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Oladipo, Sabonis helping Pacers move forward

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com INDIANAPOLIS – Victor Oladipo has a fever and the only prescription is ... no, not more cowbell. Cowbell might make sense, if you factor in Oladipo’s love of and commitment to music (his debut R&B album has been available since Oct. 6). But the fever currently afflicting Oladipo, shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers, has nothing to do with extracurriculars and everything to do with the odes and anthems he’s been performing within the confines of 94 feet by 50 feet. If the fifth-year guard out of Indiana University, by way of the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder, looks comfortable in his new star turn for the Pacers, well, just remember that’s your word. Not his. “You could say I’m comfortable with the people here,” says Oladipo, who spent three seasons with the Hoosiers before becoming the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. “I played in front of these fans, they mean a lot to me and I gave a lot to them just like they gave a lot to me while I was in college. “But I’m never comfortable in any situation I’m in. I will never be comfortable. That’s what kind of makes me get up and work every day. It’s like, never be satisfied. Because for some reason, ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted more.” Oladipo’s eyes just about glow after a weekend practice as he delves into his unflagging intensity. He doesn’t undercut it with a smile or a token laugh. This is real heat. “Maximize my talent and exhaust my potential,” he says. “In order to do that, I’ve got to come to work every day. That’s my thought process. Wake up each day and be great that day.” Each day would include tonight, when Oladipo will share center stage at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the more decorated and once-beloved star who preceded him in the Pacers lineup. Paul George, a four-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist during his seven seasons in Indiana, was due to face his old team for the first time since being traded to Oklahoma City in July. It was a parting necessitated by George, who had made clear his desire to sign a maximum-salary contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2018. But the trade was orchestrated by Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers’ president of basketball operations, and Chad Buchanan, their general manager, who surprised the NBA by swapping George to OKC for Oladipo and big man Domantas Sabonis. You want intense? The initial reaction to that deal was intensely negative, quickly reaching hysterical proportions. The Pacers immediately were mocked for having traded George for nickels on the dollar. Reports out of Boston characterized Indiana’s POBO as more of a bobo for allegedly spurning a Celtics’ offer of multiple players and draft picks. *Takes a well deserved nap for 3 hours ** Opens Twitter: pic.twitter.com/xWNYaVfKTy — Myl3s Turn3r (@Original_Turner) July 1, 2017 The west is sick!!!! Best conference in the world!!!! — Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) July 1, 2017 Vic to the Pacers?! He might as well run for governor while he's at it! — Cody Zeller (@CodyZeller) July 1, 2017 Former Thunder star Kevin Durant called the move “shocking” and of George said “Indiana just gave him away.” Among much of the media that covers the league, there was a general feeling of “rubes” afoot -- that the Pacers had been snookered in taking back an overpaid ($21 million annually through 2020-21) second-tier talent and an overbilled guy who had disappeared in OKC’s postseason. And now? Not so much on any of those fronts. ‘He knows how good he is’ George’s stats are down in the “OK3” core he’s formed with reigning Kia MVP Russell Westbrook and aging Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder (12-13) are the NBA’s consensus disappointment, team category, with nearly a third of their season in the books. Sabonis has boosted the Pacers off the bench in a half dozen ways. And Oladipo has all but earned himself a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team while speeding his new team’s fans past their heartbreak over George’s jilting. Generally, the best trades in sports are win-win, but for Indiana right now, a bit of win-lose has made the start of 2017-18 downright sublime. “We happened to really like Sabonis in the draft,” former Pacers president and ongoing consultant Donnie Walsh said last week. “We wanted more of everything in the trade too. But when it came down to it, we had this offer with Oladipo, who we also liked. They’ve come in here and the more they’ve been here, the more we like ‘em. We’re happy.” The Pacers also are 16-11, two weeks ahead in the victory column over their 42-40 finish last season that was good for a playoff berth. Oladipo is the biggest reason why, averaging more points per game (24.5) than George ever has. The 6'4" guard who attended famous DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., spent much of last season being beaten up for his contract and negligible impact in Oklahoma City. He had taken grief earlier for his status as the second pick in 2013, a lofty status not of his doing. And here he was again in the summer, hearing it all over again for a transaction he didn’t design. “He came in with a chip [on his shoulder],” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought he should come in with a chip.” Some would have flinched from the pressure. A few might have curled up, full blown fetal. Oladipo has gone entirely the other way. “His confidence is at an all-time high,” backup point guard Cory Joseph said. “He knows how good he is.” As Joseph spoke after the Pacers’ upset of Cleveland Friday, a game in which Oladipo scored 20 of his game-high 33 points in the third quarter, a lilting voice drifted from behind the scenes in the home dressing room. “Look at it right now, he’s singing in the shower,” Joseph said, tilting his head and laughing. “He’s confident. You guys are all in here, he’s just singing. He’s a confident guy. Everybody in this locker room, everybody in this organization definitely welcomes that.” Trade not driving Oladipo’s breakout season Don’t misunderstand. The critics still are out for Oladipo. “My mom told me yesterday I need to work on my free throws,” he said with an eye roll after practice Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). She had noticed, during her son’s run of big games in December -- 36 points at Toronto, 27 vs. Chicago, 33 against the Cavs the night before her chiding text -- that he had missed 18-of-31 foul shots. This, by a career 80 percent shooter from the line. “I’m over that,” Oladipo said. “I’m not going to miss no more. I’ll make ‘em next time. And if I miss ‘em, I’ll make ‘em the next. If that’s my problem right now, I think I can fix it.” Twenty-four hours later, Oladipo took 13 free throws against Denver and made 11. He scored 47 points in all, hitting 15-of-28 shots and half of his 12 three-pointers. The comeback victory in OT got the Pacers to 4-for-4 on their six-game homestand and continued to shrink whatever chip it was that the 25-year-old was shouldering. “In the beginning of the year, I said, ‘I don’t have a chip. I have a brick house on my back,’” Oladipo said. But not anymore, right, now that some folks are referring to it as “the Victor Oladipo trade” rather than “the Paul George trade?” “That’s what I feel like every morning, no matter what’s going on,” he said. “I don’t even think about the trade, honestly. It’s in the past for me. People’s opinions are going to be there whether you like it or not. From the outside looking in, I guess you could say [then] that was a great trade for OKC. That’s what they believed. But it wasn’t going to change the way I worked. It wasn’t going to change my approach.” This step up in status is considered perhaps the most difficult an NBA player can make. Suddenly, opposing coaches are X&O-ing him to death. The player dogging him up and down the court is the other guys’ best defender. Often, they’ll send double-teams to get the ball into one of his teammates’ hands. “He hadn’t had that,” McMillan said. “When he was in OKC, the game plan was focused on Westbrook. When he was in Orlando, he was just a young player. Now he is seeing the defenders like a LeBron [James], like a [DeMar] DeRozan, what these stars are seeing. He’s seeing the best defenders and he’s seeing teams game-plan to take him out. “Learning how to play and be consistent every night with that challenge is something he’s going through.” Oladipo’s quick success with the Pacers has kept any crowd critics at bay. They were pre-disposed to like him just as their rebound date after George, but had he underperformed, Oladipo’s service time in Bloomington wouldn’t have protected him for long from criticism. But now, it’s George who likely will get the harsh reception. Oladipo, overtly after each of the recent victories, has made it clear to the home fans via some emphatic pointing and body language that the Fieldhouse happens to be his house. “I don’t say it, they say it,” he said. “I just do the gesture and they do the rest of the work for me. I let them do all the talking. We feed off them -- when they’re into it, we play better. I don’t know why, that’s just how basketball’s always been. They’re our sixth man and we need ‘em every night.” Oladipo’s breakout season has been bolstered, too, by the Pacers’ second-through-15th men. Those who already were in Indy knew how valuable George was at both ends. Those who, like Oladipo and Sabonis, were new this season were within their rights to be as skeptical as the national headlines of the guys coming in trade. Go-to guy emerges for Pacers OKC was a specific challenge, Oladipo having to learn on the fly how to fit his own darting, ball-heavy style to only the second man in NBA history to average a triple-double. Westbrook’s usage was off the charts, rendering the other Thunder players to supporting cast whether suited to that role or not. Just like that, Oladipo had to catch and shoot as someone to get Westbrook into double digits in assists. It wasn’t his nature and it made for an individually forgettable season. “I had a role. I tried to play that role to the best of my ability. And I improved certain areas of my game in that role,” was all he’d say Saturday, stiffly, about the OKC experience. Said Walsh: “I felt like he was going to get a different opportunity here. ... When he got to Oklahoma City, he was playing wih a guy who was averaging a triple-double. And he liked Russell Westbrook. But he comes here, he’s got an opportunity to be ‘our guy.’ “I think he might have been looking for that. I never asked him. He’s a really cool guy. He knows what he wants to be, I think.” Oladipo needed this and the Pacers needed him to need it. With George gone, they were like a smile missing a front tooth. The other teeth weren’t just going to move up in the pecking order -- no matter how good young big man Myles Turner is -- and replace the one they’d lost. If they were going to have any success this season, if McMillan was going to be able to coach and adjust in his second year taking over for Frank Vogel, the players needed to fill their roles and welcome this new addition. That’s why this tale of Oladipo’s growing success is about what the Pacers have done for him, as much as it is what he’s done for them. “We didn’t really present it like that,” McMillan said, “because we were still trying to develop who our ‘go-to guy’ was. He has been slowly taking on that role through the things he’s done. I haven’t had to say anything. He’s making good decisions with the ball. And the guys are getting a feel for what we’re doing down the stretch because we’ve had some success, and we’ve had it with Victor having the ball.” Chemistry change for Pacers There might be NBA teams with chemistry as solid as the Pacers’ right now, but it’s hard to imagine there are any with better. It’s more than mere relief that someone has stepped up, easing their own loads a bit. It is a genuine eagerness for Oladipo to max out, for each of the rest of them to do the same in whatever lane they’re riding. “Vic’s been everything at this point,” Turner said. “He’s done a great job of stepping up and being that guy, being that dude. It’s amazing to have that when you’re going through a situation where it’s a brand-new team. We’re still learning each other and he’s showing that he’s ready.” Did Turner know this would happen and, if so, when? “First couple days he started texting me in the summertime,” the big man said. “I saw what his mindset was, and I loved it from the jump. He carried that right in when we started playing pickup this summer. “Vic’s been traded, what, [two] times? He finally comes back home and he has a team that’s telling him to go, telling him to be him. I don’t think he had that with his former teams. Now that he’s here and he’s doing that, I’m pretty sure he’s [enjoying it].” Said Joseph: “He’s been a beast for us and he’s going to continue to be a beast for us. ... He’s been running with that opportunity and opening eyes around the world.” Even strong-willed, uber-confident Lance Stephenson, has backed up for Oladipo. “There’s no hate, know what I mean?” he said over the weekend. “Some guys get mad about somebody doing good. This team wants its teammates to do good. That’s what’s going to make us even better.” Oladipo keeps referring to the other Pacers in a legit lubricating of the “no I in Indy” process. “Honestly I think it’s the personalities and the men that we have in this locker room,” he said. “My teammates are phenomenal people -- not just basketball players, phenomenal people. When you surround yourself with great people, people who sincerely care about you and your team, the chemistry just comes naturally.” Sabonis shows glimpses of success, too The other guy in the trade, Sabonis, has developed more organically, his maturation seemingly inevitable regardless of locale when you tote up his youth, his work ethic and his bloodlines (son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis). He has gone from that rookie who logged just six minutes in the Thunder’s five 2017 playoff games against Houston to an essential piece in McMillan’s rotation. “Once I got traded, I knew this was a great opportunity for me to show people what I can really do,” said Sabonis, the No. 11 pick in 2016. “I was a rookie last year. Everything was new. Here, I’m being used more at the 5. That’s more the position I’ve been used to playing my whole life.” Sabonis’ minutes are up from 20.1 in OKC to 24.6 off Indiana’s bench. His scoring has doubled from 5.9 ppg to 12.1. And his PIE rating has soared from 4.9 last season to 12.6, a sign of the versatility the skilled big man possesses. “I love Sabonis,” Walsh said. “His father was one of the greatest players in the world, so I don’t like that comparison -- it kills him. He [Domantas] is just more of everything you think he is. He’s stronger than you think. He can shoot the ball better. He’s got good hands, he can catch the ball. I’ve seen him make moves in game that I’ve never seen him make in practice.” Said Turner: “I played against Domas in college -- I knew what kind of player he was. I was excited when we got him. He’s gotten bigger and stronger since then, obviously, and he just didn’t have a chance to show himself last year. But he’s been big for us now, especially when I was out with the concussion. He stepped up huge in that role and we’ve played well since then.” The Pacers are playing faster this season, up from 18th in pace last season to 10th now, part of their improvement from 15th in offensive rating (106.2) to 6th (108.3). They’re doing better, too, in contesting shots and throttling opponents’ field-goal accuracy. The biggest reason why has been Oladipo’s blossoming. Whether due to the sunshine of new, happier surroundings or from that darker, more intense place, to prove cynics wrong. No one can now talk of the Pacers’ bungling of what, after all, was a deal to rent George, not to have him long-term. Fans at Bankers Life figure to boo George on his first visit back, with an inventory they haven’t needed or used on Oladipo. Some might see that as ingratitude, others as respect. It’s a little bit of love lost, too. “Look, they loved Paul when he was here,” Walsh said. “They guy is a great player. One thing I’ve always felt: These guys that play here, they always know more about what they want for their lives than we do. How you gonna argue with that? He treated us good, we treated him good. No bad blood here. I don’t know about fans.” Folks in Indy have a new crush now, one they hope lasts for a while. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnDec 14th, 2017

