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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

Jimmy Butler made his move - now it s Wolves turn

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler knows that NBA players can force their way into trades. Forcing their way into a trade that suits the player, that’s an entirely different story. Butler has told the Minnesota Timberwolves that he has no intentions of re-signing with the club next summer, his way of saying “trade me now” or “lose me for nothing later.” The Athletic first reported Butler’s decision. It’s a power move that players can make. Thing is, it comes with risk — because what happens next is not up to Butler. This was the lesson learned from the Kawhi Leonard situation, from the Kyrie Irving situation, from the Paul George situation. Leonard supposedly was hoping for a trade from San Antonio to the Los Angeles Clippers. Irving wanted to be sent by Cleveland to either San Antonio and Miami. George was widely assumed to leave Indiana for the Los Angeles Lakers. Leonard is in Toronto , at least for one season. Irving got sent to Boston , and is a free agent next summer. George landed in Oklahoma City, and probably will be there for years. Not a whole lot of people saw those exact moves coming. But the teams did what was best for them. In all three cases, the Spurs, the Cavs and the Pacers got the best deal they could make. Now it’s Butler’s turn. It should be easy to deduce that Butler can see himself with the Clippers, New York or Brooklyn, since all of those teams will have the cap space to give him the $140 million (or $190 million) max contract he’s seeking. Miami would interest him as well, since Butler has raved about the city in the past and he’s still very tight with fellow Marquette alum and former Chicago teammate Dwyane Wade. Toronto is believed to be on his radar. Playing alongside LeBron James with the Lakers is something that hardly anyone in the NBA would sneeze at. A person with knowledge of the Timberwolves’ situation said that Minnesota has been talking to multiple teams, gauging the Butler market. The person spoke to The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing. The Timberwolves aren’t exactly in a position of strength, since now everyone knows that Butler wants out and training camps start in a few days. But that doesn’t mean Minnesota doesn’t control how this will play out. When Leonard asked for his trade, the Spurs had the luxury of time and wound up getting a very good deal from Toronto. The Cavs and the Pacers also had plenty of time to work out something to their likings when moving Irving and George. Minnesota doesn’t have that same cushion. That’ll eventually lead to Butler being asked why he waited until the final days of the offseason to inform the team of his unhappiness, because not only did he potentially limit Minnesota’s options but he could have limited his own. “You should always try to get a perennial All-Star,” former NBA forward Caron Butler told TMZ Sports, adding that he thinks Jimmy Butler is “a real winner.” The Timberwolves can basically make any of the following decisions: — Move Butler right away and start camp without distraction; — Hang onto him for a while and see if he changes his mind; — Work out a sign-and-trade; — Make him play out the year. Butler was their leading scorer last season. He’s an All-Star. He helped them end a 14-year playoff drought. Losing him, no matter what they get back, wouldn’t seem to help the Wolves’ chances of returning to the playoffs in a still-loaded Western Conference. Sometimes, even irreconcilable differences work out. Houston won NBA championships in 1994 and 1995, led by Hakeem Olajuwon. People forget that in 1992, he demanded a trade in a very ugly situation sparked by the Rockets thinking that he was faking a hamstring injury. They mended fences and won titles. Most of the time, though, when a player wants out, they get out. Dwight Howard demanded to be traded by Orlando in 2012, and got his way. Shaquille O’Neal wanted to leave the Lakers in 2004, got sent to the Heat, and then eventually forced them to send him to Phoenix. Chris Paul and Chris Webber have forced trades, too. And it’s not a new thing — Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wanted trades and got them. Butler got his trade ball rolling. Where it goes, at least this season, that’s up to Wolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau — whose own future in Minnesota might be hanging by a thread as well right now — more than anyone else. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 20th, 2018

EYES ON YOU, KID: NCAA 94 Jrs. players to watch

The first round of the NCAA 94 Juniors Basketball Tournament is over and done with. And with the second round already underway, we’re getting even more glimpses of the future of Philippine basketball courtesy of these players: CLINT ESCAMIS – Mapua High School (yellow jersey with ball) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 23.3 points, 46.9 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.7 steals Clint Escamis has spent his first two seasons under the leadership of the likes of Sherwin Concepcion, Mike Enriquez, Warren Bonifacio, and Will Gozum. Now in his third and last season in Mapua, he is proving that he is no slouch as a leader himself. The league’s top scorer and second-best steal-getter has carried the Red Robins right back up there in the standings – and they are the only team to have downed all f the traditional powerhouses in College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills, Arellano High School, and San Beda High School. This version of Mapua may not be as star-studded as it was in the last four years, but they may just have the brightest star in all of the league in their 6-foot-1 swingman. INAND FORNILOS – College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills (green jersey defending white jersey with ball) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 11.4 points, 51.8 percent shooting, 10.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.0 assist On a team as fully loaded as CSB-LSGH, there has to be a workhorse – and Inand Fornilos has been just that and more. Just like he did in their championship campaign last season, he has been a force to reckon with on both ends of the floor for the league-leading Junior Blazers. The rebounds and defense have always been second nature for Fornilos, but this season, he has become better on offense. In fact, he already has a couple of 20-point games to his name – not bad for an undersized big man at 6-foot-2. Without a doubt, the graduating forward is doing all he can to make his former team regret ever letting him go. JOHN AMORES – Jose Rizal High School (blue jersey with ball) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 20.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steal And all of that is because of John Amores, the second-best scorer in all of the league and the undisputed main man of the daring Light Bombers – the only team that will be sweeping contending Mapua in the elimination round. JRU’s rise from the bottom half of the standings to the top four is nothing short of spectacular and that improvement is best personified by Amores who went from role player a year ago to go-to-guy this season. Give the Most Improved Award to the kid already because he’s ready and raring to take much more than that. JOEL CAGULANGAN – College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills (green jersey with ball) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals For the high standards he set a year ago, this season has been a quiet one for Joel Cagulangan. With the likes of Escamis and Amores flying high and CSB-LSGH teammates Fornilos and RC Calimag grabbing more headlines than him, last year’s Finals MVP has been under the radar. Quietly, however, he is actually the Junior Blazers’ leading scorer and the NCAA’s best assistman and fourth-best steal-getter. Yes, that’s just how the 5-foot-9 do-it-all dynamo rolls, making an impact even if everybody else doesn’t feel it. Just don’t forget that he could also choose to make everybody feel his impact, okay? AARON FERMIN – Arellano High School (grey jersey, #18) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.2 points, 53.5 percent shooting, 17.6 rebounds, 1.0 block If not for Arellano’s struggles last season, Aaron Fermin would have been MVP. If not for the Braves’ struggle in the ongoing season, Fermin would have been the league’s most tantalizing talent. Standing at 6-foot-5, graced with a wide frame, having timing on lock, and blessed with a non-stop motor, the graduating big man has all the tools to be a game-changer on both ends of the floor. Indeed, he had a stretch of games of posting a 15-point, 20-rebound double-double. Now, if only he could lift Arellano to much-needed wins and back onto a playoff push. DAN ARCHES – Mapua High School (yellow jersey with ball) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 16.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 steals Mapua has long been defined by its talented big men, but now, it’s the guys at the wings who have taken center stage. Escamis has been their main man, but he also has a more than capable running mate in Dan Arches. All Escamis could do, Arches could do as well, only without the same sort of consistency. But hey, this is the first time he has been getting time with in his two years as a Red Robins so there’s nothing that all those reps couldn’t improve. And oh, he also has one thing going for him – a fine floater that he could bust out at any time that somehow, some way, has become automatic. JOSHUA DAVID – College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills (green jersey, with ball) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 14.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 steals Imagine the dynamic between Escamis and Arches, and then translate that onto Cagulangan and his own partner-in-crime in Joshua David. Like Cagulangan, David could stuff the stat sheet. Like Cagulangan, David could do whatever CSB-LSGH needs for a win. The only difference is that unlike Cagulangan, David already has the size at 6-feet and a big body to make the same sort of noise in the Seniors. Of course, Cagulangan’s clutch genes are also on another level, but who knows? Maybe David is just waiting on the wings to seize those moments for himself? MILO JANAO AND KEAN BACLAAN – San Sebastian College-Recoletos JANAO’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist (yellow jersey with ball in first photo) BACLAAN’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 15.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals (yellow jersey with ball in second photo) It looks like San Sebastian College-Recoletos still wouldn’t be able to get over the hump this year, but the good news is that they remain on the right track. The even better news is that Milo Janao and Kean Baclaan, the two paving the way for them, are here to stay. That backcourt, by themselves, has fueled the Staglets to four wins – and still in the thick of things. While a long-awaited, much-wanted playoff berth is a long shot this year, perhaps it wouldn’t be so when both Janao and Baclaan get a year older and a year more determined to continue doing it all to win. MAC GUADANA AND JOHN BARBA – Lyceum of the Philippines University GUADANA’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists (grey jersey with ball in first photo) BARBA’S ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 17.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 steals (grey jersey with ball in second photo) Batang Gilas member Mac Guadana has become the NCAA’s constant – a 6-foot guard who could score at will while also doing his part in rebounding and playmaking. With him showing the way, Lyceum of the Philippines University has proven to be a far from easy out for three seasons now. They are still a ways away from legitimate contention, but the Junior Pirates have reason to believe that would be sooner than later as teaming up with Guadana is John Barba, a 6-foot-2 forward who just has a knack for willing his way to good looks inside. With those two, the boys from Cavite have two of the top six scorers in all of the league. Now, they just have to find the other pieces of the puzzle for their first-ever playoff berth. ROM JUNSAY – Arellano High School (grey jersey with ball) ROUND 1 AVERAGES: 19.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 steals Rom Junsay was one of the biggest keys to Mapua’s first-ever championship. That was two years ago, though, and since then, the 5-foot-6 has transferred to Arellano and is now only playing his first and last season there. Nonetheless, in just his first game in blue and grey, he wasted no time in reminding everybody about his talents, dropping a career-high 34 points. He and the Braves have trailed off from there, but just as Arellano is a sleeping giant no team wants to wake, Junsay is an active volcano just waiting for the perfect time to erupt. HONORABLE MENTIONS Jonnel Policarpio – Mapua High School RC Calimag – College of St. Benilde-La Salle Greenhills --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 17th, 2018

