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Thunder GM says they won t rush Westbrook back

NBA.com staff report The Oklahoma City Thunder will open camp next week with former Kia MVP Russell Westbrook on the mend from the arthroscopic surgery he had on his left knee a little more than a week ago. As the Thunder hope for a solid season and deep playoff run in 2018-19, OKC general manager Sam Presti told reporters today the team will not rush Westbrook back into the lineup. Westbrook is scheduled to have his knee injury re-evaluated in a few more weeks, which Presti said the team is waiting for before deciding anything else about their star.   “We’d never push Russell or any player onto the floor. It was a pretty minor thing he had done. We’ll see how that re-evaluation goes," Presti said. Sam Presti says the team has never pushed a player to hit a specific date in recovering from injury, and won’t start now by rushing Russell Westbrook to be ready for game one. — Royce Young (@royceyoung) September 20, 2018 Presti on Russell Westbrook surgery/return: “We’d never push Russell or any player onto the floor. It was a pretty minor thing he had done. We’ll see how that reevaluation goes.” — Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) September 20, 2018 A re-evaluation of Westbrook's status four weeks since his surgery would be around Oct. 10. That would be six days away from OKC's regular-season opener at the Golden State Warriors. While the Thunder wait for Westbrook to recover from his injury, they received good news on another player coming back from injury. Guard Andre Roberson missed the final two months of the season and the 2018 playoffs with a ruptured patella tendon in his left knee. In July, the Thunder were hoping Roberson would be on track to return to training camp and that seems to be the pace Roberson is on. Roberson will go through parts of training camp, Presti said, and will participate in some non-contact drills. “We don’t think we’re going to be without him very long,” Presti said. However, it did not sound like Roberson will be ready to play on opening night. Presti added that Roberson is doing a lot more this week than he was a week ago and is through the hardest part of his recovery process. The 6-foot-7 Roberson was an All-Defense second-team selection in 2016-17. In 39 games last season, he averaged 5.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Sam Presti says Andre Roberson will go through parts of training camp, primarily non-contact. “We don’t think we’re going to be without him very long,” Presti says. Doesn’t sound like he’ll be ready to go on opening night. — Royce Young (@royceyoung) September 20, 2018 Presti said Roberson is doing a lot more this week than he was last week and is through the hardest part of his recovery process. — Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) September 20, 2018 Overall, Presti said he expects both Roberson and Westbrook to be back in the early part of the season. And, in a bit of personal news, Presti announced he and his wife had twin girls last night. Sam Presti announces that he and his wife Shannon welcomed twin girls last night. Names are Millie and Elise, joining their three and a half year old, Nicholas. — Royce Young (@royceyoung) September 20, 2018 The Thunder were active in the offseason, parting ways with Carmelo Anthony in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks that netted them Dennis Schroder. Additionally, they re-signed All-Star swingman Paul George and defensive-minded forward Jerami Grant while also picking up Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, Abdel Nader and Nerlens Noel in other transactions. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnSep 20th, 2018

Westbrook’s 7th straight triple-double leads OKC past Magic

By Cliff Brunt, Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook posted his seventh straight triple-double, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Orlando Magic 132-122 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Westbrook finished with 16 points, 16 assists and 15 rebounds to match the longest triple-double streak of his career. It was his 20th of the season and No. 124 for his career. Paul George scored 39 points to help the Thunder win for the eighth time in nine games. Dennis Schroder had 20 points, and Jerami Grant had 19. Evan Fournier scored 25 points for the Magic, and Aaron Gordon added 18 points and 10 assists. Orlando led 69-62 at halftime behind 15 points from Gordon and 58 percent shooting as a team. George scored 18 in the first half for the Thunder. Orlando stretched its lead to 79-67 early in the third quarter, causing the Thunder to call a timeout. Oklahoma City came back strong in a two-minute span. A lob from George to Grant for a two-handed jam cut Orlando’s lead to 81-78, and the Magic called a timeout. Westbrook clinched his triple-double on a rebound with 3:33 left in the third quarter. His overall play sparked a 29-10 run that put the Thunder back in front for good. Oklahoma City led 98-92 at the end of the third quarter after making 15 of 24 shots in the period. A steal and three-pointer by Terrence Ross cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 128-122 with 31 seconds to play, but the Thunder held on. TIP-INS Magic: Reserve center Mo Bamba is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left leg. ... Gordon was called for a technical in the fourth quarter. ... Gordon fouled out with 36.6 seconds left. ... Fournier fouled out with 29.6 seconds to play. Thunder: Westbrook was called for a technical foul in the first quarter. Coach Billy Donovan was called for one in the second. ... Oklahoma City is 14-6 this season when Westbrook gets a triple-double. UP NEXT The Magic play at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). The Thunder host the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 6th, 2019

LOOK: Here are the 2019 NBA All-Star Game reserves

NBA press release NEW YORK – Two-time Kia NBA All-Star MVP Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and four first-time All-Stars lead the list of 14 players selected by the NBA’s head coaches as reserves for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. The 68th NBA All-Star Game, featuring Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis, will take place on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. (Feb. 18, PHL time). NBA All-Star 2019 will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages. Joining Westbrook as reserves in the Western Conference player pool are San Antonio Spurs forward-center LaMarcus Aldridge, New Orleans Pelicans forward-center Anthony Davis, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns.  Jokić has been named an NBA All-Star for the first time. The Eastern Conference reserve pool includes three first-time NBA All-Star selections: Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton, Philadelphia 76ers guard-forward Ben Simmons and Orlando Magic center Nikola Vučević.  They are joined by Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin, Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Team captains LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks will draft the NBA All-Star Game rosters from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference. The team rosters will be revealed on TNT in a special NBA All-Star Draft Show on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. ET (Feb. 8, PHL time). James and Antetokounmpo will make their picks without regard for a player’s conference affiliation or position.  Each captain will choose 11 players to complete a 12-man roster. The 2019 NBA All-Star Draft rules include: - The eight starters (aside from James and Antetokounmpo) will be drafted in the First Round. - The 14 reserves will be drafted in the Second Round. - As the top overall vote-getter among fans, James will have the first pick in the First Round (Starters).  Antetokounmpo will have the first pick in the Second Round (Reserves). - The captains will alternate picks in each round until all players in that round have been selected. The 10 All-Star Game starters, unveiled last week, were selected by fans, current NBA players and a media panel.  The Eastern Conference starter pool consists of Antetokounmpo, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard, the Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving and the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker. The Western Conference starter pool is James, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City’s Paul George and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden. The 14 All-Star Game reserves were selected by the NBA’s 30 head coaches. The coaches voted for seven players in their respective conferences – two guards, three frontcourt players and two additional players at either position group. They were not permitted to vote for players from their own team. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will select the replacement for any player unable to participate in the All-Star Game, choosing a player from the same conference as the player who is being replaced. Team LeBron will be coached by the head coach from the Western Conference team with the best record through games played on Sunday, Feb. 3 (Feb. 4, PHL time). Team Giannis will be led by the head coach from the Eastern Conference team with the best record through games played on Feb. 3 (Feb. 4, PHL time). Below is a closer look at the NBA All-Star Game reserves: 2019 NBA ALL-STAR GAME RESERVES Western Conference Player Pool The Western Conference @NBAAllStar Reserve Pool!@aldridge_12 @AntDavis23 Nikola Jokic@Dame_Lillard @KlayThompson @KarlTowns @russwest44 #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/BHu2JnxiHg — NBA (@NBA) February 1, 2019 • LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs (7th All-Star selection): Aldridge is an All-Star for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. The Spurs have now had at least one player selected to 21 consecutive All-Star Games, the NBA’s longest active streak. • Anthony Davis, Pelicans (6th All-Star selection): An All-Star for the sixth year in a row, Davis scored a record 52 points in the 2017 All-Star Game. • Nikola Jokić, Nuggets (1st All-Star selection): Selected with the 41st overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Serbian center is Denver’s first All-Star since the 2010-11 season (Carmelo Anthony).   • Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (4th All-Star selection): Lillard is the fourth player to earn at least four All-Star nods with Portland, joining Clyde Drexler (eight), Aldridge (four) and Sidney Wicks (four). • Klay Thompson, Warriors (5th All-Star selection): This marks the fifth consecutive All-Star selection for Thompson, who made a game-high five three-pointers and scored 15 points in the 2018 All-Star Game. • Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves (2nd All-Star selection): Towns is the third player to be named an All-Star multiple times with Minnesota, along with Kevin Garnett (10) and Kevin Love (three). • Russell Westbrook, Thunder (8th All-Star selection): An All-Star for the eighth time in the last nine seasons, Westbrook is the only player to win the Kia NBA All-Star MVP Award outright in back-to-back years (2015 and 2016). Eastern Conference Player Pool The Eastern Conference @NBAAllStar Reserve Pool!@RealDealBeal23 @blakegriffin23 @Klow7 @Khris22m @VicOladipo @BenSimmons25 @NikolaVucevic #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/LfwuSBvA1P — NBA (@NBA) February 1, 2019 • Bradley Beal, Wizards (2nd All-Star selection): This is the second straight All-Star selection for Beal, who scored 14 points in his All-Star Game debut last year. • Blake Griffin (6th All-Star selection): Griffin is set to appear in the All-Star Game for the first time since 2014, when he scored 38 points as a member of the LA Clippers. • Kyle Lowry, Raptors (5th All-Star selection): With his fifth consecutive All-Star nod, Lowry becomes the second player to be named to at least five All-Star teams after not being selected in any of his first eight seasons, joining Chauncey Billups. • Khris Middleton, Bucks (1st All-Star selection): The 39th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft joins Antetokounmpo to give Milwaukee multiple All-Stars in the same season for the first time since 2000-01 (Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson). • Victor Oladipo, Pacers (2nd All-Star selection): Oladipo has been named an All-Star in each of his two seasons with Indiana. He sustained a season-ending ruptured quad tendon in his right knee on Jan. 23 (Jan. 24, PHL time). • Ben Simmons, 76ers (1st All-Star selection): The reigning Kia NBA Rookie of the Year makes his All-Star debut in his second season – just as Philadelphia teammate Embiid did last year. • Nikola Vučević, Magic (1st All-Star selection): The eight-year NBA veteran from Montenegro is Orlando’s first All-Star selection since the 2011-12 season (Dwight Howard).  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 1st, 2019