Oladipo helps Pacers top Heat in OT to clinch playoff spot

By Jim Johnson, Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Victor Oladipo had 23 points and five assists to help the Indiana Pacers clinch a playoff berth with a 113-107 overtime victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Thaddeus Young had 22 points, nine rebounds and five steals, and Bojan Bogdanovic added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Pacers, who secured their seventh appearance in the postseason in the last eight seasons. Tyler Johnson made five three-pointers and finished with 19 points, James Johnson had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Bam Adebayo added 14 points for the Heat, who split the four-game season series. Darren Collison finished with 12 points, made the go ahead three-pointer to put the Pacers ahead 101-100 with 2:49 remaining in overtime, and Indiana scored 11 straight points to pull away. The Pacers took a 109-102 lead with Collison's three-pointer with 55 seconds left to play. Miami coach Eric Spoelstra missed the first game of his career, leaving Indianapolis on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) after learning his wife Nikki was entering labor. Assistant coach Dan Craig filled in and Spoelstra is expected to return for Miami's home game against Cleveland on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Indiana trailed by 14 in the first half and went on a 9-1 run late in the second quarter to take a 50-46 lead on Oladipo's jumper with 2:22 remaining in the half. The Heat then scored seven straight, including a dunk and two free throws by Adebayo. And James Johnson's free throw gave with under a second left gave Miami a 52-52 halftime lead. The Heat came back from an eight-point deficit in the second half. Johnson forced overtime with a free throw with 8.3 seconds left in regulation. TIP-INS Heat: Maimi had 10 turnovers in the first half and finished with 17 overall. ... Tyler Johnson had 12 points in the first quarter alone. ... Adebayo also had five rebounds. Pacers: Indiana shot 66.7 percent in the overtime period and 48.9 percent overall. ... Forward Domantas Sabonis was out for a sixth straight game with a left sprained ankle. UP NEXT Heat: Host Cleveland on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Pacers: At Golden State on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) for the first of a four-game west coast trip......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 26th, 2018

George, Anthony visit old homes that look fine without them

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are going back to old homes that are doing just fine without them. Indiana and New York are winning, bolstered by players they acquired for their superstars. While Oklahoma City remains underwhelming, Pacers and Knicks fans are even thinking they also won the trades. George gets the first homecoming when the Thunder travel to Indianapolis on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), while Anthony makes his first trip back to New York on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Indiana wasn’t eager to deal its All-Star forward last spring, but had little choice with no commitment he would stay beyond this season. So the Pacers shipped him off to Oklahoma City in June for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers have won four straight and are solidly in the middle of the Eastern Conference at 16-11. They average 109 points, sixth in the league, and Oladipo was Eastern Conference player of the week last week for the second time this season after his career-best 47 points on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in a victory over Denver hiked his average to 24.5 per game for the season. In New York, Enes Kanter has become the starting center, an offensive rebounding force and a fan favorite. Doug McDermott, the other player in the September trade for Anthony, has played an important role off the bench for the 14-13 Knicks. Of the three teams, the only one that wouldn’t be in the playoffs at the moment is Oklahoma City. The Thunder are just 12-14, Russell Westbrook and his two star sidekicks are all shooting around 40 percent, and Anthony, at 18 points per game, appears headed for the worst offensive season of his career. Maybe some familiar scenery can finally get them going. “This is a chance for us to be even closer, even tighter, be more connected, because in those two arenas that’s all we got,” George said. “And we have to play that way.” ___ Other games to watch: —Lakers at Cleveland, Thursday (Friday, PHL time). One of those games that figures to spark conversation about LeBron James’ future. —San Antonio at Houston, Friday (Saturday, PHL time). First meeting between two of the West’s best since the Spurs eliminated the Rockets in the conference semifinals. —Utah at Boston, Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The Jazz lost Gordon Hayward to Boston over the summer. The Celtics lost him to injury on opening night. —Warriors at Lakers, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Golden State’s only road game in a span of 10 games, and the defending champs don’t even have to leave California for it. ___ PISTONS NOT PUMPING It’s been a dismal December in Detroit. The Pistons are 0-7 this month after a strong start to the season in which they racked up a number of impressive road victories. That spurred them to a 14-6 record and a spot near the top of the Eastern Conference after they missed the playoffs last season. But once December started, the victories stopped. Detroit dropped its seventh in a row when it was blown out 103-84 at home on Tuesday by a Denver team playing without Nikola Jokic. “I’ve got to find the answers,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I’m not running from the responsibility. This is on me. I selected these players, I decide who plays, I decide what we run on offense, I decide how we play defense. That was an embarrassment tonight.” One that was hard to see coming when the Pistons won at Golden State, Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Boston in October and November. Part of their problem has been a difficult schedule that has included games against the Spurs, Warriors and Celtics within the last 10 days. But the Pistons also are misfiring from three-point range and Van Gundy sees chemistry issues, even shuffling his starting lineup before Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) loss. But he said changes won’t matter if Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley don’t play better. “We’re in holes too many nights with them and I’ve got to find an answer to that,” he said. “I’m not out there running them down, I’m just telling you they have to play better.” ___ STAT LINE OF THE WEEK LeBron James, Cleveland: 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting, 17 assists in a 123-114 victory over Atlanta on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). James had a career-high in assists but finished with seven rebounds, leaving him still one behind Larry Bird for sixth in NBA history with 59 triple-doubles......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 14th, 2017

BLOGTABLE: Assessing aftermath of Paul George trade

NBA.com blogtable As Paul George returns to Indiana tonight for the first time since he was traded by the Pacers, who should be happier with how things have turned out: Pacers fans, or Paul George? * * * David Aldridge: Uh, Pacers fans. This isn't close right now, is it? PG-13 is miserable in OKC, which inexplicably hasn't been able to figure out how to win regularly yet with three All-Stars, each of whom should be considerably motivated to make it work with the other two guys. George may well have the last laugh if he walks to the Lakers next June, as most still suspect will happen. They have a young core that's promising, and he'll be back home. But Indy isn't a laughingstock, as I and most people thought it would be. Victor Oladipo (One DeMatha!) is having an All-Star season, and Domantas Sabonis looks like a 10-year guy at the the four. I was wrong about how bad the Pacers would be. Way wrong. Loud wrong. Stupid wrong. For now. Let's see where we are in March. Steve Aschburner: Paul George should be happier, even in the muck of the Thunder’s season so far. He’s on his way to what he really wants, which is a key role for the Los Angeles Lakers. Once his perfectly legitimate ambition became publicly known, his days as the Pacers’ best player and leader were over. So much so that I wrote at the time, the best move for all considered -- for George, for the Lakers, for the NBA -- would have been for Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka to have done a deal in the summer. It’s not healthy for the league to have a star and a team pining away for each other from afar. But Indiana’s Kevin Pritchard pulled the trigger on the trade with OKC and that was OK. More than OK, given the play so far of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. But let’s not forget the fine years of service George gave to the folks in Indianapolis, and his desire to please extended to sometimes being too candid in interviews. It’s just too bad his journey home to California has to be a two-step process. Shaun Powell: The longer I watch the Thunder, I'm not sure what Paul George can be happy about. And of course, Pacers fans are elated with their team in the playoff mix (OK, it's early) and actually looking entertaining some nights. Victor Oladipo has turned out better than expected and has the floor to do what he wants, now that he doesn't answer to Russell Westbrook anymore. We should wait until summer to check the happy-meter of George, who could be moving on to another place in search of joy. John Schuhmann: I won't pretend to know how George feels. Maybe the Thunder's struggles, if they continue, will make it easier for him to choose a new team next summer. But he can't be happy with the results or the lack of chemistry in Oklahoma City. Pacers fans should surely be happy with how things have turned out. The Pacers have been a better team than the Thunder, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis (who were both clearly misused in OKC) have been terrific, there's more stability in Indiana, and there's still room for improvement. Myles Turner isn't yet the player he can be and Glenn Robinson III hasn't played all season. Of the 16 teams in playoff position, the Pacers are the biggest surprise. Sekou Smith: With the way Victor Oladipo is playing, Pacers fans have every reason to feel like happy heading into the Christmas holiday. The trade that looked so lopsided early in the summer looks like a smashing success for Kevin Pritchard and the rest of the franchise braintrust. It's not just Oladipo playing like an All-Star, though that's a huge part of it. It's Domantas Sabonis playing as solid as he has and the splendid chemistry this group has shown in coach Nate McMillan's second season at the helm. The Thunder haven't had an easy time transitioning George and Carmelo Anthony into a cohesive Big Three. But I'd caution Pacers fans to refrain from gloating too much tonight. There is still plenty of time left in this season. Be careful of celebrating prematurely. If the Pacers make the playoffs and Oladipo continues on his current trajectory, there will be plenty of time to rub in the faces of everyone who doubted things would turn out well in Indianapolis......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 14th, 2017

