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Thunder GM Presti evolves, surrounds Westbrook with stars

em>By Cliff Brunt, Associated Press /em> OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Sam Presti has evolved with the times. Oklahoma City’s general manager is perhaps best known for drafting Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Over the years, instead of adding big-name free agents and making blockbuster trades, he has added relatively inexpensive players around his stars and built through the draft. His plans have mostly worked. The Thunder have played in the Western Conference Finals four times and the NBA Finals once since Presti took the job in 2007, and both Durant and Westbrook have won MVP awards. Not everything has been rosy. Presti couldn’t work out a contract extension with Harden in 2012. And last year, Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State. Durant recently criticized Thunder management for failing to put the right players around him to compete for a title. In a perfectly timed move, Presti shook the NBA by trading for 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder already had traded for four-time All-Star Paul George in the offseason. With the addition of the kind of talent Durant so desperately wanted in Oklahoma City, it appears Presti has turned over a new leaf. The man who always has focused on the process has shifted gears and built a super team in a matter of months. Last Friday, a day before reports of the Anthony deal got out, Presti talked about how the league had changed. “The league is in transition, but that’s what happens all the time,” Presti said. “The league is always changing. The rules are always changing. There’s so many different dynamics and forces at work that drive a lot of these different things. All I can tell you is the way we’ve always looked at it is, our job is to take the circumstances, try to understand them the best we can, and try to work as hard as we can to put the team in position to have a chance to contend and a chance to continue to grow.” None of the Thunder stars responded to Durant’s criticism directly, but George made a point to thank Oklahoma City’s front office for putting the stars together. Whatever commitment Durant felt the Thunder lacked in the past, it has shown it in the present. “The front office is that active in the summer and free agency, and not only acquiring players, but acquiring superstar players — it says a lot about the front office, it says a lot to Russ they’re committed to bringing guys and putting guys around him that is going to give them the best chance to win,” George said. “That’s what you want to see out of the front office.” George said it’s necessary in today’s NBA to have multiple superstars to win at the highest level. Westbrook won the league MVP award last season, but had just one playoff win. “We get criticized a lot for being friendly and not being able to do it alone,” George said. “Honestly, in this league, it’s hard to do it alone. You know, Russ averages a triple-double, and, you know, he couldn’t get out of the first round. That’s a special talent and a guy that did everything he could to win.” Anthony said he has respected the Thunder organization for years, so when he had to make a quick decision, Oklahoma City was on the short list. “Believe it or not, Oklahoma City was a team that me and my team talked about,” Anthony said. “We discussed it. And if the opportunity presented itself, whereas though we can kind of bring a deal to the Knicks organization is something that both parties feel comfortable with. This is a team, this is an organization, this is a city that I had no problem coming and being a part of.” George felt good about heading to Oklahoma City before. He said Presti’s latest move is a game changer. “Adding someone like Carmelo takes this team to another level,” he said. “In my eyes, he’s one of the best players that this league has ever seen, and it’s a luxury to play alongside him instead of having to deal with a cold tub right after the game and playing him.” Westbrook said he has respected Presti since the Thunder made him the fourth overall pick in 2008. “He’s finding ways to constantly keep making us a better team,” Westbrook said. “You definitely are very, very thankful to have somebody like that in charge of making those decisions. He’s done an amazing job with that.”   .....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnSep 27th, 2017

BLOGTABLE: Would the Thunder have had three MVPs?

NBA.com blogtable Former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden could all have Kia MVP trophies after this season. That still could have happened if they had stayed together, right? * * * Steve Aschburner: No, it wouldn’t have happened and this question raises a good point. In a league that has half as many superstars as it has franchises, it is a good thing when elite players seek out (or wind up on) their “own” teams and spread the talent around. That’s why Harden blossoming as an MVP candidate and future Hall of Famer in ways he might not have had he stayed with the Thunder has been a boost not just to the Houston Rockets, but also to the league. It’s why people are intrigued, for instance, about Klay Thompson’s ability to be an A-lister elsewhere rather than a third- or fourth-wheel with Golden State. It’s also why Durant joining the “1-percenter” Warriors irritated and annoyed so many. That said, we got teased with that original OKC3 in the 2012 Finals, then saw them pre-empted before they ever reached their potential. That, too, is something for which NBA fans root.    Tas Melas: More playoff success sticking together? Sure. More individual accolades? Not in today’s voting system. See: Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry taking votes from each other. Shaun Powell: They wouldn't have gotten three. Maybe two. Maybe Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get the MVPs, with James Harden collecting a few Kia Sixth Man awards. All three would've been All-Stars virtually every season and my hunch says they'd have at least one championship by now. Yes, it's hard to say for sure; so many unforeseen circumstances could've thrown them and OKC for a loop. Still, my reasoning: They all got along and respected each other during their brief time together. And winning titles would've kept them together. John Schuhmann: Of course not. But it's more interesting to wonder if the Thunder would have won a championship and if Durant would have stayed in Oklahoma City had they not traded Harden when they did. Sekou Smith: No way. Absolutely not. Durant would have his trophy, but I don't believe Westbrook would have gotten his without KD's departure. I also don't think Harden would have gotten to this point, where he looks like the clear favorite to win it this year. What an unbelievable player haul by the Thunder. GM Sam Presti deserves credit for nailing those lottery picks in those drafts. And kudos to all three players for maximizing their talents. But I cannot imagine a scenario where these guys could have all claimed MVP hardware if they'd never split up. The splintering of votes for three superstars would have squashed those dreams time and time again. As much as I'd have loved to see how log they could have lasted as a Big 3, I truly believe the league is better with all three of them in their current situations......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 8th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: What are you looking forward to in 2018?

NBA.com blogtable What one thing are you most eager to see in 2018? * * * Steve Aschburner: More competitive playoff series than we got a year ago and, most of all, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers really being pushed to the wall in at least one round each. I think last year’s hunger for The Rubber-Match Finals made us accept without too much grumbling the relative breezes both Golden State and Cleveland had through the April and May portions of the postseason. But seeing some new blood, however unlikely, would be fine, maybe even welcome, this time around. That requires some fine team on either side -- Toronto, Washington, Boston out East, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City to the West -- mustering a serious challenge. And, allowing for an injury or suspension or whatever, maybe pulling off something more notable than that. We can always find context and storylines for The Finals, if we get a bit of freshness dialed in. Shaun Powell: I'm eager to see the playoffs and if someone can come along and disrupt another Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers matchup in June. Because nobody is creating much doubt as of yet. The team that's coming the closest is the Houston Rockets but they have three people who have underperformed in the playoffs: Mike D'Antoni, Chris Paul and James Harden. There's always the San Antonio Spurs, yet they seem a star shy. And in the East, the Boston Celtics of 2019 stand a better chance and the rest ... meh. Which means, I'm most eager to see Warriors-Cavs in June. John Schuhmann: I want to see what will happen with the Thunder, both on and off the floor. Can they continue to make progress offensively and if they do, will that encourage Sam Presti to keep the group together through the trade deadline? Or will the threat of Paul George leaving in free agency (and the long odds at beating the Warriors) force Presti to see what he can get for George by Feb. 8? Is it a guarantee that Carmelo Anthony will decline his early termination option this summer and stay under contract for another year? Do other stars want to play with Russell Westbrook? Sekou Smith: As much fun as the trade deadline can be in a given year, I have to admit that the free agent summer has me daydreaming about the chaos that a couple of moves could cause. Of course, LeBron James could turn the basketball world upside down if he were to decide to take his talents elsewhere (I'm not suggesting he should or I even think he will, I'm only thinking about the seismic activity it would cause). What happens with Paul George is also another potential game-changer for several teams around the league. That said, it's the great unknown that most intrigues me about 2018. None of us saw the Kyrie Irving trade request coming or the Chris Paul-to-Houston move coming. Things like the Draft and trade deadline offer a season of speculation that usually centers on name players we know will be involved in the process. It's the moves we don't see coming, the things we cannot forecast, that produce the best drama......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2018

Report: Paul George opts out, becomes unrestricted free agent

NBA.com staff report The Oklahoma City Thunder have reportedly been informed by All-Star guard Paul George that he will not opt into his contract for next season. The move, which was reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, will make George an unrestricted free agent. He had until 11:59 p.m. on June 29 to decide whether or not to opt in. Here's more from Wojnarowski on the move and what it means for George, the Thunder and free agency at large: George, who will decline a $20.7 million salary for the 2018-19 season, remains seriously interested in returning to the Thunder in free agency, league sources said. The Los Angeles Lakers will receive serious consideration too, sources said. Several teams, including Philadelphia and Houston, are interested in pursuing George too, league sources said. ... Indiana traded George to the Thunder a year ago, where the five-time All-Star forward came to build a strong relationship with All-Star guard Russell Westbrook and averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Before his trade, George had told the Pacers that he planned to sign with the Lakers in free agency this summer. Nevertheless, Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti, coach Billy Donovan and Westbrook have made a strong case on a future with the Thunder and moved the franchise into contention with the Lakers. George, a native of Southern California, and LeBron James are the focus of the Lakers free agent recruiting efforts. This summer, George can sign a five-year, $176 million extension with OKC, Wojnarowski reports, or he could do a "one-plus one" deal and return to free agency next summer. George's decision is not wholly surprising, given that he has been one of the top free-agent targets for many teams all season long......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 28th, 2018

AP source: Thunder’s Anthony to opt in, take $28 million

By Cliff Brunt, Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony plans to opt in and take the $28 million he is due next season. The New York Times first reported the 34-year-old Anthony’s decision to bypass the chance to become a free agent. A person with knowledge of details confirmed Anthony’s choice to The Associated Press on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly. The Thunder traded for Anthony and Paul George to join Russell Westbrook before last season, moves that gave them high hopes of challenging Golden State in the West. It didn’t work out as planned. The 34-year-old Anthony had been the headliner his entire career — he’s 19th in NBA history with 25,417 points — but he was more of a catch-and-shoot scorer last season instead of the isolation specialist he had always been. He averaged 16.2 points per game, but struggled at times in his new role. His playing time dwindled in the playoffs and he wasn’t happy. In Game 6 of the first-round playoff series against Utah that ended Oklahoma City’s season, he played fewer minutes than backup Jerami Grant. It wasn’t entirely clear if Anthony would opt in. After the season, he said he prefers to play with the ball in his hands more and said coming off the bench is “out of the question.” “So it’s something I really have to think about, if I really want to be this type of player, finish out my career as this type of player, knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game of basketball,” he said. Despite his confidence, the 10-time All-Star posted career lows in scoring average and field goal percentage last season. Thunder general manager Sam Presti said at the end of the season that he doesn’t expect Anthony’s role to change. “I give him an enormous amount of credit for the fact that he put both feet in,” Presti said. “I personally think he did an excellent job in his first year transitioning his game, working to becoming more of an off-the-ballplayer, being more reliant on other people to generate his offense, and sacrificing a lot. At the same time, I think every player is entitled to take a step back after the season, reflect on the year they had, and in his case have to make a determination about whether or not this is a role that he wants to continue to be functioning in.” ___ AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 23rd, 2018