Young wins point guard battle, Hawks top Thunder 142-126

By Charles Odum, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — Trae Young had 24 points and 11 assists to win the showdown of past and former Atlanta point guards, leading the Hawks over the Oklahoma City Thunder 142-126 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). Former Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder scored 21 points in his return to Atlanta. Schroder struggled early but had 14 points in the third period when the Thunder outscored the Hawks 41-27 to reclaim the lead. Atlanta was similarly dominant in the second period, outscoring Oklahoma City 45-30 to match its high mark for any quarter this season. After holding a big lead of 15 points, the last time at 70-55, the Hawks led 70-59 at halftime. Led by Schroder and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City answered strong in the third period. A jumper by Westbrook tied the game at 87-all. Schroder scored the Thunder's final 11 points of the third period, the last six on free throws, for a 100-97 lead. John Collins made 12-of-14 shots from the field and led Atlanta with 26 points. Alex Len had 24 points and 11 rebounds. The Hawks were 18-of-37 on three-pointers. Westbrook led the Thunder with 31 points and 11 assists. Paul George had 24 points and Jerami Grant added 21. Young, Atlanta's rookie starter, opened the final period with a tying three-pointer. Young added a three-point play and another basket as the Hawks regained momentum. A jam by Omari Spellman pushed Atlanta's lead to 117-107, and another dunk by Spellman pushed the advantage to 121-109. George sank a three-pointer with about 90 seconds remaining to cut Atlanta's lead to 132-123, but the Hawks quickly pushed the advantage back to double figures. A steal and reverse jam by DeAndre Bembry iced the win. The Hawks had a "welcome back" video tribute for Schroder during a first-quarter timeout. Schroder raised his arm to acknowledge the fans. The Hawks wore new powder blue uniforms with red trim and numbers for the first time. The uniforms were introduced as part of the Hawks' 50-year celebration in Atlanta. TIP-INS Thunder: F Nerlens Noel (concussion protocol) "is doing a little more each day," coach Billy Donovan said before the game. ... G Alex Abrines (personal reasons) missed his eighth straight game. Hawks: G Jeremy Lin (flu-like symptoms) was not with the team. F Taurean Prince was limited in his second game back while recovering from similar symptoms. ... G Kent Bazemore (right ankle sprain) and F Dewayne Dedmon (left ankle sprain) did not play. Dedmon may return Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) against Boston. UP NEXT Thunder: Host Lakers on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). Hawks: Host Celtics on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2019

George has 37 and Thunder hold off Blazers 111-109

By ANNE M. PETERSON,  AP Sports Writer PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Paul George scored 37 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder snapped a six-game losing streak to the Portland Trail Blazers with a 111-109 victory on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Russell Westbrook added 31 points for the Thunder, who had also lost eight straight games at the Moda Center dating to February 2014. Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 23 points and eight assists. The Thunder trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half but pulled in front late in the third quarter and pushed the lead to 107-97 with just over 4 minutes to go on a basket by Westbrook, who scored 20 points came in the second half. CJ McCollum's jumper got Portland within 109-105 and Lillard made two of three free throws to cut the deficit with 42.8 seconds left. George made free throws with 4.3 seconds left and the Blazers fell short on Al-Farouq Aminu's basket at the buzzer. Oklahoma City, sitting in second place in the Western Conference behind the Nuggets, has won three straight, including a 107-100 victory over the Lakers on Wednesday. The Blazers had won two straight overall and were coming off a 113-108 overtime victory in Sacramento on New Year's Day. The game against the Thunder was the first of a five-game homestand. George got off to a fast start with 13 points in the opening quarter, including a pair of free throws that pulled the Thunder into a 28-all tie. The Blazers went up 47-39 after Jake Layman's 3-pointer, and extended the lead to 58-47 after Maurice Harkless' 3. Jusuf Nurkic had 16 first-half points and Portland went into the break with a 62-57 lead. The Thunder closed within 80-78 on Steven Adams' layup then took an 83-82 lead on George's 3-pointer. Aminu answered with a 3 for the Blazers but George made another 3 and the Thunder went into the final period with a 93-87 lead. Nurkic finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. TIP-INS Thunder: George had 21 points at the half. ... Terrance Ferguson fouled out with 2:43 left. ... It was the first of four meetings between the teams. Last season Portland won all four of its games against the Thunder. Trail Blazers: Nurkic was coming off a rare 5-by-5 (five points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals, and five blocks) against the Kings on Tuesday, when he had 24 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and five blocks. The only other Blazer with one was Nic Batum. Nurkic is the first NBA player to pull off a 5-by-5 with 20-plus points and rebounds. REMEMBERING LARRY: The Blazers held a moment of silence for Larry Weinberg, one of the founders and original owners of the team, who died on Monday. Weinberg was among those who got the franchise started as an NBA expansion team in 1970. He sold the team to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 1988. UP NEXT Thunder: Host the Wizards on Sunday. Trail Blazers: Host the Houston Rockets in the second of a back-to-back on Saturday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2019

Westbrook rebounds with triple-double as Thunder beat Mavs

Russell Westbrook had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his 10th triple-double of the season and the Oklahoma City Thunder gained a split of their back-to-back against the Mavericks, never trailing in a 122-102 victory......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 1st, 2019