Defending champion Capitals have almost no camp competition

By Stephen Whyno, Associated Press ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — While smiles are in high supply at training camp for the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, open jobs are not. Returning 18 of 20 the players who dressed in their Cup-clinching victory, the Capitals have almost no competition for roster spots going into the regular season. Barring injuries, the front office and coaching staff could pencil in probably 95 percent of the opening night roster before anyone hits the ice. "Obviously, I know our roster pretty well," general manager Brian MacLellan said Friday. "It's still going to be competitive on the fourth line. We're going to try to find a fourth line that we'd like to add a little bit more skill, a little more speed, and what we can do on the penalty kill." Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Braden Holtby and the rest of Washington's championship core remaining intact leaves the likes of Travis Boyd and newcomers Nic Dowd and Sergei Shumakov competing for fourth-line roles. MacLellan figures there will also be a competition between veteran Brooks Orpik and young defensemen Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey for playing time on the third pairing. That's a far cry from a year ago when the Capitals lost a handful of key contributors and were looking for someone — anyone — to step up and fill voids. Those voids don't exist this year given that only fourth-line center Jay Beagle and backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer aren't around. "You never know what's going to happen tomorrow because it's hockey stuff," Ovechkin said. "It's hard when your friends and when some of your teammates left, especially when you win the Cup, but there's a salary cap. ... It's hard to keep." It wasn't hard this time. The Capitals signed pending free agent defenseman John Carlson before he hit the market and re-signed playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly and deadline pickup Michal Kempny. Their low turnover is similar to what the Pittsburgh Penguins had when they repeated as Cup champions. Todd Reirden replacing Barry Trotz as coach after four years as his top assistant is the biggest change. Reirden knows the roster as well as anyone and won't lie to players about opportunities, but he's trying to set them up to compete for spots that might come open because of injuries. "It's a different kind of competition," Reirden said. "You can't predict it, but all the players that are in camp, they know that there's competition. And whether that's competition for Day One of the season, Day 21 or 121 that there's a chance for them to be a part of a team that is the defending Stanley Cup champs." Dowd saw a chance to win a full-time job with the defending champions and jumped at the opportunity. The 28-year-old who has played for the Kings and Canucks wants to show he can bring everything Beagle did and provide some more offense. He's trying not to wonder every day in camp about where he stands in making the team. "I spent my first two to three years of pro hockey going into training camp trying to split the atom and trying to get in the minds of the coaches and, 'Why am I here, why I am there in the lineup, why am I this group, why am I in that group?'" Dowd said. "A lot of the time it makes no difference where you sit in practices and all that, and it just puts more stress on yourself in worrying about that." Most players at Capitals camp don't have much to worry about because they know where they'll be in October when the season starts. It's almost certain Pheonix Copley is Holtby's backup with prospect Ilya Samsonov in the American Hockey League with Hershey, and neither Bowey nor Djoos will be sent to the minors. Boyd, who played one playoff game during the Cup run, can't be sure and knows he's fighting for a job. "I didn't want to walk in here and think that I'm on the team," Boyd said. "I don't think I am. I definitely think that obviously there's some guys here that are good players too, trying to gain ahold of I guess the one or two spots that are open." NOTES: Carlson and center Lars Eller are nursing minor lower-body injuries that caused them to miss the first day of on-ice work. ... Reirden says the Capitals will take only a handful of veteran players to Boston for the preseason opener Sunday because the Bruins will have a big chunk of their team in China for exhibition games there......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 15th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 15th, 2018

UAAP: For a change, La Salle is actually the darkhorse

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 12-2 after eliminations, 1-0 in Final Four, 1-2 in Finals, runner-up YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Justine Baltazar, Andrei Caracut, Jollo Go, Aljun Melecio, Kib Montalbo, Santi Santillan WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Brandon Bates, Taane Samuel, Encho Serrano, Mark Dyke (returning), Louie Gonzalez (coach) GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Ben Mbala, Prince Rivero, Ricci Rivero, Abu Tratter, Aldin Ayo (coach) WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM LA SALLE? Bar none, De La Salle University took the biggest losses among all teams from a year ago. Let’s all count those subtractions, shall we? Two-time MVP Ben Mbala, Mythical selection Ricci Rivero, veteran bigs Prince Rivero and Abu Tratter, and champion coach Aldin Ayo. “We’ve missed big-time players, but I always reminded them it’s not about having the best players. In order for us to be successful, we just need to be consistent in working hard and doing what’s for the greater good.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez Still, that doesn’t mean that the Green Archers are no longer here – especially not if the guard troika of Andrei Caracut Aljun Melecio, and Kib Montalbo has anything to do with it. “Ngayon pa lang, sinasabi ko na sa kanilang tatlo na whatever mari-reach namin this season, malaki magiging role nila. They have to know where to put everybody na magiging successful sila.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez And with Mbala gone, we can just expect Justine Baltazar to rise – as he was always meant to do after graduating high school when he was the most terrifying tower. Also, Santi Santillan is right there by his side as well as young guns Brandon Bates and Taane Samuel. All told, La Salle’s losses were huge, but that won’t be enough to keep them out of contention for the Final Four. WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM LA SALLE? Of course, the Cerberus in the backcourt will dictate the tempo for this team – Caracut will make plays, Melecio will score, and Montalbo will be a force on both ends. Up front, Baltazar is out to fulfill his potential as a two-way nightmare for opponents – and you can just look back to his time as center for Nazareth School of National University to have an idea of what that is. The real game-changer for La Salle, however, is Encho Serrano who once took the country by storm in his rookie season in the UAAP Juniors. Since then, he has gone missing and then gotten found, but the talent that made him the top high school player in the country – yes, over even Kai Sotto – is still here. WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR LA SALLE? For the first time in years, everybody is doubting La Salle – meaning for the first time in years, they are the underdogs. “Yung pagiging underdog namin, okay lang yun kasi we’re still in the rebuilding stage. The mantra right now is to be the best at getting better.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez This early, the new-look Green Archers are already priding themselves on having no glitz and glamour and just being all business. That underdog mentality and that workmanlike attitude may just be enough for them to be the pleasant surprises of the season. “Coming to this season, at least, yung pressure, nandun sa iba. Pero I know if you’re playing for La Salle, you’re 100 percent motivated as well.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez WHERE WOULD LA SALLE BE AT THE END OF UAAP SEASON 81? La Salle will be fighting with its all for a Final Four berth. “Basta ang expectations ko lang sa kanila is ibigay lang nila effort palagi. Wala naman akong hinihinging imposible. Very clear naman ako sa kanila na as you give that effort, we will be fine.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez That’s far from sure for them, but what’s certain is that the Green Archers have both the talent and the determination to get there. The championship, or even the Finals, may be an even farther reach, but this new-look team may very well be satisfied with just a playoff berth. “What we’re doing is we’re really going through the process. It’s long-term.” – head coach Louie Gonzalez WHEN IS LA SALLE’S FIRST GAME IN UAAP SEASON 81? La Salle sets out to prove everybody wrong when they take on fellow playoff hopeful Far Eastern University on September 9. Of course, It All Begins Here on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 6th, 2018

UAAP: Intact FEU fueled by last year s close loss to Ateneo

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 7-7, lost to Ateneo in Final Four YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Hubert Cani, Wendell Comboy, Richard Escoto, Axel Inigo, Prince Orizu, Jasper Parker, Arvin Tolentino, Ken Tuffin WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: L-Jay Gonzales, Clifford Jopia GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Ron Dennison WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM FEU? Far Eastern University is mostly intact – with steady guards Hubert Cani, Wendell Comboy, Axel Inigo, and Jasper Parker all back; tireless forwards Russell Escoto, Arvin Tolentino, and Ken Tuffin all returning; and Cameroonian center Prince Orizu all ready and raring for his last go-round. Don’t forget that core was one turnover away from taking down eventual champion Ateneo de Manila University a season ago. Yes, that core was good enough to discard the Blue Eagles’ twice-to-beat advantage and then grant their team an eight-point cushion in the last six of the do-or-die Game 2 of the semifinals – and if not for Isaac Go’s heroics, we would have had a different champion. “Yung learning from that experience last year, it’s going to be a motivation for us.” – head coach Olsen Racela The hope now is that core builds on that and barges into the new season with the same strong showing. A big leadership hole needs to be filled for the Tamaraws, however, as Ron Dennison is no longer there to serve as the pacesetter in terms of effort and energy. “Malaki rin yung nawala sa aming veterans so right now, we’re trying to develop guys who will take their roles.” – head coach Olsen Racela WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM FEU? As has been FEU tradition, expect nothing less than continued development from up and down the Tamaraws roster. In particular, shifty playmaker Parker is primed to take total control of the steering wheel under the guidance of head coach, and legendary point guard, Olsen Racela. “Since ako, I’m a point guard myself, binibigay ko talaga yung responsibility sa point guards when it comes to leading the team.” – head coach Olsen Racela And for sure, stretch big Tolentino is only hungry to bounce back after his disastrous end to last season. As for the rookies, L-Jay Gonzales and Clifford Jopia are as young as they come, but after all, this will just be a season for their adjustment. Sooner than later, know that Gonzales, described as Russell Westbrook-like, will be the next in line of those great guards from FEU. WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR FEU? Again, FEU was one turnover away from taking down eventual champion Ateneo. If only that final play in regulation in the do-or-die Game 2 of the semifinals was executed better, the Tamaraws would have charged into the Finals and who knows – they could have also toppled Ben Mbala and De La Salle University. That same squad is still what we’ll see this season and, who knows, things might just go their way this time around. “Yung FEU community naman, they expect us to give our all and give our 100 percent in everything we do. I think the results will follow as long as we put in the effort and five our 100 percent.” – head coach Olsen Racela WHERE WOULD FEU BE AT THE END OF UAAP SEASON 81? FEU will not be assured of a playoff berth – but they will go all-out to make sure they will be back there. Among the Final Four teams from a year ago, the Tamaraws and the Green Archers’ seats have to be the hottest – because the University of the Philippines and National University are coming for them. That doesn’t mean, however, that FEU will just give away its seat that easily. If they play at the level they played against Ateneo in the semifinals last season, then a Finals berth this year also isn’t out of the question. WHEN IS FEU’S FIRST GAME IN UAAP SEASON 81? There is no time to waste for FEU as they have a shot at a statement win right out of the gates when they are pitted against runner-up La Salle on September 8. Of course, It All Begins Here on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 4th, 2018

