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Team manager Dan Palami hopes new coach re-energizes Azkals

With new head coach Terry Butcher set to join the Azkals as they begin preparations for the upcoming 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, there are already expectations from the Philippine National Men’s Football Team moving forward. And from team manager Dan Palami’s side, he expects the former England skipper to re-energize the Pinoy squad as they get ready for what’s set to be a crucial pair of tournaments in the coming months. “I expect him to bring new energy, his leadership when he was a player and as a coach in his clubs will be infectious and will give the players the high that’s needed, rejuvenate them and get them to prove themselves in the competitions that are about to come.” Palami told ABS-CBN Sports. (READ ALSO: Azkals captain Phil Younghusband excited to learn from new coach) The arrival of Butcher signals the end of the Thomas Dooley era for the Azkals.  Dooley, who handled the Philippine National Team from 2014 to 2018, steered the Azkals to their biggest win yet, one over Tajikistan to secure their spot in the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in Philippine football history, in his final match with the team.  And while there was nothing but gratitude for what Dooley did with the team during his four year stint, Palami explains that changes needed to be made, even coming off the heels of the team's biggest victory in history.  "Believe you me, when everything seems to be looking up, then you have to prepare for that, because you usually see a lot of downs, but the good thing is, we’re up and down, up and down, but the general trend is going up." "We wanna make sure that that continues and even bring it up some more, and that’s why sometimes we have to make changes, it’s a catalyst that will make us perform better, I hope, because historically, that’s how it’s been. Everytime we make changes, people criticize it, people get anxious, but at the end of the day, we have shown that our perfomance has gotten better." Palami added.  Later this year, the Azkals will be participating in the Suzuki Cup, and it could be a shot at redemption after having crashed out of the semifinals in the tournament’s previous staging back in 2016. Barely two months after the Suzuki Cup, the Azkals embark on their most important journey yet, as they kick off their AFC Asian Cup campaign, the highest level they’ve ever been on. Being grouped with South Korea, China, and Kyrgyzstan in Group C, it’s definitely an uphill battle for the Azkals, given that the country is on the lower tier of the pool in terms of rankings. Palami says that defying the odds is nothing new to Butcher, who back in 2009 to 2013, took a relegated Inverness club back to the Scottish Premier League. “Let’s face it, the Philippines is not the most palatable country to coach, but I think with Coach Terry, he has been in similarly-situated conditions, although in club levels. When he was in Inverness, he achieved a great deal with such a small club with such a small budget.” “It’s kind of inspiring, it parallels the journey of the Azkals, na parang maybe he could do the same, and he’s shown that kind of spirit throughout these years, since that time. I’m looking forward to him sharing that experience and bringing that experience dito sa atin.” Palami added. With a new coach, a new coaching staff, and new beginnings, this could be the start of something grand for the Azkals. For Palami and the rest of the squad, it’s nothing but excitement for the coming months. “I think everybody’s excited. We look forward to the tandem of Terry and [Senior Football Adviser] Scott [Cooper] doing a lot for Philippine football and the Azkals.".....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 14th, 2018

Azkals captain Phil Younghusband excited to learn from new coach

Thursday evening, as the 2018 FIFA World Cup commenced in Russia, there was also a new beginning back home in the Philippines, with the hopes of one day also qualifying for the biggest stage in football. With around five months to go before their next major tournament, the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Philippine Azkals announced a brand new coaching staff, led by former England captain and new Philippine National Team head coach Terry Butcher. Butcher, who will be replacing Thomas Dooley, donned England’s colors for a decade, which included 77 caps and three World Cup appearances. And as a new era begins in Philippine football, the Azkals’ own team captain was nothing short of excited to be able to play for a compatriot of sorts. “Very proud, I’m looking forward to learning, being educated by someone who’s played at such a high level.” the Fil-British star told the media at Thursday’s press launch. “Other than the England team in 1966, he was part of the team that got the furthest, making it into the semifinals, unfortunately losing to Germany on penalties, he’s played at the highest level against the best players in the world, he would know what to do when coming up against high level players.” For Younghusband, who was born and grew up in England, being able to learn from someone who he admired as a child is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “More than anything I’m excited to learn from him and be educated, especially from someone who I grew up watching.” From a personal standpoint, impressing the new guy calling the shots is a must for Younghusband. Having seen a number of coaches come and go, the team captain admits that familiarity is the challenge everytime someone new takes over the reins of control. “I think it’s not knowing, you’re wondering what the coach is thinking about you. Obviously you want to impress him, you want to show him what a good player you are, but there’s always that doubt in your head, does he think I’m a good player? Does he know I’m a good player? Does he know about the things I’ve done well in the past?” “That little bit of doubt can creep in, but it can work the other way as well. It can be a fresh new start, I can show the new coach what a good player I am. I’m sure that would be the case for most of us.” Younghusband added. With roughly five months to go before the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and seven months to go before the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, it’ll be time for the Azkals to get back to work real soon. According to team manager Dan Palami, training camp begins in Bahrain this September. For Younghusband, chemistry shouldn’t be too much of an issue, especially with Coach Terry and Senior Football Adviser Scott Cooper coming in. “Pretty much most of the players are the same, obviously there will be a few new players coming in, but the chemistry within the team will be the same.” Younghusband said. “With the sort of level that Scott [Cooper] and Terry have coached at, they’re used to coming into teams  and making sure that the teams jell quickly and understand each other and understand their way of coaching.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2018

No turning back on Azkals’ Suzuki, Asian Cup buildup

Philippine Azkals team manager Dan Palami assured there won’t be any disruption in the Pinoy booters’ buildup for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and 2019 Asian Cup following the withdrawal of former English captain Terry Butcher as head coach......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

Butchered plans for Azkals

It was over before it all even began. And now, the Philippine Azkals are left to pick up the pieces and move on. Sources said the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) and Azkals management are seriously considering Aris Caslib as a replacement for Terry Butcher, who abruptly quit his post as coach of the men's national football team Friday, before he even handled a single game. Caslib was also the last Filipino coach to handle the Azkals in 2009 and is expected to be a transition mentor while team manager Dan Palami and the PFF come up with a short list of possible replacements for Butcher. In the aftermath of the resignation, Palami said Scott Cooper would handle team prepa...Keep on reading: Butchered plans for Azkals.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsAug 3rd, 2018

