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Spain in chaos 2 days before World Cup after coach fired

Spanish football president Luis Rubiales attends a press conference at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Krasnodar, Russia, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. The Spanish soccer federation has fired coach Julen.....»»

Category: newsSource: philippinetimes philippinetimesJun 14th, 2018

Spain replaces fired Lopetegui with Hierro

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press With only two days to go before Spain's opening match at the World Cup, Julen Lopetegui was fired as national team coach because he accepted a job to lead Real Madrid next season. Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales, who made the announcement on Wednesday in Krasnodar, later said Fernando Hierro would replace Lopetegui as coach for Spain's match against Portugal in Sochi on Friday. The 50-year-old Hierro, a former national team player and Real Madrid captain, had been acting as the federation's sports director and was already in Russia with the national team. Rubiales said firing Lopetegui wasn't the best solution but it was needed after the federation was caught by surprise by Real Madrid's announcement. "The federation cannot be left out of a negotiation by one of its workers and be informed five minutes before the press release," Rubiales said. "We have been compelled to act." Rubiales, who took over as president last month, said Lopetegui betrayed the federation's values and it was the only decision he could make. "It's a difficult situation, but we are not the ones who determined the action that had to be taken. The federation has its values and it has to maintain them," Rubiales said. "It may look like a weakness now, but with time this will make us stronger." Lopetegui did not attend the news conference but was expected to talk to the media later. "We have to work on a series of decisions that come just two days before the opener," Rubiales said. "There's a lot to do." Hierro spent most of his career as a defender for Real Madrid and finished his playing days with English club Bolton in 2005. He played in four World Cups with Spain, from 1990 to 2002, and in two European Championships, 1996 and 2000. Hierro was Carlo Ancelotti's assistant at Real Madrid after Zinedine Zidane left the post in 2014. He coached second-division club Real Oviedo two seasons ago and was Malaga's general manager after leaving his sports director position with the Spanish federation in 2011. After Madrid's announcement that it hired Lopetegui, critics immediately began questioning some of the coach's decisions with the national team, including his choice to leave some Barcelona players such as Sergi Roberto out of the World Cup squad. There were also questions about how Lopetegui would be able to fully focus on the national team while also having to discuss off-season signings for his new club. There are six Madrid players in Spain's team for the World Cup. Lopetegui's name had not been mentioned by Spanish media among the probable candidates for the Madrid job, which opened up after Zidane unexpectedly quit. Last month, Lopetegui agreed to extend his contract with the national team through 2020. "I admire and respect Lopetegui a lot. He is a top coach, and that made it harder to make this decision," Rubiales said. "Winning is important, but above that, we need to know how things have to be handled." The 51-year-old Lopetegui took over from Vicente del Bosque after the 2016 European Championship. He was credited with reviving a team that was on the decline after winning Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. By successfully blending talented youngsters and veterans from its golden generation, Lopetegui kept Spain unbeaten through 20 matches in charge, comfortably leading the team to the World Cup from a qualifying group that included Italy. He won European championships with Spain's under-19 and under-21 teams in the early 2010s, but had a lackluster stint with Portuguese team Porto in his only job with a major club. He was fired after failing to win a title during almost two years in Portugal. Rubiales took over a federation which was in the hands of embattled official Angel Maria Villar for nearly three decades. He was elected president over Juan Luis Larrea, the federation's former treasurer and its interim leader since Villar was suspended following his arrest last year on suspicion of corruption. In one of his first actions, Rubiales canceled a previously arranged "vacation" trip by officials to the World Cup that would cost nearly 2 million euros ($2.3 million). He got the money reimbursed and spent only about 500,000 euros ($590,000) with new travel arrangements for sponsors and federation officials. "We are all affected," Rubiales said about Lopetegui's departure. "We have to think about what is best for the entity, for the federation and the team, and from this afternoon we will all be together to go forward.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 13th, 2018

Brighter days seem to be in store for Knicks, new coach Fizdale

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst There was only one job that made sense for David Fizdale. Despite all the openings for which he interviewed, his pedigree and background -- and, let’s be honest, ambition -- made one gig stand out above the others. And it’s the one he got, with the New York Knicks. New York agreed to a four-year deal with Fizdale last week, a correct pairing of young coach and franchise that is trying to build back up the right way, with an emphasis on defense and conditioning that is right up Fizdale’s alley. No matter the occasional oddity created by working for Jim Dolan, he is an owner who has been willing to spend money when asked, and his team is in the top media market on earth. When you win there, they have parades for you in the Canyon of Heroes, and you almost always wind up in your particular sport’s Hall of Fame. You can’t not take the shot. The Knicks believe they’re in a place where the things Fizdale did in Miami and what he took to Memphis -- his philosophy of culture-building, team-building, discipline and how he connects to players -- were a good fit for where they are as a franchise. Among the 11 candidates the Knicks interviewed for the job, several had more head coaching experience than Fizdale -- whose tenure in Memphis lasted exactly 101 regular season games and six playoff games. But Fizdale checked the most boxes, and at 43, the Knicks are betting he has a lot of growing and improving to do, just as the team does. The Knicks, of course, looked into just why the Grizzlies fired Fizdale so abruptly last season, after just 19 games. Team president Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry didn’t just get started in the league last week; they know a lot of people. The chatter around the league was that Memphis chose star center Marc Gasol over Fizdale after the two clashed during the coach’s season-plus there. As I wrote just after Fizdale was fired, the deterioration in their relationship reached the point of no return when Fizdale went after Gasol hard in a film session, basically dismissing the importance of Gasol’s accomplishments overseas, including as a member of the Spanish national team. That that rankled Gasol to no end should have been no surprise to anyone paying attention. The Spanish team’s international triumphs are a point of considerable and understandable pride for both Marc Gasol and his brother, Pau. They helped lead Spain to the greatest era of basketball accomplishment in that country’s history, including a 2006 gold medal at what was then called the FIBA World Championships. Fizdale tried to fix things with Gasol, even flying to Europe after the season to try and make it right. But Gasol was close with majority owner Robert Pera; Fizdale wasn’t. That closed off a potential area of outreach between the two. Gasol had no interest in rapprochement, a stance that Grizzlies players made clear to Fizdale throughout the season. (Caught most in the middle, per league sources, was Grizzlies veteran point guard Mike Conley, Jr., who did and does have strong relationships with both men.) But, importantly, in his discussions with the Knicks, Fizdale took responsibility for his failures with Gasol. He didn’t blame Gasol or anyone else. As one of his chief calling cards is connecting with players, and not finding common ground with Gasol was an L he has to take. “He knew where he messed up and what he’d try to let it never happen again,” said a source who’s spoken with Fizdale since his firing. But, equally importantly, just because Fizdale couldn’t make it work with Gasol doesn’t mean he’s doomed to a similar outcome with All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis. The 22-year-old’s relationship with the Knicks has been scrutinized within an inch of its life the last couple of years. The toxicity level reached under former president Phil Jackson has abated some, but Porzingis and the team still have some navigation to do -- a trip that is blurred as Porzingis continues rehabbing and recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in February. (Porzingis’s brother, Janis, who serves as his agent, politely declined comment on the Fizdale hire via text Saturday, though the Knicks were in contact with Janis Porzingis during the coaching search.) Porzingis’s injury keeps the Knicks in flux, a position it seems they’ve been in most years since the Nixon administration. He is a potential superstar -- “potential” is used quite deliberately here, as “The Unicorn’s” stans on social media have made a very talented offensive player into something that he is not, at least not yet -- a transcendent player. But, assuming Porzingis ultimately makes a full and healthy return, New York has a terrific building block around which to build. And, they have a chance to really get in the game in the summer of 2019. First, they’ll have to resolve Joakim Noah’s status -- he has two years and roughly $38 million left on his current deal. It’s likely the Knicks will stretch him and the only question is whether that happens before or after next season. If it’s the former, the Knicks can spread the remainder of his salary across five seasons; if the latter, three seasons. Nothing is certain, but it would be surprising to see Noah still in New York by the start of camp. Why saddle a new coach with an old problem? That would leave the Knicks with more flexibility going into ’19, which is when Perry has said he’d like New York to be ready to pounce in free agency -- and when the likes of Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard (player option) and Jimmy Butler (player option) can be free agents. But until that bridge year, Fizdale will have to max out the existing roster. Charitably, there’s not a lot there at present that’s proven and has led to much winning anywhere. The Knicks will need to be lucky in next week’s Lottery -- preferably, getting a high enough pick to land one of the elite big men that should be among the top four or five picks in the Draft. If that doesn’t happen, the hope in New York is that until the roster improves, Fizdale can develop the talents of the Knicks’ trio of guards -- Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay and Tim Hardaway, Jr. -- in which New York has invested Draft and literal treasure the last couple of seasons. (It will help that Fizdale’s relationship with Hardaway, Jr., goes back to when the latter was a kid and his father, the master of the killer crossover, worked in the Heat organization after Tim Hardaway Sr.’s playing days ended.) The additional hope is that Fizdale will get Ntilikina in elite shape while honing his competitive edge, and that a full season under Fizdale will let the Knicks know once and for all if Mudiay can be a significant contributor. Fizdale will also have to adjust his nomenclature. Last week’s story in the New York Daily News correctly identified Fizdale’s consistent referencing “the Miami Way” as shorthand for how he wanted to do things in Memphis alienated Grizzlies people who were -- again, justifiably -- proud of the “Grit-n’Grind” era that produced seven straight playoff appearances before this season’s 22-60 crater. And, he’ll have to be prepared to be, perhaps, the biggest face of the franchise, in a city whose media is dogged and nonplussed and will often go off cockeyed in a crazy, incorrect direction. But its influence should never be underestimated. Fizdale is from Los Angeles, and he has a great way with most. And it didn’t hurt him to work some for ESPN while he was between jobs. But he’ll have to learn the media landscape in New York quickly -- who to befriend, who to be wary of, who he can trust and who he cannot. (Also: I’m sure the Knicks pointed out to him that while he had several causes which were near and dear to him in Memphis, from advocating the removal of Confederate statues in the city to lending his name to other civic causes, he needs to win games in Gotham first.) At base, the Knicks will want to see players throughout the roster held accountable, and charged to compete on a nightly basis. There was not enough of either last season under coach Jeff Hornacek -- who, in fairness, didn’t have all that much time to put his stamp on what was a poor roster. Fizdale will get more time. The Knicks’ roster will look a lot different in two years than it does now. Fizdale will have to be a lot different coach than he was in Memphis, as well. 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 NewsMay 8th, 2018

