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Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics’ mystique

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio --- There haven't been any championship banners hoisted into Boston's hallowed rafters since 2008. LeBron James won't let go of the rope. Cleveland's star has bounced the Celtics from the playoffs four times in the past seven years, and James carries a six-game postseason winning streak at Boston into this year's Eastern Conference finals, which open Sunday at TD Garden. As a member of both the Miami Heat and Cavaliers, James --- whose success against Boston did a 180-degree turn with a mesmerizing Game 6 performance in 2012 --- has made the Celtics green(er) with envy. But while the 33-year-old has the utmost respect for the NBA's most decorated franchise, James...Keep on reading: Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics’ mystique.....»»

Category: newsSource: inquirer inquirerMay 12th, 2018

Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics’ mystique

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio --- There haven't been any championship banners hoisted into Boston's hallowed rafters since 2008. LeBron James won't let go of the rope. Cleveland's star has bounced the Celtics from the playoffs four times in the past seven years, and James carries a six-game postseason winning streak at Boston into this year's Eastern Conference finals, which open Sunday at TD Garden. As a member of both the Miami Heat and Cavaliers, James --- whose success against Boston did a 180-degree turn with a mesmerizing Game 6 performance in 2012 --- has made the Celtics green(er) with envy. But while the 33-year-old has the utmost respect for the NBA's most decorated franchise, James...Keep on reading: Wicked good: LeBron undaunted by Boston, Celtics’ mystique.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsMay 12th, 2018

Ten takeaways from NBA All-Star 2018 weekend

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com There's a certain flair and pageantry that gets added to any sporting event when Los Angeles is the host city. When it came to the 2018 NBA All-Star festivities, Hollywood did not disappoint in living up to its standard.   From the arrival of a handful of players late last week to the throng of celebrities, NBA legends and, of course, actual All-Stars on the court for Sunday night's All-Star Game, big and bold moments marked this All-Star weekend that was. This is by no means the be-all, end-all list for the weekend. But, if you somehow missed them, these 10 moments and events -- listed in no particular order -- will stand out in NBA All-Star lore for years to come: AN ALL-STAR (GAME) COMEBACK The format change for the 67th All-Star Game, with captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry choosing their rosters, proved to be a rousing success. And the game itself, with its final frantic minutes, were worth all of the hand-wringing. The defense-wins-when-it-matters final seconds living up to all of the promise that accompanied the reset for both the players involved and all of us watching. Team LeBron’s furious 28-12 comeback in the final six minutes made the game an actual, real life competition. Both sides going at it and wanting to win in the worst way is all anyone was asking for -- well that and a televised player draft (which may be coming soon ...). POKE THE PROCESS? First-time All-Stars Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) all acquitted themselves quite well in Sunday night’s (Monday, PHL time) game. Embiid stood out among the crowd, though, and might have taken home MVP honors if Team Stephen had held on to their late lead. He gave as good as he got from Team LeBron (see his back and forth with Russell Westbrook early and physical tussles with LeBron late), which is exactly what you expect from The Process. BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY(?) What we can say about Fergie’s soulful rendition of the national anthem that NBA Twitter (and the rest of humankind) haven’t already said? Barkley: Can we talk about Fergie's National Anthem... 😂 pic.twitter.com/RwZMYpLzsr — Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) February 19, 2018 LIVING LEGENDS ABOUND One thing that never gets old during All-Star weekend is seeing the living legends of the game in the flesh, usually in groups and basically everywhere. And from the Legends Brunch to All-Star Saturday Night (Sunday, PHL time) to Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) game, the stars were out all over Los Angeles. No sport celebrates its rich history better than the NBA. 'THE BROW' REPS FOR 'BOOGIE' Anthony Davis represented the the right way for his All-Star New Orleans Pelicans teammate DeMarcus Cousins at the start of the game by wearing Boogie’s No. 0 jersey for Team LeBron. The Big Easy bromance between the superstar big men is real. NEW WAVE OF FUTURE STARS Friday night’s (Saturday, PHL time) Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars contest lived up to its billing, as the Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown headlined the game filled with some of the league’s most exciting young stars, several of whom could be making appearances on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time) in Charlotte next year and Chicago in 2020. L.A. SHINES BRIGHT As we mentioned, the city of Angels didn’t disappoint as the host for All-Star weekend and this marked the sixth time the league’s showcase event was held here. From the party scene that seemed to stretch all over the Southland to the concentration of stars that made the Staples Center, LA Live and the downtown area the epicenter of the basketball universe for the long weekend, LA delivered. SHOOTER’S PARADISE For all of the great shooters who have captured the hardware over the years, none have ever done what Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker did to take home the JBL Three-Point Contest title Saturday night (Monday, PHL time). Booker’s 28 points in his final round duel with Splash Brother and 2016 champion Klay Thompson was an event record. He knocked down a wicked 20 of his 25 shots in that monster final round. LEBRON AN MVP ON AND OFF COURT The oldest player in Sunday’s (Monday, PHL time) game turned out to be the best on and off the court. LeBron James collected his third Kia All-Star Game MVP trophy on the strength of his near triple-double performance (29-points, 10 rebounds and eight assists). Some of his best work came in his response to a battle LeBron and his peers have been fighting all season. “Shut up and dribble,” as Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham suggested LeBron and Kevin Durant should do after they dared to discuss social and political issues in our current climate, was met with the ultimate clap back from the face of the league. His nuanced and eloquent words during Saturday’s media day session was the perfect response. A STAR IS BORN ON SATURDAY NIGHT If you didn’t know Donovan Mitchell’s name before State Farm All-Star Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time), you do now. The Utah Jazz rookie stole the show in the Verizon Slam Dunk contest, introducing himself to the world that doesn’t have NBA League Pass with a masterful performance in the event known for launching new stars. Mitchell’s use of family (his little sister Jordan), newfound friends (comedian Kevin Hart and his son) and history (Jazz dunk champ and legend Darrell Griffith/a Vince Carter Toronto Raptors jersey) proved timely. Mitchell out-dueled the Cleveland Cavaliers' Larry Nance Jr. for the title, securing the title with his ode to Carter on his final dunk. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 20th, 2018

MVP Ladder: Giannis bolsters case with key win in Houston

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t think he’s quite “there yet” when it comes to the Kia MVP chase. With all due respect, Mr. “Greek Freak,” the basketball world begs to differ. You are definitely there, sir, based on your performance through the midpoint of this NBA season. In fact, if there were hardware to hand out from Kia Race to the MVP Ladder HQ at this point, Antetokounmpo would be the recipient (edging out a crowded field that includes the reigning MVP, James Harden). By the grace of the scheduling gods, the two leading candidates just happened to hook up on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time), the official halfway point of 2018-19. And they put on a show worthy of MVP mention, with Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks knocking off Harden’s Houson Rockets at Toyota Center. Harden continued his torrid scoring streak, collecting his league-leading 14th 40-point game of the season. In doing so, he tied Tracy McGrady for the second-longest 30-point streak since the ABA/NBA merger at 14. (Kobe Bryant has the record at 16 straight.) But Harden didn’t have his most efficient outing (shooting 13-for-30 overall with nine turnovers) as the Bucks took control late. All Antentokounmpo did was shred the Rockets for 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting to go along with a career-high 21 rebounds, five assists and yet another showcase performance for his MVP resume. (The Bucks pounded the Rockets to the tune of a 70-24 advantage in points in the paint and outscored them 19-2 in fast break points.) The Bucks have won seven of their past eight games heading into today’s game against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. They’ve stormed the top of the Eastern Conference standings and own a 10-5 record over Western Conference opponents with Antetokounmpo as their undisputed leader and, yes, MVP. Not there yet, huh? Yeah, right. * * * The top five this week in the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder: * * * 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks Last week: No. 2 Season stats: 26.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.3 steals Antetokounmpo seems to be the only person on the planet who isn’t moved by his consistent brilliance this season. If he doesn’t think he’s "there yet," then the rest of the league should brace themselves for whatever comes next. He’s been an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor, but particularly as an offensive catalyst on one of the most improved teams in the league. Doing it without the aid of a reliable long-distance shot is what has made watching Antetokounmpo crush the competition so intriguing. If there was any skepticism about the Bucks being both a legitimate threat in the East and a title contender, that should be vanishing as the second half of the season begins. As long as Antetokounmpo stays focused and healthy (he’s probable Saturday, PHL time, with right quadriceps soreness and a left hip bruise), the possibilities are endless. 2. James Harden, Houston Rockets Last week: No. 1 Season stats: 33.9 points, 8.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals Harden has moved into hallowed ground with his current scoring barrage, as his 14 straight games of 30-plus points ties Hall of Famer (and fellow Rockets legend) Tracy McGrady for the second-longest streak since the ABA/NBA merger. Those debates about whether or not Harden is the best offensive player ever aren’t out of line, not when you consider the way he generates offense for himself and his teammates. Harden has a chance to obliterate the record with the Rockets’ friendly upcoming schedule (they play seven of their next 10 games at Toyota Center). The only glitch for Harden as he's hit this nuclear level is the one key flaw in his game is rising, too. He’s averaging 5.7 turnovers this season, which ties his career-high from 2016-17. He's up to 7.3 tpg in his last five games, which he, of course, would point out is world-class nit-picking of a guy playing as well as he is. 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors Last week: No. 3 Season stats: 28.9 points, 5.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals Curry shot a rather un-Splash Brother-ish 5-for-19 in Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) home win against the New York Knicks, which includes an ugly 3-for-12 showing from three-point range. That was a huge come down from his 42-point outburst (including 10 made three-pointers) Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in a road win against the Sacramento Kings. But as often happens with a rare rough shooting night for the two-time former MVP, Curry displayed a brilliant floor game against the Knicks. He finished with 14 assists (and just one turnover) while grabbing seven rebounds as Klay Thompson went off for 43 points and Kevin Durant dropped 24. Curry’s had just three hiccups since returning from his 11-game, groin-injury induced absence on Dec. 1 (Dec. 2, PHL time). Over his last 18 games, Curry has failed to score at least 20 points only once. What should worry the Chicago Bulls, who visit Oracle today, is what Curry has done in those other two games after he struggled (averaged 32.0 points). 4. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors Last week: No. 4 Season stats: 27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals MVP voters must decide if the work Leonard did while he was playing outweighs how good the Raptors were all season whether he was in or out of the lineup. As convenient as it might be to try to diminish what Leonard has done by knocking him for the games he missed, you’d be wise to pay attention to just how good he's been when he plays. The Milwaukee Bucks can certainly attest to his impact after what Leonard did to them Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). He logged 30 points and a season-high five steals, playing his trademark lockdown defense, as the Raptors won the battle between the NBA’s top two teams (in the standings). Leonard has such tight control over his own game that he continues to play as efficiently as anyone on this list. He has notched eight games this season where he’s scored 30 or more points while shooting better than 50 percent, including his last two games (30 on 50 percent shooting in the win against the Bucks and 31 points on 61.1 percent shooting in their recent win against the Hawks). 5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets Last week: No. 7 Season stats: 19.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.5 steals Jokic continues to deliver for the Nuggets in every category, doing his crafty best to help keep coach Michael Malone’s team at the top of the Western Conference. He notched his 21st career triple-double (18 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks) in Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) win over the LA Clippers. It was his second straight triple-double, coming two days after lighting up the Heat in Miami for 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. In doing so, he tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the second-most career triple-doubles by a center and can now chase Wilt Chamberlain’s big man record of 78. Jokic will probably dig into that deficit considerably the season if he keeps playing the way he has to kick off 2019 (27.2 points on .523 shooting, 12.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals in his last five games). Jokic and the rest of the Nuggets are focused on team goals first, of course. After missing out on the playoffs on the season's final night in 2017-18, they’re making sure to avoid any such drama this time. * * * The next five 6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers 8. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers 9. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 10. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans And five more: DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs; Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers;Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers; Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2019