Blockbuster trade not what Kawhi, DeRozan hoped for

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Kawhi Leonard’s turbulent last days with the San Antonio Spurs ended Wednesday morning (late Wednesday, PHL time) with a trade that neither major party involved in the deal liked. The Spurs traded Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time All-Star, along with veteran guard Danny Green, to the Toronto Raptors for four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, second-year big man Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round Draft pick, which is protected from 1-20 next year. In doing so, San Antonio ended a relationship with the player that was poised to be the Spurs’ next lynchpin, but who had grown disenchanted with the franchise and wanted out. Leonard wanted to be traded to Los Angeles, closer to his hometown of Moreno Valley, Calif. He preferred the Lakers, and made that known in June, but was not averse to playing with the LA Clippers. However, the Spurs were adamant that they would not trade him to a Western Conference team, even though there was a strong likelihood that he would only stay with any team that traded for him until next year. That is when he would likely opt out of his contract, become a free agent and go to Los Angeles. Even though the 27-year-old Leonard told the Raptors in conversations between Toronto and his camp over the last week that he did not want to go there, the Raptors were willing to take the chance, anyway. DeRozan sought assurances from the Raptors that he wasn’t being moved in recent days. Both he and his representatives met with Raptors officials during NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, according to a source, at which time Toronto insisted that it wasn’t going to trade him. Now, DeRozan feels “lied to,” the source said, and, while having no personal grudges with the Spurs, is extremely upset at the deal. Meanwhile, @DeMar_DeRozan not backing off of claim he was lied to by Toronto regarding a potential trade, per source. Extremely upset. — David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 18, 2018 Leonard also is not happy at going to Toronto, for several reasons, including the higher taxation rate in Canada than in Texas, which has no state income tax. Leonard’s camp had informed the Spurs he didn’t want to go there, but the Spurs made no promises either way. San Antonio had had significant discussions with the Philadelphia 76ers -- a team Leonard would have given a fair shake at convincing him to stay had it been able to make a deal with San Antonio. But the 76ers were unwilling to include guard Markelle Fultz, the former first pick overall in the 2017 Draft, or forward Dario Saric in any package proposals for Leonard. Leonard only played in nine games last season, citing an injured quad muscle that did not respond to treatment. But privately, Leonard was unhappy with what he thought was bad advice from the Spurs’ medical staff, and sought advice from his own group of doctors, removing himself from San Antonio to continue treatments in New York as the regular season ended and playoffs began. The Spurs did not push Leonard during his rehab, and referred questions about his status during their first-round series with the Golden State Warriors to his camp. Leonard’s uncle has acted as his agent for the last couple of years. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich informed Leonard’s camp of the trade early Wednesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in what was deemed a “cordial” conversation, according to a source. However, given the trade, Leonard is now contemplating not taking part in next week’s USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas. A final decision has not yet been made. For his part, the 28-year-old DeRozan let his feelings be known in an Instagram post early Wednesday (Wednesday, PHL time), saying in part, “Ain’t no loyalty in this game” after being dealt from the only team he’s played for in nine NBA seasons, and for whom he has been nothing but a first-class ambassador. The Raptors took DeRozan with the ninth pick in the 2009 Draft, during which time DeRozan became the franchise’s leader in several categories, including games, points and minutes played. He grew as the franchise did, helping lead it to the most successful period in its history alongside his close friend and All-Star teammate, Kyle Lowry. The backcourt did ads together, took vacations together with family and led Toronto to franchise records for wins, reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2016. At every turn, DeRozan expressed happiness at playing for and living in Toronto, even as he had to make several cross-country trips last season to be with his ailing father in Los Angeles. DeRozan remade his game as part of the “culture reset” demanded by general manager Masai Ujiri after Toronto was beaten in the playoffs by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in 2017 -- a familiar outcome, as James and Cleveland beat the Raptors in three straight postseasons. DeRozan relied less on isolation sets than he had in years past, trying to move more without the ball and give it up so others could be more involved. Toronto won a franchise-best 59 regular season games last season and was the top seed in the Eastern Conference. However, Toronto suffered another playoff loss to Cleveland, this time a 4-0 sweep. It was especially galling considering the Cavaliers had been extended to a seventh game in their first-round series with Indiana, yet still managed to rally from a double-digit deficit to shock the Raptors in Game 1 in Toronto. The Cavs then cruised the rest of the way in the series. Ujiri fired coach Dwane Casey afterward, ultimately picking assistant coach Nick Nurse as Casey’s successor. But the reset of the team wasn’t complete. The Raptors believe strongly in their young core group of players, all of whom have been developed by Toronto the last few seasons -- guards Fred Van Vleet and Delon Wright, forward O.G. Anunoby and big man Pascal Siakham. Toronto initially opted to keep its existing vets around the kids, giving DeRozan a five-year, $138 million extension in 2016, then giving Lowry and forward Serge Ibaka extensions last summer – Lowry got a three-year, $100 million deal and Ibaka got a three-year, $65 million deal. However, after the latest playoff debacle, the Raptors let it be known around the Draft that none of their players were untouchable. If Toronto can get Leonard on board, the Raptors would have a potentially dynamic defensive group on the wings, with Leonard and Anunoby capable of guarding multiple positions. Ibaka isn’t the defender he was in Oklahoma City, where he was first team all-Defensive three years in a row, but he’s still a plus defender at his position. The 31-year-old Green is entering the final year of his contract. Long considered one of the best two-way guards in the game, Green was outstanding in the Spurs’ seven-game loss to the Heat in the 2013 Finals, making 27 3-pointers in the series en route to setting a Finals record. Poeltl, 22, was taken ninth overall by Toronto in the 2016 Draft. He worked his way quickly into the Raptors’ rotation, averaging 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds last season. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 19th, 2018

Kobe Paras joins Juan GDL, Ricci Rivero in UP for UAAP Season 82

The future of the University of the Philippines just keeps getting brighter and brighter. Already with a fully-loaded lineup for UAAP Season 81 and with Ricci Rivero coming in Season 82, the Fighting Maroons have secured the services of yet another Gilas cadet in Kobe Paras. “I look forward to the challenge of helping make UP a better basketball team as well as the challenge of helping myself become a better student,” he said in the team’s release on Wednesday. Paras will have to serve a one-year residency before being eligible to suit up for State U in Season 82. Then, he and Rivero will be debuting for the maroon and green, joining Javi and Juan Gomez de Liano, Will Gozum, Jun Manzo, and Nigerian powerhouse Bright Akhuetie. All Gilas cadets, Paras, Rivero, Juan GDL, and Gozum are now also teammates in Diliman. Still, head coach Bo Perasol said that winning needs much more than just talent. “We are fortunate to have a talent like Kobe on board, but winning, as experience has shown us, takes more than talent. We have to get everyone on the same page and to play the right way,” he said. Nonetheless, the addition of Paras is yet another big-time move for UP’s long-suffering basketball program. And on a more personal note, he will be following in the footsteps of father Benjie who won for the Fighting Maroons their last championship in the ‘80s as well as brother Andrei who played for them for one season. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 11th, 2018

Report: Paul George opts out, becomes unrestricted free agent

NBA.com staff report The Oklahoma City Thunder have reportedly been informed by All-Star guard Paul George that he will not opt into his contract for next season. The move, which was reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, will make George an unrestricted free agent. He had until 11:59 p.m. on June 29 to decide whether or not to opt in. Here's more from Wojnarowski on the move and what it means for George, the Thunder and free agency at large: George, who will decline a $20.7 million salary for the 2018-19 season, remains seriously interested in returning to the Thunder in free agency, league sources said. The Los Angeles Lakers will receive serious consideration too, sources said. Several teams, including Philadelphia and Houston, are interested in pursuing George too, league sources said. ... Indiana traded George to the Thunder a year ago, where the five-time All-Star forward came to build a strong relationship with All-Star guard Russell Westbrook and averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Before his trade, George had told the Pacers that he planned to sign with the Lakers in free agency this summer. Nevertheless, Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti, coach Billy Donovan and Westbrook have made a strong case on a future with the Thunder and moved the franchise into contention with the Lakers. George, a native of Southern California, and LeBron James are the focus of the Lakers free agent recruiting efforts. This summer, George can sign a five-year, $176 million extension with OKC, Wojnarowski reports, or he could do a "one-plus one" deal and return to free agency next summer. George's decision is not wholly surprising, given that he has been one of the top free-agent targets for many teams all season long......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 28th, 2018

Houston s Harden wins NBA MVP over James and Davis

By Beth Harris, Associated Press SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — James Harden of the Houston Rockets was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, beating out four-time winner LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Pelicans at the NBA Awards on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Harden joined Michael Jordan as the only players to average at least 20 points, eight assists, five rebounds and 1.7 steals in a season. He led the league in scoring, three-pointers and 50-point games with four while helping the Rockets to an NBA-leading 65 wins. James didn’t attend the show in Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport amid speculation about his future. He has until Friday (Saturday, PHL time) to tell the Cavaliers if he will pick up his $35.6 million option for next season or opt for free agency. Harden, who is from Los Angeles, led his mother on stage before he accepted the trophy from Commissioner Adam Silver. “I’m not going to get emotional,” he said from behind dark sunglasses. “She’s my backbone in good times and bad times.” Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers won Rookie of the Year. The guard averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, joining Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only rookies to post those numbers in a season. Simmons helped Philadelphia to a 52-30 record, including ending the season with a 16-game winning streak. He beat out finalists Donovan Mitchell of Utah and Jayson Tatum of Boston. Guard Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers earned Most Improved Player. He averaged 23.1 points in his first season with the Pacers while nabbing his first All-Star berth. He also led the league in steals for the first time. The Defensive Player of the Year went to center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. He was the leading vote-getter for the league’s All-Defensive first team while anchoring a Jazz defense that ranked second in the NBA in defensive rating. Lou Williams of the Los Angeles Clippers took Sixth Man honors. The guard became the first player to average at least 20 points for the first time in his 13th season or later. He led the league in fourth-quarter points and scoring average. Williams kissed his two young daughters on his way to the stage after becoming the Clippers’ third winner in the last five years. Dwane Casey was chosen Coach of the Year for his work with the Toronto Raptors, who fired him last month. He has since become coach of the Detroit Pistons. “Can’t look in the rear view mirror,” Casey said backstage. “Winston Churchill said success is measured by failure, failure, and then come back with enthusiasm, and that’s what I’ve done.” Casey led the Raptors to the No. 1 seed in the East for the first time in franchise history after winning a team-record 59 games. Casey coached the East in the All-Star Game for the first time. Casey won over Quin Snyder of Utah and Brad Stevens of Boston. Robertson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from presenters Charles Barkley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After Barkley mentioned last year’s recipient Bill Russell, Boston’s Hall of Fame center flipped his middle finger in Barkley’s direction. Robertson is the career leader in triple-doubles and was the first player to average one for a season. His antitrust case against the NBA also ushered in free agency for players, which Robertson said was his most important assist. Backstage, Robertson commended the activism of today’s players, although he wondered why more white athletes aren’t speaking out. “The only thing that really bothers me is where are the white athletes when this is happening?” he said. “This is not a black athlete problem. You see injustice in the world. It’s all around.” Robertson went on to say he hopes “the whites and the blacks get together, even with the football,” a reference to NFL players who have taken a knee or sat in silence during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 26th, 2018

