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Popovich s odd alliance with red state fans

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SAN ANTONIO -- About 400 people gathered at the Oak Hills Country Club in June 2016 and paid $500 to $250,000 to sip iced tea and nibble hors d’oeuvres next to a golf course designed by noted architect AW Tillinghast, who built many. One is owned by the man who was feted at this political fundraiser, Donald J. Trump. The presidential campaign was in full blast and saltier than the crackers on the cheese plate being passed around. Fresh off the plane, Trump thanked the Republicans for the big ‘ole Texas welcome, witnesses say, before launching a blistering attack on the usual targets: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, illegal immigration. Then, near the end of his 30-minute lunchtime appearance, in an effort to connect with the locals, he pivoted and mentioned perhaps the most famous man in town: Gregg Popovich. Witnesses say Trump called Popovich “a great coach” and said “he does a good job” and then there was some fidgeting in the room when the soon-to-be polarizing leader of the free world said this: “I don’t know if the coach is on my side.” Confirmation came emphatically, right after Trump won a divisive election that November. The coach of the Spurs lit into the President over the next several months with a handful of rants that had the stealth of Kawhi Leonard ambushing a timid ball-handler. In no particular order, here were Pop’s Greatest Hits, all issued through the media and without prompting or provocation: “The disgusting tenure and tone and all the comments … have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. I live in a country where half the people ignored that to elect someone.” And: “He is in charge of our country. That’s disgusting.” And: “The man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks he can only become large by belittling others.” And: “We have a pathological liar in the White House ... You can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.” Popovich didn’t stop there with a President whose sensitivity and intelligence he questioned and accused of being guilty of “gratuitous fear-mongering.” When he took Trump to task for criticizing NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem and defended their rights to do so, Popovich also suspected a measure of the public outrage was racially motivated. “Our country is an embarrassment to the world,” he said. A 68-year-old wealthy white man, therefore, became a sports voice with weight in the political and social justice arena, where the NBA league office has greenlighted players and coaches to speak up. Popovich has done so with clarity and insight to gain national applause in certain corners. He wasn’t the first or the last in sports to verbally spank the president or tackle right-leaning sensitivities, yet he’s certainly the most unique in one respect. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy who works in a military town, and a five-time NBA champion coach who might symbolize the city more than The Alamo, Popovich has long been elevated to icon status, perhaps permanently so, in San Antonio, where folks are mad about the Spurs. Still, this is mostly conservative Texas, one of the most Republican of states based on the state legislature and the congressional delegation, a state that voted Republican in 10 straight presidential elections and saw 52.6 percent of voters punch for Trump. While voters in San Antonio-proper lean liberal, the surrounding areas swing solidly the opposite. Julianna Holt, the Spurs CEO and Popovich’s boss since March after assuming the position held for 20 years by her husband Peter, supported various Republican presidential candidates before eventually donating $5,400 to Trump’s campaign and $250,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, according to Federal Election Commission records. Popovich is therefore a blue blood in a red state and the contrast makes for strange if not uncomfortable alliance between a beloved coach and a group of conflicted Spurs worshippers. His views have in fact shattered the sacrilege by generating hostility from a segment of the basketball flock, something no coach with his credentials would ever feel. The constant winning and acts of charity do not insulate him from those who would prefer Popovich stuff a sweat sock in his bullhorn. Party lines not Popovich's focus “While we all believe Gregg Popovich has the right to his opinions, where was Popovich when Hillary called half of us a 'basket of deplorables?’Many were Spurs fans who are now tired of being insulted ... many of us will never pay to see a Spurs game again.” -- Donna Howington  “The money I will save this year not attending Spurs games should buy me a nice set of golf clubs. Thanks Pop!” -- Jake Ingorgia  “I will never watch them again until Popovich is gone. He is just like all the other leftist celebrities.” -- Lee Harbach, Bulverde They arrive on cue, most from the dusty towns that orbit around San Antonio, some from the city itself. Popovich has unloaded three times this year on Trump, once after the election, once at the start of training camp and most recently by cold-calling Dave Zirin, a friend and liberal writer from The Nation, a progressive magazine. And each time, the letters land in the office of Ricardo Pimentel, the editor who coordinates the comments section of the Express-News, San Antonio’s newspaper of record. “It’s a cycle,” says Pimental, with a sigh. “He speaks out. People who disagree with him send us letters to the editor, then people who object to their disagreement write us letters to the editor defending Pop. Then they respond to one another.” The initial reaction, he said, is always stacked against Popovich and many identify themselves as Spurs fans ripping up their tickets or promising to never attend or watch games again. Even if those who made threats actually carried them out, the change in the Spurs’ home attendance is a blip, from 99.2 percent capacity last season to 98.6 so far this season. Popovich, of course, has been big for business since his first full season as coach in 1997-98. Besides the titles, the Spurs have reached the playoffs every season and won 50 games every season (except for the lockout-shortened 50-game 1998-99 campaign, when they won 37). In short, Popovich's Spurs have a track record beyond reproach in the NBA. If the 2017-18 Spurs stay on pace, it’ll be 20 straight winning seasons for Popovich, one more than Phil Jackson for the all-time NBA record. He hasn’t been this politically vocal until lately, due to Trump, yet was always politically aware, say those who know him. Well-versed through his readings and observations, Popovich welcomes discussion with acquaintences about classism, leadership, government and preferably over a bottle of wine. His two-decades exposure to young black men from humble beginnings raised his awareness and sensitivities about race and bias. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr once played for the Spurs and lately has echoed many of the same thoughts as Popovich. But Kerr coaches in the Bay Area, where folks nod their heads in agreement. Kerr said he can only imagine the flak Popovich catches in Texas. “Here’s this iconic coach who stands for everything that’s right and for honor and integrity, he served in the military, you see him stand at attention for the American flag — man, Pop loves his country,” Kerr said. “And in the middle of Texas for him to be questioning the Republican President, some of the people down there are probably confused. Like, 'I don’t get it, we love this guy but he’s on the other side from us.' “What I love about Pop is that it’s not about party, not about politics. It’s about integrity and character and that’s what people need to pay attention to. It’s not about some policy, not about how much we pay in taxes. If we can just get back to the point where character matters, then we’ll be in better shape. The problem is, it’s clear character has gone down the tubes in many leadership positions in our country. That’s what Pop is calling out.” True enough, Popovich never publicly attached himself to a political party; to suggest he is against Republicans might be as misleading as believing Colin Kaepernick is against the military. When he played for Popovich, Kerr couldn’t recall a time when the coach was this annoyed by the country’s leadership. “The country was in a better place in terms of a relatively peaceful time back then,” Kerr said. “Yes, 9-11 happened and the whole world changed. But we didn’t have quite the same partisan nature, not only in politics but the national conversation. And so people could just admire Pop for who he was and people might not have been aware of his political leanings because they didn’t ask. When we won and went to the White House, Pop and the team went when Bush was in office. We went in ’99 when President Clinton was there. Republican, Democrat, didn’t matter. The times are so different now.” Kerr laughed quickly when asked about the semi-serious groundswell of social media support for a Kerr-Popovich ticket in 2020. Kerr said he hopes to be on his fifth NBA title as a coach then, but turned semi-serious about Popovich. “Our country needs somebody like Pop who can actually lead and unite from a position of authority and credibility,” Kerr said. “This guy served in the military, grew up in a melting pot, understands leadership. More than anything, he’ll cut through all the [expletive].” Since going nuclear on Trump, Popovich declined invites from the national political shows (and wouldn’t comment for this story). That proves what friends have maintained all along: Popovich doesn’t want to be anyone’s political hero or pundit. He’d rather speak when the moment calls for it, then be left alone. That last part is tricky, though. Empathy often marks Popovich's way “Can you imagine being Republican on the Spurs? Would you feel welcome? He’s like Berkeley -- for free speech unless you disagree with him. Shut up and coach, Gregg.” -- Shannon Deason  “When it comes to coaching basketball or drinking wine, Popovich has experience. When it comes to our country, his opinion is no better than anyone else’s." -- Harold Siemens, Seguin  “Open letter to the NBA referee who ejected Pop from the Warriors-Spurs game: Don’t feel bad about what Gregg Popovich called you. He called the POTUS worse and got away with it.” -- Larry Peabody Once the wheels touched down, the pilot jokingly announced over the loudspeaker: “Welcome to Gregg Popovich International Airport,” and one particular passenger noticed that nobody on the plane thought it was strange. Sean Elliott always knew how deeply rooted Popovich is with San Antonio. Aside from the famous Spanish missions and the River Walk, the city is known for the only professional sports team in town. And while George Gervin, David Robinson and Tim Duncan have come and gone, the one lingering reminder is a sometimes gruff and scruffy coach, maybe the NBA’s best ever. “He’s one of the pillars of the community,” said Elliott, twice an All-Star with the Spurs. “He’s looked at with great admiration. He is as respected as anyone who has ever lived in or been part of the city. It’s not just because he’s a basketball coach. Pop has been a big part of the community, huge contributor to charitable functions, good leader.” Elliott was a Spurs rookie in 1989 when their relationship began and he saw the start of Popovich’s reach in the region. Popovich then was an assistant coach under Larry Brown and just planting his feet in the NBA. That summer, Elliott and Popovich piled into a van with the team's "Coyote" mascot and conducted basketball clinics in San Marcos, Corpus Christi, Laredo and similar places. They were signing autographs in malls and running kids through drills in 100 degree heat, never hearing a complaint from the coach. Elliott said folks in those small conservative towns loved him. “If you sit and hear him talk about something, you tend to agree with him,” Elliott said. “He’ll put it in a logical way and he’s very thoughtful, well read and super intelligent, maybe the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.” The owner of the Spurs then was Red McCombs, a homespun Texan who made his fortune in car dealerships and media companies. McCombs didn’t give Popovich the coaching job after firing Brown, telling Popovich “you’ve got a chance to be a great coach” if he got more experience, which he did, going to the Warriors to work for Don Nelson. Popovich returned to San Antonio two years later as general manager, then became coach and the rest is history. Now 90, McCombs said: “Popovich has become the distinguished part of the franchise. He wears it well. Can’t say enough about what kind of man he is and what he’s meant to San Antonio. God has blessed us with Gregg Popovich.” McCombs loves to tell how Popovich, by chance, learned that a local family needed a car. The coach wrote a check, gave it to the father and walked away. McCombs said it was “typical Popovich” who has empathy for those with less. McCombs, curiously, has traditionally been one of the biggest Republican bankrollers in the state, who gave to the Trump campaign and is fully aware of what Popovich thinks of his choice for President. And so one of the most powerful men in Central Texas, who leans politically to the color of his nickname, had a strong reaction to that. “He’s earned the right to give his comments about citizenship or Trump or anything else,” said McCombs, voice rising. “Yes, he made some statements that others might disagree with. But I’ll tell you this: Popovich would be elected to anything he wants to in San Antonio.” Remaining silent never an option “Our country is not an embarrassment to the world. I will tell you what an embarrassment is. It is an American citizen who got a free education from the great Air Force Academy ... and then has the audacity to say that the greatest nation in the world is an embarrassment because the President rightly demands that Americans stand for the anthem. Popovich should be ashamed of himself.” -- Nick DeLouis, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Nowhere on God’s green Earth do they have the right to disrespect our flag and the men and women who died to keep us free. I’m appalled that you stooped so low to join in that disrespect. Shame on you!” -- Fred Martin, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Coach Pop has squashed my love and enthusiasm for the team. A national treasure, he is not. Coach Pop has a voice, but not my voice." -- Jo Ivan A few years ago Popovich was in New York with his daughter to catch a Broadway play when the coach had a last minute change in strategy. He learned that John Carlos was giving a lecture at New York University that night. So Popovich told his daughter to take one of her friends instead; said he was going to see “Dr. Carlos” speak. “When he came in I was surprised and delighted,” Carlos said recently. “Quite naturally, everyone knew who he was but he just wanted to sit and listen.” A year later, in 2015, Popovich flew Carlos to San Antonio to address the team and Carlos admitted to being star struck around Tim Duncan and others. Yet Carlos was most curious about Popovich and why the coach took a strong interest in an Olympic sprinter who raised a fist on the victory stand in 1968, which is frozen as an iconic civil rights moment. “Being with the Spurs gave me an opportunity to check his character out,” Carlos said. “I knew he was a whiz at putting players together to bring out their best ability. But through my conversations with him it became apparent that he was a social activist himself at one point in his life. He was teaching his players about activism and to be concerned about their fellow man and what was going on around their lives, not just basketball. “I was impressed. He just wanted them to know they had a larger role than just playing basketball in the society in which they live.” Carlos, therefore, was not surprised to see Popovich defend the rights of kneeling black football players who came under attack from Trump. On the first day of training camp in September, Popovich said: “Obviously race is the elephant in the room and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly it is not going to get better.” What followed was another swirl of exchanges between Popovich critics and supporters in San Antonio, and Popovich acknowledged receiving mail from both sides. The anti-Pop mail, though, was jarring to Carlos, given the coach’s work in town. “When people write and lambast him for taking leaders to task for what they’re doing to society, that’s like water rolling off a duck’s back, man,” Carlos said. “When they write negative things about him, it encourages him to keep doing what he’s doing. Those people are the problem. Go ahead and throw stones and it just motivates him to do his job. “Look, I’m a black man who spoke out. Imagine what they think of him as a white man who speaks just as strong, to try and get people to see things in a better light? They throw stones at him even more, like, 'Hey you’re white, you have a great life. Keep your mouth shut.’ Well, God points people in certain directions. We know who we are. We do what we do.” And what Popovich does is enlist the help of giants in the social justice world and bring them into his world. He did that with Cornel West, the Harvard professor and civil rights activist, last fall. Popovich invited West to San Antonio to speak at an East Side community center with a few hundred mostly black and Latino students and their parents. Done without TV cameras or media invitation, the discussion was about the importance of education, the imperfect world, self respect and how to help communities. This was an audience that, presumably and unanimously, connected with a white man who didn’t live among them, but was with them. They were the people Popovich had in mind when he attacked present leadership. This was not the audience that writes to the Spurs and the Express-News asking him to take a vow of silence, though he is aware of them, too. “Some responses make you wonder what country you live in,” Popovich said, “and other responses make you very hopeful … overall, it renews my feeling that something must be done because there is enough people willing to listen.” 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: abscbn abscbnJan 5th, 2018

