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TNT Boys moving to the next round of & lsquo;The World& rsquo;s Best& rsquo;

TNT Boys moving to the next round of & lsquo;The World& rsquo;s Best& rsquo;.....»»

Category: entertainmentSource: thestandard thestandardFeb 10th, 2019

Patrick Beverley s trademark defense getting new test

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com There was a foul, followed by a stoppage in play, a scene replayed dozens of times in NBA arenas. Except in this case, the victim was former two-time Kia MVP Stephen Curry and the punisher was the notorious Patrick Beverley. And so the situation (of course) turned snippy. Beverley has fought against better players his entire basketball life and carries an underdog gene that tends to flare in these situations. That explains why he tried to slap the ball from the Warriors guard after the whistle. Curry wasn’t having it, and so there was a gentle shove. And then a shove was returned. Then a staredown with noses just inches from each other. Then a separation of bodies. This was Beverley doing what he does by reputation: namely, irritate and push his defensive aggression and agenda to the very limit … and then some. His “crime” was restricting Curry’s movement with a forearm. Sometimes Beverley gets away with it, but in today’s NBA, no longer with any regularity. Such is the new normal. He’s a defensive-minded player with the LA Clippers and works in a league that suddenly favors scoring and shooters. He’s quite possibly, in his estimation and that of others, someone who’s forced to evolve or perish. For him, there’s no other option. “It would be very hard,” Beverley said, “to come into the league today and try to play defense like we did years ago.” Before this season, the NBA's Points of Emphasis centered in part on freedom of movement. The goal is to help players move without barriers, which creates high-scoring games, which makes games more entertaining for fans. Halfway through the season, the evidence is convincing: Scores are up, stops are down. To date, 11 teams have an offensive rating greater than 110 and 18 teams are scoring more than 110 points per game. Last season, those numbers were six and six, respectively. For players born with height, wingspan and leaping ability, these defensive rules don’t handcuff them much. But Beverley buys his clothes off the rack, so to speak. He’s a shade over six feet and is therefore a normal man trying to make a living in a big man’s world. At 30, Beverley deals with players who are often taller and even quicker. It’s his job to make their life tougher -- but here in the new age of barely-contested shots and 120-point games, the opposite is ringing true. He’s averaging a career-high 3.6 fouls per game and can’t get away with much. As Draymond Green, a defensive demon himself and teammate of Curry’s said recently: “Defense is not allowed. You can’t really play defense in this league. I guess that’s not what they want.” ‘We’re forced to adjust’ Green's words are perhaps an extreme assessment and a touch of exaggeration. Fifteen teams averaged at least 106 ppg last season; now it’s 26. Calls are less forgiving, as only 13 teams are averaging 24 free throw attempts per game (it was five last season). The ball moves and there’s less restriction, which was the intention. And there appears to be little blowback in the basketball universe from those who observe and play. It’s just … accepted. For the most part. Even Beverley offers a shoulder shrug. “Guys who make a living off defense, we’re forced to adjust,” he said. This evolution of shifting away from certain defensive tactics is decades in the making. The NBA once allowed defenders to shove a forearm into the back of a post-up player, and subtle jersey grabs were often excused. And there was the hand-check, too. All have been outlawed. The game is far less physical, which means the “Bad Boys”-era Detroit Pistons would have little chance of winning one championship today (let alone two). The NBA has sought to distance itself from that brand of ball, from Pat Riley’s New York Knicks (and their “no free layups” mentality) and from the 85-80 scores that often stifled the creativity of the game. The result is a game that sees open lanes and quicker whistles, and less of what helped players like Beverley overcome tremendous odds to reach the NBA. “There is where we’re at,” he said. “They want to see more scoring, more up-and-down, more points and all that, which is understandable. Of course, it makes it hard for me.” Relishing his ‘instigator’ role This is Beverley’s sixth year in the NBA, but his 10th in professional basketball. His journey curved through various stops overseas before he became rooted with the Houston Rockets, his first true NBA home. It speaks to Beverley’s doggedness and his value, at least initially, as a defensive specialist assigned to the grunt work. With the rise in scoring point guards across the NBA landscape, Beverley’s role became more important, and difficult as well. In a typical week, Beverley could guard Curry, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and opposing shooting guards, too. He brings an edge to the job that he learned from growing up on the West Side of Chicago to a single mother as well as a grandmother who adopted a dozen kids. Daily life was a chore. He was one of the main characters in the documentary “Hoop Reality,” the sequel to the acclaimed “Hoop Dreams.” Beverley was friendly rivals with former Kia MVP winner Derrick Rose since grade school and was actually a scorer in high school, averaging a state-best 37 points as a senior. After getting kicked out of Arkansas in 2008 after two years for academic issues -- a tutor wrote a paper for him -- he played three years in Russia and Greece before filling the point guard void on the 2012-13 Rockets caused by Kyle Lowry’s trade to Toronto the summer before. “I wouldn’t change one thing about how I got here,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t get in through the front door. Sometimes you don’t get in through the back. Sometimes you got to climb through the window. That doesn’t mean the opportunity wasn’t there. There’s a way; you’ve just got to find it.” He immediately became singled out for eyeball-to-eyeball defense that teetered on the edge. The moment that earned him a name was in the first round of the 2013 playoffs against Oklahoma City. He went for a steal on Westbrook in Game 2 while Westbrook signaled for a timeout, causing his knee injury five years ago. He still answers for that, even to this day; not that the play on the ball was reckless, but was it necessary? “I don’t go out there to hurt people, I don’t even know how to attempt to hurt somebody,” Beverley said. “I play hard, bring the edge. I’m an instigator. That gets me going. I like to bump people, to feel me getting into somebody’s jersey. I’m just different. I like contact, like physical play, like pushing and holding. But I’m not dirty.” Beverley hasn’t spoken with Westbrook -- their on-court relationship is clearly frosty -- and with the exception of Rose, he doesn’t encourage any friendships beyond his teammates. “I don’t talk to anybody,” he said. “I don’t want personal battles that take away from the team. I’m trying to win games. When I come to San Francisco or Oklahoma City or Portland, I know I’m going straight to my room because there’s people I got to be ready to play the next day. And I know they do the same. There’s respect that’s not being said. When it comes to Steph, Dame, Westbrook, I make sure I get my rest. But they get their rest, too. They know what I bring to the table.” A game that won’t change Beverley was an All-Defensive first teamer two seasons ago, both a career highlight and confirmation of his devotion to studying film and learning opponents’ tendencies. He has also overcome microfracture knee injury in 2017-18 that limited him to 11 games in his debut season with the Clippers. “I worked my ass off and I’m still working,” he said. “If it’s not one thing it’s another. Me getting hurt, coming back faster and stronger. Got kicked out of school, had to go overseas, knew I was going to the NBA anyway. I didn’t know how. But I knew. “This is bigger than me. It’s for my mom, grandmom, seeing how hard the women in my life worked to raise me. It’s not easy being a single mother raising a kid in the inner city but she made it happen. She taught me to stand on my own two feet and get the best out of hard work, which becomes part of your mindset, especially when you see two women doing it every day.” And now comes another challenge for Beverley and those like him. How do you thrive in a league that’s suddenly married to offense? “Maybe after the All-Star break they’ll stop calling ticky-tack fouls,” he said. “The better defender you are, the more you’re singled out. But I’m going to go out there and be Pat. Don’t care. Won’t change.” Beverley estimates that “70 percent” of the players he guards are rattled by him, to different degrees. He said “only a few don’t,” which he refused to name (for strategic reasons). The game may not be designed to help the underdog, average-sized player who brings intensity and defense. But there’s no sense waiting for Beverley to make excuses. He’s come too far for that. “When you’re done with this game, you don’t want to go around saying, ‘Man I wish I could’ve done this, put more time into that.’” Beverley said. “Every year I go out like a person fighting for my spot, fighting for my contract. That’s the way I train. That’s how I prepare. That’s why I’m still in the league.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2019