For fully loaded UP, it s first Final Four since 1997 or bust

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 6-8, fifth YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Paul Desiderio, Javi Gomez de Liano, Juan Gomez de Liano, Jun Manzo, Gelo Vito WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: Bright Akhuetie, Will Gozum, David Murrell, Jaydee Tungcab GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: Kyles Lao, Ibrahim Ouattara, Noah Webb WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM UP? This is the year fans of the University of the Philippines have been waiting for – because this is the year it’s all supposed to come together for this long-suffering team. Head coach Bo Perasol has always said that, slowly but surely, the Fighting Maroons will be in contention once more. “Nobody can assure success in terms of winning, but I know we are progressing. From where we were and where we are right now, nag-iimprove from year-to-year, month-to-month. We’re just positive na dapat lang, mas mahigit sa anim yung aming maipapanalo this coming season.” – head coach Bo Perasol And the upcoming UAAP Season 81 is the culmination of all the development, of all the recruitment, and of all the hype. “We anticipated this, we planned this. In everything we improved on, expectations are really high. (That means) that we are doing the right thing.” – head coach Bo Perasol The core of Paul Desiderio, Jun Manzo, and Gomez de LIano brothers Javi and Juan is back and better than ever – with Paul and Juan even getting valuable experience as Gilas cadets. Only now, that core has also welcomed with open arms even more talent in the form of Nigerian powerhouse Bright Akhuetie, NCAA Juniors MVP Will Gozum, former Adamson University slasher Jaydee Tungcab, and versatile Filipino-Amerian forward David Murrell. Hands down, this is the strongest lineup UP has ever had on paper – yes, even stronger than that 1986 championship led by Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc. Still, that championship team had long proven to be winners before they even got to DIliman. That is yet to be determined for this current crop of Fighting Maroons. WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM UP? Desiderio wants his legacy in UP to be that of the captain who led his team to its first Final Four since 1997 – and its first Final Four of many for the foreseeable future. After a championship in the PBA D-League, the main man is nothing but willing to do it all for more of that winning feeling now in his alma mater. For the first time since the days of Paras, the Fighting Maroons will have a dominant inside presence in Akhuetie who once powered University of Perpetual Help to the Final Four and a near-upset of dynastic San Beda University. the rest of the frontline isn’t too shabby either with Javi GDL, Jerson Prado, and Gelo Vito. The most must-watch aspect of State U’s season, however, has got to be the leap Juan GDL is supposed to make. The former Juniors MVP and reigning Rookie of the Year was always destined for superstardom – the only question is will he be getting there as a sophomore. WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR UP? For years, UP has said that there is nowhere to go but up. With just 13 wins in nine seasons from 2007 to 2015, that is indeed the case. The loveable underdogs are no more though, as the Fighting Maroons have the makings of a league powerhouse for years to come. “Wala na kaming excuses. Lahat (training camp, gym, weights room, et al) yan, at par na sa malalakas na programa. Ang kulang na lang is for us to deliver.” – head coach Bo Perasol If they live up to the hype, then a 21-year wait will come to an end and a long-awaited, much-wanted Final Four berth will be theirs to celebrate. “The important (thing) is we believe we can. We believe it’s difficult, but we’re willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it.” – head coach Bo Perasol WHERE WOULD UP BE AT THE END OF UAAP SEASON 81? Ready that bonfire at the Sunken Garden, Diliman. UP’s playoff drought will end – there will be a lot of hiccups on their way there as they are still on the process of learning how to win, but they will get there. “I don’t know where we’re going, but the mere fact that people are trying to pressure us, (that means) we’re stronger now. Before, I don’t think people were expecting people to win. This time, we’re happy and we’re up for it.” – head coach Bo Perasol This team is too talented and Desiderio is too determined for them not to get there. “Hindi (na) lang enough yung fighting, we have to win. Kailangan, iniintindi namin na hindi pwedeng Fighting Maroons kami – we have to be the Winning Maroons.” – head coach Bo Perasol WHEN IS UP’S FIRST GAME IN UAAP SEASON 81? UP is out for a confidence-booster right out of the gates when it is matched up opposite new-look University of the East on September 7. Of course, It All Begins Here on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 3rd, 2018

NU has all the pieces, but can they put them all together?

HOW’D THEY DO LAST SEASON? 5-9, sixth YES, THEY’RE STILL HERE: Issa Gaye, Enzo Joson, Jonas Tibayan, Dave Wilson Yu WELCOME TO THE FAMILY: John Lloyd Clemente, John Galinato, Dave Ildefonso, Shaun Ildefonso, JV Gallego (returning), Joshua Sinclair (returning) GOOD LUCK ON FUTURE ENDEAVORS: J-Jay Alejandro, Jordan Bartlett, Matt Salem, Chino Mosqueda (injured) WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM NU? National University is not messing around as it tries to put an end to its three-year playoff drought. Even though they lost longtime starters J-Jay Alejandro and Matt Salem, the Bulldogs are all set to welcome blue-chip recruits in the form of Ildefonso brothers Shaun and Dave, John Lloyd Clemente, and John Galinato. “Right now, we’re excited that we got a very talented team, but it’s a very young team.” – head coach Jamike Jarin We named NU the 2018 king of recruiting because of that – and so, nothing less than immediate impact is expected from the Ildefonsos, JLC, and Galinato. “Of course, it’s make or break for everybody – for the entire school, for the entire team.” – head coach Jamike Jarin If all goes well, the new blood will fully fill in the holes beside Senegalese tower Issa Gaye, second-year playmaker Enzo Joson, and stalwart Dave Wilson Yu. More than the rookies, however, head coach Jamike Jarin wants and needs all his holdovers to take another step forward for the Bulldogs to live up to the hype. “We’re so young and the experience that we have is not enough. It has to be a combined effort to make us competitive.” – head coach Jamike Jarin WHO IS/ARE THE PLAYER/S TO WATCH OUT FOR FROM NU? Gaye has a chance to claim the vacant spot of best foreign student-athlete – only if the tall and long-limbed Senegalese tower plays up to his potential. At the wings, NU is brimming with talent in veteran DWY, returning JV Gallego and Joshua Sinclair, and first-year players Shaun and Dave Ildefonso, JLC, and Galinato. “JLC, Dave Ildefonso, Josh Sinclair, those are the guys that you will see in the long run.” – head coach Jamike Jarin The issue that persists, however, is at point guard – as it always has been since Gelo Alolino left. Rev Diputado is as steady as they come and Joson can turn into a problem for opponents as a big guard, but both of them have no time to waste and have to become masterful generals for all the weapons the Bulldogs have. WHY SHOULD WE ROOT FOR NU? NU is, hands down, the 2018 king of recruiting. That means that most of the top talent from this year’s recruitment class will be donning blue and gold. The youth movement is well underway and, coupling that with head coach Jamike Jarin’s uptempo attack, there is no doubt that the Bulldogs will be nothing but fun to watch. Get ready for a lot of running and gunning when the NU Bulldogs will be let out. WHERE WOULD NU BE AT THE END OF UAAP SEASON 81? NU will be fighting for a playoff berth – make no mistake about it. “We’re gonna play with a lot of heart. We’re gonna give a scare to the entire UAAP.” – head coach Jamike Jarin Unlike the likes of favored Ateneo, intact Adamson and FEU, reloaded La Salle, and primed UP, all of whom we know what we’re going to get, we’re still not sure how the Bulldogs look like when they finally play together in the UAAP. When the veterans and the new blood perfectly co-exist, then look out for the Bulldogs. Otherwise, however, add one more year to that playoff drought. WHEN IS NU’S FIRST GAME IN UAAP SEASON 81? NU trots out its stacked lineup up against rebuilding UST and coach Jamike will be matched up once more opposite coach Aldin Ayo on September 7. Of course, It All Begins Here on S+A, S+A HD, LIGA, LIGA HD, and livestream. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 2nd, 2018

Heat, Knicks clash in first NBA 2K League Finals

NBA 2K League press release NEW YORK – Heat Check Gaming and Knicks Gaming will make history when they meet in the first NBA 2K League Finals, a best-of-three series that will take place Saturday, Aug. 25 beginning at 4 p.m. ET (4am, Sunday, Aug. 26, PHL time) on Twitch. Below please find numbers related to the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League: NBA 2K League At-A-Glance: 102 – The NBA 2K League, a professional esports league co-founded by the NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., launched in 2018 and features the best 102 NBA 2K players in the world selected from 72,000 hopefuls. 132M – NBA 2K League content has generated more than 132 million video views on social media channels. 1.6M – The NBA 2K League and its teams feature more than 1.6 million likes and followers across all league and team social media platforms. 1M – The NBA 2K League awarded $1 million in prize money over the course of its inaugural season, with the largest prize pool reserved for the end of season champions.  The best-of-three NBA 2K League Finals will see the winning team receive $300,000, and the remainder of the $600,000 total prize pool will be awarded to the remaining seven playoff teams. 186 – The NBA 2K League regular season consisted of 186 games. 17 – The 2018 season ran for 17 weeks, beginning in May and ending in August, and featured 12 weeks of weekly matchups, three weeks of in-season tournaments and two weeks of postseason. 10M – NBA 2K18 has sold approximately 10 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling edition in franchise history. NBA 2K League Teams:      90 – NBA 2K League teams have formed more than 90 corporate and marketing partnerships. 21 – Affiliates of four NBA teams – the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves – will join the NBA 2K League for its second season, bringing the total number of teams from 17 to 21. 8 – Eight teams qualified for the inaugural NBA 2K League playoffs: No. 1 seed Blazer5 Gaming (12-2), No. 2 seed 76ers GC (10-4), No. 3 seed Pistons GT (9-5), No. 4. seed Raptors Uprising GC (8-6), No. 5 seed Cavs Legion GC (8-6), No. 6 seed Heat Check Gaming (8-6), No. 7 seed Wizards District Gaming (8-6), and No. 8 seed and THE TICKET tournament winner Knicks Gaming (5-9). NBA 2K League Players: 677 – Wizards District Gaming’s Austin “Boo Painter” Painter, the league-leader in points scored, tallied 677 points during the regular season. 84 – Grizz Gaming’s Mehyar “AuthenticAfrican” Ahmed-Hassan set the NBA 2K League single-game scoring record with 84 points. 57 – Blazer5 Gaming’s Dayne “OneWildWalnut” Downey, the Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, recorded 57 blocks during the regular season. 25 – NBA 2K League players compete as unique characters in 5-on-5 gameplay.  Each position can choose between five different archetypes, creating 25 total archetypes* 15 – New York has produced 15 NBA 2K League players, more than any other state. 9 – There were nine international players on 2018 opening-night NBA 2K League rosters: Yusuf “Yusuf_Scarbz” Abdulla (Raptors Uprising GC; Canada), Mehyar “AuthenticAfrican” Ahmed-Hassan (Grizz Gaming; Canada), Jamie “vGooner-” Bull (Pacers Gaming; U.K.), Ryan “Devillon” de Villon (Mavs Gaming; Canada), Thomas “Speedbrook” Genaj (Celtics Crossover Gaming; Canada), Harry “HazzaUK2K” Hurst (Mavs Gaming; U.K.), Jannis “JLB” Neumann (Mavs Gaming; Germany), Basil “24k Dropoff” Rose (Heat Check Gaming; Canada), and Jomar “Jomar12 PR” Varela-Escapa (Blazer5 Gaming; Puerto Rico). 5 – Five players have recorded triple doubles in the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League: Heat Check Gaming’s Juan “Hotshot” Gonzalez, Raptors Uprising GC’s Kenneth “Kenny” Hailey, Celtics Crossover Gaming’s Ahmed “Mel East” Kasana, Wizards District Gaming’s Austin “Boo Painter” Painter, and Knicks Gaming’s Idris “Idrisdagoat6” Richardson. *An archetype is a preset combination of attributes and skills. For more information about the NBA 2K League, visit NBA2KLeague.com and follow @NBA2KLeague on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 21st, 2018