The Pistons are 10-3, and might be the surprise of the NBA

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press The Detroit Pistons are heading on the road for a few days, so maybe someone will see them play. They’ve certainly been worth watching. Detroit’s 10-3 start, good for No. 2 in the Eastern Conference standings, is one of the biggest good surprises in the NBA through the season’s first month. The Pistons already have a road win at Golden State, swept a five-game homestand — possibly to the delight of all those unoccupied red seats at Little Caesars Arena, more on that in a moment — and are off to their best start in 12 years. “I know that we’re playing as a team right now,” Detroit’s Luke Kennard said. “We’re really locked in. We’re really playing together and we play hard. When you have a team that does that together, you win.” Now comes the test. Starting Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), the Pistons play five of their next six games on the road — visiting Milwaukee, Indiana and Minnesota before returning home to face Cleveland, then heading right back out for a trip to Oklahoma City and Boston. After topping Miami to finish off a 5-0 homestand Sunday (Monday, PHL time), Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy made no effort to hide how pleased he is right now. “We did a great job here, and now you just move on to the next challenge,” Van Gundy said. “Now 9-of-11 on the road, the next three games on the road against teams you beat at home so you know they want back at you. The challenges just keep mounting, but you put wins in the bank.” Maybe at some point, there will be fans in the seats. The brand-new Detroit arena has a listed capacity for basketball at 20,491, which was the announced crowd for opening night. In seven games since, the Pistons have announced crowds between 13,709 and 17,683 — and those numbers may be generous, given how empty the building looks on television. Officially, Detroit sold 76 percent of its tickets in those seven games. ___ GIANNIS WATCH Technically, no foreign player has ever won an NBA scoring title. Dominique Wilkins has one and he was born in Paris, but only because his father was in the U.S. Air Force. Giannis Antetokounmpo may change that in a few months. And if not this season, then probably soon enough. The Milwaukee star who hails from Greece went into this week averaging just over 31 points per game and leading the league in that department. He was the Most Improved Player last season and don’t be surprised if he gets more votes for that trophy this season — along with MVP ballots as well. “He plays now to destroy you,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters last week before Antetokounmpo scored 28 in Milwaukee’s road win over San Antonio. “In the beginning he was pretty darn good and he would do this and he would do that. But now he knows he can do it to you every time. He’s for real.” Antetokounmpo turns 23 on Dec. 6. The only other players in the last 50 years with 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists before celebrating their 23rd birthdays — Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady, and future Hall of Famer LeBron James. ___ ANNIVERSARIES A couple of significant milestone dates are nearing. Sunday (Monday, PHL time) marks the 13th anniversary since the so-called “Malice at The Palace,” the infamous brawl involving Indiana and Detroit after Metta World Peace (then Ron Artest) went into the stands after a fan hit him with a drink. The aftermath included nine players being suspended, and security in NBA arenas has been different ever since. And Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) is the 16th anniversary of the first call-up from what is now called the NBA G League — the Denver Nuggets brought eventual NBA champion Chris Andersen up from the Fayetteville Patriots, a move that paved the way for hundreds of players to truly view the development league as a springboard to the NBA. ___ THE WEEK AHEAD Some games to keep an eye on over the coming days: — Philadelphia at L.A. Lakers, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball, a matchup of future NBA assist leaders. — Golden State at Boston, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): An NBA Finals preview? The road team has won five straight in this series. — Oklahoma City at San Antonio, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): Russell Westbrook has triple-doubles in his last two games vs. the Spurs. — Houston at Memphis, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): The Rockets’ wide-open offense goes up against the Grizzlies’ airtight defense. — Washington at Toronto, Sunday: John Wall vs. Kyle Lowry might get overlooked on an NFL Sunday, but shouldn’t. ___ STAT LINE OF THE WEEK Paul George, Oklahoma City: His 37-point, eight-rebound, five-assist game against Dallas on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) wasn’t even his best game of the week (he had 42, 9 and 7 two nights earlier against the Clippers). But the Sunday (Monday, PHL time) game gets the nod since it came on Russell Westbrook’s birthday and when asked what he got his teammate, George said “I got him 37.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 15th, 2017