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Top 10 * * * 1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (acquired from Sixers); G Hamidou Diallo (No. 45 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devon Hall (No. 53 pick, 2018 Draft); F Kevin Hervey (No. 57 pick, 2018 Draft); F Abdel Nader (acquired from Celtics); C Nerlens Noel (two years, $3.7 million); G Dennis Schröder (acquired from Hawks) LOST: F Carmelo Anthony (traded to Hawks); F Nick Collison (retired); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Magic); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Celtics) RETAINED: G Raymond Felton (one year, $2.3 million); F Paul George (four years, $136.9 million); F Jerami Grant (three years, $27.3 million) THE KEY MAN: G Andre Roberson. This is real simple: with Roberson on the court last year, OKC’s opponent offensive rating was 99.2; when he was off, it was 110.7. The Thunder was a near-elite defensive unit when Roberson played and was awful when he didn’t. His Real Defensive Plus-Minus, per ESPN.com, was 4.34, second only to Utah’s Rudy Gobert (5.06). So when Roberson ruptured his patellar tendon in late January, the Thunder’s ability to use George as a weakside defender who could freelance and use his length to create deflections and turnovers (because Roberson had the strong side absolutely locked down) went away. Any chance the Thunder has next season to compete at the highest levels in the West will depend on the 26-year-old Roberson’s recovery and return to the lineup. THE SKINNY: None of us -- none -- thought George was going to stay in OKC. And we all thought Sam Presti and the Thunder were crazy for trading for him last year, because it was just going to be a one-year rental and he was going to be off to the Lakers in 12 months, and OKC would have nothing to show for its deal. But George’s presence helped convince Russell Westbrook -- also long rumored to eventually head back to Cali -- to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder. And OKC’s acquisition of Carmelo Anthony helped convince George that the Thunder was all in on competing. And even though OKC went out in the first round of the playoffs to Utah, its year-long courtship of George and his family paid off when PG-13 spurned L.A. once and for all to stay in the 405. Anthony ultimately wasn’t a good fit, but he brought back Schroder, who will give Billy Donovan a dynamic scorer off the bench that can give Westbrook a blow and keep OKC’s offense from immolating when Westbrook is on the bench, a common malady the last two years. The Thunder has been relevant in an incredibly small market now for almost a decade. With George and Westbrook and Steven Adams and, now, Schroder, all signed up through 2021, that remarkable run will continue for some time. 2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS 2017-18 RECORD: 35-47; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Beasley (one year, $3.5 million); F Joel Berry II; F Issac Bonga (No. 39 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jeffrey Carroll; F LeBron James (four years, $153 million); C JaVale McGee (one year, $1.4 million); G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (No. 47 pick, 2018 Draft); G Rajon Rondo (one year, $9 million); G Lance Stephenson; F Mo Wagner (No. 25 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Thomas Bryant (waived); G Tyler Ennis (waived); F/C Channing Frye (signed with Cavs); C Brook Lopez (signed with Bucks); F Julius Randle (signed with Pelicans); G Isaiah Thomas (signed with Nuggets) RETAINED: G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (one year, $12 million); G Travis Wear THE KEY MAN: F Brandon Ingram. The third-year man should be the major beneficiary of James’ presence going forward. Driving lanes previously clogged with defenders should now be runway clear. Opponents who previously could close out strong on Ingram will now have their attention elsewhere. Ingram need only look at James’ last stop: per NBA.com/Stats, among players leaguewide who appeared in at least 60 games last season, three Cavaliers -- Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Cedi Osman -- were among the top 20 in the league in lowest frequency of having their closest defenders within two feet of them, meaning James created many wide open looks for teammates all season. Ingram vastly improved his range last season over his rookie one, shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers. But he only attempted 1.8 threes per game last season. That number will surely skyrocket in 2018. Ingram must ready to take advantage. That will make him that much more deadly as a driver. THE SKINNY: Team president Magic Johnson was tasked with landing a whale in free agency, and he and GM Rob Pelinka bagged Moby Dick in James. Their subsequent free agent moves once Paul George opted to stay in Oklahoma City were all short-term plays with an eye toward the promising 2019 free agent class, which include the likes of All-Stars Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and DeMarcus Cousins. But that doesn’t mean Lake Show ’18 isn’t going to be the rip-roaringest circus this side of your standard Ozzy Ozbourne tour. What’s the over-under on the first time Rondo cusses out coach Luke Walton, or when we hear of a “spirited practice” that is code for “Lance ‘bowed ‘Bron in the neck and Walton sent everyone home”? The Lakers could be in The Finals or out in the first round, but what they decidedly will not be is boring. 3. DENVER NUGGETS 2017-18 RECORD: 46-36; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Thomas (one year, $2 million); F Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 41 pick, 2018 Draft); C Thomas Welsh (No. 58 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Nets); F Wilson Chandler (traded to 76ers); F Kenneth Faried (traded to Nets); G Isaiah Whitehead (waived) RETAINED: G Will Barton (four years, $53 million); G/F Torrey Craig (two years, $4 million); C Nikola Jokic (five-year, $147.7 million contract extension) THE KEY MAN: G Jamal Murray. Denver ended all pretense that the full-time point guard job wasn’t his last season and his second-year numbers were very encouraging. Among regularly playing (60+ games) floor generals, per NBA.com/Stats, Murray’s .577 True Shooting Percentage ranked only behind D.J. Augustin, Kyrie Irving, Darren Collison and Kyle Lowry. No one doubts the still-just-21-year-old Murray can fill it up, and that the Nuggets don’t need a classic ball distributor to light up the Pepsi Center scoreboard. But they do need to get more credible defensively. So does he. THE SKINNY: A great offseason for the Nuggets, who did what they said they would -- keep Jokic off the market next summer -- while clearing roster spots and minutes with two trades, and simultaneously reducing their luxury tax bill for 2019. (The Chandler trade to the Sixers also created an enormous $12.8 million trade exception for Denver through August of 2019.) Jokic should anchor one of the most athletic starting quintets in the game -- along with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, the re-signed Barton (penciled in for now as the starting three) and Paul Millsap. the Nuggets didn’t add much at the defensive end, which was their Achilles’ heel the last couple of seasons and the main reason they didn’t make the playoffs in 2017-18. Denver opted to strengthen a strength by bringing in Thomas, who’ll be in prove-it mode next season on a short deal with a coach that he knows from their Sacramento days in Mike Malone. Look for Malone to unleash Thomas on second units throughout the West. Porter Jr. was worth a flier at 14; he was the consensus likely first pick in the Draft a year ago, before his back injury took him out of all but a couple of games in his one season at Missouri. Denver can give him the entire year to rehab from two surgeries, the latest last week, and reset his clock for 2019-20. 4. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2017-18 RECORD: 58-24; won NBA Finals ADDED: C DeMarcus Cousins (one year, $5.3 million); F Jacob Evans (No. 28 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jonas Jerebko (one year, $2.1 million); G Damion Lee LOST: C JaVale McGee (signed with Lakers); C Zaza Pachulia (signed with Pistons); Head of Physical Performance and Sports Medicine Chelsea Lane (went to Hawks) RETAINED: F Kevin Durant (two years, $61.5 million); F Kevon Looney THE KEY MAN: Brett Yamaguchi, Director of Game Operations/Entertainment, Oracle Arena. One doesn’t envy Yamaguchi, whose tasks will be twofold next season: create lifetime memories for the loudest and most loyal fanbase in the league, as the Warriors play their final season at Oracle Arena (aka Roaracle) -- they’re moving into the Chase Center, their tony new digs across the Bay in downtown San Francisco, come 2019-20. And, provide atmosphere and sizzle that will help coach Steve Kerr keep his veteran core from being bored out of its collective mind during the regular season while it waits for the playoffs and a chance at a three-peat. THE SKINNY: So, sure, the best team in the league adds one of the top two or three big men in the game in Cousins. But that’s the ancillary benefit of having such a dominant organization; everyone wants to figure out a way to get to the Bay. Cousins took less money to do so; now he can take his time rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon. If that means he’s not all the way back until All-Star, who cares? The Warriors will roll Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko out at the five in non-Death lineups until Cousins is ready. Meanwhile, Kerr has to keep his vets, but especially Andre Iguodala and Shawn Livingston, off their feet as much as possible during the regular season so they’ll be good to go from April through June. Losing Iguodala for the bulk of the 2018 Western finals was almost the Warriors’ downfall. 5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 2017-18 RECORD: 22-60; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kyle Anderson (four years, $37 million); G Jevon Carter (No. 32 pick, 2018 Draft); F Omri Casspi (one year, $2.3 million); F Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 4 pick, 2018 Draft); C Dakari Johnson (acquired from Magic); G Garrett Temple (acquired from Kings) LOST: C/F Deyonta Davis (traded to Kings); G Tyreke Evans (signed with Pacers); F Jarell Martin (traded to Magic); G Ben McLemore (traded to Kings) RETAINED: Coach J.B. Bickerstaff THE KEY MAN: G Mike Conley. It’s no secret how vital Conley is to the franchise, so a return to form is vital for the veteran point, who’ll be 31 on opening night and who missed 70 games last season with a heel injury. Next season will be the third of Conley’s five-year, $150 million deal signed in 2016; remember when so many people thought the world would end when a small market like Memphis invested so much in him? Well, Conley has already dropped to fifth in the league in salary among point guards, behind Stephen Curry Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry. He’ll fall even further down the list next season, when John Wall’s massive extension kicks in, and Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker each get new contracts that could leap his. THE SKINNY: Memphis couldn’t have had a worse 2017-18 if it tried, and the Grizzlies compounded their on-court implosion by not trading Evans when everyone in the league -- seemingly, except for them -- knew he was going to walk in the summer if they didn’t. But, the Grizzlies’ front office recovered in a big way, selling the 18-year-old Jackson that he would fit right in despite not working out for the Grizz before the Draft, then doubling up on “Grit And Grind 2.0” by taking Carter, college basketball’s fiercest on-ball defender, in the second. Ownership was willing to let the front office use the full mid-level exception on Anderson, who isn’t the sexiest pickup to many fans but whose defensive numbers in San Antonio were outstanding. Temple is the ultimate good vet and locker room guy who will get a chance to play for Bickerstaff after the Kings opted to go with their young guys and he was likely out of the rotation. GM Chris Wallace was adamant that the Grizzlies could rebuild again around the aging Conley and Marc Gasol and that they wouldn’t trade Gasol after the latter’s difficult relationship with former coach David Fizdale. They did, and they didn’t. 6. PHOENIX SUNS 2017-18 RECORD: 21-61; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Igor Kokoskov; F Trevor Ariza (one year, $15 million); F Darrell Arthur (acquired from Nets); C Deandre Ayton (No. 1 pick, 2018 Draft); F Mikal Bridges (No. 10 pick, 2018 Draft); F Richaun Holmes (acquired from 76ers); G George King (No. 59 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elie Okobo (No. 31 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former interim coach Jay Triano; F Jared Dudley (traded to Nets); C Alex Len (signed with Hawks); G Elfrid Payton (signed with Pelicans); G Tyler Ulis (waived); F/C Alan Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Devin Booker (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: Ayton. Let’s not bury the lead here: he was the first pick overall for a reason, because he has franchise-turning capability. The Suns don’t need singles or the occasional double any more; they need someone to put them back on the map with big, sweaty, nasty four-baggers, night after night. (cc: mixed metaphor police.) It’s been a minute since Amar’e Stoudemire was at his destructive best, and the list of impactful bigs in franchise history is thin: Connie Hawkins, Alvan Adams, Tom Chambers, Charles Barkley, Stoudemire. Ayton has a chance to be as good as any of them, and better, and he’s a potential stash of Kryptonite down the pike to the Warriors dynasty. THE SKINNY: There’s the makings of a Jazz-like reimaging of the franchise in short order. Kokoskov not only comes from Utah’s staff, but has significant coaching chops outside of Salt Lake City. He’s been coaching since he was 24, and that was 22 years ago. He’s coached both around the world and around the NBA as an assistant and development maven, and he’ll be great at bolstering the confidence of the Suns’ young guys -- including Bridges, a mature and solid rook with collegiate titles from Villianova who’ll be able to grow quietly outside the huge media shadow cast on Ayton. Kokoskov will also make things a lot easier for Devin Booker offensively. But GM Ryan McDonough was also smart enough to surround the kids with some solid vets, starting with Ariza, who will help the Suns again become acquainted with a long-honored NBA concept called “defense.” 7. DALLAS MAVERICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kostas Antetokounmpo (No. 60 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jalen Brunson (No. 33 pick, 2018 Draft); G Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, 2018 Draft); C DeAndre Jordan (one year, $22 million); C Chinanu Onuaku (acquired from Rockets); F Ray Spalding (No. 56 pick, 2018 Draft); F Ding Yanyuhang; LOST: G Kyle Collinsworth (waived); G Seth Curry (signed with Blazers); G Yogi Ferrell (signed with Kings); F Doug McDermott (signed with Pacers); F Jonathan Motley (traded to Clippers); C Nerlens Noel (signed with Thunder) RETAINED: G/F Wesley Matthews (picked up player option); F Dirk Nowitzki (one year, $5 million) THE KEY MAN: CEO Cynthia Marshall. The former AT&T executive was put in charge after Sports Illustrated’s explosive story last February detailing a toxic workplace for female employees on the team’s business side, with sexual harassment rampant and no relief forthcoming from the supervisors who should have provided it. Marshall has been fast at work changing the business side culture, as separate investigations of who was responsible for allowing the previous environment to fester wind down. After their results are made public, it will be Marshall who will have to both enact their recommendations and sell the public that owner Mark Cuban’s organization has been fumigated for good. THE SKINNY: Dallas is banking that the 19-year-old Doncic is not only the real deal, but that he can come out of the gate in the NBA after starring in Europe and immediately give the Mavs a boost. There’s a large body of work suggesting Doncic will do just that, and accelerate the Mavs’ rebuild. Second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s improvements should also speed up, and Jordan’s presence should start to close the sieve that has plagued Dallas’s defense the last couple of years. Losing both Curry and Ferrell will hurt the Mavs’ guard depth, though, and Brunson won’t be able to work in slowly. 8. INDIANA PACERS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Tyreke Evans (one year, $12 million); G Aaron Holiday (No. 23 pick, 2018 Draft); F Alize Johnson (No. 50 pick, 2018 Draft); F Doug McDermott; C/F Kyle O'Quinn LOST: C Al Jefferson (waived); G/F Glenn Robinson III (signed with Pistons); G Lance Stephenson (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Cory Joseph (picked up player option); F Thaddeus Young (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Kevin Pritchard, president of basketball operations. He’s been instrumental in putting this team together -- first as Larry Bird’s assistant, but on his own the last year-plus since Bird left. Now Pritchard will have to deal with not just the expectations last season’s surprising turnaround season will create with fans, but with the incessant calls and texts one receives when one has a team in which six players among the team’s core are on one-year deals and free agents next summer. It is extremely difficult for a team so constituted to stay unified and keep pulling on the rope together. Human nature is human nature, and players (and their families, and their agents) need reassurances they’re part of the organization’s future, just like any drone from Sector 7G would. It’s hard to think about sacrificing minutes and shots when almost players are judged by are their numbers. Nate McMillan, meanwhile, is only concerned, as any coach is, with the game in front of him, tonight. Pritchard’s phone will rarely have an hour off next season. THE SKINNY: What does a team that surprised so many last season need? More depth, because there aren’t going to be a lot of nights off going forward. The Pacers filled in nicely with a bunch of under-the-radar players, getting Evans after a bounce-back season in Memphis and O’Quinn after good years in New York. McBuckets is running out of stops to show he can be a key contributor in the NBA, but everything is tailor made for him to succeed here: he’ll have all the space in the world playing alongside Victor Oladipo, Bogdanovic and/or Myles Turner, depending on the lineup. Holiday was very good value at 23 in the first round. And Oladipo is on his grind. The Pacers are as big a threat as anyone to Boston’s assumed ascension in the post-LeBron East. 9. NEW YORK KNICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 29-53; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach David Fizdale; G Mario Hezonja (one year, $6.5 million); G Kevin Knox (No. 9 pick, 2018 Draft); C Mitchell Robinson (No. 36 pick, 2018 Draft); F Noah Vonleh (one year) LOST: Former coach Jeff Hornacek; F Michael Beasley (signed with Lakers); C/F Kyle O'Quinn (signed with Pacers); F Troy Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Ron Baker (picked up player option); F/C Luke Kornet; C Enes Kanter (picked up player option); THE KEY MAN: F Kristaps Porzingis. It’s unlikely Porzingis will play much, if at all, next season, as he rehabs his torn ACL suffered in February. New York will be extremely cautious with a timeline, and in Porzingis’ absence, if more losing brings more figurative ping pong balls the Knicks’ way … well, they won’t complain about that, either. None if it matters if “The Unicorn” doesn’t regain his form, though. So much of the Knicks’ 2018-19 improvement, or regression, will take place off camera. THE SKINNY: Fizdale won’t have a mandate to try and win with a veteran team in his first season in New York, as was the case in his year-plus in Memphis. So he can implement his position-less/fitness regimen with the young Knicks without looking over his shoulder. New York’s planning for 2019, when it hopes to strike in a big way in free agency, but that doesn’t mean next season won’t be important. Knox will have a lot of light on him, especially after playing well during NBA Summer League, but the Knicks truly believe Robinson will make some contributions this season with his significant physical gifts. Both must continue changing the narrative in Gotham that the team’s new braintrust is rebuilding the brand the right way -- slowly, and correctly. Hezonja was a good low-cost flier for New York who’ll give Fizdale some small ball options. Hezonja came on strong the second half of last season for the Magic, who hadn’t picked up his third-year option and were hamstrung in what they could offer him as a result. 10. SAN ANTONIO SPURS 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: G Marco Belinelli (two years, $12 million); F Dante Cunningham (one year, $2.5 million); G DeMar DeRozan (acquired from Raptors); C Jakob Poeltl (acquired from Raptors); G Lonnie Walker IV (No. 18 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chimezie Metu (No. 49 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Kyle Anderson (signed with Grizzlies); G Danny Green (traded to Raptors); F Kawhi Leonard (traded to Raptors); F Joffrey Lauvergne (signed with Fenerbahce); G Tony Parker (signed with Hornets); G Brandon Paul (waived) RETAINED: C/F Davis Bertans (two years, $14.5 million); G Bryn Forbes (two years, $6 million); F Rudy Gay (one year, $10 million) THE KEY MAN: Coach Gregg Popovich. There is no way to tell, nor is it really anyone’s business, how Pop will cope with the loss of his wife Erin, who died in April during the Spurs’ first-round series with Golden State. But the NBA grind is an unforgiving one, and Popovich is adding Olympic team coach duties to an already taxing schedule. He knows best how he’s doing and you can only hope he listens to himself when or if he needs time away. THE SKINNY: Backed up against it with Leonard’s still-murky insistence for a divorce, the Spurs did as well as could be expected in getting a four-time All-Star who’ll play with a huge chip on his shoulder next season. DeRozan will certainly help San Antonio extinguish the offensive droughts that came when teams loaded up on LaMarcus Aldridge defensively. LA was sensational for long stretches last season, making second team All-NBA for the second time in his career. Belinelli, rookie Walker and Poeltl should lengthen San Antonio’s bench significantly and reduce the Spurs’ dependence on nightly brilliance from 40-year-old Manu Ginobili, if he comes back for a 17th season. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

