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30 Teams in 30 Days: Solid finish, playoff push prompts Magic to run it back

Like most summers in the NBA, the 2019 edition was chock full of trades, free agent news and player movement. From the defending-champion Toronto Raptors to just about every other team in the league, change was the most applicable word when it came to describing team rosters for the 2019-20 season. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- in order of regular-season finish from 2018-19 -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Orlando Magic 2018-19 Record: 42-40, lost to Raptors in first round of playoffs Key additions: Al-Farouq Aminu (free agency), Chuma Okeke (Draft) Key departures: Timofey Mozgov The lowdown: It perhaps escaped your notice, but the Magic actually raised a banner in 2018-19. They won the admittedly-weakened Southeast Division, and while that might make folks snicker, any progress is good progress for a franchise still looking to gain traction in this, the unfulfilled post-Dwight Howard era. They were beastly down the stretch, going 11-2 to fight their way out of a midseason slump to reach the playoffs. Plus, they took a game from the eventual-champion Toronto Raptors in the first round. It helps to be in the Eastern Conference, but let’s not water-down what the Magic did too much. They received solid seasons from Aaron Gordon and Evan Fornier, a career season from Terrence Ross and an All-Star season from Nikola Vucevic. (It didn’t hurt that Vucevic and Ross were pending free agents playing for money.) The club also responded well to new coach Steve Clifford. However, there were mild disappointments -- mainly from the last two first-round picks. Jonathan Isaac didn’t take a leap in his second season and seemed unsure whether to be a stretch-four or use his size advantage in the paint. He wound up being just OK at both (9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds per game). Rookie Mo Bamba looked like a project throughout the season as injuries limited him to just 47 games. All told, the Magic made the playoffs for the first time in seven years and won more games in any strike-shortened season since 2010-11. That was enough to pacify the home crowd and finally show up on NBA radar, however faint. Summer summary: For the second time this decade, the Magic arrived at a crossroads regarding their All-Star center and had to make a decision with fairly large future ramifications. Last time, it was Howard. This time, it was the guy who replaced Howard. The decision now, as then: Should they re-sign the big man? Actually, it was a dual decision. Orlando had to want "Vooch" and vice-versa, considering he was an unrestricted free agent, and it wasn’t an automatic call in either case. Vucevic and his family enjoyed Orlando, yet the franchise, despite finally posting a winning season, was hardly in contender condition. He had options as a number of teams -- the LA Clippers among them -- expressed interest in the center with a soft touch and sound footwork. As for the Magic, they’d just drafted Bamba in 2018 with the No. 6 overall pick. The idea, at least you’d think, was having Bamba replace Vucevic at some point. By keeping Vucevic, what signal were they sending to Bamba? Why would they stifle the growth of a player whom they took over Wendell Carter Jr. and Collin Sexton? In the end, both the Magic and Vucevic agreed and Orlando delivered a four-year, $100 million deal. The team's thinking? Vucevic is an asset and so it’s better to keep him, even at a high price, rather than let him walk and get nothing back. Bamba must wait his turn, and he’ll need more time to develop after a raw rookie season. The other investment was in Ross, who spent much of his previous six NBA seasons as an athletic swingman who teased a lot. Last season, he was (for once) a primary option and shot well from deep (38.3 percent), earning himself a four-year, $54 million deal from Orlando. The Magic believe Ross, 27, is tapping into his prime later than usual. Then Orlando added depth at that position with Aminu. He can spread the floor and is decent defensively ... but isn’t a shot creator because of a weak dribble. At three years and $29 million, Aminu was a reasonable buy. In recent years past, Orlando was a fixture at the Draft lottery, and then their fate changed abruptly by making the playoffs. The downside, though, is Orlando had a middle first-round pick, where future superstars don’t normally live. Those picks are where teams take risks, and the Magic did so by selecting Okeke, who missed Auburn’s Final Four appearance after injuring his knee in the Sweet 16. Before the injury, the 6-foot-8 Okeke showed strong instincts around the basket, especially rebounding, while also shooting 3-pointers. Most scouts believe he would’ve been a lottery pick, and perhaps taken in the top-10, if not for the injury. The Magic spent the summer mulling whether to “redshirt” Okeke as they have another young player at his spot in Isaac. Plus, Okeke can heal thoroughly and also get reps in the NBA G League. There's also former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz here, too, whom the Magic added in a deadline-day trade last season with the Philadelphia 76ers. He's still recovering from the thoracic outlet syndrome he was diagnosed with last season and hasn't played a game for the Magic. Still, Orlando believed in him enough to exercise his contract option for 2020-21. If he's ever healthy and shows the talent that made him a star a Washington, Fultz could help Orlando rise up as a real East contender. Other than big-money decisions on Vucevic and Ross, the Magic was content to make only minor changes. They still lack the superstar needed to rise the ranks in the East, yet their core is proven and capable of knocking on playoffs' door for a second straight season. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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: abscbn abscbnSep 18th, 2019

30 Teams in 30 Days: Pelicans could be in for seamless rebuild

Like most summers in the NBA, the 2019 edition was chock full of trades, free agent news and player movement. From the defending-champion Toronto Raptors to just about every other team in the league, change was the most applicable word when it came to describing team rosters for the 2019-20 season. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- in order of regular-season finish from 2018-19 -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: New Orleans Pelicans 2018-19 Record: 33-49, did not qualify for the playoffs Key additions: Zion Williamson (Draft), Lonzo Ball (trade), Brandon Ingram (trade), JJ Redick (free agency), Derrick Favors (trade), Josh Hart (trade), Jaxson Hayes (Draft), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Draft) Key departures: Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton The lowdown: There were teams with worst records and teams with more drama. But no team had a combination of both quite like the Pelicans. It all swirled around Davis, the best player in franchise history, who pulled a power move by switching agents to Rich Paul, business partner of LeBron James. Everyone saw what was coming next except Dell Demps, the beleaguered GM who refused to be proactive and instead tried to fight a losing battle. Through Paul, Davis made a private trade request in the fall and then went public a week prior to the trade deadline when Demps hesitated. When the deadline passed, Davis was still in New Orleans and that was a problem. The rest of the season was a disaster, as Davis was in an awkward state of limbo and the Pelicans, anxious to preserve their only true asset, managed his minutes. The fallout was severe: Fan backlash toward Davis, a fractured locker room, a state of emergency within a franchise that wasn’t among the league’s healthiest to begin with, and Demps getting the boot. Everything else about the Pelicans was overshadowed, such as Randle’s solid production in his first (and subsequently only) season in New Orleans and Jrue Holiday’s continued splendid play on both ends. In the end, Davis had long checked out, the Pelicans fell back into the lottery a year after reaching the second round of the playoffs, and a housecleaning was ordered by ownership. Summer summary: History might reflect that the Davis fiasco, in hindsight, was the most important moment in franchise history, and in a positive way. That’s because a much-needed series of changes were forced to happen because of it, and just maybe the Pelicans will be better off for it. It created a change in command, with David Griffin replacing Demps and tackling the Davis situation head-on rather than tiptoeing around it. And because Davis was essentially benched the entire second half of the season, that allowed the Pelicans to fall into the lottery, where they got lucky and landed the first overall pick in one of those drafts that contained a potential game-changer. New Orleans flipped almost overnight, getting an impressive haul for Davis in the long-awaited trade with the Lakers, and adding Zion Williamson, an explosive talent with gate appeal. It was a best-case scenario for the Pelicans, who went from laughingstock to landing a game on Christmas Day this season. Griffin played his hand skillfully, unlike Demps. Griffin didn’t create distrust or burn bridges and instead maintained good communication with Davis and all potential trading partners. He created a robust market for Davis and then negotiated with the one team that needed Davis the most: the Lakers with an aging LeBron James. Not only did Griffin get promising young players in Ball, Ingram and Hart, he also acquired the Lakers’ future with a collection of first-round picks and first-round swaps. Essentially, if the Lakers collapse in the post-LeBron era, the Pelicans will be awash in assets similar to the Boston Celtics when those Brooklyn Nets’ first-rounders turned to gold. Williamson should never have to worry about talent around him in New Orleans as Davis did. And unlike Davis, Williamson won’t be in a hurry to leave in a huff. There’s no reason for the Pelicans to tank, knowing that ample picks are coming their way. With that in mind, Griffin seized the moment to ramp up the rotation, adding some much-needed shooting in Redick and a reliable veteran in Favors. It’s very possible that the Pelicans can compete for a playoff spot in 2019-20, and again, this seemed remote when last season ended. There’s plenty of hope for Ball. He’ll have the relief of playing away from L.A. for the first time in his life and the advantage of suiting up next to Holiday, who can play off the ball if necessary. Ingram will be returning from a health scare related to blood clots that cut short his season but the prognosis is good. In addition to Williamson, the draft also produced Alexander-Walker, who brings good size (6-foot-5) to the backcourt, and Hayes, a raw big man who’ll instantly enroll in the Pelicans’ development school. To make the upcoming season as stress-free as possible, Griffin handed coach Alvin Gentry a one-year extension. The pair once worked together in Phoenix, when Gentry led the Suns to the Western Conference finals. For the first time in his tenure with the Pelicans, Gentry has ample talent and a solid plan. Now it’s up to him to put the right pieces in place. Clearly, though, the big prize is Williamson, who comes with robust talent and also a personality that reflects well on him and the franchise. Williamson can be a savior and, once Drew Brees retires, the face of New Orleans sports. It all depends if he makes good on the immense expectations. Given his knack for making crowd-pleasing plays on both ends, the burly forward has star potential -- which is exactly what a small market needs. There’s a reason why the Draft lottery results caused Gentry to curse with joy and team employees to dance on tables. Perhaps never before has a franchise fallen hard, then rose suddenly, quite like the Pelicans did in a matter of weeks. They’re still partying in New Orleans. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 10th, 2019

Warriors injuries create opening with Finals in balance

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. — From now until further notice, each game of the 2019 NBA Finals will be largely influenced not by a go-ahead basket or a big stop or a rally-induced comeback, but a hot-off-the-press medical update prior to tipoff. Is Klay Thompson's tweaky hamstring a go? Will this be the day Kevin Durant finally shakes that lingering calf strain and suits up? The hints and subtle signs seem to point toward the positive for Golden State. Thompson was a late scratch Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) because the Warriors -- with a mixture of confidence and arrogance and concern -- felt the guard missing Game 3 was perhaps best for his recovery without proving deadly in the long run. And as for Durant, he’s still “ramping up” his workouts, in the description of coach Steve Kerr, and so his status has been upgraded to "stay tuned." It has become must-watch after a 123-109 loss. Yet if the answer is negative to all of the above, the next entry on the medical report might be the grim health of the dynasty built by these two-time defending champions. Their still-under-construction monument now teeters, prone to a nudge from Toronto. The Warriors find themselves down 2-1 to the Raptors, lacking any guarantee they’ll see two of their three leading scorers back in the lineup Friday (Saturday, PHL time) for Game 4 ... or for however long this series lasts. Thompson joined Durant on the sideline, and the Raptors (as could be anticipated) pounced on the gift to seize control of the series. It was a game the Raptors had to win, and they did. The production came from multiple players, with Kyle Lowry finally making an imprint on this series and Danny Green rediscovering his long-lost three-point touch. Meanwhile, the Warriors consisted of Steph Curry and not much else. The two-time Kia MVP dazzled and fought through traps and triple-teams all night to drop a career-high 47 points, some of it on shot-making wizardry. But the short-handed Warriors were doomed when Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins in particular were underwhelming on a night they needed to be stellar for Golden State to have a chance. As a result, the atmosphere inside Oracle Arena was flatter than most of the shots taken by Curry's teammates, and this was partly due to the introduction of the starting lineups, when Thompson’s name wasn’t announced. The fans knew then, officially, that their eyes and the home team were in for a long night. While the Warriors fought, scrappy doesn’t win games at this point in the postseason, not when the other team is good and opportunistic. Playing in a hostile building for the first time in the Finals, the Raptors made a collective decision to greet fire with fire. Or, as they wrote on the blackboard inside the visitor’s locker room: Let It Rip. “I think we all kind of followed that advice,” said Danny Green. “We hadn’t really had a good team shooting night and I knew we were due.” For Toronto, it wasn’t just that they won, but that they did so with their most impressive outing in the series. And now, the question for the Raptors is this: Will their inconsistent players use this outing to turn the corner and push the Warriors, even if Thompson and/or Durant return? This is aimed, first and foremost, at Lowry. He took the “let it rip” plea personally. Entering this game, he had six baskets total in this series and at times suffered defensively. Challenged by a pregame talk from coach Nick Nurse, Lowry embraced his inner pit bull and was relentless all night. The All-Star point guard took 16 shots, making eight, for 23 points and nine assists while making his presence felt for the first time this Finals. “For me, it was just not being so passive and trying to get everyone else involved and get myself going and let everyone else feed off that,” Lowry said. He and Green re-introduced the three-pointer to the Raptors’ offense. The two shot 11-for-19 and repeatedly stole whatever momentum Golden State could generate by responding with long-distance daggers that forced fans to slump back into their seats. This from the same player who had five total three's in his previous five playoff games, ruining more than a handful of runs with momentum-deflating misses. There’s no other way to describe the last three weeks of Green’s postseason shooting but dreadful. He has only one job: Stand in the corner and shoot open 3s. He’s made a career of that. So what do the Raptors make of Green shooting 6-of-10 from deep Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)? In the short term, it helped win Game 3. In the big picture, will this confidence carry over from one night to another, or does it depend on whether Green hits his first few? Nurse said: “Danny’s buckets boosted our whole team’s confidence because we were used to relying on those most of the year.” With better production from players who had been mostly missing, the Raptors had the balance needed to deliver their highest-scoring and most efficient (52 percent shooting) contest of the series. Green and Lowry joined Kawhi Leonard (30 points) and Pascal Siakam (18) and Marc Gasol (17) to take turns pummeling the Warriors from all different directions and manners. One reason for this was Thompson’s absence. Not only is he a proven outside shooter, but his defense is top-notch as well. You could even argue that Thompson’s missing defense was just as costly as his jumper. Yet the 109 points Golden State did manage were mainly because of Curry providing nearly half the offense. Given the circumstances of being without Thompson and Durant, and the constant pressing by Toronto whenever he had the ball, this was Curry’s finest post-season effort. His shooting was superb all across the floor, making three's (six) and free throws (13-14) and in general (14-31). “It’s the Finals,” Curry said. “You give everything you’ve got, sacrifice your body when you have the opportunity. Just competitiveness and trying to play until the buzzer.” “He does things that honestly I don’t think anyone has done before," Kerr added. "The way he plays the game, the way he shoots and the combination of his ball-handling, it’s incredible to watch.” If only he had someone riding shotgun. Cousins was sloppy on both ends, with three turnovers and one basket, and a step slow on defense against Gasol. This came one game after he seemingly regained his legs and confidence to gave Golden State a much-needed lift. Green’s continued recklessness was mystifying; he often made questionable decisions as a playmaker, suffered four turnovers and once again struggled to contain Siakam. The Warriors needed Green’s best, given their missing parts, and received something less. “We’ve got to be more solid with the ball and it starts with me,” he said. “I’ve had a bunch of turnovers in every game of this series. I think if I played better with the night (Curry) had, we would have won.” And so the Warriors, while talking bravely about their next-man-up mentality and embracing their “Strength in Numbers” slogan, must realize, deep down, that preventing the Raptors from winning two more games with a handicapped team might be difficult, if not impossible. Keep in mind that Golden State hasn’t sparkled for four quarters since the first game of the Western Conference finals. The last three games of that series, and the first three of the NBA Finals, the Warriors trailed by double digits. Thompson has an off day and Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) pregame period for therapy on his hamstring, although such strains are unpredictable and tricky. Will he be able to cut and fight through screens and be bouncy for 35-plus minutes through the intensity of an NBA Finals game, or will the injury restrict him and cause Kerr to seek a healthier, yet less productive replacement? “The whole point was to not risk a bigger injury that would keep him out the rest of the series,” said Kerr, explaining a decision made in consultation with the team doctors. “I feel very comfortable with it. I never would have forgiven myself if I played him and he had gotten hurt. So you live with the decision you made. The good thing is Klay has done well the last two days; hopefully he’ll be out there Friday.” Then there’s Durant, who last played May 8 (May 9, PHL time). After doing nothing but individual drills the last few days, he’ll go through a more normal practice session that will be simulated with the help of some assistant coaches and bench players. They'll see how Durant holds up. But that won’t match the stress level of a real game. And even if Durant gets clearance for Game 4, he hasn’t played in roughly a month. What about his timing? His wind? His touch? His ability to bring the same energy on defense? All legit questions and concerns for the Warriors -- until they’re not, whenever that is. “No one cares if guys are hurt,” Green said. “Everyone wants to see us lose anyway. So I’m sure people are happy they’re hurt.” Chances are that basketball fans, even if they’re against the Warriors, want to see stars on the floor this time of year. That’s what the NBA Finals is always about: Premium players doing premium things, or failing to do so, and letting the championship odds rise or fall on their performances. This year’s Finals have been denied one star for every game, and an additional star for one game. The battle with star attrition finally cost the Warriors a postseason loss, and at the worst possible time. The flow of the remainder of the NBA Finals, then, could rest with aching tendons and muscles and the recovery powers of those who own them. “We’re missing 50 points with KD and Klay, but we’ll adjust,” said a confident Curry. “It’s a long series, you know. It’s going to be fun for us.” The next Warriors medical update will arrive Thursday afternoon (Friday, PHL time). And another one Friday (Saturday, PHL time) just prior to tipoff. All along, the Warriors have led everyone to believe that it’s only a matter of time before they’re fully healthy. But will it be in time? And even then, will it be enough against a Toronto team suddenly thinking big? Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 6th, 2019