Barcelona gets 6th win in 6 rounds, Atletico beats Sevilla

JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press br /> BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Girona succeeded in stopping Barcelona star Lionel Messi from scoring. If only it could have avoided its own net as well. Barcelona made it six wins in as many games in the Spanish league on Saturday when it won 3-0 at Girona thanks to a pair of own goals by the hosts. Barcelona went head in the Catalan regional derby when Girona defender Aday Benitez deflected Jordi Alba's off-target shot back into his net in the 17th minute. Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Aleix Vidal helped provoke a second goal three minutes after halftime, when Suarez deftly let Vidal's dangerous short pass go through his legs, hit surprised goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz and turned into the net. Barcelona increased its lead of the league to four points after Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 2-0 to leapfrog the Andalucian club into second place. Sevilla is five points behind, followed by Real Madrid at seven points adrift after it won at Alaves 2-1. The decision by Girona coach Pablo Machin to man-mark Lionel Messi with Pablo Maffeo helped stop him from adding to his best ever start to a Liga. Messi scored nine goals in the first five rounds. 'I don't think that Messi was the decisive player that he usually is,' Machin said. 'We tried, but we were playing against some of the best players in the world. When you score in our own net it makes it very tough.' SUAREZ STRIKES Suarez rounded off Barcelona's victory in the 69th when he was left all alone to take Sergi Roberto's lobbed pass and beat Iraizoz. It was Suarez's second goal in six appearances this season. The Uruguay striker had been struggling this season, hampered by a right knee injury and adapting to life after the departure of attack partner Neymar. DREAM START Real Madrid turned to new midfielder Dani Ceballos to help it get back on the winning path. The midfielder made the most of his first start for Zinedine Zidane's team by scoring twice in the victory at last-place Alaves. The win came three days after Madrid lost 1-0 at home to Ceballos' former team, Real Betis. That slip combined with a pair of home draws left the defending champions trailing leader Barcelona. Ceballos received a pass from Marco Asensio, fought through a tackle, and shot just inside the post for the 10th-minute opener. Manu Garcia responded with Alaves' first goal of the season. But Ceballos put Madrid back in charge before halftime when he fired in a ball that goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco spilled when he collided with a teammate while defending a cross. Alaves almost leveled late when substitute Alfonso Pedraza twice hit the woodwork. Cristiano Ronaldo also hit the goal-frame twice in the second half as the Madrid forward seeks his first goal in the league. COSTA SPECTATES Diego Costa watched from the stands of Atletico's new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium as his soon-to-be teammates Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco scored in the second half to down Sevilla. Atletico reached a deal with Chelsea this week for Costa to return to his former club. Atletico will host Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday. MALAGA RALLIES Diego Rolan scored a double to help Malaga rally from a two-goal deficit in the final minutes and draw with visitor Athletic Bilbao 3-3. Malaga secured its first point of the season after it lost its first five matches. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2017

Spain sacks coach on eve of World Cup

KRASNODAR, Russia (UPDATED) – Spain sacked coach Julen Lopetegui on the even of the 2018 World Cup – and just two days before the team's opening game against Portugal – Spanish football federation chief Luis Rubiales confirmed on Wednesday, June 13. In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJun 13th, 2018

Zidane s successor faces high bar, doubts about stars

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Zinedine Zidane had barely finished announcing that he was leaving Real Madrid when speculation began about who would succeed him. Twenty-four hours later, both Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and Germany coach Joachim Loew — two of the top names rumored to be on Madrid's list of candidates — have said they are staying put. Pochettino said Friday that his "commitment is total" to Tottenham. He signed a five-year contract extension last week. Loew, who is preparing Germany to defend its World Cup title in Russia, said "it's not an issue for me. I'm at the World Cup now. I can completely rule it out now." Other coaches that Madrid president Florentino Perez supposedly is considering include Chelsea's Antonio Conte, exiting Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and former Madrid player Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez. While the Madrid job is one of soccer's most coveted posts, its next coach will have some hurdles to tackle. STARS IN DOUBT The biggest worry for any coach coming to the Spanish capital will be the uncertain future of the team's top stars. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale appear to be mulling an exit, at least according to statements they made just moments after Madrid beat Liverpool in last weekend's Champions League final. Ronaldo put a huge damper on Madrid's celebrations by appearing to speak of his time at Madrid as having reached its end. "In the next few days I'll give the fans an answer because they are the ones who have always been by my side," Ronaldo said. "It was very beautiful to be with Madrid." Ronaldo said he would clear up his future once he joins the Portuguese national team next week as it prepares for the World Cup. Bale, who scored twice as a substitute to beat Liverpool 3-1, was more explicit in stating his desire to get more playing time after a season during which he lost his spot in the starting 11. Midfielder Francisco "Isco" Alarcon has also complained about not enjoying the same untoucbable status as Ronaldo, defender Sergio Ramos or midfielder Luka Modric. COMMITMENT Zidane could hardly have set the bar any higher with three straight European Cups. Still, the Frenchman leaves a Madrid team that woefully underperformed in both the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey this season. It is likely that only his status as fan favorite from his playing days at Madrid and his titles from the previous two seasons kept Zidane in his job through the first six months of last season, until the team finally found its form in the Champions League. Madrid finished in third place in the league, a whopping 17 points adrift champion Barcelona. In the Copa del Rey, the team was eliminated at home by a modest Leganes in the quarterfinals, a moment which Zidane said was the worst of his coaching stint with the club. Whoever inherits the team will have to improve its work ethic to face the weekly grind of games in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey if it hopes to dethrone Barcelona from both domestic competitions. BENZEMA Zidane has been the biggest public defender of Karim Benzema, fending off calls from fans and the local sports media to bench the struggling striker. Benzema scored only five times in 32 league appearances this season, his lowest mark since arriving at Madrid in 2009. If the club doesn't sign a replacement for Benzema this offseason, then its next coach will have to help him recover his best form. YOUNG PLAYERS Madrid tried to rejuvenate its squad last year by bringing in a group of young Spanish players, including defenders Theo Hernandez and Jesus Vallejo, midfielders Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente, and forward Borja Mayoral. But none earned a spot in Zidane's starting lineup or his group of preferred backups. Madrid's in-coming coach will have to bring those players into the fold so their careers don't stagnate any further......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 2nd, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Germany gets reality check before defense

