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Suns pledge upgrade in talent, experience after awful season

By Bob Baum, Associated Press PHOENIX (AP) — Maybe, just maybe, the worst is behind the Phoenix Suns. Their 50th anniversary season was awful, even worse than the two that came before. For the eighth season in a row, the Suns won’t make the playoffs. The win totals the past three seasons: 23, 24 and — this year 21. That 21-61 mark is the worst since Phoenix went 16-66 in its inaugural 1968-69 season. The season devolved in the final months, with injuries depleting the already exceedingly young roster, leaving a contingent of G League transfers to fill out the lineup in the final days. The Suns lost a franchise-record 15 straight in one stretch. Now, everyone involved is insisting, enough is enough. “I’m done with not making the playoffs,” rising star Devin Booker said as the players cleaned out their lockers and conducted exit interviews Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). “I’m serious. This is probably my last year ever not making the playoffs. If that’s putting pressure on myself, I’m going to take this summer and work that hard so that it doesn’t happen again.” His goal is “turning the franchise around and getting it back how it used to be.” "You watch the highlights of Barkley, Nash and them and how alive the arena was,” Booker said. “So one of my goals is to get it back that way.” Booker, T.J. Warren and rookie Josh Jackson form the core of the young talent the Suns have accumulated. Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss could be part of it, too, although their development has been uneven. But Phoenix needs experienced players, and not just old guys to cheer on from the sidelines. “The voice in the locker room or the voice when they’re teaching carries a lot more weight when the person is contributing,” interim coach Jay Triano said, “not just there as a teacher. ... They need those guys on the court to follow.” General manager Ryan McDonough agrees the time is come to ratchet up investment. To begin with, Phoenix has the most ping pong balls in the May 15 lottery and a chance at the No. 1 overall pick. At worst, the Suns will draft No. 4. They will have one, and maybe two, more first-round picks. “We’ll be one of five or six teams with more than $10 million in cap space,” McDonough said, “and I think we have the ability to create significantly more if we want it.” So the assets are there if they can be translated into needed players, and not teenagers, except that early first-round pick. Three years of concentrating on acquiring this young talent is long enough, McDonough said. “If you go beyond that I think the losing starts to set in and the guys start to become accustomed to that and the bar is lower,” he said. “Next year we’re going to try to raise the bar. We’re going to try to raise our standards. We won’t be as young. We won’t have nearly as many young players as we had last year.” A couple of things to consider after the Suns’ miserable season. COACH SEARCH: McDonough said the search will begin immediately for a head coach with a list of five to 10 candidates in mind. Triano would like the job. He took over after Earl Watson was fired just three games into the season. McDonough said he would like to have a coach in place before the draft combine and lottery in mid-May. BOOKER’S CONTRACT: The Suns would like to have Booker sign a maximum contract extension in the offseason and he’s open to the idea. Triano knows that Booker is tired of losing and believes things will get better for his budding star with more experienced talent around him. “He looks around the locker room and sees what it is and he knows that it’s time,” Triano said. “I think the growth that he’s gone through individually as a leader and the capability he’s been able to show as a scorer has set the tone to make this an attractive place and to have him be the focal part of that. People around the league want to play with Devin Booker.” KNIGHT IN WAITING: One of the biggest needs for Arizona is at point guard, and they’ve had one watching from the sidelines all season. Brandon Knight, left over from the old days of three point guards with Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, missed the entire season with a torn ACL. Once stuck at the end of the bench with no playing time when he was able to go, he’s being talked about as the starter alongside Booker next year. “As a competitor, as a winner, I just love to play the game,” Knight said. “I had the game taken away from me by the injuries and due to other things. ... I’m just trying to help the Suns in any way I can.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnApr 12th, 2018

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

After awful season, Suns pin their hopes on young talent

PHOENIX — There was a time, long ago, that the Phoenix Suns were winners playing the most entertaining style in the NBA......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsApr 13th, 2017

BDL to make debut for the Tornadoes

Games Saturday: (Araneta Coliseum) 3:00 pm – Opening Ceremonies 4:00 pm – Generika-Ayala vs UA-UP 6:00 pm – Foton vs F2 Logistics   Former Ateneo de Manila University star Bea De Leon makes her debut under the Foton banner when the Tornandoes open their campaign in the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Invitational Conference Saturday at the Big Dome. De Leon, a 5-foot-11 former national team member, will join a loaded frontline composed of Jaja Santiago, Dindin Manabat, CJ Rosario, Maika Ortiz and Gen Casugod, making the Tornadoes the league’s tallest squad. Two of the early favorites, the Cargo Movers and Tornadoes take the floor at 6:00 p.m. main game. United Auctioneers-University of the Philippines (UA-UP), meanwhile, makes its much-anticipated debut when it tangles with Generika-Ayala in the first match at 4:00 p.m. Prior to that, an Indonesian-inspired opening ceremony will usher in the start of this mid-season conference. Unfortunately for the Lady Maroons, star spiker Tots Carlos will miss the rest of the conference after sustaining a shin injury that needs at least eight weeks to recover.   UA-UP head coach Godfrey Okumu, Carlos’ absence will open things up for the Ayel Estranero and Jessma Ramos, who will play their first club league outside the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), while Isa Molde can now display her talent after getting limited minutes with Foton in the previous Grand Prix. “We were given a special chance to play in this league,” he said. “I have a very young team, but it’s a good team, a very strong team. We’re here to gain experience and share what we have with other teams. So we might be a very surprising team.” But all eyes will be on the super showdown between F2 Logistics and Foton. The Cargo Movers will parade the core of UAAP champion De La Salle University led by Kianna Dy, Dawn Macandili, Majoy Baron, Michelle Cobb, Desiree Cheng and Tin Tiamzon while veterans Aby Marano, Kim Fajardo, Ara Galang and Cha Cruz will return for another tour of duty......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News4 hr. 59 min. ago

Modern bigs to dominate 2018 Draft

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com NEW YORK – There was a ballroom full of NBA centers in midtown Manhattan Wednesday – not one of them eager to follow in the sizeable footsteps of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Shaquille O’Neal or Dwight Howard. In fact, on the very day that the top prospects for the 2018 Draft were made available to the media – a talent pool particularly long on length this year – Howard was on the move again, in a reported deal from Charlotte to Brooklyn that will land the eight-time All-Star with his fourth team in four seasons and sixth overall. That bit of news – of an old-school NBA big man being shuffled off again,  primarily for salary-cap purposes, into what looks to be basketball irrelevancy – served as a counterpoint to the young giants just starting out. There will be plenty of guards and forwards selected in the first round Thursday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, including Michael Porter Jr., Trae Young, Collin Sexton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Mikal Bridges, Kevin Knox and Lonnie Walker. But the lottery will be top-heavy with big men, with Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., and Robert Williams all hearing their names called. All six are listed at 6'10" or taller, though they’ll bear little resemblance in style or production to the Hall of Famers cited above or even to Howard. The last time last time six players that size were drafted in the top 10 was 2007, when Greg Oden, Al Horford, Yi Jianlian, Brandan Wright, Joakim Noah and Spencer Hawes all went early. Much has changed in 11 years. These young guys represent basketball’s new-age pivot men, er, which means we’d better drop the “pivot men” nomenclature. Rather, the word that got tossed around most often Wednesday during conversations about these guys’ fit – with specific teams and in the league generally – was modern. Modern centers for a modern NBA. “Modern-day 5,” is how Mamba put it. “Defend multiple positions, can shoot it, handle it a little. Can do a little bit of everything,” the 20-year-old from Harlem, by way of Pennsylvania and Texas. Said Jaren Jackson, Jr., fresh from one season at Michigan State: “At times, I’ve heard that I’m right on time for the way the game is going. A lot of bigs can handle the ball and be versatile and they’re able to make plays.” If you want to feel old, consider the NBA’s prevailing definition of “modern.” With major league baseball, for example, what’s known as the “modern era” historically is thought to have begun in the year 1900. By contrast, the NBA’s modern era dates back to about a week ago last Tuesday. That’s how quickly the contributions from the center position have changed. After ruling the NBA landscape for most of the league’s first 50 years, traditional big men looked at now as dinosaurs, both in form and function. Plodding isn’t allowed. Posting up, back to the basket, and backing into the paint seems as dated in this league as helmetless players in the NHL. There have been noticeable markers along the way. In the ‘90s, players who naturally would have been trained and used as centers – Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Amare Stoudemire, Antonio McDyess – demanded to face the basket and be referred to as power forwards. Then in 2012, the league joined them, eradicating “center” from its All-Star ballot and opting for “frontcourt” as a catch-all category for everyone from 6'5" wings to seven-foot shot swatters. This latest era dates back just a few years, if you go by a few key analytics. A recent ESPN.com story tracked the minutes played by seven-footers in the playoffs, compared to the regular season, and identified the tipping point as the 2016 postseason. Even if you back it up by a year to include Golden State’s heavy use of small ball in winning its championship in 2015, that’s still barely more than a heartbeat. But the full embrace of the three-point shot and the type of pace favored by a majority of current NBA coaches has put a premium on centers – we’re taking liberties in even calling them that anymore – who are mobile, who can switch defensively, challenge perimeter shooters, do some of that shooting of their own and still crash the boards and protect the rim. The next Shaq or Kareem? Now the model is Houston’s efficient Clint Capela, Boston’s savvy Al Horford or Minnesota’s ridiculously skilled Karl-Anthony Towns. Big guys such as DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have added range to their shots. Some – Andre Drummond, Jonas Valanciunas, a few more – have status or contracts assure them minutes. Yet other old-style bigs are out of the league (Roy Hibbert, Andrew Bogut) or logging long stretches on the bench (Greg Monroe, Al Jefferson, Hassan Whiteside). Just two years ago, Jahlil Okafor was the No. 3 pick in the 2016 Draft. These days, he’s an afterthought with little market value. Teams don’t want to play the way Okafor and others like him need to play. So the challenge for a fellow such as Ayton, projected to be the near-consensus No. 1 pick this year, is to make sure no one confuses him or his game with DeAndre Jordan. Asked about the trend Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), Ayton at one point sounded a little defiant. “I’m not changing my way of play in the NBA,” he told reporters. “I’m still an inside-out type of player. I’m going to start inside and establish myself down low until I have to stretch the floor.” It helps, of course, to have that option. Ayton already is built like an NBA veteran, but he has sufficient quickness to cover ground defensively and to keep up with a faster offensive pace. And for those who haven’t been paying attention to him since the NCAA tournament ended – or in Arizona’s case, barely got started with that opening loss to Buffalo – Ayton has a surprise: a more reliable three-point shot he’s willing to unleash. “The NBA three-ball is way farther than the college three-ball,” he said. “I’ve really put on some range and put on some muscle. When I’m fatigued in games, I really can [still] get my shot off in a perfect arc.” Bagley, depending where he lands, might end up playing more out on the floor than the other bigs in this draft. That’s his experience, having had Carter next to him at Duke to handle the basics. Williams will likely benefit from shifting in the opposite direction. He played a lot at power forward for Texas A&M but is rated highly for how his game translates to, you guessed it, modern center play. Bamba has drawn comparisons to Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, as much for his charisma as for any play similarities. He allegedly has overhauled his shot this spring, and also was eager to tout his three-point range Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Then there is Jackson, who has been rated as the best two-way player of the bunch. That includes not just his defense against fellow bigs but his ability to keep up with and guard nearly any position. Jackson seemed to speak for all the big men among the future pros in New York Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Unlike a previous generation of centers, many of whom got caught in the NBA’s transition to a smaller, faster, position-less style, the young centers of 2018 grew up watching it. And preparing for it. Nothing frustrating about it, Jackson said, though it’s a far cry from the league in which his father, Jaren Sr., (1989-2002) played. “No. Whatever helps each team do their best is what lineup they’re going to put out,” Jackson said. “They’re going to put the best players on the floor every time. You look at a team like the Warriors, they switch everything. They can play all different positions. That’s what they’re good at.” That’s what these guys, given their size, are remarkably good at too. 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 NewsJun 21st, 2018

AGT auditions on June 30

AXN has announced that the open auditions for the new season of 'Asia's Got Talent (AGT)' will be held at the Quezon City Experience Museum on June 30. The one-day event is part of t.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philippinetimesRelated NewsJun 17th, 2018