Eight NBA Playoffs storylines to watch

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Suddenly, we’re not quite as certain that Warriors-Cavs, Part IV, Sure to be Way Better than “Jaws: The Revenge” and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, is going to make air, are we? The 2018 playoffs are just about here, and Stephen Curry isn’t, and Kyrie Irving won’t be, and Joel Embiid might be, and Jimmy Butler will be -- if his team is, that is. And both conference champions from a year ago are equally unsettled going into the postseason, for different reasons. The Golden State Warriors are banged up, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are brand new. Golden State hasn’t looked like an offensive leviathan, while Cleveland has been one of the league’s worst defenses. And, most importantly, each has legit challengers this year in Houston and Toronto in its respective conferences -- deep, tough, elite defensively, hard to stop offensively, and tempered/hardened/driven by recent playoff failures. Which should make late May and early June even more compelling than normal. At the least, we’ll have the Warriors going for three rings in four years, and LeBron James going for an eighth straight Finals appearance -- each representing something special. The postseason, then, should provide some theatre that Meryl Streep will drop what she’s doing to watch. Among the biggest storylines: 1. The Hinkie Referendum, Passed The Philadelphia 76ers’ scintillating run to end the regular season sets up them for a glorious postseason run, that will finalize a season in which the decisions by former GM Sam Hinkie -- the successful ones, anyway -- are rightly celebrated. (The failures of Jahlil Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams to fire as stars after Hinkie took each high in the first round are not only not ignored by Hinkie’s biggest supporters, they are cited as proof that he had to do what he did for as long as he did, because you’re going to have some misses at the top of the Draft. God, I love Hinkie Stans.) It says here that a healthy Joel Embiid and an exponentially improving Ben Simmons are the one team that can give LeBron’s Cavs true night sweats in the Kyrie-less east playoffs. Embiid is a problem for any team, but especially for the defensively indifferent and ineffective Cavaliers, who have no one remotely capable of keeping “The Process” from running wild. Since New Year’s Day, only Curry (120.4), Chris Paul (116.1) and Jamal Murray (114.7) have better Offensive Ratings among point guards than Simmons’s 113.9, per NBA.com/Stats. Who, from among George Hill (6'3"), Jose Calderon (6'1"), Jordan Clarkson (6'5") and J.R. Smith (6'5") is Cavs coach Tyronn Lue going to put on the 6'10" Simmons? Yes, Lue could try James on Simmons, who is no threat to shoot from deep or run through a maze of pindowns. But that doesn’t make him any easier to slow down. No matter who Philly plays in the postseason, the Sixers are going to be a problem. 2. Indiana George and the Tempo of Doom It’s taken the Oklahoma City Thunder much longer than any of us thought, but OKC is a win from the postseason (even if the Thunder can’t beat the Heat in Miami tonight, the Cancun-bound Memphis Grizzlies will be in Oklahoma City Wednesday). And that’s when Paul George will determine whether his future is in the 405 or elsewhere. The Thunder’s up-and-down regular season doesn’t provide much clue to how far they could go in the playoffs, thought OKC looked formidable in ending the Rockets’ 20-game home win streak Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). It was a game that featured Russell Westbrook successfully taking on the challenge of defending James Harden down the stretch. When Oklahoma City plays with pace and gets up and down the floor, it can beat anyone. The Thunder will likely have to take down an elite unit like Houston at some point in the playoffs to convince George to stay. 3. A Series of Fortunate Events With Irving’s injury, the Washington Wizards’ failure to launch and other maladies to Eastern Conference contenders, the Cavaliers have an increasingly clear path back to The Finals. Doing this is best way to keep LeBron: The Sequel in town for an extended run, but the proof will be in the doing, of course. Cleveland will need Larry Nance, Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson to perform under playoff pressure, which Nance and Clarkson have never had to do and Hood did briefly in the 2017 playoffs with the Utah Jazz. 4. She packed my bags last night, pre-flight/Zero Hour, 9 a.m The Rockets have been the best team in the league most of this season -- an offensive and defensive juggernaut, the logical extension at both ends of the floor of the standards the Warriors set the last few seasons. James Harden will likely walk away with Kia MVP honors after the season and Chris Paul has been everything Houston hoped he’d be. But Houston must finish the deal with a championship to make its own mark. 5. Jurassic Park Everything is set up for Toronto, as well -- the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record and are tied with Houston for the best home record (34-7) in the league. They have home court until The Finals. Their two lynchpins, All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, are healthy. They’ve diversified their offense and learned to love the 3-pointer. They’re back to guarding at an elite level. The East is laid out open for a Toronto run to The Finals. There’s no excuse for the Raps not to. 6. ‘Brow’, Beating We don’t know for sure that the New Orleans Pelicans will make the playoffs. As of this writing, they haven’t clinched yet, although beating the Warriors in Oakland on Saturday went a long way toward their getting to the postseason. But assuming New Orleans is playing next weekend, its success in the playoffs can only help the franchise as it recovers from the recent death of former owner Tom Benson. “The Brow” (aka Anthony Davis) may have got us on April Fool’s Day, but the next couple of weeks will be dead serious. What if the Pelicans manage a first-round upset? Don’t say it’s not possible with the way Davis is playing. That would go an awful long way to quieting the “How the Boston Celtics Will Get Anthony Davis in 2020, Vol. MCMLXXXVII” hot takes. 7.  The Boston Medical Group The Celtics as imagined played exactly five minutes together this season. Everything that’s transpired since has been wrapped in gauze and sutured shut. Kyrie Irving’s latest knee procedure has everyone hopping off the Celtics’ postseason bandwagon -- a mistake, unless coach Brad Stevens pulls a hammy before Game 1 in the first round. Stevens has coached up whatever 12 guys are active pretty damn well since he’s come to the NBA, and he’ll still have a lot to work with in the playoffs: Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier (the Celtics hope they can get Marcus Smart back after the first round). The bigger issue, of course, is Irving’s health going forward -- and into next season, after which he can opt out of the last year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. The current belief in Boston is that Irving’s knee -- the cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones -- is sound and that he’ll have no long-term issues with it. But Irving and the team thought taking out the tension wire that had helped heal his broken patella after his 2015 surgery would do the trick. It didn’t.   There should be no doubt Boston will be all in on Irving. But after missing these playoffs after going out in Game 1 of the Finals in ’15, Irving will again have to show he’s able to handle a season-long campaign and still be able to bring his best to the postseason. 8. Bah Gawd, That’s Kawhi Leonard’s Music! We have all worked on the assumption that Leonard isn’t going to play for the Spurs any more this season as he rehabs his quad injury, even though they’ve never quite actually said he’s out for the year -- and he, as per usual, has said next to nothing. The Spurs have ridden LaMarcus Aldridge’s All-NBA-level season to the cusp of the playoffs, but no one has much expectation they’ll be there very long if they make it without their former Finals MVP. “Do I have any expectation I’ll see Kawhi?,” Danny Green said a week ago, repeating my question to him. “As of right now, my mindset is no. I’m just going to forward without him … if he does come back, great. Our mindset is this is the group we have today, this is the group we’ll have tomorrow. If somebody does come and join, we’ll have them and it’ll be great. But right now we’re moving forward with the expectation that this is who we have.” But, it’s not like we haven’t seen guys come back suddenly for the playoffs after missing large chunks of a season. A fellow named Michael Jordan played just 18 regular season games in his second season with the Bulls in 1986, recovering from a foot injury and not returning to the lineup until mid-March. True, he did get 15 games under his belt before the playoffs. But that did not prepare anyone for his showing up in Boston Garden in Game 2 of the first round against the Celtics and dropping 63 on the home team. There are, to be sure, issues between Leonard and the Spurs, and maybe they’re insurmountable. But if, somehow, “The Klaw” wakes up one morning this month and says he’s good to go, and reports for duty … who doesn’t think San Antonio can’t start assimilating opponents into its collective just like old times? 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 NewsApr 10th, 2018

