonas "Zorro" Sultan in California.  In the historic meeting, it was Ancajas who emerged victorious, defeating Sultan via unanimous decision as the reigning IBF 115-pound champ continued his run of dominance with five successful title defenses. Four months later, Ancajas would retain his world championship once again, but this time after figuring in a split draw against Mexican Alejandro Santiago.    DONNIE NIETES MAKES THE JUMP Speaking of all-Filipino bouts and going to a draw, Donnie Nietes and Aston Palicte experienced both in just one bout.  Following a spectacular albiet short-lived run at Flyweight, which saw him capture and retain the IBF's 112-pound title, Nietes made the decision to move up to the 115-pound super flyweight division, where he'll be in the same pool as the big names like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada, and compatriot Jerwin Ancajas.  Nietes' debut bout at 115 however, would be against fellow Negrense in Palicte, and it would be for the vacant WBO Super Flyweight World Championship in September.  In what many believed as a win for Nietes, the 12-round bout went to a controversial split draw, that denied Nietes of the distinction of joining Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. as the only Filipinos to capture four world titles in as many divisions.  Nietes still has the chance to do that before the end of 2018 however, as he gets another shot at the title on New Year's Eve when he meets Japan's Kazuto Ioka in Macau.    BUD MOVES UP Following years of dominance at junior welterweight, Terence "Bud" Crawford also made the jump up to a heavier weight class, and immediately made a splash.  Facing off against WBO Welterweight World Champion Jeff Horn, Crawford announced his arrival at 140-pounds with a dominant TKO win over the Australian in June.  Four months later, Crawford successfully defended the title against Jose Benavidez Jr. with a 12th-round TKO victory.    FLASH FORWARD Nonito Donaire Jr's 2018 didn't start off as well as he would have wanted.  The Filipino Flash lost his April bout to Carl Frampton for the WBO Interim Featherweight World Championship, prompting questions regarding the former four-division world champion's future.  In a surprising move however, Donaire announced that he would be going back down to super bantamweight and would be taking part in the World Boxing Super Series' super bantamweight tournament.  Matched up in the quarterfinal round against Ryan Burnett back in November, Donaire scored what many consider an upset, winning via TKO after the Irishman suffered a back injury. As a result, Donaire advanced into the next round of the tournament with the WBA (Super) Bantamweight World Championship around his waist.  Up next for Donaire will be WBO Super Bantamweight World Champion Zolani Tete of South Africa in the semifinals.    WILDER AND FURY GO TO WAR In one of the most talked-about heavyweight bouts in recent history, WBC Heavyweight World Champion Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury put on a 12-round war that ended in...surprise, surprise, a split draw. Fury used his movement and technique to dictate the pace over Wilder throughout the 12-round bout, but the reigning champion dropped the British challenger in the final round that led to the draw decision, setting up what could be another highly-anticipated rematch in the future. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2018

New chapter awaits LeBron-Warriors rivalry

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Oakland, Calif. — You cannot engage in a meaningful discussion or debate about the greatest player who ever lived without mentioning a team. They are the gate-crashers of this exclusive party and the shot-callers, the wedge that nudges the verdict away from one player and in the direction of another. They are, quite simply, a better sidekick for Michael Jordan than Scottie Pippen ever was. They are the Golden State Warriors, who ruin it for LeBron James. Or at least, so far anyway. If not for the Warriors, talk show hosts and sports bars and folks at the water cooler who discuss these things would be forced to get their neck hairs up over another touchy subject. Anything but the GOAT. That would be settled. Without the Warriors, LeBron would own more than three championships — everyone would most likely agree to that — and less competition from the immortalized player who went 6-0 in the NBA Finals. Even now, here in his first year with a new team, and astonishingly playing at MVP level just a week away from his 34th birthday, LeBron must deal with a persistent problem. For The King, the Warriors are this recurring kryptonite-mare. Christmas Day will provide LeBron and the Lakers their first shot this season at the winners of the last two NBA titles and three of the last four, all done at the expense of James when he carried the Cavaliers. New team brings the same challenge and a clear sense of reality. LeBron knows he’s up against a wall that’s bigger than the one holding up Congress right now. “We can’t measure ourselves against them,” he said, repeating the same thoughts he held on his first day as a Laker, when he said back in October: “We’ve got a long way to go to get to Golden State.” That “long way” might require the Lakers to put someone else in the shotgun seat for the journey, and that mystery player — Anthony Davis? Kawhi Leonard? Kevin Durant? — is at least a year away, if that. The future, both near and far, involves too many issues and complications and factors, and all of those revolve around LeBron’s stare-down with Father Time. A championship with a third team would weigh in LeBron’s favor against Jordan mainly because it would be accomplished in his mid-30s, at a time when the bodies of even great players begin to squeak. Such high-level consistency is juicing LeBron in the GOAT talk; right now he shows no slow-down with the exception of the occasional defense lapse, and is dropping 27.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.2 assists nightly. He’s a considerable factor, for the first time in his career, beyond the 3-point line, and he still attacks the rim with the intensity of annoyed Draymond Green. Understandably, LeBron has lost three times to two other teams before in the championship round, although one comes with a disclaimer. It was to the peak-time Spurs in 2007 when LeBron was the definition of a one-man show. The next loss to the Spurs was somewhat understandable because San Antonio was solid that season against the Heat; the hiccup against Dirk-led Dallas was less forgiving. It is the Warriors who’ve squirted mustard on the legacy, not because LeBron’s teams were better, but because they’ve beaten him three times. That puts LeBron’s Finals record at 5-6, though not totally his fault, but still cannot compete with MJ’s 6-0. There’s the argument that Jordan never won a championship against anyone on the Warriors’ level; although it’s always tricky to compare eras and teams because of different rules (hand-checking, for one) and trends (three-point shooting, for another), LeBron faced Steph Curry and Kevin Durant the last two summers. Jordan had John Stockton-Karl Malone twice, Gary Payton-Shawn Kemp and Charles Barkley-Kevin Johnson once each. For what it’s worth. That’s all in the past, which is beyond LeBron’s control. Now the discussion will be fixated on the next few years and what he can or cannot do to win a sixth title, which may once again be determined by the Warriors to some degree. “He’s still LeBron James,” said Green. “He’ll boost any team he’s on and he’ll make them a contender. It’s a different look for him, more than what he’s used to, because of the makeup of the team, but they have him and so they’ll be a tough test. Any team with LeBron is a tough test for anyone.” LeBron is bringing Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and also a batch of veterans to the Warriors challenge. It’s a bit daunting, especially since the Lakers have suffered some bad losses lately, to the Wizards, Nets and Grizzlies. Yes, Ingram and Rajon Rondo just returned from injuries. That’s all in the Lakers’ favor. Also consider that the Lakers you see after the All-Star break could be a more accurate version should the young players keep developing and trending up. “We're a team that's trying to get better every week, better every month,” LeBron said. “We want to have championship habits.” But will that make them better than, say, the Oklahoma City Thunder in a playoff series? The Nuggets? Trail Blazers? No one has stepped forth as a solid No. 2 team in the West, assuming the Warriors, despite their record at the moment, remain the clear No. 1. That’s why LeBron’s best chance to repel the Warriors will happen with his next team, not this one. The Warriors haven’t exactly stormed through the season’s first 30 or so games; Curry was hurt, Durant and Green had a spat and even wins against the likes of Dallas, Utah, Sacramento and Orlando were a grind. But for a team like the Warriors, the regular season just gets in the way. Also, at some point they’ll welcome All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to the mix. Coach Steve Kerr said: “I really like where we are. I don’t think we’ve played great basketball for a while. I think we started out really well, 10-1, and the last five or six weeks we’ve been through an awful lot with injuries and with just trying to find a rhythm, a chemistry and a groove with the new groups that we put on the floor. So to not be there yet, but to still have the record that we do, I think we are in a good position. I think we are going to get a lot better.” It’s a good time to get a first look at the player who only figured them out once in The Finals. "We've seen him a lot over the last four years," Curry said. Another championship for LeBron would match Jordan’s win total and would liven up the debate. Surely the Warriors will factor in one way or another: their demise at some point, or continued choke-hold. 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 25th, 2018