Westbrook rebounds with triple-double as Thunder beat Mavs

By Murray Evans, Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder gained a split of their back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks, never trailing in a 122-102 victory on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Paul George added 22 points and Jerami Grant had 16 for the Thunder, who had dropped three of their last four games. That included a 105-103 loss at Dallas on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), when Oklahoma City blew a six-point lead in the final 1:59 and Westbrook went 4-of-22 from the field and scored only nine points. Westbrook promised after that game, “We play tomorrow and I’ll be better from then on,” and was true to his word, going 13-of-24 from the field and knocking down midrange bank shots with regularity as the Thunder built a 60-43 halftime lead. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle burned five of his seven timeouts in the first half in an effort to stem the tide, but the Mavericks proved unable to overcome a 1-for-9 start from the field. Dallas committed 29 turnovers, the most ever by a Thunder opponent. Harrison Barnes led Dallas with 25 points, matching his career-high with seven three-pointers in nine attempts, and Luca Doncic had 17 points. The Mavericks are 2-16 on the road, offsetting their 15-3 home record. As the Mavericks were misfiring to start the game, George scored 16 points in the first quarter as Oklahoma City built a 17-point lead. The Thunder led by as many as 22 in the first half. Consecutive three-pointers by Dennis Smith Jr. and Doncic pulled Dallas within 69-57, but a bucket by George, a steal and layup by Westbrook and an alley-oop dunk by Grant off Westbrook’s pass led Carlisle to burn his final timeout at the 6:45 mark of the third quarter, with his team down 75-57. Despite going 8-of-13 from three-point range in the quarter, Dallas made no headway, trailing 92-75 at its end. Barnes hit two more three-pointers to cut the margin to 94-81 with 10:59 left, but George scored and Abdel Nader followed with a three-pointer to rebuild Oklahoma City’s lead. Dallas came no closer than 14 points the rest of the way. TIP-INS Mavericks: F Wesley Matthews returned after missing two games with right foot soreness, but Dallas made F Dirk Nowitzki inactive, citing “return from injury management” after he played 10 minutes on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). The Mavericks were called for a technical foul with 6:43 left after Carlisle called a timeout Dallas did not have . Dallas went 14-of-38 from three-point range. Thunder: C Steven Adams had 12 points and 13 rebounds . Nerlens Noel scored 15 points in 15 minutes . G Alex Abrines sat out due to what the team called personal reasons. . G Terrance Ferguson started despite being listed as questionable with a stomach illness . The Thunder are 9-2 on New Year’s Eve (Jan. 1, PHL time) since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City . After playing Dallas on consecutive days, the Thunder won’t see the Mavericks again until March 31 (April 1, PHL time). UP NEXT Mavericks: Visit Charlotte on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Thunder: At the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2019

Doncic, Smith key Mavs late surge to beat Thunder 105-103

By Schuyler Dixon, Associated Press DALLAS (AP) — Teenage rookie Luka Doncic scored 25 points, young backcourt mate Dennis Smith Jr. hit the go-ahead layup in the final minute and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-103 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Paul George scored the last 13 points for Oklahoma City and finished with 36, but he missed a pull-up jumper over Smith with two seconds left in the first of two straight meetings on back-to-back nights for these regional rivals. The Thunder still had a chance with 1.7 seconds left, but Russell Westbrook missed a corner three-pointer at the buzzer to wrap up a rough night for the 2017 MVP. He was 4-of-22 from the field for nine points with nine rebounds and eight assists. The Thunder led by as many as six in the final two minutes after consecutive three's from George, but the Mavericks chipped away thanks to missed shots and turnovers by Oklahoma City. Smith's layup for a 104-103 lead came after he dribbled away from the basket and reversed course to the hoop. The second-year guard who turned 21 last month scored 14 points. DeAndre Jordan, who had 12 points and 17 rebounds, pulled Dallas to 101-99 with a thunderous dunk. The Thunder turned it over but Westbrook knocked away Harrison Barnes' pass to Doncic. Trailing the play, Jordan grabbed the loose ball and dunked without taking a dribble. George was 12-of-24 from the field but just 3-of-11 from three as the Thunder shot 24 percent from beyond the arc. Westbrook missed all eight of his attempts from long range. The Mavericks took their first 10-point lead on a triple from the 19-year-old Doncic while the Thunder went without a field goal for more than six minutes to start the third quarter. The lead reached 13 in the final minute of the third on a three from J.J. Barea. The Dallas lead was gone less than four minutes into the fourth quarter, with Oklahoma City getting even at 86 on a floater from Dennis Schroder, who scored 19 points. DUELING GERMAN TRIPLES The first of Dirk Nowitzki's six points came on a three with 34 seconds left in the first quarter, but the fellow German Schroder hit one in transition five second later to finish the scoring in an entertaining first quarter. Oklahoma City led 28-27 after the first. TIP-INS Thunder: Westbrook got a technical after he didn't get a call on a bump from Maxi Kleber when he drove for a layup that was short. ... Jerami Grant and Patrick Patterson scored 10 points apiece while Steven Adams had nine rebounds and eight points. Mavericks: Barnes had 16 points, and Dorian Finney-Smith added 10. ... G Wesley Matthews missed his second game with right foot soreness. ... Smith got a technical for complaining going into a timeout about a no-call when Westbrook made contact with his face. UP NEXT The teams finish a back-to-back against each other Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) in Oklahoma City......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 31st, 2018

MVP Ladder: Irving enters chase with work on, off the floor

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com The best of Kyrie Irving, both on and off the floor, has been on display the past few weeks. With the Boston Celtics’ season at an early crossroad, of sorts, it was Irving who stepped into the leadership void to steer things in the right direction. With injuries to key players complicating matters and chemistry issues still being sorted out, Irving was the veteran willing to step up and speak out in an effort to make sure the Celtics dealt with their issues head on. The Celtics had an inconsistent start to the season (10-10) before going on a eight-game win streak that was more like what was expected of them, only to hit the skids again briefly and lose three straight games before Irving piped up. "I think everyone can see that we've obviously had some inconsistencies regarding our play,” he said, “so I think it was just time to address it." A 36-minute players meeting in the locker room after a Dec. 21 (Dec. 22, PHL time) home thumping from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks was enough for Irving, who didn’t spare anyone (himself included) from the harsh spotlight. It was a cathartic moment for the Celtics, who saw Al Horford return from a seven-game absence just in time for Sunday’s win in Charlotte. Kyrie was at his superstar best with the bright lights shining on Christmas. He torched the Philadelphia 76ers for 40 points, unleashing his full offensive arsenal (shooting 17-for-33 from the floor, 5-for-10 from deep), while also grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out three assists. He was in showtime mode again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) against James Harden and the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center, finishing his night with 23 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and just one turnover. The Celtics simply had no answer for Harden, who like Irving moves up the ranks on this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder. But it’s clear Irving is ready to shoulder the burden of leading these Celtics, in whatever way necessary. * * * The top five this week in the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 26.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.3 steals Antetokounmpo turned Madison Square Garden into his very own Christmas playground when he smoked the Knicks for 30 points, 14 rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks to kick off the league’s showcase day. And just so the Knicks know it wasn’t a fluke, he hurried them again Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at Fiserv Forum with 31 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in another rout. The Greek Freak is making it tough for anyone to nudge him from the top spot on this list; he’s averaging 24.8 points (on 60.9 shooting), 12.6 rebounds  5.6 assists and 1.7 blocks in his last 10 games. The Bucks are cruising during this stretch as well, solidifying their position as one of  the top teams in the Eastern Conference and the entire league at the close of the calendar year 2018. If this is just the warm up for 2019, Antetokounmpo can really crank up his MVP campaign between now and the All-Star break. 2. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 26.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals Leonard and the Raptors didn’t get an opportunity to showcase themselves for the world to see on Christmas but made up for that scheduling snafu with an instant classic in a win over Miami on the day after the holiday. Leonard scored 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had two assists and two steals in the winning effort. December has been good to the Raptors’ prized summer acquisition — he’s averaging 30.1 points (on .520 shooting) to go along with his 8.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals. For all of the chatter about how good the Raptors have been with Leonard out of the lineup and how good their quality depth is and has been all season, the fate of this team rests on Leonard’s broad shoulders come playoff time. He’s the one element they’ve lacked in previous runs, as a true crunch-time, go-to player in the postseason. All that noise about him not being an ideal vocal leader looks like just that at this stage of his tenure in Toronto. 3. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.3 steals Lakers Nation held its collective breath earlier this week, awaiting the word on LeBron’s MRI after he heard a “pop” when he went down in the third with a groin injury in the third quarter of the Lakers’ Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) blowout over the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The news was better than expected but the catalyst for the Lakers’ revival this season is still expected to miss “several games.” This could actually prove to be a critical stretch for the Lakers. If they can manage to maintain their position in the Western Conference standings without LeBron in uniform, it’ll speak volumes about the growth and development of their youngsters. It will also instill some confidence in the entire group if they can piece together a few wins without the new king of Los Angeles. All that said, it would be shortsighted of anyone to dismiss the work LeBron has put in during the early-season turnaround this team has undergone. He was playing as well as anyone in the league this month (25.8 points on .516 shooting, 9.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.3 steals). 4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 28.6 points, 5.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals Curry bounced back from yet another uncharacteristic Christmas Day (Dec. 26, PHL time) performance (just 15 points on an ugly 5-for-17 shooting) with a big night against his brother Seth and the Portland Trail Blazers. But his 29 points and a triple-double from Kevin Durant wasn’t enough to lift the Warriors past Damian Lillard’s late-game heroics against his hometown team. If there was ever a time to be concerned about Curry and these Warriors, it’s now. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson cannot find their marks. The bench production is non-existent at times. And the edge the Warriors have used to their advantage for years seems to have vanished. The boost they need is more than just adding a superstar talent like Boogie Cousins (whose recovery from his Achilles injury seems to be in hyperdrive). The Warriors might need both Curry and Durant to go off script a bit and shake things up by going nuclear offensively to strike fear in teams the way this team once did. They’ve become far too predictable a target without the proper support from their other stars. 5. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 7 Season stats: 32.3 points, 8.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals The reigning Kia MVP will not be denied any longer. Harden has been on an absolute tear of late and is bringing the Rockets back into focus in the Western Conference playoff chase while doing so. He’s posted back-to-back 40 point games (45 in their Friday, PHL time showdown win over the Boston Celtics and 41 in their Dec. 26, PHL time win over the Oklahoma City Thunder). He’s currently on a career-best eight-game run scoring 30 or more points, the first player to do so since Russell Westbrook did it in November of 2016. Harden’s the first to score 35 or more in six straight games since former teammate Carmelo Anthony accomplished the feat in April of 2013. Harden’s eight games of 40 or more points this season leads the league (Anthony Davis is second with five). The Celtics tried every player in uniform to stop him but to no avail. But Harden’s best work has been pulling the Rockets out of their sub-.500 hole at Thanksgiving to a season-best four games over .500 as they close out the 2018 portion of their schedule. * * * The next five 6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets T-8. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors T-8. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers 10. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics And five more: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans; De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings; Tobias Harris, Los Angeles Clippers; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. 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 29th, 2018