With LA as backdrop, NBA opens latest ASG chapter

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com LOS ANGELES — There’s a very real chance of seeing it all at the NBA All-Star Game from the world’s greatest players and athletes, who are trained to entertain. And they deliver on that, every year, for the most part. Which brings us to this year’s showpiece: Will we finally see the All-Stars play defense, or not? Simple question. Over the last three years, they game morphed into a blob of uncontested shots and layups with the pace of a NASCAR event and the intensity level of a turtle race. Last year Steph Curry comically dropped to the floor rather than putting his body between Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rim (maybe wisely, but still). That was a flash-point moment. Perhaps because of fear of getting injured, or maybe the body just needs a break after a half-season, players rarely spent much energy trying to stop anyone. That led to wild and repetitious scoring sprees, where the losing team averaged 170 points, and ultimately, new changes designed to encourage players to at least simulate a real game and turn it up two notches. And so, Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) game at Staples Center will serve as the laboratory rat and perhaps usher a new era for the midseason game. If today’s players treat it the way the old-timers did, then this could be special. If not, this could be 194-187. “I think it’ll be different,” said Curry. The rules committee was alarmed enough by the public backlash of the last two games, where the winning West team came a combined 12 points from hitting the 200-point mark, that the traditional format was scrapped. No longer is it East vs. West, now it’s the leading vote-getter in both conferences choosing their own squad, regardless of conference. Therefore, Team Stephen will tip against Team LeBron with the mixed squads lending some intrigue and could cure the defense and intensity issues. As an added bonus, each member of the winning team will receive $100,000 vs. $25,000 for the losers, although it must be mentioned that the only player in an All-Star uniform making below eight figures is Karl-Anthony Towns. Still, the idea was to raise the incentive level and hoping it raises the fourth-quarter heat. The coach of the LeBron team, Dwane Casey of the Raptors, said he plans to do his part by shuffling the minutes based on who’s trying the hardest. “I went to our players individually and asked two questions: ‘Do you want to put on a show, or do you want to win? Let me know.’ I’d like them to go and compete. I want to win. We owe it to the league and the fans to let them know that the NBA isn’t about rolling the ball out there. There are a lot of fundamental things we can do on the court, and it starts with the All-Star Game, with everyone watching.” It helps that the game will feature a few subplots designed to make it interesting. Such as: LeBron and Kyrie Irving, together again. They had a mysterious split last summer after Irving, two years removed from a championship in Cleveland and with the chance of additional chances to win another, demanded and received a trade. He’s in Boston now, creating a rivalry with Cleveland whereas none existed before the deal. But apparently there was no acrimony generated by the split and the two have remained on decent terms, based on the chatter between them. Nothing personal, in other words. And anyway, LeBron chose Irving for this team. The reunion, says Irving, will be “pretty awesome.” LeBron: “Listen, anytime I get an opportunity to be with a fellow teammate of mine on the same court, and then you add on the fact of what we were able to accomplish in the three years, they just make it special. You automatically start thinking about the moments. There was a time when I was in Miami when I thought about if there was a chance for me to be Kyrie's teammate at All-Star Weekend. I thought about that. I didn't think it would be possible, and then we became teammates. We were on the same All-Star court together as teammates. Those thoughts still go into my head of how great it was to break the drought in our city, over 50-plus years, when the both of us had magical, magical Finals runs. So, it's always special. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, together again. Well, the two ex-Thunder ‘mates did play for the West squad last season, yet kept their distance, both on and off the court, the entire weekend. Also, they had testy exchanges this season, evidence that if nothing else, the competitive spirit between them remains high. Yet, all seems civil regarding the split two years later, maybe because Westbrook gained a half-measure of revenge when Paul George arrived this season. Curry and James Harden, together. As team captain, Curry selected Harden, and at least for one weekend, the two will put aside some natural conflict. One: They’re among the leading candidates for the MVP award, and those in the Harden camp believe he was robbed of the second MVP won by Curry. Two: The Warriors and Rockets are engaged in a thermal race for top spot in the West, with the Rockets beating Golden State twice this season so far. (Side note: Curry responded “Ha” the other day when asked who should win the MVP this year, him or Harden. Just “ha.”) Joel Embiid. The fun-loving big man makes his All-Star debut and promises to bring his infectious personality to the game and also his astonishing skills, rare for a seven-footer. Look for Embiid to make a strong big for game MVP and doing so apologetically. His competition could come from Antetokounmpo and either winner would signal a victory for a league looking for yet another superstar. But, the game itself. Will it be taken seriously? “We've talked about it.” said Irving. “Like I said, I think it's more individually based in terms of the competitive fire. But I know that we're pretty excited to be out there and compete and go at one another for a little bit and have a little fun.” Last year, Antetokounmpo was playfully chastised by his teammates for going full-tilt and challenging shots and essentially treating it like a playoff game. It was his first All-Star appearance and he was surprised by the mild tone of the pace. Victor Oladipo, a first-timer this year, doesn’t believe that’ll happen to him. “My competitive nature is going to get the best of me,” he said. The unspoken concern, of course, is injury, although there’s no documented case of a player ever pulling up lame in the game. Imagine the outcry, for example, if the intensity soars and someone grabs a body part. The fallout will be steep, and with that in mind, many coaches tell their players to ease off the gas pedal. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” said Casey, “but we want to change the narrative about this game and how it’s played. I find that when players do things half-way or go through the motions, that’s when they’re more liable to get hurt.” And so, with that in mind, with a revamped format and a bit more pocket change for the winner and an audience that would like to see some floor burn for a change, the All-Stars just could make this game interesting. That starts with defense. “The challenge is, if you’re going to play to win, you’re going to compete on the defensive end, especially in transition,” said Casey. “That’s where the all-star game kind of deteriorates. You got to start your transition defense, our one on one defense, and put defense in the game because if you don’t, it will be 160, 170 points. I don’t know if we’re going to change it all in one game, but that’s our goal is to try to be more serious on defense, and not trick passes and trick shots and circus mentality. “These guys can entertain and also play defense and give a more competitive game. They are good enough to pull it off. That’s what I hope to see and what fans hope to see.” 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 NewsFeb 19th, 2018

With LA as backdrop, NBA opens latest ASG chapter

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com LOS ANGELES — There’s a very real chance of seeing it all at the NBA All-Star Game from the world’s greatest players and athletes, who are trained to entertain. And they deliver on that, every year, for the most part. Which brings us to this year’s showpiece: Will we finally see the All-Stars play defense, or not? Simple question. Over the last three years, they game morphed into a blob of uncontested shots and layups with the pace of a NASCAR event and the intensity level of a turtle race. Last year Steph Curry comically dropped to the floor rather than putting his body between Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rim (maybe wisely, but still). That was a flash-point moment. Perhaps because of fear of getting injured, or maybe the body just needs a break after a half-season, players rarely spent much energy trying to stop anyone. That led to wild and repetitious scoring sprees, where the losing team averaged 170 points, and ultimately, new changes designed to encourage players to at least simulate a real game and turn it up two notches. And so, Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) game at Staples Center will serve as the laboratory rat and perhaps usher a new era for the midseason game. If today’s players treat it the way the old-timers did, then this could be special. If not, this could be 194-187. “I think it’ll be different,” said Curry. The rules committee was alarmed enough by the public backlash of the last two games, where the winning West team came a combined 12 points from hitting the 200-point mark, that the traditional format was scrapped. No longer is it East vs. West, now it’s the leading vote-getter in both conferences choosing their own squad, regardless of conference. Therefore, Team Stephen will tip against Team LeBron with the mixed squads lending some intrigue and could cure the defense and intensity issues. As an added bonus, each member of the winning team will receive $100,000 vs. $25,000 for the losers, although it must be mentioned that the only player in an All-Star uniform making below eight figures is Karl-Anthony Towns. Still, the idea was to raise the incentive level and hoping it raises the fourth-quarter heat. The coach of the LeBron team, Dwane Casey of the Raptors, said he plans to do his part by shuffling the minutes based on who’s trying the hardest. “I went to our players individually and asked two questions: ‘Do you want to put on a show, or do you want to win? Let me know.’ I’d like them to go and compete. I want to win. We owe it to the league and the fans to let them know that the NBA isn’t about rolling the ball out there. There are a lot of fundamental things we can do on the court, and it starts with the All-Star Game, with everyone watching.” It helps that the game will feature a few subplots designed to make it interesting. Such as: LeBron and Kyrie Irving, together again. They had a mysterious split last summer after Irving, two years removed from a championship in Cleveland and with the chance of additional chances to win another, demanded and received a trade. He’s in Boston now, creating a rivalry with Cleveland whereas none existed before the deal. But apparently there was no acrimony generated by the split and the two have remained on decent terms, based on the chatter between them. Nothing personal, in other words. And anyway, LeBron chose Irving for this team. The reunion, says Irving, will be “pretty awesome.” LeBron: “Listen, anytime I get an opportunity to be with a fellow teammate of mine on the same court, and then you add on the fact of what we were able to accomplish in the three years, they just make it special. You automatically start thinking about the moments. There was a time when I was in Miami when I thought about if there was a chance for me to be Kyrie's teammate at All-Star Weekend. I thought about that. I didn't think it would be possible, and then we became teammates. We were on the same All-Star court together as teammates. Those thoughts still go into my head of how great it was to break the drought in our city, over 50-plus years, when the both of us had magical, magical Finals runs. So, it's always special. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, together again. Well, the two ex-Thunder ‘mates did play for the West squad last season, yet kept their distance, both on and off the court, the entire weekend. Also, they had testy exchanges this season, evidence that if nothing else, the competitive spirit between them remains high. Yet, all seems civil regarding the split two years later, maybe because Westbrook gained a half-measure of revenge when Paul George arrived this season. Curry and James Harden, together. As team captain, Curry selected Harden, and at least for one weekend, the two will put aside some natural conflict. One: They’re among the leading candidates for the MVP award, and those in the Harden camp believe he was robbed of the second MVP won by Curry. Two: The Warriors and Rockets are engaged in a thermal race for top spot in the West, with the Rockets beating Golden State twice this season so far. (Side note: Curry responded “Ha” the other day when asked who should win the MVP this year, him or Harden. Just “ha.”) Joel Embiid. The fun-loving big man makes his All-Star debut and promises to bring his infectious personality to the game and also his astonishing skills, rare for a seven-footer. Look for Embiid to make a strong big for game MVP and doing so apologetically. His competition could come from Antetokounmpo and either winner would signal a victory for a league looking for yet another superstar. But, the game itself. Will it be taken seriously? “We've talked about it.” said Irving. “Like I said, I think it's more individually based in terms of the competitive fire. But I know that we're pretty excited to be out there and compete and go at one another for a little bit and have a little fun.” Last year, Antetokounmpo was playfully chastised by his teammates for going full-tilt and challenging shots and essentially treating it like a playoff game. It was his first All-Star appearance and he was surprised by the mild tone of the pace. Victor Oladipo, a first-timer this year, doesn’t believe that’ll happen to him. “My competitive nature is going to get the best of me,” he said. The unspoken concern, of course, is injury, although there’s no documented case of a player ever pulling up lame in the game. Imagine the outcry, for example, if the intensity soars and someone grabs a body part. The fallout will be steep, and with that in mind, many coaches tell their players to ease off the gas pedal. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” said Casey, “but we want to change the narrative about this game and how it’s played. I find that when players do things half-way or go through the motions, that’s when they’re more liable to get hurt.” And so, with that in mind, with a revamped format and a bit more pocket change for the winner and an audience that would like to see some floor burn for a change, the All-Stars just could make this game interesting. That starts with defense. “The challenge is, if you’re going to play to win, you’re going to compete on the defensive end, especially in transition,” said Casey. “That’s where the all-star game kind of deteriorates. You got to start your transition defense, our one on one defense, and put defense in the game because if you don’t, it will be 160, 170 points. I don’t know if we’re going to change it all in one game, but that’s our goal is to try to be more serious on defense, and not trick passes and trick shots and circus mentality. “These guys can entertain and also play defense and give a more competitive game. They are good enough to pull it off. That’s what I hope to see and what fans hope to see.” 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 NewsFeb 18th, 2018