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 29th, 2018

Reasons to watch 2018 slate of NBA X mas day games

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2018

Drama, the long ball center of early season NBA intrigue

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press There has been some early tinkering to lineups, a few hiccups and lots of drama to start the NBA season. None of the league’s final four teams from last season — Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Golden State — look like locks to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy this time. The addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets’ roster produced more thorns than fruit, and now he is out. In Boston, the Celtics are having early trouble trying to figure out how best to use their overflowing mix of young and veteran talent following the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injuries. And Cleveland has gotten off to a predictable slow start to the post-LeBron James’ era, but few expected the total collapse by the Cavaliers. However, there is no drama like championship drama and the defending champion Warriors suddenly look more like the cast of a reality series than a harmonious lineup rolling along and vying for a third straight championship. Draymond’s Green public outburst at Kevin Durant during the Warriors’ overtime loss to the Clippers on Nov. 12 lingers. Now there is tension on a team that has managed to remain mostly drama-free during its run. Durant’s impending free agency, Green’s lack of an apology, and Steph Curry’s injury has opened a window for teams. Some of the NBA’s most recent mini-dynasties have dissipated because of infighting. Squabbling between Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls management at least contributed to their decline after Jordan’s second three-peat and subsequent second retirement in 1999. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t coexist long enough to extend the Los Angeles Lakers’ run of three straight titles from 2000 to 2002. Green has vowed the Warriors will still be there in the end. That remains to be seen. 3'S COMPANY Little guys doing work outside and big men camped out close to the basket is an old-school approach to basketball that’s starting to look as old as James Naismith’s original peach baskets. The NBA needs to send out thank-you cards to the ABA. Everyone digs the long ball. Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the 3-point shot in the league. Over those four decades it’s gone from being one of the handful of innovations carried over from the ABA to a necessity for any player — from guards to seven-footers — wanting to have longevity in the league. During the 2012-13 season, 33 NBA players listed at 6'8" or taller averaged at least one three-point attempt. That number grew to 124 last season. The 2018-19 season is barely two months old, but two teams (Boston and Golden State) have already logged 24 made three-pointers in a game. The record of 25 was set late last season by Cleveland. And in case anyone needed a reminder of the shot’s increased popularity, look no further than Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez. He became the third seven-footer in NBA history to hit eight three-pointers in a game when he did it against Denver last week. “You see the way the game’s trending, it’s definitely moving in that direction,” Lopez said. “I’m just trying to be professional, do my job, try to get my work in. I want to be as good as I can in every possible area of the game.” Lopez said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has been supportive of him stepping out beyond the arc. “Regardless if I miss, if I have off-games where I don’t shoot as well, they just tell me” to keep shooting, Lopez said. Other veteran big men around the league are hearing similar refrains. THE WEEK AHEAD — San Antonio at New Orleans, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): DeMar DeRozan had 26 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and 12 rebounds during the Spurs’ win in San Antonio earlier this month. The Pelicans look to return the favor after recovering nicely from a six-game losing skid. — Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): In a pre-Turkey Day appetizer, LeBron James returns to face Cleveland for the first time this season following his free agency departure to L.A. — New Orleans at Philadelphia, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): The Pelicans get their first crack at the new-look 76ers following their acquisition of Jimmy Butler. — Portland at Golden State, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): The Warriors get a look at one of their chief challengers in the West when they meet the Blazers for the first time this season. ___ AP Sports Writer Genaro Armas in Milwaukee contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 19th, 2018

Threeforall: Bucks become latest team to set a 3-point mark

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press The best 3-point shooter who ever lived, at least in terms of volume, is Ray Allen. Boston used to have him. Milwaukee used to have him. And he doesn’t figure into either franchise’s greatest single-game 3-point barrage. With NBA records being set from 3-point range this season — Golden State’s Klay Thompson has already busted the mark for 3s in a game with 14, one more than the standard his fellow Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry established in 2016, the league is well on its way to making more shots from beyond the arc than ever before. The record, set last season, is 25,807. The NBA is on pace this season to make about 27,300 shots from 3-point land. Now, not even three full weeks into this season, five teams have broken their own franchise record for 3s in a game. The most recent entry into that club was Milwaukee, which connected on 22 3s — on 56 tries, as opposed to 39 from inside the arc — in its 144-109 win over Sacramento on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). The Bucks used 13 players, with everyone trying at least one shot from 3-point range and 11 connecting on at least one triple. It was the second time this season the Bucks tried more 3s than 2s. Number of times in Bucks history that happened before this season? Zero. “We’ll just hopefully keep pushing that record, whatever it is,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “See if we can get more. ... Good for us to know that we’re pushing that envelope and we want to be great behind that 3-point line.” The Bucks aren’t alone in their quest for 3-point greatness. Boston, which has had 3-point stars like Larry Bird, Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker and Allen in its rich history, made a team-record 24 3-pointers last week against the Bucks. The Celtics came into this season with 19 3s in a game being their franchise mark; they’ve made 19 or more twice already this season. “We took what the defense gave us,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the barrage of 24 3s. Fueled by Thompson’s 14 3s in Chicago, the Warriors set a team record that night with 24 makes from deep. Atlanta set a team mark with 22 3-pointers against Cleveland, and Utah connected on its record of 19 in a loss to Golden State. “This is the NBA right now,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. Curry is shooting more 3s per game than ever, making more 3s per game than ever — and doing it more accurately than ever. He’s already made 59 3s through the Warriors’ first 10 games, and is shooting 51 percent from deep. Curry is fifth all-time in 3-pointers made with 2,188. Allen is the record-holder with 2,973, a mark Curry is on pace to get in about two years. MUST GET 100 In this NBA, if a team doesn’t score 100 points, they’re not winning. Then again, getting to 100 doesn’t guarantee anything either. Teams that score 100 points or more are 134-99 this season, meaning they win 57.5 percent of the time. Those who don’t score 100 are 5-40, or winning 11.1 percent of the time. That’s a big change from recent years. Last season, teams over 100 won 62.2 percent of the time, and teams that didn’t score 100 won 20.8 percent of the time. A decade ago, those scoring 100 won at a 69.4 percent clip, and those not reaching the century mark won 30.8 percent of the time. THE WEEK AHEAD A six-pack of games to watch this week ... — Minnesota at L.A. Clippers, Monday (Tuesday, PHL time): Jimmy Butler had the Clippers among those on his radar when this trade saga started. — Philadelphia at Indiana, Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time): Joel Embiid’s numbers are fantastic, but Myles Turner is another great young big guy. — Milwaukee at Golden State, Thursday (Friday, PHL time): Bucks have been one of the season’s top early stories, and now get the ultimate test. — Boston at Utah, Friday (Saturday, PHL time): This will be Gordon Hayward’s 262nd time playing in Salt Lake City, and his first in a Celtics uniform. — Houston at San Antonio, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time): Spurs are 14-7 in last 21 with Rockets, and the teams play three times before Christmas. — Atlanta at L.A. Lakers, Sunday (next Monday, PHL time): Hawks rookie Kevin Huerter was LeBron James’ scrimmage teammate at a Nike camp in 2015. ON THE MOVE Now that the Tyson Chandler buyout by the Phoenix Suns has been completed, he’s expected to be on the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster later this week once he clears waivers. Portland coach Terry Stotts, who was a Dallas assistant when Chandler was with the Mavericks, said it’ll be a good move for the Lakers. “I like Tyson Chandler,” Stotts said. “Great teammate, obviously that was a few years ago but he impacts the game at the defensive end. He’s a great locker room guy. ... He’s all about winning. So, any team that has Tyson is going to be better for it.” ___ AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Oregon contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 5th, 2018