LeBron s free agency decision could swing NBA s balance of power

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com CLEVELAND -- These combo coronation-funerals can be tricky. Imagine the crowning of a new monarch where the royal subjects couldn’t stop chattering about the freshly deposed or deceased predecessor. Where the traditional cry of continuity and succession, “The king is dead! Long live the king!” got flipped, with what was overshadowing what is. That’s pretty much how it went Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at Quicken Loans Arena, with the Golden State Warriors’ latest NBA championship having to share the stage with speculation, instantly revved up, about LeBron James and the choice he’ll soon make about his next employer. The Warriors are the kings, claiming pro basketball’s throne yet again by completing a sweep of James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals. But of course, James is the King, and as so many of us learned in sophomore English – thanks, CliffsNotes! – “Uneasy lies the head (of those who fret and obsess about the future whereabouts of the NBA superstar) that wears a crown.” Long live the kings! The King is ... gone? There was so much energy before, during and after Game 4 Friday (Saturday, PHL time) poured into the last game/next game conjecture about James, the Cavaliers and seismic shifts in the league’s 2018-19 landscape that even the player’s surprise reveal near the end of the night – a bruised and bandaged right hand – couldn’t derail it. Turns out, as James ‘fessed up, the sore shooting paw was an injury he had been playing with ever since Game 1 in Oakland eight days earlier. He had “self-inflicted” it in a fit of pique when he smacked a whiteboard in the visitors’ dressing room at Oracle Arena after Cleveland’s overtime loss in the series-setter, an outcome driven at least in part by some teammates’ mistakes and an arcane wrinkle in the NBA’s replay rules regarding block/charge fouls. Despite the hordes of media people chronicling every waking detail of the Finals, James had kept the injury on the down-low (along with the possibility that J.R. Smith’s nickname amongst his Cavs teammates might be “whiteboard”). The cameras zoomed in and clicked in a paparazzi frenzy of motor drives every time James raised the hand, wrapped in black tape, above the table during his postgame podium remarks. Whether a legit Page-2-the-rest-of-the-story factor in the championship series or a too-late alibi, the contused hand wound up as a sidebar to where James plans to be using it when training camps open in a few months. As of Friday (Saturday, PHL time), it had been 95 months since “The Decision,” the 2010 announcement that James made in a tone-deaf vanity TV production that he was taking his talents from Cleveland to South Beach. Nearly 47 months had passed since he broke the news of his return in a Sports Illustrated ghost-written essay, envisioning much of what actually has unfolded in the four years since. Now savvy insiders and casual observers alike presume James will be on the move again, pushed to leave the franchise he has defined in an urgent search for more and better talent with which he can compete. As in, y’know, some horses, some horses, his kingdom for some horses. James’ free-agency process next month (he can opt out of a $35.6 million deal in the final season of his current contract) is expected to dictate the market of player movement this summer like an oversized domino. It easily could swing the balance of power, if not quite at Golden State’s lofty level then immediately below it. The monster he helped create Dr. Frankenstein eventually was done in by his macabre creation, and it can similarly be argued that James has no one but himself to blame for the predicament in which he again finds himself. He set in motion the machinery of the super team, after all, when he chose to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami eight years ago. Oh sure, the Boston Celtics in 2007-08 got there first by luring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce, but that was about knitting together three stars, all age 30 or older, for what would be their last best chance to win in an extremely limited run. That group won one title, went to two Finals in three seasons and was done, Allen leaving to join James & Co. with the Heat while Garnett and Pierce morphed into trade chips for Boston POBO Danny Ainge. When James, Wade and Bosh teamed up, they were in their basketball primes and their initial giddy boasts of “not four, not five, not six” championships turned off fans league-wide as much for its portent as its pretension. That crew went 4-for-4 in Finals, winning two rings before James, nudged by staleness and chafing as well as his grand plan for northeast Ohio, went home. From there, a line can be drawn through the ill-conceived 2012-13 L.A. Lakers of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol all the way to this season’s Houston Rockets of James Harden and Chris Paul and the talent-gorged Golden State roster. James was the centerpiece as Cleveland replicated the Big Three concept around him with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, two younger, playoff-stymied All-Stars. The new-look Cavaliers went to the Finals in their first season together and clambered atop the basketball world to win the franchise’s first NBA title by the end of the second, becoming the first team in league history to do so after digging a 1-3 hole in the best-of-seven series. In that moment, regardless of the two Finals trips that followed, James’ bill was stamped: Paid In Full. Misguided fans might burn his jersey if he leaves again, but James burned the mortgage after that Game 7 in Oakland in 2016 as far as any remaining obligation to fulfill. “I came back because I felt like I had some unfinished business,” he said after elimination Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “To be able to be a part of a championship team two years ago with the team that we had and in the fashion that we had is something I will always remember. Honestly, I think we'll all remember that. It ended a drought for Cleveland of 50-plus years, so I think we'll all remember that in sports history.” James added: “When you have a goal and you're able to accomplish that goal, it actually – for me personally – made me even more hungry to continue to try to win championships. And I still want to be in championship mode. I think I've shown this year why I will still continue to be in championship mode.” In other words, James intends to sustain his high level of performance. He expects to win. And he presumably will do whatever – and go wherever – is necessary to achieve that. There’s no perfect fit So what does that mean for the NBA’s best player (never mind what the annual MVP balloting says in any given season)? It means this: compromise. There is no ideal situation, certainly no easy answer to the guesswork surrounding James’ looming free agency. He could transform any of the 30 teams, but not without some trade-offs for him, for them or for both. Most of them won’t be in play. Teams in markets such as Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Portland, Sacramento, the Twin Cities and so on can’t scratch James’ itches for either championship-worthy depth chart or spotlight. New York and Chicago, among the biggies, are out of synch with his timeline. Toronto? No way James is resettling his brand north of the border, and given his stated desire for teammates who have not just sufficient basketball skills but also mental toughness, well, the Raptors teams he and the Cavs have dominated do not qualify. The Boston club that stretched Cleveland to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals is built for the long haul and would have to surrender much of that to adjust to James’ career calendar. There’s a little Kyrie problem lurking there and, truth be told, the Celtics look to be on their way and are doing just fine without the 33-year-old heading, one of these years, toward decline. At some point in each of the 2018 Finals’ final three days, James spoke admiringly of the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs title teams that blocked his path whether in Miami or Cleveland. He was at it again even as the Warriors were dousing the opponent’s locker room at The Q with Moet champagne. “I made the move in 2010 to be able to play with talented players, cerebral players that you could see things that happen before they happened on the floor,” James said. “When you feel like you're really good at your craft, I think it's always great to be able to be around other great minds as well and other great ballplayers. “That's never changed. Even when I came here in '14, I wanted to try to surround myself and surround this franchise with great minds and guys that actually think outside the box of the game and not just go out and play it.” Where might James find that now or recruit that swiftly? Hard to say. There are asterisks and “buts” everywhere: * If he were to sign with the Houston Rockets, James would be hitching his star to Chris Paul, a buddy with an injury history that’s about the mirror opposite of his own. He would be teaming up with an elite coach in Mike D’Antoni, something he’s never had (though Miami’s Erik Spoelstra was just young and unproven, on his way to big things). But it also would require another big ask of James Harden, who had to adapt last summer to Paul’s arrival and need for the ball. * If James chooses the Lakers, he has the chance to hit reset with the league’s glitziest franchise, in a market that can meet his every off-court wish and where he and his family already own one or more ultra-comfortable homes. The Lakers have young talent to help James transition into a lower-usage veteran’s role, favored status as a destination team for other top free agents and the salary-cap space to get it done this summer with the likes of Paul George or his pal Paul. But that roster might not be capable of insta-contending, which could burn a season or two when James’ clock most definitely is clicking. * If it’s San Antonio, James could link up with the elite coach in Gregg Popovich, where the winning culture is in the DNA rather than some acquired taste. The Spurs have talent, particularly if Kawhi Leonard finds happiness again there. But they might not have enough to rattle the Warriors’ cage. And for all their professed admiration, James and Popovich might both fare better by keeping their relationship long-distance vs. the 82-game grind. * If it’s Golden State? Perish the thought. The NBA might have to board up itself if competitive balance were capsized to that extent. And as Draymond Green shrewdly noted on Thursday (Friday, PHL time), if James climbed aboard, it likely would require him and several other Golden State teammates to be dispatched to parts unknown. * If James prefers to stay East, where the winning comes easier, he could pick Philadelphia. The Sixers have two foundational young stars at positions that matter most, center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons. But Simmons is a non-shooter at the moment, the antithesis of what makes a great complementary LeBron teammate. As for Embiid, James never has had to play off of and service a top center. And Philly might feel like a basketball-only move, with the hungriest and most demanding of any new fan base he would embrace. * If it’s Miami – wait, could it be Miami? Could he go second-home again? The Heat always strive to be competitive and offer a talent base deep enough for the East and lots of familiarity. But they also have players such as Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters whose mental approaches don’t seem to fit the model James was cooing about in Golden State and with the Tim Duncan-era Spurs. * That brings us to Cleveland, where it’s possible James might choose to remain. Staying with the Cavaliers, after leading them to four Finals and that heady 2016 title, would be the easiest choice as far as pressure to win. He owes these fans nothing anymore – in fact, had the bargain been offered to them in 2010 (“LeBron will leave and win elsewhere for four years, but will come back and deliver a championship and four Finals trips”), most would have grabbed it. Here, James and the fans who have watched him even through the interruption develop from ridiculously touted high schooler to one of the world’s most famous athletes could grow older together. Then he could partner up and buy the team from owner Dan Gilbert for a long-term future. Certainly, staying has a certain place in his and the rest of the James clan’s hearts. “The one thing that I've always done is considered, obviously, my family,” he said at series end Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “Understanding especially where my boys are at this point in their age. They were a lot younger the last time I made a decision like this four years ago. I've got a teenage boy, a pre-teen and a little girl that wasn't around as well. So sitting down and considering everything, my family is a huge part of whatever I'll decide to do in my career, and it will continue to be that.” It’s worth noting that as James contemplates his options as a modern pursuer of championship excellence, the prospect of him moving again qualifies at some level as a failure. Not just by the support system in Cleveland, where he and Gilbert have their friction and James gets snidely mentioned as the team’s unofficial GM and head coach, but by him too. He’s the one who went off to seek his “college education” in south Florida in what it takes to win, whether on the court, in the front office or in and around the seams 365 days a year, straight out of the Pat Riley handbook. The teams about which James talks so glowingly in Oakland now and in San Antonio then have cultures he covets, stability up and down the flowchart he craves. In Cleveland, for a variety of reasons, his team has been incapable of establishing and maintaining that to a lasting degree. He is part of that missed opportunity and he has to own it, no matter if he goes or stays. James is inseparable from the dynamic of the Cavaliers’ ever-changing and often melodramatic roster maneuvers. Spending big, swapping out draft picks to import current stars and supporting players, and overvaluing secondary guys like Smith and Tristan Thompson are risks the Warriors and the Spurs largely avoided thanks to shrew drafting and laudable continuity. The Cavs’ scrap heap, by contrast, is high with traded picks, scuttled plans, panic deals, short-term patches and folks such as former coach David Blatt and former GM David Griffin. And maybe James could have nurtured a little better relationship with All-Star point guard and 2016 title sidekick Kyrie Irving, enough to have kept Irving from bailing on them all with his trade demand last summer. Now he’s on the verge of casting about again, prioritizing what matters most for however long he continues to play. James is more at peace with it than he was before, particularly in 2010, and surely can enjoy the leverage he wields and the riches it delivers. But there is a burden there as well, one that could be seen as completing a circle. So many of the NBA’s greatest stars have been stuck playing and living in the Age of LeBron, right? Their paths to the Finals blocked, on one whole side of the league, by him and his? Well, LeBron James is stuck now in the Era of the Warriors, freshly swept and anxious to close the gap. What goes around comes around, though the key more pressing of the big W’s now is, where? Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 11th, 2018