Reasons to watch 2018 slate of NBA X mas day games

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Bucks vs. Knicks (1am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: Two words; Giannis Antetokounmpo. The most dominant force in the league this season resides in Milwaukee. That’s right, the Greek Freak sits atop the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder heading into the Christmas Day showcase games. And with good reason. The Bucks are riding the wave their dynamic superstar forward has created in his first season in Mike Budenholzer’s system. Open it up and enjoy because … The Bucks are more than a one-man show. Antetokounmpo should be joined on the All-Star team this season by Khris Middleton, who is playing at that level, and point guard Eric Bledsoe is shooting better than he ever has in Budenolzer’s aggressive, shooter-friendly system. Watching the Bucks try and set a record for three-pointers taken and made should be entertaining enough. But the Knicks will offer some entertainment value of their own as they attempt to match the Bucks shot-for-shot with Tim Hardaway Jr. leading the way. The gift we’re hoping for is … The Knicks could use a statement win before a global audience to jump start the post-Christmas portion of their season-long grind. The Bucks have spent most of this season frightening the competition, both in the Eastern Conference and beyond. They’ve got the gift that’ll keep on giving for years in Antetokounmpo, who’ll get another chance to show the basketball public that what they’ve hard about a contender rising in the Central Division is real. Thunder vs. Rockets (4am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: Do we really need anyone to remind us to tune in for every Russell Westbrook-James Harden matchup for the foreseeable future? Didn’t think so. The matchup of the last two Kia MVPs winners is enough of an incentive to lock in on this one. And the fact that the Thunder occupy the space in the standings most thought was reserved for the Rockets only adds to the intrigue. Open it up and enjoy because … The real showstopper in this one isn’t either one of the MVP winners. Thunder swingman Paul George is the player you need to lock in on as he continues his dark horse MVP campaign for a much-improved team (the Thunder are light years away from the group that started the season 0-4). There are few soap operas better right now than the Rockets, who are dealing with yet another injury to All-Star point guard Chris Paul (hamstring) and a failure to play up to expectations that threatens to swallow up their season before Santa’s finished off his cookies and milk. The gift we’re hoping for is … What Westbrook and Harden wear into the building is worth a few moments of your time as these two fashion-forward superstars never fail to make an impression. But it’s the competitive fervor on the court that should provide the ultimate viewing pleasure. The Thunder would love to take over the position the Rockets held last season, as the legitimate threat to the Golden State Warriors’ stranglehold on the Western Conference throne. In the absence of a Christmas tilt against the two-time defending champs, the Rockets make an ideal fill in. Sixers vs. Celtics (6:30am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: The Eastern Conference version of Thunder-Rockets, the schedule makers look pretty good slotting the Sixers and Celtics in this spot. No one relishes an opportunity to take down a projected heavyweight the way the Sixers do (what else would you expect with Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid leading the charge?). The suddenly chummy Celtics, however, appear to be the team most eager to prove that they are indeed who we all thought they were in the summer, when they were the consensus pick to ascend to the top of the heap in place of Cleveland. Open it up and enjoy because … Kyrie Irving has embraced his role as the leader of this disjointed Celtics bunch in ways that fans in Cleveland have to be enjoying with an eyebrow raised. Kyrie trying to convince his young teammates to follow his lead is rich, given his reluctance to do exactly that when he was in their shoes. As far as rivalries go, this is perhaps the day’s deepest and most volatile. The Sixers are still smarting from that playoff ouster at the hands of the Celtics. And they won’t have ant sympathy for the Celtics as they continue their search for good health and better chemistry. The gift we’re hoping for is … A Ben Simmons-Kyrie point guard duel will make this game shine even brighter than usual. And they’re both more than capable of going off on the big stage. But the real treat here is going to be watching Jimmy Butler and Jayson Tatum match wits in what could be a preview of fireworks to come in a potential playoff matchup. Tatum’s sophomore season has been a bit choppier than expected. And Butler, whose shown a penchant for schooling youngsters (teammates and opponents) is surely betting on himself in this game within the game. Lakers vs. Warriors (9am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: With all of the recent history dripping off of this LeBron James-Warriors rivalry, the inclusion of the Los Angeles Lakers into the mix only serves to take this spectacle to the next level. LeBron insists this isn’t a measuring stick game for the upstart Lakers, not against a Warriors juggernaut that has won three of the last four Larry O’Brien trophies. Yeah, whatever you say big fella. Folks who haven’t watched a minute of NBA basketball season will be tuned into this one. Count on it. Open it up and enjoy because … Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have moved into that cosmic zone that only the all-time greats are capable of locating (see their work in their Monday, PHL time win over the Los Angeles Clippers for proof). We already know how the superstars respond in a matchup of this nature. The great unknown is how the likes of Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball will react to the marquee spotlight at Oracle Arena. The Lakers’ youngsters have thrived at times and struggled at others in their first season inside the LeBron bubble. But they haven’t seen anything like what they’ll experience in Oakland on this night. The gift we’re hoping for is … Draymond Green hasn’t had a true breakout game since returning from his extended injury absence. With Lance Stephenson in uniform on the other side, the opportunity for fireworks would appear to be extremely high. We’d settle for some Finals-level intensity from both of the world class agitators in the building. That and vintage performances from LeBron, Steph, KD and Klay Thompson are expected. Anything else beyond that is really gravy on the best basketball meal of the day. Trail Blazers vs. Jazz (11:30am, PHL time) Why you should be watching: We’re dubbing the nightcap of the Christmas Day showcase the “Respect Bowl.” The Trail Blazers are always on the hunt for more respect and the Jazz, one of the trendy summer picks as a team poised to become a contender in the Western Conference this season, could stand to show a little self-respect in the way they tackle the remainder of this season. Open it up and enjoy because … Second-year Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is suffering from the same sophomore spell that has plagued Jayson Tatum in Boston. It’s one thing to surprise the basketball world as a rookie and another to come back better and even more dangerous the second time around. We’re betting on Spider showing up and showing out for the Christmas Day crowd. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Damian Lillard will not allow someone else to steal the spotlight from him. He warmed up for Mitchell and the Jazz by finishing off Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks Sunday night. You know his swagger travels, so expect to see his competitive best against Mitchell and the Jazz. The gift we’re hoping for is … Joe Ingles stealing the show would make for an ideal end to a day full of some the league’s biggest and brightest superstars. And the sweet-shooting Jazz swingman is one of the league’s criminally underrated stars. It would also be nice to see the rest of that Jazz team we expected to make things interesting this season make an appearance. Christmas Day games have always served as a launching pad/turning point for teams willing to dive in. And the Blazers and Jazz both seem like prime candidates to take advantage of the opportunity. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. 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 25th, 2018