Q& A: Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com A year ago, on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls switched gears. Jimmy Butler was traded to Minnesota, taking with him any pretense that the Bulls were a legitimate playoff team. In that moment, Chicago committed to a rebuild, which is to say, a dive into the draft lottery where coach Fred Hoiberg and his team presumably would be rewarded not for how many games they won but how many they lost. By whatever means necessary. Soon after Butler was moved to the Timberwolves, veteran point guard Rajon Rondo was waived. A few months later, Dwyane Wade was cut loose (via a handsome buyout) to bounce through Cleveland to Miami. The Bulls moved forward with three young pieces courtesy of the Wolves -- wing Zach LaVine, guard Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick in 2017, rookie forward Lauri Markkanen -- and a general acceptance that getting from there to here was going to bring a lot of pain. Some of that was literal: Bobby Portis slugged teammate Nikola Mirotic in a preseason practice, breaking two facial bones and putting Mirotic on the shelf for 23 games. Some of it was figurative: the frustration of a season that began as a 3-20 mess and ended in a 10-28 slog. In between, though, the Bulls somehow put together a 14-7 stretch that offered a glimpse of what 2018-19 might be. It also cost them precious lottery balls, eventually leaving them with the No. 7 pick (and No. 22, after dealing Mirotic in February to New Orleans) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Draft. Hoiberg, who went from an alleged coaching “hot seat” during two .500 seasons, wound up with more job security as a coach headed toward 50 defeats and beyond. He spoke with NBA.com about his and the Bulls’, er, challenging season. This is edited from a pair of longer conversations, one at the end of the regular season, the other within the past week. NBA.com: So you go through everything that was 2017-18, dutifully lose 55 games and wind up at No. 7 instead of in the top three for the Draft. The inevitable question is, was it worth it? Fred Hoiberg: Obviously you’re disappointed. You were hoping to move up. But we’re confident we’re going to get a good player with the No. 7 pick and we’re confident we’ll get a good player with the 22nd pick. NBA.com: C’mon, this isn’t our first rodeo. I get that people don’t like to use the word “tanking,” but the Bulls’ marching orders last season were pretty clear. FH: I don’t think you can look at it that way in the midst of your season. The players are competitive, your staff is competitive. You want to play as well as you can and put yourself in a position to win. When you look at the successful stretch that we had in December and January, you think about carrying those things forward and then adding, based on who we get, to the roster. There was some real frustration that we didn’t get a lot of wins at the end. But we developed some younger players and saw what we had with some of our guys. NBA.com: When you guys had that run before the season’s midpoint, winning seven in a row (first team in NBA history with such a long winning streak immediately after a losing streak of 10 in a row) and 10 of 12, did you and the front office ever consider a Plan B? As in, maybe, show potential free agents how good your supporting cast could be, in hopes of luring big-name help this summer? FH: I think we did. What we showed was a really good foundation and a young core that we can build around. When I look back at it, I just wish we could have had more opportunity to work with it and see what it would have looked like. When Zach LaVine came back [Jan. 13 from ACL knee surgery], the plan was for him to play about 20 minutes a night. Then his third game, Kris Dunn fell against Golden State and had that concussion [that cost him 11 games, before missing the final 14 with a toe injury]. It’s too bad we didn’t get the full look. But players like Cam Payne, Denzel [Valentine], Bobby, Robin [Lopez], Justin Holiday all had career years.   NBA.com: You had a lot of injuries down the stretch. Not to suggest that they weren’t all legit, but were you instructed at any point by VP John Paxson or GM Gar Forman to dial it back after that 14-7 success? FH: No, we weren’t. And the big thing from the very beginning of last season, the two things we wanted to see, was competing at a high level every night and the development of our players. I think we accomplished that. NBA.com: What -- in your background as a player, coach, competitor, you name it -- prepared you for this past season? FH: Part of what prepared me for this was, I had been through this as a player. I went from four really competitive teams in Indiana, playing with someone as driven and helpful as Reggie Miller, taking me under his wing. There were other great veteran players who helped me just to survive and taught me a lot. Larry Brown was the coach, then Larry Bird my last two years.   Then when I came to Chicago, I knew it would be an opportunity to play. But it was a rebuild. Eventually I got thrust into the role of captain, as the oldest player on team at 28. It really helped me with what we’re going through now. I learned how important it is to keep guys’ morale up and be positive through the ups and downs. I give our guys all the credit in the world for remaining so positive, keeping up a great work ethic and still being sponges in wanting to learn. NBA.com: What were the takeaways from the best and healthiest part of last season? FH: We got a pretty good feel for what Kris Dunn can be. He really evolved into being a closer for our team. Lauri was closing games for us, taking big shots as a 20-year-old kid. Zach had the game against Minnesota. What people fail to remember about Zach, he averaged over 22 points a game in February and really got into a pretty good rhythm. Then he had some knee soreness and wound up sitting for the rest of the year. But we had some flashes of what this can turn into. NBA.com: Niko paid for his role in sparking that hot streak. FH: Niko was great. He missed those first 23, and I thought our team handled that adverse situation about as well as anybody could, not letting it affect us in a negative way. We were able to move past it. You even saw the chemistry that Niko and Bobby played with when they were out there together. NBA.com: How hard was it personally downshifting from a team that had gone to the playoffs to one that didn’t put a priority on winning? FH: When the move was made on draft night, when those three kids came in, right away there was an excitement. Everyone had seen what Zach had done. He was a highlight reel and had those slam dunk championships. He plays the game with ease on the offensive end. His athletic tools and ability to get up and down the floor. Kris, everybody absolutely loved coming out of the draft [in 2016]. Then he had an up-and-down rookie season. Helping him to get that swagger back that he had coming out of Providence took some work, but he was aching to put that work in. Markkanen, I know the guys upstairs knew how good he was but I had no idea. I didn’t study him because we had the 15th pick. He comes over after a grueling summer -- summer league, Eurobasket with all that pressure in front of his home fans -- and he was exhausted. But then you saw every day, “Man, this kid is really good.” You’re thinking, we could probably put the ball in this kid’s hands. Then he goes up and dunks over a whole team and you say, “My God, this kid’s more athletic than we thought. He uses his feet, he’s got anticipation, he’s got toughness.” He showed a little more every day. NBA.com: Was it difficult asking a proud veteran like Robin Lopez to put it in idle over the final 25 games? FH: I think he understood. He’s been a part of a lot of different situations. He was great. He continued to lead. He continued to practice hard. He talked to the bigs as they came off the floor. NBA.com: Was your own health challenged at all by the stress of this season? Your past issues related to your heart are widely known, and coaching an NBA team even in the best of times is a demanding job. FH: After two open-heart surgeries, I do have to sometimes check myself. There are so many things you can over-concern yourself with in this business. Then you look back a week or two later and say, “My God, why did I put so much effort into that one stupid thing that happened?” You have to let go sometimes. My family is so important for me with that. You get some normalcy in your life. [At night, lying in bed, Hoiberg can hear a valve in his heart every time it beats. He let a visitor listen, too, and sure enough... ] If this ever affected me to the point where I had to throttle back, I would move on to something else. When I had my first surgery and they removed the diseased tissue from the aorta that had an aneurysm in it, they got rid of the problem. The valve deteriorated after they put a new valve in and they had to go in again, but the diseased tissue no longer was there. If it was a risk, I’d be doing something else. But it’s a constant reminder. You think you’re going to get used to it, but you never really do. My wife will be lying next to me and she hears it. NBA.com: When you look back on 2017-18, is it like “Casablanca” for you guys? As in, you’ll always have December? FH: It was fun to see how much the work paid off. Everyone was putting so much into it to get out of that slump. You can say, we had something to build on there. But whenever I talked to our team, before or after, it was all about competing on a nightly basis. Being consistent with their effort. I couldn’t be more proud of how they handled it. They were on time. They kept trying to get better. They worried about what they could control. I didn’t have to have even one of those conversations where I sat a guy down and said, “You’re not playing hard enough.” I did have a few conversations where I said, “You need to move the ball more.” [laughs] NBA.com: Big difference, coaching relative kids after the so-called “three alphas” of Butler, Wade and Rondo? Jimmy seemed eager to stay here to win. FH: Jimmy did so many things for this team. He was great to coach. You knew every night you were going to get an unbelievable effort. A guy who never backed down. Who never shied away from the big shot. And was going to defend at a high level every time he stepped on the floor. So Jimmy was missed in a lot of ways. But when you look at the young guys’ abilities, it’s exciting. NBA.com: What do you make of having better job security now that the losses are mounting, compared to those .500 seasons? FH: I don’t think any one of the 30 guys in our position pay attention to that. You can’t do your job if you do. You go in and try to improve as an individual, as a staff, as a team. Our first year, Derrick Rose suffered an orbital fracture in the first workout. We had 10 rotation players who missed double-digit games. Two starters missed 50 or more [Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah]. Niko had that botched appendix surgery. The next year was a completely different team. Nobody predicted we’d be a playoff team but we were and had a good chance to beat Boston before Rondo got hurt. NBA.com: When you’re not coaching veterans, is it a purer form, as far as installing “your” system vs. tailoring things to them? FH: You always look for the best system, the best approach. The basics don’t change, but [in 2016-17] we had a lot more isolation players, so we ran more of those types of actions. This [past] year, more ball movement, player movement fit this group better. We had longer, harder practices as opposed to a veteran group as the year went on. NBA.com: Since the end of the season, how much time have you put in on developmental activities and draft preparation? FH: We’ve had a lot of guys in and gotten a lot of work in, in the early part of the offseason. We’re looking forward to working again after the draft with some new young players as part of the roster. It’s all about moving forward. NBA.com: As you look back over the past year, with the script flipping to the point where the Bulls wanted to win by losing and maybe lost -- some draft position, anyway -- by winning, what goes through your mind? FH: What was Donovan Mitchell [the Rookie of the Year finalist chosen by Utah]? The 13th pick? You just never know with the draft. You play hard, you get the culture established the way you want it and things take care of themselves. What really would have been devastating would have been ending the season with negativity, with your team not playing hard, with your team disinterested. That’s something that would be a real cause for concern going into an offseason. But our guys felt good about themselves. Some were sacrificing in a big way and pulling for younger guys. They were playing hard, they were cheering for each other. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 19th, 2018