Brandt Snedeker wins Wyndham Championship by 3 strokes

By Joe McCreary, Associated Press GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Brandt Snedeker began the Wyndham Championship with history — and ended it with a victory. Snedeker earned his ninth PGA Tour title Sunday, three days after opening with an 11-under 59. He closed with a 65 for a three-stroke victory in the regular-season finale, breaking a tie with C.T. Pan on the final hole with a birdie and Pan's double bogey in the group ahead. Snedeker finished at 21-under 259 for his first win since 2016 and his second at the tournament, but first at Sedgefield Country Club, to close what he called "the most stressful week I've ever had in professional golf." "Shooting 59 on Thursday, your expectations go through the roof," Snedeker said, also expressing pride that he could "cap it off the way we did today, to play pretty much a flawless round of golf." Pan shot a 66 to tie for second with Webb Simpson. Simpson matched his career-best with a 62. "I feel like it was a round I needed to make a push to the leaderboard," Simpson said. "Brandt's obviously had a great week ... so I knew it was going to take something super low." Snedeker opened the tournament with the 59 that made him the first tour player this year and just the 10th ever to break 60, then on the final day played 29 holes at 5 under to seal it. He's the fifth tour player to shoot in the 50s and then win the tournament. He was never in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in his career, but the victory gave him a huge jump on the points list. He climbed 50 spots to No. 30 on the list, after arriving at 80th — which would have been his lowest finish. "To be perfectly frank, I didn't have any chance at all" to win the FedEx Cup before this week, the 2012 playoff champion said. "After this week, I feel like I have a chance." For a while, it looked like it might come down to a playoff between Pan and Snedeker, who were even at 20 under entering Pan's final hole. But the 26-year-old from Taiwan ran into big trouble: Pan shanked his tee shot out of bounds off a cart path down the right side of the fairway and needed four shots, including the penalty stroke, to reach the green on the par 4. Pan said he heard "a couple noises in my head which caused me to hit a bad shot. "It's my fault. I can learn something from it," he said. "I only played one bad hole, which is fine. You know, I've still got a lot of golf left." With the victory seemingly inevitable at that point, Snedeker sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th to end it, making him the 10th player to win in Greensboro multiple times. His victory here in 2007 was the first of his career, and this time he finished one stroke shy of Henrik Stenson's year-old tournament record. "Wanting so desperately to win this tournament, it was just a lot of emotion this week," he said. Severe weather led organizers to suspend the third round with 30 players still on the course and bring everybody back to Sedgefield on Sunday morning, leaving Snedeker with 29 holes to play on the final day. He wrapped up that round with a one-stroke lead at 16 under before heading back onto the course. Since the tournament moved here in 2008, every third-round leader who was that far under par has gone on to win. The other subplot at Sedgefield is the last-minute push for the playoffs, which begin next week at The Northern Trust in New Jersey with the top 125 players qualifying. With every player who was between Nos. 122-127 missing the cut, there figured to be plenty of movement near the bubble. Sergio Garcia will miss the playoffs for the first time in his career after winding up 131st on the points list. Harris English and Nick Taylor played their way in, with Taylor saying he would "kind of soak it in and realize that we've finally done it. "It's really satisfying to finish it off," he said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 20th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Bottom 10 * * * 21. DETROIT PISTONS 2017-18 RECORD: 39-43; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Dwane Casey; New executive Ed Stefanski; G Bruce Brown (No. 42 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jose Calderon (one year, $2.3 million); C Zaza Pachulia (one year, $2.3 million); G/F Glenn Robinson III (two years, $8.3 million); G Khyri Thomas (No. 38 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Stan Van Gundy; G Dwight Buycks (waived); F/C Eric Moreland (waived); F Anthony Tolliver (signed with Wolves) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: F Blake Griffin. And he will be for some time. The Pistons need him to be his former All-Star self again, able to take slower defender to the basket, able to stretch the floor if he plays the five in small-ball lineups. They need him to be a playmaker, to get Reggie Jackson more looks off the ball and Andre Drummond some high-low lobs at the rim. They need him to sell tickets at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit’s revitalized downtown -- a building that seems to be more for the NHL’s Red Wings than the NBA’s Pistons. And they need Griffin to be an anchor that draws players to the Motor City during the life of his extension. THE SKINNY: Owner Tom Gores agonized over firing Van Gundy, but he finally did so, and was fortunate that Casey was available and willing to step right back into the fray after being cashiered in Toronto. Casey will be quite in his element building a defense around Drummond, but, like Van Gundy, Casey will need Jackson to stay healthy; he’s missed a combined 67 games the last two seasons. Detroit did well for not having a first-round pick to come out of the Draft with two solid guard prospects deep in the second in Thomas and Brown. However, the new coaching staff will have to get more out of the team’s last three first-rounders: Stanley Johnson (2015), Henry Ellenson (2016) and Luke Kennard (2017). 22. BOSTON CELTICS 2017-18 RECORD: 55-27; lost in Eastern Conference finals ADDED: G Brad Wanamaker (one year, $838,000); C Robert Williams (No. 27 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Shane Larkin (signed to play in Turkey); F Abdel Nader (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C Aron Baynes (two years, $10.6 million); F Jabari Bird (two years, $3 million), G Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) THE KEY MAN: F Gordon Hayward. All indications are he’s well on his way back from that horrific injury he suffered on opening night last season. He can do so many great things in coach Brad Stevens’ system, and if he’s 100 percent by the playoffs, Boston may well be the one team that can match up, player for player, with Golden State in a Finals meeting. (Remember this when people inevitably say I ranked the Celtics 23rd in offseason moves.) THE SKINNY: Boston got its biggest work done after Smart couldn’t loosen up an offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings or Dallas Mavericks, and eventually worked out a deal for less than he sought to return. Smart’s deal puts Boston in the tax for the foreseeable future, but the Celtics knew that was the next step in keeping a Finals-capable core group together. With Kyrie Irving and Hayward expected back on line Stevens can throw so many different lineups out there, all committed to stifling opponent movement with long, switching defenders led by Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Williams was worth an end of the first flier, though he didn’t get off to a great start. If he gets a good wake-up alarm on his phone, he has a chance to be the Celtics’ center of the future. 23. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 2017-18 RECORD: 52-30; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: F Wilson Chandler (acquired from Nuggets); F/C Mike Muscala (acquired from Hawks); G Zhaire Smith (No. 16 pick, 2018 Draft); G Landry Shamet (No. 26 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shake Milton (No. 54 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former GM Bryan Colangelo (resigned); F Justin Anderson (traded to Hawks); G Marco Belinelli (signed with Spurs); F/C Richaun Holmes (traded to Suns); F Ersan Ilyasova (signed with Bucks); G/F Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C/F Amir Johnson (one year, $1.5 million); G T.J. McConnell (picked up team option); G J.J. Redick (one year, $12.2 million) THE KEY MAN: G Markelle Fultz. His rookie year laid waste by a combination of injury and the yips -- which the Sixers have finally copted to -- Fultz is reportedly rebuilding his shot successfully under the learned eye of development coach Drew Hansen. If that carries over to the fall, Fultz will get a true opportunity (he had some cameos late in his rookie season) to show a skeptical Philly fan base he was worth the top pick in 2017, and worth Philly trading up to get him. He definitely could fill a need with the 76ers for a second playmaker to go with and occasionally in place of reigning Kia Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. But if Fultz has another setback, physically or otherwise, it will be hard for him to stick much longer in Philly -- not a town known for patient reflection with regard to its sports teams. THE SKINNY: Coach Brett Brown was quite clear when he said the Sixers were hunting for a superstar this summer with the cap space they’d assiduously cleared the last couple of years. But the summer has come and gone and there’s no LeBron, no Kawhi, no trade, at least not yet, for Jimmy Butler or anyone else at that level. Belinelli and Ilyasova both played huge roles for Philly in the playoffs; maybe Fultz (see above) takes on some of that role, and Chandler will help. But this doesn’t feel like a successful offseason for one of the real risers in the East. 24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 2017-18 RECORD: 49-33; lost in first round ADDED: G Seth Curry (one year, $2.7 million); G Nik Stauskas (one year, $1.6 million); G Anfernee Simons (No. 24 pick, 2018 Draft); G Gary Trent Jr. (No. 37 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G/F Pat Connaughton (signed with Bucks); F/C Ed Davis (signed with Nets); G Shabazz Napier (signed with Nets); C Georgios Papagiannis (waived) RETAINED: C Jusuf Nurkic (four years, $48 million) THE KEY MAN: Assistant coaches David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbets, Dale Osbourne, Jim Moran, John McCullough and Jonathan Yim. With the Blazers mostly landlocked the next two seasons -- they’re currently above the projected luxury tax line both for next season and 2019-20 -- there aren’t likely going to be many significant roster changes for a while. And in the West, especially, standing pat is often falling behind. It will thus fall to Portland’s excellent staff behind coach Terry Stotts to maximize the production of the current group. They can point with some pride to success stories like Will Barton and Allen Crabbe, now in Denver and Brooklyn, respectively, along with Maurice Harkless and Al-Faroqu Aminu. For Portland to take another step up, they’ll have to coach up someone like 2017 first-rounder Zach Collins or this year’s first-rounder, Simons. They must have them exceed expectations to become a third legit star behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. THE SKINNY: Lillard insists the rumblings heard in some quarters that he’s unhappy in Portland aren’t true, and the franchise better hope he’s being honest. The decisions the Blazers made in 2016 continue to lock them in place; if they catch a favorable first-round matchup (a grumbling Rockets team in 2014; an injury-strafed Clippers squad in 2016), they can advance a round. But last year’s 4-0 sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans had to give everyone pause. How does Portland respond mentally? Re-upping Big Nurk in the middle on a very reasonable deal -- $12 million for a starting center was the going rate five years ago, when the Wolves gave Nikola Pekovic a five-year, $60 million contract -- was necessary. But losing Davis, a locker room and fan favorite for superior work ethic, will hurt, even though Collins should sop up a lot of those minutes. 25. ORLANDO MAGIC 2017-18 RECORD: 25-57; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Steve Clifford; C Mohamed Bamba (No. 6 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Briscoe (three years, $3.9 million); F Melvin Frazier (No. 35 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jerian Grant (acquired from Bulls); F Justin Jackson (No. 43 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jarrell Martin (acquired from Grizzlies); C Timofey Mozgov (acquired from Hornets) LOST: C Bismack Biyombo (traded to Hornets); G Mario Hezonja (signed with Knicks); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Grizzlies); G Shelvin Mack (waived); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: F Aaron Gordon (four years, $82 million) THE KEY MAN: G D.J. Augustin. A vet’s vet, he’s played 10 years in the league and started 226 games for eight teams, including 56 over the last two for the Magic. He’ll enter this season as the unquestioned starter at the point with Elfrid Payton in New Orleans and Orlando still looking to solve its long-term search for a point guard. It’s Augustin’s turn. THE SKINNY: At some point, Orlando’s yearly gambles on size and potential will pay off. Bamba could be the goods; he’s got a demeanor and toughness that should keep him together while he learns the craft at the pro level. But -- again -- it will take some time for Bamba, like 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Isaac, and Gordon, in whom Orlando invested a sizeable sum in July, to flourish. And Magic fans rightly can ask exactly how long they’re to remain patient. Clifford is supposed to improve the defense, but so was Frank Vogel … and so was Scott Skiles … and so was Jacque Vaughn. 26. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Tony Carr (No. 51 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elfrid Payton (one year, $3 million); F Julius Randle (two years, $17 million) LOST: C DeMarcus Cousins (signed with Warriors); G Rajon Rondo (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Ian Clark (one year, $1.7 million); F Nikola Mirotic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Owner Gayle Benson. Mrs. Benson took control of the team after the death of her husband, Tom, last March. She displayed great grace in the days and weeks after Tom Benson’s death, making it clear at the time she had no interest in selling the team and would continue to make outlays to keep the team competitive. The Pels didn’t blink last summer giving Jrue Holiday $126 million, and that will have to remain the case going forward if New Orleans is to repeat its surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals last spring. THE SKINNY: Can’t lose your starting point guard and your starting All-Star center in one offseason -- no matter what the circumstances -- and come out of it with high offseason marks. And especially when Rondo seemed like the perfect fit for the team. Mirotic mentioned during the Warriors series how good Rondo was at picking him up and connecting him quickly with the team after he was traded to New Orleans from Chicago. And, yes, coach Alvin Gentry mentioned he may have exchanged cusses with Rondo every now and again, too. Life in RondoWorld. The path forward is narrower, but not impassible; Randle can be tantalizing at times, maddening at others, but he could plug-and-play at the four, and he can take some of the playmaking burden off of Holiday. But big minutes on the ball for Holiday again is not what New Orleans had in mind. Payton is going to have to perform immediately. And losing “Boogie” Cousins is a big minus. It’s not what the Pelicans gave up to get him. It’s the fit and flow he had with Anthony Davis before the injury, and what the promise of a return this season could have meant toward carrying the momentum of last year forward. 27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: F Anthony Tolliver (one year, $5.7 million); G Josh Okogie (No. 20 pick, 2018 Draft); F Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Cole Aldrich (waived); F Nemanja Bjelica (signed with Kings) RETAINED: G Derrick Rose (one year, $1.5 million) THE KEY MAN: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. He signed for big, big money by NFL standards (three years, $84 million), and the Vikings have Super Bowl aspirations. So all the light will be on the Vikes most of the fall and winter in Minneapolis, keeping it off of the still-young Wolves, who won’t be able to sneak up on anyone after breaking their long postseason drought. THE SKINNY: The Wolves should be positioned to build on their playoff run, especially if Butler can get through a full season healthy and Karl-Anthony Towns adds consistency to his prodigious talents. But they didn’t do much in the offseason, and the team that they beat out on the last day of the regular season, Denver, looks to be much improved. Tolliver should help the Wolves’ depth; they essentially traded him for Bjelica, and he shot slightly better on 3-poiners last season than Belly. Plus, they don’t come better as a guy than Tolliver and he can help Minnesota in the locker room. The issue of Butler’s contract isn’t going away; there will be a reckoning at some point, and he’ll have a lot more options next summer than free agents had this summer. Until then, coach Tom Thibodeau has pretty much the same team that he has to cajole better defense out of next season (22nd in Defensive Rating; 17th in points allowed). 28. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 2017-18 RECORD: 36-46; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach James Borrego; GM Mitch Kupchack; C Bismack Biyombo (acquired from Magic); F Miles Bridges (No. 12 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devonte' Graham (No. 34 pick, 2018 Draft); F Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55 pick, 2018 Draft); ; G Tony Parker (two years, $10.2 milliion) LOST: G Michael Carter-Williams (signed with Rockets); C Dwight Howard (traded to Nets); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Magic); G Julyan Stone (traded to Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: C Cody Zeller. It’s a guess -- Borrego could opt for Frank Kaminsky III -- but Zeller would seem to be the replacement at center for Dwight Howard, who wound up in Washington after the Hornets traded him to the Nets. Zeller started 58 games two years ago and was very good in screen and rolls with Kemba Walker. Zeller only played in 33 games last season because of a left knee injury; if he returns to form, the Hornets could pick up offensively and actually have a little more diversity at that end than last season. THE SKINNY: Team owner Michael Jordan cleaned house after a disappointing 2017-18, bringing another Tar Heel back home in the veteran Kupchak. Kupchak dispatched Howard and then got Mozgov’s guaranteed 2019-20 season off his books to take back Biyombo, who’d left Toronto two years ago for $72 million from the Magic and who’s got a player option for 2019-20. Well before then, the Hornets are going to have to decide what to do with Walker, who’ll be one of the top free agents available next summer if Charlotte can’t get him re-signed or extended. The Hornets were 8.8 points worse when the two-time All-Star was off the court rather than on. Nicolas Batum has to make a return to the all-around talent that enticed Charlotte to trade for him and give him a $120 million extension; he averaged just 11.6 points per game last year, his lowest in three years. Howard’s presence in the paint may have clogged things up some, but that’s no longer the case. 29. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 2017-18 RECORD: 50-32; lost in The Finals ADDED: F Channing Frye (one year, $2.3 million); G Collin Sexton (No. 8 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Jose Calderon (signed with Pistons); F Jeff Green (signed with Wizards); F LeBron James (signed with Lakers); C Kendrick Perkins (waived); F Okaro White (waived) RETAINED: F Kevin Love (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: GM Koby Altman. Altman has a blank slate now after trying to steer a championship-contending ship that had been stripped of a few propeller blades in the last 13 months. With James gone, as well as former GM David Griffin, the 35-year-old Altman has team owner Dan Gilbert’s charge to rebuild the Cavs without taking them down to the studs (as the Cavs did after James first departure in 2010). Altman’s next task after working out Kevin Love’s $130 million extension is clearing the roster of all the veterans brought in the last three years mainly because of their ability to play off of James. THE SKINNY: There weren’t any widespread jersey burnings this time in the Land. James left for L.A. with relative good will from his hometown, having delivered the championship it had waited 52 years for in 2016. Truly, the Cavs’ rebuild started the minute Kyrie Irving demanded a trade; last season seemed more rearguard action than an attack at another title. Extending Love through 2023 with no outs -- keeping him locked with rookie Sexton through the latter’s last controllable season before hitting unrestricted free agency -- gives Cleveland a base upon which to build. Cap room will follow in 2019, but next season will be difficult; Sexton has a lot of toughness and potential, but rookie point guards tend to get their lunch handed to them. 30. MIAMI HEAT 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: None LOST: None RETAINED: G Wayne Ellington (one year, $6.2 million); F/G Derrick Jones Jr. THE KEY MAN: G Josh Richardson. Like many of his teammates, Richardson got an extension a couple of years ago -- four years and $42 million. Last season, he was (again) a solid two-way player for Miami -- almost 13 points per game, 84.5 percent from the line, 37.8 percent on 3-pointers. But if the Heat is going to shake out of the middle lane in which it currently seems stuck, Richardson will have to expand. Miami’s current roster makes it complicated; Pat Riley thinks Richardson’s probably more of a two, but he plays mostly three for coach Erik Spoelstra because Miami’s best lineups were small ball ones. Another offseason at P3 in California will help Richardson continue his development. THE SKINNY: No, Heat people: I don’t hate your team. But when you have no Draft picks, and you have no cap space, and thus you literally could do nothing in the offseason, and basically did nothing in the offseason, and your biggest, most newsy event was whether your 36-year-old future Hall of Fame guard will come back for one more season or play over in China … well, what am I supposed to do with that information? Rank you first? The question is, how much better is your team now than it was at the end of last season? It’s essentially the same team; other than the likes of Richardson (see above) or Justise Winslow, it’s not like there’s a great step up expected from Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, is there? The Heat is not any better than last season. It isn’t any worse. It just … is. So, 30. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Middle 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Middle 10 * * * 11. TORONTO RAPTORS 2017-18 RECORD: 59-23; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: Coach Nick Nurse; G Danny Green (acquired from Spurs); F Kawhi Leonard (acquired from Spurs) LOST: Former coach Dwane Casey; G DeMar DeRozan (traded to Spurs); F Alfonzo McKinnie (waived); C Jakob Poeltl (traded to Spurs) RETAINED: G Fred VanVleet (two years, $18.1 million) THE KEY MAN: Nurse. The former Raps assistant has extensive G League head coaching experience. But the NBA isn’t just about a coach’s Xs and Os acumen. We know Nurse can do that. But an NBA coach has to have command presence in a locker room not only full of millionaires, but full of Alpha males who have their own very strong opinions on how they should be used and how their teammates should help them. Nurse will have to show he can put his own stamp on a team that will have some new faces while still having extremely high expectations. THE SKINNY: You may well think Toronto should be higher, based on Leonard’s standing as a top-five player in the league when fully healthy. No matter what you think of DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, no one can realistically say he’s better than “The Klaw” when both are 100 percent. But, of course, we don’t know if Leonard’s 100 percent. And, trading DeRozan, who’d been the franchise’s biggest advocate during his nine seasons there -- and who had led the team to its greatest extended run of success ever -- is not a transaction without consequence for the Raptors. He helped get the best out of Kyle Lowry. He could help recruit free agents. And, the circumstances of his departure have not helped the franchise’s reputation. Still, this is a talent-based league, and Leonard has it. His and Green’s presence on the perimeter gives Toronto the chance to be a switching defensive monster -- and will help the Raptors be able to match up better with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in a late-May playoff matchup, as long as the Raptors’ young core in which it believes so strongly continues to play as well in reserve as it did last season. 12. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: Coach Mike Budenholzer; G Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trevon Duval; F Ersan Ilyasova (three years, $21 million); C Brook Lopez (one year, $3.32 million); F Pat Connaughton (two years, $3.2 million); LOST: Former interim coach Joe Prunty; G Brandon Jennings (waived); F Jabari Parker (signed with Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: G Eric Bledsoe. His departure from Phoenix early last season was messy. But once he got to Brewtown, Bledsoe solidified the Bucks at the point, averaging 17.8 points and 5.1 assists per game in 71 starts. At 28, Bledsoe faces the last year of his contract and will have to show a new coach he’s capable of running things long-term and playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo through the meat of his prime. THE SKINNY: Budenholzer’s arrival should coincide with an improvement in the Bucks’ defense, something that former coach Jason Kidd could never quite accomplish. Ilaysova’s return for a second tour in Milwaukee should help, with his celebrated charge-taking skill and Lopez’s still-substantial size a double-boon to Milwaukee’s interior D as the Bucks were bottom 10 last season in points allowed in the paint (47.4 per game). If the paint becomes a little tougher to traverse, the Bucks should finally able to use their substantial length on the wing to get back to create deflections and turnovers, and get out in transition, where Antetokounmpo and Friends do their best work and their most damage to the opposition. They’ll do so 41 nights a year for the next couple of decades in the 17,500-seat Fiserv Forum, the Bucks’ new arena that will open in early September with a concert and should pump new revenues into the Bucks’ bloodstream, giving them more financial wherewithal to keep “The Greek Freak” surrounded with high-quality talent. 