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Tony and Angel& rsquo;s & lsquo;Glorious& rsquo; sets social media ablaze

Tony and Angel& rsquo;s & lsquo;Glorious& rsquo; sets social media ablaze.....»»

Category: entertainmentSource: thestandard thestandardNov 7th, 2018

Ateneo s Fab 5: The Fearless Underdogs of UAAP Volleyball

Newly-appointed head coach Roger Gorayeb looked at his line-up heading into UAAP Season 71. A champion mentor of NCAA powerhouse San Sebastian College - Recoletos, Gorayeb had in his hands a gargantuan task of rebuilding Ateneo de Manila University women’s volleyball program. Just a few months before, Ronald Dulay, the mentor before him landed a trio of blue chip recruits who were fresh from a successful stint in the Palarong Pambansa. Angeline "Dzi" Gervacio, Fille Saint Cainglet and Jamenea "Jem" Ferrer just joined the Katipunan-based squad. Gervacio and Cainglet were products of St. Scholastica's College in Manila while Ferrer was a gem from Hope Christian School under girl’s volleyball guru Jerry Yee. Looking at his 15-woman line-up with the season just a few months ahead, Gorayeb knew he needed to do something drastic. The roster just won’t do. Talking to then athletic director Ricky Palou and team manager Tony Boy Liao, the mentor told the team officials that he intended to cut five players from the list. One could just imagine the shock in their faces. “Nakita ko may line-up pero player-playeran lang yung ganoon bang tipo, 15 ata yun. Sabi ko ‘Magtatanggal ako ng lima then magre-recruit ako,’” he said. The three rookies were in. Middle Bea Pascual, Kara Acevedo and libero Steph Gabriel retained their spots. He needed more. “Sa mga tinira kong players, si Kara Acevedo sabi niya, ‘Coach mayroong player ang ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) na gumraduate naka-exam na rito pasado.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sige papuntahin mo,’” said Gorayeb. It was Gretchen Ho. “Sa akin kasi ang talagang nagyaya sa akin si coach Ron Dulay. Si Kara Acevedo teammate ko and she’s been recruited by Ateneo. So one summer wala akong magawa naki-train lang ako noon tapos nagustuhan nila ang laro ko and then fourth year noong graduate na ako I passed the ACET then niyayaya na nila ako,” she said. “Then nagbago ng coach na si Coach Roger and dun niya ako nakita.”   “Pagdating ko ng March (sa Ateneo) wala na akong way para maka-recruit pa. Ang nangyari yung tatlo accepted na kaagad. Si Gretchen tinanong ko sabi ko, ‘ano ba ang laro mo?’ Sabi niya the usual panggitna, tres,” Gorayeb recalled. “So sinubukan ko pero ang laro niya tres hindi quick. Siya panggitna pero hindi quicker na gusto ko saka yung height niya (maliit). Kaya lang si Gretchen takbo ng takbo, mahilig magtatakbo so sabi ko sige pwede na yan. Wala namang player na during that time. So kinuha ko si Gretchen.” Gorayeb just needed just one more. “Ngayon nagkaroon ng STCAA (Southern Tagalog Calabarzon athletic association) eh kulang pa ako ng isa, wala akong panggitna. Ang gitna ko during that time si Bea lang tapos si Gretchen so wala akong pamalit. So naisipan ko may nakita ako sa STCAA,” he said. He spotted a lanky player from Canossa Academy-Lipa, Aillysse Nacachi. “Sabi ko kay Sir Tony pagtyagaan ko na lang ito kahit hindi naman kalakasan at wala naman na rin akong choice na makapili kasi rush ang pagdating ko dyan. Nakiusap lang sila sa akin na magbuo ako ng team kasi si Ronald nag-resign,” said Gorayeb. Another freshman could’ve had ended up with Ateneo, Hope’s libero Melissa Gohing. But a few obstacles prevented her from fulfilling her promise to join Ferrer in Ateneo. She instead chose to join the ladies in green and white in Taft.    SOMETHING PROMISING December 7, 2008. Far Eastern University Gym. Excitement filled the air. Fans, mostly volleyball purists and some who just came to support their classmates or were just curious to see a new spectacle after the basketball season ended, slowly settled in their seats for the women’s division’s second game. It was Adamson University, the previous year’s runner-up, which just visited the turf of their arch nemesis and defending champion FEU, which was led by that era’s finest and most popular volleybelle Rachel Anne Daquis. Fans wanted to see if the Lady Falcons still had the same firepower they had the previous season with the loss of top setter Janet Serafica and power hitter Sang Laguilles. A rookie-laden Ateneo squad should be easy pickings with Angela Benting, rookie Pau Soriano and libero Lizlee Anne Gata in the roster. Besides the Lady Falcons got the Lady Eagles’ number. Or so they thought. “Naalala ko nu’ng time namin sinasabi sa amin ng seniors namin na, ‘Hay naku ang lakas ng Adamson, never kami nanalo dyan,’” Cainglet, now happily married to film director Lino Cayetano and with three beautiful children, recalled.  But the Lady Eagles stunned Adamson in the opening set. The Lady Falcons took the next two frames. Ateneo stole the fourth.  “Ako naalala ko ano eh, parang alam namin na lahat kasi kami palaban. Nasa amin yun. Tapos binigyan kaming lahat ng chance to be in the first six so parang dream come true,” said Ho, now an ABS-CBN host. “Naalala ko rin na palaban kaming lahat kumbaga nothing to lose eh so ang ano namin, sumasabay kami sa laro and nu’ng nakita na namin na ‘Ay kaya pala natin ‘to guys. Kaya pala naming lumaban.’” Still, Adamson had the upper hand in experience. The Lady Falcons, used to pressure and were steady at crunch time, outlasted Ateneo.           The young Katipunan-based squad fell short, 25-22, 22-25, 15-25, 25-15, 8-15. But for the Fab 5, it was a loss that felt like a resounding victory. “Parang sobrang natutuwa kami and everybody in the crowd, kaya siguro kami natawag na Fab 5 kasi rookies kami pero kahit ganoon palaban kami,” said Ho. “Saka close game. Five sets yun.” However, it was the first of five five-set matches that Ateneo will drop that season including one in the second round against the Manilla Santos-bannered De La Salle University. “Pero ang problema di kami nananalo ng five sets. Parang ilan lang ang naipanalo namin na ganoon. Feeling ko na-overwhelm kami na ‘Uy nananalo tayo.’ May ganoong disbelief ng konti pero alam namin na may ibubuga kami,” said Ho. “Definitely, our rookie season was full of five-set matches. It was tough, we felt like we were so close, but still so far away. At some point, it gave us frustration also. We just couldn't figure out that time what is it that's still lacking because we couldn't win the five-set matches,” according to Nacachi. “People said, it was because the team was still so inexperienced. We still didn't have the tenacity unlike of those more matured teams. But we didn't take it as bad, it was a learning experience for us all at the end. We had to learn how to develop that finishing will to be able to win games like that in the future.” The Fab 5 finished their rookie season with a 6-8 slate at fifth spot.   ‘MAY MEDAL NA TAYO’ Gorayeb remembered on their second year the look on Pascual’s face in their last elimination game match against Adamson. Already wrapping up their first win over the Lady Falcons, Pascual was giddy. “Natatawa nga ako dyan kay Bea kasi papanalo na kami nu’n tapos sumesenyas na siya ng tres. Sabi ko, ‘Hoy anong ginagawa mo?’ Yun pala sobrang saya na niya kasi for the first time in 30 years magkaka-medal na sila,” he said. It was the most important match of the season for the Lady Eagles. With the Fab 5 already in their sophomore year, Ateneo was already making great strides. The Lady Eagles closed that season’s elims with five straight wins capped with a victory over Adamson. Ateneo posted a 10-4 win-loss mark to enter the Final Four legitimately. “Ang nangyari kasi nu’ng time nila Charo (Soriano) kaya sila nakapasok sa semis kasi may nag-squeal na si (Jacq) Alarca di pala naka-enroll nu’n kaya na-forfeit mga laro ng La Salle,” said Gorayeb. The Fab 5 proved that they were not just a bunch of much-hyped up pretty faces. They backed it up with their skills on court. It didn’t matter that Ateneo were swept by eventual champion University of Sto. Tomas in the Final Four.      But the podium finish of Season 72 was short-lived. Adamson got its revenge in the last game of Season 73 elims, bumping off the Lady Eagles in the podium finish. The loss put Ateneo in a collision course with the twice-to-beat DLSU, who could’ve completed an elims sweep if not only for a forfeited match against University of the East after UAAP found out that Carmela Garbin and Clarisse Yeung participated in a ‘ligang labas’ while the season was onoing, in the Final Four. Ateneo gave the Lady Spikers a scare before succumbing in another heartbreaking five-set match. The Lady Eagles finished fourth but that lone semis game gave Ateneo and its maturing Fab 5 enough experience to dream for something big – A ticket into the Finals.      ‘HINOG NA KAYO’ The first three years saw the gradual improvement for Ateneo. But Season 74 proved to be the turning point for the Fab 5. A fresh new recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school, who just completed a year of residency, came into picture and with the Fab 5 armed with years of experience, the Lady Eagles’ fate will forever be changed. Alyssa Valdez, a highly recruited open spiker just like Gervacio, Cainglet-Cayetano and Ferrer years back, gave renewed excitement for the Ateneo faithful. “Alyssa's joining with Ateneo was a great turning point for us. We needed as much support we can get, and Alyssa's entrance to the team was a great boost to the team's morale,” said Nacachi. “The girl is a powerhouse and we felt like with her presence, the team finally became solid.” “We were able to play around with the positions and the rotations, since we had different versatile open players who can also greatly play other roles,” she added. “We were also able to formulate a lot of plays and attacks because Alyssa can generally do all kinds; open, running, quick, name it all. She gave the team the power and the versatility that we previously lacked from the past seasons.” Social media was just gaining traction then but the Lady Eagles were already on the radar of volleyball purists through online forums. For the first time, Ateneo was considered a legitimate contender.   The Fab 5 proved it by winning 11 games in the elimination round, losing only to UST once and dropping two against the Lady Spikers. Valdez’s arrival gave Ferrer an even broader option on offense. It eased the scoring load off the shoulders of Cainglet and Gervacio, who was then moved to an opposite position. “I guess sakto lang din yung dating niya because by that time Kara Acevedo graduated so someone had to fill in her spot so coach Roger decided for me to move to utility or opposite,” said Gervacio. “And then sakto Alyssa naman could fill in the spot na other open spiker.” “So timing din na we had all the pieces put together at the right time,” she added. With a good performance in the elims despite missing a legit middle in Bea Pascual and the entry of Aerieal Patnongon barred by academic problems, Ateneo finished second and for the first-time was armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals. The Lady Eagles faced an experienced Tigresses side in the last stepladder semis stage. UST just came from a hard-fought four-set do-or-die match against FEU and were banking on their four-set win over Ateneo in the second round to force another sudden death. Ateneo’s date with destiny was sealed with a four-set win over the Tigresses, who then bid goodbye to Maika Ortiz and Judy Anne Caballejo. “Pinu-push na rin kami ni Coach Roger noon eh, ‘Hinog na kayo ngayon. Kasi dalawang taon na lang, kailangan makapasok na kayo sa Finals,’” said Ho. “Somehow senior na rin kami,” added Cainglet.  “Season 74 was really the target season for us to be in the finals and target even to win the championship,” according to Nacachi. “During this time, we were already thinking we could not afford to not go in the finals.” “So it was with our mindset and our level of commitment that we were able to finally reach our goal of reaching the finals,” she added. “We had enough experience that time already, and it was really time for us to show the level of game maturity the team had obtained from the past seasons.” But then they had to face an unbeaten team. Unscathed in 14 games, De La Salle University was poised to complete a perfect season. The Lady Eagles spoiled it. Ferrer outplayed DLSU setter Mika Esperanza, 57-42, in excellent sets as Ateneo handed the Lady Spikers its first loss after 25 straight victories in a come-from-behind 23-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-17, Finals opener win. Witnessed by 3,002 spectators inside the then The Arena in San Juan, all of the Fab 5 produced points. Cainglet had 19 behind Valdez’s 24, Gervacio scored 12, Ho had 10, Nacachi finished with five while Ferrer had one. Gorayeb made a big gambit and it worked. “Dahil sa wala kong panggitna, yung laro namin ng La Salle, ginawa kong quicker si Alyssa. Kasi si Alyssa nakakapalo. Nagulat si Ramil (de Jesus) dun.” It was a big win. A huge upset. Unfortunately, Ateneo needed to win two more.  DLSU held a thrice-to-beat advantage.   THAT SWAG After Ateneo made a miracle in Game One, fans began to feel a new rivalry born. The attendance spiked. From just 3,000 spectators, the gate attendance more than doubled its size. The interest was there. Fans of traditional powers began to notice the Lady Eagles as a rising team. For the first time, a squad with no previous championship experience except for a title during the Marcos era in a different collegiate league, made a giant jolt. Everybody wanted to see what these girls would do next.    The Lady Eagles, still high on adrenaline after their Game 1 upset, took the opening set in Game 2. But just like in their opener, a well-experienced DLSU squad adjusted to take the next three frames to move a step closer to a repeat crown. With then Rookie of the Year Ara Galang, Season Most Valuable Player Aby Marano, an intimidating Michele Gumabao and a very efficient Finals MVP Cha Cruz teaming up for the kill, the Lady Spikers ripped Ateneo apart in Game 3 in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, 25-13. “Sabi nga ni Dzi na nadyan na lahat eh. So I guess noong Season 74 nandoon na pero may kulang pa rin,” said Ho. “I guess we we’re able to make it to the Finals pero wala pa kaming championship experience.” Ferrer agreed. "Siguro ang kulang yung championship experience kasi nasa La Salle na ‘yun eh. Ilang years na silang nagpa-finals, nag-champion and for Ateneo doon pa lang namin sinimulan," said the three-time Best Setter. Lacking championship experience is one thing, but Ateneo during that time wasn’t ready for DLSU’s most feared weapon: the Lady Spikers’ swag.  “They have that swag,” said Gervacio. “Everyone knows about it naman. It’s really coach Ramil’s style talaga kasi as I remember when we were first year, four out of six of the players inside the court were rookies and even if we go against the powerhouses UST, FEU, Adamson, hindi sila yung nakikita nyo na kapag championship na rivalry, na swag, angas, stare down. Pero La Salle talaga kahit sino ang kalaban nila they’ll bring that attitude inside the court.” That Finals series cemented a new rivalry that will become one of the most celebrated in the sport. “I think it also helped that Ateneo-La Salle basketball didn’t face also,” said Gervacio. “Siyempre nandoon ang hunger for the rivalry eh and timely din na its been Ateneo-La Salle na rin sa volleyball.”   CLOSING A CHAPTER The Fab 5 were now in their fifth and last year. They wanted to leave a winning legacy. The pieces were already there. Gorayeb had at his disposal five seniors, a rising star in Valdez, a sophomore middle in Amy Ahomiro, a versatile Ella De Jesus, a steady libero in Denden Lazaro and a new kind of weapon – a massive crowd that can turn any venue into a sea of blue.              As expected, the second installment of the Ateneo-DLSU rivalry was set into place. Both sweeping their semis opponents. The Lady Spikers crushed National University while the Lady Eagles shot down Adamson. Game One was a shocker. DLSU heading into the Finals are on a 14-game roll but were stunned in the first two sets with Ateneo stepping on the gas. But a string of miscues, mostly from the service line, did the Lady Eagles in as they allowed the Lady Spikers to force a decider. DLSU, smelling blood, punished Ateneo to eke out a 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6, victory inside the Big Dome witnesses by 17,342-strong gate attendance. Then the series transferred to a newly-built, state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena that drew a crowd of 18,799. The first two frames were frustrating for the Lady Eagles.   Ateneo came back to life in the third set to gain a 9-5 lead. But DLSU easily erased it with Ateneo crumbling under pressure. The Lady Spikers were on an onslaught. Sophomore Galang pushed DLSU at matchpoint with a cold-blooded ace that went in a few inches from the baseline. The score, 24-16. It was a tense moment for the Fab 5. A long rally ensued in the next play. Gervacio, with all her might pounded a kill. Her hand making a great contact on the ball off Ferrer’s backset.     Smack! The ball ricocheted off the hands of DLSU’s Wensh Tiu before falling on the same landing area of Gervacio, who tried to dive for a dig together with Lazaro. DLSU swept Ateneo, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16. Game over.          “Kahit hindi kami nanalo alam naming ibinigay namin ang lahat namin, all-out talaga kaya wala kaming pagsisisi,” said Ho. It was the end of the Fab 5 era, but they left more than what any of them could have imagined. "I remember so many people or fans telling me that they started really watching UAAP Volleyball because of our batch. And that is really touching and fulfilling to know. Knowing that you were able to leave an impact like that to people. We were not able to bring even a single championship to our school, Ateneo, but we were able to touch a lot of people's hearts despite that," Nacachi shared. The Fab 5 closed a colorful chapter of Ateneo volleyball in tears. They were there during the Lady Eagles’ birth pains. They labored. They shed tears, blood and sweat. They laid the foundation for something big. The Fab 5 planted the seeds that would eventually bear fruit and would change the course of Ateneo women’s volleyball program forever. Glory didn’t happen during their time. It started in theirs.    Amidst the roar of the crowd, the falling confetti, banging of drums and the echoing chant of ‘Animo La Salle’ from the sea of green, the Fab 5 hugged each other tight. They found comfort in each other. It was their time to say goodbye. For those who remained – Valdez, Lazaro, Ahomiro, De Jesus – the defeat added fuel to their already blazing desire to bring glory for the blue and white. They were the next in line, heirs to unfinished business. WATCH: FAB 5 Reunion Part 1 and Part 2 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 20th, 2018

