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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: 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

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

Melo leads the way as Thunder rout Lakers, 114-90

(This recap will be updated) Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points, one short of his season-high, as the Oklahoma City Thunder used a big third period to rout the visiting LA Lakers, 114-90, Thursday (PHL time) at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The Thunder led by just six points, 60-54, at the start of the third, but they proceeded to dominate their foes 33-18 in that quarter, pulling away for good. The Lakers had Brandon Ingram back in the line-up, but played once again without rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. They then proceeded to lose shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a strained right Achilles tendon, further shortening their rotation. Anthony shot 10-of-15 from the field, 4-of-6 on three's, and added three rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Steven Adams added 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook managed 19 on 22 shots, to go with six boards, seven dimes and two swipes. Julius Randle led the Lakers with 16 points on an 8-of-11 clip, but had just one rebound. He did manage three assists and a block in 23 minutes. Caldwell-Pope scored 10 in his 15-minute stint, the only other Laker in double-figures......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2018

Westbrook, Anthony help Thunder rally past Kings

OKLAHOMA CITY --- The third quarter has often been a problem for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season, but that's when they made their move Monday night against the Sacramento Kings. Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists before being ejected, and Oklahoma City rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to beat Sacramento 95-88. Carmelo Anthony added 20 points, Paul George scored 18 and Steven Adams had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder, who avoided what would have been a fourth straight home loss thanks in large part to a dominant third quarter in which they outscored the Kings 31-16. "We were definitely more focused," George said. "We've bee...Keep on reading: Westbrook, Anthony help Thunder rally past Kings.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 16th, 2018

Thunder zap Hornets, 101-91

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Russell Westbrook didn’t think the Oklahoma City Thunder were aggressive enough in the last meeting with the Charlotte Hornets......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 14th, 2018

WATCH: Carmelo Anthony curses on live TV after getting water poured on him

MANILA, Philippines - Carmelo Anthony got hot about cooling down. The Oklahoma City Thunder star momentarily forgot he was on live television when he dropped the MF bomb after teammate Russell Westbrook poured some water on him following their 127-117 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, January 4 ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJan 5th, 2018

Thunder surge past Clippers late, 127-117

(This recap will be updated) The Oklahoma City Thunder sprinted past the LA Clippers in the second half, winning 127-117, Friday (PHL time) at the Staples Center. The Thunder won back-to-back games against both LA teams, after coming off back-to-back losses, while the Clippers saw a four-game win streak end. A 6-0 run had the Clippers up late in the third, 97-94, but the Thunder scored 12 unanswered to bridge the last two quarters, good for a 106-97 advantage with 8:35 left to play. A barrage of triples by Lou Williams and Blake Griffin kept the Clippers within striking distance, and Griffin found Williams for a long-range connection to keep LA within eight, 119-111, at the 4:11 mark of the fourth. In response, the Thunder got three-pointers of their own from Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, sandwiching two Williams free throws, 125-113. Lou Will would connect once more from the field, only to be answered this time by Russell Westbrook, sealing the Thunder victory. Paul George top-scored for the visiting side with 31 points on an efficient 12-of-16 shooting clip. Russell Westbrook logged a triple-double of 29 points, 12 boards, and 11 assists, while Carmelo Anthony scattered 22 markers, hitting 9-of-12 shots. The Thunder big three combined to hit 10-of-16 three-pointers. Steven Adams added 12 points and nine boards. DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams led the Clippers in scoring with 26 points each. Jordan also contributed 17 boards, while Williams dished out a team-best 10 dimes. Blake Griffin tallied 24 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2018