Football: Azkals fighting for redemption, recognition in upcoming tournaments

As important as the first quarter of 2018 was for the Philippine Azkals, the coming months are definitely even more crucial. With the introduction of former England skipper Terry Butcher as the national team’s new head coach, the road to redemption and recognition begins. "The next 12 months is huge for Philippine football. If we can have success in the Suzuki Cup and the Asian Cup, that will be huge strides in the development of football here in the Philippines." said Azkals skipper Phil Younghusband. Redemption is the goal for the upcoming 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup, which kicks off in November. The last time that the Azkals participated in the biennial Southeast Asian tournament, it was definitely one to forget. For the first time since 2008, the Philippines failed to qualify for the Suzuki Cup semifinals, snapping a streak of three straight Final Four appearances. This year, the Azkals once again find themselves grouped with Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore, just like in 2016. “We have the same group as in the 2016 Suzuki Cup, so it’s a chance for us to redeem ourselves and do better.” said Azkals team manager Dan Palami.      “[It's] the same draw we had two years ago when we didn’t qualify,” said Younghusband. “We know it will be tough and it’s a challenge for us.” The Fil-British striker added that in order to establish themselves as a force to reckon with in Southeast Asian football, teams like Thailand and Indonesia, and Singapore are ones that they need to take care of. “If we want to continue to help the growth of Philippine football, these are teams we will have to play and win against.” A successful AFF Suzuki Cup campaign will also definitely give the Azkals the much-needed momentum as they begin their AFC Asian Cup campaign, their first in team history. On the biggest stage that they’ve been on, their goal is to be recognized as a legitimate contender in Asian football. “The Asian Cup draw is a difficult group, but there are other groups that are more tough. It will be great to get the experience of playing a World Cup side to see what level we are at.” Younghusband said. In the Asian Cup, which kicks off in January of 2019, the Azkals find themselves grouped with South Korea, China, and Kyrgyzstan. All three teams are ranked higher than the Philippines. And while it’s bound to be an uphill battle for the Azkals, Younghusband is hopeful that they can come up with some surprises. “China will be very difficult, but we played them last year so we know what to expect. I would rather play a team we have played before. Kyrgyzstan, we played twice recently and had good victories so it should be interesting. Hopefully, we can claim a best third spot or even surprise a few people and claim second spot.”  Much like the captain, Palami acknowledges that the Asian Cup will indeed be a tough go, but going through tough opponents is the only way for the Azkals to prove themselves among Asia’s elite, and that’s what Palami wants to see from the Pinoy side. “For the Asian Cup, it will be a tough group, but I think if we do it right, we can pull off one of the biggest surprises in the tournament, and that’s what we aim to do.” “We don’t want to be mere participants, but we want to be true competitors in the Asian Cup.” Palami added......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2018

Former England player considered for Azkals coaching job

MANILA, Philippines – Former Rangers FC captain and English national football team centerback Terence "Terry" Ian Butcher has been listed as one of the options to replace Thomas Dooley as head coach of the Philippine Azkals head.  "He has been considered," Azkals manager Dan Palami told Rappler following a ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJun 13th, 2018

PVL: New teams Tacloban, PayMaya clash in debut

Jovielyn Prado and the core of NCAA back-to-back champion Arellano University hopes to bring the same intensity and power when rookie team Tacloban goes into action against the Grethcel Soltones-led PayMaya on Sunday in the 2nd Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference. The battle begins at 2:00 p.m. and will air live on ABS-CBN S+A Channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD Channel 166, LIGA and via livestream. Meanwhile, the men’s division duel between Vice Co. Blockusters and Philippine Army starts at 10:00 a.m. Prado will reunite with college teammates Anne Esguerra, Andrea Marzan, libero Eunice Galang and Regine Arocha to banner the Nes Pamilar-mentored Fighting Warays owned by Philippine Azkals team manager Dan Palami. Joining the crack crew are NCAA Season 93 Most Valuable Player Shola Alvarez, University of the East’s Judith Abil and Seth Rodriguez and UAAP Season 80 runner-ups Kyle Negrito and Heather Guino-o of Far Eastern University. Tacloban has Thai stars Amporn Hyapha and Sasiwilmol Sangpan as imports. They will face a High Flyers squad that is composed of last year’s Open Conference champion core. Soltones, a three-time NCAA MVP, will have Lizlee Ann Pantone, Jasmine Nabor, Jorelle Singh, Aiko Urdas, Jerrili Malabanan and Alyssa Eroa, all coming from last year’s Open Conference champion BaliPure, as her crew for the Roger Gorayeb-mentored team. Also in the team are Kat Villegas, Joyce Sta. Maria, FEU’s Czarina Carandang, Angel Cayuna and UAAP Season 80 Best Blocker Celine Domingo with imports Nicole Roundtree and Shelby Sullivan providing added firepower and muscles for the High Flyers.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2018

Brutal 2019 Asian Cup bracket for PH Azkals

The Philippines fell to Pot 4 ahead of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup draw on May 4, but Azkals manager Dan Palami is brimming with optimism that the national team can survive the group stage of the tournament in the United Arab Emirates. Not even its highest-ever ranking of 113 was enough to lift the Azkals to a better position in the draw in Dubai. Pot 4 includes the six lowest-ranked teams in the tournament in the Philippines, North Korea, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen and Turkmenistan. "It's a challenge for us to survive the group stage, but its no different from what we have gone through the past few years," said Palami. "With the our players and the right coach and preparation, I thi...Keep on reading: Brutal 2019 Asian Cup bracket for PH Azkals.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsApr 13th, 2018

No decision yet on Dooley s contract according to Azkals manager Palami

MANILA, Philippines – It was a historical night for Philippine football.  Amidst the celebrations, there were still questions left unanswered. Only time can tell, but a part of these include Azkals head coach Thomas Dooley's contract, which expires after this big qualification to the Asian Cup.  The former US soccer team ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsMar 28th, 2018

‘Arab Ace’ to boost NorthPort’s chances

DESPITE unveiling a new name and new logo, NorthPort Batang Pier hopes to play with the same fighting spirit behind veteran import Rashad Woods and the trio of Stanley Pringle, Sean Anthony and Mo Tautuaa in the 2018 PBA Governor’s Cup starting Friday. NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio and team manager….....»»

Category: newsSource:  journalRelated NewsAug 13th, 2018

Palami: South Korea win an inspiration for Azkals

The Philippine Azkals can take inspiration and encouragement from the achievement of the same team they'll be facing when they try to pull off an upset in their first foray in the AFC Asian Cup starting Jan. 7 in the United Arab Emirates. South Korea's stunning win over defending champion Germany, 2-0, in the World Cup on Wednesday in Russia has given the Azkals a ray of hope that anything can happen particularly when they try to buck the odds in Dubai next year. "It's going to be a daunting task, but if Korea can do it, I think the Azkals can," said team manager Dan Palami. "The defending champions eliminated by our Asian counterpart," said Palami. "Mixed emotions of pride ...Keep on reading: Palami: South Korea win an inspiration for Azkals.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJun 28th, 2018

Azkals announce Terry Butcher as new head coach

The Philippine Men's National Football team has announced the appointment of former English skipper Terry Butcher as the Azkals' new head coach. The coaching change comes just months after the Azkals achieved arguably their biggest victory, qualifying for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup with a win over Tajikistan at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila. Butcher will be replacing Thomas Dooley, who served as the Azkals' mentor from 2014 to 2018. An experienced manager and former player with a long and storied career, Butcher represented the English national team from 1980 to 1990, which included 77 caps and three World Cup appearances. In 1990, Butcher began his managing career, which lasted until 2015, last handling Newport County AFC. More new names will be joining Butcher on the Azkals coaching staff, as former player Chris Greatwich will be coming on board as a coaching assistant, while Steve Marcells was named as the goalkeeping coach. Ireland's Scott Cooper will also be joining the Azkals as the team's Senior Football Adviser. Cooper is coming off a stint as Thai club Police Tero's manager. The changes come in time for the Azkals' preparations for the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup later this year, and the AFC Asian Cup in January of 2019......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2018

PBA: Good guy Tony dela Cruz reflects on storied career after being honored by Alaska