PVL: I don’t care –- Almadro on bashers

Ateneo-Motolite head coach Oliver Almadro isn’t bothered with the flak he received from fans on social media after giving Deanna Wong a tongue-lashing Saturday in a straight sets loss to BanKo in the Premier Volleyball League Season 2 Open Conference. “I don’t care!” Almadro quickly answered even before reporters could finish their question about him trending on social media as he entered the pressroom for a post-game interview Sunday. Twitter went abuzz Saturday night following a clip during Ateneo-Motolite’s timeout where the very animated Almadro lashed out at Wong as the Lady Eagles trailed the Perlas Spikers, 7-11, in the third set with BanKo controlling the match, 2-0. Grabe naman. pic.twitter.com/H3CtjifrnI — PINOY BALIBOLISTA (@pinoybalibol) November 10, 2018 Fans went to social media to express their criticisms on Almadro. But the mentor, who steered the Blue Eagles to three straight UAAP titles, just brushed everything off.      “Few people don’t matter for me, what’s important for me is I use them as our strength,” said Almadro, whose squad recovered from a 24-26, 22-25, 16-25 loss to the Perlas Spikers with a 25-23, 16-25, 25-14, 25-20 win over Adamson-Akari. “I use them as a creative criticism for me and of course I don’t put energy in the things I don’t have control rather I put all my energy at things I have control, which is my team so yun ang importante.” Almadro said that even before the game his team was already dealing with off-court issues. “Natatawa ako kasi hindi naman nila alam ‘yung problema namin e, we have internal problems prior to the match medyo pagod kasi kami. Maraming players ang hindi dapat a-attend yesterday because of biglaang ‘Binhi’ it’s a school activity so talaga three players, four players will not come yesterday so everybody’s bothered,” he explained. “So they don’t know Deanna is bothered, everybody’s bothered pero good thing, Ateneo community, Ateneo professors, Binhi for mentors are really supporting the program so they opted to finish the Binhi earlier so nakapunta lahat pero of course bothered.” The mentor admitted that he took some time reading the fans’ reactions but kept firm on his action to discipline the UAAP Season 80 Best Setter.    “I read all of that but what matters for me sabi ko nga I will sacrifice my kindness so that my players will know what is right or wrong because life is cruel if you will just be kind all the time, they will not understand what is right or wrong,” he said. “As a parent sometimes I have to sacrifice kindness because life is cruel in the end because they have to know is right or wrong.” He scolded Wong, Almadro added, so that the playmaker will know her mistakes for her to address it. Wong only had 13 excellent sets out of 64 attempts against BanKo with five markers and seven digs. To make amends for her subpar performance, Wong tallied 28 excellent sets with four markers against the Lady Falcons. “Now Deanna is in the right position now. Deanna is gambling with the set now. We are receiving right today, so ibig sabihin we learned yesterday,” Almadro pointed out. Upon learning about the bashing he received, Wong apologized to Almadro, who then told his ward not to worry about it. “Deanna cried to me ‘coach sorry’. Bakit ka magso-sorry? It's my job,” he said. “And it’s your job to play now what's important is kaya mong bitbitin yun kaya mong dalhin.” “And what did she do now? She played well, it’s because hindi kami nagpapa-bother sa mga nandiyan. What’s important for us are those who believe in us, those who fight for us win or lose,” Almadro added. “I will always reiterate to my players right motivation, right motivation every time because ‘pag pinasukan ng wrong motivation ang utak mawawala sa pwesto, hindi kikilos. It’s because walang meaning sa ginagawa so kailangan talaga right motivation.” Almadro still gave some kind words to his bashers.   “Those who do not support us when we lose, it’s okay with us. We still pray for them,” he said.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 11th, 2018