By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press BERLIN (AP) — Germany coasted through World Cup qualifying with 10 wins out of 10 and a European record 43 goals before getting a reality check. The World Cup holders haven't won any matches since qualifying for Russia. After drawing friendlies against England, France and Spain, Joachim Loew's team lost 1-0 to Brazil to end a 22-game unbeaten run. Becoming the first team since Brazil in 1962 to defend their World Cup title now looks even trickier for the Germans. "We're not as good as we're made out to be, or as some think we are," midfielder Toni Kroos said. "There's huge room for improvement." The recent slump in friendly matches could be a blessing in disguise if it eradicates any complacency going into the World Cup. "I'm not worried. In 2014 and 2010 we also lost in March," Loew said. "You can be sure that we'll improve." The first task for Loew's side will be to top Group F to avoid a likely second-round clash against Brazil. Here's a closer look at the Germany team: COACH Loew was assistant coach to Juergen Klinsmann during Germany's "summer fairytale" hosting of the 2006 World Cup and was promoted to the top job after its third-place finish. Loew favors a fast-paced possession-based game, pressing opponents to recover the ball and switching quickly from defense to attack. He has overseen steady progress since taking over, reaching the final of the 2008 European Championship, claiming third place at the 2010 World Cup and reaching the semifinals at Euro 2012 before finally winning a title in convincing fashion at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A disappointing semifinal exit to France at Euro 2016 followed, but Loew laid the groundwork for a successful World Cup title defense by winning the Confederations Cup with a young team of promising talent last year in Russia. Loew hasn't been afraid to test young talent, and Germany's strength in depth means one of his hardest tasks is leaving players out of the 23-man squad. Loew also has the unfortunate tendency to find himself in the headlines for other reasons. The 58-year-old has previously apologized after being caught on camera picking his nose or in other compromising positions during games. GOALKEEPERS The biggest concern is captain Manuel Neuer's fitness. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper sustained a repeat of the hairline metatarsal fracture in his left foot while training last September and hasn't played since. Marc-Andre ter Stegen could well establish himself as the No. 1 with doubts over Neuer's fitness. The Barcelona goalkeeper has overcome a shaky start to his international career and helped Germany win the Confederations Cup. Bernd Leno of Bayer Leverkusen and Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain are also options, while Sven Ulreich has been filling in impressively for Neuer at Bayern. DEFENDERS Bayern defender Jerome Boateng faces a race to be fit with a thigh injury sustained in the Champions League semifinals against Real Madrid in April. Bayern teammate Niklas Suele would be an able replacement to partner Mats Hummels in the center. Another Bayern player, Joshua Kimmich, has emerged to soften the blow of Philipp Lahm's retirement at right back. The modest Jonas Hector will likely keep his place on the left despite Cologne's relegation. MIDFIELDERS Toni Kroos will be among the first names on Loew's team sheet. The Real Madrid midfielder is the driving force behind the side. He will likely be partnered by Juventus' Sami Khedira, who provides more of a defensive presence, with Mesut Ozil in front, flanked on either side by Thomas Mueller and Marco Reus — if the latter proves his fitness. Reus has been unlucky with injuries and has only recently returned to shine again for Dortmund. But Germany has a wealth of options in midfield, with Ilkay Gundogan, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler, Julian Weigl and Julian Brandt all providing ample backup options. FORWARDS Timo Werner seems sure of his place after another good season for Leipzig, albeit with most of his goals in the first half of the campaign. The 22-year-old Werner has seven goals in 12 international appearances, but it's his runs into space and the problems he causes defenders that benefit the team. Loew will likely bring one of Mario Gomez or Sandro Wagner as a more experienced option for Werner, while Mario Goetze is another option to play up front if he gets recalled following a disappointing season for Dortmund. Goetze scored the winning goal for Germany to beat Argentina in the 2014 final. GROUP GAMES Germany kicks off its title defense near its tournament base in Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium against Mexico on June 17. The side then faces a long trip south to Sochi for its second game against Sweden on June 23, before wrapping up Group F against South Korea in Kazan four days later......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 30th, 2018

NHL debuted 100 years ago with contract snags and many goals

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — It was a night of sticky ice, last-minute player signings and a small crowd. Such were the glitches when the NHL it made its debut 100 years ago. Now, the world's premier hockey league celebrates its centennial with an outdoor game Saturday night between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. The days of multimillion-dollar contracts, instant replays and Florida were a long way off when the four-team NHL's first games took place on Dec. 19, 1917, while a gruesome war raged in Europe. The Canadiens took on an early incarnation of the Senators in Ottawa while the Toronto Arenas played the Wanderers in Montreal. The daily newspapers of the time, and their anonymous scribes, dutifully recorded the color and chaos of the league's emergence from the ashes of the National Hockey Association, alongside advertisements for gramophones, dyspepsia tablets and handkerchiefs. Ottawa dominated the Canadiens in the final NHA season, winning six of seven matchups. But for their first NHL meeting, the Senators were missing top scorer Frank Nighbor, an enlisted airman whose military commitment kept him off the ice. The "Pembroke Peach" would go on to win several Stanley Cups with the Ottawa team. One of his descendants, Derek Nighbor, plans to be at Ottawa's TD Place Stadium for the NHL 100 Classic game with his brother and nephew, sporting their heritage Sens jerseys emblazoned with Frank's No. 6. "Our family's pretty proud of the connection," he said. "It's not only the Nighbor name, but it's Pembroke. Still today, with our Junior 'A' Lumber Kings, hockey is really central to life in the Ottawa Valley." The 1917 edition of the Senators had another headache on opening night: contract disputes meant several players signed at the 11th hour and two — Jack Darragh and Hamby Shore — even missed the first part of the game. Canadiens sharpshooter Joe Malone scored three times in the first period, and Montreal led 5-3 heading into the third. Ottawa forced the play, but "it was useless, what looked like sure goals being missed by overskating the puck, missing passes and poor shooting," the Ottawa Journal reported. Montreal won 7-4. Ottawa might have fared better if it had begun the game at full strength, said the Journal, adding that the ice became "very sticky" near the end of the game "may have had a lot to do with their poor work here." The Daily Star confidently predicted the hometown Torontos, as the team was known, "should win in a walk" over the Wanderers, though the paper later acknowledged the Montreal roster was "not as weak" as player-coach Art Ross — future namesake of the league scoring trophy — "would have it believed." The Wanderers president invited soldiers who had been injured overseas to attend the Montreal Arena as guests. Even so, the Montreal Gazette noted the turnout of 700 was "one of the smallest crowds" to see a season opener and "many of the well-known patrons of the game were missing." A Star story concluded that the game had the look of an opener, finding the hockey "pretty rough in spots." The Torontos were said to have shown "plenty of speed and dash on the attack, but were weak on the defence." Their goaltending also failed to impress, with starter Sammy Hebert chased from the net in favor of Art Brooks. "Sammy Hebert couldn't stop a flock of balloons," a fan told the Star. One reporter considered the Wanderers lucky to win, with Montreal hanging on for a 10-9 victory. No fewer than 20 minor penalties and two majors were handed out, the Ottawa Journal reported, saying the "game was not rough, but the players were irritable." Wanderers center Harry Hyland, who scored five goals, sustained the only injury. The puck bounced off his own goalie's stick and "struck him a terrific smash fair in the eye, knocking him out." The Montreal arena burned down just weeks later and the Wanderers disbanded. In the playoffs, Toronto defeated the Canadiens for the league championship. The season was notable for a major rule change in January 1918 — allowing goalies to drop to the ice to stop the puck. The league also tried to stay a stride ahead of devious fans by providing referees with special whistles, preventing people in the crowd from stopping play by blowing the same kind used by officials. "They are really wonders in their way," the Star noted, saying "their sound resembles something between the roaring of an infuriated bull and the summer night lullaby of the latter's amphibious namesake, the bullfrog.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 16th, 2017

Gilas confident of chances vs Japan, Taiwan

National team coach Chot Reyes is confident about Gilas Pilipinas' chances heading into its Fiba World Cup qualifying matches against Japan and Chinese Taipei later this month. The Philippines, which is aiming to book a return trip to the World Cup after its historic stint three years ago in Spain, faces Japan on Nov. 24 in Tokyo before hosting Taipei three days later at Smart Araneta Coliseum. "I think we have a very good chance against Japan, I think we have a very good chance against Taiwan," Reyes said during Gilas' sendoff at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pasig. But that's not taking Gilas' rivals lightly. In fact, Reyes cited several concerns that Gilas will have to deal with....Keep on reading: Gilas confident of chances vs Japan, Taiwan.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 18th, 2017