​After a long and storied career in the PBA, Tony dela Cruz was honored by the Alaska Aces in a special ceremony during halftime of the Aces-Magnolia Hotshots tussle at the Big Dome Sunday evening. The UC Irvine product, who was brought in by the Shell Turbo Chargers in 1999 as a direct hire, enjoyed 11 fruitful seasons with Aces before officially announcing his retirement in 2017, along with veteran sharpshooter Dondon Hontiveros. A recipient of the PBA Sportsmanship award in 2006, he could boast of a record that could be comparable to that belonging to Wilt Chamberlain. If the Big Dipper could boast that he did not foul out in his 14-year NBA career, dela Cruz could also be proud of not incurring a single technical foul throughout his PBA journey. "I’m super proud of the way I carried myself each and everyday on the court so no matter how many awards I wished I would’ve won of course, I would’ve won 20 championships and a million MVPs but it’s just the fact I know what I did in my career and the fact that I am proud of how I played each and everyday in practice, super, super like proud," the now Aces assistant coach said after the game. Also included in the halftime tribute was a video montage containing tributes from former Shell teammates Rob Wainwright, Chris Jackson, Rich Alvarez, and former team governor Bobby Kanapi. The 39-year old said that he could not contain his emotions from the messages showered upon him, and was moved by the compilation. Looking back, the 6'5” dela Cruz said that his proudest moment in the PBA was their championship win over Ginebra in 2013, and the 2010 PBA Fiesta Conference Finals series win over the San Miguel Beermen, where he played with sore eyes in Game 6, the series clincher. He also recalled how he was called for his lone flagrant foul, a landing spot foul on Dennis Espino.  "I went into the commissioner’s office and he said we’re not judging you as a person, just the action and I said it was fair and I apologized to Dennis there was no harm but again, maybe I wished I would’ve gotten a couple more technicals to like feel some of my frustration but just super proud that I can look back at my career and really, really happy," he quipped. Now bringing a lot of experience to the table as an assistant coach under Alex Compton, he hopes to get better and get more experience while being on the sidelines. "I just want to continue to learn. But everyone keeps making jokes, letting me know how much weight I’ve gained but like Don Allado said, ‘You know what, I played so many seasons in the PBA, I have the right to eat whatever I want.’" "But again, I think the biggest transition is being in shape. I do wanna get out there and play with the guys sometimes but I think the biggest transition for me is wanting to be knowledgeable but at the same time, curious about how to get better at basketball." With no less than team owner Wilfred Uytengsu in attendance for the honor, longtime Alaska public relations manager CK Kanapi told Spin.ph's Gerry Ramos that the honor bestowed upon dela Cruz was not a formal jersey retirement, unlike the likes of former players Jeff Cariaso, Bong Hawkins, import Sean Chambers, Jojo Lastimosa, and three-time MVP Bogs Adornado. __   Follow this writer on Twitter, @philipptionary......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 10th, 2018

Neymar makes spectacular return as Brazil beats Croatia 2-0

By Mauricio Savarese, Associated Press LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Only three months ago, Brazil striker Neymar was on an operating table and in danger of missing the World Cup in Russia. Those fears largely disappeared Sunday when Neymar returned to action with smart dribbling, fluent passing and an impressive individual goal, which he celebrated with his surgeon. Playing for the first time since February, Neymar scored the opener in Brazil's 2-0 friendly win against Croatia in Liverpool after coming on for the second half. He then ran to hug Brazilian soccer confederation doctor Rodrigo Lasmar on the sidelines at Anfield. "I am so happy to play football again. I have waited and worked a lot for this. I suffered, these were very tough three months," Neymar said. "When I saw the ball hit the net I only thought of those that helped me, Dr. Lasmar, my family, friends." Neymar, who also withstood a few challenges in the game, received the ball from midfielder Philippe Coutinho in the 68th and dribbled past Croatia defenders Sime Vrsaljko and Duje Caleta-Car. He smashed the ball into the net from around five meters (yards) with his right foot. The Brazilian injured the same foot playing for Paris Saint-Germain and underwent surgery in Brazil in early March. He did not warm up with the Brazilian team on Sunday, which had again raised concerns among supporters. Neymar said he was 80 percent at his best for the Croatia game. Brazil coach Tite said Neymar's return was "above the expected standard." "Neymar is only human, but he came back above my expectations too," Tite said. "I was expecting much less." Neymar had replaced midfielder Fernandinho at halftime with the score at 0-0. He quickly made his mark and raised the hopes of Brazilian fans for the World Cup, which starts June 14. Tite wasn't getting carried away, though. "Neymar is going to have ups and downs like he had in training until the third, fourth game (on his return). Then he will have his normal standard," Tite said. Croatia captain Luka Modric was among many impressed with Neymar. "It is beautiful to watch him play again, he is special, one of the best in the world," Modric said. Brazil "improved in the second half after Neymar made the difference." Liverpool's Roberto Firmino scored Brazil's second goal in the 90th. After Casemiro put the ball in the penalty box, Firmino controlled with his chest and sent the ball over Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to step up his challenge for a starting position in the team. Brazil captain and No. 9 Gabriel Jesus was replaced by Firmino after an hour. "I am here to help Brazil. I respect Tite's opinion (in starting with Jesus) 100 percent," Firmino said. The striker also thanked local fans for their support, saying "it is good to play at home." The same Liverpool supporters who cheered Firmino went out of their way to jeer Coutinho, who left the Reds for Barcelona earlier this year. Until Neymar stepped onto the pitch it was Croatia which had the best opportunities in a match that seemed headed for a dull draw. Defender Dejan Lovren had the best chance to open with a header that grazed Brazil goalkeeper Alisson's right post after a corner. When Fernandinho went off, Coutinho played a greater role and Brazil's game improved. The five-time World Cup champions play their last pre-World Cup friendly against Austria on June 10. Monday will be a rest day for the team and Brazilian media claimed midfielder Fred will be traveling to Manchester for medical tests before signing a deal with Manchester United. Tite did not confirm the move but said: "Our orientation is for them (players) to solve (transfers) as quickly as possible so they keep their head and effort focused on Brazil. If I were the manager there, I would try to sign him too." Brazil's World Cup opener is on June 17 against Switzerland......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 4th, 2018