Q& A: Hornets Walker starts season in scoring groove

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com With the new season underway, and with his game as hot as almost anyone to start, Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker was asked what impressed or surprised him about the first 10 days or so of 2018-19. “Nothing besides my own play,” Walker said, laughing after a shootaround Friday (Saturday, PHL time). “Nothing besides seeing my name near the top of the NBA scoring, which is pretty weird.” Eh, maybe not so weird. Walker, a two-time All-Star, is the Hornets’ all-time leading scorer. At 28, the former ninth overall pick in the 2011 Draft is in his prime as a player. The 41 points he dropped on Milwaukee on opening night and the fact he’s gone for at least 23 every game since (with three more games of 30 or more) seems like the next logical step. It earned him the season’s first Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor and as Week 2 ended, his 31.7 ppg trailed only Golden State’s Stephen Curry (33.9) and Portland’s Damian Lillard (33.8). “It was [gratifying]. Who wouldn’t want it to keep going?” Walker told NBA.com. “I know teams will be gearing up on me and double-teaming me. But I just want to win, man. I want to get back to the playoffs any way possible. I don’t care what I average the rest of the year.” Walker, in the final year of a four-year, $48 million deal he signed in 2014, never has shot the ball so well -- 40.5 percent from the arc, 46.6 percent overall. Neither has he shot it so often and from such range. Walker is averaging 23 shots, including more than 11 3-point attempts. His usage rate of 33.5 trails only Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (35.1) and his 29.4 PER puts him ahead of Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Is it sustainable? That was one of multiple topics Walker talked about with NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner: *** Steve Aschburner: On Media Day, you made it sound as if you would hit this season hard from the start, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen. How do you explain it? Kemba Walker: I knew I had a good summer. I put in the work and the time and the effort to get better. And I’m healthy -- I haven’t felt healthy like this in a long time. Over the last three summers, I wasn’t healthy, having knee surgeries and ‘scopes. So I was rehabbing. This summer, I had a chance to work on my game. Being able to work on my shooting over a long period of time really helped as well. SA: You took as many 3FGAs last season as you shot your first two seasons combined. Now you’re launching them at a pace (11.3 per game) to break Steph Curry’s single season record (886). Is this a conscious change by you or a reaction to the league’s preferred style? KW: Both. The league definitely has changed from the time I first came in. Everybody’s shooting more threes, no matter their position. Me, I’ve just become more confident. I worked on my shot tremendously to get to this point. I’m comfortable now shooting it, whenever I can get to my spots. SA: What’s your preference -- pull-up threes, spot-up threes or those halfcourt threes like Steph takes? KW: Not at all [laughing]. Steph is a different type of shooter, maybe the best to ever shoot the basketball. But I’m comfortable shooting them however. It doesn’t matter. If I can get ‘em up, I try to make ‘em. But I do love for my teammates to create for me and get me some easy ones. It does take some stress, some pressure, off of me. SA: Your coach, James Borrego, has talked of using you more off the ball. Does that suit you? KW: It really helps. It gets me a little bit of rest, and it opens up a different dynamic in my game. As well as giving other guys a chance to have the ball in their hands and create for others. But the main thing is, it just keeps me fresher, which is huge for me. SA: What’s your take on the Charlotte rookies? KW: Oh, I’m a huge fan. Devonte’ [Graham] really hasn’t gotten a chance to play yet, but I’ve always been a huge fan, even when he was at Kansas. Just love his game, love his poise. And that’s skill -- I don’t think people understand how much of a skill it is to be poised, especially at a young age. It’s something that I didn’t have, something that took me a very long time to get. Miles [Bridges], he’s a hard-playing kid. Smart, always in the right spot on both ends of the floor. I can see him getting more minutes as the season progresses. SA: Malik Monk is a second-year guy who didn’t have the most satisfying rookie season. What do you see from him, and can he become a reliable backcourt mate? KW: Oh yeah, he’s growing. Every single day. His efficiency will come. He needs time to learn, needs time to develop, to figure out where his shots are going to come. He’s getting better already. He’s passing the ball really well, getting other guys involved. He needs to know we need him every night, with him coming off the bench for us. SA: Your rookie season was about as challenging as could be -- delayed by a lockout, rushed through training camp and a quickie preseason, and then a 7-59 experience. Did that set you back as a player? KW: Nah, it wasn’t a setback. It was humbling. I took it as a point in my career where I was going through adversity. It was tough -- nobody likes to lose -- and through my basketball career I felt I had been a winner. But I just stuck to it, just kept working hard. SA: You said you don’t want to talk anymore about your free agency next summer -- and your general manager, Mitch Kupchak, is on record saying, “Our intention is for him to end his career in a Hornet uniform.” Some people wonder what the market might be, though, given how many terrific point guards are out there. So let’s address that another way: what is it like competing with all those rivals? KW: It’s unbelievable, man. Every night. Every single night, somebody is there to … I can’t even explain it. Every team, there’s so many great point guards out there who are just ready to showcase their talents. There are young guys ready to show how good they are. Yeah, it’s a point guard league. SA: We’re seeing more and more teams switching everything defensively. How hard is that on a 6-foot-1 point guard? KW: It’s … tough sometimes. Some matchups, you don’t want to get. But I rely on my teammates to help out as much as possible. The most challenging part probably is boxing guys out. But I’m always up for the challenge. SA: Some players talk or at least play like defense is optional. Your thoughts? KW: Not at all. I’m paid to do it all. It’s not even about being paid -- I’m just competitive. I want to play defense. I want to score. I want to do it all. SA: I’ve often wondered what it’s like to play for the team that Michael Jordan owns. Other teams, the owners aren’t basketball experts. But that’s not the case for the Hornets. Is it intimidating? KW: I wouldn’t say intimidating. I love it. I want my owner to have played. He knows what’s going on, he knows how it feels after losses, after wins. Traveling. Being tired. He’s been through it. He knows what it takes to win games in this league. Even though basketball’s a bit different now from when he played, but still, he knows. I feel like I’m at an advantage because I can go to him, I can ask him things. Or he can just come to me, or text me or call me to let me know things. And let me know how to get past things. No, it’s an honor for us, it’s an honor for me to have him as an owner. SA: How is basketball different from when Jordan played? KW: For me, just the threes. A lot of bigs shooting threes. The bigs are different in general, you know? Back with MJ, I feel like the shooting guards and the forwards were dominant, and it was more of a post-up league. Now it’s a point guard’s league for the most part. And it’s not a post-up league much anymore. There are so many threes up in the air. SA: Do you little guys resent the stretch-fours and stretch-fives coming out onto your turf these days? KW: Yeah, man, it’s crazy. But it’s fun. Just seeing the development and the change. Even from when I first got in the league it wasn’t like that. But guys are so talented nowadays, it’s unbelievable. SA: Tell me about the Big Brothers Big Sisters work you do, mentoring four kids -- two boys and two girls -- in the Charlotte area. KW: Just to be in their lives. I take ‘em out to eat, take ‘em to Dave & Buster’s every now and then. It’s fun. I try to avoid the cameras. It’s not for social media. It’s not for anything but them. The kids are doing great in school. That’s the biggest progress, that’s what you want. They’ve really started to love basketball now -- they come to games sometimes. It’s been fun to see them grow, each and every time I see them. One of the kids, his mom passed away. I know it’s been a struggle for him. For me to be able to help get his mind off of that for a time, just be there for him, that’s definitely rewarding for me but I hope it’s more rewarding for him. SA: You’re in your eighth season, and you’ve played a total of 11 playoff games. What stands out for you about the postseason? KW: I remember every game. We played Miami twice. The first year [2014] was when they had LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. They swept us, but I thought we played really well. Obviously it wasn’t enough -- they had three Hall of Famers. I remember the level of intensity those guys played with. I remember telling myself, the next time I get to the playoffs, I’m going to try my best to play like that. The next time [2016], that’s what I did. People thought we might get swept again, but we went to seven games. It was really fun. The whole atmosphere was so intense. I loved it. You have to take your game to a whole ‘nother level. You have to play hard every possession, every second of those games. The competitiveness, the toughness, everything goes up. SA: A problem that team had, it still has -- you’re carrying such a big load offensively. Do you need a second reliable scorer, and is that guy on the roster now? KW: Of course. We need it. I’m not going to have huge games every night. It’s on one of these guys to step up. I think guys are still searching for their roles at this point, especially with a new coach, new system. We’re still learning. But as the season progresses, I think they will. We have guys who are capable of putting points up for us. SA: The All-Star Game this season is in Charlotte. You’ve been selected twice. What would you think of playing in that game in your market? KW: That’d be amazing. To be in Charlotte, the team that drafted me, the team I’ve played with for eight years now, it would be a really special moment. Hopefully I can get there. It’d be fun. A really important and fun moment in my career. 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 NewsOct 30th, 2018

