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Playoff disappointments make Cup parade sweeter for Capitals

By Stephen Whyno, Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — Nine early playoff exits paved the way for the Capitals' unexpected Stanley Cup run and made the trip down Constitution Avenue all the more satisfying to the NHL champions and their fans. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom rode the final bus down the mile-long parade route, lifting the Cup to roaring cheers and waving to seas of red in the crowd. Five days after capturing the franchise's first title and the first of any kind by a Washington team in the major four professional sports since 1992, this was their day to soak in winning following so much disappointment. "Because we waited so long, I think it feels even better," Backstrom said. Hundreds of thousands of fans lined Constitution and filled the National Mall on Tuesday to celebrate a long journey fulfilled. One fan held up a sign reading, "Worth the Wait," but before the end of the rally, T.J. Oshie already had the crowd thinking about next season. "There's been a lot of chants," Oshie said. "There's been, "Let's Go Caps," there's been, "We Want the Cup." We've heard in the streets, "We've got the Cup." We've got a new one for you today — "Back-to-back." The serious work of getting geared up for the 2018-19 season begins in the coming days and weeks with decisions on coach Barry Trotz, defenseman John Carlson and other free agents. But for players such as Ovechkin and Backstrom who have been through eliminations at the hands of the Penguins, Rangers, Lightning, Canadiens and Flyers dating to 2008, the partying leading up to the parade isn't close to ending. "It just started," Backstrom said. Much like the Capitals did over the weekend by taking the Cup to local bars and restaurants, the parade was a chance to celebrate with a fan base that had to endure 42 seasons without a Cup. Fans congregated on the National Mall hours before the parade began, filled the steps of the National Archives and lined up 20 deep in some areas to catch a glimpse of players riding more than three dozen buses from 23rd Street to 7th. "Look at this — look at the people that's here" Ovechkin said. "We thought it was going to be crazy, but it's basically nuts. You guys are killing it." Ovechkin, Backstrom, veteran Brooks Orpik, owner Ted Leonsis and team president Dick Patrick took up the most prominent place in the parade on the last bus with the Stanley Cup. Chants of "Ovi! Ovi!" alternated with pleas of "Raise the Cup!" which Ovechkin, Backstrom and Orpik did off and on while sipping from beer bottles. Trotz threw beads from his double-decker bus, but the pending free agent coach saved potentially his most meaningful impact of the day for his speech at the rally. "I know our years of adversity has sort of came to an end," Trotz said. "We did this together and it feels so special. Love this, love the community. We're going to do it again." There's no certainty about Trotz unless he signs a new contract, but the Capitals should have much of their core intact as they try to complete the difficult task of repeating. Before rival Pittsburgh went back-to-back in 2016 and 2017, no team had done it since Detroit in 1997 and 1998. Of course, that didn't stop players from bringing it up to the delight of the crowd that stretched down the Mall almost to the Washington Monument. "I couldn't see the end of people from the stage," winger Tom Wilson said. "It's unbelievable to give back the least we could and just celebrate with them." Beyond the scripted — two high school marching bands, an F-16 flyover, Budweiser Clydesdales and past greats such as Olie Kolzig and Peter Bondra — backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer sprinted around with the D.C. flag, Oshie chugged a beer through his jersey and Ovechkin and fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov dropped F-bombs on stage. Trotz invoked Martin Luther King Jr. by saying, "We had a dream, and we did it." Leonsis quoted John F. Kennedy's "Ask Not" speech. Wilson brought it back to the title by shouting, "Everybody says what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but we brought the Cup home!" By the end of the sun-soaked rally, Capitals players swayed together and sang Queen's "We Are the Champions," a song they've been belting out renditions of with varying sobriety over the past few days. "It's been a long time since we had a championship here in this city," Backstrom said. "To be able to after all these years to bring it, it's great. It's a sports city. There's not another city that deserves a championship more than D.C.".....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 13th, 2018

Ovechkin, Holtby shine in Game 7, Caps beat Lightning 4-0

By Fred Goodall, Associated Press TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Alex Ovechkin lifted the Prince of Wales Trophy, spun around and set it back down on a table. The rest of the Capitals joined him for a team photo after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 on Wednesday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, a victory that sent Washington to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. A decade of playoff frustration is fading fast. "I think Ovie has been on a mission," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "They wanted this game, no question." Ovechkin scored early and Andre Burakovsky added two second-period goals as the Caps continued to shed a label as postseason underachievers. Braden Holtby stopped 29 shots for his second straight shutout and the Lightning, who led the NHL in goals during the regular season, failed to score in the last 159 minutes, 27 seconds of the series — a stretch of nearly eight periods. Ovechkin, who had never advanced beyond the second round, scored 1:02 into the winner-take-all showdown he had described as probably the "biggest game in my life." "The first goal was very important," Ovechkin said. "After that you could see we have all the momentum on our side. Holts was unstoppable today. He was special. Everybody was all in. Everybody was sacrificing their bodies. I think we all deserve the win." To earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Final, where they'll play the Vegas Golden Knights, the Capitals beat the top-seeded Lightning three times on the road, improving to 8-2 away from home this postseason. It's Washington's first Cup Final appearance since 1998, and the first during Ovechkin's 13-year career. "We played a great game," defenseman John Carlson said. "We deserved to win this." Two games after being a healthy scratch for Game 5, Burakovsky became the 17th player to score a goal for Washington in the playoffs this year — four shy of the NHL record — when he beat Andrei Vasilevskiy on a breakaway at 8:59 of the second period. The winger, who played two games in the first round against Columbus before sitting out 10 straight with an upper-body injury, added a breakaway goal to make it 3-0 heading into the last period. Nicklas Backstrom had an empty-netter to complete the rout. "What a game. What an experience. We had a lot of guys pitching in," winger T.J. Oshie said. "The biggest guy of all had to be Holts. He played fantastic, back to back shutouts." Tampa Bay, which rebounded from losing the first two games at home to win three straight for a 3-2 series lead, had plenty of chances. A couple of shots clanged off the post, Yanni Gourde was unable to get his stick on a loose puck in front on an empty net and the game gradually slipped away. Washington was the more physical team in evening the series with a bruising 3-0 victory in Game 6. They played with urgency from the start again Wednesday night and never let up. Tampa Bay's last goal in the series came 33 seconds into the second period of Game 5, which the Lightning went on to win 3-2. "We're here to win as team, no matter who gets the credit," said Holtby, the fifth goalie to deliver a Game 7 shutout to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. "I felt we could have won every game," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We ran into a tough Washington team that was probably feeling the same thing, and once you get this far you've probably done some magical things on the way." It was the 33rd time in league history that a Game 7 was required to determine a Stanley Cup finalist. Home teams are 21-12 in those games. Tampa Bay also played Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final in 2015, when they blanked the New York Rangers, and again two years ago, when they lost 2-1 to Pittsburgh. Both of those deciding games were on the road. The Lightning had never lost a Game 7 at home before Wednesday night. "It's going to take a few days to digest this. It's tough to sit here right now and think of positive things and how it was a pretty great season," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "It doesn't seem that way when you have this group — and we've been to this position before — and you can't find a way to give yourself a chance a win. We thought we had that group. It's just an empty feeling right now." Notes: Ovechkin and Backstrom made their 11th career Game 7 appearance, one shy of Boston's Zdeno Chara for the most among active NHL players. In addition to Chara, only five other players in NHL history have appeared in more Game 7s: Patrick Roy (13), Scott Stevens (13), Glenn Anderson (12), Ken Daneyko (12) and Stephane Yelle (12). ... Evgeny Kuznetsov's assist on Ovechkin's early goal extended his points streak to 10 games. ... Vasilevskiy made 19 saves. The Lightning outshot the Capitals (29-23) for the first time in the series......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2018

