Advertisements


Still alive: Teams chasing World Cup spots through playoffs

A look at the lineup of teams in the intercontinental and European playoffs for the 2018 World Cup in Russia: ___ em> strong>EUROPEAN PLAYOFFS (matches to be confirmed) /strong> /em> strong>ITALY /strong> Four-time world champion Italy will be favored to qualify no matter which opponent it faces, yet the Azzurri aren't in top form after four discouraging results — a 3-0 loss to Spain, slim 1-0 wins over Israel and Albania, and a 1-1 draw with Macedonia. However, the expected returns from injury of center forward Andrea Belotti and veteran midfielder Daniele De Rossi could provide a boost. The playoff outcome will likely determine the future of Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura. Milan's San Siro or Palermo's Renzo Barbera stadium are being considered to host the home leg of the playoff. strong>CROATIA /strong> Croatia finds itself in familiar territory. Led by playmaker Luka Modric and other high-profile players in Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic, the Croatians faced the same hurdle before the 2014 tournament in Brazil, eliminating Iceland 2-0 on aggregate. In this campaign, Croatia was on course to qualify automatically from the first place before two poor results — a 1-0 loss in Turkey and a 1-1 draw at home to Finland. Those results cost coach Ante Cacic his job. Under new coach Zlatko Dalic, Croatia won a needed 2-0 victory at Ukraine to seal a playoff spot behind Iceland. strong>SWITZERLAND /strong> Switzerland was perfect in World Cup qualifying for more than one year: Nine games, nine wins. Now coach Vladimir Petkovic must lift his players after a 2-0 loss in Portugal on Tuesday sent them to the playoffs, where the best runner-up record counts for little except being seeded. The Swiss have a reputation for being an efficient team in group-stage games that falls just short against good opponents in elimination games. They lost to Argentina at the 2014 World Cup, and Poland at Euro 2016. Their opponents next month are likely to be below that class, and Petkovic can expect that forward Breel Embolo — a substitute in Lisbon — will be fully fit after a one-year injury absence. strong>DENMARK /strong> There's a chance Denmark could face neighbor Sweden, which denied the Danes a spot in the 2016 European Championship by winning their playoff. Christian Eriksen is the undoubted star of the Denmark team, the playmaker having been one of the best players in the English Premier League over the last two years and scoring eight times from midfield in qualifying. Denmark was second to Poland in its group, only missing out on automatic qualification in the final round. strong>GREECE /strong> Reaching the playoffs came as a relief for Greece's players and coach Michael Skibbe following an embarrassing qualification campaign for Euro 2016, when the team was twice beaten by the Faeroe Islands and finished last in the group. An obdurate defense was again the key to earning a runner-up spot, nine points behind Belgium, with Skibbe struggling to find stability in midfield and a strike partner for Kostas Mitroglou. The German coach may look forward to the development of 21-year-old Tassos Donis, who provided some badly needed pace in midfield, as well as the talents of the Portuguese-born Carlos Zeca. strong>SWEDEN /strong> Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist says he'd prefer to not play Italy or Scandinavian archrival Denmark and would rather face Croatia or Switzerland. Sweden, for example, has never beaten Italy in the last 17 years. Sweden finished behind France in its group, but ahead of the Netherlands, in its first qualifying campaign without retired striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Marcus Berg has replaced Ibrahimovic as Sweden's leading striker and scored eight times in the qualifying. strong>IRELAND /strong> This will be Ireland's ninth time in the playoffs for a major tournament. The Irish have progressed on three occasions, with their most high-profile failure coming against France in the playoffs for the 2010 World Cup when Thierry Henry clearly handled the ball in the build-up to the crucial goal. In the final round of group play, Ireland beat Wales in Cardiff in a virtual playoff for the playoffs. Coach Martin O'Neill's counterattacking tactics worked perfectly in that 1-0 win and it would be no surprise if he does the same in the playoffs. strong>NORTHERN IRELAND /strong> After reaching the knockout stage at Euro 2016, the Northern Irish continued their rise in international soccer by finishing runner-up behind Germany in their group. They have never been to back-to-back major tournaments. There's no chance of a potentially spicy match against neighbor Ireland, as both are set to be among the non-seeded teams after the seedings are confirmed on Monday. ___ em> strong>INTERCONTINENTAL PLAYOFFS /strong> /em> strong>HONDURAS vs. AUSTRALIA /strong> Both countries have been regulars in recent World Cups, with Honduras looking to make it for a third straight tournament and Australia seeking a fourth in a row. Los Catrachos — as the Honduras national team is nicknamed — were squeezed out of an automatic place in Russia by Panama, which scored a late winner in a dramatic denouement to qualifying in the CONCACAF region. Asian Cup champion Australia had its chances to qualify directly, but failed to capitalize on a glut of scoring chances in the last group game against Thailand and ended up finishing in third spot behind Japan and Saudi Arabia. The Socceroos then beat Syria 2-1 after extra time to clinch the two-legged Asian playoff, but only after Syria hit the post with a free kick in the last moments of the second leg. The Australians were most recently in an inter-confederation playoff in 2006, when they ousted Uruguay over two legs. strong>PERU vs. NEW ZEALAND /strong> On New Zealand's side is a more recent appearance at the World Cup — going through the group stage in 2010 unbeaten but still being eliminated — and a first taste of Russia by qualifying for the Confederations Cup in June. But more than a 100 places separate New Zealand and Peru in the FIFA rankings. While New Zealand is at No. 113, Peru has surged to 12th as it chases a first visit to the World Cup since 1982. Peru claimed fifth place in the tough South American qualifying group to set up the intercontinental play-off that will be played over two legs on Nov. 6 and 14. .....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnOct 12th, 2017

Portugal qualifies for finals, Italy earn positives in draw

By Daniella Matar, Associated Press MILAN (AP) — No Cristiano Ronaldo, no problem. Portugal drew with Italy 0-0 on Saturday to pick up the point it needed to qualify for the UEFA Nations League finals and confirm it as host of the first Final Four in June. Ronaldo is taking a break from the national team and wasn't present at San Siro, just as he wasn't in Portugal's first two Nations League matches — both of which they won. "There's a lot of satisfaction at having reached the final phase," Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. "It was a difficult match, much more than we thought it would be. When we had the ball it was difficult to build and that was merit to Italy and demerit to us. Italy had a great game." Poland has already been assured of finishing last in Group A3 and will be relegated to League B, and Italy will finish second. However, a year after Italian football's darkest moment, there are positive signs for the Azzurri. Italy dominated and had the better of the chances in front of a packed crowd in Milan but ended with a sixth successive home draw. The Azzurri have also scored only twice in four matches in the competition — but only conceded as many. "I don't think there's so many problems up front, it's a question of five centimeters here, 10 there," Italy coach Roberto Mancini said. The Azzurri almost took the lead as early as the fifth minute. Lorenzo Insigne unleashed a scorcher from distance which Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio did well to bat away, and Ciro Immobile fired the rebound over from point-blank range. There was a lot of good interplay from the hosts with crisp, efficient passing in the best performance seen by an Italy side in a long time. It was a far cry from Italy's last match at San Siro, when it drew with Sweden 0-0 last November and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades. "Little by little we'll manage to sort out the attack, too," Mancini said. "Having so much possession in their half is something very significant. We're a step further ahead than we thought we'd be. We have to resolve this small problem (of scoring) but we will." The fans are also starting to fall back in love with the Azzurri, with 73,000 spectators at San Siro. LEAGUE B Sweden kept alive its hopes of promotion with a 1-0 victory at Turkey, which was relegated to League C. Andreas Granqvist netted the only goal with a second-half penalty after Okay Yokuslu brought down Marcus Berg. Sweden will be promoted on Tuesday if it beats Russia, which leads Group B2. LEAGUE C Scotland will win Group C1 if it beats Israel on Tuesday following a 4-0 victory over 10-man Albania in Tirana. Ryan Fraser scored his first international goal shortly before Albania captain Mergim Mavraj was sent off. Steven Fletcher doubled Scotland's tally from the penalty spot, and James Forrest netted a second-half double. Serbia beat Montenegro 2-1 despite Aleksandar Mitrovic missing a penalty and will win Group C4 if it beats Lithuania on Tuesday. Mitrovic scored Serbia's second, two minutes after Adem Ljajic opened the scoring, before chipping over from the spot. Lithuania lost 3-0 at Romania, which will go up if it beats Montenegro and Serbia fails to win. LEAGUE D Kosovo beat Malta 5-0 and Azerbaijan beat the Faroe Islands 2-0. The teams set up a winner-takes-all clash when they meet on Tuesday in Group D3, although a draw would be enough for Kosovo. The Nations League also offers a second chance to qualify for the European Championship in 2020. The 16 group winners in Leagues A, B, C and D — or the next best-placed teams who have not already qualified via the European qualifiers starting in March — will progress to the playoffs to compete for the last four qualifying places......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 18th, 2018

PBA: Mike Harris 'Couldn t care less' about his 44 point, 27 rebound effort

Alaska Aces import Mike Harris shrugged off his 44-point, 27-rebound performance that helped his team get the win over the still winless Columbian Dyip at the Cuneta Astrodome.  The scoring forward did it all, unleashing the full repertoire of slashing lay-ups, controrted shots and a couple of three-pointers. He definitely looked like one of the best reinforcements in the PBA Governors' Cup. For him, the gaudy numbers were never really the story, instead focused on the win that helped them inch closer to a twice-to-beat advantage in the first round of the playoffs. "[I] couldn't care less," Harris said jokingly. "The only thing for me is the win. We played really bad the last game against Magnolia which is I mean credit to them they're a really good team." Just like what his coach Alex Compton said that the team was not playing at the level they were expected to, the swingman echoed the sentiments and was kind of disappointed at some instances of the game. "It happens in the NBA sometimes. Top teams play bottom teams and you play down and instead playing to that level.  Being one of the candidates for Best Import of the Conference, norming 28.50 points, 21.13 rebounds, and 2.13 assists per game in eight outings, the 35-year old said that chasing individual awards is already past him and he is just focused on the ultimate team goal. As an international journeyman, having stops in the NBA and multiple teams abroad, Harris has tallied quite the resume, including the NBA G-League MVP back in 2010, another MVP in Puerto Rico's top league, and a title in China.  "Because ultimately winning a championship, one person can't win a championship. And so, that's not been my focal point. Mine's been to see the guys on the team, see what's their strength and weaknesses are and continue to help them develop their weaknesses and turn them into strengths." When asked if he is already among the long list of great Alaska imports that include Sean Chambers, Diamon Simpson, Devin Davis, and the like, the 6'5 Harris mentioned that he has not proven himself at this part of the world, but would happily want to.  "And like I said, it's one game at a time. That list, I'm pretty sure it's great. Those guys won a championship so we go to the regular season and we lose in the finals, I wouldn't put myself in there." __ Follow this writer on Twitter, @philipptionary......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2018