Consensus Mock Draft: Ayton a lock? Bagley rising, Doncic falling

By Drew Packham, NBA.com The Consensus Mock Draft is a compilation of the best mock drafts around the web. We bring them together to come up with a good estimate of how the 2018 NBA Draft could play out. For the first time in their history, the Phoenix Suns have the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. But what will they do with it? Go with talented big man DeAndre Ayton, who played college ball nearby at Arizona? Or do they go with the international phenom Luka Doncic, who has been one of the most celebrated players in Europe? We'll find out June 21 (June 22, PHL time). Until then, we'll continue to monitor the Mock Drafts around the web to come up with a clearer picture of what might go down. Some notes as we enter the final week before next Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) draft: - There's now a complete consensus at No. 1: Deandre Ayton appears to be the pick here, as the Suns get their big man to rebuild around. Previous looks had the Suns going with Luka Doncic, but now all 10 mock drafts have Phoenix going with the talented big man who played down the road at Arizona.       - The real intrigue begins at No. 2. Luka Doncic once appeared to be a lock at this spot, but it now appears the Kings are leaning toward either Duke’s Marvin Bagley III or taking a chance on Michael Porter Jr. (Sacramento is reportedly high on Porter, and could even trade down if they think they could get him lower.)       - Things will really get interesting at No. 3. In our look at the 10 mock drafts, no player appears three times (Jaren Jackson Jr.). Doncic, Bagley and Trae Young each appear twice.       - Doncic’s spiral is fascinating. He now appears most commonly at No. 4 to the Grizzlies (four times), and one site (NBADraft.net) has him slipping all the way to Dallas at No. 5. Doncic has long been considered one of the Top 2 prospects and most-NBA ready despite being just 19-years-old, thanks to strong experience in Euroleague action with Real Madrid.       - Seven of the 10 mocks have Bagley going No. 3 to the Hawks. The other three have Michigan State's Jackson heading to Atlanta.       - Oklahoma guard Trae Young has seen his stock rise a bit. Two mocks currently have him going to the Hawks at No. 3, but no one expects him to fall past the Knicks at No. 9.       - Miami shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV has seen some increased buzz since our last look. He previously appeared on just three of our 10 mocks, but now shows up in six mocks, as high as No. 10 to the 76ers (twice) and most commonly at No. 13 to the Clippers (three times).       - No one seems to have any idea where Michael Porter Jr. will land. In a surprising update, Basketball Insiders and USA Today both have Porter going No. 2 to Sacramento. But two mocks also see him falling as far as No. 8 to Cleveland. Porter could be a pivotal piece to this year’s draft.       - One player gaining some ground in the mocks is Kentucky swingman Kevin Knox. In our first look he only appeared on a few mocks, but now he shows up in the lottery on eight of the 10 mocks. The Ringer has him going at No. 7 to the Bulls, but most see him landing in the end of the lottery.       - After the top pick, the rest of the lottery appears to be anyone's guess. Bagley appears six times at No. 2 and Mo Bamba shows up six times at No. 6 to Orlando, but no one else shows up more than five times at any draft position. This should change between now and June 21, but for now there's a lot of uncertainty.       - Nine players appear on all 10 mocks we survey: Ayton, Doncic, Bagley, Jackson, Young, Bamba, Porter, Mikal Bridges and Wendell Carter Jr. MOST COMMON PICKS No. 1 (Suns): Deandre Ayton (10) No. 2 (Kings): Marvin Bagley III (6) No. 3 (Hawks): Jaren Jackson Jr. (3) No. 4 (Grizzlies): Luka Doncic (5) No. 5 (Mavericks): Jaren Jackson Jr. (4) No. 6 (Magic): Mohamed Bamba (6) No. 7 (Bulls): Michael Porter Jr. (3) No. 8 (Cavaliers): Wendell Carter Jr. (5) No. 9 (Knicks): Mikal Bridges (4) No. 10 (76ers): Mikal Bridges (4) No. 11 (Hornets): Kevin Knox, Miles Bridges (3) No. 12 (Clippers): Collin Sexton (4) No. 13 (Clippers): Robert Williams (5) No. 14 (Nuggets): Kevin Knox (3) Most common (above): Pick at which the player is most commonly projected, with number of mock drafts in parentheses. For example, Deandre Ayton is projected to go first in all 10 of the mock drafts listed below. Top 14 (below): To calculate the consensus, we awarded 14 points for every mock draft in which the player went first overall, 13 for second, continuing to one point for the final lottery pick. The player with the highest point total represents the top overall selection, which is as follows: No. 1: Deandre Ayton | Phoenix Suns Arizona | Position: C | Height: 7-1 Status: Freshman Most Common: 1 (10) Physical specimen who has size to shine in post, but agile and talented enough to develop outside game; should contribute from Day 1 to whomever lands him No. 2: Marvin Bagley III | Sacramento Kings Duke | Position: PF | Height: 6-11 Status: Freshman Most Common: 2 (6) ACC Player of the Year has all the makings of a small-ball center or power forward who can make defenses sweat -- all while rebounding at a prodigious rate No. 3: Luka Doncic | Atlanta Hawks Real Madrid | Position: SG/SF | Height: 6-8 Status: International Most Common: 4 (5) Versatile Slovenian is one of most NBA-ready international prospects ever; talented distributor who can play both guard positions No. 4: Jaren Jackson Jr. | Memphis Grizzlies Michigan State | Position: PF | Height: 6-11 Status: Freshman Most Common: 5 (4) Outstanding defender who boasts an emerging offensive game that gives him great two-way potential No. 5: Michael Porter Jr. | Dallas Mavericks Missouri | Position: SF | Height: 6-10 Status: Freshman Most Common: 7 (3) Teams will be wary of his back injury which limited him to just three games at Mizzou, but he can shoot, which with his length, makes him a valuable weapon No. 6: Mohamed Bamba | Orlando Magic Texas | Position: C | Height: 7-0 Status: Freshman Most Common: 6 (6) Long, talented defender was second in the country in blocked shots per game last season (3.7) and fourth in total blocks (111), drawing comparisons to Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela No. 7: Trae Young | Chicago Bulls Oklahoma | Position: PG | Height: 6-2 Status: Freshman Most Common: 8 (3) Talented scorer led the nation in scoring (27.4) and assists (8.7) per game, but will need to improve on defensive end in NBA No. 8: Wendell Carter Jr. | Cleveland Cavaliers Duke | Position: PF/C | Height: 6-10 Status: Freshman Most Common: 8 (5) Do-it-all big man draws comparisons to Al Horford; has huge hands that allow him to catch and score in the paint, while also having the physicality to finish through contact No. 9: Mikal Bridges | New York Knicks Villanova | Position: SG/SF | Height: 6-7 Status: Junior Most Common: 9, 10 (4) The All-Big East first team selection who helped Villanova to a title is considered one of the best two-way prospects, drawing comparisons to Kawhi Leonard No. 10: Miles Bridges | Philadelphia 76ers Michigan State | Position: SF/PF | Height: 6-7 Status: Sophomore Most Common: 10, 11 (3) The first team all-Big 10 selection averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds a game for the Spartans and was a finalist for the Wooden Award No. 11: Collin Sexton | Charlotte Hornets Alabama | Position: PG | Height: 6-2 Status: Freshman Most Common: 12 (4) Was second in SEC in scoring (19.2 per game); his toughness and competitive streak are viewed highly by pro evaluators, even drawing comparisons to Russell Westbrook No. 12: Kevin Knox | LA Clippers Kentucky | Position: SF/PF | Height: 6-9 Status: Freshman Most Common: 11, 14 (3) Showed potential as a perimeter threat and was an all-SEC freshmen team selection while starting 37 games at Kentucky No. 13: Lonnie Walker IV | LA Clippers Miami | Position: SG | Height: 6-4 Status: Freshman Most Common: 13 (3) A long, explosive, athletic shooting guard who put points on the board in bunches from the perimeter and on the break No. 14: Robert Williams | Denver Nuggets Texas A&M | Position: PF/C | Height: 6-9 Status: Sophomore Most Common: 13 (5) Was an SEC all-Defensive Team selection, finishing in Top 20 nationally both in defensive rating and total blocks; questions remain about consistency of effort MOCK DRAFTS ESPN.com 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Jaren Jackson Jr. 4. Luka Doncic 5. Mohamed Bamba 6. Wendell Carter Jr. 7. Michael Porter Jr. 8. Trae Young 9. Kevin Knox 10. Mikal Bridges 11. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 12. Collin Sexton 13. Lonnie Walker IV 14. Miles Bridges Last updated: June 14 The Ringer 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Luka Doncic 4. Michael Porter Jr. 5. Jaren Jackson Jr. 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Kevin Knox 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Trae Young 10. Mikal Bridges 11. Collin Sexton 12. Miles Bridges 13. Lonnie Walker IV 14. Zhaire Smith Last updated: June 13 NBADraft.net 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Trae Young 4. Jaren Jackson Jr. 5. Luka Doncic 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Mikal Bridges 8. Michael Porter Jr. 9. Wendell Carter Jr. 10. Miles Bridges 11. Collin Sexton 12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 13. Zhaire Smith 14. Robert Williams Last updated: June 13 SI.com 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Jaren Jackson Jr. 4. Luka Doncic 5. Michael Porter Jr. 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Trae Young 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Mikal Bridges 10. Lonnie Walker IV 11. Kevin Knox 12. Collin Sexton 13. Robert Williams 14. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Last updated: June 12 USA Today 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Michael Porter Jr. 3. Marvin Bagley III 4. Luka Doncic 5. Jaren Jackson Jr. 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Wendell Carter Jr. 8. Trae Young 9. Collin Sexton 10. Mikal Bridges 11. Miles Bridges 12. Lonnie Walker IV 13. Robert Williams 14. Kevin Knox Last updated: June 15 SB Nation 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Luka Doncic 3. Jaren Jackson Jr. 4. Trae Young 5. Marvin Bagley III 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Miles Bridges 8. Michael Porter Jr. 9. Mikal Bridges 10. Wendell Carter Jr. 11. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 12. Collin Sexton 13. Robert Williams 14. Chandler Hutchison Last updated: June 11 Bleacher Report 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Mohamed Bamba 4. Luka Doncic 5. Jaren Jackson Jr. 6. Trae Young 7. Michael Porter Jr. 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Mikal Bridges 10. Lonnie Walker IV 11. Miles Bridges 12. Collin Sexton 13. Robert Williams 14. Kevin Knox Last updated: June 11 Net Scouts 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Luka Doncic 3. Marvin Bagley III 4. Jaren Jackson Jr. 5. Mohamed Bamba 6. Wendell Carter Jr. 7. Michael Porter Jr. 8. Trae Young 9. Collin Sexton 10. Miles Bridges 11. Kevin Knox 12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 13. Robert Williams 14. Mikal Bridges Last updated: June 5 CBS Sports 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Marvin Bagley III 3. Luka Doncic 4. Michael Porter Jr. 5. Jaren Jackson Jr. 6. Mohamed Bamba 7. Trae Young 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Collin Sexton 10. Mikal Bridges 11. Miles Bridges 12. Robert Williams 13. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 14. Kevin Knox Last updated: June 15 Basketball Insiders 1. Deandre Ayton 2. Michael Porter Jr. 3. Trae Young 4. Luka Doncic 5. Marvin Bagley III 6. Jaren Jackson Jr. 7. Mohamed Bamba 8. Wendell Carter Jr. 9. Mikal Bridges 10. Miles Bridges 11. Kevin Knox 12. Robert Williams 13. Lonnie Walker IV 14. Troy Brown Last updated: June 13 ESPN Insider: Jonathan Givony SI.com: Jeremy Woo Net Scouts: Carl Berman Bleacher Report: Jonathan Wasserman Basketball Insiders: Steve Kyler CBS Sports: Gary Parrish SB Nation: Tom Ziller  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2018