All-Stars collide in LA with teams picked by LeBron, Steph

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NBA All-Star Game added spice to its 67th edition by allowing the captains to pick their teams. Team LeBron vs. Team Steph has replaced the traditional East-West format, shuffling allegiances and turning antagonists into uneasy teammates. But with the world’s best basketball players all converging on Los Angeles, the hungry fans of the hometown Lakers are eager to pick their own dream team as well. For instance, a gathering of a few hundred fans at media day in the Los Angeles Convention Center on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) caught sight of Paul George, Oklahoma City’s All-Star scorer and a Southern California native. The pro-Lakers crowd immediately launched into a chant of “We want Paul! We want Paul!” at the smiling George, who can be a free agent this summer. From his podium elsewhere in the room, Russell Westbrook — the Thunder’s other All-Star and LA native — snarled with sarcastic anger: “That’s out! He ain’t going nowhere!” The game is never really the thing at the NBA’s All-Star weekend, and that’s particularly true while the show is in Hollywood for the record sixth time. Aside from the new team format in the Sunday (Monday, PHL time) showcase, many of the NBA’s biggest stars are returning home, since they already make their summer homes in LA. Lakers fans are most interested in the potential 2018 free agents who could immediately resurrect the 16-time champion franchise, which is currently stumbling toward its unprecedented fifth consecutive non-playoff season. Lakers fans want George, but they also want LeBron James — and they’ll let both stars know it at Staples Center. James dismissed free agency questions Saturday, just as he has done all season, but his palatial house in Los Angeles is among the reasons Lakers fans believe they’ve got a chance to create their own All-Star team in a few months. But before that, James and Stephen Curry will lead two talent-laden teams at Staples Center for the annual showcase of the NBA’s best. Both captains are cautiously optimistic that this tweaked format will pay off with better play than in other All-Star games, which often turn into pickup games with a fraction of the entertainment value of even the Drew League, the famed pro-am circuit in which many stars participate every summer in South Central LA. “It should be a little bit more competitive, a little bit more intense on the court,” said Curry, the Golden State Warriors’ shooting star. “It means a little more when it’s Team LeBron and Team Steph.” The team selection process wasn’t made public, but the results will be very visible. The decision to keep the draft private disappointed fans — and even a few All-Stars. “I thought it was going to be televised,” Team LeBron center Andre Drummond said. “I thought it would be a cool spinoff: Live, LeBron and Curry picking guys. But hopefully next year they do it.” Curry picked his Golden State teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but lost Kevin Durant to James. LeBron also tantalizingly picked Kyrie Irving, the Boston guard who campaigned to leave James’ side in Cleveland last summer. Irving said it was “pretty awesome” to be James’ teammate again: “It’s normal. Sorry, I know that sounds like not a lot, but it’s just normal.” And everybody will be curious about what happens when Westbrook reteams with Durant, who ditched him in Oklahoma City in 2016 to win a championship in Oakland last year. James’ original roster has been dramatically altered by injuries to DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Love, who all won’t play. But LeBron and Toronto coach Dwane Casey could still roll out a nightmarish lineup featuring, for instance, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and James alongside Durant, Westbrook and George. Curry and Houston coach Mike D’Antoni could counter with a galaxy of shooting stars including James Harden, Damian Lillard, Thompson, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Curry himself. “I think it’s exciting,” said Harden, the product of nearby Artesia High School in Lakewood. “The All-Star Game, there are a lot of highlights, but we’re trying to win, and we’re going to go out there and prove that we’re trying to win.” Westbrook says this novel game format will “definitely” be more competitive than past editions of the midseason showcase. “My experience, my record with the West, we don’t lose much,” said Westbrook, who came out of Leuzinger High School and UCLA. “So I’m just saying. We usually win. Just saying.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 18th, 2018

Storylines abound after 2018 NBA All-Star draft

NBA.com staff report There is an alternate universe in which LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are once again teammates, where the Warriors' star quartet is divided, and where players who very recently exchanged barbs must now share locker rooms. Welcome to the world of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, which sports a very different twist after Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) inaugural draft in which team captains James and Stephen Curry selected their teammates. Here is what we know: James had the first pick, Curry the second, and so on, back and forth until the rosters were set. We do not know in what order the players were picked despite the valiant efforts of TNT's Ernie Johnson. The dust has settled and the rosters are set, with the line between East and West officially dissolved. The focus is squarely on players rather than conference. Here's a look at the most intriguing takeaways after Thursday's (Friday, PHL time) results: Hello Old Friend The offseason parting between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving was dramatically awkward, with the latter leaving the former in order to show his athletic independence. Irving has since proved capable of leading the Celtics to contender status despite the opening-night loss of fellow All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward. James, meanwhile, has been forced to do much of the heavy lifting while the rest of his teammates have either plateaued (Kevin Love), dropped off (J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson) or been unavailable (Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas). The Cavs have suffered as a result, posting one of the worst records in the league since the calendar flipped to 2018. Could it be that James is hoping to recapture some of his old magic by temporarily reuniting with Irving? Or does he just miss/like the guy despite their on-court differences? "To be able to team up back with Kyrie is always special, along with Kevin Love," James said during a post-drat interview with TNT. "Just for us to have another weekend to bring some of the memories we had when we were all together. Kyrie was available on the draft board. He's one of the best point guards we have in our league. So, it was an easy choice for me." Other reunions are scattered among Team LeBron's roster. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will enjoy an encore of their much publicized All-Star get-together last season. The Thunder guard will also play with his old college teammate, Kevin Love, for the first time since they both represented the Western Conference in the 2012 midseason classic.   Bench Mob. #TeamLebron #NBAAllStar A post shared by @ kevinlove on Jan 25, 2018 at 4:23pm PST Don't forget, too, that Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is making his All-Star debut alongside Westbrook, the man many now think held back the former No. 2 overall pick in Oklahoma City. After putting up his worst numbers since his rookie year while playing alongside Westbrook, Oladipo is enjoying a career year while guiding the upstart Pacers to the middle of the playoff pack. I Never Can Say Goodbye Some teammates are just meant to stay together. Curry and James certainly struggled to separate several dynamic duos, including those from the Timberwolves (Butler/Towns), Pelicans (Davis/Cousins), Wizards (Beal/Wall) and Raptors (Lowry/DeRozan). The NBA teammates not sticking together are those from Golden State and Boston. James managed to chip away at the Warriors' dominant quartet, selecting Kevin Durant for his squad before Curry made sure to keep Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on his own team. Curry also selected Al Horford, presumably at some point after James took Irving. What Have You Done For Me Lately? Most All-Stars already come with a bag full of accomplishments under their belts, and this year is no exception. How they are distributed, however, is interesting to note. Everyone who made the team this year and has won an All-Star Most Valuable Player award in the past is on Team LeBron. Good luck guessing which one will make a push for a repeat at that honor (assuming someone new doesn't beat them to the punch). Meanwhile, the majority of most recent Olympic gold medalists resides on Team Stephen: Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Draymond Green, Kyle Lowry and Klay Thompson. Team LeBron sports three Olympians from that year: Cousins, Durant and Irving. One skill that surely matters on All-Star weekend is simply putting the ball in the bucket. And wouldn't you know it, Team Stephen sports the top three scorers in the league in Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Of course, Team LeBron carries the next four names from that scoring leaders list. It's Too Late to Apologize Some words you can't take back, and it would be difficult to see Russell Westbrook or Damian Lillard doing so after recent events. Oklahoma City's star guard took exception to teammate Paul George not being voted in as an All-Star, proceeding to call out the Warriors for having four players so honored. Then he targeted another player, and though he didn't use names, it seemed pretty clear that he was talking about  Lillard when he referred to "guys complaining about being snubbed so they can get in." Lillard has been extremely vocal on social media about not making the All-Star teams the last two years despite both those seasons marking career years. That was after making the All-Star team in 2014 and 2015. The Blazers guard seemed to pick up on the hint, and he responded directly to his Western Conference counterpart. "I respect Russ a lot, so it was kind of disappointing to see him say that," Lillard said prior to Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. "Because he's played against me, he's played against our team, he knows what I've accomplished. Not just this year, but over my career." Will the point guards clear the air, or will tension linger heading into the game? Also worth monitoring: does James' All-Star selection of Kevin Love mean all is well between the much-maligned forward and his team? Reports surfaced earlier this week that several Cavaliers expressed frustration with Love's recent illness that caused him to miss most of a game and a practice. Perhaps the King's stamp of approval will silence that once and for all. If it doesn't, Charles Barkley will surely continue to defend Love's case......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 26th, 2018

Superteams and superpowers: Basketball in 2017

The common theme in basketball as of late is rather simple: build yourself a superteam and see where it goes. 2017 saw a bunch of superteams take the court in all levels. Some panned out and some did not. Nevertheless, we live in a world of superteams. Either your favorite basketball team is one or it's not.   Warriors World For the 2016-2017 NBA Season, the 73-win Golden State Warriors, a superteam in their own right, added former Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant. Oh my goodness. The Dubs then proceeded to decimate the NBA, winning 67 games in the regular season. Golden State was even better in the playoffs, making a serious play for a postseason sweep before finishing with a 16-1 record and a second title in three seasons.   Seriously, it's a Warriors World that we live in Golden State's success has prompted other teams to try and create their own superteam. Houston snatched Chris Paul away from the Los Angeles Clippers and now the Rockets have a potent backcourt combo that also feature MVP contender James Harden. Oklahoma City completed two incredible trades that made Paul George and Carmelo Anthony members of the Thunder. Oh, OKC also has MVP winner Russell Westbrook running point. The Timberwolves also have something going on in Minnesota as Jimmy Butler joined Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins for a young and intriguing Big 3. The Eastern Conference landscape changed when Cleveland traded Kyrie Irving to Boston. The Celtics previously signed Gordon Hayward and all of a sudden, the winningest NBA franchise is in position to take over the East now and the forseeable future. Speaking of Cleveland, LeBron James is still with the Cavs and they've added Dwyane Wade of all people to join an aging but still scary superteam. The King started this whole superteam craze. Golden State just happened to perfect. We all live in a Warriors World.   Feer the Beer Over in the PBA, the Philippines' premier superteam is still pretty effective despite its stars each playing almost 40 minutes per game. A year removed from the "Beeracle Run," San Miguel made history by being only the second team to capture the Perpetual Trophy following three straight Philippine Cup titles. Then the Beermen, with the top-3 MVP candidates in June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, and Chris Ross, plus Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter, ended the franchise's 16-year championship drought in the Commissioner's Cup. With the help of import Charles Rhodes of course. San Miguel had legitimate chances to win the Grand Slam of course, but the team ultimately fell short in the Governors' Cup. However, the Beermen did add 6'8" Fil-German Christian Standhardinger to the fold. Superteam.   Return of the Kings It was the perfect set up. Meralco earned the number 1 seed and was rolling all the way to the Finals. Meanwhile, the Gink Kings had to go through yet another emotional and heated series against rival TNT in the semifinals in order to have a chance to properly defend their title. The series before that? The Gin Kings had to end San Miguel's Grand Slam dreams. In the 2017 Governors' Cup Finals, Meralco was in perfect position to take The Rematch and allow the birth of a new PBA rivalry. After seven games, none of that happened and Ginebra won back-to-back titles by virtue of their quote unquote superteam. Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Joe Devance, Justin Brownlee, LA Tenorio, Sol Mercado, and Scottie Thompson. How is that not a superteam? The Kangkong jokes sure died a slow death.   Systematic Mayhem Even in college hoops, superteams are the way to go. However, in the amatuers, you just have to recruit your way into building one. La Salle has perfected this method and the Green Archers are certainly the biggest --- and loudest and most aggressive ---- recruiters. The Taft superteam featuring Ben Mbala and co. got the Green Archers to two UAAP Finals and one championship. Only one championship because another superteam, quietly built in Katipunan with surgical, perhaps even robotic, precision, beat them this year. That's right, Big Bad Blue is once again on top of the UAAP as the Ateneo Blue Eagles scored a sensational, near-sweep of UAAP Season 80. Coach Tab Baldwin has a collection of incredible players that may not look like it on first glance but they do certainly qualify for superteam status. Dom't believe it? Maybe you will after they complete a five-peat. It could happen.   Sweep In the other collegiate league, two superteams dominated the NCAA for two separate periods in one season. First, Lyceum, the surprise superteam, made history by completing an 18-game sweep of the elimination round. However, the Pirates ran into the league's decade-old superteam in San Beda and the Red Lions ended up sweeping the Finals for yet another title. Most of the major characters from both squads will return for a new season and if a San Beda-Lyceum rematch does not happen, well, that's just disappointing isn't it?   OVERTIME 2017 also saw the rise and fall and rise of the Gilas Pilipinas program. Well sort of. The Philippines got off to a great star this year by absolutely dominating the SEABA Championships. Then, disaster struck in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup when Gilas was embarassed by an old foe in South Korea. To end the year, the Philippine national team recovered, albeit in an ugly fashion, to take an early lead in the 2019 World Cup Asian Qualifiers. Gilas is more than capable of forming a Pinoy superteam that could compete, and even beat, the best of Asia. Let's hope we get that in 2018. Finally, 2017 also saw the Civil War PBA edition. It wasn't funny and it wasn't good. Fortunately, it seems that bright and peacuful days are ahead of our beloved league. Let's hope that's the case and let's just leave the bad memories behind this year. Time to move on and forget about that stuff. There are basketball games to be played.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 28th, 2017

