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By the numbers: LeBron James in the NBA Finals

Before the three-time NBA champion heads back to the biggest stage of the NBA, Philstar.com takes a look on some of the notable figures of James' Finals career......»»

Category: sportsSource: philstar philstarSep 27th, 2020

Kobe Bryant left deep legacy in LA sports, basketball world

By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant inspired a generation of basketball players worldwide with both his sublime skills and his unquenchable competitive fire. He also earned Los Angeles’ eternal adoration during his two decades as the fierce soul of the city’s beloved Lakers. Less than four years into his retirement from the NBA, Bryant was seeking new challenges and working to inspire his daughters’ generation through sports and storytelling when his next act ended shockingly early. Bryant, the 18-time All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday. He was 41. The crash occurred in the foggy hills above Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. A different person familiar with the case confirmed Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was killed. Both of the AP's unnamed sources spoke on condition of anonymity because few details of the crash had been released publicly. Authorities said nine people were on the helicopter, and all were presumed dead. No names were released. Bryant lived south of Los Angeles in coastal Orange County for much of his adult life, and he often used helicopters to save time and avoid Southern California's notorious traffic. He often traveled to practices and games by helicopter before his playing career ended in 2016, and he kept up the practice after retirement as he attended to his many new ventures, which included a burgeoning entertainment company that recently produced an Academy Award-winning animated short film. The crash occurred about 20 miles from Mamba Sports Academy, Bryant’s basketball training complex in Thousand Oaks, California. A girls basketball tournament was scheduled for Sunday at the facility. Bryant, who had four daughters with his wife, Vanessa, dedicated himself to boosting women’s sports in recent years, coaching and mentoring basketball players around the world. Gianna, better known as Gigi, had a promising youth career. Bryant sat with her courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game late last year, clearly passing along his wisdom to his daughter. Bryant told Jimmy Kimmel in 2018 that Gianna wanted to play in the WNBA and recalled how fans would often approach him saying “you gotta have a boy, you gotta someone to carry on the tradition, the legacy.” Gianna took exception: “She’s like, 'Oy, I got this,’” Bryant recalled. Bryant retired nearly four years ago as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades in Lakers purple and gold as a prolific shooter with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic that inspired strong reactions from fans and opponents alike. He held that No. 3 spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown. “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much respect my brother.” On Saturday night, James said he was "happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball player to ever play. One of the all-time greatest Lakers.” News of Bryant’s death inspired an outpouring of grief around the sports world and beyond, but it was felt particularly painfully in Los Angeles, where Bryant was unquestionably the sprawling city's most popular athlete and one of its most beloved public figures. The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Tuesday night against the crosstown rival Clippers, but hundreds of fans — many in Bryant jerseys and Lakers gear — spontaneously gathered at Staples Center and in the surrounding LA Live entertainment complex on Sunday, weeping and staring at video boards with Bryant’s image before the Grammy awards ceremony. “I thought he was going to live forever,” Lakers great Magic Johnson told KCBS-TV. “I thought he was invincible. ... There was nobody who took more pride in putting on that Laker uniform than Kobe. Nobody. He was just special. We will miss him and we’ll remember him for his greatness, but let’s not forget how he impacted the world, too.” The NBA kept its games on as scheduled when the news broke, but the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors both took voluntary 24-second shot clock violations at the start of their game in honor of Bryant, who wore No. 24 for the second half of his career. Several other teams followed up by deliberately taking delays of 24 and 8 seconds, honoring both of his jersey numbers. Many players were seen crying before their games, and James looked emotional on the tarmac when he got off the Lakers’ team plane from Philadelphia. Bryant’s future appeared to be limitless in retirement, whether in sports or entertainment. He opened a production company shortly after leaving the Lakers, saying he was just as passionate about storytelling as he had been about his sport. He won an Oscar in 2018 for his contributions to “Dear Basketball,” an animated short about his relationship to the game. He also produced content for ESPN. In 2003, Bryant was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex, and the charge was eventually dropped. The woman later filed a civil suit against Bryant that was settled out of court. Bryant's adulation remained strong in Los Angeles even during the sexual assault allegations. Bryant became one of the game’s most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, but he also earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams. He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010. A two-time Olympic gold medalist with the dominant U.S. team, Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game. In December 2017, the Lakers hung banners retiring his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys in the Staples Center rafters in an unprecedented double honor. Bryant looms large over the current generation of NBA players, most of whom grew up either idolizing Bryant or absorbing his work ethic and competitive spirit in the same way Bryant's generation learned from Michael Jordan. After James passed Bryant on Saturday, he remembered listening in awe to Bryant when the superstar came to speak at a childhood basketball camp. “I remember one thing he said: If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you’ve got to put the work in,” James said. James later teamed up with Bryant on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing. “He had zero flaws offensively,” James said. “Zero. You backed off of him, he could shoot the 3. You body him up a little bit, he could go around you. He could shoot from mid-range. He could post. He could make free throws. ... He was just immortal offensively because of his skill set and his work ethic.” Bryant was a basketball superstar for his entire adult life, and he grew up from a teenager to a respected veteran in the unforgiving Hollywood spotlight. He entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996 after a childhood spent partly in Italy, where his father, former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played professionally. He spoke four languages and played a major role in the NBA's international growth over his two decades in the league, traveling the world and connecting with athletes in other sports and celebrities. The Lakers acquired the 17-year-old Bryant in a trade shortly after Charlotte drafted him, and he immediately became one of the most exciting and intriguing players in the sport alongside O’Neal, who had signed with the Lakers as a free agent. Bryant won the Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie, and the Lakers gradually grew into a team that won three consecutive championships. Bryant and Gasol, the Spanish star, formed the nucleus of another championship team in 2008, reaching three straight NBA Finals and winning two more titles. Between those title runs and before the quiet final years of his career, Bryant accomplished innumerable feats including an 81-point game against Toronto in January 2006. Bryant's final NBA seasons were dogged by injuries, but he still went into retirement with that jaw-dropping 60-point performance against Utah. ___ AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 27th, 2020