MPBL: Better prepared QC Capitals coming with 'NSD attitude

Given that they only had a couple of weeks to prepare, the Quezon City Capitals’ quarterfinals run in the 2018 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Anta Rajah Cup was definitely an impressive feat. Being one of the last teams to confirm their participation, the Capitals only had two weeks to prepare for the season, and still managed to finish fifth out of ten teams and qualify for the post season. Now after a full conference of experience and a full training camp, the Capitals are looking to build on from their past success and go even further in the postseason. QC Capitals head coach Vis Valencia addressing the crowd. @abscbnsports pic.twitter.com/yIINy7kOoc — Santino Honasan🎈 (@honasantino) June 5, 2018 “Ngayon mas maganda yung preparation ng Quezon City Capitals, if you remember last conference, we only had less than two weeks, we had a good start, we were able to make it to the quarterfinals pero nag-short kami ng preparation.” Capitals head coach Vis Valencia told ABS-CBN Sports. “Now, we have better preparation, we have a good combination of players, young and experienced players, combined. Kumbaga maganda yung naging jelling nila, ang aga nila mag-jell actually because they’re all professionals.” Joining the Capitals for the Datu Cup will be a couple of ex-pros in Jojo Duncil and Magi Sison. Duncil, a former UAAP Champion and UAAP Finals MVP, spent eight years in the PBA while Sison was a former Gilas call-up and played three years in the pros. (READ ALSO: Ex-pro Jojo Duncil continues basketball life with the QC Capitals) Coach Vis hopes that the addition of experienced pros such as Duncil and Sison can not only bolster the Capitals’ talent, but also provide much-needed guidance and leadership. “We’re glad to have Jojo Duncil, Magi Sison, marami silang maitutulong, lalo na with our young players. Sila yung parang kuya ng team, they share a lot of their experiences to the young players.” said Valencia. “It’s a good combination, we have young and athletic players and at the same time we have senior players like Jojo Duncil who can guide us for the whole season.” Coming from a four-month tournament that featured ten teams, the upcoming Datu Cup will now feature a much bigger 26-team tournament that’s expected to stretch out for ten months. For Valencia, physical and mental fitness will be key in surviving the long, gruelling season. “Of course, we have to really make sure that we are prepared physically, its a very long and rough season, 25 games, home and away. Sabi ko nga nung last conference, we only had nine teams [to face], pero we felt yung, we got exhausted pagdating nung six, seven, eight games, we already felt the pagod of the conference.” “That’s one thing, we prepare everybody physically, then also we prepared everybody mentally. I told the boys it’s a long and rough season pero let’s enjoy every moment, at practice, at games. That will help us the whole conference, yung physical and mental preparations.” After an impressive inaugural run, Valencia promises that the Capitals will at an even higher level in the upcoming Datu Cup. “You can expect the Quezon City Capitals to come with that never say die attitude, we will play our hearts out, expect that the team this conference will really give their hearts, especially for Quezon City.“ The 2018 MPBL Datu Cup opens on Tuesday, June 12th at the Araneta Coliseum......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 7th, 2018

DeAndre Ayton should have immediate impact in the NBA

By Chris Dortch, NBA.com As the only coach who had to game plan for Arizona’s Deandre Ayton three times in the freshman sensation’s only year of college basketball, Colorado’s Tad Boyle is qualified to let the NBA know what’s coming. “He’s a monster,” Boyle said of the 7'1", 260-pounder with the 7'5" reach. “I played [at Kansas] in the ’80s, and he’s the best player since Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s that kind of talent. He’s not as good a low-block player as Hakeem, but the similarity is that, if he catches it eight feet from the basket, he’s gonna score. There’s nothing you can do about it. “He doesn’t have Hakeem’s shimmy moves, but facing the basket, he’s certainly better than Hakeem was at the same stage of his career. This kid’s got good footwork, agility, the ability to run the floor, explosiveness, intelligence and skill. He’s special.” When Boyle shook Ayton’s hand after the third time his Buffaloes played the Wildcats, in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, he told the big man he was happy to see him move on to the NBA, where the Phoenix Suns, having won the lottery, will most likely make him the No. 1 pick in the Draft. Lest the Suns decide they might get better value dealing the pick, well, Boyle can’t imagine that happening. “This kid’s just scary,” Boyle said. “You see him on tape and how he finishes dunks. It’s like he’s playing with a Nerf ball in the basement. Then you see him in person. If you were going to build the perfect basketball player on a computer screen, you’d want someone who’s seven-feet and cut, who can run and jump and make perimeter shots. You’d build Deandre Ayton.” Colorado managed to win one game of the three it played against Arizona. That was the first one, where Ayton scored 26 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots. The Buffs lost the next two, but they whittled down Ayton’s contributions each time. By the third game, Ayton contributed just 10 points, six boards and three blocks. Boyle’s plan was to front Ayton and try to prevent him from catching the ball anywhere close to the basket. A second defender was always nearby to help and try to turn Ayton into a passer, a skill Boyle thinks Ayton hasn’t mastered — yet. “I played with Danny Manning,” Boyle said. “Danny was such a good passer. If you brought [a second defender] at him, he’d find somebody on the floor or skip it. Deandre isn’t at that level yet, but I think he’ll figure it out.” With Ayton, Colorado decided to pick its poison. The consensus first-team All-American, Pac-12 Player of the Year and Karl Malone Award winner shot a solid 34 percent from three-point range, albeit in limited attempts, and, per Hoop-Math.com, he also made 43 percent of his face-up two-pointers during the season, solid considering those made up 44 percent of his total attempts. “We decided if he wanted to pick and pop and beat us with 15-foot jump shots, go right ahead,” Boyle said. “We had to keep him away from the 10- to 15-toot foot area, where if he catches it, he just overpowers you or goes around you. It’s not like he’s not capable of making that 15- to 17-foot jump shot. That’s just what you have to live with.” Colorado’s strategy of containing Ayton led to one of the biggest upsets in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Arizona drew Buffalo in the first round. Bulls coach Nate Oats replaced Bobby Hurley when the latter moved on to Arizona State and spoke to his old boss as soon as the NCAA bracket was announced. Ayton was a primary topic of the conversation. “Bobby didn’t think you could front him,” Oats said. “But I said we’re going to front him. Colorado was the only team in the Pac-12 that I saw that actually fronted him. Everybody else played zone, which I could understand because they had another seven-footer in the lineup [Dusan Ristic]. But Ayton’s got great basketball feel. You can’t keep a body on him in the zone. You can’t pressure the ball in the zone. “We sat Ristic’s man right behind Ayton. Offensively, we didn’t think their spacing was that great. They had two pros, both seven feet, and you’ve gotta play them. But that also limits how you space the floor.” Buffalo’s plan worked. Ayton still managed to deliver 14 points and 13 boards, but Arizona shot 11 percent (2-of-18) from three. The Wildcats couldn’t take advantage when the Bulls sprang the double team on Ayton, who passed for just one assist. “Limiting his touches and keeping it congested around him,” Oats said. “Daring them to skip the ball to a shooter on the back side. That was our plan.” At least Boyle and Oats had some time to prepare for Ayton. When SMU played the Wildcats in the Battle 4 Atlantis last November, coach Tim Jankovich and his staff had just a few hours to get ready. “Our preparation was by the seat of our pants,” Jankovich said. “We went to bed late that night. But we figured out we were going to front him and trap. We double teamed him, but a different way than we’d been doing.” Jankovich wouldn’t elaborate. “It’s kind of a trade secret,” he said, laughing. SMU’s double team worked. The Mustangs won. Ayton still piled up 17 points and 15 rebounds, but he took only 11 shots and six free throws. And the Wildcats shot 25 percent (5-of-20) from three. Boyle, Oats and Jankovich all figured out a way to deal with Ayton, but their message to his future opponents in the NBA was essentially the same. Good luck. “I think he’s going to be a better pro than he was a college player, and he was a great college player,” Oats said. “Sean [Miller] is an unbelievable coach and did a great job with the kid. But in the NBA, the spacing’s better. You can’t double that easily.” “I can’t fathom him not being impactful, and right away, too,” Jankovich said. “He’s one of those rare players that you can’t help but keep your eye on during the game, because he’s so different than most. Your eye always goes to him. That’s all great players. You don’t mean to focus on him, but when you can’t help but do it, you’re always worried, every possession.” Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 5th, 2018

GM says overwhelming likelihood Suns will keep No. 1 pick

By Bob Baum, Associated Press PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said the “overwhelming likelihood” is that the team will keep its No. 1 overall pick and not trade it away. McDonough made the comment Friday (Saturday, PHL time) after the first of what will be many pre-draft workouts of players on the Suns’ practice court. The leading candidates for that No. 1 almost certainly will be worked out privately, with the exception of Luka Doncic, the European sensation who still is playing in Spain. “Obviously the agents have a lot of say,” McDonough said. “They have a strong voice in the process. They’re worried about injuries, which we understand is part of it. So we’d love them to come in and compete against the other top guys at their position. I think for the guys in the mix at No. 1 that’s going to be tough for us to put together.” The Suns won the lottery for the first No. 1 pick in the franchise’s 50-year history. In the days that followed, McDonough said the team would be open to trading that pick. But that seemed less likely when he described the criteria such a deal would have to entail. “It would have to be a young, proven star player with multiple years on his contract, multiple years of team control,” McDonough said. “Once you start whittling down the list, that list probably shrinks to a handful of players if not fewer players than that. So I think the overwhelming likelihood is that we keep the pick. However, we’re open, if those teams call us or we call them. But as of now obviously we’re planning on keeping it.” McDonough insists there are a few players in the mix, but the names at the top according to most observers are Doncic and Arizona’s Deandre Ayton. Born and raised in the Bahamas, the 7'1" Ayton played his one college season just down Interstate 10 at the University of Arizona, where he averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. McDonough said he believes questions about Ayton’s defense stem from the fact he had to play alongside another seven-footer, Dusan Ristic, in college. “So he was guarding away from the basket on the perimeter,” McDonough said. “In the NBA, obviously, he’s a center. He’s a five. He slides well. He moves his feet well. He’s a tremendous athlete in terms of strength, fluidity, coordination, all of that.” McDonough said Ayton “has a high-level feel for the game, especially on the offensive end of the court. And from my experience guys who have that at the offensive end of the floor usually, in time, are able to translate that to the defensive end of the court as well.” McDonough said he plans to try to get to Europe one more time to see Doncic. “We’ve seen him play a lot,” McDonough said. “I’ve personally seen him four or five times in the last seven or eight months, [assistant general manager] Pat Connelly’s seen him. Igor’s seen him more than anybody.” New Suns coach Igor Kokoskov coached Doncic on the Slovenian national team that won the European championship last year. McDonough was asked about the observation that Doncic lacks high-level athleticism. But the Suns GM noted that the young European guard is “really, really big” — 6'6" and weighs 218 pounds. “Because he’s so skilled at that size and has such a good feel, I think you don’t realize on tape how big he is,” McDonough said. “He’s able to jab and create his own shot. He’s able to lower his shoulder and create space to overpower defenders. He’s adept at getting to the free throw line. I don’t have any concerns with him physically.” On Friday (Saturday, PHL time), the Suns worked out a group of guards, most of them four-year college players. They included Tra Holder from Arizona State. The Suns also have the No. 16 pick overall in the draft and, in the second round, Nos. 30 and 59. But that No. 1 pick is the big one, something neither the Suns nor McDonough have dealt with before. “I think there are some drafts that you prefer not to have the No. 1 pick just because there isn’t a player worthy of that,” he said. “I think in some ways you’re set up to fail in that scenario. This year we feel the opposite. We feel there are four or five players who in normal drafts would be in the mix for No. 1 if not be the No. 1 pick. “We view that as a good problem to have. It’s a really talented draft. I think this will be one that you look back on historically and say that was one of the better drafts in the last decade. And it’s great to kick it off No. 1.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 26th, 2018