10 things to know going into the 2017-18 NBA season

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Happy New Year, NBA. The 72nd regular season starts Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), when Boston heads to Cleveland and Houston goes to Golden State. Fans in Cleveland will boo Kyrie Irving, fans in Oakland will cheer the Warriors’ latest championship banner, and the march toward April will finally be underway. The offseason was loaded with changes. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George went to Oklahoma City, Gordon Hayward and Irving went to Boston, Isaiah Thomas got sent to Cleveland, Jimmy Butler is now in Minnesota and Paul Millsap calls Denver home. That’s seven All-Stars who moved, a record for an NBA offseason. Every coach who started last season will start this season. That’s an NBA first. Here’s 10 things to know about the NBA season that is finally here: ___ 10. QUICK STARTERS San Antonio, Toronto and Miami will likely start 1-0 — because under current management, San Antonio, Toronto and Miami almost always start 1-0. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is 18-2 on opening night, Raptors coach Dwane Casey is 7-1 and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is 7-2. Spoelstra has started 1-0 in each of the last six seasons, the longest such run in the NBA. A coach in need of a 1-0 start? Try New Orleans’ Alvin Gentry. He’s dropped five straight openers and is 2-9 on opening night. Brooklyn, Orlando, Milwaukee and Utah have the league’s longest current opening-night losing streaks, starting 0-1 in each of the last four seasons. 9. FROM DISTANCE Last season was the third straight where the NBA’s team single-season three-point record fell, starting with Houston (933 in 2014-15), Golden State (1,077 in 2015-16) and Houston again (1,181 from 2016-17). Between the Rockets, Cleveland, Boston and the Warriors, four of the five highest single-season three-point totals in history came last season. Don’t expect the 3-ball to go away anytime soon, either. 8. LEBRON’S MARKS LeBron James’ list of milestones is about to get longer. He comes into this season 1,213 points shy of becoming the seventh NBA player to reach 30,000, meaning it should happen by about the All-Star break barring any extended absence. He’s also on pace to eclipse the 8,000-rebound and 8,000-assist marks this season. The only other player in NBA history with 25,000 points, 6,000 rebounds and 6,000 assists is Kobe Bryant. James already has all those numbers, and counting. 7. WHERE’S THE DEFENSE? In 2014-15, half the league — 15 teams — held opponents under 100 points per game. Two seasons later, San Antonio and Utah were the only teams that managed the feat. The league’s planned crackdown on traveling this season might help, but it’ll be interesting to see if defensive numbers improve in this era of three-point-reliant, pace-and-space basketball. 6. MAYBE MINNESOTA Think about this, with apologies to fans in the Pacific Northwest: There have been more NBA playoff games in Seattle over the last 13 years than in Minneapolis. This will finally be the year that changes. The Timberwolves, who last reached the postseason in 2004, should return this spring even in a loaded Western Conference with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and new addition Jimmy Butler leading the way. 5. SPURS CHASE HISTORY If the Spurs win 41 games this season — a safe bet — it’ll be the 21st consecutive season where San Antonio finishes the regular season at .500 or better. That would tie the NBA mark in that department, matching the feat set by the Utah Jazz from 1983-84 to 2003-04. The Spurs set a record for consecutive winning seasons last year with their 20th. (Utah was 41-41 in 1984-85.) 4. DIRK’S LONGEVITY Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki enters this season 31 games away from passing Kevin Willis for No. 6 on the NBA’s all-time list. At 48,673 minutes, he’s also within striking distance of No. 5 Elvin Hayes (50,000), No. 4 Jason Kidd (50,111) and No. 3 Kevin Garnett (50,418). 3. STEPH WATCH Stephen Curry will have just turned 30 when this regular season ends. And by then, he legitimately could be No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time three-point list. Curry starts this season No. 10, and at his current pace will pass Ray Allen for the top spot sometime in the 2019-2020 season. 2. NEW DEADLINE No longer will the All-Star Game be overshadowed by talk of who’s getting moved where (like last year, when DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the Pelicans while players were still in locker rooms in New Orleans immediately after the game). The trade deadline will now be 10 days before the All-Star break, so this season that means Feb. 8 (Feb. 9, PHL time). 1. AND THE WINNER IS ... How can anyone pick against Golden State right now? The Warriors will get their third title in four years, which is the easiest prediction possible. So we’ll finish this with some probably less-than-chalk picks: LeBron James is going to reclaim the MVP award, the Rockets will have a game where they connect 30 times from three-point range and Charlotte’s Steve Clifford will be coach of the year......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst The season starts on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). You’ve been waiting patiently all summer with your questions. Fire away.     1. So … what’s the point of playing this season? The Golden State Warriors are still the prohibitive favorites to repeat this season, next season and into the foreseeable future. But it was good to see a good chunk of the Western Conference -- the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets, to name three teams -- not fold before the first card is dealt. That fact alone is incredibly important. The Warriors are still the best team in the West, without question. But if teams don’t even try to get better, or spend money to compete, the whole rationale for playing fades away. The Thunder could have rode Russell Westbrook alone to another first-round playoff loss, watched him walk out the door in free agency next summer and thrown up its hands, plead ‘woe is us and all small-market teams,’ and enjoyed a luxury tax-free life for the next few years. The Rockets could have just kept selling tickets to fans to watch James Harden and his pals shoot 50 threes a game for the next two or three years. It’s an appealing brand of basketball. Denver could have just kept building through the Draft, climbing a few more wins here or there for a while, and snuck into the eighth seed, choosing to be comfortable rather than bold. But they didn’t. They’ve called and raised. In all likelihood, it won’t be enough to beat Golden State. But those teams can sleep well at night. They’re not cheating their players, or fans. 2. So, is OKC now a legit threat to the Warriors? The short answer: no. But it’s closer. Carmelo Anthony will be as good a third option as anyone in the league has, though; he will eat regularly on the weak side as defenses scramble to handle Westbrook-Paul George pick and rolls; a quick seal and ‘Melo will be off to the races. If coach Billy Donovan goes small ball with Patrick Patterson at the five, there will be many nights when OKC drops a 130 spot. Yes, the Thunder’s defense is going to be an issue; while Enes Kanter was a sieve off the bench, he was coming off the bench, playing behind Steven Adams. Anthony will be starting and playing big minutes, many at the four. But it won’t matter most nights when the Thunder is up 20 to start the fourth quarter, after 36 minutes of Westbrook sorties, George 3-pointers and transition dunks, and Carmelo post-ups and spot-ups (he shot 44.8 percent last season on catch and shoot shots. Among forwards who played 30 or more minutes last season, per NBA.com/Stats, only Kevin Durant, Otto Porter and Kawhi Leonard shot better). The Thunder can guard you with George, Andre Roberson and Adams and they can outscore you with Westbrook and George and ‘Melo. They have a solid bench (Patterson, Ray Felton, Jerami Grant, Alex Abrines) and Westbrook won’t be physically spent by the end of the 2018 playoffs. Wait; what am I saying? Of course he’ll be spent. But he’ll also be playing way deeper into May. 3. Did not getting Anthony hurt Houston or nah? The Rockets -- okay, Chris Paul -- wanted this done bad. It won’t hurt Houston in the regular season, when Paul and James Harden will dominate. And while Harden didn’t like Kevin McHale’s critique of his leadership, Mac was spot on. That doesn’t make “The Beard” a bad guy or teammate -- people gravitate to their comfortable roles in life, and CP3 is a natural-born leader. Harden will, one thinks, be more comfortable with slightly less light on him. They’ll do fine playing together and off one another. But the shadow of the Rockets’ implosion from deep -- 29 of 88 on three-pointers the last two games against the Spurs in their Western Conference semifinals series -- still hangs over them. Ryan Anderson was negated in the postseason. There’s a reason CP3 pushed for ‘Melo so hard. The Rockets will need unexpected consistent offense from a P.J. Tucker or Luc Mbah a Moute in May if they have any hopes of playing in June. 4. Can we just start the Cleveland-Boston East finals now? Maybe Toronto, with C.J. Miles shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers to complement Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, will break up what seems inevitable. Maybe Washington, with its super-solid starting five intact, now has the mental toughness to bust past the second round, where it’s been beached three of the last four postseasons. But it doesn’t feel like that. Boston, ultimately, should be a lot better this season than last. It will take a while for coach Brad Stevens to figure out the rotation and whether Jaylen Brown can really stick at the two, but ultimately, the Celtics have two dynamic playmakers/scorers in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and with Al Horford providing the glue at both ends, they’re going to be a load by the end of the season. And while Cleveland will have to wait a while for Isaiah Thomas, the Cavs have more than enough firepower until Thomas can make his debut. Whatever Dwyane Wade has left will be accentuated playing with James, and Kevin Love (holy moly, is he underrated) will feast drawing slower, bigger centers out to him on the perimeter. J.R. Smith doesn’t like losing his starting job to Wade, and he should be ticked. But he nonetheless will help Cleveland’s bench, which will be incredibly difficult in its own right with Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver complementing Smith. And that’s before Thomas returns, which will put Derrick Rose on that second unit. There won’t be any rest for defenses who’ll then have to contend with a rested James, et al, coming back. It says here that not only will the Cavs not miss Irving offensively, they could be even more diverse and difficult to guard this season. Not to mention that James is supremely motivated to make an eighth straight Finals. 5. Could Curry break his record of 402 3-pointers in a season? At first glance, with Durant and Klay and Draymond (and, now, Nick Young) all needing to get fed as well, it would seem impossible for Curry to best the mark he set two years ago, on the 73-9 regular season team. But consider: coach Steve Kerr thinks a new guy always blossoms in his second year with the Warriors, which means Durant should be even more lethal offensively this year, as the Warriors’ offense reaches an even higher level of efficiency. And the way they move the ball, it’s not a stretch to think that with defenses tripping over themselves to get to Durant, Curry could get into one of those ridiculous grooves that could leave him within striking distance of 402 by the end of the season. 6. Could the last one in the Eastern Conference turn out the lights? The New York Knicks were hardly a power in the East before trading Anthony, but his departure creates one more team that will struggle to win 35 games this season. With the paucity of talent there should be at least four 50-win teams in the East -- Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington -- with the Milwaukee Bucks knocking on the door. 7. Who’s going to regret their offseason? The Bucks were fine off the court -- their new arena is already more than halfway constructed and looks like it’s going to be a gem -- although the surrounding mall that is supposed to be part of the complex is not going up as quickly. But the Bucks didn’t address their bigs-heavy roster and move some of the surplus -- how can coach Jason Kidd keep all of Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker and John Henson happy with Thon Maker scarfing up more and more frontcourt minutes? -- for the shooting Milwaukee still needs. The East is so open, and Milwaukee is so close to breaking through into elite status with Giannis Antetokounmpo an elite performer. 8. Rudy Gay -- sneaky good pickup? Gay says he’s cool starting or coming off the bench for the Spurs, but he’d best as San Antonio’s sixth man, at least to start things. Bringing Pau Gasol off the bench didn’t work so well, so if he’s starting at center, coach Gregg Popovich can’t go small ball with “Cousin” LaMarcus Aldridge at the five and Gay at the four alongside Kawhi Leonard. (Current state of Spurs fans’ cuticles here and here as they consider a season with an extended Klaw absence if this quad injury doesn’t improve soon.) The Spurs could have some serious firepower in reserve if Gay and Patty Mills come off the bench, but Mills or Dejounte Murray will likely have to start at the point until Tony Parker comes back. 9. Speaking of Popovich … Should he and Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy stick to sports? No. 10. Who’s gonna be Kia Rookie of the Year? I say Markelle Fultz. What, you thought I was gonna pick against a DeMatha Catholic man? (Actual unretouched photo of me as a sophomore at the most successful high school in the history of the United States may or may not be here). Playing off of Joel Embiid, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington … it’s hard to see Fultz not looking really good when he should have all kinds of room to operate. Lonzo Ball will put up bigger numbers, and Tatum will be on a better team. But Boston was good last year, and Jayson Tatum will likely not play as much as the others. The Sixers are poised for a big jump up in the standings, and that’s always a narrative that voters like and get behind -- which is what will hurt Dennis Smith Jr.'s chances in Dallas. 11. What does Dwyane Wade really have left? Now that the inevitable buyout of Wade’s $24 million deal by the Bulls has led to the equally inevitable trek to Cleveland to play with James, can the 35-year-old Wade still be a significant contributor on a title contender? Given the general dysfunction in Chicago last season, you can dismiss most of the good and bad numbers Wade put up, with two exceptions: he still averaged almost five free throw attempts per game, and he shot 31 percent on 3-pointers -- not great, but more than double his anemic 15.9 percent behind the arc in 2015-16, his last with the Miami Heat. Wade obviously knows the cheat code for how to most effectively play off of James, so he’ll use the regular season to learn his teammates and be ready for the playoffs. But can Wade hold up over seven games defensively if he has to chase, say, Bradley Beal around, or try to deny DeRozan his preferred mid-range spots, and still be productive offensively? 12. Back to the Sixers -- how good will they be? My guess is they’ll pretty good in the 60 or so games I anticipate Embiid will play this season -- I’m assuming several designated off days for him during the season, not another injury. The mix of young talent (Fultz, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Covington) and crafty vets (Redick, Amir Johnson) should mesh to make the 76ers a very tough team to defend. But Philly has to resolve the Jahlil Okafor situation, and in fairness to him, give him a fresh start somewhere else with a trade as soon as possible. If I were a good team that would be hard-pressed to add a free agent any time soon and feels a player short of true contention -- I’m looking at you, Memphis Grizzlies and Wizards -- I’d work hard to get the new, slimmed-down Okafor on my squad while he’s still on his rookie contract and make him the focal point of a kick-ass second unit. 13. Should we feel some kind of way about the Trail Blazers? I’m picking up what you’re putting down. A full season of the “Bosnian Beast” in the middle, it says here, will vault Portland into the top four in the West. Note I said “full season.” That means Jusuf Nurkic has to give coach Terry Stotts between 65-70 starts for the above premonition to be, as they say in the legal world, actionable. If so, Nurkic’s underrated scoring and passing out of the post will only make Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum that much more deadly out front, along with improving Portland’s defense. Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Blazers were 11.6 points per game better than the opposition with those three on the floor together and a +5 when their regular five-man lineup with Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu joined the guards and Nurkic. And that’s pronounced, “Noor-kitch,” accent on Noor. 13. A little movie break ... Kevin Costner’s accent in “Robin Hood” -- worst ever, right? Yes, but Natalie Wood’s in “West Side Story” was painful, too. 14. Many have written the post-CP3 Clippers off. Should they? The Clippers are my darkhorse this season -- if they do the right thing and go small more often. They’re doing it more in practice so far than in games because Danilo Gallinari is working through a foot injury, but Blake Griffin at the five and Gallinari at the four could be spicy during the regular season. That would mean Sam Dekker and/or Wes Johnson would have to become credible and dependable at the three, allowing coach Doc Rivers to play a Pat Beverly-Milos Teodosic backcourt more often, which will just be fun. This would, of course, mean less DeAndre Jordan, and … that may not be the worst thing. Nothing against DJ, who is the best defensive big in the league, bar none. Unfortunately, the NBA isn’t about defense any more -- at least not in the traditional sense. Even someone like Jordan who doesn’t just block shots, but also helps snuff out opposing pick and rolls, becomes less valued by the league’s advanced stats crowd if he doesn’t contribute more offensively. The three has gone a long way to tyrannizing the defense-dominant big man out of the game. (Zach Lowe recommends the Wizards try to get Jordan via trade, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard that name mentioned in connection with Washington, the idea being the only chance the Wizards have of beating Cleveland or Boston is to slow them down enough defensively that Wall-Beal-Porter can try and keep up offensively. Washington is definitely a load when Wall gets locked in on D and creates turnovers, and the idea of Jordan inhaling lobs from Wall is enticing to think about. But the Wizards are not -- not -- going to take on a fourth big contract, and Jordan’s surely going to opt out after this season; he’s rightly expecting a massive payday in 2018, and the Clippers certainly now have motive and means to retain him.) Anyway, some Lou Williams, Austin Rivers and/or Teodosic and Willie Reed off the bench isn’t bad, either. 15. Could Kyle Kuzma be the best rookie on the Lakers this season? Don’t @me, LaVar. Kuzma has followed up a very strong Vegas Summer League with high notes in preseason, averaging better than 19 points per game for the Lakers. He’s been dazzling at times, displaying in-between skills that intrigue, and showing why so many teams were trying to trade back into the first round to get the Utah forward before L.A. snagged him with its second and much less heralded first-round pick last June. And there will be minutes available at the four this season. So far, Kuzma has displayed unusual strength for a rookie and confidence in his ability to score. Of course, he’s inexperienced, and like all rookies, has to differentiate between an open shot and a good shot. The other, more famous first-rounder, Lonzo Ball, will almost certainly be the better all-around player in time. For this year, though … hmmm. 16. What does a Hawks fan have to look forward to this season? Honestly, not much. But they’ll always be well-coached and get better. I’d pick one of the young players, like rookie John Collins or second-year small forward Taurean Prince, and concentrate on them during the season. See what they do with their minutes on the floor, and watch how they gradually expand their games at both ends. Seeing a young guy get better as he gains experience and accepts coaching is one of the great joys of watching the NBA every night. 17. Orlando? What gives there? The team’s new braintrust of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond will need some time to fix the roster -- a mélange of athletic wings that have trouble defending and guards that have trouble shooting. The former is addressed somewhat with the signing of Jonathon Simmons from San Antonio, but I don’t see a solution to the latter with any of the existing backcourt contributors. Unless coach Frank Vogel figures out some way to get more turnovers/runouts from his group, they just can’t get in transition enough for their length and legs to make a difference. 18. New Orleans? What gives there? The short answer is, I have no idea. All of NBA Earth has DeMarcus Cousins out of there one way or another (he’s an unrestricted free agent in ’18 and wants to be on a contender/the Pelicans will never pay him what he wants and will have to trade him by the deadline/no way he and Anthony Davis fit together/Wall agitates for a reunion with his former Kentucky big man in D.C./your departure theory here) by this time next year, but we’ll see what coach Alvin Gentry has come up with for “Boogie” and “the Brow” after a summer to think it over. Rajon Rondo being out hurts their depth, but I have to be honest -- I don’t see how he and Jrue Holiday can possibly work together in a backcourt, and Holiday’s the guy the Pelicans just gave $125 million to, so he should probably have the ball in his hands every night, shouldn’t he? I like Ian Clark and Frank Jackson down there, but that untethered three spot burns a hole in the New Orleans sun. Well, at any rate, should be more fun than watching reruns of My Life on the D-List. 19. Favorite D-List Muppet? Beaker. 20. LeBron is leaving Cleveland again after this season, isn’t he? Everything points to yes, and a relocation to Los Angeles to play with the Lakers or Clippers next year – except … what if the Cavs win it all again this year? That’s not an impossible scenario -- in fact, it’s a pretty simple one to lay out: Cavs run roughshod through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs again, get through a good but hardly great Boston team in the conference Finals and set up a fourth straight encounter with Golden State. It’s easy now to say the Warriors dominated the Cavs in last season’s Finals -- but only if you ignore the fact that Cleveland led by six with just more than three minutes remaining in Game 3, only to see the Warriors score the game’s last 11 points to take a 3-0 lead instead of 2-1. And given that Cleveland vaporized the Warriors in Game 4, a 2-2 series would have meant the Cavs just needed to win once in Oracle -- which they’d done twice in the 2016 Finals -- to have a real shot at repeating. The point is, the difference between the teams isn’t as big as Draymond Green would have you believe; the Cavs have no fear of the Warriors, and Jae Crowder gives coach Tyronn Lue a viable on-ball defender for Kevin Durant, leaving LeBron free to play off of Green. And: that unprotected Nets pick, whether one or three or five or seven, is Cleveland’s best recruiting tool. LeBron knows everyone in college basketball and he can literally pick whoever he’d like to finish his career with in Cleveland before handing over the reins. I’m not saying he’s definitely staying, either -- only that his departure isn’t the lead pipe cinch some would have you believe. The season to come will have a lot to do with his next decision. 21. So, how will the playoffs go this season? Eastern Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto, Milwaukee, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia Western Conference (seeds No. 1-8): Golden State, Houston, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Memphis, Utah, Minnesota Eastern Conference semifinalists: Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Milwaukee Western Conference semifinalists: Golden State, Houston, OKC, San Antonio Eastern Conference finals: Cleveland over Boston Western Conference finals: Golden State over OKC (you heard me) NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland (in seven games) 22. Tell me something crazy that’s going to happen this season that no one’s predicting! Giannis Antetokounmpo. NBA MVP, 2017-18. 23. Are you high? No, ma’am. 24. So, why 24 questions? As always, we start the season with 24 questions (or predictions, or issues, whatever) in honor of Danny Biasone, the late owner of the Syracuse Nationals, whose discovery in 1954 helped save the league. At that time, the NBA was in the midst of a literal slowdown, in large part by teams that were desperate to figure out some kind of way to stay competitive with George Mikan, the league’s first superstar big man, and his team, the Minneapolis Lakers. Teams would hold the ball for minutes at a time without shooting in an effort to shorten the game and give them a chance to beat Minneapolis late. But the end result was boring -- very boring -- basketball. At the owners’ meetings that year, Biasone came up with an idea. NBA games were 48 minutes long. Biasone figured out that in a normal game, one not waylaid by the slowdown tactics, about 120 shots -- 60 per team -- were taken. So, why not just divide the number of minutes in every game -- 2,880 -- by the number of shots in an average game -- 120 -- to come up with some kind of a time limit in which a team had to shoot. And thus, the 24-second shot clock (2,800/120) was born. With the implementation of the shot clock in the 1954-55 season, scoring went way up, as did the quality of play. Teams were now running up and down the floor in order to try and beat the shot clock, complementing the “fast break” game that many colleges had played for years. But the new style in the pros was immensely popular with fans. And it still is. Plus, there’s just something iconic about that clock counting down every 24 seconds. It’s unique to the NBA. Thus, we ask 24 questions, in honor of the guy who owned a bowling alley as well as the Nationals for much of his adult life, and probably enjoyed the bowling more. 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 NewsOct 17th, 2017