SUPER SHOWDOWN: La Salle Ricci-UP Ricci

The University of the Philippines' future remains bright with Ricci Rivero coming back for more. After a solid season in his first go-round in maroon and green, the all-around swingman will join forces yet again with Bright Akhuetie and Kobe Paras as the Fighting Maroons set out to build on back-to-back playoff appearances. For sure, State U's future is still secure with Rivero in the fold. Not too long ago, though, the just turned 22-year-old was also the future in De La Salle University. In fact, he was supposed-to-be the Green Archers' next great homegrown talent. It wasn't meant to be, however, as circumstances led him out of Taft Avenue and into Diliman. Still, his time in green and white remains his most successful yet - what with a championship and a Mythical selection under his belt. If it were up to you, which Ricci Rivero would you have on your side? The Ricci Rivero who had just launched off en route to greater and greater heights in La Salle or the Ricci Rivero who has been more grounded and more well-rounded in UP? That is what we try to compare and contrast in this week's ABS-CBN Sports Super Showdown. In studying the player he was and the player he is, we will be comparing those two in five categories (inside scoring, outside scoring, defense, health, and impact) with a boxing-style 10-point must system determining the decision. INSIDE SCORING The very first thing Rivero did in UP? Oop an alley. .@_ricciiirivero turns 22 today. The ride's just begun for the Euro step king ???? pic.twitter.com/QzCK5DHZS5 — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) May 25, 2020 Yes, his first basket as a Fighting Maroon was a right-handed hammer to finish off a setup by Jun Manzo. The 6-foot-2 swingman has long had the hops, even in his time in La Salle Green Hills, but he has complemented all that now in State U with the capability and confidence to finish with either hand. Along with that, Rivero also wields the wisdom to, at times, just absorb contact and get the points from the line. That is a far cry from his younger days when he was wont to force the issue, leading to many, many wild shots. Make no mistake, La Salle Ricci was already a beast in the paint, but now, he has paired that up with beauty of finishes in maroon and green. Advantage UP Ricci, 10-9 OUTSIDE SCORING The sidestep will always and always be linked to Rivero. Safe to say, that is his trademark whether it be in the open court or in set plays. In UP, however, the Isabela native has found more room to be able to execute his Euro-steps - and that's because he has become more of a three-point threat. From nine made threes in 18 games in his second season in La Salle, he has upped that mark to 13 made threes in 16 games in his first year as a Fighting Maroon. Of course, there remains much room for improvement, but it could not be questioned that Rivero is now an inside-outside force. Advantage UP Ricci, 10-9 DEFENSE Rivero's hops also translates to defense as he could have a highlight block just as he could have a highlight dunk. He also has the quick feet to stay in front of his matchups. While he is solid at that end in UP, the former Greenie was actually a dogged defender in La Salle. In sync with the rest of the Green Archers in Aldin Ayo's patented "mayhem," Rivero was a menace all over the court for opposing guards and totaled 27 steals. More than the numbers, though, it was the effort and the energy that were very much evident while he was defending as a Green Archer. Advantage La Salle Ricci, 10-9 HEALTH More than a few aches and pains slowed down Rivero in his first year in UP. It’s already well-known that the Fighting Maroons were never at full strength in Season 82 and the brand new Youtuber was the perfect personification of that as he did not come close to 100 percent. Proving his talent, he still produced, but there is no question he could have done much more if he was at his maximum. That maximum is where he was at in La Salle, especially in his second year wherein he busted out all the way to the Mythical Team by posting per game counts of 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.5 steals. This, even though he came off the bench seven times out of 18. Of course, the bigger burden as a Fighting Maroon takes time to getting used to and who knows, in his encore in maroon and green, he will be at the peak of his powers anew. Advantage La Salle Ricci, 10-9 IMPACT Rivero started nine games and, alongside Akhuetie and Paras, was tasked to make sure UP got going right from tip-off. For the most part, he did just that and was a key cog in the Fighting Maroons’ first-ever second-seed and twice-to-beat advantage. Come the endgame, however, there seemed to be much difference from when he was in La Salle. The star of Metro Manila Film Festival entry “Otlum” was the green and white’s energizer off the bench, but was also one of its big guns when it mattered most. Whenever Cameroonian powerhouse Ben Mbala was bogged down, there was Rivero to pick up the slack. That was no truer than in Game 2 of the Season 80 Finals when he dropped 14 of his 18 points in the second half to energize his side to a winner-take-all matchup opposite archrival Ateneo de Manila University. Ultimately, they were dethroned, but the human highlight reel's big-time Game 2 made sure there was no Finals sweep. He may get to that point once more, no doubt, but for now, his last year in La Salle remains to be the biggest mark he has made. Advantage La Salle Ricci, 10-9 FINAL SCORE: 48-47 for La Salle Ricci.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 26th, 2020

Ateneo s Fab 5: The Fearless Underdogs of UAAP Volleyball

(This story was originally published on April 20, 2018) Newly-appointed head coach Roger Gorayeb looked at his line-up heading into UAAP Season 71. A champion mentor of NCAA powerhouse San Sebastian College - Recoletos, Gorayeb had in his hands a gargantuan task of rebuilding the Ateneo de Manila University women’s volleyball program. Just a few months before, Ronald Dulay, the mentor before him, landed a trio of blue chip recruits who were fresh from a successful stint in the Palarong Pambansa. Angeline "Dzi" Gervacio, Fille Saint Cainglet and Jamenea "Jem" Ferrer just joined the Katipunan-based squad. Gervacio and Cainglet were products of St. Scholastica's College in Manila while Ferrer was a gem from Hope Christian School under girl’s volleyball guru Jerry Yee. Looking at his 15-woman line-up with the season just a few months ahead, Gorayeb knew he needed to do something drastic. The roster just won’t do. Talking to then athletic director Ricky Palou and team manager Tony Boy Liao, the mentor told the team officials that he intended to cut five players from the list. One could just imagine the shock in their faces. “Nakita ko may line-up pero player-playeran lang yung ganoon bang tipo, 15 ata yun. Sabi ko ‘Magtatanggal ako ng lima then magre-recruit ako,’” he said. The three rookies were in. Middle Bea Pascual, Kara Acevedo and libero Steph Gabriel retained their spots. He needed more. “Sa mga tinira kong players, si Kara Acevedo sabi niya, ‘Coach mayroong player ang ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) na gumraduate naka-exam na rito pasado.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sige papuntahin mo,’” said Gorayeb. It was Gretchen Ho. “Sa akin kasi ang talagang nagyaya sa akin si Coach Ron Dulay. Si Kara Acevedo teammate ko and she’s been recruited by Ateneo. So one summer wala akong magawa naki-train lang ako noon tapos nagustuhan nila ang laro ko and then fourth year noong graduate na ako I passed the ACET then niyayaya na nila ako,” Ho said. “Then nagbago ng coach na si Coach Roger and dun niya ako nakita.”   “Pagdating ko ng March (sa Ateneo) wala na akong way para maka-recruit pa. Ang nangyari yung tatlo accepted na kaagad. Si Gretchen tinanong ko sabi ko, ‘ano ba ang laro mo?’ Sabi niya the usual panggitna, tres,” Gorayeb recalled. “So sinubukan ko pero ang laro niya tres hindi quick. Siya panggitna pero hindi quicker na gusto ko saka yung height niya (maliit). Kaya lang si Gretchen takbo ng takbo, mahilig magtatakbo so sabi ko sige pwede na yan. Wala namang player na during that time. So kinuha ko si Gretchen.” Gorayeb just needed just one more. “Ngayon nagkaroon ng STCAA (Southern Tagalog Calabarzon athletic association) eh kulang pa ako ng isa, wala akong panggitna. Ang gitna ko during that time si Bea lang tapos si Gretchen so wala akong pamalit. So naisipan ko may nakita ako sa STCAA,” he said. He spotted a lanky player from Canossa Academy-Lipa, Aillysse Nacachi. “Sabi ko kay Sir Tony pagtyagaan ko na lang ito kahit hindi naman kalakasan at wala naman na rin akong choice na makapili kasi rush ang pagdating ko dyan. Nakiusap lang sila sa akin na magbuo ako ng team kasi si Ronald nag-resign,” said Gorayeb. Another freshman could’ve had ended up with Ateneo, Hope’s libero Melissa Gohing. But a few obstacles prevented her from fulfilling her promise to join Ferrer in Ateneo. She instead chose to join the ladies in green and white in Taft.    SOMETHING PROMISING December 7, 2008. Far Eastern University Gym. Excitement filled the air. Fans, mostly volleyball purists and some who just came to support their classmates or were just curious to see a new spectacle after the basketball season ended, slowly settled in their seats for the women’s division’s second game. It was Adamson University, the previous year’s runner-up, which just visited the turf of their arch nemesis and defending champion FEU, which was led by that era’s finest and most popular volleybelle Rachel Anne Daquis. Fans wanted to see if the Lady Falcons still had the same firepower they had the previous season with the loss of top setter Janet Serafica and power hitter Sang Laguilles. A rookie-laden Ateneo squad should be easy pickings with Angela Benting, rookie Pau Soriano and libero Lizlee Anne Gata in the roster. Besides the Lady Falcons got the Lady Eagles’ number. Or so they thought. “Naalala ko nu’ng time namin sinasabi sa amin ng seniors namin na, ‘Hay naku ang lakas ng Adamson, never kami nanalo dyan,’” Cainglet, now happily married to Taguig mayor Lino Cayetano and with three beautiful children, recalled.  But the Lady Eagles stunned Adamson in the opening set. The Lady Falcons took the next two frames. Ateneo stole the fourth.  “Ako naalala ko ano eh, parang alam namin na lahat kasi kami palaban. Nasa amin yun. Tapos binigyan kaming lahat ng chance to be in the first six so parang dream come true,” said Ho, now an ABS-CBN host. “Naalala ko rin na palaban kaming lahat kumbaga nothing to lose eh so ang ano namin, sumasabay kami sa laro and nu’ng nakita na namin na ‘Ay kaya pala natin ‘to guys. Kaya pala naming lumaban.’” Still, Adamson had the upper hand in experience. The Lady Falcons, used to pressure and were steady at crunch time, outlasted Ateneo.           The young Katipunan-based squad fell short, 25-22, 22-25, 15-25, 25-15, 8-15. But for the Fab 5, it was a loss that felt like a resounding victory. “Parang sobrang natutuwa kami and everybody in the crowd, kaya siguro kami natawag na Fab 5 kasi rookies kami pero kahit ganoon palaban kami,” said Ho. “Saka close game. Five sets yun.” However, it was the first of five five-set matches that Ateneo will drop that season including one in the second round against the Manilla Santos-bannered De La Salle University. “Pero ang problema di kami nananalo ng five sets. Parang ilan lang ang naipanalo namin na ganoon. Feeling ko na-overwhelm kami na ‘Uy nananalo tayo.’ May ganoong disbelief ng konti pero alam namin na may ibubuga kami,” said Ho. “Definitely, our rookie season was full of five-set matches. It was tough, we felt like we were so close, but still so far away. At some point, it gave us frustration also. We just couldn't figure out that time what is it that's still lacking because we couldn't win the five-set matches,” according to Nacachi. “People said, it was because the team was still so inexperienced. We still didn't have the tenacity unlike of those more matured teams. But we didn't take it as bad, it was a learning experience for us all at the end. We had to learn how to develop that finishing will to be able to win games like that in the future.” The Fab 5 finished their rookie season with a 6-8 slate at fifth spot.   ‘MAY MEDAL NA TAYO’ Gorayeb remembered on their second year the look on Pascual’s face in their last elimination game match against Adamson. Already wrapping up their first win over the Lady Falcons, Pascual was giddy. “Natatawa nga ako dyan kay Bea kasi papanalo na kami nu’n tapos sumesenyas na siya ng tres. Sabi ko, ‘Hoy anong ginagawa mo?’ Yun pala sobrang saya na niya kasi for the first time in 30 years magkaka-medal na sila,” he said. It was the most important match of the season for the Lady Eagles. With the Fab 5 already in their sophomore year, Ateneo was already making great strides. The Lady Eagles closed that season’s elims with five straight wins capped off with a victory over Adamson. Ateneo posted a 10-4 win-loss mark to enter the Final Four legitimately. “Ang nangyari kasi nu’ng time nila Charo (Soriano) kaya sila nakapasok sa semis kasi may nag-squeal na si (Jacq) Alarca di pala naka-enroll nu’n kaya na-forfeit mga laro ng La Salle,” said Gorayeb. The Fab 5 proved that they were not just a bunch of much-hyped up pretty faces. They backed it up with their skills on court. It didn’t matter that Ateneo were swept by eventual champion University of Sto. Tomas in the Final Four.      But the podium finish of Season 72 was short-lived. Adamson got its revenge in the last game of Season 73 elims, bumping off the Lady Eagles for a podium finish. The loss put Ateneo in a collision course with the twice-to-beat DLSU, who could’ve completed an elims sweep if not only for a forfeited match against University of the East after UAAP found out that Carmela Garbin and Clarisse Yeung participated in a ‘ligang labas’ while the season was onoing, in the Final Four. Ateneo gave the Lady Spikers a scare before succumbing in another heartbreaking five-set match. The Lady Eagles finished fourth but that lone semis game gave Ateneo and its maturing Fab 5 enough experience to dream for something big – A ticket into the Finals.      ‘HINOG NA KAYO’ The first three years saw the gradual improvement for Ateneo. But Season 74 proved to be the turning point for the Fab 5. A fresh new recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school, who just completed a year of residency, came into picture and with the Fab 5 armed with years of experience, the Lady Eagles’ fate will forever be changed. Alyssa Valdez, a highly recruited open spiker just like Gervacio, Cainglet-Cayetano and Ferrer years back, gave renewed excitement for the Ateneo faithful. “Alyssa's joining with Ateneo was a great turning point for us. We needed as much support we can get, and Alyssa's entrance to the team was a great boost to the team's morale,” said Nacachi. “The girl is a powerhouse and we felt like with her presence, the team finally became solid.” “We were able to play around with the positions and the rotations, since we had different versatile open players who can also greatly play other roles,” she added. “We were also able to formulate a lot of plays and attacks because Alyssa can generally do all kinds; open, running, quick, name it all. She gave the team the power and the versatility that we previously lacked from the past seasons.” Social media was just gaining traction then but the Lady Eagles were already on the radar of volleyball purists through online forums. For the first time, Ateneo was considered a legitimate contender.   The Fab 5 proved it by winning 11 games in the elimination round, losing only to UST once and dropping two against the Lady Spikers. Valdez’s arrival gave Ferrer an even broader option on offense. It eased the scoring load off the shoulders of Cainglet and Gervacio, who was then moved to an opposite position. “I guess sakto lang din yung dating niya because by that time Kara Acevedo graduated so someone had to fill in her spot so coach Roger decided for me to move to utility or opposite,” said Gervacio. “And then sakto Alyssa naman could fill in the spot na other open spiker.” “So timing din na we had all the pieces put together at the right time,” she added. With a good performance in the elims despite missing a legit middle in Bea Pascual and the entry of Aerieal Patnongon barred by academic problems, Ateneo finished second and for the first-time was armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals. The Lady Eagles faced an experienced Tigresses side in the last stepladder semis stage. UST just came from a hard-fought four-set do-or-die match against FEU and were banking on their four-set win over Ateneo in the second round to force another sudden death. Ateneo’s date with destiny was sealed with a four-set win over the Tigresses, who then bid goodbye to Maika Ortiz and Judy Anne Caballejo. “Pinu-push na rin kami ni Coach Roger noon eh, ‘Hinog na kayo ngayon. Kasi dalawang taon na lang, kailangan makapasok na kayo sa Finals,’” said Ho. “Somehow senior na rin kami,” added Cainglet.  “Season 74 was really the target season for us to be in the finals and target even to win the championship,” according to Nacachi. “During this time, we were already thinking we could not afford to not go in the finals.” “So it was with our mindset and our level of commitment that we were able to finally reach our goal of reaching the finals,” she added. “We had enough experience that time already, and it was really time for us to show the level of game maturity the team had obtained from the past seasons.” But then they had to face an unbeaten team. Unscathed in 14 games, De La Salle University was poised to complete a perfect season. The Lady Eagles spoiled it. Ferrer outplayed DLSU setter Mika Esperanza, 57-42, in excellent sets as Ateneo handed the Lady Spikers its first loss after 25 straight victories in a come-from-behind 23-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-17, Finals opener win. Witnessed by 3,002 spectators inside the then The Arena in San Juan, all of the Fab 5 produced points. Cainglet had 19 behind Valdez’s 24, Gervacio scored 12, Ho had 10, Nacachi finished with five while Ferrer had one. Gorayeb made a big gambit and it worked. “Dahil sa wala kong panggitna, yung laro namin ng La Salle, ginawa kong quicker si Alyssa. Kasi si Alyssa nakakapalo. Nagulat si Ramil (de Jesus) dun.” It was a big win. A huge upset. Unfortunately, Ateneo needed to win two more.  DLSU held a thrice-to-beat advantage.   THAT SWAG After Ateneo made a miracle in Game One, fans began to feel a new rivalry born. The attendance spiked. From just 3,000 spectators, the gate attendance more than doubled its size. The interest was there. Fans of traditional powers began to notice the Lady Eagles as a rising team. For the first time, a squad with no previous championship experience except for a title during the Marcos era in a different collegiate league, made a giant jolt. Everybody wanted to see what these girls would do next.    The Lady Eagles, still high on adrenaline after their Game 1 upset, took the opening set in Game 2. But just like in their opener, a well-experienced DLSU squad adjusted to take the next three frames to move a step closer to a repeat crown. With then Rookie of the Year Ara Galang, Season Most Valuable Player Aby Marano, an intimidating Michele Gumabao and a very efficient Finals MVP Cha Cruz teaming up for the kill, the Lady Spikers ripped Ateneo apart in Game 3 in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, 25-13. “Sabi nga ni Dzi na nadyan na lahat eh. So I guess noong Season 74 nandoon na pero may kulang pa rin,” said Ho. “I guess we we’re able to make it to the Finals pero wala pa kaming championship experience.” Ferrer agreed. "Siguro ang kulang yung championship experience kasi nasa La Salle na ‘yun eh. Ilang years na silang nagpa-finals, nag-champion and for Ateneo doon pa lang namin sinimulan," said the three-time Best Setter. Lacking championship experience is one thing, but Ateneo during that time wasn’t ready for DLSU’s most feared weapon: the Lady Spikers’ swag.  “They have that swag,” said Gervacio. “Everyone knows about it naman. It’s really Coach Ramil’s style talaga kasi as I remember when we were first year, four out of six of the players inside the court were rookies and even if we go against the powerhouses UST, FEU, Adamson, hindi sila yung nakikita nyo na kapag championship na rivalry, na swag, angas, stare down. Pero La Salle talaga kahit sino ang kalaban nila they’ll bring that attitude inside the court.” That Finals series cemented a new rivalry that will become one of the most celebrated in the sport. “I think it also helped that Ateneo-La Salle basketball didn’t face also,” said Gervacio. “Siyempre nandoon ang hunger for the rivalry eh and timely din na its been Ateneo-La Salle na rin sa volleyball.”   CLOSING A CHAPTER The Fab 5 were now in their fifth and last year. They wanted to leave a winning legacy. The pieces were already there. Gorayeb had at his disposal five seniors, a rising star in Valdez, a sophomore middle in Amy Ahomiro, a versatile Ella De Jesus, a steady libero in Denden Lazaro and a new kind of weapon – a massive crowd that can turn any venue into a sea of blue.              As expected, the second installment of the Ateneo-DLSU rivalry was set into place. Both sweeping their semis opponents. The Lady Spikers crushed National University while the Lady Eagles shot down Adamson. Game One was a shocker. DLSU heading into the Finals are on a 14-game roll but were stunned in the first two sets with Ateneo stepping on the gas. But a string of miscues, mostly from the service line, did the Lady Eagles in as they allowed the Lady Spikers to force a decider. DLSU, smelling blood, punished Ateneo to eke out a 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6, victory inside the Big Dome witnesses by 17,342-strong gate attendance. Then the series transferred to a newly-built, state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena that drew a crowd of 18,799. The first two frames were frustrating for the Lady Eagles.   Ateneo came back to life in the third set to gain a 9-5 lead. But DLSU easily erased it with Ateneo crumbling under pressure. The Lady Spikers were on an onslaught. Sophomore Galang pushed DLSU at matchpoint with a cold-blooded ace that went in a few inches from the baseline. The score, 24-16. It was a tense moment for the Fab 5. A long rally ensued in the next play. Gervacio, with all her might pounded a kill. Her hand making a great contact on the ball off Ferrer’s backset.     Smack! The ball ricocheted off the hands of DLSU’s Wensh Tiu before falling on the same landing area of Gervacio, who tried to dive for a dig together with Lazaro. DLSU swept Ateneo, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16. Game over.          “Kahit hindi kami nanalo alam naming ibinigay namin ang lahat namin, all-out talaga kaya wala kaming pagsisisi,” said Ho. It was the end of the Fab 5 era, but they left more than what any of them could have imagined. "I remember so many people or fans telling me that they started really watching UAAP Volleyball because of our batch. And that is really touching and fulfilling to know. Knowing that you were able to leave an impact like that to people. We were not able to bring even a single championship to our school, Ateneo, but we were able to touch a lot of people's hearts despite that," Nacachi shared. The Fab 5 closed a colorful chapter of Ateneo volleyball in tears. They were there during the Lady Eagles’ birth pains. They labored. They shed tears, blood and sweat. They laid the foundation for something big. The Fab 5 planted the seeds that would eventually bear fruit and would change the course of Ateneo women’s volleyball program forever. Glory didn’t happen during their time. It started in theirs.    Amidst the roar of the crowd, the falling confetti, banging of drums and the echoing chant of ‘Animo La Salle’ from the sea of green, the Fab 5 hugged each other tight. They found comfort in each other. It was their time to say goodbye. For those who remained – Valdez, Lazaro, Ahomiro, De Jesus – the defeat added fuel to their already blazing desire to bring glory for the blue and white. They were the next in line, heirs to an unfinished business. WATCH: FAB 5 Reunion Part 1 and Part 2 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 2020