Aging like fine wine, James shines when it matters most

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND – The first 57 seconds came near the end of the third quarter, LeBron James finally heading over to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench after logging 35 minutes – 35:03, as long as we’re counting – of intense, frantic, backs-against-the-wall elimination basketball against the Boston Celtics in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. James took his seat with the idea of resting as much as he could, as quickly as he could. That’s about all he gets this time of year, when subbing James out of the game too often is like the Cavaliers loosening their grip on a balloon they’re blowing up but have yet to tie off. If the air went out of Cleveland’s balloon at Quicken Loans Arena, it was going to be out for months. Heck, given James’ possible departure in free agency this summer, the air might have been gone for good. “Obviously [if] I get a minute, couple minutes here per quarter, would be great. But it's not what our team is built on right now,” James said after yet another remarkable performance to keep the Cavs’ postseason alive. With what was left of the third on the game clock and how it played out, followed by the break between quarters, the Cavaliers’ star got about five minutes in real time to catch his breath. Then promptly subbed back in for the fourth. “Our team is built on me being out on the floor to be able to make plays, not only for myself but make plays for others,” James said. “It's just the way we've been playing, and we've been succeeding with it. “I was able to play 46 minutes today. I got my couple minutes, I guess.” He got another 57 seconds to be exact. They were less hurried, less nervous and absolutely earned, coming as they did at the very end. When James exited for good, his work was done. The Cavs had pushed this home-dominant series to its max, with Game 7 at Boston’s TD Garden Sunday (Monday, PHL time). James’ stats line was one of those gaudy/ordinary types he has spoiled his team and NBA fans with for so many years: 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He also had three steals and one blocked shot, racing back in the third quarter to deny Boston’s greyhound guard Terry Rozier after finishing a Cavs fast break an instant before. James went down as if shot early in the fourth, his team up 89-82; teammate Larry Nance fell into the future Hall of Famer’s right leg. But after a few tentative, anxious moments both for him and the folks in the arena, James was back to moving, pivoting and launching as if nothing had happened. “I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg,” said James, who seems to go through more histrionics and drama than the average player when he gets clobbered, without enduring the same level of injury. “I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I've seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one's leg standing straight up.” Not long after that, though, James was draining two bak-breaking three-pointers on consecutive trips, burning young Celtics forward Jayson Tatum both times from deep on the left wing. The second sent Boston scurrying into a timeout with 1:40 to go, and had James going a little primal along that far sideline, pounding his chest and hollering out. “The love of the game causes reactions like that,” James said. “Understanding the situation and understanding the moment that you're in. It was just a feeling that you can't explain unless you've been a part of it.” James has been a part of it plenty. This was the 22nd elimination game of his career, his eighth since returning to Cleveland in 2014. He is 13-9 overall and 6-2 in this Cavs 2.0 version. His production in these win-or-go-home games is unsurpassed in NBA history. James is averaging 34.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists, performing best when it matters most. That wasn’t always the case – James had some rough-shooting, high-turnover nights in elimination games early in his career. More recently, though, he’s everything you want but cannot get in a mutual fund: His past performances definitely are a guarantee of future results. “I’ve watched him play a lot of really great games, but that one’s right up there towards the top,” said Kyle Korver, Cleveland’s 37-year-old sniper. “It’s just so much heart. He wanted this game so bad. “I think he just craves those moments. He loves those moments. When the game is on the line, when the season is on the line, he’s just been rising up, and that’s what the great players do.” Iconic players like James and, before him, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are the ones who block whole NBA generations from achieving their dreams, hoarding Finals appearances and championship rings for them and theirs only. Celtics Brad Stevens, young as he is, has had to gameplan against James’ greatness and ability to dominate three times in playoff series now. “Does that ever come into our minds? Yeah, every time we watch,” Stevens said. “Every time you're standing out there. Every time you watch him on film. Best player in the game. Special night tonight and special night in Game 4 [44 points]. I can't say enough good things about him.” At least one of James’ own teammates didn’t always feel that way. “I've been in the league for some years and ran across him on the other side and really hated his guts,” said George Hill, the former Indiana Pacers guard who never beat James in postseason basketball before joining him via trade in February. “But to have him on our side, it kind of lets me take a deep breath of fresh air. It's just something that you really can't explain what he's doing night in, night out.” The view from the Cavaliers’ side isn’t just safer, it’s illuminating for George. “Yeah, I thought the best was when he always put us out,” the veteran said. “But to actually see it when he's on your team, I can't even put it into words. Sometimes I just think, ‘How did he make that shot?’ Or ‘How did he make that move?’ Or ‘When did he see that pass?’ Just making big plays and big shots. People always list him as not a shooter, but he's making big shots down the stretch. If it's three-pointers, layups, dunks, passes, he can do it all.” James wasn’t always so complete as a player. In some of his early forays into the playoffs, critics would pounce. Passing off a potential winning shot, for example, to less-decorated teammate Donyell Marshall. Getting ousted by a savvier, saltier Celtics crew in seven games in 2008 and in six two years later. A couple years after that, though, James would return the favor with his new crew in Miami. He dropped 45 points with 15 rebounds on Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the rest right on the hallowed parquet in Game 6, then backed it up with 31 in Game 7. Now he’s tormenting a whole new set of Celtics. “Like I said, I haven't always done it in my whole career, but I've never shied away from it,” James said. “That's either making a shot or making a play. I was taught the game the right way ever since I started playing.” So it’s talent to start, fundamentals ladled onto that and then time and experience to percolate, to ferment, to ripen James into what he is now: No one to be trifled with when there’s something to be won or to be staved off. Getting a little more introspective than usual, James talked about the maturation journey he has taken since arriving on the NBA scene still a teenager in 2003. “I've embraced a lot of situations as you grow up,” he said. “I mean, I love being a husband now. Did I embrace that at 18, 19? I don't think so. “As you get older, you just grow into more things. I didn't love wine until I was 30 years old, and now every other [social media] post is about wine, National Wine Day. So you learn and you grow and you know what's best for you as you get older. That's just all of us. I think that's what being a human being is. “At 18, I don't think I'm the same player that I am today at 33, and I shouldn't be. I'm just much more seasoned.” Fifteen seasons worth and counting, aging like all that wine. That’s the guy Boston will try to put out Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Arguably the GOAT, undeniably the BLOAT, as in Best LeBron of All Time.  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 NewsMay 26th, 2018

PBA: After unimpressive start, is Gillenwater in trouble?

Troy Gillenwater might be in trouble. After two largely unimpressive games with San Miguel, the second one ending with a first-half ejection, Gillenwater is officially on the hot seat as the Beermen are starting to weigh their options for import in the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup. Gillenwater is averaging 15 points in two games so far but Sunday against Rain or Shine, he was ejected in the first half for initiating contact on a game official. To make matters worse not only for him but for San Miguel in general, the Beermen have lost both games. "Import namin, we'll have to think about it," head coach Leo Austria said. "We have to evaluate. Kahit sinong player, kahit anong team naman, we have to evaluate kung helpful o hindi," he added. Initial evaluation on Gillenwater is not good though. The eye test and the stats prove it. While the Beermen can afford not to get a world destroyer as an import, they can certainly appreciate if Gillenwater can at least match up to the opposition. "Compared to the other imports, we're not impressed. Pero yung first quarter niya, very impressive. First quarter lang," Austria said. "He should last at least 40 minutes per game but nakikita natin, he's so frustrated. What they experience right now is a different ball game. Ina-underestimate yata nila ang PBA eh. We are in a different level. The only lacking in Filipino basketball is the height, but the skills in terms of talent, technical know-how, were at par sa big leagues. Thats why nasu-surprise sila. Yung physicality na sometimes nirereklamo nila, but we have to live up to the kind of basketball kasi dito tayo masaya eh," he added. With Gillenwater underperforming, the clamor to get a replacement has grown exponentially particularly from the team's most loyal supporters. Obviously, San Miguel has options, particularly Charles Rhodes and Renaldo Balkman. Rhodes led the team to the championship last season and Balkman was San Miguel's previously controversial import that has been recently allowed back to the PBA after receiving a lifetime ban. Of the two, Balkman is readily available right now after wrapping up his championship season with San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas in the ABL. But the San Miguel team of the PBA would rather not make a decision right now. "Right now, we don't have any decision, especially in this kind of situation," Austria said. "It should be a collective decision, that's why we came out late and pinagu-usapan namin, not only the import but everything, what went wrong sa game namin," he added.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 14th, 2018

Long-awaited matchup arrives for Rockets, Warriors

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com James Harden and the Rockets must get past the Warriors to reach their first Finals since 1995. Finally, it’s here. The series the NBA world has been waiting for from the moment Chris Paul requested a trade last summer that sent him to the Houston Rockets to join forces with James Harden has arrived. It's the Rockets vs. the four-time Western Conference and two-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors for West supremacy. The Rockets had a feeling they could see this journey through to this point, even when the teams met on opening night at Oracle Arena. Houston was built to beat the champs, and did it twice in their three regular season encounters. Rockets center Clint Capela voiced his opinions on the matchup after a January win, saying his team was superior to the champs. And he’s just as eager for this match up, in which the Rockets hold home-court advantage. “I’m real excited,” Capela said. “This [Warriors] team is going to be hard, it’s going to be a fight. There’s going to be a lot of adjustments after every game. It’s going to be a chess game. Of course, we’re going to be ready. They’ve been to The Finals three straight years. So we’re just excited. Everybody's excited about it. I’m sure all the NBA fans are excited about it, too.” The Warriors are fired up, too, and have heard all the chirping. “Now you’ve got to play the game,” All-Star forward Draymond Green said. “You wanted us, now you’ve got us.” The Warriors are attempting to conquer the West for a fourth straight season, but this will be their first West finals without home-court advantage. Doing it against a team specifically designed to take them down just adds to a battle wrought with connections. Harden, Paul, Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all won gold medals together, be it on the Olympic or World Cup of Basketball stage. Harden and Durant were teammates on the Oklahoma City Thunder team that lost The Finals in 2012. Paul’s LA Clippers squad in 2014 was the last West foe to knock the Warriors out of the playoffs before The Finals. And the Rockets were the team the Warriors beat in the 2015 West finals to jump-start their would-be dynasty. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni pioneered the style the Warriors have used to dominate the league while he was coaching in Phoenix, where Warriors coach Steve Kerr was the Suns GM. The three-pointers will fly from all directions. Both teams are capable of defending at a championship level. The personnel on both sides is ideally matched. Perhaps best of all, though, is that both teams are healthy and without any ready-made excuses overshadowing this showdown. It’s best on best, a test of collective wills between the “cream of the Western Conference crop,” as Curry declared after the Warriors and Rockets each won their West semifinal series just hours apart on May 8 (May 9, PHL time). The NBA world has been waiting on this heavyweight showdown. Now, it’s finally here. 3 quick questions and answers 1. Who flinches first, Kerr with his “Hamptons Five” lineup or D’Antoni with his Harden-Paul-Capela trio? Against every other team in the league, the Warriors’ small-ball unit of Durant, Thompson, Curry, Green and Andre Iguodala has a clear advantage. No one else has three shooters like Durant, Curry and Thompson playing alongside the versatile Green and Iguodala. The Rockets come close with Harden, Paul and Capela alongside defensive specialists and three-point marksmen Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker. It’ll be a fascinating study in styles watching them matchup against each other. But advantage Warriors ... until we see someone crack the code against the "Hamptons Five." 2. What’s more valuable -- Houston's home-court advantage or Golden State's experience? Home-court advantage is always preferred. The Warriors know that. It’s been good to them in each of the past three seasons grinding through the West playoffs to The Finals. But it’s not infallible (as the Cleveland Cavaliers taught us, rallying from a 3-1 Finals deficit to take Game 7 at Oracle Arena). Which is exactly why the Rockets need to have the threat level turned all the way up for Games 1 and 2. Lose either one of the first two games at Toyota Center and the Warriors will pounce in this series. 3. Who is the biggest wild card for each team? And, are they capable of swinging this series? It’s Eric Gordon for the Rockets and whichever big man (JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney or perhaps Jordan Bell) that Kerr taps for service for the Warriors. Gordon has to shoot more consistently than he has thus far in the playoffs (34.2 percent overall, 31.4 percent on three-pointers) if the Rockets hope to match the Warriors basket for basket. The Warriors have a big man for basically every season, it’s just a matter of which one will fare best against a much-improved Capela. He has outplayed two more heralded bigs (All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns and the Jazz's Rudy Gobert) in each of the Rockets’ series to date. Overall, though, there's too much star power in this series for any role player to swing the momentum for more than a few minutes. The number to know 100.7 --The two best offensive teams in the regular season have been the two best defensive teams in the playoffs, combining to allow just 100.7 points per 100 possessions on their way to the conference finals. In the first round, the Rockets and Warriors held the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs to 5.6 and 5.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than they scored in the regular season, respectively. And in the conference semifinals, they held the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans to 7.0 and 16.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than they scored in the first round, respectively. The Rockets' starting lineup has allowed just 92 points per 100 possessions in its 153 minutes, having forced more than 21 turnovers per 100 (the best mark among lineups that have played at least 75 minutes). The Warriors' "Hamptons Five" lineup, meanwhile, has allowed less than 87 points per 100 possessions in its 54 minutes, and the champs have allowed just 94 points per 100 possessions in 250 total minutes with Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala on the floor together. These teams aren't just here because of how potent their offenses are, and the team that advances to The Finals will be the one that continues to defend at a high level. -- John Schuhmann Making the pick The Rockets made it their mission to put together a group to avenge their 2015 and 2016 playoff failures, with the Warriors serving as their primary target. They’ve got home-court advantage, an inspired Paul and what appears to be all of the requisite parts needed to interrupt the Warriors’ dynasty plans. But do they have the nerve to snatch it all from Golden State, which took a measured approach to 2017-18 and has seemingly flipped the proverbial with another championship run on the line? Experience over ambition this time. Warriors in 6. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: With Mane, Senegal expects to match 2002 run