George has 43 and 14 as Thunder hold off Jazz, 107-106

By Matthew Coles, Associated Press SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Paul George had 43 points and 14 rebounds to help the Oklahoma City Thunder hold off the Utah Jazz for a 107-106 victory Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Jerami Grant and Steven Adams each scored 15 as the Thunder (21-10) won their fourth straight game and tied Denver for the best record in the Western Conference. Russell Westbrook had eight points on 3-for-17 shooting with 12 rebounds and nine assists. Rudy Gobert had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz (16-18). Donovan Mitchell scored 20, Derrick Favors added 16 and Ricky Rubio had 12 points and 14 assists. Three nights after scoring 43 against Sacramento, George went 15-for-25 from the field and made five three-pointers while dishing out six assists. George hit a jumper to extend Oklahoma City's lead to 106-97, but the Jazz fought back on the strength of their defense. After a miss by Westbrook, Mitchell drove for a layup to make it 107-105. After Mitchell and Dennis Schroder exchanged steals, Westbrook fouled out trying to block Mitchell on a potential tying dunk with 1.5 seconds remaining. Mitchell was slow to get up after hitting the floor hard, and his first free throw rimmed out. Mitchell launched the second free throw high, apparently attempting to generate a long rebound, but it swished through for the final margin. Westbrook was on the bench with four fouls when Rubio made a three-pointer to give the Jazz a 79-70 lead midway through the third quarter. George scored 18 points in the last 6:04 of the period — on everything from driving dunks to spinning three's — to forge a 93-81 advantage after three free throws with five seconds left. In all, the Thunder outscored the Jazz 23-2 when everything went through George. He flexed while facing the Utah crowd on the baseline, he talked trash with Joe Ingles and he demanded the ball, even while drawing double-teams at times. George didn't do it just by shooting. In the fourth quarter, Mitchell looked as though he was headed for a breakaway dunk and George somehow took the ball from him. A couple of plays later, the Jazz overplayed him and he deftly dropped the ball off to Adams for a dunk. George took some time getting in a rhythm after offseason knee surgery and the Thunder lost four straight. Since then, George has become nearly unstoppable. In his last nine games, he has averaged more than 32 points on 47 percent three-point shooting. TIP-INS Thunder: Westbrook picked up his fourth foul trying to get around Gobert's pick with 7:33 left in the third, but the Thunder were actually outscored by 12 points when he was on the court. ... Despite allowing several offensive rebounds down the stretch, the Thunder outrebounded the Jazz 51-44. Jazz: Even with a number of open looks, Utah didn't make a three-pointer in the fourth quarter. ... The Jazz hadn't lost at home when getting more than 30 assists since Nov. 26, 2008. Utah had 35 assists. UP NEXT Thunder: Host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). Jazz: Host the Portland Trail Blazers in the final Christmas Day game on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 23rd, 2018

George scores 33 to help Thunder top Clippers 110-104

By Cliff Brunt, Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George scored 33 points to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers 110-104 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). It was the fourth time in seven games George scored at least 30 points. Russell Westbrook had 13 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and six steals for Oklahoma City. Jerami Grant scored 18 points and Steven Adams added 16 for the Thunder, who bounced back from a 109-98 loss at Denver on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Danilo Gallinari matched a season high with 28 points, Tobias Harris scored 22 and Montrezl Harrell added 21 for the Clippers. The Thunder led 61-50 at halftime, despite Westbrook going scoreless for almost 22 minutes to start the game. George picked up the slack with 21 points in the first half. Los Angeles' Patrick Beverley got called for a technical foul in the closing seconds of the third quarter, and George made the free throw to give the Thunder an 86-69 lead at the end of the period. Harrell scored, was fouled and made the free throw with just over a minute remaining to cut Oklahoma City's lead to six. With the margin still six, Harrell was fouled by Westbrook on a dunk attempt with 20.7 seconds left. He missed both free throws, and the Thunder called timeout. Oklahoma City got the ball inbounds, and George passed his way out of a trap to find Grant for a dunk that put the game out of reach. TIP-INS Clippers: G Lou Williams missed his third straight game with a sore left hamstring. ... C Marcin Gortat was called for a technical in the second quarter. ... Beverley, long hated by Thunder fans for his numerous run-ins with Westbrook, scored nine points but committed five fouls. Thunder: Forced 26 turnovers, the most for an opponent this season. ... Shot 47 percent from the field. UP NEXT Clippers: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Thunder: Host the Chicago Bulls on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 16th, 2018

Westbrook, Murray tussle as Nuggets beat Thunder 109-98

By Dennis Georgatos, Associated Press DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored 24 points, Jamal Murray had 19 and the Denver Nuggets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 109-98 on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) after Murray and Russell Westbrook had a heated exchange. Westbrook and Murray pushed each other and argued after lining up next to each other for a jump ball in the final seconds. Jokic tried to get between them, and Westbrook threatened to beat up Jokic while being restrained. No blows were exchanged, but the final moments played out amid heightened tensions. Jokic also had 15 rebounds and nine assists, just shy of a third triple-double this season. Nick Young, signed as a free agent Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), scored six points in his Nuggets debut, including a key three-pointer in the fourth quarter. Paul George had 32 points to lead the Thunder, who lost their fourth in a row to the Nuggets. Steven Adams added 26 points, and Jerami Grant and Westbrook finished with 13 points apiece. Trailing by 10 points late in the third quarter, Oklahoma City got a layup and a three-pointer from George in the final minute to pull to within 82-76. With a 9-2 burst capped by another layup from George, Oklahoma City pulled within 99-96 with 3:20 remaining. The Nuggets scored 10 of the last 12 points down the stretch, four of them on a jumper and a pair of free throws by Murray. The teams were gathered for a jump ball with 35.7 seconds left when Westbrook, apparently upset over Murray's positioning around the circle, began pushing him. As Murray pushed back, teammates and officials quickly rushed in to separate the two, who exchanged words before the skirmish ended. The Nuggets took a 60-52 lead at halftime, boosted by Torrey Craig's perimeter shooting as he made three of his first four attempts from three-point range. Adams scored 17 of his points in the first half, helping to keep the Thunder within striking distance. TIP-INS Thunder: Andre Roberson remains sidelined by a left patellar tendon injury that has kept him out all season. Nuggets: F Paul Millsap missed a third game since suffering a right big toe fracture. ... G Gary Harris missed a fifth straight game because of a right hip injury. ... F Mason Plumlee fouled out with just over six minutes left to play. UP NEXT Thunder: Complete a back-to-back at home Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time) against the Los Angeles Clippers. Nuggets: Continue a four-game homestand Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) against Toronto......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 15th, 2018

Westbrook scores 30 as Thunder hold off Hornets

By Murray Evans, Associated Press OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off a late rally by Charlotte to win 109-104 on Friday night, completing a regular-season sweep of the Hornets (Saturday, PHL time). Dennis Schroder — paired with Westbrook in the starting lineup for the first time this season — scored 23 points and Paul George added 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma City, which has won 12 of its last 14 games after an 0-4 start. Kemba Walker had 25 points and eight assists for Charlotte, but the NBA’s leader in made 3-pointers went 2 of 10 from behind the arc. With the Hornets down 105-104, he drove and passed to Marvin Williams, who missed a 2-point jumper from the corner. Westbrook rebounded and hit two free throws with 11.2 seconds left. Walker missed a 3-pointer from the right wing with 2.4 seconds left and Westbrook again rebounded and hit two free throws to seal the win for the Thunder. Charlotte rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit to close within 93-92 on a put-back by Jeremy Lamb with 5:38 left and was within 97-95 after Walker hit a 3-pointer with 3:49 left. Westbrook answered with a three-point play and Oklahoma City pushed its lead to six points before Williams hit a 3-pointer with 37.1 seconds left to pull Charlotte within 105-104. Westbrook threw ball away with 20.5 seconds left, giving the Hornets a chance to take the lead. Lamb scored 18 points for Charlotte. The Thunder took the lead for good at 53-51 on a three-point play by Burton with 4:49 left in the first half and a 3-pointer by Westbrook in the final minute gave Oklahoma City a 62-57 advantage at halftime. The Thunder led 89-80 entering the fourth quarter. TIP-INS: Hornets: Reserve G Tony Parker missed the game with bruised ribs. Coach James Borrego said Parker was day-to-day . F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed his fifth straight game with a right ankle sprain . Frank Kaminsky recorded a season scoring high for the second straight game, finishing with 12 points after scoring 11 against Indiana on Wednesday . Williams’ 10 points gave him 10,002 for his career . Lamb tied his career high for made free throws, going 8 for 8. hunder: Coach Billy Donovan said G Terrance Ferguson, who sprained his left ankle in a win Wednesday at Golden State, will be reevaluated in 10 to 12 days. The Thunder said Thursday rookie G Hamidou Diallo, who also sprained his left ankle during that game, would be reevaluated in seven to 10 days . Two-way player Deonte Burton scored a career-high 11 points UP NEXT: Hornets: Wrap up a two-game road swing on Sunday at Atlanta. Thunder: Continue a four-game homestand on Saturday against Denver......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 24th, 2018