Q& A: Hall of Fame Bob Lanier

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Bob Lanier turned 70 Monday, a big number for a big man. In fact, that number can be linked to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer in several ways. It was in 1970 that Lanier was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, selected out of St. Bonaventure by the Detroit Pistons. And it was the 70s as the decade in which Lanier excelled, earning seven of his eight All-Star appearances while averaging 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds for the Pistons. Dinosaurs ruled the NBA landscape back then, with Lanier achieving his success against the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Dave Cowens, Willis Reed, Nate Thurmond, Elvin Hayes, Artis Gilmore and other legendary big men. Yet it was Lanier who was the MVP of the 1974 All-Star Game, who won the one-off, 32-contestant 1-on-1 championship tournament run by ABC in 1973 as part of its national broadcast schedule and who (with Walton) got name-dropped by Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980 Hollywood comedy “Airplane!” [“I'm out there busting my buns every night!” he tells a kid as “co-pilot Roger Murdock.” “Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!”] Lanier’s Detroit teams never got beyond the conference semifinals, though, so in 1979-80 he asked to be traded. In February 1980, the Pistons dealt him to Milwaukee for Kent Benson and a future draft pick. With the Bucks, who averaged 59 victories in Lanier’s four full seasons there, Lanier flirted with his greatest team success, yet never reached The Finals. He was 36 when bad knees and other injuries forced him to retire. Those knees still are trouble, preventing Lanier from attending this year’s Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony -- he was elected in 1992 -- and limiting his ability to travel from his home in Arizona to catch his daughter Khalia’s volleyball games at USC. But the man nicknamed “The Dobber” was as chatty and opinionated as ever in a phone conversation last week with NBA.com: NBA.com: The league still keeps you busy, doesn’t it? Bob Lanier: Well, it did. But about 15 months ago, I had knee replacement surgery on my right leg and that is not going very well. It still aches and it gets me unbalanced. That’s what I was trying to get away from. The surgeon said mine was the most difficult one he’d ever done. I was supposed to get the left one done but I couldn’t, because the right one was bothering me so much. I can’t even stand to hit a golf ball. NBA.com: You were part of the original Stay In School initiative, if I recall correctly. BL: I was involved with a little bit of everything from the time David [Stern, longtime NBA commissioner] first called me in 1988. It started off with wanting me to do something for kids who stayed in school. We did “P-R-I-D-E,” with P for positive mental attitude, R for respect, I for intelligent choice-making, D for dreaming and setting goals, and E for effort and education. It was really amazing. The first year, we were talking about giving out 25,000 Starter jackets for kids who came to the rally. Shoot, we needed double that amount, the numbers we got. Everything is kind of under the same umbrella now with NBA Cares. Kathy Behrens [president, social responsibility and player programs] has done a wonderful job of taking this to a whole ‘nother level, her and Adam [Silver, NBA commissioner]. NBA.com: Have you ever had one of those kids whose lives you touched reach out to you years later? BL: [Laughs]. You know what, I’m laughing because you don’t expect to hear from anybody. The only time that somebody really validated something we were doing was when I wrote those books. (The “Hey, Li’l D!” series of kids books, loosely based on Lanier’s childhood adventures. Co-authored with Heather Goodyear in 2003, the Scholastic Paperbacks books still are available.) I was on a plane and one of the passengers asked me to sign the book for her, for her child. I was so taken aback by that, I was shaking while I was signing the autograph. That was really good -- I thought, maybe I did something right. NBA.com: But none of the Stay In School kids? BL: Look, in our business, in community relations and social responsibility areas, you don’t really … when you’re building houses for people, the folks who work with you side by side give you a thumbs up and say thank you before it’s over. When we do the playgrounds, we use kids in the neighborhood who are going to enjoy playing in it and having dreams -- they’re thankful. But there’s so much need out here. When you’re traveling around to different cities and different countries, you see there are so many people in dire straits that the NBA can only do so much. We make a vast, vast difference, but there’s always so much more to do. NBA.com: I know you’re not in it for the thank yous. BL: No. The only thing that stands out to me is from when I was still playing in Milwaukee and I was getting gas at a station on, I think it was Center St. A guy came up to me and said, “My dad is sick. And you’re his favorite player. Could you come up to the house and say hello to him? The house is right next door.” So I went over, I went upstairs. The guy was laying there in his bed. His son said, “This is Bob,” and he was like, “I know.” And he just had a little smile, a twinkle in his eye. And he grabbed my hand and squeezed it. And we said a little prayer. About two weeks later, his dad had died. And he left a card at the Bucks office, just saying “Thank you for making one of my dad’s final days into a good day.” NBA.com: It probably wasn’t, and isn’t, uncommon for you to be spotted out in public like that. At your size (6-foot-11, 250 pounds as a player). BL: As time passes on, people know you at first because you’re a player. Then you stop playing. And 10 years after, when a player like Shaquille O’Neal comes along, they know him and figure you must be Shaq’s dad. “You’re wearing them big shoes.” I just go along with it. “Yeah, I’m Shaq’s dad!” NBA.com: That has to sting, seeing as how Shaq took your title for the NBA’s biggest sneakers. You were famous for your size-22s. BL: Yeah, he sent me a pair one time and I think they were 23s. For some reason, I recall he would wear 23s and three pairs of socks or something instead of the 22s. NBA.com: Isn’t it sobering how quickly sports fans forget even distinctive-looking players such as yourself? BL: Absolutely correct. But that’s why we in the NBA and at the players association have to do a better job of passing down the history of our game. In a way that they’ll absorb it. Not necessarily that they’ll have to read it – it could be in a video game form, because that seems to hold interest a lot. NBA.com: You have been as busy in your post-playing career for the NBA as you ever were while playing, right? BL: I’ve really been blessed. You know this story: I started serving people with my mother [Nattie Mae] at church. Getting food to people who were sick or needy, taking it to the hospital, taking it to people’s houses or feeding them right after church. My mother was a Seventh Day Adventist and she was in the church all the time. She had me and my sister and a bunch of kids, we would all be there every Saturday. You start off doing it not only because your mother tells you to, but the food was good. Then David asked me to come help with the Stay In School, which was the start of it all. If I hadn’t graduated from college, I probably would never have gotten an opportunity to do that with the NBA. Plus, the amazing number of young people I’ve met around the country, around the world, that I think I’ve touched … some lives. I can’t say I touched everybody, but some. I always had a knack of selecting -- when I’d call up kids to help me with the presentation -- a girl or a boy who needed it. It’s amazing how many times a teacher has said to me, “You picked Joe” or “You picked Dorothy, and that’s a really difficult kid. You made them feel good.” You never let a kid fail. NBA.com: You never were a shy and retiring type. What do you think of the NBA these days? BL: I’ll tell you what, I wish that I were playing now. It’s not as physical a sport. You can do stuff anywhere in the world. You can make tons of money off the court -- I can’t imagine how much I’d make with a speaker deal and those big-ass sneakers of mine. The only thing I would not like about this era is that you’ve got to be so conscious of social media. And people taking photos of you when you don’t know they’re taking them. And having those things that zoom over your home and take pictures of your house. That part I wouldn’t like at all. NBA.com: It’s hard enough to avoid the public eye at your size. By the way, are you as tall as you used to be? BL: No, no. I remember standing next to Magic [Johnson] last year at some function we had, and I was looking at him eye-to-eye. I said, “Damn, I thought I was 6-11 and you were 6-9. You look like you’re taller than me now.” NBA.com: You might have fared well today, with the range you had on your jump shot. A big man like you or Bob McAdoo would fit right in. BL: But Mac was a true forward and I was a true center. With the game the way it is now, I think guys like he or I -- Dave Cowens, too -- could shoot from outside, inside, open up the lanes, make good passes. I say that gingerly with Mac, because every time it touched his hands it was going up. He’s my boy but that’s the truth. NBA.com: Wayne Embry, the NBA lifer as a player and executive, recently said to me about the current style of play, “C’mon, the big man likes to play too.” The game has gotten so much smaller. BL: I kind of like this game a little bit. If you’re a big who has skills, it helps to stretch the floor. You can always post up, if you’ve got a big can post up. But now you’ve got these bigs who are elongated forwards. Boogie Cousins is probably our last post-up big that I’m aware of. I think I just saw him on TV somewhere making about 10 3-pointers in a row. NBA.com: Any team or individuals to whom you pay particular attention? BL: I like watching ‘Bron [LeBron James], obviously. I like this Golden State team, too, because they play so well together. I like the kid [Anthony] Davis. With Boogie, my concern is whether he’ll be healthy this season. NBA.com: What’s your take on the “super team” approach of the past few years? BL: I think both of ‘em have their sides. Back in the day, we would never do that. There wasn’t a lot of huggin’ and kissin’, all that stuff, when you were competing. You were out there to kick each other’s butt. But with AAU ball, it’s become guys playing together on these premier teams at all these tournaments around the country. So they get to know each before they ever go to college. NBA.com: Do you think today’s players appreciate the work you and other alumni did to build the league? BL: I think everything evolves. The best thing I could say as a player is, you want to leave the game in better shape than when you came into it. You want to leave a legacy, a better brand. You want players to be making more money. You want the league to be stronger. And since we’re partner in this, it’s important that those kinds of things happen. NBA.com: The 1970s seems to be pretty neglected, as far as NBA memories and highlights. At times it’s as if the league went from Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics dynasty to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird carrying the NBA into the 80s. The league had some popularity and PR issues back then, but eight different franchises won championships that decade. BL: Back in the 70s, a lot of people were feeling that the NBA was drug-infested. Too black. That’s one of the reasons the league came up with its substance abuse program, one of the first in sports to do that. The point was not to punish guys but to help guys who needed it to get clean. As that passed, then Larry and Magic came in. The media money started going up, and then Michael [Jordan] came in in ’84 and everything took off from there. So I can see how you could kind of forget about the 70s. NBA.com: And yet now folks complain that each season starts with only three or four teams seen as capable of winning the title. Why was it different then? BL: I think everybody competed a lot. And guys didn’t change teams as much, so when you were facing the Bulls or the Bucks or New York, you had all these rivalries. Lanier against Jabbar! Jabbar against Willis Reed! And then [Wilt] Chamberlain, and Artis Gilmore, and Bill Walton! You had all these great big men and the game was played from inside out. It was a rougher game, a much more physical game that we played in the 70s. You could steer people with elbows. They started cutting down on the number of fights by fining people more. Oh, it was a rough ‘n’ tumble game. NBA.com: There were, of course, fewer teams. Seventeen when you arrived, for instance. BL: There was so much talent on every team. Every night you were playing against somebody really damn good, and if you didn’t come to play, they’d whip your behind. NBA.com: You know, I’m surprised I never heard about you being the target of a bidding war with the old ABA? Did they ever come after you? BL: Got approached at the end of my junior year at St. Bonaventure. They offered me a nice contract. But I wanted to stay in school because I thought we had a real chance at winning the NCAA title. NBA.com: Gee, that almost sounds quaint by today’s get-the-money standards. BL: Yeah. Well, I trusted them as a league -- it was the New York Nets, a guy named Roy Boe -- but I knew we had a really good team. And we did. We got to the Final Four. Then I got hurt. NBA.com: You went down against Villanova, your tournament ended by a torn ligament. I’m surprised, looking back, you were considered healthy enough to get drafted No. 1 and have a pretty strong rookie season. BL: I wasn’t healthy when I got to the league. I shouldn’t have played my first year. But there was so much pressure from them to play, I would have been much better off -- and our team would have been much better served -- if I had just sat out that year and worked on my knee. NBA.com: From the Final Four to the start of the NBA season isn’t much time to rehab a knee injury. Then you played 82 games, averaging 15.6 points and 8.1 rebounds in 24.6 minutes. BL: That was stupid. My knee was so sore every single day that it was ludicrous to be doing what I was doing. I wanted to play, but I was smart and the team was smart, everybody would have benefited. NBA.com: Did you ever fully recover? I know your later years were hampered by knee pain. BL: Oh, I fully recovered. Going into my third year, I think I had my legs underneath me a lot. NBA.com: Your coach as a rookie was Butch van Breda Kolff, who had butted heads with Wilt Chamberlain in Los Angeles. Did you have any issues with him? BL: He was a pretty tough coach, but he was a good-hearted person. As a matter of fact, he had a place down on the Jersey shore where he invited me to come and run on the beach to help strengthen my leg. I went there for about 2 1/2 weeks. I liked Butch a lot. NBA.com: Your Detroit teams had you as an All-Star nearly every season and of course Hall of Fame guard Dave Bing. Did you think you’d achieve more? BL: I think ’73-74 was our best team [52-30]. We had Dave, Stu Lantz, John Mengelt, Chris Ford, Don Adams, Curtis Rowe, George Trapp. But then for some reason, they traded six guys off that team before the following year. I just didn’t feel we ever had the leadership. I think we had [seven] head coaches in my 10 years there. That was a rough time, because at the end of every year, you’d be so despondent. NBA.com: So by the time you were traded to Milwaukee, you were ready to go? BL: I wanted the trade. But until you start getting on that plane and leaving your family and start crying, you don’t realize it’s a part of your life you’re leaving. I got to Milwaukee and it was freezing outside. But the people gave me a standing ovation and really made me feel welcome. It was the start of a positive change. I just wish I had played with that kind of talent around me when I was young. The only time I thought I had it was that ’73-74 team they messed up. But if I had had Marques [Johnson] and Sidney [Moncrief] and all of them around me? Damn. NBA.com: I got my start around those Bucks teams, and feel I often have to remind people how good they were deep into the ‘80s. You just couldn’t get past the Celtics and the Sixers in the same year, in a loaded Eastern Conference. BL: They were always a man better than us. We had to play our best to beat them and they didn’t have to play their best to beat us. It haunts me to this day. NBA.com: How did you like playing for Bucks coach Don Nelson? BL: Loved him. It was just like playing for your big brother. He was a player’s coach, for sure. He’d been through it, won championships. Knew what it was like to be a role player, knew what it took to be a prime-time player. Didn’t get upset over pressure. He was just a stand-up guy. NBA.com: As we talk, I’m looking at my office wall and I have that famous All-Star poster from 1977, painted by Leroy Neiman. That game was notable, too, because it was the first one after the NBA/ABA merger. So you had Julius Erving, George Gervin, Dan Issel and those other ABA stars flooding their talent into the league. BL: You know what? I think you could put 10 players from the 70s into the league today and be as competitive as anybody. Think of the guys who could really play and were athletic. And with the rule changes, that would make us even more effective. “Ice’ [Gervin]. Julius. David Thompson, a huge athlete. I don’t know who could mess with Kareem at all. NBA.com: What about Nate Archibald? BL: You took the words right out of my mouth. Tiny! He could scoot up and down and do what he needed to do. These guys knew the game, they played the basics of it so well. NBA.com: No one disputes the advances in training, nutrition, travel and rest. But in raw ability, you think it was close to today? BL: One thing I will say about this group of young men, they seem to be more athletic than we were. They seem to be able to cover so much more ground. Whatever that new step is, the Eurostep? And another thing they do differently know is, they brush-pick. They brush and then they pop. You rarely see a guy do a solid pick and then roll with the guy on his back to cause a mismatch. Everybody’s looking to open the floor to shoot 3’s. This has become the weapon of choice now. NBA.com: No rings for that Milwaukee team from which you retired has meant, so far, no Hall of Fame for Marques Johnson or Sidney Moncrief, the two stars.   BL: That’s what rings hollow in your ears. You hear people saying, “Where’s the ring? The ring!” And we don’t have any rings. That’s what we play for. NBA.com: Didn’t stop your enshrinement though. BL: They must have been blind, crippled and crazy, huh? It’s a short crop of brotherhood that gets in there. I just wish there was more time on those weekends where we could spend time just talking with one another. You rarely see each other, and it would be nice to have a quiet room where you could just re-hash old times and plays, and maybe have your family so your grandkids could listen to Earl the Pearl tell about this or [Bill] Walton tell about that. Just rehashing stuff that brought people a lot of joy. 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 NewsSep 11th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

WATCH: Pinoy Steph Curry fan goes viral for defending idol to his family

The NBA Finals is serious business for Filipinos. When only two teams remain, our basketball-crazed nation is split in half in rooting for the two squads in contention to take the championship. The demarcation line may even go through a household, dividing members of a family for the duration of the championship round. In the case of the last four Finals, it’s been either the Golden State Warriors, or the Cleveland Cavaliers. The rivalry is so well-known that the allegiance for each team doesn’t even spare anyone, as seen in a viral video that’s making the rounds on social media since Game 1 of the NBA Finals. In the clip posted by a Facebook user named ‘Xabelle Villamor’ last June 1, a kid seen desperately crying while wiping his tears away with the shirt off his back. What first seemed like a terrible sight was actually more lighthearted and somewhat comical as, the kid was actually emotional because his family was hating on Stephen Curry for being so damn good at playing basketball. While bullying is never good, they are family, and they are fighting over a sport so deeply-rooted in our psyche that feeling for your respective teams is actually a good sign. The video is just one of many instances where being a fan hurts, and no one can deny its relatability, as it has already garnered over 1.8 million views, over 36 thousand shares, and 13 thousand reactions on Facebook as of press time. The kid may have the last laugh, though, as Golden State has taken a commanding 2-0 lead over Cleveland after a strong 122-103 victory in Game 2. And it was Curry who shot them to move closer to another title, as the Splash Brother drilled nine three-pointers -- an NBA Finals record -- on his way to a game-high 33 points. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 5th, 2018

