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This Week in NBA History: Cavs blow it up at the 2008 deadline

Prior to the 2018 NBA trade deadline, the Cleveland Cavaliers decided they were in need of a big-time shakeup. We all know now what happened back on February 9 (PHL time). In three trades, GM Koby Altman sent out Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, and Dwyane Wade, getting back in exchange Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, and George Hill (they also sent out their 2018 first round pick, a 2020 second-round pick via Miami, cash, and the draft rights to Dimitrios Agravanis). Initial reactions have been positive. The Cavaliers definitely were not going back to the Finals with the roster they had coming into the season. They were too old, didn't have enough shooting, and had severe chemistry problems. Not only did The Land upgrade at several positions of need, they got younger, and they didn't have to shed their coveted 2018 unprotected Brooklyn Nets first rounder. Obviously, they'll need to work on their chemistry now, and when Kevin Love returns to the lineup, but you can't help but feel their chances of making it to four straight Finals increased as a result of all their wheeling and dealing. Ten years ago, the Cavaliers found themselves in a similar situation. On February 21, 2008 (back when the trade deadline came after All-Star Weekend), the Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls, and the Seattle Supersonics, agreed to a three-team trade that shook up their squads. Cleveland sent out Donyell Marshall and Ira Newble to the Supersonics, and shipped Shannon Brown, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, and Cedric Simmons to the Bulls. In exchange, Team LBJ welcomed Joe Smith, Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West (plus a 2009 second-round pick that later turned out to be...Danny Green!). Cavaliers press release The day before that trade deadline, the Cavaliers were 30-24, in fifth place in the East, and a whopping 12 games behind the newly-formed Big Three of the Boston Celtics (though they did beat them that same month, 114-113 on Feb. 5). The season prior, LeBron James and company made it to the NBA Finals, only to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Now, with Boston dominating, team management obviously felt they needed a little extra push if they were to make it back. Prior to the trade, Cleveland was running out a first-five of James, Hughes, Newble, Gooden, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Boobie Gibson, Damon Jones, and Marshall provided shooting off the bench, while Dwayne Jones and Anderson Varejao were extra muscle. Post-trade, the hope was that Wallace and Smith would boost their interior defense, while sprinkling in some much-needed veteran know-how. Delonte West was seen as a more dynamic, versatile running-mate to James, and Szczerbiak could further bolster their long-range shooting. Cleveland won their first game with the new additions (they edged the Washington Wizards in the game they played before the new additions had finished their physicals), thumping the Memphis Grizzlies 109-89. They dropped their next two though, versus the Milwaukee Bucks, and those aforementioned Celtics, before winding up with a 45-37 record, good for #4 in the East (though they went just 14-13 in the aftermath of the trade). In the Playoffs, Cleveland needed six games to hurdle the Wizards in round one, before running smack into the team they made the moves to counter: the Celtics. The two squads went back-and-forth, each winning on their respective courts, but with Game 7 at the TD Garden, it was the Celtics who emerged triumphant, via a 97-92 result. And we know of course that Boston then went on to win the 2008 NBA Championship. But back to 2018. After a spirited pair of wins prior to All-Star Weekend, Cleveland has now gone 1-2 after the breaking, losing to the John Wall-less Wizards and the San Antonio Spurs. There's still 23 games left to play though, and a lot can still happen, including, as previously mentioned, working Kevin Love back in. Suffice to say, things are always interesting in in Cleveland when LeBron James is involved. With a special talent like he is, general managers really do have to ensure they're creating a roster that can put him in the best position to go deep into the postseason. That's what happened in 2008, and that's what happened again this year. Now the question is, how far will they go? The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnFeb 26th, 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

LeBron James has a favorite for the MVP award - himself

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press MIAMI (AP) — LeBron James has someone in mind for the MVP award this season. Himself. This is a season where prohibitive MVP favorite James Harden has done phenomenal things with NBA-leading Houston, where reigning MVP Russell Westbrook has been fantastic again for Oklahoma City, and where Anthony Davis has found a new stratosphere to take his game, especially after New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins. James raves about them all. But ... “I would vote for me,” James told The Associated Press. “The body of work, how I’m doing it, what’s been happening with our team all year long, how we’ve got so many injuries and things of that nature, guys in and out, to be able to still keep this thing afloat, I definitely would vote me.” It’s not an unreasonable take. His numbers this season compare favorably — or exceed — the five-season run between 2008-09 and 2012-13 where he won the MVP award four times. His averages then: 27.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.3 assists on 52 percent shooting while playing 38 minutes per game. This season’s numbers: 27.4 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds on 55 percent shooting. They are MVP-worthy, without question. “He’s continued to prove everybody wrong and find new levels,” said Miami guard Dwyane Wade, James’ longtime friend and two-time former teammate. “In his 15th season, to be 33 years of age and to be playing the way he’s playing, as consistent as he’s playing, that is as impressive as anything that anybody has ever done.” Averaging 27 points, nine assists and eight rebounds is an NBA rarity. Oscar Robertson had numbers like those five times, in five consecutive seasons from 1960-61 through 1964-65 (he won his lone MVP award in the 1963-64 season). No one posted averages like that again until last year, when Harden and Westbrook both pulled it off. Robertson, Harden and Westbrook were all twentysomethings when they had those numbers. James is in position to join them, at 33. A fifth MVP wouldn’t define him. He’s long been a Hall of Fame lock, but believes this one would be earned. “At this point in my career, I’m just trying to break the mold, break the narrative of guys in their 15th year. ... I’m trying to do things that have never been done before,” James said. “It’s crazy because I’m not setting out to do it. It’s just kind of happening organically. I’m just training my body and training my mind and going out and playing and seeing what happens.” The Cavaliers are in the mix to finish as high as No. 3 in the Eastern Conference, despite having 21 different players on the roster, 24 different starting lineups and counting, a slew of injuries, even with head coach Tyronn Lue falling ill and missing games. The season has been rocky. James says he’s been at his best anyway. “I’ve said it,” James said. “Obviously, I’ve had some unbelievable seasons before, but I’ve said it: This is the best I can go, just from a complete basketball player standpoint.” Time will tell if MVP voters agree. ___ STORM LIFE The Heat got stuck in Indianapolis on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time), losing in overtime to the Pacers and then being unable to get home because of plane difficulties. They made the best of the situation. A quick call to the Capital Grille in Indianapolis — where the manager initially didn’t believe that the Miami Heat, travel party of 51, were on the way — set up dinner for everyone, and hotel rooms were secured while everyone dined. The restaurant was in shutting-down mode for the night, then scrambled to get the staff needed to deal with that many diners arriving all at once. The team wound up flying out Monday morning (Monday evening, PHL time). ___ THE WEEK AHEAD Some of the games to watch over the next seven days: — Boston at Utah, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): The game that was slated to be Gordon Hayward’s return to Salt Lake City still matters plenty to both teams. — Milwaukee at Golden State, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): The Warriors think this is the game where they’ll get Kevin Durant back in the lineup after a rib injury. — New Orleans at Cleveland, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): Notable for one reason in particular: Larry Drew coaches the Cavs, son Larry Drew II plays for the Pelicans. — Toronto at Boston, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): The Raptors are trying to lock up the No. 1 seed in the East, and the Celtics are the only team still in their way. — Houston at San Antonio, Sunday (Monday, PHL time): One of 13 games on Sunday’s NBA schedule, before everybody gets Monday off for the NCAA championship. — Indiana at Denver, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time): The Pacers are in and now thinking about seeding, while the Nuggets are merely trying to stay in the West chase. ___ STAT LINE OF THE WEEK Kemba Walker, Charlotte: His 46-point effort on March 22 (Mar. 23, PHL time) was against tanking Memphis, but it still should be remembered for at least a couple of reasons. One, he needed only 28 minutes to score like that. And two, he became just the third player in NBA history to make at least 10 three-pointers and 10 free throws in the same game. The others? Kyrie Irving in 2015, and Joe Dumars in 1994......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 28th, 2018