HEADS UP: 10 sporting events to watch out for in 2018

2017 has come and gone, and it delivered some exciting sporting moments that has every sports fan clamoring for more. Worry not, though, as 2018 looks primed to satisfy even the most die-hard Pinoy sports aficionado with its bevy of local and international sporting events. Let's welcome the upcoming year with 10 of the most exciting sporting events to watch out for this 2018.   NCAA 93 & UAAP 80 VOLLEYBALL The cagers are out, and the spikers are in. Volleyball season begins this January 4 with NCAA season 93, followed by the 81st season of the UAAP this February. NCAA volleybelles are once again ready to take center court, and the defending women's champion Arellano University Lady Chiefs, led by heavy hitters Jovie Prado and Regine Arocha are banking on their undisputed team play to propel them to another title. Playing inspired volleyball throughout the season, the Lady Chiefs stunned the thrice-to-beat San Sebastian Lady Stags in the Finals last year, ultimately ending Grethcel Soltones' collegiate career with a dud. Rising stars like San Beda's Ces Racraquin, JRU's Karen Montojo also make the upcoming NCAA volleyball season worth waiting for. UAAP volleyball begins a month later the NCAA tournament, but expect the field to be even more tumultuous. With no clear-cut number 2 team to challenge the two-time defending champions DLSU Lady Spikers, it will be a toss-up against basically the other seven schools to step up. Dangerous squads include the much-improved Adamson Lady Falcons, last year's pleasant surprise UST, the dynastic Ateneo Lady Eagles, and the intact NU Lady Bulldogs and FEU Lady Tamaraws. NBA ALL-STAR GAME & 2018 NBA FINALS The annual showcase of the NBA's brightest stars just got a major revamp. That's right, the league has done away with the traditional East-West teams, and will now have a playground-type pool selection of players between its two captains when the exhibition tips off in Los Angeles. This raises a lot of interesting questions: Will the captains pick their teammates or will they go with a more controversial pick and select a rival? Will we able to know the order of the draft? Will this actually work in making the game better? While answers to those questions might not be answered until a few months, one thing's for sure, the NBA Finals, the spectacle that actually counts, will be epic. Will we be treated to Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Pt. 4? Or will another squad swoop in to spoil the party? The league has indeed improved, with surprising teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons out in the East already staking claim to playoff spots, and the Wild, Wild, West staying true to its monicker. The Houston Rockets and the perennial powerhouse San Antonio Spurs are still the favorites to pull the rug under the Warriors, while the Oklahoma City Thunder is right behind. Either way, with months of hoops already invested in it, the NBA Finals will surely be another explosive one, as it always is.   HOMECOMING QUEEN Alyssa Valdez spent the majority of 2017 overseas, spreading her wings in Taiwan with volleyball club Attack Line. This 2018 though, The Phenom plans on staying in the Philippines, armed with two year’s worth of international experience to focus on her home club team in the Creamline Cool Smashers.  "Next year, I'm planning to focus sa Creamline. Just this year, I travelled a lot talaga. They supported me throughout, esepcially doon sa National Team stint ko. They sacrificed a lot for me talaga. I think I have to focus sa team ko talaga,” she said last week.Alyssa Valdez just got scarier.   PINOY HOOP DREAMS: REMY MARTIN, KOBE PARAS  Two proudly Pinoy ballers based in the U.S. set out this 2018 to continue shooting for our island nation’s humble hoop dreams. Kobe Paras is still serving residency this 2017-2018 season with the California State University-Northridge Matadors, but his development is sure to be a joy to watch. The 6’6” Pinoy swingman accomplished a tour of duty with Gilas Pilipinas earlier in the year, and many Pinoys saw why we should all be excited about high-flying forward. Remy Martin, a 5’11” point guard dazzled in his first few games with the Arizona State Sun Devils, with his athleticism, explosiveness and feisty defense. The Filipino-American cager is proud of his roots and hopes to represent flag and country with Gilas Pilipinas in the future.   WHO (OR WHAT) IS NEXT FOR MANNY PACQUIAO? The never-ending saga of what’s next for Manny Pacquiao looks like it'll seep into 2018.  Following a rather controversial loss to Australian boxer Jeff Horn, Pacquiao has been “courting” the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. for a rematch, even taking to Instagram to ”greet” MMA superstar Conor McGregor before finally admitting that he’s been in talks with the Irish fighter’s camp. Whether he actually retires from boxing for good, or takes on another foe in the squared circle, one thing’s for sure: we’ll all have our eyes on Manny Pacquiao’s next move.   2018 WORLD CUP RUSSIA™ After four years, the best of world football will once again converge, this time in Russia to crown the Kings of the beautiful sport. The stage is set, the groups are finalized, and the 32 squads are promising the best 30-day football extravaganza in the hopes of dethroning defending champions Germany this June. Some group stage clashes to look out for are Germany vs Mexico, England vs Belgium, Portugal vs Spain, to name a few. June couldn’t come soon enough.   CHRISTIAN STANDHARDINGER'S PBA DEBUT No PBA rookie has probably come into the league as pro-ready as the Filipino-German standout Christian Standhardinger. The 6’9” big man was the consensus top overall pick of the 2017 PBA draft, and was also at the center of the controversial trade that sent Kia Picanto’s rights to the number 1 selection to the already-dominant San Miguel. While the trade did go down, so did former commissioner Chito Narvasa. Standhardinger’s entry to the PBA has come at a cost, but San Miguel is more than ready to wait one more conference to bulk up their already stacked squad. Seeing Standharinger play alongside 6’11” center and reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo, versatile forward Arwind Santos, and the Beermen’s bevy of guards in Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross, is definitely a sight to see, just look at how he's tearing it up in the ASEAN Basketball League.    2018 ASIAN GAMES INDONESIA The Philippines’ less than stellar performance at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games was met with widespread flak. Not directed at our athletes however, but aimed at our sports development and governing body for its subpar work in getting our sports representatives ready. While the 2018 Asian Games isn’t so far away, a handful of Pinoy medalists from the SEA Games are going into the continental meet with high hopes. After dominating the SEA Games’ triathlon event, our Filipino endurance athletes, led by gold medalists Kim Mangrobang, and Nikko Huelgas, are once again primed to take home hardware. Marathoner Mary Joy Tabal, and boxers John Marvin, and Eumir Marcial, all gold medalists at Malaysia, are all bright spots that could soon unravel into full-fledged stars come 2018.   GILAS PILIPINAS IN THE FIBA WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS It’s official, basketball is coming home to the Philippines this 2023 by way of the FIBA World Cup, but Gilas Pilipinas will first have to try its luck in the 2019 meet. After dealing with Chinese Taipei and Japan this 2017 for a perfect 2-0 slate in the qualifiers, Gilas Pilipinas still has to face the Japanese anew, and the powerhouse Australian team early in 2018. A good showing against these squads will help Gilas strengthen its bid to international basketball’s biggest stage before we actually host the event in six years’ time.   UAAP 81 BASKETBALL UAAP season 80 just came to an end, but the next season just got way more interesting. Aside from the title defense of the intact Ateneo Blue Eagles and their ongoing rivalry with La Salle, a certain move by a coach has shaken up the league. With Aldin Ayo reportedly accepting the job as the new head coach of the struggling University of Sto. Tomas, we might just be witnesses to the rebirth of the once proud basketball program under the fiery mentor. That, and the way the DLSU Green Archers can adjust from the departure of Ayo and former two-time MVP Ben Mbala, key cogs to their season 79 championship run. The tight race for the MVP award will also be one to watch, with Mbala gone, it’s up to the local stars to step up to the challenge......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2017