ON THIS DAY: Tigresses end 8-year Finals stint wait

The packed Mall of Asia Arena rocked as University of Sto. Tomas rookie Eya Laure hammered the final blow that toppled the three-year dynasty of De La Salle University.     Supporters of the Tigresses went wild as the referees blew the final whistle signaling the end of the Espana-based squad’s eight long years of waiting to step back into the championship round. Exactly a year ago, UST booked a trip to the UAAP Season 81 women’s volleyball Finals.    The duel went the full five sets with the Tigresses walking away with a 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 23-25, 15-10, victory behind the duo of Laure and then graduating Queen Tigress Sisi Rondina. That match gave fans a feel of the classic rivalry between the two proud schools. Prior to their Final Four meeting, the Lady Spikers and Tigresses squared off four days before to dispute the twice-to-beat advantage after finishing the elimination round tied at 10-4.      UST defeated DLSU in four sets in the playoff behind Rondina’s 29-point explosion.    The Tigresses, who were looking to avenge their Season 77 semis defeat at the hands of DLSU, came into Final Four riding the crest of their five-game winning streak. The Lady Spikers, on the other hand, were on a two-game slump which started with their stinging five-set loss to Far Eastern University to close the elimination round that dragged DLSU into a playoff for the no. 2 spot in the semis. UST was brimming with confidence in the Final Four match. Laure and Rondina found their mark early, punishing the Lady Spikers defense with their missiles while Caitlin Viray and KC Galdones kept DLSU attackers at bay with great net defense. The first two sets were easy picking for UST. Then the Lady Spikers fought back. DLSU forced a deciding set after pulling away from a close 18-17 lead to a 23-19 advantage capped by a Des Cheng crosscourt hit. Viray scored back-to-back points for UST to trim down its deficit to 23-21 but committed a service error in the next play. Laure saved two set points but the Tigresses were whistled for a net touch to end the fourth set. The Lady Spikers took advantage of UST’s 13 errors in the third set to escape a sweep. DLSU came back from a 11-15 down in the third frame with six unanswered points for a 17-15 advantage. The Lady Spikers widened their cushion to 24-19, Laure saved a set point before Cheng sealed the frame to set up a mad dash to the finish. In the final set, the Tigresses raced to a 10-5 lead before DLSU made a final push to cut its deficit to 11-10 off an Aduke Ogunsanya attack after an overreception by UST. Tigresses setter Alin Bicar scored a kill on the next play followed by a service ace before Laure's back-to-back hits to send UST back in the Finals for the first time since Season 73 when the Espana-based squad finished as bridesmaid to the Lady Spikers. UST ended DLSU’s 10-year Finals run and denied the Lady Spikers a four-peat for the third time in two decades. The Tigresses challenged Ateneo de Manila University in the Finals. UST won the series opener, but came up short in the next two games as the Lady Eagles claimed their third title overall.   ---          Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2020

Pats to play in wild-card game, Chiefs get AFC s No. 2 seed

By Dennis Waszak Jr., Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will be playing in the postseason a week earlier than usual this year. The defending Super Bowl champs open the playoffs during wild-card weekend for the first time since 2009 after they lost 27-24 to Miami on Sunday and Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-21 to earn a first-round bye. “We didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing and it ended up costing us," Brady said. “Just too many bad mistakes." The Patriots (12-4) are the No. 3 overall seed in the AFC and will have to fix things in a hurry as they host Tennessee (9-7) next weekend. “We've got a game next week, we've got to get ready to go," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “Nobody should feel sorry for us, we shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves. Our goal is to play in the playoffs. We got a shot next week at all of that." The Titans clinched their spot by beating Houston 35-14, eliminating both Pittsburgh and Oakland in the process. All three teams had a chance at the playoffs, but Tennessee had the easiest path by needing to win — and got it against a Texans squad that rested several starters, including quarterback Deshaun Watson. “I think it’s great when you can determine whether you get to continue to play football," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “There was some great effort, but we’re going to have to improve and play better. Everything gets harder from here on out." The last time New England played on wild-card weekend, it lost at home to the Ravens. The Patriots have never made it to the Super Bowl with Brady and coach Bill Belichick while playing in the opening round. “We've got to move forward and get ready to go or the end of our season will be next week if we don't turn the page and play good football, way better than today,” McCourty said. “Nobody feels sorry for the Patriots not getting a first-round bye in the playoffs." Meanwhile, the Chiefs (12-4) are the No. 2 seed and will be able to watch the opening round, along with the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens (14-2). “We'll step back, the guys will come in tomorrow, we'll have a team meeting, I'll give them a schedule for what's going on the next week here during the bye week," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “The main thing is we get work done, but we rest up and get ready for whoever we might play.” Kansas City's victory also locked Houston into the No. 4 seed, and the Texans (10-6) will host the Buffalo Bills (10-6) next weekend. Despite resting several starters, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, running back Mark Ingram, guard Marshal Yanda and safety Earl Thomas, Baltimore cruised past Pittsburgh 28-10 to ride into the playoffs on a 12-game winning streak. “It's the best team in football in the regular season this year, but that doesn't count for anything in the next season," coach John Harbaugh said. “In the next season, we have to obviously go to work this week and become a better football team." In the NFC, Green Bay earned at least a first-round bye with a 23-20 victory at Detroit. Now, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (13-3) will wait on the result on the San Francisco-Seattle matchup Sunday night to see if they'll have the No. 1 overall seed — and home-field advantage —- in the conference. "The NFC is wide open," Rodgers said. “I think home-field advantage can be very important.” If the 49ers win, they get it. Otherwise, it will be the Packers in the top spot. "We’re hot," Rodgers said after helping his team rally to its fifth straight win. "But you've got to start all over in the playoffs and it’s all great football teams now, so the margin of error is even smaller." New Orleans routed Carolina 42-10 to finish 13-3 in the regular season, but Drew Brees and Co. will also have to wait to see what their playoff path will be. The NFC South champions can't get home-field advantage because of Green Bay's win, but can earn a first-round bye if Seattle beats San Francisco. A win by the 49ers would push the Saints to the No. 3 seed and a home game against Minnesota (10-6) in the wild-card round next weekend. Injury-ravaged Philadelphia (9-7) won the NFC East with a 34-17 win over the New York Giants, eliminating Dallas with the victory. The Eagles, with their second division title in three years, will host the loser of the 49ers-Seahawks showdown. “This team, when it’s crunch time this time of year, we get it done,” Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said after his team finished the schedule with a four-game inni. ___ AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi, and AP Sports Writers Dave Ginsburg, Kyle Hightower, Larry Lage, Kristie Rieken and Dave Skretta contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 30th, 2019

Hornets complete home-and-home sweep of Pistons, 110-107

By The Associated Press DETROIT (AP) — Langston Galloway’s shot from near midcourt rimmed out at the buzzer, and the Charlotte Hornets held on for a 110-107 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Charlotte completed a home-and-home sweep of the Pistons this week. Detroit must be wondering what it has to do to beat the Hornets. Charlotte edged the Pistons 109-106 earlier in the month and 102-101 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). This matchup went down to the wire again. The Hornets rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final quarter and led by three with 8.9 seconds left. Detroit inbounded the ball, and Luke Kennard missed a 3-pointer from near the top of the key. Galloway was able to run down the loose ball, and his last-ditch shot looked on line, but it wouldn’t go in. P.J. Washington scored 26 points for Charlotte, and Terry Rozier added 23. The Hornets were without center Cody Zeller because of a left hip injury. Derrick Rose led the Pistons with 23 points. SPURS 107, CLIPPERS 97 SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge and Derrick White each had 17 points, and San Antonio beat Kawhi Leonard and Los Angeles. The Spurs stopped the Clippers’ seven-game win streak in Leonard’s second appearance in San Antonio as an opponent. Leonard finished with 19 points on 8-for-23 shooting. San Antonio had lost two straight and 12 of 14, but found its footing against Los Angeles. Leonard spent his first seven seasons in San Antonio before demanding a trade. He was shipped off to Toronto and won his second NBA Finals MVP last season before joining the Clippers as a free agent. Leonard’s initial return to San Antonio on Jan. 24 (Jan. 25, PHL time) resulted in thunderous boos and a 125-107 loss for the Raptors. BUCKS 119, CAVALIERS 110 CLEVELAND (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 11 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and Milwaukee held off Cleveland for its 10th straight victory. Antetokounmpo grabbed 12 rebounds and has had double-doubles in every game this season for Milwaukee, at 16-3 the top team in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks hadn't won 10 in a row since the 1985-86 season. Hill scored 18 points, and Middleton, playing for the second time since missing seven games with a bruised left thigh, had 12. Cleveland has dropped nine of 10. Rookie Darius Garland scored 21 points, including five 3-pointers, and Cedi Osman had 20. Tristan Thompson had 11 points and 13 rebounds, including the 5,000th of his career in the first half. Love, who is playing despite dealing with a sore back, had 16 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes. RAPTORS 90, MAGIC 83 ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Norman Powell scored a career-best 33 points as Toronto won its sixth straight game, beating Orlando. Powell was 7-for-9 shooting in the third quarter, including three 3-pointers. Fred Van Fleet added 22 points for the Raptors, who won despite Pascal Siakam's 4-for-22 shooting. Siakam finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Evan Fournier scored 19 points for Orlando, which has lost four of five. Markelle Fultz added 15 points. Aaron Gordon, who played 32 minutes for Orlando after missing three games with a right ankle contusion, had eight points and eight rebounds. NETS 112, CELTICS 107 NEW YORK (AP) — Spencer Dinwiddie had 32 points and 11 assists while Kyrie Irving was again unable to face his former team, and Brooklyn beat Boston to split a home-and-home series. Irving missed his eighth straight game with a right shoulder injury but was at the arena to get an evaluation and watch from the bench along with Kevin Durant as Dinwiddie kept up his strong play in his place. The Eastern Conference player of the week last week matched his highest assist total of the season and was two shy of his best scoring performance of the season. Jarrett Allen added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets, who bounced back from their 121-110 loss in Boston on Wednesday night to win for the fifth time in six games. Jayson Tatum had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics. HEAT 122, WARRIORS 105 MIAMI (AP) — Goran Dragic scored 20 points, Tyler Herro added 19 and Miami remained perfect at home this season. Duncan Robinson scored 17 for Miami, which is 8-0 at home for the second time in franchise history — tying the mark set by the 2012-13 Heat. Robinson and Herro were a combined 10 for 13 from 3-point range. Jimmy Butler scored 16, while Kendrick Nunn and Kelly Olynyk each had 15 for the Heat. Jordan Poole scored 20 for injury-ravaged Golden State, which was playing the opener of a five-game road trip. Eric Paschall scored 17 and Alec Burks finished with 16 for the Warriors. The Warriors are one of four teams without back-to-back wins this season, joining Chicago, Detroit and New York. 76ERS 101, KNICKS 95 NEW YORK (AP) — Joel Embiid had 27 points and 17 rebounds, James Ennis III scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, and Philadelphia overcame a sluggish start and beat New York. Tobias Harris scored 19, and Ben Simmons chipped in 16 points, including a game-sealing steal and dunk late in the fourth quarter for the 76ers, who have won two straight and six of seven. Julius Randle had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Marcus Morris Sr. scored 20 points for the Knicks, who have lost a season-high five straight. The 76ers were playing without starters Al Horford (rest) and Josh Richardson (right hamstring injury) and it showed in the first half as their offense struggled. Philadelphia shot 13 for 38 from the field, including 2 for 18 behind the 3-point line. JAZZ 103, GRIZZLIES 94 MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, helping Utah pull away from Memphis. Bogdanovic matched his season-high scoring mark, going 12 of 20 from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range as Utah snapped a two-game losing streak. Donovan Mitchell added 20 points, and Rudy Gobert had 13 points, 13 rebounds and a pair of blocks. Jonas Valanciunas led Memphis with 22 points and 17 rebounds, and Brandon Clarke scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The Grizzlies have lost six straight. PACERS 105, HAWKS 104, OT INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jeremy Lamb scored 20 points, T.J. Warren hit a go-ahead 3-pointer and Indiana outlasted Trae Young and Atlanta in overtime. Young matched his career high with 49 points in the Hawks’ ninth straight loss. He was 16 of 28 from the field, hitting 8 of 15 from 3-point range. Lamb got the Pacers started in overtime with a 20-foot jumper and he fed Myles Turner for a 3-pointer. Warren made his only 3-pointer of the game with 1:12 remaining to push the Pacers to their fifth consecutive victory. Turner and Domantas Sabonis each scored 17 points, and Warren and Malcomb Brogdon had 16 apiece. DeAndre’ Bembry and Alex Len added 15 points each for Atlanta. THUNDER 109, PELICANS 104 OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Dennis Schroder scored 25 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, and had seven assists to help Oklahoma City beat New Orleans. Abdel Nader scored 19 points and Danilo Gallinari had 17 for Oklahoma City (7-11), which had been 1-4 in its previous five games. Steven Adams added 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder, including the final four points in the last minute. Brandon Ingram scored 26 points and had eight rebounds to lead New Orleans (6-13), which lost its fourth straight. J.J. Redick added 16 points for the Pelicans but missed two 3-point attempts in the final 10 seconds. New Orleans had seven players score in double digits. MAVERICKS 120, SUNS 113 PHOENIX (AP) — Luka Doncic tied a career high with 42 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. added 26 and Dallas beat Phoenix. Doncic just missed a triple-double with 11 assists and nine rebounds. Hardaway shot 6 of 9 from 3-point range to help offset a quiet night from Kristaps Porzingis, who finished with two points. The teams entered the final quarter tied at 89. The Mavericks went on an 8-0 run midway through the fourth to take a 104-97 lead and never trailed again. Phoenix has lost six of its last seven games. Kelly Oubre Jr. led the Suns with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio added 21 points and nine assists. LAKERS 125, WIZARDS 103 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Davis had 26 points and 13 rebounds, and LeBron James had 23 points and 11 assists before both superstars took the fourth quarter off in Los Angeles’ 10th consecutive victory. Quinn Cook scored 17 points and JaVale McGee had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the steamrolling Lakers, who have won 17 of 18 to soar to the top of the overall NBA standings. Los Angeles went 14-1 in November, posting the most victories in a month for this 16-time champion franchise since March 2000. The up-tempo Wizards have been one of the NBA’s worst defensive teams this season, and the Lakers’ dynamic offense was far too much for them. Bradley Beal had 18 points and nine assists for the Wizards, who have lost three of four. Washington got off to a solid start and had several good stretches against the Lakers, but committed 19 turnovers and lost for the second time in three stops on a four-game West Coast road trip. TRAIL BLAZERS 107, BULLS 103 PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Carmelo Anthony had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Portland downed Chicago for its second victory over the Bulls this week. Damian Lillard added 28 points for the Blazers, who have won three straight after four consecutive losses. Hassan Whiteside had eight points, 15 rebounds and a franchise-record 10 blocks for Portland. Zach LaVine finished with 28 for the slumping Bulls, who have lost seven of their last nine games......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 30th, 2019