Rose embraces new home, blocks out doubters

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com MINNEAPOLIS – Don’t let go of the rope. It’s one of Tom Thibodeau’s most familiar exhortations, a mantra of sorts to keep his teams locked in, digging down and generally committed through whatever grueling test they’re facing, be it a game, a road trip, a spate of injuries or the entire season. The trouble for Derrick Rose with that particular Thibs-ism is, so often, he has been the rope. On one side of an unfortunate tug o’ war, we’ve had the Rose loyalists, the fans, friends and family who believe that the 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player’s return from injury hell to elite status is just one more, legit opportunity away. Pulling from the other side, there is a growing group of Rose skeptics who are convinced that the Chicago kid’s best days – his most explosive, elusive, game-changing moves – are behind him, strewn on the floors of too many surgical rooms and rehab gyms. Rose, 29, knows they’re there. One group pulling for him, the other doubting him. And in an unusually candid and forceful moment Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), the normally soft-spoken Rose delivered a stark message to them all. “Yeah,” Rose said after his first full practice since signing a minimum-salary contract Thursday (Friday, PHL tie) to join the Minnesota Timberwolves. “This is how I feel about the whole perspective on it: You can have your perspective on me as far as I’m a bum, I can’t play, I can’t shoot, this and that. All right. Cool. I have no hard feelings with that. I’m cool with that. If that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. “But at the same time, I don’t need your [bleeping] validation.” Rose’s eyes burned bright, in a direct response to the many health challenges he has endured from acquaintances and strangers both, picking at whatever good or bad is left of his basketball career. “I know who I am,” Rose continued. “I know the type of player I am. So, you respect that and I respect that, and we should be good. That’s how I feel about it.” In other words, you work your side of the street, Rose will continue to work his. If there are NBA administrators like Thibodeau, the Wolves’ head coach and president of basketball operations, willing to give him another chance, he’ll be chasing the ghost of his own self while trying to help somebody win. One more chance Rose’s latest grab at faded glory could begin in Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) matinee against the defending champion Golden State Warriors at Target Center (editor's note: Rose wound up playing just seven minutes off the bench. He finished with two points on 1-of-5 shooting with a rebound, two assists, and two turnovers). It probably is his last, best shot to salvage something from a 2017-18 season that’s been largely lost due to injury, yes, but other factors outside Rose’s control as well. What looked like a terrific opportunity back in training camp – signing with Eastern Conference power Cleveland Cavaliers and home to the game’s best player (and Rose nemesis) in LeBron James – got sideways fast. In the Cavs’ second game, on a drive to the rim, Rose got whacked across the face and neck by Milwaukee center Greg Monroe. He landed badly on the baseline, suffering a “jacked-up” left ankle that left him in a walking boot and sidelined him for 11 of Cleveland’s next 15 games. Then word got out just before Thanksgiving that Rose had left the team, reportedly to contemplate his future as an NBA player. He was gone for nearly two weeks, at least part of it back home in Chicago, during what Cavs GM Koby Altman called “a very challenging and difficult time for Derrick.” Rose didn’t play again until Cleveland’s 44th game. In nine appearances over the next three weeks, he was a shell of the three-time All-Star he’d once been, averaging 6.3 points, 1.6 assists and 13.3 minutes, while shooting 39 percent. On Feb. 8 (Feb. 9, PHL time), he was one of six Cavaliers players dealt by Altman at the NBA trade deadline, sent to Salt Lake City as a throw-in to acquire Utah’s Rodney Hood and Sacramento’s George Hill. Two days later, the Jazz waived Rose. Four weeks passed before Thibodeau got the green light from Minnesota owner Glen Taylor to sign Rose. The Oklahoma City Thunder had sniffed in his direction, only to opt for veteran backup Corey Brewer. Rose had family duties to attend to – he and Alaina Anderson had a baby girl in Chicago to start the week – but he also had spent time working out by himself in the Cavs’ facility or at Cleveland State’s gym. The end seemed near. Given Rose’s limited involvement this season, he probably would have been a long shot to land with one of the league’s 30 teams in 2018-19, had Thibodeau not reached out. The people on the dark end of Rose’s rope were winning. Now, this buys him time for a shout-out to the folks on the other end. “‘Don’t give up,’ Rose said he would tell them. Talking later at the downtown Minneapolis hotel where he’s staying, he wanted to assure people that his desire to play remains strong, his passion to keep trying still burns, and his mental fitness for this and future challenges on or away from the court is fine. “I still have faith,” Rose said, two bags of ice strapped to each leg. “No matter what happens, I still have a lot of faith in myself and my ability. It’s just about opportunity and catching a rhythm. Whenever I do catch a rhythm, I’d rather see what it is then. Than to, like, give up knowing I have so much left. Like, ‘Damn, I should have kept playing.’ “I’m going to give it my all. And once I do, then it’s like, ‘All right, cool. I gave it my all, now what’s this next phase in my life?’ “But as far as right now, I’m still in it. I’ve got two kids that can look at me now. The oldest, my boy [P.J.] is 5 years old. He’s looking at me right now. He sees everything. I’m going to tell him, ‘No excuses. Don’t come to me cryin’, this and that. Nah.’ He’ll see what I’ve had to go through. ‘Now suck it up and go out there and do what you’ve got to do.’” A career interrupted For some NBA players whose careers got waylaid by injuries – Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Penny Hardaway – their bodies finally refused to cooperate. They went from 60-to-0, no wiggle room on whether they would continue. Rose, for all his setbacks, has worked his way back – not back to his previous form – from each and every injury. From the ACL blowout that started him down his hobbled path in April 2012 to three subsequent meniscus knee surgeries, from the left orbital fracture he suffered when he caught teammate Taj Gibson’s errant elbow in the face in the opening practice of 2015-16 to the lingering ankle sprain dealt by Monroe’s blow in October. In that sense, Rose is more like Bernard King, Sam Bowie or Grant Hill, standout players whose career trajectories were forever altered – but not ended – by injuries. Rose speaks as if he has reached some level of peace with his maladies, referring to his injuries as “part of the game” and his particular “cross” to bear. “I’ve just had five surgeries more than other people,” he said. “That’s the way I look at it. That don’t mean that I can’t play. That don’t mean that I lost my love for the game. No.” What Rose doesn’t like is the “fragile” label that’s been affixed to him. He’s less interested that he has played in only 486 of approximately 789 regular-season games so far, while proud of the 130 he logged with the Bulls (2015-16) and Knicks (2016-17) more recently. It seems clear that the reckless abandon with which Rose played – and the excruciating torque he put on his knees with his bounding, zig-zag attacks through the lane – wreaked havoc on his knees. Beyond that, though, he’s not buying any pattern business. “You see how I was injured [in October]? I was taken out of the air,” Rose said. “People are like, ‘Aw, he’s always injured.’ Are you just watching highlights, just looking at clips, like new fans are these days? Or are you watching an entire game? Are you just reading reports that come up on your phone?” Scouts say that Rose has lost both quickness and leaping ability, without developing a perimeter game to compensate. They also bundle his Cleveland hiatus with the AWOL episode last season with the Knicks, when Rose left the team without notice before a game against New Orleans, to question his reliability and commitment. Rose disputes the comments about his game, citing the circumstances in New York and Cleveland. “I could sit here and tell you, ‘I’m gonna try to change this. Do this and do that.’ Nah, I always felt, it starts with my rhythm,” he said. “[In] New York ... I was playing the triangle [offense favored by former Knicks president Phil Jackson] and still playing pretty well [18.0 ppg, 4.4 apg, 32.5 mpg]. In Cleveland, when did I really have a chance to catch a rhythm? When did I play 20 games straight? Or 10 games? Five games?” As for his reliability – or likelihood to take a powder on the Wolves the way he did on the Knicks and seemed to do on the Cavs – Rose said there is no issue there, either. In the past couple weeks, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan (depression) and Cleveland’s Kevin Love (panic attacks) have opened up about psychological challenges they and other athletes face. But Rose shook his head as the question was asked. “Oh no, no, no,” he said. “I’m blessed, man. Beyond blessed. It’s not even ... what do I have to complain about? I don’t have anything to complain about. Of course, I wish I was on the court more. I think in time, with the right opportunity, I’ll be out there more. “I’m not depressed, even though I think everybody deals with some depression in some way. It’s about how you deal with it. We’re emotional creatures. We hold onto things. I try to meditate, try to do little things to change my mindset and try to read things to easy my nerves.” Rose admitted he did wonder if he would get another chance, once the Cavs traded him to a Jazz team that had no use for him. “Especially when you get dropped by a team like Cleveland, that needed players,” he said. “It makes other teams think, ‘Damn, if they didn’t keep him...’” Rose has not spoken with James since being dealt, he said. “The way I take it, I don’t take it as personal,” Rose said. “They didn’t need my services. That’s the way I look at it, OK? I understand. It’s business. Does that stop me from working hard? Does that stop me from still putting out goals and trying to reach my goals? No.” Familiar faces aid return Now Rose is reunited with Thibodeau, Gibson, Jimmy Butler (sidelined after his own meniscus surgery) and familiar coaches and staff making up the “TimberBulls.” He even trusts Thibodeau, often criticized for the heavy minutes he loads on his top players, not to break him. “If anything, I want him to play me,” Rose said. “I want to show to him that I can still play. I want him to see me and be like, ‘Damn, he’s still got it.’ I want him to count on me. I want to be held accountable. You know what I mean? I don’t just want to be, like, an average guy on the team riding along just to see how far they go. I really want to add.” Said Thibodeau, who ran Rose Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) through a rigorous refresher course on his playbook: “Obviously when he was at an MVP level, that was the peak. But he also, my last year in Chicago, he had a great year. ... He still has the potential to be very good. He’s young, that was the other part of it. He knows some of our guys, he knows the system. “Like all stories, there’s a beginning, there’s a middle and there’s an end,” the Wolves coach added. “I don’t think it’s a finished story.” Gibson thinks Rose can shoulder some of Butler’s late-game duties, simply because the scoring guard has strong muscle memory of such situations. He, too, hopes Rose’s story can take a happy turn. “I’ve got my fingers crossed,” the veteran forward said. “I truly believe in him. He’s got a lot left in the tank. It’s just, sometimes life doesn’t go your way and you have to push through it and keep fighting.” Thibodeau has said that Rose, like starter Jeff Teague and backup Tyus Jones, can play both backcourt spots, so he can mix-and-match based on situations. Rose anticipates no problem walking that line between asserting his game and rocking the Wolves’ boat. “My job coming here, I’m not trying to step on nobody’s toes. I’m not trying to take someone’s spot,” he said. “I’m not trying to show myself. Nah. I’m here to win. Me going out there and playing, hopefully you all see that. ‘He’s making money plays. He’s playing to win. And that’s what we wanted from him.’” Not that Rose, lest we forget from up top, needs anyone’s bleeping validation. Boosters and doubters can pull this way or that, but he said he’ll be the one who decides when his time is up. “When my love of the game is not there,” Rose said, sounding sincere near the end of his 10th season overall. “When I get tired of going to the gym. “Don’t get me wrong, we all go through that. But after a couple of days, I get antsy, I want to be in the gym. When a week or two goes by and I haven’t touched the gym, even in the summer, oh yeah, I’d know it was over.” 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 NewsMar 12th, 2018

Persistent Popovich, Spurs negate coaching-change ways in NBA

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The first coach in the Gregg Popovich era to get axed was Brian Winters on Jan. 24, 1997. He lost 100 games faster than anyone in history, a byproduct of overseeing the Vancouver Grizzlies in their expansion season (1995-96) and into 43 games of ’96-97. The most recent to lose his job was Tyronn Lue on Oct. 28, 2018 after Cleveland’s 0-6 start. This was more of a head scratcher as he’s the only coach to win a title with the Cavs. Perhaps his biggest crime was failing to give LeBron James the wrong directions to Cleveland Hopkins Airport last summer. In that span, 245 NBA coaching changes were made in Popovich’s time in San Antonio. Some of them have been understandable, others questionable, in all a spinning wheel that managed to eject all from the first seat on the bench … except one. In the wake of yet another coaching switch, it’s fair to wonder: how and when will it end for Popovich in San Antonio? He’s closer to the finish line than the starting line, but the finish line keeps moving. Any notion of Popovich vanishing once Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili left the organization died when training camp began. Any thought of Popovich turning sour from the organization’s lethal relationship last year with Kawhi Leonard was dismissed when Popovich enthusiastically prepared himself for his 23rd NBA season. And all ideas of Popovich permanently drifting to one of San Antonio’s relaxing 18-hole courses as he approaches his seventh decade on the planet should be shattered with a Big Bertha driver. “I don’t golf,” he said. “What a waste of time. I’d rather read a book. You could be doing a lot of other things.” Like, keep coaching. “I still enjoy this,” he said, before deadpanning, “but I don’t know how to do anything else.” He has survived this long because he wins. With 1,201 victories and counting, he’s climbing toward Don Nelson’s career record of 1,335. With a straight face, Popovich says “my ass would’ve been gone a long time ago” if not for great success that he constantly credits to Duncan, among others. But there’s another factor in play that keeps Popovich in control of his destiny and fate. He has rarely, if ever, had to answer to anyone in the Spurs’ organization, now controlled by Julianna Holt, who keeps away from the basketball operation. Almost from the jump, Popovich ruled the empire, and that has separated him from others who’ve won just as many, or more, than his five championships. It’s a unique setup enjoyed by almost no one in professional sports, which are often controlled by owners who act on a whim. Phil Jackson (11 titles) left two organizations, including the Los Angeles Lakers twice, not totally on his own. Pat Riley had a prickly departure from the Lakers after winning four of his five career titles there. In both cases, the lines were clearly drawn: neither Jackson nor Riley, despite steering their teams to historical runs, carried the strongest voice in the building. Neither had tenure or were immune from the type of sports diseases that can fracture even dynasties and shove great coaches out the door. When he greased the “Showtime” era in Los Angeles, Riley had the biggest coaching profile since Red Auerbach and his signature victory cigars. Riley was charismatic, cool and changed the coaching culture. But inside was a gym rat and a clipboard scribbler. He released the leash on the fast break and made the Lakers intoxicating. He smooth-talked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into taking a reduced role as age began to weather the Hall of Famer. However, the core Lakers eventually grew weary of Riley’s techniques and motivational tricks. When the Lakers were upset by the Phoenix Suns in the 1990 Western Conference semifinals, Riley heard the increased volume and split. Jackson’s relationship with Bulls GM Jerry Krause showed decay early in the Bulls’ run for a sixth and final championship in 1997-98. Theirs was a clash of egos and ideas. That, and a demand by Jackson for more money, led to a Bulls breakup. In the early 2000s, Jackson restored the Lakers’ franchise as they became the biggest rival for Popovich’s Spurs in that decade. But the chore of coaxing two high-maintenance young stars, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, beat up Jackson and lead to his first LA exit. His second stint with the Lakers ended mainly over money, among other issues. That’s all foreign to Popovich, who had the benefit of taking over a team with David Robinson, the gentlemanly All-Star who gave no gruff. And then, blessed by the basketball gods, Popovich landed Duncan, the most no-frills superstar the game has ever seen. Duncan set the tone in the locker room for professionalism, conduct and work ethic. Everyone followed, something that’s lasted for almost two decades, all while making Popovich’s life easier (for which Popovich is forever grateful). Duncan also drastically changed the lives of two men. When Popovich stepped down from his GM role on Dec. 10, 1996 – taking the coaching job from Bob Hill after a 3-15 start -- he went 17-47. That is his only losing season to date, and the Spurs fell into the Draft lottery. There were whispers at the time -- blasphemy nowadays -- that he might not see another season in San Antonio. In 1997, the Boston Celtics had better odds of winning Draft lottery and its grand prize: a bank-shot-shooting center from Wake Forest (via the Virgin Islands) who could transform a franchise. Had the Celtics gotten the No. 1 pick, perhaps Rick Pitino would still be coaching in the NBA instead of lobbying for a return. As much as Popovich heaps praise on Duncan, there’s no denying Popovich’s role in 21 straight years of playoff trips and his own coaching immortality. The way he runs an organization envied by many, helps find talent with low Draft picks (Ginobili was taken 57th overall; Parker at No. 28), generates respect from players and rivals (LeBron James, among others) and is a San Antonio landmark (along with the Alamo) is no accident. If Popovich can’t control his fate, then no one in his profession ever will. Besides, under what circumstances would Popovich be forced out? Even if it’s his call, how will this end? He turns 70 in January, although the only time he ages is when a referee’s whistle doesn’t blow his way. He survived Leonard, the only documented sign of rebellion by a Spurs’ star. And the Spurs, despite losing Dejounte Murray for the season to a knee injury, might keep their playoff streak alive with DeMar DeRozan blending well with new teammates. “It’s San Antonio, OK? The faces have changed but the standards are the same and the way do things are the same,” Popovich said. “We’re going to expect the guys to do their jobs on and off the court. None of that’s going to change. The way we want to approach the game and have the respect for the game is all the same, just with different people.” Asked about the Murray injury and other non-Spurs-like issues, he adds: “Maybe we deserve a little bad luck. We got to draft Tim Duncan 20 years ago. So, a little misfortune. We deserve it.” Coaching changes since Dec. 1996 Gregg Popovich was named coach of the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 10, 1996. Since then, there have been 245 coaching changes league-wide. Here's a look at how many changes each team has gone through in the Popovich era. In two years, Popovich assumes control of the US Olympic basketball team. That could satisfy his urge to coach without the 82-game grind and free up time to pursue other stuff. But who knows? “Being a wine consultant going from vineyard to vineyard, or a restaurant critic going from restaurant to restaurant, that would be more fun, for sure,” Popovich said. The 1996-97 season was bloody for the profession. Seven teams, including the Spurs, changed coaches in season. The Washington Bullets (now Wizards) had three coaches that season. And, in fact, Bernie Bickerstaff held two jobs that season, resigning as Denver’s coach in November and was later hired by Washington in February. Cotton Fitzsimmons lasted eight games with the Phoenix Suns. Only one new coach that season lasted more than two decades. Since Popovich’s debut, the Utah Jazz have had the fewest coaching changes (two), while the Grizzlies and Wizards have been on the other extreme (13 each). The Dallas Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle and the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra own the longest tenure after Popovich (10 years each). We’ll never see another like him in our lifetime. He’s a coach who gets results on the court, respect in the locker room and no orders from above. Good luck finding another combination like that. The 245 coaching changes are not a number Popovich particularly likes (because he sticks up for the profession) and it’s not a number that he’ll add to anytime soon -- if he has any say. Which he does. “I’m a simple untalented man,” he said. “This is all I can do. I’d better stick with it.” 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 NewsOct 31st, 2018