The 10 most intriguing free agents of summer 2018

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com The summer of 2018 promises to change the landscape of the NBA. It starts with the best player in the world having the ability to choose his next team, but it continues with good teams in Minnesota, Portland and Washington that might feel the need to shake things up, as well as a situation to monitor in San Antonio. The trade market can be unpredictable. It wasn't until late July last year that we learned that Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland, and it wasn't until late August when he was dealt to the Boston Celtics, who finished the summer with only four players remaining from the team that reached the conference finals. The free agent market is a little more predictable, in that there are only so many teams with the available cap space to sign a premium free agent outright. Most of the big contracts signed in 2016 (when almost every team had cap space) are still on the books and a lot of teams just don't have much flexibility. LOOK: NBA.com Free Agent Tracker But the trade market and the free agent market are tied together. In 2014, the Cavs created the space to sign LeBron James by trading Jarrett Jack and Tyler Zeller. And after signing James, they traded for Kevin Love. With that in mind, the players listed below aren't the 10 best free agents (or potential free agents). They're the 10 most interesting in regard to where they're going and what kind of contract they get. For players to be on this list, there needs to be some intrigue regarding their (and/or their team's) decision this summer. Kevin Durant is the second best player in the NBA and has a player option on his contract, but there appears to be little chance that he's leaving the Golden State Warriors. Re-signing with Houston is probably Chris Paul's best path to another year of contention. It's hard to see Clint Capela or Jusuf Nurkic (both restricted as well) going anywhere. The same goes (to a lesser degree) for Aaron Gordon and Fred VanVleet. There's intrigue in the terms under which Nikola Jokic is in Denver next season - either with the Nuggets exercising a $1.6 million team option or declining it, making him a restricted free agent, and signing him to a new deal - but we can be sure that he will be in Denver next season. The market for centers seems particularly small, taking away some of the intrigue with DeAndre Jordan and Brook Lopez. 1. LeBron James, F, Cleveland (Player option) At 33-years-old and in his 15th season, James remains the best player in the world. Would he leave Cleveland a second time? This is clearly the worst team he's been on since the first time he left the Cavs, and there are teams out there who can give him a better secondary playmaker to take some of the offensive load off his shoulders. Whatever team he's on next season is a contender and if if it's a different team than the one he's on now, it would be fascinating to see what happens with Love. Number to know: James' true shooting percentage of 62.1 percent this season was the third highest mark of his career. 2. Paul George, F, Oklahoma City (Player option) In trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana last summer, the Thunder knew that they might have George for just one season. There's been speculation about his next destination since he arrived in Oklahoma City, and the Thunder season (which ended in the first round of the playoffs) has to be seen as a disappointment. George's free agency is tied to what happens in San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard, who is eligible for a max contract extension this summer. If that extension doesn't happen (either because the Spurs don't offer it or because Leonard doesn't accept it), Leonard will become a trade target for teams that are also in the market for George. And there are a couple of teams that have the ability to bring two of the George/James/Leonard trio together. Number to know: George ranked second in the league in steals (2.0 per game) and tied for the league in deflections (3.9 per game). 3. DeMarcus Cousins, C, New Orleans Just when the Pelicans were hitting their stride with Cousins and Anthony Davis together, Cousins tore his Achilles. And then the Pelicans hit their stride without Cousins, winning 20 of their last 28 games in the regular season and sweeping the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs. If the Pelicans were to lose Cousins, they don't have the cap space to replace him. But there's obviously risk in giving him a big contract coming off an Achilles tear, and the the Pels' two bigs aren't a perfect fit together. As part of their February trade with Chicago, the Pelicans exercised the team option on Nikola Mirotic's contract for next season. So Mirotic is there as Davis' power forward complement for at least another year. Number to know: Cousins accounted for 47 percent of the fouls that the Pelicans drew while he was on the floor. That was the highest rate among 275 players who played at least 1,000 minutes this season. 4. Julius Randle, F, L.A. Lakers (Restricted) Randle is still just 23-years-old and developed into a pretty efficient scorer in the final year of his rookie deal. Among 126 players with at least 500 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons, he saw the fifth biggest increase in true shooting percentage (from 54 percent to 61 percent). But the Lakers' have their eyes on bigger names and might have to renounce their rights to the restricted free agent to clear as much cap space as possible. Number to know: Randle ranked fifth with 802 total points scored in the restricted area this season. 5. Marcus Smart, G, Boston (Restricted) Marcus Smart is intriguing more for what his departure would mean for the team he's leaving than for any other team he might join. And it's quite possible that he doesn't have the same value outside of Boston. Putting value on a bad shooter who makes "winning plays" is difficult in the first place. What happens with Smart affects how the Celtics deal with Terry Rozier, who will be a restricted free agent next year and would draw more interest from other teams as a starting point guard (if the Celtics don't give him an extension this summer). It's hard to imagine the Celtics keeping both behind Kyrie Irving long term, but the decision could be delayed a year if Smart were to accept the one-year qualifying offer. Number to know: Smart is one of six players who averaged at least 20 minutes in 40 or more games and with their teams allowing less than a point per possession with them on the floor. 6. J.J. Redick, G, Philadelphia The Sixers are another team that will be big-name shopping in July, which affects the status of Redick, who was signed to a one-year $23 million deal last summer. The Sixers don't have his bird rights, but wouldn't have to pay nearly that much (per year) on a long-term deal. Redick is a terrific complementary player on offense (an aggressive shooter who draws the defense's attention with relentless movement), but can be targeted on the other end of the floor, as was the case in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston. Number to know: Redick shot 45.9 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, the fourth best mark among 101 players who attempted at least 200. 7. Derrick Favors, F, Utah There were times this season when the frontline duo of Favors and Rudy Gobert wasn't working out, and Utah had some success with smaller, more versatile players at the four. But overall, the Jazz outscored their opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions with the two bigs on the floor together, and having both gives them a rim-protecting center on the floor at all times. Utah could create cap space and go free agent shopping, but that would require them to renounce their rights to Favors and Dante Exum. Number to know: Among 160 players with at least 400 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons, Favors saw the third biggest increase in effective shooting percentage (from 49 percent to 57 percent). 8. Isaiah Thomas, G, L.A. Lakers Thomas' stock fell precipitously from being a top-five MVP vote-getter last season to being a liability in Cleveland upon returning from his hip injury, and then requiring surgery in March. Still, the Lakers' offense was pretty efficient (scoring 110 points per 100 possessions) with him on the floor and the last time he was healthy, he had a historically good season. There are teams (Orlando and Phoenix, especially) in need of a starting point guard, but Thomas may have to settle for a short-term deal and a bench role in order to restore his value around the league. Number to know: Among 160 players with at least 400 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons, Thomas saw the biggest drop in both in effective shooting percentage (from 55 percent to 44 percent) and true shooting percentage (from 63 percent to 51 percent). 9. Dwyane Wade, G, Miami No, Wade is not one of the 10 best free agents out there. But he's a future Hall of Famer who has said that Miami is the only team he'll play for going forward. We saw in Game 2 of the first round against Philadelphia that he can win a game for you on any given night. But over a full season, he'd be a much better fit with the Heat (who have a handful of versatile non-shooters) if he had, at some point, developed a three-point shot. That he hasn't increases the chances that his career is over. Number to know: Wade had an effective field goal percentage of 36.8 percent from outside the paint, the second worst mark among 207 players who attempted at least 200 total shots from the outside. 10. Jabari Parker, F, Milwaukee (Restricted) Parker should look much better in the fall than he did in playing just 38 games (including playoffs) after returning from a second ACL tear in his left knee. He has issues to fix on both ends of the floor and isn't an ideal complement to Giannis Antetokounmpo in that neither shoots very well from the perimeter. Parker still has top-two-pick talent, but injury issues and defense issues make him a fascinating case in restricted free agency for a team that's looking to take a step forward with an MVP candidate and a new coach. Number to know: In the playoffs, the Bucks' offense was more than 14 points per 100 possessions better with Parker off the floor (scoring 114.9 per 100) than it was with him on the floor (100.6). 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 NewsMay 30th, 2018

LeBron James reigns supreme over Eastern Conference yet again

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com BOSTON – For nearly a decade, the general managers of the NBA’s Eastern Conference have had, essentially, one job: Arm, equip and overhaul their teams specifically to get past LeBron James and whatever squad with which he happened to be rolling. They have failed. Miserably and spectacularly. And that’s even spotting them the first couple of summers to get their bearings after the whole “Super Team” genesis in Miami back in 2010-11. James’ domination of the conference continued Sunday (Monday, PHL time) when he and the Cleveland Cavaliers persevered in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Clawing back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in the series, and playing the final seven quarters without their second All-Star, forward Kevin Love (concussion protocol), the Cavaliers hung around in an ugly game. They took advantage of a Boston team on training wheels – 7-of-39 on three-pointers, oh my! – and snagged a ticket to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals. For James, it’s eight in a row and nine overall, these Cleveland four added to the four he reached with the Heat from 2011-14. It’s a run unprecedented since Bill Russell’s Celtics were winning 11 championships in 13 years, a stranglehold on half of all Finals opportunities this decade. He has a 6-2 record in Game 7 situations, with nothing but triumphs after dropping his first two. “I mean, the bigger the stage, the bigger the player, and he's been doing it for us since we've been here,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “The great quote from the great [Clippers coach] Doc Rivers is, ‘You always want to go into the Game 7 with the best player,’ and we have the best player on our team going into a Game 7. I like our chances. And he delivered again.” Next year at this point, maybe by league proxy, James will have one hand tied behind his back. That’s the next logical step in handicapping him against the field. He has made it to The Finals without his most talented sidekicks. He has taken or dragged along an ever-changing cast of teammates. This time, he did with arguably the Cavaliers’ barest cupboard since first dipping their collective toes in The Finals water back in 2007. Two All-Star point guards, Kyrie Irving (with whom James won a ring in 2016) and Isaiah Thomas (from whom James won his freedom after five awkward weeks), already were long gone when Love went down. And now he was facing elimination with a shaky crew and a huge, inflated question mark hovering over his and Cleveland’s offseason, whenever it comes. Then again, the Celtics were facing him. Like the Raptors, the Pacers, the Bulls, the Hawks and several others before them, Boston well understood the player through whom its playoff ambitions had to go. “I think we’ve played now until May 25th and May 27th the last two years and we started on September 25th. That’s every day,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said about his team’s 2017 and 2018 tangles with Cleveland in the East finals. “Every day you’re totally focused on this, and he’s gone past that eight straight times. “It’s ridiculous. And he does it at this level and with the pressure, with the scrutiny – doesn’t matter.” Plenty of the foes chasing James when his Finals streak began have headed into retirement ringless and unfulfilled. Others were in high school or grade school. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, for instance, was 13 years old when James began his streak against Dallas in 2011. There are so many others like Horford, with tire tracks on their backs, no mercy coming their way from James and very little hope on the horizon. At age 33, James played all 82 games in the regular season for the first time in his 15-year career. He made it an even 100 with Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) appearance and he did it with aplomb, staying on the floor for all 48 minutes. “Our goal going into the series was to make him exert as much energy as humanly possible, and try to be as good as we can on everybody else,” Stevens said. “For the most part, I thought we were pretty good at that. Multiple games now in TD Garden, held them under 100, three games in the 80s – but he still scored 35. It’s a joke.” James’ stats line – 35 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists – was enough this time because he got a reasonable amount of help. Three other Cavaliers scored in double figures, including Jeff Green, the journeyman forward who started in Love’s spot. Being one of James’ teammates requires a thick skin for when things don’t go well. It also carries a sense of obligation, to occasionally come through the way Green did in Game 7 (19 points, eight rebounds) given the debt they all owe their resident superstar. “You want to be there for him,” Green said. “You want to be in the trenches, in the battle, helping him achieve the ultimate goal. For me, it’s a no-brainer to go out there and give it all I have.” Green was a part of James’ most tumultuous campaign yet, with so many twists and turns – the shotgun Irving trade, Thomas’ bad fit, a rash of injuries, a desperate reset at the trade deadline and a bumpy learning curve once the new guys arrived – that James and Lue casually referred to it as “five seasons” crammed into one. “It's now six seasons in one,” James said after midnight. “I guess this is the last chapter for our team in this season. It's been a whirlwind. I mean, it's been [a rollercoaster]. It's been good, it's been bad, it's been roses. There have been thorns in the roses. There's been everything that you can ask for.” For eight years, a conference full of rivals has targeted one player, who happens to be the league’s best, the first among alleged equals with the Heat and clearly the leader when he headed back home to Ohio. In that time, the players have worked, the coaches have schemed and the GMs have plotted. No one has found the answer. None have stopped him. Fact is, nobody’s really laid a glove on him. It’s his conference, seemingly for as long as he wants it. “It's been a satisfaction in the fact that I like to be successful,” James said. “But more importantly, just the work that I put into it. I mean, it's an every-single-day work ethic that I have while I'm playing this game, while I have the ability to play this game at this level. I love the competition. “I think about the teams that I've played over this run and the players that I've played over this run, slightly. But more importantly, me just being healthy. I've been healthy throughout this run. I put a lot of work into my body, into my craft. Being available to my teammates and being available to my franchise, the two franchises I've been with, and throughout this run is what's been more important to me than anything. Always being available.” It was late. James was weary. Another Game 7 in less than 24 hours would determine his and the Cavaliers’ next playoff challenge. “I'll be available for at least four more games,” he said. “And we'll see what happens.” Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 28th, 2018