MVP Ladder: Hot start pushes Curry to forefront

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 3rd, 2018

Persistent Popovich, Spurs negate coaching-change ways in NBA

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The first coach in the Gregg Popovich era to get axed was Brian Winters on Jan. 24, 1997. He lost 100 games faster than anyone in history, a byproduct of overseeing the Vancouver Grizzlies in their expansion season (1995-96) and into 43 games of ’96-97. The most recent to lose his job was Tyronn Lue on Oct. 28, 2018 after Cleveland’s 0-6 start. This was more of a head scratcher as he’s the only coach to win a title with the Cavs. Perhaps his biggest crime was failing to give LeBron James the wrong directions to Cleveland Hopkins Airport last summer. In that span, 245 NBA coaching changes were made in Popovich’s time in San Antonio. Some of them have been understandable, others questionable, in all a spinning wheel that managed to eject all from the first seat on the bench … except one. In the wake of yet another coaching switch, it’s fair to wonder: how and when will it end for Popovich in San Antonio? He’s closer to the finish line than the starting line, but the finish line keeps moving. Any notion of Popovich vanishing once Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili left the organization died when training camp began. Any thought of Popovich turning sour from the organization’s lethal relationship last year with Kawhi Leonard was dismissed when Popovich enthusiastically prepared himself for his 23rd NBA season. And all ideas of Popovich permanently drifting to one of San Antonio’s relaxing 18-hole courses as he approaches his seventh decade on the planet should be shattered with a Big Bertha driver. “I don’t golf,” he said. “What a waste of time. I’d rather read a book. You could be doing a lot of other things.” Like, keep coaching. “I still enjoy this,” he said, before deadpanning, “but I don’t know how to do anything else.” He has survived this long because he wins. With 1,201 victories and counting, he’s climbing toward Don Nelson’s career record of 1,335. With a straight face, Popovich says “my ass would’ve been gone a long time ago” if not for great success that he constantly credits to Duncan, among others. But there’s another factor in play that keeps Popovich in control of his destiny and fate. He has rarely, if ever, had to answer to anyone in the Spurs’ organization, now controlled by Julianna Holt, who keeps away from the basketball operation. Almost from the jump, Popovich ruled the empire, and that has separated him from others who’ve won just as many, or more, than his five championships. It’s a unique setup enjoyed by almost no one in professional sports, which are often controlled by owners who act on a whim. Phil Jackson (11 titles) left two organizations, including the Los Angeles Lakers twice, not totally on his own. Pat Riley had a prickly departure from the Lakers after winning four of his five career titles there. In both cases, the lines were clearly drawn: neither Jackson nor Riley, despite steering their teams to historical runs, carried the strongest voice in the building. Neither had tenure or were immune from the type of sports diseases that can fracture even dynasties and shove great coaches out the door. When he greased the “Showtime” era in Los Angeles, Riley had the biggest coaching profile since Red Auerbach and his signature victory cigars. Riley was charismatic, cool and changed the coaching culture. But inside was a gym rat and a clipboard scribbler. He released the leash on the fast break and made the Lakers intoxicating. He smooth-talked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into taking a reduced role as age began to weather the Hall of Famer. However, the core Lakers eventually grew weary of Riley’s techniques and motivational tricks. When the Lakers were upset by the Phoenix Suns in the 1990 Western Conference semifinals, Riley heard the increased volume and split. Jackson’s relationship with Bulls GM Jerry Krause showed decay early in the Bulls’ run for a sixth and final championship in 1997-98. Theirs was a clash of egos and ideas. That, and a demand by Jackson for more money, led to a Bulls breakup. In the early 2000s, Jackson restored the Lakers’ franchise as they became the biggest rival for Popovich’s Spurs in that decade. But the chore of coaxing two high-maintenance young stars, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, beat up Jackson and lead to his first LA exit. His second stint with the Lakers ended mainly over money, among other issues. That’s all foreign to Popovich, who had the benefit of taking over a team with David Robinson, the gentlemanly All-Star who gave no gruff. And then, blessed by the basketball gods, Popovich landed Duncan, the most no-frills superstar the game has ever seen. Duncan set the tone in the locker room for professionalism, conduct and work ethic. Everyone followed, something that’s lasted for almost two decades, all while making Popovich’s life easier (for which Popovich is forever grateful). Duncan also drastically changed the lives of two men. When Popovich stepped down from his GM role on Dec. 10, 1996 – taking the coaching job from Bob Hill after a 3-15 start -- he went 17-47. That is his only losing season to date, and the Spurs fell into the Draft lottery. There were whispers at the time -- blasphemy nowadays -- that he might not see another season in San Antonio. In 1997, the Boston Celtics had better odds of winning Draft lottery and its grand prize: a bank-shot-shooting center from Wake Forest (via the Virgin Islands) who could transform a franchise. Had the Celtics gotten the No. 1 pick, perhaps Rick Pitino would still be coaching in the NBA instead of lobbying for a return. As much as Popovich heaps praise on Duncan, there’s no denying Popovich’s role in 21 straight years of playoff trips and his own coaching immortality. The way he runs an organization envied by many, helps find talent with low Draft picks (Ginobili was taken 57th overall; Parker at No. 28), generates respect from players and rivals (LeBron James, among others) and is a San Antonio landmark (along with the Alamo) is no accident. If Popovich can’t control his fate, then no one in his profession ever will. Besides, under what circumstances would Popovich be forced out? Even if it’s his call, how will this end? He turns 70 in January, although the only time he ages is when a referee’s whistle doesn’t blow his way. He survived Leonard, the only documented sign of rebellion by a Spurs’ star. And the Spurs, despite losing Dejounte Murray for the season to a knee injury, might keep their playoff streak alive with DeMar DeRozan blending well with new teammates. “It’s San Antonio, OK? The faces have changed but the standards are the same and the way do things are the same,” Popovich said. “We’re going to expect the guys to do their jobs on and off the court. None of that’s going to change. The way we want to approach the game and have the respect for the game is all the same, just with different people.” Asked about the Murray injury and other non-Spurs-like issues, he adds: “Maybe we deserve a little bad luck. We got to draft Tim Duncan 20 years ago. So, a little misfortune. We deserve it.” Coaching changes since Dec. 1996 Gregg Popovich was named coach of the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 10, 1996. Since then, there have been 245 coaching changes league-wide. Here's a look at how many changes each team has gone through in the Popovich era. In two years, Popovich assumes control of the US Olympic basketball team. That could satisfy his urge to coach without the 82-game grind and free up time to pursue other stuff. But who knows? “Being a wine consultant going from vineyard to vineyard, or a restaurant critic going from restaurant to restaurant, that would be more fun, for sure,” Popovich said. The 1996-97 season was bloody for the profession. Seven teams, including the Spurs, changed coaches in season. The Washington Bullets (now Wizards) had three coaches that season. And, in fact, Bernie Bickerstaff held two jobs that season, resigning as Denver’s coach in November and was later hired by Washington in February. Cotton Fitzsimmons lasted eight games with the Phoenix Suns. Only one new coach that season lasted more than two decades. Since Popovich’s debut, the Utah Jazz have had the fewest coaching changes (two), while the Grizzlies and Wizards have been on the other extreme (13 each). The Dallas Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle and the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra own the longest tenure after Popovich (10 years each). We’ll never see another like him in our lifetime. He’s a coach who gets results on the court, respect in the locker room and no orders from above. Good luck finding another combination like that. The 245 coaching changes are not a number Popovich particularly likes (because he sticks up for the profession) and it’s not a number that he’ll add to anytime soon -- if he has any say. Which he does. “I’m a simple untalented man,” he said. “This is all I can do. I’d better stick with it.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 31st, 2018

LeBron shines in debut, but Lakers still have lots to do

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com PORTLAND, Ore. -- His first basket of this new era was much like many others, in terms of impact and its ferocity and jaw-dropping nature. LeBron James stole the Trail Blazers’ cross-court pass and before him was the open court … and thousands of open mouths, all bracing in anticipation of a moment. His fast-break dunk was just as you expected it would be, jammed through the basket with a cocked arm and followed by a brief pose at landing, for emphasis and style. The greatest player in the game was back in full soar Thursday but, as it were, his new team remained stuck to the floor. Overall, this process is gonna take some time, you think? Before the Los Angeles Lakers whip the basketball world into a frenzy, they must whip Portland. And also the Houston Rockets, who visit Staples Center on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) for the Lakers’ home opener. And the Golden State Warriors. And Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans. And any team in the Western Conference that considers itself a contender. But you knew this, right? “We’ll have to go through some moments,” LeBron said after the Lakers lost at Moda Center, 128-119. “We’ll have some adversity.” True, this isn’t an overnight sensation in the making. “Not as fast as you (media) guys think it’s going to happen,” LeBron said. The Lakers will get more chances to make a first impression, and that’s a good thing for them as they navigate through a potentially tricky transition period with their shiny new showpiece. There is only one thing that’s a lock through this bumpy path: LeBron is still the force he was in Cleveland and Miami, his only other NBA stops. Months before turning 34, his flow and his basketball instincts remain steak-knife sharp and his pride is intact. He tipped off his season by playing 37 minutes -- so much for reduced minutes here after 15 years of deep tread wear on his wheels -- and delivered 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. “I mean, that’s crazy, a guy to be in his 16th year playing at that pace and above the rim the way he was,” said Blazers guard Damian Lillard. “He looked like himself.” That said, he and his teammates are still working on their wavelength. This was evident for much of the night, when connections were missed and confusion reigned at times. On Thursday (Friday, PHL time), LeBron threw a behind-the-back pass that in Cleveland or Miami would usually hits is mark to teammates aware of his tendencies and timing. Last night, LeBron tried it and the ball dribbled out of bounds, all of which flummoxed LeBron and Kyle Kuzma (the nearest Laker). After the whistle blew and possession went to Portland, LeBron and Kuzma had a brief chat. “I expected Kuz to pop,” explained LeBron, “and he rolled. Then another time (Rajon) Rondo went to the hole, JaVale (McGee) thought it was going to him and it was meant for me. We’ll get better at that.” These first few weeks, if the Lakers are fortunate, will be conducted in a vacuum and a laboratory. Transitions are usually like that. LeBron had a similar one in Miami eight years ago, when a 9-8 start playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had folks thinking the sky was falling. With these Lakers, the reaction will -- or should, anyway -- be more muted if only because the expectations aren’t through the ceiling this season. The Lakers are trying to nourish the limited basketball experience of Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram with LeBron (and Rajon Rondo) taking on more of a mentor role. That means class will be in session most, if not all, season. LeBron is preaching patience not only for those in and outside of the organization, but for himself as well. Sometimes, it’s easier said than done. LeBron realizes that he’s on the clock personally, even though his stamina and level of play remain high. “A lot of these guys don’t have as much experience, so I have to understand that,” James said. “And I do.” LeBron seems cursed by celebrated season openers, falling to 0-4 all-time in his debut games. He scored 25 points in his rookie opener, but Cleveland lost to the Sacramento Kings. He had 31 in his Miami opener in a loss to the Boston Celtics. And he had 17 points in his Cleveland return in 2014, a home loss to the New York Knicks. The Lakers’ crime Thursday (Friday, PHL time) was a failure to tighten up defensively and of course the mistakes that could be blamed on a getting-to-know-you game. And then there’s another issue that LeBron will soon discover, if he hasn’t already: He’s not in the easy East anymore. “There’s a tough game every night,” Lillard said. The West had 10 teams with winning records last season fighting for eight playoff spots. Coaches and players in the West were fond of tweaking their neighbors across the Mississippi in 2017-18, saying the non-playoff teams in the West should take some East spots. Of last season’s playoff teams, none return seriously weaker -- unless you’re ready to bury the San Antonio Spurs (who have a 21-year playoff streak going) or Minnesota Timberwolves (who are coping with the Jimmy Butler crisis). The Blazers were the No. 3 seed and were swept in the first round by the Pelicans, which puts the depth and overall strength of the West in perspective. Only three games separated the Blazers and the ninth-seeded Nuggets during the regular season. Meanwhile, the Rockets and Warriors were beyond the reach of mortals. LeBron chumped the East eight straight times to reach the NBA Finals. Yet by most indications, he’s an A-list teammate away from spooking the Warriors -- and that teammate isn’t in a Lakers uniform this season. This journey through the West could either humble LeBron or, at the least, make him realize the work needed for the Lakers to regain contender status. Heck, the Lakers couldn’t even prevent Nik Stauskas from having the biggest night of his NBA life. He scored 24 points and made more three-pointers (five) than the Lakers’ starting lineup (two). It was telling that Lakers coach Luke Walton started Rondo over Ball at point guard -- an understandable move after Ball missed several months recovering from knee issues. Rondo was mainly stellar (11 assists, three steals) while the Lakers’ fourth-quarter lineups excluded Ball. Meanwhile, Hart (20 points off the bench) earned crunch time minutes. “Everyone had different roles last year,” Walton said, “and some of those roles could change.” Well, someone’s role will remain the same. Regarding that guy, Walton said: “Glad he’s on our team. He’s pretty good at the game of basketball.” Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 19th, 2018