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

2018 MLB preview: NL East

By The Associated Press Capsules of National League East teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Washington Nationals 2017: 97-65, first place, lost to Cubs in NLDS. Manager: Dave Martinez (first season). He's Here: 1B-OF Matt Adams, C Miguel Montero, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Joaquin Benoit, INF Matt Reynolds. He's Outta Here: Manager Dusty Baker, LF Jayson Werth, 1B-LF Adam Lind, C Jose Lobaton, RHP Matt Albers. Projected Lineup: SS Trea Turner (.284, 11 HRs, 45 RBIs, 46 SBs in 98 games), LF Adam Eaton (.297, 2, 13 in 23 games), RF Bryce Harper (.319, 29, 87), 3B Anthony Rendon (.301, 25, 100, 41 2Bs), 2B Daniel Murphy (.322, 23, 93, 43 2Bs, expected to begin season on DL recovering from knee surgery), 1B Ryan Zimmerman (.303, 36, 108, 33 2Bs), CF Michael A. Taylor (.271, 19, 53), C Matt Wieters (.225, 10, 52). Rotation: RH Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.51 ERA, NL-high 268 Ks, 200 2/3 IP, 3rd Cy Young Award), RH Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 2.52, 204 Ks), LH Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 2.96, 79 walks), RH Tanner Roark (13-11, 4.67), RH A.J. Cole (3-5, 3.81 in 11 appearances) or RH Jeremy Hellickson (8-11, 5.43 with Phillies and Orioles). Key Relievers: LH Sean Doolittle (2-0, 2.81, 24/26 saves with Athletics and Nationals), RH Ryan Madson (5-4, 1.83, 2 saves with Athletics and Nationals), RH Brandon Kintzler (4-3, 3.03, 29/35 saves with Twins and Nationals), LH Sammy Solis (1-0, 5.88, 1 save), RH Shawn Kelley (3-2, 7.27, 4 saves), RH Joaquin Benoit (1-6, 4.65, 2 saves with Phillies and Pirates). Hot Spots: Fifth Starter and Catcher. The Nationals have as good a 1-2 combination at the front of their rotation as anyone in the big leagues, with Scherzer and Strasburg. Their 3-4 slots aren't too shabby, either, with Gonzalez and Roark. But the big question is, who will be the fifth starter — the inexperienced Cole or late free-agent pickup Hellickson? The only other spot with some real doubts is catcher, where Wieters is coming off a terrible year at the plate. Outlook: This might very well be the end of an era at Nationals Park, with Harper eligible to leave as a free agent after the season and GM Mike Rizzo's contract set to expire, too. The team has won four NL East titles in the past six years but has zero playoff series wins to show for it. That's why yet another manager (Baker) lost his job, and yet another rookie skipper has been brought in (will Martinez have more success than Matt Williams?). Rizzo has made no secret of the need to start making postseason inroads — a World Series is the stated goal, and that's certainly not an outrageous aim, given all the talent he's assembled. The lineup remains almost exactly the same, although Werth is gone after playing out his seven-year contract, and the rotation and bullpen are also nearly identical to the way they looked at the end of 2017. ___ Miami Marlins 2017: 77-85, second place. Manager: Don Mattingly (third season). He's Here: INF Starlin Castro, CF Lewis Brinson, OF Cameron Maybin, 1B Garrett Cooper, RHP Jacob Turner, OF-1B Scott Van Slyke, RHP Jumbo Diaz, RHP Sandy Alcantara. He's Outta Here: RF Giancarlo Stanton, LF Marcell Ozuna, CF Christian Yelich, 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Tom Koehler, OF Ichiro Suzuki, RHP Dustin McGowan, C A.J. Ellis. Projected Lineup: RF Cameron Maybin (.228, 10 HRs, 35 RBIs, 33 SBs with Angels and Astros), CF Lewis Brinson (.106, 2, 3 in 21 games with Brewers), 2B Starlin Castro (.300, 16, 63 in 112 games with Yankees), 1B Justin Bour (.289, 25, 83, .902 OPS in 108 games), C J.T. Realmuto (.278, 17, 65), LF Derek Dietrich (.249, 13, 53), 3B Brian Anderson (.262, 0, 8 in 25 games), SS Miguel Rojas (.290, 1, 26 in 90 games). Rotation: RH Jose Urena (14-7, 3.82 ERA), RH Dan Straily (10-9, 4.26, 170 Ks), RH Odrisamer Despaigne (2-3, 4.01), RH Jacob Turner (2-3, 5.08 with Nationals), LH Justin Nicolino (2-3, 5.06). Key Relievers: RH Brad Ziegler (1-4, 4.79, 10/15 saves), RH Kyle Barraclough (6-2, 3.00, 1 save), RH Drew Steckenrider (1-1, 2.34, 54 Ks in 34 2/3 IP), RH Junichi Tazawa (3-5, 5.69), RH Nick Wittgren (3-1, 4.68). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. Urena had a breakout season in 2017, and Straily tied for the NL lead with 33 starts, but they're the only established starters. The other three spots will likely be a revolving door occupied by a mix of prospects and journeymen, and the results could be ugly. One potential bright spot is the 22-year-old Alcantara, who had a 4.32 ERA in eight games for the Cardinals last year. He'll begin the season in the minors but might join the Marlins before summer. Outlook: New CEO Derek Jeter is accustomed to winning, and that is about to change. He traded away half of last year's starting lineup, including the NL MVP in Stanton, which means the Marlins are rebuilding yet again. Even with an entirely new outfield, the offense could be decent. But Castro and Realmuto are potential trade bait and might be gone before August, and the season will almost surely end Sept. 30, leaving the Marlins out of the playoffs for the 15th year in a row. This season is really all about developing prospects acquired in those offseason trades, and if youngsters such as Brinson and Alcantara perform well, 2018 will be considered a successful start for the Jeter regime. ___ Atlanta Braves 2017: 72-90, third place. Manager: Brian Snitker (third season). He's Here: RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Anibal Sanchez, LHP Scott Kazmir, INF Charlie Culberson, OF Preston Tucker, OF Ronald Acuna, 3B Austin Riley, OF Jeff Decker, 2B Christian Colon, RHP Shane Carle. He's Outta Here: OF Matt Kemp, RHP R.A. Dickey, 3B Adonis Garcia, 1B Matt Adams, INF Jace Peterson, RHP Jason Motte. Projected Lineup: CF Ender Inciarte (.304, 11 HRs, 57 RBIs, 22 SBs, Gold Glove), 2B Ozzie Albies (.286, 6, 28, 8 SBs in 57 games), 1B Freddie Freeman (.307, 28, 71 in 117 games), C Tyler Flowers (.281, 12, 49) or Kurt Suzuki (.283, 19, 50), RF Nick Markakis (.275, 8, 76), LF Ronald Acuna (.325, 21, 82, 44 SBs with 3 minor league teams) or Lane Adams (.275, 5, 20, 10 SBs), 3B Johan Camargo (.273, 14, 65) or Charlie Culberson (.154, 0, 1 in 15 games with Dodgers), SS Dansby Swanson (.232, 6, 51). Rotation: RH Julio Teheran (11-13, 4.49 ERA), RH Mike Foltynewicz (10-13, 4.79), RH Brandon McCarthy (6-4, 3.98 in 19 games with Dodgers), LH Sean Newcomb (4-9, 4.32 in 19 games), RH Anibal Sanchez (3-7, 6.41 with Tigers), LH Scott Kazmir (10-6, 4.56 with Dodgers in 2016) or LH Luiz Gohara (1-3, 4.91 in 5 games). Key Relievers: RH Arodys Vizcaino (5-3, 2.83, 14/17 saves, 64 Ks in 57 1/3 IP), RH Jose Ramirez (2-3, 3.19), LH A.J. Minter (0-1, 3.00, 26 Ks, 15 IP in 16 games), RH Dan Winkler (1-1, 2.51 in 16 games), LH Sam Freeman (2-0, 2.55 in 58 games). Hot Spot: Third Base. Camargo was the probable starter before an oblique injury left his status uncertain for the beginning of the season. Culberson, expected to play a utility role, or Rio Ruiz would be next in line. Austin Riley, a 2015 first-round pick who has not yet reached Triple-A, might be a year or two away. Camargo, who shared time with Swanson at shortstop last year, could be more than a stopgap if he can provide some of the power the Braves need at a corner infield spot. Outlook: Teheran, Foltynewicz and Newcomb have provided reasons this spring to believe they can improve their 2017 numbers. The progress of Newcomb, one of the team's many touted pitching prospects, became especially important when Gohara sustained a groin injury that will keep him from being ready for the start of the season. For a change, the spring spotlight was on a position player; Acuna was hitting .432 with four homers, 11 RBIs and four steals when he was sent to minor league camp. The move involving the 20-year-old top prospect was expected. It was made to maintain an extra full season of contractual control down the road, but Acuna likely will be recalled in April and immediately start in left field. He could provide a needed power bat to help Freeman in the middle of the lineup. The Braves likely are still at least a year away from contending in the NL East, but improved starting pitching could push them closer to .500 this year. ___ New York Mets 2017: 70-92, fourth place. Manager: Mickey Callaway (first season). He's Here: 3B Todd Frazier, RF Jay Bruce, LHP Jason Vargas, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RHP Anthony Swarzak, LHP Matt Purke, C Jose Lobaton. He's Outta Here: Manager Terry Collins, LHP Josh Smoker, LHP Josh Edgin, RHP Chasen Bradford, OF Norichika Aoki, RHP Erik Goeddel, RHP Tyler Pill, LHP Tommy Milone, OF Travis Taijeron. Projected Lineup: 2B Asdrubal Cabrera (.280, 14 HRs, 59 RBIs, .351 OBP), LF Yoenis Cespedes (.292, 17, 42, .892 OPS in 81 games), RF Jay Bruce (.252, 36, 101 with Mets and Indians), 3B Todd Frazier (.213, 27, 76, .344 OBP with White Sox and Yankees), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.242, 3, 30, .642 OPS in 71 games with Dodgers) or Dominic Smith (.198, 9, 26, .658 OPS, 49 Ks in 49 games), C Travis d'Arnaud (.244, 16, 57, .293 OBP in 112 games) or Kevin Plawecki (.260, 3, 13, .364 OBP in 37 games), CF Brandon Nimmo (.260, 5, 21, .379 OBP, .797 OPS in 69 games) or Juan Lagares (.250, 3, 15, .296 OBP, .661 OPS in 94 games), SS Amed Rosario (.248, 4, 10, 49 Ks, 3 BBs, .271 OBP, .665 OPS in 46 games). Rotation: RH Noah Syndergaard (1-2, 2.97 ERA, limited to 30 1/3 innings by lat injury), RH Jacob deGrom (15-10, 3.53, 239 Ks, 201 1/3 IP), LH Jason Vargas (18-11, 4.16, 179 2/3 IP in 32 starts with Royals), RH Matt Harvey (5-7, 6.70, 110 hits, 21 HRs, 67 Ks, 47 BBs in 92 2/3 IP), LH Steven Matz (2-7, 6.08 in 13 starts), RH Zack Wheeler (3-7, 5.21, 97 hits, 81 Ks, 40 BBs, 86 1/3 IP in 17 starts). Key Relievers: RH Jeurys Familia (2-2, 4.38, 6 saves in 26 games), RH AJ Ramos (2-4, 3.99, 27 saves with Marlins and Mets), RH Anthony Swarzak (6-4, 2.33, 91 Ks, 22 BBs, 58 hits, 77 1/3 IP in 70 games with White Sox and Brewers), LH Jerry Blevins (6-0, 2.94, 1 save, 69 Ks, 24 BBs, 49 IP in 75 games), RH Paul Sewald (0-6, 4.55, 69 Ks, 21 BBs, 65 1/3 IP in 57 games), RH Seth Lugo (7-5, 4.71, 101 1/3 IP in 19 games, 18 starts) or RH Robert Gsellman (8-7, 5.19, 119 2/3 IP in 25 games, 22 starts). Hot Spot: First Base. The 35-year-old Gonzalez, a five-time All-Star weakened by a bad back last season, was signed at a bargain price to provide competition and short-term insurance for Smith, a top prospect who struggled in his initial taste of the majors last year. Smith, 22, slimmed down in the offseason but was disciplined early in camp for arriving late one day. Then he strained a quad, keeping him out of the lineup for most of spring training, so it seems unlikely he'll make the opening day roster. Gonzalez, meanwhile, batted .182 with one extra-base hit and 11 strikeouts in his first 44 Grapefruit League at-bats before connecting for a home run. Wilmer Flores can play first against left-handers, but vs. righties the Mets either need Gonzalez to find the Fountain of Youth or Smith to live up to his first-round hype. Outlook: Callaway had great success with Cleveland's arms and the injury-plagued Mets are counting on his methods, along with new pitching coach Dave Eiland, to keep their talented but fragile rotation intact. New York also overhauled its medical department, hoping to keep star players on the field. Syndergaard and deGrom make for an imposing 1-2 punch. So if Harvey, Matz and Wheeler — even one or two of them — can finally stay healthy and approach their initial big league form, the pitching staff could be terrific again after unraveling last year with a 5.01 ERA that ranked 28th in the majors. Vargas was signed to eat innings but will miss some time at the beginning of the season following surgery for a broken right (non-pitching) hand. All-Star outfielder Michael Conforto (27 HRs, .384 OBP, .939 OPS) is targeting a May 1 return from surgery for a dislocated left shoulder. His status is critical to a lineup that lacks speed and a natural leadoff hitter. Nimmo made strides last season and is a potential candidate for that role while platooning early with Lagares to fill Conforto's spot in center field. After the Mets spent nearly $90 million to plug holes in free agency, it still might be a stretch to envision them seriously challenging star-studded Washington for NL East supremacy. But with better health in a soft division, they could certainly rejoin the wild-card hunt. ___ Philadelphia Phillies 2017: 66-96, fifth place. Manager: Gabe Kapler (first season). He's Here: RHP Jake Arrieta, 1B Carlos Santana, RHP Pat Neshek, RHP Tommy Hunter. He's Outta Here: Manager Pete Mackanin, SS Freddy Galvis, INF Andres Blanco, OF Daniel Nava, OF Hyun Soo Kim, RHP Clay Buchholz, 1B Tommy Joseph. Projected Lineup: 2B Cesar Hernandez (.294, 9 HRs, 34 RBIs, 15 SBs), 1B Carlos Santana (.259, 23, 79 with Indians), RF Nick Williams (.288, 12, 55) or Aaron Altherr (.272, 19, 65), LF Rhys Hoskins (.259, 18, 48), CF Odubel Herrera (.281, 14, 56), C Jorge Alfaro (.318, 5, 14), 3B Maikel Franco (.230, 24, 76), SS J.P. Crawford (.214, 0, 6 in 23 games). Rotation: RH Aaron Nola (12-11, 3.54 ERA, 184 Ks), RH Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53, 163 Ks with Cubs), RH Vince Velasquez (2-7, 5.13 in 15 starts), RH Nick Pivetta (8-10, 6.02), RH Zach Eflin (1-5, 6.16) or RH Ben Lively (4-7, 4.26). Key Relievers: RH Hector Neris (4-5, 3.01, 26/29 saves), RH Pat Neshek (5-3, 1.59, 1 save with Phillies and Rockies), RH Tommy Hunter (3-5, 2.61, 1 save with Rays), LH Adam Morgan (3-3, 4.12), RH Luis Garcia (2-5, 2.65). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. There are a lot of question marks beyond Nola, who emerged as a reliable starter in 2017. Arrieta, the former Cubs ace, had a rough first half in 2017 but finished strong. Yet he was a free agent until mid-March. He's getting paid big bucks to be a No. 1 guy again. Jerad Eickhoff will begin the season on the DL and Velasquez is coming off a disappointing year after showing promise in 2016. Pivetta has upside but needs more maturity. The team has plenty of depth at Triple-A, including several pitchers who have big league experience, in case any of the starters falter or get hurt. Outlook: The decision to sign Arrieta signals the rebuild is over. The Phillies added Santana, Neshek and Hunter to a talented young roster in hopes of being competitive. A month into spring training, they added Arrieta because management thinks it's time to contend now. The lineup has the potential to be dynamic if the young hitters continue to emerge and Santana does what he did in Cleveland. The bullpen should be formidable with Hunter-Neshek-Neris at the back end. If Arrieta regains his old form, Nola lives up to his promise and a couple other starters take steps forward, the Phillies can not only end their five-year run of losing seasons but maybe even make a surprise push for a postseason berth......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