Aging like fine wine, James shines when it matters most

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 26th, 2018

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

Bago magsalita, tumulong na muna – De Jesus on critics

National women’s volleyball team head coach Ramil De Jesus doesn’t care what bashers and critics say on social media. They can say whatever they want to say. De Jesus doesn’t look at social media platforms anyway. Holding the reins of the national team is an ‘unhealthy and dangerous’ job especially with Filipino volleyball fans not holding back with their opinions on social media. But unlike the past national squad mentors, De Jesus received a relatively positive response from rabid fans when he was formally introduced Friday during the tryout called by Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. at the Arellano University gym in Legarda.         “Well ako, hindi ako ma-social media na tao,” said De Jesus, a 10-time UAAP women’s volleyball champion coach of the De La Salle Lady Spikers. “So, kung ano ‘yung gusto nilang sabihin, pwede namang sabihin,” he added. “Akin naman, hindi mawawala ang critics, and ‘yan lagi ‘yan.” De Jesus is making a return stint with the PHI team since steering the squad to a bronze medal finish in the 2005 Manila Southeast Asian Games. His first mission as a mentor is to form a team that will see action in the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia in August and in the AVC Asian Cup in Thailand the following month. “Ang punto ko dito naman, ayusin yung national team, and then kung sino gustong tumulong, bago mag-salita, tumulong na muna,” he said. Eighteen of the 34 players De Jesus specifically requested to be invited in the tryout were present led by Alyssa Valdez, Jaja Santiago and Ara Galang. Also in attendance were Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Jia Morado, Kim Fajardo, Aby Marano, Sisi Rondina, CJ Rosario, Mylene Paat, Dawn Macandili, Majoy Baron, Kim Kianna Dy, Mel Gohing, Maika Ortiz, Cha Cruz-Behag, Rebecca Rivera and MJ Phillips. Another tryout is scheduled on Wednesday at the same venue.       ---- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 14th, 2018

Eight NBA Playoffs storylines to watch

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 10th, 2018

Morning Tip Q& A: DeMar DeRozan

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst The tweet was posted at 6:06 a.m. on Feb. 17 (7:06pm, PHL time), and while there have occasionally been positive tweets sent out at that hour, this one got people’s attention for the wrong reasons. This depression get the best of me... — DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) February 17, 2018 That it came from the Twitter account of a four-time NBA All-Star, whose team was en route to the best season in franchise history, only added to the confusion. But there it was. “This depression get the best of me...” DeMar DeRozan tweeted, and it surprised just about everyone, because the 28-year-old is pretty quiet most of the time. But DeRozan has been carrying a lot on his plate. Not only is trying to lead Toronto somewhere it’s never been before, but has never has as a good a chance before, either -- The Finals -- but he’s been doing it while going back and forth between Toronto and Los Angeles, where his father, Frank DeRozan, has been hospitalized for weeks. Frank DeRozan has been DeMar’s biggest coach, biggest critic and biggest champion his whole life, never being satisfied as his son rose through the ranks of basketball, from Compton High to USC to the NBA. But Frank DeRozan has suffered health setbacks in recent years -- a stroke and significant kidney problems, per the Toronto Sun -- and DeMar has gone bicoastal multiple times to be with his dad, never missing a game in the process. (Frank DeRozan was able, though, to temporarily leave the hospital last month in L.A. to go to Staples Center to see DeMar play for Team Stephen in the All-Star Game.) In his ninth season in Toronto -- he’s never asked for a trade and agreed almost immediately to a $139 million extension with the Raptors in 2016, never even looking at free agency -- DeRozan has scored less than he did last season, but is averaging a career-high 5.2 assists and gone all in on Toronto’s “culture reset,” as GM Masai Ujiri put it after the Raptors went out again in the playoffs last year. After years of resisting, arguing not without merit that he was a master of the mid-range game, DeRozan has embraced the three-pointer this season, obliterating his previous highs for attempts and makes behind the arc, and keeping the ball moving both to fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry and to the team’s emerging cast of young, talented players, who’ve helped carry the load all season. After winning Sunday (Monday, PHL time), the Raptors are an Eastern Conference best 45-17, and are closing in on home court throughout the playoffs in the East. All would seem to be great. But, as DeRozan’s social media statement made clear (and, to his credit, he acknowledged it was him and that he wasn’t hacked, and he hasn’t taken the Tweet down), life sometimes gets in the way of all our dreams. David Aldridge: So, your dad was able to come to Staples Center to see you at the All-Star Game. How was that for him? DeMar DeRozan: It was good. It was real good. He had a good time. It was cool for him to be able to come out and experience it and enjoy it. It made me feel good. He was happy about it. DA: And how is he doing? DD: Every day is one of them things where you just don’t know until he’s home. Until he gets home, that’s when I think I’ll be more comfortable, knowing, cool, you’re out of there. He’s been in there since Dec. 23. It’s March 2nd. I know just that is bothering him, being in there and wanting to get out. Just on top of that, my mom, when I was home the other day, my mom was telling me ‘this is the longest I’ve been without my husband in 30-plus years.’ Stuff like that, that’s the rough part of it. DA: So is that where your head’s at right now? DD: Without a doubt. For sure. One thing I always try to do whenever I go out there and play is try to do whatever I can, knowing I’m so far, doing something I know will make them proud, make them feel good, give them a kind of energy. That’s kind of where I’ll be with it. DA: Is it hard to compartmentalize? So many people say the court is their refuge? DD: For me, it’s easy to do, from the moment of playing to kind of lock in and focus and kind of indulge in that moment. It’s crazy you say that, because Kyle, he’s one of my closest friends, he knows me so well. A lot of times after the game, the first thing he’ll say to me is ‘back to reality.’ He knows now our night is over. Now I have to go back and get into the reality of DeMar. It’s crazy. DA: What have you heard from folks since you sent that tweet out? DD: Man, where haven’t I heard from? Honestly, the response, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have even thought how the response, how it came out, I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever gotten anything like that. Especially me. I’ve never been one who wanted any type of attention, good nor bad. The response I got from people was so uplifting, positive, refreshing. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. But it made me feel good. You just look at certain things. People say ‘you helped me. Because if you’re going through something like this, I can get through it.’ It’s incredible. By far one of the most incredible things in my career that I’ve witnessed outside of basketball. DA: So you could be a role model in a whole different way. DD: For sure. I never looked at myself and said ‘man, I want to be a role model.’ But something like that is extremely important. It’s all walks of life. I done had high school players, college players, older people. I had one older coach that I’ve known text me and tell me, ‘if there was a player when I was young that I’d seen or witnessed who was going through something (like this), it would have helped me -- then -- not be an alcoholic.’ It was incredible to hear words like that. It’s been one of them things where I’m like, ‘damn, I’m just speaking the truth.’ It’s crazy. DA: Is there anything you’re doing formally or officially now to deal with it? DD: Nah. I think I’m going to definitely, once we’re all said and done, probably the summertime for sure, I’ll be open arms about it without a doubt. At the end of the day, it’s like it’s one of them things where you can’t play basketball forever, but if there’s something I can do that will outlast it and be helpful, be bigger than basketball, I’m all for it. It’s life. DA: So y’all are in this new position on top of the East. You’ve been good for a minute over the years, but this is the top of the top. Is the vibe different in the locker room? DD: Definitely. It’s more, we have fun with one another, but we understand it’s bigger than us all. We, all of us -- young guys, all of me. Me and Kyle always tell the young guys, ‘this opportunity doesn’t always come around that often. Take advantage of this and be all for it. Before you know it, you’re going to be 10 years in, and the opportunity may not come again. Take full advantage of it.’ And everybody understands that. We see it now, especially when we have games where we lose a game. We think we’re on a 10-game losing streak. That’s how we approach coming in the next day at practice, or the next game. It’s great to have that kind of feeling and vibe. DA: How do you know when you’re all locked in? DD: You just know. I always look at my guy Kyle, and you know he’s gonna ride or die with you. But it’s crazy when you’re able to look over at a guy like Pascal (Siakam), or Freddie (Van Vleet), or Delon (Wright), these young guys who only have a couple of years in the league, they’ve got the same look that Kyle’s got. That says a lot about the team. Because you know when those young guys go in, they’re some dogs, too. That’s the beauty of it, and it shows. DA: So, about those young guys. You know what you’re gonna do in the playoffs, and you know what Kyle’s gonna do, and Jo. But if you’re going to beat an elite team in the playoffs, the young guys are gonna have to perform. DD: Yeah. And they have. I lost count of how many games our starters haven’t even played in the fourth quarter. Against good teams, not just lower teams. There have been times where we’re playing some great teams, and the coaches come in and look at us, and we’re like, ‘nah, let them finish out the game. They’ve got this.’ It’s great to have that type of confidence in the young guys. It’s amazing. I know we get a lot of credit, but they deserve just as much credit. DA: So is this the most optimistic you’ve been going into the postseason? DD: Yeah. Because we’ve done felt the fails. We’ve been at the top, and we fell all the way to the bottom. We know what that feels like. We know what it feels like getting closer and closer. We understand the moments. That’s the beauty of failing sometimes. Nobody wants to fail, but you have to to understand what it takes to succeed. And I think that’s where we’re at mentally, and we understand what we have to do. 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 NewsMar 6th, 2018

UAAP 80 VOLLEYBALL: Hindi totoo ang sinasabi nila -- Laure on rumors circulating about her decision to skip Season 80

Injured University of Sto. Tomas star EJ Laure broke her silence two months after her decision to sit out the 80th UAAP women’s volleyball tournament. The Season 77 Rookie of the Year watched the Tigresses’ opening-day match against defending back-to-back champion De La Salle University at the MOA Arena from the sidelines with a sling on her right hand. UST dropped a five-setter, 20-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-15, 8-15, decision. Laure and UST announced last December that Laure will sit out her supposedly fourth playing year to rest and fully recover from a chronic right shoulder injury. But rumors of her absence circulated on social media. Some speculations was that of academic difficulties, some about her intentionally redshirting to be able to play alongside sister Eya for two seasons while a malicious angle of her being pregnant also circulated.         “Siyempre siguro tao din naman sila, meron silang sariling opinyon. Hindi ko naman maiiwasang wag sabihin sa kanila na, 'wag, 'di ganoon. Sa kanila na rin 'yun,” said Laure, who was with rumored boyfriend Kapamilya teen star Bugoy Carino. “Ewan ko kasi parang hindi naman totoo 'yung sinasabi nila and nasa kanila na lang ‘yun, kung ano gusto nilang sabihin,” she added. “Kasi siyempre tao din naman sila, may sarili silang opinyon.” Laure cleared that she has been nursing a shoulder injury since last season and she decided to skip a year to fully recover and heal. “Di ba last year parang nagpa-injection ako. After noon, ilang days pa lang, umalis agad kami for Thailand. So hindi ako nakapag-therapy kasi di ba sa Thailand, sunod-sunod 'yung training namin,” said Laure, who last played for Foton Tornadoes during the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix last December.  “Nu’ng (PSL) AFC (All-Filipino Conference) lang siya sobrang na-feel ko 'yung pain ulit.” For now, Laure has no timetable yet on her return to action. “Depende pa kasi sa sasabihin ng doctor ko kung kelan pwede, kelan niya ako papayagan,” she said.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 3rd, 2018