2018-19 NBA Preview: It s the Warriors, and then everyone else

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will be at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night, handing the Golden State Warriors what will be their third set of championship rings from the last four seasons. A banner will be displayed. Highlights will be shown. And then the Warriors will have to start all over again. The NBA’s 73rd season starts Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), beginning a year where LeBron James will play for the Los Angeles Lakers, where Carmelo Anthony will aim to push the Houston Rockets over the top, where Dwyane Wade will take his 16th and final lap around the league. A new arena is opening in Milwaukee, eight teams will have new coaches, and everyone will be looking to see if the Warriors can win a third straight title. “None of us are ready for this run to come to an end,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green, part of all three Warriors’ titles in this four-year run of dominance. “So we’ve got to continue to approach it like we’ve got zero. And that’s cliche and impossible to do, but you want to try to get as close to that as you possibly can. And that’s my mindset always entering the season.” They will be the overwhelming favorites, with good reason. The Warriors still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Green, plus added All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins — coming off an injury — on a bargain $5.3 million deal. And calling all the shots is coach Steve Kerr, who won five rings as a player and now three more as a coach. “If they don’t win, it’s a failure,” Memphis guard Mike Conley Jr. said. “I know that’s how they feel as well. For us, for the other 29 teams, we’re the underdog. We’re trying to take what they have. It’s a lot easier playing from the underdog perspective than coming in with a lot of expectation.” In this NBA, everybody else is an underdog. That even applies to Houston — which won 65 games last season, has the reigning MVP in James Harden, an elite point guard in Chris Paul who re-signed for $160 million this summer, a deep-pocketed owner in Tilman Fertitta and an always-tinkering GM in Daryl Morey. The Rockets had the Warriors against the ropes in last season’s Western Conference finals, leading that series 3-2 yet falling after Paul was lost to a hamstring injury. “We’ve all got one goal, man,” Harden said. “You’ll keep hearing the same story over and over until I’m not here no more. We’ve got to win a ’chip. We’ve all got the same goal. We kind of, a little bit, we kind of know what it takes to almost get there. But we haven’t gotten there yet.” The Warriors are the best team and the Rockets had the best record, but the best player is now in L.A. After 15 seasons in the Eastern Conference, James — who has played in each of the last eight NBA Finals — has moved West. He signed a four-year deal in July with the Lakers, one that makes him the biggest star on the league’s glitziest franchise. He’s teamed up with talented young players like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, and former rivals like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson. “I’m a basketball player,” James said. “I play ball. That’s what I do and that’s what I live by. And when I do it at the level I do it at, everything else takes care of itself.” The only certainty in the NBA this season is that James won’t win the East — ending an eight-year run of that, four in Miami and four in Cleveland. Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto (with the newly acquired Kawhi Leonard) are the top candidates to take over as East champions. The Celtics had a Game 7, at home, to get to the NBA Finals last season and lost to James and Cleveland, but now get Gordon Hayward back and a healthy Kyrie Irving again. Miami has been trying to get Jimmy Butler from Minnesota, and if they do — someone will get Butler before the trade deadline — the Heat may be able to get back into East contention. It might be Dirk Nowitzki’s last season in Dallas. Gregg Popovich no longer has Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili with him in San Antonio, and the Spurs (who have been battered by injuries, including one to point guard Dejounte Murray) are no lock to extend their 21-year run of playoff appearances. Sneakerheads will have a big season, because the NBA now says players may wear whatever colors of kicks that they want. There’s plenty of stories. But in the end, it’ll be all about someone finding a way to beat Golden State — or not. “I’ll get back to you when somebody cracks that code,” Wade said. “In this game, the most important thing is health. If they stay healthy, it’s tough to beat them. There’s teams that can, but you’ve got to do it, and you’re going to have to do it four times.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 16th, 2018

With LeBron gone, Eastern Conference set for a new champion

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press The roadblock has been removed. With LeBron James gone, the path to the NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference is open again. Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto and more are hoping to win the race to it. James ruled over the East for eight years, making four straight trips to the finals from Miami and then moving back to Cleveland in 2014 and getting there every year since. From Boston to Indiana, up north in Toronto all the way down to Atlanta, teams would emerge with what they thought was a title contender only to see James send them home for the summer. Now King James has abdicated his throne and moved to Los Angeles, and there should be rejoicing in the land he left behind. “It’s a new lease on life in the Eastern Conference,” said Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Reggie Miller, who faced a similar situation when he played in the East during the era of Michael Jordan’s Bulls. “It’s great that LeBron has taken his talents out West because it opens up the doors for not only a lot of these young players, but these organizations now. Fresh blood, something new to kind of see who can compete for that Eastern crown.” The Celtics nearly won it last year, falling to the Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. They were without the injured Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and now that the two stars are healthy and have rejoined Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and the rest of a deep team that made a valiant run without them, Boston is probably the favorite in the East. But there’s intrigue beyond that, which rarely existed during James’ reign. Philadelphia finished strong in its first season with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons playing together, and now might get a full one with 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz joining them after his shoulder problems last season. Toronto shook up a 59-win team by firing coach Dwane Casey and shipping DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in the trade for Kawhi Leonard, and Indiana bolstered a team that took Cleveland to seven games in the first round. Any of them have a chance to get to the place that James wouldn’t let them. “An appearance in the finals is going to be sweet,” Embiid said. A look at the East, in predicted order of finish: PLAYOFF BOUND 1. Boston — Depth of talent is not only tops in the East, but comes closest in the NBA to rivaling Golden State’s. 2. Philadelphia — If either Simmons or Fultz develops a jump shot to open things up more for Embiid, look out. 3. Indiana — Victor Oladipo has emerged as an All-Star and the Pacers are balanced behind him. 4. Toronto — If Leonard is fully healthy and motivated, Raptors added a top-five player to a 59-win team. 5. Milwaukee — Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to make the Bucks fun to watch in their new arena. 6. Washington — John Wall and Bradley Beal will give the Wizards plenty on the perimeter, but they need Dwight Howard provide a boost on the interior. 7. Miami — Heat won’t want to send Dwyane Wade into retirement without one final playoff appearance. 8. Detroit — A full season with Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin together should be enough to get the Pistons back into the postseason. ___ IN THE MIX 9. Cleveland — Kevin Love and the remainder of the Cavaliers that James left behind should still be good enough to fight for a spot in the top eight. 10. Charlotte — The Hornets will host an All-Star Game in February. They’ll try to host playoff games in April. ___ FACING LONG ODDS 11. Orlando — Steve Clifford is the latest coach to try to mix a collection of young players into one that can defend enough to be a decent team. 12. Brooklyn — Nets made a seven-win improvement last season even while being dismal at defending and rebounding. Do either better and they can take another leap. 13. New York — Kristaps Porzingis remains out indefinitely while rehabbing a torn ACL, so new coach David Fizdale will give rookie Kevin Knox an early green light. 14. Atlanta — Trae Young may be exciting to watch, but he won’t be able to stop another long season of losing in Atlanta. 15. Chicago — The Bulls of Tom Thibodeau were veterans who always defended hard. The Bulls of Fred Hoiberg have been none of the above. ___ WHAT TO KNOW CANADA’S CHANCE: The Raptors gambled on acquiring Leonard from San Antonio, and now Toronto has a year to show him it’s worth sticking around when he becomes a free agent next summer. BEST MAN: A popular question after James left was who is the best player now in the East? Irving, Embiid, Antetokounmpo and Leonard are among those who can make compelling cases. HOWARD’S HEALTH: Dwight Howard has sat out his first preseason with the Wizards because of a balky back, the kind of injury that can sometimes linger, and Washington needs a presence in the middle no matter how good its backcourt is. OPENING NIGHT PREVIEW? Cleveland and Boston met in the opening game in the East last season and ended up squaring off in the conference finals. This time, it’s Boston and Philadelphia to open things in the East and they’ll be good candidates to close them......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2018