UAAP Volleyball: Bernadeth Pons: Probinsyana with a Superstar Soul

In a time where gadgets have pretty much taken over the lives of majority of the world’s population, Bernadeth Pons prefers to keep things simple. Instead of swiping her phone for the latest news on Twitter or organizing her feed on Instagram, FEU’s Team Captain and graduate of Financial Management would rather spend time inside the athlete’s dormitory to sleep. While that sounds boring, the 21-year old Pons reasons that she needs all the energy she can get to complete her Master’s degree in Business Administration and perform at the highest level in her final season in the UAAP. The 5’7” open spiker is currently the fourth best scorer in the league averaging 15.2 points per match. She is also ranked third in both digging and receiving. Because of her all-around brilliance, there is a fairly good amount of fans on social media who have been campaigning for Pons to be named MVP of Season 80. But, of course, Pons is oblivious to that. In fact, she didn’t even know that she was included in the 34-player wish list of new National Team Head Coach Ramil de Jesus. It took a text message from her younger sister, Melody, who lives in their hometown of Talisay, Negros Occidental for Pons to learn about the development. “Ha? Saan galing yan?” was her honest reply. To Pons, playing for the national team goes beyond her wildest dreams. And while she feels very much honored to have her name considered for a spot, Pons says her current focus is with FEU. After all, it was the school that provided her with a means to fulfill her goals and make her parents proud. From Softball to Volleyball Pons was born in Malolos, Bulacan where her father, Roberto and mother, Maryjen met. A year after her birth, the family moved to Talisay where Roberto started playing baseball recreationally. When his eldest daughter grew big enough to play, she also took a liking to the sport. Pons would even join the boys play catch during her elementary days at Efigenio-Enrica Lizares Memorial School. Unfortunately, there was no softball team for Pons to try-out for. That’s when her classmate, Allen Joy Esponilia invited her to try-out for the volleyball team. “Nung una, sobrang hirap kasi wala talaga akong alam eh. Kahit dig, dig lang, kung saan-saan pumupunta. Nahihiya ako sa ka-partner ko kasi syempre, alam na niya yung basics ng volleyball. Naiiyak na nga ako kasi palagi nalang tumatalsik,” recalled Pons, who was 10 years old at the time. But, the challenge of excelling at a sport where she had no background in challenged the young Pons. Eventually, she learned how to dig up powerful spikes and became a libero. In the fifth grade, she experienced her first major competition by participating in the Palarong Pambansa held in Palawan and representing Region 6 – Western Visayas where she teamed up with Kim Gequillana and Ayel Estraňero. It was the first of five Palarong Pambansa events she would participate in. In those competitions, Pons played against numerous future UAAP stars like Jia Morado, Desiree Cheng, Majoy Baron, Jhoana Maraguinot and a powerhouse Region 7 – Central Visayas squad that featured Sisi Rondina, Dimdim Pacres, Rica Rivera and CJ Saga. Leap of Faith As she got older, Pons began developing her spiking prowess and caught the eye of the legendary Roger Gorayeb, who wanted to bring her to San Sebastian College-Recoletos. But, she was reluctant to leave home. “Wala akong idea about life dito sa Manila. So, hindi ko alam kung tutuloy ba ako or hindi. Dumating sa point na nag-decide kami ng Papa ko na doon nalang sa amin ako mag college,” explained Pons. During her final year in high school in 2013, then FEU Head Coach Shaq delos Santos went to the Regional Meet in Roxas City, Capiz to recruit the reluctant Pons. Delos Santos was persistent in convincing her to come and be a part of his plan to revive the volleyball program of the university. The free education, food and accessibility to the training facilities finally convinced Pons to take a leap of faith.   “Naisip ko, pag doon ako sa probinsya, mamamasahe ako every day, mabigat din sa parents ko. So, yun talaga yung sabi ko, ‘O-oo na ako’. Nag-decide ako na mag go-go na ako sa Maynila,” recalled Pons. For someone who never imagined leaving her hometown, Pons didn’t have any trouble making her mark in the UAAP as she immediately led the Lady Tamaraws in scoring (11.8 points per match) as a rookie. She would become FEU’s leading scorer in each of her UAAP stints which includes Final Four appearances in the past three seasons. Last Stretch Now that Pons is approaching the last stretch of her collegiate career and with FEU in a good position to attain a twice-to-beat advantage in the post-season for the first time since 2009, she is more focused than ever on the task at hand. Should the Lady Tamaraws beat NU in their last elimination round game on Sunday and if Ateneo loses to La Salle, FEU will enter the Final Four as the number two ranked team. But, Pons knows it won’t be easy as the Lady Bulldogs will be out for redemption. “Kami kasi yung unang tumalo sa kanila sa first round. So, palagi namin rine-remind yung bawat isa na yung NU, pipilitin nilang bumawi sa atin. Tapos sila, nothing to lose kasi kahit ano mangyari, number four na sila. Eh tayo, may hinahabol tayo na number two. Hindi puwedeng magpabaya tayo kasi NU pa rin yan. Lalaban at lalaban yan,” shared Pons. It’s been a decade since FEU last won the UAAP Women’s Volleyball title. While Pons has already achieved her initial goal of earning a college degree, she still has that burning desire to give back to the school that gave her the opportunity to help her family and leave a lasting legacy in the process. “Gusto ko maalala nila ako bilang isa sa mga nakapagbalik ng crown sa FEU. Sobrang tagal nang nawala ang FEU sa championship. Yun yung gusto namin ibalik ulit,” declared Pons. All Pons ever wanted was to ease the burden on her parents by graduating from school. The game of volleyball has given her a means to accomplish that and so much more. She’s become one of the UAAP’s brightest stars and may wear the colors of the Philippine flag one day. But, no matter what happens, she will always be that same humble girl from Talisay, inspiring countless others like her to be brave and go for great. Catch Bernadeth Pons and the FEU Tamaraws take on the NU Bulldogs on April 15, Sunday, 12 noon LIVE on S+A, S+A HD, Liga, Liga HD and via livestream......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 15th, 2018

After ‘Perfect 10’ performance, Donnie Nietes ready for the big names

Saturday at Superfly 2 Los Angeles, reigning IBF Flyweight World Champion Donnie “Ahas” Nietes shone bright in the biggest stage he’s been on. On his HBO Boxing debut, Nietes impressively defended his title with a seventh-round TKO win over Argentinian challenger and former two-division world champion Juan Carlos Reveco. It was the perfect performance to introduce himself to a bigger, wider US market, and definitely, a lot of people took notice. “Oh it’s huge, not just for ALA but for the whole country.” said Nietes’ manager and ALA Promotions CEO Michael Aldeguer. “It’s a huge debut, after being a champion for ten years, this was the first time he’s been on the mainstream market, the US market, and we’re very happy for him and he showed what he’s made of.” When asked to rate his win over Reveco from one to ten, the usually soft-spoken Nietes wasn’t shy grading his KO win. “Siyempre 10 yun.” “I knew this was going to be a huge fight, I prepared hard, and I know that people are always rooting for a knockout. Good thing it happened. I’m very happy.” Nietes added. Prior to the fight, Nietes and Aldeguer had talked about possibly moving up to 115, should the Pinoy boxer be able to win impressively. Well, a seventh-round TKO on a massive stage such as the Superfly 2 card was indeed impressive, and Nietes’ stance remains the same: He wants the big names. “Anybody. I want to fight the big names and whoever champions is going to come forward, I’m gonna take that fight.” Nietes said. Among those ‘big names’ on Nietes’ radar are Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Juan Francisco Estrada, and Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzales. And while the future seems to be a bit brighter at super flyweight, the longest-reigning Pinoy world champion isn’t ruling out 112. “Whatever’s out there. If there’s a huge fight at 112, I’ll stay at 112.” “What he wants is the big names and the big names are in 115, so that’s what we’re looking at. We’ll see. We’ll rest for a while and we’ll talk to Donnie and we’ll see what he wants to do. Right now, at this stage of his career, he wants to fight the big names.” Aldeguer reiterated. Speaking of big names, another big name at 115 right now is compatriot Jerwin Ancajas. The reigning IBF 115-pound king is slowly but surely making a name for himself at super flyweight, but Nietes says that the Davaoeño isn’t on his radar yet because stablemate Jonas Sultan is set to be the next contender to Ancajas’ title.   H/T: Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 26th, 2018

More than a title shot, Team Lakay’s Joshua Pacio has Naito, Suzuki on his sights

In the co-main event of Friday’s ONE Championship: Global Superheroes card at the Mall of Asia Arena, Team Lakay strawweight star Joshua ‘The Passion’ Pacio showed once again why he’s considered as one of the best young stars in the game after thoroughly dominating Chinese newcomer Lan Ming Qiang en route to a first-round submission win. The 22-year old Pacio, a gifted striker, decided to take the fight to the ground in the opening round and from there, had his way with Qiang, who ended up tapping to a masterfully applied Rear Naked Choke with a minute left in round. From a grapplling standpoint, Pacio displayed did almost everything right, from getting the takedown, moving into mount, and eventually getting the back and finishing the choke. It was a clear indication of the Baguio City native’s improvement on the ground. He maintains however, that he isn’t rushing into another title shot just yet. “Para sa akin, yun nga, hindi ko pa iniisp yung title shot or iharap yung champion.” “Sa akin, gusto ko pa mag-collect or lumaban pa ng marami, para makakuha ng more experience, na masgusto ko pang kalabanin yung mga elite. Andiyan sina Hayato Suzuki, si Yoshitaka Naito, kailangan ko pang i-prove yung sarili ko.” Pacio added. The two-names Pacio mentioned, Suzuki and Naito, are the only two people to turn the Pinoy back, both by way of submission. Back in 2016, Pacio, then just two fights into his ONE Championship career, challenged then-champion Naito for the ONE strawweight world title. While Pacio held his own for three rounds, one mistake in the fourth frame gave Naito the opening he needed to get the submission win. In 2017, Pacio, who was riding high after a big win over former champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, ran into submission ace Suzuki in Macau, who overpowered the Filipino for the first round stoppage. Now, ‘The Passion’ is riding another two-fight winning streak, and would like to test himself once more against the two Japanese submission specialists. “Oo, gusto ko pa silang makaharap,” Pacio admitted. “Tignan ko kung nag-improve yung sarili ko.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 29th, 2018

Will Louie Gonzalez be able to prove himself as head coach with DLSU?

De La Salle University did not waste time in moving forward from champion coach Aldin Ayo. The Green Archers will now have longtime assistant Louie Gonzalez calling the shots. According to fan account Archers’ Clubhouse, he was appointed as head coach of the Taft-based team right before the year 2017 ended. Several sources within the team confirmed the development. The post went on to say that team patron Danding Cojuangco himself appointed Gonzalez. He takes over for Ayo who has transferred from DLSU to University of Sto. Tomas. This brings to an end a longtime partnership between the two starting from Kia in the PBA to Colegio de San Juan de Letran in the NCAA and then onto the Green Archers. Twice in that longtime partnership, Ayo was suspended for one game and Gonzalez was thrust into the role of acting coach – giving us a little taste of his capabilities as shot-caller. Mentoring the Knights in 2015, he lost to Emilio Aguinaldo College, 83-69. That was their first loss in the season following a 7-0 start. Mentoring DLSU in 2016, he won against archrival Ateneo de Manila University, 97-81. That completed a sweep of the first round. For that small sample size, without a doubt, Gonzalez’ appointment didn’t set the world on fire Still, he brings with him years and years of experience that could prove valuable for a Taft-based team looking for much-needed stability with all that has happened recently. As per Reuben Terrado of spin.ph, Gonzalez started his coaching career under the tutelage of then Letran mentor Binky Favis in the ‘90s. From there, he had an assistant coaching stint in Far Eastern University from 2007 to 2010. He was then part of the Globalport bench from 2012 to 2014 and then the Kia staff from 2014 to 2015. It was in 2015 that he, serving as first lietenant, and Ayo led the Knights to a magical championship. A year later, the two guided the Green Archers a dominant title. Also, having had years and years of experience, former colleagues had nothing but good words for Gonzalez. One such former colleague is now FEU athletic director Mark Molina who had this to say:   Congrats to former FEU assistant Louie Gonzales. Louie was a vital part of Glenn Capacio's staff with the Tamaraws then. I'm sure my good friend Tanny Gonzales is smiling in heaven. — Mark Molina (@marqmolina) Enero 1, 2018   However, Gonzalez will still have a tall task ahead of him as he tries to fill the big shoes of two-time collegiate champion coach Ayo. He will also be missing the services of back-to-back MVP Ben Mbala who has elected to take his talents to Mexico. Helping their new head coach with this tall task will now be Mythical Team member Ricci Rivero, team captain Kib Montalbo, and former Rookie of the Year Aljun Melecio. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo,.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2018