THROWBACK: Top PBA rookie draft picks through the years

After 33 years, the tradition of PBA teams selecting promising players from the amateur ranks, patterned after the NBA draft process, heralded a balanced influx of talent to even out the league’s competitiveness. But what makes the draft process interesting is the choice of the number 1 pick, who is considered the most in-demand player seen to bolster the chances of the worst performing or a newly established team in the PBA. With Columbian Dyip’s selection of Lyceum stalwart CJ Perez as the number one pick in the 2018 PBA Draft,  let’s look back at the top draft picks through the years, from its beginnings in 1985 to the controversial selection last year, and how they made their mark in the league. 1985 – Sonny Cabatu Sonny Cabatu was the PBA’s first-ever number one draft pick, selected by the expansion club Shell Azodrin Bugbusters, which took over the Crispa Redmanizers franchise. An intense bruiser inside the paint, Cabatu was Shell’s starting center known as “Mr. Quality Minutes.” He would then play for Great Taste, Purefoods, Sarsi, and Ginebra in a respectable career. 1986 – Rey Cuenco A member of the guest Northern Cement Corp. (NCC) team coached by Ron Jacobs that played in the pro league’s 1984 season, Rey Cuenco was picked in the 1986 draft by another new, expansion ballclub Alaska Milkmen to lead their charge.  His pro playing career blossomed from 1989 to 1992 under the tutelage of Ginebra playing coach Robert Jaworski. In 1990, he was adjudged the Most Improved Player and part of the Mythical Second Team. He also became a member of the Big J-coached, first all-Filipino, all-professional “Dream Team” in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing that won a silver medal for the country with Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, Benjie Paras and Ramon Fernandez among others. 1987 – Allan Caidic Considered the greatest Filipino basketball marksman ever, Allan Caidic was already a big name before he strutted into the PBA. Having won titles for the UE Red Warriors and among the top players of the Ron Jacobs-mentored national team, the Triggerman was definitely one big prized addition for any team. And Great Taste, having the privilege of selecting first in 1987, made Caidic a hands-down choice. He would later suit up for San Miguel Beer and Ginebra San Miguel in a storied career. He had since become a PBA Hall of Famer and among the Top 25 Greatest Players of All Time. 1988 – Jack Tanuan A vital cog of the FEU Tamaraws and a member of the 1986 Seoul Asian Games squad that took home the bronze, Jack Tanuan was a feared scorer who made a living with his inside game. It was no surprise that new franchise Purefoods selected him as their top pick in 1988, in addition to other direct hires from the amateur ranks that formed their strong core—Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codinera, Jojo Lastimosa and Glenn Capacio—on top of having the Franchise, Mon Fernandez, as playing coach. He would later play for the Sarsi, Swift and Pop Cola teams under the RFM franchise, and later on for Sta. Lucia, Mobiline, and Alaska. 1989 – Benjie Paras It was the year of Benjie Paras, a valiant, hardworking center called “The Tower of Power,” who led the UP Maroons to its historic 1986 UAAP title. After being selected by Shell as the number one pick in the 1989 draft, Paras would achieve the impossible of being both the league MVP and Rookie of the Year, while being named to the Mythical Five. Paras along with fellow Hall of Famers Ronnie Magsanoc and long-time import Bobby Ray Parks Sr. became the triumvirate that led Shell to the First Conference championships in 1990 and 1992. And, even with the onset of Fil-foreign players in the PBA, Paras remained dominant and won his second MVP plum in 1999. 1990 – Peter Jao Peter Jao was the first Cebuano player to be drafted as a rookie top pick in the league, selected by Presto Tivoli. He would then become a member of Presto’s champion team in the 1990 All-Filipino conference with Allan Caidic and Gerry Esplana. 1991 – Alex Araneta The former Ateneo Blue Eagle suited up for Alaska Air Force/Milkmen until 1995, after which he was hired in the company as a management trainee, eventually becoming one of Alaska Milk Corp.’s sales managers. Of Alaska’s 14 championships in the league, Araneta was a veteran of 2 of them (1991 Third Conference and 1994 Governors’ Cup). 1992 – Vergel Meneses An ex-seminarian who became among the PBA’s Top 40 Greatest Players, the “Aerial Voyager” was known for his show-stopping moves and is considered among the best one-on-one players. The former JRU Heavy Bomber and 1995 PBA MVP was also a member of the all-pro Centennial Team coached by Tim Cone that won the William Jones Cup in Taipei and placed 3rd in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok. 1993 – Zandro Limpot After his years as a King Archer for De La Salle, Zandro Limpot entered the 1993 draft and was chosen first overall by the expansion ballclub Sta. Lucia Realtors.  Limpot was named Rookie Of The Year that season as well as reaping All-Star, Mythical Second Team and All-Defensive Team honors. Limpot won his first and only PBA championship (2006 Philippine Cup) with the Purefoods Chunkee Giants. 1994 – Noli Locsin Another former Green Archer, Noli Locsin was picked by Tondeña 65 as the league’s top draft pick in 1994. He became a 4-time PBA All-Star (1994, 1995, 1996, 1999) in a high-flying career with Ginebra. Bacolod-born Locsin was famous for his barrelling game before the arrival of Filipino-Americans in the PBA. Spent 6 seasons with the Ginebra San Miguel franchise; won the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup with Jaworski as coach. He later suited up for Pop Cola, Tanduay, Red Bull, Talk ‘N Text and Sta. Lucia. 1995 – Dennis Espino After leading the UST Growling Tigers to their monumental four-peat, Dennis Espino would later bring his winning ways to the PBA. Sta. Lucia got the first crack at the 1995 draft and picked him first overall to form a menacing one-two punch with Zandro Limpot, and later with Marlou Aquino. He had a sterling career with Sta. Lucia for 15 years and yielded the following achievements:  4-time PBA All-Star, 2-time All-Defensive Team, 2-time Mythical First Team, 2004-05 Defensive Player of the Year and 2007-08 Philippine Cup Finals MVP. He won the 2001 Governors’ Cup and the 2007-08 Philippine Cup for Sta. Lucia. 1996 – Marlou Aquino Picked by Gordon’s Gin as first overall in the 1996 draft, Marlou Aquino had an exceptional maiden year gave him Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Best Player of the Conference (1996 Governors’ Cup), Mythical First Team, All-Star and All-Defensive Team honors. He also became the second Ginebra player (after Dondon Ampalayo in 1986) to win the Rookie of the Year award.  Aquino then was part of Gordon Gin’s 1997 Commissioner’s Cup and Sta. Lucia Realty’s 2001 Governors’ Cup championship teams.  1997 – Andy Seigle The first Fil-Am top pick, chosen by Mobiline in 1997, Andy Seigle won Rookie of the Year and was part of the 1999 All-Star Game. The Scranton, Pennsylvania native was twice a member of the National Team in the 1998 and 2002 Asian Games and was one of the most dominant and best defensive players in the 1990’s era. 1998 – Danny Ildefonso  Danny Ildefonso was picked by San Miguel Beer first overall in 1998, the year he also won Rookie of the Year. One of only four pro players to win back-to-back MVP awards (2000 and 2001), Ildefonso had a prolific 15-year career with the San Miguel ballclub with 8 championships (1999 and 2000 Commissioner’s Cups;  1999, 2000 and 2011 Governors’ Cups; 2001 All-Filipino; 2005 and 2009 Fiesta Cups). He is among the PBA’s Top 40 Greatest Players. 1999 – Sonny Alvarado Selected by Tanduay as its top pick in the 1999 Draft, Sonny Alvarado was poised to dominate the league as a gritty Fil-Am all-around player. He was however embroiled in the “Fil-Sham” controversy, that revealed that he had filed two alleged birth certificates of his mother when he applied for the draft. This prompted immigration officials to initiate deportation measures against Alvarado because of such failure to directly prove his Filipino parental links. 2000 – Paolo Mendoza Paolo Mendoza was a hot-shooting guard who led the UP Fighting Maroons to two Final Four appearances from 1996-1997. He then applied for the 2000 draft and was chosen the overall first pick by Sta. Lucia Realty. Together with Dennis Espino and Marlou Aquino, Mendoza was one of the main factors behind the 2001 Governor’s Cup title win of the Realtors. 