MAJOR POINT: Has the PBA Solved Its Draft Problem?

Late last week on October 12th, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) made an announcement that the PBA Board of Governors voted and agreed unanimously that starting 2019, the number 1 overall draft pick can no longer be traded and is exclusively for the worst team in the league to pick who they choose. At first glance, the PBA’s announcement looks like a solution to the draft problem that has gone on for over a decade. If you just read the headline or skimmed through the press release or an article written on the subject maybe you think the PBA has found its solution to the draft problem that caused division in the PBA Board and led to the hiring of a new commissioner after another draft debacle last year. Ever the skeptic, I read more than the headlines. Instead of skimming through the press release and articles, I read the fine print. After my readings and a few discussions with basketball people, do I feel the PBA has found a solution to its draft problem? I’m skeptical. I have questions. But before we get to my questions, lets take a look at how the PBA got itself in a situation where they had to make an actual rule that the worst team in the league CAN’T trade the number one overall pick: 2005: Anthony “Jay” Washington gets drafted number one overall by Air21 Express. Washington gets traded on draft day to the Talk ’N Text Phone Pals. Talk ’N Text was second in wins in the PBA in the three conferences leading up to the 2005 draft. 2008: The Talk ’N Text Phone Pals have picks 2 and 4 in the first round of the draft despite being tied for the most number of wins in the 2006-2007 season. They draft Jared Dillinger and Rob Reyes with those picks. TNT trades Jay Washington to the San Miguel Beermen and acquires the third overall pick, which turns out to be Jayson Castro. 2009: Japeth Aguilar is selected number one overall by the Burger King Whoppers. Aguilar plays one game for the Whoppers, before he is shipped to the Talk N Text Tropang Texters in a three-way trade also involving Barako Bull. Burger King was able to get Barako Bull’s 2010 (previously acquired by Talk ‘N Text) and 2012 first-round picks along with Talk ‘N Text’s 2013 and 2014 first-round picks. 2010: Noy Baclao and Rabeh Al-Hussaini are selected first and second overall by Air21 Express. Midway through their rookie season both Baclao and Al-Hussaini along with Rey Guevarra are traded to Petron Blaze in exchange for Danny Seigle, Dondon Hontiveros, Dorian Peña and Paul Artadi. Baclao and Al-Hussaini help the Petron Blaze win the 2011 PBA Governors’ Cup. Al-Hussaini wins Rookie of the Year. 2012: The Petron Blaze Boosters (from Barako Bull via Air21) select June Mar Fajardo number one overall. 2013: Barangay Ginebra (from Air21) selects Greg Slaughter number one overall. Barako Bull had the fourth, fifth and sixth picks in the first round. Barako Bull decides to trade away all three first round picks. The fifth pick turns out to be Terrence Romeo. 2014: Despite winning the Philippine Cup in a 4-0 sweep, Talk ’N Text lands the second and fourth picks overall and selects Kevin Alas and Matthew Ganuelas-Rosser before the 2014-2015 PBA season begins. Alas & Ganuelas-Rosser help Talk ’N Text win the 2015 Commisioner’s Cup. Kia Sorento with their first pick in franchise history selects Manny Pacquiao 11th overall. 2015: Despite winning the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup, Talk ’N Text has the number one overall pick (from Blackwater). Talk ’N Text selects Moala Tautuaa number one and then two days later trade for the number two overall pick, Troy Rosario (Mahindra). 2016: The “Special” Draft. Gilas players are selected behind closed doors. One Gilas cadet per team, not to be traded for two years. Draft order was never released to the PBA fans/public. 2017: The San Miguel Beerman, despite winning two championships, having the most wins and the best win percentage, select Christian Standhardinger number one overall after a trade from Kia. Losing out on the Standhardinger sweepstakes, TNT blasts Commissioner Narvasa for approving the trade. The PBA divides where seven teams declare they have a “loss of confidence” in Commissioner Narvasa. Five teams support Commissioner Narvasa. After a three-month stalemate, Commissioner Narvasa steps down and the PBA Board appoints a new commissioner, Willie Marcial. As you can see, it is a little more complicated than having the number one overall pick protected from a trade. While the number one overall pick has been traded seven times in the last 13 years, which has to be some kind of record, there have been other issues as well. And that is where my long list of questions begins: -    What’s to stop an already winning team from stacking up multiple first round picks other than the number one overall pick, like in 2008 and 2014? -    This "no trading of the top pick rule" becomes effective in 2019. Why the wait? Why can’t it apply this year? Columbian Dyip has the first pick this season. History says they could likely trade that pick to a championship team. Why do we have to go through this make-believe world another year? -    Hypothetically, how would the PBA handle this situation: Phoenix trades an active player to Rain or Shine for ROS’s 2021 1st round pick. Unfortunately, in 2020, ROS has a variety of injuries and acquires the number one overall pick. What happens then? Who gets the first pick? ROS or Phoenix? -    After the first pick is drafted, when does that player selected first become tradeable? Can it be traded after the draft? If not, for how long? Looking at the draft history of the last 13 years, you have to wonder, what were the objectives of teams like Air21, Barako Bull & Kia? Were those teams in the league to form competitive teams? Were they attempting to build championship teams? Why were those teams trading so many of their top picks? Columbian justified its trading of the number pick last year by saying they were going to play in an “unconventional” way. Their unconventional way has led them to five wins in 31 games so far this season. It has also earned them the number one overall pick for the second year in a row. The PBA Draft is supposed to be fun. It used to be fun. Before 2005, the PBA Draft was a legitimate event. It was something to look forward to. The idea of the draft is still special in theory. It’s a day where dreams come true. Drafted players lives change that day. Many times, the lives of a player's family change forever when their son or husband or father is drafted in the PBA. It's an opportunity for teams who have struggled to get better. It's supposed to give hope to teams drafting high and a challenge to teams drafting low. That is how the draft system is supposed to work. Unfortunately, in the PBA that system has been broke for a long time. I like the idea and the spirit of the draft. However, last year on my podcast, Staying MAJOR, I argued that the PBA should scrap its draft. That made me sad. It made me sad because I feel like the spirit of the PBA Draft has been lost. It's been lost by teams manipulating the system for the improvement of their individual team or their team's objective, but not for the betterment of the league. I’m tired of the PBA Draft getting hijacked every year. And now we have to likely go through it again this year. Even after what happened last year. Not being able to trade the number one pick sounds good. It’s a nice blanket statement. I even think it might be a step in the right direction. But, sometimes when you're bleeding, you need more than a band-aid. Fans aren’t naive. They can figure out what’s going on when year after year the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Maybe some of my questions will get answered here as the draft approaches? Maybe Columbian Dyip won’t trade their pick again? Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part? If there is a silver lining, it is at least the PBA and its Board have acknowledged that there is a problem. At least there was an attempt to fix it. I’d say vetting of new potential franchises, so the PBA doesn’t have members who want to trade their draft picks to already successful teams is the bigger issue, but hopefully this is a start of trying to level the playing field. Wouldn’t it be fun to have teams that haven’t won in a while, keep their picks and build contending teams? Or at least not give them to the already strong teams? Wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate the draft spirit of hope on draft day without trying to figure out how the best teams ended up with the top picks again? The PBA is a professional, competitive, sports league. That’s what it’s supposed to be. The PBA is supposed to be fun too. However, it’s NOT fun or competitive when the top teams keep picking high every year. That’s not real competition to me. So will the PBA’s new rule regarding the number one overall pick change anything? This year, no. Starting next year, maybe. I’d like to be optimistic that there will be change or that this rule will initiate an on-going conversation of how to make the draft better. Unfortunately, we still have a full year of waiting before we find out. Eric Menk played in the PBA from 1999 to 2016. Menk is a four-time PBA champion, three-time PBA Finals MVP and one-time PBA MVP (2005). He will be writing for ABS-CBN Sports weekly. Menk also has his podcast Staying MAJOR as welll as his own YouTube channel ......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 19th, 2018