Love at peace, not worried about trade chatter

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Kevin Love knows change could be coming. A couple of years ago, uncertainty might have been something that stressed him out, triggered the sorts of feelings like the ones that manifested themselves in the form of an in-game panic attack in 2017, rendered him unable to compete as efficiently as he wanted. Not this time. Even though he has three full years and about $90 million left on his contract after this season, it’s no secret that Love could be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Plenty of teams even make sense for such a move — Portland, Dallas, Denver, Miami among others. But going public with the details of his panic attack — and his ongoing involvement in the conversation about the need to take care of mental health — has not left Love feeling vulnerable. He’s more at peace than anything else, and that’s why the rumors that are out there aren’t gnawing at him. “I’m just going to let the chips fall,” Love said. “I know that this is a young team. I think I can help them. I’m going to do right by Cleveland, the organization. This is a league where teams want to rebuild, teams want to go young but certain teams are looking for a piece, a guy who’s played in the finals, a guy who has playoff experience. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think it definitely lessens the burden and the anxiety.” Cleveland is 5-12 and Love missed Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) game against Brooklyn with back issues. Now in his 11th season, the five-time All-Star can still play — he’s averaging 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds, is a 36% shooter from 3-point range and won a ring with the Cavs in 2016. Even with him, the Cavs are likely a long shot for a playoff spot in the East. But Love insists that he isn’t forcing a change. “I’ve been committed to Cleveland since Day 1,” Love said. “I know it’s been a little shaky at some points. It’s been really great at some points. But now I’ve found some semblance of balance in my life, not only on the court but away from it.” Love also doesn’t shy away from the mental health questions. Players like Love and DeMar DeRozan helped bring the conversation into the NBA mainstream by opening up about their own private and personal issues. “I kind of played all my cards and spoke my truth,” Love said. “I just feel like there’s not a lot out there that could really hurt me. I feel like, not only for other people but selfishly for myself, it’s been very therapeutic.” HISTORY LESSON The Spurs are in trouble. Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) loss to the Lakers dropped San Antonio to 6-12, and seeing that is all anyone would probably need to realize that the Spurs’ record-tying 22-year streak of postseason appearances is in major jeopardy. But the numbers really hammer the point home. Over the last 14 seasons, not including this one, there have been 103 instances of teams starting 6-12 or worse. Of those, only four have made the postseason — and none of those four came from the Western Conference. And the last time the Spurs were under the .500 mark 18 games into a season was 1995-96, when they started 3-15. That’s the point where they fired Bob Hill for a guy named Gregg Popovich. “They’re going to be OK,” said Charlotte coach James Borrego, a former longtime Spurs assistant, who crossed paths with Popovich in Washington recently. “At the end of the day, he’s coaching his team, I’m coaching my team. I know what they’re going through. But they’ve been in this territory before. I don’t know if they’ve lost as much as they’ve lost this early, but they’ll bounce back. There’s high character there. They know what they’re doing.” The last West team to start 6-12 or worse and get into the playoffs was the 2004-05 Memphis Grizzlies, who began 5-11, went through two different coaches before bringing in Mike Fratello. He fashioned a 40-26 finish, the Grizzlies sneaked into the playoffs at 45-37 and as the eighth seed. They got swept in the first round. The NBA champions that year? San Antonio. KEMBA’S NECK Boston guard Kemba Walker took a scary hit last week when he collided with teammate Semi Ojeleye during the Celtics’ game at Denver. The way Walker fell, and how he had to leave the game on a stretcher, understandably raised plenty of concern. He was diagnosed with a sprained neck, which was probably about the best possible outcome given how bad the play looked in real time. Perhaps overlooked is this: The sprain is Walker’s second neck issue in less than three months. He played some games for USA Basketball at the FIBA World Cup in China in September while dealing with neck pain, which intensified to the point that he sat out the Americans’ finale there — the seventh-place game in Beijing against Poland. MIGHTY MAVS With MVP candidate Luka Doncic leading the way, Dallas is flying. The Mavericks have scored 137 points or more in each of their last three games. Only two teams in league history have gone on longer such streaks — Denver in November 1988 and Portland in November 1990, both of those being four-game runs. The Mavs have reached the 125-point mark five times already this season. That matches their total from all of last season. THE WEEK AHEAD A game to watch each day in the coming week: (PHL times listed) Wednesday, L.A. Clippers at Dallas: Doncic is rolling right now. Here comes a very big test. Thursday, L.A. Lakers at New Orleans: Welcome back to New Orleans, Anthony Davis. Friday, Happy Thanksgiving: It’s one of the days the NBA has no games on the schedule. Saturday, Boston at Brooklyn: A noon start time. Could it be Kyrie Irving versus the Celtics? Sunday, Charlotte at Milwaukee: For some reason, few seem to be talking about the Bucks. Next Monday, Memphis at Minnesota: Through Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant averaged 19 ppg. Next Tuesday, Utah at Philadelphia: A matchup of really good teams that usually put defense first......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 26th, 2019

ABL Season 10 Preview

With the 10th Season of the ABL officially underway, we’ve been witnesses to one of the more colorful and exciting off seasons in the past few years. This is a testament to the ever-growing level of competition the league has seen year in and year out, as teams are doing their best to make sure that they enter the season with as competitive a lineup as they can muster. After another banner season which saw the CLS Knights defeat perennial contender the Singapore Slingers, everything is up for grabs. Established teams have entered into rebuilding mode, former champions have gone the direction of youth, regular contenders have added more depth both among their imports and locals, while this year’s expansion club boasts of one of the more impressive lineups we’ve seen from an expansion club in recent memory. All of this just makes for an even more exciting tenth season as the ABL continues to rise to greatness. Here is a quick rundown of what to expect from each of the teams: San Miguel Alab Pilipinas  (Regular season record: 18-8, 2nd, lost to HK Eastern in the quarterfinals) Former ABL Champs San Miguel Alab Pilipinas will be fielding a virtually new squad this 2019-2020 season, with Lawrence Domingo and Brandon Rosser as the only holdovers from Coach Jimmy Alapag’s 2018-2019 campaign. Gone are 3-time local MVP Bobby Ray Parks, Jr, former Defensive Player of the Year Renaldo Balkman and PJ Ramos. Instead, Alab will be relying on Fil-American guards Jason Brickman and Jeremiah Gray to lead their cast of locals. Brickman is no stranger to winning, after having led the Westports Malaysia Dragons to an ABL championship in 2016, and Mono Vampire to a Finals appearance two seasons ago. He remains one of the league’s best passers and has a knack for making winning plays. Jeremiah Gray meanwhile, is arguably Alab’s most touted local addition, and the 6’4” scorer could be one of the most exciting locals to watch out for this season. Since joining the ABL three seasons ago, Alab has finished the regular season no lower than 3rd place, but after last season’s early post season exit against the Hong Kong Eastern, Coach Jimmy Alapag and the rest of the squad are looking to bring the franchise back to the ABL Finals. Formosa Dreamers (Regular season record: 19-7, First, lost to Mono Vampire in the quarterfinals) The Formosa Dreamers shocked the ABL last season when, after finishing with a dismal 1-19 record in their inaugural season, the Dreamers finished at the top of the heap after the regular season with a 19-7 record. It was short-lived however, as the team from Taiwan bowed out in the first round of the post-season to the 8th seeded Mono Vampire of Thailand.  None of the three imports (Will Artino, Malcolm Miller and Tevin Glass) who steered them to a first-place elimination round record will be back this season, and neither will Coach Dean Murray. Instead, the Dreamers will be tapping former Saigon Heat Head Coach Kyle Julius, who steered the Heat to the franchise’s first winning season and playoff victory, to call the shots from the sidelines. They’ve also added two explosive imports in Jerran Young and Marcus Keene. Young, the 6’6” wingman who averaged 19ppg, 7.1rpg, and 2.3 spg to help bring the Slingers back to the ABL Finals last season. Keene meanwhile, suited up for two games for Mono Vampire last season and averaged 32.5ppg before being cut. Look for these two imports to power the Dreamers fast paced offense together with Taiwanese National Team mainstay Jet Chang, and reliable locals Kenny Chien, Lee Hsueh-Lin, and Wu Sung-Wei.   Hong Kong Eastern (Regular Season record: 13-13, 7th, defeated Alab Pilipinas in the quarterfinals, lost to Singapore Slingers in the Semifinals) 2017 ABL Champion Hong Kong Eastern has reset their program, parting ways with 2017 Coach of the Year Edu Torres, as well as former world import MVP, Marcus Elliot. They’ve opted to go with younger imports in Trey Kell (23 years old) and TJ Price (26 years old), while retaining last season’s replacement to Sam Deguara, Michael Holyfield. They’ve also tapped former NBA G-League coach Jordan Brady as Torres’ replacement.  Trey Kell is a talented scorer, standing 6’4”, and averaged 21.6ppg, 7.9rpg, and 4.8apg at the Canadian National Basketball League where he was named Finals MVP. TJ Price meanwhile is another scoring guard who averaged 16.7ppg, 3.3rpg, and 3.2apg in the Hungarian League A Division. Talented as their imports may be however, the success of Eastern’s rebuild will still largely depend on the contributions from the locals.     Kuala Lumpur Dragons (Regular Season record: 8-18, 9th, did not advance to the post season) Key Players: Will Artino, Amir Bell, Cade Davis Now known as the Kuala Lumpur Dragons, the 2016 ABL Champs have long road ahead to retain their past glory. Having not made it to the last three postseasons, Head Coach Jamie Pearlman will be relying heavily on former Creighton Bluejay and Formosa Dreamers center, Will Artino. Artino averaged a double-double in his first season in the ABL, and led the Dreamers to first place at the end of last year’s regular season. He will be partnered up with a solid shooter in Cade Davis, and Amir Bell, a 6’4” guard from Princeton, who averaged 10.4ppg, 4.2rpg, and 3.9apg for Agrigento in the Italian League 2nd Division. It will be interesting to see how this new mix of imports will blend with their locals, especially in a tough bracket that includes San Miguel Alab Pilipinas, Mono Vampire, Singapore Slingers, and the Saigon Heat.   Macau Black Bears (Regular Season Record:14-12, 6th, lost to the Singapore Slingers in the quarterfinals) Key Players: Mikh McKinney, Kenny Manigault, Brandon Edwards, Lai Ka Tong, Jenning Leung When Anthony Tucker went down to injury last season, so did Macau’s hopes of really contending for the ABL crown. Granted, Mikh McKinney was the league’s best scorer and Ryan Watkins, the best rebounder, but without their former World Import MVP and best playmaker, the Black Bears simply could not advance.  This season, gone are Tucker and Watkins. McKinney will have the explosive and athletic Kenny Manigault as his backcourt mate. Manigault averaged 17.1ppg and 5.3rpg playing in Finland. Their third import is 6’6” Brandon Edwards, who will be tasked to mix it up inside with the best big men of the league. It will be tough for this guard-laden Macau squad, and they will rely mostly on a small-ball style, utilizing McKinney’s and Manigault’s athleticism to relentlessly attack defenses and create opportunities for themselves and the rest of their teammates.   Mono Vampire Basketball Club (Regular Season Record: 11-15, 8th, defeated Formosa Dreamers in the quarterfinals, lost to CLS Knights Indonesia in the Semifinals) Key Players: Mike Singletary, Ryan Watkins, Tyler Lamb, Freddie Lish, Moses Morgan Mono Vampire proved that they were dead serious on making it back to the Finals this upcoming ABL Season. Last year, after bucking a slow start, Mono Vampire added Romeo Travis, Malcolm White, and Freddie Lish midseason, and still ended up becoming the hottest team to close the regular season. They also surprised everyone by eliminating the top seeded Formosa Dreamers despite being the 8th seeded team in the post-season.  This year they brought back their solid core of Tyler Lamb, Mike Singletary, Freddie Lish, and Moses Morgan; while also adding the one of last year’s most efficient imports and rebounding leader Ryan Watkins from the Macau Black Bears. 6’1” Preston Knowles, the former Louisville Cardinal, will be manning the point guard spot, as former world import MVP Anthony Tucker, will miss the season due to another foot injury. Regardless of Tucker’s absence however, Mono Vampire looks to possess one of the league’s deepest rosters.    Saigon Heat (Regular Season record: 14-12, 5th, lost to CLS Knights Indonesia in the quarterfinals) Key Players: Chris Charles, Gary Forbes, Sam Thompson, Sang Dinh, Chris Dierker, Tam Dinh Coming from their most successful season thus far where they won their first ever playoff game, the Saigon Heat are poised to make waves this coming ABL season. Their local core of Khoa Tran, Sang Dinh and Chris Dierker, has been further bolstered by VBA MVP and Sang’s older brother, Tam Dinh (24.5ppg, 54.8% FG%), who will look to carry his scoring ways in the ABL. The Heat have also chosen to add length and experience, signing ABL All-time 10 Honoree Chris Charles, NBA veteran Gary Forbes, and former Ohio State Buckeye, Sam Thompson. However, the Heat will no longer be with head coach Kyle Julius -- architect of their playoff runs the past 2 seasons – as he is now with the Formosa Dreamers. In his place, the team has tapped 2-time Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) Coach of the Year Kevin Yurkus, to lead the squad.    Singapore Slingers (Regular Season record: 16-10, 3rd, defeated the Macau Black Bears in the quarterfinals, defeated HK Eastern in the Semifinals, lost to the CLS Knights Indonesia in the Finals) Key Players: Xavier Alexander, Marcus Elliot, Anthony McClain, Delvin Goh, Leon Kwek Arguably the most talked about offseason transfer belonged to the Singapore Slingers with their signing of former World Import MVP Marcus Elliot. Elliot played the last 3 seasons with Hong Kong Eastern where he averaged 23ppg, 7.6rpg, and 6.5apg. He also ranks 3rd in the ABL’s all-time scoring list, and has the second most career triple-doubles next the Slingers’ Xavier Alexander, last season’s Import MVP. With Elliot and Alexander, Singapore would now possess the league’s most potent backcourt, although there will surely be a period of adjustment, as both players are used to having the ball in their hands for most of the game. Further bolstering Coach Neo Beng Siang’s lineup is the addition of 7-foot big man Anthony McClain, a walking double-double, who most recently normed 17.8ppg and 13.6rpg in Taiwan’s Super Basketball League. Providing local support as well are Delvin Goh, who has continuously improved every season, and the returning Leon Kwek, who’s scoring and heads up play was sorely missed last season when he had to sit out due to National Service commitments.   Macau Wolf Warriors  Regular Season record: 2-24, 10th, did not advance to the post season) Key Players: Steven Thomas, Julian Boyd, Douglas Herring, Cai Chen After a dismal inaugural season, record-wise, the Wolf Warriors are looking to follow in the footsteps of the Formosa Dreamers, who rebounded from their 1-19 debut season to top the elimination round of season 2018-2019. They’ve brought in former ABL Champion Coach Todd Purves to mastermind the team’s rebuild, as well as ABL import legend and All-time Ten Honoree Steven Thomas, and ABL Champion Douglas Herring, who led the CLS Knights to their first ever ABL Championship last season. Rounding out their import lineup is Julian Boyd, a prolific scorer who averaged 22.5ppg and 9.9rpg, in his most recent stint in Iceland’s domestic professional league. Cai Chen, their top local last season, will try to prove that his 19.7ppg and 7.4rpg was no fluke, as he will try to lead their cast of locals to a better finish this time around.  Taipei Fubon Braves (new) Key Players: OJ Mayo, Charles Garcia, Joseph Lin, Lin Chih-Chieh, Tseng Wen-Ting One of the most interesting and exciting expansion teams the ABL has seen in a long while, the Taipei Fubon Braves not only bring with them a winning tradition, but a star-studded lineup. Champions of the local Taiwan Super Basketball League, the Braves will be parading arguably the best ex-NBA player to play in the league in OJ Mayo, former NBA D-League player and double-double machine, Charles Garcia, as well as 7’4” behemoth Sim Bhullar, and Taiwanese National Team veterans Lin Chih-Chieh and Tseng Wen-Ting. Another notable name on their lineup is Joseph Lin, younger brother of former NBA star Jeremy Lin.  Coach Roger Hsu’s team will be coming into the ABL with a lot of hype surrounding them; but with their chemistry and championship pedigree, he hopes the transition from their domestic league to the higher level of competition in the ABL will be a smooth one......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 16th, 2019