5 questions ahead of the NBA s 2017 Christmas Day games

It's already December 25 in the Philippines, but that's still a few hours away in the United States, meaning we have to wait before holiday's best tradition will take place: the NBA's annual slate of Christmas Day games. This year's batch of games sees the 76ers head to MSG to play the Knicks, the Cavaliers go to the Bay to face the Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch, the Wizards tackle the Celtics in an Eastern Conference semis redux, the Rockets battle the Thunder, also a 2017 postseason rematch, and the Timberwolves face off versus the Lakers. While you're unwrapping gifts and munching on Noche Buena leftovers, here are five questions to ponder: 1. Will the injury bug play Grinch to this set of holiday games? The Golden State Warriors officially ruled out Stephen Curry from playing. The LA Lakers just announced that Lonzo Ball is sidelined. Chris Paul is a question mark, while fingers are crossed that Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis will be able to go long when they face off. Injury report for tomorrow's game vs. Cleveland: Shaun Livingston (sore right knee), Kevon Looney (gluteal strain) & Zaza Pachulia (left shoulder soreness) are probable. Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) is out. — Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) December 25, 2017 Hurt superstars are definitely the coal in an NBA fan's stocking, but let's hope that despite the absence of some of the bigger names, the games will still be able to provide plenty of entertainment. Bonus question: We may not get Curry vs. LeBron this Christmas, but how great of a consolation gift is Durant vs. LeBron? 2. Who will be the Christmas unicorn? Kristaps Porzingis is of course, the OG unicorn, having the tag bestowed upon him by Kevin Durant. The nickname refers to the mythical convergence of height, ball-handling, skill, and three-point shooting, all of which, Porzingis possesses. He's not alone though, as the 76ers' Joel Embiid has all of that in spades too, it's just that, seeing him on court has been more rare, due to an assortment of injuries that have held him back. Imagine, I suppose, if My Little Ponies could draw DNPs. When Porzingis' Knicks and and Embiid's 76ers collide, all eyes will be on the two, as they will inevitably go head-to-head against each other. As of writing, the Knicks are in the eighth seed in the East, while a 1-9 stretch in their last 10 games has the 76ers on the outside looking in at 10th place, three back of the Knicks. Therefore, it's not just pride at stake here; the East is wide open and every game will matter, as both squads harbor postseason dreams. Bonus question: Will 76ers rookie point guard Ben Simmons wind up stealing the show? 3. Who will triumph in the Wall vs. Irving point guard duel? After some strong starts to the season, the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards, the two squads most picked to be potential spoilers to the Cleveland Cavaliers' march to yet another Finals, are going through some rough patches. The Celtics of course, lost Gordon Hayward and started 0-2, but eventually righted the ship through tough defense, only to finish just 5-5 in their latest stretch (though they're still #1 in the conference). Meanwhile, injuries to John Wall and some of their role players have really prevented the Wizards from taking off. They're 18-15, and occupy the seventh spot in the East right now. If someone's going to take charge for either side in this Christmas duel, it'll be each side's respective point guards. Kyrie Irving has embraced being the man for the green and white, while John Wall is an established superstar in the Chocolate City. A Christmas day win for either team could be the foundation for a lengthy run of wins if they can maintain momentum. Bonus question: Who will be the better Morris twin - Boston's Marcus or Washington's Markieff? 4. Which nu-super team will do the most damage, the Rockets or the Thunder? The two most aggressive teams this offseason in revamping their roster to take on the defending champs were without a doubt, the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. H-Town added Chris Paul and a bevy of long-limbed, rangy defenders who can nail open three's, while OKC formed their version of a big three by trading for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The early returns have looked better for the Rox than the Thunder. Even with Paul sidelined, the team was able to shoot to the top of the West standings, and looked even better when CP3 was healthy alongside the Beard, James Harden. On the other hand, it's been an on-going adjustment for reigning MVP Russell Westbrook to integrate the two other established stars. Their defense has been on-point, but their offense is prone to long, fatal droughts. Chris Paul has been listed as doubtful for this one (among several other Houston players), so we may not get the full experience, but this Western Conference Playoffs rematch from last season should still be interesting, even if it's just in an offense versus defense kind of way. Bonus question: Better odds of happening in this game, Harden scores 50+ for a third straight game or Westbrook adds another triple-double to his season tally? 5. Can Kyle Kuzma carry the Lakers? One can make a pretty convincing argument that Kyle Kuzma should be the Rookie of the Year. Despite not being a lottery pick, Kuz has had a major impact on the court, his scoring prowess adding quite the punch to a Lakers team that needs some (okay, a lot). Originally, this question was going to involve Lonzo Ball too, but with the Lakers announcing that his shoulder will keep him out of this game and the rest of the week, this could be a rare opportunity for Kuzma to steal the LA spotlight. Doubly so if Brandon Ingram remains sidelined too. Sure, he'll likely need to contend with the Timberwolves placing super-stopper Jimmy Butler on him, but wouldn't that be a fun duel to watch? Bonus question: How bummed are you that we won't be having LaVar Ball Christmas shenanigans with Lonzo out? The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2017