WATCH: Jimuel Pacquiao drops opponent in first amateur bout

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, so they say.  While eight-division boxing world champion and current reigning WBA (Regular) Welterweight World Champion Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao may be at the tail end of his long and storied boxing career, it looks like the next generation Pacquiao is getting ready to carry on the legacy.  Manny's eldest son, Emmanuel Jr., or Jimuel is already into the sweet science, and over the weekend, showed off a tiny bit of what he can do inside the squared circle.  Taking on schoolmate Lucas Carson in a two-round sparring session, Jimuel - who showcased the aggression of a young Pacman - dropped his opponent, much to the delight of Team Pacquiao, who was in attendance.        View this post on Instagram                   Emmanuel ‘Jimuel’ Pacquiao Jr aggressive in Rd 1 knocks down opponent schoolmate Lucas Carson . It was an action packed bout of just 2 rounds with entire team Pacquiao supporting Jimuel who dreams to represent Phils in the future . #itsintheblood #boxing A post shared by Dyan Castillejo (@dyancastillejo) on Feb 8, 2019 at 10:34pm PST Obviously, Jimuel has a long way to go, but if this is any indication of the kid's potential, then it looks like the boxing world will have another Pacquiao to look forward to.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 11th, 2019

Boxing: Aston Palicte and camp waiting for title rematch with Donnie Nietes

After starching previously-undefeated Puerto Rican Jose Martinez in just two rounds back in late January, Filipino super flyweight contener Aston "Mighty" Palicte is back in the title picture.  The 28-year olf native of Bago, Negros earned a mandatory challenger spot after knocking out Martinez in the second round of their WBO super flyweight title eliminator, and now he's ready to challenge for the belt once more.  Fittingly, the man holding the WBO's 115-pound title is a familiar face in four-division titleholder Donnie "Ahas" Nietes, who Palicte already faced back in 2018 for the then-vacant WBO title.  Of course, the bout ended in a controversial split draw. Nietes would fight for and caputure the title just months later, defeatign Japan's Kazuto Ioka via split decision in Macau on New Year's Eve.  For Palicte, the prospect of once again challenging his fellow Negrense is all about doing his job and achieving his ultimate goal of becoming a world champion. "Sa akin naman, unang-una, ayaw ko din sana na Pinoy yung kalaban ko, kasi dalawang Pinoy, pero sabi ko nga, wala eh, trabaho ‘to eh," Palicte told ABS-CBN Sports. "Eto yung trabaho ko, alam din naman nila Donnie yun eh. Siyempre, sports lang, trabaho lang." In a perfect world, Palicte would rather find a way to capture a world championship without having to challenge Nietes, which could mean even more world championships for the Philippines.  "Kung may ibang paraan na hindi kami mag-lalaban [pero makakapag-champion ako], mas maganda yun," he explained. "Para yung may isa na Pinoy na champion, tapos kung manalo yung isa pang Pinoy na, kunyari ako, sa iba, world championship sa iba, at least dadagdag na naman yung Pinoy [na world champion] diba?" How it stands however, Palicte is the next in line for the WBO title, which means that to become a champion himself, he'll have to go through Nietes. For the Roy Jones Jr-promoted talent, he's just waiting to see what materializes in the next few days or weeks.  "Ang sakin, gaya ng sinasabi ko sa kanila, hindi ko iniisip kumbaga, sana kaming dalawa ni Nietes [yung maglaban], una hindi ko gusto yun, pero kung mangyari yun, kung gusto talaga ng promoter ko at promoter niya, manager niya at manager ko, wala naman ako magagawa kasi boxer ako. Kailangan ko sundin kung ano yung desisyon nila, nung promoter ko at ng manager ko." "Talagang nag-hihintay lang ako sa kung ano gusto nila," he continued.  While the WBO has ordered a rematch between the two Negros-born pugilists, Dennis Gasgonia of ABS-CBN News reports that Nietes' promoter ALA Promotions will be looking at the options, which could include a unification bout with the other 115-pound titleholders.  Palicte's long-time manager Jason Soong knows full well that a do-over with Nietes is far from set in stone, and he says that he understands the Cebu-based stable's desire to go after the division's bigger stars.  "I understand where they’re coming from, especially with Donnie being an older boxer, I guess he’s going towards the later part of his career, so I understand where they’re coming from, but walang personalan, it’s boxing, but there’s a reason why we’re the mandatory challenger," Soong elaborated. "If they don’t want to fight us, they’ll have to probably vacate the belt, because I don’t think the WBO is going…just the way the WBO is addressing this, the fact that they’re coming out with statements right away, and then the official letters are being circulated, I think the WBO is very serious that when it’s a mandatory, it’s a mandatory." "I don’t think they’re playing around with that," he added. Much like Palicte, Soong reiterated that the desire to go after Nietes stems from the simple fact that he is the one holding the belt.  "I understand them, but kami, we’re happy because we feel like we earned it, bottomline. It’s not like we chose him as an opponent, nagkataon lang na he holds the belt. Even that for me, them fighting for that belt, for me it’s also, that’s what I’m questioning, because [Donnie and Aston are] one and two, and they leapfrog us and then they fight for the belt and we’re left with the eliminator, but for me, sige, we took it. We took it and we’re here now." While the next step for Palicte remains unclear at this point, Soong is confident that his ward's next fight will be one for a major world championship.  "I’m excited, because I think no matter what happens, Aston’s next fight will be for a world championship, whether it’s with Donnie or with someone else. I’m excited." Should Nietes end up vacating the WBO title, Soong sees a scenario wherein Palicte could end up facing Mexican star Juan Francisco Estrada for the title in what he considers a 'dream fight'.  "Well, if he vacates it and we’re in the championship, the one next ranked is Estrada," Soong said. "That would be, ever since Aston was a contender, [Estrada] was actually our dream match, and I think their styles, Estrada was the main event in the last SuperFly 3, and it was always our dream matchup, one because he’s a big name and we think it would be a very good, very entertaining fight, and I think we would do well against a fighter like that.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 8th, 2019

TNT Boys officially joins international talent show & lsquo;The World& rsquo;s Best& rsquo;

TNT Boys officially joins international talent show & lsquo;The World& rsquo;s Best& rsquo;.....»»

Category: entertainmentSource:  thestandardRelated NewsJan 28th, 2019

ONE Championship: Geje Eustaquio and Adriano Moraes share moment of respect

When it was all said and done, Geje Eustaquio and Adriano Moraes shared a moment of respect after their five-round war at ONE: Hero's Ascent, Friday evening at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.  For the third time in their careers, Eustaquio and Moraes battled for the ONE Flyweight World Championship, and for the second time, it was Moraes who came away the victory, taking the trilogy match via unanimous decision.  After the belt was awarded to Moraes, he and Eustaquio kneeled in front of each other shook hands and embraced. In between them was the gold strap that will forever keep their legacies intertwined.  Geje Eustaquio versus Adriano Moraes is ONE Championship's first real rivalry, with their history going back to 2014 when they first met.  Three world title matches later, nothing remains between the two aside from utmost respect.  "I’m thanking him for bringing the best version of Geje Eustaquio," the Filipino former champion said when asked what he told Moraes during that touching moment. "Because I have to admit, without Adriano, I am not as skilled as I am right now, I am not as good as I am right now, it’s all because of him." "He has been in the flyweight division for four years, and if you are the champion, the rest of the division is looking forward to every move you have, every angle you move, they always study you. I got the chance to thank him for making me a better Geje Eustaquio." Moraes shared the same sentiments, saying that he considers Eustaquio more than just an opponent, but rather a friend and a 'ONE Championship teammate'.  "Me and Geje, we worked together about six years ago. When I signed with ONE Championship, Geje Eustaquio was here already. I respect him a lot. We fought for the first flyweight world championship, me and Geje, we have history together, like opponents but like friends too. We are like ONE Championship teammates." Moraes emphasized on how much it meant to be able to share some ONE Championship history with the Team Lakay star.  "If I’m not the champion, I was happy that Geje was the champion. When this history was finished, the first trilogy of ONE Championship, we just embraced each other and said ‘Thank you, for helping me to be a better person, better fighter, everyday. Thank you for this match, because if you don’t have a good opponent, you don’t have a good fight, and for those fighters who love to fight, you love to fight against a good fighter. Geje is a good fighter and I loved to have this history against him. It’s against him, but it’s like together with him." While for now, it appears that the Eustaquio-Moraes trilogy has reached its end, down the road there's always a chance that the two top flyweights will cross paths once again......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 26th, 2019

PBA 43 Review: For Phoenix, there’s beauty in the Beast

The PBA's 43rd season was a loooooong one. Seriously, it started December of 2017 and it ended December of 2018. That's 12 months of almost non-stop basketball. But with the current PBA season finally drawing to a close, it's time we look back at how each team fared in 2018. Today, we take on the Phoenix Fuel Masters.   BEAUTY IN THE BEAST Phoenix’s season was going nowhere fast. Despite a new coaching staff, the Fuel Masters simply just fell short in the Philippine Cup. Growing pains and just bad luck. A promising Commissioner’s Cup then went downhill almost immediately. Maybe it’s not just bad luck. Phoenix’s ceiling may not be just that high. And then the Fuel Masters landed a star just before the Governors’ Cup, trading for the disgruntled Calvin Abueva for pretty much nothing. That development, coupled with super import Eugene Phelps returning for another tour of duty, and it looked like Phoenix was ready to rise. And rise they did. Phoenix got its best finish ever in the Governors’ Cup, finishing as the no. 2 seed just behind two-time champion Brgy. Ginebra. However, growing pains and inexperience doomed the Fuel Masters again and they got swept in the quarterfinals, failing to win their first-ever playoff game in franchise history. Still, Phoenix’s late-season revival puts the team right in the thick of things playoff race moving forward. With key pieces in place and a super resident import, further experience can be the edge the Fuel Masters need. Phoenix’s 2018 season was going nowhere fast, but a great push towards the end sets up the team to greater heights next year.   Phoenix FUEL MASTERS in the 2017-2018 PBA Season Philippine Cup: 5-6 (9th place) Commissioner’s Cup: 4-7 (10th place) Governors: Cup: 8-3 (2nd place) Overall: 17 wins and 16 losses. One playoff appearance.   POST DRAFT NOTE: Phoenix had two first round picks but traded the higher one for veterans Alex Mallari and Dave Marcelo, opting for more proven commodity that one that they have to develop. Still, the haul for the Fuel Masters include guys like forward Jorey Napoles and guards Ron Dennison and Joe Trinidad. The FEU boys mean familiarity and can be counted on to fit in while Napoles and Ivan Villanueva should give insurance up front for Phoenix in the 2019 season.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 29th, 2018