The NBA’s showcase day - Christmas - has arrived

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press The MVP is playing. So are the reigning champions, north of the border. And out in LA, the NBA’s newest dynamic duos will square off as well. On the 65th day of the season, with 454 games — more than one-third of the schedule — already in the books, the NBA’s unofficial start date has arrived. The annual Christmas Day quintupleheader of games is Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), the day when the casual fan typically turns his or her attention toward the NBA. “It’s going to be cool, man,” said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who’ll be making his Christmas debut. “It’s going to be very cool. I’ve always watched it on TV ever since I was a young child. And it’s going to be awesome to step foot on that floor on Christmas Day, have my family and friends around and have the whole world watching.” The good news from a ratings perspective: Four of the Eastern Conference’s five best teams so far are on the schedule, all playing each other. The bad news: The two worst teams in the Western Conference so far also are on the schedule. But LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ first Christmas as Los Angeles Lakers teammates — facing off against the crosstown rival Clippers — should certainly draw plenty of eyeballs. “I hope everybody has a great holiday and spends some time with their families, but it’s about the next opponent in front of us,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We have to get a win.” The other matchups: Boston goes to Toronto in the NBA’s first Christmas game in Canada, followed by Milwaukee visiting Philadelphia, Houston going to Golden State, the Lakers-Clippers contest and then a nightcap between New Orleans and a Denver team led by Nikola Jokic and off to the best start in franchise history at 20-8. “You’re always told that the best teams play on Christmas, the All-Star players play on Christmas and the whole world is watching this game,” said Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP who has even better numbers this year than he did a year ago. The potential certainly exists for some playoff-preview matchups. It’s not a stretch to think that the Raptors and Celtics or 76ers and Bucks will wind up meeting in a best-of-seven come April or May. And the same holds true in Los Angeles, where the Clippers and Lakers might be the best of the West. The Lakers have Davis and James. The Clippers now have Paul George and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Those two pairings shook up the league’s landscape considerably when they came together this past summer, and so far with the Lakers at 24-6 and the Clippers at 22-10, neither side has much to complain about. “I think we’re good,” George said. “I think we’re good.” The Clippers are 10-3 in games where both Leonard and George start. Davis and James are one of two duos where both are averaging more than 25 points per game; Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota are the other. The pairing of James and Davis has looked spectacular at times already. If there was any confusion about whether those two superstar talents could work together, those questions have been answered. “We know what the end goal is,” Davis said. “And when you have guys like that, with veteran leadership, when everyone is locked in to our goal, it’s easy for us to jell together.” James puts it even more simply. “It’s about getting better, each and every day,” James said. Christmas is where last year’s Lakers season went wrong — they were fourth in the West, then James got hurt on Dec. 25 and LA went on a free fall out of the playoff picture. And injuries will affect some of what the league gets to display on Christmas this year as well. Golden State has been doomed by injuries all season, with no Klay Thompson and no Stephen Curry for much of this season. New Orleans was picked to be part of the showcase day because of No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, who has yet to appear in a regular-season game — his summer league was cut short by injury, and a stellar preseason ended the same way. And Toronto is missing several top players right now, including Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol. But make no mistake: The Raptors have been waiting a long time to be part of NBA Christmas. Wednesday is their first time on the holiday schedule since 2001. “It’ll be interesting,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “I wish we had more of our regular guys playing in it, but we’ve got to go play the game nevertheless. So we’ll see. I think it’ll be fun. I’m getting a lot of messages from back home. Everybody’s going to be watching.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2019