2018 MLB preview: AL East

By The Associated Press Capsules of American League East teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Boston Red Sox 2017: 93-69, first place, lost to Houston in ALDS. Manager: Alex Cora (first season). He's Here: DH J.D. Martinez. He's Outta Here: Manager John Farrell, RHP Doug Fister, OF Chris Young, RHP Addison Reed, OF Rajai Davis, LHP Henry Owens, LHP Fernando Abad. Projected Lineup: RF Mookie Betts (.264, 24 HRs, 102 RBIs), LF Andrew Benintendi (.271, 20, 90), 1B Hanley Ramirez (.242, 23, 62) or Mitch Moreland (.246, 22, 79), DH J.D. Martinez (.303, 45, 104 with Tigers and Diamondbacks), 3B Rafael Devers (.284, 10, 30 in 58 games), SS Xander Bogaerts (.273, 10, 62), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.245, 17, 63), C Christian Vazquez (.290, 5, 32) or Sandy Leon (.225, 7, 39), 2B Eduardo Nunez (.313, 12, 58, 24 SBs with Giants and Red Sox) or Dustin Pedroia (.293, 7, 62, .369 OBP in 105 games, expected to be out until late May following knee surgery). Rotation: LH Chris Sale (17-8, 2.90 ERA, MLB-best 308 Ks, MLB-high 214 1/3 IP), LH David Price (6-3, 3.38, 11 starts, 5 relief appearances), RH Rick Porcello (11-17, 4.65), LH Drew Pomeranz (17-6, 3.32, expected to begin season on disabled list with strained left forearm), RH Hector Velazquez (3-1, 2.92) or RH Steven Wright (1-3, 8.25 in 5 starts) or LH Eduardo Rodriguez (6-7, 4.19). Key Relievers: RH Craig Kimbrel (5-0, 1.43, 35/39 saves), RH Carson Smith (0-0, 1.35, 1 save in 8 games), RH Matt Barnes (7-3, 3.88), RH Joe Kelly (4-1, 2.79), RH Tyler Thornburg (injured in 2017, expected to begin season on DL). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. This group has the potential to be the strength of the team, with two Cy Young Award winners and four All-Stars to choose from. But other than Sale, it has been spotty. And in the four-game playoff loss to the eventual World Series champion Astros last year, the Red Sox didn't get a single quality start as the rotation totaled just 11 1/3 innings. The first four spots are spoken for, aside from the injury to Pomeranz. Among those competing with Velazquez for the fifth spot are Wright, Rodriguez and Brian Johnson. Wright, a knuckleballer and 2016 All-Star, had left knee surgery in May and missed the rest of the 2017 season. Rodriguez had major right knee surgery in October. It's possible neither will be ready for opening day, but both could be back by mid-April. Outlook: The Red Sox won 93 games last year for the second straight season and claimed the franchise's first back-to-back AL East titles. But Farrell was fired after they failed to advance in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. The key — and really only — addition is Martinez, who gives them someone to replace longtime slugger David Ortiz after finishing last in the AL in homers without Big Papi in 2017. The theory behind Boston keeping up with the reloaded New York Yankees goes something like this: A full season of a healthy Price will bolster a rotation that already has a quality ace in Sale, plus 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Porcello and All-Stars Pomeranz and Wright. The Red Sox also are staking their chances on the hope that Ramirez can be more like the player he was in 2016 (.286, 30, 111); that Pedroia will return quickly and be healthy and productive; that 20-year-old third baseman Devers will be able to stay up for a full season; and that Bradley won't have another second-half slump. The bullpen, anchored by Kimbrel, remains strong. ___ New York Yankees 2017: 91-71, second place, wild card, lost to Houston in ALCS. Manager: Aaron Boone (first season). He's Here: OF Giancarlo Stanton, 2B Neil Walker, 3B Brandon Drury. He's Outta Here: Manager Joe Girardi, 2B Starlin Castro, 3B-1B Chase Headley, 3B Todd Frazier, DH Matt Holliday, LHP Jaime Garcia. Projected Lineup: LF Brett Gardner (.264, 21 HRs, 63 RBIs, 96 runs, 23 SBs), RF Aaron Judge (.284, AL-leading 52, 114, MLB-high 208 Ks), 1B Greg Bird (.190, 9, 28 in 48 games), DH Giancarlo Stanton (.281, MLB-leading 59, MLB-best 132, 163 Ks with Marlins), C Gary Sanchez (.278, 33, 90, 120 Ks in 122 games), SS Didi Gregorius (.287, 25, 87), CF Aaron Hicks (.266, 15, 52 in 88 games), 2B Neil Walker (.265, 14, 49 with Mets and Brewers), 3B Brandon Drury (.267, 13, 63 with Diamondbacks). Rotation: RH Luis Severino (14-8, 2.98 ERA, 230 Ks in 193 1/3 IP), RH Masahiro Tanaka (13-12, 4.74, 194 Ks), LH CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69), RH Sonny Gray (10-12, 3.55 with Athletics and Yankees), LH Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.88 in 29 starts). Key Relievers: LH Aroldis Chapman (4-3, 3.22, 22/26 saves, 69 Ks, 50 1/3 IP in 52 games), RH David Robertson (9-2, 1.48, 14/16 saves in 61 games with White Sox and Yankees), RH Dellin Betances (3-6, 2.87, 10/13 saves, 100 Ks, 50 2/3 IP in 66 games), RH Tommy Kahnle (2-4, 2.59, 96 Ks in 62 2/3 IP with White Sox and Yankees), RH Chad Green (5-0, 1.83, 103 Ks in 69 IP), RH Adam Warren (3-2, 2.35 in 44 games), LH Chasen Shreve (4-1, 3.77 in 44 games). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. There is little seasoned depth if injuries develop, with Luis Cessa the first candidate to step up, and Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield needing more time in the minors. Sabathia turns 38 in July and while he is coming off his best and most durable season in five years, his surgically repaired right knee requires periodic injections of painkiller. Severino must maintain his consistency of 2017 after going 3-8 the previous year, when he was demoted to the minors. Montgomery is expected to increase his innings from 155 1/3. The back end of New York's rotation puts pressure on its bullpen: While Severino averaged 99 pitches per start, Gray 98 and Tanaka 94, Sabathia and Montgomery were at 87 each. Outlook: New York figures to score a lot and strike out a lot, a reason the Yankees signed the switch-hitting, high-contact Walker during spring training. Drury also was a late addition, enabling New York to start prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar in the minors. Betances faded in the second half last season, struggling with his mechanics and control and diminishing from a four-time All-Star to a mop-up man. After a pair of injury-decimated seasons, Bird is being counted on as a left-handed power bat in the middle of the batting order who can prevent opponents from bringing in right-handed relievers to attack Judge, Stanton and Sanchez. Hicks missed nearly half of last season with oblique injuries but has displaced Jacoby Ellsbury as the regular center fielder. Having never managed or coached at any level, Boone succeeded Girardi and must establish with players and the public that he knows what he is doing. ___ Tampa Bay Rays 2017: 80-82, third place. Manager: Kevin Cash (fourth season). He's Here: OF Denard Span, 1B C.J. Cron, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, OF Jake Bauers. He's Outta Here: 3B Evan Longoria, RHP Alex Cobb, RHP Jake Odorizzi, OF-DH Corey Dickerson, OF Steven Souza Jr., 1B Logan Morrison, 1B-DH Lucas Duda, RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Tommy Hunter, OF Peter Bourjos, INF Trever Plouffe, RHP Chase Whitley. Projected Lineup: LF Denard Span (.272, 12 HRs, 43 RBIs, 31 2Bs, 12 SBs in 129 games with Giants), CF Kevin Kiermaier (.276, 15, 39 in 98 games), C Wilson Ramos (.260, 11, 35 in 64 games), RF Carlos Gomez (.255, 17, 51 with Rangers), 1B C.J. Cron (.248, 16, 56 with Angels), DH Brad Miller (.201, 9, 40), 3B Matt Duffy (sidelined by Achilles tendon injury), 2B Daniel Robertson (.206, 5, 19) or Joey Wendle (.285, 8, 54 in 118 games with Triple-A Nashville), SS Adeiny Hechavarria (.261, 8, 30 with Marlins and Rays). Rotation: RH Chris Archer (10-12, 4.07 ERA, 249 Ks in 34 starts), LH Blake Snell (5-7, 4.04 in 24 starts), RH Nathan Eovaldi (missed season following Tommy John surgery), RH Jake Faria (5-4, 3.43 in 16 games, 14 starts). Key Relievers: RH Alex Colome (2-3, 3.24, 47/53 saves), RH Matt Andriese (5-5, 4.50), RH Sergio Romo (3-1, 3.56 in 55 appearances with Dodgers and Rays; 2-0, 1.47 in 25 games with Rays), LH Dan Jennings (3-1, 3.45 in 77 games with White Sox and Rays), RH Andrew Kittredge (0-1, 1.76 in 15 games), RH Chaz Roe (0-0, 9.00 in 3 games with Braves), RH Austin Pruitt (7-5, 5.31), LH Joe Alvarado (0-3, 3.64). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. Normally, the Rays are built around good, young starting pitching and solid defense, a formula that will be tested after losing Cobb to free agency, trading Odorizzi and settling on a plan to use a four-man rotation, instead of the customary five. Cash intends to use multiple relievers on floating "bullpen days" slotted to allow the four starters to pitch on regular rest. It may not be a conventional setup, but the Rays are confident they have enough good arms to make it work. Outlook: The Rays sport a new look after a winter of trimming payroll. In addition to the departures of Cobb and Odorizzi, the heart of a batting order that hit a club-record 228 homers — Longoria, Dickerson, Souza and Morrison — is gone, too. Archer, a two-time All-Star, is set to make his franchise-record fourth opening day start, and Colome is back at closer, too. The question that remains unanswered is, for how long? Cash and general manager Erik Neander aren't making any bold predictions but they insist that despite all the changes, the Rays have a chance to be a lot more competitive than it appears on paper. ___ Toronto Blue Jays 2017: 76-86, fourth place. Manager: John Gibbons (sixth season of second stint, 11th overall with Blue Jays). He's Here: LHP Jaime Garcia, OF Randal Grichuk, OF Curtis Granderson, RHP Seung-hwan Oh, INF Yangervis Solarte, INF Aledmys Diaz, RHP John Axford, RHP Tyler Clippard, INF Danny Espinosa, RHP Taylor Guerrieri, INF Gift Ngoepe, LHP Sam Moll, RHP Sam Gaviglio. He's Outta Here: OF Jose Bautista, OF Ezequiel Carrera, RHP Dominic Leone, LHP Brett Anderson, INF Darwin Barney, RHP Leonel Campos, OF Darrell Ceciliani, RHP Taylor Cole, INF Ryan Goins, C Raffy Lopez, RHP Tom Koehler, RHP Dominic Leone, C Miguel Montero, INF Rob Refsnyder, OF Michael Saunders, RHP Bo Schultz, RHP Cesar Valdez. Projected Lineup: 2B Devon Travis (.259, 5 HRs, 24 RBIs in 50 games), 3B Josh Donaldson (.270, 33, 78), 1B Justin Smoak (.270, 38, 90), DH Kendrys Morales (.250, 28, 85), LF Steve Pearce (.252, 13, 37) or Curtis Granderson (.212, 26, 64 with Mets and Dodgers), C Russell Martin (.221, 13, 35), SS Troy Tulowitzki (.249, 7, 26 in 66 games), RF Randal Grichuk (.238, 22, 59 with Cardinals), CF Kevin Pillar (.256, 16, 42). Rotation: LH J.A. Happ (10-11, 3.53 ERA), RH Aaron Sanchez (1-3, 4.25 in 8 games), RH Marco Estrada (10-9, 4.98), RH Marcus Stroman (13-9, 3.09), LH Jaime Garcia (5-10, 4.41 with Braves, Twins and Yankees). Key Relievers: RH Roberto Osuna (3-4, 3.39, 39/49 saves), RH Ryan Tepera (7-1, 3.59, 2 saves), RH Danny Barnes (3-6, 3.55), RH Seung Hwan Oh (1-6, 4.10, 20 saves with Cardinals), LH Aaron Loup (2-3, 3.75), RH John Axford (0-1, 6.43 with Athletics), RH Tyler Clippard (2-8, 4.77, 5 saves with White Sox, Yankees and Astros). Hot Spot: Shortstop. Tulowitzki is owed $20 million in each of 2018 and 2019, and $14 million in 2020, the final season of a 10-year contract he received from Colorado. Tulo has missed at least 30 games in six straight seasons, and will begin 2018 on the disabled list because of a bone spur in his right heel. Although the Blue Jays have multiple backup options, they could be waiting at least a month, if not longer, for the five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner to return. Tulowitzki sustained a season-ending injury to his right ankle in late July last year. Outlook: The powerful Yankees and reigning division champion Red Sox are considered playoff favorites in the AL East, so the expectation is the Blue Jays will be left to compete for the second wild card. If Donaldson and Smoak help the offense rebound from last season's injury-induced stumble, when Toronto scored an AL-low 693 runs, and the starting pitching stays strong and healthy, the Blue Jays might be able to mount a playoff push. Health concerns remain plentiful, however. Besides Tulowitzki's troublesome heel, Travis will need scheduled downtime to rest his surgically repaired right knee. Stroman was slowed by a sore shoulder in spring training, and Sanchez will be closely monitored after making just eight starts last year because of blister issues. ___ Baltimore Orioles 2017: 75-87, fifth place. Manager: Buck Showalter (ninth season). He's Here: RHP Alex Cobb, RHP Andrew Cashner, OF Colby Rasmus, LHP Nestor Cortes Jr., C Andrew Susac, INF Engelb Vielma, OF Austin Hays. He's Outta Here: C Welington Castillo, SS J.J. Hardy, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Jeremy Hellickson. Projected Lineup: LF Trey Mancini (.293, 24 HRs, 78 RBIs), 2B Jonathan Schoop (.293, 32, 105, 35 2Bs), SS Manny Machado (.259, 33, 95, 33 2Bs), CF Adam Jones (.285, 26, 73), 1B Chris Davis (.215, 26, 61, 61 BBs, 195 Ks), 3B Tim Beckham (.259, 12, 36 in 87 games with Rays; .306, 10, 26 in 50 games with Orioles), DH Mark Trumbo (.234, 23, 65, 149 Ks), RF Colby Rasmus (.281, 9, 23 with Rays), C Caleb Joseph (.256, 8, 28). Rotation: RH Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.24 ERA, 152 Ks), RH Kevin Gausman (11-12, 4.68, 179 Ks), RH Alex Cobb (12-10, 3.66 with Rays), RH Andrew Cashner (11-11, 3.40 with Rangers), RH Chris Tillman (1-7, 7.84) or RH Miguel Castro (3-3, 3.53 in 39 games, 1 start). Key Relievers: RH Brad Brach (4-5, 3.18, 18/24 saves), RH Darren O'Day (2-3, 3.43, 2 saves), LH Richard Bleier (2-1, 1.99), RH Mychal Givens (8-1, 2.75). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. The late addition of Cobb fills out a previously shaky unit, but depth and experience are still an issue. Bundy and Gausman were decent last season, but the young right-handers must take another step forward. Jimenez and Hellickson have been replaced by Cashner, on his third team in four years, and Castro, a converted reliever with one career start. Tillman, re-signed as a free agent, has to prove that his miserable 2017 season was merely a fluke rather than the beginning of the end of a career that two years ago appeared to be blooming. Should any of the starters get injured, the team has very few options on the staff and in the minors beyond right-hander Mike Wright, who's got a lifetime ERA of 5.86. Outlook: The Orioles were 25-16 and in first place last year before fading to their first losing season since 2011. The prospect for improvement will rest on a power-laden lineup that needs Davis and Trumbo to rebound from poor performances, but both sluggers fought through injuries this spring and Trumbo will be on the disabled list on opening day. With a shaky rotation and a bullpen that is without injured closer Zach Britton, the Orioles must score plenty of runs to make some noise in the AL East. Baltimore's defense, usually a strong point, was not particularly efficient in 2017. The team addressed the problem by switching Machado to shortstop and working hard on fundamentals this spring. Most important, this could be the last season in Baltimore for Jones and Machado, whose contracts expire after 2018. If the Orioles are sputtering in July, the most intriguing aspect of the team might be whether one or both stars get jettisoned before the July 31 trade deadline......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