Aldridge still trying to find his place with Spurs

em>By Raul Dominguez, Associated Press /em> SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge admitted to feeling some frustration following an offseason filled with trade rumors. They troubled him enough to do something he hadn’t really done before. The 6’11” forward reached out to coach Gregg Popovich for a serious talk about his place on the team as it continues its transition, slowly but surely, away from the Tim Duncan/Big Three era. “The relationship has always been great, it’s no issue,” Aldridge said. “It’s just that I’m trying how to mesh who I was to who I am now and trying to get more out of me in the system.” The success of those talks could go a long way in determining if the Spurs can keep their place among the top teams in the rugged Western Conference. San Antonio essentially stood pat in the offseason, adding Rudy Gay and Joffrey Lauvergne while losing Jonathon Simmons and David Lee. The Spurs will again rely on veterans like Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol while anticipating improvement from younger players like Dejounte Murray, Davis Bertans and Bryn Forbes. Entering his 12th NBA season, Aldridge has averaged 18.0 and 17.3 points in two seasons with San Antonio. Those are respectable numbers, but not for a four-time All-Star with Portland who became the biggest free agent signing in Spurs history. “It was a probably a little bit of frustration at one point on my end because I felt like I wasn’t really fitting into the system as well as I could and I wasn’t helping to the level I felt like I could,” Aldridge said. The frustration grew in the postseason, which ended with a sweep by Golden State in the conference finals. Aldridge averaged 15.5 points against the Warriors, but only 11.3 points in the final three games after the Spurs lost Leonard to an ankle injury in Game 1. While fans and Aldridge himself are demanding more, Popovich and his teammates simply want more of the same. “I feel like he played well for us last year,” said Leonard, who sat out the entire preseason as a precaution to protect his right quadriceps. “Come in and be a presence on both ends of the floor be aggressive.” Aldridge said he is healthy after missing two games in early March due to a minor heart arrhythmia and playing with tendinitis throughout the season. He has looked comfortable and happy in the preseason, averaging 16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists in four games while taking on a greater leadership role. “Now we’ve got to help [Aldridge] out a little bit more so he’s comfortable in his own space offensively,” Popovich said. “I haven’t done a very good job with that [in the past].” Some other things to watch from the Spurs early this season: strong>PROMISING PARKER: /strong> Parker’s rapid recovery from a ruptured quadriceps tendon has astounded doctors, the Spurs and even himself. San Antonio’s veteran point guard plans to return by mid- to late-November, which is two to four months sooner than initially expected. Parker could not move for three weeks after suffering the injury May 4 against Houston in the second round of the playoffs. The 35-year-old had to re-learn how to walk and was told he might not be able to bend his knee as he had before. Parker is cleared for all activities, but was held out of full-contact practices. strong>MURRAY’S GROWTH: /strong>Murray is expected to start at point guard while Parker completes his injury rehabilitation. The second-year player out of Washington has averaged 9.3 points and a team-high 3.8 assists in the preseason. The 6’5” guard averaged 3.4 points and 1.3 assists in limited minutes last season. “I’m very optimistic about his future,” Ginobili said. “He’s going to be a great player, a potential All-Star, [but] you don’t know if it’s going to happen now or in five years. It depends a lot him, but he’s a very talented kid.” strong>MANU RETURNS: /strong> Ginobili returns for his 16th season after nearly retiring in the offseason. Admitting it was a “close call,” Ginobili opted to return to the only NBA team he has played for. Ginobili averaged 7.5 points last season, the lowest of his career, but enjoyed one of his most injury-free seasons. “I still had the appreciation for the game, I still enjoy being here every day,” Ginobili said. “Incredible organization and a place where I feel respected and listened to and appreciated and I appreciate it, too.” strong>YOUTH MOVEMENT: /strong> The Spurs are expected to rely more on their youth than in previous seasons. Second-year players Murray, Bertans and Forbes and rookies Derrick White and Brandon Paul are embracing that opportunity, even impressing San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. strong>ONE PLAYER, MULTIPLE ROLES: /strong> Gay joined San Antonio after playing the past four seasons in Sacramento. After missing the final two months of last season following surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, the 12-year veteran has participated fully during the preseason. At 6-foot-8, Gay is expected to play multiple positions in the frontcourt in a role similar to the one filled by Boris Diaw. “It was a do or die point in my career,” Gay said. “I wanted to be with an organization that is known for winning and can help me raise my game to another level. So, I mean, where else do you go?” .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Warriors show off firepower, Cavs show off flaws in Finals rematch