Oladipo, Sabonis helping Pacers move forward

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com INDIANAPOLIS – Victor Oladipo has a fever and the only prescription is ... no, not more cowbell. Cowbell might make sense, if you factor in Oladipo’s love of and commitment to music (his debut R&B album has been available since Oct. 6). But the fever currently afflicting Oladipo, shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers, has nothing to do with extracurriculars and everything to do with the odes and anthems he’s been performing within the confines of 94 feet by 50 feet. If the fifth-year guard out of Indiana University, by way of the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder, looks comfortable in his new star turn for the Pacers, well, just remember that’s your word. Not his. “You could say I’m comfortable with the people here,” says Oladipo, who spent three seasons with the Hoosiers before becoming the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. “I played in front of these fans, they mean a lot to me and I gave a lot to them just like they gave a lot to me while I was in college. “But I’m never comfortable in any situation I’m in. I will never be comfortable. That’s what kind of makes me get up and work every day. It’s like, never be satisfied. Because for some reason, ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted more.” Oladipo’s eyes just about glow after a weekend practice as he delves into his unflagging intensity. He doesn’t undercut it with a smile or a token laugh. This is real heat. “Maximize my talent and exhaust my potential,” he says. “In order to do that, I’ve got to come to work every day. That’s my thought process. Wake up each day and be great that day.” Each day would include tonight, when Oladipo will share center stage at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the more decorated and once-beloved star who preceded him in the Pacers lineup. Paul George, a four-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist during his seven seasons in Indiana, was due to face his old team for the first time since being traded to Oklahoma City in July. It was a parting necessitated by George, who had made clear his desire to sign a maximum-salary contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2018. But the trade was orchestrated by Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers’ president of basketball operations, and Chad Buchanan, their general manager, who surprised the NBA by swapping George to OKC for Oladipo and big man Domantas Sabonis. You want intense? The initial reaction to that deal was intensely negative, quickly reaching hysterical proportions. The Pacers immediately were mocked for having traded George for nickels on the dollar. Reports out of Boston characterized Indiana’s POBO as more of a bobo for allegedly spurning a Celtics’ offer of multiple players and draft picks. *Takes a well deserved nap for 3 hours ** Opens Twitter: pic.twitter.com/xWNYaVfKTy — Myl3s Turn3r (@Original_Turner) July 1, 2017 The west is sick!!!! Best conference in the world!!!! — Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) July 1, 2017 Vic to the Pacers?! He might as well run for governor while he's at it! — Cody Zeller (@CodyZeller) July 1, 2017 Former Thunder star Kevin Durant called the move “shocking” and of George said “Indiana just gave him away.” Among much of the media that covers the league, there was a general feeling of “rubes” afoot -- that the Pacers had been snookered in taking back an overpaid ($21 million annually through 2020-21) second-tier talent and an overbilled guy who had disappeared in OKC’s postseason. And now? Not so much on any of those fronts. ‘He knows how good he is’ George’s stats are down in the “OK3” core he’s formed with reigning Kia MVP Russell Westbrook and aging Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder (12-13) are the NBA’s consensus disappointment, team category, with nearly a third of their season in the books. Sabonis has boosted the Pacers off the bench in a half dozen ways. And Oladipo has all but earned himself a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team while speeding his new team’s fans past their heartbreak over George’s jilting. Generally, the best trades in sports are win-win, but for Indiana right now, a bit of win-lose has made the start of 2017-18 downright sublime. “We happened to really like Sabonis in the draft,” former Pacers president and ongoing consultant Donnie Walsh said last week. “We wanted more of everything in the trade too. But when it came down to it, we had this offer with Oladipo, who we also liked. They’ve come in here and the more they’ve been here, the more we like ‘em. We’re happy.” The Pacers also are 16-11, two weeks ahead in the victory column over their 42-40 finish last season that was good for a playoff berth. Oladipo is the biggest reason why, averaging more points per game (24.5) than George ever has. The 6'4" guard who attended famous DeMatha High in Hyattsville, Md., spent much of last season being beaten up for his contract and negligible impact in Oklahoma City. He had taken grief earlier for his status as the second pick in 2013, a lofty status not of his doing. And here he was again in the summer, hearing it all over again for a transaction he didn’t design. “He came in with a chip [on his shoulder],” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought he should come in with a chip.” Some would have flinched from the pressure. A few might have curled up, full blown fetal. Oladipo has gone entirely the other way. “His confidence is at an all-time high,” backup point guard Cory Joseph said. “He knows how good he is.” As Joseph spoke after the Pacers’ upset of Cleveland Friday, a game in which Oladipo scored 20 of his game-high 33 points in the third quarter, a lilting voice drifted from behind the scenes in the home dressing room. “Look at it right now, he’s singing in the shower,” Joseph said, tilting his head and laughing. “He’s confident. You guys are all in here, he’s just singing. He’s a confident guy. Everybody in this locker room, everybody in this organization definitely welcomes that.” Trade not driving Oladipo’s breakout season Don’t misunderstand. The critics still are out for Oladipo. “My mom told me yesterday I need to work on my free throws,” he said with an eye roll after practice Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). She had noticed, during her son’s run of big games in December -- 36 points at Toronto, 27 vs. Chicago, 33 against the Cavs the night before her chiding text -- that he had missed 18-of-31 foul shots. This, by a career 80 percent shooter from the line. “I’m over that,” Oladipo said. “I’m not going to miss no more. I’ll make ‘em next time. And if I miss ‘em, I’ll make ‘em the next. If that’s my problem right now, I think I can fix it.” Twenty-four hours later, Oladipo took 13 free throws against Denver and made 11. He scored 47 points in all, hitting 15-of-28 shots and half of his 12 three-pointers. The comeback victory in OT got the Pacers to 4-for-4 on their six-game homestand and continued to shrink whatever chip it was that the 25-year-old was shouldering. “In the beginning of the year, I said, ‘I don’t have a chip. I have a brick house on my back,’” Oladipo said. But not anymore, right, now that some folks are referring to it as “the Victor Oladipo trade” rather than “the Paul George trade?” “That’s what I feel like every morning, no matter what’s going on,” he said. “I don’t even think about the trade, honestly. It’s in the past for me. People’s opinions are going to be there whether you like it or not. From the outside looking in, I guess you could say [then] that was a great trade for OKC. That’s what they believed. But it wasn’t going to change the way I worked. It wasn’t going to change my approach.” This step up in status is considered perhaps the most difficult an NBA player can make. Suddenly, opposing coaches are X&O-ing him to death. The player dogging him up and down the court is the other guys’ best defender. Often, they’ll send double-teams to get the ball into one of his teammates’ hands. “He hadn’t had that,” McMillan said. “When he was in OKC, the game plan was focused on Westbrook. When he was in Orlando, he was just a young player. Now he is seeing the defenders like a LeBron [James], like a [DeMar] DeRozan, what these stars are seeing. He’s seeing the best defenders and he’s seeing teams game-plan to take him out. “Learning how to play and be consistent every night with that challenge is something he’s going through.” Oladipo’s quick success with the Pacers has kept any crowd critics at bay. They were pre-disposed to like him just as their rebound date after George, but had he underperformed, Oladipo’s service time in Bloomington wouldn’t have protected him for long from criticism. But now, it’s George who likely will get the harsh reception. Oladipo, overtly after each of the recent victories, has made it clear to the home fans via some emphatic pointing and body language that the Fieldhouse happens to be his house. “I don’t say it, they say it,” he said. “I just do the gesture and they do the rest of the work for me. I let them do all the talking. We feed off them -- when they’re into it, we play better. I don’t know why, that’s just how basketball’s always been. They’re our sixth man and we need ‘em every night.” Oladipo’s breakout season has been bolstered, too, by the Pacers’ second-through-15th men. Those who already were in Indy knew how valuable George was at both ends. Those who, like Oladipo and Sabonis, were new this season were within their rights to be as skeptical as the national headlines of the guys coming in trade. Go-to guy emerges for Pacers OKC was a specific challenge, Oladipo having to learn on the fly how to fit his own darting, ball-heavy style to only the second man in NBA history to average a triple-double. Westbrook’s usage was off the charts, rendering the other Thunder players to supporting cast whether suited to that role or not. Just like that, Oladipo had to catch and shoot as someone to get Westbrook into double digits in assists. It wasn’t his nature and it made for an individually forgettable season. “I had a role. I tried to play that role to the best of my ability. And I improved certain areas of my game in that role,” was all he’d say Saturday, stiffly, about the OKC experience. Said Walsh: “I felt like he was going to get a different opportunity here. ... When he got to Oklahoma City, he was playing wih a guy who was averaging a triple-double. And he liked Russell Westbrook. But he comes here, he’s got an opportunity to be ‘our guy.’ “I think he might have been looking for that. I never asked him. He’s a really cool guy. He knows what he wants to be, I think.” Oladipo needed this and the Pacers needed him to need it. With George gone, they were like a smile missing a front tooth. The other teeth weren’t just going to move up in the pecking order -- no matter how good young big man Myles Turner is -- and replace the one they’d lost. If they were going to have any success this season, if McMillan was going to be able to coach and adjust in his second year taking over for Frank Vogel, the players needed to fill their roles and welcome this new addition. That’s why this tale of Oladipo’s growing success is about what the Pacers have done for him, as much as it is what he’s done for them. “We didn’t really present it like that,” McMillan said, “because we were still trying to develop who our ‘go-to guy’ was. He has been slowly taking on that role through the things he’s done. I haven’t had to say anything. He’s making good decisions with the ball. And the guys are getting a feel for what we’re doing down the stretch because we’ve had some success, and we’ve had it with Victor having the ball.” Chemistry change for Pacers There might be NBA teams with chemistry as solid as the Pacers’ right now, but it’s hard to imagine there are any with better. It’s more than mere relief that someone has stepped up, easing their own loads a bit. It is a genuine eagerness for Oladipo to max out, for each of the rest of them to do the same in whatever lane they’re riding. “Vic’s been everything at this point,” Turner said. “He’s done a great job of stepping up and being that guy, being that dude. It’s amazing to have that when you’re going through a situation where it’s a brand-new team. We’re still learning each other and he’s showing that he’s ready.” Did Turner know this would happen and, if so, when? “First couple days he started texting me in the summertime,” the big man said. “I saw what his mindset was, and I loved it from the jump. He carried that right in when we started playing pickup this summer. “Vic’s been traded, what, [two] times? He finally comes back home and he has a team that’s telling him to go, telling him to be him. I don’t think he had that with his former teams. Now that he’s here and he’s doing that, I’m pretty sure he’s [enjoying it].” Said Joseph: “He’s been a beast for us and he’s going to continue to be a beast for us. ... He’s been running with that opportunity and opening eyes around the world.” Even strong-willed, uber-confident Lance Stephenson, has backed up for Oladipo. “There’s no hate, know what I mean?” he said over the weekend. “Some guys get mad about somebody doing good. This team wants its teammates to do good. That’s what’s going to make us even better.” Oladipo keeps referring to the other Pacers in a legit lubricating of the “no I in Indy” process. “Honestly I think it’s the personalities and the men that we have in this locker room,” he said. “My teammates are phenomenal people -- not just basketball players, phenomenal people. When you surround yourself with great people, people who sincerely care about you and your team, the chemistry just comes naturally.” Sabonis shows glimpses of success, too The other guy in the trade, Sabonis, has developed more organically, his maturation seemingly inevitable regardless of locale when you tote up his youth, his work ethic and his bloodlines (son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis). He has gone from that rookie who logged just six minutes in the Thunder’s five 2017 playoff games against Houston to an essential piece in McMillan’s rotation. “Once I got traded, I knew this was a great opportunity for me to show people what I can really do,” said Sabonis, the No. 11 pick in 2016. “I was a rookie last year. Everything was new. Here, I’m being used more at the 5. That’s more the position I’ve been used to playing my whole life.” Sabonis’ minutes are up from 20.1 in OKC to 24.6 off Indiana’s bench. His scoring has doubled from 5.9 ppg to 12.1. And his PIE rating has soared from 4.9 last season to 12.6, a sign of the versatility the skilled big man possesses. “I love Sabonis,” Walsh said. “His father was one of the greatest players in the world, so I don’t like that comparison -- it kills him. He [Domantas] is just more of everything you think he is. He’s stronger than you think. He can shoot the ball better. He’s got good hands, he can catch the ball. I’ve seen him make moves in game that I’ve never seen him make in practice.” Said Turner: “I played against Domas in college -- I knew what kind of player he was. I was excited when we got him. He’s gotten bigger and stronger since then, obviously, and he just didn’t have a chance to show himself last year. But he’s been big for us now, especially when I was out with the concussion. He stepped up huge in that role and we’ve played well since then.” The Pacers are playing faster this season, up from 18th in pace last season to 10th now, part of their improvement from 15th in offensive rating (106.2) to 6th (108.3). They’re doing better, too, in contesting shots and throttling opponents’ field-goal accuracy. The biggest reason why has been Oladipo’s blossoming. Whether due to the sunshine of new, happier surroundings or from that darker, more intense place, to prove cynics wrong. No one can now talk of the Pacers’ bungling of what, after all, was a deal to rent George, not to have him long-term. Fans at Bankers Life figure to boo George on his first visit back, with an inventory they haven’t needed or used on Oladipo. Some might see that as ingratitude, others as respect. It’s a little bit of love lost, too. “Look, they loved Paul when he was here,” Walsh said. “They guy is a great player. One thing I’ve always felt: These guys that play here, they always know more about what they want for their lives than we do. How you gonna argue with that? He treated us good, we treated him good. No bad blood here. I don’t know about fans.” Folks in Indy have a new crush now, one they hope lasts for a while. 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 NewsDec 14th, 2017