Paul George questions controversial end to Thunder vs Bucks

NBA.com staff report Giannis Antetokounmpo arguably possesses the longest reach and stride in the NBA. Oklahoma City's Paul George thought the latter should have twice disqualified his game-winning basket on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Milwaukee's young star forward drove baseline in the final seconds, squeezed past Thunder swingman Josh Huestis and dunked over Russell Westbrook with 0.9 seconds remaining to put the Bucks up 97-95. Later on Twitter, George rose a social media eyebrow over two potential non-calls, wondering aloud if Antetokounmpo had stepped out of bounds or traveled en route to the points that proved the difference. Wow?! No travel OR out of bounds huh? 🤔 — Paul George (@Yg_Trece) December 30, 2017 Westbrook was less direct, telling reporters "it's over now, so it don't matter." Westbrook on if Giannis was out of bounds: “I couldn’t see that...You’ve seen it. So it’s over now. It don’t matter.” pic.twitter.com/MrbLcBP5bV — Fred Katz (@FredKatz) December 30, 2017 In the pool reporter interview after the game, NBA Crew Chief Derrick Stafford explained why Antetokounmpo's drive was not reviewable despite the possible non-calls. "In any reviewable matter, there has to be a whistle called on the floor," Stafford said. "There was no whistle blown for the play, so we couldn't review it." The following is a transcript of the pool reporter interview following the Bucks/Thunder game with NBA Crew Chief Derrick Stafford by Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman: pic.twitter.com/9mVzRouqz0 — NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) December 30, 2017 This would be the third high-profile questioning of late-game officiating in the past week. LeBron James complained of two late-game fouls by Kevin Durant that went uncalled in Cleveland's Christmas day (Dec. 26, PHL time) loss to the defending champion Warriors. James Harden was displeased with consecutive offensive fouls that helped Boston cap off a 26-point comeback victory over the Rockets on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 30th, 2017