Zidane s successor faces high bar, doubts about stars

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 2nd, 2018

Business of Football - Philippines highlights football s growth in the country

MANILA -  The recent success of The Azkals, with their Asian Cup qualification, and their FIFA ranking at its highest at 111, has given football a renewed confidence, and a positive outlook in terms of the growth of the sport in the Philippines.   Football is now tipped to become the fastest growing sport in the country, with the largest potential for success commercially, and in terms of on-pitch success.  The sport which is currently number 3 in the Philippines in terms of popularity and participation, after basketball and boxing, is said to be still further behind compared to other sports, such as volleyball, billiards, etc., in terms of TV coverage. These were among the insights and trends gathered from top-notch executives of organizations such as AFC, PFF, PFL, LaLiga, Dentsu X, SMG Insight, Globe Telecom, RSportz, Toby Sports and Manila Times, at the ‘Business of Football - Philippines’, organized by MMC Sportz.  The sold-out event was attended by more than 185 local and foreign delegates on 18 May 2018 at the New World Makati Hotel.   MMC Sports CEO Eric Gottschalk says, “Research in this market, shows that TV is still the number one platform here in the Philippines, and is the number one medium that advertisers are looking for, to spend their budgets on.  We also learned that live TV coverage actually stimulates stadium attendance, and not vice versa.  If there’s more football on TV, we will see more fans in the stadium.  Currently football is not ranked among the top 100 TV programmers in the Philippines and is only number 3 sport in terms of participation and popularity after basketball and boxing.  Football needs media in order to drive commercial revenues for the clubs.”   “Now is also the perfect time to get involved in football since sponsorship and advertising opportunities are currently very affordable compared for example to basketball, but this is predicted to change within the next 6-12 months, as values are expected to increase sharply.  Football also needs to create more idols and heroes to attract more media coverage overall, other than just covering game scores. Each team has a unique story which just needs to be told,” says Gottschalk. Following the presentation about the Philippines Football League (PFL) it was agreed that the PFL now fills the lack of regular created football content as the leagues matches (87 in 2018/19 season) contribute year-round stories to keep football in the news. In the past, the main talking points were around the Azkals which only play very few home matches each year.      Public education about the game of football is also needed on all levels as many people in the Philippines are still not aware about the rules or aware of programs available like coaching academies, amateur competitions, or how and where to follow the professional league.  Ten thousand (10,000) qualified grassroots coaches are also needed to satisfy the local demand and to trigger strong football development and growths. Investors on the other hand are looking for consistency and credibility of the football product but with the PFL in the second season and foreign sponsors expected to invest in the Philippines, local brands should consider to follow suit.  On the sports retail side, only 1.5% of current retail sales are attributed to football, while basketball enjoys a healthy 46% market share. As a result, only limited line items and stocks are available in stores and entry level boots and replica jerseys are too high priced to be affordable for the average consumer. The national player registration program, MY PFF, has been launched with the objective to collect vital statistics and data about the football community which is urgently needed to support the youth football development strategy of the PFF and to develop a players pathway.  As FIFA has mandated to register the estimated 1.5 million players in the Philippines, the PFF has urged organizers and players to already register online as by next month only registered players will be allowed to participate in sanctioned events. The “Business of Football – Philippines” conference also announced 36 career opportunities related to sports and football, including positions in marketing, legal, competition management and coaching, with all these listing being available online with MMC Sportz or for direct inquiries with the PFF. In his closing remarks, MMC Sportz CEO Eric M. Gottschalk stated that “More importantly, Don’t Break the 12th Man! It is important that all stakeholders don’t forget to engage with the fans. The fans are the most important aspect of the development of football in the Philippines – if there are no fans of football then there is no media, no spectators, no players, no games, no business. Everyone is required to ensure we keep the fans (football consumers) engaged year-long and the first step would be to get the media behind the game. There is a strong football - community out there already and hopefully, we the TV broadcasters will take another look at football and give them at least some consideration on the program schedule.  I believe today’s conference was a great success.  We brought the football community together, stimulated thinking, exchanged ideas and transferred a lot of knowledge. Now it is up to the football stakeholders to continue the progress.  From our end (and with the approval of the PFF) we will stage the 2nd edition of BOF early 2019 and hopefully we will be able to report on some of the changes initiated today.”    Speakers who shared their insights include LaLiga Managing Director for South East Asia, Japan, Korean and Australia Ivan Codina, AFC Head of MA Services Domeka Garamendi, SMG Insight Managing Director Frank Saez, Azkals Team Manager Dan Palami, Globe Director for OIC, Citizenship and Advocacy Marketing Miguel Bermundo, PFL CEO Lazarus Xavier, PFF General Secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes, Ignite Sports Group Managing Director Michael Reyes,  Asian Replica Designs Founder & Owner Jonathan Mallinson, Quorum Group President & COO Jose Claudio, Jr., Mediapro Asia Director of Sales and Sponsorship Salauddin Sinnakandu, and MMC Sportz Marketing CEO Eric Gottschalk.  Organized by MMC Sportz Asia, the event was sanctioned by the Asia Football Confederation (AFC) and the Philippines Football Federation (PFF), and sponsored by La Liga, Dentsu X, SMG Insight, RSportz, Globe Telecom, Toby’s Sports, Manila Times and Platinumlist. - RELEASE  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 22nd, 2018

Palami looking to add more talent to Azkals roster

Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.net Philippine Azkals aren't resting on their laurels as they brace for bigger wars ahead. Team manager Dan Palami shared that this early, the management is a.....»»