LeBron James keeping Father Time at bay in LA

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com The bearded man in a robe who walks with a slight hunch and carries an hourglass always lurks in the shadows, almost out of view. Nobody is paying him much mind or cares what he has to say -- at least not initially. He’s not on anyone’s radar until he appears and applies a gentle tap on the shoulder (or a violent shove in the back) of the unsuspecting. And that’s when they realize they’ve been paid a visit by someone whom Charles Barkley always says is undefeated. Yes, it is “Father Time,” the mythical creation of the ancient Greeks whose clock is more pronounced than any made in Switzerland. He is, by every metric, always on time, although that seems to vary, depending on his mood. He is gracious and respectful in some cases, unforgiving in others. Ultimately, he and only he decides when your time in sports is up. And so, it’s a matter of when, not if, he’ll throw LeBron James in reverse. But where other stars became role players or transformed into shells of their former selves, LeBron is playing at a high level. He turns 35 later this month and because he’s delivering Kia MVP-quality results here in his 17th NBA season, he is winning against time, and therefore, he is … cheating time. He’s almost at 57,000 minutes played in the regular season and playoffs combined, which ranks fourth behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant. He should pass Kobe for No. 3 in career scoring (33,643 points) by the All-Star break. The all-time scoring mark and a high ranking on the all-time assists list are in sight, too. Ask him why and how he’s doing it and LeBron is playfully coy and quick to say “fine wine.” He’ll also often credit the extra motivation he acquired last summer, when he watched the playoffs from his sofa, not far removed from a groin injury and a dreadful first season with the Lakers. Those things caused him grief and fueled his desire to reclaim his place. "I put in the work and I trust everything that I’ve done, especially this offseason," James said. "I’ve come in with a great mindset, with a healthy mindset and a healthy body." Considering his middle age, LeBron is putting together a masterful season (25.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) while excelling as a volume 3-point shooter. His 10.8 apg leads the NBA and his effort defensively -- which was laughable last season -- is laudable now. Nobody at 35 has assembled such numbers in league history. “He’s LeBron James,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “Until he isn’t.” What’s age got to do with it? Well, nothing right now. LeBron is still capable of unleashing a facial dunk, as he did with a smirk against the Kings’ Nemanja Bjelica, who perhaps wisely never bothered to challenge it. He also covers all the court rather than, as some aging players are wont to do, play between the free throw lines. It’s true that soon enough he will wear longer shorts than anyone in the game -- not from faulty tailoring, but from constant pulling and tugging. And while the ball is in play, he will someday hear squeaking on the court and suddenly notice that sound is coming from his joints. “Nobody knows when it’ll happen to him because he’s still playing in the air,” said Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. “And even when that goes, his basketball IQ will allow him to stay great on the ground. I mean, who gets triple doubles at his age? Only he knows when his time is up.” When that day arrives -- and assuming he doesn’t first quit while he’s ahead -- how big of a decline will it be for LeBron (and, by extension, for us) to witness? Will he fall prey to nagging injuries, get torched nightly by previously inferior players, or quit playing defense? Here’s how “Father Time” diminished six greats who came before LeBron: 1. Michael Jordan: When he retired for the second time, after his last season with the Bulls, Jordan was still very much a physical marvel and the reigning MVP and Finals MVP (he won five MVPs and six Finals MVPs). He was certifiably great for 13 of his 15 seasons and could’ve been longer if not for three years of college ball, an injury-shortened 1985-86 season and 1.5 missed seasons due to baseball. His body only began to betray him when he un-retired in 2001 to play for the Wizards. At 38, Jordan rarely dunked, wasn’t as sharp defensively and knee issues limited him to 60 games in 2001-02. 2. Jerry West: “The Logo” never had a down year in his 14-year career. He was First-Team All-Defense in 1972-73 as a 34-year-old and was solid in his final season (20.3 ppg, 6.6 apg, 2.6 spg). But he wasn’t at his peak of the late 1960s and opted to quit over pride (and money, when Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke refused to renegotiate his contract). 3. Bill Russell: His career ended mainly because he ran out of psychological fuel. Russell lost his passion to play at 35, even after winning championship No. 11 in his final season (1968-69). That season, he played 46.1 mpg in the playoffs, averaging 10.8 ppg, 20.5 rpg and 5.4 apg. While those numbers are perhaps skewed by the way the game was played back then, they’re still remarkable. 4. Wilt Chamberlain: A man of astonishing stats, Chamberlain averaged a league-leading 18.6 rpg and shot 72.7% overall in his final season (1972-73). Knee issues had long forced Wilt into being a statue in the paint and a third option on offense. After that final NBA season, he jumped from the Lakers to the ABA for money. San Diego offered him $600,000 to be a player-coach, but his Lakers contract prevented him from playing. Wilt coached instead, doing so with disinterest, often not showing up for games or practice. He quit basketball completely after that season. 5. Kobe Bryant: Those roundtrip flights to Germany to get oil for his knees managed to delay the obvious for a few years, but a torn Achilles in 2013 at 35 was the killer. Kobe, much like Jordan and LeBron, was elite into his 30s. And he’ll always have that 60-point send-off. 6. Karl Malone: He won his final MVP at 35 and was built for durability, never suffering a serious injury. He averaged 20.6 ppg in his final season with Utah (2002-03) as he approached 40. By then, he had morphed into a jump shooter and lost his instincts for offensive rebounding. He bowed out as a ring-chasing role player with the Lakers in ‘03-04. Larry Bird was ruined by debilitating back issues at 32. Abdul-Jabbar often only jogged downcourt his last six seasons. Tim Duncan became a secondary option in his last four seasons while Dirk Nowitzki averaged more than 20 ppg once over his final five seasons. Vince Carter is 42 and proudly still playing, but clearly is 10 years beyond his prime. Allen Iverson was the last to know his quickness was gone. “For me, it was Year 12 when it hit me,” said Lakers great James Worthy, who had knee issues. “My patented move was taking off from somewhere inside the free throw line. I found myself halfway there once and I started to descend before I got close to the rim. I had to do a George Gervin flip instead of a dunk. “It’s different now, with this generation of players. I was eating Burger King before games and working out on Nautilus machines. I went to college with Lawrence Taylor and I remember him telling me, ‘I don’t wanna get hit anymore.’ And he’s a reckless guy. LeBron will wake up one day and he won’t have that drive. He’ll be tired and while physically he’s in such great shape, something will go away, either a move or speed.” LeBron seems determined to be the outlier. He spends, by various estimations, more than $1 million on his body for round the clock therapy and a personal trainer. Last summer, he refused to allow the shooting schedule for the movie “Space Jam 2” to interfere with his schedule, rising at 3:30 a.m. to train before heading to the set. He has more than once fantasized about staying in the league long enough to possibly play against or alongside his son, Bronny (now a high school freshman). “LeBron is not only a great player but a physical marvel,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “Probably the best athlete to ever walk this planet. I’ve never seen anybody in my lifetime in any sport whom I would consider a better athlete. It’s one of his best attributes and the one that goes the least noticed. You just take it for granted that he’s out there every night and still doing his things.” LeBron exchanged playful tweets with Tom Brady last month, with LeBron saying the two are “one in the same.” Brady is a tame comparison to LeBron. Brady doesn’t run 94 feet and back for nine months (playoffs included) and when tired can simply hand off to the running back. Same for NFL legend Joe Montana, who made the Pro Bowl at 37. MLB legend Nolan Ryan threw once every four or five days. Maybe tennis star Roger Federer, who won Wimbledon at 36 and still reaches finals at 38, comes closest. “It wouldn’t shock me if LeBron played until he was 40,” West said. “He’s such a great athlete and knows enough about his body that he’ll probably leave before he declines.” After watching Robert Parish waste away on the Bulls’ bench, Jordan said he’d never allow himself to stay in the game that long. His pride and unwillingness to be seen as hanging on meant he’d walk away first. LeBron doesn’t think of the twilight and given how he’s playing now, that doesn’t appear to be in the future, anyway. “I was with the Nuggets late in my career and the funny thing is I was leading the league in assists,” said Mark Jackson, fourth on the all-time assists list. “There was a loose ball, a deflection, and it’s right here, and I can go get it. I made the move to go get it, and before I could get anywhere near it, a kid out of nowhere, and in a blur, snatched it. Gets the ball, by the time I get to the spot where the ball is, he’d already dunked it. Young kid by the name of Allen Iverson. I knew it would never be the same.” Jackson says LeBron is so multi-gifted that he can endure decline in one area and still flourish in another. “He also has the knowledge, pace and understanding that he’ll still be able to be effective even when he slows down,” Jackson said. “I don’t think it’ll be drastic. He can average a triple-double for the next five years.” LeBron is taking great satisfaction in fighting age while tweaking skeptics, both real and imagined, who wondered if decline was imminent. He cites that “Washed King” nickname -- did somebody actually call him that? -- as motivation. “It’s the personal pressure I put on myself,” LeBron said. Eventually, like everyone, he’ll take the L from “Father Time.” Until then, LeBron is making us wonder if that mythical man exists. 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 NewsDec 5th, 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