US misses World Cup because of numerous defensive breakdowns

em>By Ronald Blum, Associated Press /em> COUVA, Trinidad (AP) — Standing in the stadium tunnel near the U.S. locker room after the Collapse in Couva, captain Michael Bradley was asked over and over what went wrong. How had the United States, a regional power that had made seven straight World Cup appearances, failed to qualify for next year's tournament? What led to the Americans' stunning, crushing, almost farcical 2-1 loss to already eliminated Trinidad and Tobago that caused them to tumble to fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region. A year of defensive breakdowns under two coaching staffs did in the U.S., which finished with three wins, three losses and four ties. 'We like to hang our hat on the fact that we outwork teams and we press teams,' goalkeeper Tim Howard said. 'They won a lot of second balls tonight and put us under pressure.' A relentless work ethic the Americans relied on for years was absent too often. 'You can't go and score four, five goals every game. We have to be able to be hard to play against,' forward Jozy Altidore said. 'We weren't hard enough to play against too many times on these nights.' In this cycle, the Americans not only lost their first home qualifier since the 2002 World Cup qualifying rounds, they lost two home games in a qualifying cycle for the first time since 1957 — during their 40-year absence from soccer's top event. 'When you lose the first two games and you drop points on too many days, your margin for error goes away, and so you know you're at the mercy of a night like this, where everything possible goes against you, both here and in the two other games,' Bradley said. 'When we start the hex poorly, when we don't take the points that we should on some other days, then you leave open the chance on the last day this can happen.' Bradley is 30 and may not play in another World Cup. Howard (38) and Clint Dempsey (34) will never again appear on soccer's biggest stage. 'If I said disappointment, it would be an understatement,' Howard said. A look at what went wrong in qualifying for the United States: strong>NOV. 11, 2016 /strong> The U.S. had been 30-0-2 in qualifying at home since a 3-2 loss to Honduras at Washington's RFK Stadium in September 2001 and scheduled its opener of the hex against Mexico at Columbus, Ohio, where the Americans had won four straight qualifiers against El Tri by 2-0 scores. Miguel Layun put Mexico ahead in the 20th minute with a shot that deflected off defender Timmy Chandler and past Howard. Bobby Wood tied the score in the 49th, but in the 89th minute 37-year-old Rafa Marquez got away from defender John Brooks, who was blocked by Altidore, and Marquez nodded in Layun's corner kick for the go-ahead goal in Mexico's 2-1 win. strong>NOV. 15, 2016 /strong> Costa Rica routed the visiting United States 4-0, the Americans' first four-goal loss in qualifying since 1980. Brooks' giveaway led to an attack culminating in Johan Venegas beating Brooks to a cross for the opening goal. Christian Pulisic's turnover set up Cristian Bolanos' goal, Brooks misplayed a looping pass leading to the third goal and Chandler was late to a cross as Joel Campbell scored his second of the night. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired six days later and replaced by Bruce Arena, the U.S. coach from 1998-2006. 'There's going to need to be some urgency,' Bradley said before boarding the team bus. 'We're going to have to look collectively real hard in the mirror at ourselves.' strong>MARCH 28, 2017 /strong> Four days after a 6-0 rout of Honduras at San Jose, California, in the first competitive match of Arena's return, Clint Dempsey's 39th-minute goal gave the U.S. the lead at Panama City. Gabriel Gomez tied the score four minutes later when he beat Tim Ream and Jorge Villafana to a loose ball following a thrown-in for an open 4-yard shot past Howard. The score finished 1-1. strong>JUNE 11, 2017 /strong> Arena changed seven starters with only two off days following a 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago at Commerce City, Colorado. Bradley's 40-yard chip in Mexico City's thin air put the U.S. ahead in the sixth minute at Estadio Azteca, but Carlos Vela equalized in the 23rd minute to finish a field-length move, cutting inside of 35-year-old left back DaMarcus Beasley for a 23-yard shot that beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan to the near post. The game ended 1-1. strong>SEPT. 1, 2017 /strong> Marco Urena spun around Ream, caught Howard leaning and beat the goalkeeper to the far post in the 30th minute. Urena doubled the lead in the 82nd with an 18-yard shot after David Guzman intercepted a poor pass by Geoff Cameron, giving Costa Rica a 2-0 win at Harrison, New Jersey. strong>SEPT. 5, 2017 /strong> Romell Quioto put Honduras ahead in the 27th minute at San Pedro Sula after defender Omar Gonzalez failed to clear the ball with a slide tackle and left an open shot. Wood's 85th-minute goal salvaged a draw that kept the Americans in fourth place, behind Panama but ahead of Honduras on goal difference. 'He just kind of like fell over the ball a little bit,' Arena said of Gonzalez. strong>OCT. 10, 2017 /strong> A 4-0 rout of Panama days earlier in Orlando, Florida, moved the Americans back into third place and put them in position to qualify with a win over Trinidad and Tobago, almost certainly with a tie (because of goal difference) or even a defeat if Panama failed to beat Costa Rica and Honduras did not defeat Mexico. A loss coupled by either a Costa Rica or Honduras defeat would mean a two-game playoff for the U.S. next month against Australia. But 28 years after the U.S. won at Trinidad and Tobago to return to the World Cup for the first time since 1950, the Soca Warriors went ahead in the 17th minute when Gonzalez tried to clear a cross but sent the ball off his left shin and looping over Howard. Alvin Jones scored on a 35-yard shot in the 37th and while Pulisic cut the gap in the 47th, Dempsey hit a post in the 77th, and both Panama and Costa Rica rallied from halftime deficits to win.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Ronaldo and Portugal head to World Cup looking for more

em>By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press /em> Cristiano Ronaldo is headed to the World Cup with Portugal, and some of his teammates are already expecting another title. Ronaldo, as usual, was the country's key player as it won nine straight qualifiers to reach the tournament in Russia. And that came after the Real Madrid forward led the way to winning last year's European Championship, Portugal's first major trophy. 'Portugal always plays to win, and just like we did at Euro 2016, we are going to try to win the World Cup as well,' Portugal midfielder Bernardo Silva said after the 2-0 win over Switzerland at the Stadium of Light. Here's a look at some of the reasons why Portugal will be among the favorites at next year's World Cup: ___ strong>DECISIVE RONALDO /strong> Portugal again relied on the talent of Ronaldo, who thrived from the start of qualifying and finished with 15 goals in nine matches. He was one goal short of the qualifying record set by Poland striker Robert Lewandowski this year. Ronaldo scored in every qualifier he played but two — the win over the Swiss on Tuesday and the 1-0 win at Hungary in September, when he earned an assist with a perfect cross for Andre Silva's winning header. He didn't start in the 2-0 win at Andorra last week because he wasn't fully fit, but he came off the bench in the second half and scored the team's first goal and set up Andre Silva's second. Ronaldo didn't play in the team's opening loss at Switzerland because he was still recovering from a knee injury sustained in the Euro 2016 final. ___ strong>BALANCED SQUAD /strong> Portugal cruised after the opening setback at Switzerland, outscoring opponents 32-4 and finishing with the fourth-best qualifying campaign among all teams, behind Germany, Belgium and Spain. Only those three teams scored more goals than Portugal, and Spain and England were the only two nations which conceded fewer, three each. 'Portugal showed that it has a quality squad that can face any team out there,' Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. Among the team's victories were consecutive 6-0 routs of Andorra and the Faeroe Islands. It also defeated third-place Hungary 3-0 at home and 1-0 in Budapest. 'Even after the loss to Switzerland, we never doubted that we were going to finish first in the group,' Portugal midfielder Joao Mario said. 'We just had to do our job.' ___ strong>TIGHT GROUP /strong> Santos said he feels he has a unique group of players in his hands. 'I have a special relationship with the players,' he said. 'I have a lot of faith in my players and they know that. It's not easy to have 25 players with this mentality, generating such a fantastic atmosphere.' Bernardo Silva said they feed off the coach's confidence, and Mario said that all the players are behind him no matter what. ___ strong>KICK-STARTING PREPARATIONS /strong> Portugal is expected to begin its World Cup preparations with a friendly at neighboring Spain in November. The match is expected to be officially confirmed in the coming days. 'We are looking forward to having a good run in the World Cup,' Portugal midfielder William Carvalho said. 'But right now it's time to enjoy what we just did.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Germany, England seal World Cup qualification; Poland close

em>By Ciaran Fahey, Associated Press /em> Germany and England booked places at the World Cup in Russia next year, while Poland was made to wait for qualification in Europe despite thrashing Armenia 6-1 on Thursday. Defending champion Germany never looked like missing out as early goals helped it to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 in Belfast, maintaining its perfect record with nine wins from nine games in Group C. England qualified in contrasting fashion, scraping past Slovenia 1-0 thanks to Harry Kane's injury-time strike in a poor team performance at Wembley Stadium. Robert Lewandowski scored a hat trick in Yerevan, Armenia, to become Poland's all-time highest scorer and put his team on the verge of qualification. A draw later between Montenegro and Denmark would have meant Poland clinched Group E, but Christian Eriksen gave Denmark a 1-0 win in Podgorica to keep alive its slim hope of topping the group. Group winners qualify automatically for the finals in Russia. Here's a closer look at the action across the three groups: strong>GROUP C /strong> Northern Ireland hadn't lost a qualifier in Windsor Park for four years, but it got off to a bad start when Germany's Sebastian Rudy fired the ball inside the top corner from distance in the second minute. Sandro Wagner brought a good save from Michael McGovern and hit the post before he finally scored in the 21st to give Germany a comfortable lead. Joshua Kimmich wrapped it up late, and Josh Magennis got the enthusiastic home fans singing again with the home side's consolation after a corner in injury time. Northern Ireland was already assured of at least second place, but only the top eight runners-up from the nine groups advance to playoffs. Already out of contention, the Czech Republic defeated Azerbaijan 2-1 in Baku to move to third, and Mohamed 'Moi' Elyounoussi scored a hat trick as Norway routed San Marino 8-0. Germany coach Joachim Loew said before his side's game in Belfast that he wants to complete qualifying with 10 wins from 10 games, a feat accomplished previously by only Spain before it won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. strong>GROUP E /strong> With his third hat trick in the campaign, Poland striker Lewandowski became the most prolific scorer in a European qualifying campaign with 15, one ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. Lewandowski curled in a free kick to tie Wlodzimierz Lubanski's record as Poland's all-time leading scorer on 48 goals and then added two more to own it outright with 50. Following Denmark's 1-0 win in Montenegro, Poland leads by three points over Denmark, and it needs a point from the last-round match on Sunday against Montenegro in Warsaw to automatically qualify as the group winner. Denmark, which handed Poland its only defeat in the group stage by 4-0, hosts Romania in the last round and must win to top the group. strong>GROUP F /strong> Kane secured England's place in the fourth minute of additional time when he latched onto Kyle Walker's cross and struck under goalkeeper Jan Oblak for the side's flattering win over Slovenia. It was a rare highlight on a dreary and subdued night that highlighted the limitations of Gareth Southgate's Russia-bound team. England, which hasn't missed a World Cup since 1994, could still be joined in Russia next year by neighbor Scotland. Martin Skrtel's own goal gave Scotland a 1-0 victory over 10-man Slovakia in Glasgow. The Scots, missing from the World Cup since 1998, will be guaranteed second place and a potential place in the playoffs if they beat Slovenia in the last round of games on Sunday. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 6th, 2017