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- Tyronn Lue’s bathroom break came early in the fourth quarter. No, not literally. But the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers had used the familiar call of duty to describe the suddenness with which a game against the Golden State Warriors can turn. And sure enough, on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena, it turned on Lue and his team. “They’re the only team,” Lue told reporters before tipoff, “where you can be looking at the game and it’s a two-point game. You go to the bathroom, come back, they’re up 15.” Lue’s “loo” moment, figuratively anyway, came after David West sank two free throws to put the Warriors up 95-93 with 9:07 to play. There it was – the two-point lead – in what had been 39 minutes of mostly entertaining, back-and-forth, you-loved-them-then-you’ll-love-them-again basketball between the familiar adversaries. Draymond Green extends the @warriors lead to 10 on @NBAonTNT! 4:47 to play in Q4 #DubNation pic.twitter.com/q2Drea9Jxy — NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2018 Exactly three minutes and 23 seconds later, Draymond Green cut to the basket, took a pass from Shaun Livingston and dropped in a layup that made it 105-95. It was the biggest lead of the night to that point. Lue twice had called timeouts during the run in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Now there was only 5:44 left. The Warriors’ margin would grow to 14. And the Cavaliers, to stick with Lue’s imagery, were circling the bowl. That the defending champions can go into hyperdrive against anybody is a reminder, not a revelation. But there were some things revealed, discovered and learned in the second and final regular-season clash of the respective West and East favorites, including: Isaiah Thomas has a way to go. This was our most extended look yet at Cleveland’s new point guard, their Kyrie Irving replacement, in circumstances most like those he’ll face when the meat of the Cavs’ schedule – the postseason – rolls around. Thomas scored 19 points, matching his high from the four previous games he played. He was on the floor for 32 minutes, nearly eight minutes more than his previous high. Both Thomas, who missed the season’s first 11 weeks recovering from a hip injury left over from last spring in Boston, and the Cavaliers know a) he’s not sharp or in great shape yet, and b) neither he nor the team has gotten familiar enough with the other to achieve the best results. Yet Thomas took 21 shots Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), more than LeBron James (18), more than Dwyane Wade (14) and more than double any other Cleveland player. He made just eight, including just one of his seven 3-point attempts. Lue, though, said he had no problem with Thomas’ gunning, as long as they were good shots. Thomas sounded as if he was seeking out work where he could find it. Granted, it was his hip that kept him out but his elbow, wrist and shooting hand apparently profit from heavy usage now too. “I’ve got to get in shape,” he said later. “I’ve got to get my legs back. Especially when I get a little winded, my legs get even heavier. “The only thing that’s gonna help me is getting reps. Running up and down the floor. Getting my hip, getting my body accustomed to taking a beating. ... Getting in basketball shape.” Kevin Durant didn’t put much stock in Thomas’ play Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) as a sign of how he’ll help Cleveland come springtime. Durant went through a similar enough trial in 2014-15, when surgery in October to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot sidelined him into December, then finally scuttled his season after just 27 games. “Obviously IT is just getting back,” the Warriors forward said. “He hadn’t played in seven months – you’ve got to give him some time. I know exactly how that feels. Especially being thrown in in the middle of the season and starting and playing 30-plus minutes now ... I know it’s gonna take him a while to get into a comfortable groove here.” What we saw is what we’d get. Mostly. It looked at various points as if both coaches were trying lineups, testing young players, tinkering with substitution patterns or probing matchups with an eye on a possible re-re-rematch in June. Likewise, it would be understandable for Lue and Golden State’s Steve Kerr to hold back a few wrinkles, just to have something fresh to try the next time they face each other. ”We don’t hold too much back, to be honest with you,” Kerr said. “I think matchups can dictate some things that you do in the playoffs and sometimes you may make a few different play calls, whatever. But I don’t think there’s a conscious effort to hold anything back for fear of tipping the hand for later.” Kerr started rookie big Jordan Bell again, same as in the Christmas game in Oakland, for more mobility against Cleveland’s small lineup than center Zaza Pachulia would provide. The coach gave Kevon Looney, Nick Young and Patrick McCaw more tastes of the rivalry too. Lue, meanwhile, was asked if he had the Cavaliers target Steph Curry defensively to get him into foul trouble and generally make life difficult. That’s a tactic that has helped when most others have failed against the two-time MVP and it might come in handy down the road. “I can’t remember,” Lue said, pointedly declining to answer. Curry can dunk. And David West still can. It was a rare Curry-in-flight moment early in the second half when the Golden State guard, who usually does his damage from deep, threw down a two-handed dunk. It was his first of the season. Steph Curry throws down the two-handed jam on #PhantomCam! #DubNation pic.twitter.com/eHaHsw2yZV — NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2018 “I think he was taking out some anger from the first half,” Kerr said. “Sometimes that will get him going. Steph loves to dunk more than anybody, you know that. Doesn’t happen often, so when it does, it jacks him up.” Said Durant, who fed Curry for the slam: “He surprised me on that one. Hopefully he’s feeling better tomorrow. I know it took a lot for him to get up there.” David West turns back the clock!#DubNation leads #AllForOne 103-95 with 6:16 to play in the 4th. 📺: @NBAonTNT pic.twitter.com/dj2iFuZGrr — NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2018 West got his 37-year-old bones up there too, dunking off the dribble during his nine-minute, plus-nine stint in the fourth quarter. The veteran power forward had missed his three shots in the second.   “He was a little short on his jump shot to start the game,” Durant said. “But D. West is such a smart player, he makes adjustments, he doesn’t get discouraged. He made a huge play – his left-handed dunk kind of got us all going. That was definitely surprising when he turned that one over.” But seriously, Cleveland has issues. Besides losing for the eighth time in 10 games, the Cavaliers had their 13-game home winning streak broken in Monday's (Tuesday, PHL time) 118-108 loss. And when it was second unit vs. second unit to start the fourth quarter, the Warriors had little trouble switching on defense and crowding away the Cavs’ long-range game. Cleveland shot just 6-of-23 in the fourth quarter, and got outscored 61-44 in what Kerr considered one of his club’s most complete second halves.   The Cavaliers’ defensive leaks have been extensively criticized, and more IT as he gets his game back is not the best way to address those. Even more problematic is the offense now, which over the past few weeks has been grinding, with none of them having much fun with the ball or without. “This is an important time for us,” Wade said, “and we want to see how we respond coming out of this game. ... It’s not about just winning a ball game. It’s about building good habits as a team.” Given James’ record and reputation – seven consecutive trips to the Finals, most in spite of some in-season doldrums for his Heat or Cavs crews – there’s a lot of “In LeBron We Trust,” both inside and outside the Cleveland locker room. Until a rival in the Eastern Conference proves it can knock off the King, no one will believe it. But if the Cavaliers, after so many exposures to their Bay Area nemeses (9-17 in regular- and postseason meetings since the start of 2014-15), can’t come up with solutions, maybe NBA fans should want to see someone else get a crack at them. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News20 hr. 44 min. ago

Golf Channel cameramen walk out on coverage amid Sony Open

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press HONOLULU (AP) — Union workers for video and audio production at Golf Channel events walked out Sunday over stalled contract negotiations, leading to limited coverage of the final round at the Sony Open and two other events in the Bahamas and Florida. Golf Channel said it has been negotiating an agreement for nine months with International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, a union for tournament technicians at golf tournaments, such as the camera crew. The strike involves only tournaments that Golf Channel produces. The network also produces the CareerBuilder Challenge next week in Palm Desert, California. CBS Sports produces the following week at Torrey Pines, where Tiger Woods plays on the PGA Tour for the first time in a year. "Golf Channel has been working on negotiating an agreement for nine months with a union that represents our live tournament technicians," the network said in a statement. "Those efforts have not yet yielded a resolution, and we look forward to reaching a mutually agreeable contract. However, some technicians have chosen to walk off the job today. We have contingency plans in place, and will continue to deliver coverage." It declined further comment, such as how it will provide coverage. The Sony Open telecast was scheduled for 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern, and starting times are set for the final group to finish in that window. However, the PGA Tour moved up tee times by about an hour, so that the last group finishes around 9:15 p.m. Some three dozen IATSE members from Local 665 picketed outside the main road into Waialae Country Club in support of the Golf Channel's technical crew. John Culleeny, an international representative for the union, said its members wanted Golf Channel to meet industry standards. He was not specific on the talking points that stalled negotiations. The video and audio crew had talked about walking out during the third round Saturday but held back for another meeting. Culleeny said the next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday. Golf Channel is producing three tournaments next week — the CareerBuilder Challenge, another Web.com Tour event in the Bahamas and the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, a PGA Tour Champions event on the Big Island of Hawaii. Along with the Sony Open, Golf Channel is televising the second round of the Web.com Tour event in the Bahamas, a 72-hole event that ends on Tuesday. It also is televising the unofficial Diamond Resorts Invitational in Orlando, Florida, for players from the PGA Tour Champions, LPGA Tour and celebrities. Golf Channel has headquarters in Orlando and likely will be able to have more complete coverage of that event. The PGA Tour sent notices to its players on all tours notifying them of the labor dispute. "We are working closely with our partners at the Golf Channel to provide as much television coverage as possible," the tour said in a statement. It said fans could follow the tournaments with real-time scoring on its website, through social media channels and PGA Tour Radio on SiriusXM for the Sony Open......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2018

