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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

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Middle 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

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

Jokic s triple-double leads Nuggets past Suns 119-91

By ARNIE STAPLETON,  AP Sports Writer DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored 35 points, posted a triple-double and didn't miss a field goal in leading the Denver Nuggets past the Phoenix Suns 119-91 Saturday night (Sunday PHL time). Jokic, who had 10 assists and 10 rebounds, joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to post a triple-double with 30 or more points without missing a field goal. Chamberlain did it twice, in 1966 and '67. Jokic made all 11 of his shots from the floor and missed just one of 11 free throws on a night the crowd serenaded him with chants of "MVP! MVP!" Jamal Murray added 26 points for the Nuggets, who are off to their first 2-0 start since 2011-12 and will go for their first 3-0 start since 2009-10 when they host the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Sunday night. They'll be without starting forward Will Barton, who injured his right hip on a reverse layup in the third quarter and was wheeled off the court in obvious distress. Devin Booker's 25 points led the Suns. Barton's injury took some air out of the Pepsi Center, where Jokic stretched Denver's 65-49 halftime lead to 81-59 on a dunk, which was followed by a 3-pointer from Murray for a 25-point lead midway through the third quarter. The intriguing matchup between Jokic and top overall draft pick Deandre Ayton down low never really materialized. Ayton, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in his debut against Dallas, scored 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting. Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov knew it was going to be a learning experience as his prized rookie worked against Jokic. "He makes everybody else better. He's a tricky player. He's going to try to sell a lot of tricks to Deandre," Kokoskov said before tipoff. "Deandre has to play smart. He has to play to his strengths, his energy and high motor. He also has to match all of his tricks." He didn't come close, and neither did the Suns. TIP-INS: Suns: Phoenix was without G Troy Daniels, who sustained a concussion at practice. "It was a contact practice, guys were scrimmaging and it happened right in front of me," Kokoskov said. "It didn't look that hard but he didn't pass the test. He's in concussion protocol and he's expected to come back in a few days." Nuggets: Denver was 31-10 at home last season, fourth-best in the NBA. ... Murray tried to get too fancy on a steal and layup and was stripped when he tried to go behind his back before scoring. ... The Nuggets' second string kept letting the Suns back in the game as Phoenix's big runs came when Denver's starters were getting breathers on the bench. The Nuggets were outscored 13-2 at the end of the third quarter and saw their lead go from 25 to 13. UP NEXT Suns: visit Golden State Warriors on Monday night. Nuggets: host Golden State Warriors on Sunday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News20 min. ago