Popovich s odd alliance with red state fans

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com SAN ANTONIO -- About 400 people gathered at the Oak Hills Country Club in June 2016 and paid $500 to $250,000 to sip iced tea and nibble hors d’oeuvres next to a golf course designed by noted architect AW Tillinghast, who built many. One is owned by the man who was feted at this political fundraiser, Donald J. Trump. The presidential campaign was in full blast and saltier than the crackers on the cheese plate being passed around. Fresh off the plane, Trump thanked the Republicans for the big ‘ole Texas welcome, witnesses say, before launching a blistering attack on the usual targets: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, illegal immigration. Then, near the end of his 30-minute lunchtime appearance, in an effort to connect with the locals, he pivoted and mentioned perhaps the most famous man in town: Gregg Popovich. Witnesses say Trump called Popovich “a great coach” and said “he does a good job” and then there was some fidgeting in the room when the soon-to-be polarizing leader of the free world said this: “I don’t know if the coach is on my side.” Confirmation came emphatically, right after Trump won a divisive election that November. The coach of the Spurs lit into the President over the next several months with a handful of rants that had the stealth of Kawhi Leonard ambushing a timid ball-handler. In no particular order, here were Pop’s Greatest Hits, all issued through the media and without prompting or provocation: “The disgusting tenure and tone and all the comments … have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. I live in a country where half the people ignored that to elect someone.” And: “He is in charge of our country. That’s disgusting.” And: “The man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks he can only become large by belittling others.” And: “We have a pathological liar in the White House ... You can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.” Popovich didn’t stop there with a President whose sensitivity and intelligence he questioned and accused of being guilty of “gratuitous fear-mongering.” When he took Trump to task for criticizing NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem and defended their rights to do so, Popovich also suspected a measure of the public outrage was racially motivated. “Our country is an embarrassment to the world,” he said. A 68-year-old wealthy white man, therefore, became a sports voice with weight in the political and social justice arena, where the NBA league office has greenlighted players and coaches to speak up. Popovich has done so with clarity and insight to gain national applause in certain corners. He wasn’t the first or the last in sports to verbally spank the president or tackle right-leaning sensitivities, yet he’s certainly the most unique in one respect. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy who works in a military town, and a five-time NBA champion coach who might symbolize the city more than The Alamo, Popovich has long been elevated to icon status, perhaps permanently so, in San Antonio, where folks are mad about the Spurs. Still, this is mostly conservative Texas, one of the most Republican of states based on the state legislature and the congressional delegation, a state that voted Republican in 10 straight presidential elections and saw 52.6 percent of voters punch for Trump. While voters in San Antonio-proper lean liberal, the surrounding areas swing solidly the opposite. Julianna Holt, the Spurs CEO and Popovich’s boss since March after assuming the position held for 20 years by her husband Peter, supported various Republican presidential candidates before eventually donating $5,400 to Trump’s campaign and $250,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, according to Federal Election Commission records. Popovich is therefore a blue blood in a red state and the contrast makes for strange if not uncomfortable alliance between a beloved coach and a group of conflicted Spurs worshippers. His views have in fact shattered the sacrilege by generating hostility from a segment of the basketball flock, something no coach with his credentials would ever feel. The constant winning and acts of charity do not insulate him from those who would prefer Popovich stuff a sweat sock in his bullhorn. Party lines not Popovich's focus “While we all believe Gregg Popovich has the right to his opinions, where was Popovich when Hillary called half of us a 'basket of deplorables?’Many were Spurs fans who are now tired of being insulted ... many of us will never pay to see a Spurs game again.” -- Donna Howington  “The money I will save this year not attending Spurs games should buy me a nice set of golf clubs. Thanks Pop!” -- Jake Ingorgia  “I will never watch them again until Popovich is gone. He is just like all the other leftist celebrities.” -- Lee Harbach, Bulverde They arrive on cue, most from the dusty towns that orbit around San Antonio, some from the city itself. Popovich has unloaded three times this year on Trump, once after the election, once at the start of training camp and most recently by cold-calling Dave Zirin, a friend and liberal writer from The Nation, a progressive magazine. And each time, the letters land in the office of Ricardo Pimentel, the editor who coordinates the comments section of the Express-News, San Antonio’s newspaper of record. “It’s a cycle,” says Pimental, with a sigh. “He speaks out. People who disagree with him send us letters to the editor, then people who object to their disagreement write us letters to the editor defending Pop. Then they respond to one another.” The initial reaction, he said, is always stacked against Popovich and many identify themselves as Spurs fans ripping up their tickets or promising to never attend or watch games again. Even if those who made threats actually carried them out, the change in the Spurs’ home attendance is a blip, from 99.2 percent capacity last season to 98.6 so far this season. Popovich, of course, has been big for business since his first full season as coach in 1997-98. Besides the titles, the Spurs have reached the playoffs every season and won 50 games every season (except for the lockout-shortened 50-game 1998-99 campaign, when they won 37). In short, Popovich's Spurs have a track record beyond reproach in the NBA. If the 2017-18 Spurs stay on pace, it’ll be 20 straight winning seasons for Popovich, one more than Phil Jackson for the all-time NBA record. He hasn’t been this politically vocal until lately, due to Trump, yet was always politically aware, say those who know him. Well-versed through his readings and observations, Popovich welcomes discussion with acquaintences about classism, leadership, government and preferably over a bottle of wine. His two-decades exposure to young black men from humble beginnings raised his awareness and sensitivities about race and bias. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr once played for the Spurs and lately has echoed many of the same thoughts as Popovich. But Kerr coaches in the Bay Area, where folks nod their heads in agreement. Kerr said he can only imagine the flak Popovich catches in Texas. “Here’s this iconic coach who stands for everything that’s right and for honor and integrity, he served in the military, you see him stand at attention for the American flag — man, Pop loves his country,” Kerr said. “And in the middle of Texas for him to be questioning the Republican President, some of the people down there are probably confused. Like, 'I don’t get it, we love this guy but he’s on the other side from us.' “What I love about Pop is that it’s not about party, not about politics. It’s about integrity and character and that’s what people need to pay attention to. It’s not about some policy, not about how much we pay in taxes. If we can just get back to the point where character matters, then we’ll be in better shape. The problem is, it’s clear character has gone down the tubes in many leadership positions in our country. That’s what Pop is calling out.” True enough, Popovich never publicly attached himself to a political party; to suggest he is against Republicans might be as misleading as believing Colin Kaepernick is against the military. When he played for Popovich, Kerr couldn’t recall a time when the coach was this annoyed by the country’s leadership. “The country was in a better place in terms of a relatively peaceful time back then,” Kerr said. “Yes, 9-11 happened and the whole world changed. But we didn’t have quite the same partisan nature, not only in politics but the national conversation. And so people could just admire Pop for who he was and people might not have been aware of his political leanings because they didn’t ask. When we won and went to the White House, Pop and the team went when Bush was in office. We went in ’99 when President Clinton was there. Republican, Democrat, didn’t matter. The times are so different now.” Kerr laughed quickly when asked about the semi-serious groundswell of social media support for a Kerr-Popovich ticket in 2020. Kerr said he hopes to be on his fifth NBA title as a coach then, but turned semi-serious about Popovich. “Our country needs somebody like Pop who can actually lead and unite from a position of authority and credibility,” Kerr said. “This guy served in the military, grew up in a melting pot, understands leadership. More than anything, he’ll cut through all the [expletive].” Since going nuclear on Trump, Popovich declined invites from the national political shows (and wouldn’t comment for this story). That proves what friends have maintained all along: Popovich doesn’t want to be anyone’s political hero or pundit. He’d rather speak when the moment calls for it, then be left alone. That last part is tricky, though. Empathy often marks Popovich's way “Can you imagine being Republican on the Spurs? Would you feel welcome? He’s like Berkeley -- for free speech unless you disagree with him. Shut up and coach, Gregg.” -- Shannon Deason  “When it comes to coaching basketball or drinking wine, Popovich has experience. When it comes to our country, his opinion is no better than anyone else’s." -- Harold Siemens, Seguin  “Open letter to the NBA referee who ejected Pop from the Warriors-Spurs game: Don’t feel bad about what Gregg Popovich called you. He called the POTUS worse and got away with it.” -- Larry Peabody Once the wheels touched down, the pilot jokingly announced over the loudspeaker: “Welcome to Gregg Popovich International Airport,” and one particular passenger noticed that nobody on the plane thought it was strange. Sean Elliott always knew how deeply rooted Popovich is with San Antonio. Aside from the famous Spanish missions and the River Walk, the city is known for the only professional sports team in town. And while George Gervin, David Robinson and Tim Duncan have come and gone, the one lingering reminder is a sometimes gruff and scruffy coach, maybe the NBA’s best ever. “He’s one of the pillars of the community,” said Elliott, twice an All-Star with the Spurs. “He’s looked at with great admiration. He is as respected as anyone who has ever lived in or been part of the city. It’s not just because he’s a basketball coach. Pop has been a big part of the community, huge contributor to charitable functions, good leader.” Elliott was a Spurs rookie in 1989 when their relationship began and he saw the start of Popovich’s reach in the region. Popovich then was an assistant coach under Larry Brown and just planting his feet in the NBA. That summer, Elliott and Popovich piled into a van with the team's "Coyote" mascot and conducted basketball clinics in San Marcos, Corpus Christi, Laredo and similar places. They were signing autographs in malls and running kids through drills in 100 degree heat, never hearing a complaint from the coach. Elliott said folks in those small conservative towns loved him. “If you sit and hear him talk about something, you tend to agree with him,” Elliott said. “He’ll put it in a logical way and he’s very thoughtful, well read and super intelligent, maybe the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.” The owner of the Spurs then was Red McCombs, a homespun Texan who made his fortune in car dealerships and media companies. McCombs didn’t give Popovich the coaching job after firing Brown, telling Popovich “you’ve got a chance to be a great coach” if he got more experience, which he did, going to the Warriors to work for Don Nelson. Popovich returned to San Antonio two years later as general manager, then became coach and the rest is history. Now 90, McCombs said: “Popovich has become the distinguished part of the franchise. He wears it well. Can’t say enough about what kind of man he is and what he’s meant to San Antonio. God has blessed us with Gregg Popovich.” McCombs loves to tell how Popovich, by chance, learned that a local family needed a car. The coach wrote a check, gave it to the father and walked away. McCombs said it was “typical Popovich” who has empathy for those with less. McCombs, curiously, has traditionally been one of the biggest Republican bankrollers in the state, who gave to the Trump campaign and is fully aware of what Popovich thinks of his choice for President. And so one of the most powerful men in Central Texas, who leans politically to the color of his nickname, had a strong reaction to that. “He’s earned the right to give his comments about citizenship or Trump or anything else,” said McCombs, voice rising. “Yes, he made some statements that others might disagree with. But I’ll tell you this: Popovich would be elected to anything he wants to in San Antonio.” Remaining silent never an option “Our country is not an embarrassment to the world. I will tell you what an embarrassment is. It is an American citizen who got a free education from the great Air Force Academy ... and then has the audacity to say that the greatest nation in the world is an embarrassment because the President rightly demands that Americans stand for the anthem. Popovich should be ashamed of himself.” -- Nick DeLouis, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Nowhere on God’s green Earth do they have the right to disrespect our flag and the men and women who died to keep us free. I’m appalled that you stooped so low to join in that disrespect. Shame on you!” -- Fred Martin, Fair Oaks Ranch  “Coach Pop has squashed my love and enthusiasm for the team. A national treasure, he is not. Coach Pop has a voice, but not my voice." -- Jo Ivan A few years ago Popovich was in New York with his daughter to catch a Broadway play when the coach had a last minute change in strategy. He learned that John Carlos was giving a lecture at New York University that night. So Popovich told his daughter to take one of her friends instead; said he was going to see “Dr. Carlos” speak. “When he came in I was surprised and delighted,” Carlos said recently. “Quite naturally, everyone knew who he was but he just wanted to sit and listen.” A year later, in 2015, Popovich flew Carlos to San Antonio to address the team and Carlos admitted to being star struck around Tim Duncan and others. Yet Carlos was most curious about Popovich and why the coach took a strong interest in an Olympic sprinter who raised a fist on the victory stand in 1968, which is frozen as an iconic civil rights moment. “Being with the Spurs gave me an opportunity to check his character out,” Carlos said. “I knew he was a whiz at putting players together to bring out their best ability. But through my conversations with him it became apparent that he was a social activist himself at one point in his life. He was teaching his players about activism and to be concerned about their fellow man and what was going on around their lives, not just basketball. “I was impressed. He just wanted them to know they had a larger role than just playing basketball in the society in which they live.” Carlos, therefore, was not surprised to see Popovich defend the rights of kneeling black football players who came under attack from Trump. On the first day of training camp in September, Popovich said: “Obviously race is the elephant in the room and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly it is not going to get better.” What followed was another swirl of exchanges between Popovich critics and supporters in San Antonio, and Popovich acknowledged receiving mail from both sides. The anti-Pop mail, though, was jarring to Carlos, given the coach’s work in town. “When people write and lambast him for taking leaders to task for what they’re doing to society, that’s like water rolling off a duck’s back, man,” Carlos said. “When they write negative things about him, it encourages him to keep doing what he’s doing. Those people are the problem. Go ahead and throw stones and it just motivates him to do his job. “Look, I’m a black man who spoke out. Imagine what they think of him as a white man who speaks just as strong, to try and get people to see things in a better light? They throw stones at him even more, like, 'Hey you’re white, you have a great life. Keep your mouth shut.’ Well, God points people in certain directions. We know who we are. We do what we do.” And what Popovich does is enlist the help of giants in the social justice world and bring them into his world. He did that with Cornel West, the Harvard professor and civil rights activist, last fall. Popovich invited West to San Antonio to speak at an East Side community center with a few hundred mostly black and Latino students and their parents. Done without TV cameras or media invitation, the discussion was about the importance of education, the imperfect world, self respect and how to help communities. This was an audience that, presumably and unanimously, connected with a white man who didn’t live among them, but was with them. They were the people Popovich had in mind when he attacked present leadership. This was not the audience that writes to the Spurs and the Express-News asking him to take a vow of silence, though he is aware of them, too. “Some responses make you wonder what country you live in,” Popovich said, “and other responses make you very hopeful … overall, it renews my feeling that something must be done because there is enough people willing to listen.” 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 5th, 2018