By Ken Maguire, Associated Press DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — When the World Cup trophy tour reached Senegal, President Macky Sall got the taste of being a champion. It's an experience he hopes to feel for real one day. Turning to coach Aliou Cisse, Sall said optimistically, "It won't be long." That's some pressure for a team making only its second World Cup appearance. Back in 2002, a team of relative unknowns led Senegal to the quarterfinals in a run that began with a 1-0 victory over defending champion France. The 2018 team boasts more recognizable players, led by Liverpool forward Sadio Mane. There's also Monaco winger Keita Balde and Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. It's a cosmopolitan crew who play all over Europe, whereas the 2002 squad was almost entirely France-based. For a country with so much talent, Senegal should qualify for the World Cup more often. Certainly, the Senegalese thought that would be the case after a wildly successful debut 16 years ago that came with a freewheeling style of play and memorable celebrations. A national holiday was declared after the victory over France. It's still among the best performances by an African team. Cameroon (1990) and Ghana (2010), neither of whom qualified for the tournament in Russia, are the only other African teams to reach the quarterfinals. Senegal's preparations for the World Cup have not been perfect. Two recent friendlies ended in draws with Cisse experimenting with a 3-5-2 formation instead of the 4-4-2 used during the qualifying campaign. Fasting during Ramadan could present training challenges for the Senegalese, many of whom are Muslims, including Mane. The holy month ends several days before their first match at the World Cup. Here's a closer look at the Senegal team: COACH Cisse was the captain of the 2002 team and he has now led Senegal to a second World Cup from the sidelines. On returning to Dakar following a 2-0 win over South Africa to clinch the spot, supporters at the airport picked up Cisse and threw him in the air while singing songs in his honor. So much more awaits Cisse, potentially. Bruno Metsu, the Frenchman who coached Senegal in 2002, is so revered in the country that his image is on a wall of fame in the "Place du Souvenir African" in Dakar. The exhibit highlights achievements of Africans, including Nelson Mandela. Metsu died of cancer in 2013 and is buried in Dakar. Cisse, though, has done his best to downplay the high expectations. GOALKEEPERS Khadim Ndiaye was Cisse's top choice by the end of qualifying. He is one of the few squad members who play in Africa — starting for Horoya AC in Guinea — and at 33 is the most experienced of the goalkeepers. Playing regularly might also give him an edge over others who play in Europe, but as backups. French-born Abdoulaye Diallo was No. 1 at the start of World Cup qualifying but an injury sidelined him and opened the door for Ndiaye. Diallo plays for French club Rennes, but usually as a backup. Don't count out 24-year-old Alfred Gomis. Raised in Italy, he has seen plenty of action this season for Spal in Serie A. DEFENDERS At 6-foot-5, center back Kalidou Koulibaly is Senegal's defensive titan. He plays for Napoli but has been linked to a move to clubs including Barcelona and Chelsea. As the France-born Koulibaly evolved into one of Europe's top defenders, French fans wondered how they let him slip into the national colors of his parents. After a header for Napoli secured a Serie A win over Juventus in April, even Diego Maradona was buzzing about him and posted a photo holding a Koulibaly jersey. The right side seems set with Lamine Gassama and Youssouf Sabaly. On the left, Senegal would love to have Kara Mbodji, but he injured his knee and hasn't played for his club, Anderlecht, since late last year. In his place, Senegal could turn to Papy Djilobodji. Also on the left side, Armand Traore's ability to play defense or midfield provides flexibility. Another option is Pape Ndiaye Souare of Crystal Palace. MIDFIELDERS There's a Premier League look to the midfield. The captain is Cheikhou Kouyate of West Ham, who has drawn comparisons to Patrick Vieira. Another stalwart is Idrissa Gana Gueye of Everton. Cheikh Ndoye (Birmingham) and Pape Alioune Ndiaye (Stoke) were called up by Cisse in qualifying and should play important roles in Russia. FORWARDS Mane, who recently became the highest-scoring Senegalese player in Premier League history, is the key to success up front. He's been overshadowed by the spectacular Mohamed Salah this season for Liverpool, but Mane has been no slouch with his goals and assists. The trick will be who else to plays up front to get the best out of Mane. Keita Balde, Diafra Sakho and Ismaila Sarr are expected to make the final squad. If Cisse wants experience, he could look to the likes of Moussa Sow or Demba Ba. Both are 32 and play in Turkey. GROUP GAMES Senegal starts in Group H against Poland on June 19 in Moscow, then plays Japan on June 24 and Colombia on June 28......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2018

2018 WORLD CUP: Talent but doubts for Belgium

By Raf Casert, Associated Press BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium has all the ingredients for success at the World Cup. Romelu Lukaku leads the attack, supported by the creative genius of Eden Hazard and with Kevin De Bruyne pulling the strings in midfield. Thibaut Courtois is in goal. But for all the exceptional talent, Belgium keeps underwhelming at major tournaments, only reaching the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship. There are doubts throughout the team. Center back Vincent Kompany spends much of his time in the treatment room at Manchester City. Too many Belgian players have morphed into glorified benchwarmers these days after falling out of favor, including Toby Alderweireld at Tottenham, Thomas Meunier at Paris Saint-Germain and Thomas Vermaelen at Barcelona. Axel Witsel and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco do have a lock on their starting position for their clubs, but in the modest Chinese league. It all makes the road to World Cup success seem far from clear for FIFA's third-ranked team. Here's a closer look at the Belgium team: COACH It took a loss to Wales at the 2016 European Championship for Belgium to oust underachieving coach Marc Wilmots and turn to Roberto Martinez, a Spanish coach with Premier League experience. Martinez led Belgium to the top of its qualifying group with an unbeaten record. But it's unclear how a coach who spent most of his time with teams like Wigan, Swansea and Everton will endure at a World Cup. At least he has already won a trophy, taking unheralded Wigan to the FA Cup title by beating Manchester City in 2013. GOALKEEPERS Having Courtois in goal has made Belgium the envy of world football. Then came the night in March at Barcelona when Lionel Messi beat Courtois twice with shots through the legs to open up the Chelsea goalkeeper to international ridicule for the first time. Courtois will need to banish any self-doubt in Russia. When it comes to doubt, there is plenty of uncertainty about backup Simon Mignolet, who has been banished to the bench at Liverpool. DEFENDERS Previously known for its dour defensive prowess, Belgium added flair with Kompany, Alderweireld, Meunier and Jan Vertonghen. Going into the World Cup, though, only Vertonghen inspires confidence and gets all the playing time he wants at Tottenham. Every time the 32-year-old Kompany takes the field for Belgium, onlookers fear he could come down with another injury. MIDFIELDERS This department is where Belgium's genius resides, with De Bruyne and Hazard dazzling with sparkling moves and piercing passes. Even if their synergy on the field has not been perfect, Martinez has been getting close enough. Now the coach has to figure out what to do with Radja Nainggolan, whose skillful doggedness helped take Roma past Barcelona in the Champions League. Martinez, though, has fallen out with Nainggolan and criticized his sometimes raucous off-field behavior. It means Nainggolan is still not an automatic pick to make it to Russia. FORWARDS The 24-year-old Lukaku is already Belgium's all-time top scorer with 33 goals. All hope is invested in Lukaku staying fit and in form for the World Cup after an impressive first season leading the Manchester United attack, with De Bruyne and Hazard in support. Martinez can also turn to Dries Mertens, the deft, diminutive winger-striker who has been instrumental in Napoli's pursuit of the Serie A title. Michy Batshuayi was just hitting form with Dortmund when he injured his ankle in early April and is racing to be fit for Russia. GROUP GAMES After opening in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on June 18 against Panama, the second Group G game is close to its Moscow base against Tunisia on June 23. The group concludes on June 28 against England in Kaliningrad......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2018

UAAP FINALS: Battle of legendary coach Kid Santos’ protégés

It’s just a few days away before the much-anticipated battle for UAAP Season 80 women’s volleyball supremacy between the grand slam-seeking De La Salle University Lady Spikers and the title hungry Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws. But even before the blazing action of the best-of-three championship series begins, one man is already smiling and probably very proud of the legacy he has left behind. Steering the Lady Spikers in their 10th straight Finals appearance is a multi-titled mentor in Ramil de Jesus. A man who for two decades changed DLSU’s volleyball program and gave the Taft-based school 10 titles. On the other side is George Pascua, a true-blue FEU product who delivered UAAP titles during his playing days and when he mentored the men’s team. Pascua is now looking to bring back the old glory of the Lady Tamaraws.      Both are great disciplinarians. No-nonsense coaches who value character, hard work and dedication more than popularity and fanfare. Coaches whose systems rely on teamwork rather than individual talent, mastering the basics of offense and defense while turning their wards into versatile workers and team players.   True men of the sport.    Characters they inherited and influenced by a man considered as the father of FEU volleyball: the late great Florentino "Kid" Santos. The championship series won’t just be about a present power battling a traditional powerhouse, it will also be a showdown between two students who learned their craft from a treasured Filipino volleyball master.   BROTHERS-IN-ARM Santos, who passed away November last year at the age of 67 due to cardiac arrest, brought FEU to numerous titles as a player and continued to do so as a mentor for the Tams and Lady Tams. He played a big role in the school’s total of 54 championships in both divisions and steered FEU to 19 of its 29 women’s crowns. Santos also handled the national team multiple times. But what made Santos great is the number of players he discovered and molded into stars under his Spartan-like training and strict discipline. That list includes De Jesus and Pascua. “Si Coach Ramil outside hitter siya na napakagaling rumeceive, napakabilis ng bola,” recalled Pascua after the postgame interview moments after twice-to-beat FEU booted out Ateneo de Manila University in the Final Four to for the Lady Tams’ first Finals appearance since Season 71.  “(Ako) middle pero napakagaling ko rumeceive din kasi walang libero noon eh,” he added, drawing laughter inside the press room. “Kaya nga tinitingnan namin noong time namin walang palitan ng libero ang gagaling namin rumeceive.”   Pascua was in his rookie year when he played alongside De Jesus, who was then in his swan song. De Jesus was spectacular, Pascua was a promising talent when they marched together in battle with Santos at the helm. With the two playing together, FEU conquered Season 54 for the Tams' back-to-back titles. “Pumasok ako 91. Eh 92 siya grumaduate. So last playing year niya, first year ako. Pero nagpang-abot kami sa UAAP,” added Pascua, who would eventually win two more. In a light moment during the start of the men’s Final Four at the MOA Arena last Saturday, Pascua and De Jesus were spotted seated together watching the match between FEU and three-time defending champion Blue Eagles. They were talking, laughing and were horsing around while reminiscing their playing days.    🤔 #UAAPSeason80Volleyball pic.twitter.com/88NqdzFmiG — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) April 21, 2018 “Puro kalokohan lang 'yun, wala sa volleyball. Nu’ng time namin, nagku-kwentuhan kami, sabi namin, 'Biruin mo 'yung UP (gym) noon, noong naglalaro tayo, halos hindi mapuno, kahit isang layer lang ng ganoon (seats), tapos nanonood pa 'yung nasa lapag lang, sa UP noong time naming,'” said Pascua. “Tapos nakakasilaw, pag umuulan, tumutulo. Pero tingnan mo o, ang dami, libo-libo ang nanonood.” “Sabi namin, ibang klase ang volleyball ngayon. Hindi kami naging part ng ganito karaming ano pero naging part kami,” added Pascua. “Sabi niya, naging part pa rin tayo kaya naging successful ang volleyball. Sabi niya may contribution pa rin tayo. Kasi (ang usapan naming) about volleyball, mga past namin, kung gaano lumaki ang volleyball kumpara noon hanggang ngayon.” De Jesus in his postgame interview, the day after, shared that it was fun chatting and joking around with his former teammate. “Wala naman kaming pinag-uusapan, ine-enjoy lang namin 'yung game,” said De Jesus, whose squad dismantled National University in straight sets on Sunday. “Dumaan kasi accidentally si Sir (Mark) Molina.  Sabi niya dapat bigyan ng t-shirt 'yan si Coach Ramil. So 'yun, kaya kinukulit niya ako, kasi T-shirt ang binibigay, jacket ang kinuha. Sabi ko 'di ako magsusuot ng jacket. 'Yun ata ang kulitan namin na nakunan (ng TV camera).” Unfortunately, they witnessed the twice-to-beat Tams fall in five-sets against the 55-point onslaught of Ateneo ace Marck Espejo. About 24 hours after that, De Jesus set up a Finals date with Pascua’s Lady Tams. They will be after each other’s neck starting April 28 at the Big Dome.     RIVALRY Long after their playing careers have passed, both found a new calling: coaching. Learning under the tutelage of Santos, Pascua and De Jesus passed on to their wards the same discipline they had under the FEU legend and gave new twists to the system used by their former mentor.     De Jesus was tapped by DLSU to help with their women’s volleyball program. He was the messiah the Taft-based squad had been waiting for. Under his watch, the Lady Spikers transformed into a UAAP superpower collecting 10 titles overall. Pascua stayed with FEU, helping the Tams achieve a three-peat in Season 67 to 69 as the head coach. He steered FEU to its last championship in Season 74. Pascua and De Jesus eventually crossed paths as women’s team mentors in the 2014 Philippine Superliga Grand Prix. The younger mentor handled a powerhouse team in Petron Blaze Spikers while De Jesus built Generika behind his DLSU products. Pascua got the better of De Jesus in four sets in the winner-take-all championship round led by American import Alaina Bergsma and Brazilian setter Erica Adachi. He duplicated his feat the following tournament in the All-Filipino Conference as Petron swept De Jesus’ Shopinas.com Clickers in the best-of-three Finals series. Now on their third head-to-head match in four years, Pascua knows that his commercial league successes won’t matter in De Jesus’ turf. “Champion coach si Coach Ramil, ‘yung team niya may championship experience. Napakagaling na coach niya,” he said.      Though working on a team with a disadvantage in terms on experience in the Finals, De Jesus holds high respect on Pascua’s coaching. Being a product of FEU like him, Pascua won’t back out from a fight.     “Matiyagang tao si George, maganda 'yung ginagawa niya ngayon sa team, and siguro ano, kailangan talaga bantayan 'yung FEU kasi alam ko matiyagang tao 'yun,” said De Jesus. In this series, the DLSU mentor is expecting a tough challenge. Both will have their own advantages in their systems and strategies built on the backbone of Santos’ system. “Kasi bawat coach kasi may kanya-kanyang sistema, so maaring may mga part na nakuha niya dun kay Coach Kid, pero siyempre bawat coach, may gustong gawin sa team na hindi niya na dala-dala 'yung ibang sistema ng naging mentor,” said De Jesus. Whatever the result of the series, whichever shade of green will come up on top, one thing is for sure, the great FEU mentor Santos will surely have a hand in it. Santos’ legacy will have an influence on both sides, whether the title goes to Morayta or to Taft.      ---    Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles    .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 24th, 2018