Category: newsSource:  manilanewsRelated NewsApr 3rd, 2018

2018 MLB preview: AL Central

By The Associated Press Capsules of American League Central teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Cleveland Indians 2017: 102-60, first place, lost to Yankees in ALDS. Manager: Terry Francona (sixth season). He's Here: 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, LF Rajai Davis, RHP Alexi Ogando. He's Outta Here: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Joe Smith, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Boone Logan. Projected Lineup: SS Francisco Lindor (.273, 33 HRs, 89 RBIs, 44 2Bs, 15 SBs, 10 errors), 2B Jason Kipnis (.232, 12 HRs, 35 RBIs in 90 games), 3B Jose Ramirez (.318, 29, 83, AL-leading 56 2Bs), DH Edwin Encarnacion (.258, 38, 107), 1B Yonder Alonso (.266, career-high 28 HRs, 67 RBIs with Athletics and Mariners), RF Lonnie Chisenhall (.288, 12, 53 in 82 games), C Roberto Perez (.207, 8, 38, club went 44-22 in his starts) or Yan Gomes (.232, 14, 56), CF Bradley Zimmer (.241, 8, 39, 18 SBs, 0 errors), LF Michael Brantley (.299, 9, 52 in 90 games) or Rajai Davis (.235, 5, 20, 29 SBs with Oakland and Boston). Rotation: RH Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA, 265 Ks, 2nd Cy Young Award), RH Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 3.29, 226 Ks), RH Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19, 10-1 in final 13 starts), RH Mike Clevinger (12-6, 3.11, 137 Ks in 121 2/3 innings), RH Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.28, 12.67 Ks per 9 innings). Key Relievers: RH Cody Allen (3-7, 2.94, 30/34 saves, 96 saves past 3 seasons), LH Andrew Miller (4-3, 1.44, 2 saves), RH Dan Otero (3-0, 2.85, walked just 19 of 511 batters since 2016), LH Tyler Olson (1-0, 0.00 in 20 innings over 30 games), RH Zack McAllister (2-2, 2.61 in 50 games). Hot Spots: Kipnis and Brantley. The former All-Stars have been hindered by injuries in recent years, but both appear on track to bounce back in 2018. The Indians need them to produce. Cleveland is better defensively with Ramirez at second base, but he'll stay at third as long as the 31-year-old Kipnis hits. Kipnis has been mentioned in trade talk for two years. Brantley, once considered one of baseball's best all-around talents, has played in only 101 games since 2015. Outlook: No team has felt postseason pain lately quite like the Indians. They blew a 3-1 lead and lost the 2016 World Series to the Cubs, and squandered a 2-0 advantage in last year's best-of-five Division Series against the Yankees. With arguably baseball's strongest rotation led by Kluber, the Indians are poised to possibly end a championship drought approaching its 70th anniversary. Alonso must help the offense offset the losses of Santana and Bruce. Francona won't have Shaw in the bullpen anymore after the durable reliever pitched in at least 74 games each of the past four seasons. Winning the AL Central won't suffice for the Indians, who are determined to finish the job this year. ___ Minnesota Twins 2017: 85-77, second place, lost to Yankees in wild-card game. Manager: Paul Molitor (fourth season). He's Here: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Jake Odorizzi, DH-1B Logan Morrison, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Zach Duke, SS-3B Erick Aybar, RHP Michael Pineda. He's Outta Here: RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Bartolo Colon, C Chris Gimenez, DH-1B Kennys Vargas, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Glen Perkins, LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Michael Tonkin. Projected Lineup: 2B Brian Dozier (.271, 34 HRs, 93 RBIs, 106 runs), 1B Joe Mauer (.305, 7, 71, .384 OBP), 3B Miguel Sano (.264, 28, 77, 173 Ks in 114 games), DH Logan Morrison (.246, 38, 85, .868 OPS with Rays), LF Eddie Rosario (.290, 27, 78), SS Eduardo Escobar (.254, 21, 73), CF Byron Buxton (.253, 16, 51, 29/30 SBs), RF Max Kepler (.243, 19, 69), C Jason Castro (.242, 10, 47). Rotation: RH Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA, 5 CGs, 211 1/3 IP, expected to begin season on DL), RH Jose Berrios (14-8, 3.89), RH Lance Lynn (11-8, 3.43 with Cardinals), RH Jake Odorizzi (10-8, 4.14 with Rays), RH Kyle Gibson (12-10, 5.07). Key Relievers: RH Fernando Rodney (5-4, 4.23, 39/45 saves with Diamondbacks), RH Addison Reed (2-3, 2.84, 19 saves with Mets and Red Sox), LH Taylor Rogers (7-3, 3.07), LH Zach Duke (1-1, 3.93 in 18 1/3 IP with Cardinals), RH Ryan Pressly (2-3, 4.70), RH Trevor Hildenberger (3-3, 3.21, 1 save), RH Phil Hughes (4-3, 5.87 in 53 2/3 IP). Hot Spot: Left Side Of The Infield. Sano had surgery in November to have a rod inserted in his left shin after a stress reaction kept him out for the last six weeks of the 2017 regular season, and the burly slugger has struggled to keep his weight down. He's also been under investigation by Major League Baseball, facing potential discipline, for alleged harassment of a woman during an encounter in 2015. Jorge Polanco, who got so hot at the plate down the stretch of his first full season as a regular in the lineup that he wound up third in the batting order, was suspended for the first 80 games this season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Escobar can fill in capably at shortstop, but he's also the top backup for Sano if the All-Star has to sit for any reason. Outlook: After their massive 26-win turnaround last season, earning Molitor the AL Manager of the Year award and a new contract through the 2020 season, the Twins were already on the upswing with their 25-and-under core of Berrios, Buxton, Sano, Rosario and Kepler. Then, after spring training began, they traded for Odorizzi and signed Morrison and Lynn, all at market-bargain prices. They've already had some setbacks, with finger surgery for Santana expected to keep him out for most or all of April, and the gut-punch news of Polanco's suspension, plus the uncertainty that surrounds Sano. But this is a team, even with the bold offseason moves made by AL heavyweights Boston and New York, and the strength of reigning AL Central champion Cleveland, that has the talent and spunk to be right in the playoff mix. With Hughes and Tyler Duffey on track for long-relief roles and a spate of well-regarded prospects set to fill out the rotation at Triple-A Rochester, this is as much starting pitching depth as the Twins have had in years. After using 16 different starters in 2017, they needed that. Rodney, Reed and Duke were important additions to bolster the bullpen, too, after Minnesota relievers ranked 22nd in the majors with a collective 4.40 ERA. ___ Kansas City Royals 2017: 80-82, third place. Manager: Ned Yost (ninth season). He's Here: RHP Jesse Hahn, CF Jon Jay, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Justin Grimm. He's Outta Here: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, LHP Jason Vargas, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Mike Minor, OF Melky Cabrera, LHP Scott Alexander, DH Brandon Moss, RHP Mike Morin, LHP Ryan Buchter, RHP Trevor Cahill. Projected Lineup: CF Jon Jay (.296, 2 HRs, 34 RBIs with Cubs), 2B Whit Merrifield (.288, 19, 78, AL-leading 34 SBs), 3B Mike Moustakas (.272, 38, 85), C Salvador Perez (.268, 27, 80), 1B Lucas Duda (.217, 30, 64 with Mets and Rays), DH Jorge Soler (.144, 2, 6), LF Alex Gordon (.208, 9, 45), RF Paulo Orlando (.198, 2, 6), SS Alcides Escobar (.250, 6, 54). Rotation: LH Danny Duffy (9-10, 3.81 ERA), RH Ian Kennedy (5-13, 5.38), RH Jason Hammel (8-13, 5.29), RH Jakob Junis (9-3, 4.30), RH Nate Karns (2-2, 4.17). Key Relievers: RH Kelvin Herrera (3-3, 4.25, 26/31 saves), RH Wily Peralta (5-4, 7.85 in 19 games, 8 starts with Brewers), RH Brandon Maurer (2-2, 8.10 in 26 games with Royals; 1-4, 5.72 in 42 games with Padres), RH Justin Grimm (1-2, 5.53 with Cubs), LH Brian Flynn (5-3, 5.40 at Triple-A Omaha), RH Kevin McCarthy (1-0, 3.20), RH Brad Keller (10-9, 4.68 ERA at Double-A Jackson). Hot Spots: Just About Everywhere. The Royals struggled to score last year, and losing Hosmer and Cain in free agency won't help. They'll turn to Moustakas, who set a club record for home runs in a season, and newcomers Jay and Duda to ignite the offense. The only starting pitcher with a track record of success is Duffy, while the bullpen features plenty of unproven talent that must show it can close down games if the Royals are to approach .500 this season. Outlook: This was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Kansas City, when most of the Royals' top players hit free agency en masse. With Moustakas and Escobar finding little market, both returned to Kansas City with prove-it contracts. That gives the Royals a fighting chance to stay competitive into July, and then all bets are off. But the reality is there are still far too many holes, both in the lineup and on the pitching staff, for the Royals to be considered contenders. They would do well to match the 80 wins they had last season, and could be a big seller at the July 31 trade deadline, which would allow them to replenish a shallow farm system and begin their rebuilding job in earnest. ___ Chicago White Sox 2017: 67-95, fourth place. Manager: Rick Renteria (second season). He's Here: RHP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo. He's Outta Here: LHP Derek Holland, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Al Alburquerque, RHP Jake Petricka, C Geovany Soto, OF-2B Alen Hanson, RHP Zach Putnam. Projected Lineup: 2B Yoan Moncada (.231, 8 HRs, 22 RBIs), RF Avisail Garcia (.330, 18, 80), 1B Jose Abreu (.304, 33, 102), DH Matt Davidson (.220, 26, 68), C Welington Castillo (.282, 20, 53 with Orioles), SS Tim Anderson (.257, 17, 56), 3B Yolmer Sanchez (.267, 12, 59), LF Nicky Delmonico (.262, 9, 23), CF Adam Engel (.166, 6, 21). Rotation: RH James Shields (5-7, 5.23 ERA), RH Lucas Giolito (3-3, 2.38), RH Reynaldo Lopez (3-3, 4.72), RH Miguel Gonzalez (8-13, 4.62 with White Sox and Rangers), RH Carson Fulmer (3-1, 3.86) or LH Hector Santiago (4-8, 5.63 with Twins). Key Relievers: RH Nate Jones (1-0, 2.31, 11 appearances), LH Luis Avilan (2-3, 2.93 with Dodgers), RH Joakim Soria (4-3, 3.70, 1 save with Royals), RH Juan Minaya (3-2, 4.53, 9 saves), RH Gregory Infante (2-1, 3.13), RH Danny Farquhar (4-2, 4.20 with White Sox and Rays). Hot Spot: Bullpen. A particular strength for the first half of 2017 is now a major question mark after Chicago traded away Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and closer David Robertson last season. Soria has 204 career saves but his best days might be behind him, and there aren't many other proven late-inning options. Renteria and respected pitching coach Don Cooper might have their hands full mixing and matching while trying to figure out how to hold leads. Outlook: For a team with five straight losing seasons and a record that ranked among baseball's worst last year, the White Sox are generating plenty of buzz. That's because they're loaded with promising young players after going all-in on a rebuild prior to last season. The moves have sparked a belief that better days are ahead. Moncada and hard-throwing pitchers Giolito and Lopez showed promise in the majors last season. Right-hander Michael Kopech, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and outfielder Luis Robert are elite prospects on their way in the minors. Garcia, coming off a breakout season, is looking to prove he's not a one-hit wonder. Anderson hopes to bounce back from a trying season in which a close friend was shot to death. Abreu is back after the slugger was viewed as a potential trade candidate this winter. Left-hander Carlos Rodon is expected to be out until at least June following shoulder surgery last September. It's not clear when he'll be ready. Rodon also was sidelined at the start a year ago because of shoulder and biceps problems. The big question is whether he'll ever develop into the pitcher the White Sox envisioned when they drafted him with the No. 3 overall pick in 2014. ___ Detroit Tigers 2017: 64-98, fifth place. Manager: Ron Gardenhire (first season). He's Here: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Mike Fiers, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Victor Reyes. He's Outta Here: Manager Brad Ausmus, 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Anibal Sanchez, INF Andrew Romine, RHP Bruce Rondon. Projected Lineup: CF Leonys Martin (.172, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs with Mariners and Cubs), 3B Jeimer Candelario (.283, 3, 16 with Cubs and Tigers), 1B Miguel Cabrera (.249, 16, 60), RF Nicholas Castellanos (.272, 26, 101), DH Victor Martinez (.255, 10, 47), C James McCann (.253, 13, 49), LF Mikie Mahtook (.276, 12, 38), SS Jose Iglesias (.255, 6, 54), 2B Dixon Machado (.259, 1, 11). Rotation: RH Michael Fulmer (10-12, 3.83 ERA), RH Jordan Zimmermann (8-13, 6.08), LH Francisco Liriano (6-7, 5.66 with Blue Jays and Astros), RH Mike Fiers (8-10, 5.22 with Astros), LH Daniel Norris (5-8, 5.31) or LH Matthew Boyd (6-11, 5.27). Key Relievers: RH Shane Greene (4-3, 2.66, 9/13 saves), RH Joe Jimenez (0-2, 12.32), RH Alex Wilson (2-5, 4.50, 2 saves), LH Daniel Stumpf (0-1, 3.82). Hot Spot: The Farm System. After finishing tied for the worst record in baseball last year, the Tigers enter 2018 with no real expectations of success at the big league level, so the question is how quickly the franchise can make it through this rebuilding stage. Franklin Perez, a right-hander acquired last season when Detroit traded Justin Verlander, is expected to be out at least until June with a lat strain, and right-hander Matt Manning is also dealing with an injury. Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows are other pitching prospects to watch as they try to work their way toward the majors. Wins may be few and far between in Detroit, but Tigers fans will hope Cabrera — one star who avoided the roster purge of the last year — can rebound from a rough season. Outlook: The Tigers traded Verlander, Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez last season, then dealt away Kinsler during the offseason. There could be more big moves on the horizon — Fulmer, Iglesias and Castellanos should all have some trade value, but each of them is young enough that he could be useful to the Tigers when they become competitive again. That's especially true of Fulmer, the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. Barring a huge surprise in terms of on-field results, the biggest suspense this season might revolve around how general manager Al Avila approaches the next few steps in the rebuild......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