49ers lose QB Jimmy Garoppolo to season-ending knee injury

By JOSH DUBOW,  AP Pro Football Writer SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jimmy Garoppolo's addition last season immediately turned around the fortunes of the San Francisco 49ers. Now the 49ers will have to go back to life before Garoppolo for the rest of the season. The Niners announced Monday that Garoppolo tore the ACL in his left knee while making a cut late in a loss at Kansas City, sidelining him for the rest of the season. "It is very unfortunate," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It was hard waking up today. We were down and disappointed about it because we were looking forward a lot to playing with Jimmy this year and going through the good and the bad knowing that he'd benefit from all of it. Now we don't get to do it. I know Jimmy is really down about it and so are we but it's still going to be all right." The injury deals a serious blow to the 49ers (1-2), who had planned their rebuild around Garoppolo and now must turn again to C.J. Beathard at quarterback. Garoppolo will undergo surgery in the next week or two after the swelling goes down and should be ready to play again next season. The 49ers are planning to promote Nick Mullens from the practice squad and also will bring several veterans in for tryouts this week, including Tom Savage, Kellen Clemens, possibly T.J. Yates and Matt Moore. One quarterback who won't be brought in is former 49ers starter Colin Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract with San Francisco in March 2017 after Shanahan decided he wanted to go with a style of offense that didn't fit Kaepernick's game. "That's what I said last year and it's the same situation now," Shanahan said. "I always look into what style of offense I want to do and what style of offense we've been doing the last two years." The Niners struggled with Beathard and Brian Hoyer last season before the midseason addition of Garoppolo changed their fortunes. San Francisco won the final five games last year after Garoppolo took over as starter and the team rewarded him with a $137.5 million, five-year contract. The 49ers will have to wait another year to earn dividends on that investment. Garoppolo got hurt in the fourth quarter of a 38-27 loss Sunday when he was scrambling toward the sideline and decided to cut up field instead of going out of bounds. Garoppolo's left knee buckled just before Kansas City cornerback Steven Nelson delivered a big hit, ending what was supposed to be his first full season as a starter after just three games. Shanahan said the play should serve as a reminder to quarterbacks about the importance of protecting their bodies. "That's something that Jimmy will probably look at differently going forward because now he'll remember this the rest of his life," Shanahan said. "Nothing against him. This happens with everyone. You see it every Sunday. It's a reminder for everyone why it's an obvious coaching point." Expectations were high in San Francisco this season that the team could end a four-year playoff drought after Garoppolo had a full offseason to immerse himself in Shanahan's offense. But with Garoppolo and new running back Jerick McKinnon both knocked out for the season with torn ACLs in September, those high hopes have been put on hold. Garoppolo had completed 59.6 percent of his passes with five TDs, three interceptions and an average of 8.1 yards per attempt for a 90 passer rating. While he hasn't been quite as efficient as he was late last year after being acquired at the trade deadline from New England for a second-round pick, the Niners offense has been far more potent than it was before he took over as quarterback. Beathard started five games as a rookie last year, completing 54.9 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, six interceptions, 19 sacks, 6.4 yards per attempt and a 69.2 passer rating that was second lowest in the NFL. Beathard threw a touchdown pass to George Kittle on his first snap Sunday only to have it negated by a penalty and wasn't in for any other plays in the game. "I have a lot of confidence in C.J.," Shanahan said. "I think C.J. got a lot of experience last year. We liked him a lot coming out of college. ... He got thrown into as tough a situation as I could imagine a rookie quarterback being thrown in and the guy didn't blink." NOTES: CB Richard Sherman will miss a couple of weeks with a strained left calf. ... RB Matt Breida hyperextended his knee and is questionable this week. ... RG Mike Person will be questionable with a sprained knee......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 25th, 2018

Darnold recovers from 1st-play pick-6, helps Jets rout Lions

By Larry Lage, Associated Press DETROIT (AP) — Sam Darnold made a stellar debut despite throwing a pick-6 on his first NFL snap and the New York Jets intercepted five passes while routing the Detroit Lions 48-17 on Monday night. The 21-year-old Darnold became the youngest quarterback to start a season opener since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and he got off to a shaky start. Quandre Diggs intercepted his ill-advised, across-the-field lob toward the left sideline on the first play from scrimmage and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown 20 seconds into the game. "On that interception, I was pretty nervous," Darnold said. "After that, I put it behind me." The former USC star shook it off and completed 16 of 21 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. "He didn't flinch," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "He didn't even blink." Darnold helped the Jets set a franchise record for points on the road, surpassing the 47 they scored in 1967 against the Boston Patriots. He also outplayed 30-year-old Matthew Stafford. Stafford threw four interceptions — one shy of his career high — and left the game briefly in the third quarter after being hit from the front and back. He was mercifully taken out midway through the fourth quarter and replaced by Matt Cassel with Detroit down 31. Stafford was 27 of 46 for 286 yards and a TD pass to Golden Tate early in the third quarter to tie it at 17. The Jets dominated in all phases. They scored 31 straight in the third quarter to pull away, sending Detroit's fans for the exits and setting off a jolly green party in the Motor City. It was the highest-scoring third quarter in team history and trailed only the 34-point second quarter the Brett Favre-led team scored in 2008 against Arizona. New York scored on the ground and through the air, on defense and on a punt return. The Jets could've piled on even more in the final minutes but turned the ball over on downs after kneeling to take time off the clock. Darnold flipped the ball to a referee after the final kneel down, and the official gave it right back before shaking the rookie's hand. It was a miserable coaching debut for Detroit's Matt Patricia. "Had a couple good plays," Patricia said. "But a couple good plays isn't going to make a game." New NFL head coaches dropped to 0-6 in Week 1, with Oakland's Jon Gruden the group's final hope for an opening victory in the Monday nightcap. Linebacker Darron Lee had two of New York's interceptions, including one he ran back 36 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne and Jamal Adams also picked off passes in a big opener for the Jets' "New Jack City" secondary. Late in the game, just before Cassel threw an interception, hundreds of New York fans chanted: "J-E-T-S, JETS! JETS! JETS!" A crew clad in green and white filed into seats in four sections along the New York sideline and appeared to outnumber Detroit fans who stuck around for the bitter end. INJURIES Jets: CB Johnson (head injury) and CB Buster Skrine (rib) returned to play after leaving the field with injuries. Johnson was evaluated after he intercepted a pass and fumbled after taking a hard hit from Detroit receiver Kenny Golladay. Lions: DE Ezekiel Ansah, who has struggled to get and stay healthy, left the game with a shoulder after making four tackles, including a sack. OG T.J. Lang left the game with a back injury. CB Darius Slay returned to play after leaving the field to be evaluated for a concussion. UP NEXT Jets: Host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Lions: Visit the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 11th, 2018

Brandt Snedeker wins Wyndham Championship by 3 strokes

By Joe McCreary, Associated Press GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Brandt Snedeker began the Wyndham Championship with history — and ended it with a victory. Snedeker earned his ninth PGA Tour title Sunday, three days after opening with an 11-under 59. He closed with a 65 for a three-stroke victory in the regular-season finale, breaking a tie with C.T. Pan on the final hole with a birdie and Pan's double bogey in the group ahead. Snedeker finished at 21-under 259 for his first win since 2016 and his second at the tournament, but first at Sedgefield Country Club, to close what he called "the most stressful week I've ever had in professional golf." "Shooting 59 on Thursday, your expectations go through the roof," Snedeker said, also expressing pride that he could "cap it off the way we did today, to play pretty much a flawless round of golf." Pan shot a 66 to tie for second with Webb Simpson. Simpson matched his career-best with a 62. "I feel like it was a round I needed to make a push to the leaderboard," Simpson said. "Brandt's obviously had a great week ... so I knew it was going to take something super low." Snedeker opened the tournament with the 59 that made him the first tour player this year and just the 10th ever to break 60, then on the final day played 29 holes at 5 under to seal it. He's the fifth tour player to shoot in the 50s and then win the tournament. He was never in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in his career, but the victory gave him a huge jump on the points list. He climbed 50 spots to No. 30 on the list, after arriving at 80th — which would have been his lowest finish. "To be perfectly frank, I didn't have any chance at all" to win the FedEx Cup before this week, the 2012 playoff champion said. "After this week, I feel like I have a chance." For a while, it looked like it might come down to a playoff between Pan and Snedeker, who were even at 20 under entering Pan's final hole. But the 26-year-old from Taiwan ran into big trouble: Pan shanked his tee shot out of bounds off a cart path down the right side of the fairway and needed four shots, including the penalty stroke, to reach the green on the par 4. Pan said he heard "a couple noises in my head which caused me to hit a bad shot. "It's my fault. I can learn something from it," he said. "I only played one bad hole, which is fine. You know, I've still got a lot of golf left." With the victory seemingly inevitable at that point, Snedeker sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th to end it, making him the 10th player to win in Greensboro multiple times. His victory here in 2007 was the first of his career, and this time he finished one stroke shy of Henrik Stenson's year-old tournament record. "Wanting so desperately to win this tournament, it was just a lot of emotion this week," he said. Severe weather led organizers to suspend the third round with 30 players still on the course and bring everybody back to Sedgefield on Sunday morning, leaving Snedeker with 29 holes to play on the final day. He wrapped up that round with a one-stroke lead at 16 under before heading back onto the course. Since the tournament moved here in 2008, every third-round leader who was that far under par has gone on to win. The other subplot at Sedgefield is the last-minute push for the playoffs, which begin next week at The Northern Trust in New Jersey with the top 125 players qualifying. With every player who was between Nos. 122-127 missing the cut, there figured to be plenty of movement near the bubble. Sergio Garcia will miss the playoffs for the first time in his career after winding up 131st on the points list. Harris English and Nick Taylor played their way in, with Taylor saying he would "kind of soak it in and realize that we've finally done it. "It's really satisfying to finish it off," he said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 20th, 2018