DeRozan debuts as Spurs new era opens with preseason win

By The Associated Press A new era of San Antonio basketball has begun, with DeMar DeRozan in the lineup and some longtime legends elsewhere. With an offseason of change behind them, the Spurs opened exhibition play Sunday (Monday, PHL time) with a 104-100 victory over the Miami Heat. DeRozan started and scored seven points in 18 minutes in his first game for the Spurs since they acquired him from Toronto in the trade that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto. With Leonard traded, Tony Parker signing in Charlotte and Manu Ginobili retiring, it was a far more eventful offseason than usual in San Antonio. But it was a good start for the new pieces. Jakob Poeltl, who came with DeRozan from the Raptors, had six points and 10 rebounds. Hassan Whiteside had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Heat. ___ SPURS 104, HEAT 100 Rudy Gay led San Antonio with 13 points, making all three three-pointers and 5-of-6 shots in 14 minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge added 10 points. HEAT: Dwyane Wade began his final preseason by coming off the bench for 10 points in 18 minutes. ... Rodney McGruder and Goran Dragic started in the backcourt, with McGruder scoring 15 points and Dragic adding 12. ... Kelly Olynyk shot 1-for-10 for four points. ... Duncan Robinson made three three-pointers and scored 12 points in a city where a Duncan (Tim) and a Robinson (David) once starred together. SPURS: Dejounte Murray, who replaced Parker as starting point guard last season, had eight points in 15 minutes. ... Derrick White scored 12 points. ... Davis Bertans made three three-pointers and scored 10 points. UP NEXT: Miami (0-1) visits Charlotte on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). San Antonio (1-0) hosts Detroit on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). CELTICS 115, HORNETS 112 Kyrie Irving scored 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting and Terry Rozier had 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals for Boston. Jayson Tatum had 16 points, including three three-pointers, Marcus Morris made 4-of-6 from behind the arc and finished with 12 points, and Jaylen Brown scored 11. Gordon Hayward was just 1-of-7 shooting and had four points in 21 minutes for the Celtics (1-1). Miles Bridges, picked No. 12 overall in June's draft, made 9-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-6 from three-point range, and finished with 23 points for Charlotte (1-1). Willy Hernangomez added 14 points, Malik Monk 13, including three triples, and Kemba Walker scored 10. CELTICS: Al Horford missed the game due to a right wrist sprain. He is expected to return against Cleveland on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). ... Hayward, who suffered a gruesome injury in the opening minutes of the regular-season opener last year, is just 3-of-14 shooting in two games this preseason. He showed some hustle, and confidence in his surgically repaired left ankle, on a chase-down block of a layup by Jeremy Lamb. HORNETS: Tony Parker, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Charlotte in July after 17 seasons with San Antonio, did not play. Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller were also healthy scratches. ... Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left the game in the first half and did not return due to concussion-like symptoms. UP NEXT: Charlotte (1-1) hosts Miami on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). Boston (1-1) hosts Cleveland on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). BULLS 128, PELICANS 116 Antonio Blakeney, Bobby Portis and Zach LaVine scored 21 points apiece for Chicago. The trio combined to make 24-of-42 (57 percent) from the field and 14-of-14 free throws. Jabari Parker, who signed with Chicago as a free agent in July, had 15 points but was just 5-of-14 shooting. Kris Dunn added 12 points and rookie Wendell Carter Jr. scored 11. Frank Jackson and Jrue Holiday each scored 16 points for New Orleans. Jackson shot just 5-of-14 from the field but made 4-of-8 three-pointers. Holiday was 7-of-9 shooting with four assists. BULLS: Lauri Markkanen did not play due to an elbow injury sustained on Thursday (Friday, PHL time) and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. Denzel Valentine (ankle) and Omer Asik (inflammatory arthritis) also missed the game. ... Chicago made just 4-of-18 from three-point range but shot 49.5 percent (49-of-99) from the field. ... Cameron Payne had seven assists. PELICANS: Julius Randle, who signed with the Pelicans as a free agent this offseason, had 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. ... Anthony Davis added 13 points, three steals and two blocks in 15 minutes. ... Nikola Mirotic (sore Achilles tendon) and Darius Miller (shoulder) did not play. ... Frank Jackson, a second-round pick out of Duke in 2017, missed all of last season due to a right foot injury. UP NEXT: Chicago (1-0) plays at Milwaukee on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). New Orleans (0-1) visits Atlanta on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). CLIPPERS 110, SYDNEY KINGS 91 Seven Los Angeles players scored in double figures, led by Tobias Harris who had 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Danilo Gallinari added 19 points, five assists and two blocks. Marcin Gortat, acquired from Washington via trade for Austin Rivers in June, and Patrick Beverly each had 12 points, Montrezl Harrell scored 11 and Lou Williams and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 10 points apiece for the Clippers (1-0). Jerome Randle led the Kings (0-1) with 25 points, Kevin Lisch scored 16 with nine rebounds and six assists and Daniel Kickert had 13 points, including three three-pointers. CLIPPERS: Tobias Harris, who shot a career-best 41.4 percent from three-point range last season, made 4-of-7 from behind the arc on Sunday (Monday, PHL time). ... The Clippers had 31 assists on 41 field goals. ... Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the No. 11 overall pick in June’s draft, added four assists, four steals and a block. SYDNEY KINGS: Andrew Bogut, who played 14 seasons in the NBA and was the first overall selection in the 2005 draft, had eight points, eight rebounds and four assists. ... The Kings made just 12-of-21 from the free-throw line and committed 25 turnovers. UP NEXT: The Clippers play host to Minnesota on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). NUGGETS 124, LAKERS 107 Juan Hernangomez led Denver with 19 points and three blocks and Jamal Murray scored 18 on 8-of-12 shooting in LeBron James’ debut with the Lakers. Nikola Jokic and Trey Lyles had 14 points apiece, Malik Beasley and Monte Morris each scored 12 and Mason Plumlee added 11 points for Denver (1-0). JaVale McGee had 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting Brandon Ingram scored 16 for Los Angeles (0-1). Kyle Kuzma added 15 points, despite making just 4-of-13 from the field, and Lance Stephenson scored 12. NUGGETS: Gary Harris (hamstring), Isaiah Thomas (hip), Michael Porter Jr. (back) and Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) did not play. ... Paul Millsap had six points on 1-of-5 shooting in 21 minutes. LAKERS: LeBron James finished with nine points, three rebounds and three assists in 15 minutes. ... Rajon Rondo had 11 of L.A.’s 26 assists and grabbed seven rebounds. ... Rookie Jonathan Williams had eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in 12 minutes, but committed five fouls. ... Lonzo Ball (knee) and rookie Moritz Wagner (knee) did not play. UP NEXT: The Lakers and Nuggets play again on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) in Los Angeles......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 1st, 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 Bottom 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 Bottom 10 * * * 21. DETROIT PISTONS 2017-18 RECORD: 39-43; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Dwane Casey; New executive Ed Stefanski; G Bruce Brown (No. 42 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jose Calderon (one year, $2.3 million); C Zaza Pachulia (one year, $2.3 million); G/F Glenn Robinson III (two years, $8.3 million); G Khyri Thomas (No. 38 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Stan Van Gundy; G Dwight Buycks (waived); F/C Eric Moreland (waived); F Anthony Tolliver (signed with Wolves) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: F Blake Griffin. And he will be for some time. The Pistons need him to be his former All-Star self again, able to take slower defender to the basket, able to stretch the floor if he plays the five in small-ball lineups. They need him to be a playmaker, to get Reggie Jackson more looks off the ball and Andre Drummond some high-low lobs at the rim. They need him to sell tickets at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit’s revitalized downtown -- a building that seems to be more for the NHL’s Red Wings than the NBA’s Pistons. And they need Griffin to be an anchor that draws players to the Motor City during the life of his extension. THE SKINNY: Owner Tom Gores agonized over firing Van Gundy, but he finally did so, and was fortunate that Casey was available and willing to step right back into the fray after being cashiered in Toronto. Casey will be quite in his element building a defense around Drummond, but, like Van Gundy, Casey will need Jackson to stay healthy; he’s missed a combined 67 games the last two seasons. Detroit did well for not having a first-round pick to come out of the Draft with two solid guard prospects deep in the second in Thomas and Brown. However, the new coaching staff will have to get more out of the team’s last three first-rounders: Stanley Johnson (2015), Henry Ellenson (2016) and Luke Kennard (2017). 22. BOSTON CELTICS 2017-18 RECORD: 55-27; lost in Eastern Conference finals ADDED: G Brad Wanamaker (one year, $838,000); C Robert Williams (No. 27 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Shane Larkin (signed to play in Turkey); F Abdel Nader (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C Aron Baynes (two years, $10.6 million); F Jabari Bird (two years, $3 million), G Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) THE KEY MAN: F Gordon Hayward. All indications are he’s well on his way back from that horrific injury he suffered on opening night last season. He can do so many great things in coach Brad Stevens’ system, and if he’s 100 percent by the playoffs, Boston may well be the one team that can match up, player for player, with Golden State in a Finals meeting. (Remember this when people inevitably say I ranked the Celtics 23rd in offseason moves.) THE SKINNY: Boston got its biggest work done after Smart couldn’t loosen up an offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings or Dallas Mavericks, and eventually worked out a deal for less than he sought to return. Smart’s deal puts Boston in the tax for the foreseeable future, but the Celtics knew that was the next step in keeping a Finals-capable core group together. With Kyrie Irving and Hayward expected back on line Stevens can throw so many different lineups out there, all committed to stifling opponent movement with long, switching defenders led by Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Williams was worth an end of the first flier, though he didn’t get off to a great start. If he gets a good wake-up alarm on his phone, he has a chance to be the Celtics’ center of the future. 23. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 2017-18 RECORD: 52-30; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: F Wilson Chandler (acquired from Nuggets); F/C Mike Muscala (acquired from Hawks); G Zhaire Smith (No. 16 pick, 2018 Draft); G Landry Shamet (No. 26 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shake Milton (No. 54 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former GM Bryan Colangelo (resigned); F Justin Anderson (traded to Hawks); G Marco Belinelli (signed with Spurs); F/C Richaun Holmes (traded to Suns); F Ersan Ilyasova (signed with Bucks); G/F Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C/F Amir Johnson (one year, $1.5 million); G T.J. McConnell (picked up team option); G J.J. Redick (one year, $12.2 million) THE KEY MAN: G Markelle Fultz. His rookie year laid waste by a combination of injury and the yips -- which the Sixers have finally copted to -- Fultz is reportedly rebuilding his shot successfully under the learned eye of development coach Drew Hansen. If that carries over to the fall, Fultz will get a true opportunity (he had some cameos late in his rookie season) to show a skeptical Philly fan base he was worth the top pick in 2017, and worth Philly trading up to get him. He definitely could fill a need with the 76ers for a second playmaker to go with and occasionally in place of reigning Kia Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. But if Fultz has another setback, physically or otherwise, it will be hard for him to stick much longer in Philly -- not a town known for patient reflection with regard to its sports teams. THE SKINNY: Coach Brett Brown was quite clear when he said the Sixers were hunting for a superstar this summer with the cap space they’d assiduously cleared the last couple of years. But the summer has come and gone and there’s no LeBron, no Kawhi, no trade, at least not yet, for Jimmy Butler or anyone else at that level. Belinelli and Ilyasova both played huge roles for Philly in the playoffs; maybe Fultz (see above) takes on some of