21 active stars who should have their jersey retired someday

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Tony Parker is the latest all-time great to see his jersey raised to the rafters for his years of service in San Antonio. But he won’t be the last of his generation to be honored that way. Parker’ big night in San Antonio generated some interesting conversation about who, among current NBA players only, would be in line for similar honors someday. Keep in mind that the standards for a retired jersey with one franchise differs from one to another. Winning titles in Los Angeles or Boston -- or even Chicago or Golden State -- is a tougher sell than it is where there aren’t already multiple championship banners. Accomplishments matter … and so does sentiment, too. There are always unique variables at work when it comes to retiring jerseys, which is a much more significant honor than inducting a player into a franchise’s ring of honor. With Parker’s star-studded ceremony still fresh in our minds, here’s a list of other stars who will one day be able to see their jerseys up in the rafters: * * * LeBron James (Cavs and Heat): If there is anyone that’s an absolute lock to see his jersey raised high when he calls it a career, it’s LeBron. He delivered Cleveland a title, ending the city’s 52-year title drought, in his second stint with what is essentially his hometown team. Before that, he was the catalyst for the Heat’s four straight Finals trips (2011-14) and back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. The standard to join the Lakers’ retired-jersey fraternity is tougher, of course. The greatest Lakers get statues -- a fate that might await LeBron in Cleveland one day. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala (Warriors): Also known as the “Hamptons 5”, they will all be immortalized someday by Golden State. All five played a role in the championship fun and excitement they generated during the franchise’s golden era of the past half-decade. You can make case for all five of them to enjoy jersey retirement ceremonies on their own. That, however, would go against everything their “Strength In Numbers” era was about. Rest assured, though, that all five of them will have their day. James Harden (Rockets): Harden started his career as a super sixth man in Oklahoma City before rewriting his legacy after a trade to Houston. He’s already one of the most prolific and creative scorers the league has seen. The Rockets have had their fair share of legendary players and know what it’s like to bask in the championship glow provided by the rise of a transcendent player. Harden’s jersey will be in good company some day, perhaps right next to Hakeem Olajuwon’s No. 34. Russell Westbrook (Thunder): In an era where nearly every other elite superstar of his generation made a move via trade or free agency, Westbrook stuck to his roots in Oklahoma City until he had no choice but to move on. He endeared himself to generations of OKC fans by playing at a fever pitch from start to finish, earning All-Star, All-NBA and Kia MVP honors there. Being a part of a Finals team with Durant and Harden helped cement his legacy. Although he’s now in Houston, he’ll always have a place in the hearts of Thunder fans. Damian Lillard (Blazers): Lillard personifies the values of a basketball-mad fan base in a city that adores its team and stars in a unique way. The Blazers did their homework on the unheralded point guard from Weber State and have enjoyed everything that’s happened since. From his Kia Rookie of the Year campaign in 2013 to today, he has played out better than anyone could have imagined. Lillard, one of the most underappreciated stars of his generation, couldn’t have found a better match in a city and franchise. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks): The rise of the "The Greak Freak" from obscure prospect to Kia MVP in just six seasons gives his story extra dramatic flair. His relentless work ethic helped change the culture in Milwaukee and branded him as a potential successor to James as the face of the league. The fact that he authored the greatest individual season in Bucks history since Kareem-Abdul Jabbar’s days has carved out a permanent space for Antetokounmpo’s jersey in franchise lore. Kemba Walker (Hornets): The face of the franchise in Charlotte for the first eight years of his career, Walker has since moved on to Boston. But he remains the Hornets’ career leader in several categories and was a beloved fan favorite for a team that never achieved any sustained postseason success. Few players of his or any era forged a connection to a city and franchise as Walker did with Charlotte. Derrick Rose (Bulls): Born and raised in Chicago, Rose (at 22) became the youngest player to win the Kia MVP in 2011. He also joined Michael Jordan and Elton Brand as the only Bulls to win Rookie of the Year honors. Even though knee injuries derailed his career in his hometown, he piled up enough early career accolades to one day be honored with a retired jersey. Although he never led the franchise back to championship prominence, he is the the most decorated Bull since MJ. Vince Carter (Raptors): How many players can say they served as the basketball inspiration for an entire nation? Carter can. His time with the Raptors served as the spark for generations of future NBA players, many of whom have gotten the chance to play with their childhood idol in the twilight of his future Hall of Fame career. His five seasons with the New Jersey Nets solidified his status as one of the best players of his generation. But his star was never brighter than it was from 1998-2004 when “Vinsanity” inspired Canada. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley (Grizzlies): These two should grit and grind their way to the rafters in Memphis, on the same night if possible. They helped usher in the greatest run in franchise history, spearheading a feisty and physical style that spoke to the city’s blue-collar ways. The “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies validated their rise to prominence with a West finals run in 2013 steered by Gasol and Conley. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan (Raptors): Lowry and his best buddy DeRozan were separated before they could realize their dreams of winning a title together in Toronto. Lowry realized it last season alongside Kawhi Leonard, thus cementing his legacy as an all-time great Raptor. He’ll always have a place to call home north of the border because of the franchise-altering success that took place on his watch. DeRozan was a fan favorite who wanted to finish his career in Toronto. He, too, will always have a home in the city. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (Clippers): The LA end for these two was messier than it should have been, especially since they oversaw the “Lob City” era that revitalized the franchise. Time will surely heal all wounds, somewhere down the road. History will be kinder to the Clippers’ climb out of the doldrums than anyone was during their injury-tortured run. Griffin and Paul are locks for the Hall of Fame one day. Plus, a franchise without much history to celebrate could use a couple of jerseys to jazz up their new building. Kawhi Leonard (Raptors): Is a one-year surreal playoff run enough to warrant franchise immortality? Clippers fans are hoping Kawhi and Paul George give them a reason to raise their jerseys to the rafters someday, too. Right now, Leonard is a seeming lock for the honor with the Raptors, where his brief-but-fruitful stay there gave their rabid fan base their first NBA championship. Dwight Howard (Magic): After his first eight seasons in Orlando, Howard had a near slam-dunk case for the Hall of Fame and retired jersey status. Yes, his exit from Orlando was messy. And he has yet to find a way to part ways with any of the other franchises on good terms. Still, you can’t overlook his Magic-era feats: All-Star berths, three Kia Defensive Player of the Year awards, five All-NBA first team nods and a Finals trip in 2009. 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 13th, 2019

Mau out of SEA Games roster, Maizo-Pontillas gets spot

The Philippine national women’s volleyball team’s podium finish bid suffered a major blow after power-hitting Filipino-American Kalei Mau was ruled ineligible to see action in the 30th Southeast Asian Games. In a shocking development, Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. (LVPI) president Joey Romasanta revealed Friday that the 6-foot-2 open spiker was scratched from the lineup after falling short of the required minimum two-year residency. Mau, a University of Arizona standout in the US NCAA Division 1, came to the Philippines late last year and played for Cocolife in the Philippine Superliga before transferring to F2 Logistics where she won the All-Filipino Conference Most Valuable Player award and led the Cargo Movers to the throne. She was called up for the national team and made a big impact for the squad. Mau helped the Nationals finish third in the ASEAN Grand Prix first leg, as the Filipinas shocked a then-complete Vietnam squad, forced Indonesia to a five-setter, and stole a set from powerhouse Thailand – the same teams that will vie for medals in the SEA Games. Mau sat out the second leg in Sta. Rosa, Laguna because of an Achilles’ heel injury but was able to join the team in its 12-day Japan training recently. Although Mau has been campaigning in the country, she remains affiliated under the United States Volleyball Association (USVA). Based on the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) and the Asian Volleyball Confederation, a player who wishes to represent her country in an international competition such as the SEA Games, Asian Games and the Olympics must be under her mother federation for at least two years. LVPI had no other choice but to cut Mau from the roster to abide the Asian and world body’s rule.      “We don’t want to jeopardize whatever problem she may encounter along the way. She could get suspended if she plays without securing transfer papers from the federation,” said Romasanta. “I don’t know why she failed to submit the papers, but it really has to be her submitting it because she is a member. It's not the LVPI.” The Nationals actually learned about this issue weeks back during their Japan training camp and tried to look for solutions in case Mau won’t get the greenlight to play.   Bite the bullet The news of Mau ineligible to play added to the heartbreak that the Nationals have faced during the course of their build up for the SEA Games, which will open its volleyball competition on Dec. 2 at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City. “Malaking pagsubok na naman sa amin kasi adjustment na naman dun sa team,” said head coach Shaq Delos Santos. The Nationals already lost towering sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Manabat as well as Filipino-American playmaker Alohi Robins-Hardy. The Six-foot-5 Santiago and 6-foot-2 Manabat failed to secure their release from their respective clubs in the Japan Premier League while Robins-Hardy had trouble securing a Philippine passport on time. Some players suffered injuries including hitter Alyssa Valdez (foot), who skipped the team’s Thailand training camp and the ASEAN Grand Prix opening leg while Mika Reyes is still recovering from a knee injury. The squad had to continue their Japan training camp without Valdez and setter Jia Morado, who had to return to Manila after just five days into the camp because of their club commitment with Creamline in the Premier Volleyball League.    “Simula ng mag-start kami ng [training] camp nandyan siya [Mau] tapos nagkaroon na naman ng conflict,” said Delos Santos, who is in his second year as mentor of the squad. “Siguro best thing na magagawa ng buong team, coaches, players, ng management, ng LVPI, kami kailangan din naming ma-accept na, na matanggap namin sa sarili namin na kakayanin namin kahit na maraming dumadating na problema o conflict kasi yun na rin naman ang goal natin dito kung paano buuin ang team.”   Maizo-Pontillas returns, Paat in dual role With Mau out, Delos Santos has elevated reserve Aiza Maizo-Pontillas into the team. The lefty Maizo-Pontillas, who played for the national team in the 2017 edition of the SEA Games in Malaysia, will be Mau’s replacement. She was with the team in its Thailand and Japan training camps.  Delos Santos is also looking at putting Mylene Paat in a dual role as opposite and open spiker with Maizo-Pontillas taking the main position at opposite. “Si Aiza na ang ilalagay namin [for Mau]. Si Mylene kasi inaano namin, pero kasi sa Pilipinas nagagawa niyang maging outside hitter,” said Delos Santos. “Pero kailangan mas maaral pa niya o maibigay namin yung mga role n’ya as an outside hitter pero kasi siyempre iba pa rin ang galaw dun”. “Pero I think konting adjustment na lang so ibibigay namin yung kailangan niyang i-improve at i-develop,” he added. Anticipating the worst, Delos Santos during their Japan training was already giving Paat some extra workouts in both wing positions as well as working on her floor defense.  “Magiging dalawa ang puwesto n’ya in case na kailanganin namin siya sa outside. Pero may tatlo pa naman tayong outside hitters. Depende yan sa ilalaro at sa diskarte naming gagawin, dun na lang yun tatakbo,” said Delos Santos. Even without Mau, the Nationals remain competitive with a solid core bannered by team captain Aby Maraño, Valdez, Morado, Reyes, Paat, Maizo-Pontillas, Dawn Macandili, Majoy Baron, Rhea Dimaculangan, Maddie Madayag, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Kath Arado. Eya Laure and Ces Molina.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 8th, 2019

Ini-expect namin na may makukuha ang men’s volleyball – De Guzman

The Philippine national men’s volleyball team expects no less than a podium finish in the 30th Southeast Asian Games in Manila. Denied of a medal finish in the last two editions of the biennial meet since the country participated in volleyball after 10 years of hiatus in 2015, the Filipinos are leaving no stone unturned to achieve their goal of a top three finish. Skipper John Vic De Guzman, who has been in the national squad for four straight years including a stint in the U-23 squad in 2015, believes that the mix of veterans and young talents in this current team has what it takes to end the country’s long medal drought. The Philippines’ last podium finish in the SEA Games was back in 1991 when the Nationals won bronze on their home soil. “Siyempre ngayon talagang ini-expect namin na talagang may makukuha ang men’s volleyball,” said De Guzman, who is in his second year as team captain. Helping De Guzman out is a solid and tall crew led by a trio of power-hitters in Bryan Bagunas, Ranran Abdilla and Marck Espejo. The Dante Alinsunurin-mentored squad also has Mark Alfafara, Joshua Umandal, setters Ish Polvorosa, Jessie Lopez and Joshua Retamar, middle blockers Kim Malabunga, Francis Saura, and Rex Intal and liberos Ricky Marcos and Jack Kalingking. “Ito na yung paulit-ulit kong sinasabi sa interviews na ito yung team na sasabihin kong solid talaga na kahit yung nasa bench malalim talaga,” he said. “’Yung skill level yung experience and doon na nga magkakatalo pagka-tournament na kung paano namin igagalaw yung isa’t isa at kung paano kami magtutulungan inside the court. The Nationals are in Japan for a 16-day training camp which includes nine tune-up matches against Japanese club and university teams as they shift their build-up for the SEA Games set to formally open on Nov. 30 into full gear.   “Good thing naman dito di lang kami nagpa-practice nu’ng conditioning pero magkakaroon kami ng mga tune up games sa iba’t ibang mga club teams at iba’t ibang college teams dito,” said the opposite hitter. “So I think isa na yun sa magandang experience na makukuha namin especially yung Japan kilalang kilala naman pagdating sa volleyball talagang maganda yung program nila,” De Guzman added. “Kahit papaano sana ma-adjust at ma-adopt namin bago mag-SEA Games yung kung paano sila maglaro.” The Nationals opened their swing of four straight days of tune-up matches against Saitama Azalea Thursday. On Friday the Filipinos will play Tsukuba United followed by Fujitsu Red Spirits on Saturday and Chiba Zelba on Sunday. On Tuesday and Thursday next week, the Nationals will take on FC Tokyo, Rissho University on Friday, Chuo University on Saturday and Nippon Sports Science University on Sunday to wrap up their tune-up games schedule.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 7th, 2019

17 NBA things that have been ghosted from memory

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com On a night traditionally known more for tricks and treats than picks and rolls, it seems appropriate to do a little ghost hunting, NBA-style. We’re not talking the Ghost Ballers of BIG3 fame or even the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City, a stop on the circuit that some teams claim is actually haunted. We’re thinking of things that used to be, gone-but-not-forgotten aspects of the league that lurk in the memory, even if they’re never coming back. Here in no particular order are some Halloween hoops hobgoblins that fall somewhere on the scary scale between the chain-rattling Jacob Marley and Casper: 1. Long-gone arenas. Oracle Arena, so recently vacated by the Golden State Warriors, is the latest addition to the NBA’s long list of abandoned homes. Many are gone themselves, though you still can catch a glimpse now and then on Hardwood Classics. There are too many to list, due to NBA teams moving on up to bigger, better digs over time. But a sampling would include the Cow Palace, Cobo Arena, Chicago Stadium, Boston Garden, The Forum, L.A. Sports Arena, Milwaukee’s MECCA, the Salt Palace, McNichols Arena, HemisFair Arena, Market Square, the Summit, the Spectrum, the Omni, the Pyramid, ARCO Arena/Sleep Train Arena and on and on. 2. Belted shorts. Relegated to the throwback bin, along with the more recent sleeved jerseys. 3. The six-foot lane. Heck, the 12-foot lane. The former was widened in 1951 in response to Minneapolis big man George Mikan’s dominance. Then it was widened again in 1964 to its current 16 feet in hopes of tamping down Wilt Chamberlain’s impact. 4. Commercial air travel. Some things on a used-to-be list inspire nostalgia in those who experienced them and curiosity in those who didn’t. But it’s highly unlikely any former or current players and coaches would swap today’s luxury charter flights for the way the NBA used to travel. Wake-up calls at 5 a.m. for the first flight out. Waiting out delays at the gate with the beat writers and civilians. Seven-footers folding themselves into economy class seating. 5. Obstacle-course schedules. The NBA in recent years has tried to be responsive to players’ performance needs and physical limitations, working to minimize the number of back-to-back games and four-in-five-night stretches. Didn’t used to be that way. Consider the Baltimore Bullets, who in January 1966 were put through these paces: Games in St. Louis, Detroit, back to St. Louis, day off, to Philadelphia, to Boston, home vs. Lakers. A week later, they bounced back and forth between L.A. (Lakers) and San Francisco for four games in four nights, then traveled to New York to face the Knicks for their fifth game in five nights. Baltimore’s record in those 11 games: 2-9. 6. Doubleheaders. Some teams in the NBA’s first few decades would book a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition as the night’s opening attraction. But the biggies were when the Knicks would host at Madison Square Garden a neutral-site game for two other NBA clubs. A lingering memory for some who attended: The thick haze that hung over the arena’s upper reaches, courtesy of the smokers puffing away all evening. 7. Tape-delay. It seems inconceivable in 2019 that an NBA playoff game, never mind a Finals contest, might be shown on anything but live TV. Nope. The league didn’t have much leverage in the late 1970s, before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird arrived to help goose interest and ratings. Networks forced fans to stay up late to watch games that were off before the telecasts tipped off. The practice continued into the ‘80s, with four of six Finals games in 1981 held till 11:30 p.m. ET. Michael Jordan was already creating new fans when the last tape-delayed game, Game 3 of the West finals between the Lakers and Rockets, aired on Friday, May 16, 1986. 8. “Illegal!” That used to be a frequent bellow from the league’s benches, with coaches trying to alert the refs when opposing defenses breached (or didn’t) the complicated illegal defense rules. The NBA purged most of that around the turn of the century by legislating in zone play. 9. Shattered backboards. For a while, it seemed as if backboards were exploding every few weeks in the Association. Darryl (“Chocolate Thunder”) Dawkins was the most avid crack-titioner, getting two in 1979. The earliest recorded instance came in 1946, when a Celtics forward named Chuck Connors (later more famous as TV’s “Rifleman”) shattered one during warmups. Baltimore’s Gus Johnson is said to have shattered three. Shaquille O’Neal didn’t get the glass but twice got entire support structures, pulling the backboards down to the court in his rookie season. In March 1993, against Chicago, New Jersey’s Chris Morris dunked and shattered a board without glass falling to the floor. 10. Three to make two. That old free-throw bonus was abolished by 1981-82. It made the game drag, and Jerry Colangelo, then GM of the Suns and the chairman of the NBA’s competition committee, rightly said: “Pro players shouldn’t need that extra foul shot.” 11. Phantom franchises. Oooh, pretty scary, kids, when you think of all the teams that are no more. They are rattling around in the mind long after they were supposedly dead and buried. We’re not talking just about the antiquities such as the Indianapolis Olympians, the Washington Capitols or the Toronto Huskies. The spirits of the Seattle SuperSonics, Buffalo Braves, San Diego Clippers and Vancouver Grizzlies still walk the NBA earth. Then there are most of the ABA franchises -- Virginia Squires, Utah Stars, Kentucky Colonels, Spirits of St. Louis -- that died more than 40 years ago before or in the merger. 12. Hand checking. A lot of capable defenders had their effectiveness vaporized overnight when the laying on of hands vs. a ball handler was outlawed in 2004. The NBA, in case you hadn’t noticed, likes scoring. 13. Injury shenanigans. As silly or frustrating as labels like “DNP-Old” or “load management” seem today, the reporting of injuries real or feigned used to be much less authentic. Before the inactive list, there was “injured reserve,” to which NBA teams would designate up to two players. Anyone put on that list was sidelined for a minimum of five games, and with smaller roster sizes in effect, it was a handy place to stash guys. So there was a whole lot of tendinitis and plantar fasciitis going on. This practice was snuffed in 2005-06. 14. “Play on!” Like the force-out ruling, this is a remnant of the days when the referees had and used more discretion in working their games. If a player lost the ball out of bounds but his elbow was knocked by a foe, the force-out meant the ball handler’s team retained possession. “Play on!” was a frequent order barked by refs when certain contact or violations were deemed minimally intrusive. Heavier scrutiny of the game officials’ performance and, later, video reviews now try to adjudicate everything down to the tip of a fingernail. 15. The 2-3-2 Finals format. This was adopted in 1985 as a reaction to those Lakers-Celtics or Lakers-Sixers championship series, which had the NBA universe crossing the country four or five times in a span of two weeks. Suggestions that the league was being energy-conscious, in terms of jet fuel, were part of it, too. The practice fiddled some with the notion of home-court advantage, although MLB continues to use it for its World Series. With charter flights deployed by all teams, league execs and even some of the media, the NBA changed back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format in 2014 to align with its postseasons’ earlier rounds. 16. Player-coaches. Forty men in NBA history have done it. The first was Ed Sadowski of the Toronto Huskies in the Basketball Association of America precursor to the NBA. Only two men won championships as player-coaches: Baltimore’s Buddy Jeannette in 1948 and Boston’s Bill Russell in 1968 and 1969. The youngest player coach ever was Dave DeBusschere, who took over the Pistons in 1964 at age 24 (not long after ending his second career as an MLB pitcher). The Hawks’ Richie Guerin logged the most games (372) in the role, yet was named Coach of the Year in the one season in the middle when he stopped playing. Legend Lenny Wilkens was a player-coach for two teams, spending three seasons at it in Seattle and one in Portland. And the last player-coach in NBA history was Dave Cowens, who accepted the gig after coach Satch Sanders got fired in 1978-79. None of the players wanted to learn a new system, Cowens said, so “I kind of took one for the team.” The practice died with the arrival of the salary cap in 1984, with NBA brass wary that paying a coaching bonus might enable a team to circumvent the cap. 17. Victory cigars. For obvious reasons. Probably victory vaping, too. 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 NewsNov 1st, 2019