New era, new challenges emerge for Warriors

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst "It’s the lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself. He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest." -- Muhammad Ali Ali defended his heavyweight championship 20 times, during two eras: when he was young and unstoppable, after beating Sonny Liston in Miami in 1964, and when he was old and vulnerable, after beating George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. He was the fastest heavyweight ever in the first era; he was smart and could take a punch in the second. A generation later, the Golden State Warriors are defending their NBA title for a second time, in three years. But they, too, are doing so in two eras. In 2014, no one had seen anything like what Golden State did on a basketball court, and how Stephen Curry’s and Klay Thompson’s shooting range changed the geometry of NBA defenses. They stretched to the breaking point trying to get out to Curry and Thompson. They couldn’t figure out how to handle the Warriors’ five-man switching defenses. They couldn’t stand up under Golden State’s withering pace. There is no need to hold a telethon yet for the Warriors, three years later. They are 49-14 today, with four All-Stars among their five starters, including Kia MVP candidate Kevin Durant, in the prime of his career, who wasn’t there when the Warriors first beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 Finals. They are still first in the league in Offensive Rating, first in True Shooting Percentage, first in Effective Field Goal Percentage. They still are unsolvable to most opponents. But maybe not all, not anymore. The margin of separation between Golden State and the rest of the league is still there, most of the time. But there are tiny signs of slippage. Tiny. You recall what Warriors assistant coach Bruce Frasier said in the preseason, when no one is injured and everyone thinks they’re going 82-0. “Teams are starting to figure us out a little bit,” he said then. “We’re talented, so that sometimes overrides strategy. But I feel like teams are figuring certain things out to do to counter what they’ve seen. Year one, it was really hard, because it was all new. The pieces have changed a little bit, but I feel like our challenge will be to see if we can layer on some of the offense, our fluid movement, and counters, and change things up, and execute better. Defense is always big, too, so I wouldn’t go into the complacent (problem). I think it’s going to be more execution, and how smart can we really be, and can we keep that energy up through this year?” In each of their previous three seasons, the Warriors led the league in margin of victory -- 10.1 points in 2014-15, 10.8 points in 2015-16 and 11.6 points last season. This year, though, they’ve fallen to third, behind the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors -- and their win margin is down to 8.5 points per game. Two years ago, the Warriors were fourth in the league in Defensive Rating (100.9). Last season, Golden State was second (101.1). This season, the Warriors are fifth, at 103.4. In 2014-15, they were 14th in the league in points allowed in the paint; this year, they’re 24th (to be fair, they were 23rd last year, when they won it all anyway). Are they bored? Tired? Aging? Is their bench inconsistency this year the result of vets saving themselves for the playoffs, or guys just getting old? And will it matter against anyone other than Houston? “Once you start getting a little older, it’s harder and harder,” guard Shaun Livingston said last week. “We definitely need the youth, we definitely need the health. We’ve got to be healthy. We’ve got to be healthy. Sometimes you see teams that maybe are over the hill -- they have the experience, but maybe not (the ability). It’s human nature. Obviously, I don’t think we’re there yet. We’ve got guys that are still in their prime. It’s mental now.” In the Jean-Pierre Coopman phase of their latest title defense (oh, how one misses spectacles like Ali fighting Coopman, the “Lion of Flanders” -- with Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier on the call!), the Warriors came to Washington last week. There was no White House visit on the docket, only time with D.C. area kids and a trip to the African-American History Museum, with owner Joe Lacob and GM Bob Myers on the trip as well. They have been in the public eye for five years now, back to Mark Jackson’s last season as coach, when the Splash Brothers exploded into the national consciousness. That’s a long time for one NBA team to have all that light and heat on it. For a minute, the Warriors tried to convince themselves that there was a backlash building against them nationally, that people had grown tired of their 3-pointers and video game point totals. It was, of course, a ridiculous posit -- Golden State and its players are more popular than ever, the love for Curry such that he felt perfectly comfortable posting a photo of the glass table he accidentally smashed in his hotel room on Instagram, any criticism surely to be muted amid America’s love for the two-time MVP.   when you feel like you’re on the @pgatour so you gotta get some swings going in the hotel room 😂😂😂 #idiot A post shared by Wardell Curry (@stephencurry30) on Mar 1, 2018 at 1:33pm PST “There was a little guy who was probably eight years old, and he came up and introduced himself,” Steve Kerr said. “His name was Ryan, and I’m talking to him, and he goes ’oh, my God, there’s Quinn Cook!’ And he ran over to Quinn Cook. Not Steph, not me -- he loved Quinn Cook. That was cool.” Throughout the Warriors’ run, they’ve faced down different challengers in the Western Conference -- the first iteration of the Rockets with Harden, a hybrid inside-out attack where Houston unhappily and unsuccessfully tried to meld Harden and Dwight Howard in the post. The Durant/Russell Westbrook one-two combo in Oklahoma City. The Spurs, morphing from the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker-led team to the Kawhi Leonard-dominant one. The “Lob City” Clippers, followed by the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin halfcourt version. But this season’s Rockets, with Paul at the point, may be the most unique and dangerous threat to the Warriors. They are much more than a team that just rains 3-pointers on you -- though they most certainly do that, and do it historically well. They’re also an outstanding defensive team, with the additions of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute giving them a grit they haven’t had in past seasons to pair with the shot blocking and rim presence of Clint Capela. The numbers are stark: Houston is 32-1 this season when Paul, Harden and Capela all play, including two wins over the Warriors The Rockets have no obvious weakness. They have no fear of Golden State, either, having won two of the three meetings with the Warriors this season. It’s not just that they’re good, it’s how they’re good that makes them look like the greatest challenge yet to Golden State’s hegemony in the West. “I mean, yes, because they do it a different way, I guess,” Curry said last week. “They adopted the power of the three ball and try to use it as a main weapon, and obviously with James and CP together. Honestly, we know that they’re playing well. We’re chasing that number one seed and keeping tabs on how they’re playing and whatnot. But at the end of the day, we’ve got a lot of time left before we have to face them again. We know they’re serious. But so are we.” The Warriors have had to deal with great adversity during their run, to be sure. The biggest challenge came about this time last year, when a collision between teammates -- Zaza Pachulia and Durant, in D.C., ironically -- culminated in a Grade 2 MCL sprain and bone bruise for Durant, taking him out of the lineup at the worst possible part of the season. Golden State had just ripped off wins in 23 of its previous 27 games since a lamentable Christmas Day loss to the Cavs. Curry had started to figure out how to play with KD, and vice versa. They were in the middle of a brutal stretch of seven road games in eight overall, with the one brief return home to play the Celtics. When Durant went down, the initial fear was that he’d torn his ACL and would be out for the season. The Warriors’ locker room was funeral after the Wizards game. “Obviously, we were trying to figure out if he was like ’done-done’ for the year, or whether or not there was going to be a chance he’d return,” forward David West said. “We were, at the time he got hurt, we were just starting to figure out the sort of roles, everybody was getting comfortable with roles. We basically had to reset., change some of the functions we were doing. We lost a few games  trying to literaly just figure out and recalibrate and re-balance. That was one of those periods where we were just looking at each other, trying to start this thing -- we lost this huge, huge piece.” Yet the Warriors figured it out on the fly. And how they responded then provides a big clue to how they might respond to the challenge the Rockets present to them now. “It took us, I think we needed to get home before we were able to stablize,” Kerr said. “I want to say we lost three of the last four on the trip or something  (they did lose three of four, but one of the three losses was at Oracle in that one home game with the Celtics). We got home and righted the ship and got going. But sometimes (an injury is) a galvanizing force when a guy gets hurt, and you have to do certain things. Like, for us, when Kevin got hurt, we talked about it and we said we have to be the best defensive team in the league. We don’t have that luxury of throwing the ball to Kevin and saying ’get us 30 points tonight.'” During that stretch without Durant (March 2, 2017 to April 5, 2017), who returned just before the start of the playoffs, the Warriors led the league in the league in Defensive Rating (100.0, just head of San Antonio’s 100.2), first in opponent field goal percentage (.429), tied for second in opponent 3-point percentage (.316) and fourth in opponent points allowed per game (100.9). And once Durant returned for good, the Warriors again flexed. They tore through the West, winning all but one game en route to a third straight NBA Finals. And they took the Cavaliers apart in five games for their second title in three years. “You could see Draymond, Klay, Andre, Shaun, those guys, even Loon (Kevin Looney), were like, ’we didn’t have KD last year,’ ” West said. “For someone like myself, I just followed their lead. Klay got a little more aggressive. Draymond sort of settled everybody defensively. And we started winning.” That muscle memory will come in handy this year. Durant and Curry have missed time with injuries, and Golden State hasn’t figured out things at center just yet. (Would it shock me if rookie Jordan Bell played a big role there down the stretch? No, it would not.) But the Warriors still are smoking people in the second halves of games; per teamrankings.com, the Warriors lead the lead in third-quarter scoring margin at 5.3 points per game, more than double the margin of the second-place Denver Nuggets. Whether it’s adjustments or something else (“mainly, fiery halftime speeches, Knute Rockne style,” Kerr opines), they have again put a lot of opponents away with 12 minutes to spare. Since the All-Star break, they’re fourth in the league in opponent field goal percentage (.433) and Defensive Rating (100.3). “This year, obviously, knock on wood, we want to stay healthy,” Curry said. “We want to continue to push in the right direction. Every year’s different. That’s the fun part about this league. No matter how much success you’ve had and what your expectations are, it’s a different journey every year. We’re right in the middle of that right now. We have an amazing record, considering how we’ve played. I think we’d all say we haven’t lived up to our own expectations. That’s okay. We have an opportunity to build the right habits and the right momentum going into the playoffs this year and do it, all 15 guys.” 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 NewsMar 6th, 2018