MVP Ladder: No topping Harden in award chase

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Stump speeches aren’t necessary. Not when your campaign drives itself on performance alone, when you elevate the conversation with each and every outing, the way James Harden did from the opening tip of this regular season until the final buzzer. So if it seems like Harden has skillfully avoided getting caught up in this reporter-crafted Kia MVP pickles that often drive the rest of our NBA dialogue on a daily basis, it’s by design. Besides, who needs to dive in on the debate when you have unsolicited celebrity endorsements from the likes of Kobe Bryant, who made clear to USA Today Sports that Harden’s time is now. “It’s got to be James,” Bryant said. “I really don’t understand the debate about picking somebody else. I don’t get it. Like, what the hell does this guy have to do? I mean for the last three years, the guy has been absolutely lights out, and now you still want to sit here and debate who should be MVP when he leads the league in scoring (30.4 points per game), his assists numbers (8.8 apg) are off the charts, they have the best record in the league (65-16). “If he doesn’t win MVP this year, what the hell is he supposed to do to win MVP, average 40 [points], 15 [assists] and 15 [rebounds]? I mean, come on now. Enough is enough.” After coming up short twice in the past three seasons, Harden is poised to capture the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. It is something he felt he earned last season, when his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, Russell Westbrook, used a triple-double season to claim the hardware. Stephen Curry won the award in 2015 and 2016, his star rising in concert with the Golden State Warriors' surge from lottery team, to contender to championship-winner in two of the last three seasons. While Curry claimed those awards, Harden won MVP honors in a vote of his peers at the NBPA’s first Players Awards in July 2015. There will be no dispute this time around. There is no other narrative that trumps Harden’s.   No other player's performance rises above what he’s done for the Rockets this season, the first with he and fellow superstar point guard  Chris Paul sharing the leadership load of the league’s best team. Not even four-time Kia MVP LeBron James, who turned in one of the finest seasons of his 15 year career in Cleveland, could catch Harden on the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder or in the minds of most voters. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni coached Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and two-time Kia MVP Steve Nash. Yet it was Harden who received D'Anton's greatest compliment after a win in Portland last month when called Harden the “best offensive player I’ve ever seen.” “He’s a hell of a player, first off,” D’Antoni told USA Today Sports when asked to explain his declaration. “It’s a combination of everything. There are other players who might be better at this, or a little bit better at that. But when you put everything together, and the way he passes, the way he sees teammates, the way he can lob, the way he can fight through a foul. I mean even on an off night, he’s probably getting 30, 40 points, and I mean efficiently. And he doesn’t even have anything going. But he’s so efficient, and he gets other guys involved.” If the strength of Harden’s MVP case this season was just his own individual offensive brilliance, he’d still have a rock-solid case. He did record the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history this season and won the scoring title a season after leading the league in assists. But, as D’Antoni noted, Harden's ability to raise the level of play from teammates like Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and others is what stands out. “I don't think there's a player that's had to create as much as I've had to in these last three years," Harden said in a GQ profile that came out this week. "I don't know if there's a guy in NBA history.” That comment can be interpreted in a number of ways, and it’s sure to spark yet another debate as the conversation continues deep into this postseason about who is most deserving of Kia MVP honors. But we’re done here. “It’s James Harden, no doubt about it,” a Western Conference executive told me when asked if there was any dispute about this season’s most valuable player. “Harden in a landslide.” * * * The top five in the Final Edition of the 2017-18 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: 1. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 2017-18 season stats: 30.4 points, 8.8 assists, 5.4 rebounds Harden declared early on that this was the Rockets’ season. He felt they finally had the pieces to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference standings, and, therefore, the entire league. He served notice on opening night, when he and the Rockets spoiled the Warriors' championship banner and rings celebration at Oracle Arena by claiming a win. Harden’s 27 points, 11 assists and six rebounds was the opening salvo in what turned into the best season in Rockets history. Harden’s ability to blend his point guard responsibilities with his role as the most lethal scorer in the league fueled one brilliant performance after another. As well, Harden also silenced the critics who suggested he and Paul would not be able to play well off of each other. The Rockets enter the postseason with the No. 1 overall seed and with all the confidence needed for a championship run. 2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers Last week: No. 2 2017-18 season stats: 27.5 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds LeBron put the final touches on his outstanding 15th NBA regular season by capturing Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for March/April, the fourth time this season he took those honors (October/November, December and February). In addition to the parade of milestones LeBron reached this season, he also piled up a career-high 18 triple-doubles, led the Cavaliers through a tumultuous year that ended with 50 or more wins for the fourth straight season. He shot better than 54 percent from the floor (.542) and also had his best shooting from beyond the 3-point line (.367) since returning to Cleveland from Miami before the 2014-15 season. The true test of his super powers, though, will be on display in this postseason. The Cavaliers finished as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference but go into the playoffs as the favorite, in the eyes of most, to survive the gauntlet due in large part to LeBron’s work the past seven seasons guiding his teams to The Finals. 3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Last week: No. 3 2017-18 season stats: 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks Davis turned it on when the Pelicans needed it most, after DeMarcus Cousins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. He powered the Pelicans with 50 double-doubles, one triple-double and, when the Pelicans needed grind their way into the postseason as 2017-18 waned, he picked his game up even more. He averaged 29 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, 2.4 assists and 2.2 blocks during the Pelicans’ season-ending five-game win streak that helped them secure the No. 6 seed. That sealed up Davis' second career playoff run and he’s still looking for his first playoff win. His ability to carry the load for the Pelicans the way he did, though, is easily the most impressive part of his season. There was no guarantee the Pelicans would make the playoffs in a rugged Western Conference even with Cousins healthy. To do it without him speaks volumes about the impact Davis had on his team. 4. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Last week: No. 4 2017-18 season stats: 26.9 points, 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds Lillard has done what few thought possible after the Portland team he joined as a rookie was taken apart and rebuilt around him. The catalyst for a Blazers team that finished third in the West, Lillard forced his way onto that short list of names in the best-point-guard-in-the-game discussion. He lacks the championship and/or Kia MVP hardware guys like Curry, Kyrie Irving and Westbrook all have. But his body of work as the face of Portland's franchise makes it difficult to leave him out of the discussion. The Blazers wouldn't have come anywhere close to that No. 3 seed without Lillard going nuclear in February (31.4 points, six assists and nearly five rebounds in 10 games). This has been a transformative year on and off the court for Lillard, who is not only had a career-best season, but also celebrated the birth of his son late last month. 5. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 5 2017-18 season stats: 26.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists Durant followed up his 2017 Finals MVP honors with a steady season, by his lofty standard, but not one that pushed him closer to the top of this list. His understanding of the way the regular season connects to the postseason no doubt played a role in the way he paced himself. That’s not to say that Durant didn't have an outstanding regular season, because he did. But just like James and to an extent his All-Star teammate, Curry, Durant’s seasons are now measured against the high standard he’s set in past ones. He actually averaged more points and assists this season compared to his first with the Warriors. And he set a career-high with 1.8 blocks per game, showing off his improved awareness and effectiveness on defense. With Curry out for the first round of the playoffs due to injury, Durant will get a chance to remind the San Antonio Spurs and the rest of the league just how dangerous he can be with everything on the line. The next five 6. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors 8. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors 9. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks 10. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers And five more: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

Capitals' Ovechkin says Olympic decision out of his hands

em>By Stephen Whyno, Associated Press /em> WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin released a statement Thursday night through the Washington Capitals acknowledging that the ability to represent Russian in the 2018 Olympics has been taken out of his hands. On the eve of the first day of on-ice training camp workouts, Ovechkin said in the statement that while he loves playing for his country, it won't happen because the International Ice Hockey Federation has assured the NHL that players under contract won't be able to play in South Korea. The NHL announced in April it wouldn't be sending players to the Games for the first time since 1994. 'I said every time I was asked since last Olympics that nobody is going to tell me I can't play because my country was going to be allowed to ask me,' Ovechkin said. 'Now the IIHF and NHL say my country is not allowed to ask anybody in the NHL to play and there is nothing to talk about anymore.' The Athletic first reported the IIHF's assurances to the league last week. Ovechkin is set to address reporters after his first official camp practice Friday. Ovechkin began saying a year ago that he was going to the Olympics no matter what. NHL players had participated in the past five Olympics, and Ovechkin played for Russia in the past three. Russia has a long history of using its top players in the Olympics, well before the NHL began participating in Nagano in 1998. The Soviet Union, and then the Unified Team, won eight of 10 Olympic gold medals from 1956-1992. 'I wanted to make this statement so that my words are clear and nobody misunderstands what I am saying,' Ovechkin said. 'The Olympics are in my blood and everybody knows how much I love my country. Ever since I was a kid and all the time I have played in the NHL, NHL players have played in the Olympic Games. We never have to make choice between our team and our country my whole career. I love the Capitals and my teammates here as much as I love my country and I know all the other NHL players feel the same for their teams. We should not have to be in position to make this choice.' In the statement, Ovechkin thanked owner Ted Leonsis for his support. Leonsis had gone on record saying he'd allow Ovechkin and other top players to go to the Olympics if they wanted to, even if it meant missing Capitals games. That won't happen now. 'Our countries are now not allowed to ask us to play in the Olympics,' the six-time NHL goals leader said. 'Me, my teammates and all players who want to go all lose. So do all the fans of hockey with this decision that we are not allowed to be invited. NHL players in the Olympics is good for hockey and good for Olympics. It sucks that will we not be there to play!!' Ovechkin, who turns 32 next week, had 33 goals and 36 assists in 82 regular-season games last season and added five goals and three assists in 13 playoff games. In 12 NHL seasons, all with the Capitals, he has 558 goals and 477 goals in 921 regular-season games and 46 goals and 44 assists in 97 playoff games. 'My focus as it always is this time of year is on my other dream as a kid, to try to win the Stanley Cup,' Ovechkin wrote. 'I am excited training camp has started in Washington and the time for talking is done. We just have to go out and do it and I will try my hardest to help my teammates win like I do every year since I came to the NHL.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 15th, 2017