2001 – Willie Miller The diminutive Willie Miller is considered the first player from the PBA’s rival league, Metropolitan Basketball Association, to become the top overall pick in a PBA Rookie Draft, in which he was selected by the Batang Red Bull Thunder. He was part of three teams that copped PBA titles—Red Bull (2001 and 2002 Commissioner’s Cup), Alaska (2007 Fiesta Cup), and Talk ‘N Text (2015 Commissioner’s Cup). His career highlights in his 15 years in the PBA were 2-time MVP (2002 and 2007), 2-time Finals MVP, 9-time All-Star,  3-time Mythical First Team member, and 2014 Sportsmanship Awardee. 2002 – Yancy de Ocampo The “Post-Man” as he is called, Yancy de Ocampo is a shifty, reliable center who delivers the goods at crunch time. He was the number one draft pick in 2002 by the FedEx Express. He was part of several champion teams, namely Talk ‘N Text, BMeg Llamados, San Mig Coffee and eventually San Miguel Beer. 2003 – Mike Cortez The “Cool Cat” Mike Cortez, a former La Salle standout, brought his court savviness to the PBA after Alaska picked him first overall in the 2003 draft by and immediately went to work. Cortez helped the Aces win the Reinforced Conference that year. He would then move on to San Miguel Beer, and was part of a hefty push to win the 2007 and 2009 Fiesta Conferences. A journeyman in his 15-year PNA career, Cortez currently plays for the Blackwater Elite. 2004 – Rich Alvarez The Japan-born and U.S.-raised Rich Alvarez had a blast on his maiden year with Shell, which selected him first overall in the 2004 draft, collecting Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defensive Team and All-Rookie Team honors. Played for 13 seasons in 8 different teams, Rich was successful in winning 4 championships with the TNT Tropang Texters (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 Philippine Cups and 2011 Commissioner’s Cup) 2005 – Anthony "Jay" Washington This Zambales-born journeyman was first chosen by Air21 in the 2005 draft then traded to Talk ‘N Text. But his stint with San Miguel Beer made him flourish with two titles in the 2009 Fiesta Conference and the 2011 Governors Cup. He would return to the TNT Tropang Texters and help the, win the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup. He currently plays for the Rain or Shine Elastopainters. 2006 – Kelly Williams Picked first overall by Sta. Lucia Realty in 2006, Kelly Williams immediately made his presence felt that year bagging Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie Team honors. He first won a championship with Sta. Lucia in the 2007-08 Philippine Cup and would then lead his present ballclub, the TNT Tropang Texters to five championships, notably the three-peat Philippine Cups from 2010 to 2012, and the 2011 and 2015 Commissioners’ Cups. 2007 – Joe Devance While it was Welcoat that originally drafted Joe Devance as the first pick overall in the 2007 draft, he would earn the distinction of being the league’s winningest coach Tim Cone’s most trusted trooper. Devance has won nine championships with Cone as his coach, starting with Alaska (2010 Fiesta Cup), B-Meg/San Mig Coffee (2012 and 2014 Commissioner’s Cup, 2013 and 2014 Governors’ Cup and Philippine Cup); and currently, Ginebra San Miguel (2016 and 2017 Governors’ Cup, and 2018 Commissioners’ Cup).  2008 – Gabe Norwood Chosen by the only team has played for up to now, the Rain or Shine Elastopainters, as its number one draft pick in 2008, Gabe Norwood would then etch a rich career with his ballclub, having won 2 championships (2012 Governors’ Cup, 2016 Commissioner’s Cup). He had also notched numerous awards, including Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and was part of the All Star Game nine times, and the All-Defensive Team six times.  2009 – Japeth Aguilar   “Jumpin’ Japeth” starred for the Ateneo Blue Eagles for two years then moved to the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers during his university years.  In 2009, Aguilar was selected by Burger King and only played one game with the Whoppers, after which he was traded to Talk `N Text.  Japeth has become a Team Gilas mainstay since the beginning of his pro career, of which the Philippines’ participation in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain became one of his national team career highlights. 2010 – Nonoy Baclao   “Mr. Swat” was among the vital cogs of the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ back-to-back UAAP men’s basketball championships in 2008 and 2009. After college, Baclao led the Philippine Patriots as the inaugural champion of the 2009-10 Asean Basketball League (ABL) season prior to entering the PBA rookie draft. In 2010, Nonoy was selected by Air21 then he was traded to Petron (San Miguel) where he had one championship in his sophomore year in the league.  2011 – JVee Casio  The former De La Salle Green Archer playmaker who was Rookie of the Year (2003), Finals Co-MVP (2007) and Mythical Five member (2007 & 2008) in the UAAP was a Gilas pioneer before deciding to turn pro in 2011. By far Casio “G-Shock” is the shortest among the active PBA players to have been picked first overall by the Powerade Tigers. JVee was traded to Alaska Aces in 2012 and has since then became a mainstay in the team which he helped win the Commissioner’s Cup title in 2013. 2012 – June Mar Fajardo  The burly Cebuano was star center at the University of Cebu of which he steered to back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011 at the CESAFI league. “The Kraken” has played for only one team throughout his pro career in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) and the PBA – San Miguel. As one big reason to “Fear the Beer,” Fajardo gave San Miguel six championships to date and became the first and only PBA player to win the MVP award in four straight seasons (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).  2013 – Greg Slaughter  “GregZilla” stomped rivals with his huge presence when he helped lead the Ateneo Blue Eagles to two consecutive UAAP championships in 2011 and 2012 -- completing a five-peat for the Loyola Heights squad. Picked by Barangay Ginebra in 2013, Slaughter got his pro career to a fast start with ROY and All-Rookie Team honors. He won 3 championships under coach Tim Cone (2016 and 2017 Governors’ Cups; 2018 Commissioner’s Cup). He also saw action for the first time with Gilas this year in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. 2014 – Stanley Pringle  Drafted by NorthPort Batang Pier, “The Beard” exploded into the local basketball scene with Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie team honors, after stints with Belgium, Poland, Ukraine and Indonesia ballclubs.  A 4-time All-Star (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), Pringle is considered among the best guards and high scorers in the play-for-pay league, gaining raves from other coaches and close followers of the sport.   2015 – Moala Tautuaa  He applied and went undrafted in the 2012 NBA draft, then moved to Asia to resume his basketball career by playing as an import for the Westsports Malaysia Dragons in the ABL.  After which, the Fil-Tongan made the “Big Mo(ve)” to the Philippines and spent a fruitful season with the D-League, ending up as its 2015 Foundation Cup MVP.  Talk N` Text selected Tautuaa as overall pick of the first round but traded him later on to NorthPort Batang Pier in 2018. 2016 – Raphael Banal  Since the first round of the 2016 PBA draft was dedicated to PBA teams choosing Gilas Pilipinas players to join their ranks, the regular draft started in the second round. Here, the Blackwater Elite chose as its first pick Raphael Banal, a contemporary of Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal in the Ateneo Blue Eaglets juniors team who went to the Hope International University-California for college.  His surname rings a bell, being the youngest child of former PBA player and TNT coach (2003 All-Filipino Conference champion) Joel Banal.  Yet “Ael” held his own in the PBA D-League for two conferences with Racal Motors.  2017 – Christian Standhardinger  The American-schooled Fil-German played in the ProA and Basketball Bundesliga tournaments in Germany as well with Hong Kong Eastern in the ABL.  Although he was selected by San Miguel Beer in the overall draft of 2017 in a controversial trade with Kia Picanto, the rightful owner of the number one pick, Standhardinger joined the Beermen in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup after completing his ABL tour of duty.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 18th, 2018