Budding Sixers take control of series in Miami

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com MIAMI — Back in 2014, when the Miami Heat were wrapping up their championship-fueled era, the Philadelphia 76ers began plotting their own. And they did it unconventionally, laughably and by any measure, dreadfully. It was Year One of the most ambitious rebuilding plan before or since, when the Sixers willingly laid down and became a doormat and allowed other teams to wipe their sneakers on them. That season, while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh cruised to a fourth straight appearance, and their last together, in the NBA Finals, the Sixers lost 63 games. And then they got better at this tanking technique and lost 64 and 72 the next two years. But fast-forward to now, to Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) at American Airlines Arena, and the roles with the Heat and Sixers are threatening to flip. Maybe not so drastically, but it’s clear through four games of this first-round playoff series that the Sixers are going one way and the Heat another. The Sixers have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, a pair of young bedrocks slowly building something with the potential to be big. The Heat? They have banners in the rafters commemorating what they used to be, not so long ago. Philly also has something else on Miami, namely a 3-1 series lead after Simmons became the first rookie since Magic Johnson to drop a triple-double in a playoff game and Embiid fought through a poor shooting game and an irritating protective mask to spook any Heat player that challenged him at the rim. It was the Sixers who made all the right plays in the final crucial moments in the 106-102 win, getting key stops and buckets and pulling away, a team with a young core turning mature, and doing it rapidly, despite their lack of post-season experience. And having a front-row seat to this new Process was none other than Wade, a proud if aging member of the extinct Big Three who realizes something unique is happening with the Sixers. “This is a very good team,” said Wade. “They’ve got talent at almost every position. This is definitely one of the best first-round opponents I’ve played in my career.” Are the Sixers all that, already? “They’re good,” said Wade. “They’re special. They put the right team together.” Yes, they have. Maybe it wasn’t properly done in the spirit of competition, and perhaps they embarrassed themselves if not the league while doing so, but that’s all behind the Sixers right now. What’s ahead of them is a potential series-clinching Game 5 in Philly and from there, who knows? Yes, the core of the Sixers is Simmons, Embiid and Dario Saric, all under 25, and in the playing rotation only JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli earned any significant playoff money. But if a young team is ever going to reach the NBA Finals, this is the right time, and this is the right team. Just look at the wide-open landscape in the East: LeBron and the Cavaliers, winners of the last three East titles, are down 2-1 to the Pacers and haven’t appeared this fragile since LeBron returned to Cleveland. The Celtics are missing Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Toronto is the No. 1 seed in the East but inspires few outside Canada. Why not the Sixers? Why not now? Simmons is lacking a jump shot and little else, and still manages to score anyway. His direction of the club in the fourth quarter of Game 4 was near-masterful; Simmons stayed poised, found the open man and popped the Heat’s comeback hopes with an uncontested dunk when Miami pulled within a point. Embiid couldn’t hit a shot and yet didn’t fall into a funk; rather he terrorized Miami by being a defensive force, punctuated by his spike of a Goran Dragic late-fourth quarter breakaway layup attempt (followed by an Embiid stare down). “They make you pay every time you make a mistake,” said Wade. Speaking of which, the Sixers had 27 turnovers, certainly the recipe for disaster, and still found a way. In the words of coach Brett Brown: “I’m surprised we won this game. We really didn’t have any right to win this game.” But maybe it’s just additional proof that this is Philly’s time. It’s quite a contrast to the ex-bully on the block. Four years after LeBron made the second biggest decision of his life, the Heat are still searching for the identity they had when the champagne flowed, and the party rolled on South Beach. The only reminder is Wade, and at age 36 he’s only capable of having flashes now, like his 28 points in Game 2 and an impressive 25-point follow up Saturday that was marred only by a missed free throw in the final seconds. Besides that, there’s nothing special. Pat Riley’s latest attempt to recreate a winner is looking dubious right now. Riley decided two summers ago to build the Heat around a seven-foot center with low post-skills, which means Riley gave a $100 million to a dinosaur. And one with a decaying relationship with coach Erik Spoelstra. Hassan Whiteside can’t get on the floor in today’s NBA, where small-ball makes him a liability in certain situations. With no shooting range, and perhaps no incentive to develop one, Whiteside finds himself on the bench in fourth quarters and on the nerves of Spoelstra. “He’s a prisoner of the style of play,” said Brown. Plus: Riley also paid Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson and Kelly Olynyk. Which means the Heat are almost guaranteed to be a 43-win team fighting for the final playoff spot for the next few years. When the Heat searched for someone to bail them out Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), who did they turn to? An aging All-Star who’s on the downside, which says something about Wade … and the Heat’s roster. “He ended up being our best option,” said Spoelstra. There’s another path the Heat can take, of course. They could follow the current Hawks, Nets, Lakers and Magic, who all took their cues from the 2014 Sixers, and take a few steps back before moving forward. But that’s not a fool-proof plan — have you seen the Magic the last few years? — and besides, losing by any means isn’t in Riley’s DNA. So, mediocrity it is, then. Meanwhile, the Sixers have Embiid and Simmons and if you ask fans in Philly, they’d say it was well worth the steep price, in terms of the misery of tanking, paid for them. “They’re two players that have the chance to be great,” said Brown. “Joel has no right to be doing some of the things he does. Ben’s composure down the stretch is amazing. Those two are exceptional.” What the Sixers just did was win a pair in Miami, under the banners that hung over them, was fly in the face of basketball convention which says youth doesn’t get served in the post-season. They can close out at home and then get the survivor of Celtics-Bucks, and Philly can expect to be the favorite in that conference semifinal. “I can see how much we’ve grown and how much more room we have to grow,” said Brown. “To come here and get a win, in this building, against an organization of winning and culture and history, it’s special.” There’s another story here: If the Sixers eliminate the Heat, then it could be curtains for Wade, who doesn’t have a contract for next season, who hasn’t committed to playing beyond this season, and who paused suspiciously for about three seconds when asked if Saturday was his final game in Miami. “I don’t want to answer that right now,” he said. Whether he sticks around or takes the sunset cruise, Wade must realize that a transformation is taking place in the East. After years of deliberately bad basketball the Sixers are finally bearing fruit, and oh, speaking of food, Wade and the Heat can chew on this for a minute: The Sixers have room under the salary cap to give Embiid and Simmons some help next season. LeBron James, free agent-to-be, might reach the conclusion that the Sixers are his best championship option. 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 NewsApr 22nd, 2018

Nicklaus cautions from experience against a Masters letdown

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press Tiger Woods built his comeback around the Masters, as was the case even in healthier years. He took a step back at Augusta National, not breaking par until the final round and finishing 16 shots behind Patrick Reed, the most he has trailed the Masters winner. Woods wasn't alone in his disappointment. Jordan Spieth geared his early part of the year toward being ready for the Masters, the major he says he most wants to win. He had a two-shot lead after the first round, and rounds of 74-71 meant even that closing 64 wasn't enough. Phil Mickelson took himself out of the hunt with a 79 in the second round. Jack Nicklaus can understand how they feel, and his message for anyone who puts so much emphasis on a green jacket is that the show goes on. "I had to learn that there were other tournaments in the country after Augusta," Nicklaus said at the Masters after hitting the ceremonial first tee shot. "I played Augusta a lot of times and lost. I won in '63, '65 and '66, and I just expected to win every year. I thought I would just continue to do that." Nicklaus missed the cut in 1967. He says that started a three-year trend in which it took him longer than it should have to get over not winning the Masters. "That was a humbling experience to miss the cut after you've won it twice in a row," he said. "But then the next couple of years, I think that it probably destroyed the rest of my year. Because I was so disappointed at not winning at Augusta that I had a downer most of the year." There's some truth to that. He didn't go more than two tournaments before winning again after the 1963, 1964 and 1965 Masters. After he repeated at Augusta in 1966, he ran off five consecutive top fives before winning the British Open at Muirfield to complete the career Grand Slam. But after missing the cut in 1967, he went five tournaments without winning and had one stretch of 10 straight rounds in which he failed to break 70. The following year when he tied for fifth at the Masters, Nicklaus didn't win again until the Western Open the first weekend in August. And after a tie for 23rd in the 1969 Masters, he didn't win again until the Sahara Invitational in October. "I put such a buildup to this tournament and the importance of winning that first major that it was to my detriment more times than a positive," he said. Nicklaus figured it out. Over the next four years, he never went more than three events after the Masters before winning again. Twice, in 1971 and 1973, he won in his next start after failing to win the Masters. CURTIS CUP Four years after Lucy Li qualified for the U.S. Women's Open at age 11, the Californian is headed to her first Curtis Cup. Li was among eight women selected for the June 8-10 matches against amateurs from Britain and Ireland at Quaker Ridge in New York. Li is the first 15-year-old to make the American team since Lexi Thompson in 2010. The other Americans selected for the team are UCLA star Lilia Vu, Andrea Lee, Jennifer Kupcho, Kristen Gillman, U.S. Women's Amateur champion Sophia Schubert, Lauren Stephenson and Mariel Galdiano. Lee and Galdiano played in the most recent Curtis Cup, which Britain & Ireland won in Ireland. AS THE WORLD TURNS For the second time since the World Golf Championships began in 1999, the PGA Tour is converting one of its regular tournaments into one of the four WGCs with a big purse ($10 million this year) and a limited field with no cut. Doral had been longest-running PGA Tour event on the Florida Swing until it morphed into the WGC-CA Championship in 2007. Now it's happening in Memphis, Tennessee. Bridgestone chose not to renew its increasingly expensive title sponsorship of the WGC at Firestone, which had hosted an elite event since 1976. Starting next year, the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational will move to the TPC Southwind in Memphis. That will assure the strongest field for Memphis, which dates to 1958. But much like Doral in 2007, it becomes off-limits to PGA Tour regulars. Based on this week's world ranking, only 16 players in the field for the St. Jude Classic last year would be eligible at a World Golf Championship. BALANCE AT THE TOP Each generation believes it had stronger and deeper competition, though there at least appears to be more balance. Perhaps one way to measure that is through Tiger Woods. When he won the 2008 U.S. Open for his 14th major, only seven other players in the top 20 in the world ranking had combined for 13 majors. Phil Mickelson (No. 2), Ernie Els (No. 5) and Vijay Singh (No. 9), each had three majors. Geoff Ogilvy (No. 4), Jim Furyk (No. 10), Padraig Harrington (No. 13) and Trevor Immelman (No. 15) each had one. Just like then, four of the top five in the world have won majors (all but 23-year-old Jon Rahm). However, 12 of the top 20 in the world from this week's rankings have won majors. The top 20 includes Mickelson (now with five majors), Rory McIlroy (four majors), Jordan Spieth (three majors) and Bubba Watson (two majors). Eight other players have won at least one major. It's certainly younger at the top. Woods was 32 when he won his last major, and only three players from the top 10 were in their 20s — Scott, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. This week, seven of the top 10 in the world are in their 20s. MANAGEMENT MOVES Jordan Spieth's manager has come full circle and is returning to IMG, and Jay Danzi is bringing his top client with him. Danzi has become a partner with California-based William Morris Endeavor, which owns IMG. Included in the move is Jordan Lewites, who was handling much of Spieth's day-to-day operations, and Laura Moses, who heads up Spieth's foundation. Spieth will be represented by WME and IMG. "Jordan is a world-class talent, and we're excited to welcome him to the family," said Patrick Whitesell, executive chairman of Endeavor. "When you look at what he and Jay have already accomplished and consider WME and IMG's ability to amplify Jordan's reach across entertainment and sports, the possibilities are endless." Danzi previously worked for IMG as global head of recruiting for its golf business. He left the Cleveland-based agency for Wasserman, and then started his own company (Forefront Sports Group) when he signed Spieth. The centerpiece of getting Spieth was a bold endorsement with Under Armour. Lagardere bought Forefront in 2013. Along with managing the three-time major champion, Danzi was in charge of Lagardere's brand consulting, sales and golf consulting groups. He left Lagardere last month. DIVOTS Ted Potter Jr. tied for 16th in the RBC Heritage, notable because he had missed his last five cuts dating to his victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. ... Satoshi Kodaira was the first player without PGA Tour status to win a regular PGA Tour event since Arjun Atwal at the Wyndham Championship in 2010. ... Cameron Smith, a 24-year-old from Australia, tied for 32nd at Hilton Head last week and moved past Jack Nicklaus on the PGA Tour career money list. ... Bryson DeChambeau moved into the top 50 in the world ranking for the first time, at No. 48. ... With his tie for fifth in the Masters, Bubba Watson became the 16th player to surpass $40 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour. STAT OF THE WEEK Rickie Fowler has been in the top 10 on the leaderboard in 20 out of the 32 rounds he has played this season. FINAL WORD "I will probably not wear it every day. But it is special." — Satoshi Kodaira on the tartan jacket he received for winning at Harbour Town......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 18th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: 2018 pre-playoffs predictions