Beware of early overreactions after the NBA s opening week

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Beware the overreaction. It’s an easy trap to fall into at this time of year: Look at the early numbers in the NBA, extrapolate those over 82 games and envision the statistically improbable somehow becoming real. Don’t do it. Atlanta’s Trae Young is averaging 38.5 points per game right now which won’t hold up over an entire season. Same goes for Houston’s James Harden, who isn’t going to stay at his current shooting rate of 24% from the field and 12% from 3-point range. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going to foul out of every game, either. And Golden State isn’t going to go 0-82. The Warriors may be the biggest disappointment of the first week of this NBA season, blown out by 19 at home to the Los Angeles Clippers and then by 28 — a game where the deficit was as much as 42 — on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) at Oklahoma City. “We’re just not that good right now,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “I don’t know a better way to frame that for you. I could try in Spanish, but I’m not really that good in Spanish.” They haven’t just lost. They haven’t even led yet — not for a single second. They got down 14-0 in the opener to the Clippers, then 8-0 to the Thunder. But to write off the Warriors — the five-time defending Western Conference champions — after two games would be beyond short-sighted. “We’re trying to develop an identity as a team and it doesn’t happen overnight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And when you play in the NBA every single night, you’re going against amazing basketball players.” Golden State still has Green and Stephen Curry. The Warriors added D’Angelo Russell. They won’t have Klay Thompson until late this season, if at all in 2019-20. The NBA Finals MVPs from 2015, 2017 and 2018 — Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant — aren’t there anymore. It’s not starting over. It’s definitely a restart, though. The Warriors’ halftime deficit of 33 points on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) was their largest since 1997. “This is not where we finish,” said Omari Spellman, one of the Warriors’ new faces. “It’s Game 2. But there are only so many times we can keep saying that. ... We’ve got to compete.” The Warriors used 11 players on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), and seven of them were playing elsewhere last season — whether in the NBA or still in college. That’s why Kerr says the Warriors “don’t have a sense of who we are as a team yet.” “I realize I’m making plenty of excuses,” Kerr said. “But they’re real.” JENKINS’ PATH Champions of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas don’t get rings. They get T-shirts. Memphis won the title this past summer, and Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins — who decided to coach the team in Las Vegas as well — keeps his championship shirt in his wardrobe rotation as a reminder of what happened over those two weeks. “I bust it out every now and then,” Jenkins said. The next championship will be a little bit tougher. Jenkins is one of two first-time NBA coaches this season, with Cleveland’s John Beilein being the other. Beilein is 66 and went to the Final Four twice with Michigan. Jenkins is 35 and his most notable experience as a head coach before now was in the G League. No one asks Beilein if he’s ready for the NBA. Jenkins — who has studied under Gregg Popovich and Mike Budenholzer — has heard that question a lot. “I’ve been preparing,” Jenkins said. He knows he still has a ton to learn, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel prepared for where he is. WHAT TO WATCH A game to watch each day this week (days in PHL time): — Tuesday, Oklahoma City at Houston: Russell Westbrook faces the Thunder for the first time. — Wednesday, Atlanta at Miami: Jimmy Butler is expected to finally make his debut for the Heat. — Thursday, Indiana at Brooklyn: Malcolm Brogdon guarding Kyrie Irving will be must-watch TV. (Also, if the World Series goes seven games, Houston’s basketball team will be in Washington while Washington’s baseball team is in Houston.) — Friday, San Antonio at L.A. Clippers: The Clippers have won their last five Halloween games. — Saturday, L.A. Lakers at Dallas: First matchup between LeBron James and Kristaps Porzingis since Nov. 13, 2017. — Sunday, Toronto at Milwaukee: A rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals. — Next Monday, Sacramento at New York: Kings have missed 13 straight postseasons, Knicks six......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 28th, 2019