INFOGRAPHIC: UAAP Cheerdance Competition 2017 Primer

We’re one day away from the most anticipated one-day event in the UAAP season, and social media is ablaze with all the Cheerdance Competition talk. The CDC is not short of storylines to follow as well, with teams either gunning to keep their winning tradition intact, or looking to just break out of a long drought, and everything in between. Check out what UAAP CDC squads will be fighting for this year, with our handy guide:  University of the Philippines Pep Squad (8 titles)  University of Santo Tomas Salinggawi Dance Troupe (8 titles) National University Pep Squad (4 titles) Far Eastern University Cheering Squad (2 titles)  Adamson University Pep Squad University of the East Pep Squad Ateneo de Manila University Blue Babble Battalion De La Salle University Animo Squad   Make sure to catch the UAAP Cheerdance Competition LIVE this Saturday, December 2 at 2:00 P.M. on ABS-CBN S+A channel 23, ABS-CBN S+A HD channel 166, and via livestreaming on sports.abs-cbn.com/livestream/uaap.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 1st, 2017

NU Pep Squad s plan to make history: start first, end at first

Will there be another fairy tale ending for the NU Pep Squad? The once whipping team of the UAAP Cheerdance Competition has dominated for four straight years. Come Saturday at the expected sold out MO Arena, they shoot for a five-peat and history.     NU is once again out to put on a fantastic show to wow the audience and the judges. With another win in this year's competition, they can finally sit beside the UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe in the elite club of five-peat winners. The Espana-based squad lorded the contest from 2002 to 2006, a feat the Sampaloc-based squad wants to duplicate.      NU will perform first in a complete field of competitors with the return of the UP Pep Squad which took a leave of absence last year. Outdoing themselves  For four straight years and since the implementation of a new judging format, the NU Pep Squad seemed to have mastered how to hit each criteria and earn the necessary points to emerge victorious. The rest of the field, on the other hand, has struggled.   With the NU Pep Squad setting the standard, the challenge of outdoing themselves has been getting harder and harder each year.     “Pinakamahirap ‘yun, to compete with ourselves,” said NU coach Ghicka Bernabe. “Kasi minsan alam mo na ang capacity mo, alam mo na ang weakness mo. Pero may mga times na hindi pa pala yun ang limit namin.” “Sometimes we argue amongst ourselves na, ‘Hanggang dyan na lang ba? Ito na ba ang best?’ Pero kasi dito sa NU walang word na the best. Hindi nagi-exist ang word na ‘best’,” she added. “Kasi sabi nga nila it’s a process of learning. ‘Yung pag-champion mo after that day tapos na ‘yun, hindi ka na champion. ‘Yun lang sa araw na ‘yun.” “Kinakalaban namin ang standard namin in a way na hindi kami pwedeng ma-satisfy kung ano lang ang mayroon kami ngayon. Kailangang mag-exceed kami doon sa limit. Kailangang mag-exceed kami sa imagination and mag-exceed kami sa expectations ng lahat ng supporters namin.” Into the blue NU has been setting the bar higher each year. From Arabian nights, to Pocahontas, to cavemen, and to beyond outer space, NU Pep Squad's themes have left its indelible mark on the audience.   With their concepts turning into hits and putting on a show that always seemed to top their previous performances, one could just imagine the time and effort spent by Bernabe and her coaching staff to concoct something fresh and new.    The mentor admitted that they had sleepless nights deliberating and debating on what concept and theme to use the past four years but not on this one. The coaching staff this time didn’t need to dig deep in their seemingly bottomless bag of tricks for a magical theme. This one has been in their list of options since Day 1 of their dynastic rule of the competition. “Siguro ‘yung concept namin ngayon, every year naming nagiging idea pero hindi natutuloy. Siguro kasi hindi pa niya panahon,” said the former FEU flyer. “So siguro dumating na ang time niya. Ito na ang right timing, ang tamang panahon.” “Kasi for four years na nag-champion kami lagi siyang part ng option pero never siyang nanalo na maging theme namin for that season,” she added. “Ito lang ‘yung year na wala kaming pinagdiskusyunan, we never had any argument or long discussion.” “Nu’ng sinabi namin na, ‘I think chance na nung theme na to na maipakita ng NU’. Ito ang pinaka-shortest na brainstorming ng mga coaches. Yun nga ito na yung tamang panahon para sa concept.” But aside from the extravagant costumes and props that they’ll use in the performance, it’s how they intend to execute the mix of the theme, music and their routines that's Bernabe’s most proud of. “Mahirap siyang i-execute kasi eh,” said the mentor. “Parang lahat kami paano natin ipapakita ang theme? From outer space, another something new. Something under naman tayo ngayon.” Breaking the curse For Cheerdance Competition pundits, no team has ever won the title performing first. NU is looking to break that curse. “May isa ngang nag-comment sa social media na, ‘Wag kayong magpakampante kasi wala pang nag-champion na first performer,’” said Bernabe, who was the one who drew NU’s order of performance during the drawing of lots. NU will open the competition followed by the DLSU Animo Squad, Adamson Pep Squad, FEU Cheering Squad, UE Pep Squad, UP Pep Squad, UST Salinggawi Dance Troupe, and Ateneo Blue Babble Battalion. But even with the odds of the draw going against them, Bernabe is optimistic that their performance won’t be easily forgotten by the judges. “May sumagot nga doon sa nagsabi nu’n (na wala pang nanalo na first performer) na supporter naman ng NU na, ‘Oo ngayon mo pa lang masasaksihan.’ Something na ganoon na ngayon pa lang mangyayari and mayroon namang nagsabi na, ‘Kayo ang magsi-set ng standard, NU.’ So parang positive pa rin naman yun,” Bernabe said. “Pero still ‘di naman kami robot na insensitive, manhid o walang pakiramdam. Nandoon pa rin ang pressure, never mawawala ‘yun. Nandoon din ang kaba, nerbiyos at fear,” added the mentor......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 1st, 2017

Coach Bo says Maroons want to see more of their passionate fans

The fans of the University of the Philippines were really into it as their Fighting Maroons waged war against Adamson University in a crucial contest on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum. Roaring at their boys for each and every one of their makes, roaring at the Soaring Falcons for each and every one of their makes, and roaring at the referees for each and every call, the State U crowd was, without a doubt, well and alive. Asked about it after they bowed down to Adamson, 70-86, head coach Bo Perasol answered, “Ganoon ba? Hindi ko napansin e.” Turning serious, however, the always amiable mentor said the coaching staff and the players had nothing but love for their faithful. As he put it, “I welcome that in the sense that they are into it – they care, they are passionate about winning. They have invested something so their emotions are into it.” He then continued, “Importante na (they feel) na, ‘I’m one with the team.’ Hindi yung, ‘Wala namang kwenta yang team na yan e.’” Indeed, so passionate were the UP fans that one of them figured in an incident late in the third quarter.   UP fans very unhappy with officiating. Maroons trail 45-35 vs. Adamson. pic.twitter.com/ykE4sCgO1c — Camille B. Naredo (@camillenaredo) Nobyembre 5, 2017   Not pleased with the officiating, an unnamed student from Diliman reportedly threw a piece of paper onto the court. Not long after, he was escorted out of his seat. Reacting to the incident, Perasol said, “Papel lang, susmaryosep.” Also, so passionate were the UP fans that all of it poured out onto social media.   BEST. SUPPORT. GROUP. EVER. 💚❤#UPFight #nowheretogobutUP ✊ pic.twitter.com/VDpaJVm1IB — UP Fighting Maroons (@upmbt) Nobyembre 5, 2017     How about UP getting good game calls and breaks? 💸💸💸 — UP Fighting Maroons (@upmbt) Nobyembre 5, 2017   All of those, the Fighting Maroons welcome, as their mentor re-emphasized. “It gives pressure for the team to deliver. Magandang hindi passive yung fans because if they are passive, the players may thing that it’s just okay,” he said. He then continued, “It’s not okay. We’re in a competition and we’re supposed to win.” Indeed, now being able to paint the town maroon is a welcome development for the UP men’s basketball team which had compiled a record of 13-113 from 2007 to 2015. “Exactly, that’s what’s happening. Yun ang sinasabi nating proseso of the community being part of the team and the team being part of the community,” Perasol said. He then continued, “Hinding-hindi mo mahihiwalay yung isa sa isa.” The State U head coach then went on to say how the UAAP’s more successful programs have always had passionate fans. “Kaya ngayon si UST, nakikita mong nagagalit sila kasi they know that they have a history of winning,” he said. The tamed Tigers are one loss away from a winless season – something that had been accomplished thrice by UP in just the past decade. “E mas masagwa noong panahon ng UP kasi walang galit e. Noong hindi kami natatalo, sabi lang nila, ‘E wala, ganoon talaga yan e. Good luck na lang guys,’” he said. Now, at the very least, the Fighting Maroons have a passionate fanbase right behind them. “Kaya nga sabi ko na kahit magalit na sila, okay lang yan. In a way, they are all now involved,” Perasol expressed. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 5th, 2017