Westbrook scores 31, OKC keeps rolling with win over Rockets

By Cliff Brunt, Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 31 points and 11 assists to help the Oklahoma City Thunder stay hot with a 112-107 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Paul George scored 24 points and Carmelo Anthony added 20 for the Thunder, who won their fifth straight game. Oklahoma City shot 54.4 percent from the field. James Harden led the Rockets with 29 points, but he made just 7-of-18 field goals. The league’s leading scorer was coming off back-to-back 51-point games. Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon each scored 20 points and Clint Capela added 19 points and 10 rebounds for Houston, which lost its third straight. Houston point guard Chris Paul sat out with a groin strain. The Rockets are 15-1 when he plays and 10-6 when he doesn’t. Westbrook shot 4-for-14 in the first half but made his last two before the break to help the Thunder lead 58-57 at halftime. Harden had 11 points in the first half but made just 1-of-8 shots. Westbrook broke away for a fast-break dunk to give the Thunder a 65-59 lead early in the third quarter. The Rockets rallied, and the score was tied at 88 heading into the fourth. Houston had the ball down by three points in the final minute. Harden missed a wild three-pointer while trying but failing to draw a foul, and the Thunder got control in a scramble. Westbrook found Andre Roberson for a layup with 21 seconds left to put the Thunder up 112-107. TIP-INS Rockets: Capela returned to the starting lineup. He had missed the previous two games with a left heel contusion. ... Houston committed just one turnover in the first quarter and 14 overall. Thunder: Roberson left in the first quarter but returned later in the period with fingers taped together on his left hand. ... C Steven Adams had 12 points and six rebounds in the first quarter and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds ... George and Anthony had three fouls in the first half. George finished with five and Anthony with four. UP NEXT Rockets: At Boston on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Thunder: Host Toronto on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2017

Westbrook, Thunder continue streak with victory over Rockets

OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook had 31 points and 11 assists to help the Oklahoma City Thunder stay hot with a 112-107 win over the Houston Rockets on Mond.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsDec 26th, 2017