Lakers ready to showcase a motivated LeBron James, hungry Anthony Davis

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com LOS ANGELES — On training camp eve, the atmosphere, scene and vibe at the team practice complex suggested the Lakers will welcome two new and bold additions when the season tips off in three weeks. One: Anthony Davis, do-it-all forward, rescued from the depths of the New Orleans Pelicans, desperate for a championship and perhaps in line for the next Kia MVP award, both of which would be his first. Two: LeBron James. Yes, it’s true this is LeBron’s second season with the storied franchise, but does last year truly count? In his mind, no, it doesn’t, because the Lakers and NBA were all deprived of his usual high standard of greatness and astonishing health in 2018-19. The health part betrayed him for the first time in his 16-year career, causing him to miss 27 games, mostly due to a persistently bothersome groin strain. The part about greatness didn’t necessarily and totally disappear; after all, LeBron did average 27-8-8, numbers that even stars would kill for. Except those numbers didn’t translate into a playoff berth, even when he returned from injury and the Lakers still had a chance in the final month. And that, by extension, generated motivation within LeBron to answer the criticism both real (only a scant amount) and imagined (a lot) that LeBron now approaching 35 is no longer the force he was. “Oh, man,” said teammate Kyle Kuzma. “He’s going to be a load this season, more than usual.” “He’s gonna show all those people who are underestimating him,” added Rajon Rondo. “The stuff I saw him do this summer, getting up early in the morning, first one in the gym, working hard, it’s gonna pay off,” Davis said. A changed LeBron? Well, it’s hard to imagine him being a more focused player than before, just as it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that, yes, LeBron could experience a slight drop-off in talent because Father Time shows no mercy to anyone. But it’s also quite possible the 2019-20 LeBron can and will do what last year’s version couldn’t: Push the Lakers to a championship or at the very least, a deep playoff run. He appeared refreshed Friday at media day — as he should with plenty of time off. Stoic at times and totally businesslike, LeBron spoke about the frustration of watching the playoffs — he stressed he “didn’t miss a single game” — from his couch for the first time since 2005. He also shared his anticipation of sharing the floor with Davis. “It’s exciting to have such a beautiful young mind, a beautiful player but also a great leader as well,” LeBron said about Davis, although the 2018-19 Pelicans might quibble with that last part. “I know the caliber of player that AD is. When Rob (Pelinka, the GM) and everyone upstairs did what they had to do to acquire a talent, person as AD, I was obviously truly excited. You saw how much time we spent together in the summer.” True enough, Davis and LeBron have been shadows of one another, with Davis spending time on the set of the “Space Jam” sequel, where LeBron is the star and Davis has a role, and also on the phone with Pelinka when the Lakers made decisions on the rest of the roster. The sight of Davis and LeBron, a pair of generational talents with one of them still in his prime, running the floor and causing problems for the other bench is what LeBron needed but didn’t have last season when the Lakers won just 37 games and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season. LeBron plans to be as deferential as possible to Davis, who’s coming off a bitter end to a six-year run in New Orleans, in order to get the best from his All-Star forward. If that means LeBron must allow Davis to be the focal point of the offense, LeBron says so be it. "If we're not playing through Anthony Davis while he's on the floor, then it makes no sense to have him on the floor," James said. "Because he's that great.” The goal, obviously, is for LeBron to develop the same chemistry with Davis that he had with Dwyane Wade in Miami, and to get similar results — the Heat won a pair of championships and reached the NBA Finals every year with LeBron in the fold. The process is a bit more critical now because the Lakers sacrificed a chunk of their future to get Davis, and LeBron has only three years left on his contract. There’s also the notion that LeBron is in his sunset years although the insinuation, according to LeBron, is that it means he’s lost a step and a place among the league’s great players. While some of this criticism might be generated by his imagination, there was talk this summer — such as comments from David Griffin — that might have bothered him a little bit. Alright alright. Enough is enough. The throne has been played with to much and I ain’t for horseplay. Ether coming soon! ???????????????????????????????????????????? #JamesGang????? — LeBron James (@KingJames) August 1, 2019 “I’m very motivated,” he said, “but right now I’m in 'not talking about it mode.’ I’ve been very quiet this summer for a reason … but there’s some motivation for me. There’s a lot of conversations going on this summer and I’m just very quiet, very quiet. And I’m just going to maintain quiet, My mother always taught me, 'don’t talk about it, be about it.’ So that’s where I’m at. I think as a team, and myself, we need to get the Lakers back to what they’ve been accustomed to over the years. I’m excited about that.” LeBron needs Davis and yet, Davis needs LeBron just as much — the projected 2019-20 LeBron, who’s juiced by motivation, failure, an injury setback and all that chatter that he hears (or doesn’t) about his declining skills. Because without LeBron, Davis wouldn’t be here. Davis would either still be in New Orleans or staring up at the banners hanging from the ceiling in Boston and wondering how to duplicate that. Therefore, until further notice, the fate of the Lakers will rest with how much LeBron can distance himself from last season. The Lakers will require improved outside shooting and better defense (especially from LeBron) and obviously an MVP-level season from Davis to place themselves in the championship conversation. Then, all of the above are realistic. But it ends with LeBron, and isn’t this how it all started, with him? 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