ONE Championship: Eduard Folayang relishing opportunity to train in US

For the last month or so, former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang has been putting in work in one of the most renowned mixed martial arts gyms in the world, the Jackson-Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  There, Folayang has been able to work with the likes of world champion producing mentors like Greg Jackson, Mike Winklejohn, and Brandon Gibson, as well was train with the likes of world-class MMA stars such as Carlos Condit, Holly Holm, Diego Sanchez, Michelle Waterson, and more.          View this post on Instagram                   One thing can change everything. A win. A loss. A smart decision. A bad review. A season of success. A season of failure. The color of your skin. According to the world, at least, it seems that one thing can determine who u are-or make u question it. #TimTebow Learning from the great @gregjacksonmma #jacksonwinkmma #teamlakay2018 #onechampionship @the.landslide @jayanthony714 A post shared by Eduard Landslide Folayang (@the.landslide) on Sep 7, 2018 at 1:10pm PDT           View this post on Instagram                   Selfie with the “natural born killer” @carloscondit to wrap the day😉 @jacksonwink_mma @onechampionship @the.landslide A post shared by Eduard Landslide Folayang (@the.landslide) on Aug 28, 2018 at 6:19pm PDT            View this post on Instagram                   “The Preacher’s daughter” @hollyholm #jacksonwinkmma #landslide2018 #albuquerque #newmexico #roadtoredemption @jayanthony714 A post shared by Eduard Landslide Folayang (@the.landslide) on Sep 13, 2018 at 11:42am PDT A proud representative of the Benguet-based Team Lakay stable - which has been regarded as one of the best MMA teams in Asia - Folayang has relished the opportunity of being able to learn and train in one of the most decorated gyms in the world.  The Jackson-Wink MMA Academy of course, has also been home to world champions such as Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, and many others.  "It was a good experience, I learned a lot of things, especially in the areas where we are still growing and learning, like the wrestling and the ground game." Folayang shared with ABS-CBN's Steve Angeles.  "Of course we also sharpened my striking." added Folayang, who's known for his thunderous punches, kicks, and elbows.  "Napaka-ganda, nabu-boost yung confidence, lalo na pag nakikipag-sabayan ka sa training sa mga nakikita mo na mga malalaki yung pangalan sa MMA, and you experience na makipag-laro sa mga nandito, so it’s really a big experience and a big learning lesson for me." he added.  Considered as the face of Philippine MMA, Folayang has been competing in MMA professionally since 2007, getting his start in the Philippine-based promotion URCC. Folayang was also one of the pioneer members of the Singaporean-based Asian MMA juggernaut ONE Championship, which held their first event in 2011, with Folayang as one of the featured stars.  In 2016, five years after debuting for the promotion, Folayang finally captured the ONE Championship Lightweight World title, defeating Japanese MMA legend and long-time champion Shinya Aoki via third-round TKO.  Folayang would defend the title successfully once, before losing to Martin Nguyen just a day shy of a year after winning the championship.  Since then, Folayang has bounced back impressively, picking up two consecutive wins against a pair of tough, unbeaten Russian grapplers.  The 33-year old Folayang is considered as one of the top contenders in the lightweight division, and could be next in line to challenge Nguyen for the title.  While there's no word yet on what's next for the Team Lakay star, Folayang maintains that it's best to be prepared just in case the call for a world title shot comes once again.  "I’m hoping that I can be able to regain what I had lost, so the best thing to do right now is to prepare, fix those areas where I lack, and sharpen those areas where I am strong." Folayang said. "Yun naman yung pinaka-the best na gagawin kasi wala pa naman yung schedule, hindi natin alam kung kailan darating yung schedule, pero ang pinaka-maganda ay handang-handa tayo whenever the title shot is given, hindi tayo malayo sa pag-kamit ng nawala sa atin." Right now, Folayang is just one of the many willing and deserving contenders in ONE Championship's talent-rich lightweight division.  Names like Aoki, Ev Ting, Timofey Nastyukhin, and Amir Khan are all looking to show that they too are deserving challengers to Nguyen's title.  "There’s a lot, it’s a stacked division in the lightweight division, and yung pinaka-maganda ay nakikita mo kung sino ang umaangat, sino ang nag-iimprove doon sa laban so yung talagang pinaka-magandang gawin talaga ay paghandaan kung sino yung mga magiging kalaban, and then of course you prepare well, kasi anytime they can give you the best." Folayang returns flies back to Manila on Tuesday.    H/T: Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 18th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 3rd, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 2nd, 2018

LOOK: Who should rep NBA teams in 3X competition?