MVP Ladder: Hot start pushes Curry to forefront

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com When Kevin Durant raised the Finals MVP trophy in the air in June -- his second straight, mind you -- it was supposed to be over for Stephen Curry. The prevailing wisdom said there was no way the former two-time Kia MVP winner Curry would be able to contend for a third Maurice Podoloff Trophy playing alongside Durant (a former Kia MVP himself). Their individual brilliance would be muted by the collective strength of their partnership as the two best players on the best team in the league. This notion they would continue to split Kia MVP votes made sense given their super team required all of its stars to sacrifice personal glory for the greater team good. That was the thinking before the first nine games of this season ... and then Curry decided to attack things as he did in 2015-16. That season, he went nuclear -- averaging 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game while shooting 50.4 percent overall and 45.4 percent on three-pointers -- becoming the NBA's first unanimous MVP winner as the Warriors won an NBA-record 73 games. Durant was still toiling for the rival Oklahoma City Thunder then, sharing the spotlight with another eventual Kia MVP in Russell Westbrook. Curry’s opening salvo this season, though, has been nothing short of staggering. His pace right now -- leading the league in scoring while shooting nearly 55 percent overall and 53 percent on three-pointers  -- could top that 2015-16 season. Doing all this with teammates who could make their own compelling cases for Kia MVP honors makes Curry’s start even more mind-boggling. Both Durant (check out his 25-point fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden) and Klay Thompson (who topped Curry’s three-pointers made record in Chicago) are taking turns showing out, all of which speaks to the Warriors' mastery of a situation that easily could have overloaded these three stars. Curry’s consistent brilliance sticks out in a sea of transcendent scoring performances in the early stages of this season. He was the one who dropped 51 points in 32 minutes in a win over Washington, making 11 of his 16 three-pointers. He went 6-for-11 on three-pointers en route to 29 points when Durant worked the Knicks for 41 points at MSG. When Thompson was in the zone against the Bulls, Curry scored 23 points (on 7-for-9 shooting) in just 25 minutes. And when the New Orleans Pelicans showed up to Oracle Arena Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), Curry lit them up for 37 on 12-for-20 shooting and a 7-for-11 night on three-pointers. That's all why Curry sits atop the first Kia Race to the MVP Ladder this season. And if he keeps this up, there’s no reason Curry won't be in the thick of this season's MVP conversation when the dust settles. The top five in the Week 1 edition of the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Season stats: 33 points, 5.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds Here's the kind of damage Curry is doing so far: he’s not only leading the league in scoring, but doing so while shooting a preposterous 54.9 percent overall and an equally bonkers 52.9 percent on three-pointers. Scoring around the league is on the rise this season, and perhaps no one is taking more advantage of the freedom of movement rule the way Curry has. He’s scoring from everywhere, against any and everyone whenever he wants in a system built around his skills. He’s got one of the league’s early 50-point games (51 points, vs. Washington), and, given the way he’s shooting now, could go for another 50-spot at any time. That’s a warning for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who will see Curry today. 2. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists Leonard is off to a monstrous start with Toronto, shattering that pesky myth that he was a product of a system in San Antonio. Anyone who forgot just how devastating a two-way player he could be after his nine-game run with the Spurs last season should have a clearer understanding of what he can do when healthy. Just ask Philadelphia 76ers stud Ben Simmons, who couldn't praise Leonard enough after matching wits with the two-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year. “He’s a freak,” Simmons said after turning the ball over 11 times while being guarded by Leonard on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “His hands are huge. He’s got long arms. He’s a great defender.” The scary part for the rest of the league? Leonard is shooting as good or better than ever on three-pointers (44.4 percent) while logging a career-high 34.7 minutes. And, technically, he is still undefeated in a Raptors uniform (he got a rest day for Bucks-Raptors). 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Season stats: 26.1 points, 13.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists It took a franchise-record 24 made three-pointers for the Boston Celtics to hold off Antetokounmpo and the Bucks Thursday night (Friday, PHL time) at TD Garden. It was the Bucks’ first loss this season, but it wasn’t because the "Greek Freak" didn’t show up. He roasted the Celtics for 33 points (on just 22 shots), 11 rebounds, three steals and two assists. The increased floor spacing that comes with the arrival of coach Mike Budenholzer has allowed Antetokounmpo to put opposing defenders in compromising positions. His three-point shot is still in the development stage, but if Budenholzer can help transform that part of his game (as he did for Al Horford and Paul Millsap in Atlanta), the rest of the league will be on notice. As for Antetokounmpo's groove elsewhere on the court, it has made him virtually unstoppable when he’s in attack mode. 4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Season stats: 25.2 points, 13.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 3.2 blocks Had there been a top five after the first four games of this season, Davis would have been a runaway pick for the No. 1 spot. He was that good in powering New Orleans' 4-0 start. But the Pelicans have lost four straight and three to the four games since as Davis deals with nagging right elbow pain. Davis missed back-to-back games against Utah and Denver, then played Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) against the Warriors. It was clear he wasn’t at his best, as he had 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. (Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry held him out in a road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.) Davis hasn’t been shy about proclaiming that he’s chasing both Kia MVP and Kia Defensive Player of the Year honors, a double-dip that only half a handful of players could realistically set as a goal. The talent and high ceiling have never been in question. His availability to chase such lofty goals, however, remains a question at times. 5. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Season stats: 29.1 points, 6.0 assists, 5.1 rebounds Lillard entered this season as determined to prove his team’s early 2018 playoff exit wasn't a true measure of Portland's status. Still, getting swept by the Pelicans sent the Blazers into the offseason with tons of questions and skeptics. Since the first whistle of training camp, Lillard has gone about the business of answering those questions. He’s averaging career-highs in points (29.1), field goal percentage (49.7 percent), three-point percentage (40 percent) and free throw percentage (94 percent). The Blazers finished their recent four-game road trip at 3-1, which included wins against Orlando, Indiana and the struggling Houston Rockets. Thursday night’s (Friday, PHL time) win over the Anthony David-less Pelicans was fueled by Lillard’s team-high 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Saturday night’s home game against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers could be another opportunity for Lillard and Co. to show they aren’t stepping aside for anyone. * * * The next five 6.  Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets 7.  Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 8.  Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz 9.  LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers 10.  Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers And five more: Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves; DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs; Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. 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 NewsNov 3rd, 2018