Notes to know: 2017 NBA Christmas Day games

NBA press release Here are some important stats and info about this year's batch of NBA Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) games PHILADELPHIA 76ERS @ NEW YORK KNICKS (1am, PHL time on NBA League Pass) All-Time Head-to-Head: PHI leads 244-201 Christmas Head-to-Head: PHI leads 6-5 Christmas Day Records: PHI – 16-13 (Last: 2001) | NYK – 22-29 (2016) • Philadelphia and New York are meeting for the first time this season. • The Knicks are playing in their NBA-high 52nd Christmas Day game, a history that dates to 1947, when the team defeated the Providence Steamrollers 89-75 during the first edition of the NBA on Christmas. New York’s 22 victories are tied for the most on Christmas with the Lakers. • Philadelphia is playing on Christmas for the first time since 2001 – an 88-82 loss to the Lakers in a rematch of the 2001 NBA Finals. • New York and Philadelphia are meeting on Christmas for the first time since 1978. • The matchup features three potential first-time All-Star selections in the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis. All three international standouts have unique skill sets relative to their size and position. • Both teams have a substantial international presence. Five of the 10 projected starters hail from outside the U.S.: Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Dario Saric (Croatia) and Ben Simmons (Australia), and New York’s Enes Kanter (Turkey) and Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia). Other countries represented on the two rosters are France, Spain and Canada.   • Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek played for the 76ers for two seasons (1992-94). He was part of the trade the sent Hall of Famer Charles Barkley from Philadelphia to Phoenix in 1992. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS @ GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (4am, PHL time on S+A and NBA Premium) All-Time Head-to-Head: GSW leads 57-52 Christmas Head-to-Head: Tied 1-1 Christmas Day Records: CLE – 7-6 (Last: 2016) | GSW – 11-15 (Last: 2016) • Cleveland and Golden State are meeting for the first time since the 2017 NBA Finals. • This is the third consecutive Christmas Day matchup between the teams. The last teams to meet three straight years on Christmas were the Lakers and Heat from 2004-06. • Last season’s Christmas matchup was a classic. Cleveland rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit and Kyrie Irving made a game-winning shot with 3.4 seconds left. • Last season, the Cavs and Warriors became the first teams to meet in three straight NBA Finals. • The rosters have combined for 55 All-Star selections and eight of the last nine MVP awards. • Cleveland’s Dwyane Wade is the NBA’s winningest player on Christmas Day (10-2). This year will be his 13th Christmas game, tied for the second-most appearances behind Kobe Bryant (16).   • Teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are tied for third in scoring (301 points) and assists (76) on the NBA’s all-time Christmas Day lists, making them the active leaders in both categories. Kobe Bryant (395) and Oscar Robertson (377) are the top two in scoring. Robertson (145) and Bryant (85) are the top two in assists. • Cleveland’s Isaiah Thomas could be back in time from his hip injury to play on Christmas. Last season, Thomas finished fifth in the MVP voting – just behind new teammate LeBron James and just ahead of his point guard counterpart in this game, Stephen Curry (health permitting). • Golden State forward Kevin Durant’s 44-point performance for Oklahoma City against Denver in 2010 is the highest-scoring game by an active player on Christmas Day. WASHINGTON WIZARDS @ BOSTON CELTICS (6:30am, PHL time on NBA League Pass) All-Time Head-to-Head: BOS leads 187-111 Christmas Head-to-Head: BOS leads 1-0 Christmas Day Records: WAS – 15-7 (Last: 2014) | BOS – 13-17 (Last: 2016) • This is the first meeting between the Celtics and Wizards since their dramatic playoff series in the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Boston won in seven games. • The Celtics have four new starters since last facing the Wizards – including 19-year-old Jayson Tatum and 21-year-old Jaylen Brown – and yet Boston has gotten off to the NBA’s best start. • The Celtics are playing a home game on Christmas Day for the first time in franchise history. Boston has played 30 previous games on Christmas – 28 on the road and two at neutral sites. • In the teams’ only Christmas Day matchup, Boston defeated the Baltimore Bullets 113-99 in 1965. In that game, Bill Russell grabbed 34 rebounds for the Celtics. • Twin brothers Marcus Morris of the Celtics and Markieff Morris of the Wizards square off for the first time with Marcus in a Celtics uniform. Marcus was traded from Detroit in the offseason. • Washington’s John Wall (2010) and Boston’s Kyrie Irving (2011) were the top overall picks in their respective NBA Drafts and have each appeared in four NBA All-Star Games. • Washington’s Bradley Beal is making a strong push to be a first-time All-Star selection. He recently scored a career-high 51 points in a game against Portland. HOUSTON ROCKETS @ OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (9am, PHL time on BTV) All-Time Head-to-Head: OKC leads 107-106 Christmas Head-to-Head: First meeting Christmas Day Records: HOU – 5-4 (Last: 2015) | OKC – 5-13 (Last: 2016) • Houston and Oklahoma City are meeting for the first time since the Rockets defeated the Thunder in five games in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. • Former teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden dueled for the MVP last season. Westbrook earned the honor and Harden finished second. Harden, however, was the only unanimous selection to the 2016-17 All-NBA First Team.   • James Harden leads the NBA in scoring and narrowly trails Russell Westbrook for the assists lead. The only player to lead in both categories for a season is Tiny Archibald in 1972-73. Last season, Harden ranked second in scoring behind Westbrook and was the league leader in assists.   • The center matchup features two top young international big men in Houston’s Clint Capela (Switzerland) and Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams (New Zealand).    • Carmelo Anthony is averaging 33.2 points in five Christmas Day games, the highest mark among all players who have appeared in four or more games on the holiday. • The Seattle SuperSonics went 0-11 on Christmas Day. Since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, the team is 5-2 on Christmas. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES @ L.A. LAKERS (11:30am, PHL time on NBA Premium) All-Time Head-to-Head: LAL leads 77-29 Christmas Head-to-Head: First meeting Christmas Day Records: MIN – 0-1 (Last: 2016) | LAL – 22-21 (Last: 2016) • Minnesota and Los Angeles are meeting for the first time this season. • This year marks the Lakers’ 19th consecutive appearance on Christmas Day. Los Angeles has appeared in the second-most Christmas Day game in history (43) and is tied with the Knicks for the most victories (22).   • The Lakers made their first 11 Christmas Day appearances (1949-1959) when the franchise was in Minneapolis. • Last year was Minnesota’s first game on Christmas Day. The Timberwolves lost to Oklahoma City 112-100. • Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins averaged 37.8 points in four games against the Lakers last season, including a career-high 47 points on Nov. 13, 2016, and 41 points on April 9, 2017. • The Timberwolves, fifth in the West midway through Week 8 of the season, are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. That season, they lost in the Western Conference Finals to a Lakers team that included current Lakers coach Luke Walton. • The Lakers are seeking to build around former No. 2 overall draft picks Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball in much the same way that the Timberwolves are bringing along former No. 1 overall draft picks and NBA Rookie of the Year winners Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2017