With the NBA 3X Philippines Playoffs kicking off this weekend at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall, the mind inevitably drifts off to imagining how actual NBA players would do in a three-on-three competition. To aid that musing, here are our picks to represent the 30 NBA franchises, should the league decide to have such a tournament. Of course, this was easier for some teams, compared to others, and perhaps that challenge is what makes the mental exercise so intriguing. Disagree with our four-man selections? Let us know in the comments! Atlanta Hawks - John Collins, Taurean Prince, Trae Young, Vince Carter The Hawks go young with their squad, and could have even gone younger, plugging in rookies Kevin Huerter or Omari Spellman into their fourth spot. However, the very chance of 41-year-old Vince Carter dunking on people in a 3X game is too tantalizing to pass up. Boston Celtics - Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown The deep, deep Celtics have plenty of ways to go. You could field a defense-oriented squad with Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes leading the way, or go guns-blazing with Jayson Tatum. However, we're opting for a middle-of-the-road approach here, with the established superstars leading the way, plus the ultra-versatile Jaylen Brown filling the fourth seat. Brooklyn Nets - Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Joe Harris The Nets have acquired plenty of veterans in exchange for draft picks over their rebuilding process, and a Jared Dudley-Kenneth Faried-Allen Crabbe-Ed Davis quartet has some appeal. We're opting for some of their younger stars though, and you could definitely make the argument that D'Angelo Russell should be somewhere in the mix too. Charlotte Hornets - Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Nic Batum A pretty obvious selection for Buzz City here. We will possibly revise this if Malik Monk makes a second-year leap. Chicago Bulls - Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen Sure Denzel Valentine and Jabari Parker have claims to a spot, but the above four are definitely the pieces Chicago seems to be building around long-term. Cleveland Cavaliers - Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Collin Sexton We'll pretend that Jordan Clarkson is off at Gilas practice and unavailable. Also, JR Smith not knowing the score might be more problematic in a 3-on-3 game, so he'll sit this one out. Dallas Mavericks - Dirk Nowitzki, Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan The Mavericks' two super-kids in Doncic and DSJ are obvious shoo-ins, as is the venerable Dirk. The fourth spot is a bit up for grabs, but I'm opting here for their offseason acquisition Jordan. Harrison Barnes though would be deserving of the spot too. Denver Nuggets - Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic This is Denver's core and boy is it a powerful one, though Millsap will probably have to take on the bulk of the defensive chores. It's also tempting to figure out a way to add Isaiah Thomas, who has the potential to go off in such a tournament. Detroit Pistons - Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson Detroit's 'Big Three' of Drummond, Griffin, and Jackson are obvious shoo-ins. The question mark is the fourth guy. Henry Ellenson for a little jack-of-all-trades? Luke Kennard for shooting? In the end, I'm going with Stanley Johnson, crossing fingers that under new coach Dwane Casey, his stats will take a leap forward. Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant With DeMarcus Cousins still iffy with his achilles tear, we'll have to "settle" for GSW's All-Star quartet. Also, we may have found the thing to start a little in-fighting among the Dubs - figuring out who of the four starts on the bench. Houston Rockets - Chris Paul, James Harden, Clint Capela, Carmelo Anthony Maybe there's a possibility that PJ Tucker would be a better fit than Melo, but Chris Paul says Anthony's in, and who am I to argue? Indiana Pacers - Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovic The Pacers surprised many last season, and this quartet was at the center of their uprising. One extremely hard cut? New signing Tyreke Evans, though he would duplicate a lot of what Oladipo brings to the table. Los Angeles Clippers - Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari, Tobias Harris, Patrick Beverley, Injuries aside, this is a very potent four-some from the Clips. The Bradley + Beverley combo should put the clamps on anyone, while freeing up Gallo or Harris from downtown. Los Angeles Lakers - LeBron James, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma I was tempted to go with a Meme Team lineup of Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee, along with LBJ (and apologies to Michael Beasley), but let's go with the Lakers kids instead. The mix of youth and James' experience ought to be a potent combo.   Memphis Grizzlies - Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Chandler Parsons, Jaren Jackson Jr. Once upon a time, a Grit 'N Grind four of Conley, Gasol, Tony Allen, and Zach Randolph probably could have run away with this. Instead, we're hoping Parsons is healthy enough to spread the floor, and that Jackson Jr. is as impressive as he was in Summer League. Miami Heat - Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Josh Richardson There are plenty of ways to go with the Heat. Kelly Olynyk was a great addition last offseason. Hassan Whiteside, despite his clashes with the coaching staff, could still submit a dominant performance. A healthy Dion Waiters is a very 3x3-esque player. Oh, and if the Heat bring back Dwyane Wade, he's got to be a shoo-in. All of that said, I like this mix of players, but you can certainly change my mind. Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Thon Maker The Greek Freak is the centerpiece of any squad you form out of the Bucks. With the way the court is shrunk, you can be sure Antetokounmpo will be everywhere, on both offense and defense. The challenge is finding guys to complement him. Middleton is the obvious pick, while Bledsoe versus Malcolm Brogdon is a bit of a toss-up. To round out the team, I can't help but give the nod to Maker, you know, just in case we need someone to unleash a Mortal Kombat-esque flying kick. Minnesota Timberwolves - Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague Coach Thibodeau wouldn't reallllly consider a Butler-Taj Gibson-Derrick Rose trio right? *pause* Let's move on. New Orleans Pelicans - Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle This is as jumbo a line-up as you can get here, with Holiday being the only real guard, and that's what makes this Pelicans team so intriguing. New York Knicks - Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks go young with Zinger, Frank and the rookie Knox. The only real question is the fourth player. You could make the case for Enes Kanter, or even the resurgent Trey Burke, but my pick here is for THJ for more perimeter scoring. Oklahoma City Thunder - Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson When this four-some were on the court last season, the Thunder slapped opposing teams into straitjackets and tossed them away into some dark cell. If Roberson's healthy again, this group will probably do the same in 3X. Orlando Magic - Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, Mohamed Bamba It's all about the wingspan for the Magic. Philadelphia 76ers - Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Dario Saric We're going to trust the process here, and roll out the 76ers' core group. Sure you might want JJ Redick to address the lack of a true knockdown shooter, or roll the dice on the possibility of Markelle Fultz looking like a number one overall pick, but it's hard to argue with the skillset of this four. Phoenix Suns - DeAndre Ayton, Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Trevor Ariza The first three in the desert are all young and unpolished to varying degrees. That's why we're rounding out Phoenix's squad with veteran Trevor Ariza, in order to show this group how to notch W's. Portland Trail Blazers - Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins Obviously you go with the Dame-CJ one-two punch. Nurkic, after signing his extension, is a lock too. The question comes with the fourth chair. Evan Turner? Seth Curry? Mo Harkless? Ultimately, my pick is second-year player Zach Collins, as the team could use his hustle, and a guy who doesn't really need a whole lot of touches. Sacramento Kings - De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III We're going young again here, and it's hard to argue with this Kings quartet. However, don't sleep on Harry Giles, who red-shirted what would have been his rookie season last year. He is primed to break out, based on his Summer League performance. San Antonio Spurs - LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Dejounte Murray The Spurs throw out a veteran squad, with the exception of the long-armed, defensively-stout Murray. Patty Mills might be a better option if you're worried about the team's lack of shooting, and you could certainly debate slotting in Pau Gasol for Rudy Gay as well. Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby In the regular season, the Raptors thrived thanks to a deep bench, but that's not an option in 3X. Instead, we'll make defense their calling card, as highlighted by new get Kawhi Leonard. Pairing "The Klaw" with Siakam and Anunoby turns any game into a defensive slugfest, and of course, Lowry is there to run the show. Utah Jazz - Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio You could very well make the argument that this is the second-best squad in this field. Washington Wizards - John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Dwight Howard Guys, when even John Oliver is making fun of Dwight Howard, you know we've all gone too far. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 24th, 2018