BLOGTABLE: Assessing aftermath of Paul George trade

NBA.com blogtable As Paul George returns to Indiana tonight for the first time since he was traded by the Pacers, who should be happier with how things have turned out: Pacers fans, or Paul George? * * * David Aldridge: Uh, Pacers fans. This isn't close right now, is it? PG-13 is miserable in OKC, which inexplicably hasn't been able to figure out how to win regularly yet with three All-Stars, each of whom should be considerably motivated to make it work with the other two guys. George may well have the last laugh if he walks to the Lakers next June, as most still suspect will happen. They have a young core that's promising, and he'll be back home. But Indy isn't a laughingstock, as I and most people thought it would be. Victor Oladipo (One DeMatha!) is having an All-Star season, and Domantas Sabonis looks like a 10-year guy at the the four. I was wrong about how bad the Pacers would be. Way wrong. Loud wrong. Stupid wrong. For now. Let's see where we are in March. Steve Aschburner: Paul George should be happier, even in the muck of the Thunder’s season so far. He’s on his way to what he really wants, which is a key role for the Los Angeles Lakers. Once his perfectly legitimate ambition became publicly known, his days as the Pacers’ best player and leader were over. So much so that I wrote at the time, the best move for all considered -- for George, for the Lakers, for the NBA -- would have been for Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka to have done a deal in the summer. It’s not healthy for the league to have a star and a team pining away for each other from afar. But Indiana’s Kevin Pritchard pulled the trigger on the trade with OKC and that was OK. More than OK, given the play so far of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. But let’s not forget the fine years of service George gave to the folks in Indianapolis, and his desire to please extended to sometimes being too candid in interviews. It’s just too bad his journey home to California has to be a two-step process. Shaun Powell: The longer I watch the Thunder, I'm not sure what Paul George can be happy about. And of course, Pacers fans are elated with their team in the playoff mix (OK, it's early) and actually looking entertaining some nights. Victor Oladipo has turned out better than expected and has the floor to do what he wants, now that he doesn't answer to Russell Westbrook anymore. We should wait until summer to check the happy-meter of George, who could be moving on to another place in search of joy. John Schuhmann: I won't pretend to know how George feels. Maybe the Thunder's struggles, if they continue, will make it easier for him to choose a new team next summer. But he can't be happy with the results or the lack of chemistry in Oklahoma City. Pacers fans should surely be happy with how things have turned out. The Pacers have been a better team than the Thunder, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis (who were both clearly misused in OKC) have been terrific, there's more stability in Indiana, and there's still room for improvement. Myles Turner isn't yet the player he can be and Glenn Robinson III hasn't played all season. Of the 16 teams in playoff position, the Pacers are the biggest surprise. Sekou Smith: With the way Victor Oladipo is playing, Pacers fans have every reason to feel like happy heading into the Christmas holiday. The trade that looked so lopsided early in the summer looks like a smashing success for Kevin Pritchard and the rest of the franchise braintrust. It's not just Oladipo playing like an All-Star, though that's a huge part of it. It's Domantas Sabonis playing as solid as he has and the splendid chemistry this group has shown in coach Nate McMillan's second season at the helm. The Thunder haven't had an easy time transitioning George and Carmelo Anthony into a cohesive Big Three. But I'd caution Pacers fans to refrain from gloating too much tonight. There is still plenty of time left in this season. Be careful of celebrating prematurely. If the Pacers make the playoffs and Oladipo continues on his current trajectory, there will be plenty of time to rub in the faces of everyone who doubted things would turn out well in Indianapolis......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 14th, 2017

Westbrook’s triple-double helps Thunder rally past Jazz

OKLAHOMA CITY --- With all the excitement about the Oklahoma City Thunder's new Big Three this season, Steven Adams had become a bit of an afterthought. Not anymore. The 7-foot center had 20 points and nine rebounds to support Russell Westbrook's triple-double, and the Thunder defeated the Utah Jazz 100-94 on Tuesday night. The Thunder have won three straight, and Adams' offensive play has been critical. During the streak, he has averaged 22 points and 8.3 rebounds and made 28 of 34 shots from the field. "That's good, mate," the New Zealander said. "Good stuff." The two new stars did their parts, too --- Paul George scored 11 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and Ca...Keep on reading: Westbrook’s triple-double helps Thunder rally past Jazz.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsDec 6th, 2017

Boston streak ends, Westbrook shines as Thunder roll

LOS ANGELES, United States – The Boston Celtics' 16-game winning streak came to an end with an upset defeat against the Miami Heat on Wednesday as Russell Westbrook won his duel with Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City's rout of Golden State. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters were the stars for Miami ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsNov 23rd, 2017

Thunder add reinforcements for MVP Westbrook

em>By Cliff Brunt, Associated Press /em> OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook did it all last season and it wasn’t enough. Westbrook averaged a triple-double and topped Oscar Robertson’s single-season record for triple-doubles on his way to winning the league MVP award and the scoring title. He led the Thunder to the playoffs after Kevin Durant left for Golden State in the offseason. A five-game playoff exit at the hands of the Houston Rockets was typical of Oklahoma City’s season — great play from Westbrook but the team falling short. Reinforcements have arrived. The Thunder have acquired All-Stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in trades, and now, Oklahoma City is poised to return to elite status. “To be able to play with those two guys and the rest of the guys we have is amazing,” Westbrook said. “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to making a great run, and I’m happy they’re here.” Anthony, now 33, appears to have plenty in the tank. He averaged 15.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in the preseason. He said he expects to score, but he will do what is needed to fit in with coach Billy Donovan’s system. George led the Indiana Pacers to the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014. He missed most of the 2014-2015 season after breaking his leg, then the Pacers lost in the first round of the playoffs the next two seasons. His early adjustment appears to be going smoothly — he averaged 20.3 points in the preseason. He believes that being paired with superstar talent gives the Thunder a chance to be special. “You need guys of that stature and that level to be able to help and create something special,” George said. “It’s just that era where you’ve got to face teams that are going to have two or three guys that can take over games and be iconic to this league.” Here are some things to watch from the Thunder this season: strong>BACKUP POINT GUARD /strong>: The Thunder sometimes ran into trouble last season when Westbrook would go to the bench to rest, and it was a particularly big issue during the playoffs. New pickup Raymond Felton should be an upgrade. The veteran has 657 NBA starts and averaged 9.5 points per game just two seasons ago for Dallas. strong>ADAMS’ DEVELOPMENT /strong>: Center Steven Adams had his best season last year, and he will be in position to be even better this year. He ranked seventh in the league in field-goal percentage last season, and with George and Anthony drawing attention, he should be open a lot more this season. He shot 62 percent from the field during the preseason. strong>HIGH-FLYER: /strong> Rookie guard Terrance Ferguson played professionally in Australia last season. He showed off his springs on several highlight-reel plays while averaging 6.3 points in the preseason. There’s substance to go with the flash. “He’s a guy that comes in and works hard, does the things we ask him to do on both ends,” Anthony said. “Wants to get better. You can’t ask for a better rookie than that. A guy who wants to be out on the court and working his way to have an opportunity to gain some minutes. So he is a guy that you guys will be hearing more of in the future.” strong>THREE-POINT SHOOTING: /strong>Oklahoma City was the worst three-point shooting team in the league last season at 32.7 percent. The addition of George, Patrick Patterson and Anthony should help that. All are good shooters, and they should get plenty of open looks playing off of the other talent on the roster. strong>REPLACING ENES: /strong>The Thunder had to give up Enes Kanter to get Anthony. Kanter was one of the best reserves in the league — just two years ago, he finished third in the race for Sixth Man of the Year. He’s an elite offensive rebounder and one of the league’s most efficient shooters. “Enes was a great guy, he was a great teammate,” Donovan said. “He in my opinion is maybe the best offensive rebounder in the game. You know, I think he’ll be missed.” .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

Camp time! Warriors, Wolves prepare to open training camp

em>By Jon Krawczysnki, Associated Press /em> The Golden State Warriors were the last team standing when the NBA season closed in June. Thanks to a preseason trip to China, they are one of the first teams to get going this season as the league gets up and rolling again. The Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves will hold their media days on Friday and open training camps Saturday, a few days ahead of the rest of the league as they prepare for an early October trip to China for games in Shanghai and Shenzhen as part of the league’s ongoing efforts to grow the game in the basketball-crazy nation. Golden State will be the headliner in China, just like it has been in the NBA for the last three seasons. And the Warriors open camp this season with a major advantage over everyone else that goes above and beyond the sheer talent the organization has assembled with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. While the rest of the league spent the entire summer scrambling to upgrade in a desperate attempt to enter Golden State’s stratosphere, the Warriors return almost the entire roster from the team that won its second championship in three seasons. In fact, Golden State should only be better this year because it will not have to spend part of the early season figuring out how to incorporate Durant’s game with three other All-Stars. Meanwhile, teams like the Rockets, Cavaliers, Thunder, Timberwolves and Celtics will need all of the preseason and then some to get on the same page with the new stars in town. There will be no such orientation process in Golden State. Free agents Nick Young and Omri Casspi will have to acclimate, but that is a lot easier to do when Durant and Curry are showing them around. ___ So as media days and training camps get up and running, here are a few things to watch at the outset: strong>HARD FEELINGS? /strong> It appeared that Durant was on his way to mending some fences in Oklahoma City after he left the organization to join Golden State last season. But the fence posts may have been torn down again when Durant disparaged the Thunder team and coach Billy Donovan as the biggest reasons he left to join the Warriors. Durant has since apologized , but the topic will likely come up again when he speaks to the media on Friday. And it should be interesting to see if Russell Westbrook has anything to say about it when the Thunder open early next week. strong>CP3 ARRIVES: /strong>The most intriguing roster experiment this year may be in Houston, where GM Daryl Morey is teaming James Harden with Chris Paul in a star-studded backcourt. Harden finished second in the MVP voting last season after moving from shooting guard to point guard and now will have to move back to accommodate Paul. Both players are used to having the ball in their hands and orchestrating the offense, so there will likely be some feeling-out that needs to be done in camp. The two have already appeared in a television commercial together, so they’re off to a running start. strong>KYRIE’S MOVE: /strong>The biggest headline in a wild offseason was Kyrie Irving’s request for a trade from the Cavaliers. He landed in Boston in a move that could define his legacy, the All-Star who didn’t want to play with LeBron James. Irving did little to shed light on his motives in an enigmatic interview with ESPN and likely will be bombarded with questions about it at media day. How the Celtics handle the early crush of attention and move past Irving’s exit from Cleveland could play a big role in their ability to truly challenge the Cavs in the Eastern Conference. strong>CRASH COURSE: /strong>The Timberwolves are one of the teams that made significant roster changes this summer after a disappointing 31-win season in Tom Thibodeau’s first year as coach. They added Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford while trading away Ricky Rubio in an offseason overhaul aimed at ending the league’s longest active playoff drought at 13 seasons. Thibodeau asked owner Glen Taylor to allow the team to hold training camp in San Diego before they head out to China to get them away from the distractions of home and allow them to bond in a preseason that only includes three games. That Butler and Gibson played for Thibodeau with the Bulls should help that transition, but it will no doubt be a process worth watching. strong>RULES CHANGES: /strong>When players start taking the court for exhibition games, it will offer an opportunity for them to start to adjust to rules changes and points of emphasis that are new every season. One notable difference this year will be the “James Harden rule,” a change in the way the game is called aimed at reducing the number of instances a player tricks a defender into fouling them and then goes into a shooting motion to try to earn free throw attempts. Harden is the master , though dozens of players do the same thing. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2017