Warriors keep evolving in rivalry with Cavs

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- You might expect, given the familiarity from what’s gone on for four years now, that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have worked up some serious mutual contempt. They both covet what the other wants -- in fact, the Warriors or the Cavs could make a persuasive case that, if not for the other guys, one already would have notched a three-peat and be chasing Bill Russell’s Celtics in pursuit of a fourth consecutive championship. They both have poured buckets of blood, sweat, tears, money, Gatorade and offseason counter moves into their nouveau NBA rivalry. And they both, well, as Golden State coach Steve Kerr phrased it to the San Jose Mercury News Sunday (Monday, PHL time), “We just want to kick each other’s ass.” And yet the Warriors and the Cavaliers -- who play again Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena in the NBA’s prime-time MLK showdown -- have more in common with each other than they do with any of the league’s other 28 teams. Playing 100 games or so every year. Locking in mentally and surviving physically longer than anyone else. Showing up each night targeted as a measuring stick, even a season maker, by the opponents. While trying like heck to keep things fresh. Renew. Find and tap into a new source of energy, because old ones wane over time. “It’s the biggest challenge of this whole season,” Kerr told NBA.com late last week, with the Warriors starting a back-to-back in Milwaukee and Toronto on their way back to The Land. Even if it were possible -- and it realistically is not, given free agency, injuries, trades, the salary cap, luxury taxes, hirings and firings each NBA offseason -- playing a pat hand from one championship-level season to the next isn’t desirable. Voices, locker rooms, relationships get stale. Rivals adjust and escalate in the arms race. Some players ebb in the pecking order, others flow. It’s important to inject new faces, add skills and even find fresh themes to fend off monotony, even boredom, through the 82-game slogs. The Warriors, in winning 20 of 23 games over the past seven weeks, largely have managed to do that. The Cavaliers, at 26-15 after 2-7 stretch that started at Golden State on Christmas (Dec. 26, PHL time)? Not so much. Golden State shifts gears after each season It’s easy to think of Golden State’s success since Kerr’s hiring before the 2014-15 season as one uninterrupted run of excellence. Three-pointers, “death lineups,” and the rest. But the differences from one year to the next have been fairly pronounced. “In Year 1, we were trying to prove ourselves to the world,” Kerr said. “Then we win the championship -- it was all so fresh. There were no letdowns at all that year. It was the most exciting, it was the most energized, it was the most refreshing. It was brand new to all of us. It felt like we were riding this wave all year -- we were all giddy, like, ‘Oh my God, we’re really good!’ We didn’t know we could be like that. And for me, it was my first year coaching.” Steph Curry won his first MVP award. He and Klay Thompson generated considerable conversation about the best shooting backcourts in league history. Draymond Green forever changed the old NBA notion of “’tweeners.” The Warriors finished 67-15, ranked second in the league in offense (111.6) and first in defense (101.4) and beat Cleveland in the Finals in six games. “It was maybe like the first stages when you fall in love,” Kerr said. “You’re just on Cloud 9 and she can’t do anything wrong. There’s infatuation and then you truly fall in love, and it’s amazing. “The second year, we sort of rode that wave of euphoria of being the best team in the league and having won the title. The next thing you know, we’re 24-0 and we’ve got a chance to set an all-time record. That 73-win mark carried us all year. We were going to prove that, not only were we the champs but we were one of the best teams ever.” The Warriors were -- by regular season standards. Curry won his second MVP award. Kerr missed the first 43 games due to health issues but assistant coach Luke Walton steered them to a 39-4 mark. They bought into the chase for 73 victories fairly late, but instead of a 16-5 playoff run like the previous spring’s, the Warriors went 15-9 -- coming up one victory short when the Cavaliers became the first team to claw back from a 3-1 deficit. That led directly to Golden State’s next new wrinkle, a reconfiguration that came close to buckling the league’s knees. “We got KD,” Kerr said. “Now we’re changing our team, right? Last year was about incorporating KD, welcoming this incredible player into our organization and our roster. Figuring how to do it, how we were going to adjust. I felt like there were times last year that were tiring, where our guys were done a little bit. But it was ‘new’ again.” Even the challenges were fresh, like counting Curry’s or Klay Thompson’s touches relative to Durant’s or closing ranks around Golden State’s thin man as his reputation took blows for the first time in his NBA career. Not interested in shooting for 74 victories, the Warriors simply took care of business and stayed coiled for the postseason. Then it was a 16-1 dash to title No. 2, Durant snagging the Finals MVP trophy after the five-game dispatching of the Cavs. All of which just set the Warriors’ bar higher, requiring them to search for something new, somebody borrowed, presumably nothing blue. “This year it’s just survive and advance,” Kerr said. “It’s ‘let’s get to April, May, June in one piece.’ There’s a reason we’ve lost six home games already. We don’t have the driving force that we had the last few years. We’re dealing with what any team in NBA history that’s tried to do this has dealt with. The Lakers (1982-85), the Celtics (1984-87, 1957-66)... It’s just really hard and you need that driving force.” Said Warriors vet Andre Iguodala: “Your body is mindful of it, because it hurts.” A couple of young guys -- Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney -- have taken on bigger roles. Nick Young brings some sort of buzz into any locker room that will have him. Still, as veteran guard Shaun Livingston said: “We’re not chasing any records. We’re not adding another All Star. We’re just trying to make it through the marathon.” Cavs' challenges mount during 2017-18 The Cavaliers are just trying to make it through the marathon, too. But if they could, they might do it like Rosie Ruiz, the 1980 women’s “winner” of the Boston Marathon who perpetrated a hoax by hopping the subway and running only the final mile of Beantown’s famous race. The 2017-18 has been anything but fun for Cleveland so far. It began with the departure of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, a not-so-funhouse mirror image of Durant’s arrival a year earlier in the Bay Area. Irving, for reasons still not quite explained, made it known in the offseason that he wanted out. He wanted to be the man on his own team. Or he didn’t want to be left in the lurch if (when?) LeBron James took his talents elsewhere again. Or both. Or neither. Regardless, once the Cavaliers made his request come true by dealing him to Boston for All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas and Brooklyn’s coveted first-round pick this June, their task got tougher and their season longer. Losing one of the league’s best ball handlers and shot makers doesn’t qualify as “renewal” any more than what went on in Oklahoma City when Durant packed up. There’s been more. Shooting guard J.R. Smith seemingly got old overnight. Jae Crowder, who came from the Celtics in the Irving deal, hasn’t meshed with the Cavs’ style. Kevin Love has been moved to center but hasn’t done anything to satisfy the Cavs’ need for rim protection. Thomas only returned to action from a hip injury as the calendar turned to 2018 and has played only four games in these two weeks. Even with so many new faces -- seven of the top 12 in coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation weren’t here 12 months ago -- it’s a group heavy on veterans, players a little too established or mature to naturally instill raw energy. James said recently that none of this is new, it’s another case of the Cavs biding their time for the “second” season that means everything. But Lue also introduced the topic of “agendas,” suggesting that some of his guys were looking out for their own responsibilities and performances -- particularly on defense -- rather than the group’s. At best, this is another dose of the midseason blahs, the Cavs in their doldrums in need of an All-Star break. At worst, though, they might be honing some bad habits that won’t be so easy to break in May or June. Especially if East rivals such as Toronto, Boston or Washington are emboldened after witnessing or administering some of the Cavs’ more embarrassing beat downs this season. Will any of this matter come spring? It will if the switch each team is minding stubbornly decides not to flip. “That’s the key. You’ve got to find that balance,” Kerr said. “Are you flipping the switch or are you navigating? The idea is, don’t let bad habits slip in. Right now, this moment, we’re into some bad habits. Our defensive efforts  the last five, six games [before the weekend] were awful. We got away with it because Steph was going nuts.” The Cavaliers repeatedly have not gotten away with bad defensive habits, even on nights when James has been dominant. “It’s tough,” Livingston said. “They’re a team that’s built for the playoffs. But our core guys still are in there prime. Their core guys are still good. But we’re talking about ‘prime.’” Most still would pick both Golden State and Cleveland to advance all the way to a “Finals Four” (after last year’s “Rubber Match” series). But one of these years, most will be wrong -- about one or both. That alone might be motivation enough. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2018

Matter of when Man City wins title and how many records fall

By Steve Douglas and Rob Harris, Associated Press English soccer has never seen a team so utterly dominant as Manchester City entering the packed Christmas program. There seems little doubt Pep Guardiola will be raising the Premier League trophy for the first time in May. It is just a question of when City will wrap up its third title since 2014, and how many records will tumble on the way. City has already reeled off the most consecutive English top-flight wins — a record extended at the weekend to 17 games. Manchester United's record Premier League title-winning margin of 18 points from 2000 could also be under threat. And England could be looking at its third unbeaten "Invincibles" team after Preston in 1888-89 and Arsenal in 2003-04. So it doesn't bode well for a compelling second half of the Premier League season? Think again. The chase for the other three Champions League spots should be fierce with eight points separating second-place Manchester United and Arsenal in sixth. Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham are in the mix among them. Two leading sides will fall by the wayside and be denied a place among the European elite. The battle to stay in the world's richest soccer league is also intense. No team is stranded at the bottom, with Swansea in 20th place only six points behind Southampton in 13th. A closer look at the first half of the season: ___ TITLE RACE City leads by 13 points at the halfway stage after winning 18 of its 19 games and drawing one in the best ever start to a Premier League season. The only dropped points came at home to Everton in the second game on Aug. 21, when City played more than a half with 10 men following Kyle Walker's sending-off. Guardiola won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in late March in 2014 — aided by a winning streak of 19 games never before seen in a major European league. It will be tough for Guardiola to win the title that early in England as he chases a quadruple after finishing his first season at the club without a trophy. City is already through to the League Cup semifinals, into the Champions League last 16 and begins its FA Cup campaign in two weeks. Man United is in second place, with defending champion Chelsea three points further back in third. United manager Jose Mourinho says the title race is still on, but the rest of his peers among the chasing pack don't see City faltering now. It will be intriguing how Mourinho reacts to be seeing his title ambitions further fade in his second season at United, having already opted to publicly call out his "childish" players after a draw at Leicester on Saturday. ___ PICK OF THE PLAYERS Kevin De Bruyne is playing in a deeper role for City this season, virtually as a center midfielder, and it is bringing the best of out the Belgium midfielder. He has provided many of this season's wow moments, from scoring the winning goal at former club Chelsea in September with a fierce left-footed strike from outside the area to the assists for goals by Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling in the 7-2 win over Stoke in October Dovetailing perfectly with fellow playmaker David Silva, De Bruyne has six goals and eight assists but it's more than just his statistics. His prodigious work rate, range of passing and crossing ability — arguably the best in the Premier League since the days of David Beckham — that make him a strong contender for the player of the season awards. No wonder City is determined to nail down the 26-year-old De Bruyne to an improved, longer contract. ___ EMERGING TALENT Amid an offseason of record spending in English soccer, little was made of Watford signing Richarlison from Brazilian team Fluminense for 13 million pounds ($17 million). Yet the 20-year-old forward is proving a bargain, settling in quickly to the pace and intensity of the Premier League and being one of the key factors in Watford's impressive start to the season that, at one stage, saw them challenging around the top four. Direct, skilful and quick, Richarlison already has five goals and keeps getting himself in great positions to score more, with his finishing sometimes letting him down. Opponents have cottoned on to his impact, with Richarlison telling ESPN Brazil this month: "Teams are already marking me individually, they are putting two players there on my side." Chelsea and Tottenham have been linked with the Brazil under-20s player, who has yet to earn a call-up to the senior squad. That appears only a matter of time. Other players to break through this season are Chelsea's Andreas Christensen, the Danish center back who has ousted David Luiz, and Liverpool's Joe Gomez, the right back who has ensured long-term injury absentee Nathaniel Clyne hasn't been missed. ___ SURPRISE TEAM An unfashionable club is mixing it with the heavyweights of the Premier League against all the odds. We've heard this before, right? Two years ago, it was Leicester delivering a soccer fairy tale by somehow winning the league. Now it's Burnley's turn to provide the feel-good story of the season. Widely regarded as a relegation candidate at the start of the season, Burnley is currently seventh. Don't rule Burnley out of staying in the tussle for the Champions League qualification places, with Liverpool only three points better off in fourth. The northwest team hasn't finished a season higher than sixth place in the top flight since 1974. Burnley, which has conceded just 15 goals in 19 games, has already beaten Chelsea away and drawn at Tottenham and Liverpool. Not bad for a team that returned a profit of about $20 million in summer player sales when most of the rest of the Premier League was spending freely. ___ POINTS TO PROVE Alexis Sanchez is a superstar performing well below expectations this season, perhaps as a result of failing to secure a move to Man City from Arsenal during the summer. That transfer could be revived in January — Guardiola cut an awkward figure recently when asked about making a new bid for the Chile forward — to potentially leave City with an even greater wealth of attacking riches. Sanchez has five league goals. By this stage last season, he had already scored 12 on his way to career-high haul of 24 for a single league campaign. In the dugout, these are testing times for two British managers: Alan Pardew and Mark Hughes. Pardew succeeded Tony Pulis a month ago with a mission to keep West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League. Then the Baggies were two points above the bottom three. Now they are next-from-bottom after collecting only two points from Pardew's first five games. Hughes' future appears on a knife-edge at Stoke despite a pressure-relieving victory over West Brom on Saturday that hauled the team three points from the danger zone......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2017