Westbrook s 3-pointer lifts Thunder past Hawks 120-117

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook hit a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to cap a 30-point, 15-assist outing, and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off the Atlanta Hawks 120-117 on Friday night. Game on the line. Westbrook for the win! He finishes with 30 PTS, 15 AST & 7 REB.@okcthunder beat @ATLHawks 120-117 for third straight win. pic.twitter.com/gR9ZL3Xa79 — NBA (@NBA) December 23, 2017 Carmelo Anthony added 24 points on 7-of-12 3-point shooting and Paul George scored 17 for the Thunder, who have won five of their last six after an 11-14 start. Atlanta, in last place in the Southeast Division, made Oklahoma City work for this one, rallying after falling behind by 16 points in the first half. The Hawks led 92-88 with 8:49 left after a basket by Kent Bazemore. Westbrook re-entered the game and led the Thunder on a 16-5 run. Anthony's 3-pointer with 5:34 left gave Oklahoma City a 104-97 lead. The Hawks came back again, eventually tying the game at 117 on two free throws by Ersan Ilyasova with 11.1 seconds left. After a timeout, George inbounded to Westbrook, who made the final shot over Atlanta's Taurean Prince. Without a timeout, the Hawks could manage only a desperation heave at the buzzer. Marco Belinelli scored 30 points to lead Atlanta, which is 2-7 against Western Conference teams this season. Ilyasova added 22 points for the Hawks, who went 15 of 32 from 3-point range. The Thunder dominated the second quarter. They broke a 28-28 tie with a 14-2 run to start the quarter, with Raymond Felton and George each hitting two 3-pointers. After the Hawks pulled within 51-43, Oklahoma City went on a 13-5 run and led 64-50 at halftime. Atlanta scored 11 straight points to cut the Thunder lead to 74-70 midway through the third quarter. Oklahoma City made only 19 of 31 free throws. TIP-INS Hawks: Atlanta played without G Dennis Schroder, who sat out with a left ankle injury and was replaced in the starting lineup by Belinelli. Schroder had started and played 32 minutes Wednesday vs. Indiana. ... Prince went 1 of 3 from 3-point range and now has at least one 3-pointer in career-best 14 straight games. ... Belinelli extended his streak of consecutive free throws to 28. Thunder: Westbrook was called for an unsportsmanlike technical foul with 3:24 left in the second quarter for shoving Malcolm Delaney after Delaney had fouled him. ... Steven Adams had 16 points and 10 rebounds. ... The Thunder now trail only 66-65 in their all-time series with the Hawks, including the franchise's time in Seattle. ... George and Westbrook entered the game ranked first and second, respectively, in the NBA in steals at 2.45 and 2.10. George had three steals against the Hawks, and Westbrook had two. UP NEXT Hawks: Host Dallas on Saturday before a four-day break. Thunder: At Utah on Saturday before starting a four-game homestand on Christmas Day against Houston......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2017