Jordan s weight reaches farther than court in NC

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CHARLOTTE -- Unlike Mark Cuban and James Dolan, the host of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game was voted in 14 times to participate and played in 13. Quite different from Micky Arison and Glen Taylor, the team owner whose arena and city will be the center of All-Star 2019 averaged 20.2 points in those 13 All-Star appearances, was named MVP three times and posted the first triple-double in the game’s history (1997). And not at all like Steve Ballmer and Joe Lacob, the guy most often credited with making Charlotte All-Star worthy this weekend ignited the annual Slam Dunk Contest with his takeoff from the foul line in 1988. He also regularly irritated former NBA commissioner David Stern into a series of fines for golfing when he should have been sitting through mandatory Friday media sessions. With a level of celebrity as arguably the game’s greatest player ever, morphed now into an off-radar role as owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan remains as famous, as popular and as successful as any or all the active All-Star participants who’ll cavort at the Spectrum Center in the city’s Uptown business district. Ain’t no other NBA owner who can say that. “You think about all these wealthy, successful owners in our league,” said Hornets president Fred Whitfield, “no one knew who any of them were, really, until they bought their team. Everybody in the world knew who Michael Jordan was before he bought his team.” Jordan’s place in the All-Star galaxy in the coming days is reflective of his unique position among those who oversee the NBA’s 29 other franchises. His impact on the team, on its fans, on their city and on the state in returning to his native North Carolina -- he grew up in coastal Wilmington before attending college in Chapel Hill -- to anchor and lend stability to the Hornets will be on full display, even if he’s hard to spot this weekend. It’s all a reminder, too, of the old movie line from a remarkably blessed character, wondering “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” Most don’t dare to imagine playing in an All-Star Game, never mind hosting one as the owner of the local team. “No,” Jordan told some Charlotte reporters Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), coming forward for one of his few appearances of the week. “As a kid growing up here in North Carolina, the first thing [was] playing basketball. And then things evolved from there -- from the University of North Carolina to Chicago. Obviously you know the history from that. “[The] opportunity to represent North Carolina in an All-Star Game from a different seat is truly amazing. It tells the path that I have taken. It gives me great pleasure to give that back to the community. It’s been a long-traveled road.” The celebration of the league’s brightest stars, and the ubiquitous banners and signage devoted to it will make it even harder than usual to visibly spot signs of Jordan’s ownership of the Hornets. For a typical regular season game, you might spy a flag emblazoned with his well-known “Jumpman” logo. Occasionally he’ll watch part of the game, rarely all, from seats at the end of his team’s bench, though he’s as likely to retreat to his suite atop the arena’s lower bowl. An in-game, timeout scoreboard video meant to stoke the crowd includes shots of GM Mitch Kupchak (“Architect of Champions”) and coach James Borrego (“Elite Pedigree”) but ends right about the time you expect some dramatic silhouette of His Airness to appear. It’s as if Jordan is as protective of his brand in running the Hornets as he is in maintaining its exclusivity in the marketplace. Doesn’t matter, though. His fingerprints are all over the franchise, as a basketball team, as a business enterprise and as a member of the community. On court, Jordan trusts his team Jordan’s greatest notoriety as an owner in a basketball setting may have come in December, when he was courtside for a tense game against Detroit. Guard Jeremy Lamb drained a 22-foot jumper with 0.3 seconds left, sending reserves Malik Monk and Bismack Biyombo onto the floor in celebration of what would be a 108-107 home victory. Trouble was, that sliver of time on the clock. Too many men. The Hornets were whistled for a one-shot technical foul and Jordan impulsively smacked Monk lightly, twice, on the back of the head. Any other owner does that, the player’s agent might file a grievance with the players union. Jordan does it and, thanks to his in-the-trenches, in-the-fraternity credibility, it comes across as a goof. “A tap of endearment,” Jordan called it later in a statement. “It was like a big brother and little brother tap. No negative intent. Only love!" Said Monk: “Big, big, big brother. But it was nothing. He was just playing.” The arc of Jordan’s career and his reputation as a stone-cold competitor make it OK if he wants to vent -- or swipe -- when things don’t go the Hornets’ way. Doesn’t matter that Jordan, who will turn 56 on All-Star Sunday, is old enough to be any of his players' dad. He still carries himself like an athlete, and their frame of reference remains, “That’s Mike.” “I’ve seen kids come up through camps,” said Buzz Peterson, Charlotte’s assistant general manager under Kupchak. “You could say Julius Erving, you could say Larry Johnson, Karl Malone, whatever, and the kids’ eyes are like, ‘Who?’ But you say Michael Jordan, they’re gonna know. That’s the separation there.” Peterson is among Jordan’s closest friends -- he beat him out as North Carolina’s prep player of the year in 1981, won an NCAA title with him as a Tar Heels teammate and is described by those who know both as someone who can disagree with the boss while staying comfortably in the inner circle. For Borrego, Charlotte’s first-year coach, interviewing to run Jordan’s team could have been intimidating. “We’re all human beings -- there’s a presence that comes with ‘Michael Jordan’ when he’s around,” Borrego told NBA.com in January. “But it’s healthy. He comes with a competitive spirit that you feel. “Michael was straight with me from Day 1. When I interviewed, he said, ‘I’m going to give you space to do your job. Whatever you need, you come to me. I’ll give you the resources you need.’ He has not tried to interfere one time. I feel his full support. … We’re starting to speak each other’s language, which is pretty healthy for us now.” Jordan keeps the coach apprised of his interactions with players, Borrego said. Other coaches should have such a resource at the ready. Hornets guard and 2019 All-Star starter Kemba Walker probably has benefited most from Jordan’s counsel. They text frequently, a pinch-me arrangement to this day for Walker. “I grew up wearing Jordans, grew up wanting to be like Jordan,” Walker said recently. “So for me to get this opportunity to be on his team means the world to me. He’s the one who believed in me -- I had no idea where I was going to go on draft night and he traded up for me. I’ve always heard the story, he was the one who actually drafted me. So it’s unbelievable. “He’s such a good dude. He understands what it is to be good. His delivery is always good. Only in a positive way, honestly.” Said rookie wing Miles Bridges: “You think there’ll be a lot of pressure having MJ as an owner. I’d seen how he got on his teammates when he played. So I was nervous, thinking if I had a bad game, he’d go at me like, ‘What’re you doing?’ But after meeting him and bonding with him, I feel like he’s the coolest owner out there. I don’t feel any pressure, I feel like he wants the best for us.” Big man Frank Kaminsky typically sits at the end of the bench, which puts him cheek to cheek with Jordan when he’s courtside. “He’s talking about what he’s seeing out on the court. Talking to the refs,” Kaminsky said. “Things other players don’t necessarily see. He still thinks the game. “You see things on the court that he sees. One game, the roll, pocket-pass, skip to the corner was open. He was saying that. We made an adjustment in a timeout, but he saw it a couple plays before that. At the end of that game, we had a big play that was a roll, pocket-pass, into the corner that put the game away. It worked the way he’d seen it.” The Hornets’ struggles during Jordan’s tenure as owner wouldn’t suggest it -- the last time this organization won a playoff series (2002), Jordan still was a player -- but there is a prestige to playing for his team. It’s not unlike being welcomed onto the list of elite athletes who endorse Jordan Brand. “I’m one of the lucky ones who’s in both,” Kaminsky said. “You’re talking about the most iconic player in sports history -- I might be biased because I grew up in Chicago -- but when you have his approval, it means a lot. You have it in the back of your mind that he wants you here.” Head smack or no head smack. Jordan grows as owner, businessman Basketball is a zero-sum game and the NBA is full of stars, even if none shines quite as brightly as Jordan. But business has room for negotiation and compromise, and deals get struck daily that leave both sides happy. There, Jordan has been beyond clutch. Funnel down everything he’s accomplished -- six NBA championships, the league’s highest career scoring average (30.1), five MVP awards, six Finals MVP, 10 scoring titles, nine All-Defensive team nods -- and it invariably ends with clammy hands. The “wow” factor is real and the Hornets are extremely careful about leveraging it. “It gives our organization a certain cachet,” said Whitfield, another longtime friend who goes back more than 35 years with Jordan. “For him to be majority owner, for him to do it in his home state as a local hometown hero, and to be able to come back and not just lead the team and the rebranding from the Bobcats to the Hornets, but his commitment to the community in giving back, it’s something that’s so special.” That’s a lot to unpack. When Jordan initially signed on with the Hornets, he did so as head of its basketball operations in 2006, purchasing a small minority stake in the team. The team was bad, the business was worse and trending down. “Back in ’08-09, the economy was in the tank and I was mandated to ‘displace’ 42 of our executives here on the business side,” Whitfield said. “When Michael bought the team, we were losing $30 million a year.’ Brought back into the league in 2004 two years after the original Hornets (1988-2002) were moved to New Orleans by reviled owner George Shinn, the Charlotte expansion team was owned -- and nicknamed -- by Bob Johnson, a co-founder of the BET television network. The Bobcats excelled only at losing and were 122 games under .500 in their first five seasons. The front office was understaffed, Spectrum Center (then known as Time Warner Cable Arena) needed renovations almost from its inception and there was a real sense that, if a buyer with deep pockets and a commitment to the area weren’t found, the franchise could be moved. In March 2010, Jordan ponied up the cash to become majority owner. But it says something that the deal stands as one of the few, if ever, instances of an NBA franchise being sold at a discount. Johnson paid $300 million for the team; Jordan purchased it for $275 million. Forbes.com recently had Charlotte worth $1.25 billion -- which ranks 28th. And Jordan reportedly has one of the biggest stakes of all NBA owners, with his share estimated at upwards of 90 percent, possibly as high as 98 percent. That’s a lot of success in nine years, despite the basketball team’s mostly middling performance. “With MJ being with the team, you got instant credibility in the marketplace,” said Pete Guelli, the chief operating officer who started on the job about 10 months before Jordan took ownership. “There had been a lot of uncertainty previously, but with his brand and his resources and his commitment, that just dissipated immediately. It was much, much easier to walk in the door and tell people about our vision for this franchise.” Rebranding the team as “Hornets” gave the franchise an existential boost -- it suddenly had a history again, complete with records, archives and true alumni. The arena got a makeover and, per Guelli, is credited for events there that generate an alleged $1 billion in revenues for local businesses. “Fortunately, we’ve been profitable pretty much since [Jordan took over],” Whitfield said. “That’s huge, especially since we haven’t gotten where we want to be on the basketball side.” Closing a new kind of game now It’s hard to overstate Jordan’s added value, not so much as some corporate or financial whiz but as a presence who brought instant motivation and energy to the staff. He imported executives with whom he had developed relationships at Nike or in other ventures and, after taking early criticism for an uncertain level of involvement, has been more diligent in recent years. “I love seeing him sitting at the end of the bench encouraging his players when he attends a game” said Charles F. Bowman, Bank of America’s market president for Charlotte and North Carolina. “And as a business person what impresses me is that he has empowered his management team to focus not only on the court but also on building bridges with the community. “He had a vision for where he was taking the team and a clear plan to get there. He has hired good people, gives them latitude to make decisions and he expects them to perform. Michael is unique -- the best player ever who is determined to keep getting better year over year as an owner.” The NBA has gotten a taste of Jordan’s growth and transition at some pivotal times. This is the legendary voice of the players who, during rancorous negotiations in the 1998 lockout, countered Washington owner Abe Pollin’s gripes about losing money by telling Pollin to sell his team. By the lockout of 2011, Jordan had moved to the other side of the table. But several members of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee saw him not as an opponent or turncoat but as a role model: someone who had transformed himself from employee to employer at the game’s highest level. “The players understood, he had been in their shoes,” Whitfield said. “He’s not forgetting what it meant to be a player. He was in the process of learning what it meant to be an owner.” When the current collective bargaining agreement was negotiated with commissioner Adam Silver and union director Michele Roberts leading the talks, Jordan was an active, powerful voice. He is an influential member of the NBA’s labor relations and competition committees. One Charlotte insider spoke to Jordan’s clout with his fellow owners in getting this weekend’s showcase -- jeopardized by a political squabble in 2017 -- back onto the league’s short list. “There’s no All-Star Game here in Charlotte if it’s not for MJ,” the person said. Last summer in Las Vegas, Silver lauded Jordan for his ability to straddle the basketball and business worlds. “He brings unique credibility to the table when we're having discussions [with the players],” he said, “and even just among the owners, he's able to represent a player point of view… Michael can say, 'Well, look, this is how I looked at it when I was a player, and these are the kind of issues we need to address if we're going to convince players that something is in everyone's interest.’ ” Jordan’s powers of persuasion apparently have been even more impressive in Charlotte and North Carolina. The executives are careful about relying on him too often -- Jordan’s most precious commodity, now that his net worth is estimated to be upwards of $1.7 billion -- is his time. But when they need Mariano Rivera to walk in from the bullpen, he is lights out. “We’ve had corporate sponsors at a golf outing, and he’s been there, maybe stayed at one hole to tell off with everybody,” Whitfield said. Or they’ll invite certain corporate sponsors to one of a few games each season in which “Club 23” is up and running at the Spectrum Center, a private club built for such purposes. They get a chance to visit, talk with and pick Jordan’s brain on the Hornets and much more. “We’ve closed all those deals,” Whitfield said. Then there was the time a local CEO wanted to finalize a sizeable sponsorship deal with the team, and had his No. 2 invite Jordan over to their headquarters for the meetings. Whitfield told the tale: “This guy says, 'You have to come to our office. Our CEO is the man in our business.' But we’re like, 'Nah, typically, CEOs come and meet in Michael’s office or in ‘Club 23’ over here.' He said no, that wasn’t going to work for them. “So Pete Guelli said, 'Let’s make a deal: We’ll take your CEO and drop him off in Beijing. And we’ll drop off Michael in Beijing. Then we’ll see who more people gravitate to. Whoever gets the least people, he has to come to the other guy’s office.'” Point made. Point taken. Said Whitfield: “The guy says, ‘You know what, I got it. We’ll be over 10 o’clock Friday morning.’” A community he calls home The Michael Jordan who once seemed determined to float above cultural and political frays as the most prudent way to serve commerce has not held back in recent years from making his presence felt. He has been more philanthropist than activist and, let’s face it, in times of the most dire need, cash beats talk every time. Charity and investing in the community can be good for business, sure. Making that a priority after Guelli’s arrival and Jordan’s purchase helped the Hornets build bridges with fans and merchants that Shinn and the original franchise’s departure had torched. More than that, though, giving back for Jordan and his team at this point in his life was the right thing to do. And do, and do, and do. The list of charitable and civic efforts Jordan and the Hornets have undertaken is long, with few outside the region or state aware of most of it. Among the highlights: - Donating $2 million to relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Florence, particularly meaningful because of the damage it did in Jordan’s hometown of Wilmington. - Dedicated $7 million in partnership with Novant Health to fund two Michael Jordan Family Clinics, set to open in Charlotte in 2020. - Serving as Make-A-Wish’s Chief Wish Ambassador since 2008, while donating more than $5 million to the organization. His relationship with Make-A-Wish began more than 30 years ago. - Contributing $5 million as a founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. - Addressing the issue of police shootings and community policing in 2016 by donating $1 million each to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. After the hurricane in September devastated so many homes and businesses in and near Jordan’s roots, he wanted to do more than to stroke a fat check. In a meeting covered by The Associated Press, he met with Stephanie Parker and her family, including four young children, after they lost their apartment in two feet of flooding. A call from the director of the Cape Fear chapter of the Red Cross brought them together. The meeting took place at a Lowe’s home improvement store. “I look around the corner, and it’s Michael Jordan. ‘Oh my God!’" Parker said. “I look at my kids, ‘It’s Michael Jordan!’ I’m not going to lie, some tears came in my eyes, because the first thing that went through my mind was when I was younger, his last game when he was on the Chicago Bulls team, and that flashback just came right in my mind.” Afterward, Jordan was coaxed by the Charlotte Observer to talk about why that disaster resonated so deeply for him. “You gotta take care of home,” he said. “Wilmington truly is my home. Kept thinking about all those places I grew up going to … You don’t want to see any of that anywhere, but when it’s home, that’s tough to swallow.” There’s basketball, there’s business and then there’s real life, which sometimes intrudes in the most desperate ways. “We didn’t know how many people in our community were hungry,” Whitfield said. “There are people in dire need, and it’s special to have that hometown hero have in his heart that ‘This is where I can help.’ “It gives not only him as a person but our organization a platform to really speak out. That commitment is what has made him a special owner, and why he’s even more beloved in our community.” Winning title No. 7 drives Jordan now To date, Jordan’s greatest achievements have come elsewhere, at least since his baseline shot as a freshman propelled North Carolina to the 1982 NCAA championship. Those Bulls championships, the “Dream Team” magnificence, his partnership with that sneaker company in Beaverton, Ore., his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction, shooting “Space Jam,” all of it -- his legacy has been crafted with others, for others, mostly far from home. (For the record, Jordan, his wife Yvette and their two daughters own a mansion outside Charlotte and an estate in south Florida). “Look, this has always been home for him,” Whitfield said. “Even though he was drafted by Chicago, WGN became a very popular station. And he just continued to elevate, so people in this state were proud to say, even though he’s a Bull, we love him. When the Bulls would come here and play at the old Coliseum, these fans who were avid Hornets fans were all pulling for Michael Jordan. “He’d score, they’d cheer loudly. The Hornets would score, they’d cheer loudly. North Carolina always felt like he was their native son who went off and achieved greatness.” Coming back first to head the franchise’s basketball operations and then as owner, Jordan’s role -- in light of the modest results on the court -- has been custodial. Yes, the club’s improved financial stability is important. But for this driven winner and NBA owner unlike all others, custodial isn’t going to cut it for long. “He did an interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine a while back,” Peterson said, “and the question was asked, ‘What would you like to do?’ And he said, ‘Win a seventh championship. Win as an owner.’ So for me, every day, I’m thinking, here’s a close friend and you want to make your friends happy, right? So each day I think, do the best you can to reach this goal for him.” Said Hornets wing Nicolas Batum: “I understand. He wants to win. He wants to compete since he was born.” It hasn’t been for lack of trying, although Jordan has made sure to keep fiscal responsibility high on every agenda. The team’s payroll for 2018-19 is approximately $122.3 million, which ranks near the middle of the NBA pack. “That Michael Jordan is one cheap dude,” said an impassioned cab driver on a recent airport run. “He’s only going to spend so much and the players they get shows it.” The Hornets never have spent into the league’s luxury-tax, and if Walker is retained when he hits free agency this summer, he’ll likely become the first Charlotte player to sign a full maximum-salary contract (though the five-year, $120 million deal Batum landed in 2016 came awfully close). Injuries and dubious moves have taken a toll, a situation that Kupchak, Borrego and their staffs have been tasked with fixing. Jordan, by all accounts, is engaged yet patient, with a playoff berth and potentially a record above .500 within reach. “I’m sure he feels like,” Whitfield said, “if he were still 30 years old and could lace ‘em up and get out there, he’d help us get over the hump. I think he would cherish it as much or more than the first six. Because I think he realizes how hard it is to get it done. “But it doesn’t bother us if the fans see his frustration sitting next to our bench. It’s important to us that they see he’s not only invested, he’s vested in what our team is trying to do. They can relate to him because they’re feeling that same frustration.” Jordan is theirs again and that’s what matters. For basketball, for business, for community and in time, just maybe, in championship. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 16th, 2019