Blockbuster trade not what Kawhi, DeRozan hoped for

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 19th, 2018

A look back at Roger Federer s record 8 Wimbledon titles

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press LONDON (AP) — Roger Federer's paths to his record eight Wimbledon championships were each different, of course. Different opponents. Different degrees of difficulty. Same old Federer. A year ago, for example, he did not drop a set the entire way, becoming the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to claim the title at the All England Club in that unblemished manner. In 2009, in contrast, Federer was pushed to the very limit, edging Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth set of a final that remains the longest, by games, of any Grand Slam title match in tennis history. Here is a year-by-year look at Federer's trophy runs at Wimbledon: ___ No. 1: 2003 Final: Beat Mark Philippoussis 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (3). Grand Slam Title: 1 Age: 21 At Stake: Pegged for great success, Federer had yet to get past the quarterfinals of a major tournament. Close Call: Federer dropped only one set, to Mardy Fish in the third round, but the toughest moment came in the round of 16, when Federer needed treatment on his aching back while beating Feliciano Lopez. Key Quote: "There was pressure from all sides — also from myself. I wanted to do better in Slams." — Federer. ___ No. 2: 2004 Final: Beat Andy Roddick 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 3 Age: 22 At Stake: His first attempt to defend a major championship. Close Call: After dropping the first set, then trailing by a break at 4-2 in the third, Federer used a rain delay to change strategy, opting to charge the net more. He made that switch on his own, because he'd been without a coach since firing his a little more than six months earlier. It worked: Federer won 24 of the next 28 points on his serve. Key Quote: "This is a very important phase in his career as well, that he could step back, not rely on somebody, get to know himself, get to know his own tennis and technique." — Federer's mother, Lynette. ___ No. 3: 2005 Final: Beat Roddick 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 5 Age: 23 At Stake: Trying to become the first man in 50 years to win his first five major finals. Close Call: None, really. Federer dropped merely one of 22 sets he played over the two weeks, a tiebreaker against 25th-seeded Nicolas Kiefer in the third round, but quickly recovered to win that match 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-1, 7-5. Key Quote: "It's hard for him, because I really played a fantastic match — one of the best of my life. Today it seemed liked I was playing flawless." — Federer. ___ No. 4: 2006 Final: Beat Rafael Nadal 6-0, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-3. Grand Slam Title: 8 Age: 24 At Stake: Entering the championship match, Federer was 0-4 that season against Nadal — including a loss in the French Open final weeks earlier — and 55-0 against everyone else. Close Call: Once again, nothing to speak of, because Federer dropped just one set all tournament, this time in the final. Nadal did serve for the second set at 5-4, but missed three forehands and double-faulted to get broken there, before ceding the ensuing tiebreaker. Key Quote: "I'm very well aware of how important this match was for me. If I lose, obviously, it's a hard blow for me — he wins French, Wimbledon back-to-back. It's important for me to win a final against him, for a change, and beat him, for a change." — Federer. ___ No. 5: 2007 Final: Beat Nadal 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2. Grand Slam Title: 11 Age: 25 At Stake: Joining Borg as the only men in the last 100 years to win Wimbledon five years in a row. Close Call: After dropping just one set (in a quarterfinal against 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero) along an unusually short road to the final (fourth-round foe Tommy Haas withdrew with an injury), Federer got all he could handle against Nadal. Key Quote: "He's an artist on this surface. He can stay back. He can come in. No weaknesses. I believe if he continues the way he's doing and stays away from injuries and has the motivation, he'll be the greatest player ever to play the game." — Borg. ___ No. 6: 2009 Final: Beat Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14. Grand Slam Title: 15 Age: 27 At Stake: Breaking Sampras' record for most major singles trophies won by a man and reasserting his supremacy at Wimbledon after losing a 9-7 fifth set to Nadal in the 2008 final. Close Call: What could be a closer call than that fifth set? Federer's only break of the day came in the match's 77th and last game. Also worth remembering is that 2017 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Roddick led the second-set tiebreaker 6-2 but did not convert any of the four points that would have given him a two-set lead. Key Quote: "He's a legend. Now he's an icon." — Sampras. ___ No. 7: 2012 Final: Beat Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 17 Age: 30 At Stake: Tying the record held by Sampras and William Renshaw (who played in the 1800s) for most Wimbledon men's championships, plus ending a personal 2½-year Grand Slam drought. Close Call: Federer dropped the first two sets in the third round against 29th-seeded Julien Benneteau of France, then was two points away from losing a half-dozen times, but pulled out a 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-1 comeback. Key Quote: "Oh, my God, it was brutal. The thing, when you're down two sets to love, is to stay calm, even though it's hard, because people are freaking out, people are worried for you." — Federer. ___ No. 8: 2017 Final: Beat Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. Grand Slam Title: 19 (he added No. 20 at this year's Australian Open) Age: 35 At Stake: Breaking the mark for most men's singles titles at the All England Club after coming up just short with losses to Novak Djokovic in the 2014 and 2015 finals. Close Call: Nothing whatsoever. The closest thing to a close call came in the semifinals, when 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych pushed Federer to tiebreakers in each of the first two sets. Cilic was hampered by foot blister in a final that was lopsided throughout. Key Quote: "Wimbledon was always my favorite tournament. Will always be my favorite tournament. My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here." — Federer......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 2nd, 2018

LeBron James nearing deadline on contract option with Cavs

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James is approaching a deadline that may be little more than a starting line. Not just for him, but for free agency around the league. The NBA’s most impactful player has until 11:59 p.m. Friday (Saturday, PHL time) to decide what to do with a $35.6 million contract option for next season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. If he declines the option, which is what’s expected to happen, James will become an unrestricted free agent and another Summer of LeBron will heat up instantly with the Los Angeles Lakers becoming a possible destination. Cleveland, too, would still be in the mix as James could sign a short-term deal with the Cavs. He has done that each season since returning in 2014. If James exercises or picks up his option, the three-time champion would be under contract next season with the Cavs, but that would not preclude the Eastern Conference champions from trading him to acquire assets to build for the future. As of late Thursday afternoon (Friday, PHL time), James had not informed the Cavs of his plans while reports about his future filled Twitter timelines and talk radio programs. The real games haven’t begun. James, who has kept a low profile on social media for months, has been on vacation with his wife and three children, giving him a chance to recover from perhaps the most exhausting season of his career and plot the next chapter. The 33-year-old has long been linked to the Lakers, partly because he has two homes in the Los Angeles area along with a film production company. There’s also the fact that the Lakers have enough salary-cap space to sign James and another maximum-contract player like Kawhi Leonard or Paul George and form a “Super Team” capable of competing with the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. The first major free-agent domino fell Thursday (Thursday night, PHL time) as George decided not to exercise his $20.7 million option for next season with Oklahoma City, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. ESPN first reported George’s decision. For now, George is set to hit the market when free agency officially begins at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, (Monday, PHL time) but he may not go anywhere. The Thunder can offer him more money and George could get a five-year, $176 million and stay in Oklahoma. It’s unclear what affect, if any, George’s decision has had on James and his plans. The two are good friends and there’s little doubt they would relish the opportunity to play together after competing against each other for years. As for Leonard, there’s little clarity on his troubled relationship with San Antonio. It remains unclear if the Spurs are willing to trade him and if they are willing to part ways with him, where he would land. For James, the dilemma is whether to leave his home again. Upon his return to Cleveland four years ago from Miami, James said it took time away to realize what he was missing. “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” he said. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.” James also said he always felt like he would come back to Cleveland to finish his career where it began. But that was before the Akron native led the Cavs to four straight Finals and won Cleveland’s first professional sports title since 1964. If Decision 3.0 is to go, James feels content. “I came back because I felt like I had some unfinished business,” he said following Game 4 of the NBA Finals. “To be able to be a part of a championship team two years ago with the team that we had and in the fashion that we had is something I will always remember. ... It ended a drought for Cleveland of 50-plus years, so I think we’ll all remember that in sports history.” ___ AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 29th, 2018

Irving stays busy with knee to mend, movie to promote

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving doesn’t have to worry about free agency until next summer, though he’s got plenty to keep him busy for now. There’s a movie to promote and a knee to mend. He hopes he’s good on screen, but wants to be better than ever on the court. “Now becomes the real climb to Mount Everest, back to the top,” Irving said Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “So I’m just taking my time.” The Boston Celtics All-Star is hoping he can start playing again in a couple weeks. But he’s staying patient in his rehab from late-season surgery because of an infection in his knee, figuring the extra time can only help after he played deep into June the previous two years with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was traded to the Celtics last summer while filming “Uncle Drew.” The movie, in which he plays an old playground basketball legend who started as a character in Pepsi commercials, premieres in New York on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and opens nationwide Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The Cavaliers gave Irving’s former jersey number to Collin Sexton, drafted last week with the No. 8 pick that Cleveland acquired from Boston in the trade. But Irving wasn’t upset, saying he already gave away the only Cavs’ No. 2 that matters to him — the one he wore while hitting the biggest shot in the franchise’s history. That was on Father’s Day in 2016, the night Irving nailed the three-pointer that helped the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals for the franchise’s first championship. “The history, it’s already captured, man,” Irving said. “I was on one of the best teams in NBA history in my opinion, just accomplishing something that was that much bigger than ourselves. A feat that was, we’re one of no other teams. We’re like 1 of 1, in history. So for me, I think the biggest thing was giving that jersey to my dad, and if that’s where the No. 2 legacy ends, then cool.” Though Irving asked to be traded — a request LeBron James hoped the Cavs wouldn’t honor — he looks back fondly on his time in what’s now Sexton’s number. “I gave a lot of commitment and sacrifice to being there from Day 1, so to have that six-year span of doing some unbelievable things, I’m definitely happy about it,” he said. “I never shy away from that in terms of Cleveland giving me the opportunity to a 19-year-old kid of wearing No. 2. Now, it’s just a transition in the league. “There’s no hard feelings from my end. But now he has to start from kind of the chopping block just like everyone else did, so I’m excited for him.” And he’s excited for “Uncle Drew,” in which Irving rounds up his old teammates to play in a tournament at New York’s Rucker Park. Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber and Nate Robinson star as his old running mates. They were on set with him when they started getting alerts that Irving had been traded. “Once it happened, the dancing just got a little better,” Irving said. Irving needed three hours of makeup daily to look like a senior citizen before the 14 hours a day of filming. He believes his love of basketball shows up through his role of wise old sage who hangs around the courts — though Irving himself hasn’t played on outdoor playgrounds in years. His game is indoors now, and he plans on being back there this summer before dealing with his own free agency next summer. “Not just the same way but also a lot better,” Irving said. “That’s where the focus has to be. If you leave any room for doubt or uncertainly, I mean you might as well get out of the game.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 26th, 2018

Kolarov scores from free kick, Serbia beats Costa Rica 1-0

By ANNE M. PETERSON ,  AP Sports Writer SAMARA, Russia (AP) — Aleksandar Kolarov scored from a left-footed free kick in the 56th minute and Serbia opened its World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica on Sunday. After David Guzman was handed a yellow card, Kolarov curled the ensuing free kick over the wall. Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who plays for Real Madrid, couldn't reach it. Serbia, which missed out on the 2014 tournament, had the early advantage in a tough group that includes five-time champion Brazil and Switzerland. After a scoreless first half, Navas fought off a barrage of challenges to open the second with the boisterous Costa Rican fans cheering him on at Samara Arena. The final moments of the match were marked by a squabble on the sidelines as Nemanja Matic got into a tussle with a Costa Rican coach. Players from both teams rushed toward the scrum but it was quickly diffused. The Ticos were the surprise of the last World Cup, sweeping through to the quarterfinals in Brazil before being ousted by the Netherlands on penalties. It was the furthest the small Central American nation had advanced in soccer's premier tournament. But there was some uncertainty surrounding the Ticos after a pair of friendly losses heading into the World Cup, including a 4-1 rout by Belgium a week ago. Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic, who replaced Slavoljub Muslin last year, put together a veteran defense with Kolarov, who plays for Roma, and former Chelsea player Branislav Ivanovic. Also included were Manchester United midfielder Matic, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who had an apparent falling out with Muslin but was brought to Russia by Krstajic. The opening half between Costa Rica and Serbia was back and forth from the start: Aleksandar Mitrovic's header missed the target in the opening minute and moments later Marco Urena's angled shot for Costa Rica was saved in the left corner by Vladimir Stojkovic. Ivanovic made his record 104th appearance for the national team, surpassing Dejan Stankovic's mark. The 34-year-old Ivanovic had matched Stankovic's record last Saturday in a 5-1 friendly win over Bolivia. Stankovic, known as "Deki," played for the national team from 1998-2013, through three different eras: Yugoslavia, Serbia-Montenegro and finally Serbia. Ivanovic currently plays for Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg, but he's best known for his time at Chelsea (2008-17). Costa Rica defender Ronald Matarrita was ruled out of the World Cup earlier this week because of a right hamstring injury. He was replaced on the roster by Kenner Gutierrez. GROUP DYNAMICS Costa Rica advanced out of the group stage in Brazil with victories over Uruguay and Italy and a draw with England, but the country's players insisted in the run-up to Sunday's game that this team should not be judged on the past. "There's always a lot of talk about four years ago, but this is a new World Cup, a new history," Costa Rica defender Giancarlo Gonzales said. "Some of us are repeating, but there are teammates who are playing their first World Cup. We know the eyes of the world are on us." Costa Rica will next face Brazil on Friday in St. Petersburg, while Serbia plays Switzerland on Friday in Kaliningrad. KEYS TO SUCCESS Milinkovic-Savic gave Navas a workout in the first half, and while he didn't score, he is clearly a potent weapon for Serbia. He challenged Navas in the 27th minute from just outside the box, but Navas fell on the ball. Navas also stopped Milinkovic-Savic's bicycle kick in front of goal in the 42nd minute, but it was ruled offside. Currently with Italian club Lazio, rumors have swirled that Manchester United might be interested in the dynamic 23-year-old Milinkovic-Savic......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2018