13. UTAH JAZZ 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Grayson Allen (No. 21 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jarius Lyles; G Naz Mitrou-Long LOST: F Jonas Jerebko (waived) RETAINED: G Dante Exum (three years, $33 million); F/C Derrick Favors (two years, $37.6 million), G Raul Neto (two years, $4.4 million); F Georges Niang (three years, $4.9 million) THE KEY MAN: C Rudy Gobert. He’s a monster presence, the hub of the Jazz’s defensive wheel and the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year. And he has to take a step back in Utah next season for the Jazz to take the next step forward. He has to understand what Utah has in Donovan Mitchell and let that kid eat. Nobody in the league can do what Gobert does defensively. So embrace that and concentrate on that -- take the Draymond Green attitude about being the “defensive guy” on a great team (not that Jazz fans want you to do anything that Green does). Gobert’s handsomely paid and the DPOY award found him in Salt Lake City; there’s no small-market bias at work here. So let Mitchell and Joe Ingles carry the shooting/scoring load, let Ricky Rubio orchestrate, and snuff out opponent dreams at the other end, night after night. It’s what you were born to do. THE SKINNY: My God, Mitchell had a great rookie season. And Utah brought most of the band back from last season to provide advice and consent for him again, re-signing Favors, Exum and Neto each on very reasonable contracts. Doing so leaves Utah over the cap, still comfortably under the tax, and with nothing on the books that should raise an eyebrow financially. (Utah’s front office should handle my checking account for a while.) Anyway, no reason to expect any backsliding next season with the crew returning, though coach Quin Snyder will surely miss the counsel of his longtime friend Igor Kokoskov, off to run the Suns. 14. ATLANTA HAWKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Lloyd Pierce; F Justin Anderson (acquired from 76ers); G Kevin Huerter (No. 19 pick, 2018 Draft); C Alex Len (two years, $8.5 million); G Jeremy Lin (acquired from Nets); F Omari Spellman (No. 30 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trae Young (No. 5 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Mike Budenholzer; G Antonius Cleveland (waived); G Damion Lee (signed with Warriors); F/C Mike Muscala (traded to 76ers); G Dennis Schröder (traded to Thunder); G Isaiah Taylor (waived) RETAINED: C Dewayne Dedmon (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: GM Travis Schlenk. The second-year executive will be judged on how well Atlanta uses its trove of Draft picks -- three firsts this year, three firsts next year, two firsts in 2022 -- the next few years. And, ultimately, the Hawks will live or die by whether Young or Luka Doncic becomes the bigger NBA producer. Schlenk’s chances of completing the rebuild may well ride on that. THE SKINNY: The Hawks’ roster teardown is nearing completion, but the renovated Philips Arena will come online faster than the team, which now needs Young to live up to all the hype after his one season at Oklahoma. He has incredible range and great potential, but he’ll be challenged every night to stay in front of the legion of great points in this league. Pierce, the former Sixers’ assistant, is going to have a very tough time melding all the newcomers with the small core of players who survived, including John Collins, Kent Bazemore, DeAndre' Bembry and Taurean Prince. 15. LA CLIPPERS 2017-18 RECORD: 42-40; missed playoffs ADDED: C Marcin Gortat (acquired from Wizards); G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 11 pick, 2018 Draft); F Johnathan Motley (acquired from Mavericks); F Mike Scott (one year, $4.3 million); F Luc Mbah a Moute (one year, $4.3 million), G Jerome Robinson (No. 13 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Austin Rivers (traded to Wizards); C DeAndre Jordan (signed with Mavs); G C.J. Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Avery Bradley (two years, $24.9  million); C Montrezl Harrell (two years, $12 million); G Wesley Johnson (picked up player option); G Milos Teodosic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Tobias Harris. He was the key tangible piece of the Blake Griffin trade last season (the intangible being the unprotected first from Detroit in the deal that eventually became Gilgeous-Alexander after a Draft night trade with Charlotte). And Harris played quite well in his 32 games with the Clips, averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds per game. Those numbers could each well go up in a contract year and with few others outside of Lou Williams on the roster that can go get their own buckets. THE SKINNY: Amazing, but true: the Clipper player with the longest current tenure is … Wesley Johnson, who came aboard in 2015. “Lob City” is in the history books and change will be the norm here for a while, including next summer, when the Clippers expect to be a free-agent destination. The Clips did what they could with that not-insignificant restriction, but the best stuff was in the Draft, winding up with a potential long-term point in Gilgeous-Alexander and a two in Robinson that rocketed up the pre-Draft charts. Bradley’s on a very team-friendly and controllable contract, as is Patrick Beverley, whose modest 2018-19 salary isn’t guaranteed until January. Those two and Mbah a Moute can give coach Doc Rivers hope that he can get some stops on the perimeter, because while Gortat is still willing defensively and still takes a bunch of charges, he is not Jordan when it comes to rim protection. 16. BROOKLYN NETS 2017-18 RECORD: 28-54; missed playoffs ADDED: F/C Ed Davis (one year, $4.4 million); F Jared Dudley (acquired from Suns); F Kenneth Faried (acquired from Nuggets); G/F Treveon Graham (two years); F Rodions Kurucs (No. 40, 2018 Draft); F Dzanan Musa (No. 29 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shabazz Napier (two years, $3.7 million) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Suns); F Dante Cunningham (signed with Spurs); C Dwight Howard (waived); G Jeremy Lin (traded to Hawks); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Hornets); G Nik Stauskas (signed with Blazers); G Isaiah Whitehead (traded to Nuggets) RETAINED: G Joe Harris (two years, $16 million) THE KEY MAN: Co-owner Joseph Tsai. The Alibaba executive and billionaire has 49 percent of the team, and can buy majority control from Mikhail Prokhorov by 2021. Until then, they’ll run the team jointly, so no matter Prokhorov’s ups and downs, Brooklyn’s financial spigot should never run dry. Tsai reportedly has designs on expanding the Nets’ brand further in China, just as Prokhorov believed the Nets had global reach. They didn’t, at least not the post-KG and Pierce squads. THE SKINNY: If you love Ed Davis like smart people who know basketball do, Brooklyn makes the top half by bringing the ex-Blazer in on a short deal. If he plays great, he’ll cost the Nets a pretty penny in 2019, but Brooklyn has to take chances on guys who can outperform their contracts. The only thing the Nets couldn’t do was take on more ’19 salary when they’ll be in line to potentially add two max players. Won’t be easy to lure the elites, but Brooklyn also has accumulated enough assets to be able to make uneven trades for salaries if need be. In the interim comes next season, with coach Kenny Atkinson needing to continue to develop diamonds in the rough like Graham, who Cleveland wanted and who will help the Nets at multiple positions. 17. CHICAGO BULLS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: G Antonius Cleveland; C Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 7 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chandler Hutchison (No. 22 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jabari Parker (two years, $40 million) LOST: F Jerian Grant (traded to Magic); G Sean Kilpatrick (waived); G Julyan Stone (waived); F Noah Vonleh (signed with Knicks); G Paul Zipser (waived) RETAINED: G Antonio Blakeney; G Zach LaVine (matched four year, $78 million offers sheet from Kings) THE KEY MAN: G Kris Dunn. As the 24-year-old will be every season he’s in Chicago. The Jimmy Butler trade in 2017 yielded the pick that became Lauri Markannen, and he’s also a key piece to the Bulls’ future. But Chicago won’t ever get elevation again if Dunn doesn’t become an elite point guard in a league full of them. He showed signs last season that he could be just that, most notably a December in which Dunn averaged 14.9 points and eight assists, and the Bulls went 10-6. But a concussion in January derailed Dunn’s progress and his production fell sharply the rest of the season. THE SKINNY: Can Parker play the three, as the Bulls insist he can? There isn’t a ton of evidence suggesting so, and Parker’s hypothesis that he isn’t getting paid to play defense does not provide much comfort. But the Bulls will try him there alongside Markannen and rookie Carter Jr. in what would be a huge frontcourt. Almost $20 million annually for LaVine going forward is also a stretch, but less of one if LaVine comes all the way back from his 2017 ACL tear with a full training camp and season. Carter may be more important to the Bulls’ hoped-for resurgence than Parker and LaVine; the Duke big man has that much potential. 18. WASHINGTON WIZARDS 2017-18 RECORD: 43-39; lost in first round ADDED: C Thomas Bryant; G Troy Brown (No. 15 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jeff Green (one year, $2.5 million); C Dwight Howard (two years, $11 million); G Austin Rivers (acquired from Clippers); G Issuf Sanon (No. 44 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Marcin Gortat (traded to Clippers); F Mike Scott (signed with Clippers) RETAINED: G Jodie Meeks (picked up player option); C Jason Smith (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Coach Scott Brooks. Entering his third season in Washington, Brooks keeps saying he wants the Wizards to defend and play fast. But he has to follow that up with action, especially when and if John Wall doesn’t provide the on-ball defense Washington needs to have any chance to unleash a still-potent fast break. Wall is 27 and, if healthy, in his prime. The team takes almost all of its cues from him; when he’s locked in, the Wizards can compete with anyone. But when he’s indifferent, so are they -- as evidenced by their horrible record against bad teams. Brooks has to demand Wall’s best, or be ready to limit his minutes. THE SKINNY: NBA protocol almost demands you hate the pickup of Howard, such is his current perceived valued among many after multiple stops the last few seasons. The guess here is that Howard won’t hijack the Wizards’ locker room, as he had been accused of while in with the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets, especially. Howard’s skill set can help Washington, which fell off defensively last season. But there’s also not much sense he’ll be a significant pick-me-up in D.C., either. He can’t stretch the floor and he’s not especially potent finishing in pick and roll, either. But the Wizards should at least be deeper off the bench with Green, who played well for the Cavs last season, and Rivers, who gives Washington legit guard depth along with Tomas Satoransky. 19. SACRAMENTO KINGS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: F Nemanja Bjelica (three years, $20.4 million); C Marvin Bagley III (No. 2 pick, 2018 Draft); G Yogi Ferrell (two years, $4.1 million); G Ben McLemore (acquired from Kings); F Deyonta Davis (acquired from Grizzlies) LOST: G Garrett Temple (traded to Grizzlies) RETAINED: G Iman Shumpert (picked up player option); C Kosta Koufos (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Harry Giles. The Kings traded for the one-and-done forward on Draft night 2017 and redshirted him, feeling he needed a year to fully recover from the multiple knee surgeries he’d undergone the last three years. Those surgeries stopped his top-five Draft potential in its tracks, before and after a year at Duke. But Giles is back on the floor, having flashed his skills during NBA Summer League, as Sacramento gushed about his progress. If the 20-year-old is ready to roll come October, he could be an enormous boost. He’ll have to at least become a contributor, lest folks remind the Kings they passed on the likes of Kyle Kuzma and O.G Anunoby to trade for his rights. THE SKINNY: Bagley III has superstar potential, and he better become one, or the Doncic Stans among the Kings’ fan base will have aneurysms. The Kings were all over everyone, seemingly, this summer, dropping sheets on Zach LaVine, almost doing the same with Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker, and going after unrestricted free agent Mario Hezonja. All well and good, and getting Bjelica out from under Philly and prying Ferrell from Dallas were decent late July pickups. But it will be Bagley III who’ll be under the microscope. His skill sets are prodigious and he’s been working out feverishly all summer. And he wants to make a mark in restoring the Kings to where they were on the floor during the Webber Years. He worked out for them. He’s enthusiastic about them. That counts for something. 20. HOUSTON ROCKETS 2017-18 RECORD: 65-17; lost in Western Conference finals ADDED: G Michael Carter-Williams (one year, $1.5 million); G De'Anthony Melton (No. 46 pick, 2018 Draft); F Vincent Edwards (No. 52 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Trevor Ariza (signed with Suns); Luc Mbah a Moute (signed with LA Clippers); C Chinanu Onuaku (traded to Mavs) RETAINED: C Clint Capela (five years, $90 million); G/F Gerald Green (one year, $2.3 million); G Aaron Jackson (picked up team option); G Chris Paul (four years, $159 million) THE KEY MAN: Jason Biles, Joe Rogowski, Keith Jones and Javair Gillett -- the Rockets’ athletic trainers, sports performance and rehab staff. Their only mission next season, should they decide to accept it, is to get Paul through an 82-game regular season and a two-month playoff slog without breaking or pulling anything of importance that keeps him out of key games. Of course, should any of the staff be unsuccessful, the Morey will disavow any knowledge of their employment. Good luck, men. THE SKINNY: We have not yet included Carmelo Anthony, who will be signing in Houston any minute now. When he’s officially on the roster, he’ll certainly help, and we all saw that even Houston can go through extended scoring droughts in the playoffs. Having Anthony around should alleviate that. The Rockets may have had the best signing of the summer, keeping the 24-year-old Capela locked up long-term for $18 million per -- incredible value these days, given the way salaries are skyrocketing. But that was mitigated by the losses of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, who were crucial to the switching defense Houston employed and perfected by the playoffs, which threw sand in the gears of the Warriors’ impenetrable offense and would likely have propelled the Rockets to The Finals if Paul hadn’t gotten hurt in Game 5. Ennis and Carter-Williams will help some in that regard, but they don’t have the resume of Mbah a Moute and Ariza -- which means they sometimes won’t get the benefit of the doubt from refs that the old heads do. Houston’s still the clear number two to Golden State in the West, but the gap between the Rockets and the best of the rest has closed. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