The case for Keenum: Vikings QB keeps on disproving doubters

By Dave Campbell, Associated Press MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When Minnesota's offense huddled for the first time that mid-September afternoon in Pittsburgh, Case Keenum's energy and confidence quickly filled the circle. The Vikings were forced to turn to their backup quarterback to start the second game of the season after Sam Bradford's knee acted up, an ominous development that can doom a team to an autumn of disenchantment and playing for draft pick position. Despite the decisive defeat against the Steelers that day, though, there was a certain assurance Keenum gave his teammates that suggested they'd be all right. "He's a guy you want to play for," wide receiver Adam Thielen said. Four months later, the Vikings and Keenum are still playing. They're two wins away from reaching the Super Bowl. "It's been a blast, man. It's been incredible. I'm sure one of these days I'll be able to look back and really appreciate it, but there's so much to enjoy right now," Keenum said. "Not really putting too much into perspective. Not really looking too much at the big picture. I'm keeping my blinders on." With a modest 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame, Keenum was mostly ignored by major college programs despite leading Abilene Wylie High School to its first state championship in football-obsessed Texas. Houston made his only FBS scholarship offer, from then-head coach Art Briles, and by the time Keenum was finished with the Cougars he was the NCAA's all-time leading passer with 19,217 yards and 155 touchdowns. Yet he still went undrafted in 2012, needing the Houston Texans practice squad to get his professional career off the ground. Keenum started 10 games over the next two years before being traded to the Rams in 2015, but they made Jared Goff the first pick in the 2016 draft so there was no future for Keenum there beyond being a veteran mentor. Even Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was among those who typecast Keenum as a just-in-case second-stringer. Zimmer acknowledged recently he didn't gain full confidence in Keenum until the 11th or 12th game of the season and, when Teddy Bridgewater was cleared to play in mid-November, Zimmer never declared Keenum the starter for more than a week at a time. "He just wanted a chance," his father, Steve Keenum, said this week in a phone interview. "He's got to have the knack. It's just a God-given, innate thing that he's maximized by working hard." As the oldest of his three children, Case made clear at an early age to Steve that he had the makeup to be an NFL quarterback even if there was no way to predict how the skill set would unfold. "He was competitive in everything. It could be a board game. It could be playing darts. It could be playing cards. It didn't matter. But if it had a ball, he wanted to do it," said Steve, who was a high school and college coach around Texas for 24 years, including 10 seasons as the head coach at his alma mater McMurry University. Good coaching, starting with dad's tips in the family backyards, was another success factor. When Briles left for Baylor, Kevin Sumlin arrived at Houston for Keenum's sophomore year. Dana Holgorsen, now the head coach at West Virginia, was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. After he departed, Kliff Kingsbury, currently the head coach at Texas Tech, took charge of the quarterbacks. "They had some speed, and the next thing you know they were throwing the ball all over the field," said Steve, who attended all 57 of Case's games with the Cougars and has been to each game he's played for the Vikings. "They had some really talented kids. People talked about him being a system guy, with short passes and a run after the catch, but they didn't see him play." Steve is now an area director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization that Case has long been active in as well. "He's come to the realization like a lot of people in big situations that there are things that are really too big to do by yourself, and in order to stay grounded you've got to find somebody or something that you believe strongly in," Steve said. "I think his faith has been that for him." Though Keenum had prior NFL experience, including nine starts for the Los Angeles Rams in 2016, he was signed by the Vikings as a one-year stopgap to be the guy in the ball cap providing sideline support and give Bridgewater ample time to recover from his colossal knee injury. Bradford had just produced an injury-free career-best performance in 2016, after all, so the Vikings were banking on him. Over the last four months, though, they've been cashing in on Keenum, a dividend that has paid out handsomely for both parties. "We've got a great group of guys here," he said, "and I think we're all excited to be extending our season." With offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur deftly adapting the team's scheme to use Keenum's mobility to better advantage and a sleeker offensive line mostly protecting him well, the Vikings have leaped up the league rankings in every significant statistical category. Among them: 28th to ninth in scoring touchdowns on possessions after passing the 20-yard line, and 19th to third in third-down conversions. Keenum will start his first playoff game Sunday against New Orleans, with a raucous home crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium ready to cheer the next step toward the franchise's elusive first championship. "Our fans are awesome," Keenum said. "All my friends and family who have come up from Texas and my friends from other teams that come in, they'll text me after the games and they'll be like, 'Dude, that place is ridiculous.' It really is.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2018

Seoul: North Korea to send delegation to Olympics in South

By Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea agreed Tuesday to send a delegation to next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea, Seoul officials said, as the bitter rivals sat for rare talks at the border to discuss how to cooperate in the Olympics and improve their long-strained ties. The Koreas' first talks in two years were arranged after North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un recently made an abrupt push for improved ties with South Korea after a year of elevated tensions with the outside world over his expanding nuclear and missile programs. Critics say Kim may be trying to divide Seoul and Washington in a bid to weaken international pressure and sanctions on the North. During the talks, the North Korean delegation said it would send an Olympic delegation, which includes officials, athletes, cheerleaders, journalists and others, South Korea's Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters, according to media footage from the border village of Panmunjom, the venue for the talks. The South Korean delegation, for its part, proposed North Korea send a big delegation and conduct a joint march during the Feb. 9-25 Game's opening and closing ceremonies, Chun, one of the five South Korean negotiators, said. He said South Korea also suggested resuming temporary reunions of families separated by war and offering military talks designed to reduce animosities in frontline areas. South Korea also stressed the need to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Chun said. North Korea responded by saying the two Koreas must try to promote peace and reconciliation through dialogue, he said. The two sides were to continue their negotiations later Tuesday at Panmunjom, the only place on the tense border where North and South Korean soldiers are just feet away from each other. A North Korean soldier late last year defected to the South across Panmunjom amid a hail of bullets fired by his comrades. He was hit five times but survived. The meeting began with an amicable atmosphere Tuesday morning, with chief North Korean delegate Ri Son Gwon saying he hopes the talks would give "a New Year's first gift — precious results (of the talks) to the Korean nation." Ri's South Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, said he also hopes they would come up with a "good gift" for people in both Koreas. The overall prospect for the negotiations was still unclear. The two Koreas have a long history of ending key talks without any agreement and failing to follow through with rapprochement accords. An agreement on the North's Olympic participation had been widely expected before the talks began, but the Koreas remain sharply at odds over how to improve their overall ties. North Korea is expected to demand rewards in return for South Korea's offer for family reunions and military talks, like Seoul halting propaganda broadcasts and scaling back or halting military drills with the U.S., observers say. Suspension of the military drills would be unacceptable for Seoul because that would seriously undermine the alliance with its chief ally the United States, which wants to put more pressures on Pyongyang. The North views the drills as a rehearsal for a northward invasion. President Donald Trump on Saturday expressed hope for some progress from the talks and said he was open to talking with Kim himself. But U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley later said the U.S. administration isn't changing its conditions regarding talks with North Korea, saying Kim would first need to stop weapons testing for a "significant amount of time." In his New Year's Day address, Kim said there is an urgent need to improve inter-Korean ties and that he is willing to send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Games. He urged Seoul to halt the military drills with the U.S. and said he has a "nuclear button" to launch missiles at any target in the United States. South Korean liberal President Moon Jae-in, who favors dialogue as a way to defuse the North Korean nuclear standoff, welcomed Kim's outreach and proposed talks at Panmunjom. Kim quickly accepted. "As President Moon has said, the improvement of relations between North and South Korea cannot advance separately from resolving North Korea's nuclear program," Brian Hook, a chief adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, told reporters in a conference call late Monday Washington time. "And so, we remain focused on our global pressure campaign. That campaign is designed to bring Kim Jong Un to the table for meaningful negations." The Trump administration agreed last week to delay springtime military drills with South Korea until after the Games. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis insisted the delay was a practical necessity to accommodate the Olympics, not a political gesture. Trump and Kim traded bellicose warlike rhetoric and even crude insults last year, as the North conducted it sixth and most powerful nuclear detonation and three tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The International Olympic Committee said Monday it has "kept the door open" for North Korea to take part in the Games. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the registration deadline has been extended and that the Switzerland-based committee supports North Korean athletes in the qualification process, while respecting U.N. sanctions against North Korea......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2018

Curry, Thompson help Warriors beat Rockets 124-114

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — Stephen Curry had 29 points, and Klay Thompson added 28 and the Golden State Warriors pulled away late in the fourth quarter for a 124-114 victory over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). The Warriors extended their road winning streak to nine games and have won an NBA-best 16 road games this season. The teams stayed close through most of the game, but the Warriors had a seven-point lead with about 3.5 minutes left. They scored the next five points, highlighted by a three from Curry, to make it 120-109 and send many of the home fans streaming for the exits. The Rockets got 30 points from Eric Gordon, and Gerald Green came off the bench to score 29 and tie a career-high with eight three-pointers as they played their second game without James Harden, who is out for at least two weeks with a hamstring strain. The Warriors were short-handed, too, playing without Kevin Durant, who missed the game with strained right calf. But Andre Iguodala returned after sitting out Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) with back and hip strains and had 10 points and eight assists. Curry added nine rebounds and five assists and a steal in his third game back after missing 11 with a sprained right ankle. Golden State led by 10 after a dunk by David West with about 7.5 minutes remaining. The Rockets scored the next five points, with a three-pointer from Green, to get within 108-103, but the Warriors scored the next five points to go up by 10 again. The Warriors were up by three after three and opened the fourth quarter with an 8-1 run to make it 101-91 with about 10 minutes left. Chris Paul re-entered the game after that and he helped get things going when he found Gordon for a three-pointer which started a 7-2 run that cut the lead to 103-98. Paul finished with 28 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Green's second three-pointer in less than a minute put Houston up by two midway through the third quarter. The Warriors scored the next seven points, with a three-pointer from Thompson, to take a 79-74 lead about a minute later. They didn't stay on top for long though as the Rockets scored the next 11 points to go up 85-79. Green delighted the crowd when he knocked down a triple from the corner before being fouled Iguodala and crashing to the ground. He also made the free throw. The Warriors ended a 2.5 minute scoring drought on a dunk by Kevon Looney before Curry added a layup. But Green pushed the lead to 88-83 when he banked in another three-pointer. The Warriors closed out the quarter with a 10-2 spurt, capped by three's from Nick Young and Curry, to take a 93-90 lead into the fourth quarter. The Rockets led 63-62 at halftime. TIP-INS Warriors: Omri Casspi missed his second straight game with a strained back. ... Curry played in his 600th career game with the Warriors, making him the 10th player in franchise history to reach that mark. Rockets: Nene normally doesn't play the second game of back-to-back games but was also dealing with a bruised right knee that coach Mike D'Antoni could cause him to miss more time. ... Paul received a technical foul in the fourth quarter. UP NEXT Warriors: At Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Rockets: At Detroit on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2018

Hard to believe, but Pop was once unwanted — by Spurs fans

Gregg Popovich was the coach nobody wanted. It's hard to fathom now, after five NBA championships as coach of the San Antonio Spurs and with him now alone in fifth place on the league's all-time victory list. But it's true --- Popovich's decision to fire Bob Hill and make himself coach and general manager in December 1996 was horribly received at first, leaving even some of his own players baffled. The San Antonio Express-News took a poll after that season and found that 92 percent of Spurs fans wanted Popovich fired. As Popovich would suggest now (on politics, one of his favorite topics), sometimes voters get it wrong. "The pressure is always there for any coach," Popovi...Keep on reading: Hard to believe, but Pop was once unwanted — by Spurs fans.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2018