Five things we learned from Game 3 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 123-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the 2019 Finals Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at Oracle Arena: 1. What Stephen Curry learned … Curry was remarkable in Game 3, consciously seizing more of Golden State’s offensive burden to make up for Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s absences and turning that desperation into something historic. With 47 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, the Warriors point guard became only the ninth man to score at least 45 points in a Finals game. The lesson in that? Curry learned for a night what it has felt like for LeBron James on many such occasions. James put himself on that specific list a year ago when he logged 51 points, eight board and eight assists against Curry’s team in Game 1, same court. Like Curry, James’ team lost that night as well. Struggling mightily in something of a one-against-five predicament is the sort of things James has done often, while Curry never had faced it during Golden State’s five-year run to The Finals. They both -- James in the past and Curry on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) -- had legit NBA players around them. But the responsibility to put up points fell in both cases mostly on their shoulders. This was even a chance to revisit the 2015 Finals MVP selection, which attracted some attention on social media Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) over bogus speculation about the voting process. Andre Iguodala won the award that June, getting seven votes from the panel of media reps to James’ four. Curry got no votes. The point was, Curry had as a single game Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) what James had as an entire series in ’15. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, scoring 38.5 percent of Cleveland’s points (215-of-561) while assisting on 52.7 percent of his teammates’ baskets while he was on the court. Now Curry is the guy in position, if Golden State loses the series, to get a few MVP votes in a losing effort. By the way, Jerry West is the only player to win the Finals MVP trophy in a losing effort. And West is one of the nine to score 45 or more – he did it three times, but his Lakers teams went 1-2 in those games. (The others: Michael Jordan three times, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson once each. Their teams all won on their big scoring nights.) 2. Is the scoreboard broken? It’s tempting to say that the Warriors’ attack is in broken-record mode, except the resurgence of vinyl might not be sufficient yet to bring that phrase back into the mainstream. So we’ll go with a cultural reference that’s more classic than archaic. Think of The Beatles’ “Revolution 9,” but substitute “109… 109… 109…” Yeah, it’s been about as monotonous and unsatisfying for Golden State as it was on the White Album. At least Warriors coach Steve Kerr was somewhat bemused by his team’s scoreboard consistency. In each game of these Finals, Golden State has scored 109 points. “I just knew we were going to score 109 points because that’s all we’re going to do the rest of this series,” Kerr said. “So if we’re going to keep scoring 109, we got to keep them to 108.” The Warriors kept Toronto to 104 points in Game 2. Some of that was to their credit, some to the Raptors’ misfires and mid-game chill. The simplest stat? Toronto launched 38 three-pointers in both games. The night the Raptors made 11, they lost. When they made 17, they won. Getting Thompson back for Game 4 could make a big difference there. He is one of Golden State’s best defenders. For that matter, Durant’s length could assert itself as a defensive weapon, too, if he comes back later in the series. As for 109 being a winning points total, here is some background: taken in isolation, averaged over a full Finals, that would have been plenty to win 19 of the past 20 championships. The lone exception? In 2017, when Cleveland averaged 114.8 ppg yet lost because Golden State was putting up 121.6 nightly. In 2018, the Warriors averaged 116 points to the Cavaliers’ 101. The only other times a Finals team in the past 20 years averaged within five points of 109 were the Spurs in 2015 (105.6) and in 2007 (104.4) and the Lakers in 2002 (106.0) and 2000 (104.8). Obviously, a few of those were in the game’s relative “dark ages” for use of the 3-ball, but all four won championships. The Warriors are scoring enough points to win. 3. ‘Boogie’ fever has broken   DeMarcus Cousins called his decision to sign with Golden State for a cut-rate contract, while rehabbing from an Achilles injury, his “chess move.” He wound up joining the defending champions and favorite to three-peat, and got his game back in time to contribute. Cousins subsequently suffered a quadriceps injury but returned in time to participate in The Finals. Only thing is, he looked like he was back playing checkers in Game 3. The Warriors center stood out Sunday (Monday, PHL time), scoring 11 points with 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. But those numbers drooped to four points, three boards, three turnovers and 1-for-7 shooting in Game 3. Cousins went from plus-12 impact in Game 2 to minus-12 Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). The big man looked a step slow and appeared to be bothered by Toronto’s length, in the forms of Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka. With little lift these days, he’s playing a little smaller than his 6'11", 270-pound specs. And given how long he was off and the mere eight minutes he got in Game 1, what Cousins did in Game 2 was starting to look more adrenaline-fueled than a reliable return to form. Since Curry handled just about everything else for Golden State in Game 3, he was asked afterward about Cousins’ “regression.” The point guard handled the awkward moment well -- being asked a critical question about a teammate might have tempted Curry to blow it off or lie. Instead, he talked of the Warriors’ shared responsibility on defense and noted a few calls offensively that didn't go Cousins' way. Then Curry added: “Like any great player, if you have a rough game, that resiliency to bounce back and the confidence to know that you can still go out there and impact the game, that’s something that he’ll bring, and we all will follow suit for sure.” 4. Danny Green’s big moment Understandably, when an All-Star and potential Kia MVP candidate gets traded, the deal becomes all about him. Next, folks focus on the key player or players swapped out and how the move might work for the other team. Only then do we play much attention to the guy or guys accompanying the All-Star to his new destination. That’s how it’s been for Danny Green for much of the 2018-19 season. Green and Kawhi Leonard were teammates in San Antonio for seven seasons. They went to two Finals together with the Spurs, winning rings in 2014. But when Leonard wanted out after an injured and rancorous 2017-18, the deal the Spurs put together with Toronto shipped out Danny Green, too. The reality of NBA trades is that salaries must match up, so teammates often become collateral damage to even up the dollar sufficiently to satisfy league rules. Sometimes, a teammate is thrown into a deal because he and the star are chums. A familiar face gives the featured guy some comfort -- or someone to carry his bags. But Green was a helpful playoff performer in his own right with the Spurs -- in his 12 Finals games before this year, he had made 52 percent of his three-pointers. And in 2013 he made 27 of them against the Miami Heat, a Finals record that was his for all of three years until Curry drained 32 in 2016. Green struggled with his shot in the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks, going 4-for-23 on three-pointers. But his marksmanship early in Game 3 and against near the end of the third quarter propelled the Raptors’ victory. 5. Those rebounds are offensive   Toronto dominated on the offensive glass 15-6 in Game 2 and lost. Golden State dominated on the offensive glass 13-5 in Game 3 and lost. Typically, that’s a positive category for the team that wins it, something coaches hate when the other guys are reclaiming their own misses time and again. But lately, the demerits associated with offensive rebounds have loomed larger than the benefits. You grab a shot you or your teammate missed, that ought to be a good thing. But the Raptors in Game 2 (37.2 percent) and the Warriors in Game 3 (39.6 percent) were beset by inaccuracy, so there were more offensive rebounds to be had, period. The other down side of a generally positive stat is how you go about getting them. If you get overeager and the defense controls the errant shot, you might denude your transition defense. Both the Raptors and the Warriors in Games 2 and 3 respectively built considerable edges in second-chance points off their offensive rebound totals. Toronto had a 23-0 scoring advantage Sunday (Monday, PHL time), yet lost by five. Golden State held it 23-12 Wednesday, yet lost by 14. The losing team in both cases slightly won the battle of fast-break points, but offensive-rebounding strategy still forces a choice on teams. “We have a general kind of rule of thumb that once a shot goes up, we tell our guys to make a really quick, good decision,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before Game 3. “Either they're going hard to the offensive rebound or they're going hard to defense transition. … There's certain moments of the game – I mean, some of those late are almost scrambles, right, you're behind five and you're throwing it up there and everybody's trying to rebound, just to keep the game alive as well.” It’s a stat worth watching, even if it’s inversely related lately to the games’ outcomes. Sing it loud, sing it proud ???????? #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/8HfjoM9Cht — Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) June 6, 2019 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 7th, 2019