Aging like fine wine, James shines when it matters most

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND – The first 57 seconds came near the end of the third quarter, LeBron James finally heading over to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench after logging 35 minutes – 35:03, as long as we’re counting – of intense, frantic, backs-against-the-wall elimination basketball against the Boston Celtics in Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. James took his seat with the idea of resting as much as he could, as quickly as he could. That’s about all he gets this time of year, when subbing James out of the game too often is like the Cavaliers loosening their grip on a balloon they’re blowing up but have yet to tie off. If the air went out of Cleveland’s balloon at Quicken Loans Arena, it was going to be out for months. Heck, given James’ possible departure in free agency this summer, the air might have been gone for good. “Obviously [if] I get a minute, couple minutes here per quarter, would be great. But it's not what our team is built on right now,” James said after yet another remarkable performance to keep the Cavs’ postseason alive. With what was left of the third on the game clock and how it played out, followed by the break between quarters, the Cavaliers’ star got about five minutes in real time to catch his breath. Then promptly subbed back in for the fourth. “Our team is built on me being out on the floor to be able to make plays, not only for myself but make plays for others,” James said. “It's just the way we've been playing, and we've been succeeding with it. “I was able to play 46 minutes today. I got my couple minutes, I guess.” He got another 57 seconds to be exact. They were less hurried, less nervous and absolutely earned, coming as they did at the very end. When James exited for good, his work was done. The Cavs had pushed this home-dominant series to its max, with Game 7 at Boston’s TD Garden Sunday (Monday, PHL time). James’ stats line was one of those gaudy/ordinary types he has spoiled his team and NBA fans with for so many years: 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He also had three steals and one blocked shot, racing back in the third quarter to deny Boston’s greyhound guard Terry Rozier after finishing a Cavs fast break an instant before. James went down as if shot early in the fourth, his team up 89-82; teammate Larry Nance fell into the future Hall of Famer’s right leg. But after a few tentative, anxious moments both for him and the folks in the arena, James was back to moving, pivoting and launching as if nothing had happened. “I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg,” said James, who seems to go through more histrionics and drama than the average player when he gets clobbered, without enduring the same level of injury. “I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I've seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one's leg standing straight up.” Not long after that, though, James was draining two bak-breaking three-pointers on consecutive trips, burning young Celtics forward Jayson Tatum both times from deep on the left wing. The second sent Boston scurrying into a timeout with 1:40 to go, and had James going a little primal along that far sideline, pounding his chest and hollering out. “The love of the game causes reactions like that,” James said. “Understanding the situation and understanding the moment that you're in. It was just a feeling that you can't explain unless you've been a part of it.” James has been a part of it plenty. This was the 22nd elimination game of his career, his eighth since returning to Cleveland in 2014. He is 13-9 overall and 6-2 in this Cavs 2.0 version. His production in these win-or-go-home games is unsurpassed in NBA history. James is averaging 34.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists, performing best when it matters most. That wasn’t always the case – James had some rough-shooting, high-turnover nights in elimination games early in his career. More recently, though, he’s everything you want but cannot get in a mutual fund: His past performances definitely are a guarantee of future results. “I’ve watched him play a lot of really great games, but that one’s right up there towards the top,” said Kyle Korver, Cleveland’s 37-year-old sniper. “It’s just so much heart. He wanted this game so bad. “I think he just craves those moments. He loves those moments. When the game is on the line, when the season is on the line, he’s just been rising up, and that’s what the great players do.” Iconic players like James and, before him, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are the ones who block whole NBA generations from achieving their dreams, hoarding Finals appearances and championship rings for them and theirs only. Celtics Brad Stevens, young as he is, has had to gameplan against James’ greatness and ability to dominate three times in playoff series now. “Does that ever come into our minds? Yeah, every time we watch,” Stevens said. “Every time you're standing out there. Every time you watch him on film. Best player in the game. Special night tonight and special night in Game 4 [44 points]. I can't say enough good things about him.” At least one of James’ own teammates didn’t always feel that way. “I've been in the league for some years and ran across him on the other side and really hated his guts,” said George Hill, the former Indiana Pacers guard who never beat James in postseason basketball before joining him via trade in February. “But to have him on our side, it kind of lets me take a deep breath of fresh air. It's just something that you really can't explain what he's doing night in, night out.” The view from the Cavaliers’ side isn’t just safer, it’s illuminating for George. “Yeah, I thought the best was when he always put us out,” the veteran said. “But to actually see it when he's on your team, I can't even put it into words. Sometimes I just think, ‘How did he make that shot?’ Or ‘How did he make that move?’ Or ‘When did he see that pass?’ Just making big plays and big shots. People always list him as not a shooter, but he's making big shots down the stretch. If it's three-pointers, layups, dunks, passes, he can do it all.” James wasn’t always so complete as a player. In some of his early forays into the playoffs, critics would pounce. Passing off a potential winning shot, for example, to less-decorated teammate Donyell Marshall. Getting ousted by a savvier, saltier Celtics crew in seven games in 2008 and in six two years later. A couple years after that, though, James would return the favor with his new crew in Miami. He dropped 45 points with 15 rebounds on Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and the rest right on the hallowed parquet in Game 6, then backed it up with 31 in Game 7. Now he’s tormenting a whole new set of Celtics. “Like I said, I haven't always done it in my whole career, but I've never shied away from it,” James said. “That's either making a shot or making a play. I was taught the game the right way ever since I started playing.” So it’s talent to start, fundamentals ladled onto that and then time and experience to percolate, to ferment, to ripen James into what he is now: No one to be trifled with when there’s something to be won or to be staved off. Getting a little more introspective than usual, James talked about the maturation journey he has taken since arriving on the NBA scene still a teenager in 2003. “I've embraced a lot of situations as you grow up,” he said. “I mean, I love being a husband now. Did I embrace that at 18, 19? I don't think so. “As you get older, you just grow into more things. I didn't love wine until I was 30 years old, and now every other [social media] post is about wine, National Wine Day. So you learn and you grow and you know what's best for you as you get older. That's just all of us. I think that's what being a human being is. “At 18, I don't think I'm the same player that I am today at 33, and I shouldn't be. I'm just much more seasoned.” Fifteen seasons worth and counting, aging like all that wine. That’s the guy Boston will try to put out Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Arguably the GOAT, undeniably the BLOAT, as in Best LeBron of All Time.  Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 26th, 2018

Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics mystique

By Tom Withers, Associated Press INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — There haven’t been any championship banners hoisted into Boston’s hallowed rafters since 2008. LeBron James won’t let go of the rope. Cleveland’s star has bounced the Celtics from the playoffs four times in the past seven years, and James carries a six-game postseason winning streak at Boston into this year’s Eastern Conference finals, which open Sunday (Monday, PHL time) at TD Garden. As a member of both the Miami Heat and Cavaliers, James — whose success against Boston did a 180-degree turn with a mesmerizing Game 6 performance in 2012 — has made the Celtics green(er) with envy. But while the 33-year-old has the utmost respect for the NBA’s most decorated franchise, James’ admiration hasn’t stopped him from standing in the way of Boston stuffing more Larry O’Brien trophies into its crowded case. And if he beats the Celtics again and advances to his eighth straight NBA Finals, James would join a club currently exclusive to Boston players with legendary status. Only Bill Russell (10), Sam Jones (9), Tommy Heinsohn (9) and Frank Ramsey (8) have played in more consecutive Finals than James, who said he hasn’t reflected on the possibility of admission to their group. “I do know that this is my eighth straight conference finals and I have an opportunity to play for a championship if I’m able to be successful in this conference finals, so I don’t take that for granted,” James said Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “You dream about being able to play in big games in the NBA. Even when I got to the NBA that was one of my only goals — to be as great as I can be, to play in big games in the NBA and be remembered — and I think I’ve done that in my career. “Just trying to add onto it while I can.” Early in his career, James saw the Celtics as a postseason exit ramp. The “Big 3” Boston team featuring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen ousted him and the Cavs in 2008 and 2010, the latter series ending with James famously storming off the floor and pulling off his jersey to foreshadow his free-agent departure later that summer for South Beach. He avenged that loss the following year in the conference semifinals, and then in 2012, James had one of his most magnificent postseason exhibitions of his career in Boston. With the Heat down 3-2 in the series, James scored 45 points on 19 of 26 shooting and added 15 rebounds as Miami forced a Game 7 and went on to win consecutive titles. Since then, he’s 8-1 against the Celtics with a four-game sweep in 2015 and a five-game dusting last year in the conference finals. James has scored 979 points in 34 playoff games against the Celtics, the most by one player against a single team. And in his past six games on Boston’s parquet, he’s averaging 34.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists. James has eight playoff wins in Boston, more than all but four current Celtics. One of them, Jaylen Brown, knows what’s coming. “Physically, he is more superior than any guy that is on the floor,” Brown said. “He’s 260-plus pounds. Can run like a gazelle. Athletic. He’s physical. He’s just unstoppable. We gotta be mentally locked in and have a mindset to try and do the best we can. LeBron is top 3, top 5 of all-time. He’s going to do what he does. We just gotta take away the other guys and have a great mindset of mentally being locked in every possession.” Boston’s notorious crowd is known for rattling opposing players. In the first round, Celtics fans taunted Milwaukee guard Eric Bledsoe with chants of “Who Is Bledsoe?” after he unwisely made a comment about Celtics playoff phenom Terry Rozier. James and his teammates know they’ll have their ears rung as well. “One of the rowdy environments,” Cavaliers forward Kyle Korver said. “Boston is fun. They have a great crowd. They’re ready to get behind their team. There’s been moments where I’ve been on a team where there’s a decent lead and then they make one shot and the place just erupts. You’re like, ‘Man, they’re going to come back.’ You just feel it. It’s a great place to play, especially in the playoffs.” Boston’s roar only seems to strengthen James, who appreciates the passion and pride in the Celtics. “Just the history, you look up in the rafters and you see all the greats that has either played there or the previous arena they played in,” he said. “It’s a sports town. You look at the Patriots. You look at the Bruins. You look at the Red Sox. You add them, look at all that history. It’s just a sports town. If you’re not green, they don’t mess with you.” ___ AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2018