Thomas has smashing debut as Cavs down Trail Blazers 127-110

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — Isaiah Thomas showed flashes of what made him an All-Star in his long-awaited Cleveland debut as the Cavaliers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 127-110 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Thomas scored 17 points and played 19 minutes in his first game in seven months, an impressive return to action for the dynamic point guard. Thomas added three three-pointers and three assists before leaving with 8:10 left and the Cavs up by 12. LeBron James scored 24 points, Kevin Love had 19 and Jae Crowder added 15 for the Cavs, who were coming off losses at Golden State, Sacramento and Utah. Damian Lillard scored 25 for the Blazers after missing five games with a hamstring injury. Jusuf Nurkic added 23 and CJ McCollum had 19 for Portland. The Cavs were unable to separate from the Blazers until Thomas and Dwyane Wade teamed up in the fourth quarter. Thomas, who finished 6-of-12 from the field, knocked down a jumper and then fired a pass toward the baseline to a cutting Wade, who made a reverse layup. On Cleveland’s next possession, Thomas spotted up in the corner in front of Cleveland’s bench and buried a three-pointer to give the Cavs a 100-91 lead. A few moments later, James was sent in for Thomas, who first got a hug from his teammate and another from coach Tyronn Lue as the crowd roared. Thomas hadn’t played since May 19 (May 20, PHL time) because of a torn labrum in his hip that ended his 2017 postseason with Boston and threatened to derail his career. But the 5'9" playmaker, who inspired the Celtics and an entire city last year, patiently stuck with his rehab. With 4:33 left in the first quarter, Thomas, wearing his familiar headband and No. 3, checked in to a loud ovation as Cleveland fans finally got to see a player they believe can help the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions win another title. Thomas picked up a quick assist with a pass to Crowder, who came with him from Boston in the summer trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics and shook the NBA. Thomas drained his next shot, a pull-up jumper from 14 feet, and then made one of his signature moves. Driving the lane past Portland’s Shabazz Napier, Thomas dropped in a left-handed scoop shot while being fouled and crashing to the floor beyond the baseline. He got up and shook off the contact, clearing another important hurdle in his journey back. Lue plans to keep close tabs on Thomas’ minutes over the next few weeks while he builds up stamina and confidence. Initially, Thomas won’t play in any back-to-back games, which means he’ll sit out Wednesday’s homecoming in Boston. Thomas forever endeared himself to Celtics fans last year when he carried Boston in the postseason following his sister’s death in a car crash. TIP-INS Blazers: Were outscored 36-23 in the fourth. ... Portland went 3-2 without Lillard, who was injured on Dec. 20 (Dec. 21, PHL time) against San Antonio. ... Nurkic, a seven-footer, went down hard when he appeared to be hit by James on a drive in the second quarter. However, replays showed that James barely grazed the big man. ... Evan Turner had 15 points and eight rebounds. Cavaliers: Thomas has expressed deep disappointment that the Celtics dealt him. But he has no issues with Boston fans and expects a warm greeting for his return. “I know it will be all love,” he said. “I keep saying that I gave that city everything I had and they showed me genuine love back and I think that love is going to last forever. So, there are no hard feelings. This ain’t no revenge game.” ... Love played despite staying home ill from the morning shootaround. UP NEXT Blazers: Home against Atlanta on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Cavaliers: Begin a five-game trip against the Celtics. Cleveland beat Boston in the season opener......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2018

Soccer s big clash of nations not only at World Cup in 2018

By Rob Harris, Associated Press Footballing supremacy between nations will be determined in 2018, just maybe not in the way expected. The World Cup remains the ultimate prize in sport, and a Russia buffeted by doping scandals and geopolitical rifts will open up like never before to welcome thousands of fans. When the tournament reaches its climax in Moscow on July 14, the biggest global television audience of the year is likely to see the World Cup handed over. Will Germany be the first team to retain the title since Brazil in 1962? Can Neymar inspire Brazil to a record-extending sixth success? Will the players who have shared major individual honors for a decade — Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Lionel Messi (Argentina) — finally become world champions? But it became clearer in 2017 that appearing at the World Cup is no longer the only vehicle — or preferred means — for countries to validate their status and strength in the world's biggest sport. That isn't much of a reassurance, though, for Italy, the Netherlands and the United States who failed to qualify for Russia. The international soccer landscape is being reshaped by the Gulf state-funded clubs, and their clout reached new heights in the last year. Just as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates became ensnared in a diplomatic standoff, the jewels in their soccer crowns slugged it out in the transfer market pursuing the top talent. Around $300 million was spent in the summer transfer window alone by both Manchester City, which is owned by the UAE's Abu Dhabi, and Paris Saint-Germain, which is funded by 2022 World Cup host nation Qatar. The biggest statement came from PSG which more than doubled the previous transfer record by splurging 222 million euros on Neymar — an unexpected windfall for Barcelona but a deal that solidified the power shifts. Both PSG and City have already obliterated the field in their French and English leagues respectively and are racing toward regaining their domestic titles. The true test of power in this intriguing rivalry between energy-rich Gulf powers should be determined in the Champions League. The competition has been won in three of the last four years by Real Madrid, and the holders now stand in the way of PSG reaching the quarterfinals in March. Madrid and Barcelona remain in the control of their fans, a structure able to resist foreign ownership, although both teams have accepted injections of cash through UAE or Qatar sponsorships. The future spending capabilities of the nascent forces at PSG and City will be determined in the coming months. However wealthy their ownership, unfettered spending remains subject to curbs in an often forlorn attempt to maintain a competitive balance in competitions and prevent them stockpiling players. The ultimate threat hanging over PSG is exclusion from the Champions League unless it balances the books by cashing in on stars in the January transfer window. PSG's legal team is already preparing to take the fight to UEFA over its implementation of Financial Fair Play rules, having faced an earlier round of punishments — along with City — in 2014 that led to limits on the squad size and financial penalties. UEFA has also served notice on AC Milan that sanctions could be looming after around $250 million was spent in the summer by new private Chinese investors. Milan is an illustration of why authorities don't want clubs risking their financial health in the pursuit of success. Despite the investment, Milan is closer to the relegation zone than the top four Champions League qualification places halfway through the Serie A season. City is in a more advantageous position than either PSG or Milan due to its cut from domestic television rights. The Premier League is banking 8.3 billion pounds ($11 billion) from broadcasters under the current three-year deals, far eclipsing European counterparts. One of the early defining moments of 2018 in soccer won't happen on the field but in the Premier League's negotiations over the 2019-2022 rights. The winning outlets will provide an indicator of the vitality of traditional networks in an era of fragmented viewing habits where streaming platforms are luring viewers. The value of the deals will also influence the spending power of clubs in the coming years and the destination of the players. The flow of cash from Abu Dhabi since 2008 has already produced the dominant City team imagined by Sheikh Mansour. At the start of the second half of the season, Pep Guardiola's side enjoys a commanding lead over the previously pre-eminent Manchester United. How rapidly fortunes change in soccer. Guardiola, a serial title winner at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, was facing doubts over his managerial prowess as he opened his City reign with his first trophyless season. He remains on course for a quadruple at the second attempt. Across Manchester, it was Jose Mourinho buoyant in the first half of 2017 after collecting the Europa League and League Cup to offset a sixth-place domestic finish. But Mourinho enters 2018 in sullen mood, seething with envy about the lavish investment from Abu Dhabi that enabled Guardiola to remodel his squad. It's another indicator that with all the cash pumped into soccer by Gulf ruling families, the World Cup can no longer be relied on to determine the true kings of soccer in 2018......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

Nuggets stop Warriors 11-game winning streak, 96-81

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Gary Harris scored 19 points to lead a balanced Denver offense and the Nuggets stopped the Warriors' 11-game winning streak with a second impressive road victory in two nights, beating Golden State 96-81 on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). Nikola Jokic added 18 points and nine rebounds and Jamal Murray had 14 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Nuggets after their Friday (Saturday, PHL time) win at Portland. They held the defending NBA champions to a season-low for points. Kevin Durant had 18 points and six rebounds in a particularly poor shooting performance for the typically efficient NBA Finals MVP. He was 6-for-17 and missed all five of his three-point attempts as the Warriors shot 38.6 percent. Draymond Green had 10 points, six assists and five rebounds in his second game back after missing 5-of-6 with soreness in his right shoulder. He took a sharp elbow to the face from Jokic with 7:27 remaining and went down hard. Klay Thompson scored 15 for the Warriors. A night after posting his first career double-double with season-bests of 20 points and 10 rebounds, Warriors rookie Jordan Bell contributed seven points and 10 rebounds. Patrick McCaw's floater with 7:13 to go pulled Golden State to 82-71, but the Warriors couldn't do much more to fight back. The Warriors were sloppy, lacked a flow on offense, looked a step behind most of the night and never got rolling trying to play catch-up much of the evening. Fans headed for the exits with a few minutes left, a rare sight at Oracle Arena. Golden State has regularly relied on big third quarters this season, and Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) it couldn't even muster a strong fourth after going into the final period down 73-62. It was also the second night of a back-to-back for the Warriors, who beat the Lakers at home on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Golden State shot 39.5 percent in the first half - 1-of-11 on three-pointers - while committing 10 turnovers to fall behind 53-41 at the break. Harris had his second strong game after missing one contest with a bruised elbow. The Nuggets had lost five straight on Golden State's home floor dating to a 100-99 win at Oracle Arena on April 10, 2014. It was an especially slow start for Golden State, which began 6-for-18 - with Durant going 1-for-5 and Thompson missing his initial four shots as the Warriors shot 7-for-21 in the opening quarter. CURRY UPDATE Stephen Curry did extensive on-court work during pregame warmups and appeared to be moving well on his sprained right ankle, though the two-time MVP isn't going to play Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) against Cleveland as coach Steve Kerr has said it wouldn't be right to do so unless his superstar was at full strength. ''I watch him after practice and have been really encouraged by his workouts. He's moving well. Looks like he is gaining confidence in that movement. As far as the first question, Bob [Myers], myself, the training staff and Steph - that's who is involved in the decision,'' Kerr said. ''I can tell that if this were not the Christmas game versus Cleveland in two days, I don't think any of you would even be asking me about it. He hasn't even had a 3-on-3 game. If we weren't playing Cleveland on Christmas and I told you Steph hasn't even played in a 3-on-3 game, hasn't had any contact at all and the game was 48 hours from now, you would say that 'Steph's not going to play,' but because it's the magnitude of the game and everybody wants to know, but we can't let that affect our judgment. He can't play. It would be completely irresponsible if he did.'' Curry has missed seven straight games. TIP-INS Nuggets: Denver capitalized on the Warriors' mistakes, turning 19 turnovers into 21 points. ... Trey Lyles had 15 points and six boards off the bench. Warriors: Golden State's 88 points in a 92-88 loss at Boston on Nov. 16 was its previous season-low. ... C Zaza Pachulia went through what he called a tough workout Saturday morning (Sunday, PHL time) to test the soreness below his left shoulder and remained hopeful of playing Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). ''We'll see,'' Pachulia said. ''I'm going to have another great workout tomorrow.'' He missed his seventh consecutive game and eighth in nine. ... Shaun Livingston sat out his fourth straight game with a sore right knee but got in a solid pregame workout and looked strong running. ... Kerr stuck with his winning starting five from Friday (Saturday, PHL time) after Golden State used eight different starting lineups over the previous nine games. UP NEXT Nuggets: Host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Warriors: Host the Cavaliers on Christmas (Dec. 26, PHL time) in a rematch of the last three NBA Finals......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 24th, 2017