I believe we would be in the Final Four -- Okumu

The University of the Philippines showed what it could do during the pre-season after collecting titles in the Premier Volleyball League and the Philippine Superliga. It is but natural for Lady Maroons fans to expect more from the Godfrey Okumu-mentored squad come UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball tournament. Their pre-season romp, according to Okumu, is a morale boost, but at the same time it created pressure for his wards to live up to expectations. “The excitement is there but also the stress, the pressure. We cannot count that out,” said Okumu, who has done wonders to the squad in just his second year as mentor. “The fans are excited, we are excited, the players are excited as well because most of them believe that it's a time for them to show themselves to the UAAP community.” Okumu’s first year with the squad was a period of adjustment and the Lady Maroons struggled to adapt to the new system and ended up at fifth to sixth spot tied with Adamson University, tallying six wins in 14 games. For the second straight year UP missed the Final Four.     “The last season was quite challenging, Season 80. I barely had enough time to prepare the team the way I wanted,” he said. During the offseason, the Lady Maroons were able to fully grasp Okumu’s system and it paid dividends.       UP made history by capturing the PVL Collegiate Conference award, the Diliman-based team’s first major women’s volleyball crown since winning it all in UAAP Season 45 back in 1982, despite playing without injured spiker Tots Carlos. The Lady Maroons followed it up with another championship run in the PSL Collegiate Grand Slam without Isa Molde, who was rested following her stint in the UAAP beach volleyball tournament. UP’s PSL win also earned them an all-expense paid training camp in Thailand, where they got a chance to play against club team Supreme Chonburi led by Thai national team stars Pleumjit Thinkaow and Wilavan Apinyapong.   “They never had a pre-season like this. Playing together as a team. This was a good opportunity for them to test themselves. They were tested well and they've land their position but this were just preseason tournament,” said Okumu. But for Okumu, the real battle will start come February 16 in the UAAP wars. “I expect them to give their best, I expect them to play like this is their last tournament of their lives,” said the mentor, who will parade a battle-tested core led by Molde, Carlos and graduating setter Ayel Estranero. “That's what I say every time they play, ‘Make it look like it's your last. Don't play thinking that oh we still have another game. Don't serve that ball thinking that oh I still have another serve to six rotations. Always make it look like it's your last so give it your best everything you do and also have disciplining, know your court, respect your opponents and respect the game that you're playing and you'll get your returns.’” Also back in the fold are veterans Marist Layug, Justine Dorog, Jessma Ramos and Marian Buitre, giving UP a mature and experienced core.     “What I expect is for them to go hard, they came from far, some of them four years ago, some of them five, like Ayel, she's coming, five years, playing and training to win. I think some of them in their first years that was when they were in the Final Four,” said Okumu. “Last season they thought they were gonna be in the Final Four but it was bad luck that that we didn't make it. I think this time we should start strong, and finish strong.” With the Lady Maroons pre-season showing, Okumu is confident that his team will make it to the Final Four this time and even beyond if they stick to their game plan, focus and work hard to achieve their goals. “This season, 81, I think I believe we would be in the Final Four based on how we played. That is my strong belief,” he said. “Like every other team, we have a chance of winning like all the strong teams. We have a chance and we wanna go out there and take that chance because as I said before, it's not gonna be easy.” “We have to go there hard, nobody is gonna give it to us. We have to go out and take it so that's what we are trying to do. Go out there and take it because everybody else is trying to take the same so we tread carefully, very politely, and with a lot of discipline towards our goal,” Okumu added. “As I said before, it's not gonna be easy because everybody wants the same thing.”   ---   Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 11th, 2019

Apinan leads balanced attack in Makati’s 12th straight victory

Makati Super Crunch rolled to a 12th straight victory at the expense of Navotas Clutch, 96-87, on Wednesday night, even as Quezon City Capitals boosted their playoff hopes in the MPBL Datu Cup at Navotas Sports Complex.   Six players, led by former Jose Rizal U star Jeckster Apinan with 20 points, finished in twin digits as the Super Crunch put on a clinic on both ends of the floor to seize second spot in the North division with an 18-4 card.   Joseph Sedurifa played his best game for Makati, tallying 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds, while Ced Ablaza, John Rey Villanueva, Mark Isip and Rudy Lingganay also dished out solid numbers for coach Cholo Villanueva. ...Keep on reading: Apinan leads balanced attack in Makati’s 12th straight victory.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsFeb 7th, 2019

PBA: Norman Black jokes re brownout: 'I m sure Meralco had nothing to do [with it]'

ANTIPOLO CITY -- Meralco Bolts head coach Norman Black did not find the 15-minute delay in their game between his side and the NLEX Road Warriors funny in any way. Both squads were in the midst of a hotly-contested game with Yeng Guiao's squad on top, 81-78, with 2:57 left. However, in a cruel twist of irony, the lights at the Ynares Center went out, sending the crowd in a frenzy, chanting another team that was scheduled to play next. The lights just went out here at the Ynares Center! #PBA2019 • @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/7dfDHoz8YE — Philip Martin Matel (@philipptionary) February 2, 2019 After the lights had slowly come back, illuminating the previously-darkened gym, the action resumed, but the Bolts ultimately fell short, 87-83, after Ranidel de Ocampo's potentially game-tying attempt got stuffed by Poy Erram. "Tough game. Tough loss. Had our chances in the end but we couldn't make the shots when it counted. I thought the last play with Ranidel, I thought he was open for a moment then he took too long to shoot the ball and Erram blocked it," Black said. When asked if the unfortunate power outage had affected the teams in any way, Black was quick to dispel any connection with the incident. "Having a brown out is never good. But it doesn't really benefit or hurt either team in a sense that we have to both deal with. Certainly can't use it as any type of excuse. We had our chances. So many easy shots that we missed. I could have put us up, kept us up two, four points," Black explained. Now that they are stuck with a 2-3 record, the amiable mentor knows that they can still salvage a playoff run, and hopes to learn more from crumbling down the stretch multiple times. They had already lost a nail-biter to Phoenix, and now to NLEX, but Black knows they have to draw the line when the going gets tough for his boys. "Coming close is not good enough. We certainly don't feel better because you played a close game. We had our chances tonight. We didn't make the shots, they made theirs." He also added that the spirit in the locker room is still fine, since a positive attitude usually nets more chances of winning for a team such as theirs. But when asked if he found it ironic or funny that a team sponsored by Mega Manila's power supplier, here's how the long-time veteran mentor reacted. "I'm sure Meralco had nothing to do with the brownout. It's definitely not funny. We lost. If we had won, it would have definitely been funny. But we lost. I don't think Meralco had to do anything with the brownout," quipped Black.   __   Follow this writer on Twitter, @philipptionary......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 2nd, 2019