2018 MLB preview: NL East

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

Popovich s odd alliance with red state fans

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SAN ANTONIO -- About 400 people gathered at the Oak Hills Country Club in June 2016 and paid $500 to $250,000 to sip iced tea and nibble hors d’oeuvres next to a golf course designed by noted architect AW Tillinghast, who built many. One is owned by the man who was feted at this political fundraiser, Donald J. Trump. The presidential campaign was in full blast and saltier than the crackers on the cheese plate being passed around. Fresh off the plane, Trump thanked the Republicans for the big ‘ole Texas welcome, witnesses say, before launching a blistering attack on the usual targets: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, illegal immigration. Then, near the end of his 30-minute lunchtime appearance, in an effort to connect with the locals, he pivoted and mentioned perhaps the most famous man in town: Gregg Popovich. Witnesses say Trump called Popovich “a great coach” and said “he does a good job” and then there was some fidgeting in the room when the soon-to-be polarizing leader of the free world said this: “I don’t know if the coach is on my side.” Confirmation came emphatically, right after Trump won a divisive election that November. The coach of the Spurs lit into the President over the next several months with a handful of rants that had the stealth of Kawhi Leonard ambushing a timid ball-handler. In no particular order, here were Pop’s Greatest Hits, all issued through the media and without prompting or provocation: “The disgusting tenure and tone and all the comments … have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. I live in a country where half the people ignored that to elect someone.” And: “He is in charge of our country. That’s disgusting.” And: “The man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks he can only become large by belittling others.” And: “We have a pathological liar in the White House ... You can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.” Popovich didn’t stop there with a President whose sensitivity and intelligence he questioned and accused of being guilty of “gratuitous fear-mongering.” When he took Trump to task for criticizing NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem and defended their rights to do so, Popovich also suspected a measure of the public outrage was racially motivated. “Our country is an embarrassment to the world,” he said. A 68-year-old wealthy white man, therefore, became a sports voice with weight in the political and social justice arena, where the NBA league office has greenlighted players and coaches to speak up. Popovich has done so with clarity and insight to gain national applause in certain corners. He wasn’t the first or the last in sports to verbally spank the president or tackle right-leaning sensitivities, yet he’s certainly the most unique in one respect. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy who works in a military town, and a five-time NBA champion coach who might symbolize the city more than The Alamo, Popovich has long been elevated to icon status, perhaps permanently so, in San Antonio, where folks are mad about the Spurs. Still, this is mostly conservative Texas, one of the most Republican of states based on the state legislature and the congressional delegation, a state that voted Republican in 10 straight presidential elections and saw 52.6 percent of voters punch for Trump. While voters in San Antonio-proper lean liberal, the surrounding areas swing solidly the opposite. Julianna Holt, the Spurs CEO and Popovich’s boss since March after assuming the position held for 20 years by her husband Peter, supported various Republican presidential candidates before eventually donating $5,400 to Trump’s campaign and $250,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, according to Federal Election Commission records. Popovich is therefore a blue blood in a red state and the contrast makes for strange if not uncomfortable alliance between a beloved coach and a group of conflicted Spurs worshippers. His views have in fact shattered the sacrilege by generating hostility from a segment of the basketball flock, something no coach with his credentials would ever feel. The constant winning and acts of charity do not insulate him from those who would prefer Popovich stuff a sweat sock in his bullhorn. Party lines not Popovich's focus “While we all believe Gregg Popovich has the right to his opinions, where was Popovich when Hillary called half of us a 'basket of deplorables?’Many were Spurs fans who are now tired of being insulted ... many of us will never pay to see a Spurs game again.” -- Donna Howington  “The money I will save this year not attending Spurs games should buy me a nice set of golf clubs. Thanks Pop!” -- Jake Ingorgia  “I will never watch them again until Popovich is gone. He is just like all the other leftist celebrities.” -- Lee Harbach, Bulverde They arrive on cue, most from the dusty towns that orbit around San Antonio, some from the city itself. Popovich has unloaded three times this year on Trump, once after the election, once at the start of training camp and most recently by cold-calling Dave Zirin, a friend and liberal writer from The Nation, a progressive magazine. And each time, the letters land in the office of Ricardo Pimentel, the editor who coordinates the comments section of the Express-News, San Antonio’s newspaper of record. “It’s a cycle,” says Pimental, with a sigh. “He speaks out. People who disagree with him send us letters to the editor, then people who object to their disagreement write us letters to the editor defending Pop. Then they respond to one another.” The initial reaction, he said, is always stacked against Popovich and many identify themselves as Spurs fans ripping up their tickets or promising to never attend or watch games again. Even if those who made threats actually carried them out, the change in the Spurs’ home attendance is a blip, from 99.2 percent capacity last season to 98.6 so far this season. Popovich, of course, has been big for business since his first full season as coach in 1997-98. Besides the titles, the Spurs have reached the playoffs every season and won 50 games every season (except for the lockout-shortened 50-game 1998-99 campaign, when they won 37). In short, Popovich's Spurs have a track record beyond reproach in the NBA. If the 2017-18 Spurs stay on pace, it’ll be 20 straight winning seasons for Popovich, one more than Phil Jackson for the all-time NBA record. He hasn’t been this politically vocal until lately, due to Trump, yet was always politically aware, say those who know him. Well-versed through his readings and observations, Popovich welcomes discussion with acquaintences about classism, leadership, government and preferably over a bottle of wine. His two-decades exposure to young black men from humble beginnings raised his awareness and sensitivities about race and bias. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr once played for the Spurs and lately has echoed many of the same thoughts as Popovich. But Kerr coaches in the Bay Area, where folks nod their heads in agreement. Kerr said he can only imagine the flak Popovich catches in Texas. “Here’s this iconic coach who stands for everything that’s right and for honor and integrity, he served in the military, you see him stand at attention for the American flag — man, Pop loves his country,” Kerr said. “And in the middle of Texas for him to be questioning the Republican President, some of the people down there are probably confused. Like, 'I don’t get it, we love this guy but he’s on the other side from us.' “What I love about Pop is that it’s not about party, not about politics. It’s about integrity and character and that’s what people need to pay attention to. It’s not about some policy, not about how much we pay in taxes. If we can just get back to the point where character matters, then we’ll be in better shape. The problem is, it’s clear character has gone down the tubes in many leadership positions in our country. That’s what Pop is calling out.” True enough, Popovich never publicly attached himself to a political party; to suggest he is against Republicans might be as misleading as believing Colin Kaepernick is against the military. When he played for Popovich, Kerr couldn’t recall a time when the coach was this annoyed by the country’s leadership. “The country was in a better place in terms of a relatively peaceful time back then,” Kerr said. “Yes, 9-11 happened and the whole world changed. But we didn’t have quite the same partisan nature, not only in politics but the national conversation. And so people could just admire Pop for who he was and people might not have been aware of his political leanings because they didn’t ask. When we won and went to the White House, Pop and the team went when Bush was in office. We went in ’99 when President Clinton was there. Republican, Democrat, didn’t matter. The times are so different now.” Kerr laughed quickly when asked about the semi-serious groundswell of social media support for a Kerr-Popovich ticket in 2020. Kerr said he hopes to be on his fifth NBA title as a coach then, but turned semi-serious about Popovich. “Our country needs somebody like Pop who can actually lead and unite from a position of authority and credibility,” Kerr said. “This guy served in the military, grew up in a melting pot, understands leadership. More than anything, he’ll cut through all the [expletive].” Since going nuclear on Trump, Popovich declined invites from the national political shows (and wouldn’t comment for this story). That proves what friends have maintained all along: Popovich doesn’t want to be anyone’s political hero or pundit. He’d rather speak when the moment calls for it, then be left alone. That last part is tricky, though. Empathy often marks Popovich's way “Can you imagine being Republican on the Spurs? Would you feel welcome? He’s like Berkeley -- for free speech unless you disagree with him. Shut up and coach, Gregg.” -- Shannon Deason  “When it comes to coaching basketball or drinking wine, Popovich has experience. When it comes to our country, his opinion is no better than anyone else’s." -- Harold Siemens, Seguin  “Open letter to the NBA referee who ejected Pop from the Warriors-Spurs game: Don’t feel bad about what Gregg Popovich called you. He called the POTUS worse and got away with it.” -- Larry Peabody Once the wheels touched down, the pilot jokingly announced over the loudspeaker: “Welcome to Gregg Popovich International Airport,” and one particular passenger noticed that nobody on the plane thought it was strange. Sean Elliott always knew how deeply rooted Popovich is with San Antonio. Aside from the famous Spanish missions and the River Walk, the city is known for the only professional sports team in town. And while George Gervin, David Robinson and Tim Duncan have come and gone, the one lingering reminder is a sometimes gruff and scruffy coach, maybe the NBA’s best ever. “He’s one of the pillars of the community,” said Elliott, twice an All-Star with the Spurs. “He’s looked at with great admiration. He is as respected as anyone who has ever lived in or been part of the city. It’s not just because he’s a basketball coach. Pop has been a big part of the community, huge contributor to charitable functions, good leader.” Elliott was a Spurs rookie in 1989 when their relationship began and he saw the start of Popovich’s reach in the region. Popovich then was an assistant coach under Larry Brown and just planting his feet in the NBA. That summer, Elliott and Popovich piled into a van with the team's "Coyote" mascot and conducted basketball clinics in San Marcos, Corpus Christi, Laredo and similar places. They were signing autographs in malls and running kids through drills in 100 degree heat, never hearing a complaint from the coach. Elliott said folks in those small conservative towns loved him. “If you sit and hear him talk about something, you tend to agree with him,” Elliott said. “He’ll put it in a logical way and he’s very thoughtful, well read and super intelligent, maybe the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.” The owner of the Spurs then was Red McCombs, a homespun Texan who made his fortune in car dealerships and media companies. McCombs didn’t give Popovich the coaching job after firing Brown, telling Popovich “you’ve got a chance to be a great coach” if he got more experience, which he did, going to the Warriors to work for Don Nelson. Popovich returned to San Antonio two years later as general manager, then became coach and the rest is history. Now 90, McCombs said: “Popovich has become the distinguished part of the franchise. He wears it well. Can’t say enough about what kind of man he is and what he’s meant to San Antonio. God has blessed us with Gregg Popovich.” McCombs loves to tell how Popovich, by chance, learned that a local family needed a car. The coach wrote a check, gave it to the father and walked away. McCombs said it was “typical Popovich” who has empathy for those with less. McCombs, curiously, has traditionally been one of the biggest Republican bankrollers in the state, who gave to the Trump campaign and is fully aware of what Popovich thinks of his choice for President. And so one of the most powerful men in Central Texas, who leans politically to the color of his nickname, had a strong reaction to that. “He’s earned the right to give his comments about citizenship or Trump or anything else,” said McCombs, voice rising. “Yes, he made some statements that others might disagree with. But I’ll tell you this: Popovich would be elected to anything he wants to in San Antonio.” Remaining silent never an option “Our country is not an embarrassment to the world. I will tell you what an embarrassment is. It is an American citizen who got a free education from the great Air Force Academy ... and then has the audacity to say that the greatest nation in the world is an embarrassment because the President rightly demands that Americans stand for the anthem. Popovich should be ashamed of himself.” -- Nick DeLouis, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Nowhere on God’s green Earth do they have the right to disrespect our flag and the men and women who died to keep us free. I’m appalled that you stooped so low to join in that disrespect. Shame on you!” -- Fred Martin, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Coach Pop has squashed my love and enthusiasm for the team. A national treasure, he is not. Coach Pop has a voice, but not my voice." -- Jo Ivan A few years ago Popovich was in New York with his daughter to catch a Broadway play when the coach had a last minute change in strategy. He learned that John Carlos was giving a lecture at New York University that night. So Popovich told his daughter to take one of her friends instead; said he was going to see “Dr. Carlos” speak. “When he came in I was surprised and delighted,” Carlos said recently. “Quite naturally, everyone knew who he was but he just wanted to sit and listen.” A year later, in 2015, Popovich flew Carlos to San Antonio to address the team and Carlos admitted to being star struck around Tim Duncan and others. Yet Carlos was most curious about Popovich and why the coach took a strong interest in an Olympic sprinter who raised a fist on the victory stand in 1968, which is frozen as an iconic civil rights moment. “Being with the Spurs gave me an opportunity to check his character out,” Carlos said. “I knew he was a whiz at putting players together to bring out their best ability. But through my conversations with him it became apparent that he was a social activist himself at one point in his life. He was teaching his players about activism and to be concerned about their fellow man and what was going on around their lives, not just basketball. “I was impressed. He just wanted them to know they had a larger role than just playing basketball in the society in which they live.” Carlos, therefore, was not surprised to see Popovich defend the rights of kneeling black football players who came under attack from Trump. On the first day of training camp in September, Popovich said: “Obviously race is the elephant in the room and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly it is not going to get better.” What followed was another swirl of exchanges between Popovich critics and supporters in San Antonio, and Popovich acknowledged receiving mail from both sides. The anti-Pop mail, though, was jarring to Carlos, given the coach’s work in town. “When people write and lambast him for taking leaders to task for what they’re doing to society, that’s like water rolling off a duck’s back, man,” Carlos said. “When they write negative things about him, it encourages him to keep doing what he’s doing. Those people are the problem. Go ahead and throw stones and it just motivates him to do his job. “Look, I’m a black man who spoke out. Imagine what they think of him as a white man who speaks just as strong, to try and get people to see things in a better light? They throw stones at him even more, like, 'Hey you’re white, you have a great life. Keep your mouth shut.’ Well, God points people in certain directions. We know who we are. We do what we do.” And what Popovich does is enlist the help of giants in the social justice world and bring them into his world. He did that with Cornel West, the Harvard professor and civil rights activist, last fall. Popovich invited West to San Antonio to speak at an East Side community center with a few hundred mostly black and Latino students and their parents. Done without TV cameras or media invitation, the discussion was about the importance of education, the imperfect world, self respect and how to help communities. This was an audience that, presumably and unanimously, connected with a white man who didn’t live among them, but was with them. They were the people Popovich had in mind when he attacked present leadership. This was not the audience that writes to the Spurs and the Express-News asking him to take a vow of silence, though he is aware of them, too. “Some responses make you wonder what country you live in,” Popovich said, “and other responses make you very hopeful … overall, it renews my feeling that something must be done because there is enough people willing to listen.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2018