CHAMPIONS AT LONG LAST: Reliving UP’s successful 1986 UAAP revolt

It was the year of People Power, a revolution like no other. And, who would think that such an “uprising” has spilled onto collegiate basketball the same year as the stronghold of the UE Red Warriors was overran? What other ball club can best depict this EDSA Spirit than the 1986 UP Fighting Maroons? Its putsch in the UAAP was carefully plotted since legendary coach Joe Lipa took over the coaching reigns in 1981. This began fierce onslaught only a year later when the Maroons made a rare march into the UAAP Finals against the UE, which boasted a fearsome shooter named Allan Caidic. Title contender Led by the high leaper, Vincent Albino, the Maroons made that shocking feat, yet succumbed to the Warriors’ fiery offensive and lost. But, UP showed nevertheless they had what it takes to be a title contender. And the rebuilding continued in 1983 when UP successfully recruited two big names in the NCAA--Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano, stalwarts of the 1982 juniors champs San Beda Red Cubs. With Magsanoc directing plays and Altamirano scorching hot from all angles, UP further advanced in its ferocious plan of taking over the UAAP. But Glenn Capacio and Harmon Codinera of FEU frustrated the upstarts and dealt UP a painful loss in the Finals after being so close to winning the championship. Missing link Their frustration became deeply rooted as the Maroons stumbled the next couple of years finding that “missing link” to glory. And months after a dictatorship was toppled, UP’s powerful missing piece to its years of rebuilding came walking into the Maroon bench—the sensational 6’4” center Benjie Paras, also a hotshot alumnus of San Beda. Paras became the answered prayer since the Maroons had players with an average height of 6’1” at the time, surely a no-match against the burly inside operators of other UAAP teams. Now with a dominating center manning the paint, UP was set to finally chase that dream. And also they had an answer to the best big man of that era, Jerry Codinera, who had puzzled opponents with his shiftiness, defensive prowess (called the Defense Minister in the PBA), exceptional perimeter shooting, and versatility. Best starting five Also, UP has the best starting five in the league, all of them from that sensational Red Cubs basketball program concocted by coach Ato Badolato—Paras, Magsanoc, Altamirano, Joey Mendoza and Duane Salvatierra—with the sweet-shooting sixth man Joey Guanio, a rookie from La Salle Greenhills, providing added artillery and standout Ramil Cruz bringing in his outstanding all-around play. Despite this, however, their title shot wasn’t smooth sailing. Codinera and the Warriors defeated them twice in the eliminations and UE came close to a sweep that would automatically serve them the trophy. But a loss to rival FEU in the last game in the eliminations paved the way for UP, who landed second place after winning a knockout match against the Tamaraws, for that hard-earned slot in the finals. They were however saddled with a twice-to-win disadvantage. Title hungry This didn’t matter to the Maroons, as their hunger for the title brought out the best in them. With thousands of UP supporters trooping to the ULTRA in October 1986, the Maroons were unstoppable. Using a merciless zone, the Maroons were able to stifle Codinera from doing his thing in the paint. This led to UP’s emphatic decisive win in Game 1, 86-75, that arranged a winner take-all championship match three days later. And, in that rubber match, with the whole venue filled with UP students and alumni, from students, faculty, administrators to virtually the entire political spectrum to even former Diliman Commune leaders in the 1970s all coming in droves to cheer them on, how can the Maroons fail them? Altamirano’s true worth From the first time the buzzer sounded, the Maroons never allowed the Warriors to even move an inch, with its prolific scorer Altamirano showing his true worth. After subbing for a fouled out Magsanoc with a good four minutes left to play in the match, Altamirano shone with his playmaking skills and blazing marksmanship with his 27 points leaving the Warriors with no room to breathe. He ended up the tournament MVP that year. Paras likewise prevailed in his giant duel with Codinera with 19 points and 10 rebounds. With an insurmountable lead going into the final seconds, and coach Lipa reaching to the sky in triumph, the buzzer sounded with UP winning by nine points, 98-89. More than a dream come true And their first UAAP title in 47 years is now in their hands, more than a dream come true for the national cage mentor and the UP community he served. It brought a startling “revolution” into fruition, with UP taking over the reigns of the UAAP. Unfortunately, however, the celebration was short-lived, with the Ateneo, La Salle, and UST dynastic runs succeeding their memorable feat. Now 32 seasons later, UP has a chance to finally taste that sweet, scintillating victory again......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 29th, 2018

2018-19 NBA Preview: It s the Warriors, and then everyone else

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will be at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night, handing the Golden State Warriors what will be their third set of championship rings from the last four seasons. A banner will be displayed. Highlights will be shown. And then the Warriors will have to start all over again. The NBA’s 73rd season starts Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), beginning a year where LeBron James will play for the Los Angeles Lakers, where Carmelo Anthony will aim to push the Houston Rockets over the top, where Dwyane Wade will take his 16th and final lap around the league. A new arena is opening in Milwaukee, eight teams will have new coaches, and everyone will be looking to see if the Warriors can win a third straight title. “None of us are ready for this run to come to an end,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green, part of all three Warriors’ titles in this four-year run of dominance. “So we’ve got to continue to approach it like we’ve got zero. And that’s cliche and impossible to do, but you want to try to get as close to that as you possibly can. And that’s my mindset always entering the season.” They will be the overwhelming favorites, with good reason. The Warriors still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Green, plus added All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins — coming off an injury — on a bargain $5.3 million deal. And calling all the shots is coach Steve Kerr, who won five rings as a player and now three more as a coach. “If they don’t win, it’s a failure,” Memphis guard Mike Conley Jr. said. “I know that’s how they feel as well. For us, for the other 29 teams, we’re the underdog. We’re trying to take what they have. It’s a lot easier playing from the underdog perspective than coming in with a lot of expectation.” In this NBA, everybody else is an underdog. That even applies to Houston — which won 65 games last season, has the reigning MVP in James Harden, an elite point guard in Chris Paul who re-signed for $160 million this summer, a deep-pocketed owner in Tilman Fertitta and an always-tinkering GM in Daryl Morey. The Rockets had the Warriors against the ropes in last season’s Western Conference finals, leading that series 3-2 yet falling after Paul was lost to a hamstring injury. “We’ve all got one goal, man,” Harden said. “You’ll keep hearing the same story over and over until I’m not here no more. We’ve got to win a ’chip. We’ve all got the same goal. We kind of, a little bit, we kind of know what it takes to almost get there. But we haven’t gotten there yet.” The Warriors are the best team and the Rockets had the best record, but the best player is now in L.A. After 15 seasons in the Eastern Conference, James — who has played in each of the last eight NBA Finals — has moved West. He signed a four-year deal in July with the Lakers, one that makes him the biggest star on the league’s glitziest franchise. He’s teamed up with talented young players like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, and former rivals like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson. “I’m a basketball player,” James said. “I play ball. That’s what I do and that’s what I live by. And when I do it at the level I do it at, everything else takes care of itself.” The only certainty in the NBA this season is that James won’t win the East — ending an eight-year run of that, four in Miami and four in Cleveland. Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto (with the newly acquired Kawhi Leonard) are the top candidates to take over as East champions. The Celtics had a Game 7, at home, to get to the NBA Finals last season and lost to James and Cleveland, but now get Gordon Hayward back and a healthy Kyrie Irving again. Miami has been trying to get Jimmy Butler from Minnesota, and if they do — someone will get Butler before the trade deadline — the Heat may be able to get back into East contention. It might be Dirk Nowitzki’s last season in Dallas. Gregg Popovich no longer has Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili with him in San Antonio, and the Spurs (who have been battered by injuries, including one to point guard Dejounte Murray) are no lock to extend their 21-year run of playoff appearances. Sneakerheads will have a big season, because the NBA now says players may wear whatever colors of kicks that they want. There’s plenty of stories. But in the end, it’ll be all about someone finding a way to beat Golden State — or not. “I’ll get back to you when somebody cracks that code,” Wade said. “In this game, the most important thing is health. If they stay healthy, it’s tough to beat them. There’s teams that can, but you’ve got to do it, and you’re going to have to do it four times.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 16th, 2018