30 Teams in 30 Days: Nuggets to keep rolling with Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray

Like most summers in the NBA, the 2019 edition was chock full of trades, free agent news and player movement. From the defending-champion Toronto Raptors to just about every other team in the league, change was the most applicable word when it came to describing team rosters for the 2019-20 season. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- in order of regular-season finish from 2018-19 -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Denver Nuggets 2018-19 Record: 54-28, lost in the second round of the playoffs Key additions: Jerami Grant (trade), Bol Bol (draft) Key subtractions: Trey Lyles, Isaiah Thomas The lowdown: The steady growth of the Nuggets was evident in a 50-win season and a first-round victory in the playoffs over the more-experienced Spurs, which was clearly a step forward. Then the journey ended with a sour taste after Denver lost a Game 7 at home to a lower seed, the Blazers. In all, the Nuggets received almost everything they’d hoped for from a developing contender, especially in the form of Nikola Jokic. The multi-skilled Serb established himself as the league’s most talented big man, if not the best period, with a stellar performance that attracted some Kia MVP notice. He averaged 20 points, almost 11 rebounds and seven assists in an offense that ran through him, rare in today’s spread-the-floor league where centers are being phased out or pegged as role players and pick-setters. Jokic reminded many of Bill Walton or maybe Vlade Divac for his precise and sometimes entertaining passing skills from the high post. His co-star was Jamal Murray, who made generous strides as a leader and shot-maker and fit well with Jokic. The Nuggets also played some of the best defense in the league for much of the season and had solid backcourt depth with Monte Morris and Malik Beasley averaging a combined 21 points off the bench. There were mixed reviews, however, for Gary Harris. The starting two-guard didn’t improve and in some areas actually regressed as he struggled with injuries in a 57-game season. Same for Will Barton, who shot 40 percent and played 43 games. But those were nit-picks. The Nuggets finally arrived after going a league-leading 34-7 at home, reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade, and using the draft and trades to remake the roster over the last few years to stay in the attic in the very competitive West, which was no easy task. Summer summary: When an NBA team reaches a critical stage of the developing process and checks all the necessary boxes, it’s time to keep the continuity. Which means, time to pay up, and the Nuggets did just that this summer with two of their important figures: Murray and GM Tim Connelly, and both were easy calls. Murray went from a rookie who played behind Emmanuel Mudiay to a dependable, sometimes clutch-shooting guard in just three seasons. While he’s obviously the starter at the point for the Nuggets, Murray’s value lies in his flexibility. He can play off the ball and be just as valuable whenever Jokic assumes the “point-center” role. He averaged 18.2 points and 4.8 assists and showed growth despite struggling at times in his first postseason. He also doesn’t turn 23 until February. So the Nuggets gave him $170 million over five years, banking on his continued growth, which appears to be a safe investment. Therefore, Denver’s two most important players, Jokic and Murray, are under contract together for the next three seasons. Connelly replaced Masai Ujiri in 2013 and repaid the Nuggets’ faith by overseeing a basketball operation that has run mostly smoothly ever since. He drafted Jokic at No. 41 and hired Mike Malone as coach. The Nuggets have gone from 33 wins in Malone’s first season to 54. Even better, the meat of the roster is trending in the right direction and there’s no dead weight. This summer, the Wizards, after firing Ernie Grunfeld, chased after Connelly, a Baltimore native who attended college in D.C. Connelly broke into the business as an intern for the Wizards and has family ties to the D.C area, so the prospect of leaving Denver was a real threat. Ultimately, Nuggets boss Josh Kroenke was successful in persuading Connelly to stay. Usually that comes with a promise of a significant raise, but more importantly, Connelly saw what he’s building in Denver and couldn’t leave unfinished business. Denver has a solid mix of youth and vets and is coming off a season where it was the No. 2 seed in the West. Hard to walk away from that. Paul Millsap also cashed in when the Nuggets agreed to pick up his 2019-20 option year for $30 million. There was some question whether the Nuggets would tie that much into a soon-to-be 35-year-old forward who, statistically anyway, is coming off his worst season since 2009-10 and his fewest minutes since 2008. But Millsap still brings a solid defensive mindset and experience, and anyway, the Nuggets were all about maintaining the flow this summer. Plus, Denver will remain under the luxury tax with with Millsap’s option. Millsap’s minutes could be reduced this season because the Nuggets traded for a more athletic option in Grant. With the Thunder, Grant improved his 3-point shooting last season and became more of a well-rounded forward. If used correctly by Malone, he can thrive in Denver, which badly needs his physical gifts. Of course, there’s also the wild card: Michael Porter Jr. The club’s first-round pick two summers ago sat all last season while recovering from a back issue, then was scratched from summer league play in July because of a minor knee issue which was more of a precautionary move. In a best-case scenario, Porter stays healthy and gives the Nuggets three options at power forward. Connelly didn’t have a first-round pick this summer but swung a deal to fetch a second-rounder once Bol Bol dropped to No. 44 in the draft. The son of former NBA player Manute Bol, he suffered a foot injury last season at Oregon and NBA teams were wary of his potential for recovery. Well, Connelly and the Nuggets will essentially treat Bol as they did Porter; Bol will be an injury red-shirt and prepare for 2020-21. And so, the Nuggets’ summer wasn’t about making wholesale changes, but keeping the pace they’ve set over the last three seasons and rewarding some of the key personnel responsible for it. Patience has allowed the Nuggets to get this far and so there was no reason to panic or rush the process this offseason. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 28th, 2019

30 Teams in 30 Days: Nuggets to keep rolling with Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray

Like most summers in the NBA, the 2019 edition was chock full of trades, free agent news and player movement. From the defending-champion Toronto Raptors to just about every other team in the league, change was the most applicable word when it came to describing team rosters for the 2019-20 season. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- in order of regular-season finish from 2018-19 -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Denver Nuggets 2018-19 Record: 54-28, lost in the second round of the playoffs Key additions: Jerami Grant, forward (trade); Bol Bol, forward (draft). Key subtractions: Trey Lyles, forward; Isaiah Thomas, guard. The lowdown: The steady growth of the Nuggets was evident in a 50-win season and a first-round victory in the playoffs over the more-experienced Spurs, which was clearly a step forward; then the journey ended with a sour taste after Denver lost a Game 7 at home to a lower seed, the Blazers. In all, the Nuggets received almost everything they’d hoped for from a developing contender, especially in the form of Nikola Jokic. The multi-skilled Serb established himself as the league’s most talented big man, if not the best period, with a stellar performance that attracted some MVP notice. He averaged 20 points, almost 11 rebounds and seven assists in an offense that ran through him, rare in today’s spread-the-floor league where centers are being phased out or pegged as role players and pick-setters. Jokic reminded many of Bill Walton or maybe Vlade Divac for his precise and sometimes entertaining passing skills from the high post. His co-star was Jamal Murray, who made generous strides as a leader and shot-maker and fit well with Jokic. The Nuggets also played some of the best defense in the league for much of the season and had solid back-court depth with Monte Morris and Malik Beasley averaging a combined 21 points off the bench. There were mixed reviews, however, from Gary Harris; the starting two-guard didn’t improve and in some areas actually regressed as he struggled with injuries in a 57-game season. Same for Will Barton, who shot 40 percent and played 43 games. But those were nit-picks. The Nuggets finally arrived after going a league-leading 34-7 at home, reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade, and using the draft and trades to remake the roster over the last few years to stay in the attic in the very competitive West, which was no easy task. Summer summary: When an NBA team reaches a critical stage of the developing process and checks all the necessary boxes, it’s time to keep the continuity. Which means, time to pay up, and the Nuggets did just that this summer with two of their important figures: Murray and GM Tim Connelly, and both were easy calls. Murray went from a rookie who played behind Emmanuel Mudiay to a dependable, sometimes clutch-shooting guard in just three seasons. While he’s obviously the starter at the point for the Nuggets, Murray’s value lies in his flexibility; he can play off the ball and be just as valuable whenever Jokic assumes the “point-center” role. He averaged 18.2 points and 4.8 assists and showed growth despite struggling at times in his first postseason. He also doesn’t turn 23 until February. So the Nuggets gave him $170 million over five years, banking on his continued growth, which appears to be a safe investment. Therefore, Denver’s two most important players, Jokic and Murray, are under contract together for the next three seasons. Connelly replaced Masai Ujiri in 2013 and repaid the Nuggets’ faith by overseeing a basketball operation that has run mostly smoothly ever since. He drafted Jokic at No. 41 and hired Mike Malone as coach. The Nuggets have gone from 33 wins in Malone’s first season to 54. Even better, the meat of the roster is trending in the right direction and there’s no dead weight. This summer, the Wizards, after firing Ernie Grunfeld, chased after Connelly, a Baltimore native who attended college in D.C. Connelly broke into the business as an intern for the Wizards and has family ties to the D.C area, so the prospect of leaving Denver was a real threat. Ultimately, Nuggets boss Josh Kroenke was successful in persuading Connelly to stay. Usually that comes with a promise of a significant raise, but more importantly, Connelly saw what he’s building in Denver and couldn’t leave unfinished business. Denver has solid mix of youth and vets and is coming off a season where it was the No. 2 seed in the West. Hard to walk away from that. Paul Millsap also cashed in when the Nuggets agreed to pick up his 2019-20 option year for $30 million. There was some question whether the Nuggets would tie that much into a soon-to-be 35-year-old forward who, statistically anyway, is coming off his worst season since 2009-10 and his fewest minutes since 2008. But Millsap still brings a solid defensive mindset and experience, and anyway, the Nuggets were all about maintaining the flow this summer. Plus, Denver will remain under the luxury tax with with Millsap’s option. Millsap’s minutes could be reduced this season because the Nuggets traded for a more athletic option in Grant. With the Thunder, Grant improved his 3-point shooting last season and became more of a well-rounded forward. If used correctly by Malone, he can thrive in Denver, which badly needs his physical gifts. Of course, there’s also the wild card: Michael Porter Jr. The club’s first-round pick two summers ago sat all last season while recovering from a back issue, then was scratched from summer league play in July because of a minor knee issue which was more of a precautionary move. In a best-case scenario, Porter stays healthy and gives the Nuggets three options at power forward. Connelly didn’t have a first-round pick this summer but swung a deal to fetch a second-rounder once Bol Bol dropped to No. 44 in the draft. The son of former NBA player Manute Bol, he suffered a foot injury last season at Oregon and NBA teams were wary of his potential for recovery. Well, Connelly and the Nuggets will essentially treat Bol as they did Porter; Bol will be an injury red-shirt and prepare for 2020-21. And so, the Nuggets’ summer wasn’t about making wholesale changes, but keeping the pace they’ve set over the last three seasons and rewarding some of the key personnel responsible for it. Patience has allowed the Nuggets to get this far and so there was no reason to panic or rush the process this offseason. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. 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 15th, 2019