VOLLEYBALL IS LIFE: A look back at Philippine volleyball in 2018

Glorious victories, dynasties, historic feats, controversies and memorable moments once again highlighted another fruitful year for Philippine volleyball.   Now, let us take a look back in the year that was in volleyball:   DYNASTY Powerhouse teams continued to thrive in the country’s most popular collegiate leagues. Arellano University muscled its way back into the NCAA Season 93 Finals and met a newcomer in San Beda University. The Lady Chiefs did find the Lady Red Spikers as feisty opponents in their first championship meeting, needing five sets to survive San Beda in Game One. But it didn’t take long for Arellano U to stomp its class over the newbies to capture its second straight title and fourth overall crown in five years. De La Salle University painted UAAP Season 80 green after annexing its third straight title handing legendary head coach Ramil De Jesus his third grand slam in the country’s most popular and competitive collegiate league. Second year setter Michelle Cobb stepped up to the challenge of filling the big shoes left by Kim Fajardo and complemented the depth and firepower of DLSU. Far Eastern University, which advanced into the Finals for the first time after a decade, stood no chance against the onslaught of the Lady Spikers, which swept their way onto throne. University of Perpetual Help completed a four-peat in the NCAA juniors after sweeping Letran. Philippine Air Force snatched the Premier Volleyball League men’s Reinforced Conference crown and the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference title. Sisi Rondina cemented her legacy as the UAAP’s queen of the sands after completing a three-peat in women’s beach volleyball. Rondina wrapped her tour of duty with four titles in five years. The Tigers ruled the men’s division.       YEAR OF THE UNDERDOGS San Beda University made great strides in NCAA Season 93 after earning its first-ever Finals appearance behind the efforts of Cesca Racraquin and twins Nieza and Jiezela Viray. The Lady Red Spikers closed the elims with an 8-1 win-loss record and took down Perpetual in the semis. Languishing at the bottom half of the standings since the return of its women’s volleyball program in 2008, Jose Rizal University made history by advancing into the Final Four. Shola Alvarez capped the Lady Bombers’ remarkable season by pocketing the Most Valuable Player award.   Far Eastern University made it to the UAAP women’s volleyball Finals by booting out crowd-favorite Ateneo de Manila University in the semis.  For the first time in five years, the Blue Eagles found themselves in a very difficult position in the Final Four. With a twice-to-win disadvantage, the Marck Espejo-led Ateneo shocked FEU – a team that beat them twice in the elims – to march to its fifth straight championship appearance.      But the real underdog story belonged to NU. After three years of finishing runner-up to the Blue Eagles, the Bulldogs led by Bryan Bagunas finally got their long-awaited revenge as they swept Ateneo off its three-year reign at the throne.     OFF COURT STORIES, CONTROVERSIES University of the East parted ways with head coach Francis Vicente midway in Season 80 after three and a half seasons with the Lady Warriors. Vicente left for ‘personal reasons’ with a UE coaching record of 2-45 (win-loss). Red Warriors head coach Sammy Acaylar also resigned from his post midway in the season. University of Sto. Tomas hitter EJ Laure after months of speculations to the real reason of her sitting out UAAP Season 80 broke her silence by saying that needed time to recover from her right shoulder injury to end all the rumors circulating including an alleged pregnancy.    Sound bites, videos and clips that show collegiate players’ ‘human side’ made its rounds around social media that drew mixed reactions from fans.  Just like in the previous years, controversy filled the formation of the national women’s volleyball team. Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. initially named Ramil De Jesus as the national team coach but just two months after his designation, the multi-titled DLSU mentor resigned from his post citing ‘conflict of schedule’. Shaq Delos Santos took over De Jesus’ spot. Netizens went abuzz when the composition of the national team that participated in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games was released as fans give their different views on who should and should not be included in the roster.             LVPI named a new president in Peter Cayco of Arellano U to replace Joey Romasanta during the association’s election.   WRITING HISTORY Smart’s Cuban import Gigi Silva carved a world scoring record in the Philippine Superliga after scoring 56 points in a lost cause against Cocolife in the 2018 Grand Prix. Silva pounded 53 kills and had three aces to land her name in the fourth spot in the women’s world scoring record behind Polina Rahimova of Azerbaijan’s 58 points in 2015 while playing in Japan, American Madison Kingdon’s 57 (2017 Korea Volleyball League) and Bulgarian Elitsa Vasileva’s 57 (2013 Korea Volleyball League). Silva also surpassed the 55 points of Americans Nicole Fawcett (2013 KVL) and Alaina Bergsma, who led Petron to the 2014 PSL Grand Prix crown, (2016 KVL).     Not to be outdone, local volleyball star Marck Espejo had a 55-point explosion of his own in the Blue Eagles’ five-set Game 1 UAAP Final Four win over FEU. The five-time MVP pounded 47 attacks, had six kill blocks and two service aces for the Katipunan-based squad. Espejo scored 11 points in the deciding frame including Ateneo’s last four to seal the win in the match that lasted for two hours and 21 minutes. Espejo’s feat fueled Ateneo’s eventual semis series win over the twice-to-beat Tamaraws.  Espejo and DLSU libero Dawn Macandili were named as the Philippine Sportswriters Association’s 2017 Mr. and Miss Volleyball.     The Philippines saw three players make their mark in the international scene this year as Espejo and sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat were tapped as imports in Japan’s V. Premier League. Espejo is now playing for Oita Miyoshi Weiss Adler while Jaja and Dindin suit up for Saitama Ageo Medics and Toray Arrows, respectively.     After 36 long years, the Philippines sent a women’s volleyball team to participate in the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games. The squad won against Hong Kong in straight sets in pool play in the country’s first Asian Games victory since defeating India in the 1982 New Delhi Games. The PHI advanced in the quarterfinals but went home empty-handed. The Filipinas ended up at ninth place in the AVC Asian Cup. Sisi Rondina and Dzi Gervacio made waves in the country’s hosting of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Manila Open after the duo barged in the quarterfinals. The tandem eventually bowed down to eventual champion Japan. The NU Bulldogs brought its bark into the international scene and howled its way to giving honor to country by winning the ASEAN University Games gold medal at the expense of Thailand. Volleyball proved to be the most talked about sport in the country as #UAAPSeason80Volleyball became the most tweeted sports hashtag in 2018.   SMASHING WIN, BLAZING VICTORY Creamline became the most successful club in the Premier Volleyball League this year after winning its breakthrough Reinforced Conference crown before following it up with a title romp in the Open Conference. Alyssa Valdez finally ended a two-year title drought after leading the Cool Smashers to the Reinforced Conference throne.   Creamline’s Michele Gumabao joined Binibining Pilipinas and represented the country im the 2018 Miss Globe in Albania, landing at the top 15.     Petron lorded it over in the PSL after winning the Grand Prix and All-Filipino Conference titles at the expense of archrival F2 Logistics, which ruled the Invitational Conference. University of the Philippines ended a 36-year title drought by claiming the PVL Collegiate Conference championship and followed it up by reigning supreme in the PSL Collegiate Grand Slam The SiPons tandem of Sisi Rondina and Bernadeth Pons of Petron annexed their second straight PSL Challenge Cup beach volleyball title. University of Perpetual Help reclaimed the NCAA men’s title after taking down Arellano University as the Altas bagged it 11th title overall.           National University took back the title it lost last year in the UAAP boys’ tournament while De La Salle-Zobel bagged the girls’ mint. The Beach Volleyball Republic continued its advocacy of propagating the sport throughout the country.   END OF THE ROAD After winning three straight UAAP titles, the Lady Spikers bid goodbye to its Big Three in Kim Kianna Dy, Majoy Baron and Dawn Macandili. Season 80 saw the end of the six-year Ateneo-DLSU Finals rivalry as the Lady Eagles bowed down to FEU in the semis. The Blue Eagles three-year reign ended at the hands of NU as Ateneo gave its farewell to its greatest men’s volleyball star Marck Espejo and prized setter Ish Povorosa.    NU’s four-year domination in the girls’ division was snapped by DLS-Zobel. After a dry 2018 PVL season, Pocari Sweat parted ways with its franchise player Myla Pablo as newcomer Motolite agreed to buyout the hitter’s last three contract years.      Thai coach Tai Bundit after five years and bringing two titles including a rare tournament sweep to the Lady Eagles finally called it quits after Ateneo’s campaign in UAAP Season 80. Creamline gave Bundit a farewell championship trophy in the PVL.      A NEW BEGINNING It was a colorful 2018, indeed, for volleyball but 2019 is another promising year for the sport. Can the Lady Chiefs complete a three-peat in the NCAA? Newcomers are sure to bring more excitement and interest in the UAAP. DLSU will try to extend its reign for another season while NU is looking for a repeat crown in the men’s side. Another season for the PSL and the PVL will open while the national men’s and women’s team will highlight the country’s Southeast Asian Games hosting.        --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 27th, 2018

Filipino star Kevin Belingon hailed as ONE Championship’s 2018 Warrior of the Year

2018 has been nothing but spectacular for Philippine-based mixed martial arts stable Team Lakay. The humble gym located in the La Trinidad, Benguet has, in 2018 alone, produced four world champions under the ONE Championship banner. Veteran Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio became the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion in Macau, China back in June, while young star Joshua “The Passion” Pacio captured the ONE Strawweight World Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia back in September. Arguably the biggest star in Philippine mixed martial arts today, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, became a two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion after dominating Amir Khan in Manila,  Philippines back in early-December. Rounding out the four world champions from Team Lakay is none other than Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, who completed a long road to the ONE Bantamweight World Championship. While Eustaquio, Pacio, and Folayang all had impressive runs in 2018, Belingon’s year was arguably the most dominant. Already riding an impressive four-fight winning streak dating back to 2016, Belingon kicked 2018 off with a dominant performance over former world championship contender Andrew Leone, obliterating the American wrestler with a spinning back-kick heard ‘round the world. Many believed that Belingon had already earned another crack at the world championship, then held by Brazilian submission ace Bibiano Fernandes. Fernandes however, was still injured at the time and had no timetable for a return. Belingon instead drew Vietnamese-Australian two-division world champion Martin Nguyen - who was hunting for a third world title in as many divisions - for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship. In July at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Belingon and Nguyen squared off in an exciting five-round war and in the end, it was the faster Pinoy star who earned the unanimous decision nod. The win finally secured Belingon a rematch with Fernandes and a shot at the ONE Bantamweight World Championship. While Belingon has improved exponentially since their first encounter back in 2016, the Team Lakay star was considered an underdog. Fernandes, after all, had not tasted defeat since 2010, and was riding a five year reign as the ONE bantamweight king. Many have tried and all have failed to dethrone “The Flash” from his place atop the bantamweight division, Belingon included. At ONE: Heart of the Lion in Singapore however, Belingon made sure that history would not repeat itself. Banking on superior striking and a much-improved grappling skillset, Belingon survived multiple submission attempts and dictated the pace in the standup department for much of the five-round affair. In the end, Belingon earned the split decision nod, and had accomplished what no one else has in ONE Championship, and that’s defeat Fernandes. It was Belingon’s stellar 2018 campaign that earned him the nod for ONE Championship’s 2018 Warrior of the Year, beating out the likes of reigning ONE Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang of Myanmar, reigning ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan, former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, and Team Lakay stablemate and reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang. Of the four ONE world champions from Team Lakay, only Belingon has yet to be scheduled for a title defense, with all three of his brothers set to put their titles up for grabs in 2019. The smart money would be on a trilogy match with Fernandes for the title in 2019......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 24th, 2018