Will Jordan Clarkson click in the Asian Games?

Finally, after much ado and false starts, Jordan Clarkson will see action today for the Philippine national men's basketball team. The former Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Missouri Tiger, and Los Angeles Laker will finally don our tri-colors in an all-important Asian Games affair against title favorite China. What kind of impact will the Cleveland Cavalier guard have on our hastily-formed national squad, though? Will his inclusion actually work out the way people expect, or will it actually blow up in our faces? Here's why having Jordan Clarkson will work: - He's a bona fide NBA talent who has repeatedly put up solid production since debuting in 2014. Clarkson's career per-game numbers in the NBA: 14.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting 44.3% from the field and 33.9% from beyond the arc. Translate those numbers to the Asian level, and we could be looking at an offensive force of nature for the Philippines. - Clarkson's size, athleticism, and explosiveness will make him a nightmare of a match-up against China, who, despite boasting of two-time CBA MVP Ding Yanyuhang, may have bitten off more than they can chew in trying to stop Clarkson. - Clarkson's versatility enables him to play any of the classic perimeter spots for the Philippines. His size makes him an excellent choice for either the 2 or 3 positions, while his skill-set and experience at the 1 also make him a viable option as the team's floor general. This gives head coach Yeng Guiao a buffet of choices when it comes to guard-wing combinations he can throw at the Chinese. Here's why having Jordan Clarkson will not work: - Clarkson is known for looking for his own shot. That's a big reason why he routinely scores in double-figures, but that's also why he hasn't progressed into more than a mid-level on-the-bubble player in the Association. On paper, he's a point guard, but he is not exactly an outstanding playmaker. Last year, he normed just 3.0 assists per 40 minutes for the Cavs -- a big reason he started 0 games for them. - It's clear that Clarkson's scoring will be his meal ticket here in Jakarta. He can go out and drop 30 on any team here -- even China -- that's how talented he is. But, at the same time, he can miss more than he makes, which can be a really awful net negative for the Philippines against a team as big, deep, and well coached as the Chinese. Also, with two 7-footers protecting China's basket throughout the game, the degree of difficulty may be too much to overcome even for a gifted scorer like Clarkson. He can shoot the Philippines into a big win, but conversely, he can also shoot our chances in the foot. In the end, Clarkson's inclusion makes the Philippines a much more challenging assignment for China. His size at the perimeter and scoring ability are potential difference-makers for the Filipinos, and as long as he stays "efficiently aggressive," then the Philippines will have a good chance of upsetting the Chinese.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 21st, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