Player Movement: What teams have gained, lost this offseason

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com There's still a lot of work to be done before rosters are set for the 2019-20 season. Some teams (Charlotte, Utah) still have roster spots to fill. Other teams (Memphis, Washington) still have some roster trimming to do. There are about 25 two-way-contract slots that can be filled around the league. And it's certainly possible that players like Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala will be traded a second time before the end of the summer. But it's already been a season of change. At the start of training camp last September, 15 of the league's 30 teams rostered players who played at least 75 percent of the team's minutes in the previous season (2017-18). Right now -- midway through July -- only four teams are set to bring back players who played at least 75 percent of last season's minutes. Continuity Not every team has made big changes. The Denver Nuggets are set to return at least 12 of the 18 guys that played for them last season (the status of two-way, restricted free agent Brandon Goodwin is still in the air), along with Michael Porter Jr., who was with the team all season. The only players that have left the Nuggets -- Tyler Lydon, Trey Lyles and Isaiah Thomas -- played a total of eight minutes in the playoffs. Over the last three years, there has been a correlation between summer continuity and win increase the following season. But the correlation has been small. During that span, 33 teams have brought at least 75 percent of the previous season's minutes back, and only 15 of those 33 increased their win total. The highest individual return percentage of the stretch belonged to last season's Miami Heat, who brought back 97 percent of their minutes from 2017-18 ... and proceeded to win five fewer games. This summer, the two biggest winners in free agency -- the Brooklyn Nets and LA Clippers -- rank 24th and 26th, respectively, by this measure (as of Wednesday morning). And while the Nuggets have a young core that can improve on its second-place finish in the West, the Orlando Magic are bringing back an ensemble that won just 42 games in the Eastern Conference, and the San Antonio Spurs have an older group that was ousted by Denver in the first round, albeit in seven games. Gained and lost math Going forward, we'll be talking about totals gained or lost this summer. These were accumulated by non-rookies for any team last season. For example, in calculating the minutes that Indiana lost (and Milwaukee gained) with Wesley Matthews' departure, we're using all 2,091 minutes that Matthews played for Dallas and Indiana last season. That way, it's a more realistic measure of total production coming in and going out. In that regard, most teams have lost more '18-19 minutes than they've gained. In total, there are more than 230 players who were on rosters (with two-way contracts included) at the end of the season and are either on a new team (via free agency or trades) or remain unsigned. More than half of those players (about 120) have been replaced by other non-rookies. About 70 more have been replaced by rookies (including those on two-way contracts). As an example, here's the roster math for the Golden State Warriors: - LOST 11 non-rookies off their end-of-season roster - GAINED six non-rookies - ADDED three rookies - STILL HAVE one main roster spot and one two-way spot they can fill Minutes gained and lost The Warriors are one of 22 teams that have lost a group of players who played more minutes last season than the group of players that they've added. There are a few teams that have added a lot more '18-19 minutes to their roster. That group is led by the New York Knicks, who have added almost 12,000 '18-19 minutes while seeing almost 9,000 minutes exit. The Knicks have lost four guys - Mario Hezonja, DeAndre Jordan, Emmanuel Mudiay and Noah Vonleh - who played at least 1,000 minutes. They added seven, and all seven started at least 28 games last season. Of course, how many of those seven are difference makers is up for debate, as is the idea of whether the Knicks should have used at least some of their cap space to take on bad contracts -- often spiced up with future picks -- from other teams. The Nets lost as many players (6) who played at least 1,000 minutes last season as they gained. But they added four of the 31 2,000-minute players to have changed teams this summer, most notably in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Utah (3) is the only other team with more than two additions that played at least 2,000 minutes last season. The eight guys that Brooklyn brought in started a total of 363 games in '18-19, while the nine guys they lost started just 179. That's the biggest increase, with New York (+100) and Utah (+84) also seeing differentials of more than 82 games. The Sacramento Kings lost two guys that played at least 1,000 minutes last season, and one of those guys -- Alec Burks -- played only 127 minutes for the Kings. They added four 1,000-minute players, including two - Trevor Ariza and Cory Joseph -- that played more than 2,000 minutes last season. As noted above, the Nuggets lead the league in continuity, bringing back all 10 guys that played more than 1,120 minutes for them last season. But they've also added Jerami Grant, who played 2,612 minutes for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Though they've added more players (11, including four rookies) than they've lost (nine) and need to trim their roster between now and opening night, the Washington Wizards are set to see the biggest discrepancy in regard to '18-19 minutes. They've lost more than 11,000 (with Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Tomas Satoransky accounting for more than half of that total) and added less than 5,000. The group of players that the Wizards lost also started 208 more '18-19 games than the players added -- the biggest discrepancy in that regard. The Charlotte Hornets not only lost more than 1,000 '18-19 minutes in their Kemba Walker-Terry Rozier swap, they also lost three other guys - Jeremy Lamb, Shelvin Mack and Tony Parker - who played more than 1,000 minutes last season. There's a general consensus that the Indiana Pacers are in the "winners" category this summer, adding Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren. But they also lost five guys (four of their five playoff starters plus Cory Joseph) to have played at least 2,000 minutes last season. The only other teams who lost more than two 2,000-minute players were the the Clippers (3), Oklahoma City Thunder (3) and Wizards (3). Still available Most '18-19 minutes among still-available free agents... - Justin Holiday - 2,607 - Iman Shumpert - 1,481 - Wayne Selden - 1,439 - Jeremy Lin - 1,436 - Shaquille Harrison - 1,430 In regard to minutes played last season, the top 18 available free agents are all perimeter players (unless you want to count Jonas Jerebko as an interior guy). Among available non-perimeter players, Dante Cunningham (928), Cheick Diallo (896) and Zaza Pachulia (878) are the guys who played the most minutes last season. It's all about shooting Putting the ball in the basket is the most important thing in the NBA, and every team is always on the hunt for more shooting. But in regard to '18-19 3-pointers, half of the league (15 teams) has lost more than it's gained. There are a few teams to have seen big increases, however. The Knicks added Reggie Bullock (148-for-393, 37.7 percent), Marcus Morris (146-for-389, 37.5 percent) and Wayne Ellington (138-for-372, 37.1 percent), though creating open shots for those guys might be an issue. None of the six players that the Kings have lost made more than 61 3-pointers last season. Ariza (145) is the big gain in that regard, but they also added Dewayne Dedmon, a big man who shot 38 percent on 217 attempts from beyond the arc. On the other end of the spectrum, it's the Hornets that lost the most 3s, with Walker having ranked fifth in the league in total makes. The Atlanta Hawks ranked fourth in the percentage of their shots that were 3-pointers, but traded Taurean Prince (39 percent on 315 attempts), lost Dedmon, haven't re-signed Vince Carter (39 percent on 316 attempts) and swapped Kent Bazemore (32 percent; 300 attempts) for Evan Turner (21 percent; 52 attempts). The Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, haven't really replaced two of the four guys who made more than 100 threes for them last season. Still available Most '18-19 3-pointers among still-available free agents... - Justin Holiday - 162-for-465 (34.8 percent) - Kyle Korver - 138-for-348 (39.7 percent) - Vince Carter - 123-for-316 (38.9 percent) - Iman Shumpert - 95-for-273 (34.8 percent) - Lance Stephenson - 73-for-197 (37.1 percent) J.R. Smith, waived by the Cavs on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), made 143 threes (shooting 37.5 percent) in 2017-18, but played just 11 games last season. More notes - Eastern Conference - The Boston Celtics are one of three teams (Atlanta and Washington are the others) with a discrepancy of at least 300 between the steals + blocks registered by the non-rookies they've lost (503) and those registered by the non-rookies they've added (194). Swapping Al Horford (145 steals + blocks in 1,973 minutes) for Enes Kanter (58 in 1,639 minutes) obviously hurts. - The Chicago Bulls have seen the second biggest increase in 3-point percentage between the non-rookies they've added (36.9 percent) and the non-rookies they've lost (30.3 percent). Tomas Satoransky (39.5 percent on 162 attempts) was the big add in that regard. - The Cleveland Cavaliers are the only team that hasn't added a single player (via free agency or trade) that played last season, though they still have to add at least one player to their main roster. The only players they've added are the three guys they selected in the first round of the Draft and another rookie (Dean Wade) on a two-way contract. - The Detroit Pistons have had eight non-rookies leave (five have found new NBA teams, three haven't been re-signed) and have added only four. But the four they've added -- Tim Frazier, Markieff Morris, Derrick Rose and Tony Snell -- started the same number of games (60) and played just 11 more minutes in '18-19 as the eight that have left. They did add more scoring, with the four new guys having registered 436 more points than the eight guys on their way out. - As noted above, the Miami Heat led the league in continuity last summer, bringing back 97 percent of their minutes from '17-18. This year, with the retirement of Dwyane Wade and trades that sent Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside out, they're in the middle of the pack. In regard to out vs. in (Jimmy Butler and Meyers Leonard), they've lost total production, but have improved in regard to shooting and free throw rate. Only Denver, Brooklyn and Dallas have seen bigger increases in true shooting percentage from the non-rookies they've lost to the non-rookies they've added. - With the departure of Malcolm Brogdon, the Milwaukee Bucks lost some playmaking. Only the Magic (who didn't lose anybody from their playoff rotation) saw a bigger drop in in assist-turnover ratio from the non-rookies they lost (2.47) to the non-rookies they've gained (1.33). Tony Snell (traded to Detroit) had the fifth lowest turnover ratio (4.9 per 100 possessions) among 299 players that averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more last season. - The Orlando Magic rank second in continuity, one of two teams (Dallas is the other) with nobody on their end-of-season roster having signed with (or been traded to) another team. But they've added one rotation piece by signing Al-Farouq Aminu, who represents the biggest jump in '18-19 rebounds between the non-rookies a team has added (610) and those they've lost or remain unsigned (195). The Magic were already a good rebounding team, ranking 11th in total rebounding percentage and third in defensive rebounding percentage last season. - The Philadelphia 76ers have seen the biggest discrepancy in '18-19 games played between the players they've lost (478) and the players they've added (223), though most of those lost games came from guys who weren't in their playoff rotation. More notes - Western Conference - The Dallas Mavericks have seen the second-biggest jump in effective field goal percentage (lower than only that of Denver) between the players they added (54.4 percent) and the players they've lost (47.3 percent) this summer. Swapping Trey Burke (48.2 percent) for Seth Curry (57.7 percent) goes a long way in that regard. The Mavs are also one of two teams (Orlando is the other) with nobody on their end-of-season roster having signed with (or been traded to) another team. - It remains to be seen how well James Harden and Russell Westbrook fit together and how much the Westbrook-for-Chris Paul swap hurts the Houston Rockets' defense. But we can say for certain that the Rockets got better in the rebounding department. - After ranking 28th in rebounding percentage (and 29th in defensive rebounding percentage) last season, they swapped Paul (who grabbed 7.0 percent of available boards while he was on the floor) for Westbrook (14.1 percent - highest among guards) and also added Tyson Chandler, who had a higher rebounding percentage (15.4 percent) than Nene (10.5 percent). - Good news for the team that ranked 29th in 3-point percentage last season: The non-rookies the Los Angeles Lakers have lost attempted 75 more 3-pointers than those they've gained. But the non-rookies they've gained made 34 more 3s than those they've lost. Among players that attempted at least 200 3-pointers last season and changed teams this season, Danny Green (45.5 percent) ranked first in 3-point percentage, while Quinn Cook (40.5 percent) ranked seventh. - The Memphis Grizzlies had a pretty motley rotation after making multiple trades at the deadline in February. And now they've seen the biggest roster more than any other team this summer, with 11 non-rookies leaving and nine coming in. They currently have guys that played for the Hawks, Warriors, Wolves, Pelicans, Suns, Raptors, Jazz and Wizards last season. - The six non-rookies that the Minnesota Timberwolves have added -- Jordan Bell, Treveon Graham, Jake Layman, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh and Tyrone Wallance -- averaged just 6.3 points per game last season. That's the lowest mark for players added among the 29 teams that have added at least one non-rookie this summer. - In regard to vets, the New Orleans Pelicans have swapped interior players for perimeter players. The (five) non-rookies that they've added had 360 fewer '18-19 field goals, but 127 more 3-pointers than the (10) non-rookies that they've lost. Chicago is the other team with a loss in '18-19 field goals (-38) and a gain in '18-19 3-pointers (+47). - The Oklahoma City Thunder have seen the most '18-19 points walk out the door, with the six guys they've lost having scored 5,619 points last season. One thing they definitely gained in the Westbrook-Paul trade (if they keep Paul) was mid-range shooting. Paul has shot 48.9 percent from mid-range the last five seasons, the second best mark (behind only that of Kevin Durant) among 55 players with at least 1,000 mid-range attempts over that time. Westbrook (37.5 percent) ranks 52nd among the 55. - The 10 non-rookies that have left the Phoenix Suns (five that have found new NBA teams and five that haven't) racked up a cumulative plus-minus of minus-1,709 last season. None of the 10 had a positive plus-minus. The five non-rookies that they've added -- Aron Baynes, Jevon Carter, Frank Kaminsky, Ricky Rubio and Dario Saric -- had a cumulative plus-minus of plus-257. That's the league's biggest differential between players in vs. players out. - The Portland Trail Blazers improved their shooting by swapping Turner for Bazemore and Aminu (34.3 percent on 280 3-point attempts) for Anthony Tolliver (37.7 percent on 215), but are one of four teams - Brooklyn, Indiana and the Lakers are the others - that have lost six players who played at least 1,000 minutes in '18-19. They've added four. - As noted above, the San Antonio Spurs are near the top of the league in regard to continuity. But they've seen the biggest increase in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) between the non-rookies that they've gained (0.335) and the players they've lost (0.181). The pair of vets that they've added (having ranked 24th in free throw rate last season) includes DeMarre Carroll (0.421), who ranked eighth in free throw rate among non-bigs with at least 500 field goal attempts last season. - The Utah Jazz rank 13th in the percentage of '18-19 minutes they're set to bring back, but are one of five teams that have added at least 9,000 '18-19 minutes and lost at least 9,000 '18-19 minutes (when we include unsigned free agents). They parted ways with four of the eight guys that played at least 1,000 minutes for them last season, but all five of their additions - Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley Jr., Ed Davis, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay - played at least 1,400 minutes. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. 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 NewsJul 18th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 4 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 105-92 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Friday at Oracle Arena: 1. Dynasties eventually become ‘die-nastys’ Will we get one more game at Oracle Arena? The scene of so much Golden State wonderfulness the past five seasons? A building about to be abandoned when the Warriors move from Oakland to a state-of-the-art arena across the Bay? Hold up. Asking one more game out of the Warriors seems a lot at the moment. These guys just suffered their second consecutive home playoff loss by 10 points or more, something that hasn’t happened to this franchise in 50 years. After three straight games scoring precisely 109 points, the Warriors came up 15 short Friday (Saturday, PHL time). They are 0-9 overall this season when held to double digits, and 0-11 in the playoffs during the Steve Kerr era, when they score 94 or fewer. And now they’re on the wrong side of a 3-1 deficit, lacking everything from certain healthy bodies to an edge, a sharpness that was missing in the second half. Granted, Golden State once held a 3-1 edge in a Finals, all the way back in 2016 … when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers chased them down and became the only Finals team to claw out of such a chasm. The Warriors did the same to Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference finals. So they not only have a blueprint, they have the know-how and an opportunity to do it again. Like Kerr before him on Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) postgame podium, Warriors forward Draymond Green spoke of simply trying to win one basketball game, the next game, as the proper way to dig out of this series hole. But then he dropped his guard and mentioned winning three in a row, something the Warriors have done often. But they’re a whole year removed from doing that in a Finals (last year’s sweep of the Cavs) with a healthy Kevin Durant. This is a more worn-down, tired team. In fact, Game 4 was more than Golden State’s 102nd game of 2018-19, regular and postseason combined. It was the 102nd playoff game of their five consecutive Finals runs, which means they have crammed an extra season-plus into their schedules compared to the underachievers on lottery teams sitting at home. From the looks of it Friday (Saturday, PHL time), these guys are ready to be toppled, like the Lakers in 1989 and again in 2004, like the Heat in 2014 and the Cavaliers last June. The boisterous Raptors fans who staged their takeover of the Warriors’ building after Game 4 were merely mirroring what their favorite team did on the court from halftime on. Golden State could not stop it. Rudy Tomjanovich might still be inclined to scream into the darkness. (“Never underestimate the heart of a champion!”) But pride only takes you so far, and that’s mostly what the Warriors have left. 2. Third quarter? That’s Toronto’s now It took the Raptors more than 18 minutes to score 30 points Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), stymied by the pace of the game and particularly Golden State’s scrappy, hustling defense. Immediately after halftime, it took Toronto only 12 minutes to put up 37. The time of death for Golden State on Friday was immediately after Kawhi Leonard drained consecutive three-pointers – “F-you” shots, teammate Fred VanVleet memorably coined them – that boosted Toronto from a four-point deficit to a 12-point advantage. The Warriors already had played well enough to rightly feel they should have had a bigger cushion; falling behind so rudely seemed to buckle the defending champs. That they feel third quarters are their birthright made the switcheroo intolerable. “We had a big problem with the third quarter in Game 2,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We had to make some adjustment there to try to combat the way they come out of the half. We made the decision to put Fred in, [first] in Game 3 and then Game 4 again. Mostly it's to try to keep up pace of our offense going. It gives us two point guards out there that can push the ball, get it in and get it going, and it kind of paid off. “I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half really changed the whole feel of everybody. Everybody was like, ‘Okay, man, we know we are here, let's go,’ and we just kind of kept going from those two three's.” For the Warriors, who have done that to so many others, turnabout was a pain in the rump. “Oh, this sucks,” Draymond Green recalled thinking as Toronto took control of the quarter. “It sucks really bad. You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum.  Every time we did, they answered.” Green was asked about the difficulty of rattling the stone-faced Leonard with whatever defensive tactic Golden State could muster, and brushed the question aside. “I don't think you're ever going to rattle Kawhi. Not sure we used that word one time in our scouting report, ‘We're going to rattle him,’” Green said. But it’s not just Leonard now. It’s the Raptors. Time after time, whenever Golden State revved up with a couple of scoring possessions, signaling to their fans they ready to make a run, Toronto snuffed it with a three-pointer or a well-executed pick and roll. They’ve got a team of Kawhis-in-training, unflappable lately if not as inscrutable. “Most teams will take cues from their leaders or their star players, so I think that spreads around a little bit,” Nurse said. But he also praised vets such as Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and VanVleet for how steady they’ve been. Now, with the temptation to imagine hoisting a championship trophy, the Raptors might be expected to buy into the stat that, of the 34 teams in The Finals who have led 3-1, 33 of them got their rings. But this team is so focused, so resolute in taking care of business down to the smallest and most mundane task, that all Nurse might have to do is remind them how many aspiring champs won three games in a Finals and still headed into summer empty-handed. (It's 19.) No trophy, no rings. 3. A surge from Serge The chemistry between Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry was evident in their playful banter on the podium Friday night. Each slipped into his role, Lowry as the instigator, Ibaka as the target of his playful jibes. “You joining me?” Lowry asked, as Ibaka got to the podium a half minute after him. “Serge Ibaka, everybody. You all know him. Nice outfit. Worth a lot of money. Is that jacket real leather?” “Yes, it’s real leather,” Ibaka said. "Pants too tight, he can't even sit down,” Lowry said. On court, Ibaka’s defensive impact and 20 points in reserve dampened a lot of Warrior enthusiasm. There are nights when Ibaka comes across like Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a large, lumbering and rather stiff option near the rim with very little to say. Some nights, he even seems to be asleep. But still waters often run deep, too deep for the Warriors in Game 4, it turned out. Ibaka’s here-today, gone-tomorrow shooting touch had him playing in a way that none of Golden State’s three centers – DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney or Andrew Bogut – could match. “Once he gets into the series," Nurse said, "which he did in Game 3 with the blocked shots and the rebounding and stuff, he seems to stay in the series. He usually gives you all of it.” Said Lowry, about knowing when a Serge surge is coming: “He doesn't say anything. When Serge is effective defensively is when he's at his best. I think the scoring just comes. We're going to make sure he gets that pick-and-pop jump shot, he's rolling … When he brings that intensity and that fierceness, it's kind of tough to stop him on both ends of the floor.” 4. Stephen Curry had a bad game One of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever was entitled, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese, a profile written when Sinatra obviously was ill of body and temper, and didn’t even grant Talese an interview. So our headline kind of tells the story as his did: Curry, one of the top five players in the NBA and probably the greatest overall shooter of all time, was not his two-time MVP self. He wasn’t even the Game 3 version (47 points). The Warriors point guard scored 20 fewer points in this one, and was 2-of-9 from three-point range. He missed all five of his shots from the arc in the first half and he picked up some obvious frustration fouls. Curry played 43 of the 48 minutes, and Golden State was outscored by 11 points when he was on the court. “It wasn’t his best game,” Kerr said. Evaluating Curry, for the Warriors, was going to come down to breaking down video and keeping the faith. Evaluating him, for the rest of us, is getting complicated these days by a sense that Curry did not get his due in past Finals – at least in terms of winning the Bill Russell Award as Finals MVP. But that’s no excuse to don rose-colored glasses every time he hits the floor. As scintillating as his performance was in defeat Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) as the Warriors’ only healthy threat, his Game 4 work was raggedy and unproductive. “They have been aggressive all series and trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. “I missed some shots early that I usually make, especially from the three-point line. But overall, I thought I got good looks.” Every game doesn’t need to be a referendum on the level of Curry appreciation. He might have deserved more consideration as Finals MVP in 2015, when Andre Iguodala snagged it with a strong performance in the clinching game. And even though Kevin Durant was an easy choice in 2017, there were some who felt Curry was more essential (including this voter). In some cosmic and just way, Curry probably should have been recognized with hardware somewhere among the three. But all signs are pointing to Leonard now, so Curry might have to muddle along with "only" those two Maurice Podoloff trophies for regular-season MVP, along with his All-NBA berths and assorted accolades, his ginormous contract and bounty of commercial endorsements, three rings (unless this series turns around) and a better life than most people who’ve ever walked the planet. 5. Durant to play in Game … 8? It’s possible that Durant will come walking through Rick Pitino’s proverbial door and seize what’s left of the championship series by the throat, playing like the two-time Finals MVP he is. Failing that, if there’s a Game 6, maybe that’s the night Durant at least does a Willis Reed impersonation, limping through the Oracle tunnel to a thunderous roar and hitting a couple of early shots to inspire his teammates to something special. (There still, alas, would be a pesky Game 7 for which to account, back in Toronto, likely muddying the drama.) Then again, maybe Durant doesn’t come back at all. For The Finals or with the Warriors, period. Speculation at this point is all over the map. Some think the Warriors planned to hold him out until things got really dire, to buy extra healing time and maybe not use him at all. Others now believe Durant’s rehab process of his strained right calf back-slid to some degree on Thursday, when he participated in a checkpoint workout with the training staff. A few folks think he never was going to return, regardless. After all, the All-NBA forward hasn’t played since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), missing nine fairly important games. This is a league where injuries typically face an “If this were a playoff game, would he play?” threshold. Durant has been nearly as absent from this NBA postseason as LeBron James. Look, all injuries are different, and even the same type of injury can have different timelines with different sufferers. Klay Thompson rushing back from his hamstring issue after skipping only Game 3 is at the crazy-resilient end of the durability scale. Kevon Looney basically rose from the ashes, giving the Warriors a rim runner and 10 points with six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. He had been ruled out for the rest of the series after suffering a rib cartilage fracture in his crash to the floor in Game 2. After anticipation of Durant’s availability got out in front of his reality for a few days, the chatter is more tempered now. There’s a shrug and a whiff of uncertainty folded into every mention. If Durant had his Thursday workout, he would have played Friday (Saturday, PHL time). If he had a setback … Heck, at this point it might be more pragmatic for the medical peeps to declare him out and let the Warriors who’ve come this far see this through, yea or nay. “As far as KD, there's been hope that he will come back the whole series,” Draymond Green said. “So that's not going to change now. Obviously we hope to have him, but we'll see what happens. We don't make that final call, he don't really even make that final call.  His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. And if he can, great. And if not, you still got to try to find a way to win the next game.” The Warriors had been holding out hope for Durant’s return as if he was their ace in the hole, imagining him with zero rust or rhythm issues once back and no limitations on his gait. But he has passed the “In case of emergency, break glass” point of urgent help possibilities. Now Durant resembles more the keg hanging from a Saint Bernard dog’s collar. It’s a nice idea, but when was the last time one of those dogs saved somebody who literally drank from the little barrel? Toronto is in a foreign land, by NBA standards. But it ain’t the Alps. 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 9th, 2019