RP Blu Girls set sights on 2020 Tokyo Olympics

With the return of Softball in the upcoming 2020 Olympics, the Philippines is making a serious run to book a trip to Tokyo. The first step in qualifying for the 2020 Olympics is the 11th Asian Women Softball Championships next week in Taiwan where the RP Blu Girls will compete. Actually, not just compete. Our world no. 17 softball squad will go after a medal. However, it's not going to be easy though. Despite the Blu Girls being ranked fourth best in Asia, three Asian teams belong in the top 10 in the world. Japan is no. 1, China is no. 6, and Taipei is no. 9. All of them will also compete in the Taiwan tournament, not to mention the always-dangerous South Korea who are 26th in the world and fifth in Asia. Still, there is quiet confindence from the Blu Girls after a banner year. "Trying to look at it from the last Asian Games and the last tournaments that we have been playing, we have beaten top-10 teams. I think we can do it," head coach Venerando Dizer said. This year alone, the RP Blu Girls have scored impressive wins over world no. 3 Canada and world no. 4 Australia. The team also already beat Taipei twice. The Blue Girls will open the Asian Championships on November 28 against no. 1 Japan. "We're playing Japan right away, for me, I would rather play them right away so that at least from there, we can adjust to qualify for the playoffs," Dizer said. MISSION POSSIBLE: TOKYO OLYMPICS With the return of softball to the Summer Games, the primary goal for the Blu Girls is to nab one of the six spots available in the quadrennial showcase. And with a team that is described as the country's best in quite some time, the people behind the program are confident that the Blur Girls can make a serios run for it. "You can tell, that even from the 19-under level, our girls are getting ready to move up the world rankings. We are very, very happy to seee the potential of us being a Olympic-level team in the future," Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines (ASAPHIL) president Jean Henri Lhuillier said. "2020 is going to be tough with only six spots, but we're gonna try," he added. "That's the goal."   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 23rd, 2017

Nuggets, Bucks go against NBA’s guard-heavy grain

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com They’ve become the must-have accessory in the NBA (just ahead of designer headphones and hoodie warmups), the one player no team can do without, the one player that no team seems to lack. Yes, quality point guards are a dime-a-dozen group now in the NBA. They’re populating the league in such abundance that the Phoenix Suns didn’t flinch when they told disgruntled starter Eric Bledsoe to stay home or the hair salon -- whichever he preferred. It’s hard to find a serious playoff contender that doesn’t have one (and some have two). And then there are the Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks, who arguably have none. Partly by necessity and partly by choice, both teams are running their offenses through gifted big men and getting reasonably decent results. These two teams are building for a big run while also going against the NBA’s trend … and, by no coincidence, are the two most logical landing spots for Bledsoe in a trade. Pump the brakes, though. Neither seems to be in a rush because they’re weighing the merits of using young, non-traditional point guards as compliments to the centerpieces: Giannis Antetokoumnpo with the Bucks and Nikola Jokic with the Nuggets. Both are solid passers and act as triggers while their point guards orbit around them, defer to them and pick spots to command the ball. But when, if ever, will either team get cold feet and fall in line with the rest of the NBA? The Suns would like to know, but it could be a long wait if the Bucks get the right results from reigning Kia Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and the Nuggets likewise from Jamal Murray. Their teams are taking a wait-and-see approach with their development while leaning heavily on Antetokounmpo and Jokic’s respective playmaking. Their coaches are saying all the right things: Jason Kidd of the Bucks: “Malcolm knows how to play the right way. He’s getting better. We’re lucky to have him.” Michael Malone of the Nuggets: “I believe in him and [Murray] has to believe in himself.” Yet both coaches are acutely aware that Murray and Brogdon, because of their size, can also play off the ball. Murray, for one, might be better suited as a game-finisher anyway. Both teams are in play for Bledsoe or perhaps a veteran addition either at the trade deadline or in free agency next summer. Brogdon surprised the NBA in winning Rookie of the Year while Ben Simmons missed last season and Joel Embiid played only 31 games. Still, that doesn’t diminish what Brogdon delivered last season and his value to the Bucks now. He’s wiser than most NBA sophomores because he stayed all four years in college and, as a second-round pick, his sense of urgency and hunger was greater than that of lottery picks. Brogdon is a self-made grinder, a consistent player who rarely screws up and is already one of the Bucks’ better defenders. The Bucks know what they’re getting from him on a nightly basis. “I’m a lot more confident,” Brogdon said. “When you have a year of experience and also the experience of playing in the playoffs, it just makes a world of difference. I know what my role is. I feel I’ve found my niche with this team.” Yet, Brogdon’s four assists per game (in 32.1 minutes per game) ranks 38th among starting point guards mainly because of Antetokoumnpo, who handles the ball and runs the offense much like LeBron James does. Brogdon’s ability and willingness to blend with Antetokounmpo is helpful to a system that plays off the young superstar’s multiple skills. Giannis is off to an MVP-like start and the last thing the Bucks want to do is slow his roll. But Kidd also wants Brogdon to sharpen his point guard instincts as well. “We talked about it last year, understanding when it’s time to score, being able to play-make, understanding how to get a teammate a shot, just being consistent when learning how to run the show,” Kidd said. “He’s been able to run the offense and be a leader. “And really, it’s all about that, and understanding who hasn’t touched the ball. That’s what makes a point guard special in this league. Figure out how to get the ball to the right people at the right time. That’s the next step for Malcolm.” The Nuggets waited until the eve of the season to name their starter at point guard, although it was clear last year that Murray had pole position. He assumed the role late in the season from Emmanuel Mudiay (who started 55 games) and Jameer Nelson (40 starts) and kept the ball, starting seven games. That wasn’t the plan when the Nuggets took him No. 7 overall in the 2016 Draft. Mudiay was their point guard of the future and Murray, who didn’t play the position in college at Kentucky, was projected as a scoring guard. But Mudiay’s erratic shooting, limited range and inconsistent playmaking opened up the job, which Murray won almost by default after the Nuggets waived Nelson. Malone admitted that Muray’s edge on Mudiay, a superior athlete, was shooting. Malone wanted someone with deeper range next to Gary Harris to space the floor for Jokic and newcomer Paul Millsap. Problem is, Murray’s shooting (37.1 percent) has been Mudiay-like here in the early season. From Oct. 21-27, he missed 16 straight three-pointers and is making just 18.2 percent of his three-pointers (after shooting 33.4 percent in 2016-17). His defense remains an issue at times (100.6 Defensive Rating this season) and part of the Nuggets’ slow start could be pinpointed to Murray’s growing pains. “I think they drafted me for a reason,” Murray said. “I just go out there and play basketball. I’m not worried about missing. I just got to be thinking about the next shot.” Malone and the Nuggets are taking the long view and realize Murray, 20, is trying to master NBA point guard play on the fly. But if they’re anxious to make a significant move in the tough West this season, the Nuggets’ point guard position might need an upgrade at starter or backup. “He showed me he’s not afraid of the moment,” Malone said, who added that part of the learning experience for players such as Murray means to deal with the not-so-good days and “let them play through it.” The Nuggets and Bucks are hesitant to include Murray or Brogdon in trade talks for good reason: Both are on cheap rookie deals and are big parts of each team’s future. Teams rarely move players this quickly unless there’s a serious issue (think Chris Webber after his rookie season in Golden State) or a deal is too good to skip. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Nuggets are trying instead to unload Mudiay in a package to Phoenix and the Bucks are selling some combination of John Henson and Matthew Dellavedova. There’s risk, too, in acquiring Bledsoe himself. He went rogue with the Suns and teams usually shy away from players with flapping red flags. If he came to Milwaukee or Denver and didn’t mesh with Giannis or Jokic, it would be a disaster. Until further notice, the Bucks and Nuggets are good to go with the status quo. Teams can gawk all they want at their lack of a true point guard … and then deal with the sight of a 6’11” Antetokounmpo reaching the rim in three steps, or with the sight of 6’10” Jokic throwing Bill Walton-like backdoor passes from the key. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 2nd, 2017

24 NBA questions before 17-18 tips off

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 17th, 2017

Argentina slumps to 0-0 draw, verges on missing World Cup

em>By Stephen Wade, Associated Press /em> RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Argentina and Lionel Messi are on the verge of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1970, stumbling to a 0-0 draw against Peru before a capacity crowd in Buenos Aires. Only one round of qualifying remains in South America. Argentina, the runner-up to Germany in the World Cup three years ago in Brazil, plays on Tuesday against Ecuador in the thin air of Quito in the Andes. The Argentines are in sixth place, with the top four teams advancing automatically. The fifth-place team can advance by winning a playoff against New Zealand. Brazil has already qualified, and drew 0-0 against Bolivia on Thursday. Brazil has 38 points, followed by: Uruguay (28), Chile (26), Colombia (26), Peru (25), Argentina (25) and Paraguay (24). Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia are eliminated. It's too close to call. But Uruguay is expected to get through the final round on Tuesday. After that, four teams are chasing the two automatic spots. That will leave two teams trying to reach the playoff, which looks like Argentina's only route. It must win at 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) in Quito and get some help. In other scores on Thursday: Paraguay beat Colombia 2-1, Chile beat Ecuador 2-1 and Uruguay was held to a 0-0 draw at Venezuela. The last matches feature: Uruguay vs. Bolivia, Peru vs. Colombia, Ecuador vs. Argentina, Brazil vs. Chile and Paraguay vs. Venezuela. ___ strong>BRAZIL RELAXES /strong> Brazil has already qualified for the World Cup and appeared relaxed in a 0-0 draw against Bolivia despite playing at 3,650 meters (11,900 feet) in the Andes. Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe was the player of the match with three keys saves against Brazil star Neymar. Tite is undefeated in 11 qualifying matches since taking over as Brazil coach, including nine wins. Brazil wraps up qualifying on Tuesday in Sao Paulo against Chile. Bolivia, already out of contention for the World Cup, finishes at Uruguay. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 6th, 2017