Gilmore has quietly made major noise in Pats Super Bowl run

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — In two years, Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower still has never heard Stephon Gilmore yell. Not in practice. Not in a game. Not ever. "He's stays quiet, it's not just because y'all are in here," Hightower said with a chuckle this week. "He doesn't talk. He's a mute." Gilmore's also — silently — assumed the role of lockdown cornerback for New England as it prepares to face two of the NFL's top two receivers in its Super Bowl matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. Being tasked to guard an opponents' top receiver won't be anything new for Gilmore, who is in his second season with the Patriots after leaving Buffalo and signing a five-year, $65 million free agent deal in 2017. There were some shortcomings this season. Notably when New England's secondary struggled in the second half of its narrow regular-season victory over Kansas City, allowing Tyreek Hill to catch three touchdown passes. But more times than not, Gilmore has lived up to the challenge. He combined with J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen to limit Hill to one catch and no touchdowns in the Patriots' AFC championship game win over the Chiefs. And he's only allowed two catches on the 10 passes thrown in his direction during the postseason. Gilmore had a career-high 20 passes defensed during the regular season, the second most in the NFL behind Chicago's Kyle Fuller (21). His previous high was 18 with Buffalo in 2015. He's also had two or more passes defensed in four of his past five playoff games, including his first career playoff interception against the Chargers in the divisional round. "I kind of let my game do the talking," Gilmore said. "I try to play my game regardless of who I'm going against. Some people can handle it, some people can't." It helped the 28-year-old earn All-Pro honors for the first time in his career, becoming just the fourth Patriots cornerback to be named to the first team. He joins Ty Law (1998, 2003), Asante Samuel (2007) and Darrelle Revis (2014). But for a guy who tries to maintain a low profile, it's not something he's trying to put a lot of stock in right now. "That's a big accomplishment. But the one thing I wanted was a Super Bowl ring and I'm gonna try to do whatever it takes to get that done," he said. Last season Gilmore's contract was a conversation topic in New England with Malcolm Butler — star of the Patriots' Super Bowl win over Seattle in the 2014 season — not being offered the contract extension he was looking for from the Patriots. Gilmore started slowly in 2017 and appeared in only 13 games, missing two starts because of a concussion. He finished with two interceptions, but had only nine passes defensed. Butler signed with Tennessee in free agency in the offseason, making Gilmore the top cornerback in the Patriots secondary. Gilmore said he entered training camp focused on improvement. "To me it doesn't really matter what happened in the past. You just gotta learn from it and get better," he said. The Patriots will need someone to step up on Sunday, with the Rams trotting out two 1,200-yard receivers in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, who was traded by New England to Los Angeles last summer. Gilmore's practice battles with Cooks are fresh in his mind and he's also played with Woods in Buffalo. The practice field has been Gilmore's sanctuary this season, teammate and fellow cornerback Jason McCourty said. "He doesn't even let guys catch the ball in walkthroughs. That's kind of his mindset and his demeanor," McCourty said. "He goes out there, he takes the field and his one job is to shut whoever he's guarding down and that's something that he's done on a week-in, week-out basis for us this season." Hightower said Gilmore's work ethic is contagious across the defense. "There will be days when you want to be lackadaisical and you might not want to push yourself. Then you see Steph running from one hash to the other hash guarding a guy on a route, pushing his leverage," Hightower said. "When you see a guy work like that day in and day out, you can't help but push yourself with whatever you're going through." With a second consecutive shot at a Super Bowl ring, Gilmore said he'll be drawing on everything he's learned over the past two seasons. "I've learned a lot about myself just trying to be consistent," Gilmore said. "Just really trusting my teammates. I've learned a lot of football. I'm smarter than I was last year, just from coaches putting me in the best position to make plays. "Now I'm the Super Bowl in position to finish everything off.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 1st, 2019

Davis to be traded 'on our terms and our timeline' - Pelicans

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans. Yet the Pelicans assert Davis won’t be going anywhere until they get a deal they want. The five-time All-Star has told the Pelicans that he wants to be traded to a championship-contending team and will not sign an extension with New Orleans, agent Rich Paul told The Associated Press on Monday. ESPN first reported Davis’ demand to be traded to a contender. It is a move that will resonate around the league, one that will have most — if not all — teams trying to see how they can put together a package good enough for the Pelicans to send Davis their way. “We will do this on our terms and our timeline,” the Pelicans said in a written statement released Monday afternoon (Tuesday, PHL time), adding that they will only accept a deal that “makes the most sense for our team and it will not be dictated by those outside of our organization.” The statement also said the Pelicans have asked the NBA to “strictly enforce” any tampering rules associated with any such transaction. Davis is having the best season of his career, averaging 29.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game. He’ll almost certainly become a six-time All-Star later this week when the NBA announces the full rosters for this year’s game that will be played Feb. 17 (Feb. 18, PHL time) in Charlotte. Now it’s unclear if Davis will be there as a member of the Pelicans or not. The trade deadline is Feb. 7 (Feb. 8, PHL time). Davis was at the Pelicans’ training headquarters Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), wearing team gear, working out and getting treatment on the sprained left index finger that has sidelined him four games. He declined through a team spokesman to speak with reporters, but coach Alvin Gentry said after practice that the team understands that Davis’ decision is “part of the business.” “He plans on playing out the season,” Gentry said. “A.D. is a professional guy and he’s going to play as hard as he can once he gets well and we’re going to do the best we can to try put our team in position to win games.” Guard Jrue Holiday said Davis has been “like a brother” to him and is “90 percent” of the reason the combo guard decided two summers ago to sign a five-year, $126 million contract to remain in New Orleans. “It’s the business of basketball,” Holiday said, recalling his own trade from Philadelphia to New Orleans in 2013. Holiday said “it felt like everything was close” in Philadelphia, “and all of a sudden, everybody’s gone. ... I feel like you kind of have to be able to roll with the punches, be able to adapt and from there play as hard as you can.” Holiday said attracting players to a relatively small market like New Orleans when a player of Davis’ caliber wants out “can definitely be hard ... but I feel like people know our style, the way we play and if they want to be a part of that then they’ll come.” The Pelicans next play Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at Houston. In Indianapolis, where Golden State was playing the Pacers on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), the Warriors’ Kevin Durant supported Davis’ trade demand. “It’s not like the president is shutting down the government. It’s just basketball,” Durant said. “As players, we want guys to do exactly what they want to do in this league. They have a short amount of time. So why not do what you want?” Davis’ future has long been in question. He’s an elite superstar on a team that hasn’t gotten past the second round of the playoffs since he’s been in New Orleans — and in four of his first six full seasons, the Pelicans didn’t qualify for the postseason at all. They entered Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) 13th in the Western Conference standings, six games out of the final playoff spot with 32 games remaining. His telling New Orleans that he wants out is the latest power move by a star player who wants to get traded, following a path now similar to what Kawhi Leonard did when he wanted to be traded by San Antonio and what Paul George did when he decided it was time to move on from Indiana. Telling the Pelicans that he won’t re-sign with them provides a blunt message: Move me, or lose me for nothing. But New Orleans, which controls Davis’ contract through the 2019-20 season, had been steadfast for months, saying it had said they had no desire to move their best player, who is in line to sign a $240 million, five-year extension in 2020. Trade chatter has ramped up this season, especially after Los Angeles Lakers All-Star LeBron James — who is represented by Paul, just as Davis is — included the New Orleans star on a list of players that he would love to play with. James’ comments were construed in some circles as campaigning for Davis. Boston would almost certainly be a place that makes sense; the Celtics are a contender and have more than enough assets to make a good deal for New Orleans. But the Celtics cannot trade for Davis under NBA rules until July 1, unless they also trade away Kyrie Irving — which likely won’t happen. Irving is a factor because of what’s known as the Rose Rule, the one that says NBA teams cannot trade for more than one player who has signed an extension. The Celtics could sign Irving in July and then trade for Davis. But until then, unless they move Irving, Davis won’t be in Boston. That would point to the Lakers as another possible destination for a trade. The Lakers, right now, aren’t necessarily a contender. But they have James, which probably means they’re attractive to Davis as well. James shrugged off the notion he did anything illicit, saying it’s just common sense that he would like to play with elite players like Davis. “Come on, guys,” James told reporters last month. “It’s not rocket science.” A year ago at this time, the Pelicans had perhaps the most dominant frontcourt in the NBA with Davis lining up with DeMarcus Cousins. Then Cousins tore his Achilles, and wound up signing this past summer with Golden State. The Pelicans responded by opening the season with a surprisingly lopsided victory at Houston and started 4-0 before a series of injuries appeared to undermine them. “When we’ve had our team together that we thought we were going to have, we’re 7-3 — and that tells you that we’ve only had our team together for 10 games,” Gentry asserted. “From there, you can speculate whatever you like to. ... We were excited about the team we started the season with.” It has been an interesting few days for New Orleans sports fans. Saints fans are still reeling from a non-call for pass interference last week that played a major role in their team losing the NFC championship game to the Los Angeles Rams and being denied a Super Bowl berth.. And now, the news only gets worse with Davis declaring he wants out. ___ AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 28th, 2019

NATO says no progress in Russia talks on arms treaty

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Senior NATO and Russian officials failed to make a breakthrough Friday, January 25, in talks on saving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, raising the specter of a renewed arms race in Europe. Western capitals allege that Russia's latest generation of medium-range missiles breach the terms of the Cold ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 26th, 2019

Fil-Am Remy Martin drops double-double, insane dunk in Arizona State win

Filipino-American point guard Remy Martin dropped 15 points, a career-high 11 assists, and punctuated his performance with a sensational slam dunk to help Arizona State defeat UCLA, 84-73 Friday afternoon (Manila time) at Pauley Pavilion. The sophomore playmaker, who was back as a starter, put a premium on distributing the ball in the earlygoings, tallying eight dimes in the first half alone, before dropping 13 of his 15 markers in the second half to lead the Sun Devils to their third straight victory. The 5-foot-11 point guard also delivered a contested rim-rattling slam to make the victory even sweeter. In @SunDevilHoops' win over UCLA, Remy Martin had: 1️⃣5️⃣ points 1️⃣1️⃣ assists 1️⃣ insane dunk pic.twitter.com/CbcFQHoLBy — Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) January 25, 2019 Arizona State rookie Luguentz Dort dropped 16 points, while senior forward Zylan Cheatham had just 9 markers, but brought down 20 rebounds to backstop Martin. With the win, the Sun Devils improve to a 14-5 win-loss card, and a 5-2 record in the Pac-12 Conference. Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes led the way with 15 points apiece for the Bruins, who have lost their third straight game......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 25th, 2019

Kuyas down Supremos; Strikers topple Capitals

The Bulacan Kuyas quashed the Caloocan Supremos’ repeated rallies to prevail, 86-82, Thursday night and bolster their playoff drive in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 25th, 2019