NBA.com 2018-19 GM Survey

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com Can the Golden State Warriors make it three straight and four out of five? The league's decision-makers think so, though a few of them have left the door open for a new champ. In the 17th annual NBA.com GM Survey, the Warriors are once again the overwhelming favorite to win the 2019 championship, just not quite as overwhelming a favorite as they were a year ago, when 93 percent of GMs picked them to repeat. With LeBron James moving to the Western Conference, the GMs have picked the Boston Celtics to return to The Finals after a seven-year absence, and there's some belief out there that the Celtics can dethrone the champs. The Celtics are led by the new "best head coach in the NBA," have one of the league's most promising young cores, and a star that one GM tabbed to win the MVP this season. But Kyrie Irving was just one of nine MVP candidates, the most in the history of the survey. There's no consensus on the player GMs would most like to start a franchise either, with four different players receiving at least five votes on that question. One of those four is LeBron James, who is entering his 16th season and his 13th season as the league's best small forward, according to GMs. He also remains the player that forces coaches to make the most adjustments, the best passer, the best leader, the most versatile player, and the player with the best basketball IQ. The GMs responded to 49 different questions about the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel. Percentages are based on the pool of respondents to that particular question, rather than all 30 GMs. PREDICTIONS Which team will win the 2019 NBA Finals? 1. Golden State – 87% 2. Boston – 7% Houston – 7% Last year: Golden State – 93% Rank the top four teams in the Eastern Conference Last year: 86 percent picked Cleveland to win the East. Order after the Cavs was Boston, Washington, Toronto, Milwaukee and Charlotte/Miami. Rank the top four teams in the Western Conference Last year: 97 percent picked Golden State to win the West. Order after the Warriors was Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Portland. PLAYERS Who will win the 2018-19 Kia MVP? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 30% 2. Kevin Durant, Golden State –27% 3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 17% 4. James Harden, Houston – 10% Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Kyrie Irving, Boston; Kawhi Leonard, Toronto; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Last year: LeBron James – 50% If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be? 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 30% 2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 23% 3. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 20% 4. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 17% 5. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 7% 6. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia – 3% Last year: Karl-Anthony Towns – 29% Which player forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 60% 2. James Harden, Houston – 20% 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 10% 4. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 7% 5. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 3% Last year: LeBron James – 48% Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2018-19? 1. Jamal Murray, Denver – 20% 2. Brandon Ingram, L.A. Lakers – 10% Jayson Tatum, Boston – 10% 4. Aaron Gordon, Orlando – 7% Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers – 7% Kawhi Leonard, Toronto – 7% Lauri Markkanen, Chicago – 7% Dejounte Murray, San Antonio – 7% Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 7% Also receiving votes: Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Kelly Oubre Jr., Washington; Josh Richardson, Miami; Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Last year: Karl-Anthony Towns – 21% Who is the best point guard in the NBA? 1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 57% 2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 17% 3. Kyrie Irving, Boston – 10% Chris Paul, Houston – 10% 5. James Harden, Houston – 7% Last year: Stephen Curry – 62% Who is the best shooting guard in the NBA? 1. James Harden, Houston – 73% 2. Klay Thompson, Golden State – 10% 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 7% Also receiving votes: Devin Booker, Phoenix; Paul George, Oklahoma City; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Last year: James Harden – 83% Who is the best small forward in the NBA? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 57% 2. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 40% 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 3% Last year: LeBron James – 61% Who is the best power forward in the NBA? 1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 37% 2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 33% 3. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 17% 4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 10% 5. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio – 3% Last year: Anthony Davis – 41% Who is the best center in the NBA? 1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 40% 2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia – 33% 3. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota – 7% Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State; Andre Drummond, Detroit; Marc Gasol, Memphis; Al Horford, Boston; Nikola Jokic, Denver Last year: Karl-Anthony Towns – 28% OFFSEASON MOVES Which team made the best overall moves this offseason? 1. L.A. Lakers – 70% 2. Toronto – 20% Also receiving votes: Dallas, Indiana, Oklahoma City Last year: Oklahoma City – 43% Which one player acquisition will make the biggest impact? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 97% 2. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto – 3% Last year: Paul George – 59% What was the most underrated player acquisition? 1. Tyreke Evans, Indiana – 13% 2. DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio – 10% Jabari Parker, Chicago – 10% Julius Randle, New Orleans – 10% Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City – 10% 6. Trevor Ariza, Phoenix – 7% DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State – 7% Isaiah Thomas, Denver – 7% Also receiving votes: Avery Bradley, LA Clippers; Ed Davis, Brooklyn; Luka Doncic, Dallas; DeAndre Jordan, Dallas; Brook Lopez, Milwaukee; Luc Mbah a Moute, LA Clippers; De'Anthony Melton, Phoenix; Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Last year: Paul Millsap – 24% Which team will be most improved in 2018-19? 1. L.A. Lakers – 80% 2. Dallas – 7% Phoenix – 7% Also receiving votes: Chicago, Orlando Last year: Minnesota – 69% What was the most surprising move of the offseason? 1. DeMarcus Cousins to Golden State – 35% 2. Kawhi Leonard - DeMar DeRozan trade – 29% 3. Paul George staying in Oklahoma City – 19% 4. Jimmy Butler trade request – 6% Also receiving votes: Carmelo Anthony to Houston; LeBron James to L.A.; DeAndre Jordan to Dallas Last year: Boston-Cleveland trade – 45% ROOKIES & INTERNATIONAL Who will win the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year? 1. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 43% 2. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento – 17% Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago – 17% 4. DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix – 13% Also receiving votes: Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis; Kevin Knox, New York; Collin Sexton, Cleveland Last year: Lonzo Ball – 62% Which rookie will be the best player in five years? 1. DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix – 27% Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis – 27% 3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 17% 4. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento – 13% Kevin Knox, New York – 13% 6. Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago – 3% Last year: Josh Jackson – 24% Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft? 1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11), LA Clippers – 27% 2. Svi Mykhailiuk (47), L.A. Lakers – 13% 2. Wendell Carter Jr. (7), Chicago – 10%    Michael Porter Jr. (14), Denver – 10% Gary Trent Jr. (37), Portland – 10% 6. Luka Doncic (3), Dallas – 7% Kevin Knox (9), New York – 7% Also receiving votes: DeAndre Ayton (1), Phoenix; Kevin Huerter (19), Atlanta; Omari Spellman (30), Atlanta; Moritz Wagner (25), L.A. Lakers; Lonnie Walker IV (18), San Antonio Last year: Dennis Smith Jr. – 37% Who is the best international player in the NBA? 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 73% 2. Kristaps Porzingis, New York – 10% 3. Luka Doncic, Dallas – 7% Nikola Jokic, Denver – 7% 5. Marc Gasol, Memphis – 3% Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – 69% Who is the best international player NOT in the NBA? 1. Sergio Llull – 39% 2. Nando de Colo – 29% 3. Alexey Shved – 14% 4. Jan Veseley – 7% Also receiving votes: R.J. Barrett, Andrew Bogut, Nicolo Melli Last year: Luka Doncic – 69% DEFENSE Who is the best defensive player in the NBA? 1. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 37% Kawhi Leonard, Toronto – 37% 3. Draymond Green, Golden State – 17% 4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 7% 5. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 3% Last year: Kawhi Leonard – 62% Who is the best perimeter defender in the NBA? 1. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto – 60% 2. Jimmy Butler, Minnesota – 7% Draymond Green, Golden State – 7% Victor Oladipo, Indiana – 7% Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Avery Bradley, LA Clippers; Kevin Durant, Golden State; Jrue Holiday, New Orleans; Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City; Klay Thompson, Golden State Last year: Kawhi Leonard – 72% Who is the best interior defender in the NBA? 1. Rudy Gobert, Utah – 80% 2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 10% Also receiving votes: Draymond Green, Golden State; Dwight Howard, Washington; DeAndre Jordan, Dallas Last year: Rudy Gobert - 66% Who is the most versatile defender in the NBA? 1. Draymond Green, Golden State – 53% 2. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto – 30% 3. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 7% Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Jimmy Butler, Minnesota; Marcus Smart, Boston Last year: N/A Which is the best defensive team in the NBA? 1. Utah – 45% 2. Boston – 34% 3. Golden State – 17% 4. Oklahoma City – 3% Last year: Golden State – 55% COACHES Who is the best head coach in the NBA? 1. Brad Stevens, Boston – 47% 2. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 30% 3. Mike D'Antoni, Houston – 7% Steve Kerr, Golden State – 7% Also receiving votes: Rick Carlisle, Dallas; Quin Snyder, Utah; Terry Stotts, Portland Last year: Gregg Popovich – 82% Which head coach is the best manager/motivator of people? 1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 47% 2. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 20% 3. Brad Stevens, Boston – 17% 4. Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 7% Also receiving votes: Brett Brown, Philadelphia; Dwane Casey, Detroit; Doc Rivers, LA Clippers Last year: Gregg Popovich – 62% Which head coach makes the best in-game adjustments? 1. Brad Stevens, Boston – 53% 2. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 13% 3. Rick Carlisle, Dallas – 10% Quin Snyder, Utah – 10% 5. Doc Rivers, LA Clippers – 7% Erik Spoelstra, Miami – 7% Last year: Rick Carlisle – 34% Which head coach runs the best offense? 1. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 40% 2. Mike D'Antoni, Houston – 23% 3. Brad Stevens, Boston – 20% 4. Quin Snyder, Utah – 13% 5. Terry Stotts, Portland – 3% Last year: Steve Kerr – 59% Which head coach has the best defensive schemes? 1. Quin Snyder, Utah – 33% 2. Brad Stevens, Boston – 30% 3. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio – 13% 4. Steve Kerr, Golden State – 7% Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota – 7% Also receiving votes: Steve Clifford, Orlando; Nate McMillan, Indiana; Erik Spoelstra, Miami Last year: Gregg Popovich – 41% Who is the best assistant coach in the NBA? 1. Ron Adams, Golden State – 17% 2. Ettore Messina, San Antonio – 13% 3. Dan Burke, Indiana – 7% Chris Finch, New Orleans – 7% Adrian Griffin, Toronto – 7% Jay Larranaga, Boston – 7% Jay Triano, Charlotte – 7% Also receiving votes: Jim Boylan; Mike Brown, Golden State; Darren Erman, New Orleans; Tim Grgurich, Detroit; Steve Hetzel, Orlando; Alex Jensen, Utah; Roy Rogers, Houston; Stephen Silas, Charlotte; Ime Udoka, San Antonio; David Vanterpool, Portland; Monty Williams, Philadelphia Last year: Ron Adams – 21% Which active player will make the best head coach someday? 1. Chris Paul, Houston – 25% 2. C.J. McCollum, Portland – 7% Jameer Nelson – 7% Rajon Rondo, L.A. Lakers – 7% Garrett Temple, Memphis – 7% Also receiving votes: Steven Adams, Oklahoma City; J.J. Barea, Dallas; Vince Carter, Atlanta; Mike Conley, Memphis; Jared Dudley, Brooklyn; Manu Ginobili; Jarrett Jack, New Orleans; Kyle Korver, Cleveland; Wesley Matthews, Dallas; T.J. McConnell, Philadelphia; J.J. Redick, Philadelphia; Fred VanVleet, Toronto; Kemba Walker, Charlotte Last year: Chris Paul – 39% MISCELLANEOUS Which team is the most fun to watch? 1. Golden State – 60% 2. Boston – 17% 3. Houston – 7% Philadelphia – 7% Also receiving votes: Denver, Milwaukee, Utah Last year: Golden State – 90% Which team has the best home-court advantage? 1. Golden State – 50% 2. Utah – 27% 3. Denver – 13% Also receiving votes: Boston, Oklahoma City, Toronto Last year: Golden State – 76% Which team has the most promising young core? 1. Philadelphia – 47% 2. Boston – 33% 3. Chicago – 7% Phoenix – 7% Also receiving votes: Denver, Utah Last year: N/A Which player is the most athletic? 1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 48% 2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 14% 3. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 10% 4. Donovan Mitchell, Utah – 7% Also receiving votes: Aaron Gordon, Orlando; James Harden, Houston; Derrick Jones Jr., Miami; Zach LaVine, Chicago; Victor Oladipo, Indiana; Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Last year: Russell Westbrook – 62% Which player is the best pure shooter? 1. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 73% 2. Klay Thompson, Golden State – 20% Also receiving votes: Kevin Durant, Golden State; Kyrie Irving, Boston Last year: Stephen Curry – 71% Which player is the fastest with the ball? 1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 50% 2. John Wall, Washington – 33% 3. Kyrie Irving, Boston – 7% Also receiving votes: De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento; Victor Oladipo, Indiana; Ish Smith, Detroit Last year: John Wall – 48% Which player is best at moving without the ball? 1. Klay Thompson, Golden State – 53% 2. J.J. Redick, Philadelphia – 23% 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 13% 4. Kyle Korver, Cleveland – 7% 5. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 3% Last year: Klay Thompson – 61% Which player is the best passer? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 50% 2. Chris Paul, Houston – 17% 3. Rajon Rondo, L.A. Lakers – 7% Ben Simmons, Philadelphia – 7% John Wall, Washington – 7% Also receiving votes: Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers; Stephen Curry, Golden State; James Harden, Houston; Ricky Rubio, Utah Last year: LeBron James – 36% What bench player makes the biggest impact when he enters the game? 1. Lou Williams, LA Clippers – 41% 2. Eric Gordon, Houston – 28% 3. Andre Iguodala, Golden State – 10% 4. Terry Rozier, Boston – 7% Marcus Smart, Boston – 7% Also receiving votes: Will Barton, Denver; Fred VanVleet, Toronto Last year: Andre Iguodala – 41% Who is the toughest player in the NBA? 1. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City – 33% 2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 13% Marcus Smart, Boston – 13% 4. Draymond Green, Golden State – 10% James Johnson, Miami – 10% Also receiving votes: Aron Baynes, Boston; Patrick Beverley, LA Clippers; Jimmy Butler, Minnesota; Chris Paul, Houston; P.J. Tucker, Houston; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Last year: Steven Adams, Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard – 14% Which player is the best leader? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 30% 2. Chris Paul, Houston – 27% 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 23% 4. Al Horford, Boston – 7% Damian Lillard, Portland – 7% Also receiving votes: Udonis Haslem, Miami; Kemba Walker, Charlotte Last year: LeBron James – 43% Who is the most versatile player in the NBA? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 63% 2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 20% 3. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 13% 4. Draymond Green, Golden State – 3% Last year: LeBron James – 55% Which player has the best basketball IQ? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 70% 2. Chris Paul, Houston – 17% 3. Rajon Rondo, L.A. Lakers – 7% Also receiving votes: Stephen Curry, Golden State; Al Horford, Boston Last year: LeBron James – 64% Which player would you want taking a shot with the game on the line? 1. Kevin Durant, Golden State – 40% 2. Stephen Curry, Golden State – 27% 3. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers – 17% 4. Kyrie Irving, Boston – 10% 5. James Harden, Houston – 7% Last year: Stephen Curry – 55% What rule (regarding play, Draft/Lottery, playoff format, etc.) most needs to change? 1. Playoff seeding (1-16) – 18% 2. Draft Lottery odds/system – 14% 3. Schedule (fewer games) – 11% 4. Draft combine process – 7% Draft medical info – 7% Draft eligibility (one-and-done rule) – 7% Replay length – 7% Also receiving votes: Block/charge review; Draft after free agency; Enforce discontinued dribble; Enforce no advance after dribble; Intentional fouling; Number of timeouts; Training-camp roster size; Two-way contract days of service; Two-minute report Last year: Playoff seeding – 27% John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 3rd, 2018