QB Matt Ryan looks to regain his MVP form with Falcons

By Paul Newberry, Associated Press FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Matt Ryan is eager to regain his MVP form with the Atlanta Falcons. It sure seems possible with Julio Jones in camp, first-round pick Calvin Ridley ready to make an impact and — perhaps most important — a full season in the books with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. While Ryan put up his seventh straight year with more than 4,000 yards through the air, he didn't come close to matching the best season of his career under previous coordinator Kyle Shanahan. In 2017, Ryan's yardage dipped significantly (4,944 to 4,095). So did his TDs (38 to 20) and quarterback rating (117.1 to 91.4). His interceptions went up (7 to 12). Most tellingly, the Falcons went from leading the league in scoring (33.75 points per game) to a middle-of-the-pack 15th position (22.06). Coming off an MVP season, Ryan wasn't even in the conversation for the league's top player. The slide in production had some people wondering if head coach Dan Quinn would give Sarkisian another chance . But Quinn was mindful that Shanahan's first season in Atlanta also was a bit of a struggle. He found his groove in 2016, overseeing a dynamic offense that helped carry the Falcons all the way to the Super Bowl and earn Shanahan his first head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers. "I've got a lot of confidence," Ryan said of Year 2 with Sarkisian. "Obviously, I think Sark is a lot more comfortable with the personnel, knowing what guys to use in certain situations. I think that just comes with experience. We all kind of have a feel for his flavor as well. I think he did a great job for us last year and will continue to do a great job this year." Quinn is certainly expecting a more comfortable relationship between Ryan and Sarkisian. For good measure, the Falcons also hired Greg Knapp, a former Atlanta offensive coordinator, to serve as quarterbacks coach. "Like most relationships, there's probably some situations that you need to go through together," Quinn said. "OK, how did that person respond? How did he get through it? Generally as it goes, the communication improves." For a while, it looked as though Ryan might have to make do without one of the league's top receivers . Unhappy with his contract, Jones skipped offseason workouts in Atlanta as well as a mandatory minicamp. But on the eve of training camp, he agreed to report after the Falcons figured out a way to give him a bit more money this season, along with a promise to negotiate a new deal in 2019. No one was more pleased than Ryan to have No. 11 on the receiving end of his throws. "He's the best teammate you could ask for," Ryan said. "He's just a great worker and such a good teacher for the young guys, too." Jones is already spreading his knowledge to Ridley , who is expected to take over the third receiver role filled so ably the past two years by Taylor Gabriel. Ryan is impressed by what he's seen so far from the rookie. "He's a talented player who can do a lot of different things," Ryan said. "Certainly through the offseason and through the first couple of days of camp, he showcased his talent level. I kind of see him having a really good year for us and really fitting in with the receiving corps that we have." Ryan certainly has no complaints about his contract. He expects to remain with the Falcons for the rest of his career after signing a new five-year, $150 million deal, the most lucrative in NFL history and the first with $100 million in guaranteed earnings. To justify all that money, Ryan is focused on being more efficient in the red zone. Far too many times last season, the Falcons settled for field goals instead of touchdowns after driving inside the 20-yard line. In the early days of training camp, the team already looks much crisper in those situations. "A point of emphasis for us is improving in the red area, so we can have more touchdowns than we did last year," Ryan said. "We've got a lot of work to do before the season, but it's a good start." With Jones, Ridley and Mohammad Sanu catching passes, an offensive line bolstered by the signing of free-agent guard Brandon Fusco, and a dynamic backfield duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Ryan certainly has plenty of options at his disposal. Enough to play like an MVP. "We've got a really, really scary offense," Freeman said. Notes: The Falcons agreed to terms with OL Kendall Calhoun, LB Jonathan Celestin and WR Colby Pearson. All three players were undrafted out of college. To make room on the roster, team has waived S Jason Hall, DB Terrance Parks and FB Daniel Marx. ... Quinn split up his players Monday's practice, essentially creating two teams roughly the size of a regular-season roster, even putting offensive line coach Chris Morgan and defensive coach Jerome Henderson in charge of the squads. "We wanted to create some game-like, stressful situations to really evaluate the players in that environment," Quinn said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 31st, 2018

Kobe Paras joins Juan GDL, Ricci Rivero in UP for UAAP Season 82

The future of the University of the Philippines just keeps getting brighter and brighter. Already with a fully-loaded lineup for UAAP Season 81 and with Ricci Rivero coming in Season 82, the Fighting Maroons have secured the services of yet another Gilas cadet in Kobe Paras. “I look forward to the challenge of helping make UP a better basketball team as well as the challenge of helping myself become a better student,” he said in the team’s release on Wednesday. Paras will have to serve a one-year residency before being eligible to suit up for State U in Season 82. Then, he and Rivero will be debuting for the maroon and green, joining Javi and Juan Gomez de Liano, Will Gozum, Jun Manzo, and Nigerian powerhouse Bright Akhuetie. All Gilas cadets, Paras, Rivero, Juan GDL, and Gozum are now also teammates in Diliman. Still, head coach Bo Perasol said that winning needs much more than just talent. “We are fortunate to have a talent like Kobe on board, but winning, as experience has shown us, takes more than talent. We have to get everyone on the same page and to play the right way,” he said. Nonetheless, the addition of Paras is yet another big-time move for UP’s long-suffering basketball program. And on a more personal note, he will be following in the footsteps of father Benjie who won for the Fighting Maroons their last championship in the ‘80s as well as brother Andrei who played for them for one season. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 11th, 2018