Atlanta Hawks begin a long, painful rebuilding process

em>By Paul Newberry, Associated Press /em> ATLANTA (AP) — Let the rebuilding begin for the Atlanta Hawks. After an all-too-brief run among the NBA’s elite, the Hawks are starting over with a largely anonymous squad and no hope of challenging the top teams. Four-time All-Star Paul Millsap was allowed to walk. Dwight Howard was dumped after one dismal season with his hometown team. Coach Mike Budenholzer lost much of his immense power after several ill-fated personnel decision. What’s left is a dynamic point guard, Dennis Schroder, and not much else. The roster is filled with the sort of players that generally make up a team more focused on the future than the present: career backups, journeymen, raw prospects and those who never panned out for one reason or another. Hard to believe it was only three years ago that the Hawks led the East with 60 wins and reached the conference final. New general manager Travis Schlenk made it clear that his two immediate priorities were to get younger and gain “financial flexibility” — essentially code for a team that’s not going to be very competitive for several seasons while it clears out overpriced contracts and accumulates draft picks, all in hopes of making a big splash down the road. “Our goal for the season is to see growth in all our guys,” Schlenk said, not mentioning anything about wins and losses. The probably means Hawks fans are in for a bumpy ride this season. “These are scrappy guys, these are competitive guys, these are prideful guys,” Schlenk said, doing his best to sound hopeful. “Now, we’re going to be young. Historically, teams that are young take it on the chin a little bit.” ___ Some other things to keep an eye on for the Atlanta Hawks: strong>SCHRODER GOES IT ALONE: /strong>Heading into his second season as a starter, Schroder is the unquestioned leader of team in flux. He ranked second in scoring behind Millsap at 17.9 points per game and averaged a team-high 6.3 assists. He’ll be counted on to carry even more of the load on a roster that lacks any big-time scorers. More telling will be whether the 24-year-old shows some much-needed maturity. He had several off-the-court issues a year ago, and this season got off to a troubling start with his arrest on misdemeanor charges after a brawl at a late-night club. strong>BAZEMORE BOUNCEBACK: /strong>After signing a huge contract, Kent Bazemore struggled through an injury plagued season and lost his starting job. Insisting he’s fully recovered, the former D-Leaguer needs to start living up to his status as Atlanta’s highest-paid player. He must improve his outside shooting, having connected on less than 41 percent a season ago, while continuing to bring positive energy and effort to a team that figures to endure plenty of long nights. strong>YOUTH MOVEMENT: /strong>Forward Taurean Prince, a first-round pick in 2016, moved into the lineup late in the season and played an integral role in the playoffs, averaging more than 11 points per game. The Hawks will be looking for similar progress out of their year’s top draft choice, John Collins. The 6'10' forward from Wake Forest is a dynamic athlete who has to expand his shooting range. If that improves, he’ll likely take on an increased role as the season goes along. strong>STEPPING UP: /strong>The Hawks take great pride in their player development, and they’ll have plenty of projects to work with this season. Forward Luke Babbitt is someone who could break out in a high-tempo offense that relies heavily on the 3-point shot. In seven NBA seasons, he’s yet to average more than 7.0 points per game, but he’s hit nearly 41 percent of his career attempts beyond the arc. Also figuring to play a much bigger role are fifth-year big man Mike Muscala and forward DeAndre’ Bembry, a first-round pick in 2016 who saw limited time as a rookie. strong>BUDENHOLZER’S ROLE: /strong>He’s back for his fifth season as the Hawks’ coach, but Budenholzer was stripped of his title as president of basketball operations. Enter Schlenk, who was hired as general manager after working in the front office of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Schlenk has the final say on roster moves, and it will be interesting to see how he meshes with the coach he inherited — and how Budenholzer deals with a new boss. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2017