Rodgers gets Packers up to speed in practice vs. new defense

By Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers' no-look touchdown pass is still the talk of Green Bay Packers training camp. The defense was called for offsides to give Rodgers a free play during a two-minute drill in practice Thursday. The play was going left. Rodgers was looking left. But he threw the ball to his right. Touchdown, Geronimo Allison. The play looks even better on film to coach Mike McCarthy. "I think you appreciate it more when you watch the video. I know I did, because he spoils you," McCarthy said Friday. "You don't have too many practices around here where he doesn't make that throw where you're just like, 'OK, file that onto the library. That's the way you want to teach it.'" Packers fans who dared to worry about Rodgers' seven interceptions during the first five days of camp can breathe easy. The two-time NFL MVP likes how the offense has worked in the first week. "Well, I'm working on things in training camp. I'm working on throws, whether it's looking or no-looking. Trying different plays that we we're working in," Rodgers said. A 7-9 finish last season ended a streak of eight straight playoff appearances for the Packers. The offense struggled while Rodgers was out with broken collarbone, and the defense had familiar problems against the pass. McCarthy overhauled the coaching staff after the season, which included bringing back Joe Philbin as offensive coordinator. Philbin was the coordinator when the Packers won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season. "We've done a medium overhaul of some offensive concepts, so working on some new stuff and trying to get on the same page with receivers," Rodgers added. An added wrinkle for Rodgers is the new looks in practice from coordinator Mike Pettine's defense. His units have finished in the top 10 in the league when he's been in charge. "Well, they're just so multiple. They have a lot of different pressures and types of pressures," Rodgers said. "They're giving you pressures where they can actually get home. We haven't had that issue in a while, where they scheme pressures to have a free guy on the play." It gives the linemen good practice for the regular season, too, since the NFC North-rival Minnesota Vikings are among teams that run pressures similar to what the Packers' defense is doing now. "So the protection elements for offense are really challenged by his defense, which is great for us," Rodgers said. Getting Bryan Bulaga back will help too. The veteran right tackle was activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list on Friday and returned to practice on a limited basis for the first time since tearing his right ACL in Week 9 last year. "I am very optimistic about Week 1, I really am," Bulaga said. "I still have some work to do to get to it but it's definitely looking better than it did, say, four months ago, even though I thought I'd still get to that point." His return would solidify a right side of the line that will already have a new starter at guard. Bulaga is a steady, reliable presence up front who has played in big spots with Rodgers. "He's a pro's pro. He knows how to play the game," Rodgers said. "Unfortunately, he's sustained a couple of tough injuries. But when he's out there, he's a rock." At its best, a starting five with Bulaga gives Rodgers just enough time to get out of trouble and outside the pocket, where the quarterback might be most dangerous. As he showed with his no-look TD throw to Allison. NOTES: WR Jake Kumerow, an undrafted free agent in his second year out of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, continues to impress with his hands and route-running ability. He could be a long shot to make the roster, especially after the Packers drafted three receivers this year. But the 6-foot-4 Kumerow has earned some reps with the first-string offense and caught Rodgers' attention. "So there's going to be some tough decisions when the cutdown happens," Rodgers said. "We drafted three guys, so. If you're playing today, you'd like him on the field.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 4th, 2018