EYES ON YOU, KID: UAAP 81 Jrs. players to watch

The first round of the UAAP 81 Juniors Basketball Tournament is over and done with. And we can’t wait for the second round to get started just so we could get even more glimpses of the future of Philippine basketball courtesy of these players: KAI SOTTO – Ateneo de Manila High School ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 25.3 points, 62.1 shooting, 12.7 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, 2.7 assists For the first time in his three years in Ateneo, Kai Sotto is, bar none, the most dominant force in the UAAP. In his first year, he took a backseat to Juan Gomez de Liano and SJ Belangel then as a sophomore, he was overtaken by CJ Cansino. Now, however, there is no doubt that the 7-foot-1, 16-year-old is the best player in the league – tops in scoring, rebounding, and blocking. And for good measure, just as he is a sure shot inside the paint, he also has the soft touch to make jumpers. Don’t send him to the line either as he makes good on 70.8 percent of his shots from there. Yes, Sotto is an end-to-end force that nobody could match not only in the UAAP, but in all of high school. RJ ABARRIENTOS – Far Eastern University-Diliman ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.4 points, 5.0 assists, 4.1 rebounds RJ Abarrientos had already committed to FEU’s Seniors squad, but later backtracked to use up his last year of eligibility in the UAAP Juniors. Safe to say, FEU-Diliman only welcomed him back with open arms and then proceeded to provide him the stage to shine the brightest he has ever been. A complementary player to the likes of Kenji Roman and L-Jay Gonzales before him, the nephew of Philippine basketball legend Johnny now runs the show for the Baby Tamaraws to the tune of a scoring clip and an assist total both third-best in the league. And even as he is now the primary playmaker for the green and gold, Abarrientos remains a dead shot as the league’s top marksman from three. All in all, the 5-foot-11 stocky guard is the most college-ready player in high school (of course, we’re not counting Kai Sotto who’s not only looks like he's college-ready, but pro-ready as well). CARL TAMAYO – Nazareth School of National University ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 11.5 points, 54.3 percent shooting, 9.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks Due to various injuries, Carl Tamayo has only seen action in four out of seven games NU has played thus far in the tournament. Each and every time he’s on the court, however, the 6-foot-7 only delivers the goods on offense as a paint presence as well as a threat from the perimeter. At the other end, Tamayo also stands strong inside and outside and is actually third-best in terms of blocks. The Cebuano has all the tools to go toe-to-toe with Kai Sotto, but will need to work on his strength and conditioning so that he may leave the injury bug that has been biting him far behind. MARK NONOY – University of Sto. Tomas ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 18.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.7 steals UST looked like it had hit the jackpot in unearthing CJ Cansino and then unveiling him as a dominant force in Season 80. Only, the Tiger Cubs look like they have hit the jackpot again in discovering Mark Nonoy out of Negros Occidental and then developing him into their new all-around shining star in Season 81. In just his first game in the UAAP Juniors, Nonoy dropped 31 points. Just two games later, he tallied a triple-double of 17 points, 16 rebounds, and 12 assists. Now, he is second-best in points and assists and third-best in steals in all of the league. More importantly, with their 5-foot-8 playmaker fronting the effort, UST has stayed in the conversation of playoff hopefuls in the ongoing season. GERRY ABADIANO – Nazareth School of National University ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 13.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists Nothing about Gerry Abadiano’s game will jump out at anybody. In fact, nobody will be able to find him in the top five of any statistical category. In the same light, however, he also does not have any weaknesses that will jump out at anybody. The 5-foot-9 lead guard just does whatever his team needs from him and he does it well. That is exactly why he has become to be heart and soul of a Bullpup side with championship aspirations. More than that, Abadiano’s biggest contribution will not be seen in any stat sheet as he has turned out to be the leader that the blue and gold deserves. JOEM SABANDAL – Adamson High School ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals Joem Sabandal can make difficult shots with the best of them – whether that be willing a layup through defenders or willing a jumper in the face of a contest. That ability has thrust him into the role of being the main man for upstart Adamson and into the recognition as the fifth-best scorer in the UAAP Juniors. Make no mistake, however, the 5-foot-11 guard is not a score-first, second, and third player as he also contributes in the rebounds, assists, and steals departments for the Baby Falcons. Just like any young player, shot selection is a point for improvement for Sabandal, but the fact of the matter is, he’s already well on his way into being a dynamic scorer. TERRENCE FORTEA – Nazareth School of National University ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists Looks like all Terrences have a scorer’s mentality as NU’s Fortea wants to get buckets just as much as San Miguel’s Romeo. The good news for the Bullpups is that Terrence Romeo is just one of the hopeful trajectories 18-year-old Terrence Fortea’s career can take. Like Romeo, Fortea is a sniper from deep (second-most triple total with 20) and an even better shot from the line (best free throw clip at 82.6 percent). He also has that handy floater that can frustrate defenses that close out on him. Best of all, though, the 5-foot-10 Batang Gilas stalwart is still learning the ropes on being more of a facilitator. And when he masters that, he may very well exceed his namesake. AP MANLAPAZ – Adamson High School ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 10.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals While Joem Sabandal is Adamson’s go-to-guy, it’s actually little-known teammate AP Manlapaz who is in the top five of the MVP race. And with a closer look, there’s every reason for him to be there as he, put simply, stuffs the stat sheet for the Baby Falcons – averaging a points-rebounds double-double to go along with marks from assists, blocks, and steals. Safe to say, long-limbed forward Manlapaz has been anonymous before the season, but without a doubt, will only keep making noise on both ends. BISMARCK LINA – University of Sto. Tomas ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 11.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist Bismarck Lina is one of only three players to be averaging a double-double in the UAAP Juniors. As their man in the middle, the cousin of school legend Kevin Ferrer sees to it that UST does not get bullied in the interior as whether it be offense or defense, he is a threat at the rim. Most of all, the 6-foot-6 Lina, the second-best rebounder in the league, is always at the right place, at the right time to complete defensive stops or to clean up a teammates’ miss with a rebound. JORDI GOMEZ DE LIAÑO – University of the Philippines Integrated School ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 assist Jordi is the best-shooting Gomez de Liano – or so he says. Of course, numbers do back him up as at just 15-years-old, he already has the third-best triple total in all of the UAAP Juniors. At the same time, however, the younger brother of Javi and Juan has a long ways to go as while he already stands at 6-foot-5, he is also reed thin and can get muscled through by anybody and everybody. More than that, his team is winless in the season. Nonetheless, it’s good to know that both the shooting and the confidence, both GDL trademarks, are already there – and it’s just a matter of time before Jordi grows into his body. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2019

PBA 43 Review: Suspended surge at NLEX

The PBA's 43rd season was a loooooong one. Seriously, it started December of 2017 and it ended December of 2018. That's 12 months of almost non-stop basketball. But with the current PBA season finally drawing to a close, it's time we look back at how each team fared in 2018. Today, we take on the NLEX Road Warriors.   SUSPENDED SURGE After a problematic first season under new head coach Yeng Guiao, NLEX hit the jackpot in the 2017 PBA Draft. Armed with the no. 2 pick, the Road Warriors made the obvious choice and took guard Kiefer Ravena, arguably the most PBA ready prospect to make the jump in forever. He was PBA ready alright. Kief wasted little time in helping NLEX turn things around. With Ravena at the lead, the Road Warriors had their best tournament in the PBA so far and made the semifinals of the Philippine Cup, pushing the Magnolia Hotshots to six games. That’s pretty much the best part of NLEX’s season though. The Road Warriors failed to have a strong finish in the semis series against the Hotshots after Kevin Alas tore his ACL early in Game 5. With Alas out, NLEX’s emerging K&K backcourt tandem was decimated. And after Ravena’s shock suspension from FIBA, the K&K, and in essence NLEX’s whole season, was lost. Ravena was slapped with an 18-month ban by FIBA for doping. Ravena took a protein drink with prohibited ingredients prior Gilas Pilipinas’ home win over Japan in the 2019 FIBA Asia Qualifiers in February. The suspension covers all basketball activities, including the PBA. With that development, NLEX naturally spiraled out of control in the Commissioner’s Cup, leading to an early elimination. The Road Warriors did well enough in the Asia League Summer Super 8 in Macau, finishing in the semifinals, to help set up a strong run in the Governors’ Cup. But with most of its key pieces gone, NLEX flamed out in the quarterfinals and a season that started with so much promise ended in bitter defeat. Patience will be a virtue for NLEX moving forward, but once the Road Warriors finally feature a complete lineup, the team’s suspended surge can hopefully continue in 2019 and beyond.   NLEX ROAD WARRIORS in the 2017-2018 PBA Season Philippine Cup: 6-5 (6th place) Commissioner’s Cup: 2-9 (11th place) Governors’ Cup: 5-6 (8th place) Overall: 13 wins and 20 losses. Two playoff appearances, 1 Semifinals.   POST DRAFT NOTE: NLEX used two first round picks to select Paul Desiderio and Abu Tratter. Both rookies didn’t play one game for the Road Warriors. NLEX used the two rookies as trade bait and eventually nabbed center Poy Erram from Blackwater. Erram certainly gives the Road Warriors a top center and he should be instrumental in NLEX as the team waits to feature a complete lineup with the K&K tandem.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2019

Steelers edge Bengals 16-13 but miss out on AFC North title

By Will Graves, Associated Press PITTSBURGH (AP) — The win they needed but at times didn't act like they particularly wanted finally secured, the Pittsburgh Steelers lingered on the Heinz Field turf after a sluggish 16-13 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday and turned their eyes to the massive videoboard in the south end zone. A season filled with promise six weeks ago before things came undone boiled down to something entirely out of Pittsburgh's control: whether Cleveland could pull off a stunning rally in Baltimore. As a decidedly out-of-place chant of "Let's Go Browns" reverberated and Cleveland marched into Ravens' territory, a third straight AFC North for the Steelers seemed possible. Then Cleveland rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield threw a late pick. The Ravens held on. Optimism evaporated. Replaced by a mix of harsh reality and a hint of wistfulness. The Steelers (9-6-1) firmly believe they would be a tough out in the playoffs. Barring the slim hope of a tie between Indianapolis and Tennessee on Sunday night, Pittsburgh won't get the chance. The team that appeared assured of a fifth consecutive playoff berth following a six-game midseason winning streak instead will miss the postseason for the first time since 2013. "It just sucks," Steelers guard David DeCastro said. "How hard we work, how much effort we put in. To go from 7-2-1 to where we are now is heartbreaking." And avoidable. Yet four losses in five games — all of which the Steelers led at some point in the second half — forced them to enter Week 17 needing to beat the injury ravaged Bengals and a hope surging Cleveland could upset the Ravens on the road. "It's just tough," said Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who ran for 64 yards in his return to the lineup after missing three games with a sprained left ankle. "We're relying on somebody else to advance." The team that stressed it wouldn't spend all afternoon scoreboard watching certainly looked distracted as Cincinnati took a 10-3 halftime lead. Pittsburgh eventually rallied behind quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — who threw for 287 yards and a touchdown despite missing injured star receiver Antonio Brown to finish with a career-best and NFL-high 5,129 yards passing — and new kicker Matt McCrane booted three field goals, the last a 35-yarder with 1:56 to go that put the Steelers ahead to stay. Pittsburgh held on when Cincinnati backup quarterback Jeff Driskel's fourth-down pass intended for Josh Malone fell incomplete with 1:08 to go. Roethlisberger then took a pair of knees to run out the clock, setting the stage for the bizarre sight of the Steelers and thousands of black-and-gold clad fans cheering on the Browns. For a few anxious minutes, the dominoes appeared to be falling into place. When they didn't, Pittsburgh didn't place blame on Cleveland but countless missed opportunities. "It just makes me mad that as a leader of this group, we put ourselves in this situation like this, looking for others to do our job," Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said. "Cleveland played a heck of a game ... it's frustrating and as a leader of this group it's just unacceptable." Roethlisberger vowed to return for a 16th season. He turns 37 in March and doesn't think Pittsburgh's window is closing as long as the offensive line in front of him remains intact. "I still feel good," he said. "We keep that line together, that'll give us a good fighting chance." MARVIN'S MURKY FUTURE Joe Mixon rushed for 105 yards for the Bengals but Cincinnati (6-10) — which entered Sunday with 18 players on injured reserve, including quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green— lost for the seventh time in eight games and head into another offseason unsure about the future of longtime head coach Marvin Lewis. Cincinnati's season turned at home against the Steelers back in October, when the Bengals let Pittsburgh go down the field in the final minute to pull out a 28-21 victory on Antonio Brown's 31-yard catch and run with 10 seconds to play. An avalanche of injuries and losses followed. Lewis headed to the locker room surrounded by cameras, which he found "ridiculous" after his beat-up squad took the Steelers basically to the wire. "I think it's sad (my status) is the only thing they can point to," Lewis said. "This isn't about me. This is about this football team and what they do. To make this about one person. It's not about one person. This is my job. That's it." INJURIES Bengals: WR Cody Core left late in the first quarter with a left elbow injury. Core was hurt while diving for a pass deep down the left sideline. ... LT Cordy Glenn injured his left ankle after getting rolled up on during a scrum following fumble by Driskel in the third quarter. Safety Brandon Wilson left in the second half with a chest injury and tight end Matt Lengel exited with a left knee issue. Steelers: Brown missed his first game of the season while dealing with a knee injury. Pittsburgh also sat starting safety Sean Davis (quadriceps) and inside linebacker Vince Williams (toe). UP NEXT Bengals: Owner Mike Brown will meet with Lewis to decide whether a 17th season is in the offing for the winning coach in franchise history. Steelers: While head coach Mike Tomlin is on firm ground, changes to the coaching staff could be made. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler's unit struggled to create turnovers and the special teams were a mess under coordinator Danny Smith......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2018