Kerr pushes Warriors to keep joy, chase repeat championship

em>By Janie McCauley, Associated Press /em> OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Steve Kerr recently threw out a perplexing question to his star-studded Golden State roster: What should he tell a team that has won championships in two of the last three years and still reached the Finals in the other? How might he spark improvement from a group that has won 67, 73 and 67 games the past three seasons? “It’s got to be about what’s important to us,” Kerr said. “The joy of coming to practice every day is important for our guys to remember, the process.” Kerr is already challenging his Warriors to find ways to get better. He is strategizing ways to make sure they don’t become complacent, maintaining the edge that has turned this franchise into a perennial contender with names such as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green leading the charge after decades of futility. “It’s been really smooth. There’s a chemistry and a certain expectation of how we’re going to play versus last year,” Curry said. “There were a couple unanswered questions going into camp and a feeling out process but Coach has challenged us to focus on the details in how we can get better from last year. He joked around: ’What do you tell a team that’s won 67 games or 65-plus the last three years, two championships, how do you tell a team like that to get better? Or what do you tell a team like that to get better? It’s basically about the details and the fine points of our offense, and cutting hard, setting screens for each other, the counters that we’re going to add to our offensive sets. All those little things are built on the foundation that we set last year and obviously Kevin’s a part of that. We all are. So it’s kind of good to put that in the right perspective.” What the franchise has accomplished the past three seasons isn’t lost on Green. “It’s a special thing,” he said. “And I think a lot of times in life we forget to live in the moment, especially in our day and age, social media — let me record this — miss everything I’m watching because I am looking at it through a phone. You forget to enjoy the moment. ... As much as I try to enjoy the moment, you’ll never fully understand it until it’s over.” Here are some things to watch for with the Warriors: strong>INVITE WITHDRAWN: /strong>Curry made headlines on media day last month when he reiterated he didn’t want to visit the White House under President Donald Trump, who then withdrew his invite to the champs a day later via Twitter. The Warriors have become a face for social advocacy in sports— specifically speaking up against racial injustice. “That’s the genesis of our stance and if you watched us all last year we stood for the national anthem,” Curry said. “Certain teams locked arms or had different demonstrations and the NFL’s taken a different approach. But it’s about the message, it’s not about the act. For the life of me if that doesn’t just get across to everybody, it’s not a disrespect at anything about the flag or the anthem and we can hopefully move in the right direction.” strong>KERR’S HEALTH: /strong> Kerr missed 11 games during the postseason dealing with neck pain, nausea and other symptoms stemming from a 2015 back surgery. He has made improvements but still feels discomfort at times. The 2016 NBA Coach of the Year is staying optimistic he will be on the bench all season. “It’s been a long odyssey ... and not easy, but I’m lucky to have the support of not only the players but Bob [Myers] and Joe [Lacob],” Kerr said. “Everybody is constantly so supportive, and I’m looking forward to the season. I’m excited. I think it’s going to go smoothly. I think I’ll be fine. But who knows. As Vin Scully once said, we’re all day-to-day.” strong>ROSTER INTACT: /strong>With so many familiar faces back — 12 to be exact — there are only a handful of players being integrated for the first time. “It’s a lot easier to pick up the system when you’re only one of two or three new guys instead of six or seven,” Kerr said. “Because all the other guys who have been here, they can help and everything flows more smoothly. So I think it’s a little easier job this year for the new guys to blend in because there are fewer of them.” strong>THREE CENTERS: /strong>Kerr can again use his three diverse centers in a deep rotation — beginning with Zaza Pachulia then going to alley-oop dunk man JaVale McGee or precision-passer David West. Pachulia said it’s much different this season with everybody understanding what to expect from each other and having already developed a trust level. “When something is working, let it work,” Pachulia said. strong>NEWBIES: /strong> Nick Young and Omri Casspi are two newcomers on an experienced roster, both capable shooters who will be counted upon to take pressure off the starting five when called upon for key minutes. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2017

AP source: 76ers, Embiid agree on max contract extension

em>By Dan Gelston, Associated Press /em> PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press the Philadelphia 76ers and Joel Embiid have agreed on a maximum contract extension. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) because the contract has not been officially announced. The person said Embiid and the Sixers have agreed on a $148 million, five-year extension and it could reach even more if the seven-foot center reaches certain incentives. The Sixers are betting it all one of the more talented, yet more injury-prone players in the league. Embiid’s career has been riddled with injuries dating to his college career at Kansas and all three seasons with the Sixers. Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, played only 31 games last season and had surgery in March to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. He averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds last season. He was only recently cleared to participate in 5-on-5 drills but the Sixers must feel confident enough in his health to offer him the max deal. With his social media savvy and dominant offensive game, Embiid has become an instant fan favorite in Philadelphia. He’s recently been spotted at Eagles games cheering on winning kicks and been caught on tape by fans running the city streets and playing late-night tennis. But his popularity hasn’t matched his production. The Sixers slapped him with minutes restrictions in his rookie season, even when he was healthy. The Sixers also held Embiid out for at least one game in back-to-back sets and his limited playing time was one reason he was not a strong enough candidate to win Rookie of the Year. He helped the Sixers win eight of 10 games in one stretch in January, a stunning run for a team that won 10 games the previous season. Embiid had 32 points and seven rebounds in a Jan. 27 game against Houston and has not played or practiced since his he was hurt. Embiid had adopted “The Process” as a nickname and was introduced as such as part of the pregame lineup festivities. Embiid waves his arms and exhorts fans to get louder as they chant “Trust the Process!” The Sixers are counting on Embiid and No. 1 overall picks Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz to carry the team from the bottom of the league into an Eastern Conference playoff team. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 10th, 2017

Donnie Nietes: A Decade of Championship Greatness

The Philippines has produced many boxing legends, from the likes of Pancho Villa and Gabriel “Flash” Elorde to Luisito Espinosa and Gerry Peñalosa, and Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire Jr. However, none of those mentioned above can measure to the longevity of the reign of one Filipino boxing champion, who up to this day remains on top of his game and has never been beaten in a world title fight. His name is Donnie Nietes. For Donnie 'Ahas' Nietes, the journey to greatness started on September 30, 2007, when he defeated Thailand's Pornsawan Porpramook for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) minimumweight title. The victory gave Nietes his first world boxing championship, but nobody knew back then that it was the start of what would end up as the longest reign in Philippine boxing history. Believe it or not, ten years after he became a world champ for the first time, Nietes remains a world champion, only in a heavier weight class that is the flyweight division. Previously, Gabriel 'Flash' Elorde held the record for holding the world junior lightweight title from 1960 to 1967, a period of seven years. Nietes held the WBO minimumweight title from 2007 until 2011, when he was forced to relinquish it after winning the WBO light flyweight crown on October 8, 2011. Nietes held the WBO light flyweight crown until 2016, when he gave it up to move up in weight and challenge for the world flyweight title. From September 2007 until May 2016, Nietes reigned uninterrupted as world champion in two weight categories -- a period of almost nine years, thus making him the longest reigning champion in Philippine boxing history. In April 2017, Nietes added another feather on his cap by winning the IBF flyweight title and becoming the country's third three-division world champ after Manny Pacquiao and, Nonito Donaire Jr. Overall, Pacquiao won an unprecedented eight division titles while Donaire captured four regular world crowns. But here's what sets Nietes apart from Pacquiao and Donaire Jr.: Neither Pacquiao nor Donaire Jr. enjoyed a title reign as long as Nietes.' Also, unlike Pacquiao and Donaire, Jr., Nietes has never been knocked out in a world title fight. Nietes has actually never lost when a world title is at stake as the only loss in his career happened in a non-title bout in September 2009 against Angky Ankota. Nietes is unbeaten in his last 32 fights, with only three fights ending in draws. He answered, “After I lost that fight against Ankota, I trained hard to improve my skills and movement. I stay focused during practice. I give my best and I work really hard. For me, it is very important to always have self-discipline” the humble champion added. Nietes is also the true “Mexecutioner,” as he has never lost to a Mexican challenger. Ahas is 16-0 with one draw against Mexican opponents. Whenever he fights in Mexico, he always gets the rock star treatment that he truly deserves as boxing fans there know very well of his greatness. While he does not get the same adulation here, the good thing is that Filipinos still have a chance to appreciate and cheer for Nietes as he seems to get even better and stronger through the years.  Nietes is a tireless workhorse in the ring, which explains why he remains a world champion to this day despite being already 35 years old. He has no trouble making the weight for his fights which speaks well of his conditioning. When he is asked about his motivation, he answered, “I always get prepared whenever I have a scheduled fight. I want to remain a World Champion and give honour to my family and my team ALA boxing stable”. Nietes also offers an unconventional fighting style that allowed him to stay this long as world champion. On offense, Nietes can box and brawl and owns an overhand right that carries above-average power. On defense, Nietes' penchant to crouch low has made him a hard target to find. Nietes always keeps himself ready for the next fight. On regular days, the Filipino Champion loves to do biking. Sometimes he travels with groups.  span style="font-size: 13px;">Sometimes by himself. But what makes it really special is that his biking group conducts a feeding program for children on those provinces that they visit. “For me its dual purpose, I could stay fit through biking and at the same time I could share my blessings with other people and meet new friends.” /span> Giving back has always been part of Nietes’ goals, as someone who grew up in poverty. He was working as a janitor in the ALA Boxing Gym before taking up boxing. From his modest earnings as boxing champion, Nietes has built two homes, one in Mandaue and the other in his native Bacolod, and financed his siblings' education. He describes himself as a kind, simple and an ordinary person. “I am a boxer who is trusts in God. Before my fight, I always pray because on the ring, there is no one to help me but God.” When asked about his humble beginnings, he says, “In order to succeed, you must listen to the advice of your parents. For me, the number one rule is to honour them and avoid disobedience. They always tell me to do good deeds. We must follow. We may not agree with their decisions but your parents is always thinking on what is good for you” he added. In his most recent interview, an overjoyed Nietes expressed his appreciation for all his supporters and the people behind the success of his career, saying, “I would not have been celebrating my 10th year as a world champion if I weren’t given the chance to box in the first place, so I want to thank my manager, sir ALA,” talking of the ALA Boxing Group’s top honcho, Tony Aldeguer. “I’m very grateful to my promoter, ALA Promotions, our partner TV network ABS-CBN, the local and international media, my family, friends, fans, and of course, God Almighty who made all this happen. It has been a long journey, but nothing beats the happiness I feel being identified as Donnie “Ahas” Nietes, the longest-reigning Filipino world champion” he added. Unbeaten in the last 13 years and a world champion in three weight divisions, Nietes has indeed earned his place in the pantheon of great Filipino world champions. Thankfully, Filipinos can still witness his greatness because the country's longest reigning boxing champion is not done winning yet.  br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 30th, 2017

Gervacio returns to Foton

Dzi Gervacio will make a return stint with Foton for the 2017 Philippine Superliga Grand Prix, slated to open on October 21 as the Tornadoes gun for a three-peat in the import-laden tournament. The former Ateneo de Manila University star last donned the Tornadoes jersey two years ago and her addition will shore up the squad's lineup in the nine-team season-ending conference.   “Injury-plagued pa rin kami so we’ll see (if maka-three-peat) but Miss Gervacio will be a big boost to our campaign,” said Foton team owner Rommel Sytin Friday when he met Gervacio and league officials headed by chairman Philip Juico and president Ramon ‘Tats’ Suzara. Gervacio will add more firepower to the Tornadoes, alongside veterans and national team members 6-foot-5 Jaja Santiago and Maika Ortiz and holdovers Ivy Perez and returning Dindin Santiago-Manabat. Foton tapped Sara Klisura and Katarina Vukamanovic of Serbia and Dragana Perunicnic of Montenegro.  Gervacio suited up for the Tornadoes back in the 2014 Grand Prix and the 2015 All-Filipino Conference where she unfortunately sustained a left ACL injury in a match against Philips Gold. She returned to indoor volleyball last year with BaliPure in the V-League and then played for BanKo-Perlas in the 2017 Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference. Gervacio is also busy organizing tournaments for Beach Volleyball Republic with close friends and Ateneo alumni Charo Soriano, Bea Tan and Gretchen Ho. The meeting also served as a chance for bridging the gap between Gervacio and Suzara regarding the issue of the delayed release of the international transfer certificates of PVL imports back in May. Gervacio apologized for her tweets and the hashtag 'IbigayMoNaTatsSuzara, which accused Suzara, the marketing and development committee chair of the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) and an active member of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), of meddling with the processing of the ITCs. Gervacio in an letter said that her decision to bring the issue through social media platform ‘was in no way to try and disrespect Mr. Suzara as it was my way of eliciting a response from the authorities regarding the matter.’ Suzara said that everything’s water under the bridge now and thanked Sytin for initiating the fruitful meeting to clear the issue. “I respect Mr. Sytin and admire him for his decision to settle all things among the PSL, our stakeholders, our players and prove that negativity has no place in our quest to become one of the leading sports leagues in the country,” he said.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 29th, 2017