Johnson and Kisner, housemates and British Open leaders

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) — A light rain in the morning that gave way to soft sunlight in the afternoon took some of the sting out of Carnoustie. Just not all of it. Kevin Kisner found that out with one swing that erased his two-shot lead Friday in the British Open and left him tied with housemate Zach Johnson. He hit an 8-iron that only needed to go 150 yards to clear the Barry Burn in front of the 18th green. Instead, it floated out of the yellow grass to the right, bounced off the base of the rock wall that frames the winding stream and led to a double bogey. Disappointed but not down, Kisner removed his cap behind the green and scratched his head as if he wondered what hit him. "They call it 'Car-nasty' for a reason," he said after signing for his 1-under 70. "Even when you think you've got it, it will jump up and bite you." It took a chunk out of Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, the Nos. 1 and 2 players in the world who won't be around for the weekend. Johnson finished with a double bogey to miss the cut by one. Thomas made three straight double bogeys on the front nine and missed by one. And it left a wide-open weekend on a course with a history of crazy finishes. Zach Johnson, whose name already is on the claret jug from his playoff victory at St. Andrews three years ago, played in the morning under an umbrella and finished with a 30-foot birdie putt for a 67. Johnson and Kisner are staying in a house of seven players — five of them major champions — and share the lead at 6-under 136. They played on different ends of a day that started gray and ended with shadows. Scotland's unusually dry summer finally got a reprieve. There wasn't enough rain to turn brown fairways green, though it at least kept shots from rolling endlessly. They head into a weekend with endless possibilities. One shot behind were Tommy Fleetwood (65), Pat Perez (68) and Xander Schauffele (66). Perez was tied for the lead until he hit into a bunker on the 18th hole and took bogey. Rory McIlroy, pledging to "go down swinging" to rid himself of a bad Masters memory this year, had another 69 and was part of a large group two shots behind. Jordan Spieth also is in the mix in his bid to take the claret jug back home to Texas. Spieth hit 8-iron through a gap in the trees for a birdie-birdie start to the back nine, and he dropped only one shot — not four like he did on Thursday — over the four closing holes at Carnoustie for a 67. He goes into the weekend just three shots back. "Very happy to be back in the tournament," Spieth said. Tiger Woods still has work to do after a rugged start, good recovery and then a mix of birdies and bogeys that left him stuck in neutral on a better day for scoring. Woods had another 71 and was six shots behind, with 28 players between him and the lead. "We've been fortunate with the conditions. It hasn't blown yet," Kisner said. "I think it will blow this weekend and make it even more difficult. Who knows what's going to happen? We're going to just keep trying to get after it." Carnoustie was a far different test from the opening round, when sunshine baked the fairways crisp and it was difficult to figure out how far the ball was going when it hit the ground. The steady, light rain made them a little slower and a lot more predictable. The greens held shots a little better. Strategies changed. Slightly softer conditions meant power players who were driving beyond the trouble hit more irons off the tee, and shorter players hit more drivers and fairway metals. Kisner hit 5-iron off the first tee Thursday. He hit 3-wood Friday. "Hit the same club as the approach," Kisner said. "That's a pretty dramatic difference in distance." Kisner is a newcomer to what amounts to an American fraternity house at golf's oldest championship the last three years. Four of them are among the top 11 on the leaderboard going into the weekend with Spieth and Rickie Fowler, who shot 69 and was at 3-under 139. As for talking shop after work? Nothing is off limits. "Everybody will tell their horror stories and good stories, and we'll laugh and eat a big old meal and sit around and watching something stupid," Kisner said. Thomas will have one of the horror stories. The PGA champion took three to get out of a pot bunker from the fairway on the par-5 sixth hole, making the first of three straight double bogeys. Johnson became the first No. 1 player to miss the cut since Luke Donald in 2011, and it was the second straight that the top two players in the world ranking missed the cut in a major. The way golf has been going, it would be reasonable to see the name "Johnson" atop the leaderboard and assume it belonged to the top-ranked player. But not necessarily at the British Open. "I've been called Dustin many times," Zach Johnson said. "I doubt he's been called Zach that many times." Johnson overcame a bogey on the opening hole with birdies on the third and fourth holes, and he never put himself under too much pressure the rest of the way. Already a two-time major champion with titles at St. Andrews and Augusta National, the 42-year-old from Iowa now has made the cut 12 straight times in the British Open, a streak that began at Carnoustie in 2007. His low ball flight, grinding nature and good putting give him the right ingredients. Kisner is no stranger to pressure at a major. He had at least a share of the lead after each of three rounds at the PGA Championship last summer until a bogey on the 70th hole ruined his chances. "Hopefully, I'll have another chance to prove that I can do it here," Kisner said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 21st, 2018

Reports: Mavericks reach deal with Ferrell, close with Dirk

NBA.com staff report The Dallas Mavericks are making sure one of their young, talented players stays in the fold and are working to keep their franchise icon from going anywhere, too. According to ESPN's Tim MacMahon and Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania, the Mavs have an agreement in place with guard Yogi Ferrell on a two-year contract. In addition, Mavs all-time leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs are making plans to finalize a one-year deal with the former Finals MVP, Charania writes. Last week, the Mavs rescinded Ferrell's qualifying offer, which made him an unrestricted free agent. However, that move was just a formality, MacMahon writes, as the sides were in the final stages of working out the new deal (which costs Dallas slightly less in annual salary). Here's more from Charania on the deal Ferrell and the Mavs reached: Free agent guard Yogi Ferrell has agreed to a two-year, $5.3 million deal to return to the Dallas Mavericks, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Ferrell returned to the Mavericks with the promise of being the backup shooting guard next season, league sources said. The second season of his deal includes a trigger date on July 7, league sources said. Ferrell, 25, earns a two-year contract after spending his first two NBA seasons with the Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets. He joined the Mavericks on a 10-day contract in January 2017, one month after the Nets waived him. Ferrell was an instant success, and had a performance of 32 points and nine 3-pointers against the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 3, 2017, leading to a two-year deal. Last season, Ferrell averaged 10.2 points, three assists and 2.5 rebounds per game as he started 21 of 82 games played for Dallas. Per both ESPN and Yahoo Sports, the Mavs are expected to use the remaining salary cap room they have to give Nowitzki a contract. Here's more from Charania on that deal: In what could be Dirk Nowitzki’s final NBA season, the future Hall of Famer and the Dallas Mavericks plan to finalize a one-year, $5 million deal, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Nowitzki and the Mavericks are not in a rush to sign the contract, but Nowitzki remains a Maverick for life. The Mavericks and guard Yogi Ferrell agreed to a two-year, $5.3 million deal on Thursday, leaving the team with $5 million in salary cap space to re-sign Nowitzki. In late June, Nowitzki and the Mavs mutually opted out of his contract for next season to give Dallas more room to make moves in free agency. The Mavs made a sizable splash in free agency this summer as they added former All-Star center DeAndre Jordan. Nowitzki, who has played his entire NBA career with Dallas, became the first international member of the NBA's 30,000-point club in 2017. He is the team's all-time leader in points scored, games played, rebounds, blocks, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted and 3-pointers made and attempted. The Mavericks haven't won a playoff series since taking the title almost seven years ago, cycling through dozens of roster moves to try to give Nowitzki another shot at a title. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 20th, 2018

Blockbuster trade not what Kawhi, DeRozan hoped for

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 19th, 2018

The British Open returns to the nasty links of Carnoustie

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press Carnoustie is known as much for the calamity it causes as the British Open champions it crowns. Any mention of Carnoustie immediately brings back that image of Jean Van de Velde, equal parts tragedy and comedy, standing in Barry Burn on the 18th hole with water up his shins and rising. He made triple bogey to lose a three-shot lead, and then completed as great a collapse as can be found in a major championship by losing in a three-man playoff in 1999. Just don't get the idea Van de Velde owns all the rights to bad endings at Carnoustie. Jose Jurado was the first victim. He had a three-shot lead going into the final round in 1931 and was still two shots clear late in the round until coming undone in the brutal closing stretch, topping one shot on the 17th hole into the burn. He lost out to Tommy Armour. More recently was Padraig Harrington , only it worked out well for him in 2007. Playing the 18th with a one-shot lead, the Irishman hit his tee shot into the Barry Burn. He took a penalty drop and then hit his next shot into the winding stream. Harrington managed the best double bogey of his life. It got him into a playoff when Sergio Garcia made bogey from the bunker, and Harrington went on to win his first major. Of the six previous Opens on these menacing links, Ben Hogan is the only winner to hold a 54-hole lead. For most everyone else, Carnoustie always seem to dish out its share of carnage. Rod Pampling once opened with a 71 and had the lead. He followed with an 86 and missed the cut. Phil Mickelson still hasn't seen a weekend at Carnoustie. Garcia made his major debut as a professional at Carnoustie. He shot 89. "That's a brutal course," Bernhard Langer said. He speaks from experience in 1999, when Langer had his third-highest score of the 23 Opens he completed. He shot 297, and he tied for 18th that week. The first time Tiger Woods went an entire round without a birdie in a major was in 1999 at Carnoustie. "I think I made one birdie on the weekend and I finished three or four back of the playoff," Woods said. "That was ridiculous how hard it was." One month after Shinnecock Hills was punishing as ever in the U.S. Open, golf's oldest championship doesn't figure to be much of a reprieve. Scotland has been going through a warm, dry patch of weather, which figures to make it firm and bouncy. Mickelson, who played Carnoustie a week before the Open, said it was unlikely he would even carry a driver. "I'm either going to carry a driver or that hot 3-wood, but there's only two or three holes — there's actually only two holes I plan on using it, both par 5s. I have a low 1-iron that I've been putting in the bag and ... it's very low. Gets on the ground quick. I'll hit that on probably the last ten holes, almost every hole." Carnoustie in any conditions is regarded as a beast, with a reputation as the toughest links in the world. Sir Michael Bonallack, the former R&A secretary, might have sized it up the best when he said, "When the wind is blowing, it is the toughest course in Britain. And when it's not blowing, it's probably still the toughest." In recent Opens, it has picked up a nickname: Car-nasty. For so much of the field, it will be a new experience. Only two players from the top 10 in the world have played a British Open at Carnoustie — Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy , who was an 18-year-old amateur in 2007 and immediately showed his potential when he opened with a 68. He tied for 42nd that week. Only 33 players in the 156-man field have played an Open at Carnoustie, and only 12 have played it twice. Defending champion Jordan Spieth only knows it from television. He was 13, just starting to blossom as a junior, and he watched the Open from home as Garcia and Harrington tried to survive the finish. "I remember ... how good of a score par was on that hole and will continue to be for Opens going forward," Spieth said. "It's one of probably the toughest closing holes in the Open Championship anywhere, and that creates some drama when it comes down to Sunday, as we've seen. And I don't think it will be any different this year." Carnoustie gets its mean streak from the way the course was set up in 1999, with narrow fairways and high grass. But its strength comes from the wind, like most links courses, and this course near the North Sea is particularly exposed. It measures 7,402 yards, which is 19 yards shorter — yes, shorter — than it was in 2007, the last time the Open was at Carnoustie. Spieth will try to become the first player in 10 years to repeat as British Open champion, and right now he'd simply settle for a chance. Since his closing 64 at the Masters to finish third, Spieth has finished at least 12 shots out of the lead in four of his seven tournaments. He missed the cut in the other three. Like most majors these days, the Open figures to be wide-open. Dustin Johnson, who lost a four-shot lead over the final two rounds at Shinnecock, is back to No. 1 in the world and eager to pick up another major. He has not played since the U.S. Open. The next three players behind him in the world ranking — PGA champion Justin Thomas, Rose and U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka — all have a chance to replace him at No. 1. Recent history would suggest a young American — the last five majors have been won by Americans in their 20s. "It's definitely been pretty one-sided, and the Americans are dominating," Rose said. "So it would be lovely to turn that around next week." Woods is happy to get another crack at it. Carnoustie was his first experience with links golf in 1995, when he was still at Stanford and came over for the Scottish Open at Carnoustie ahead of the British Open at St. Andrews. He opened with a 69, closed with a 78 finished 48th. "Carnoustie is an unbelievable driving golf course," Woods said. "You have to drive the ball well there, but also it's not your traditional in (and) out golf course. It's a lot of different angles, so a lot of different crosswinds. I have to be able to maneuver the golf ball both ways there efficiently. You just have to hit the golf ball well." There is no faking. Nothing comes easily. No one really conquers Carnoustie. It's more about survival. The highest compliment might have come from Tom Watson, who won his first major at Carnoustie in 1975 in a playoff over Jack Newton. "Carnoustie is like an ugly, old hag who speaks the truth no matter how painful," Watson once said. "But it's only when you add up your score, you hear exactly what she thinks of you.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 13th, 2018