Red Sox fail to clinch AL East after loss to Astros

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Red Sox once again failed to clinch the AL East, losing 3-2 to Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros on Friday night. The magic number for the Red Sox remained at one. Boston leads the New York Yankees by two games — both teams have two games left and they are each assured playoff spots. If Boston and New York wind up even, they will play a one-game tiebreaker Monday at Yankee Stadium for the division crown, with the loser going to the wild-card game. Bregman homered and drove in three runs for Houston, which reached 100 wins for the second time in team history. Charlie Morton (14-7) pitched into the sixth inning, and Ken Giles got three outs for his 34th save. strong>ROCKIES 9, DODGERS 1 /strong> DENVER (AP) — Nolan Arenado hit the first of Colorado's four homers, and Chad Bettis picked up his second win since his return from testicular cancer. The Rockies have two games remaining and hold a two-game lead over Milwaukee for the second NL wild card. Mark Reynolds, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story also connected for Colorado. Bettis (2-4) allowed one run over seven innings. Los Angeles' Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-9) allowed five runs over two innings. It was his shortest outing this season. strong>BREWERS 5, CARDINALS 3 /strong> ST. LOUIS (AP) — Stephen Vogt homered and drove in three runs, Chase Anderson pitched seven solid innings, and Milwaukee kept its playoff hopes alive. The Brewers entered two games behind the Rockies for the second NL wild card. Milwaukee has won four of its last six games. Anderson (12-4) allowed one run and three hits in his fourth win in his last five starts. Cardinals rookie shortstop Paul DeJong hit his 25th homer in the fourth. John Gant (0-1) allowed four runs in five innings in his second start of the season. strong>TWINS 6, TIGERS 3 /strong> MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Brian Dozier hit a three-run homer in the second inning, leading Minnesota to the victory. Eduardo Escobar also homered and drove in three runs, helping the Twins bail Kyle Gibson out of a 3-0 deficit after an RBI triple by Alex Presley and a two-run home run by Nicholas Castellanos. Gibson was removed after 4 2/3 innings, so Jose Berrios (14-8) was credited with the win after recording four outs in a tune-up relief outing. Matt Belisle notched his ninth save with a perfect ninth inning for the Twins, who will visit New York or Boston on Tuesday in the AL wild-card game. Detroit's Matt Boyd (6-11) allowed five runs in five innings. strong>YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 0 /strong> NEW YORK (AP) — Masahiro Tanaka struck out 15 over seven innings, his highest total since coming to the major leagues, and the playoff-bound Yankees won for the fourth time in five games. Tanaka (13-12) retired his first 14 batters before Ezequiel Carerra reached on an infield single up the middle. Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for his 21st save in 25 chances. Greg Bird had two hits and two RBIs for New York, and Aaron Judge also drove in a run. Toronto right-hander Joe Biagini (3-13) allowed three runs and six hits in five innings. strong>MARLINS 6, BRAVES 5 /strong> MIAMI (AP) — Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton had two hits, but remained at 59 home runs. Marcell Ozuna drove in three runs for Miami, which trailed 5-0 heading into the sixth inning. Adam Conley (8-8) pitched a scoreless seventh for the win, and Brad Ziegler got two outs for his 10th save. The Marlins scored four times in the seventh. Justin Bour's two-run single gave Miami a 6-5 lead. The Marlins also got run-scoring singles from Ozuna and Stanton off Dan Winkler (0-1). Ozzie Albies and Lane Adams homered for Atlanta. strong>CUBS 5, REDS 4 /strong> CHICAGO (AP) — Ian Happ hit a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning, and the Cubs won for the 14th time in 17 games. With a second straight NL Central title in hand and their sights set on another World Series championship, the Cubs held sluggers Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant out of the lineup. Trailing 4-2 in the eighth, Tommy La Stella started the rally with a one-out single against Amir Garrett. Taylor Davis then singled to third off Michael Lorenzen (8-4). After Kyle Schwarber struck out, Happ drove his 24th homer to left. Brian Duensing (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth. Justin Grimm worked the ninth for his first save in three chances. strong>NATIONALS 6, PIRATES 1 /strong> WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings for Washington, and Ryan Zimmerman homered twice. Strasburg (15-4) gave up two hits, struck out eight and walked two. He is 5-1 with a 0.84 ERA since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 19. Zimmerman hit a two-run homer in the sixth and a solo shot in the eighth for the NL East champions. It was his seventh multihomer game of the season. Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole (12-12) was charged with three runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. strong>INDIANS 10, WHITE SOX 1 /strong> CLEVELAND (AP) — Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run double for the AL Central champion Indians, and Jay Bruce and Jose Ramirez drove in two runs apiece. Cleveland maintained its one-game lead over Houston for the best record in the AL with two games remaining. The top seed will play the winner of the wild-card game between the Yankees and Twins in the Division Series. The Indians' 101 victories are the second-most in franchise history and set a record for wins by an AL Central team. Cleveland's Trevor Bauer (17-9) allowed one run over six innings. Cleveland built a 10-0 lead after three innings, aided by six walks from Mike Pelfrey (3-12) and an error by shortstop Tim Anderson. strong>ROYALS 2, DIAMONDBACKS 1 /strong> KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's Ian Kennedy picked up his first home victory in more than a year. Kennedy (5-13) snapped a franchise record of 18 winless home starts, holding the postseason-bound Diamondbacks to one run in five innings. It was his first Kauffman Stadium victory since Aug. 20, 2016. Jake Lamb hit his 30th homer in the second for Arizona. Zack Greinke (17-7) allowed two runs in four-plus innings in his final tuneup before starting the wild-card game Wednesday in Phoenix against Colorado or Milwaukee. strong>RANGERS 5, ATHLETICS 3 /strong> ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Shin-Soo Choo tied a career high with his 22nd home run, helping Texas end a seven-game skid. Rangers left-hander Martin Perez (13-12) allowed three runs in six-plus innings. The 13 wins are a career high for Perez and the loss guaranteed Oakland would finish last in the AL West. A's catcher Bruce Maxwell took a knee during the national anthem and was booed by a portion of the crowd before and after the song. It was the first time Maxwell has taken a knee on the field in an opposing ballpark. Oakland's Raul Alcantara (1-2) was charged with four runs in 4 1/3 innings. Alex Claudio worked a scoreless ninth for his 11th save. strong>RAYS 7, ORIOLES 0 /strong> ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison homered, and Tampa Bay clinched third place in the AL East. Longoria hit a leadoff drive in the fifth against Wade Miley (8-15), marking Longoria's fifth straight 20-homer season and the ninth of his 10-year career. Morrison hit his 38th homer off Chris Tillman in the seventh. Rays starter Jake Odorizzi left his final start of the season after four innings with a sore right knee. Brad Boxberger (4-4) got the win. strong>PHILLIES 6, METS 2 /strong> PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Maikel Franco, Jorge Alfaro and Cesar Hernandez homered, powering Philadelphia to the victory. Earlier in the day, the Phillies (65-95) announced manager Pete Mackanin would not return to the dugout in 2018. Mackanin was given a role as a senior adviser to general manager Matt Klentak. Jose Reyes and Dominic Smith connected for New York, which had won three in a row. Matt Harvey (5-7) allowed four runs and seven hits in four innings. Ben Lively (4-7) pitched six effective innings for Philadelphia. strong>GIANTS 8, PADRES 0 /strong> SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Buster Posey hit three RBI doubles, Brandon Crawford drove in three runs and had three hits, and San Francisco ensured it won't finish with a 100-loss season. Joe Panik added a run-scoring double among his four hits to back Chris Stratton (4-4). The Giants needed one victory in the final series of the season to avoid their first 100-loss year since 1985. Jordan Lyles (1-5) took the loss. strong>ANGELS 6, MARINERS 5 /strong> ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Mike Trout hit two homers and Los Angeles rallied past Seattle. Luis Valbuena had a two-run, pinch-hit double to cap a four-run comeback in the eighth inning. Blake Wood (2-0) pitched the eighth to earn the win and Blake Parker got his eighth save. Marc Rzepczynski (2-2) was the losing pitcher. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 30th, 2017

MPBL’s lower seeds

Last time, we tackled the top contenders who are likely assured of a spot in the playoffs of the MPBL Datu Cup. This time, we’ll take a look at teams at the lower half of the standings vying for the top two spots in the quarterfinal round......»»

Category: newsSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsDec 9th, 2018

Futility in Phoenix wears on Devin Booker

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com He is already a star at age 22 but on this particular play, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker had role player instincts Sunday (Monday, PHL time) at Staples Center. The basketball bounced toward the baseline, beyond his reach, and he hustled anyway. And so the predictable happened: The ball beat him off the court and into the first row. Then the unthinkable happened: He grabbed his left leg and bent over in pain. The first player who rushed over to him yelled: “Book! Book! Hamstring?” ]It was thoughtful of LeBron James to check on Booker, even better if LeBron did this last summer as a free agent when Booker really could’ve use a hand. Instead, Booker is not only limping right now -- hopefully just temporarily for the team’s sake -- but also losing, something he has done more prolifically in Phoenix than get buckets. One of the shames of the NBA is how one of its breakout stars and franchise players is stuck on a habitually bad team, with no playoff shine in sight, and mostly invisible. Yes, only LeBron and Kevin Durant have reached 4,000 career points faster than Booker, but neither ever took Ls like this. Booker is now up to 136 in slightly over three seasons and once again the Suns, now 4-19, are on pace to be forgotten by Christmas. You could hardly blame their fans for getting their basketball fix these days by watching Duke games. All roads lead to the lottery, as it has since 2015 when Booker became one of the few draft decisions that actually worked out. But for Booker and the Suns, that’s some tough medicine, playing another 55 games, swallow many depressing nights along the way, and then pray the odds work in their favor come June. It’s fair to wonder how much of a toll this culture takes on Booker, who’s once again a player who demands a double team, averaging nearly 25 points a game and doing decently as a stand-in at point guard. Some perspective is needed, though. Booker signed a five-year, $158 million contract extension in July, giving plenty of living and den space for all the losing he takes home at night. Still, he said, "It sucks." Booker lost 58 games as a rookie, then 58 again, then 61 last year and may reach 65 or more this season. He’s lost 13 straight games twice, and the Suns once lost 28 of 30 with Booker on the floor. In an 82-game season, it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to put together, say, a four-game win streak. Booker is still waiting on that. For years the situation just wasn’t pretty in Phoenix and it’s only slightly less ugly now. Too many poor Draft picks have delayed progress and ruined the team. Former lottery picks Dragan Bender, Marquese Criss and Alex Len couldn’t earn rookie extensions and there was Phoenix's infamous point guard fetish of recent years when they went through Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight for little or nothing in return when they left. Sprinkle in some weird free-agent decisions -- like signing Tyson Chandler only to buy him out three years later -- and hilariously chasing LaMarcus Aldridge and it smacked of a team lacking both direction and a plan. Most of these moves were made by former GM Ryan McDonough and while James Jones represents a refreshing front-office change, he comes with little experience in that role. When you examine the fast-track of Booker, you get the best young scorer the league has seen since Durant and LeBron. You also get these numbers: Two, four and 47. That’s how many general managers, coaches and teammates Booker has had in less than four NBA seasons, heavy turnover storming all around him. “My whole career except for the NBA, I’ve been a winner,” Booker said. “I want to get back to that. I’m done with not making the playoffs.” Well, the circumstances say otherwise. The Suns are essentially holding tryouts for the future now, though. Chandler was the first one thrown overboard and if Phoenix could get anything for Ryan Anderson and his contract, he’d be next. For some reason Phoenix gave a head-scratching $15 million this season last summer to aging swingman Trevor Ariza. He's shooting 37.2 percent and scoring 9.9 ppg, taking minutes from young players. Among rotation players, the lone holdovers from 2017-18 are Booker, TJ Warren and Josh Jackson. Taking some advice he received from Chandler, who became a mentor, Booker believes it’s necessary for him to adopt a more forceful role on the court and in the locker room even if, from an age perspective, he needs more seasoning for that. But what are the alternatives, given the ever-changing lineup? “I’m doing more leading by example and being more vocal about it, holding people accountable and hold myself accountable too,” he said. It’s a chore trying to pick up others when, after taking yearly poundings, you need a hand yourself. This is the mountain Booker is up against. Again. “I know losing is tough on him because last year as a rookie I struggled with it,” said Jackson. “I’m just keeping my head on straight now. We show flashes but we need consistency.” Or you could say they need LeBron. And if Booker misses any extended time with a hamstring that has given him trouble before Sunday, well, as Jackson said: “Everybody knows we need him desperately. The sooner we get him back, the better.” With the possible exception of the Knicks, no franchise has splattered the concrete with the speed and consistency as the Suns. Before Booker was born, the Suns were a destination franchise, a place most players wanted to sign with, get drafted by and be traded to. The balmy winter weather was an obvious attraction but in the mid-1990s with Charles Barkley, and then 10 years later with Steve Nash, the Suns were also entertaining and won everything except a championship. Sellouts were common, the arena was a tough place for visitors and fans frolicked along with the Gorilla mascot. All this happened on Jerry Colangelo’s watch and prosperity under owner Robert Sarver is on hourglass time. At least Booker is locked up for four more years and there’s no danger of losing him, at least to another team, in the immediate future. They could lose him to frustration, though, fairly soon, especially when he sees other teams playing meaningful games and listens to other players during USA Basketball gatherings talk about what he’s missing. “I’ll do whatever I have to do,” Booker said, when asked about recruiting help in the near future. “I think Phoenix is a place where people can see the potential, see our young nucleus.” Unless there’s a reversal of fortune in the near future, Phoenix could remain a basketball wasteland and no player, not even Booker, wants to wallow in that. Problem is, until there’s a positive roster shakeup, the Suns lack enough to convince another superstar to sign up next summer or maybe even by 2020. At least when their lone star falls to the floor, as he did Sunday against the Lakers, Booker carries enough clout and respect to get a hand of a different sort from LeBron James. For now, that must do. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2018