that role, and Chandler will help. But this doesn’t feel like a successful offseason for one of the real risers in the East. 24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 2017-18 RECORD: 49-33; lost in first round ADDED: G Seth Curry (one year, $2.7 million); G Nik Stauskas (one year, $1.6 million); G Anfernee Simons (No. 24 pick, 2018 Draft); G Gary Trent Jr. (No. 37 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G/F Pat Connaughton (signed with Bucks); F/C Ed Davis (signed with Nets); G Shabazz Napier (signed with Nets); C Georgios Papagiannis (waived) RETAINED: C Jusuf Nurkic (four years, $48 million) THE KEY MAN: Assistant coaches David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbets, Dale Osbourne, Jim Moran, John McCullough and Jonathan Yim. With the Blazers mostly landlocked the next two seasons -- they’re currently above the projected luxury tax line both for next season and 2019-20 -- there aren’t likely going to be many significant roster changes for a while. And in the West, especially, standing pat is often falling behind. It will thus fall to Portland’s excellent staff behind coach Terry Stotts to maximize the production of the current group. They can point with some pride to success stories like Will Barton and Allen Crabbe, now in Denver and Brooklyn, respectively, along with Maurice Harkless and Al-Faroqu Aminu. For Portland to take another step up, they’ll have to coach up someone like 2017 first-rounder Zach Collins or this year’s first-rounder, Simons. They must have them exceed expectations to become a third legit star behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. THE SKINNY: Lillard insists the rumblings heard in some quarters that he’s unhappy in Portland aren’t true, and the franchise better hope he’s being honest. The decisions the Blazers made in 2016 continue to lock them in place; if they catch a favorable first-round matchup (a grumbling Rockets team in 2014; an injury-strafed Clippers squad in 2016), they can advance a round. But last year’s 4-0 sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans had to give everyone pause. How does Portland respond mentally? Re-upping Big Nurk in the middle on a very reasonable deal -- $12 million for a starting center was the going rate five years ago, when the Wolves gave Nikola Pekovic a five-year, $60 million contract -- was necessary. But losing Davis, a locker room and fan favorite for superior work ethic, will hurt, even though Collins should sop up a lot of those minutes. 25. ORLANDO MAGIC 2017-18 RECORD: 25-57; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Steve Clifford; C Mohamed Bamba (No. 6 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Briscoe (three years, $3.9 million); F Melvin Frazier (No. 35 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jerian Grant (acquired from Bulls); F Justin Jackson (No. 43 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jarrell Martin (acquired from Grizzlies); C Timofey Mozgov (acquired from Hornets) LOST: C Bismack Biyombo (traded to Hornets); G Mario Hezonja (signed with Knicks); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Grizzlies); G Shelvin Mack (waived); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: F Aaron Gordon (four years, $82 million) THE KEY MAN: G D.J. Augustin. A vet’s vet, he’s played 10 years in the league and started 226 games for eight teams, including 56 over the last two for the Magic. He’ll enter this season as the unquestioned starter at the point with Elfrid Payton in New Orleans and Orlando still looking to solve its long-term search for a point guard. It’s Augustin’s turn. THE SKINNY: At some point, Orlando’s yearly gambles on size and potential will pay off. Bamba could be the goods; he’s got a demeanor and toughness that should keep him together while he learns the craft at the pro level. But -- again -- it will take some time for Bamba, like 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Isaac, and Gordon, in whom Orlando invested a sizeable sum in July, to flourish. And Magic fans rightly can ask exactly how long they’re to remain patient. Clifford is supposed to improve the defense, but so was Frank Vogel … and so was Scott Skiles … and so was Jacque Vaughn. 26. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Tony Carr (No. 51 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elfrid Payton (one year, $3 million); F Julius Randle (two years, $17 million) LOST: C DeMarcus Cousins (signed with Warriors); G Rajon Rondo (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Ian Clark (one year, $1.7 million); F Nikola Mirotic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Owner Gayle Benson. Mrs. Benson took control of the team after the death of her husband, Tom, last March. She displayed great grace in the days and weeks after Tom Benson’s death, making it clear at the time she had no interest in selling the team and would continue to make outlays to keep the team competitive. The Pels didn’t blink last summer giving Jrue Holiday $126 million, and that will have to remain the case going forward if New Orleans is to repeat its surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals last spring. THE SKINNY: Can’t lose your starting point guard and your starting All-Star center in one offseason -- no matter what the circumstances -- and come out of it with high offseason marks. And especially when Rondo seemed like the perfect fit for the team. Mirotic mentioned during the Warriors series how good Rondo was at picking him up and connecting him quickly with the team after he was traded to New Orleans from Chicago. And, yes, coach Alvin Gentry mentioned he may have exchanged cusses with Rondo every now and again, too. Life in RondoWorld. The path forward is narrower, but not impassible; Randle can be tantalizing at times, maddening at others, but he could plug-and-play at the four, and he can take some of the playmaking burden off of Holiday. But big minutes on the ball for Holiday again is not what New Orleans had in mind. Payton is going to have to perform immediately. And losing “Boogie” Cousins is a big minus. It’s not what the Pelicans gave up to get him. It’s the fit and flow he had with Anthony Davis before the injury, and what the promise of a return this season could have meant toward carrying the momentum of last year forward. 27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: F Anthony Tolliver (one year, $5.7 million); G Josh Okogie (No. 20 pick, 2018 Draft); F Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Cole Aldrich (waived); F Nemanja Bjelica (signed with Kings) RETAINED: G Derrick Rose (one year, $1.5 million) THE KEY MAN: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. He signed for big, big money by NFL standards (three years, $84 million), and the Vikings have Super Bowl aspirations. So all the light will be on the Vikes most of the fall and winter in Minneapolis, keeping it off of the still-young Wolves, who won’t be able to sneak up on anyone after breaking their long postseason drought. THE SKINNY: The Wolves should be positioned to build on their playoff run, especially if Butler can get through a full season healthy and Karl-Anthony Towns adds consistency to his prodigious talents. But they didn’t do much in the offseason, and the team that they beat out on the last day of the regular season, Denver, looks to be much improved. Tolliver should help the Wolves’ depth; they essentially traded him for Bjelica, and he shot slightly better on 3-poiners last season than Belly. Plus, they don’t come better as a guy than Tolliver and he can help Minnesota in the locker room. The issue of Butler’s contract isn’t going away; there will be a reckoning at some point, and he’ll have a lot more options next summer than free agents had this summer. Until then, coach Tom Thibodeau has pretty much the same team that he has to cajole better defense out of next season (22nd in Defensive Rating; 17th in points allowed). 28. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 2017-18 RECORD: 36-46; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach James Borrego; GM Mitch Kupchack; C Bismack Biyombo (acquired from Magic); F Miles Bridges (No. 12 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devonte' Graham (No. 34 pick, 2018 Draft); F Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55 pick, 2018 Draft); ; G Tony Parker (two years, $10.2 milliion) LOST: G Michael Carter-Williams (signed with Rockets); C Dwight Howard (traded to Nets); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Magic); G Julyan Stone (traded to Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: C Cody Zeller. It’s a guess -- Borrego could opt for Frank Kaminsky III -- but Zeller would seem to be the replacement at center for Dwight Howard, who wound up in Washington after the Hornets traded him to the Nets. Zeller started 58 games two years ago and was very good in screen and rolls with Kemba Walker. Zeller only played in 33 games last season because of a left knee injury; if he returns to form, the Hornets could pick up offensively and actually have a little more diversity at that end than last season. THE SKINNY: Team owner Michael Jordan cleaned house after a disappointing 2017-18, bringing another Tar Heel back home in the veteran Kupchak. Kupchak dispatched Howard and then got Mozgov’s guaranteed 2019-20 season off his books to take back Biyombo, who’d left Toronto two years ago for $72 million from the Magic and who’s got a player option for 2019-20. Well before then, the Hornets are going to have to decide what to do with Walker, who’ll be one of the top free agents available next summer if Charlotte can’t get him re-signed or extended. The Hornets were 8.8 points worse when the two-time All-Star was off the court rather than on. Nicolas Batum has to make a return to the all-around talent that enticed Charlotte to trade for him and give him a $120 million extension; he averaged just 11.6 points per game last year, his lowest in three years. Howard’s presence in the paint may have clogged things up some, but that’s no longer the case. 29. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 2017-18 RECORD: 50-32; lost in The Finals ADDED: F Channing Frye (one year, $2.3 million); G Collin Sexton (No. 8 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Jose Calderon (signed with Pistons); F Jeff Green (signed with Wizards); F LeBron James (signed with Lakers); C Kendrick Perkins (waived); F Okaro White (waived) RETAINED: F Kevin Love (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: GM Koby Altman. Altman has a blank slate now after trying to steer a championship-contending ship that had been stripped of a few propeller blades in the last 13 months. With James gone, as well as former GM David Griffin, the 35-year-old Altman has team owner Dan Gilbert’s charge to rebuild the Cavs without taking them down to the studs (as the Cavs did after James first departure in 2010). Altman’s next task after working out Kevin Love’s $130 million extension is clearing the roster of all the veterans brought in the last three years mainly because of their ability to play off of James. THE SKINNY: There weren’t any widespread jersey burnings this time in the Land. James left for L.A. with relative good will from his hometown, having delivered the championship it had waited 52 years for in 2016. Truly, the Cavs’ rebuild started the minute Kyrie Irving demanded a trade; last season seemed more rearguard action than an attack at another title. Extending Love through 2023 with no outs -- keeping him locked with rookie Sexton through the latter’s last controllable season before hitting unrestricted free agency -- gives Cleveland a base upon which to build. Cap room will follow in 2019, but next season will be difficult; Sexton has a lot of toughness and potential, but rookie point guards tend to get their lunch handed to them. 30. MIAMI HEAT 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: None LOST: None RETAINED: G Wayne Ellington (one year, $6.2 million); F/G Derrick Jones Jr. THE KEY MAN: G Josh Richardson. Like many of his teammates, Richardson got an extension a couple of years ago -- four years and $42 million. Last season, he was (again) a solid two-way player for Miami -- almost 13 points per game, 84.5 percent from the line, 37.8 percent on 3-pointers. But if the Heat is going to shake out of the middle lane in which it currently seems stuck, Richardson will have to expand. Miami’s current roster makes it complicated; Pat Riley thinks Richardson’s probably more of a two, but he plays mostly three for coach Erik Spoelstra because Miami’s best lineups were small ball ones. Another offseason at P3 in California will help Richardson continue his development. THE SKINNY: No, Heat people: I don’t hate your team. But when you have no Draft picks, and you have no cap space, and thus you literally could do nothing in the offseason, and basically did nothing in the offseason, and your biggest, most newsy event was whether your 36-year-old future Hall of Fame guard will come back for one more season or play over in China … well, what am I supposed to do with that information? Rank you first? The question is, how much better is your team now than it was at the end of last season? It’s essentially the same team; other than the likes of Richardson (see above) or Justise Winslow, it’s not like there’s a great step up expected from Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, is there? The Heat is not any better than last season. It isn’t any worse. It just … is. So, 30. 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