Dodgers clinch sixth straight playoff trip, beat Giants 10-6

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched baseball's final playoff berth and gave themselves a chance to still win the NL West, getting a go-ahead triple from Manny Machado in the eighth inning Saturday and beating the San Francisco Giants 10-6. The defending NL champions locked up their sixth straight trip to the postseason, assuring at least a spot in the wild-card game. The Dodgers joined Colorado, Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee in the NL playoff field. Los Angeles began the day one game behind Colorado for the division lead, and the Rockies hosted Washington later in the day. The regular season is scheduled to end Sunday — if Los Angeles and Colorado finish even, there will be a one-game tiebreaker for the West title Monday at Dodger Stadium. After the final out, the Dodgers exited their dugout and high-fived in a tame celebration. Manager Dave Roberts waved to hundreds of fans in the outfield bleachers. The Dodgers' win eliminated St. Louis from playoff contention. The Cardinals beat the Cubs earlier in the day to preserve their postseason chances for another few hours. Machado, the star infielder acquired from Baltimore during the All-Star break, hit a two-out triple off Mark Melancon (1-4) for a 6-5 lead. Max Muncy added a two-run double during a four-run ninth, much to the delight of all the Dodger Blue in the rival's ballpark. Alex Wood (9-7) pitched the seventh for the win and Kenley Jansen closed it out. Clayton Kershaw allowed eight hits and five runs over five innings and had a two-run single in the fourth for his first career RBIs in 24 games at AT&T Park. Kershaw had two stints on the disabled list this year, made just 26 starts and failed to beat the Giants in four 2018 outings. He missed double-digit wins for the first time since going 8-8 in 2009, also the last season he didn't beat San Francisco at least once. Joc Pederson gave the Dodgers a fast start with his 11th career leadoff home run, his franchise-record eighth this season. Yasiel Puig connected to start the second inning. The Dodgers dropped into second place in the West behind the Rockies following a 7-2 loss at Arizona on Wednesday. That left Los Angeles the final weekend against its rival to capture a third playoff trip in as many years under Roberts. If Los Angeles couldn't clinch at Dodger Stadium, doing so on the Giants' field wasn't a bad second choice. "It is sort of fitting," Roberts said. ROOKIE HIGHS AND LOWS Giants rookie Dereck Rodriguez, who lasted just three innings while facing the Dodgers for the first time, saw his winless stretch reach seven starts since defeating the Pirates on Aug. 12. His 2.81 ERA with a minimum of 100 innings pitched ranks lowest in San Francisco history for rookies. The Giants lost his last seven outings and nine of 11. TRAINER'S ROOM Giants: Bruce Bochy was doubtful rookie OF Austin Slater would play the final two games because of a strained right elbow. An MRI exam was completed and the medical staff was reviewing the results. Umpire: Friday plate umpire Brian Knight broke his left foot on a foul tip in the top of the sixth inning — he kept working — then was replaced Saturday by Ed Hickox, who arrived in the Bay Area about 3 a.m. after working a 15-inning Diamondbacks-Padres game at San Diego. UP NEXT Dodgers: RHP Walker Buehler (7-5, 2.76 ERA) won in his first career start at AT&T Park on April 28. Giants: LHP Andrew Suarez (7-12, 4.22) has received three or fewer runs of support in 21 of his 28 outings......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 30th, 2018

Braves clinch 1st NL East crown since 2013, top Phillies 5-3

By George Henry, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — Freddie Freeman stood soaked in champagne with music blaring and his teammates jamming in celebration. This was just how the longtime star first baseman envisioned it when the Atlanta Braves began spring training seven months ago. "You could tell after the first week of workouts that we had the talent to do something special," Freeman said. "Obviously we still needed to put it together. But this is what happens. You win the division after three straight 90-loss seasons." The Braves capped a most surprising season by clinching their first NL East crown since 2013, with Mike Foltynewicz taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday in a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. A year after going 70-92, manager Brian Snitker and his Baby Braves surged back into the playoffs. A loud crowd at SunTrust Park joined the party when rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. caught a flyball for the final out, setting off another round of the Tomahawk Chop and a big celebration on the field. "When we started this series, we knew it was within our grasp," Snitker said. "We knew we couldn't lose track of today. I know I'm redundant saying that all the time, but I felt we just needed to stay current and worry about today's game. These guys have done an unbelievable job of that this year." The Braves will make their first postseason appearance since 2013 on Oct. 4 in the NL Division Series. It has not yet been determined who or where the youth-filled club will play in the best-of-five round. Atlanta won its 18th division title, tying the New York Yankees for the most in the majors since division play began in 1969. The Braves won their fourth straight game and beat second-place Philadelphia for the third day in a row. The Phillies also startled a lot of fans this year and led the division in early August, but faded while going 6-14 this month. Foltynewicz (12-10) tipped his cap to a standing ovation as he left with runners on first and second in the eighth with a 4-0 lead. Jesse Biddle relieved, walked the first batter he faced and gave up two runs on Cesar Hernandez's bases-loaded single. Brad Brach allowed Rhys Hoskins' RBI single before Jonny Venters escaped the jam on a lineout and a grounder. Kurt Suzuki added an RBI single to make it 5-3 in the eighth off Seranthony Dominguez, the seventh pitcher used by Philadelphia. Arodys Vizcaino, in his first save situation since June 17, closed out the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances, getting Wilson Ramos to ground out, striking out Roman Quinn and retiring Maikel Franco on a flyball to Acuna in left. Phillies starter Jake Arrieta (10-10) lasted two innings, allowing four runs, four hits and three walks in the shortest outing of his nine-year career. "I didn't do my job today," Arrieta said. "You've got tip your cap. They won the division. They really did. This wasn't something that started today, obviously. Individually, the last month I haven't been very good, and we didn't take care of business. We just didn't get the job done. They did." Atlanta led 2-0 in the first when Arrieta walked three of his first four batters, and Johan Camargo hit a two-run single. Freeman hit a two-run single in the second to make it 4-0. Freeman, one of two current Braves who played on the 2013 division-winning team —along with pitcher Julio Teheran — is hitting .389 over his last 14 games. "When Franco hit that ball, I put my hands up right away," Freeman said. "It means everything. This is goal No. 1. It's celebration No. 1. We've still got three more we've got to do. We've got 11 wins to get in October. We've still got to take care of business, but, man, is this a great feeling." Foltynewicz didn't permit a hit until Odubel Herrera singled to begin the seventh. Franco singled with one out in the eighth. The 26-year-old Foltynewicz has matured in his third full season, earning his first All-Star appearance and posting a 2.88 ERA that's almost two full runs lower than his career average entering the year. "We knew we had something special since day one," he said. "We've been telling you guys that all year, but to be able to do it and pull it off is pretty special. They got four runs for me today, which was a good confidence builder to go out there and be aggressive." BIG SURPRISE Atlanta was not projected to contend when the season began. It was coming off three straight 90-loss seasons, had no proven ace and was counting on several young position players to complement Freeman, the lone big bat in the lineup. The team had been embarrassed off the field with former general manager John Coppolella banned from baseball in a signing scandal, but Atlanta moved into first place on May 2 and never trailed in the division race after a 9-1 win over Miami on Aug. 13. Fueled by young budding stars like Acuna, second baseman Ozzie Albies and third baseman Camargo, the Braves won the NL East with an 8½-game lead. New GM Alex Anthopolous watched his team arrive earlier than he expected. When spring training began, he didn't think the team would be a serious contender until next year. "No, I'd lying through my teeth if I thought that," Anthopolous said. "I thought we have a really talented team with high draft picks. We have the potential to be really good and have a chance to get better. We certainly exceeded all those things. Snit, the coaches, the players — they're the ones who deserve all the credit for the year we put together." BIG FADE Philadelphia faltered down the stretch under first-year manager Gabe Kapler. After winning on Aug. 5, the Phillies were 1½ games ahead in the division and 15 games over .500. They have since gone 15-28. "I think this is a really important moment to reflect back to the beginning of the season and really the offseason," Kapler said. "If we said that we were going to be playing a meaningful game on Sept. 22, I think a lot of people would've said that's not a reasonable thought. "On the flip side, this is ultimately a stain. This hurts, but I'm ultimately proud of the guys for putting us in this position and to be fighting in Atlanta kind of the season on the line today." ROUGH DAY Arrieta lasted 2 1/3 innings in a loss for the Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh in his previous shortest outing Sept. 4, 2017. The Phillies dropped to 14-16 in his starts as Arrieta posted a 6.18 ERA and went 1-4 over his last eight outings. UP NEXT Phillies: RHP Aaron Nola (16-5, 2.44 ERA) has won one of his past four starts with a 5.01 ERA this month. Nola is 6-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 10 career starts against Atlanta. Braves: RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-6, 3.01 ERA) has won one of his past nine starts and has a 3.02 ERA during that span......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2018