Five things we learned from Game 1 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com TORONTO – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 118-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of The Finals Thursday (Friday, PHL time) at Scotiabank Arena ... 1. So much for ‘glad to be here’ If we thought we had learned one thing about the Toronto Raptors when it comes to the NBA playoffs, it was this: They back their way into most series. Losing the opener was a tradition for this franchise -- they were 3-15 in Game 1s prior to Thursday (Friday, PHL time), dating back to their inaugural playoff run in 2000. Nothing shoves a team closer to elimination in a best-of-seven showdown than a lousy start. That’s why grabbing the opener against Golden State was so essential. Had the Raptors squandered their home-court advantage on the first night, we all would be assuming the worst for these Finals in competitive, stylistic and entertainment terms. Only by rocking the Warriors in Game 1 -- and most impressively, by refusing to cough up all of their 12-point lead in the second half -- could the Raptors generate legitimate excitement for Game 2 and beyond. Had we all been honest (and able to pull this off), we would have begun this series by spotting Toronto to a 1-0 lead -- just to handicap the defending champions and force them to show us something they haven’t in their four previous Finals trips. But such a move would have been demeaning, of course, to the Raptors. Instead, coach Nick Nurse and his affable newbies seized early control themselves. How Portland looked in the Western Conference finals, as if the Trail Blazers had maxed out and were just happy to still be involved? Toronto wanted none of that. It found a way to win when Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry were ordinary at best. And now we have a series worthy of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 2. Triple-doubles continue to decline in value It’s fun as a game progresses to track stats, whether it’s Pascal Siakam’s absurd 11 consecutive field goals or Stephen Curry’s refusal to miss a free throw. We’re always aware of the leading scorer and his growing point total, particularly as it passes the big round numbers (30, 40, 50…). But Draymond Green’s latest triple-double was a reminder that the bar has been set too low for that stat from its inception. Green finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, which makes it a minimalist’s triple-double at best and more of a statistical fluke than an achievement. Ten assists? That’s strong any night. Ten rebounds? Solid, and necessary if no one else on your roster is claiming more than six. Ten points, though? Come on now. Green had a Jason Kidd triple-double, which isn’t mean to disparage the Hall of Fame point guard but speaks to Kidd’s limitations as a scorer for most of his career. Heck, the Warriors’ versatile forward had six turnovers, inspiring the bad “quadruple-double watch” that Kidd sparked on occasion. What Green didn’t do was put the ball through the net effectively, shooting 2-for-9 overall and 0-for-2 on three-pointers. Yes, his value to Golden State usually doesn’t rise or fall on his scoring, but he could have been more helpful in that area Thursday. When Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double in 1961-62 (and cumulatively did it over his first six NBA seasons), he was scoring 30 points per game. When Russell Westbrook matched what had been a rare feat two years ago, he too was up above 30 points nightly. But Westbrook has done it the past two seasons as well, with his scoring average dipping below 23 this season. That would seem to be near the minimum -- say, 20 points -- to gush over a player’s triple-double on a given night. We get it, double figures means 10 or more. But 10 points is no big deal at all in the NBA, so it seems silly to celebrate it when it’s the free rider on the triple-double quirk. 3. Don’t double-dawg dare an NBA player Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted after Game 1 that, by mistake more than by design, his team didn’t defensively do its job well in the early minutes against center Marc Gasol. “Gasol we left a couple times early in the game and didn't rotate, we just gave him a couple of dare shots and he knocked them down,” Kerr said. Daring is not defending, and the Warriors would be well-advised not to do that again to a player as proud and as accomplished as Gasol. He’s struggled at times as a shooter in these playoffs, shooting 34 percent in the Eastern Conference finals while going 2-for-9 on three-pointers in Games 1 and 2 of that series (both losses). It was embarrassing at times to see the affable 7'1" Spaniard miss shots badly, whether he felt that way or not. But Gasol was 10-for-20 on three-pointers entering The Finals, all during the Raptors’ four consecutive victories to eliminate the Bucks. He went 2-for-4 in Game 1 of The Finals, scoring a playoff-high 20 points to help compensate for Leonard’s and Lowry’s muted firepower. Asked about it afterward, on taking such a “dare” personally, the big man shrugged. “If you're open, you got to shoot them. Dare, no dare,” he said. “And then we go from there. If they go in, great. If not you keep taking them with confidence.” That’s speaking truth to a dare. 4. The ratings for Game 1 will soar… … if they can somehow count the number of times the Warriors and the Raptors watch and re-watch the video tape. A big theme heading into this series was the relative lack of familiarity the teams had with each other. Now, that’s a common aspect of The Finals, pitting the champs of opposite conferences and all. But given Golden State’s knowledge of the Cleveland Cavaliers after four consecutive Finals, Toronto is a relative stranger. Beyond that, key players from both sides were absent in the two regular-season meetings. But now they have a whole 48 minutes to dissect, digest and learn from. For the Warriors, who spoke about it the most, they saw things they might not have expected and things they definitely did not like. Such as? Try Siakam’s attacks on the basket (in transition and otherwise), their own inability to be the team that pushes pace and Fred VanVleet as the game’s essential reserve (15 points on a night when his three-point shot was MIA). Green, in particular, sounded as if he was going to binge-watch Siakam’s romp and figure a way to thwart the unorthodox flip shots the forward from Cameroon deployed. “He's become ‘a guy,’” Green said phrasing that as a nod of respect. “He put a lot of work into get there and I respect that. But like I said, I got to take him out of the series and that's on me.” Toronto can make use of the video for as long as the Warriors roster stays the way it is, which means sans Kevin Durant. Which leads into … 5. Who's here (and who isn't)? (And no, we don’t mean LeBron James.) Durant’s continued absence with a calf injury since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals became an official problem in Game 1 of The Finals (the team’s first loss without him). Questions that had been bottled up for a couple weeks -- What did you miss most without Durant? How might he have changed your offense or defense? -- came spilling out from the large media crew that covers the NBA’s glamour team. Neither Kerr nor his players took the bait, which was smart. Not only would it look like excuse-making (considering how they hadn’t needed those before), it might have opened a crack of vulnerability into something wider and more troublesome. Durant is out for Game 2, but per a Yahoo Sports report is expected back at the series’ midway point (read: Game 3 or Game 4).  “KD's an all-time great player on both ends of the floor,” Curry said, “so I could sit here and talk for days about what he adds to our roster.  We obviously have proven that when he's out we can have guys step up, and that's going to be the case until he gets back.” Rushing him back would seem desperate, something the Warriors aren’t and shouldn’t be. Plus, it is early in a long series. And it really is irrelevant: NBA players and teams’ medical staffs don’t “rush back” anyone these days. Then again, once they’re ready to play -- as Golden State showed in using DeMarcus Cousins in Game 1 -- there’s no sense in letting talent help languish in street clothes. No time too, either. 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 1st, 2019

Durant s status looms large as Warriors face Raptors

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Every so often the best team doesn’t win the NBA championship; sometimes it’s the healthiest. A few examples come to mind, such as the 1988-89 Lakers who lost Byron Scott to a hamstring injury caused by Pat Riley’s pre-Finals boot camp and then Magic Johnson similarly one game into the series with the Pistons, who swept. Then the 2015 Cavaliers, already without Kevin Love, saw Kyrie Irving lost with a fractured kneecap suffered in Game 1. Maybe those two teams would’ve won, maybe not. It’s one of those basketball mysteries that’ll go unsolved. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Well, what the Warriors are trying to do is become the best team to win in spite of their health, specifically with Kevin Durant, who’s expected to play against the Raptors although precisely when, and to what extent, and how effectively, all remain unclear right now. The Warriors romped quite impressively if not mildly surprisingly the last five full games without Durant in the final two rounds of the West playoffs, and while that bodes well for their confidence, at some point, conventional thinking says they will need Durant. Will he be around to bail them out when the ball doesn’t fall for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson? Should Durant be the Durant who sizzled in the first round and through much of round two, this series might be short on suspense. And if DeMarcus Cousins returns? Well. The Warriors for the first time in five years don’t have to go through LeBron James to win a title, and while Kawhi Leonard is a former Finals MVP and rolling for the Raptors right now, he (or most any other human) isn’t on the King’s post-season level. This has been a satisfying season for the Raptors’ franchise, which finally experienced a post-season breakthrough (thanks partly by LeBron’s defection). Yet: Kawhi would need to be a close imitation of LeBron to keep a national audience fixated and the Raptors close enough to prevent the Warriors from taking another summer champagne bath before summer officially begins. Three things to watch 1. Will Kawhi Leonard survive Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala? It’s one thing to see a solid defender in your path, as Kawhi did with Giannis Antetekounmpo. But what happens when the Warriors can throw Green and then Iguodala and perhaps Klay Thompson and maybe Kevin Durant, all of whom bring different looks? This could prove problematic for Toronto and frustrating for Kawhi, especially if Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and company don’t rise up. 2. Can Kyle Lowry keep up with Stephen Curry defensively? This will be quite the challenge for Lowry, to place handcuffs on a guard who averaged 35 points in five games (four vs. Blazers, one Rockets) without Kevin Durant and bring the same energy on the other end to ease the load from Kawhi Leonard. Lowry didn’t check a big-time scorer in any of the three rounds: DJ Augustin, JJ Redick, Eric Bledsoe. 3. Will any readjusting be necessary if and when Kevin Durant returns? This is one of the more confounding debates raging outside the Warriors’ organization. There shouldn’t be any discomfort with Durant back in the fold unless you weigh the last four weeks over the previous two seasons. Besides, he’s surrounded by the most unselfish teammates he’ll likely ever have, starting with Curry. The number to know 6.2 -- Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Warriors have outscored their opponents by 6.2 points per 100 possessions. That's their worst mark through the first three rounds over this stretch of five straight trips to The Finals. Over the previous four years, the Warriors lowest point differential through three rounds was plus-6.4 in 2016, the year they lost in The Finals. Time will tell if the lower point differential is an indication that the Warriors are beatable (again). What we do know now is that, statistically, they just haven't been as good as they were the last two years. All six of their conference semifinal games against the Houston Rockets were within five points in the last five minutes. And though they swept Portland in the conference finals, they trailed for 51 percent of the minutes in that series and by at least 17 points in each of the last three games. It's on defense where the Warriors haven't been as strong this year. In each of the previous four years, they allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than the postseason average through the first three rounds (5.3 fewer than the average in 2015, 1.6 fewer in '16, 8.7 fewer in '17, and 6.5 fewer in '18). In these playoffs, they've allowed 110.2 points per 100 possessions, a mark which ranks ninth among the 16 teams and is 1.8 points per 100 possessions more than the average (108.4). Of course, the Warriors' offense, despite the absence of Kevin Durant for the last five games, has never been better. Over 16 games, the Warriors have scored 116.4 points per 100 possessions, 8.0 more than the league average. And ridiculously efficient offense just might be enough for a third straight championship. -- John Schuhmann The pick The Raptors rolled the dice last summer to get Kawhi Leonard and even if they lose this series and he leaves through free agency, it was a gamble well worth taking if only because they’re in the NBA Finals. Canada will be forever grateful. Still, in spite of that, and also Kawhi’s sizzling playoff run, Toronto is at a disadvantage everywhere except fan support. A fully-loaded Warriors team wins easily. A team with Kevin Durant missing a pair of games wins a little less easily. Warriors in 5......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 27th, 2019

Durant s status looms large as Warriors face Raptors

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Every so often the best team doesn’t win the NBA championship; sometimes it’s the healthiest. A few examples come to mind, such as the 1988-89 Lakers who lost Byron Scott to a hamstring injury caused by Pat Riley’s pre-Finals boot camp and then Magic Johnson similarly one game into the series with the Pistons, who swept. Then the 2015 Cavaliers, already without Kevin Love, saw Kyrie Irving lost with a fractured kneecap suffered in Game 1. Maybe those two teams would’ve won, maybe not. It’s one of those basketball mysteries that’ll go unsolved. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Well, what the Warriors are trying to do is become the best team to win in spite of their health, specifically with Kevin Durant, who’s expected to play against the Raptors although precisely when, and to what extent, and how effectively, all remain unclear right now. The Warriors romped quite impressively if not mildly surprisingly the last five full games without Durant in the final two rounds of the West playoffs, and while that bodes well for their confidence, at some point, conventional thinking says they will need Durant. Will he be around to bail them out when the ball doesn’t fall for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson? Should Durant be the Durant who sizzled in the first round and through much of round two, this series might be short on suspense. And if DeMarcus Cousins returns? Well. The Warriors for the first time in five years don’t have to go through LeBron James to win a title, and while Kawhi Leonard is a former Finals MVP and rolling for the Raptors right now, he (or most any other human) isn’t on the King’s post-season level. This has been a satisfying season for the Raptors’ franchise, which finally experienced a post-season breakthrough (thanks partly by LeBron’s defection). Yet: Kawhi would need to be a close imitation of LeBron to keep a national audience fixated and the Raptors close enough to prevent the Warriors from taking another summer champagne bath before summer officially begins. Three things to watch 1. Will Kawhi Leonard survive Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala? It’s one thing to see a solid defender in your path, as Kawhi did with Giannis Antetekounmpo. But what happens when the Warriors can throw Green and then Iguodala and perhaps Klay Thompson and maybe Kevin Durant, all of whom bring different looks? This could prove problematic for Toronto and frustrating for Kawhi, especially if Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and company don’t rise up. 2. Can Kyle Lowry keep up with Stephen Curry defensively? This will be quite the challenge for Lowry, to place handcuffs on a guard who averaged 35 points in five games (four vs. Blazers, one Rockets) without Kevin Durant and bring the same energy on the other end to ease the load from Kawhi Leonard. Lowry didn’t check a big-time scorer in any of the three rounds: DJ Augustin, JJ Redick, Eric Bledsoe. 3. Will any readjusting be necessary if and when Kevin Durant returns? This is one of the more confounding debates raging outside the Warriors’ organization. There shouldn’t be any discomfort with Durant back in the fold unless you weigh the last four weeks over the previous two seasons. Besides, he’s surrounded by the most unselfish teammates he’ll likely ever have, starting with Curry. The pick The Raptors rolled the dice last summer to get Kawhi Leonard and even if they lose this series and he leaves through free agency, it was a gamble well worth taking if only because they’re in the NBA Finals. Canada will be forever grateful. Still, in spite of that, and also Kawhi’s sizzling playoff run, Toronto is at a disadvantage everywhere except fan support. A fully-loaded Warriors team wins easily. A team with Kevin Durant missing a pair of games wins a little less easily. Warriors in 5......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 26th, 2019