THROWBACK: Top PBA rookie draft picks through the years

After 33 years, the tradition of PBA teams selecting promising players from the amateur ranks, patterned after the NBA draft process, heralded a balanced influx of talent to even out the league’s competitiveness. But what makes the draft process interesting is the choice of the number 1 pick, who is considered the most in-demand player seen to bolster the chances of the worst performing or a newly established team in the PBA. With Columbian Dyip’s selection of Lyceum stalwart CJ Perez as the number one pick in the 2018 PBA Draft,  let’s look back at the top draft picks through the years, from its beginnings in 1985 to the controversial selection last year, and how they made their mark in the league. 1985 – Sonny Cabatu Sonny Cabatu was the PBA’s first-ever number one draft pick, selected by the expansion club Shell Azodrin Bugbusters, which took over the Crispa Redmanizers franchise. An intense bruiser inside the paint, Cabatu was Shell’s starting center known as “Mr. Quality Minutes.” He would then play for Great Taste, Purefoods, Sarsi, and Ginebra in a respectable career. 1986 – Rey Cuenco A member of the guest Northern Cement Corp. (NCC) team coached by Ron Jacobs that played in the pro league’s 1984 season, Rey Cuenco was picked in the 1986 draft by another new, expansion ballclub Alaska Milkmen to lead their charge.  His pro playing career blossomed from 1989 to 1992 under the tutelage of Ginebra playing coach Robert Jaworski. In 1990, he was adjudged the Most Improved Player and part of the Mythical Second Team. He also became a member of the Big J-coached, first all-Filipino, all-professional “Dream Team” in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing that won a silver medal for the country with Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, Benjie Paras and Ramon Fernandez among others. 1987 – Allan Caidic Considered the greatest Filipino basketball marksman ever, Allan Caidic was already a big name before he strutted into the PBA. Having won titles for the UE Red Warriors and among the top players of the Ron Jacobs-mentored national team, the Triggerman was definitely one big prized addition for any team. And Great Taste, having the privilege of selecting first in 1987, made Caidic a hands-down choice. He would later suit up for San Miguel Beer and Ginebra San Miguel in a storied career. He had since become a PBA Hall of Famer and among the Top 25 Greatest Players of All Time. 1988 – Jack Tanuan A vital cog of the FEU Tamaraws and a member of the 1986 Seoul Asian Games squad that took home the bronze, Jack Tanuan was a feared scorer who made a living with his inside game. It was no surprise that new franchise Purefoods selected him as their top pick in 1988, in addition to other direct hires from the amateur ranks that formed their strong core—Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codinera, Jojo Lastimosa and Glenn Capacio—on top of having the Franchise, Mon Fernandez, as playing coach. He would later play for the Sarsi, Swift and Pop Cola teams under the RFM franchise, and later on for Sta. Lucia, Mobiline, and Alaska. 1989 – Benjie Paras It was the year of Benjie Paras, a valiant, hardworking center called “The Tower of Power,” who led the UP Maroons to its historic 1986 UAAP title. After being selected by Shell as the number one pick in the 1989 draft, Paras would achieve the impossible of being both the league MVP and Rookie of the Year, while being named to the Mythical Five. Paras along with fellow Hall of Famers Ronnie Magsanoc and long-time import Bobby Ray Parks Sr. became the triumvirate that led Shell to the First Conference championships in 1990 and 1992. And, even with the onset of Fil-foreign players in the PBA, Paras remained dominant and won his second MVP plum in 1999. 1990 – Peter Jao Peter Jao was the first Cebuano player to be drafted as a rookie top pick in the league, selected by Presto Tivoli. He would then become a member of Presto’s champion team in the 1990 All-Filipino conference with Allan Caidic and Gerry Esplana. 1991 – Alex Araneta The former Ateneo Blue Eagle suited up for Alaska Air Force/Milkmen until 1995, after which he was hired in the company as a management trainee, eventually becoming one of Alaska Milk Corp.’s sales managers. Of Alaska’s 14 championships in the league, Araneta was a veteran of 2 of them (1991 Third Conference and 1994 Governors’ Cup). 1992 – Vergel Meneses An ex-seminarian who became among the PBA’s Top 40 Greatest Players, the “Aerial Voyager” was known for his show-stopping moves and is considered among the best one-on-one players. The former JRU Heavy Bomber and 1995 PBA MVP was also a member of the all-pro Centennial Team coached by Tim Cone that won the William Jones Cup in Taipei and placed 3rd in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok. 1993 – Zandro Limpot After his years as a King Archer for De La Salle, Zandro Limpot entered the 1993 draft and was chosen first overall by the expansion ballclub Sta. Lucia Realtors.  Limpot was named Rookie Of The Year that season as well as reaping All-Star, Mythical Second Team and All-Defensive Team honors. Limpot won his first and only PBA championship (2006 Philippine Cup) with the Purefoods Chunkee Giants. 1994 – Noli Locsin Another former Green Archer, Noli Locsin was picked by Tondeña 65 as the league’s top draft pick in 1994. He became a 4-time PBA All-Star (1994, 1995, 1996, 1999) in a high-flying career with Ginebra. Bacolod-born Locsin was famous for his barrelling game before the arrival of Filipino-Americans in the PBA. Spent 6 seasons with the Ginebra San Miguel franchise; won the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup with Jaworski as coach. He later suited up for Pop Cola, Tanduay, Red Bull, Talk ‘N Text and Sta. Lucia. 1995 – Dennis Espino After leading the UST Growling Tigers to their monumental four-peat, Dennis Espino would later bring his winning ways to the PBA. Sta. Lucia got the first crack at the 1995 draft and picked him first overall to form a menacing one-two punch with Zandro Limpot, and later with Marlou Aquino. He had a sterling career with Sta. Lucia for 15 years and yielded the following achievements:  4-time PBA All-Star, 2-time All-Defensive Team, 2-time Mythical First Team, 2004-05 Defensive Player of the Year and 2007-08 Philippine Cup Finals MVP. He won the 2001 Governors’ Cup and the 2007-08 Philippine Cup for Sta. Lucia. 1996 – Marlou Aquino Picked by Gordon’s Gin as first overall in the 1996 draft, Marlou Aquino had an exceptional maiden year gave him Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Best Player of the Conference (1996 Governors’ Cup), Mythical First Team, All-Star and All-Defensive Team honors. He also became the second Ginebra player (after Dondon Ampalayo in 1986) to win the Rookie of the Year award.  Aquino then was part of Gordon Gin’s 1997 Commissioner’s Cup and Sta. Lucia Realty’s 2001 Governors’ Cup championship teams.  1997 – Andy Seigle The first Fil-Am top pick, chosen by Mobiline in 1997, Andy Seigle won Rookie of the Year and was part of the 1999 All-Star Game. The Scranton, Pennsylvania native was twice a member of the National Team in the 1998 and 2002 Asian Games and was one of the most dominant and best defensive players in the 1990’s era. 1998 – Danny Ildefonso  Danny Ildefonso was picked by San Miguel Beer first overall in 1998, the year he also won Rookie of the Year. One of only four pro players to win back-to-back MVP awards (2000 and 2001), Ildefonso had a prolific 15-year career with the San Miguel ballclub with 8 championships (1999 and 2000 Commissioner’s Cups;  1999, 2000 and 2011 Governors’ Cups; 2001 All-Filipino; 2005 and 2009 Fiesta Cups). He is among the PBA’s Top 40 Greatest Players. 1999 – Sonny Alvarado Selected by Tanduay as its top pick in the 1999 Draft, Sonny Alvarado was poised to dominate the league as a gritty Fil-Am all-around player. He was however embroiled in the “Fil-Sham” controversy, that revealed that he had filed two alleged birth certificates of his mother when he applied for the draft. This prompted immigration officials to initiate deportation measures against Alvarado because of such failure to directly prove his Filipino parental links. 2000 – Paolo Mendoza Paolo Mendoza was a hot-shooting guard who led the UP Fighting Maroons to two Final Four appearances from 1996-1997. He then applied for the 2000 draft and was chosen the overall first pick by Sta. Lucia Realty. Together with Dennis Espino and Marlou Aquino, Mendoza was one of the main factors behind the 2001 Governor’s Cup title win of the Realtors. 2001 – Willie Miller The diminutive Willie Miller is considered the first player from the PBA’s rival league, Metropolitan Basketball Association, to become the top overall pick in a PBA Rookie Draft, in which he was selected by the Batang Red Bull Thunder. He was part of three teams that copped PBA titles—Red Bull (2001 and 2002 Commissioner’s Cup), Alaska (2007 Fiesta Cup), and Talk ‘N Text (2015 Commissioner’s Cup). His career highlights in his 15 years in the PBA were 2-time MVP (2002 and 2007), 2-time Finals MVP, 9-time All-Star,  3-time Mythical First Team member, and 2014 Sportsmanship Awardee. 2002 – Yancy de Ocampo The “Post-Man” as he is called, Yancy de Ocampo is a shifty, reliable center who delivers the goods at crunch time. He was the number one draft pick in 2002 by the FedEx Express. He was part of several champion teams, namely Talk ‘N Text, BMeg Llamados, San Mig Coffee and eventually San Miguel Beer. 2003 – Mike Cortez The “Cool Cat” Mike Cortez, a former La Salle standout, brought his court savviness to the PBA after Alaska picked him first overall in the 2003 draft by and immediately went to work. Cortez helped the Aces win the Reinforced Conference that year. He would then move on to San Miguel Beer, and was part of a hefty push to win the 2007 and 2009 Fiesta Conferences. A journeyman in his 15-year PNA career, Cortez currently plays for the Blackwater Elite. 2004 – Rich Alvarez The Japan-born and U.S.-raised Rich Alvarez had a blast on his maiden year with Shell, which selected him first overall in the 2004 draft, collecting Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defensive Team and All-Rookie Team honors. Played for 13 seasons in 8 different teams, Rich was successful in winning 4 championships with the TNT Tropang Texters (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 Philippine Cups and 2011 Commissioner’s Cup) 2005 – Anthony "Jay" Washington This Zambales-born journeyman was first chosen by Air21 in the 2005 draft then traded to Talk ‘N Text. But his stint with San Miguel Beer made him flourish with two titles in the 2009 Fiesta Conference and the 2011 Governors Cup. He would return to the TNT Tropang Texters and help the, win the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup. He currently plays for the Rain or Shine Elastopainters. 2006 – Kelly Williams Picked first overall by Sta. Lucia Realty in 2006, Kelly Williams immediately made his presence felt that year bagging Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie Team honors. He first won a championship with Sta. Lucia in the 2007-08 Philippine Cup and would then lead his present ballclub, the TNT Tropang Texters to five championships, notably the three-peat Philippine Cups from 2010 to 2012, and the 2011 and 2015 Commissioners’ Cups. 2007 – Joe Devance While it was Welcoat that originally drafted Joe Devance as the first pick overall in the 2007 draft, he would earn the distinction of being the league’s winningest coach Tim Cone’s most trusted trooper. Devance has won nine championships with Cone as his coach, starting with Alaska (2010 Fiesta Cup), B-Meg/San Mig Coffee (2012 and 2014 Commissioner’s Cup, 2013 and 2014 Governors’ Cup and Philippine Cup); and currently, Ginebra San Miguel (2016 and 2017 Governors’ Cup, and 2018 Commissioners’ Cup).  2008 – Gabe Norwood Chosen by the only team has played for up to now, the Rain or Shine Elastopainters, as its number one draft pick in 2008, Gabe Norwood would then etch a rich career with his ballclub, having won 2 championships (2012 Governors’ Cup, 2016 Commissioner’s Cup). He had also notched numerous awards, including Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and was part of the All Star Game nine times, and the All-Defensive Team six times.  2009 – Japeth Aguilar   “Jumpin’ Japeth” starred for the Ateneo Blue Eagles for two years then moved to the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers during his university years.  In 2009, Aguilar was selected by Burger King and only played one game with the Whoppers, after which he was traded to Talk `N Text.  Japeth has become a Team Gilas mainstay since the beginning of his pro career, of which the Philippines’ participation in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain became one of his national team career highlights. 2010 – Nonoy Baclao   “Mr. Swat” was among the vital cogs of the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ back-to-back UAAP men’s basketball championships in 2008 and 2009. After college, Baclao led the Philippine Patriots as the inaugural champion of the 2009-10 Asean Basketball League (ABL) season prior to entering the PBA rookie draft. In 2010, Nonoy was selected by Air21 then he was traded to Petron (San Miguel) where he had one championship in his sophomore year in the league.  2011 – JVee Casio  The former De La Salle Green Archer playmaker who was Rookie of the Year (2003), Finals Co-MVP (2007) and Mythical Five member (2007 & 2008) in the UAAP was a Gilas pioneer before deciding to turn pro in 2011. By far Casio “G-Shock” is the shortest among the active PBA players to have been picked first overall by the Powerade Tigers. JVee was traded to Alaska Aces in 2012 and has since then became a mainstay in the team which he helped win the Commissioner’s Cup title in 2013. 2012 – June Mar Fajardo  The burly Cebuano was star center at the University of Cebu of which he steered to back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011 at the CESAFI league. “The Kraken” has played for only one team throughout his pro career in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) and the PBA – San Miguel. As one big reason to “Fear the Beer,” Fajardo gave San Miguel six championships to date and became the first and only PBA player to win the MVP award in four straight seasons (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).  2013 – Greg Slaughter  “GregZilla” stomped rivals with his huge presence when he helped lead the Ateneo Blue Eagles to two consecutive UAAP championships in 2011 and 2012 -- completing a five-peat for the Loyola Heights squad. Picked by Barangay Ginebra in 2013, Slaughter got his pro career to a fast start with ROY and All-Rookie Team honors. He won 3 championships under coach Tim Cone (2016 and 2017 Governors’ Cups; 2018 Commissioner’s Cup). He also saw action for the first time with Gilas this year in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. 2014 – Stanley Pringle  Drafted by NorthPort Batang Pier, “The Beard” exploded into the local basketball scene with Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie team honors, after stints with Belgium, Poland, Ukraine and Indonesia ballclubs.  A 4-time All-Star (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), Pringle is considered among the best guards and high scorers in the play-for-pay league, gaining raves from other coaches and close followers of the sport.   2015 – Moala Tautuaa  He applied and went undrafted in the 2012 NBA draft, then moved to Asia to resume his basketball career by playing as an import for the Westsports Malaysia Dragons in the ABL.  After which, the Fil-Tongan made the “Big Mo(ve)” to the Philippines and spent a fruitful season with the D-League, ending up as its 2015 Foundation Cup MVP.  Talk N` Text selected Tautuaa as overall pick of the first round but traded him later on to NorthPort Batang Pier in 2018. 2016 – Raphael Banal  Since the first round of the 2016 PBA draft was dedicated to PBA teams choosing Gilas Pilipinas players to join their ranks, the regular draft started in the second round. Here, the Blackwater Elite chose as its first pick Raphael Banal, a contemporary of Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal in the Ateneo Blue Eaglets juniors team who went to the Hope International University-California for college.  His surname rings a bell, being the youngest child of former PBA player and TNT coach (2003 All-Filipino Conference champion) Joel Banal.  Yet “Ael” held his own in the PBA D-League for two conferences with Racal Motors.  2017 – Christian Standhardinger  The American-schooled Fil-German played in the ProA and Basketball Bundesliga tournaments in Germany as well with Hong Kong Eastern in the ABL.  Although he was selected by San Miguel Beer in the overall draft of 2017 in a controversial trade with Kia Picanto, the rightful owner of the number one pick, Standhardinger joined the Beermen in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup after completing his ABL tour of duty.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 18th, 2018

WWE star Xavier Woods had an eventful trip to Manila

MANILA, Philippines – A new day has come to Manila! 5-time WWE Tag Team Champion, Xavier Woods, of The New Day, has finally made his long awaited return to the Philippines! Arriving shortly after sunrise, Woods began his trip with a short Kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) ride through the beautiful Manila Bay. Always up for an adventure, Woods sampled Filipino street food: deep-fried calamares and orange soda, served in a clear plastic bag.      Xavier Woods began his afternoon with a special 5X5 basketball game that featured athletes from Special Olympics Philippines. The game was supervised by members of Alab Pilipinas, champions from the ASEAN Basketball League. After a showcase of drills, everyone took to the court for a fun, tag-based game of 5X5 basketball. After the event, Xavier presented the athletes from Alab Pilipinas and Special Olympics Philippines with gifts from World Wrestling Entertainment.     “It’s really fun. It’s always a good time to work with Special Olympics,” shares Xavier Woods. “Being a WWE superstar is more than just being in the ring- it’s about giving back to the communities we perform for.”   Xavier Woods’ return to Manila was marked before a passionate crowd at the SM Mall of Asia. Woods first came to Manila in 2016 where he defended the WWE Tag Team Championship in a triple threat match with teammates, Kofi Kingston and Big E.     At the event, the WWE Universe was treated to a number of surprises. Three lucky fans were given the chance to come on stage and recreate Woods’ entrance walk, complete with music and video. Once on stage, he fielded a series of questions before experiencing a number of uniquely Filipino activities. This began with Woods eating a whole Balut (hard-boiled duck embryo). “I feel the power!”, Woods exclaimed upon finishing it.     Driven by the power from Balut, Woods danced the ‘Tinikling’. The traditional Filipino folk dance involves two dancers rhythmically skipping between two moving bamboo poles. After experiencing two cultural hallmarks, Woods sat down and met the WWE Universe in the Philippines. He then finished his night at Playbook Café for a mini tournament with fans......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 3rd, 2018