Trump's comments about anthem, Curry inflame sports stars

CATHERINE LUCEY, Associated Press br /> TIM REYNOLDS, Associated Press br /> SOMERSET, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump sharply criticized protests by NFL players for a second straight day and rescinded NBA star Stephen Curry's White House invitation on Saturday in a series of tweets that outraged football and basketball stars and even prompted LeBron James to call the president a 'bum.' Trump started by announcing that Curry, the immensely popular two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors, would not be welcome at the White House for the commemorative visit traditionally made by championship teams. Later, Trump reiterated what he said at a rally in Alabama the previous night that NFL players who kneel for the national anthem should be fired, prompting immediate condemnation from a handful of team executives, the league commissioner and its players' union. The Warriors said it was made clear to them that they were not welcome at the White House. They said that when they go to Washington this season they will instead 'celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.' Curry had said he did not want to go to the White House anyway, but the Warriors had not made a collective decision before Saturday. 'U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going!' James tweeted in a clear message to the president — a post that Twitter officials said was quickly shared many more times than any other he's sent. 'So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!' James also released a video Saturday, saying Trump has tried to divide the country. 'He's now using sports as the platform to try to divide us,' James said. 'We all know how much sports brings us together. ... It's not something I can be quiet about.' Warriors general manager Bob Myers said he was surprised by the invitation being pulled. 'The White House visit should be something that is celebrated,' Myers said. 'So we want to go to Washington, D.C., and do something to commemorate kind of who we are as an organization, what we feel, what we represent and at the same time spend our energy on that. Instead of looking backward, we want to look forward.' Added Warriors coach Steve Kerr, after his team's first practice of the season: 'These are not normal times.' As a candidate and as president, Trump's approach has at times seemed to inflame racial tensions in a deeply divided country while emboldening groups long in the shadows. The latest sports comments come a little over a month after Trump came under fire for his response to a white supremacists' protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump later pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County, who had been found guilty of defying a judge's order to stop racially profiling Latinos. Trump's latest entry into the intersection of sports and politics started in Alabama on Friday night, when he said NFL players who refused to stand for 'The Star-Spangled Banner' are exhibiting a 'total disrespect of our heritage.' Several NFL players, starting last season with then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have either knelt, sat or raised fists during the anthem to protest police treatment of blacks and social injustice. Last week at NFL games, four players sat or knelt during the anthem, and two raised fists while others stood by the protesters in support. Other players have protested in different ways over the past season since Kaepernick began sitting during the 2016 preseason. 'That's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,' Trump said, encouraging owners to act. He added, 'Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired.' On Saturday, Trump echoed his stance. 'If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,' Trump wrote in an afternoon pair of tweets. 'If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!' Trump has enjoyed strong support from NFL owners, with at least seven of them donating $1 million each to Trump's inaugural committee. They include New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who Trump considers a friend. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell strongly backed the players while New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch said the president's comments were inappropriate and offensive. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who has supported the players who have knelt, said the country 'needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness,' and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York ripped Trump's comments as 'callous.' 'Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,' Goodell said in a statement. Plenty of other current and former stars from across sports weighed in Saturday. Richard Sherman of Seattle Seahawks said the president's behavior is 'unacceptable and needs to be addressed.' In his Friday remarks, Trump also bemoaned what he called a decline in violence in football, noting that it's 'not the same game' because players are now either penalized or thrown out of games for aggressive tackles. 'No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights,' DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Association executive director, said Saturday. 'No worker nor any athlete, professional or not, should be forced to become less than human when it comes to protecting their basic health and safety.' Trump has met with some championship teams already in his first year in office. Clemson visited the White House this year after winning the College Football Playoff, some members of the New England Patriots went after the Super Bowl victory and the Chicago Cubs went to the Oval Office in June to commemorate their World Series title. The Cubs also had the larger and more traditional visit with President Barack Obama in January, four days before the Trump inauguration. North Carolina, the reigning NCAA men's basketball champion, said Saturday it will not visit the White House this season. The Tar Heels cited scheduling conflicts. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said Trump has 'taken indecency to a new low.' 'I think that the president has forgotten that he is the standard bearer for our country, that little boys and little girls look up to the president,' he said. 'Little boys and little girls want to be like the president. They want to talk like the president. I think that the president has insulted the American people with this low level of verbiage.' Warriors forward Draymond Green said the good news was that Golden State won't have to talk about going to the White House again — unless they win another title during the Trump presidency. 'Michelle Obama said it best,' Green said. 'She said it best. They go low. We go high. He beat us to the punch. Happy the game is over.' ___ Reynolds reported from Miami. AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, California, and AP writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this story. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2017