For summer vet Goodwin, NBA hope springs eternal

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press LAS VEGAS (AP) — Archie Goodwin is about to set a record. It won’t be cause for celebration. Goodwin is a veteran of 165 NBA games, has scored 20 points on 10 different occasions, had a monthlong stretch with Phoenix two years ago where he started and averaged 16 points per game while playing against a slew of All-Stars in that span. He thinks he’s proven. The rest of the league doesn’t see it the same way. So he’s back in the NBA Summer League — where, after scoring six points for Portland on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in the Trail Blazers’ 93-78 win over the Utah Jazz, he moved within 13 points of matching Coby Karl’s all-time record for the Las Vegas event. Karl scored 337 points, Goodwin is up to 324, according to data compiled by RealGM. “It comes with the job,” Goodwin said. “My world is just different. I’m just trying to stay positive and continue to fight, looking for a chance to show how I can help a team.” Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) was Day 2 of the Summer League in Las Vegas, with another 10 games on the schedule. More 10-game slates await on Sunday and Monday (Monday and Tuesday, PHL time), and the tournament runs through July 17 (July 18, PHL time). Most guys in Vegas are playing for the first or second time. Goodwin is playing in the event for the fifth time. Drafted No. 29 overall by Oklahoma City in 2013, Goodwin has gotten NBA time with Phoenix, Brooklyn and New Orleans. He appeared in five preseason games with Portland last season as well, but doesn’t even have as much as a training camp deal for this fall. “I’m a resilient person,” Goodwin said. “That speaks to how I was raised that way, to never give up on my dreams. Hopefully the right situation pops up.” Goodwin was one of the best guards in the G League last season, averaging 19 points on 53 percent shooting. “I feel like I’m not getting a fair shake,” Goodwin said. “But that’s how it is. That’s my motivation. I’m going to keep knocking at the door and hopefully someone realizes that this kid — I’m only 23-years-old — can help a team and bring a lot of value to a team.” Saturday’s (Sunday, PHL time) summaries: TRAIL BLAZERS 93, JAZZ 78 Wade Baldwin IV scored 20 points for Portland (1-0), which got 16 points from Gary Trent Jr. and 13 rebounds from Caleb Swanigan. Grayson Allen, Georges Niang and Tony Bradley all scored 16 for Utah (0-1). Allen struggled again from the field just as he did in two summer games at Salt Lake City earlier in the week, shooting 6-for-17, but added six rebounds and five assists. PACERS 86, SPURS 76 TJ Leaf scored 17 for Indiana, which took control by outscoring San Antonio 22-8 in the third quarter. CJ Wilcox added 13 for the Pacers (1-1). Derrick White scored 19 for the Spurs (0-1), who got 15 points from Lonnie Walker IV. SUNS 71, KINGS 63 Top pick Deandre Ayton scored 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds for Phoenix (2-0). Davon Reed added 12 points and Josh Jackson scored 10. Dragan Bender, the fourth overall selection in the 2016 draft, was scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting. Harry Giles had 17 points, six rebounds and five steals for Sacramento (0-1). Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick, had 15 points and seven rebounds. PELICANS 110, HEAT 84 Trevon Bluiett was 10-of-16 shooting, including 6-of-10 from three-point range, and had 26 points to lead New Orleans (2-0). The guard out of Xavier, who went undrafted last month, has scored 50 points, including 12 three's, in two Las Vegas Summer League games. Walter Lemon Jr. had 19 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, Cliff Alexander added 15 points and Cheick Diallo scored 14 for the Pelicans. Duncan Robinson scored 18 points, hitting 4-of-6 3-pointers, and Jarrod Jones had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Miami (0-1). KNICKS 91, HAWKS 89 Kevin Knox, the ninth overall selection in last month’s draft, led New York (1-0) with 22 points and eight rebounds. Troy Williams added 17 points and Allonzo Trier, who went undrafted out of Arizona, had 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. John Collins scored 30 points, hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and Tyler Dorsey added 15 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta (0-1). No. 5 pick Trae Young had 21 points and 11 assists. THUNDER 90, NETS 76 Deonte Burton scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting and Daniel Hamilton had 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City (1-1), which won for the first time in Las Vegas after 11 consecutive losses. Theo Pinson, who went undrafted last month out of North Carolina, led Brooklyn (0-2) with 16 points, Yuta Watanabe scored 13 and James Webb III added 12. GRIZZLIES 73, PISTONS 70 Wayne Selden scored 20 points and first-round pick Jaren Jackson Jr. had 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for Memphis (1-0). Kobi Simmons added 12 points and Deyonta Davis scored 10 and grabbed nine boards as the Grizzlies held on. Henry Ellenson had 15 points and seven rebounds for Detroit (0-2) but was 5-of-21 shooting, including 1-of-10 from three-point range, and committed seven of the Pistons’ 14 turnovers. Second-round picks Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown Jr. had 13 and 12 points, respectively. BULLS 86, CAVALIERS 81 Antonio Blakeney scored 25 points and Wendell Carter Jr., the seventh overall pick in last month’s draft, had 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocks for Chicago (1-0). First-round pick Chandler Hutchison added 13 points. Ante Zizic led Cleveland (1-1) with 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting, and grabbed 11 rebounds. First-round selection Collin Sexton added 14 points but was just 6-of-15 from the field......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 8th, 2018

BLOGTABLE: Best player (and team) in the Eastern Conference?

NBA.com blogtable With LeBron James reportedly moving West, who is the best player in the Eastern Conference right now? And who’s the best team? * * * Steve Aschburner: Giannis Antetokounmpo is now the best player in the East -- and if he develops a reliable perimeter shot, he soon could restore some balance as the best player in the NBA. With Mike Budenholzer taking over for drama king Jason Kidd (and interim man Joe Prunty) as the Milwaukee Bucks' coach, hopefully we'll see the "Greek Freak’s" talents blossom in all their glory and be put to proper team use. The best team figures to be the Boston Celtics, presumably with Kyrie Irving back at point guard, Gordon Hayward feeling like a brand-new free agent signee all over again and coach Brad Stevens and basketball boss Danny Ainge sorting out the rotation and depth chart. Now, if Philadelphia manages to acquire Kawhi Leonard without stripping away too many helpful role players, the Sixers might push up hard from their No. 2 status as “best team” even as Joel Embiid challenges Giannis for “best player.” Shaun Powell: Best player is Giannis Antetokounmpo by a whisker over Joel Embiid, only because Giannis can play multiple positions. He'll need to prove he can take the Bucks a bit deeper in the playoffs. A healthy Boston Celtics squad qualifies as the best team, although if the "star-hunting" Sixers are successful this summer, that could change. John Schuhmann: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid have the most talent, but in the playoffs, they both got outplayed by the same guy: Al Horford. He doesn't have the numbers that stand out, but he is the fulcrum on both ends of the floor for what is now the best team in the East. And even with the returns of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, he will be the Celtics' most important player next season, because his skill set remains unique on their roster. Maybe Antetokounmpo and/or Embiid surpass him in the next year, but for now, I'll go with the guy who just had one heck of a postseason run. Sekou Smith: It's a two-man battle between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid with the "Greek Freak" sitting just a notch above "The Process" on my list, due to the limited sample size we have from Embiid. Antetokounmpo has such a high ceiling (as his outside shot continues to improve and his handle evolves) that he could challenge for the title of NBA's best overall player in the coming years. Embiid could do the same if what we saw from him this season is an indication of what's to come. As for the best team, I'm going with the Boston Celtics. From coach Brad Stevens to the quality and depth of that roster, they have to be No. 1. They've made back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference finals without anything close to their full complement of (healthy) stars. They sit atop the pile in the East until further notice......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 5th, 2018

LOOK: Gretchen Ho called LeBron James going to the Lakers

Kapamilya host Gretchen Ho knew that LeBron James was going the LA Lakers all the way back in February. When Ho was sent to LA to cover the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, she had the fortune of getting into an Uber that was being driven by a former driver of LeBron James. Said driver then tipped her off to James' future move to the City of Stars. Check out the tweets below: If LeBron goes to the Lakers, still don't know how Kobe fans will handle it. — Mico Halili (@micohalili) March 12, 2018 This is my #2 reason for wanting it to happen, behind LeBron vs LaVar — A.D. (@chinoyhoopsfan) March 12, 2018 So a former driver of Lebron told us that he’s coming to LA. He got acting classes, bought properties there, etc. And that Kobe will “unretire” to join him. I have a video recording, lemme check which part I got :)) — Gretchen Ho (@gretchenho) March 12, 2018 if he does go to LA, I'm gonna make an article that Gretchen Ho had it first before even Woj ;) — A.D. (@chinoyhoopsfan) March 12, 2018 And here's the actual conversation she had with the driver: (1/2) When I went to LA for the #NBAAllStar Weekend 2018, it was serendipity that we got on the Uber of Lebron’s driver in LA. Before this recording, he tells us that LBJ is indeed headed to LA, why it’s been coming and that a “legend” will unretire to join him. Check this out: pic.twitter.com/x0hqP6knFq — Gretchen Ho (@gretchenho) July 2, 2018 (2/2) He says Lebron has always been a fan of Kobe growing up and that Kobe made that 60-pt final game as a statement that he can still return. The former boxer also tells us how he came to be Lebron’s driver. Your thoughts? 🤷🏻‍♀️ pic.twitter.com/XYIJi75vCU — Gretchen Ho (@gretchenho) July 2, 2018 By the way, it shouldn't be a surprise that a driver would know in advance where a superstar NBA player is headed to in the offseason. After all, Paul George's barber had the inside scoop that he was staying with the Oklahoma City Thunder......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 2nd, 2018