Ex-UP top gunner Paolo Mendoza to Fighting Maroons: Focus on goal, not yourselves

After 21 years, the UP Fighting Maroons are on the cusp of entering the UAAP Finals as they battle against the Adamson Soaring Falcons for the right to face the defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles for the Season 81 title.   A familiar situation 1997 was the last time UP made it to the Final Four, also forging a sudden death match for a spot in the Finals in Season 60. One of the top players back then was scoring sensation Paolo Mendoza, who is now the head coach of the UPIS Junior Fighting Maroons. Unfortunately, however, Mendoza's team lost by just a point, 69-70, during the Game 2 of the knockout match against the FEU Tamaraws, denying their march to the Finals. Being the top scorer and team leader of the Fighting Maroons at that time, Mendoza is elated to see the current team in the same position they had in 1997. In an exclusive interview, Mendoza said he is elated that UP finally made it again this far in the league, considering also that Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Diego Dario, and Wil Gozum were former UPIS Junior Fighting Maroons.   Defensive intensity Mendoza stressed that offense has always been and will always be there as the roster has top gunners like the Gomez De Liano brothers, Paul Desiderio, Jun Manzo, and MVP favorite Bright Akhuetie. However, he believes the team’s defensive intensity was the most obvious improvement compared to their performance during the first round of playoffs. “Magaling ‘yung attention and commitment nila sa defense. Ang galing ng ginawa ni Coach Bo (Perasol),” he said, adding that the boys definitely executed even the smallest of details in their defense. Being optimistic for today’s game, Mendoza thinks that the main concern or probable weakness of the team will be nothing and no one but themselves. “Sometimes in situations like this, you will be overwhelmed. Your focus on the game will really be tested,” he said, adding that focus is just what might probably get in the way in getting the win in today’s match.   Similarities with 1997 team Meanwhile, the major similarity that Mendoza thinks there is between their team during Season 60 and the current Fighting Maroons is the commitment of the players. “‘Yung similarity na talagang nakikita ko is ‘yung commitment ng parehong generations. During our time, very committed kami sa goal namin, the same way how the team is committed now,” he said. Reminiscing the exact situation they were in during Season 60, Mendoza is certain that they were still successful during their time despite falling short against the FEU Tamaraws, who were then the number one team in the standings and had the that twice-to-beat edge. “Ang maganda siguro sa team namin noon, we know our roles and we accept those roles. We respect each other a lot. Kaya masasabi naming naging matagumpay noong time namin,” he said.   Like an ordinary game The old cliche that is  “playing one game at a time” was the mindset of Mendoza during that do-or-die game against FEU. Mendoza admitted that he actually just treated that game as an ordinary game as he did not want to pressure himself so much. “During times like this, medyo iseseparate mo muna ‘yung sarili mo sa mundo kasi everybody’s talking about the game - your friends, family, and the whole UP community,” he said. Difficulties will always be present during crucial knockout games and Mendoza admitted it was really the focus on the game, which was very hard for them back then. “Sometimes, you tend to focus on yourself eh; nakakalimutan mo na yung goal ng team that is why importante ‘yung may leaders who know how to gather the team,” he said, adding that when you are already one of the top teams you always have to bring your “A" game” every time. Knowing how to handle pressure In sharing his learnings from his experience as a veteran player, Mendoza stressed that each one on the team now should know how to handle the pressure and expectations. “They should not take their eyes off the goal. Dapat alam nila ‘yung kailangan nilang gawin. Most importantly, they should think of everybody, the whole UP community sacrificing their time to support the team,” he said. Mendoza also pointed out that the performance of GDL brothers Juan and Javi is very crucial. “I think sila ang barometer ng UP. If they play well, strong ang chance ng UP to win,” he said. When asked what the Finals picture is for UP, Mendoza confidently said that his hopes are high for the very talented team. With the way the boys play, there is a very high chance that they will make it into Finals. They just need to maintain it and keep it a notch higher on defense. “Hindi talaga ako magugulat kung manalo ang UP. If it happens, first Finals appearance ulit ng UP in years,” he said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 28th, 2018

ONE Championship: A win away from a second title run, greatness once again within reach for Eduard Folayang

Eduard Folayang’s mixed martial arts career can best be described as ‘up-and-down.’ Throughout his eleven year career as a professional MMA fighter, Folayang has reached the highest of highs and has fallen to the lowest of lows, and his current run in ONE Championship is no different. In 2016, following a run that saw him go 6-3 in the promotion, Folayang reached pinnacle of his career after dethroning Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki to become the ONE Lightweight World Champion. Another high in the career of the Baguio City native, who many considered to be the face of Philippine MMA at that point. Then, a year later, as the trend in his career goes, Folayang was knocked off from his spot at the top and was sent crashing down courtesy of a right hand from Martin Nguyen. Just like that, Folayang was again in a valley. The 35-year old is no stranger to adversity. He was able to rise back up in 2016, and now, he’s done just that again. A little over a year after losing the belt to Nguyen in Manila, Folayang gets a shot at history, but more importantly, he gets a shot at redemption. At ONE: Conquest of Champions in Manila, Folayang has the opportunity to become a two-time world champion when he meets Singapore’s Amir Khan for the vacant ONE Lightweight World Champion. If Folayang pull it off, he becomes the first two-time ONE Lightweight World Champion in the promotion’s history. If Folayang pulls it off, he recaptures the crown in the very same arena that he lost it in, just twelve months prior. “Siyempre masayang-masaya ako, kasi it took me one year ulit para maka-balik sa title picture, and pinag-hirapan naman natin,” Folayang told ABS-CBN Sports. “We faced two undefeated Russians and naging dominant naman yung performance natin, and for sure, napaka-exciting yung magiging laban na ito, especially since tinalo ni Amir Khan yung teammate natin na si Honorio Banario, so it will be a good fight for both of us.” Folayang knows all too well how his career has gone, and the former Wushu standout says that in order to be able to keep moving forward, one must not keep himself in the past. Whether wins or losses, “Landslide” says that he does not dwell on them too much. “Hindi tayo nagde-dwell sa past, kasi kung magde-dwell ako sa mga past victories tsaka mga defeat, parang hindi ako magmo-move on.” “ Kaya dun natin na-aappreciate ang martial arts, it’s really a journey kung saan sasabihin natin na tapos na tayo or na-achieve na natin yung highest na standard kasi in some ways, we will win some and some ways we will lose, pero  yung napaka-ganda doon ay kapag natatalo tayo, mayroon at mayroon tayong chance para ayusin yung areas na nagkamali tayo at magkaroon ng chance para manalo ulit and as much as possible maibalik natin yung nawala sa atin,” he continued. As far as second chances go, Folayang has had his fair share. Now, he gets another chance at being the top lightweight in the promotion, and he believes it’s all because he never quit, even after all the adversity he has faced in his career. “Yun yung pinaka-masaya dito sa pagiging isang martial artist, we are given a second chance as long as we are breathing and as long as we never give up.” Folayang’s road back to the championship picture took him a little over 365 days. In that period, Folayang proved that he was still a top-tier lightweight after defeating a pair of undefeated Russian grapplers in Kharun Atlangeriev and Aziz Pahrudinov. When Martin Nguyen vacated the belt back in September, immediately, Folayang was in the front of the line in terms of contenders. In that 12-month period, Folayang admits that it wasn’t the easiest. Having to deal with such a loss and then having to work your way back isn’t a walk in the park. But the former champion believes that it was necessary for him to go through that in order to evolve even more. “Yung journey, every day talaga, kailangan mo din mag-struggle, mag-struggle na kung saan you will always aim to improve, you will always aim to learn kung ano yung strengths and weaknesses ng kalaban mo until you will go on that day na parang mag-eexam ka ulit and you will see na if you have improved after a year or not,” he shared. 378 days removed from his title loss, Folayang gets to test himself again, and if he passes, he becomes the top dog in the lightweight division. “Yung pinaka-test ko ulit after losing that belt is this coming November 23, and I’m excited going into that battle again. Sana maging two-time world champion.” Very rarely do fighters go undefeated in their professional careers, and they say that the true test of a champion is how he or she bounces back from adversity or defeat. Time and time again, Folayang has managed to bounce back. When people thought that he would never reach the top, he proved them wrong by becoming a champion. When people thought that he was done, he again proved them wrong by being where he is now. It’s through these kinds of struggles, Folayang says, that one learns about himself. It’s this kind of pressure that molds one to become a champion. “I believe na nakakatulong din [yung mga setbacks], although as much as possible din, ayaw natin ng ganun,” he said. “Pero siguro sa buhay hindi mo talaga masasabing upward palagi yung improvement, minsan talaga madudulas ka para makita mo yung space kung saan mag-iimprove ka pa, and makikita din talaga natin na everyone is improving, hindi lang tayo yung nag-iimprove tapos tapos na, no. “Everybody is chasing greatness, and kapag nagkamali tayo, maabutan tayo, pero we need to come up stronger ulit,” he added. At ONE: Conquest of Champions, Folayang once again finds himself one win away from a second run as the ONE Lightweight World Champion. Once again, greatness is within reach for Eduard Folayang.   Eduard Folayang meets Amir Khan for the vacant ONE Lightweight World Championship at ONE: Conquest of Champions this Friday, November 23rd at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila. Catch the action LIVE on ABS-CBN S+A channel 23 beginning at 8:30 PM! .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 23rd, 2018

MAJOR POINT: Has the PBA Solved Its Draft Problem?

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 19th, 2018

Catching Up with The Truth: ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera talks BuyBust experience

It’s been a while since we’ve seen ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera compete inside the ONE Championship cage. The last time Vera was in action was back in December of 2016 when he defended his title against Japanese challenger Hideki Sekine in Manila, winning via first round-TKO. And while “The Truth” hasn’t been active in mixed martial arts competition, that doesn’t mean that he’s been just sitting around, chilling. Far from it, in fact. Aside from getting married and taking care of some outside-competition matters, Vera has been quite busy on the silver screen. The 41-year old Fil-American booked his first major movie gig as part of the highly-successful action movie BuyBust, where he plays Rico Yatco, a member of an anti-narcotics squad in the Philippines. For Vera, the whole experience of being part of a movie is something that he says he looks forward to doing more in the future. “It was amazing, definitely something I look forward to doing after I’m finished with my competition side of martial arts, I absolutely loved it,” Vera shared with ABS-CBN Sports. Directed by famed Filipino movie director Erik Matti, BuyBust also features veteran actors such as Anne Curtis and Victor Neri among others. The experience, Vera says, is a ‘dream come true’ for him. “Working with Direk Erik, Ms. Anne Curtis, Victor Neri, Tito Levi [Ignacio], you know just working with that group of people and seeing the level of where I want to be, projects are coming my way now, it’s, I don’t know how to describe it, I don’t know how to explain it,” he said, “it’s beyond a dream. Most people dream to just get into a movie, I was put into a movie with all of those superstars. All I can do is thank my blessings everyday that I was able to do something like that.” Being a life-long mixed martial artist, Vera is no stranger to pressure and performing in front of large audiences. Having to “perform” so to say, for his BuyBust director and co-stars however, he admits, was a different beast altogether. “What do you think?” Vera responded with a chuckle. “First movie out? Okay, the lead is Anne Curtis. The director is Erik Matti. Then the names just kept on rolling. The pressure was definitely there, but Direk Erik said I did really good with the pressure, I just didn’t want to let the team down, that’s how I felt the whole time, I just didn’t want to let anybody down. From the directors, to the production, the cast, the crew that was working on set, I didn’t want to mess up for anyone. Definitely pressure, but I think that’s what helped us get through it,” he continued. Asked if he expected BuyBust to be as big as it was, Vera admitted that he didn’t know what to expect. “I had no idea. This was my first anything, so I had no idea. I didn’t get nervous, I wasn’t nervous for the world premiere in New York, I wasn’t nervous about that until before we left. We might have been already on the plane when I asked Anne, ‘Is this your first one?’ and she was like ‘Yeah, this is my first one.’ When she said that, it’s like it hit me in the face. ‘Oh my God, oh my God this is a big deal!’ That’s when I started getting nervous. I couldn’t believe what was going on,” he said. The experience as a whole, Vera says, was not simply a reason to be thankful, but rather a reason to keep working and keep striving to get better. “I’m just lucky, I’m lucky and blessed, that’s why I don’t complain about anything, just keep going forward and I keep training hard,” Vera added, “I keep going to Tagalog classes, I keep going to acting workshops, I have no right to complain, all I can do is get better. There’s too many people who put their faith in me for me to fail, and I just wanna keep grinding and getting better, and I realized all of this before, during, and after the shoot.” For now, however, Vera says that he’s more than excited to make his long-awaited return to the ONE Championship stage. While there’s no announcement yet with regards to his next title defense, the champ hopes to be able to do it on the upcoming ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS card in Manila on November 23rd at the Mall of Asia Arena. The card also features a highly-anticipated ONE Lightweight World Championship bout between Filipino martial arts hero Eduard “Landslide” Folayang of Team Lakay and Singaporean knockout artist Amir Khan......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 15th, 2018