Young Celtics look to stop James, Cavaliers

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com For a few days at least, much of the talk about this rematch of the 2017 Eastern Conference finals will focus on what might have been. In what could have offered some poetic closure to the Eastern Conference portion of this season, former Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving would be taking on his old team and, specifically, LeBron James, the superstar “big brother” whom he’d dissed by demanding a trade. Meanwhile, in a more perfect pulp-fiction world, Cleveland would be setting loose point guard Isaiah Thomas on the Boston Celtics, giving him a chance for payback to the team that dealt him away the instant it sniffed the chance to land Irving. Those plotlines are kaput; Irving’s season ended in March with left knee surgery, Thomas got dealt from Cleveland at the February trade deadline. The best we’ll get now are sideline shots of Irving in street clothes on Boston’s bench, reacting to the series’ ebbs and flows. Thomas might be limited to tweeting from afar. That leaves one clear, distinct narrative: The King of the East vs. perhaps the best collection of aspirants to his throne. James is trying to cap one of his most remarkable seasons by advancing to his eighth consecutive Finals, having led the Cavaliers to the past three after four with the Miami Heat. He has coaxed and carried these Cavs along a steep learning curve, finally getting them spiffed up by the end of their sweep of Toronto. “He’s been doing this for a long time,” Boston’s Marcus Smart said after the clincher over Philadelphia. “He’s, if not the greatest, one of the greatest to do it. What better way than to go up and compete against a guy that’s [going to have] statues and things like that.” The Celtics, by contrast, are a team trying to write fresh history. They’re ahead of schedule, too, given Irving’s absence and the loss of prize free agent Gordon Hayward way back on opening night to a gruesome leg injury, coincidentally, in Cleveland. Boston put out a talented Milwaukee Bucks club in the opening round, then dumped the Philadelphia 76ers -- another rising franchise in the East – in five games. And for those who think the West has the sexier conference clash, this one offers a pretty slick matchup: James against Boston coach Brad Stevens. Widely regarded as a master tactician, Stevens -- whose Celtics lost in five games to the Cavaliers in last year’s East finals -- gets another multi-game shot. In last year’s series, James averaged these numbers to beat: 29.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 2.2 spg and 1.2 bpg. 3 quick questions and answers 1. Who guards LeBron? This is the first question (or should be) of every preview of every playoff series every year of James’ career since he first started qualifying in 2006. Toronto used the length of OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam on James but neither of the Celtics’ young, long forwards -- Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum -- would be ideal for the duty, because Boston needs their scoring. Brown will take his turn but look for Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart in the crosshairs, counting on their physical force to bother Cleveland’s star. With undoubtedly lots of help and different looks, all the while sticking close to shooters like Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Kevin Love. Said center Aron Baynes late Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): “We know where the head of the snake is and we know what we have to focus on but he’s got a lot of great role players around him and some other guys that can really create as well. 2. Will Point Guard Showdown 1A be a letdown? So instead of Irving vs. Thomas, we’ll get Terry Rozier vs. George Hill. That’s not a bad backup plan, because Rozier has had a star-is-born postseason so far and Hill has been a huge help to the Cavs after missing 3.5 games in the first round. Hill has more experience and is a scrappy defender, but Rozier -- who averaged 16.7 points and shot 47.1 percent from three in the regular season vs. Cleveland -- has speed and energy that might swing this matchup in Boston’s favor. 3. Will Love love this matchup with Horford? Kevin Love doesn’t like playing center, but Cavs coach Tyronn Lue likes the effect that has on opposing defenses. Love has an inside-outside game that makes him a tough cover for both the big fives and for more agile power-forward types. The challenge in this round is how Love copes with Al Horford, who has comparable forward’s skills. It won’t be a traditional battle of bigs, for which Love will be grateful after tangling with Toronto’s jumbo Jonas Valanciunas. The number to know 18.5 -- The Cavs scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions in the conference semifinals against Toronto, 18.5 more than they scored in the first round against Indiana (103.0). The Indy series was too close for comfort; The Pacers actually outscored Cleveland by 40 points in the series and Cavs not named James registered an effective field goal percentage of just 47 percent (the league average is 52 percent). But things were much different against the No. 1 seed, with Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith combining to shoot 24-for-38 (63 percent) from 3-point range and Kevin Love recovering from a funk to average 25 points on 54 percent shooting over the final three games. The Cavs' defense remains a question, but they always have the ability to score points in bunches. The Celtics had the No. 1 defense in the regular season and the regular season series was on the ugly side (the teams combined to score just 100 points per 100 possessions), but Boston will have to pick its poison with James surrounded by shooters that have started to shoot well. -- John Schuhmann Making the pick The Cavaliers won two of the three meetings between these teams in the regular season, with their more impressive victory coming mere days after the Cleveland roster makeover at the trade deadline. The Cavs were plus-11 in the season series, James averaged 24.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 8.3 apg, Boston shot 30-of-106 from three and ... aw, who are we kidding? Regular season results matter little now. James is determined to win his 24th consecutive Eastern Conference series to reach his eighth straight Finals. He was a maestro vs. the Raptors in drawing out his teammates’ games. The Celtics, allowing for their injuries, already have overachieved. That ends here. Cavaliers in 6......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: Will LeBron win a 24th straight East series?

NBA.com blogtable LeBron James has won 23 consecutive Eastern Conference playoffs series. Is there any reason at all to think it won't be 24? * * * David Aldridge: Two words: Brad Stevens. He's the best chance the Celtics (I am assuming Boston doesn't blow its 3-1 lead over Philadelphia) have against Cleveland; his ability to take whatever players are in front of them and make them a cohesive unit is amazing. And his roster this year is better equipped to compete with James's Cavaliers than last year's, even with all the current injuries that have taken out Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Terry Rozier has been a revelation at point guard in the playoffs and he'll cause the Cavs problems; his matchup with George Hill will be a huge factor in the series. If the Celtics can get Jaylen Brown through the rest of the Sixers' series without him aggravating his hamstring, three potential days off before the conference finals could be big. I just think Boston is much more dynamic offensively this year than at this time last year, when Isaiah Thomas was hobbling. Having said all that, seeing J.R. Smith and George Hill show signs of life in the Toronto series and seeing Kevin Love really get rolling the last three games against the Raptors means James should have enough help to make it 24 out of 24. Steve Aschburner: Not anymore. There were reasons he might not have won No. 22: the Cavaliers weren’t playing well as the regular season ended and the Indiana Pacers came into the first round with no fear, no intimidation and both the game plan and the personnel to give Cleveland fits. James & Co. survived, but that series – the fatigue of it, the lack of preparation for their next opponent – became the reason they would fall in No. 23. Didn’t happen. Not even close. The Cavs have plugged leaks and polished their act into something close to Finals-worthy, and that will continue against either of the two, young, vulnerable teams on the other side of the East bracket. Shaun Powell: It'll be a surprise if he doesn't win 24. This isn't to take away from the gutsy Celtics or upstart Sixers, whomever will be standing in LeBron James' way next. But this might be the weakest Eastern playoff field LeBron has ever seen, given that he went through (a) the post-Paul George Indiana Pacers and (b) the mentally-flawed Toronto Raptors and will then see (c) the Celtics without Kyrie Irving or the Sixers will a bunch of kids. Also, the Cavs are finally hitting their stride right about now. John Schuhmann: There are certainly reasons to believe that Boston has a chance. (With apologies to Philadelphia, I'm assuming the Sixers don't make history by coming back from a 3-0 deficit.) The Celtics had the No. 1 defense in the league and have the size on the perimeter to defend LeBron James and stay at home on the Cavs' shooters a lot better than Toronto did. The Celtics have been the better, more consistent and more resilient team than the Cavs (who have won just two playoff games by more than four points), and Al Horford has been the second best player in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They will be able to take advantage of some matchups on their end of the floor, though they might not have the overall firepower to keep up with the Cavs if James' teammates can provide some support. And of course, it remains difficult to pick against James before he reaches The Finals. Sekou Smith: There's no reason to believe in anything other than the power of LeBron. He's shown us enough the past 15 years -- and the last eight in particular -- that when it comes to the race for the Eastern Conference title, he's the one thing we can count on. Boston and Philadelphia pose much different problems for the Cavaliers compared to the Toronto Raptors, so LeBron and Co. shouldn't go into this next round overconfident. But they should be secure in the fact that the one, true difference-maker in this whole thing still resides in northeast Ohio. Until that changes, it's wise to bet on LeBron......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 10th, 2018

Game 4: Cavaliers, Celtics look to finish off East sweeps

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press The unthinkable has happened before. Conference semifinals, 2010, Boston vs. Philadelphia: Boston wins the first two games at home, then goes into Philadelphia to capture Game 3 and take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Undeterred, Philadelphia won in seven games to reach the Eastern Conference finals. One small detail to note: That was in hockey. If there’s one piece of solace for the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors right now, it’s likely this — comebacks from 3-0 deficits are not completely unheard of in major sports. There’s been four of them in the NHL. Another happened in baseball, the Boston Red Sox rallying to oust the New York Yankees in the 2004 AL Championship Series. And even Cleveland has blown a 3-0 lead, albeit again in hockey, and that was of the minor league variety in 1960. But in the NBA, never. NBA teams staring into the 0-3 abyss have never been saved: 129 have tried, 129 have failed. On Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), the 76ers and the Raptors — both down 3-0 after down-to-the-wire defeats in their respective Game 3s of their Eastern Conference semifinal series — get their chance to be the ones who rewrite that ignominious piece of basketball history. Philadelphia plays host to Boston and Toronto is at Cleveland, with the 76ers and Raptors both trying to find ways to extend their seasons. “There’s a breaking point we all have,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “And I believe that if we can maintain our spirit, why couldn’t we be the one? And I mean that. That’s my goal with us, is to fight. That’s all I know. I can’t see any other way to approach this that makes sense to me. So that’s what we’re going to do.” The odds are obviously overwhelmingly in favor of the Celtics and Cavaliers, who seem destined to meet in the Eastern Conference finals for the second consecutive year. That’s hard to believe, given where those clubs were a week or so ago. Both needed to survive Game 7s just to get out of the first round. The narrative around the Celtics, with no Kyrie Irving for the postseason, was that they would be the East high seed ripe for a playoff upset. Oops. They’ve been unflappable. “I’ve never been around a group of guys, and I’ve been around some really special ones, that can just turn the page and they just play the next play the right way,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s a really unique group in that regard.” The narrative around the Cavaliers was that LeBron James was being asked to do too much and his supporting cast was capable of too little. Oops, again. And now James is five wins from an eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. “We’re getting better,” Cavs forward Jeff Green said. “We’re getting better each game. Our defense is getting better. We’re playing together. Things are turning a corner for us at the right time.” A look at Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) games: CELTICS AT 76ERS Celtics lead 3-0. Game 4, 6 p.m. EDT, (6am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: The Celtics are playing for a lot of rest. A win on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), and the Celtics wouldn’t play again until at least Sunday (next Monday, PHL time). And there’s nothing more valuable than days off to heal nagging things at this time of year. KEEP AN EYE ON: Jayson Tatum. Boston’s young standout was brilliant in Game 3 with 24 points, and the Celtics were plus-24 when he was on the floor. In the 11.5 minutes he was on the bench, Philadelphia outscored Boston 39-18. STAT QUIRK: Philadelphia set an NBA record with a 16-game winning streak to end the regular season. The 76ers topped the 15-game end-of-season run by the 1950 Rochester Royals — who exited the playoffs in a sweep. PRESSURE IS ON: Ben Simmons. The 76ers point guard made some atrocious decisions in the final moments of Game 3, like going back up with an offensive rebound late in regulation (instead of burning some clock with Philly leading) and the lazy-looking one-handed inbounds pass for a turnover in overtime that sealed Boston’s win. RAPTORS AT CAVALIERS Cavaliers lead 3-0. Game 4, 8:30 p.m. EDT (8:30am, PHL time) NEED TO KNOW: Pity the Raptors. After coming into these playoffs with title hopes, Toronto has again been unable to solve LeBron James. In the last 15 matchups where the Raptors have faced James, they’re 1-14 and are now on the brink of being ousted by the Cavs for the third straight season. KEEP ANY EYE ON: Kevin Love’s resurgence. Cleveland’s other All-Star has been revived in this series, a development that bodes well for the Cavs going forward. Love finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds in Game 3, responding to urging from Cavs coach Tyronn Lue to play faster. PRESSURE IS ON: Raptors coach Dwane Casey. His moves have been questioned throughout the first three games. Toronto ran a mind-boggling inbounds play in the final minute of Game 3 with guard Fred VanVleet hoisting and missing a 35-foot jumper before the shot clock expired. Casey also benched All-Star DeMar DeRozan for the entire fourth quarter, a bold decision given that he’s the club’s best offensive player. PRODUCT PLACEMENT: James’ choice to wear a Seagram’s 7 whiskey cap to his postgame news conference was interesting. Some suspected he might be trolling the Raptors since Seagram’s was originally a Canadian company. The logo also includes a small crown, so there’s the royal angle. Whatever the case, he may want to start getting Samuel Adams hats ready for the East finals — if he wants to tweak Boston fans a bit more. ___ AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 7th, 2018