Warriors face different challenges ahead of Xmas Finals rematch

The defending champions Golden State Warriors will face off against their Finals foes from the last three seasons once again on Christmas day (Dec. 26, PHL time). And while the Dubs roster is quite similar to the one they used to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy back in June, circumstances will be quite different when these two teams clash for the first time this season. The biggest difference will be health. Stephen Curry will likely miss the game due to an ankle sprain, and the team is still waiting on the status of starting center Zaza Pachulia (sore shoulder), and back-up point guard, Shaun Livingston (sore knee). "We're a little banged-up right now, in terms of health," veteran Warriors big man David West admitted in a teleconference with international media. "But guys are going, guys are developing. Guys who probably wouldn't be playing as much right now are playing because of the injuries, but it's going to help us in the long-run. "We went through a similar stretch like this last year when KD [Kevin Durant] went down, and I thought we were better for it. I think we're on that same trail in terms of our team just growing and getting better, figuring out what lineups work, and who works well together." The Warriors are riding an 11-game win streak into Saturday's (Sunday, PHL time) game against the Denver Nuggets, which serves as their warm-up to the Finals rematch. Racking up that number of wins seems like standard territory for Golden State, but the fact that they've been unbeaten this long without the aforementioned trio, plus Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, whom they just got back in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) win versus the LA Lakers, says a lot about the team's depth. While players like rookie Jordan Bell and offseason signing Omri Casspi have steppe up their game, a big reason for their success has been Kevin Durant, who's taken on the lead scoring chores in Curry's absence. The reigning Finals MVP is much more comfortable now in The Bay, and that could help decide this Christmas tiff. "Last year I think we were still trying to figure things out with integrating Kevin [Durant] and the new people that we had," West points out. "I think this year we're probably a little bit more talented in who we are. We know exactly the way we need to play to be successful." While the Warriors would want to notch that "W", they know from last year that plenty can still happen between now and June, should the two squads face off again. "We had the experience last year where we lost [on Christmas Day at Cleveland] by just one point, but then we ended up winning the championship," recalls Zaza Pachulia. "This game doesn't kind of decide anything, but at the same time, of course we would love to win. We're going to do our best to win because it's for our confidence and it's for our fans and for our city, and again, understanding where we might face the same [team] in The Finals this year." As for specific tactics? According to West, their familiarity with the Cavs will be key. "We know they're going to be tough and aggressive defensively. The key for us is to make sure we don't turn the ball over. We have to make sure we're getting shot attempts and we're getting shots on goal and force them to defend us and defend our pace and our cuts, and hopefully we'll find ourselves in good shape." Of course, the Cavs had a little bit of an offseason roster shake-up, headlined by the exit of Kyrie Irving. There's also the slight chance that Isaiah Thomas, whom they acquired in that deal, could make his season debut against them. Still, the Warriors at least won't have to head to The Land to play their foes, unlike last year. "Well, the difference is being able to sleep in your own bed, being in the comfort of your own home compared to being in a hotel," Klay Thompson said. "Cleveland is a hostile place to play. They've got great fans. They don't like us very much. It makes it a lot of fun. But the difference is just being more comfortable in your home and with your family. "Your family is here and they're there to support you and open gifts and just great vibes all day.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2017

On Christmas, NBA shows off its best—and who’s got next

NEW YORK  — There’s LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Golden State against Cleveland, for fans wanting more of the NBA’s reigning rivalry......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2017

On Christmas, NBA shows off its best — and who’s got next

NEW YORK --- There's LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Golden State against Cleveland, for fans wanting more of the NBA's reigning rivalry. For those preferring something new, the league's Christmas Day schedule has that, too. It's a star-studded slate, with the NBA Finals rematch standing out among the top teams and power players. The league is driven by star power, and the NBA is going all-in this year. The schedule is about the best players, not all the best teams. And with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Kristaps Porzingis starting the day, and Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Karl-Anthony Towns finishing it, this year's showcase is as much about the guys who got next on the marq...Keep on reading: On Christmas, NBA shows off its best — and who’s got next.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2017

The Headlines So Far in the 2017-18 NBA Season

The new NBA season is still in its early stages, but it feels like we’re already in the thick of things with so much happening already. Luck of the Irish The Celtics, despite losing Gordon Hayward to a season-ending injury, currently have the best record in the league and own the longest winning streak so far this year with 16 games won consecutively. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have been leading the charge, with young guns Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum upping their game. It certainly won’t be surprising to see them secure the top seed in the East this season if their remarkable play continues. Steve Kerr even declared the Celtics as the East’s “team of the future.” International Beasts of the East Giannis Antetokounmpo is already staking his claim as the league’s MVP, averaging nearly 30 points a game at a very efficient 55% clip as of this writing. With Eric Bledsoe assisting with ball-handling duties, the young Buck’s play is only bound to get better. Remember, Antetokounmpo still hasn’t even developed an outside shot yet. Imagine what the Greek Freak can do when he finally does. Kristaps Porzingis has also been unleashed in New York after the departure of Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson. The Latvian big man has been on a roll, taking advantage of an increased usage rate to average 27.3 points per game. The Knicks are exceeding expectations—The Playoffs doesn’t seem to be a far-fetched reality for them if Porzingis and the rest of the team can keep this up. After playing only 31 games last season, Joel Embiid has been making up for lost time. Along with Ben Simmons, the Cameroonian standout has been leading the Philadelphia to its best start in years, averaging 22.7 points and 11 boards. Additionally, Embiid has been posting roughly 2 blocks per game, and he says that he’s going to go for the Defensive Player of the Year Award this season. It looks like the Sixers fans’ are finally being rewarded for trusting the process. The Rookies Have Been Doing Work In his first season on the floor, Ben Simmons has been averaging 18. 7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per outing. And in almost every game, he’s been flirting with a triple-double. At this rate, it looks like he’s going to be the frontrunner in the Rookie of the Year race. Another solid performer is Jayson Tatum, who is one of the primary contributors in the Celtics’ stellar start. He’s been averaging an efficient 14.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assist per game in around 30 minutes of play. From deep, Tatum has been drilling 48% of his threes. With his smart play, sometimes, it feels like we’re not watching a rookie. Kyle Kuzma, perhaps the biggest steal in this year’s draft class, is currently outperforming most rookies picked ahead of him, including fellow Laker and #3 draftee Lonzo Ball. Kuzma has been averaging 16.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 15 assists, and he’s shooting nearly 50% from the field and 36% from deep. While he still has a bit of work to do on the defensive end, he’s shaping up to be a cornerstone in LA’s post-Kobe era. Warriors still Super Team to Beat During the offseason, several teams secured major acquisitions to reinforce their lineups. The Cavs were able to reload with future Hall of Fame guards and versatile wings on board. OKC acquired two All-Stars in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, but are still in the process of figuring things out. Minnesota was able to add Jimmy Butler to its young core. But despite the trades and signings, the Golden State Warriors remain the most “super” of the squads with the “super team” tag. After starting the season 1-2, the Warriors have regained their dominating form and are now back with their winning ways—and it seems that they won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Kevin Durant has been on a tear, but it’s Steph Curry that currently leads the team in points per game (25.5), steals per game (1.8), and in Player Efficiency Rating (27.6). He remains the fulcrum of Golden State’s offense, the man that won’t let the Dubs down. Steph Curry continues to perform at a high level because he depends on the World’s No. 1 Deodorant to stay cool and confident. The two-time MVP only trusts Rexona Ice Cool to help him fee dry and fresh all day, so he can be his best on the court, and even off it. It’ll be interesting to see if these stories and trends continue as we go along the new season. Stay tuned, hoops fans!  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 21st, 2017

LeBron gets third straight triple-double, Cavs trip Wizards

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — LeBron James played the first half wearing a pair of shoes — one black, one white — reading “equality” in gold capital letters and finished with 20 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Washington Wizards 106-99 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) for their 18th victory in 19 games. James had his fourth triple-double in the past five games despite being called for four fouls in the final quarter. Kevin Love added 25 points and nine rebounds for the Cavs. Bradley Beal led Washington with 27 points, and John Wall had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes in his third game back after missing nine with an injured left knee. In a matchup of Eastern Conference division leaders, neither team led by more than seven until Wall turned the ball over, leading to a fast break for James, who was fouled at the other end and completed the three-point play for a 103-94 lead. The last time these teams played, at Washington on Nov. 3 (Nov. 4, PHL time), Cleveland won thanks to 57 points from James. That prompted Wizards coach Scott Brooks to joke before tipoff Sunday (Monday, PHL time) both that holding the four-time league MVP to “56 would be pretty good tonight” and “I have a lot of respect for Coach [Tyronn] Lue, but I think he’s making a bad decision if he doesn’t sit LeBron tonight. Back-to-back games, right? Our fans saw 57. They don’t need to see any more.” James did not carry that much of a scoring load this time, but he did a bit of everything. He also made his statement with his sneakers, wearing that pair for the first half, before switching gear at halftime. He sported a pair of black shoes with “equality” written on them for Cleveland’s opening game of the season. If it seems as if James climbs up some career list each and every night, well, that’s because he pretty much does. This time, he overtook Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth-most made field goals in NBA history and tied Nick Van Exel for 24th-most three-pointers. James made only 4-of-12 shots in the first half for nine points, but it was his triple with 1.1 seconds remaining that made it 60-all at the break. Wall’s three shortly before that moved him up to No. 5 on Washington’s franchise scoring list. He began the night at No. 7, but surpassed Phil Chenier and Gus Johnson in the second quarter. The game was still tied heading into the fourth period, at 83-all. TIP-INS Cavaliers: G Dwyane Wade was rested on the second half of a back-to-back. ... Finished with 24 assists, ending their streak of three consecutive games with at least 30. ... Cleveland made 14 three-pointers, its 20th game in a row with at least 10. ... The Cavs scored at least 100 points for the 24th straight game. Wizards: F Otto Porter Jr. sat out with an injured right hip. ... His replacement in the starting lineup, Kelly Oubre Jr., had 11 points and eight rebounds. TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES There were three technical fouls handed out in the first 10 minutes, one apiece to Cleveland G J.R. Smith, Washington F Markieff Morris and Brooks. BROOKS AND ‘BIG Z’ Brooks was by turns earnest, nostalgic and funny while recalling former Cavs teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who will receive a lifetime achievement award during the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards Show next month. “He took me in. I stayed with him for two months. A lot of interesting nights,” Brooks said with a chuckle. “What a great sense of humor. ... I don’t know why in the world did the state of Ohio give him a driver’s license. I mean, it was an adventure going to dinner every night. ... Just a horrible driver, but a great teammate. One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.” UP NEXT Cavaliers: At Milwaukee on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). The Cavs have beaten the Bucks the last five times they’ve played. Wizards: Host New Orleans on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 18th, 2017

Stronger for the defense of ancestral land

BAGUIO CITY — A stronger Cordillera Peoples Alliance emerges from its recently concluded 11th Regional Congress earlier this week from December 11-12, 2017 against the backdrop of State fascism, tyranny, crackdown on legal and progressive organisations and impending nationwide martial law......»»

Category: newsSource:  nordisRelated NewsDec 17th, 2017

George, Anthony visit old homes that look fine without them

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 14th, 2017