NBA.ph blogtable 1) Which first-round series in the West is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: For sure it’s Portland-New Orleans. I love Damian Lillard’s game, but the Pels are a really tough bunch with a lot of weapons, even sans Boogie Cousins. Jusuf Nurkic will have a really tough time containing AD; that’s one reason this has a high potential for an upset! Migs Bustos: The Jazz and Thunder matchup. It's a tale of upward momentum versus inconsistency. The Jazz have won seven out of their last 10 games, and OKC are 5-5 in their last 10. With how the Jazz are playing great team basketball, led by super rookie, Donovan Mitchell, they have a great chance of upsetting the erratic OKC Thunder. If maganda ang gising ng Utah for four games, may tulog ang OKC sa kanila. Marco Benitez: I think the Thunder-Jazz series is the one where most likely we will see an upset. The Thunder experiment of Westbrook-George-Anthony has been up and down all season, while the Jazz are a well-coached team anchored on a great defensive presence in Gobert. The Thunder win if Westbrook dominates the game and Adams is able to neutralize Gobert. But if OKC becomes stagnant on offense and their usual selves defensively, then the Jazz can wreck havoc on this matchup. Favian Pua: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans: In order for the Pelicans to stun the Blazers, Anthony Davis must cement his status as the best player on both ends of the floor throughout the series. A Playoff Rondo sighting paired with the feisty defense of Jrue Holiday should stymie the backcourt attack of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Adrian Dy: If it turns out Kawhi Leonard was just saving himself for a postseason run, then the Spurs would absolutely wreck the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors. Barring such a comeback though, I'm riding high on the Pelicans. The Blazers don't have the bigs to even slow down Davis, and the Jrue Holiday + Playoffs Rajon Rondo combo could make things really tough for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum 2) Which first-round series in the East is most likely to see an upset result (lower seed beating higher seed)? Enzo Flojo: Don’t look past the veteran-laden Miami Heat. Philadelphia is by far the deeper team, sure, but if Embiid is hampered by his injury and both D-Wade and Goran Dragic have their way, Miami can push the Sixers to the distance and an upset may not be that surprising. Also, coach Spo shines in 7-game series! Migs Bustos: In the East, it's a bit more challenging. We all know about the success of the Sixers this season; no matter what seed Lebron's team is, it will be hard to upset them; the Raptors have been long consistent at the number 1 spot all season. So, the best bet would be the Bucks overthrowing home court advantage. And this is because Kyrie is out of the season. It's just up to Giannis and Co. to take advantage of that disadvantage by the Celtics to pull through. Marco Benitez: The plague of injuries to the Boston Celtics really hurt their chances of contending in the East, much less win a championship this season. Without Kyrie, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are vulnerable against the Greek Freak-led Bucks, who are long and talented. With that being said, Boston is still an extremely well-coached, albeit young team, and Giannis will have to be the best player on the floor for most of the series for the inconsistent Bucks to pull off the upset. Favian Pua: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat: Though the Sixers are rolling into the playoffs, only J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli can boast of a legitimate postseason resume. Led by All-Star Goran Dragic, the Heat are an unrelenting unit of two-way veterans who can both muck it up inside and bait opponents into a long-range shootout. Joel Embiid’s uncertain status will force Sixers head coach Brett Brown to find a counter for Hassan Whiteside. Adrian Dy: Though I have the 76ers advancing, it wouldn't surprise me if the Heat shut down Ben Simmons and shut up Joel Embiid. Erik Spoelstra has a knack for getting the best out of his squads, Dwyane Wade could have some clutch moments, and if the aforementioned Embiid doesn't return as soon as expected, South Beach could be singing after round one. 3) Which team that missed the playoffs has the best shot at making it next season? Enzo Flojo: I’d love to say Denver, but their being in the West really makes their window tight. That’s why I’m picking the Detroit Pistons, who have enough talent to make quite a big impact in the East, especially if their big names (e.g. Drummond, Griffin, Jackson) all stay put and stay healthy! Migs Bustos: To be honest, there are not much compelling story lines on teams that barely missed the playoffs this year. There's nothing like one of the most recent examples -- the Heat's 2016-2017 season where they made a late season run but just missed it at .500 (41-41), or how about Phoenix having a winning record at 48-34 in the 2013-2014 season missing out? The 16 teams were more or less 'predicted' to make the postseason this year so there wasn't a big surprise. Marco Benitez: I think a healthy Memphis Grizzlies team, with Conley, Gasol, Parsons and Tyreke Evans (assuming all are still with the Grizzlies next season) will be a lock to make the playoffs after a disappointing 22-60 win-loss record this season that saw a season-ending surgery for Conley happen in late January. Favian Pua: The Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic and his ragtag bunch of scorers were an overtime loss away against the Minnesota Timberwolves from getting their first taste of the postseason. To do so, the Nuggets will need to handle their business and take care of bottom-feeders, as it was backbreaking losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks in March that prevented them from securing an outright playoff berth. Adrian Dy: The Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki will likely want to go out with a bang, Rick Carlisle is still a really good coach, Dennis Smith Jr. is a fantastic attacking guard, and if the lotto balls bounce the right way, they could return to the upper echelon of the West. 4) Which team that made these playoffs has the biggest chance of missing it next season? Enzo Flojo: It may sound crazy, but the Spurs are at great risk for next season. Kawhi continues to be a huge question mark and their veterans will get even older in 2018-2019. They nearly didn’t make it this year, and next year could be the tipping point! Migs Bustos: I'd have to go with the San Antonio Spurs. No doubt all of the other teams are on the up-swing, and they all boast of youth. If Kahwi does not play for the Spurs next season, expect younger teams with great potential like the Nuggets and Lakers to overtake SAS. Marco Benitez: Depending on what happens in terms of offseason trades, and assuming that the rest of the Western Conference regains full strength next season, the two teams I feel have the biggest chance of missing the playoffs next season are Miami and New Orleans. For Miami, DWade is not getting any younger, and Hassan Whiteside has not been at a consistent All-Star level all season. With Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond getting a full year under their belt in Detroit and Kristaps Porzingis back at full strength in New York, I see Miami as the most likely team to get bumped off in the East next season. For New Orleans, the Davis-Cousins experiment did not necessarily turn them into a legitimate playoff contender in the West, and when Cousins fell to injury, they've had to rely on AD to carry them almost entirely on his shoulders. With the ultra competitive West getting healthier next season, unless the Pels are able to get better on the wings -- assuming of course Cousins doesn't bolt in the offseason -- they may find themselves out of the playoffs. Favian Pua: Cleveland Cavaliers. Hinging on the premise that LeBron James bolts for the Sixers or Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this offseason, the Cavaliers are headed for a massive nosedive towards the number one pick in the 2019 draft. No other team has more to lose than the Cavaliers this postseason, and it is highly probable that winning the title is the only way The King stays in The Land. Adrian Dy: If we get another round of LeBron James free agency sweepstakes, and he winds up getting the Banana Boat Gang together in Houston, it's hard to see the Cleveland Cavaliers being competitive, let alone back in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Should that happen, I'd expect them to trade guys like Kevin Love, and hope that lotto luck favors them anew. 5) Which team is your early favorite to win it all? Enzo Flojo: Despite all the injuries and all their inconsistencies, the Warriors are still my odds-on fave to win it all. They have four big time playoff performers, and they know this is where their real season begins. Migs Bustos: Don't count out the Warriors. Even though they have been plagued with injuries towards the end of the season, the Dubs will hope that they will be healthy in time and turn 'on' the button with their championship experience Marco Benitez: Still the Warriors. Although they'll be without Steph in the first round, I foresee the same dominant Dubs starting the second round all the way to the Finals. The regular season has been a bit of a drag for them this season, and I believe that's why we haven't seen the same Warriors squad as that of past years. But come playoffs, there's no reason why the defending champs don't get locked in; and when they do, frankly, there's still no better team in the league than Golden State. Favian Pua: The Houston Rockets. The playoffs is all about trimming the fat in the roster and letting star power take over in the biggest moments. In James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets will always have at least one elite shot creator and facilitator on the court for all 48 minutes. Flanked by capable three-point shooters and wing defenders acquired specifically to neutralize the Golden State Warriors’ juggernaut, Clutch City is on track for its first Larry O’Brien trophy since 1995. Adrian Dy: Yes the defending champions are banged-up and looked uninterested as the regular season wound down, but now that it's winning time, I expect the Warriors to do their thing, although there's no way it'll be as smooth as their 16-1 romp last season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