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Middle 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 Middle 10 * * * 11. TORONTO RAPTORS 2017-18 RECORD: 59-23; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: Coach Nick Nurse; G Danny Green (acquired from Spurs); F Kawhi Leonard (acquired from Spurs) LOST: Former coach Dwane Casey; G DeMar DeRozan (traded to Spurs); F Alfonzo McKinnie (waived); C Jakob Poeltl (traded to Spurs) RETAINED: G Fred VanVleet (two years, $18.1 million) THE KEY MAN: Nurse. The former Raps assistant has extensive G League head coaching experience. But the NBA isn’t just about a coach’s Xs and Os acumen. We know Nurse can do that. But an NBA coach has to have command presence in a locker room not only full of millionaires, but full of Alpha males who have their own very strong opinions on how they should be used and how their teammates should help them. Nurse will have to show he can put his own stamp on a team that will have some new faces while still having extremely high expectations. THE SKINNY: You may well think Toronto should be higher, based on Leonard’s standing as a top-five player in the league when fully healthy. No matter what you think of DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, no one can realistically say he’s better than “The Klaw” when both are 100 percent. But, of course, we don’t know if Leonard’s 100 percent. And, trading DeRozan, who’d been the franchise’s biggest advocate during his nine seasons there -- and who had led the team to its greatest extended run of success ever -- is not a transaction without consequence for the Raptors. He helped get the best out of Kyle Lowry. He could help recruit free agents. And, the circumstances of his departure have not helped the franchise’s reputation. Still, this is a talent-based league, and Leonard has it. His and Green’s presence on the perimeter gives Toronto the chance to be a switching defensive monster -- and will help the Raptors be able to match up better with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in a late-May playoff matchup, as long as the Raptors’ young core in which it believes so strongly continues to play as well in reserve as it did last season. 12. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: Coach Mike Budenholzer; G Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trevon Duval; F Ersan Ilyasova (three years, $21 million); C Brook Lopez (one year, $3.32 million); F Pat Connaughton (two years, $3.2 million); LOST: Former interim coach Joe Prunty; G Brandon Jennings (waived); F Jabari Parker (signed with Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: G Eric Bledsoe. His departure from Phoenix early last season was messy. But once he got to Brewtown, Bledsoe solidified the Bucks at the point, averaging 17.8 points and 5.1 assists per game in 71 starts. At 28, Bledsoe faces the last year of his contract and will have to show a new coach he’s capable of running things long-term and playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo through the meat of his prime. THE SKINNY: Budenholzer’s arrival should coincide with an improvement in the Bucks’ defense, something that former coach Jason Kidd could never quite accomplish. Ilaysova’s return for a second tour in Milwaukee should help, with his celebrated charge-taking skill and Lopez’s still-substantial size a double-boon to Milwaukee’s interior D as the Bucks were bottom 10 last season in points allowed in the paint (47.4 per game). If the paint becomes a little tougher to traverse, the Bucks should finally able to use their substantial length on the wing to get back to create deflections and turnovers, and get out in transition, where Antetokounmpo and Friends do their best work and their most damage to the opposition. They’ll do so 41 nights a year for the next couple of decades in the 17,500-seat Fiserv Forum, the Bucks’ new arena that will open in early September with a concert and should pump new revenues into the Bucks’ bloodstream, giving them more financial wherewithal to keep “The Greek Freak” surrounded with high-quality talent. 13. UTAH JAZZ 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Grayson Allen (No. 21 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jarius Lyles; G Naz Mitrou-Long LOST: F Jonas Jerebko (waived) RETAINED: G Dante Exum (three years, $33 million); F/C Derrick Favors (two years, $37.6 million), G Raul Neto (two years, $4.4 million); F Georges Niang (three years, $4.9 million) THE KEY MAN: C Rudy Gobert. He’s a monster presence, the hub of the Jazz’s defensive wheel and the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year. And he has to take a step back in Utah next season for the Jazz to take the next step forward. He has to understand what Utah has in Donovan Mitchell and let that kid eat. Nobody in the league can do what Gobert does defensively. So embrace that and concentrate on that -- take the Draymond Green attitude about being the “defensive guy” on a great team (not that Jazz fans want you to do anything that Green does). Gobert’s handsomely paid and the DPOY award found him in Salt Lake City; there’s no small-market bias at work here. So let Mitchell and Joe Ingles carry the shooting/scoring load, let Ricky Rubio orchestrate, and snuff out opponent dreams at the other end, night after night. It’s what you were born to do. THE SKINNY: My God, Mitchell had a great rookie season. And Utah brought most of the band back from last season to provide advice and consent for him again, re-signing Favors, Exum and Neto each on very reasonable contracts. Doing so leaves Utah over the cap, still comfortably under the tax, and with nothing on the books that should raise an eyebrow financially. (Utah’s front office should handle my checking account for a while.) Anyway, no reason to expect any backsliding next season with the crew returning, though coach Quin Snyder will surely miss the counsel of his longtime friend Igor Kokoskov, off to run the Suns. 14. ATLANTA HAWKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Lloyd Pierce; F Justin Anderson (acquired from 76ers); G Kevin Huerter (No. 19 pick, 2018 Draft); C Alex Len (two years, $8.5 million); G Jeremy Lin (acquired from Nets); F Omari Spellman (No. 30 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trae Young (No. 5 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Mike Budenholzer; G Antonius Cleveland (waived); G Damion Lee (signed with Warriors); F/C Mike Muscala (traded to 76ers); G Dennis Schröder (traded to Thunder); G Isaiah Taylor (waived) RETAINED: C Dewayne Dedmon (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: GM Travis Schlenk. The second-year executive will be judged on how well Atlanta uses its trove of Draft picks -- three firsts this year, three firsts next year, two firsts in 2022 -- the next few years. And, ultimately, the Hawks will live or die by whether Young or Luka Doncic becomes the bigger NBA producer. Schlenk’s chances of completing the rebuild may well ride on that. THE SKINNY: The Hawks’ roster teardown is nearing completion, but the renovated Philips Arena will come online faster than the team, which now needs Young to live up to all the hype after his one season at Oklahoma. He has incredible range and great potential, but he’ll be challenged every night to stay in front of the legion of great points in this league. Pierce, the former Sixers’ assistant, is going to have a very tough time melding all the newcomers with the small core of players who survived, including John Collins, Kent Bazemore, DeAndre' Bembry and Taurean Prince. 15. LA CLIPPERS 2017-18 RECORD: 42-40; missed playoffs ADDED: C Marcin Gortat (acquired from Wizards); G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 11 pick, 2018 Draft); F Johnathan Motley (acquired from Mavericks); F Mike Scott (one year, $4.3 million); F Luc Mbah a Moute (one year, $4.3 million), G Jerome Robinson (No. 13 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Austin Rivers (traded to Wizards); C DeAndre Jordan (signed with Mavs); G C.J. Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Avery Bradley (two years, $24.9  million); C Montrezl Harrell (two years, $12 million); G Wesley Johnson (picked up player option); G Milos Teodosic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Tobias Harris. He was the key tangible piece of the Blake Griffin trade last season (the intangible being the unprotected first from Detroit in the deal that eventually became Gilgeous-Alexander after a Draft night trade with Charlotte). And Harris played quite well in his 32 games with the Clips, averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds per game. Those numbers could each well go up in a contract year and with few others outside of Lou Williams on the roster that can go get their own buckets. THE SKINNY: Amazing, but true: the Clipper player with the longest current tenure is … Wesley Johnson, who came aboard in 2015. “Lob City” is in the history books and change will be the norm here for a while, including next summer, when the Clippers expect to be a free-agent destination. The Clips did what they could with that not-insignificant restriction, but the best stuff was in the Draft, winding up with a potential long-term point in Gilgeous-Alexander and a two in Robinson that rocketed up the pre-Draft charts. Bradley’s on a very team-friendly and controllable contract, as is Patrick Beverley, whose modest 2018-19 salary isn’t guaranteed until January. Those two and Mbah a Moute can give coach Doc Rivers hope that he can get some stops on the perimeter, because while Gortat is still willing defensively and still takes a bunch of charges, he is not Jordan when it comes to rim protection. 16. BROOKLYN NETS 2017-18 RECORD: 28-54; missed playoffs ADDED: F/C Ed Davis (one year, $4.4 million); F Jared Dudley (acquired from Suns); F Kenneth Faried (acquired from Nuggets); G/F Treveon Graham (two years); F Rodions Kurucs (No. 40, 2018 Draft); F Dzanan Musa (No. 29 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shabazz Napier (two years, $3.7 million) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Suns); F Dante Cunningham (signed with Spurs); C Dwight Howard (waived); G Jeremy Lin (traded to Hawks); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Hornets); G Nik Stauskas (signed with Blazers); G Isaiah Whitehead (traded to Nuggets) RETAINED: G Joe Harris (two years, $16 million) THE KEY MAN: Co-owner Joseph Tsai. The Alibaba executive and billionaire has 49 percent of the team, and can buy majority control from Mikhail Prokhorov by 2021. Until then, they’ll run the team jointly, so no matter Prokhorov’s ups and downs, Brooklyn’s financial spigot should never run dry. Tsai reportedly has designs on expanding the Nets’ brand further in China, just as Prokhorov believed the Nets had global reach. They didn’t, at least not the post-KG and Pierce squads. THE SKINNY: If you love Ed Davis like smart people who know basketball do, Brooklyn makes the top half by bringing the ex-Blazer in on a short deal. If he plays great, he’ll cost the Nets a pretty penny in 2019, but Brooklyn has to take chances on guys who can outperform their contracts. The only thing the Nets couldn’t do was take on more ’19 salary when they’ll be in line to potentially add two max players. Won’t be easy to lure the elites, but Brooklyn also has accumulated enough assets to be able to make uneven trades for salaries if need be. In the interim comes next season, with coach Kenny Atkinson needing to continue to develop diamonds in the rough like Graham, who Cleveland wanted and who will help the Nets at multiple positions. 17. CHICAGO BULLS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: G Antonius Cleveland; C Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 7 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chandler Hutchison (No. 22 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jabari Parker (two years, $40 million) LOST: F Jerian Grant (traded to Magic); G Sean Kilpatrick (waived); G Julyan Stone (waived); F Noah Vonleh (signed with Knicks); G Paul Zipser (waived) RETAINED: G Antonio Blakeney; G Zach LaVine (matched four year, $78 million offers sheet from Kings) THE KEY MAN: G Kris Dunn. As the 24-year-old will be every season he’s in Chicago. The Jimmy Butler trade in 2017 yielded the pick that became Lauri Markannen, and he’s also a key piece to the Bulls’ future. But Chicago won’t ever get elevation again if Dunn doesn’t become an elite point guard in a league full of them. He showed signs last season that he could be just that, most notably a December in which Dunn averaged 14.9 points and eight assists, and the Bulls went 10-6. But a concussion in January derailed Dunn’s progress and his production fell sharply the rest of the season. THE SKINNY: Can Parker play the three, as the Bulls insist he can? There isn’t a ton of evidence suggesting so, and Parker’s hypothesis that he isn’t getting paid to play defense does not provide much comfort. But the Bulls will try him there alongside Markannen and rookie Carter Jr. in what would be a huge frontcourt. Almost $20 million annually for LaVine going forward is also a stretch, but less of one if LaVine comes all the way back from his 2017 ACL tear with a full training camp and season. Carter may be more important to the Bulls’ hoped-for resurgence than Parker and LaVine; the Duke big man has that much potential. 18. WASHINGTON WIZARDS 2017-18 RECORD: 43-39; lost in first round ADDED: C Thomas Bryant; G Troy Brown (No. 15 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jeff Green (one year, $2.5 million); C Dwight Howard (two years, $11 million); G Austin Rivers (acquired from Clippers); G Issuf Sanon (No. 44 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Marcin Gortat (traded to Clippers); F Mike Scott (signed with Clippers) RETAINED: G Jodie Meeks (picked up player option); C Jason Smith (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Coach Scott Brooks. Entering his third season in Washington, Brooks keeps saying he wants the Wizards to defend and play fast. But he has to follow that up with action, especially when and if John Wall doesn’t provide the on-ball defense Washington needs to have any chance to unleash a still-potent fast break. Wall is 27 and, if healthy, in his prime. The team takes almost all of its cues from him; when he’s locked in, the Wizards can compete with anyone. But when he’s indifferent, so are they -- as evidenced by their horrible record against bad teams. Brooks has to demand Wall’s best, or be ready to limit his minutes. THE SKINNY: NBA protocol almost demands you hate the pickup of Howard, such is his current perceived valued among many after multiple stops the last few seasons. The guess here is that Howard won’t hijack the Wizards’ locker room, as he had been accused of while in with the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets, especially. Howard’s skill set can help Washington, which fell off defensively last season. But there’s also not much sense he’ll be a significant pick-me-up in D.C., either. He can’t stretch the floor and he’s not especially potent finishing in pick and roll, either. But the Wizards should at least be deeper off the bench with Green, who played well for the Cavs last season, and Rivers, who gives Washington legit guard depth along with Tomas Satoransky. 19. SACRAMENTO KINGS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: F Nemanja Bjelica (three years, $20.4 million); C Marvin Bagley III (No. 2 pick, 2018 Draft); G Yogi Ferrell (two years, $4.1 million); G Ben McLemore (acquired from Kings); F Deyonta Davis (acquired from Grizzlies) LOST: G Garrett Temple (traded to Grizzlies) RETAINED: G Iman Shumpert (picked up player option); C Kosta Koufos (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Harry Giles. The Kings traded for the one-and-done forward on Draft night 2017 and redshirted him, feeling he needed a year to fully recover from the multiple knee surgeries he’d undergone the last three years. Those surgeries stopped his top-five Draft potential in its tracks, before and after a year at Duke. But Giles is back on the floor, having flashed his skills during NBA Summer League, as Sacramento gushed about his progress. If the 20-year-old is ready to roll come October, he could be an enormous boost. He’ll have to at least become a contributor, lest folks remind the Kings they passed on the likes of Kyle Kuzma and O.G Anunoby to trade for his rights. THE SKINNY: Bagley III has superstar potential, and he better become one, or the Doncic Stans among the Kings’ fan base will have aneurysms. The Kings were all over everyone, seemingly, this summer, dropping sheets on Zach LaVine, almost doing the same with Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker, and going after unrestricted free agent Mario Hezonja. All well and good, and getting Bjelica out from under Philly and prying Ferrell from Dallas were decent late July pickups. But it will be Bagley III who’ll be under the microscope. His skill sets are prodigious and he’s been working out feverishly all summer. And he wants to make a mark in restoring the Kings to where they were on the floor during the Webber Years. He worked out for them. He’s enthusiastic about them. That counts for something. 20. HOUSTON ROCKETS 2017-18 RECORD: 65-17; lost in Western Conference finals ADDED: G Michael Carter-Williams (one year, $1.5 million); G De'Anthony Melton (No. 46 pick, 2018 Draft); F Vincent Edwards (No. 52 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Trevor Ariza (signed with Suns); Luc Mbah a Moute (signed with LA Clippers); C Chinanu Onuaku (traded to Mavs) RETAINED: C Clint Capela (five years, $90 million); G/F Gerald Green (one year, $2.3 million); G Aaron Jackson (picked up team option); G Chris Paul (four years, $159 million) THE KEY MAN: Jason Biles, Joe Rogowski, Keith Jones and Javair Gillett -- the Rockets’ athletic trainers, sports performance and rehab staff. Their only mission next season, should they decide to accept it, is to get Paul through an 82-game regular season and a two-month playoff slog without breaking or pulling anything of importance that keeps him out of key games. Of course, should any of the staff be unsuccessful, the Morey will disavow any knowledge of their employment. Good luck, men. THE SKINNY: We have not yet included Carmelo Anthony, who will be signing in Houston any minute now. When he’s officially on the roster, he’ll certainly help, and we all saw that even Houston can go through extended scoring droughts in the playoffs. Having Anthony around should alleviate that. The Rockets may have had the best signing of the summer, keeping the 24-year-old Capela locked up long-term for $18 million per -- incredible value these days, given the way salaries are skyrocketing. But that was mitigated by the losses of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, who were crucial to the switching defense Houston employed and perfected by the playoffs, which threw sand in the gears of the Warriors’ impenetrable offense and would likely have propelled the Rockets to The Finals if Paul hadn’t gotten hurt in Game 5. Ennis and Carter-Williams will help some in that regard, but they don’t have the resume of Mbah a Moute and Ariza -- which means they sometimes won’t get the benefit of the doubt from refs that the old heads do. Houston’s still the clear number two to Golden State in the West, but the gap between the Rockets and the best of the rest has closed. 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