Aging like fine wine, James shines when it matters most

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND – The first 57 seconds came near the end of the third quarter, LeBron James finally heading over to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench after logging 35 minutes – 35:03, as long as we’re counting – of intense, frantic, backs-against-the-wall elimination basketball against the Boston Celtics in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. James took his seat with the idea of resting as much as he could, as quickly as he could. That’s about all he gets this time of year, when subbing James out of the game too often is like the Cavaliers loosening their grip on a balloon they’re blowing up but have yet to tie off. If the air went out of Cleveland’s balloon at Quicken Loans Arena, it was going to be out for months. Heck, given James’ possible departure in free agency this summer, the air might have been gone for good. “Obviously [if] I get a minute, couple minutes here per quarter, would be great. But it's not what our team is built on right now,” James said after yet another remarkable performance to keep the Cavs’ postseason alive. With what was left of the third on the game clock and how it played out, followed by the break between quarters, the Cavaliers’ star got about five minutes in real time to catch his breath. Then promptly subbed back in for the fourth. “Our team is built on me being out on the floor to be able to make plays, not only for myself but make plays for others,” James said. “It's just the way we've been playing, and we've been succeeding with it. “I was able to play 46 minutes today. I got my couple minutes, I guess.” He got another 57 seconds to be exact. They were less hurried, less nervous and absolutely earned, coming as they did at the very end. When James exited for good, his work was done. The Cavs had pushed this home-dominant series to its max, with Game 7 at Boston’s TD Garden Sunday (Monday, PHL time). James’ stats line was one of those gaudy/ordinary types he has spoiled his team and NBA fans with for so many years: 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He also had three steals and one blocked shot, racing back in the third quarter to deny Boston’s greyhound guard Terry Rozier after finishing a Cavs fast break an instant before. James went down as if shot early in the fourth, his team up 89-82; teammate Larry Nance fell into the future Hall of Famer’s right leg. But after a few tentative, anxious moments both for him and the folks in the arena, James was back to moving, pivoting and launching as if nothing had happened. “I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg,” said James, who seems to go through more histrionics and drama than the average player when he gets clobbered, without enduring the same level of injury. “I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I've seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one's leg standing straight up.” Not long after that, though, James was draining two bak-breaking three-pointers on consecutive trips, burning young Celtics forward Jayson Tatum both times from deep on the left wing. The second sent Boston scurrying into a timeout with 1:40 to go, and had James going a little primal along that far sideline, pounding his chest and hollering out. “The love of the game causes reactions like that,” James said. “Understanding the situation and understanding the moment that you're in. It was just a feeling that you can't explain unless you've been a part of it.” James has been a part of it plenty. This was the 22nd elimination game of his career, his eighth since returning to Cleveland in 2014. He is 13-9 overall and 6-2 in this Cavs 2.0 version. His production in these win-or-go-home games is unsurpassed in NBA history. James is averaging 34.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists, performing best when it matters most. That wasn’t always the case – James had some rough-shooting, high-turnover nights in elimination games early in his career. More recently, though, he’s everything you want but cannot get in a mutual fund: His past performances definitely are a guarantee of future results. “I’ve watched him play a lot of really great games, but that one’s right up there towards the top,” said Kyle Korver, Cleveland’s 37-year-old sniper. “It’s just so much heart. He wanted this game so bad. “I think he just craves those moments. He loves those moments. When the game is on the line, when the season is on the line, he’s just been rising up, and that’s what the great players do.” Iconic players like James and, before him, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are the ones who block whole NBA generations from achieving their dreams, hoarding Finals appearances and championship rings for them and theirs only. Celtics Brad Stevens, young as he is, has had to gameplan against James’ greatness and ability to dominate three times in playoff series now. “Does that ever come into our minds? Yeah, every time we watch,” Stevens said. “Every time you're standing out there. Every time you watch him on film. Best player in the game. Special night tonight and special night in Game 4 [44 points]. I can't say enough good things about him.” At least one of James’ own teammates didn’t always feel that way. “I've been in the league for some years and ran across him on the other side and really hated his guts,” said George Hill, the former Indiana Pacers guard who never beat James in postseason basketball before joining him via trade in February. “But to have him on our side, it kind of lets me take a deep breath of fresh air. It's just something that you really can't explain what he's doing night in, night out.” The view from the Cavaliers’ side isn’t just safer, it’s illuminating for George. “Yeah, I thought the best was when he always put us out,” the veteran said. “But to actually see it when he's on your team, I can't even put it into words. Sometimes I just think, ‘How did he make that shot?’ Or ‘How did he make that move?’ Or ‘When did he see that pass?’ Just making big plays and big shots. People always list him as not a shooter, but he's making big shots down the stretch. If it's three-pointers, layups, dunks, passes, he can do it all.” James wasn’t always so complete as a player. In some of his early forays into the playoffs, critics would pounce. Passing off a potential winning shot, for example, to less-decorated teammate Donyell Marshall. Getting ousted by a savvier, saltier Celtics crew in seven games in 2008 and in six two years later. A couple years after that, though, James would return the favor with his new crew in Miami. He dropped 45 points with 15 rebounds on Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the rest right on the hallowed parquet in Game 6, then backed it up with 31 in Game 7. Now he’s tormenting a whole new set of Celtics. “Like I said, I haven't always done it in my whole career, but I've never shied away from it,” James said. “That's either making a shot or making a play. I was taught the game the right way ever since I started playing.” So it’s talent to start, fundamentals ladled onto that and then time and experience to percolate, to ferment, to ripen James into what he is now: No one to be trifled with when there’s something to be won or to be staved off. Getting a little more introspective than usual, James talked about the maturation journey he has taken since arriving on the NBA scene still a teenager in 2003. “I've embraced a lot of situations as you grow up,” he said. “I mean, I love being a husband now. Did I embrace that at 18, 19? I don't think so. “As you get older, you just grow into more things. I didn't love wine until I was 30 years old, and now every other [social media] post is about wine, National Wine Day. So you learn and you grow and you know what's best for you as you get older. That's just all of us. I think that's what being a human being is. “At 18, I don't think I'm the same player that I am today at 33, and I shouldn't be. I'm just much more seasoned.” Fifteen seasons worth and counting, aging like all that wine. That’s the guy Boston will try to put out Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Arguably the GOAT, undeniably the BLOAT, as in Best LeBron of All Time.  Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 26th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Lewandowski powers Poland revival

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press Poland's hopes at the World Cup depend on Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich forward scored 16 goals in 10 games — a European qualifying record — to propel Poland to its first World Cup in 12 years. Lewandowski offers hope of a return to the fruitful period during the golden era in the 1970s and 1980s when Grzegorz Lato and Zbigniew Boniek were on the team and Poland played in four straight World Cups, finishing third in 1974 and 1982. Former international Adam Nawalka has crafted a hard-working cohesive unit since taking over as coach from Waldemar Fornalik in 2013. Poland was 69th in the FIFA rankings when Nawalka took over. After qualifying for the 2016 European Championship, where the team lost on penalties to eventual champion Portugal in the quarterfinals, and a strong qualifying campaign for Russia, Poland is now 10th. Here's a closer look at the Poland team: COACH Nawalka, who has never worked outside of Poland, was handed the job after the country failed to qualify for the last World Cup. He ensured qualification was never really in doubt this time, a 4-0 loss in Denmark notwithstanding, as Poland won every home game. Nawalka, who played at the 1978 World Cup for Poland, coached several Polish teams, including three stints at hometown club Wisla Krakow before leading Gornik Zabrze to promotion six months after taking over in 2010. Gornik was at the top of the Polish league standings when he took over the national team. Nawalka was also briefly an assistant to former Poland coach Leo Beenhakker during qualification for Euro 2008. GOALKEEPERS Wojciech Szczesny, now playing for Juventus as an understudy to Gianluigi Buffon, started Euro 2016 but missed the rest of the tournament after picking up an injury in the opening game against Northern Ireland. Former Arsenal teammate Lukasz Fabianski, now with Swansea, filled in and helped the team reach the quarterfinals. Fabianski played most of the qualifiers but Szczesny returned for the final two. Roma goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski should provide additional backup. DEFENDERS The 190-centimeter (6-foot-3) Kamil Glik marshals Poland's defensive line and provides a commanding presence at center back. Tough-tackling and hard-working, Glik also excels in organizational skills, and is adept at quickly switching play to wingers Kamil Grosicki or Jakub Blaszczykowski. Glik, formerly Torino's captain, played a big part in helping Monaco win the French title in 2017. Borussia Dortmund right back Lukasz Piszczek will be another who ensures Poland gets forward quickly from defense. MIDFIELDERS Apart from the tireless Blaszczykowski and Grosicki, Poland has a new creative force in 23-year-old Piotr Zielinski. The Napoli midfielder played in every qualification game and is among the first on Nawalka's teamsheet. Grzegorz Krychowiak is another vital cog for Nawalka. A move from Sevilla, where he had excelled, to Paris Saint-Germain in 2016 didn't work out as well as he hoped, and the 28-year-old defensive midfielder has been playing this season on loan at Premier League club West Bromwich Albion. Krychowiak epitomizes the team's hard working ethic and is already a veteran for Poland after making his senior debut in 2008. FORWARDS While Lewandowski is undoubtedly the star, Poland does have another option in attack in Arkadiusz Milik, a teammate of Zielinski's at Napoli. Milik had little success for Bayer Leverkusen or Augsburg in Germany, but excelled in a loan spell at Ajax, which consequently made his loan permanent. Napoli signed the 24-year-old Milik as a replacement for the Juventus-bound Gonzalo Higuain in 2016. Two serious knee injuries have blighted his time in Italy. Milik made five appearances for Poland in qualifying. Even with Milik at his best, however, Lewandowski is irreplaceable for Poland. The 29-year-old Lewandowski provided more than half of the team's goals in qualifying alone. Clinical in front of goal, strong and skillful, Lewandowski is the key to success. GROUP GAMES Poland will be based in the Black Sea resort of Sochi and will begin its campaign against Senegal in Moscow on June 19. The team then faces Colombia in Kazan on June 24 before wrapping up Group H play against Japan in Volgograd four days later......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2018

Cavs win at Indiana in Game 4 to even series

INDIANAPOLIS --- LeBron James scored 32 points and combined with Kyle Korver for all but two of Cleveland's final 13 points as the Cavaliers escaped with a 104-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday to even the first-round series at two games apiece. James added 13 rebounds and seven assists in his 100th career playoff game with 30 or more points. Korver made four 3-pointers and wound up with 18 points. Domantas Sabonis scored 19 points for Indiana. Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo each scored 17, though Oladipo struggled through a poor shooting night. This one looked and felt a lot like the three previous games --- tough, physical and down to the wire. Indiana led 93-91 with...Keep on reading: Cavs win at Indiana in Game 4 to even series.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsApr 23rd, 2018

On Pace: Indiana opens eyes with blowout of LeBron, Cavs

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — They've spent the entire season on the fringe, virtually ignored by all but the most savvy fans and NBA insiders. They don't have any household names or any superstars on their roster, just one All-Star and a role player best known for foolish on-court antics. But as the Indiana Pacers strolled quietly into practice on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena, a building they silenced less than 24 hours earlier with an eye-catching playoff win in Game 1 over the Cavaliers, there was something unmistakable about them. They're confident — and they're no longer a secret. "People didn't expect us to do this well," Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said, leaning back in a cushioned chair at the end of Indiana's bench. "We like that. That's what kind of drives our motor a little bit, being overlooked and no one expecting us to do what we're currently doing." The Pacers were the better team — by far — on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), leading from tip to final horn in a 98-80 victory over Cleveland that snapped a 21-game winning streak in the first round for LeBron James, who had never opened the playoffs before with a loss and figures to be more aggressive in Game 2 on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Led by Victor Oladipo's 32-point, tough-shot-after-tough-shot performance, Indiana outplayed, outhustled and outlasted Cleveland, giving the Pacers a 4-1 record this season against the three-time defending conference champions. This may have been a surprise to outsiders, but it was just another day on the office hardwood for the Pacers, who won 48 games during the regular season and were the only team to beat Golden State twice. Didn't know that, did you? Well, most of Indiana's accomplishments have been woefully under-publicized. That's what happens when only one of your games is shown on national TV, you're playing in a mid-market city and you appeared to throw away the future by trading away your biggest star, Paul George, last summer. But the lack of attention doesn't faze Pacers. It fuels them. "They underestimate us," Lance Stephenson said, referring to everyone, not just those Cleveland fans taunting the Pacers on Sunday. "They didn't think we would get this far and they didn't think we was going to win that many games. But if you look at our team, I guess you could say we don't have that one player or the type of players that stand out, and that's why they underestimate us." Stephenson, the Pacers' instigator, spark and arch-enemy to James, set the tone for Indiana's impressive win in Game 1 with a thunderous first-quarter dunk he celebrated by bashing his head into the padded basket stanchion. "I'm a little dizzy right now," he joked before Monday's workout. His teammates' heads aren't spinning after the series-opening win over the Cavs, who swept the Pacers in the first round a year ago. They expected to play well, and they did. The Pacers aren't flashy, but fundamental. They do the little things: boxing out, diving for loose balls, taking charges. They've been successful by following coach Nate McMillan's simple formula: share the ball, stop your man and stay connected. "We've been playing like this all year," said Oladipo, the team's rising star who has been on a mission since coming over from Oklahoma City in the deal for George. "Been playing hard on both ends all year. It just hasn't been magnified. So it's the playoffs now, we've been doing this all year. Now everybody sees." Young, who along with Myles Turner are the only starters from last year's playoff squad, said Indiana's success is rooted in the team's togetherness. A year ago, the Pacers were going in different directions. "We had a lot of guys with egos that we really couldn't push aside" he said. "And there was a lot of miscommunication and a lot of different things that were going on. We didn't know if Paul was going to be here. We didn't know if Jeff [Teague] was going to stick around. There was a lot of uncertainty and no clarity from Day One and that hurt us from being a better team than we could've been. "But this team here, we're all in. We take each and every step together. We try to work in unison each and every day. We come to work and put our hard hats on and we all believe in each other." The Pacers took Sunday's (Monday, PHL time) win in stride, like a team that has won bigger games before. There was no chest-thumping, no bragging, nothing but talk of doing it again. "There ain't nothing to celebrate about," Stephenson said. "We won the game, but we got more to accomplish.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 17th, 2018