CJ Perez -- Baby Beast, or The Blur 2.0?

With a monicker such as "Baby Beast", this versatile swingman from Lyceum of the Philippines University conjures images of a young Calvin Abueva, the triple-double machine that was the heart and soul of the daunted Baste-triumvirate several years back. Abueva was an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor, chasing after loose balls and rebounds and dominating the game despite his generously listed 6’3” frame. CJ Perez, who is just a shade under 6’3”, affects the game very similarly as Abueva on both ends of the floor, but at his age, is a more polished scorer, and plays at a more controlled pace, whether it is because of the system run by Coach Topex Robinson, or because of his experience playing internationally at a younger age. His journey to Lyceum was not without its twists and turns. After suiting up for San Sebastian for two seasons in the NCAA, Perez transferred to Ateneo where he was supposed to play for the Blue Eagles in Season 79 of the UAAP. However, academic issues forced him to rekindle his playing career back in the NCAA, where, after another year of residency, he was finally able to debut for the Pirates in Season 93 of the NCAA tourney. There he made up immensely for lost time, bagging the NCAA’s season MVP award, with averages of 19.3 points on 45 percent shooting from the field, 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 steals a contest while leading the Pirates to a stellar 18-0 sweep of the elimination round. Their 0-2 defeat in the Finals at the hands of defending champion San Beda did little to tarnish the achievements of Perez, who many now consider as the best collegiate player in the country today, and a sure top three pick in the next PBA draft. Let’s break down his attributes as a basketball player and see just how good Baby Beast (or some may even conjecture The Blur 2.0), really is. STRENGTH AND ATHLETICISM Pound for pound, CJ Perez is as good as it gets in college basketball, athletically and talent-wise. A natural scorer and slasher, he’s a tremendous leaper, and his ability to get rebounds (great positioning and leaping ability) is what allowed Lyceum to play him at the four spot in their pressing line-up. He has wiry strength and an explosive first step. This allows him to get past defenders without the need for any fancy dribbling. His solid upper body also allows him to muscle his way in traffic, create enough separation for a jumper, or more often than not, finish strong with either hand. "UMUPO SA ERE!" CJ Perez edition #NCAAStrong pic.twitter.com/Haf8oXmAqs — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) October 19, 2017   SLASHING AND SHOOTING While slashing is his primary scoring option, he’s also developed a respectable outside shot. Though he’s not a volume 3-pt shooter, he has throughout the season taken and made open threes, even of the step-back variety. And while his mechanics are not like those of a pure shooter (feet and shoulders are not perfectly square, has a habit of fading back on jumpers), his confidence and determination to make them have allowed him to shoot at a 45% clip from the field. Tough jumper for CJ Perez! #NCAASeason93 #NCAAStrong pic.twitter.com/9quJAhsazz — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) July 14, 2017 NO GO-TO MOVE? In terms of offensive moves, he has yet to show that he can regularly attack with his back to the basket, as he prefers starting from outside. We’ve not seen him regularly post up smaller defenders or use his athleticism to score on turnaround fadeaway jumpers. Another move he may have to master would be a mid-range floater, as he has not really had to play against much bigger opponents in the college ranks. This, together with a dangerous euro-step would definitely serve him well against bigger, more athletic competition. COURT VISION AND PASSING ABILITY Another positive is his willingness to make the extra pass. Because defenses are always keyed in on him, Perez has shown good court vision and an innate passing ability, many times hitting an open teammate, whether with a forward pass that leads to a fast break or an interior pass leading to an easy score under the basket. And while he is still prone to taking difficult and at times ill-advised shots because of his athleticism, his passing ability is something he can definitely capitalize on. ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT ON DEFENSE On the defensive end, CJ Perez knows how to make full use of his God-given talents. He is terrific at playing the passing lanes, in fact most of his steals are from reading the passing lanes and picking off cross court passes from their full court trap. Those are almost automatic transition baskets. His on-ball defense needs a little more improvement however, as one gets the sense that he relies more on his athleticism rather than solid defensive fundamentals, as seen when guys less athletic are still able to beat him off the dribble from time to time. Something that he’ll have to eliminate if he wants to excel in the next level. CJ Perez getting it done on both ends of the floor! #NCAASeason93 #NCAAStrong pic.twitter.com/RQVGAPnNtL — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) November 16, 2017 VERSATILITY In terms of intangibles, there is not much more to ask for. Perez has the motor of a Calvin Abueva, and his impact is felt on both ends of the floor. He can play all positions except center, bring the ball up like a point guard, slash like a wing, and rebound like a power forward. While his ballhandling still needs to be improved on (he’s shown to be vulnerable crossing over against smaller guards), there is little doubt that with his work ethic and attitude it’s only a matter of time before he tightens up those handles. Most importantly, he doesn’t showboat, but just goes about his business on the court -- a proven winner who still plays with a chip on his shoulder. #NCAASeason93 MVP CJ Perez's all-around brilliance was all the difference for the stunning Lyceum Pirates! pic.twitter.com/BH9uBYDwVl — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) December 19, 2017 An official from one PBA team thinks that if developed properly, CJ Perez could actually be the next Jayson Castro instead of a Calvin Abueva. That’s a scary thought; but what’s even scarier is that it’s actually not that farfetched to consider......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 28th, 2018