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Top 10 * * * 1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (acquired from Sixers); G Hamidou Diallo (No. 45 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devon Hall (No. 53 pick, 2018 Draft); F Kevin Hervey (No. 57 pick, 2018 Draft); F Abdel Nader (acquired from Celtics); C Nerlens Noel (two years, $3.7 million); G Dennis Schröder (acquired from Hawks) LOST: F Carmelo Anthony (traded to Hawks); F Nick Collison (retired); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Magic); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Celtics) RETAINED: G Raymond Felton (one year, $2.3 million); F Paul George (four years, $136.9 million); F Jerami Grant (three years, $27.3 million) THE KEY MAN: G Andre Roberson. This is real simple: with Roberson on the court last year, OKC’s opponent offensive rating was 99.2; when he was off, it was 110.7. The Thunder was a near-elite defensive unit when Roberson played and was awful when he didn’t. His Real Defensive Plus-Minus, per ESPN.com, was 4.34, second only to Utah’s Rudy Gobert (5.06). So when Roberson ruptured his patellar tendon in late January, the Thunder’s ability to use George as a weakside defender who could freelance and use his length to create deflections and turnovers (because Roberson had the strong side absolutely locked down) went away. Any chance the Thunder has next season to compete at the highest levels in the West will depend on the 26-year-old Roberson’s recovery and return to the lineup. THE SKINNY: None of us -- none -- thought George was going to stay in OKC. And we all thought Sam Presti and the Thunder were crazy for trading for him last year, because it was just going to be a one-year rental and he was going to be off to the Lakers in 12 months, and OKC would have nothing to show for its deal. But George’s presence helped convince Russell Westbrook -- also long rumored to eventually head back to Cali -- to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder. And OKC’s acquisition of Carmelo Anthony helped convince George that the Thunder was all in on competing. And even though OKC went out in the first round of the playoffs to Utah, its year-long courtship of George and his family paid off when PG-13 spurned L.A. once and for all to stay in the 405. Anthony ultimately wasn’t a good fit, but he brought back Schroder, who will give Billy Donovan a dynamic scorer off the bench that can give Westbrook a blow and keep OKC’s offense from immolating when Westbrook is on the bench, a common malady the last two years. The Thunder has been relevant in an incredibly small market now for almost a decade. With George and Westbrook and Steven Adams and, now, Schroder, all signed up through 2021, that remarkable run will continue for some time. 2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS 2017-18 RECORD: 35-47; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Beasley (one year, $3.5 million); F Joel Berry II; F Issac Bonga (No. 39 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jeffrey Carroll; F LeBron James (four years, $153 million); C JaVale McGee (one year, $1.4 million); G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (No. 47 pick, 2018 Draft); G Rajon Rondo (one year, $9 million); G Lance Stephenson; F Mo Wagner (No. 25 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Thomas Bryant (waived); G Tyler Ennis (waived); F/C Channing Frye (signed with Cavs); C Brook Lopez (signed with Bucks); F Julius Randle (signed with Pelicans); G Isaiah Thomas (signed with Nuggets) RETAINED: G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (one year, $12 million); G Travis Wear THE KEY MAN: F Brandon Ingram. The third-year man should be the major beneficiary of James’ presence going forward. Driving lanes previously clogged with defenders should now be runway clear. Opponents who previously could close out strong on Ingram will now have their attention elsewhere. Ingram need only look at James’ last stop: per NBA.com/Stats, among players leaguewide who appeared in at least 60 games last season, three Cavaliers -- Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Cedi Osman -- were among the top 20 in the league in lowest frequency of having their closest defenders within two feet of them, meaning James created many wide open looks for teammates all season. Ingram vastly improved his range last season over his rookie one, shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers. But he only attempted 1.8 threes per game last season. That number will surely skyrocket in 2018. Ingram must ready to take advantage. That will make him that much more deadly as a driver. THE SKINNY: Team president Magic Johnson was tasked with landing a whale in free agency, and he and GM Rob Pelinka bagged Moby Dick in James. Their subsequent free agent moves once Paul George opted to stay in Oklahoma City were all short-term plays with an eye toward the promising 2019 free agent class, which include the likes of All-Stars Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and DeMarcus Cousins. But that doesn’t mean Lake Show ’18 isn’t going to be the rip-roaringest circus this side of your standard Ozzy Ozbourne tour. What’s the over-under on the first time Rondo cusses out coach Luke Walton, or when we hear of a “spirited practice” that is code for “Lance ‘bowed ‘Bron in the neck and Walton sent everyone home”? The Lakers could be in The Finals or out in the first round, but what they decidedly will not be is boring. 3. DENVER NUGGETS 2017-18 RECORD: 46-36; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Thomas (one year, $2 million); F Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 41 pick, 2018 Draft); C Thomas Welsh (No. 58 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Nets); F Wilson Chandler (traded to 76ers); F Kenneth Faried (traded to Nets); G Isaiah Whitehead (waived) RETAINED: G Will Barton (four years, $53 million); G/F Torrey Craig (two years, $4 million); C Nikola Jokic (five-year, $147.7 million contract extension) THE KEY MAN: G Jamal Murray. Denver ended all pretense that the full-time point guard job wasn’t his last season and his second-year numbers were very encouraging. Among regularly playing (60+ games) floor generals, per NBA.com/Stats, Murray’s .577 True Shooting Percentage ranked only behind D.J. Augustin, Kyrie Irving, Darren Collison and Kyle Lowry. No one doubts the still-just-21-year-old Murray can fill it up, and that the Nuggets don’t need a classic ball distributor to light up the Pepsi Center scoreboard. But they do need to get more credible defensively. So does he. THE SKINNY: A great offseason for the Nuggets, who did what they said they would -- keep Jokic off the market next summer -- while clearing roster spots and minutes with two trades, and simultaneously reducing their luxury tax bill for 2019. (The Chandler trade to the Sixers also created an enormous $12.8 million trade exception for Denver through August of 2019.) Jokic should anchor one of the most athletic starting quintets in the game -- along with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, the re-signed Barton (penciled in for now as the starting three) and Paul Millsap. the Nuggets didn’t add much at the defensive end, which was their Achilles’ heel the last couple of seasons and the main reason they didn’t make the playoffs in 2017-18. Denver opted to strengthen a strength by bringing in Thomas, who’ll be in prove-it mode next season on a short deal with a coach that he knows from their Sacramento days in Mike Malone. Look for Malone to unleash Thomas on second units throughout the West. Porter Jr. was worth a flier at 14; he was the consensus likely first pick in the Draft a year ago, before his back injury took him out of all but a couple of games in his one season at Missouri. Denver can give him the entire year to rehab from two surgeries, the latest last week, and reset his clock for 2019-20. 4. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2017-18 RECORD: 58-24; won NBA Finals ADDED: C DeMarcus Cousins (one year, $5.3 million); F Jacob Evans (No. 28 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jonas Jerebko (one year, $2.1 million); G Damion Lee LOST: C JaVale McGee (signed with Lakers); C Zaza Pachulia (signed with Pistons); Head of Physical Performance and Sports Medicine Chelsea Lane (went to Hawks) RETAINED: F Kevin Durant (two years, $61.5 million); F Kevon Looney THE KEY MAN: Brett Yamaguchi, Director of Game Operations/Entertainment, Oracle Arena. One doesn’t envy Yamaguchi, whose tasks will be twofold next season: create lifetime memories for the loudest and most loyal fanbase in the league, as the Warriors play their final season at Oracle Arena (aka Roaracle) -- they’re moving into the Chase Center, their tony new digs across the Bay in downtown San Francisco, come 2019-20. And, provide atmosphere and sizzle that will help coach Steve Kerr keep his veteran core from being bored out of its collective mind during the regular season while it waits for the playoffs and a chance at a three-peat. THE SKINNY: So, sure, the best team in the league adds one of the top two or three big men in the game in Cousins. But that’s the ancillary benefit of having such a dominant organization; everyone wants to figure out a way to get to the Bay. Cousins took less money to do so; now he can take his time rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon. If that means he’s not all the way back until All-Star, who cares? The Warriors will roll Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko out at the five in non-Death lineups until Cousins is ready. Meanwhile, Kerr has to keep his vets, but especially Andre Iguodala and Shawn Livingston, off their feet as much as possible during the regular season so they’ll be good to go from April through June. Losing Iguodala for the bulk of the 2018 Western finals was almost the Warriors’ downfall. 5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 2017-18 RECORD: 22-60; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kyle Anderson (four years, $37 million); G Jevon Carter (No. 32 pick, 2018 Draft); F Omri Casspi (one year, $2.3 million); F Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 4 pick, 2018 Draft); C Dakari Johnson (acquired from Magic); G Garrett Temple (acquired from Kings) LOST: C/F Deyonta Davis (traded to Kings); G Tyreke Evans (signed with Pacers); F Jarell Martin (traded to Magic); G Ben McLemore (traded to Kings) RETAINED: Coach J.B. Bickerstaff THE KEY MAN: G Mike Conley. It’s no secret how vital Conley is to the franchise, so a return to form is vital for the veteran point, who’ll be 31 on opening night and who missed 70 games last season with a heel injury. Next season will be the third of Conley’s five-year, $150 million deal signed in 2016; remember when so many people thought the world would end when a small market like Memphis invested so much in him? Well, Conley has already dropped to fifth in the league in salary among point guards, behind Stephen Curry Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry. He’ll fall even further down the list next season, when John Wall’s massive extension kicks in, and Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker each get new contracts that could leap his. THE SKINNY: Memphis couldn’t have had a worse 2017-18 if it tried, and the Grizzlies compounded their on-court implosion by not trading Evans when everyone in the league -- seemingly, except for them -- knew he was going to walk in the summer if they didn’t. But, the Grizzlies’ front office recovered in a big way, selling the 18-year-old Jackson that he would fit right in despite not working out for the Grizz before the Draft, then doubling up on “Grit And Grind 2.0” by taking Carter, college basketball’s fiercest on-ball defender, in the second. Ownership was willing to let the front office use the full mid-level exception on Anderson, who isn’t the sexiest pickup to many fans but whose defensive numbers in San Antonio were outstanding. Temple is the ultimate good vet and locker room guy who will get a chance to play for Bickerstaff after the Kings opted to go with their young guys and he was likely out of the rotation. GM Chris Wallace was adamant that the Grizzlies could rebuild again around the aging Conley and Marc Gasol and that they wouldn’t trade Gasol after the latter’s difficult relationship with former coach David Fizdale. They did, and they didn’t. 6. PHOENIX SUNS 2017-18 RECORD: 21-61; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Igor Kokoskov; F Trevor Ariza (one year, $15 million); F Darrell Arthur (acquired from Nets); C Deandre Ayton (No. 1 pick, 2018 Draft); F Mikal Bridges (No. 10 pick, 2018 Draft); F Richaun Holmes (acquired from 76ers); G George King (No. 59 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elie Okobo (No. 31 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former interim coach Jay Triano; F Jared Dudley (traded to Nets); C Alex Len (signed with Hawks); G Elfrid Payton (signed with Pelicans); G Tyler Ulis (waived); F/C Alan Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Devin Booker (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: Ayton. Let’s not bury the lead here: he was the first pick overall for a reason, because he has franchise-turning capability. The Suns don’t need singles or the occasional double any more; they need someone to put them back on the map with big, sweaty, nasty four-baggers, night after night. (cc: mixed metaphor police.) It’s been a minute since Amar’e Stoudemire was at his destructive best, and the list of impactful bigs in franchise history is thin: Connie Hawkins, Alvan Adams, Tom Chambers, Charles Barkley, Stoudemire. Ayton has a chance to be as good as any of them, and better, and he’s a potential stash of Kryptonite down the pike to the Warriors dynasty. THE SKINNY: There’s the makings of a Jazz-like reimaging of the franchise in short order. Kokoskov not only comes from Utah’s staff, but has significant coaching chops outside of Salt Lake City. He’s been coaching since he was 24, and that was 22 years ago. He’s coached both around the world and around the NBA as an assistant and development maven, and he’ll be great at bolstering the confidence of the Suns’ young guys -- including Bridges, a mature and solid rook with collegiate titles from Villianova who’ll be able to grow quietly outside the huge media shadow cast on Ayton. Kokoskov will also make things a lot easier for Devin Booker offensively. But GM Ryan McDonough was also smart enough to surround the kids with some solid vets, starting with Ariza, who will help the Suns again become acquainted with a long-honored NBA concept called “defense.” 7. DALLAS MAVERICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kostas Antetokounmpo (No. 60 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jalen Brunson (No. 33 pick, 2018 Draft); G Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, 2018 Draft); C DeAndre Jordan (one year, $22 million); C Chinanu Onuaku (acquired from Rockets); F Ray Spalding (No. 56 pick, 2018 Draft); F Ding Yanyuhang; LOST: G Kyle Collinsworth (waived); G Seth Curry (signed with Blazers); G Yogi Ferrell (signed with Kings); F Doug McDermott (signed with Pacers); F Jonathan Motley (traded to Clippers); C Nerlens Noel (signed with Thunder) RETAINED: G/F Wesley Matthews (picked up player option); F Dirk Nowitzki (one year, $5 million) THE KEY MAN: CEO Cynthia Marshall. The former AT&T executive was put in charge after Sports Illustrated’s explosive story last February detailing a toxic workplace for female employees on the team’s business side, with sexual harassment rampant and no relief forthcoming from the supervisors who should have provided it. Marshall has been fast at work changing the business side culture, as separate investigations of who was responsible for allowing the previous environment to fester wind down. After their results are made public, it will be Marshall who will have to both enact their recommendations and sell the public that owner Mark Cuban’s organization has been fumigated for good. THE SKINNY: Dallas is banking that the 19-year-old Doncic is not only the real deal, but that he can come out of the gate in the NBA after starring in Europe and immediately give the Mavs a boost. There’s a large body of work suggesting Doncic will do just that, and accelerate the Mavs’ rebuild. Second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s improvements should also speed up, and Jordan’s presence should start to close the sieve that has plagued Dallas’s defense the last couple of years. Losing both Curry and Ferrell will hurt the Mavs’ guard depth, though, and Brunson won’t be able to work in slowly. 8. INDIANA PACERS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Tyreke Evans (one year, $12 million); G Aaron Holiday (No. 23 pick, 2018 Draft); F Alize Johnson (No. 50 pick, 2018 Draft); F Doug McDermott; C/F Kyle O'Quinn LOST: C Al Jefferson (waived); G/F Glenn Robinson III (signed with Pistons); G Lance Stephenson (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Cory Joseph (picked up player option); F Thaddeus Young (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Kevin Pritchard, president of basketball operations. He’s been instrumental in putting this team together -- first as Larry Bird’s assistant, but on his own the last year-plus since Bird left. Now Pritchard will have to deal with not just the expectations last season’s surprising turnaround season will create with fans, but with the incessant calls and texts one receives when one has a team in which six players among the team’s core are on one-year deals and free agents next summer. It is extremely difficult for a team so constituted to stay unified and keep pulling on the rope together. Human nature is human nature, and players (and their families, and their agents) need reassurances they’re part of the organization’s future, just like any drone from Sector 7G would. It’s hard to think about sacrificing minutes and shots when almost players are judged by are their numbers. Nate McMillan, meanwhile, is only concerned, as any coach is, with the game in front of him, tonight. Pritchard’s phone will rarely have an hour off next season. THE SKINNY: What does a team that surprised so many last season need? More depth, because there aren’t going to be a lot of nights off going forward. The Pacers filled in nicely with a bunch of under-the-radar players, getting Evans after a bounce-back season in Memphis and O’Quinn after good years in New York. McBuckets is running out of stops to show he can be a key contributor in the NBA, but everything is tailor made for him to succeed here: he’ll have all the space in the world playing alongside Victor Oladipo, Bogdanovic and/or Myles Turner, depending on the lineup. Holiday was very good value at 23 in the first round. And Oladipo is on his grind. The Pacers are as big a threat as anyone to Boston’s assumed ascension in the post-LeBron East. 9. NEW YORK KNICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 29-53; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach David Fizdale; G Mario Hezonja (one year, $6.5 million); G Kevin Knox (No. 9 pick, 2018 Draft); C Mitchell Robinson (No. 36 pick, 2018 Draft); F Noah Vonleh (one year) LOST: Former coach Jeff Hornacek; F Michael Beasley (signed with Lakers); C/F Kyle O'Quinn (signed with Pacers); F Troy Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Ron Baker (picked up player option); F/C Luke Kornet; C Enes Kanter (picked up player option); THE KEY MAN: F Kristaps Porzingis. It’s unlikely Porzingis will play much, if at all, next season, as he rehabs his torn ACL suffered in February. New York will be extremely cautious with a timeline, and in Porzingis’ absence, if more losing brings more figurative ping pong balls the Knicks’ way … well, they won’t complain about that, either. None if it matters if “The Unicorn” doesn’t regain his form, though. So much of the Knicks’ 2018-19 improvement, or regression, will take place off camera. THE SKINNY: Fizdale won’t have a mandate to try and win with a veteran team in his first season in New York, as was the case in his year-plus in Memphis. So he can implement his position-less/fitness regimen with the young Knicks without looking over his shoulder. New York’s planning for 2019, when it hopes to strike in a big way in free agency, but that doesn’t mean next season won’t be important. Knox will have a lot of light on him, especially after playing well during NBA Summer League, but the Knicks truly believe Robinson will make some contributions this season with his significant physical gifts. Both must continue changing the narrative in Gotham that the team’s new braintrust is rebuilding the brand the right way -- slowly, and correctly. Hezonja was a good low-cost flier for New York who’ll give Fizdale some small ball options. Hezonja came on strong the second half of last season for the Magic, who hadn’t picked up his third-year option and were hamstrung in what they could offer him as a result. 10. SAN ANTONIO SPURS 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: G Marco Belinelli (two years, $12 million); F Dante Cunningham (one year, $2.5 million); G DeMar DeRozan (acquired from Raptors); C Jakob Poeltl (acquired from Raptors); G Lonnie Walker IV (No. 18 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chimezie Metu (No. 49 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Kyle Anderson (signed with Grizzlies); G Danny Green (traded to Raptors); F Kawhi Leonard (traded to Raptors); F Joffrey Lauvergne (signed with Fenerbahce); G Tony Parker (signed with Hornets); G Brandon Paul (waived) RETAINED: C/F Davis Bertans (two years, $14.5 million); G Bryn Forbes (two years, $6 million); F Rudy Gay (one year, $10 million) THE KEY MAN: Coach Gregg Popovich. There is no way to tell, nor is it really anyone’s business, how Pop will cope with the loss of his wife Erin, who died in April during the Spurs’ first-round series with Golden State. But the NBA grind is an unforgiving one, and Popovich is adding Olympic team coach duties to an already taxing schedule. He knows best how he’s doing and you can only hope he listens to himself when or if he needs time away. THE SKINNY: Backed up against it with Leonard’s still-murky insistence for a divorce, the Spurs did as well as could be expected in getting a four-time All-Star who’ll play with a huge chip on his shoulder next season. DeRozan will certainly help San Antonio extinguish the offensive droughts that came when teams loaded up on LaMarcus Aldridge defensively. LA was sensational for long stretches last season, making second team All-NBA for the second time in his career. Belinelli, rookie Walker and Poeltl should lengthen San Antonio’s bench significantly and reduce the Spurs’ dependence on nightly brilliance from 40-year-old Manu Ginobili, if he comes back for a 17th season. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