30 Teams in 30 Days: Jazz on upswing after postseason run

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com What offseason? That's a question many fans ask as the flurry of trades, free agent news and player movement seems to never stop during the summer. Since the Golden State Warriors claimed their third title in four years back on June 8 (June 9, PHL time), NBA teams have undergone a massive number of changes as they prepare for the season ahead. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2017-18 to the team with the best regular-season record -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's Team: Utah Jazz 2017-18 Record: 48-34, lost in Western Conference semifinals to Houston Rockets Who's new: Grayson Allen (Draft) Who's gone: Jonas Jerebko, David Stockton The lowdown: Left woozy by the summer departure of free agent and franchise star Gordon Hayward, the Jazz gave the ball to a rookie and pulled a surprise by nearly winning 50 games and bouncing Oklahoma City Thunder from the playoffs. Their season was made more remarkable considering center Rudy Gobert played only 56 games because of knee issues. But Donovan Mitchell (20.5 points per game) was an unexpected savior and far better than anyone imagined. He won over his teammates and coach Quin Snyder quickly, then earned respect around the league for taking charge and also bailing out Utah in a number of close games, both rare for a rookie. Mitchell finished as the Kia Rookie of the Year runner-up. Snyder made good use of the rotation and found functional roles for most and the Jazz used Mitchell and defense to flourish. By the playoffs, Mitchell was arguably the best player on a floor that featured former Kia MVP Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and the Jazz entered the offseason feeling confident about the future. In 2016, the young Portland Trail Blazers made the playoffs, stunning the LA Clippers in the first round before giving the Golden State Warriors a feisty series in the semis. Encouraged by the bounce and swagger showed by an emerging club, the Blazers handed out contract extensions and … they haven’t done anything special since. In hindsight, every one of those extensions looks like a mistake. The lesson: Fool’s gold can sometimes, um, fool you. Are the Jazz headed down that path? The situations aren’t exactly the same, yet similar to a degree. Instead of going outside to make a few cosmetic changes to the rotation, Utah was mostly content to keep free agents Dante Exum and Derrick Favors, giving each contracts that were somewhat generous in a soft market that worked against most players. Exum signed for three years and a reported $33 million, or roughly the going rate for a backup point guard. But Exum’s run in Utah has been interrupted by injury and, even when healthy, his play was inconsistent. He perhaps earned the benefit of the doubt in the playoffs when he stepped in for an injured Ricky Rubio and had moments of solid play. Evidently, the Jazz feel Exum’s better days are just ahead. He’s only 23 and after investing so much time in him, Utah wasn’t ready to cut him loose. He brings great size (6-foot-6), is energetic, and point guard isn’t a Jazz strength. If nothing else, Exum gives Utah a sense of security. Favors is richer after signing a reported two-year, $36 million extension as no other team was willing to beat that price for him. The last two seasons weren’t exactly robust for Favors, who battled through injuries, sporadic play and found himself benched because of mismatches in today’s stretch-happy NBA. Favors has worked to develop more of a 3-point shot, but his lack of perimeter shooting was exploited by Houston in the playoffs. But as the case with Exum, the Jazz have years of player-development invested in Favors. As Utah’s longest-tenured player, Favors is a solid defender next to Gobert and the Jazz outscored their opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions with the two bigs on the floor together. And even though he’s seemingly been around Utah forever, Favors is just 27 years old. The decisions by the Jazz to maintain the status quo isn’t unusual with this franchise, which has long prided itself on stability and player development. Strangely enough, Mitchell claims to love life in the Wasatch Mountains -- something to remember when and if he ever reaches free agency (unlikely, since the Jazz will surely break the bank for him). Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey moved up to take Mitchell in the 2017 Draft and has a knack for finding talent in places where few others search. He has had a solid track record in the Draft and with the 21st pick took Allen. A year ago, the Duke shooter considered entering the draft, but got mild feedback from NBA types. Allen brings 3-point range to a team that ranked 13th in 3-pointers made and attempted last season. Unless he makes an impact right away, Allen will be in the back end of a rotation that showcases Joe Ingles for distance shooting. The trick for Utah is to match or surpass last season’s effort while catching no one by surprise this time. And the Jazz must do that with virtually the same cast as before. 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 NewsSep 23rd, 2018

BLOGTABLE: How many games will Rockets win in 2018-19?

NBA.com blogtable The Rockets led the league with 65 victories last season. How many games do you think they can win in 2018-19? * * * David Aldridge: Fewer, but that's not a big deal. The assumption here is they'll rest Chris Paul more and more going forward to give him the best chance at getting to the postseason, so that may cost them 4-6 meaningless regular season wins. And if you take away another handful because of the dual loss of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, let's pencil Houston in for 55-57 regular season wins. Don't think that will be a big deal as long as they don't finish fourth in the west and have to face Golden State in the second round. Tas Melas: The general sentiment among basketball fans is that the Rockets will be far worse (the over-under line in Vegas is 55.5 wins!). What actually happened with the roster to forecast such a drop-off? It’s basically Carmelo Anthony and James Ennis replacing the departed Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute (leaving out the additions of RJ Hunter, Michael Carter-Williams, Markel Brown and draft picks at this point). Everyone will point to the defensive issues with Melo starting over Ariza. Defense is an attitude. Yes, a coach needs the personnel, but as much as it is about the guys on the floor, it’s also about the locker room, and I still think there’s enough with Clint Capela, Chris Paul and PJ Tucker (Ariza was part of mediocre Rockets defenses the two years before last season, which were also before James Harden improved defensively). And Melo replacing Ariza is why Ennis was signed – to be the defensive yang to Melo’s offensive ying. Melo can play primarily in the 1st and 3rd with Ennis playing the most important defensive minutes in the 4th. Exposing Melo might happen more in the playoffs, but for the regular season, I see this as a 62-win team. They do still realize that they need the 1-seed to beat Golden State. Shaun Powell: I'd go with the under here and say 60 wins for the Rockets, not because they're in for a steep decline. I'm just not sure they're willing to press for wins in April, given the unpredictability of Chris Paul's vulnerable body, which potentially cost them the Western Conference title (and maybe an NBA title) last season. The Rockets needed to get best record and home-court advantage in the West last season for their mental health. That's not necessarily the case now. John Schuhmann: Even if the Rockets kept the same team together and were relatively healthy, another 65-win season would have been difficult in a deeper Western Conference. And the departure of Trevor Ariza and the loss of depth at the forward positions should hurt them, especially on defense, where they ranked sixth last season. They still have a terrific core of five guys -- Harden, Paul, Capela, Eric Gordon and Tucker -- and should be plenty motivated to get back to where they were a few months ago, so I'll guess that they finish with 59-61 wins, which would still be good for the second best season in franchise history. Sekou Smith: I think the Rockets are capable of another 60-win season. But it'll take a monstrous effort to duplicate the season they had a year ago. And I'm not sure it's worth the energy. The Rockets need only maintain an advantage over the Golden State Warriors to ensure that a potential Game 7 in the Western Conference finals is played at the Toyota Center (only this time with a healthy Chris Paul). If the Warriors decide to attack the 2018-19 regular season the same way they did the 2017-18 regular season, the Rockets would be wise to push only hard enough to maintain a reasonable cushion ahead of the two-time defending champs. There's nothing else to prove. We know the Rockets are capable of winning it all. We witnessed it last season, right up until the moment that Paul suffered his injury......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 11th, 2018