Argentina has big weaknesses to address before facing France

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press ST. PETERSBURG, France (AP) — After the euphoria of scraping through to the last 16 of the World Cup, Argentina now must address its glaring weaknesses. Argentina has little time to prepare for Saturday's match against France, which is considered among the tournament favorites, yet has much to work on. Particularly on defense. Argentina's feeble defense was exposed in 3-0 defeat to Croatia last week and once again in Tuesday's 2-1 must-win game against Nigeria. Argentina won with an 86th-minute goal from defender Marcos Rojo, but during the second half the team looked on the verge of another capitulation at the back. Here is a look at some of the key issues facing Jorge Sampaoli's team before taking on France in Kazan: MASCHERANO MISERY If Javier Mascherano is supposed to be protecting the defense, he's not doing a very good job. With 146 international appearances, the 34-year-old Mascherano should be a rock for Sampaoli's team. But instead of offering the protective screen in front of the back four, Mascherano is often proving to be a weak link. As his bloodied face on Tuesday showed, there is no doubting his commitment. But his judgment, especially for someone with so much experience, is lacking. Two horribly misplaced passes gave Nigeria dangerous positions to attack from, while it was Mascherano's clumsy challenge that led to Nigeria's equalizing goal from the penalty spot. In his defense, there may be mitigating circumstances. Although a holding midfielder by trade, Mascherano dropped deeper when deployed as a center half for Barcelona over the past few years. Now back in his traditional position, he often appears caught in two minds as to whether to push up as a midfielder does, or stay back more sensibly like a defender. While it does not excuse his poor passing, it may explain some of his confused judgment. FALLEN STARS Angel Di Maria's failure to control a simple pass during a promising counterattack against Nigeria was a sad sight for such a fine talent. As the ball flew off his foot and went out of play, a helpless look formed on Di Maria's face. Long considered one of the world's best wingers, the 30-year-old Paris Saint-Germain player is not living up to his reputation in Russia. He looked despondent when he was taken off against Nigeria with 20 minutes left, his self-confidence glaringly absent. But it is feasible he is still affected by what happened during the season with PSG. Di Maria was PSG's most in-form player heading into the first leg of its Champions League last-16 game against Real Madrid on Feb. 14, but was surprisingly left out entirely by PSG coach Unai Emery. "I was boiling (inside) because I felt I should have played, or at least have come on," Di Maria said. Perhaps his fragile confidence has not been repaired. But Mascherano and Di Maria are not the only big-name players performing well below their best. So is Gonzalo Higuain. The burly striker looked nervous and heavy-legged against Nigeria, blazing a great chance high and wide with the score 1-1 with 10 minutes left. In the end, he was reprieved by Rojo's late winner, but it was not the finish expected of a forward with a combined 267 goals for Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus. He has 31 for Argentina, too, but tellingly he has not scored in his past eight games for his country. WHERE IS DYBALA? Fans hoping to see Paulo Dybala, one of the brightest attacking talents in soccer, playing in Russia may not get their wish. The 24-year-old forward regularly impresses Juventus fans with his trickery and spectacular goals — scoring 26 times in 46 appearances last season — but for whatever reason, Sampaoli does not seem to need him. With time running out against Nigeria, the coach still did not bring him on, even though Dybala has the skill and imagination to unlock defenses. He has only played once for Argentina all year, and with Sampaoli in charge this does not look like it will change. FRENCH THREAT Although France has yet to find its top form , Argentina's creaking defense will be under threat from its highly rated forwards. Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele are two of the fastest players in the world, while Antoine Griezmann was top scorer at the European Championship two years ago. Imposing striker Olivier Giroud is one of the best headers of the ball around, which gives Sampaoli's back four even more to worry about from crosses, corners and free kicks......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 28th, 2018