Butcher resigns as Azkals coach

MANILA, Philippines — England football great Terry Butcher stepped down as the Philippines’ head coach without taking charge of a single game, saying he was not “able to make this work.” Butcher, a veteran of three World Cups who has managed in England, Scotland, Wales and Australia, lasted less than 50 days in the job […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tribuneRelated NewsAug 4th, 2018

Thomas, Fleetwood, Poulter share lead at Firestone

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Nobody has a better scoring average Saturday on the PGA Tour than Tiger Woods, and the Bridgestone Invitational would be a good time to keep that up. Woods might not have a choice. Neither will Rory McIlroy, Jason Day or anyone else wanting to keep pace. Tommy Fleetwood took advantage of another soft day of good scoring at Firestone with a 7-under 63. So did PGA champion Justin Thomas, who was particularly sharp with his putter for a 64. They shared the lead with Ian Poulter, who had a head start with his career-low 62 and backed it up decently enough Friday with a 67. They all played early and finished at 11-under 129. No one could catch them, mainly because there was just enough breeze to cause just enough doubt. Even so, 45 players from the 71-man field were under par, a rarity at Firestone. Woods, whose last victory was five years ago when he won this World Golf Championship for a record eighth time, got within four shots of the lead with a tee shot to 2 feet on the par-3 12th hole. He went 1 over the rest of the way for a 68, leaving him five shots behind. Is another Saturday move in the works. "I'm going to have to," Woods said. "The golf course is playing very soft, very receptive. And when you're able to hit 5-irons and they only roll out about a foot, the guys are going to put up good scores. There's 40-plus guys under par. That's never the case here at Firestone. So tomorrow is going to be one of those days I'm going to have to go out there and post a low one and see what happens." Fleetwood, the runner-up at the U.S. Open, was most pleased to see nothing higher than 4s on his scorecard. He made it look easy, except for a few times he was slightly out of position, and hit perhaps his best shot with a 6-iron to a back-left pin that settled 3 feet below the cup. "My irons, I just tended to hit exactly where we were picking the spots and I holed a few putts," Fleetwood said. "You've got days like that where it's going well, and you've just got to make the most of them." Day, who threw away a chance to win at Firestone two years ago, did make as many as he would have liked. He still had a 66 playing in the same group with Woods, and joined Kyle Stanley (68) two shots behind the leaders. McIlroy was another shot behind after a finishing a day of frustration with two birdies. He was in position to make birdies, especially that 380-yard drive he launched at the 482-yard eighth hole that left him only a sand wedge in. It came up short, rolled down a slope and left him 45 feet away. He blasted a 319-yard drive down the middle at the 10th, only to hit sand wedge just over the green and made bogey. His finish began with a tee shot on the 17th hole that landed closer to the 16th fairway. His approach went into the front bunker, and he holed out for birdie. Then, he stuffed one on the 18th for another short birdie at a 67. "An adventure to say the least," McIlroy said. "I was 1 under standing on the 17th tee and I think if I had to finish 1 under, it would have felt like the worst I could have shot today. So to get those two birdies on the last two holes is obviously very nice and gets a couple closer to the lead." Woods opened with a bogey, bounced back with three birdies over his next four holes and looked like he might make a move with his birdie on the 12th. Two holes later, he faced such an awkward lie from the top collar of a bunker that he wasn't sure how to stand or how hard to hit it. He hit it too hard, through the green, made bogey and missed birdie chances coming in. This is only the fourth time he has been five shots or closer going into the weekend this year, but there are plenty of others around him. Also five shots back were Jon Rahm of Spain, who had a sloppy finish for a 70, Tony Finau (68) and Players champion Webb Simpson (65). The only regret for Thomas was a mistake that didn't cost him as much as it could have. He was in the rough off the tee at the par-5 16th and still had some 284 yards to reach the green, with a pond in front. The distance wasn't an issue, but Thomas said later that odds were against him making a birdie, and the safer route would have been to lay up and rely on his wedge. He hit 3-wood too far right and into the water. "We were lucky to get up-and-down for 6, but that was a stupid decision," Thomas. The rest of his game, especially with the putter, was sharp. "It was definitely one of the better putting days I've had in a while," Thomas said. "I just hit a lot of quality putts. That's what's most important. I've had days where I've missed more but putted better. ... To me, that's not as frustrating as what I was doing yesterday — just hitting bad putts.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 4th, 2018