MVP Ladder: Irving enters chase with work on, off the floor

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com The best of Kyrie Irving, both on and off the floor, has been on display the past few weeks. With the Boston Celtics’ season at an early crossroad, of sorts, it was Irving who stepped into the leadership void to steer things in the right direction. With injuries to key players complicating matters and chemistry issues still being sorted out, Irving was the veteran willing to step up and speak out in an effort to make sure the Celtics dealt with their issues head on. The Celtics had an inconsistent start to the season (10-10) before going on a eight-game win streak that was more like what was expected of them, only to hit the skids again briefly and lose three straight games before Irving piped up. "I think everyone can see that we've obviously had some inconsistencies regarding our play,” he said, “so I think it was just time to address it." A 36-minute players meeting in the locker room after a Dec. 21 (Dec. 22, PHL time) home thumping from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks was enough for Irving, who didn’t spare anyone (himself included) from the harsh spotlight. It was a cathartic moment for the Celtics, who saw Al Horford return from a seven-game absence just in time for Sunday’s win in Charlotte. Kyrie was at his superstar best with the bright lights shining on Christmas. He torched the Philadelphia 76ers for 40 points, unleashing his full offensive arsenal (shooting 17-for-33 from the floor, 5-for-10 from deep), while also grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out three assists. He was in showtime mode again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) against James Harden and the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center, finishing his night with 23 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and just one turnover. The Celtics simply had no answer for Harden, who like Irving moves up the ranks on this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder. But it’s clear Irving is ready to shoulder the burden of leading these Celtics, in whatever way necessary. * * * The top five this week in the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 26.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.3 steals Antetokounmpo turned Madison Square Garden into his very own Christmas playground when he smoked the Knicks for 30 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks to kick off the league’s showcase day. And just so the Knicks know it wasn’t a fluke, he hurried them again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum with 31 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in another rout. The Greek Freak is making it tough for anyone to nudge him from the top spot on this list; he’s averaging 24.8 points (on 60.9 shooting), 12.6 rebounds  5.6 assists and 1.7 blocks in his last 10 games. The Bucks are cruising during this stretch as well, solidifying their position as one of  the top teams in the Eastern Conference and the entire league at the close of the calendar year 2018. If this is just the warm up for 2019, Antetokounmpo can really crank up his MVP campaign between now and the All-Star break. 2. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 26.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals Leonard and the Raptors didn’t get an opportunity to showcase themselves for the world to see on Christmas but made up for that scheduling snafu with an instant classic in a win over Miami on the day after the holiday. Leonard scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had two assists and two steals in the winning effort. December has been good to the Raptors’ prized summer acquisition — he’s averaging 30.1 points (on .520 shooting) to go along with his 8.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals. For all of the chatter about how good the Raptors have been with Leonard out of the lineup and how good their quality depth is and has been all season, the fate of this team rests on Leonard’s broad shoulders come playoff time. He’s the one element they’ve lacked in previous runs, as a true crunch-time, go-to player in the postseason. All that noise about him not being an ideal vocal leader looks like just that at this stage of his tenure in Toronto. 3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.3 steals Lakers Nation held its collective breath earlier this week, awaiting the word on LeBron’s MRI after he heard a “pop” when he went down in the third with a groin injury in the third quarter of the Lakers’ Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) blowout over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The news was better than expected but the catalyst for the Lakers’ revival this season is still expected to miss “several games.” This could actually prove to be a critical stretch for the Lakers. If they can manage to maintain their position in the Western Conference standings without LeBron in uniform, it’ll speak volumes about the growth and development of their youngsters. It will also instill some confidence in the entire group if they can piece together a few wins without the new king of Los Angeles. All that said, it would be shortsighted of anyone to dismiss the work LeBron has put in during the early-season turnaround this team has undergone. He was playing as well as anyone in the league this month (25.8 points on .516 shooting, 9.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.3 steals). 4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 28.6 points, 5.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals Curry bounced back from yet another uncharacteristic Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) performance (just 15 points on an ugly 5-for-17 shooting) with a big night against his brother Seth and the Portland Trail Blazers. But his 29 points and a triple-double from Kevin Durant wasn’t enough to lift the Warriors past Damian Lillard’s late-game heroics against his hometown team. If there was ever a time to be concerned about Curry and these Warriors, it’s now. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson cannot find their marks. The bench production is non-existent at times. And the edge the Warriors have used to their advantage for years seems to have vanished. The boost they need is more than just adding a superstar talent like Boogie Cousins (whose recovery from his Achilles injury seems to be in hyperdrive). The Warriors might need both Curry and Durant to go off script a bit and shake things up by going nuclear offensively to strike fear in teams the way this team once did. They’ve become far too predictable a target without the proper support from their other stars. 5. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 7 Season stats: 32.3 points, 8.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals The reigning Kia MVP will not be denied any longer. Harden has been on an absolute tear of late and is bringing the Rockets back into focus in the Western Conference playoff chase while doing so. He’s posted back-to-back 40 point games (45 in their Friday, PHL time showdown win over the Boston Celtics and 41 in their Dec. 26, PHL time win over the Oklahoma City Thunder). He’s currently on a career-best eight-game run scoring 30 or more points, the first player to do so since Russell Westbrook did it in November of 2016. Harden’s the first to score 35 or more in six straight games since former teammate Carmelo Anthony accomplished the feat in April of 2013. Harden’s eight games of 40 or more points this season leads the league (Anthony Davis is second with five). The Celtics tried every player in uniform to stop him but to no avail. But Harden’s best work has been pulling the Rockets out of their sub-.500 hole at Thanksgiving to a season-best four games over .500 as they close out the 2018 portion of their schedule. * * * The next five 6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets T-8. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors T-8. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers 10. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics And five more: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans; De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings; Tobias Harris, Los Angeles Clippers; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 29th, 2018

PBA 43 Review: For Northport, it s been sink instead of swim

The PBA's 43rd season was a loooooong one. Seriously, it started December of 2017 and ended December of 2018. That's 12 months of almost non-stop basketball. But with the current PBA season finally drawing to a close, it's time we look back at how each team fared in 2018. Today, we take on the Northport Batang Pier.   SINK OR SWIM It was quite an up-and-down season for the Batang Pier and more often than not, the team was already sinking before it had the chance to go out for a swim. The Batang Pier saw head coach Pido Jarencio return to start the season after Franz Pumaren was officially "on leave." Then still known as Globalport, the team faced uncertainty with star guard Terrence Romeo dealing with injury and his recovery a mystery. Even with two star scorers in Romeo and Stanley Pringle, Globalport was a fringe playoff team at best. That's what they looked like in the past. They looked like legit playoff contenders without Romeo ironically as the Batang Pier made a strong run in the All-Filipino with a rugged style heavily influence by Jarencio. With Terrence returning towards the end of the elimination round, it appeared that Globalport was ready to shock quite a few teams in the playoffs. They didn't. Global lost a close one to Magnolia in the quarterfinals and Romeo and Jarencio went at it mid-game on the bench. Whoops. The Batang Pier would eventually deal Romeo to TNT for Mo Tautuaa. It solved immediate issues for both teams and it looked like a win-win for both teams. Jury is still out on that but one trade the Batang Pier definitely lost was the Kelly Nabong-Gabby Espinas swap. Nabong, who revived his career in the Philippine Cup, emerged as a solid contributor for the loaded Beermen. Espinas meanwhile, remains stuck on the bench even though he finally got out of San Miguel. A frontline rotation of Nabong, Tautuaa, and Sean Anthony would have flourished under Jarencio. Add Pringle and Jonathan Grey in there and that's a pretty good team. Too bad the Batang Pier gave up on Nabong so quickly. Now rechristened as Northport, the team will move forward to a new season. The Batang Pier has an actual star in Pringle, and they should work on surrounding him with as much solid pieces as they can. Northport has an identity with Jarencio in charge and Pringle leading the team on-court. Maybe an offseason can help them refine their rugged style. The Batang Pier are not a bad team, that's for sure. They just need a couple of things to fall into place in order to have time to go for a swim instead of sinking so fast.   Globalport/Northport BATANG PIER in the 2017-2018 PBA Season Philippine Cup: 5-6 (7th place) Commissioner's Cup: 5-6 (8th place) Governors' Cup: 2-9 (11th place) Overall: 12 wins 21 losses. Two playoff appearance, both QFs.   POST DRAFT NOTE: Northport added Robert Bolick in the Draft to pair with Stanley Pringle. Will this new combo be better than Stanley and Terrence? Sure looks like it. Bolick should fit better with Pringle and Babes' incredible winning mentality from San Beda could be the key to unlocking the Batang Pier's potential. Northport could make a splash next year.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 27th, 2018