Belgium, team of tomorrow, hopes to finally win now

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press MOSCOW (AP) — Belgium is the team of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. De Rode Duivels, as the Red Devils are known, have been playing for 114 years and remain in search of their first major title. A polyglot known for waffles, chocolate and beer, the nation of 11 million hopes for soccer to join the national identity, boosted by a golden generation that includes Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bryune. Belief is growing. Philippe, King of the Belgians, was on hand wearing a bright red tie and team scarf. "Belgium is a small country, you know? So we're very happy that we have this kind of talent," defender Toby Alderweireld said after Saturday's 5-2 rout of Tunisia all but clinched a round-of-16 World Cup berth. "Hopefully we can do something special." Lukaku tied Cristiano Ronaldo for the tournament lead with four goals, becoming the first with consecutive two-goal games in the World Cup since Diego Maradona and Gary Lineker in 1986. Hazard also scored twice , and Michy Batshuayi added a 90th-minute goal after failing to convert a trio of prime chances. Belgium opened with a 3-0 victory over Panama and has an 8-2 goal difference. Ranked third in the world behind defending champion Germany and Brazil, the Red Devils have become a chic choice to join the exclusive club of eight World Cup winners: Brazil (five), Germany and Italy (four), Argentina and Uruguay (two), and England, France and Spain (one). "Belgium was not the favorite because of the history of the country — and especially the history of the other countries," said former Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf, now a Fox analyst. "They're growing. Also, they're playing with important team spirit. So for me, it's not really a big surprise what they're doing at the moment." Training is conducted in English under Spanish coach Roberto Martinez, who spent a decade managing in England. Postgame interviews sound like a corridor at European Union headquarters in Brussels, with players alternating among English, French, Dutch and Spanish. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has picked up a Scouse accent after five seasons with Liverpool. Seventeen of the 23 players were on Champions League clubs last season, a glamorous group that includes Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. "That gives them the confidence and the experience to play at the highest level. That is what a World Cup is about," Mignolet said. "For us, it's now the third tournament in a row where we play, which gives you the experience, so nobody's really fussed about the occasion anymore. Maybe the two tournaments were a bit different where we arrived and we were thinking about what was going to happen. Everything was new." After completing the group stage against England on Thursday, Belgium would face Colombia, Poland, Senegal or Japan in the second round, and then could have a possible quarterfinal against Germany, Brazil or Mexico. Since losing their first match under Martinez to Spain two years ago, Belgium is unbeaten in 21 games (16 wins) and has outscored opponents 72-17 during the run. But while outscoring Panama and Tunisia by 8-2, the defense and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois looked like they could be exploited by better opposition. "Today what I saw is a team that it was prepared to suffer, prepared to work for each other, and we look well-balanced in that respect," Martinez said. "So when you've got that, then the individuals can show their talent." Lukaku has 15 goals in his last 10 international matches but left in the 59th minute after injuring an ankle ligament. Hazard came off nine minutes later with a calf problem, and forward Dries Mertens came out in the 86th after an ankle issue. Belgium came closest to a title at the 1980 European Championship, losing 2-1 to a German team that got a pair of goals from Horst Hrubesch. It has reached semifinals twice at major events, losing 2-1 to West Germany at the 1972 Euros and to Maradona's Argentina at the 1986 World Cup. After missing two straight World Cups, the Red Devils returned four years ago, beat the U.S. in extra time in the round of 16, then lost to Argentina in the quarters. At the 2016 Euros, they wasted an early lead in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Wales. Given the past and the sound and fury that would follow any misstep, Martinez wants to manage expectations. "To be a favorite in a World Cup, you need to have the know-how of winning a World Cup," he said. "The World Cup is something that probably gives you an advantage psychologically when you've won it before.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 24th, 2018

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 NewsJun 22nd, 2018

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