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

Irving stays busy with knee to mend, movie to promote

By Brian Mahoney, Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving doesn’t have to worry about free agency until next summer, though he’s got plenty to keep him busy for now. There’s a movie to promote and a knee to mend. He hopes he’s good on screen, but wants to be better than ever on the court. “Now becomes the real climb to Mount Everest, back to the top,” Irving said Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “So I’m just taking my time.” The Boston Celtics All-Star is hoping he can start playing again in a couple weeks. But he’s staying patient in his rehab from late-season surgery because of an infection in his knee, figuring the extra time can only help after he played deep into June the previous two years with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was traded to the Celtics last summer while filming “Uncle Drew.” The movie, in which he plays an old playground basketball legend who started as a character in Pepsi commercials, premieres in New York on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) and opens nationwide Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The Cavaliers gave Irving’s former jersey number to Collin Sexton, drafted last week with the No. 8 pick that Cleveland acquired from Boston in the trade. But Irving wasn’t upset, saying he already gave away the only Cavs’ No. 2 that matters to him — the one he wore while hitting the biggest shot in the franchise’s history. That was on Father’s Day in 2016, the night Irving nailed the three-pointer that helped the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals for the franchise’s first championship. “The history, it’s already captured, man,” Irving said. “I was on one of the best teams in NBA history in my opinion, just accomplishing something that was that much bigger than ourselves. A feat that was, we’re one of no other teams. We’re like 1 of 1, in history. So for me, I think the biggest thing was giving that jersey to my dad, and if that’s where the No. 2 legacy ends, then cool.” Though Irving asked to be traded — a request LeBron James hoped the Cavs wouldn’t honor — he looks back fondly on his time in what’s now Sexton’s number. “I gave a lot of commitment and sacrifice to being there from Day 1, so to have that six-year span of doing some unbelievable things, I’m definitely happy about it,” he said. “I never shy away from that in terms of Cleveland giving me the opportunity to a 19-year-old kid of wearing No. 2. Now, it’s just a transition in the league. “There’s no hard feelings from my end. But now he has to start from kind of the chopping block just like everyone else did, so I’m excited for him.” And he’s excited for “Uncle Drew,” in which Irving rounds up his old teammates to play in a tournament at New York’s Rucker Park. Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber and Nate Robinson star as his old running mates. They were on set with him when they started getting alerts that Irving had been traded. “Once it happened, the dancing just got a little better,” Irving said. Irving needed three hours of makeup daily to look like a senior citizen before the 14 hours a day of filming. He believes his love of basketball shows up through his role of wise old sage who hangs around the courts — though Irving himself hasn’t played on outdoor playgrounds in years. His game is indoors now, and he plans on being back there this summer before dealing with his own free agency next summer. “Not just the same way but also a lot better,” Irving said. “That’s where the focus has to be. If you leave any room for doubt or uncertainly, I mean you might as well get out of the game.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 26th, 2018

All-Time NBA Draft: The best pick from every slot

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press There’s a definitive answer every year to the question of who is No. 1 in the NBA draft. But who is the No. 1 pick of all No. 1 draft picks ever? Or No. 1 among the list of No. 2 draft picks? Those are questions that have no definitive answer, except perhaps in a handful of rare cases. Here’s a look at The Best of The Best — the top all-time NBA picks in each of the top 30 draft spots. The best No. 1 overall pick, the best No. 2 overall pick ... and so on. One note: This doesn’t include the territorial selections that were used through 1965, which ruled out Wilt Chamberlain. The list of top picks in each of the 30 draft slots: 1. KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR Arguments for the best-ever overall pick could and should be made for LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, among others. When in doubt, give it to the man who has more points than anyone who ever played the game and who mastered perhaps the most difficult shot to guard in NBA history. 2. BILL RUSSELL You didn’t know Bill Russell was a No. 2 overall pick? Jerry West was too, and he’s The Logo for goodness sake, but the 11 rings make Russell the call here. Also, it’s time to lay off Portland. Sam Bowie wasn’t the biggest “oops” pick of all time. Si Green was picked before Russell in 1956. 3. MICHAEL JORDAN The easiest pick of them all. Except for Portland in 1984, when the Trail Blazers took Bowie No. 2 ahead of MJ. OK, now it’s really time to lay off Portland. 4. CHRIS PAUL Dikembe Mutombo, Chris Bosh and Russell Westbrook were all No. 4s as well, but Paul’s body of work over 13 seasons and counting can’t be overlooked. 5. DWYANE WADE Charles Barkley will think this pick is terrible. So will fellow No. 5s Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Scottie Pippen and Vince Carter. Wade’s scoring wins out. 6. LARRY BIRD Second-easiest pick of this process. Only Adrian Dantley comes close, and he absolutely doesn’t come close. 7. STEPHEN CURRY He will be the leader in 3-pointers, by a ton, when his career is over. Fellow No. 7s John Havlicek and Chris Mullin merit consideration, but why wait? 8. ROBERT PARISH As time goes on, people might forget how vital The Chief was to those Celtics teams of the 1980s. That shouldn’t happen. 9. DIRK NOWITZKI Jordan was the only true candidate at No. 3, Bird was the same at No. 6, and Nowitzki stands alone at No. 9 as well. 10. PAUL PIERCE Pierce and Nowitzki have haunted those who made the decisions at the top of the 1998 draft — where Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby and Raef LaFrentz went 1-2-3 — for 20 years and counting. 11. REGGIE MILLER Kiki VanDeWeghe was a No. 11 pick and so was Klay Thompson, but Miller is the deserving call here. His shot was art. 12. JULIUS ERVING Drafted in 1972 and didn’t come to the NBA until 1976, Doctor J ekes out the pick here over Chet Walker — a seven-time All-Star. 13. KOBE BRYANT This could easily have been Karl Malone. But Kobe has five rings and an Oscar. 14. CLYDE DREXLER The Glide was automatic for 20 points a night for basically his entire career. Apologies to Tim Hardaway. 15. STEVE NASH Someday, this spot might go to Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kawhi Leonard. But Steve Nash going this low in 1996 should remind everyone how good that draft was. 16. JOHN STOCKTON This is yet another reminder that Sam Bowie wasn’t the only mistake made in 1984. 17. DON NELSON This was a difficult group, and Shawn Kemp was probably the better player. Nellie gets the call on total body of NBA work. 18. JOE DUMARS There are some really good players at No. 18, including Calvin Murphy and the vastly underrated Ricky Pierce. Dumars’ role on the Bad Boys was invaluable. 19. TINY ARCHIBALD When looking at No. 19 picks, two things stand out: Rod Strickland should have been an All-Star, and that Tiny was better than many remember. 20. LARRY NANCE So consistent for so long, and now with his son in the league that means more people will get educated about Sr.’s game. 21. RAJON RONDO Michael Finley and Ricky Davis also went this far down in the draft. Rondo was an absolute steal in 2006 — except he wasn’t a steal for Phoenix, which drafted him and then traded him to Boston for cash. 22. REGGIE LEWIS Still sad. Still missed. 23. ALEX ENGLISH Tayshaun Prince was so good and World B. Free was as much fun as anyone, but English had about a 10-year run where he hardly ever missed a game and dropped about 25 every time he was out there. 24. ARVYDAS SABONIS Officially, the hardest of all 30 picks. Don’t just look at his NBA numbers. Look at his whole career. He did things no big man was doing 20 years ago. Terry Porter, Andrei Kirilenko, Kyle Lowry, Sam Cassell, Derek Fisher, Latrell Sprewell all went No. 24 as well ... good luck to whoever is No. 24 is this year. There’s a legacy to follow. 25. MARK PRICE Jeff Ruland was known as “McFilthy” and became a good college coach, Tony Allen was a true defensive star, but Price’s game is too solid to miss here. 26. VLADE DIVAC Now running the Sacramento Kings, Divac gets to pick No. 2 in this year’s draft. The guy he takes there would be well-served to learn from Vlade. 27. DENNIS RODMAN Before he became a political operative, Rodman was as good at rebounding and defense as anyone in the game. 28. TONY PARKER If he had grown up in the U.S. and played college basketball, there was no chance he would have gone this low in 2001. 29. DENNIS JOHNSON Hall of Famer, five-time All-Star and someone who was as good as there was in the NBA down the stretch of big games. 30. SPENCER HAYWOOD Another Hall of Famer, and every underclassman who gets drafted this year needs to thank Haywood. His suit vs. the NBA paved the way for them. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 20th, 2018

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 11th, 2018