Reasons to watch 2018 slate of NBA X mas day games

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Bucks vs. Knicks (1am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: Two words; Giannis Antetokounmpo. The most dominant force in the league this season resides in Milwaukee. That’s right, the Greek Freak sits atop the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder heading into the Christmas Day showcase games. And with good reason. The Bucks are riding the wave their dynamic superstar forward has created in his first season in Mike Budenholzer’s system. Open it up and enjoy because … The Bucks are more than a one-man show. Antetokounmpo should be joined on the All-Star team this season by Khris Middleton, who is playing at that level, and point guard Eric Bledsoe is shooting better than he ever has in Budenolzer’s aggressive, shooter-friendly system. Watching the Bucks try and set a record for three-pointers taken and made should be entertaining enough. But the Knicks will offer some entertainment value of their own as they attempt to match the Bucks shot-for-shot with Tim Hardaway Jr. leading the way. The gift we’re hoping for is … The Knicks could use a statement win before a global audience to jump start the post-Christmas portion of their season-long grind. The Bucks have spent most of this season frightening the competition, both in the Eastern Conference and beyond. They’ve got the gift that’ll keep on giving for years in Antetokounmpo, who’ll get another chance to show the basketball public that what they’ve hard about a contender rising in the Central Division is real. Thunder vs. Rockets (4am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: Do we really need anyone to remind us to tune in for every Russell Westbrook-James Harden matchup for the foreseeable future? Didn’t think so. The matchup of the last two Kia MVPs winners is enough of an incentive to lock in on this one. And the fact that the Thunder occupy the space in the standings most thought was reserved for the Rockets only adds to the intrigue. Open it up and enjoy because … The real showstopper in this one isn’t either one of the MVP winners. Thunder swingman Paul George is the player you need to lock in on as he continues his dark horse MVP campaign for a much-improved team (the Thunder are light years away from the group that started the season 0-4). There are few soap operas better right now than the Rockets, who are dealing with yet another injury to All-Star point guard Chris Paul (hamstring) and a failure to play up to expectations that threatens to swallow up their season before Santa’s finished off his cookies and milk. The gift we’re hoping for is … What Westbrook and Harden wear into the building is worth a few moments of your time as these two fashion-forward superstars never fail to make an impression. But it’s the competitive fervor on the court that should provide the ultimate viewing pleasure. The Thunder would love to take over the position the Rockets held last season, as the legitimate threat to the Golden State Warriors’ stranglehold on the Western Conference throne. In the absence of a Christmas tilt against the two-time defending champs, the Rockets make an ideal fill in. Sixers vs. Celtics (6:30am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: The Eastern Conference version of Thunder-Rockets, the schedule makers look pretty good slotting the Sixers and Celtics in this spot. No one relishes an opportunity to take down a projected heavyweight the way the Sixers do (what else would you expect with Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid leading the charge?). The suddenly chummy Celtics, however, appear to be the team most eager to prove that they are indeed who we all thought they were in the summer, when they were the consensus pick to ascend to the top of the heap in place of Cleveland. Open it up and enjoy because … Kyrie Irving has embraced his role as the leader of this disjointed Celtics bunch in ways that fans in Cleveland have to be enjoying with an eyebrow raised. Kyrie trying to convince his young teammates to follow his lead is rich, given his reluctance to do exactly that when he was in their shoes. As far as rivalries go, this is perhaps the day’s deepest and most volatile. The Sixers are still smarting from that playoff ouster at the hands of the Celtics. And they won’t have ant sympathy for the Celtics as they continue their search for good health and better chemistry. The gift we’re hoping for is … A Ben Simmons-Kyrie point guard duel will make this game shine even brighter than usual. And they’re both more than capable of going off on the big stage. But the real treat here is going to be watching Jimmy Butler and Jayson Tatum match wits in what could be a preview of fireworks to come in a potential playoff matchup. Tatum’s sophomore season has been a bit choppier than expected. And Butler, whose shown a penchant for schooling youngsters (teammates and opponents) is surely betting on himself in this game within the game. Lakers vs. Warriors (9am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: With all of the recent history dripping off of this LeBron James-Warriors rivalry, the inclusion of the Los Angeles Lakers into the mix only serves to take this spectacle to the next level. LeBron insists this isn’t a measuring stick game for the upstart Lakers, not against a Warriors juggernaut that has won three of the last four Larry O’Brien trophies. Yeah, whatever you say big fella. Folks who haven’t watched a minute of NBA basketball season will be tuned into this one. Count on it. Open it up and enjoy because … Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have moved into that cosmic zone that only the all-time greats are capable of locating (see their work in their Monday, PHL time win over the Los Angeles Clippers for proof). We already know how the superstars respond in a matchup of this nature. The great unknown is how the likes of Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball will react to the marquee spotlight at Oracle Arena. The Lakers’ youngsters have thrived at times and struggled at others in their first season inside the LeBron bubble. But they haven’t seen anything like what they’ll experience in Oakland on this night. The gift we’re hoping for is … Draymond Green hasn’t had a true breakout game since returning from his extended injury absence. With Lance Stephenson in uniform on the other side, the opportunity for fireworks would appear to be extremely high. We’d settle for some Finals-level intensity from both of the world class agitators in the building. That and vintage performances from LeBron, Steph, KD and Klay Thompson are expected. Anything else beyond that is really gravy on the best basketball meal of the day. Trail Blazers vs. Jazz (11:30am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: We’re dubbing the nightcap of the Christmas Day showcase the “Respect Bowl.” The Trail Blazers are always on the hunt for more respect and the Jazz, one of the trendy summer picks as a team poised to become a contender in the Western Conference this season, could stand to show a little self-respect in the way they tackle the remainder of this season. Open it up and enjoy because … Second-year Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is suffering from the same sophomore spell that has plagued Jayson Tatum in Boston. It’s one thing to surprise the basketball world as a rookie and another to come back better and even more dangerous the second time around. We’re betting on Spider showing up and showing out for the Christmas Day crowd. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Damian Lillard will not allow someone else to steal the spotlight from him. He warmed up for Mitchell and the Jazz by finishing off Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks Sunday night. You know his swagger travels, so expect to see his competitive best against Mitchell and the Jazz. The gift we’re hoping for is … Joe Ingles stealing the show would make for an ideal end to a day full of some the league’s biggest and brightest superstars. And the sweet-shooting Jazz swingman is one of the league’s criminally underrated stars. It would also be nice to see the rest of that Jazz team we expected to make things interesting this season make an appearance. Christmas Day games have always served as a launching pad/turning point for teams willing to dive in. And the Blazers and Jazz both seem like prime candidates to take advantage of the opportunity. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2018

New chapter awaits LeBron-Warriors rivalry

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2018

Seahawks clinch playoff berth outlasting Chiefs 38-31

By Tim Booth, Associated Press SEATTLE (AP) — Doubted before the season began, questioned even more after a 0-2 start, the Seattle Seahawks are back where they've spent most seasons since Pete Carroll arrived. The Seahawks are in the playoffs and perhaps as the type of opponent no one would like to see in the postseason. "You hear it. You hear the noise. You hear the 4-12 predictions, the 5-11 and that stuff motivates you," Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright said. "We kept believing." Seattle clinched its spot in the NFC playoffs after toppling Kansas City 38-31 on Sunday night, thanks to three touchdown passes from Russell Wilson and a pair of TD runs by Chris Carson. Wilson got the better of Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and helped lead Seattle back to the postseason after missing the playoffs a year ago. Seattle's now made the playoffs in seven of the nine seasons with Carroll in charge, and six of seven with Wilson at quarterback. It was an unexpected accomplishment after Seattle overhauled its roster in the offseason. But the discovery of the best run game in the NFL, coupled with vets like Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Doug Baldwin was enough for Seattle to navigate its way into the postseason. "There's an emotion to it that's deep and it's because there wasn't very many people that thought we could do this," Carroll said. "Most everybody thought we didn't have a chance and to hang together, hang through it, we got it done before the season is even over." The Seahawks (9-6) can wrap up the No. 5 seed and a matchup with Dallas by beating Arizona in Week 17. Wilson was 18 of 29 for 271 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with 7:31 left for his third TD. But it was Seattle's next drive that stood out as the best run team in the NFL put the game on the arm of its quarterback and receivers in the fourth quarter. Leading 31-28, Wilson hit David Moore for 7 yards to convert a key third-down and after Kansas City used its first timeout with 3:04 left. He followed with a 45-yard strike to Tyler Lockett, and Baldwin added a one-handed catch for 29 yards to the Chiefs 1. Carson capped the decisive drive with his second TD run with 2:29 left gave Seattle a 38-28 lead. Carson rushed for 116 yards, while Baldwin had seven catches for 126 yards and an acrobatic 27-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. "When it's our time to make plays and we're given opportunities to make plays, we are going to make them. We have shown that," Baldwin said. Mahomes had a few of his own magical moments that will enhance his MVP candidacy. But for the second straight week the Chiefs (11-4) were unable to come through with a victory that would have wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the AFC and will go into Week 17 with the chance of being division champs for find themselves on the road for the opening weekend of the postseason. "I know if you take care of business, you don't have to talk about anything," Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. "When we play the way we can play, and we are going to play, we are a tough team." Mahomes was 23 of 40 for 273 and three TDs. Mahomes had only 83 yards passing in the first half. He had 76 and was 6 of 6 on Kansas city's first possession of the second half, finishing the drive with a scrambling, sidearm fling to Charcandrick West for a 25-yard touchdown that pulled the Chiefs even at 17-all midway through the third quarter. That was the last time they would be even. Harrison Butker's 32-yard field goal with 1:20 left pulled the Chiefs within seven, but the onside kick went out of bounds and Seattle ran out the clock. "It's frustrating knowing that we've had it so close both times," Mahomes said. "Luckily we are still in the position where we will have the opportunity to go out there and win it next week." Damien Williams rushed for 103 yards and caught a 2-yard touchdown pass in the first half. But Seattle managed to keep Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce from taking over and the Seahawks pass rush did enough to disrupt the Chiefs passing attack. Mahomes was sacked only once but was hit 11 times. Kelce had five catches; Hill had four. Neither scored. "We knew (Hill) and (Kelce) were the go-to guys and if you eliminate those two guys you have a good chance of winning," Wright said. RECORD WATCH Carson became the first Seattle running back since Marshawn Lynch in 2014 to have 1,000 yards rushing. ... Kelce passed Tony Gonzalez for most yards receiving in a single season by a tight end in Chiefs history. ... Mahomes has 31 touchdown passes on the road, most in NFL history. Tom Brady had 29 in 2007. ... Wilson is first QB in NFL history with winning record in each of first seven seasons. INJURIES Kansas City running back Darrel Williams suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and did not return. Seattle's banged up offensive line saw J.R. Sweezy go down with an ankle injury in the second quarter and he did not return. D.J. Fluker, who was only supposed to play a limited number of snaps filled in and played the entire second half. KICKING IT Seattle had kicking concerns arise after Sebastian Janikowski was roughed on a field goal attempt in the second half. He was able to hit a 28-yard field goal later in the drive, but it was punter Michael Dickson handling the next two kickoffs with drop kicks. Dickson has done it in special situations this season. UP NEXT Chiefs: Kansas City hosts Oakland in Week 17. Seahawks: Seattle hosts Arizona to close out the regular season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 24th, 2018