Ibrahimovic joins Ronaldo in skipping MLS All-Star Game

By Paul Newberry, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — The MLS All-Star Game will feature one of the world's most storied clubs. Unfortunately for the more than 70,000 fans expected at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Cristiano Ronaldo is not along for the ride. After Portugal's elimination from the World Cup and his transfer from Real Madrid, the five-time FIFA Player of the Year took time off rather than accompany Juventus on its American preseason tour, which includes Wednesday night's game against top players from Major League Soccer. The decision will surely be a disappointment to the big crowd that had hoped Ronaldo would make his unofficial debut while touring the United States with the Italian club that has won seven straight Serie A championships. Juventus acquired the 33-year-old from Real Madrid on July 10 in a deal his new club said was worth 112 million euros ($131.5 million) — the largest for a player older than 30 . Also sitting out the U.S. tour, which includes three other exhibitions, is Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain. He is coming off a scoreless World Cup in which he didn't start in the round of 16 loss to eventual champion France. "Obviously these guys are world-class players," said Atlanta United's Brad Guzan, a goalkeeper for the MLS team. "With or without them, it will be a difficult game. But their names alone bring a lot of attention. It's a shame for everybody on the outside. For me, personally, hopefully it makes for an easier night." Most players take three weeks off after the World Cup. Juventus opens its Serie A schedule at Chievo Verona the weekend of Aug. 18-20 . "We are sorry not to have the Ronaldo, and Higuain as well," Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said through a translator. "Unfortunately, they played in the World Cup. They needed some days to rest." Ronaldo and Higuain won't be the only big names missing from the game. One of MLS' top new stars, LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, announced Monday that he's skipping the All-Star match rather than make a cross-country trip to Atlanta. The 36-year-old Swede cited the grind of playing three matches in an eight-day span, including Sunday night's 4-3 victory over Orlando City in which he scored his first MLS hat trick. Ibrahimovic ranks second in MLS with 15 goals. He played with Juventus from 2004-06. "I am disappointed to miss the 2018 All-Star game against Juventus, one of my former clubs," Ibrahimovic said in a statement. "I want to thank the fans for voting me to the team. My main focus is to score goals and help the LA Galaxy to the playoffs." The Galaxy (10-7-5) are unbeaten in nine games and have climbed to third place in the Western Conference. Per MLS rules, Ibrahimovic will also have to sit out LA's next match Saturday against Colorado, one of the league's worst teams. New York City forward David Villa also will skip the All-Star Game after missing six matches with a knee injury. Ibrahimovic and Villa were replaced on the MLS roster by Minnesota forward Darwin Quintero and New York Red Bulls midfielder Tyler Adams. Atlanta United coach Gerardo Martino, who will be guiding the MLS team, said the timing of the game does pose problems. "In reality, I recognize it's a little bit of a challenge for coaches who have players participating," Martino said through an interpreter. "Some players are coming from teams where they've played three games (in the last week). Some had a long trip to get here, like from Vancouver. I understand it's a very beautiful spectacle for the league and the United States. But I think what we have to look at in the future is to have it at a different time, either before or after the season. "We have to make sure the players arriving here in good condition are also returning to their teams in good condition." But MLS is eager to show off its most compelling success story. Atlanta shattered the MLS attendance record in its debut season, averaging 48,200 per game, and is on pace to break that mark this year at nearly 52,000 per game. The club already has the five biggest stand-alone crowds in MLS history — each more than 70,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The league expects another record crowd for its All-Star Game, breaking the mark of 70,728 in Houston for the 2010 match in which Manchester United defeated the MLS squad 5-2. An extra 1,500 tickets have been put on sale to meet the demand. "It's been fantastic to see the support that the city has given the club," Guzan said. "There's not many cities around the world that have what we have here in Atlanta. I'm happy to have the opportunity to showcase this to everyone.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 31st, 2018

World’s top beaches for ‘wow’ factor in 2018 listed by ‘beach inspectors’

Spain dominates a list of the world's most breathtaking beaches that includes coastlines in Kenya, Thailand, the Dominican Republic, Israel, Indonesia and even the United Kingdom. Beach-Inspector bills itself as the "first professional beach information platform" covering 1,600 beaches in 52 holiday regions around the world that have been tested on-site against up to 120 criteria. Over the last three years, "Beach inspectors" were dispatched to destinations around the world where they spent two days digitalizing and evaluating beaches on everything from sand and water quality, facilities (restaurants, bars, showers), child friendliness, "flirt factor" and visual beauty. Beac...Keep on reading: World’s top beaches for ‘wow’ factor in 2018 listed by ‘beach inspectors’.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJul 25th, 2018

Blockbuster trade not what Kawhi, DeRozan hoped for

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 19th, 2018

Thai cave boys, discharged from hospital, speak of ‘miracle’ rescue

Twelve boys and their football coach who survived a highly dangerous and dramatic rescue from a flooded Thai cave spoke publicly of their incredible ordeal for the first time on Wednesday at a press conference that was beamed around the world. The "Wild Boars" team members looked healthy and happy as they answered questions about the nine days they spent in the dark before being discovered by members of an international rescue team. A packed crowd greeted the youngsters after they were discharged from hospital in Chiang Rai, and watched as they played with footballs on a small makeshift pitch before taking their seats. "It is a miracle," Wild Boars footballer Adul Sam-on, 14...Keep on reading: Thai cave boys, discharged from hospital, speak of ‘miracle’ rescue.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJul 18th, 2018

Vive la France! And a lot of other nations, too

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Antoine Griezmann's father emigrated from Germany, and the France forward's mother is of Portuguese decent. Paul Pogba's parents arrived from Guinea. Kylian Mbappe's dad is from Cameroon, his mom Algerian. Immigrants, sons of immigrants and grandsons of immigrants bonded together with scions of families that have been French for generations, all for the rouge, blanc et bleu. And for only the second time, France is the World Cup champion. About two-thirds of Les Bleus' roster included players with immigrant backgrounds, a mini-United Nations of soccer talent. "That is the France that we love," Griezmann said through a translator after Sunday's 4-2 victory over Croatia ended the most exciting World Cup final in decades. "It's beautiful to see it." Griezmann's free kick was headed in by Mario Manduzkic for the opening own-goal in the 18th minute, and then he converted a penalty kick for a 2-1 lead in the 38th after video review spotted a handball by Ivan Perisic. Mbappe's speed led to the third goal in the 59th . He added a goal of his own in the 65th , at 19 becoming the second-youngest scorer in a World Cup final behind 17-year-old Pele in 1958. Vive la diversite! A day after Bastille Day, the party was on. "The diversity of the squad is in the image of this beautiful country that is France," midfielder Blaise Matuidi, whose parents are from Angola and Congo, said through a translator ahead of the match. France won on a humid night in Russia, with thunderclaps during play and a downpour during the trophy presentation. Quite different from that indelible summer evening at Stade de France in 1998, when fans in the arena and throughout Paris sang "La Marseillaise" until dawn and young teenagers drove cars while their intoxicated parents sat in passenger seats. People called that team "Black, Blanc, Beur," noting how white, black and North African players came together. Zinedine Zidane, a son of Algerians, headed in a pair of first-half corner kicks against heavily favored Brazil. Patrick Vieira, born in Senegal, fed Normand-born Emmanuel Petit for the third in the 3-0 win. This year's team was perhaps even more diverse. Defender Samuel Umtiti was born in Cameroon and backup goalkeeper Steve Mandanda in Zaire. Others descended from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Mococco and Senegal, plus Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. "There may be players who come from different origins, but we do have the same state of mind," Griezmann said. "We all play for the same jersey, the cockerel. For our country, we give everything we have. As soon as you wear the jersey, we do everything for each other." He scored the go-ahead goal after the first video review-created penalty kick in a World Cup final. During a delay of about four minutes that might have unnerved less-composed players. Griezmann told himself to pretend it was a league match. "Carry on and do the same thing as I normally do," he remembered thinking. At 27, he in his prime but in the penumbra of Spanish soccer at Atletico Madrid, toiling in a league that Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate. He led the 2016 European Championship with six goals and tied for second with four at the World Cup, three on penalty kicks, earning the Bronze Ball as third-best player behind Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Belgium forward Eden Hazard. Griezmann kissed the trophy, knowing his generation will be revered in the same way Zidane, Petit, Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram and Fabien Barthez remain renowned from Calais to Cannes. "From tonight on, I'm sorry for them, but they are going to be different," coach Didier Deschamps said. "Those 23 players will be linked forever, forever. Whatever happens — they might follow different paths, but they will be marked forever and they will be together thanks to this event." Griezmann, man of the match in a World Cup final, will be on posters throughout the republic, asked for endorsements, a mainstay of commercials. He will asked for autographs for the rest of his life. "I'm going to be in the history of French football with my team," Griezmann said. "We don't quite realize it yet. Our children will very proud to have our names.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 16th, 2018