Victor-y: Oladipo scores 32 as Pacers stun LeBron, Cavs

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — Victor Oladipo scored 32 points and the Indiana Pacers held off Cleveland's second-half rally for a stunning 98-80 victory Sunday (Monday, PHL time) in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series, handing LeBron James and the Cavaliers' their first loss in the opening round in eight years. Indiana was in control from the outset, opening a 21-point lead in the first quarter and leading by 23 in the third. The Cavs stormed back and got within seven, but Oladipo hit a big three-pointer and Bojan Bogdanovic helped put Cleveland away with a triple to make it 88-71. The Pacers completely outplayed the three-time defending conference champions, whose turbulent regular season has carried over into the playoffs. Game 2 is Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). James scored 24 with 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his 20th career triple-double. But James got little help as Cleveland's four other starters — Kevin Love, Jeff Green, Rodney Hood and George Hill — combined for 25 points. This is all new to James, who had won 21 consecutive first-round games and lost a postseason for the first time in his 13th playoffs. The 33-year-old is trying to get to his eighth straight Finals, and already the path is tougher than imagined. Cleveland had won 14 straight first-round games, last losing on April 22, 2010, the last season of James' first stint with the Cavs. Indiana was swept by Cleveland in last year's opening round. Those Pacers, though, didn't have Oladipo or the balance of this Indy squad, which may lack experience but not confidence. Lance Stephenson, a longtime playoff nemesis for James, helped set the tone in the first quarter with a dunk he punctuated by throwing several punches into the padded basket stanchion. The Pacers took the fight to the Cavs. They were more physical, more energetic and more composed. Oladipo has become one of the NBA's rising stars, and after being a role player in Oklahoma City, he's Indiana's main attraction and looked like a seasoned star on the playoff stage. He made six three-pointers, swiped the ball from James on two occasions and more than doubled his previous playoff scored high of 15. The Cavs fell behind 33-12 during a strange first quarter that included Cleveland missing all eight three-pointers, James not attempting his first field goal until 1:52 remained and fans in Quicken Loans Arena wondering what they were seeing. As he does for every postseason, James shuts down all social media activities, a routine he calls Zero Dark 23 Mode. And this time, he began it Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) by posting a quote on Instagram from Martin Luther King Jr: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that." The Pacers drove him into a darker place. TIP-INS Pacers: Only have two starters __ Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young — from the team Cleveland swept last year. ... Oladipo wasn't seen as a franchise-changing player when Indiana acquired him along with Domantas Sabonis in the trade for Paul George. However, coach Nate McMillan said the guard wanted to prove himself and did with hard work. "He's a very coachable kid," McMillan said. "We've had many film sessions and one-on-one sessions to try to improve and he's shown that. This is a different season, a good opportunity for him to show where he's at again."... Indiana came in 15-6 in the playoffs when it wins the opener. The Pacers are 4-18 wheb losing Game 1. Cavaliers: James surpassed Michael Jordan (2,188) for the second-most made field goals in playoff history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,356) tops the list. ... James dropped to 48-8 in first-round games. ... Coach Tyronne Lue started Hood over Kyle Korver, who has lingering soreness in his right foot and was on a minutes' restriction. Korver played just four minutes. ... Green was 0-for-7 from the field, 0-for-3 from the line and the Cavs were outscored by 15 when he was on the floor. UP NEXT Game 2 is Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 16th, 2018

Hornets take advantage of resting Pacers for 119-93 win

By Michael Marot, Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dwight Howard finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds and Frank Kaminsky tied his career high with 24 points Tuesday night to lead the Charlotte Hornets past the Indiana Pacers, 119-93. Charlotte ended the season with two wins in its last seven games. The Pacers, who are locked into the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, lost for the second time in three games with three starters sitting out. Darren Collison, T.J. Leaf and Glenn Robinson III all scored 13 points for Indiana. With Bojan Bogdanovic, Victor Oladipo and Thaddeus Young all resting, the Hornets quickly took advantage of the short-handed Pacers. Williams made four three-pointers in the first quarter to help Charlotte take a 37-25 lead. The Pacers cut the halftime deficit to 63-55 but never seriously threatened. Charlotte delivered the knockout punch with a 13-4 run midway through the third quarter. When it ended, the Hornets had a 79-63 lead and the Pacers couldn't cut the deficit to single digits again. TIP-INS Hornets: Ended a three-game losing streak in Indy. ... Howard finished the season with a franchise-record 53 double-doubles and is one of three players to hold the single-season record with two teams. The others are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. ... Howard also is one of six players to average a double-double in each of his first 13 seasons in the league. ... Williams finished with 15 points and tied his career-high with five three's. ... Malik Monk had 17 points and Nicolas Batum had 14 points, four rebounds and six assists. ... Charlotte was 18-of-42 on three's. Pacers: Oladipo missed the game with a sore right foot but finished with the highest steals per game (2.36) since Ricky Rubio (2.32) in 2013-14. Oladipo also had a league-high 177 steals despite missing seven games. ... Collison was 3-of-5 on three's, improving his league-leading percentage to 46.8 percent. He also broke Chris Mullin's single-season NBA franchise record (46.5) set in 1998-99. ... Domantas Sabonis had 10 points and 10 rebounds while Lance Stephenson wound up with nine points, 13 rebounds and four assists. ... Play was stopped during the fourth quarter when a T-shirt misfired onto the court during play. UP NEXT Hornets: The offseason. Pacers: A trip to Philadelphia or Cleveland for a best-of-seven, first-round series......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018

All-Star break works wonders for Blazers, Jazz, Heat

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com The Portland Trail Blazers are doing it again. For the second straight season, the Blazers are the most improved team after the All-Star break. Last year, spurred by the acquisition of Jusuf Nurkic at the trade deadline, the Blazers were 7.8 points per 100 possessions better after the break (plus-5.3) than they were before it (minus-2.5). This year, without a rotation-altering trade, the Blazers have been 9.5 points per 100 possessions better since the break (plus-10.0) than they were before it (plus-0.4). Their 13-game winning streak (which started with their last game before All-Star weekend) came to an end at the hands of James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), but prior to that, they were the only undefeated team (12-0) since the break, climbing from seventh place in the West at the break to third place (with a relatively comfortable three-game lead in the loss column over the teams behind them) going into Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) games. Improvement has come on both ends of the floor. The Blazers have been 5.5 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 4.0 points per 100 possessions better defensively since the break. With the league average seeing an increase of 1.3 per 100, that's about even improvement on both ends of the floor. On offense, the Blazers have increased their three-point rate (3PA/FGA) from 31 percent before the All-Star break to 35 percent since, but have seen just a small jump in effective field goal percentage. Improvement has come more from taking better care of the ball and getting to the line more often. Over the last 16 games, Damian Lillard has averaged 9.2 points at the free throw line, 3.4 more than he averaged prior to that (5.8). Lillard has also seen a drop in turnover ratio, from 9.8 per 100 possessions before the break to 7.8 since. That 7.8 is the second lowest (higher than that of only LaMarcus Aldridge) among 14 players with a usage rate of greater than 30 percent since the break. On defense, rebounding has been key. After allowing 12.2 second chance points per game before the break, the Blazers have allowed just 9.5 (second fewest in the league) since. They continue to lead the league in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area and have been at their best defensively with Jusuf Nurkic on the floor. The defensive improvement may be more impressive, given that six of the Blazers' 13 post-break games have been against the league's top-10 offenses, though that includes games against Minnesota without Jimmy Butler and Golden State without Stephen Curry. It should also be noted that nine of the 13 games have been at home. Of course, the Blazers have been better defensively on the road (103.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) than they've been at home (104.6) this season. We'll see how those numbers (and their post-break improvement) hold up when they play seven of nine on the road after hosting the Boston Celtics on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Does it mean anything? Some teams might want to be playing their best going into the playoffs. But playing better late in the season doesn't necessarily mean anything. In fact, playoff team stats (offensive and defensive efficiency) more strongly correlate with pre-All-Star numbers than with post-All-Star numbers. Over the last 10 full seasons (going back to 2007-08 and skipping 2011-12), the 20 playoff teams that have seen the biggest increase in NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) from before the break to after the break have been more likely to underachieve in the playoffs (losing a series in which they had home-court advantage) than overachieve (winning a series they started on the road). The playoff team of the last 20 years that saw the biggest improvement was the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns, who were 8.2 points per 100 possessions better after the break (plus-11.2) than they were before it (plus-2.9). They reached the conference finals as the 3 seed in the West, but did so with home-court advantage in each of the first two rounds (because the seventh-seeded Spurs beat the second-seeded Mavs in the first round). Four of those 20 most improved teams have lost in the first round with home-court advantage, while the 2010-11 Chicago Bulls (4.5 points per 100 possessions better after the break) lost in the conference finals as the No. 1 seed. The overachievers? The 2008-09 Houston Rockets (5.6 points per 100 possessions better after the break) and 2013-14 Washington Wizards (4.8 better) won first-round series as No. 5 seeds without home-court advantage. And finally, the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers (who were 4.8 points per possessions better after the break) reached The Finals as a No. 2 seed. With that in mind, here are the teams that have been most improved on either end of the floor since the All-Star break this season. Most improved offenses 1. Miami Heat Like the Blazers, the Heat are doing this for the second year in a row. When they went from 11-30 in their first 41 games to 30-11 in their last 41 games last season, it was on offense where they really turned things around. Last year's turnaround came with increases in both three-point percentage and three-point volume (3PA/FGA). This year, the Heat have shot better from beyond the arc since the break, but they've actually taken a lower percentage of their shots from three-point range than they did prior, so their jump in effective field goal percentage isn't huge. They have gone from the bottom 10 to the top 10 in both offensive rebounding percentage and turnover rate. Hassan Whiteside has grabbed 28 offensive boards in just eight post-break games, though he hasn't seen a big increase in offensive rebounding percentage since the break. The team increase has been more about six different guys grabbing at least 13 offensive boards over the 14 games. On the turnover front, James Johnson has seen a big drop in his individual rate, from 13.7 turnovers per 100 possessions before the break to just 7.3 since the break. Goran Dragic has also seen seen a reduction. The drop in turnovers, along with more second chances and an increase in pace, as provided the Heat with almost six additional shots per 48 minutes. The Heat's post-break offense has been at its best (more than 123 points scored per 100 possessions) with Kelly Olynyk on the floor. Both Olynyk (60.7 percent) and James Johnson (60.6 percent) rank in the top 20 in post-break effective field goal percentage among 157 players who have taken at least 100 shots since the break. Tyler Johnson, meanwhile, has seen an effective field goal percentage jump from 50 percent before the break to 58 percent since the break. The Heat have played a fairly average post-break schedule in regard to opposing defenses. They've picked on some bad ones (scoring 128 points per 100 possessions in three games against the Suns, Nuggets and Knicks) and have played ugly against some good ones (like those of the Sixers and Blazers), but have been strong against the defenses in the middle of the pack. Going forward, they'll play just three of their 10 remaining games against top-10 defenses. Two of those are against the eighth-ranked Thunder, and one of those is Friday (Saturday, PHl time). Six of their other seven games are against bottom-10 defenses. 2. L.A. Lakers Rookies and second year players have accounted for 45 percent of the Lakers' minutes this season. That's the third highest rate in the league and the highest among teams that aren't at least 23 games under .500. So, in-season improvement both critical and somewhat expected. Of course, a vet has been a big part of the Lakers' offensive improvement. Brook Lopez has seen the second biggest increase in effective field goal percentage (behind that of Wilson Chandler) among players who took at least 300 shots before the break and have taken at least 100 since the break (see table below). For Lopez, as well as the team as a whole, it's been about the three ball, both in regard to percentage and volume. Before the break, the Lakers ranked 29th in three-point percentage and 22nd in the percentage of their shots that were threes. Since the break: fifth and fourth. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (46.3 percent) ranks seventh in post-break three-point percentage among 98 players with at least 50 attempts. But the biggest key to the Lakers' post-break offense may be a big jump in minutes for Julius Randle. He's actually seen a drop in usage rate and not much of an increase in efficiency, but Randle has gone from averaging less than 25 minutes before the break to 34 since the break. As a result, he's averaged 21.5 points (on 59 percent shooting) over the 13 games. And in that stretch, the Lakers have scored 14.2 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (114.1) than they have with him off the floor (99.9). Most improved defenses 1. Utah Jazz Utah's improvement started with the return of Rudy Gobert from a month-long absence in mid-January. Since his return on Jan. 19 (Jan. 20, PHL time), the Jazz have allowed just 96.2 points per 100 possessions, 6.5 fewer than any other team. Over those nine weeks, the difference between the Jazz and the second-ranked Spurs (102.7) is more than the difference between the Spurs and the 20th-ranked Hawks (109.1). More improvement came with the acquisition of Jae Crowder at the trade deadline. And the Jazz have allowed a paltry 85 points per 100 possessions in 308 minutes with Crowder and Gobert on the floor together, with their opponents shooting just 38 percent from the field and 31 percent from three-point range. And the Jazz haven't allowed their opponents to do much with all those misses, grabbing 85 percent of available defensive boards (a rate which would lead the league by a wide margin) in those 308 minutes. There is a schedule-related boost here. Since the break, the Jazz have played seven games against the league's bottom-10 offenses (including six against the bottom six) and just three games against the top 10. But in two of those three games (Feb. 27, PHL time vs. Houston and March 12, PHL time at New Orleans), they held their opponent under a point per possession. They've now done that in nine straight games and in 18 of their last 24. Given the state of league-wide offense (this is now the most efficient season in league history), that's pretty remarkable. The Jazz have four games remaining against top-10 offenses, including two against the Warriors. One of those is Sunday at Golden State (next Monday, PHL time). 2. Indiana Pacers The Pacers have improved defensively six of their 14 post-break games having been against teams that rank in the top 11 offensively (the 11th-ranked Wizards have bounced in and out of the top 10). They've gone 3-3, but held those top-11 offenses - Milwaukee (x 2), New Orleans, Washington (x 2) and Toronto - to just 103.4 points per 100 possessions (about four fewer than the league's post-break average) over the six games. The Pacers' post-break defense has been at its best, allowing just 96 points per 100 possessions, with Myles Turner on the floor. Turner has been improved offensively since the break (seeing a sizeable jump in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage), but his defense has been more important. While Turner has made an impact inside, forcing turnovers has been a big part of the Pacers' defensive improvement. They lead the league in opponent turnover rate since the All-Star break, having forced 17.4 per 100 possessions, up from 15.1 (10th) before the break. Victor has been the league leader in steals this season at 2.2 per game, and has seen an increase (from 2.1 to 2.8) since the break, with Thaddeus Young (2.3) joining him in the top four in post-break steals per contest. The Pacers have also rebounded a little better, grabbing 77 percent of available defensive boards (15th in the league) since the break, up from 76 percent (27th) before it. Things haven't gone so well on the other end of the floor. The Pacers have seen the league's biggest drop in offensive efficiency since the break. They ranked sixth offensively (108.5 points scored per 100 possessions) before the break and rank 26th (101.6) since the break. Oladipo (from 59 percent to 46 percent) and Young (from 54 percent to 45 percent) have seen two of the eight biggest drops in effective field goal percentage since the break among 142 players who took at least 300 shots before the break and have taken at least 100 shots since the break. The improved defense will continue to be tested in the next couple of weeks. The Pacers will play six of their next eight games against top-10 offenses. That includes two games against the second-ranked Warriors and two more against the seventh-ranked Clippers. L.A. is in Indiana on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Most improved shooters Here's a look at the players who have seen the biggest increases in effective field goal percentage since the All-Star break. 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 NewsMar 23rd, 2018