ONE Championship Chairman Chatri Sityodtong all praise for Filipino champions Vera, Folayang, and Team Lakay

For the fourth time in 2018, ONE Championship came to Manila and delivered another exciting night of martial arts action. ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS, which was held last 23 November at the Mall of Asia Arena was another one for the books as the event saw two Filipino stars walk out with world championship belts. In the co-main event, Team Lakay star Eduard “Landslide” Folayang achieved history by becoming a two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion with his win over Singapore’s Amir Khan. The main event saw the triumphant return of ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera as he smashed Italian challenger Mauro “The Hammer” Cerilli in just 64 seconds to retain his title. It was one of the biggest nights in Filipino mixed martial arts, and ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong had nothing but praise for the night’s biggest winners. “Congratulations to Eduard Landslide Folayang on becoming the ONE Lightweight World Champion again! You inspire all of us with your courageous journey of overcoming adversity, defeating odds, and chasing dreams,” Sityodtong said on Facebook. Sityodtong has long been one of Folayang’s biggest believers, and was confident that the Filipino hero would reclaim his spot at the top of the division, even after losing to Martin Nguyen a year ago. “It was truly the best Eduard Folayang that I have seen in the almost 10 years we have known each other. You proved all of the doubters, haters, and naysayers wrong. I remember vividly how some idiot journalists were calling for your retirement exactly a year ago after you lost the belt,” Sityodtong continued. ONE Championship’s head honcho also had some kind words to say about Vera and Cerilli as well. “Congratulations to my bro Brandon Vera on another magnificent, flawless performance! Mauro Cerilli is a dangerous champion with monster KO power, and Brandon made it look easy.” “I was equally impressed by how gracious and humble you were to Mauro after your victory. I am proud to call you our ONE Heavyweight World Champion because you embody everything that is beautiful about martial arts,” he added. At the end of the night, the Philippines had control of five of ONE Championship’s eleven mixed martial arts world championships. Of those five, four were held by members of famed Benguet-based stable Team Lakay. Because of this dominance, Sityodtong went as far as calling the Filipino stable the best in the world. “I would also like to congratulate my good friend, Mark Sangiao, for building the greatest team in martial arts in the world! There is no question that Team Lakay is the #1 team in the world,” he proclaimed. “They have achieved so much on the world stage with so little. With a humble little gym in Baguio, Team Lakay has toppled some of the greatest teams and athletes in the world through its passion, tenacity, excellence, and humility.” “Thank you for showing the world that nothing is impossible and for exemplifying the true meaning of martial arts,” he concluded......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 27th, 2018

PSG aims to avoid early elimination in Champions League

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain's hopes of breaking through in European soccer could end earlier than usual this season. A loss against Liverpool on Wednesday in Paris, coupled with a home win by Napoli over Red Star, would keep PSG from making it out of the group stage in the Champions League. And that would be a significant setback for the big-spending French team desperately trying to assert itself as a world-class club. It would be the first time PSG failed to reach the tournament's knockout round since 2011-12, after Qatar Sports Investments took over the club with the goal of turning it into a top contender. PSG was eliminated in the round of 16 last season, after reaching the quarterfinals four straight years before that. Failure this time would hurt PSG in its second season since signing Brazil star Neymar for 222 million euros from Barcelona in an attempt to increase its chances of succeeding in Europe. PSG enters the crucial match at Parc des Princes with five points in Group C, one behind leaders Liverpool and Napoli. A victory would put the French club back in position to advance depending on its own results. "It's a decisive match in a very, very complicated group," PSG coach Thomas Tuchel told French broadcaster TF1. The good news for Tuchel is that Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, who had been sidelined because of injuries, are expected to be available for the home match against Liverpool. A look at the four Champions League groups on Wednesday: GROUP A Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund lead the group and have a chance to secure places in the knockout round in advance. Dortmund needs a draw at Club Brugge, while Atletico needs a home win against Monaco. Atletico can also advance if Club Brugge loses points against Dortmund, which is coming off a blistering start to the season under new coach Lucien Favre. The only setback for Favre so far was the 2-0 loss at Atletico in the team's previous Champions League appearance. Paco Alcacer, signed on a permanent basis from Barcelona on Friday, scored again on Saturday in a win over Mainz, taking his league tally to nine goals in seven appearances. GROUP B Harry Kane kept Tottenham's Champions League hopes alive with a late double to sink PSV Eindhoven in the last round of games. Now the striker has some back-up as his team tries to complete an unlikely recovery to qualify from Group B. Tottenham has struggled for attacking fluency this season, mainly because attacking midfielders Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli have been missing at times because of injury. They appear to be fully fit now and were superb in Tottenham's win over Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday, a 3-1 win that might have been its best display of the season. Spurs need to beat Inter Milan at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday to keep alive ambitions of a top-two finish. That would leave the teams tied on seven points. Tottenham would still likely require a win at already-qualified Barcelona to advance, given that Inter closes group play at home to last-place PSV. Barcelona, without Rafinha, Luis Suarez and Arthur because of injuries, has a three-point advantage at the top and will clinch first place in the group with a win over PSV, or a draw if Inter does not beat Tottenham. GROUP C Victories by Liverpool and Napoli would lock up the group which has proven to be the tightest of the Champions League. Napoli, the group's only unbeaten team with three draws and one win, hosts a Red Star team which still has chances of advancing in its return to the tournament's group stage after 26 years. The Serbian club has four points, one fewer than Paris Saint-Germain and two fewer than Napoli and Liverpool. Red Star held Napoli to a 0-0 draw at home in the first round, but then conceded 10 goals in losses against PSG (6-1) and Liverpool (4-0). Liverpool, which beat PSG at home, lost 2-0 to Red Star in its previous Champions League match, but it is coming off two straight wins in the Premier League. PSG, cruising in the French league, beat Liverpool 3-0 the only other time the teams met in Paris, nearly two decades ago. GROUP D Group leader Porto hosts second-place Schalke in a match in which a draw could be enough for both clubs to advance. They would clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a draw if Galatasaray fails to win its match at already eliminated Lokomotiv Moscow. A victory would secure first place for Porto, which has won eight straight entering the match at its Estadio do Dragao. Porto is trying to make it to the round of 16 for the third straight season. The Portuguese champion has 10 points, two more than Schalke and six more than Galatasaray. Porto and Schalke are the only unbeaten teams in the group. Schalke hasn't made it to the knockout stage since 2014-15. ___ Associated Press writers John Leicester, Ciaran Fahey and Steve Douglas contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 27th, 2018

Rejuvenated Dutch strike late, into Nations League s Final 4

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press The Netherlands' recovery from one of the lowest ebbs in its history continued with a last-gasp qualification for the Final Four of the inaugural UEFA Nations League on Monday. Virgil van Dijk volleyed home a 90th-minute equalizer to seal a dramatic Dutch comeback in a 2-2 draw in Germany, allowing Ronald Koeman's rejuvenated side to top its qualifying group on goal difference ahead of France, and join fellow group winners Portugal, England and Switzerland in a five-day finals competition in June. So instead of seeing Kylian Mbappe, France's new wonderkid and star of the team's World Cup triumph in Russia in July, vying for another piece of international silverware, soccer fans will get to see if the Netherlands truly has turned the corner. The slump of the Dutch has been profound since they finished third at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. They failed to qualify for an enlarged European Championship in 2016 and also didn't make it to the World Cup this year. Three coaches — Guus Hiddink, Danny Blind, and Dick Advocaat — came and went. And with Dutch soccer at club level also in strife, debate swirled as to how one of the long-time heavyweights of the world game could recover. Under Koeman, though, the future of the Oranje looks bright. Youngsters like center midfielder Frenkie de Jong and center back Matthijs de Ligt are regarded as two of the most promising players in the world; Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum have returned to their best form over the last 18 months; and, in Van Dijk, the Netherlands has one of the best defenders around. A rock for Liverpool this season and last, Van Dijk — soccer's most expensive defender following his $99 million move from Southampton in January — sidefooted in a cross from the left to follow up an 84th-minute goal from Quincy Promes that gave the Dutch a glimmer of hope in Gelsenkirchen. The Germans had gone 2-0 up after 19 minutes thanks to Timo Werner's dipping shot from 25 meters and Leroy Sane's deflected effort from just inside the area. They couldn't hold on, though, and finished group play with no wins, just two points, and in something of a crisis. They didn't get out of their group in Russia in a dismal defense of their World Cup title, while relegation to League B of the Nations League — featuring Europe's second-tier teams — had already been confirmed after failing to win any of their first three group games. Germany coach Joachim Loew opted to stay in the job after the World Cup, but is now under mounting pressure. The Nations League, a new competition devised by UEFA to replace unpopular international friendlies with competitive matches between teams of a similar level, appears to have won over the skeptics, and the lineup for the Final Four is intriguing if hardly a marketer's dream. Portugal, which will be playing on home soil, has a superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo who should be back in the team after an extended absence from international soccer since the World Cup. England has Harry Kane, the top scorer at the World Cup, and a talented, dynamic group of young players under forward-thinking coach Gareth Southgate. Switzerland, which hasn't reached a quarterfinal of an international tournament since 1954, will be the outsider. The Netherlands, at No. 15, will be the lowest-ranked team in the competition but should not be discounted. This victory came three days after the team produced one of its best performances in years to beat France 2-0, while it beat Portugal 3-0 in March and Germany by the same score at home in the Nations League. The draw for the Final Four, which comprises of two semifinals and then a third-place playoff and final, will take place in Dublin on Dec. 3. Some other loose ends were tied up in the Nations League, which offers teams a second chance to qualify for the European Championship in 2020. The 16 group winners in Leagues A, B, C and D — or the next best-placed teams who have not already qualified via the European qualifiers starting in March — will progress to the Nations League playoffs and compete for the last four qualifying places for Euro 2020. NORWAY, MACEDONIA PROMOTED Norway was promoted to the second-tier League B after finishing top of Group C3 with a 2-0 win at Cyprus. The Norwegians started the final round of group play tied for points with Bulgaria, which could only draw at home to Slovenia 1-1. Macedonia went up to League C after beating Gibraltar 4-0 to top Group D4. Armenia, the only team that could have finished above Macedonia, ended up second after drawing at Liechtenstein 2-2. SLOVAKIA RELEGATED Slovakia was relegated to League C after losing at neighbor Czech Republic 1-0, with Patrik Schick scoring the winner in the first half with a deft lob over the goalkeeper on a counterattack. Denmark was already guaranteed promotion to the top tier and Ireland was sure of being relegated before they drew 0-0 in Aarhus......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 20th, 2018

PVL: Fighting Warays try to stay alive in semis hunt

Tacloban’s semifinals bid now depends on fate. Though needing to pray hard for other teams still in the hunt for the last Final Four spot to drop their remaining assignments, the Fighting Warays, for now, must take care of the things they have control over. Tacloban is in a must-win situation when it clashes with upset-conscious Adamson-Akari Saturday in the Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Open Conference at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.   Game time is at 4:00 p.m. and will air live on LIGA SkyCable Channel 86, LIGA HD SkyCable Channel 183 and via livestream.  The Fighting Warays are in a two-way tie at fifth to sixth spots with idle Pocari Sweat-Air Force, sporting 5-7 win-loss records. PetroGazz, which will face Ateneo-Motolite at 6:00 p.m., currently occupies the fourth spot behind the semis-bound Lady Eagles, Creamline and BanKo. Tacloban needs to sweep its remaining games and hope that Pocari Sweat and PetroGazz drop all of their next assignments to advance to the semis. The Fighting Warays are coming off a week-long  rest after outlasting PetroGazz in five sets. But pressure will be on Tacloban’s side against a team with nothing to lose. The Lady Falcons have yet to capture the elusive victory after bowing down on their last 10 outings.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles     .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 17th, 2018

Croatia beats Spain 3-2 to throw open Nations League group

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Defender Tin Jedvaj scored his second goal of the game in injury time to earn Croatia a 3-2 win over Spain on Thursday, a result that left both teams and group rival England still in the running to reach the UEFA Nations League finals. Croatia's win came two months after it was crushed 6-0 by Spain, its worst ever loss, in Seville. Spain is top of League A, Group 4 with six points. England and Croatia have four points before they meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. The group winner advances to the Final Four tournament in June. With Croatia needing a victory to keep its hopes alive, the World Cup runner-up pinned Spain in its area in the final moments and Jedvaj scored on the rebound after goalkeeper David de Gea had blocked a shot. Earlier, Andrej Kramaric opened the scoring for the home team in the 54th minute, only for Dani Ceballos to equalize two minutes later. Croatia went back ahead in the 69th when Jedvaj headed in a cross from Luka Modric, but Sergio Ramos leveled for Spain with a penalty eight minutes later after Sime Vrsaljko handled. The team that finishes bottom of the group will be relegated to League B......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 15th, 2018