Are the Sixers too young for playoff success?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The learning curve of the Philadelphia 76ers has taken on a new, more direct and simpler geometric shape. It’s now a straight line, pulled and yanked that way by an impatient team determined to take the expressway from now on. And so this is where The Process has led them, to the NBA playoffs, a place exclusively reserved for Big Boy Basketball, where we get to see if the Sixers will skip another floor in their rapid developmental rise or if youth is about to get served a lesson. Hey, if nothing else, it beats wiping away the stench of losing, which is what coach Brett Brown was doing this time the last few years before this club finally grew up and as we now see, blew up. "This year we exceeded 50 wins and when you do that, you get into NBA elite territory which is something different for us,” he said. “But what’s interesting is we want more. We have more room to grow and we want to do that now.” Yes, the Sixers, finally sprung free of the dark ages, have crashed the annual spring show and are doing so rather emphatically in addition to surprisingly. Surely you saw this coming this quickly, no? On Christmas Eve they were 14-18. Their sensational big man, Joel Embiid, was getting the kid glove treatment, rarely playing extended minutes or consecutive games because of his brittle injury history. Their top draft pick, Markelle Fultz, was out with a bad shoulder and a broken jumper. Obviously, they’d just emerged from their four years of Tankapalooza with the trepidation of a chick stumbling from the nest. And quite simply, four months ago they just weren’t good enough to be lumped with the lead pack. Yet. But since then, what the hell just happened? “This group has come together from a toughness standpoint, a spirit standpoint,” Brown said. To say the least. The Sixers are 50-game winners, with a strong Kia Rookie of the Year candidate in Ben Simmons and a top-10 talent in Embiid, whose orbital injury that cost him the final eight regular season games should be healed for the playoffs at some point. Everything has fallen into place to make Philly a basketball destination once again, and these Sixers find themselves in a unique situation heading into the weekend. That’s because the playoff landscape in the East is favorable for someone like Philly to pull a surprise or two. Can they last a round? Of course; they’ll be a favorite initially. How about reaching the Eastern Conference finals? That’s trickier, and it’ll come down to matchups, but stranger things have happened. And, the NBA Finals? Well. Consider that there’s no true beast taking up space in the East and sending shivers everywhere. All of the contenders are showing a scratch or two: Toronto brings a blah playoff history; some of LeBron James’ supporting cast in Cleveland is untested; the Celtics are without Kyrie Irving, not to mention Gordon Hayward. The Sixers are the wild card in the playoff picture. Their wart is their inexperience in these matters. And so: Are they too young to be taken seriously? “I understand why people might think that, but I think we’ll be fine,” said JJ Redick, the resident senior citizen at age 33. “I don’t expect any of us to play differently than we have lately. These young guys are all gamers.” The Sixers are uniquely built; their twin core of Simmons and Embiid has played a combined three NBA seasons. Redick is the only starter with playoff experience and is also the only player in the rotation who ever played a major role in the playoffs. The Sixers are cubs compared to most of the East, even those teams below them. Essentially, the veterans on the Sixers orbit around the youngsters, instead of vice versa. Brown regularly takes the temperature of his players and has yet to pause at the results he’s seeing. For the most part, this has worked out better than he and they expected. “At this stage you figure how you deliver a team to the playoffs, how do you arrive at the playoffs,” Brown said. “Well, you can check three boxes: Their health, their spirit and their form. And finally: Are they playing good basketball? They’re all very interconnected, they’re all closely intertwined. Those things rule my day when I watch film and see how hard and long we’re going to go in practice. These guys have embraced and improved in those areas. Our defense has been excellent and we’re regularly getting 30 assists as a team, another example of a team enjoying each other’s company.” This makes for an interesting postseason baptism. There’s hope in Philly that Simmons and Embiid and Robert Covington and Dario Saric won’t know the difference between March basketball and May basketball. “We’ll just come and play the same way we’ve been doing,” Simmons said. The other advantage for Philly is Simmons appears well beyond his years. His expression is stoic, no matter the game circumstances, and his poise has yet to shatter memorably and cost the Sixers when it counts. He’s giving 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists a night and had at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in 58 games, second only to Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He is the first rookie in NBA history to average eight assists on a 50-win team. It remains to be seen how a 56-percent free throw shooter will respond if he’s put in that situation with the game on the line. Otherwise, his court direction and ability to reach the rim should not suffer from springtime stage fright. “Ben sits behind a glass wall and watches everyone else on the other side,” Redick said. “There’s nothing that affects him. He plays with the same demeanor and purpose no matter what’s going on around him. He brings a calm presence, and the maturity he plays with is beyond his years. Impressive.” Brown said: “He’s the stone cold Rookie of the Year and to me it’s not even close.” Philly’s best player is Embiid, though, and he’ll play with a mask once he does return, perhaps sometime in the first round. If he doesn’t suffer any lasting effects from the facial injury (vision, lack of balance), he’ll be the premier big man on the floor in the East. This allows the Sixers to exploit their low-post advantage over the Celtics, Raptors and Cavs should Philly meet any of those contenders along the way. The Sixers are also working with a pair of bonuses in Fultz and Ersan Ilyasova, two players they didn’t anticipate being in the playoff mix just a few months ago. Fultz is finally free of his shoulder woes and his shooting is starting to come around, to the point where Brown says he’ll find a role for Fultz in the rotation. Basically, the Sixers feel safe enough to put him on the floor, something that would’ve been a reach before he was activated, when he showed a nasty mechanical hitch in a jumper that somehow went south on him. “We don’t feel we’re going to be caught off guard with him,” Brown said. Ilyasova was gift-wrapped to Philly by the Hawks at midseason and has since been a solid source of scoring (17 points in a two-point win over Cleveland last week) and deepened the Sixers’ bench, allowing Brown to use a variety of different lineups and strategies. In all, the manner in which the season has come together is paying off at the right time for Philly. “We didn’t have this level of maturity in November and December,” Redick said. “If you look at some of our losses early in the season I felt they were immature losses. We’re more focused, more together, developed a mental toughness. Sometimes in life and in this league you have to go through things and experience things to grasp how to do them. There’s no better learning tool than the actual experience. So blowing a lead or coming back from a large halftime deficit, you have to do those things to understand that you can do it. Having those lessons early in the season has prepared us to have a great run since Christmas; we have the second best record in the league since then. This is better than what I expected or even hoped for. It’s been a long sustained growth period.” What does it all mean? Well, even though they’re entering the playoffs with the force of a hurricane, this isn’t the NCAA tournament. This is best-of-seven basketball, which means a team must prove itself worthy of moving on, instead of hoping to get lucky or hot. In the case of Philly and others in the East, that means beating LeBron four times in a series, and that hasn’t happened since 2010. You could also make the case the Sixers are playing with house money at this point, no matter what happens; after enduring The Process and painful progress, this is a blessing, a reward. The Sixers aren’t seeing it that way, though, not after growing up in a hurry. They want to seize the opportunity now, and any playoff success will largely depend on how they handle this as first-timers. Your guess is as good as Brown’s. “You really don’t know what to expect,” Brown said. “There’s no body of work. I will give our guys the benefit of the doubt. The poise they have shown in the regular season, the poise they’ve shown in big games and key moments, gives me tremendous confidence that we will handle this stage with a greater level of poise than what I might have guessed in October, or what I might have guessed not so long ago if you asked me questions about how will rookies and young guys handle this very different part of the season.” 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 NewsApr 11th, 2018

Meet the Malditas: See who’s wearing the Philippines’ colors at the Women’s AFC Asian Cup in Jordan

As the Philippine Women’s National Team begins their quest for a first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup berth by going through the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, we thought it would be proper to get to know at least a bit about the 23 ladies that will be representing the country in Amman, Jordan.   Patrice Impelido - Captain/Midfielder Captaining the Malditas will be 30-year old Patrice Impelido. The Sydney, Australia-born midfielder played collegiate football in Western Michigan and had her first call-up to the national squad in 2005, and has appeared in 28 matches for the country.   Tahnai Annis - Co-Captain/Midfielder Tahnai Annis will be sharing captain duties with Impelido as they try to lead the Malditas to a 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup berth. The 28-year old Annis played for the University of Florida in college and played professionally in Iceland for Thor.   Inna Palacios - Goalkeeper A familiar name among UAAP women’s football fans, Inna Palacios was the defensive anchor for the DLSU women’s football team from 2013 to 2017. A two-time UAAP Beast Goalkeeper, Palacios ended her UAAP career on the highest of high notes: with UAAP championship and her lone collegiate goal. GOAL DLSU! Palacios seals the match for La Salle! #UAAPSeason79 pic.twitter.com/vblv7OmaLC — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) May 7, 2017 Palacios made her women’s national team debut back in 2012.   Kearra Bastes-Jones - Goalkeeper Kearra Bastes-Jones is a junior out of Bishop Amat High School in California, and was recently named to the 2018 San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, Whittier Daily News Girls Soccer All-Area First Team.   Stacey Cavill - Goalkeeper 24-year old Fil-Aussie Stacey Cavill plays for the Perth-based Beckenham Angels, and played for Northern University in the collegiate ranks. The six-foot-tall keeper has been playing football since the tender age of 5.   Claire Lim - Defender 21-year old Claire Lim is currently a senior in UC Santa Cruz, where she’s also the captain of the Women’s Soccer team. Based in Piedmont, California, Lim was a decorated football player during her time in Piedmont High, before becoming a two-time Defender of the Year in College.   Alesa Dolino - Defender Another homegrown talent from the UAAP ranks, Alesa Dolino is a decorated product of the FEU system, instrumental in helping the Lady Tamaraws to a three-peat. In UAAP Season 77, Dolino capped off a magical season with a championship, an MVP trophy, as well as Best Defender and Best Striker honors.    Krystal De Ramos - Midfielder Also a decorated player during her youth career, US-based Filipina Krystal de Ramos was named to a number of all-tournament teams as well as earning a handful of championships and MVP honors. The 21-year old is currently a member of the Portland State University women’s football team. She made her National Team debut back in 2016 and has appeared in three matches for the Philippines.   Hali Long - Defender   23-year old Hali Long was a pivotal part in the Malditas’ AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers run, scoring four of her five international goals in just two matches. The Missouri-based Fil-American played her college career for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, playing four seasons with the Trojans.   Morgan Brown - Defender A defensive ace during her high school days, Morgan Brown made her international football debut back in 2013 as part of the 2014 Asian Cup qualifiers squad. The same year, Brown was one of the top women’s football recruits at the Santa Clara University in California.   Cam Rodriguez - Striker A star striker for the Ateneo de Manila Lady Eagles back in her college days, Cam Rodriguez earned Best Striker honors in UAAP Season 77 and Mythical XI honors in her senior year. In 2011, at just 14 years old, Rodriguez made her National Team debut and scored her first goal in the AFF Women’s Championships. In 2017, after taking time off to focus on her education, Rodriguez returned to the National Team in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games.   Marisa Park - Midfielder Wake Forest University product Marisa Park helped lead her Demon Deacons to the ACC Championship in 2010, in the same year that she was named as part of the ACC All-Tournament team. The 26-year old made her Malditas debut back in 2013 for the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers.   Jesse Shugg - Forward Fil-Canadian Jesse Shugg finished her collegiate career in the University of Miami, before making her professional debut for KW United in the USL W-League in Canada. Shugg is currently signed to Icelandic club Fylkir. The 25-year old has appeared for the Philippine Women’s National Team eight times since her international debut back in 2014.   Caitlyn Kreutz - Forward California native Caitlyn Kreutz has left an impact in every level she’s played on. From gathering individual honors in High School to earning All-Tournament teams in her two years with Cal Poly, the 21-year old is now wrapping her collegiate career up at UNLV, where she’s started in all 20 matches she’s played so far. Kreutz made her Malditas debut back in 2016 as part of the AFF Championships squad.   Ryley Bugay - Midfielder Currently a junior at Marquette University, Ryley Bugay led her Golden Eagles Women’s Soccer team in minutes played, also earning Defensive MVP honors on the Marquette Invitational Team. Her younger sister Sammi has also recently signed with Marquette.   Leah Larot - Forward A graduate of Sacramento State University, Leah Larot capped off her senior season with an All-Conference First Team nod, as well as the Golden Boot after scoring ten goals in the season.   Sara Castañeda - Midfielder A UAAP Rookie of the Year, Best Midfielder and UAAP Champion, Sara Castañeda was one of the integral parts of the Lady Archers’ championship run in UAAP Season 79 and established herself as a key player for DLSU in just her sophomore season. The 21-year old has also had stints in the U-16 and U-19 teams before making her senior National Team debut back in 2015.   Alexa Diaz - Defender Washington-based Alexa Diaz played collegiate football for Seattle Pacific University. The 24-year old made her Malditas debut in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games.   Calah Simarago - Defender 22-year old Cali-based Calah Simarago is a senior at UC Santa Barbara, where she plays for the Gauchos Women’s Soccer team.   Quinley Quezada - Midfielder Rosemead, California’s Quinley Quezada is currently a junior at UC Riverside and is coming off a 2017 season that saw her start in 17 of 20 matches played. Quezada becomes the first member of the UC Riverside Women’s Soccer program history to be called up to a senior World Cup Qualifying roster.   Jessica Miclat - Midfielder 19- year old UC Irvine sophomore Jessica Miclat is one of the youngest players on the team, but has a ton of experience under her belt, having been part of the USA U-18 training camp, as well as training stints with the Philippine U-16 and U-19 teams.   Chalise Baysa - Defender The most senior member of the team, 37-year old Chalise Baysa played her collegiate career at the University of Oregon, where she’s in the history books as the third all-time leading scorer with 31 goals. In the professional ranks, Baysa played for the Seattle Sounders Women. She made her Philippine Team debut back in 2013.   Sarina Bolden - Midfielder 22-year old Sarina Bolden is a junior at Loyola Marymount University, where as a sophomore, she was one of five players to start in all 19 matches. The Milipitas native led LMU with six goals in 2016    .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 6th, 2018