Iniesta leaving Barcelona after 16 trophy-filled seasons

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Andres Iniesta took two deep breaths, and then said the words that announced his story-book career at Barcelona was coming to an end. In an emotional news conference Friday attended by most of his teammates, his family and club executives, the midfielder who has embodied Barcelona's creative attacking style said that he was leaving after 16 trophy-packed seasons. "I have spent all my life here at this club and it is not easy to leave," Iniesta said after fighting back tears and regaining his composure. "My time here ends this season. I understand that the club that took me in at 12 deserves the best of me in return, and I have given it that until now, but in the near future I won't be able to both physically and mentally. "The club has placed its confidence," he said. "And I have always said that if I am not able to give my all to my club that has given me everything then I wouldn't be happy." Iniesta, who turns 34 on May 11, said that he intends to continue playing but did not reveal what his next club will be. "I have always said that I would never compete against my club, so all the options outside Europe are open," Iniesta said. "When the season is over we will know my choice." Local media reported that the Spain midfielder will be signing a lucrative contract with a club in the Chinese league. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were his only teammates not present to receive Iniesta's thanks. The club said that they had personal commitments they could not break. Iniesta left his village in southern Spain to join Barcelona's youth academy when he was 12. He went on to become one of the best players in its history, helping the team win 31 titles — a club record he shares with Messi. Iniesta has helped Barcelona win four Champions League titles, eight Spanish leagues, six Copa del Reys, three Club World Cups, seven Spanish Super Cups and three European Super Cups. And Iniesta is expected to get one more trophy for the club with Barcelona on the cusp of clinching the league title. The team leads Atletico Madrid by 11 points with five games left. Iniesta has been a fan favorite at Camp Nou since he helped it start its current winning era by claiming the Spanish league title in 2005 under Frank Rijkaard. He went on to form a dominant midfield pairing with Xavi Hernandez under the orders of Pep Guardiola, and has become team captain. "It would not have been possible without him so I just say 'thank you' because he helped me," Guardiola said. "People believe the managers help the players, but in a few cases, and I think Andres is one of them, he helped me to understand the game better." Last year, Iniesta signed the first lifelong contract ever given by Barcelona. And even though he is opting out of that deal, club president Josep Bartomeu said that there were no hard feelings. Bartomeu said Messi was the best player in Barcelona history for his goals and unmatched talent, but he has plenty of praise for Iniesta, too. "Iniesta is the most important player of this winning era that started in 2004," Bartomeu told Cadena SER radio on Thursday. "He has been a key part of all the teams under all our coaches, from Rijkaard, Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, (Gerardo) "Tata" Martino, Luis Enrique and now Ernesto (Valverde). He deserves our respect." Iniesta has shown this season that he is still able to perform at a top level. He has been a first-choice player for Valverde and was still its most decisive attacking midfielder. The loss of Iniesta is a blow to the entire Spanish league. He is widely admired and loved by fans across the country for his winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup and his role in Spain winning the 2008 and 2012 European Championships. He is often applauded by opposing fans when substituted on the road. "He is charming, very reserved, and I like people who do their talking on the pitch," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "I only have good things to say about him, admiration for his football and I wish him the best." This year, Iniesta will play for Spain at the World Cup in Russia. That will likely be his last chance to add to his glorious career with the national side. But first, Iniesta has five more matches with Barcelona, starting on Sunday at Deportivo La Coruna. He will bid his final farewell at home on May 20 against Real Sociedad. "To Barcelona's fans, who have seen me grow up and followed every step I have taken, and been with me through the good times and the bad," Iniesta said, "I will take your love with me in my heart.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 2018

Are the Sixers too young for playoff success?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The learning curve of the Philadelphia 76ers has taken on a new, more direct and simpler geometric shape. It’s now a straight line, pulled and yanked that way by an impatient team determined to take the expressway from now on. And so this is where The Process has led them, to the NBA playoffs, a place exclusively reserved for Big Boy Basketball, where we get to see if the Sixers will skip another floor in their rapid developmental rise or if youth is about to get served a lesson. Hey, if nothing else, it beats wiping away the stench of losing, which is what coach Brett Brown was doing this time the last few years before this club finally grew up and as we now see, blew up. "This year we exceeded 50 wins and when you do that, you get into NBA elite territory which is something different for us,” he said. “But what’s interesting is we want more. We have more room to grow and we want to do that now.” Yes, the Sixers, finally sprung free of the dark ages, have crashed the annual spring show and are doing so rather emphatically in addition to surprisingly. Surely you saw this coming this quickly, no? On Christmas Eve they were 14-18. Their sensational big man, Joel Embiid, was getting the kid glove treatment, rarely playing extended minutes or consecutive games because of his brittle injury history. Their top draft pick, Markelle Fultz, was out with a bad shoulder and a broken jumper. Obviously, they’d just emerged from their four years of Tankapalooza with the trepidation of a chick stumbling from the nest. And quite simply, four months ago they just weren’t good enough to be lumped with the lead pack. Yet. But since then, what the hell just happened? “This group has come together from a toughness standpoint, a spirit standpoint,” Brown said. To say the least. The Sixers are 50-game winners, with a strong Kia Rookie of the Year candidate in Ben Simmons and a top-10 talent in Embiid, whose orbital injury that cost him the final eight regular season games should be healed for the playoffs at some point. Everything has fallen into place to make Philly a basketball destination once again, and these Sixers find themselves in a unique situation heading into the weekend. That’s because the playoff landscape in the East is favorable for someone like Philly to pull a surprise or two. Can they last a round? Of course; they’ll be a favorite initially. How about reaching the Eastern Conference finals? That’s trickier, and it’ll come down to matchups, but stranger things have happened. And, the NBA Finals? Well. Consider that there’s no true beast taking up space in the East and sending shivers everywhere. All of the contenders are showing a scratch or two: Toronto brings a blah playoff history; some of LeBron James’ supporting cast in Cleveland is untested; the Celtics are without Kyrie Irving, not to mention Gordon Hayward. The Sixers are the wild card in the playoff picture. Their wart is their inexperience in these matters. And so: Are they too young to be taken seriously? “I understand why people might think that, but I think we’ll be fine,” said JJ Redick, the resident senior citizen at age 33. “I don’t expect any of us to play differently than we have lately. These young guys are all gamers.” The Sixers are uniquely built; their twin core of Simmons and Embiid has played a combined three NBA seasons. Redick is the only starter with playoff experience and is also the only player in the rotation who ever played a major role in the playoffs. The Sixers are cubs compared to most of the East, even those teams below them. Essentially, the veterans on the Sixers orbit around the youngsters, instead of vice versa. Brown regularly takes the temperature of his players and has yet to pause at the results he’s seeing. For the most part, this has worked out better than he and they expected. “At this stage you figure how you deliver a team to the playoffs, how do you arrive at the playoffs,” Brown said. “Well, you can check three boxes: Their health, their spirit and their form. And finally: Are they playing good basketball? They’re all very interconnected, they’re all closely intertwined. Those things rule my day when I watch film and see how hard and long we’re going to go in practice. These guys have embraced and improved in those areas. Our defense has been excellent and we’re regularly getting 30 assists as a team, another example of a team enjoying each other’s company.” This makes for an interesting postseason baptism. There’s hope in Philly that Simmons and Embiid and Robert Covington and Dario Saric won’t know the difference between March basketball and May basketball. “We’ll just come and play the same way we’ve been doing,” Simmons said. The other advantage for Philly is Simmons appears well beyond his years. His expression is stoic, no matter the game circumstances, and his poise has yet to shatter memorably and cost the Sixers when it counts. He’s giving 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists a night and had at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in 58 games, second only to Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He is the first rookie in NBA history to average eight assists on a 50-win team. It remains to be seen how a 56-percent free throw shooter will respond if he’s put in that situation with the game on the line. Otherwise, his court direction and ability to reach the rim should not suffer from springtime stage fright. “Ben sits behind a glass wall and watches everyone else on the other side,” Redick said. “There’s nothing that affects him. He plays with the same demeanor and purpose no matter what’s going on around him. He brings a calm presence, and the maturity he plays with is beyond his years. Impressive.” Brown said: “He’s the stone cold Rookie of the Year and to me it’s not even close.” Philly’s best player is Embiid, though, and he’ll play with a mask once he does return, perhaps sometime in the first round. If he doesn’t suffer any lasting effects from the facial injury (vision, lack of balance), he’ll be the premier big man on the floor in the East. This allows the Sixers to exploit their low-post advantage over the Celtics, Raptors and Cavs should Philly meet any of those contenders along the way. The Sixers are also working with a pair of bonuses in Fultz and Ersan Ilyasova, two players they didn’t anticipate being in the playoff mix just a few months ago. Fultz is finally free of his shoulder woes and his shooting is starting to come around, to the point where Brown says he’ll find a role for Fultz in the rotation. Basically, the Sixers feel safe enough to put him on the floor, something that would’ve been a reach before he was activated, when he showed a nasty mechanical hitch in a jumper that somehow went south on him. “We don’t feel we’re going to be caught off guard with him,” Brown said. Ilyasova was gift-wrapped to Philly by the Hawks at midseason and has since been a solid source of scoring (17 points in a two-point win over Cleveland last week) and deepened the Sixers’ bench, allowing Brown to use a variety of different lineups and strategies. In all, the manner in which the season has come together is paying off at the right time for Philly. “We didn’t have this level of maturity in November and December,” Redick said. “If you look at some of our losses early in the season I felt they were immature losses. We’re more focused, more together, developed a mental toughness. Sometimes in life and in this league you have to go through things and experience things to grasp how to do them. There’s no better learning tool than the actual experience. So blowing a lead or coming back from a large halftime deficit, you have to do those things to understand that you can do it. Having those lessons early in the season has prepared us to have a great run since Christmas; we have the second best record in the league since then. This is better than what I expected or even hoped for. It’s been a long sustained growth period.” What does it all mean? Well, even though they’re entering the playoffs with the force of a hurricane, this isn’t the NCAA tournament. This is best-of-seven basketball, which means a team must prove itself worthy of moving on, instead of hoping to get lucky or hot. In the case of Philly and others in the East, that means beating LeBron four times in a series, and that hasn’t happened since 2010. You could also make the case the Sixers are playing with house money at this point, no matter what happens; after enduring The Process and painful progress, this is a blessing, a reward. The Sixers aren’t seeing it that way, though, not after growing up in a hurry. They want to seize the opportunity now, and any playoff success will largely depend on how they handle this as first-timers. Your guess is as good as Brown’s. “You really don’t know what to expect,” Brown said. “There’s no body of work. I will give our guys the benefit of the doubt. The poise they have shown in the regular season, the poise they’ve shown in big games and key moments, gives me tremendous confidence that we will handle this stage with a greater level of poise than what I might have guessed in October, or what I might have guessed not so long ago if you asked me questions about how will rookies and young guys handle this very different part of the season.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2018