Curry s heroics not enough to save Warriors in Game 3

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry did all he could to lead the injury-depleted Golden State Warriors. It wasn't enough. Curry scored 47 points — a playoff career-high for the three-time champion — but the Warriors still find themselves in some postseason trouble. Missing Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney with injuries, the Warriors fell 123-109 to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) and now trail these NBA Finals 2-1. "Steph was incredible," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "The stuff he does is, he does things that honestly I don't think anybody has ever done before. The way he plays the game, the way he shoots it and the combination of his ball handling and shooting skills, it's incredible to watch. He was amazing." Though it's no consolation to Curry, his 47 points were the second-most ever by a player in a finals game loss. The only time someone scored more and wasn't on the winning team that night was LeBron James, who scored 51 points on this same Oracle Arena floor in Game 1 of last year's title series. Golden State wound up sweeping Cleveland. Thompson didn't play because of his strained left hamstring, Looney's season is over because of an upper-body injury sustained in Game 2 and Durant sat out for the eighth consecutive game with a calf injury. Game 4 of this series is Friday (Saturday, PHL time), and it wouldn't be surprising to see both Durant and Thompson back in the lineup for the two-time defending NBA champions. Thompson was lobbying to play Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), and Durant has been ramping up toward a return. The Warriors need them. Or else their reign might end, no matter how great Curry is the rest of the way. "The moment is now," Curry said. "You've got to try to have a next-man-up mentality, like we always say, and just go out and fight. We did that tonight. We can play better, obviously better on the defensive end. But I liked the competitiveness that we had, understanding that we're missing 50 points pretty much between KD and Klay." It was evident from the outset that if the Warriors were going to somehow win without both Thompson and Durant in the lineup, it would be Curry carrying the load. He darn near made it happen. "Not that he's not amazing pretty often," Warriors forward Draymond Green said, "but tonight was a special performance by him." Curry scored Golden State's first five field goals. He had 25 points and eight rebounds by halftime, the first time in his 803-game career that he put up those numbers in the first 24 minutes of a game. Midway through the third quarter, he was outscoring all of his teammates combined. He had his entire arsenal working — three-pointers, layups, free throws. He was diving for loose balls. He even won a jump ball. He conceded nothing. Curry just didn't have enough help. Or, maybe more accurately, the Raptors had too many answers. "We tried to up our presence on him a little bit with some double teams, but it doesn't really matter," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "All that matters is ... my dad used to tell me the stats don't matter, just the final score. So we'll just take the win and be thankful for that." All five Toronto starters scored somewhere between 17 and 30 points. The Raptors made 17 three-pointers, Fred VanVleet's desperation triple with just under 2 minutes left put Toronto up by 13, and that's when Kerr decided to empty the bench. Curry's night ended there, with the eighth-highest single-game scoring performance in NBA Finals history. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists, ending with a stat line that only James has done in a finals game. "We fought, but we lost," Curry said. "So we've got to go back to the drawing board and just recalibrate for Game 4.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 6th, 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