Westbrook s 23 lead surging OKC past struggling Wiz 134-111

By HOWARD FENDRICH,  AP Sports Writer WASHINGTON (AP) — Continuing their turnaround from a terrible season start, the Oklahoma City Thunder picked up their fourth consecutive victory by beating the struggling, booed-at-home Washington Wizards 134-111 behind Russell Westbrook's 23 points and 12 assists Friday night. From 0-4 to 4-4, the Thunder are clicking right now, led by Westbrook, who missed the first two games after a procedure on his right knee and sat out the final quarter of the rout at Washington. And even though OKC was the team playing on the second night of a back-to-back, it looked a lot fresher and more active than Washington, which was coming off a two-day break and finally got to see new center Dwight Howard make his debut. After missing all of training camp, every exhibition game and the first seven regular-season games with a sore backside, Howard started and immediately appeared to have an impact, scoring 13 first-quarter points. But soon enough, Washington got into its usual bad habits, the ones that have led to loss after loss so far: ineffective defense and low-effort rebounding. The Wizards have lost four games in a row to drop to 1-7, and spectators let the players hear their displeasure in the second quarter, jeering when OKC went ahead 61-40 on Jerami Grant's dunk on a pass from Westbrook. When Paul George made his third straight 3 attempt, a night after going 0 for 10 from beyond the arc, it made the halftime score 79-50, equaling the Thunder's record for most points in a half. An Oklahoma City team averaging 109 points this season was already at 110 after three quarters. George wound up with 17 points to surpass 10,000 for his career, and Grant scored 22. Howard had 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, three rebounds and four fouls in 23 minutes. When he was out of the game, he either laid down on his stomach on the sideline or stood. Bradley Beal scored 27 points, and John Wall had 19 points and nine assists, but Washington's pair of All-Star guards also combined for 12 turnovers. The Thunder went up by as many as 33 points in the third quarter and shot 57 percent for the game. They outrebounded the Wizards 38-30. None of that should come as a surprise, given that Washington began the night allowing an NBA-worst 122.4 points per game and averaging only 41.3 rebounds, 27th in the 30-club league. TIP-INS Thunder: Came in shooting 27 percent on 3s, but hit 47 percent — 15 for 32 — against Washington. ... George has complained of a nerve issue with his left foot, and coach Billy Donovan said George thinks it affects his defense. "There's times where he wishes he could push off a little bit better and move a little bit better — more to the extreme that he's capable of doing," Donovan said. "I think he still feels he's hindered by it." Wizards: Otto Porter Jr. played with a bruised big left toe and scored nine points in only 16 minutes. ... Brooks on Ian Mahinmi, who started at center while Howard was sidelined but now returns to a backup role: "His minutes are going to shrink quite a bit, but he has to be ready whenever he's called on." NEW SPONSOR The Wizards' jerseys had a sponsor's logo for the first time, part of a multiyear deal with an insurance company that also will advertise on uniforms for the WNBA's Washington Mystics and the G League's Capital City Go-Go. Nearly all NBA teams now have such a jersey sponsorship arrangement; the Thunder still do not. UP NEXT: Thunder: Host the Pelicans on Monday. Wizards: Host the Knicks on Sunday......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 3rd, 2018

Thunder rally from 19 down in 3rd, top Hornets 111-107

By Steve Reed, Associated Press CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 29 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 19-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Charlotte Hornets 111-107 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Alex Abrines had 25 points on five three-pointers for the Thunder, who won their third straight. Malik Monk and Kemba Walker each had 21 points to lead the Hornets, who shot 11-of-41 from three-point range. The Thunder made a concerted effort to slow down Walker, who came in averaging 30 points per game. Walker failed to make a field goal before the break and had just three points, although the Hornets still led 48-44 at halftime. Walker came to life in the third with 10 straight points to help the Hornets push their lead to 19. Westbrook led the Thunder back. With 1:12 left, Westbrook drove and found an open Dennis Schroder with a crosscourt pass for an open three-pointer. After a Charlotte miss, Westbrook used a screen from Steven Adams to get by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for a layup to push the lead to 108-102. Westbrook punctuated the win with a ferocious dunk with 13 seconds left off a fast break before stopping to glare at the crowd. TIP-INS Thunder: Westbrook got a technical foul early for screaming "and one" after a driving layup after the foul wasn't called. ... Schroder finished with 21 points and five assists for Oklahoma City. Hornets: Marvin Williams got his 500th career block. UP NEXT Thunder: Visit Washington on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Hornets: Host Cleveland on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 2nd, 2018

Led by bench, Clippers hang on to beat Rockets 115-112

By Beth Harris, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — Montrezl Harrell led a fourth-quarter charge by the Clippers' reserves with 17 points, and Los Angeles defeated the Houston Rockets 115-112 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Harrell and the bench helped the Clippers erase a four-point deficit late in the third, with Luc Mbah a Moute's three-pointer giving them the lead for good. Tobias Harris led the Clippers with 23 points. Danilo Gallinari added 20 and Harrell had 10 rebounds. The Rockets were without Chris Paul against his old team. He began serving a two-game suspension for his involvement in an on-court fight against the Lakers on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). James Harden had 31 points and 14 assists for the Rockets. He got shoved by the Lakers' Brandon Ingram in a move that started the incident a night earlier. Harden scored nine straight points to draw Houston within three with 29 seconds left. But his potential tying three-pointer was short on the left side as time expired. The starless-Clippers earned their second win over one of the NBA's top teams, having beaten the Thunder, who played without Russell Westbrook on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Reserves Lou Williams and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 12 points each for the Clippers. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer exhorted the crowd to "Get up!" during a timeout with 3:17 remaining in the game, waving his arms with a fierce look on his face. Harden was subjected to some smothering defense by Patrick Beverley in the game's opening minutes. Harden went down after inadvertently getting hit in the head by Beverley and the Rockets called timeout. Another time, Harden was on a drive to the basket when Beverley committed a hard foul that knocked down the Rockets star. Trailing by four, the Clippers closed the third on a 19-6 run to lead 93-83. Mbah a Moute had eight points and Harrell added four. Harrell tipped the ball away from P.J. Tucker on the final play and scored, drawing the foul and shimmying his way into high-fives with two courtside fans. Gallinari scored 11 of the Clippers' first 20 points of the third, countering Eric Gordon, who had 10 points early in the period starting in place of Paul. TIP-INS Rockets: Besides his suspension, Paul was fined a total of $491,782 for his role in the fracas. Paul wasn't at Staples Center on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). ... They lost in the second game of their first back-to-back of the season. The Rockets were 10-3 in such situations last season. Clippers: They ended a two-game skid to the Rockets. UP NEXT Rockets: Host Utah on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Clippers: Visit New Orleans on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in their first road trip of the season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 22nd, 2018