Oladipo, Pacers hold off Wizards

WASHINGTON --- For the second straight game, the Indiana Pacers prevailed on the road over a potential playoff rival, even if it wasn't always pleasing to the eye. Victor Oladipo scored 33 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 20 as the Pacers defeated the Washington Wizards 98-95 on Sunday despite nearly giving back a 17-point lead. They nearly did the same thing Friday night in Milwaukee. "We're going to have to grind it out the rest of the year," said Oladipo, who helped Indiana move into fourth in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of Washington. "It's playoff basketball the rest of the year." Myles Turner added 12 points and 13 rebounds for Indiana, which finished its four-...Keep on reading: Oladipo, Pacers hold off Wizards.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMar 5th, 2018

Wizards beat Pacers 111-102, win 5th straight without Wall

By Michael Marot, Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — All-Star guard Bradley Beal scored 21 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 15 on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time) to help the Washington Wizards hold on for a 111-102 victory over the Indiana Pacers. The Wizards have won five straight overall, all without John Wall, and four in a row over the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 29 points for the Pacers, trying to spur a fourth-quarter rally. Joe Young added 17 as Indiana's six-game home winning streak ended. Without starting guards Victor Oladipo (illness) and Darren Collison (left knee surgery), the Pacers were out of sync all night. The Wizards took full advantage. Indiana missed its first six shots, allowing Washington to jump out to a 17-8 lead. The Wizards took control with a 13-0 run to make it 55-39 with 3:13 left in the first half. The Pacers never got closer than seven again. They cut the deficit to 58-50 at the half, then Washington scored the first two baskets of the second half to make it a 12-point game. A 9-0 run late in the third gave the Wizards a 79-62 lead, forcing the Pacers to scramble the rest of the night. They never got closer than eight again. TIP-INS Wizards: Markieff Morris had 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Otto Porter Jr. scored 13 points. ... Ian Mahinmi finished with 12 points and seven rebounds against his former team. ... Washington shot 55.6 percent from the field. ... The Wizards have won four of the last six played in Indianapolis. ... Washington has had at least 25 assists in six consecutive games. ... Beal was 1-of-4 on three-pointers, giving him 2,002 attempts in his career. Pacers: Domantas Sabonis finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. ... Young made five triples. ... Lance Stephenson had 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists and six turnovers. ... Indiana was 12-of-29 on three's but shot 45.6 percent overall, ending its four-game run of shooting better than 50 percent. ... The Pacers also were 16-of-25 from the free-throw line. UP NEXT Wizards: Finish a three-game road trip Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at Philadelphia. Pacers: Will try to earn a split in the season series Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at New Orleans......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 6th, 2018

Storylines abound after 2018 NBA All-Star draft

NBA.com staff report There is an alternate universe in which LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are once again teammates, where the Warriors' star quartet is divided, and where players who very recently exchanged barbs must now share locker rooms. Welcome to the world of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, which sports a very different twist after Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) inaugural draft in which team captains James and Stephen Curry selected their teammates. Here is what we know: James had the first pick, Curry the second, and so on, back and forth until the rosters were set. We do not know in what order the players were picked despite the valiant efforts of TNT's Ernie Johnson. The dust has settled and the rosters are set, with the line between East and West officially dissolved. The focus is squarely on players rather than conference. Here's a look at the most intriguing takeaways after Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) results: Hello Old Friend The offseason parting between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving was dramatically awkward, with the latter leaving the former in order to show his athletic independence. Irving has since proved capable of leading the Celtics to contender status despite the opening-night loss of fellow All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward. James, meanwhile, has been forced to do much of the heavy lifting while the rest of his teammates have either plateaued (Kevin Love), dropped off (J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson) or been unavailable (Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas). The Cavs have suffered as a result, posting one of the worst records in the league since the calendar flipped to 2018. Could it be that James is hoping to recapture some of his old magic by temporarily reuniting with Irving? Or does he just miss/like the guy despite their on-court differences? "To be able to team up back with Kyrie is always special, along with Kevin Love," James said during a post-drat interview with TNT. "Just for us to have another weekend to bring some of the memories we had when we were all together. Kyrie was available on the draft board. He's one of the best point guards we have in our league. So, it was an easy choice for me." Other reunions are scattered among Team LeBron's roster. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will enjoy an encore of their much publicized All-Star get-together last season. The Thunder guard will also play with his old college teammate, Kevin Love, for the first time since they both represented the Western Conference in the 2012 midseason classic.   Bench Mob. #TeamLebron #NBAAllStar A post shared by @ kevinlove on Jan 25, 2018 at 4:23pm PST Don't forget, too, that Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is making his All-Star debut alongside Westbrook, the man many now think held back the former No. 2 overall pick in Oklahoma City. After putting up his worst numbers since his rookie year while playing alongside Westbrook, Oladipo is enjoying a career year while guiding the upstart Pacers to the middle of the playoff pack. I Never Can Say Goodbye Some teammates are just meant to stay together. Curry and James certainly struggled to separate several dynamic duos, including those from the Timberwolves (Butler/Towns), Pelicans (Davis/Cousins), Wizards (Beal/Wall) and Raptors (Lowry/DeRozan). The NBA teammates not sticking together are those from Golden State and Boston. James managed to chip away at the Warriors' dominant quartet, selecting Kevin Durant for his squad before Curry made sure to keep Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on his own team. Curry also selected Al Horford, presumably at some point after James took Irving. What Have You Done For Me Lately? Most All-Stars already come with a bag full of accomplishments under their belts, and this year is no exception. How they are distributed, however, is interesting to note. Everyone who made the team this year and has won an All-Star Most Valuable Player award in the past is on Team LeBron. Good luck guessing which one will make a push for a repeat at that honor (assuming someone new doesn't beat them to the punch). Meanwhile, the majority of most recent Olympic gold medalists resides on Team Stephen: Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Draymond Green, Kyle Lowry and Klay Thompson. Team LeBron sports three Olympians from that year: Cousins, Durant and Irving. One skill that surely matters on All-Star weekend is simply putting the ball in the bucket. And wouldn't you know it, Team Stephen sports the top three scorers in the league in Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Of course, Team LeBron carries the next four names from that scoring leaders list. It's Too Late to Apologize Some words you can't take back, and it would be difficult to see Russell Westbrook or Damian Lillard doing so after recent events. Oklahoma City's star guard took exception to teammate Paul George not being voted in as an All-Star, proceeding to call out the Warriors for having four players so honored. Then he targeted another player, and though he didn't use names, it seemed pretty clear that he was talking about  Lillard when he referred to "guys complaining about being snubbed so they can get in." Lillard has been extremely vocal on social media about not making the All-Star teams the last two years despite both those seasons marking career years. That was after making the All-Star team in 2014 and 2015. The Blazers guard seemed to pick up on the hint, and he responded directly to his Western Conference counterpart. "I respect Russ a lot, so it was kind of disappointing to see him say that," Lillard said prior to Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. "Because he's played against me, he's played against our team, he knows what I've accomplished. Not just this year, but over my career." Will the point guards clear the air, or will tension linger heading into the game? Also worth monitoring: does James' All-Star selection of Kevin Love mean all is well between the much-maligned forward and his team? Reports surfaced earlier this week that several Cavaliers expressed frustration with Love's recent illness that caused him to miss most of a game and a practice. Perhaps the King's stamp of approval will silence that once and for all. If it doesn't, Charles Barkley will surely continue to defend Love's case......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 26th, 2018