LeBron honors Kobe after leading Lakers to NBA zenith

  By CARLO ANOLIN   A few days after the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Finals, LeBron James honored the late Kobe Bryant with a short message on Instagram. James expectedly led the Lakers to their 17th NBA championship, a tribute fit for the fallen Lakers legend. “Hope [I] made you proud my brother!!” […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsOct 15th, 2020

Enjoy exclusive, easy access to NBA TV PH via Smart Signature

Is LeBron James games away from what critics call his last chance to a championship ring? The answer lies in the ongoing NBA 2020 Finals between the LA Lakers and Miami Heat—a series Smart Signature subscribers can experience live via NBA.Smart......»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsOct 7th, 2020

NBA Finals: Lakers close in on title, cool off Heat

LeBron James scored 28 points as the Los Angeles Lakers moved to within one win of a 17th NBA championship on Tuesday with a 102-96 victory over the Miami Heat. Humbled by Miami in game three on Sunday, James and the Lakers came roaring back in a hard-fought defensive battle that was finely balanced until […] The post NBA Finals: Lakers close in on title, cool off Heat appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsOct 7th, 2020

Butler pasiklab ng triple double

ITINUMBA ng smiling assassin ng Heat sina Lakers superstars LeBron James at Anthony Davis sa Game 3 ng NBA Finals Linggo ng gabi sa Orlando bubble. The post Butler pasiklab ng triple double first appeared on Abante......»»

Category: newsSource:  abanteRelated NewsOct 5th, 2020

LeBron James nagkalat: Miami nagliyab sa triple ‘D’ ni Jimmy

SINAMANTALA ng Miami Heat ang pagkakalat ni LeBron James sa fourth quarter, sumandal sa all around game ni Jimmy Butler para itarak ang 115-104 victory sa Game 3 ng 2020 NBA Finals kahapon sa Orlando bubble. The post LeBron James nagkalat: Miami nagliyab sa triple ‘D’ ni Jimmy first appeared on Abante......»»

Category: newsSource:  abanteRelated NewsOct 5th, 2020

NBA ROUNDUP: Lakers dominate Heat for 2-0 lead in NBA Finals

  The Los Angeles Lakers are just two games away from a record-tying 17th championship following a 124-114 victory over the short-handed Miami Heat in Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Orlando Friday. LeBron James scored 33 points and Anthony Davis contributed 32 to power the Lakers to a 2-0 lead over Miami. Rajon […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsOct 3rd, 2020

Davis, James power Lakers past Heat for 2-0 lead in NBA Finals

Anthony Davis and LeBron James powered Los Angeles to a 124-114 victory over the Miami Heat that put the Lakers two wins away from their first NBA title since 2010. The injury-depleted Heat hung on as well as they could, but 33 points from James and 32 from Davis were just too much. Davis, playing in […] The post Davis, James power Lakers past Heat for 2-0 lead in NBA Finals appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsOct 3rd, 2020

LeBron keeps eye on prize as Lakers win Finals opener

Miami, United States—LeBron James, seeking a fourth NBA title in his 10th Finals appearance, has no trouble keeping his Los Angeles Lakers’ dominant victory in game one of the 2020 title series in perspective......»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsOct 1st, 2020

LeBron: Bubble season my toughest challenge

Orlando---LeBron James says leading the Los Angeles Lakers into the NBA Finals after nearly three months inside the league’s “bubble” in Orlando ranks as the biggest challenge of his career......»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsSep 30th, 2020

Lakers, Heat ready; bubble a triumph

Orlando—LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers begin the final challenge in their bid to return to the summit of basketball on Wednesday when they take on the Miami Heat team in game one of the NBA Finals......»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsSep 29th, 2020

Lakers, Heat prepare for battle as NBA odyssey reaches climax

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers begin the final challenge in their bid to return to the summit of basketball on Wednesday when they take on the Miami Heat team in game one of the NBA Finals......»»

Category: sportsSource:  thestandardRelated NewsSep 29th, 2020