Warriors dominance in the West shows no sign of relenting

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com We have reached the point in this Golden State Warriors’ chokehold on the Western Conference where it turns spooky: The last team out West to deny the Warriors (technically) no longer exists. Yes, the LA Clippers are still right where they’ve always been. But all other traces of May 3, 2014, when they beat the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, have turned to dust. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford -- they’re all gone. Usually, it’s the loser who feels the cold repercussions and fallout of a first-round defeat in the playoffs. But what’s often lost as the Warriors run the table in the West is how they’ve shattered so many teams, schemes and dreams along the way. In hindsight, four years ago was not the beginning of “Lob City” and the Clippers. It was the beginning of their end. The wreckage left behind by the Warriors over the ensuing 53 months underlines the undeniable truth: They’ve taken ownership of their very own West Side Story. They had a record-setting 73-win regular season. They’ve won 12 straight West payoff series (and 15 of 16 playoff series overall). Only twice – the West finals in 2016 and '18 -- did they endure the indignity of needing to survive Game 7 in the West playoffs. In short, this dynasty shows no signs of dying this season. If anything, the argument can be made -- even before it’s proven as fact -- that the 2018-19 Warriors are their most talented team yet. All-Stars Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson welcomed a fifth, DeMarcus Cousins, to their mix this summer. That is not typical in the NBA, folks. “This," Durant said, "is going to be an exciting season. Fun.” The Warriors’ five All-Stars (two of whom are former Kia MVPs) are still in their prime. And given that Andre Iguodala tends to transform from a fossil to an X-factor when spring arrives, perhaps only injury or another uncontrollable circumstance will keep the Warriors from making it an NBA-record five straight Western Conference crowns. “In terms of encouraging each other, being in tune with some of the things that might be thrown at you, whether it's injuries, whether it's a couple of slumps on the court, whatever the case is, we adapt really well and we don't stay down for too long,” Curry said. The Rockets, who won 65 games a season ago, are perhaps the most realistic challenger to the Warriors out West. But it's quite possible that Houston is weaker than it was in 2017-18. To understand how high the Warriors are sitting on the throne, you must survey what they’ve left behind. Just look at how the biggest threats in the West have either hit dead ends or maxed themselves out trying to chase the Warriors since 2014. Memphis Grizzlies: At one point, they were considered the toughest matchup for the Warriors because they were polar opposite in style. Half-court and methodical, the Grizzlies took a switchblade to the basketball, slowing the tempo. And they exploited Golden State’s lone weaknesses: Interior size and overall strength. They physically beat up the Warriors in the paint (Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol) and on the perimeter (Tony Allen). Additionally, Mike Conley was at times a handful at point guard at a time when Curry was winning MVP awards. But health and age wore the Grizzlies down and eventually forced them into a current reinvention that likely won’t reap benefits until after the Warriors are finished. Oklahoma City Thunder: As one of only two West teams (Houston being the other) to force the Warriors into a seventh game, OKC was prime for a takeover in 2016. That season, OKC eliminated a 67-win San Antonio Spurs team in the West semfinals. Durant and Russell Westbrook were healthy, humming and helping the Thunder to a 3-1 lead in the West finals. That, however, was their apex, and the costly collapse was heightened by the “Klay Game” (41 points in Game 6). Imagine, if not for a fateful turn of events -- Klay’s 3-point rampage, KD’s second-half Game 7 vapor and the Warriors losing the 2016 Finals to Cleveland -- maybe Durant sticks around in OKC. At any rate, the post-2016 West finals reconstruction being done by the Thunder (Exhibit A: The short-lived Carmelo Anthony experience) is falling short so far. Portland Trail Blazers: They were never seriously considered a thorn to the Warriors, and still aren’t. It’s just that they played themselves. They were fooled by the events in 2016, when they beat the injury-hampered Clippers in the first round. They were then somewhat competitive against the Warriors in the West semifinals (winning one game by 12, losing another in OT and the elimination game by just four). Flushed with false hope, that summer the Blazers handed out rich extensions to rotational players and, unfortunately, locked themselves into a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since. San Antonio Spurs: Like the Grizzlies, the Spurs caused trouble for the Warriors because of their disciplined style that put the brakes on the pace. San Antonio ruled the West just prior to the Warriors’ run and the proud franchise wasn’t willing to relinquish its hold so easily, causing the Warriors to shiver by winning the regular season matchup from 2014-16. Still, like Memphis, the Spurs turned gray almost overnight. Tim Duncan retired, Tony Parker lost some zip and then, of course, came the sneaky Zaza Pachulia foot plant that KO’d Kawhi Leonard in the first game of their 2017 series. It hasn’t been the same for the Spurs, who shipped off the disgruntled Leonard this summer. Houston Rockets: While the Warriors were able to build around Curry to create a dynasty, the Rockets are in their third attempt to do likewise with James Harden. The Dwight Howard experiment was an exploding cigar, and then the strategy of turning Harden into a point guard failed to draw blood. Chris Paul arrived last season and the best record in the West followed, but Paul has always limped at the wrong time. True to form, his body failed him in the conference finals, just when the Rockets were up 3-2 on the Warriors and primed to issue a stunning statement. The conference-wide process of teams searching for the formula to bring an end to this “Golden” era has taken on an interesting twist. Except for the Rockets, who shuffled their deck slightly this summer, other West contenders are on a semi-defeatist two-year plan. As in: We’re not ready now, but look out in a coupla years! LeBron James joined the Lakers this summer, but it’s hard to take them seriously when LeBron himself says his new team isn’t breathing the same air as the defending champs. His supporting cast is a mix of pups with no playoff experience and vets who’ve seen better days. It’s foolhardy to doubt the potential of any team with LeBron — eight straight trips to the championship round is no joke, even if it came through the East. But they’ll stand a better chance next season, especially if they’re bringing Kawhi or Jimmy Butler by then. There’s also the Utah Jazz, a Spurs-like operation led by a pair of Spurs alums in GM Dennis Lindsey and coach Quin Snyder. Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is a star in the making, but you need more than one of those to match Golden State. Perhaps in time, Mitchell will get a shotgun rider, but Utah is a tough sell for A-list free agents. Houston stands out from the pack with Harden, Paul and center Clint Capela, who gave the Warriors fits last spring. They’re still an attractive, turnkey team. Adding Anthony provides scoring, but does he impact a potential West finals rematch in 2019? With Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute gone, where is the perimeter defense coming from? Is it possible that Houston, with Paul aging, had its best chance last spring and didn’t cash in? It’s also possible the Warriors will do everyone in the West a favor and destroy themselves in the very near future. Durant can become a free agent next summer. Thompson’s contract is up, too, although he’s been very clear about his preference to stay even if that means making below market value. “What’s happening right now is going to be really tough to replicate for anybody,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You have the proverbial window, however you want to put it. We have an incredible opportunity that’s just not always going to be here. We want to take full advantage not only from a success standpoint but from an enjoyment standpoint. “We’re well aware that it’s not going to last forever.” But that’s getting ahead of the story here, which is whether the Warriors will fall shy of The Finals for the first time since 2014. A three-time champion is bringing everyone back and will add a bonus whenever the healing Cousins returns. Basketball can sometimes be a funny game and anything can happen to throw this scenario for a loop. Until then, however, it's hard to imagine anything derailing another season of Warriors dominance. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 16th, 2018

30 Teams in 30 Days: Jazz on upswing after postseason run

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com What offseason? That's a question many fans ask as the flurry of trades, free agent news and player movement seems to never stop during the summer. Since the Golden State Warriors claimed their third title in four years back on June 8 (June 9, PHL time), NBA teams have undergone a massive number of changes as they prepare for the season ahead. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2017-18 to the team with the best regular-season record -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's Team: Utah Jazz 2017-18 Record: 48-34, lost in Western Conference semifinals to Houston Rockets Who's new: Grayson Allen (Draft) Who's gone: Jonas Jerebko, David Stockton The lowdown: Left woozy by the summer departure of free agent and franchise star Gordon Hayward, the Jazz gave the ball to a rookie and pulled a surprise by nearly winning 50 games and bouncing Oklahoma City Thunder from the playoffs. Their season was made more remarkable considering center Rudy Gobert played only 56 games because of knee issues. But Donovan Mitchell (20.5 points per game) was an unexpected savior and far better than anyone imagined. He won over his teammates and coach Quin Snyder quickly, then earned respect around the league for taking charge and also bailing out Utah in a number of close games, both rare for a rookie. Mitchell finished as the Kia Rookie of the Year runner-up. Snyder made good use of the rotation and found functional roles for most and the Jazz used Mitchell and defense to flourish. By the playoffs, Mitchell was arguably the best player on a floor that featured former Kia MVP Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and the Jazz entered the offseason feeling confident about the future. In 2016, the young Portland Trail Blazers made the playoffs, stunning the LA Clippers in the first round before giving the Golden State Warriors a feisty series in the semis. Encouraged by the bounce and swagger showed by an emerging club, the Blazers handed out contract extensions and … they haven’t done anything special since. In hindsight, every one of those extensions looks like a mistake. The lesson: Fool’s gold can sometimes, um, fool you. Are the Jazz headed down that path? The situations aren’t exactly the same, yet similar to a degree. Instead of going outside to make a few cosmetic changes to the rotation, Utah was mostly content to keep free agents Dante Exum and Derrick Favors, giving each contracts that were somewhat generous in a soft market that worked against most players. Exum signed for three years and a reported $33 million, or roughly the going rate for a backup point guard. But Exum’s run in Utah has been interrupted by injury and, even when healthy, his play was inconsistent. He perhaps earned the benefit of the doubt in the playoffs when he stepped in for an injured Ricky Rubio and had moments of solid play. Evidently, the Jazz feel Exum’s better days are just ahead. He’s only 23 and after investing so much time in him, Utah wasn’t ready to cut him loose. He brings great size (6-foot-6), is energetic, and point guard isn’t a Jazz strength. If nothing else, Exum gives Utah a sense of security. Favors is richer after signing a reported two-year, $36 million extension as no other team was willing to beat that price for him. The last two seasons weren’t exactly robust for Favors, who battled through injuries, sporadic play and found himself benched because of mismatches in today’s stretch-happy NBA. Favors has worked to develop more of a 3-point shot, but his lack of perimeter shooting was exploited by Houston in the playoffs. But as the case with Exum, the Jazz have years of player-development invested in Favors. As Utah’s longest-tenured player, Favors is a solid defender next to Gobert and the Jazz outscored their opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions with the two bigs on the floor together. And even though he’s seemingly been around Utah forever, Favors is just 27 years old. The decisions by the Jazz to maintain the status quo isn’t unusual with this franchise, which has long prided itself on stability and player development. Strangely enough, Mitchell claims to love life in the Wasatch Mountains -- something to remember when and if he ever reaches free agency (unlikely, since the Jazz will surely break the bank for him). Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey moved up to take Mitchell in the 2017 Draft and has a knack for finding talent in places where few others search. He has had a solid track record in the Draft and with the 21st pick took Allen. A year ago, the Duke shooter considered entering the draft, but got mild feedback from NBA types. Allen brings 3-point range to a team that ranked 13th in 3-pointers made and attempted last season. Unless he makes an impact right away, Allen will be in the back end of a rotation that showcases Joe Ingles for distance shooting. The trick for Utah is to match or surpass last season’s effort while catching no one by surprise this time. And the Jazz must do that with virtually the same cast as before. 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 NewsSep 23rd, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 24th, 2018